Bollywood 2022: The year at a glance…

By

Sharada Iyer

As another year gets folded in the annals of cinematic history, here is a brief write-up of the good and the bad that characterized the year…

Looking back, 2022 was not a great year for Bollywood in terms of content as well as box-office hits. Over-publicized big-budget films turned out to be box-office duds and put a question mark against the pull and charm of the so-called superstars of the industry who could not even muster up a decent first weekend collection. The message is loud and clear: without a strong script, the audience is not going to be fooled by just a star name.

The year will be remembered primarily for the tough competition from the Hindi dubbed films of Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam industry, which created a big dent in the Bollywood’s collection. These superb Pan-India films from South hit Bollywood like a tsunami and engulfed the entire nation with their new ideas and novel ways of story-telling. RRR, Kantara, Pushpa, Karthikeya 2, KGF 2, 777 Charlie, Vikram, Major, Vikrant Rona, Ponniyin Selvan and Sita Ramam, were some of the films that turned out to be big blockbusters. By combining stories rooted in our culture with awesome visual effects they gave us cinema which was appealing and entertaining.

Further competition continued from the content on OTT platforms available in English, Hindi, and regional languages. As they are offering a lot of variety to choose from in terms of subject and treatment, people are not willing to step into cinema halls unless something different and spectacular is being promised. The craze for the first weekend rush is taking a backseat and people do not mind waiting for a few weeks to watch the same at their leisure. Moreover, several good films are nowadays getting released directly on OTT platforms and that has also altered the film’s collections.

Despite all these aspects, some films left their mark and made the year memorable.

Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali came up with the brilliant and heart-rending real-life story of Mumbai’s prostitute Gangubai Kathiawadi, which touched a chord in every viewer’s heart. The spectacular vision of director S S Rajamouli once again made cinema viewing an unforgettable experience and his mind-blowing RRR left the viewers spellbound. Kantara brought to screen a remarkable tale from the village of coastal Karnataka with emphasis on folklore and human vs nature conflict and swept the nation in its wake.

Badhaai Do was a thought-provoking take on the LGBTQ+ community and told a unique tale of a lesbian sports instructor and a gay cop who enter into a marriage of convenience to escape the pressures of society. In Drishyam 2, director Abhishek Pathak kept up the thrill and suspense of the first part and though it was a remake of the superhit Malayalam original, acting by the brilliant cast was a big plus point. Directed by Nagraj Manjule, Jhund was an inspirational sports-drama based on the heart-warming journey of a real-life school teacher who gets a football team ready by training talented slum kids.

Rocketry-The Nambi Effect was a touching tale based on the life of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan. The film was written, produced, and directed by R Madhavan who also played the protagonist. Shabash Mithu also deserves a mention for bringing to life the difficult journey of Mithali Raj-one of our greatest names in women’s cricket who captained India from 2004-2022.

The year stood out for many thriller films and this genre seems to be gaining a lot of popularity as we had several films and web-series based on crime drama. Films like Monica O My Darling, Jalsa, Darlings, Blurr, Dobaara, Govinda Naam Mera, Freddy, Forensic, Hit: The First Case, Good Luck Jerry, Chup: Revenge of An Artist and web series like Criminal Justice 2, Delhi Crime 2, Mai, Fame Game and Mithya proved to be a refreshing change and all were enjoyable.

It was a good year for the female actors with many of them stepping out of their comfort zone and taking on a variety of roles.

Alia Bhatt cemented her position further with two incredible performances. Donning the role of a sex-worker in Gangubai Kathiawadi, she lived the role of the real-life prostitute on whose life the film was based. She followed it up with a very convincing act of an abusive wife in Darlings. With this film she also turned producer launching her own production company Sunshine films. Though it was small role, she also starred in the year’s two big blockbusters- Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva and RRR though the latter had her in a small role only.

The ever-dependable Shefali Shah had a brilliant year with top-class performances in the films Jalsa, Darlings and Doctor G as well as the two web-series- Delhi Crime 2 and Human. Vidya Balan came up with a scintillating act in Jalsa, Neena Gupta also had a great year with memorable roles in Uunchai opposite Boman Irani, Goodbye opposite Amitabh Bachchan, Vadh opposite Sanjay Mishra and was superb in the 2 web-series- Panchayat 2 and Masaba 2.

Taapsee Pannu had five releases and continued her success story by trying out a variety of roles. She was superb in the crime thrillers Blurr and Do Baaraa, as well as the biopic Shabash Mithu where she essayed the role of the Indian Cricket Captain Mithali Raj. Her outing in the time travel film Loop Lapeta was fun to watch but in Tadka she had a small role and somebody else had dubbed for her but her pairing with Ali Fazal was good.

Huma Qureshi who is becoming better with every film delighted the audience with her sensuous presence in Monica O My Darling. She was excellent in the thriller web-series Mithya, and as the lady politician in the web-series Maharani 2, and was seen in a light-hearted role in Double XL which is a take on the lives of girls who are overweight and undergo body-shaming. She also had a lovely song picturized on her in Gangubai Kathiawadi.

Tabu is indeed an actress nonpareil, and she proved it with her towering presence in Drishyam 2 and an interesting double role in Bhool Bhulaiya 2. The surprise packet of the year was the super talented Sakshi Tanwar stepping out of her usual goody-goody characters and donning the role of the avenging mother in the nail-biting web-series Mai.

Other actresses who deserve a mention are Nimrat Kaur as the illiterate politician in Dasvi, Bhumi Pedenekar as the closeted lesbian in Badhaai Do, Kiara Advani in Govinda Naam Mera and Radhika Apte in the two crime thrillers Forensic and Monica O My Darling. Yami Gautam was also good in her roles in Dasvi and A Thursday. Madhuri Dixit could not have asked for a better OTT debut than the intriguing web-series The Fame Game, and she was wonderful.

Two beautiful and talented actresses from North-East made their presence felt with their acting and yet not much was written about them. 21-year-old Andrea Kevichusa from Nagaland made her debut in Anek opposite Ayushmann Khurrana and Chum Darang from Arunachal Pradesh acted as Bhumi’s lesbian partner in Badhaai Do. Youngsters who deserved a word of appreciation were Tripti Dimri in Qala, Jahnvi Kapoor in Good Luck Jerry, Alaya F in Freddy and debutante Avantika Dassani in the web-series Mithya.

Among the heroes, Akshay Kumar delivered five flops in a row creating a record of sorts-Prithviraj Chauhan, Bachchan Pandey, Raksha Bandhan, Ram Setu and Cuttputli. Today the term superstar is being used very lightly for anyone who gives one hit per year and incidentally the current self-proclaimed superstar Ranveer Singh ended up giving us two of the worst films this year- Jayeshbai Jordaar and Cirkus. He has concentrated more on endorsing several brands and being part of energetic promotional events.

Aamir Khan spent many years getting the rights of Forrest Gump and toiled hard in making Lal Singh Chaddha but the audience was not in a mood to watch the saga and it became a total disaster. Salman Khan had a poor outing with a cameo in the Chiranjeevi starrer Godfather and Shah Rukh Khan had a cameo in a few films of which his performance in Brahmastra won him appreciation. Ranbir Kapoor was terrible in Shamshera and though his Brahmastra was a hit, there were many factors which went into getting those numbers and he was certainly not the primary reason. Ayushmann Khurrana came up with average films like Anek, Doctor G and An Action Hero. Varun Dhawan was good in Bhediya but annoying in Jugjugg Jiyo. The duo of Saif Ali Khan and Hrithik could not recreate the magic of their counterparts Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathy in the Hindi remake of Vikram Vedha and the film fell short of the Tamil original.

The older guard on the other hand fared much better. Amitabh Bachchan had five releases this year and he was brilliant in all of them – Uncchai, Jhund, Runway 34, Goodbye and Brahmastra and a cameo in Chup: The Revenge of an Artist. Each film had him playing a different character and his zest for experimenting with new characters continues unabated. Anupam Kher had a good outing with The Kashmir Files, Uunchai and Karthikeya 2, and Anil Kapoor was in full form in Jug Jug Jiyo. Abhishek Bachchan was appreciated in Dasvi and Pankaj Tripathi gave winning performances in the film Sherdil-The Pilbhit Saga and the web-series Criminal Justice Season 2.

Ajay Devgn delivered a super-hit in Drishyam 2 and was appreciated for his small but important roles in RRR and Gangubai Kathiawadi. His directorial venture Runway 34 was also good. Raj Kummar Rao fared well with Badahaai Do and the crime thriller Monica O My Darling. Karthik Aryan was brilliant in Freddy and Jim Sarbh was good in Gangubai Kathiawadi and the web-series Rocket Boys. Vijay Verma was the surprise packet of the year with his superb act in Darlings. It was a pleasure watching Akshaye Khanna’s polished act in Drishyam 2.

Film songs which had been such an integral part of Hindi cinema have over the last few years taken a complete backseat and songs are incorporated only as dance numbers to create a buzz before the release of the film. Look at what the makers of Pathan have done. Publicity negative or positive will keep the audience in the loop and the first released song from the film which created quite a stir has received record-breaking viewership hits on YouTube.

