RAAZI is a superb spy-thriller with Alia Bhatt giving yet another exceptional performance!

By

Sharada Iyer

After the thought-provoking Talwar dealing with the Arushi murder case, director Meghna Gulzar this time decides to serve a taut and racy spy-thriller based on Harinder Sikka’s novel ‘Calling Sehmat’. It is a fictionalized account of a real-life story of a young 20-year old Indian Muslim girl who becomes a spy in Pakistan for the Indian Intelligence agency.

From the time of its announcement, Raazi had generated a lot of buzz regarding its intriguing plot, the brilliant cast and of course the very talented director Meghna Gulzar. And yes! The movie lives up to all the expectations of the buzz as well as those generated by the first poster and the riveting trailer.

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The movie is a period film set in 1971, when the Indian Intelligence suspects of some surprise attack being planned by Pakistan but they do not have any idea about the nature of this attack. A young Kashmiri girl Sehmat decides to undertake this risk for the sake of her country for she feels the risk is no more than what the soldiers face when going on the battlefield. After all she reasons she would just be following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather for the same patriotic blood runs in her veins too!

A plan is hatched and Sehmat is married off to the son of a top Pakistani official so that she can be in the heart of the things and pass on crucial information as and when she can about this secret attack. As time is an essential factor here, she is sent off with only some basic training of a few months and is warned of the risks involved if caught. Her mentor advises that her gut instincts would be the main thing for her to depend on especially in case of any emergency…

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The movie gets into the main plot right away from the first scene as we are sucked into the whirlpool of excitement and suspense and become part of Sehmat’s daring and dangerous journey. What happens to her once she enters the household as their youngest daughter-in-law? What is the equation she establishes with her husband and other members of the family? Is she able to succeed in this daunting and demanding task? What are the unforeseen circumstances she faces and is she able to overcome them? What was the attack being planned? What happens to her in the end? All these questions keep us engaged for the 2 hours and 20 minutes of the running time of the film as the interesting events unfold on screen one after the other.

Saying anything beyond this would spoil the fun for those planning to watch…

Superbly directed and tautly scripted the film is really worth a watch for its unique plot and excellent performances from the entire cast. Cinematography is top-class and the Kashmir valley has been captured in all its beauty. Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is also perfect in keeping with the story. The ‘bidaai’ song during the wedding and the patriotic song are really well composed and pleasant to hear.

It has been a long time since Bollywood has attempted a spy thriller and this one has a female protagonist playing the pivotal role which makes it all the more special. Youngster Alia Bhatt being one of the finest actresses to have entered the industry does a very fine job in the film. As Sehmat she is fragile and vulnerable yet possesses a steely determination to accomplish the task she has undertaken. She brings to life this character in her own unique way that leaves a lasting impact. Director Meghna Gulzar had mentioned that she had wanted only Alia to play the role and the actress has indeed lived up to her director’s faith in her.

Vicky Kaushal, the talented young actor of Masaan, Raman Raghav and Love per Square Foot is well cast and comes up with a restrained performance as Sehmat’s husband. The supporting cast of ace actors like Jaideep Ahlawat, Shishir Sharma, Rajit Kapur, Arif Zakaria are all top class and come up with very natural performances which takes the film several notches higher. It was nice to see Soni Razdan after a long time though she hardly has much role. She just agreed to do the role as she wanted to be part of this super film and also to play Alia’s mom in reel-life too!

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A lot of care has been taken to make the setting authentic. As I have not read the book on which it is based, I cannot comment how true to the book the film is but the cinematic version is very good. Sehmat’s story certainly pays tribute to the valour and commitment of such unsung agents who always remain in the background and remain unknown and unnamed for their patriotism and courage. Such a movie is very important in today’s times and to have a young and popular heroine playing the role is inspiring and motivating.

Three Cheers to Meghna Gulzar and Alia Bhatt for getting us acquainted with Sehmat’s life  and patriotism! This film is definitely a must-watch for the commendable work by these two ladies!

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Meghna and Alia

 

 

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102 NOT OUT: A must watch for Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor’s remarkable performances

By

Sharada Iyer

Director Umesh Shukla’s ‘102 NOT OUT’ is a heart-warming film which delivers life’s powerful message in a simple way. The fact that as long as we are alive there is always room to grow, adapt and be happy is beautifully brought out through some incidents in the life of a father-son duo. The narration laced with plenty of humour and excellent dialogues also has several heart-tugging moments and is bound to strike a chord in every viewer’s heart!

Indeed the freshness of the plot and uniqueness of treatment are huge plus points of the film. Of course the biggest USP is the presence of the two extraordinary actors Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor who have come up with outstanding performances. The director needs to be lauded for his guts to have thought of making a film like revolving around two senior citizens and the moment he signed these two amazing actors the film became a sure-shot winner.

The beauty of the film lies in its simplicity. There are no unnecessary diversions and the narrative never loses steam sticking to a particular set of events. For instance, there are no female characters in the film. The director could have easily inserted flashbacks where these two old widowers are thinking about their younger days with their wives. Instead the director chooses to focus only on the expression of these two actors even while they are reminiscing.

PLOT:

The story is based on a Gujarati play of the same name and hence the dialogues in the film also have a Gujarati tone. There are basically only three characters in the film- 102-year old Dattatreya Vakhariya (Amitabh Bachchan), his 75-year old son Babulal Vakhariya (Rishi Kapoor) and a young man Dhiru (Jimit Trivedi) who is their man-Friday. The plot basically revolves around the unique bonding between the father and son who are completely contrasting in their characters yet care for each other in their own subtle way.

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While the centenarian father takes life head-on enjoying everything it has to offer and does not believe in hanging his boots before time just because he is supposed to be ‘old’ his septuagenarian son Rishi is a pessimistic and grouchy man who has mentally aged faster than his father because he says that he has accepted his old age and feels the father must also do so! The man-Friday Jignesh is like a friend to them and is part of all their plots and enjoys spending time in their house.

Now Amitabh wants to break the record of a Chinese man who had lived up to the age of 118 years but he feels Rishi’s pessimism could be an obstacle in his path. One day he hands Rishi a pamphlet of an old-age home and tells him that he has decided to send Rishi to this old-age home. He reasons that not only did Rishi seem older both physically and mentally than Amitabh, his gloominess was making the atmosphere in the house very melancholic and affecting Amitabh’s positive energy also. And he still needed to be around for 16 more years to break the record. 

Rishi is aghast at this suggestion and refuses to accede. Amitabh then puts a condition. He challenges him to complete some tasks he would be setting up for him in the next six months. If Rishi managed to complete them to Amitabh’s satisfaction, he promises not to send him to the old-age home.

What happens in the next six months between the father and son? Does their equation or affection for each other change during this time? What are these tasks set by Amitabh? Is Rishi able to complete them successfully or not? What happens in the end?…. Well! The answers to these questions basically form the crux of the film.

PERFORMANCES:

Amitabh as the happy go lucky centenarian is simply fabulous! Honestly, his roles never cease to amaze us. He has single-handedly changed our perception of ‘old man’ roles in Hindi cinema. And now as a 102 year old he touches our heart like never before. Perhaps the only actor who could have matched this artiste ‘extraordinaire’ is Rishi Kapoor. After all, didn’t his charming persona and terrific talent withstand the onslaught of Amitabh’s action films back in the seventies? In this film too he plays the perfect foil to Amitabh’s genial personality. As the glum hypochondriac he is absolutely adorable and one can’t help smiling at his antics in the film.

Both the actors have been given equal footing and both are simply outstanding! Their on-screen chemistry is so perfect! Coming together on-screen after 27 years it is amazing to see these two brilliant actors complement each other so nicely. They lend a quiet dignity and honesty to their performance which can come only after years of experience.

Though the film can be enjoyed by any age group, I feel those who have watched these two way back in their films Amar Akbar Anthony, Naseeb etc., would enjoy it the most for only these fans can truly understand how ‘Anthony Gonsalves’ andAkbar Ilahabadi have indeed grown in stature in real as well as reel-life!

The third actor Jignesh also makes his presence felt and that itself is a great achievement. Background music is good and the couple of songs in the background fit in well with the narrative. Makers of the digital audio player ‘Saregama Caravan’ which is usually targeted at the music-loving older generation of Bollywood fans could not have asked for a better platform to advertise their product. What better way than to insert some famous old songs by having Amitabh and Rishi play them on their radio? It was nice hearing a few  yesteryear songs…

Here is the promotional video song sung by Amitabh which is not there in the film but can be enjoyed nevertheless:

FINAL WORD:

This film is not a murder mystery or an edge-of-the-seat thriller with unexpected twists and turns. This film is a simple journey of two old men and how their perceptions of life change them. Even though the plot may seem predictable and emotional, there is not a single boring moment. The film is a must watch for its simple, loving yet powerful message and above all for the towering performances of Amitabh and Rishi…

Here is the trailer of the film:

Celebrating 50 years of the timeless classic ‘BRAHMACHARI’…

By
Sharada Iyer
Fifty years ago it was on 26th April 1968 that this superbly directed and thoroughly entertaining evergreen musical Brahmachari released and went on to become a runaway hit at the box-office!
The film won six prestigious Filmfare awards that year:
Best Film of the Year
Best Actor: Shammi Kapoor
Best Screenplay: Sachin Bhowmick
Best Music: Shankar-Jaikishen
Best Male Playback Singer: Mohammed Rafi (‘Dil ke jharoke mein tujhko bithakar…)
Best Lyricist: Shailendra (‘Main gaoon tum so jao…’ )
Nominations:
Best Director: Bhappi Sonie
Best Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri (‘Dil ke jharoke mein tujhko bithakar…’)
Best Male Playback Singer: Mohammed Rafi (‘Main gaoon tum so jao…’)
Today on the occasion of its golden anniversary let us take a trip down memory lane to recollect some of its glorious moments…
To begin with, the film ranks high on my list of all-time favourite films and I can never tire of seeing either the film or the songs from the film! I was only 4 years old when my parents took me and my elder sister to see the film on screen and what an impression it made on our tiny selves! So many scenes remained etched in our hearts after the film, never left us during our growing-up years and remain fresh even today… I guess that was the time when there was magic in cinema and I feel a whole generation of viewers who were fortunate enough to have seen it on screen when it was released in 1968 must have felt the effect of this film…