There were rare films like Gangubai Kathiawadi and Brahmastra where all songs were melodious and picturized well. Our Southern industries are still giving a lot of importance to music and songs and their picturization as could be seen from RRR, Kantara, Ponniyin Selvan I, Pushpa and Sita Ramam. This is one area which really needs attention, if we don’t want to lose out on our distinct identity.

Here are a few of my favourite songs from 2022:

‘Jab Saiyaan…’ from Gangubai Kathiawadi

‘Kesariya tera…’ from Brahmastra

‘Varaha roopam…’ from Kantara

‘Naacho Naacho…’ from RRR

‘Yeh Ek Zindagi…’ from Monica O My Darling

‘Waqt ke jungle…’ from Do Baaraa

‘Hindustan Meri Jaan…’ from Shabash Mithu

2023 beckons us with lots of hopes and expectations for the film industry. The past year had many learnings for Bollywood but how much would be put into action remains to be seen. Will we continue to pander to the star system or will the actors playing strong characters take charge? Will the big names continue to fight for the festival weekends or will they have the guts to take on the industry with just their talent? Will the regional films continue their pull and give Bollywood a fight? Will Hindi cinema also give supreme importance to script and story or just continue with their run of sequels, remakes and biopics? Let us wait and watch…

2012-2022: A decade gone by since Rajesh Khanna left us…

By

Sharada Iyer

Today is Rajesh Khanna’s 80th birth anniversary…

How time flies! It is indeed difficult to imagine that it is already 10 years since our beloved superstar left us. The memory of his charming face and that magical smile which made him endearing to his fans remains etched in the memory of cine-goers and his record of giving 15 super-hits in a row continues to remain unbroken till date.

It is now part of cinematic history that just like he had no control over his meteoric rise to dizzying heights of stardom, he had no control over the even bigger fall he witnessed after the rise. The language of film-making changed, the audience taste and expectations changed, romance gave way to action, newer stars arrived, new ways of story-telling and music came to the fore. Perhaps a combination of all these factors led to a major shift and Rajesh Khanna was caught off-guard. He was putting in the same effort and his acting was the same but now people did not flock to see his films.

Just like his films from 1969-1979 proved to be significant for him, the eighties also formed a very important phase in his career. This blog-post examines some of his films, the good and the bad, released during this decade from 1980-1989. The stories of most of the films released during this decade, barring a few, revolved around rape- revenge sagas, fight against corrupt evil-mongers, extra-marital affairs and misunderstandings, stories with emotion and melodrama and a few action films.

Of the 70-odd films that released in the eighties, Rajesh Khanna came up with memorable performances in films like Avtaar and Thodi Si Bewafaai with Shabana Azmi, Amrit and Aakhir Kyon with Smita Patil, Agar Tum Na Hote with Rekha, Dhanwan with Reena Roy, Dard with Hema Malini and Poonam Dhillon, Souten with Tina Munim and Padmini Kolhapure, Awaaz with Jaya Prada and Dharam Aur Kanoon with Asha Parekh and Jaya Prada.

He tried a variety of roles- an egoistic husband, a serial killer, a psychiatrist, a corrupt lawyer, a village simpleton, a judge, an arrogant playboy, a thakur, an inspector, a thief, a smuggler, a dacoit, etc. He was even seen as a college student, a father, and a grandfather as well. It was not that his acting was not good, but somehow, he had lost the ‘Midas touch’, his fans had moved on and Rajesh Khanna was no longer the blue-eyed boy of the box-office.

Looking at his repertoire, one could see that he tried to portray different characters in these films and that included some not-so-likeable characters also. For instance, he started the decade by playing a serial killer in Red Rose and his heroine was the young Poonam Dhillon. Looking at the audience taste today one could say that perhaps the film was ahead of its time. Today a mainstream top actor is accepted in any kind of role but in 1980, it was a great risk on the part of Rajesh Khanna who was known for his romantic image to have played the role. The film remade from the south super-hit Sigappu Rojakkal did not do for Khanna’s career what the Tamil one did for its hero Kamal Hassan.

He also starred in a horror film Phir Wohi Raat, where he plays a psychiatric doctor. The film was directed by his friend and co-star Danny Denzongpa and had a young actress Kim as his heroine. Bandish had him and Hema Malini playing college students and that just did not go down well with the audience and the first half an hour of eve-teasing and other pranks by Khanna made his character quite annoying. In Aanchal, despite the presence of actors like Rekha, Raakhee, Amol Palekar and Prem Chopra, the film suffered owing to the regressive storyline. The story centered around the misunderstanding created by the suspicion of Khanna carrying on an illicit affair with his sister-in-law Raakhee unknown to Raakhee’s husband Amol Palekar. The story seemed straight to have been taken from the late 50s or early 60s.

One of the major aspects of this decade which became a big challenge for him was the absence of heroines with whom he had created a hit-pair during his hey-days. After Mumtaz quit the industry post her marriage and with no films opposite Sharmila Tagore also, he lost two of his best heroines with whom his on-screen chemistry had been magical. Actresses like Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman and Rekha from the seventies were there but his films opposite them in the eighties lacked the special ‘X-factor’.

In the eighties, he had to team up with many new heroines like Sridevi, Jaya Prada, Padmini Kolhapure and Poonam Dhillon all of whom were a good 20 years younger to him. Heroines like Zahira, Priya Rajvansh, Kim, Preeti Sapru, Smita Patil, Tina Munim, Reena Roy, Meenakshi Seshadri, Salma Agha, etc. were all almost 12-15 years younger to him and his pairing with these young girls did not do him much good. The only actress with whom he made a great pair was Shabana Azmi, and together they gave some memorable films which brought out the best in terms of their performances and their chemistry.

He also starred in several two-hero projects and multi-starrers where his other heroes included Jeetendra, Dharmendra, Vinod Mehra, Rakesh Roshan, Rishi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna, Mithun Chakraborty, Raj Kumar, etc. It was also nice to see that many of his usual group of character artistes like Prem Chopra, Sujit Kumar, Om Shivpuri, Roopesh Kumar, Ranjeet, Asrani, A K Hangal, Danny Denzongpa and Satyen Kappu continued to work with him bringing to these films their special touch and ardor.

Undoubtedly director Mohan Kumar’s Avtaar opposite Shabana Azmi could easily rank amongst his top 3 career-best performances. As the old man who loses his hand and is also betrayed by his own sons, Rajesh Khanna was brilliant. The film was a super-hit and loved by everyone and even today it can be watched any number of times for the emotional connect of the story and for the performances of Rajesh Khanna and Shabana Azmi.

Thodi Si Bewafaai was another life-saver for Rajesh Khanna. Not only was the film different in its treatment about divorce, the role had a quiet dignity that suited Rajesh Khanna’s age and maturity and he was excellent. Plus, his pairing with Shabana Azmi was exceptional. These two actors always shared an intellectual chemistry when it came to their on-screen performances and the film was big hit.

Kudrat was a re-incarnation thriller with a murder woven into the storyline. Rajesh Khanna got together with Raj Kumar and it was great watching the two together after Maryada (1971). The film also had Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna, Priya Rajvansh and Aruna Irani in the cast. He plays a lawyer and the last 45 minutes of the film had exciting courtroom drama which was engaging to watch.

Dard released in 1981 saw him in a double role and it was a remake of Suchitra Sen’s 1960 film Mamta, but instead of the heroine playing the double role of mother and daughter, this time the hero Rajesh Khanna got to play both the father and the son. The film did well and he was superb in the older role.

Dhanwan had him play the rich arrogant playboy who is miffed when the heroine Reena Roy is not impressed with his money and position and does not take kindly to his advances. She prefers the simpleton Rakesh Roshan which leaves Rajesh Khanna very jealous. Circumstances make him lose his eyesight. He then realizes his mistakes and becomes a better person.

In Amrit, he essays the role of a grandfather who shares a lovable bond with his grandson but is ill-treated at home by his son. He ends up striking a unique friendship with Smita Patil whom he meets in the park where they both bring their grandchildren to watch over them when they play. The situation in her house and her plight at the hands of her son is similar to that of Rajesh Khanna and they understand each other’s pain.

Awaaz had him in the unique role of a lawyer who defends all criminals and is friends with the crime lords which include Amrish Puri, Prem Chopra, Madan Puri, and Sudhir. While his close friend Suresh Oberoi who is an inspector keeps warning him that he was not happy with Khanna’s way of working, and even gets killed for his honesty, the hard truth hits Khanna only after his own wife (Jaya Prada) and sister (Supriya Pathak) fall prey to the criminals. He then embarks on a journey of revenge and murder.

Dharam Aur Kanoon had a huge star cast- Rajesh Khanna in a double role as father and son, Asha Parekh, Dharmendra, Jaya Prada, Danny Denzongpa, Iftekhar, Vinod Mehra, Mazhar Khan, Om Shivpuri and Dheeraj Kumar. In the father role Khanna is a judge and does not like his son who he feels is a waster. The film was entertaining and the camaraderie between him and Dharmendra was superb and his pairing with Asha Parekh was also fine.

In Souten though he was cast opposite two very young actresses Tina and Padmini Kolhapure, the film turned out to be a blockbuster owing to its taut screenplay, intelligent direction, good performances, and excellent music. Aakhir Kyon was passable and had Khanna in a side role of a true friend of Smita Patil, while Rakesh Roshan plays her Casanova husband who cheats on her by sleeping with Tina Munim. Agar Tum Na Hote had him in the role of a widower with a child and this mature role suited him a lot. Rekha who comes to work as the child’s governess has a face resembling Khanna’s dead wife and the plot thereafter was interesting.

While these films were good, many of his other films did not have good scripts and some had such weird plots. Take for instance Nazrana where he had three heroines opposite him- Smita Patil plays his wife, Sridevi is their maid’s daughter and Preeti Sapru is a model who works for him. Sridevi stays in a slum and to stay safe from the goons of her locality, she rubs mud on her face to look dark and unattractive (preposterous idea). As luck would have it, one rainy night, when Smita Patil is not at home, Sridevi decides to dance in the rain and lo and behold the mud comes off her skin and Rajesh Khanna cannot take his eyes off her and no prizes for guessing where they end up! In 1983, Preeti Sapru had acted as Khanna’s daughter-in-law in Avtaar and four years later her pairing as a lover opposite Khanna did not look appealing.

In Dil-e-Nadaan, he and Shatrughan Sinha are like brothers as he has been adopted by Shatru’s family. He also has a girlfriend Jaya Prada and a secretary Smita Patil. As usual one rainy night, in a drunken and lonely state, he ends up sleeping with Smita Patil but requests her to keep it a secret from Jaya Prada. Unfortunately, the latter comes to know and breaks off with Khanna without telling him that she knows about his shenanigan. Shatrughan now falls for Jaya Prada and complications follow without any meaning.

Rajesh Khanna gave yet another forgettable film in Oonche Log where he teamed up with Salma Agha and Preeti Sapru. He is adopted as a kid by a Thakur played by Pradeep Kumar but years later, we see that after the Thakur’s death, his brother Prem Chopra and his son Danny Denzongpa ill-treat him, make him live in their stables, and whip him brutally when they discover he loves the Thakur’s daughter Salma Agha. The script, songs, direction-everything was bad about the film and no performance stood out.

Indrani Mukherjee, the heroine of his first film Aakhri Khat played his mother in the film Fiffty-Fiffty. In the double role of the father and the son in Dard and Dharam aur Kanoon, he was paired opposite Hema Malini and Asha Parekh respectively. While the older Rajesh Khanna looked great as their husband in the films, the young Rajesh Khanna could just not pass off as the son to these actresses and addressing them ‘ma’ looked weird. His heroine of Daag Raakhee, played his elder sister-in-law (brother Amol Palekar’s wife) in Aanchal.

Fiffty-Fiffty saw him team up with Tina Munim for the first time and the light-hearted entertainer where both play con artists, was passable. Ashanti had him in the role of an inspector, who is wrongly accused of a crime and he takes the help of three women – Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi and Shabana Azmi to seek revenge.

Awara Baap had a terrible storyline and this time he teamed up with Meenakshi Sheshadri in a double role and the film tanked miserably at the box-office. Films like Paapi Pet Ka Sawaal and Naya Kadam also did not do much for his career. In the film Adhikar he does not want his wife Tina Munim to pursue a career in singing and the scene where he drags her roughly out of the recording studio and throws her on the floor and slaps her was not appealing to watch.

In Asha Jyothi he starred opposite Rekha and Reena Roy and both the heroines fall in love with him. But the melodramatic story was quite painful to watch and, in the end, both the women sacrifice their lives for each other and the tragic turn of the plot made no sense. Films like Masterji, Maqsad and Naya Kadam opposite Sridevi and Jaya Prada are best forgotten.

The eighties in a nutshell did not really boost his career much but he continued to work in many films. In the initial years of his career, whatever he touched turned to gold, but in later years the lost glory never returned. The song ‘Yaaron utho chalo bhaago daudo marne se pehle jeena na chodo yaaron…’ from his film Avtaar fits him aptly as he did not bow down or spend time reminiscing of the days gone. He took both these phases of his career in his stride with dignity and gave his best in whatever way he could to all the projects.

He was fortunate to have enjoyed his short-lived but unprecedented superstardom when the industry was still in what is attributed to have been the ‘golden era of Hindi cinema’. To describe his success, the media coined a new term ‘superstar’ for him for the first time and he will always be remembered as the original one! He retained his charisma and aura till the end.

We will always miss you dear Kaka…

MUGHAL-E-AZAM (Musical) – A scintillating tribute to K Asif’s unforgettable epic!

By

Sharada Iyer

On October 21, 2022, I had the good fortune of witnessing the spectacular musical show- MUGHAL-E-AZAM– on stage and I came out totally mesmerized! To be honest, despite the rave reviews it had received, I was skeptical and could not help wondering how such an epic film with such deep-rooted memories would come out on stage as a play. However, all my doubts vanished from the very first scene when the dialogues in Urdu-mixed-Hindi immediately transported me back in time to the court of of Emperor Akbar in the film and as the story unfolded on stage the luminescence and perfection of every scene only became brighter and better.

It is said that every film embodies the spirit of its time and resonates with the culture and ethos relevant in that period. But director K Asif’s epic saga Mughal-E-Azam released in 1960 with its story set in the Mughal era, retains its timeless appeal even after six decades of its release.

This evergreen story of unrequited love between Emperor Akbar’s son Salim and a lowly courtesan Anarkali and the imminent threat felt by the Emperor for the empire’s future, had caught the fancy of cinema lovers ever since its release in 1960 and remains entrenched in the psyche of the viewers transcending age and culture. Perhaps it is this very eternal appeal of the love story rooted in our history and culture which became the perfect choice of a story for directing a Broadway style musical.

The play is produced by Shapoorji Pallonji group, whose founding father Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry had ironically been the producer of the original K Asif magnum opus. The director of the play Feroz Abbas Khan, who is known for directing many gems both on stage (Tumhari Amrita, Gandhi Virudh Gandhi, Saalgirah, etc.) and in films (Gandhi-my father), considers it a real play of destiny that once again the same group who holds the rights to the film had agreed to finance his musical as well and placed so much trust in him.

Everything about the show was fabulous. Right from the superb set designs which proved the perfect backdrop for all the scenes to the brilliantly choreographed dances, from the mesmerizing sound system, and the live songs to the beautiful visual effects and the stunning costumes designed by Manish Malhotra, there was nothing out of place. Mayuri Upadhya the choreographer gets a lot of credit for taking real-life Kathak dancers for the play which elevated the experience to another level. Similarly, the costumes had real zardozi work on rich silks and heavy jewellery to give the real feel of grandeur and splendour to the actors who were enacting the roles.

Acting by the entire cast was outstanding and they lived and breathed every bit of the character they played. They never tried to copy the actors of the original film in their body language or dialogue delivery for no one can ever recreate the aura of the towering presence of Prithviraj Kapoor, the quiet and understated dignity of Dilip Kumar or the beauty and expressions of Madhubala. Instead of just imitating, they infused a little of their own personality thereby keeping the approach fresh, yet not tampering with the soul of the plot. In other words, though every scene reminded us of the original in every which way, yet it was cruising its own memorable journey on stage making the film come alive in an unimaginable way!

After all, Mughal-E-Azam is not just any film. It is the grandest film ever made and mounted on a canvas so spectacular, so rich, and so magnificent in every aspect, that it is unanimously considered to be one of the best films ever made in Hindi cinema. And to make a musical on a film like that called for tremendous, guts, sincerity, dedication, self-belief, and an obsession to bring the same kind of dignity, honesty, elegance, and class on stage which had been the hallmark of the film.

All these qualities were embedded in Indian theatre and film director, playwright, and screenwriter Feroz Abbas Khan. Though he feared his own audacity to dream of taking up such a project, he had the vision and the passion necessary to make it happen. He was ready for the challenges and he went ahead with the herculean task to bring his vision to life. He also realized how people from all walks of life would be waiting to post-mortem his product even if one small thing went out of place and diluted the essence of the film and that would be a disaster!

The biggest challenge was to convince the audience that the play was not a remake but a humble tribute to K Asif’s timeless classic and was a sincere attempt to carry forward this priceless legacy of our cinematic history to the next generation by recreating it using a different medium. But if we look back, the 1960 film was actually an adaptation of a play written by Urdu writer Imtiaz Ali Taj in 1922, and the play was titled Anarkali.  So, in a way the latest musical goes back to the roots by taking the story back to stage from where the journey had started.