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PLOT:
The film had a poignant plot involving orphan children and had many heart-touching scenes but the screenplay was also laced with dollops of fun and humour and sprinkled with outstanding songs making it one of the most delightful and enjoyable films to have been made in our industry till today.
The film had all the magical ingredients of the cinema of the sixties and yet it was not a typical Shammi Kapoor film. His role was subdued and it had gravitas though the ‘Shammi’ persona does emerge in the songs he sings with Mumtaz and Rajshree. Apparently the producer and the writer were sceptical while narrating the story to Shammi Kapoor for they were not sure whether he would want to do such a role but Shammi Kapoor loved the script and the character so much that he was game to do it from the moment he heard the story and ended up giving his heart and soul to bring the character to life on screen.
I do not want to go into too much detail of the plot but will present a broad outline.
Shammi Kapoor (Brahmachari) is an orphan who takes care of many orphan children and showers them with a lot of love and affection. Mohan Choti plays the cook in the household. Expectedly Shammi encounters difficulty meeting both ends meet even though he does two jobs: works as a singer in a hotel as well as a photographer for a magazine. During one such photography assignment, he meets Rajshree who is about to commit suicide as her childhood fiancé Pran refuses to even acknowledge her presence.
Shammi Kapoor vows to help her and in return for this help requests her to gift them rupees 20,000/- when she marries the ‘rich’ Pran. With this money he would be able to square off his debts for their orphanage. Though she agrees and is excited initially, spending time with Shammi Kapoor makes her understand the goodness in Shammi Kapoor‘s heart and she starts having feelings for him. She also gets emotionally attached to the kids and there is even a scene where she puts her own life in danger by inadvertently ingesting some snake venom inside her while trying to save one of the kids after he bitten by a snake.
After Rajshree learns the ways and etiquettes of high society she is eager to meet Pran who expectedly becomes besotted by her. Now that she has understood his true character she just wants to have the satisfaction of leading him on for a while and then dumping him after insulting him. She does manage to do that but Pran is not amused and plans to get her back by emotionally and mentally attacking Brahmachari and his kids. Shammi Kapoor is then forced to choose between Rajshree and his kids and when he chooses the latter she misunderstands and gets ready to marry Pran.
The Rafi solo ‘Dil ke jharoke mein…’ based on raga Shivaranjani aptly brings out his feelings when he sees the love of his life Rajshree engaged to Pran.


There is a side-track involving Pran and his unscrupulous ways with girls. However he does get a bit serious for a while with one of the girls Mumtaz and even marries her secretly. But the moment he comes to know she is pregnant, he abandons her.

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Apart from the main plot there is a side-track of a comic love angle involving Jagdeep (who is Shammi Kapoor’s friend in the film) his lover and her father Dhumal which was quite hilarious. Manmohan as Jagdeep’s friend had a miniscule role which attained importance because he is the one who steals Pran’s love-letters written to Mumtaz and tries to blackmail him.

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The screenplay neatly connects up all these sub-plots to the main story with enough scope for an enjoyable climax involving a one-to-one fight between Pran and Shammi Kapoor as well as a thrilling chase between Shammi in a jeep following Pran driving a van with all the kids…
There is not a single boring moment in the film and the sequences involving the kids are packed with entertainment. Shammi Kapoor had a wonderful role and got to display a gamut of emotions. How he interacts with the kids is beautifully brought out in the two Rafi songs-‘Chakke pe chakka…’ and the lullaby ‘Main gaoon tum so jao…’ which are a definite highlight of the film.



INTERESTING FACTS:
—The film had the dashing SHAMMI KAPOOR give his career-best performance which rightfully fetched him the ‘Best Actor’ award that year beating the thespian Dilip Kumar who had been nominated for ‘Aadmi’ as well as ‘Sunghursh’! He was simply brilliant in the film putting his soul into the character of ‘Brahmachari and his acting was so natural that it would not be wrong to say that no one could have done the role better than him! Shammi Kapoor was on the last leg of his career as a hero and both in Brahmachari and Andaz he was seen in a subdued ‘avatar’ which was lapped up by the audience. 1969 heralded the superstardom of newcomer Rajesh Khanna and Shammi Kapoor gracefully passed on the mantle of stardom to this new star in the horizon when the two greats came together in G P Sippy’s ‘Andaz though sadly they did not have any scenes together.
—Though the heroine RAJSHREE did not have a very long film career as an actress yet she entrenched her name forever in film history by being part of this iconic film. She was aptly cast according to the demands of the role which required her to act as well as to look innocent, sensuous and beautiful!


With her charm and talent it was fast becoming evident that MUMTAZ’s days as a supporting actress were coming to an end and after this film she went on to become the top heroine of the industry and remained so till she decided to give it all up and leave the industry to settle down with her husband. Though her role was very brief it was a very important one and who can forget her evergreen dance number with Shammi Kapoor ‘Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche har zubaan par…!!!

Normally it is difficult to match the exuberance of Shammi Kappor in any song picturization but Mumtaz with her effervescent dancing outclassed him and her unique ebullience combined with designer Bhanu Athaiya’s dream outfit (remember her tight orange sari?) turned the song into a rage. People enjoy dancing to this evergreen track even today.
How can we think of a film in the sixties without the evil presence of the fabulous actor PRAN ? True to his popular villainous image, he is a rich and unscrupulous playboy who sets his eyes on the heroine and comes up with the necessary vile plans to outwit the hero and drama to the proceedings. He is superb as usual!
As the film revolved around an unmarried orphan bringing up other orphaned kids, there were many child artistes in the film who contributed to the film as much as the adult artistes. Some of them were quite popular names like Master Sachin, Master Shahid, Baby Farida and Mehmood Junior, while the others though cannot be recalled by their names are recognizable by their faces.

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Child artiste Mehmood Junior got to dance to the original soundtrack of the Rafi song ‘Hum kale hain toh kya hua…’ from Gumnam picturized on actor Mehmood. Special permission was obtained by the producer to use the full song. His imitation of the senior artiste brought the house down and the child artiste became a star in his own right!