Several factors had contributed to make Mughal-E-Azam into the classic film it became over a period. The faultless screenplay, the memorable dialogues with a heavy dose of Urdu, the grandeur of the sets, the authenticity and integrity brought to the tiniest detail in every aspect of the film, the magnificent costumes, the fabulous cast, the brilliant direction, the outstanding lyrics and last but not the least the haunting and eternal quality of the film’s songs as well as the background music-all these had turned this film into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The play retains the legendary dialogues of the film which are now part of cinematic history thereby lending authenticity to the proceedings and made viewing a lot more enjoyable. After all, the dialogues are etched in the memory of the viewers who grew up watching the film on screen as well as the generation who have watched it many times on television. When the digitally-coloured version of the film was released in 2004, a whole new set of audience fell in love with Salim and Anarkali and their immortal love story and once again the dialogues were appreciated.

Songs by music maestro Naushad Ali should not be touched and thankfully the producers have retained all the songs but with a notable difference. Instead of playing the record of these songs and asking the heroine to lip-sync to the original songs by Lata Mangeshkar, all songs have been sung live by the actors on stage which had a stunning effect while watching live. Two new songs have also been added.

For this reason, Feroz Abbas Khan’s Anarkali had to be a professional singer and dancer, apart from being a brilliant actress with good Urdu diction. She had to embody the grace and dignity of Anarkali’s charcater and to some extent match the physical beauty of Madhubala as well. This seemed a daunting task but the director managed to get not one but two actresses- Priyanka Barve and Neha Sargam, who fit the bill and they now take turns in acting the part of Anarkali on stage in different shows. Like Anarkali, two actors were trained to act as Prince Salim-Shahab Ali and Dhanveer Singh.

The show I saw had Shahab Ali as Salim and Priyanka Barve as Anarkali and both were excellent especially the latter’s singing was outstanding. After every song there was thunderous applause from the audience and there was clapping after every one of those famous dialogues were spoken by the actors!  Actor Nissar Khan who essayed the role of Emperor Akbar was indeed the life of the play for without his priceless contribution the play would have fallen apart.

The actress Rupsha Mukherjee who played the character of Bahar, had a thicker voice like Shamshad Begum’s and the ‘qawaali face-off’ between Bahar and Anarkali was a treat to watch with the kathak dancers dancing in the background. Other characters like Maharani Jodhabai, Suraiya, Maan Singh and Durjan Singh were also aptly cast and came up with praiseworthy performances. Tariq Ahmed Khan played the ‘sangtarash’ or the sculptor and was also the narrator of the play. His mastery over the language made it a treat to listen to his narration.

K Asif’s relentless perseverance against several odds, his passion for turning the germ of an idea taking root in his mind into the spectacular film of his vision is a part of cinematic history now. The shooting of the film which started in 1944, finally released in 1960 after 16 years of monumental efforts and overcoming unbelievable obstacles and film lovers till today cannot stop talking about the film which remains perfect in every which way.

K Asif had had so many years at his disposal to realize his dream and could construct the ‘Sheesh Mahal’ for that one dance sequence apart from erecting various sets to serve as backdrop for the different sequences. But Feroz Abbas Khan had to deliver the product in a few months. He also had to create myriad backdrops on the small area of the stage to give the feel of the settings for the different scenes like Akbar’s court, Jodhabai’s quarters in the palace, the garden where Salim and Anarkali would meet and the dungeons where Anarkali was imprisoned.

It was challenging to show the battle scenes and to project it in a way to get the audience to experience it in their minds, and above all to create the effect of the ‘Sheesh Mahal’ which had to be brought alive on stage in the song sequence ‘Pyar kiya toh darna kya…’. The hard work and dedicated efforts of the entire technical team was there for all to see in every scene and it was truly phenomenal!

After its debut show in 2016, the two years of Covid did bring the project to a standstill but the play has now travelled across several states in India and held international shows in Muscat and Dubai as well. It won seven trophies including the Best Indian Play and Best Ensemble Cast apart from awards in several technical categories at the Broadway Awards, 2017.

Before the show started, after a brief introduction from the director, we were requested to switch off our mobile phones and not record anything on our phones as this would distract the actors performing live and in this case the singing was also live. After this, a short-recorded speech was played in the voice of none other than the nightingale Lata Mangeshkar who expressed her appreciation for the tremendous efforts taken by the director and his entire team.

Mughal-E-Azam (Musical) is truly a brilliant tribute to the epic film and the magnificence of the project and the energy it infuses in the audience must be seen and needs to be experienced in the auditorium. Undoubtedly, a not-to-be-missed experience where we get to relive the magic once again!!!

I found this YouTube link which would give the readers an idea of the musical show:

KANTARA: An enthralling mix of culture, nature, conflicts & raw emotions

By

Sharada Iyer

If there is one film which has taken the film world by storm and is currently being talked about by every cine lover, it is writer-director-actor Rishab Shetty’s Kannada film Kantara-A Legend. Within a short span of its release, the film went on to garner an IMDB rating of 9.4/10 which is a record of sorts. Loved both by the audience and the critics, the film is unstoppable at the box-office and marching ahead creating new records in its wake and leaving behind viewers who are still caught in the spellbinding journey which they have experienced in the cinema halls.

Made at a modest budget of rupees 16 crores, the film which was initially released as a regional Kannada film on September 30, 2022, received such an unprecedented response from the audience that word of mouth soon brought in non-Kannada speaking people to the cinema halls who albeit not understanding the language found themselves riveted by the unforgettable roller-coaster ride the film offered. With a strong story rooted in the unique folklore of Tulunadu in coastal Karnataka, and brilliant performance from the entire cast especially the protagonist played by Rishab Shetty himself, the film is a cinematic masterpiece in every way.

As Rishabh mentions in his interviews he feels extremely touched by the widespread love of the people and the overwhelming response to his film. Apparently, he had to cut short his promotional tour in the first week of the film’s release to oversee the demand for the dubbed versions of the film in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam languages giving it a Pan-India appeal!!! The Hindi version was then released all over India on October 14 along with Tamil and Telugu versions, two weeks after the release of the Kannada film. The Malayalam version is gearing up for release on October 20, 2022.

From earning a little more than one crore in its first week in the Kannada version, the film has now crossed rupees 100 crore mark very comfortably just on the strength of word of mouth. Indeed, this is the true power of cinema to produce content that transcends all barriers of language and caste and unites the audience and all this without any pre-release promotional overkill or unnecessary publicity gimmicks.

The film is a thoroughly enjoyable mass entertainer with a strong plot and showcases the unique culture specific to the area of coastal Karnataka where the story is set in. We get to experience the ‘Bhoota Kola’ and ‘Daivaradhane’ artforms and ‘Kamabala’ sports, and also get to know about the importance of deities like ‘Panjurli Daiva’ and ‘Guliga Daiva’ in their folklore.

The word Kantara means mystical forest and the film deals with the way of life of the rural people who inhabit the forest area and their connection to the divine. They strongly believe in the mystical presence of Demi-Gods and protective spirits who protect them and are shown to live in harmony with nature. Here, ‘Varaha’ or the third incarnation of Lord Vishnu is worshipped and hence the wild boar is seen as an auspicious animal.

The film shows the nexus between the villagers and their landlord, the human vs nature conflict, and the ruggedness of the lives of these natives who embody innocence and naivete and have faith in divinity. The forest officials do not seem to understand that the native forest dwellers have a better understanding of the man-animal relations than the officers could ever hope to have, and there are many brilliantly conceived confrontations.

The music is outstanding, the cinematography is stunning, the setting is so natural, the sequences are well-conceived, the direction is superb and finally, the heady climax gives the kind of goose-bumps that is unimaginable culminating in a terrific finale. The man who has created this magic on screen- Rishab Shetty is just brilliant in the character of Shiva. As the crude young villager who is forever whiling away his time with his friends he becomes the protector of the villagers when the need arises. It is his rugged physique which makes the character so believable and coupled with his body language and vivid expressions he brings to life a memorable character on screen and leaves a deep impression.  

Saptami Gowda is the female lead opposite him and her raw appeal is refreshing. Apart from her, there are several actors who play important characters- Shiva’s mother, the landlord, his henchmen, the forest officer, and Shiva’s friends. Various artistes who may not have much screen time are very important to the story and are superb in their roles.

The first fifteen minutes of the film are very crucial to understand the concept on which the story is set and the last half an hour comprising of a visually stunning and adrenalin-pumping climax heightens the drama taking the film to a heady level. I shall not go into the details of the plot as revealing anything would take away the fun of watching the film.

Before the film’s release Rishab Shetty was hardly a known name but today, much like his other record-breaking predecessors in recent times from South- Allu Arjun in Pushpa, Yash in KGF 1&2, Junior NTR and Ram Charan in RRR, Dulquer Salman in Sita Ramam, Karthi, Jayaram Ravi and Vikram in Ponniyin Selvan, and Nikhil Siddhartha in Karthikeya 1&2, Rishab Shetty after Kantara has become a household name and a national level celebrity.

Off-screen, in his interviews, the man is so humble and down-to-earth. Hailing from Keradi village of Kundapur taluk in coastal Karnataka, he mentions how he has grown up witnessing these practices and how he has a deep connection with his region’s roots. So, all he did was to bring to the fore whatever he has grown up with and experienced, and weave a strong story around it.

Without spending money on VFX and later creating a big brouhaha about it, Kantara has paved the way for entertaining and engaging cinema with its inherent raw cultural appeal and proves that there is no substitute for a strong plot embedded in basic human emotions. That is the only way to establish a connect with the audience. Kudos to the entire team for this unique venture!

Four lesser-known films of Amitabh Bachchan

By

Sharada Iyer

At the peak of his career between 1975 and 1979, almost all of Amitabh Bachchan’s films hit the jackpot and were declared blockbusters. This was the period when he gave dream hits like Deewaar, Trishul, Amar Akbar Anthony, Don, Suhaag, Sholay, Kaala Pathar, Kabhie Kabhi, etc., and the characters he portrayed in each of these films became etched in the minds of his fans and the dialogues from these films in his rich baritone gave the films a great recall value. Over a period of time, these films have attained an iconic status and are remembered even today almost four decades after their release.

Articles on these films are available aplenty; so instead of writing about any of these legendary roles, this blog-post examines four films- Faraar, Besharam, Alaap and Manzil that were released during the same period between 1975 and 1979 but did not do well at the box-office and were declared huge flops. The films were different and had Amitabh attempt different kinds of characters. He was brilliant in all of them and yet the films got lost in the hullaballoo of his superhit films and are not spoken about much.

FARAAR (1975)

Written by Gulzar and directed by Shankar Mukherjee (younger brother of veteran director Gyan Mukherjee), Faraar is a thriller with a terrific cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore and has plenty of confrontation scenes to keep the viewer engrossed. Amitabh plays a painter whose life changes when his sister is raped and murdered by her evil boss. As luck would have it in the absence of any proof, the judge lets the rapist go scot-free and Amitabh decides to take revenge on his own. He kills the rapist and is on the run to escape from the police.

Ironically the house he chooses to hide and take refuge in, not only belongs to the Inspector in charge of the case but it also happens to be the house of his once upon a time lover who is now married to the inspector. Sanjeev Kumar plays the inspector, Sharmila Tagore is his wife, Master Raju their son and Agha is their servant.

The events that unfold from the time he enters the house and takes their little son hostage to keep them from revealing his presence in the house forms the crux of the narrative. Editing is tight and acting by all three is superb making for a solid entertainer. Amitabh gets to display a range of emotions and he is awesome. Sanjeev Kumar is equally brilliant and Sharmila Tagore as the woman torn between her lover and her husband is also superb!

The flashback to what happened between Amitabh and Sharmila is shown in an interesting manner in bits and parts and not at a stretch which made it different from the usual films. Music is by Kalyanji-Anandji and they have given a memorable song ‘Main pyasa tum saawan main dil tum meri dhadkan…’ which we get to hear in three different versions- a Lata Mangeshkar solo, a Kishore Kumar solo and a Kishore-Lata duet. All three versions are good but the Kishore solo is the best of the lot and undoubtedly my favourite too. Here is the You Tube link to the song:

Though there are no great twists and turns, the flow of events is kept taut and well directed and the film is worth a watch just for the performances alone. Master Raju is also good in the small role and so are Sulochana as Amitabh’s mother and Sajjan as Sanjeev Kumar’s subordinate officer.

Perhaps had Faraar not been released alongside blockbusters like Sholay, Deewaar and Chupke Chupke and hits like Mili and Zameer, the film may have got more attention.

ALAAP (1977)

The year that brought to fore Amitabh’s action cum comedy avatar in full force in films like Khoon Pasina, Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Adalat and Imaan Dharam, director Hrishikesh Mukherjee presented him in the role of a classical singer in Alaap. This film showcased Amitabh in a subdued role which was completely different from his other roles that year. Attired in a simple kurta-pyjama and a third piece jacket and devoid of any action scenes or comic scenes, Amitabh leaves an indelible mark with his credible performance.

The story written by the director himself dealt with the father-son conflict between Om Prakash and Amitabh Bachchan over the choice of the latter’s profession. While his father wanted Amitabh to follow in his footsteps and become an advocate just like his elder son had done, Amitabh after studying classical music wanted to pursue a career in music. The film showed the lengths to which a father could hold on to his ego trying to show his displeasure, and the extent to which the son could go to follow his passion in life and not be forced to toe the line his father expected him to.

Instead of accompanying his brother to the courts, Amitabh spends time in the company of Asrani, Rekha Man Mohan Krishna and Chhaya Devi. Asrani is his childhood friend who drives a ‘fittan’ or ‘horse-cart’ for a living, Rekha is his sister, Chhaya Devi is a musician who had been a famous courtesan in her younger days and Man Mohan Krishna her well-wisher. Sanjeev Kumar can be seen in a guest appearance. Apart from the classical singer angle, the film also throws light on how modernization of the villages with the introduction of buses affected the daily-wage workers like the ‘fittan-wallas’ or people driving the horse-cart for their living.

Music by Jaidev was good and three of the songs became very popular, but the voice of Yesudas did not suit Amitabh Bachchan’s personality and somehow one could not associate his face with that voice.  Here is the YouTube link of the song ‘Koi gaata main so jaata…’ written by Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan and sung by Yesudas:

Somehow the plot lacked the emotional depth to engage the audience which is usually the hallmark of all Hrishida’s films. Maybe a more familiar actress in place of Chhaya Devi could have been more effective as she gets to play the role of Sarju Begum who is not only vital to the plot but also shares important relationship with all the characters in the film. Amitabh’s sincerity could be seen the way he approached the role but the narrative after a point was not interesting and the film felt gloomy.

BESHARAM (1978)

This was an out and out action film produced and directed by actor Deven Verma and the actor took the opportunity to cast himself in a unique triple role-where he plays the father, mother, and son. His role hardly had any relevance to the main story and he is there to provide some comic relief but being his own production, he must have decided to test his talent.

Coming to the plot, the story starts off as a revenge drama where an innocent son vows to avenge his righteous father’s death by the evil goons. Though the death is thought to be suicide, the police find out that he had been murdered and that things were not as straightforward as they seemed. Soon the son is asked by the police to become their undercover agent and help them nab these criminals who masquerade in society as good Samaritans.

Amitabh Bachchan plays the innocent son, A K Hangal his father and Nirupa Roy is his mother. Iftekhar is the Inspector and Amjad Khan plays the dreaded crime-lord with Jagdish Raj as his right-hand man. Amjad has a snake as a pet and whenever he wants anyone killed, the snake is sent off to finish the job. He also has a couple of cheetahs in his den and his character comes across as someone who is mentally warped.

Amitabh moves away from his village and after six months he appears in a disguised avatar as a rich diamond businessman from South Africa. He befriends both Sharmila Tagore and Bindu pretending to love them both to get information on the criminals. While Sharmila is Amjad Khan’s sister, Bindu plays his lover. Earlier in the film he had already come across Sharmila when she was disguised as a beggar and is shocked to be introduced to her at a party as the gangster’s sister!

Things do not proceed very smoothly as planned by the police and a totally avoidable rape and murder also take place. The climax is quite shoddy and hurried and the entire police force is shown to be just standing outside Amjad’s den leaving Amitabh to fend for himself and rescue his mother as well. Amitabh’s so-called disguise was laughable because there was no change in his face and hairstyle. In place of kurta-pyjama, he dons loud and bold suits and surprisingly no one recognizes him. Sharmila Tagore has a silly role and is totally wasted. Bindu leaves her mark in a small role.

Deven Verma sure showed guts to make a film like this with Amitabh Bachchan and then go ahead and release it in a year alongside such stupendous hits like Don, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Trishul, Ganga Ki Saugandh and Kasme Vaade. Though the plot seemed good, the execution left much to be desired and the result was a product which went unnoticed. The performances were good with Amitabh Bachchan, Iftekhar and Hangal doing their best but the ‘x’ factor was missing in the story which could have turned it into a box-office success. 

There are only four songs and music by Kalyanji-Anandji is quite forgettable and Amitabh does not get to sing any of the songs.

MANZIL (1979)

Once again, this was a film that got lost in the crowd of super-hits that year- Suhaag, Kaala Patthar, Mr. Natwarlal, The Great Gambler and Jurmana.  Written and directed by director Basu Chatterjee, whose forte was to highlight the lives and problems of common man, Manzil also dealt with an ordinary man, his circumstances and how he faces life’s everyday challenges. One of the producers of the film was Jai Pawar, veteran actress Lalita Pawar’s son and in the film, she gets to play Amitabh’s mother.

Amitabh lives with his widowed mother and they are living off whatever little insurance money the father had left behind. Tired of their hand to mouth existence, he is always dreaming of making it big in this world and is attracted to the luxuries of life. Though he is a graduate, he refuses to take up a job and instead keeps putting all the money in a business idea of his, which he feels would eventually pay off and they would be able to get out of their sad plight.