—Known for her immense eye for detailing any character on screen and giving new twists to contemporary fashion, costume designer Bhanu Athaiya’s orange stitched sari for Mumtaz in the song ‘Aaj kal tere mere pyaar…’ became the talk of the town! It was wound round her body in a very imaginative way so that even though the sari was tightly clinging to Mumtaz’s body it gave her tremendous dexterity to dance like a dream!!!

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—Interestingly the song ‘Aaj kal tere mere pyar…’ was not composed for this film. According to information available on IMDB on the internet, the song was recorded for the Dev Anand-Asha Parekh starrer ‘Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai’. But Dev Anand rejected the song. When Shammi Kapoor heard it he liked it so much that he wanted it in his film Bluffmaster but director Manmohan Desai backed out citing to budget constraints. Finally Shammi Kapoor passed it to on to G P Sippy for Brahmachari and the song went on to become a reason for attracting repeat audience in the cinema halls.
‘Aaj kal tere mere…’ can easily be ranked among the top five duets composed in our film industry and singer Suman Kalyanpur was extremely fortunate to have been chosen over Lata Mangeshkar to sing this awesome duet with Mohammed Rafi.
Today, Shammi Kapoor and Pran are no more yet they will continue to live through this film and remain in the hearts of cinema lovers …

BLACKMAIL: Irrfan Khan rocks in this not-to-be-missed delightful black comedy

By

Sharada Iyer

Blackmail starring Irrfan Khan released on April 6, 2018, and though I saw the film on the first day itself, I missed posting the review of this brilliant film. So those of you, who may have missed watching it in the cinema halls, do try and watch it as it is still running or at least be sure to catch it when it releases on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video or YouTube.

After Delhi Belly, Game and Force 2, director Abhinay Deo (yesteryear actors Ramesh Deo and Seema Deo’s son) delivers yet another fun-filled entertainer which stands out for its unique story-line laced with dark humour, thrills, unexpected twists and turns and above all superb performances from the entire cast headed by the inimitable Irrfan Khan!
So here is my take on the film…

PLOT:
The story starts off in a seemingly casual manner in an office scenario but soon the events that unfold keep the viewer hooked throughout. Irrfan Khan is employed in a company manufacturing toilet tissue paper and is headed by an eccentric USA-returned boss played by Omi Vaidya (of 3 Idiots fame).

Irrfan has been married for 7 years and though he loves his wife (Kriti Kharbanda) a lot, there is no fun or pep in his married life and his long working hours have only added to this humdrum. He dutifully messages his wife every night before leaving office and by the time he reaches home he has to be content with a cold dinner plate which has been laid out and a wife sleeping so soundly that he does not have the heart to wake her up.

Seeing his dreary married life one day his office colleague suggests that he should surprise his wife by going home early and that may trigger the much needed spark in their marriage. So after much thought, Irrfan decides to surprise her by coming home early. Not in his wildest dreams had he expected to see the sight that greeted his eyes. As he enters quietly and peeps into the bedroom through a hole in the kitchen he is shell-shocked to find her in bed with another man (Arunoday Singh)!

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His first instinct is to barge into the room and kill them both. But he controls his rage and does nothing of that sort. Since he had entered quietly with his own key, he collects his things and decides to run away from the scene as fast as he can and sits down on a footpath after running for quite a distance. He tries to comprehend the gravity of the situation and make sense of what he had just seen and his thoughts are in a whirl!

Though still in a state of shock, he decides to go back and wait for this man to come out, follows him and manages to find out where he lives. He bribes the watchman of that building and finds out that lover-boy is actually married to a very rich lady (Divya Dutta) and realizes he is cheating on her too.

He then hatches a plan to blackmail ‘lover-boy’ Arunoday not only to teach him a lesson but also to get money from him so that he can settle the debts of all his loans. His plan works as Arunoday panics and decides to give in to the demands of the ”blackmailer’. But Arunoday has no money of his own for he is treated like a dog in his own house by his crazy rich wife Divya Dutta. So he tells lies and gets money from her. But Divya’s father who controls the finances smells a rat and threatens Arunoday to repay the money he had borrowed within 48 hours or face dire consequences.

Now in a hilarious turn of events, Irrfan’s wife’s boyfriend Arunoday out of sheer desperation decides to blackmail his own lover (Irrfan’s wife Kriti) for the cash. Kriti in turn asks Irrfan himself on the pretext of some treatment for her father. So without realizing, Irrfan actually starts paying for his own blackmail.

To add to the confusion Irrfan also makes the mistake of revealing the details of his wife’s illicit affair and his own blackmail plan to his office colleague over a few drinks. No, it does not stop there. The colleague in turn in a fully drunken state blurts out Irrfan’s plight and his blackmail plan to a newly joined worker of the company with whom he has gone on a date. Now unknown to Irrfan, both have ammunition to blackmail him.

Meanwhile a private detective is hired by Arunoday to track his ‘blackmailer’. When the detective finds out the truth, he starts his own blackmail chain. Apart from this, there is also a hilarious side-track involving Irrfan and his eccentric boss in the office.
Thus we see that the one act of Irrfan to blackmail Arunoday sets into motion a series of unexpected incidents which result in a chain of blackmailing events where a character in the story is either blackmailing somebody or is being blackmailed by somebody. While all this brings in a lot of humour, the plot also turns dark when three of the characters end up dead.

So who are the three people who get killed? Who kills them and how?
Is the truth about all the blackmailers revealed?
What happens to all the characters in the end?
Does Irrfan finally get what he wanted and is he able to make peace with himself?
The director knits together every piece superbly and all credit to him for keeping the audience engaged and on tenterhooks with this intriguing, suspenseful and humorous plot!