He teams up with an associate A K Hangal and they decide to buy second-hand galvanometers, refurbish them like new and sell to educational institutions and industries. Meanwhile, in his spare time he also sings and during one such occasion at a friend’s wedding, he meets Moushmi Chatterjee and sparks fly. He is also attracted to the fact that she belongs to a rich family, her father being the renowned lawyer Satyen Kappu.

She is already drawn to his singing prowess but to impress her further he starts telling blatant lies about his job, his status, his other riches including a bungalow and car and servants etc. His childhood best friend played by Rakesh Pandey is a Chartered Accountant doing well for himself and Amitabh starts wearing the friend’s expensive suits, borrowing his car, and even giving his friend’s address as his own and ends up staying there most of the time.

Despite the warning from his friend, he continues to paint a fabricated picture of his life to Moushmi and her family without any qualms. He also makes the mistake of putting implicit trust in his business partner Hangal. Understandably, after a point the mirror had to crack and his house of cards comes tumbling down and he gets caught in a fraud case as well with Satyen Kappu being the prosecutor.

Amitabh Bachchan is in full form as the young man without much conscience as he lies his way through before realizing that dishonesty would never take him far in life. It was indeed a different kind of role. Moushmi is supposed to be a college girl but did not look quite so young though she acts well. The rest of the cast is apt for their respective parts.

The film did not do well and today it is remembered only for the mesmerizing Kishore Kumar solo ‘Rim jhim gire saawan sulag sulag jaaye man, bheege aaj is mausam mein lagi kaisi yeh agan…’  written by Yogesh and composed by R D Burman. Though there is a solo Lata Mangeshkar version also which is very good, the magic of Kishore Kumar’s resonating vocals have made this song immortal and is counted among one of his best solos. Here is the YouTube link to the iconic song:

BRAHMASTRA: Part One-Shiva- is an entertaining film but not mind-blowing!

By

Sharada Iyer

A film in the making for seven years, boasting of the costliest budget ever for a Bollywood film, fueled by insane promotional events and extraordinary hype, and starring the film-industry’s current favourite real-life star-couple Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor is bound to create excitement and expectedly a crazy rush at the ticket-counter. But did the film live up to the expectations? Let us find out…

For those wanting to see lots of special effects and wanting to experience this type of action sequences in the world of Hindi cinema this film would be more appealing, but for those giving importance to a solid story and strong script and memorable dialogues, the film will be a let-down. This probably explains the mixed reviews the film has been getting ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other.

The film is definitely a good one-time watch which shines in the action scenes and VFX department and gets brownie points for the unique plot and the audacity of the director to dream and execute such a venture but is sadly let-down by a lame and unconvincing love story angle that leaves us with mixed feelings. Had the director concentrated more on the ‘astraverse’ (world of celestial weapons) angle with more fight sequences between the different ‘astras’ and more importance to veterans like Amitabh Bachchan and Nagarjuna and cut down on the love-angle, we might have had an epic film.

Individually the senior actors have all done a superb job. Shah Rukh Khan in a cameo is so brilliant that not only was he the best part of the film but the film is worth a watch just for his charm and his role. Amitabh Bachchan continues to stride tall and and adds yet another unique film to his repertoire. Honestly, there could be no one better than him to explain all about the ‘astras’ and the backstory of the guardians in his magnificent voice and only in his voice all that pure Hindi and Sanskrit words could have sounded so intriguing and convincing! As the Guru of the astras, he tries to do the best he can in the small role and he shows that he can still give ‘takkar’ to any youngster.

Nagarjuna has been given a very raw deal as his role is so small that it left the viewers surprised. Why sign such a big star and make him do this kind of role. Mouni Roy as the vamp was stunning and suited the role very well and it was super seeing a female antagonist in this male-dominating astraverse. There were two actors who play Mouni Roy’s bodyguards who seemed to have the power of all the celestial weapons put together as they seemed invincible and at times their fight sequences got very repetitive.

Coming to the main protagonist Shiva played by Ranbir Kapoor. He got the role of a lifetime but he did not add anything special to the character to make it memorable and was just okay. At times, his expressions looked quite lame. For Alia Bhatt, after her strong characters in the recently released films- Gangubai Kathiawadi and Darlings, the character of Isha in the film did not offer any challenge for her. She just played a young girl smitten by Shiva and her role is very secondary to the film but her charm and innocence remain magnetic. If only she had been given some surprising super power, it would have been a game-changer for the script!

The 7-year long journey of the film is ironically closely connected to the journey of the real-life love story of Alia and Ranbir culminating in their marriage and now their impending parenthood. At every stage the excitement level kept increasing for both their reel-life and real-life roles. This aspect had been well-capitalized throughout the making as well as marketing of the film by the producer and director but unfortunately, the actors remain Alia and Ranbir and they do not become their characters Isha and Shiva. And that is the biggest minus point of the film. Many of their scenes when they come together are quite frivolously written and executed, and definitely affect our involvement with the emotional aspect of the story.

For the younger generation so captivated by the couple and for their their large fan-base, this is a good opportunity to watch the film just to see them together on screen for the first time irrespective of whether they are in sync with the character or not. The ‘Kesariya Tera Ishq hai piya…’ song released earlier on YouTube had the fans rooting for the song weeks before its release and yet in the actual film that song was totally out of place and had clearly been forcibly inserted. In fact, all three songs though very good to listen to and aided by good visuals actually take away the momentum of the story and action scenes.

The hype created by the master publicist Karan Johar as the film being India’s answer to the ‘Marvel franchise’ certainly ensured that the film became the talking point for every cinema viewer so much so that the curiosity and the rush to be the first to watch the film ensured brilliant first weekend collection. And there is enough masala in the film which hints at an even bigger and probably more spectacular second part of the film which would mean that every person must watch this first part to understand the other two forthcoming parts of the film.

Whether the film will become a blockbuster or not, whether it will be critically acclaimed or not, the film will definitely be remembered for its unique plot, for attempting this kind of VFX and for the massive budget spent on this mammoth project. The film is not without flaws but if the public decides to escape into this world of astras for three hours and just enjoy the events unfolding on screen without bothering with the nitty-gritties of script and screenplay, they are assured of an enjoyable experience!

Here is a link to the song ‘Deva Deva…’ from the film…

Lord Ganesha in Bollywood

By

Sharada Iyer

Lord Ganesha also known as Ganapati or Vinayaka is the popular elephant-headed God loved by one and all and occupies a special place of worship in the hearts of all his devotees. As the God of intelligence, prosperity, wisdom and new beginnings and also remover of all obstacles, he is worshipped and his blessings are sought before starting any auspicious activity be it in personal or professional life like marriage, house-warming ceremony, a new business project, embarking on a new career, etc.

Lord Ganesha is said to visit the homes of his devotees for ten days every year during the annual festival of Ganesh Chaturthi and these ten days are considered to be very auspicious. On the eleventh day, there is a lot of pomp and festivity when large processions are taken out to immerse the Ganesha idols in the sea bidding him farewell and looking forward to his arrival the next year.

Last year on Janmashtami, I had done a post regarding Lord Krishna’s tryst with Bollywood (https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2021/08/30/lord-krishna-in-bollywood/). Today on the auspicious occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, this post examines some interesting song-sequences involving this much-loved God in Hindi cinema. This is by no means a comprehensive list as there are several other songs as well which could not be included, but this is an attempt to see the different categories into which the songs can be slotted.

This blog includes 14 songs and interestingly, barring a few instances, most of the film songs featuring Lord Ganesha show the eleventh day of immersion or the ‘visarjan’ day. This gives the opportunity to include songs and dance sequences where towards the end the tempo and devotion of the people reaches an energetic crescendo.

Songs where Ganapati festival is used to introduce the hero’s character in the film:

Don (2006)

‘Morya Re…’

Director Farhan Akhtar decided to remake Amitabh Bachchan’s 1978 super-hit film Don and in 2006, the remake was released with Shah Rukh Khan as the hero and had many changes in the story and the setting. In the film, the hero has a double role-that of a gangster and an innocent common man, who happens to be his look-alike. The character of the innocent Shah Rukh is introduced in the film with a Ganesh Chaturthi song.

Judwa 2 (2017)

‘Suno Ganapati Bappa Morya…’

This film was also a remake of an original film titled Judwa starring Salman Khan in a double role. In the remake titled Judwa 2, Varun Dhawan is the hero. It is the story of twin brothers separated at birth and one of the boys ends up on the streets growing up in the slums and is a staunch devotee of Lord Ganesha. The song here is included to introduce us to this character.

Songs where an aarti is being performed

Bajirao Mastani (2015)

‘Gajanana…’

One of the comparatively recent films to have a Ganapati song was Bajirao Mastani. The Peshwas were known to be great devotees of Lord Ganesha and in the film Peshwa Bajirao is shown celebrating the festival with a devotional aarti song. However, the scene has a lot of action in the background. Bajirao’s first wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra) has come to know that an evil plan has been hatched to by some insiders to kill Bajirao’s second wife Mastani, and her small son. Kashibai’s expressions convey her inner turmoil and conflict whether to break the news or not to her husband to save her rival and Mastani is shown to defend herself and her son with all her strength in a brilliant fight sequence. And all this happening while the aarti song is going on.