USP OF THE FILM:
–Brilliant direction and excellent screenplay
–Fast-paced narrative without one boring moment
–Yet again an outstanding performance from the one and only Irrfan Khan! Where does he get those incredible expressions from? Just observing him perform is a remarkable lesson in acting and the way he uses those subtle nuances and gestures teaches us how to become the character being portrayed. A truly gifted actor indeed!!!

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–Superb performances from the entire cast- be it the office colleagues, Irrfan’s wife, her lover, lover’s wife, her parents, the detective and his wife and above all the office boss- all have acted very well lending weightage to the drama.

MINUS POINTS:
Honestly I could not find any and a few if any can be overlooked.
Those of you looking for song and dance routine…stay away!

FINAL VERDICT:
A thoroughly enjoyable film not to be missed…

BOX-OFFICE PERFORMANCE:
It was disheartening to note that the box-office collections of this film were not what it deserved but having being made at a very modest budget, the film would definitely recover its cost. Though it got good reviews from both critics and those who saw it, probably not too many ventured out to the cinema halls.

Being an ardent fan of Irrfan Khan I make it a point not to miss any of his films as he always delivers something new in every film and this one too does not disappoint!
The film was released a few days after the shocking news of Irrfan Khan’s ill-health became public. He has been being diagnosed of having a rare neuro-endocrine tumour for which he is undergoing treatment and hence could not be present for the pre-release publicity events. One sincerely hopes the collective prayers of all his fans and well-wishers will help him in his speedy recovery and he will soon be back to give us many more memorable films!!!

Good luck Irrfan! You are the best!

Here is a short trailer of the film:

OCTOBER is an off-beat & slow-moving emotional film which may not appeal to all

By

Sharada Iyer

Producer/Director Shoojit Sircar known for films like Vicky Donor, Piku, Pink, Madras Café,etc., decides to spin an extremely slow-paced emotional drama which dwells on the coming of age journey of its protagonist Varun Dhawan. He has stretched a wafer-thin plot into a two-hour film where many scenes seem repetitive and monotonous.

PLOT:

The story revolves around a bunch of Hotel Management trainees working in a swanky 5-star hotel in Delhi. Except Varun Dhawan, all his other batch-mates show a willingness to learn and grasp the hotel routine and go about their jobs in a disciplined way. But Varun is always in an irritable mood picking fights with everyone and getting into arguments at the drop of a hat. His bosses are exasperated with his behaviour while his friends try to drill some sense into him.

But then life is always unpredictable and sometimes unexpected and unforeseen incidents can throw us off-balance.  After a few scenes, a freak accident occurs during a normal get-together of the trainees which sends one of them in a critical condition to the ICU. Though this shocks everyone beyond belief, it becomes a life-altering incident for Varun who finds himself getting more and more sucked into an emotional vortex with the colleague and her family.

 

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Though he had hardly spoken to her during their training period earlier, her current helpless condition hovering precariously between life and death affects him mentally, physically and emotionally which nobody around him is able to understand. He undergoes a transformation, becomes more responsible and even becomes a pillar of support for her family members. He strikes a bond with the colleague’s mother by asking her not to give up hope. He endears himself to the hospital nurse also. He is full of questions and some of these scenes add a touch of humour to the otherwise grim proceedings.

PLUS POINTS

Varun Dhawan’s excellent and endearing performance which keeps the film going from start to finish. He has shown guts to take up an off-beat character like this and does full justice by handling all the emotions with panache. 

The sincerity of the director to attempt a new type of love-story needs to be applauded.

MINUS POINTS

The slow-pace of the film which dangerously veers off into documentary-like mode at times.

Though the situation shown can happen to anyone in real-life also the film fails to emotionally involve the audience on the same wavelength as the characters in the film.

Too many repetitive scenes of Varun driving on the streets, the activities of trainee staff, the close-up shots of the patient in ICU, too much medical terminology- all these really bog down the narrative.

The debutante heroine Banita Sandhu really does not get to do anything and is in the ICU throughout the film

The supporting cast is filled with so many new faces and they really don’t register much in our psyche.

The end of the film could have been different.

A FEW THOUGHTS

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The first look and some of the posters of the film were misleading. The debutante heroine Banita Sandhu’s role is not even remotely close to what the pictures conveyed.

Even the trailer does not give an accurate idea so people walking into the hall expecting some masala entertainment would be disappointed.

Though the heroine is making her debut she does not get the customary ‘Introducing’ in the titles!

Maybe the story sounded awesome on paper but the weak screenplay could be the culprit for not transforming the emotional story on paper into a moving saga on celluloid…

However the movie is a must watch for Varun Dhawan’s fans as well as for all those wanting something out-of-the-box and not the usual ‘masala’ entertainment…

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Music Maestro Naushad Ali (Part II): Remembering his ‘piano’ songs…

By
Sharada Iyer
The very mention of Naushad’s name brings to our mind this genius composer’s heartfelt and melodious compositions steeped in Indian ethos and transports us to a magical era when music reigned supreme in our films and meaningful lyrics added beauty to these tunes. Naushad had tremendous knowledge of Indian classical music and could play several musical instruments and to him goes the credit of pioneering a unique style by bringing Indian classical ‘ragas’ into popular film music. He also added a touch of folk music to his songs and being a poet himself always gave importance to lyrics. All these gave his songs a unique edge and set him apart from his contemporaries.
ACCOLADES

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(Image source:Internet)

He was also the proud recipient of one of the highest civilian honours bestowed by our country Padma Bhushan and the recipient of the highest award for contribution to Indian cinema- Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He also received the Lata Mangeshkar Award, Amir Khusro Award and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award among others.
He was the first music director to be awarded the Filmfare ‘Best Music Director’ trophy for the film Baiju Bawra, when the awards were instituted in 1953 but surprisingly he had to wait for 50 years to get his second Filmfare Award -and this time it was the Lifetime Achievement Award. He did not win for any of his milestone films. But his biggest award wass the love and respect of his fans and colleagues which he considered priceless.
He was one of the first to introduce sound mixing and the separate recording of voice and music tracks in playback singing. He was the first to combine the flute and the clarinet, the sitar and mandolin. He also introduced the accordion to Hindi film music and was among the first to concentrate on background music to extend character’s moods and dialogue through music.
For Aan (1952), he was the first to use a 100-piece orchestra, He was the first composer to have developed the system of western notation in India. The notation for the music of the film Aan was published in book form in London.
PIANO SONGS
One could go on writing about a personality like Naushad whose life was dotted with many interesting and inspiring incidents. But for now, I will pause and take us through a musical journey. While the first part of my blog on this great music maestro focussed on his early struggle (https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/music-maestro-naushad-ali-part-i-a-glimpse-into-naushads-early-days-of-struggle/), this blog-post attempts to familiarize the readers with Naushad’s ‘piano’ songs.
The first instrument that Naushad ever learnt to play in his life was the harmonium and later mastered the piano as well. These two musical instruments remained an inseparable part of his personality.
Naushad’s musical journey which began in 1937 commenced with a job as a pianist in the orchestra of music director Mushtaq Hussain for the film ‘Samunder’. For the initial few years he remained a pianist, then assisted a few well-known music directors of his time before embarking on a career as an independent music director. He contributed in a major way towards introducing the piano songs into the psyche of film-goers by composing some of the earliest piano songs of Hindi cinema.
In the fifties and sixties love stories dominated our cinema and there was a lot of scope to show songs expressing different kinds of emotions associated with the heart for the loved one. Hence even though the situations were somewhat similar, Naushad made full use of his expertise to bring variety to his magical compositions.
The piano has been an important part of our cinema and holds a special place because this instrument in a unique way spoke and connected with our audience through the songs played by the character in the film. The lyrics of the song were full of meaning which conveyed the necessary emotions and mood of the character and helped in gauging the setting of the story at that point.
At times a mere song accomplished much more than what verbose dialogues could have done. With the result the filmmakers started incorporating a piano song which was sung either in the confines of the character’s home or at a grand party in front of a hall full of guests. The trend started in the forties, became an integral part during the fifties, sixties and early seventies after which it started showing a decline.
Starting from Sanjog in 1943 to Aadmi in 1968 Naushad composed beautiful piano songs all of which were super-hits.
Sanjog (1943)
One of the earliest films to use the concept of mistaken identity in the story-line, it had Mehtab as the heroine and the comedian Noor Mohammed Charlie (considered to be the first comedian-star of Hindi cinema) as the hero. The hero in the story is an unemployed youth who has applied for the post of a secretary to the heroine’s father but when he arrives he is mistaken to be the suitor who is to be betrothed to the heroine. Unaware of this confusion, she falls in love albeit with the wrong man but for now is happy expressing her feelings for him. This film had young Suraiyya giving playback for the heroine Mehtab under Naushad’s able tutelage…


Andaz (1949)
The film Andaz in 1949 had as many as six piano songs -five picturized on Dilip Kumar and one on Nargis with dancer-actress Cuckoo also featuring in some of them.
Mehboob Khan’s Andaz remains in cinematic history as one of the finest love triangles ever made. With a sterling cast of Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Raj Kapoor this love story set in a city backdrop had a technical finesse, a special magic, a unique charm and an enigmatic quality which has been difficult to emulate till today and is definitely one of the films which can be viewed again and again without getting bored. Naushad proved his mastery by composing six piano songs for the film- each one a gem and each one conveying the character’s emotion brilliantly.






Anmol Ghadi (1946)
One of the biggest hits of its time, this love triangle had three brilliant singing stars of that time – Noorjehan, Suraiyya and Surendra as the protagonists and the film is remembered till today for its outstanding music. Each of Naushad’s compositions in the film is a gem with the Noorjehan-Surendra duet ‘Aawaz de kahan hai…’ becoming a spectacular hit. Both Noorjehan and Suraiyya got the opportunity to sing their feelings with a piano song each. Ironically unknown to one another both are in love with Surendra.


Ram Aur Shyam (1967)
With the timeless tale of identical twins who unknowingly interchange places, the film was an out and out entertainer and needless to say Dilip Kumar was outstanding in both the roles. Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz play his love interests. Just before this song Waheeda Rehman had spotted Dilip Kumar with Mumtaz but does not know that it is her lover’s look-alike. Both she and her father end up thinking her ‘lover’ Dilip Kumar to be a betrayer and get upset. Rafi’s song conveys Dilip Kumar’s feelings beautifully through this evergreen piano song…

Mere Mehboob (1963)
Another one of Naushad’s masterpieces, this film ran more for the songs than the story or acting. Each song is so thoughtfully crafted that the listener can never tire of listening to this album again and again. This delightful piano composition is full of love that Rajendra Kumar feels for Ashok Kumar’s sister played by the beautiful Sadhana. This film catapulted her into the big bracket and she looked stunning in the film.