Vaastav (1999)

‘Sindoor laal chadayo…’

Considered to be Sanjay Dutt’s best performance, the film revolved around his character and how accidentally he gets sucked into Mumbai’s underworld and becomes a notorious hitman for a crime lord. The song here is an aarti being performed by his family and towards the end of the song, when he comes to know that the police are planning to get him killed in an encounter, he manages to get his family to safety. Actor Shivaji Satam who played the character of ACP Pradyuman in the popular show C.I.D for almost 21 years, is seen playing Sanjay Dutt’s father here and even gets to lip-sync to the song!

Songs when ‘visarjan’ forms a backdrop for some gruesome killings:

Agneepath (1990) & (2012)

The film Agneepath, both the original, and its remake, have a ‘Ganesh visarjan’ sequence. While the original had Amitabh Bachchan in the lead, the remake had Hrithik Roshan playing the gangster. The story involves drug lords, criminal gangs and their rivalries and gory killings. In the song sequence, amidst all that frenzied devotional dance, killers are on the loose to finish one another. Hrithik ends up killing Pankaj Tripathi, the right-hand man of his arch rival Sunjay Dutt.

‘Deva Shree Ganesha…’

In the original film, many killers enter the celebration with swords in their hands to kill people

‘Ganapati apne gaon chale…’

Antim-The final truth (2021)

‘Vighnaharta…’

Salman Khan plays the police and Ayush Sharma plays the gangster. During the visarjan dance, there are killings galore. Varun Dhawan seen in a special appearance for the song.

Sarkar 3 (2017)

‘Ganapati aarti..’

In Sarkar 3, the third installment in the Sarkar series, featuring Amitabh Bachchan as the underworld don with the story revolving around him and his family. This film introduces the character of Amitabh’s grandson played by Amit Sadh. Amitabh realizes he still has enemies out to gun him down and has his own suspicions on the mole in is team. Towards the end of the visarjan song, a gang can be seen descending on the crowd for an assassination attempt.

Mahaanta (1997)

‘Deva O Deva…’

Again, a film with gangster-police face-off, with Jeetendra playing the cop and his brother Sanjay Dutt is caught in-between. Amrish Puri is the dreaded enemy and in the song where for a change, the heroine Madhuri Dixit gets to dance at the Ganesh Puja, Paresh Rawal is the assassin disguised as a woman to kill Jeetendra and as the song ends, the killer’s gun seems right on target.

Songs where robbery is planned during the Ganesh celebration

Hum Se Badkar Kaun (1981)

‘Deva ho deva Ganapati deva…’

This song sung by Mohammed Rafi is easily one of the most popular songs played during this festival every year. This is the story of four brothers- Amjad Khan, Vijayendra Ghatge, Mithun Chakravorty and Danny Denzongpa, who get separated when their father is killed. Now, they have grown up and neither recognize each other nor do they know their mother. While the first two are honest people, the latter two turn to the world of crime and Ranjeet plays the villain. In the Ganesha song here, the baddies are out to steal the expensive necklace from Ganesha’s statue.

Takkar (1980)

‘Murti Ganesh ki andar daulat desh ki…’

This film starring Ashok Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, Jeetendra, Vinod Mehra , Zeenat Aman, Jaya Prada and Ranjeet dealt with a gang of smugglers who were involved in stealing idols of Gods from temples and selling it for money. Here is a song where the video link is not there, but listening to the audio song will give an idea about the smuggling going on. This song comes right at the end of the film leading to the climax where the king-pin is exposed.

Some unique songs:

Dard Ka Rishta (1982)

‘Mere man mandir mein tum bhagwan rahe…’

This is a unique song where on the ‘visarjan day’ an emotional father sets out to immerse the small idol and is praying for his little girl who has just been diagnosed with cancer and is battling for her life. This is a very poignant song and the words are bound to touch every listener and viewer. A brilliant film directed by Sunil Dutt where both he and child artiste Baby Khushboo come up with excellent performances. 

ABCD: Anybody Can Dance (2013)

‘Ganapati bappa morya…’

Directed and choreographed by Remo D’Souza, this film has dance at the core of the story and was a thoroughly enjoyable film. It starred Prabhu Deva, Kay Kay Menon, Lauren Gottlieb and many dancers from the reality show Dance India Dance and hence the level of dancing was superb. A disillusioned choreographer played by Prabhu Deva has quit his job and one day, comes across raw dancing talent on the streets of Mumbai when he witnesses the dancing skills of boys from two local rival gangs during a festival. He decides to form a team choosing the best from both teams and enter a competition. The task is not easy with indiscipline, rivalry and fighting all the time, but ultimately his hard work pays off.

The film has two Ganesha songs. The first when Prabhu Deva spots the gangs during Ganesh Chaturthi festival and second when they give goosebumps to the audience with their performance on stage. Sharing the YouTube links of both these songs.

‘Sadda dil vi tu (Ga Ga Ga Ganapati)…’

My favourite patriotic songs of Hindi cinema

By

Sharada Iyer

On this historic occasion of our country’s 75th Independence Day, this blog-post is dedicated to some of my favourite patriotic songs of Hindi cinema which have left a deep impact on me and evoke a special emotion every time the songs are played.

The most important aspect in these songs have been the heart-tugging lyrics where the lyricists have packed a range of emotions in their words which is truly incredible! Most of the writers of the older songs had been witness to our country’s struggle and turmoil which explains their ability to convey these feelings through their songs.

The music directors have set these emotional words to tunes which remain embedded in our hearts and over the years have only deepened their effect on us. Though every singer got the opportunity to sing patriotic songs, Mohammed Rafi stands out for having sung the maximum number of them. In this blog-post I have included songs in the voices of many singers (but not all) ranging from one of our oldest veterans -Amirbai Karnataki to the current golden voice of the industry-Arijit Singh.

Film: PURAB AUR PASHCHIM (1970)

Song: ‘Mere desh ki dharti sona ugle ugle heere moti…’

Lyricist: Gulshan Bawra

I start the post with my absolute favourite song sung by Mahendra Kapoor. His full-throated vocals were best suited for this song and from the first beat of the brilliant tune composed by Kalyanji-Anandji, we are transported to the very heartland of India and every word fills our heart with pride and love as we celebrate the glory of our motherland. Even today when this song is played over the loudspeaker or when one sees on television or YouTube, the song remains a treat to hear and watch.

Film: LEADER (1964)

Song: ‘Apni aazadi ko hum harkiz mita sakte nahin…’

Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni

This political drama starring Dilip Kumar had a fabulous patriotic song in Mohammed Rafi’s vocals composed by Naushad. The words ‘Sar kata sakte hain lekin sar jhuka sakte nahin…’ (can give up our lives but will never surrender) invoke a rare mix of dare-devilry, pride and love and remains an eternal favourite.

Film: HAQEEQAT (1964)

Song: ‘Kar chale hum fida jaano tan saathiyon…’

Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi

Touted by many as one of our best war films till date, the film directed by Chetan Anand and the songs composed by Madan Mohan bring tears to our eyes every time we watch the film. As the song goes on to describe the sacrifices of our soldiers for their country during the Indo-China war of 1962, every word in this song gives goosebumps as we listen to the mind-blowing lyrics. Sung with the kind of emotions only the divine voice of Mohammed Rafi could invoke in the listener, this song remains unbeatable in the patriotic genre.

Film: SHAHEED (1964)

Song: ‘Mera rang de basanti chola…’

Song: ‘Ae watan ae watan humko teri kasam…’

Lyricist: Prem Dhawan

This was an outstanding film on the life of the young freedom fighter Bhagat Singh and his band of revolutionaries and released in 1964. Manoj Kumar played the titular role and the film was very touching. Honestly it is difficult to fathom the kind of emotions which the young Bhagat Singh and his friends Sukhdev and Rajguru must have felt inside them to happily embrace death and make a statement defying oppression by the British. Again this is a song where very word is packed with rare emotions and is bound to well up our eyes with tears when we imagine the events which led to them being hanged in 1931.

This video clip contains the 2nd song also towards the end…

Film: SHAHEED (1948)

Song: ‘Watan ki raah mein watan ke naujawan shaheed ho…’

Lyricist: Qamar Jalalabadi

This song is from Shaheed which released in 1948. India had just got independence the previous year and not yet become a Republic and hence emotions must have been strong among the makers and the viewers. This film was not about Bhagat Singh but about a youth played by Dilip Kumar who defies his father (who incidentally works for the British) and joins the revolutionaries to oppose the colonial power. This film can be watched any number of times just for Dilip Kumar’s performance and his confrontation scenes with Chandra Mohan, the actor who plays his father. There is a purity and sincerity I feel when I hear this song and hence figures in my list of favourites.

Film: KISMET (1942)

Song: ‘Door hato ae duniya waalon Hindustan hamara hai…’

Lyricist: Kavi Pradeep

This film was made way before India got Independence and yet today even 80 years after its release, the words resonate our feelings so well and the catchy beats by Anil Biswas will have us humming this song and getting us charged to defend our country against any enemy eyeing to attack us!

Film: JAGRITI (1954)

Song: ‘Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaye jhanki Hindustan ki…’

Lyricist: Kavi Pradeep

A children’s film which touches our hearts and revolves around a group of children in a boarding school and how they learn life’s lessons through their interactions and through the valuable teachings of the wonderful teacher. The film has several patriotic songs but this song sung by Kavi Pradeep himself remains a favourite and is a rare gem where the teacher takes his students around the country to make them understand many aspects. The fast-paced song composed by Hemant Kumar is very catchy for the tune and lyrics.

Film: BORDER (1997)

Song: ‘Sandese aate hain, hume tadpaate hain…’

Lyricist: Javed Akhtar

This superb film depicting the events of the India-Pakistan war of 1971, is easily one of the best war films to be made in Bollywood after Haqeeqat. Every scene, every emotion is so heart-felt and touching and transports us to the border where the war is being fought and our hearts are with the soldiers as they go about their duty knowing that they may not live to see the fruits of their sacrifice. This song written by lyricist Javed Akhtar gives us goosebumps and is indeed a tribute to every person guarding our borders and fighting for our country.

Film: HUM HINDUSTANI (1960)

Song: ‘Chodo kal ki baatein…’

Lyricist: Prem Dhawan

For me, this song composed by Usha Khanna is easily the best film song till date which conveys the feeling of hope, dreams and expectations for a bright future. No other song before or after has been able to encapsulate the vision for a brighter tomorrow for the new generation and we salute Prem Dhawan for his outstanding lyrics. Mukesh is just outstanding in this song as he packs the song with unique emotions which only his voice can bring to the words.

Film: AIRLIFT

Song: ‘Tu bhoola jise tujhko woh yaad karta raha…

Lyricist: Kumaar

As the citizens of a nation, when we are outside our country it is this identity which unites us and keeps us tied to our motherland. This identity is over and above any religious or language barrier and sometimes when we opt to make a life for ourselves in another country, we may or may not remember this but our motherland, like our mother, always comes to our rescue in times of our need. This feeling is conveyed beautifully in this poignant song sung by KK. In the film, this song is played in the background when many Indians are rescued while they were stranded in Kuwait during its invasion and leaves us with an emotional feeling for our country.

Film: 83 (2021)

Song: ‘Lehra do lehra do sarkashi ka parcham lehra do…’

Lyricist: Kausar Munir

To do something for our country and bring glory to our motherland we do not necessarily have to be part of the armed forces. When the Indian team was declared as the world cricket champions and Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup in 1983 against all kinds of seemingly unsurmountable odds, it was a momentous occasion for our country and and indeed a very emotional moment for every Indian as our eyes filled with tears of joy and our hearts swelled with pride to be part of that historic moment. I like the way lyricist Kausar Munir brings these feelings to fore in the song from the film 83, which recreated this historic win and another generation of Indians felt the same emotions watching the events unfold on screen.

Film: RAAZI (2018)

Song: ‘Ae watan mere aabaad rahe tu…’

Lyricist: Gulzar

Generally, stories and events related to patriotism and love for the country seem to be revolving only around men as they go on the front and fight wars, but women have also been part of every movement and part of every historic event even though not many films have been made on such personalities. The film Raazi attempts to recreate the real-life story of a young 20-year-old girl from Kashmir, Sehmat Khan, who marries into a Pakistani family and settles in their country and becomes a spy for the Indian Government. She goes about her task daringly and brilliantly and there is a patriotic song which she teaches to the school children there describing the love for one’s nation. Gulzar pens an emotional tribute to one’s motherland evoking the right patriotic fervour.

Film: GUNJAN SAXENA (2020)

Song: ‘Tu saare jahan se pyaari hai bharat ki beti…’

Lyricist: Kausar Munir

This film also was very inspiring in its message for all the girls who dared to dream and through hard work and determination realize these dreams. The film is based on the life of young Gunjan Saxena who aspires to be a pilot, and faces all kinds of obstacles and yet emerges victorious to become India’s first female combat pilot in the Kargil War. The lyrics of this song brings tears to our eyes as we salute the young Flight Lieutenant’s achievements as her entire batch stands up to salute her and the pride and respect in the eyes of her family was truly touching!

[Featured image: taken from the internet]

DARLINGS: An engaging dark thriller with brilliant performances

By

Sharada Iyer

After a mesmerizing performance in Gangubai Kathiawadi earlier this year, Alia Bhatt is back again with yet another superb act in her latest film Darlings, which incidentally also happens to be her debut film as a producer. Her company Eternal Sunshine Productions has co-produced it along with SRK’s Red Chillies Entertainment. The film released on the OTT platform Netflix on 5th August and has her playing the main protagonist with Shefali Shah and Vijay Varma also having pivotal roles.

  

The film touches upon the stark aspects of domestic abuse, alcoholism and marital violence so prevalent and innately embedded in our social fabric. It also gives an insight into the psyche of the victim and the perpetrator involved in such a situation and makes us ponder on what keeps the couple connected in such a toxic relationship.

Alia Bhatt plays a young innocent girl who falls for the youthful and charming Vijay Varma but their marriage is far from the fairy-tale she had imagined it would be. Shefali Shah plays her mother, Rajesh Sharma is the butcher who is a family friend and young Roshan Matthew is also a friend who makes a living by selling second-hand items in the area and helps Alia’s mother in her small catering business.

Alia lives in a ‘chawl’ (tenement) with her husband Vijay Verma, who works as a ticket collector in the Railways. Across their room in the same ‘chawl’ in another such room lives her mother Shefali, who is single but brave and enterprising in her own way and is extremely disturbed by the fact that her daughter’s love marriage had turned out to be a never-ending nightmare with little hope for escape. She keeps egging her daughter to walk out on the demonic husband of hers.

The narrative is taut and fast-paced in the first half as we are introduced to the characters and their situation and how they ended up being where they are. The emotional connect with the viewer is established right from the first scene and we feel for the victim from beginning to end by becoming part of this bizarre journey of her life. Her unwavering faith and hope that things will get better keep her going about her routine day in and day out as she puts up with her ruthless husband and his cruel acts.

Does her life take a turn for the better or for worse for Alia? Does she get to escape or does she get sucked deeper into the whirlpool of hell? Are things really that simple in life? You have to watch the film to be part of this emotional roller-coaster ride of Alia’s life?

The complexities of the situation and the predicament of the characters involved are brought to fore superbly by debutante director Jasmeet K Reen. Along with Parveez Sheikh, Jasmeet has also written the screenplay of the film and is also one of the dialogue writers of the film. There are several edgy moments during the film which keep us glued and the twists and turns also keep us guessing the outcome of the events unfolding on screen. The focus never sways from the intense plot as the characters keep playing games.

Revealing anything more would spoil the fun for the viewer and take away the thrill of viewing this well-crafted film. Kudos to Alia for choosing such a forceful and relevant topic for her first production venture. This movie would have been great to watch in cinema hall but in a way, probably it was a good move to release on the OTT platform Netflix as the relevance of the story would find a connect with viewers across all age-groups, languages and even across borders and consequently the viewership garnered would definitely be much more.

The casting is perfect and all the three actors have come up with top-notch performances. Alia brings a certain vulnerability to her character that is endearing and comes up with a very natural and realistic portrayal as the person stuck in an abusive marriage. Shefali Shah as the mother is outstanding as usual and it is heartening to see her get her due with superb roles like this.  

Vijay Varma is the surprise package of the film. Saddled with playing a truly despicable character, he comes up with an excellent performance. He has one of those faces which can look charming and innocent as well as evil and ruthless. This aspect of his personality and his talent have already been exploited in the web-series Mirzapur where he played twin brothers with contrasting characters. Rajesh Sharma has no dialogues but conveys a lot with his eyes and makes an impact and Roshan Matthew brings an affable charm to the whole proceeding.

Definitely a must-watch for those looking for something different, dark and thrilling with the biggest USP being the perfect cast and their natural performances…

[Images are taken from the internet]

SHAMSHERA: An unbelievably horrendous film!

By

Sharada Iyer

What a waste of time, talent and resources by Yash Raj films, producer Aditya Chopra and director Karan Malhotra-they promised a magnum opus and delivered a total dud! But then, after seeing the trailer it should not come as a surprise, for the recipe for disaster was there for everyone to see in the trailer itself, and explains the dismal performance of the film in the cinema halls. Many morning shows have been cancelled and many other shows have recorded very poor occupancy rates. The show I went for on 22nd July, Friday- 4pm, had only eight people in the cinema hall which is definitely an indication that senseless hype alone is not enough to bring in the audience.

Nowadays, the publicity of any big-budget film begins almost two years in advance and in a bid to attract attention, everything about the film is overhyped and they end up revealing every detail in the trailer leaving no surprise element in terms of story and song picturization. The trailer itself is like a mini movie and maybe many viewers prefer