Saathi (1968)
This film had Rajendra Kumar, Vyjayantimala and Simi Garewal forming the three angles of the triangle. This beautiful song sung at a party starts off with Simi at the piano but after a few lines she just gets up and sings the rest of the song walking around. Perhaps the director did not realize that the song had distinct piano notes throughout the song and he should have made Simi play the piano for the entire song…

Dastan (1950)
This film has a weird story-line but Raj Kapoor’s peppy acting which in many places reminds us of Shammi Kapoor more than makes up for the dreary plot. The film had the rare pairing of Suraiya with Raj Kapoor and even though Mukesh’s voice was usually used for Raj Kapoor in this film it is Rafi who sings for him. The fun-filled duet Ta ra ree aara ree…’ with its foot-tapping beats was a big hit from this film. In this film Suraiya gets to sing two piano songs…


Anokhi Ada (1948)
Another love triangle and this time we have Surendra teaming with Prem Adib and Naseem Bano as the three lovers. Prem Adib and Naseem Bano fall in love and are very happy but unfortunately Naseem loses her memory after an accident and forgets him. Surendra taking advantage of the situation keeps her in his house as he is attracted towards her. In the film Naushad teams up with Mukesh to give us some lilting compositions but after this film and also Andaz, one notices a gap of almost twenty years before which Naushad and Mukesh team up again for Saathi! All those intervening years somehow it was always Naushad and his favourite Rafi Sahab!


Dard (1947)
Made under Kardar Productions the film had director A R Kardar’s brother Nusrat Kardar playing the hero opposite the two heroines Munawar Sultana and Suraiya. Strangely, when there were so many names to choose from, the name of Munawar’s character in the film is Suraiya (!) which does confuse the viewer at times. The actress Tun Tun who started her career as a singer found success in this film with her song ‘Afsana likh rahi hoon…’ under the name of Uma Devi. Also this film introduced lyricist Shakeel Badayuni to the industry after which he and Naushad formed an invincible team giving us outstanding songs.

Babul (1950)
This love triangle was produced by Naushad himself and had an interesting cast of Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Munawar Sultana. Unfortunately the end is tragic as neither of the girls gets to marry the man they love so much. While Munawar gets married to someone else Nargis dies leaving Dilip Kumar a broken-hearted man. The film however was packed with superb songs and all were big hits especially Chod babul ka ghar mohe pee ke nagar aaj jaana pada’. In the film, Dilip Kumar teaches Munawar to sing and play piano which gives scope for a lovely piano song- a duet-sung by Talat Mehmood and Shamshad Begum…

Aadmi (1968)
Another famous love-triangle movie of its time, the film has both the friends Dilip Kumar and Manoj Kumar falling in love with Waheeda Rehman but by a quirk of fate, Waheeda is to be married to Dilip Kumar. In this one of its kind songs where Mahendra Kapoor gets to sing with his mentor Mohammed Rafi, the heroes express their feelings for their loved one in their own way- while Dilip is ecstatic with joy, Manoj has resigned to his fate and sacrifices for the sake of his friend. Though the song was originally recorded with Talat Mehmood singing for Manoj Kumar, another version was recorded with Mahendra Kapoor and this version was retained in the film.

NAUSHAD’S PRICELESS LEGACY
Naushad Sahab passed away in 2006 leaving behind a priceless legacy for the film industry -a treasure-trove of evergreen songs and a bunch of talented singers and lyricists he had moulded and given break to! In 2008, the popular sea-facing ‘Carter Road’ in Bandra, Mumbai, was renamed to ‘Sangeet Samrat Naushad Ali Marg’ in memory of this great man. Of Course! He did not live to see that. But knowing his simple personality he would have in all humility attributed it to the Almighty’s blessings!

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It was in 1953 after the success of the landmark film ‘Baiju Bawra’ that he moved into his house ASHIANA which stands proudly on Naushad Ali Marg even today.

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All his magical songs after that were composed from his music room in this house and the presence of his special piano and harmonium in his room bear testimony to the days gone by when magic was there in Hindi film music.
Singers used to come and practice and lyricists mainly Shakeel Badayuni with whom he worked in maximum number of films used to come to get the perfect tuning of lyrics and music notes. Naushad in one interview mentions that to get the line ‘parda nahin jab koi khuda se, bandon se parda karna kya, in the song ‘Pyaar kiya toh darna kya…’ from the film ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, Shakeel and Naushad locked themselves up for more than 12-14 hours without eating anything writing and rewriting the words before they were satisfied that there couldn’t be a better line to bring out Anarkali’s final emotions in that song! Such was the dedication of those days which is why songs like these have stood the test of time and are loved even today.

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Here is an interesting YouTube link to an interview with Naushad’s son Raju Naushad who takes us into his father’s revered music room to give us a glimpse of what it must have been during Naushad’s time. (Incidentally Raju Naushad is married to lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri’s daughter!)


A few days back I passed by ASHIANA and stopped to click a few snaps. The house with lots of greenery has NAUSHAD inscribed near one of the gates and ASHIANA 1953 inscribed near the other gate.

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As I stood in front of his lovely house overlooking the sea with the nameplate of the road right in front of his house, I could almost feel his presence and realized how life becomes magical for people with true dedication and passion to their craft. My mind went back in time thinking of the rebellious young 17-year old boy who left his home in Lucknow and came to Mumbai with just a harmonium in his hand and his dreams in his heart and today has a road named after him and that too right on front of his house.
Somewhere our heart connects with his soul when we enjoy his music and he must be smiling from above…
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HICHKI is a heart-warming film with an outstanding performance from Rani Mukherjee!

By

Sharada Iyer

Yash Raj Films’ Hichki (meaning hiccup) tells the inspiring and emotional journey of Naina Mathur (played by Rani Mukherjee) who suffers from a rare neurological problem Tourette syndrome. It is a condition in which the person makes noises and facial movements that he or she cannot control. It is as if the muscles of the face have received a sudden electric shock and in response these involuntary ‘spasms’ or ‘tics’ occur which the person cannot control. The condition is named after Gilles de la Tourette, a French neurologist.

 

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Kudos to producer Aditya Chopra for coming up with a script which would do full justice to Rani Mukherjee’s talent and it will not be an exaggeration to state that no other actress could have brought to life the character of Naina the way Rani has done. She manages to get the audience hooked on to her character and her condition from the very first scene and we are able to feel all of Naina’s on-screen emotions in our heart and mind as if it were happening to us. And therein lies the film’s biggest strength that in spite of a predictable storyline there is not a single boring moment and Rani’s convincing portrayal keeps us engaged.

PLOT

In the film Naina Mathur who suffers from this rare syndrome right from childhood gets the job of a teacher after patiently trying for 5 years and after being rejected by atlest 20 schools because of her condition. But she takes it in her stride for rejection and humiliation are things which she had been facing right from her childhood.  As a child she had always been laughed at and made fun of by her classmates and humiliated, scolded and even punished by her teachers. She knew that people found it difficult to understand her condition and realizes early in life that she would always be looked upon as a freak and may never be accepted easily in society.

Her own father embarrassed by her condition abandons the family when she and her brother had been very young and after several years and much to their chagrin has the temerity to visit them when he pleases. The only people who understand her and encourage her are her mother and younger brother who live with her.

At school she is assigned the class (9-F) which has students admitted from a nearby slum under the section of RTE (Right to Education). There are only 14 students in the class and owing to their economic background at home and indifferent treatment at school these students are not only not interested in studies but are hell-bent on being rebellious and difficult to deal with.  

Both the students of class 9-F and their teacher Naina become the target of discussion and a source of embarrassment for the other students and teachers of the school. Only the Principal is willing to give her a four-month trial period to see if she is accepted by her students and if she is able to meet the high standards set by the school.

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The rest of the film is the emotional roller-coaster ride of Naina Mathur to first get her own class to take her seriously instead of being a butt of their jokes, then slowly make in-roads into their psyche to remove their feeling of inferiority-complex as compared to the other economically better-placed students and finally instil confidence in them to tackle the situations life throws at them.

She uses innovative methods of teaching to get them interested, she visits their homes to understand the background from which they come from and the challenges each one faces and invests in them her trust and confidence to help them identify their weaknesses and if possible turn them into their strengths to bring out the best in them.

There are many scenes which may seem clichéd and a little dramatic but have been directed and acted so well that these are bound to bring a lump in our throat without being overly melodramatic. Also to get the powerful message across, there is a character of a teacher played by Neerj Kabi who is shown to be unusually biased against Naina and her students, which did seem a little far-fetched. But where is the fun of having a heroic character if there is no typical villain in the frame?

FIVE REASONS TO WATCH THE FILM

Novel Theme: There have been films on education system and even teachers and students but this is probably the first time a physically challenged teacher not only wants to prove that a disability should not be treated as an obstacle  but also manages to inspire her students to face their fears and turn their weakness into strength to emerge victorious. In that essence it is a very positive film

Tourette syndrome: The writers and the director deserve full credit for introducing us to this rare syndrome and for creating awareness about the difficulties faced by people suffering from this disorder. How the people treat such a person and how such an attitude creates unnecessary obstacles for the person is also brought out effectively.

For Rani Mukherjee’s towering performance: After her brilliant portrayal of a deaf-mute person in Black (2005), she gets to tackle yet another physically challenged character and it is impossible  to imagine the efforts she must have put in to come up with such a convincing performance. There is one particular scene where the Principal wrongly accuses her students of having cheated in the exam and decides to expel them in the school assembly the next day. Without uttering a dialogue and only with her gestures she brings out a gamut of emotions – helplessness, frustration, anger and fear at the thought of having failed her students and losing all that she had dreamt for their future. Only an artiste of high calibre could have done it and Rani proves that she is one of the best!

Superb acting by all the child artistes: As the film focuses on students, understandably there are many child artistes acting in the film. Each one of them has come up with such a wonderful performance which adds to the naturalness and authenticity of the story and setting. Without them the film would not have turned out the way it has.

Effectively exposes the economic and intellectual divide: The economic divide which still exists in our society wherein children from economically backward backgrounds are still denied equal opportunities has been brought out very well. Apart from this, there also exists in many schools today an intellectual divide whereby the top-rankers are all put in one section and special training imparted to them and children who do not score so high are put in a different section. This not only gives the children a complex but automatically and psychologically affects the performance of the children. This aspect has also been brought out very well.

BOX-OFFICE COLLECTIONS

It is heartening to note that despite low publicity and an unusual theme, the film has raked in excellent collections. Made at a modest budget, the film is predicted to recover its cost and earn a comfortable profit as well. Even though Rani Mukherjee’s last film Mardaani came in 2014 and she had taken a 5-year break, she managed to get a record-breaking first day collection as compared to recent releases like Mom, Tumhari Sulu, Begum Jaan and Simran which proves that nothing can stop the success of a good content-driven film with a superb cast!

Here is an interesting song from the film: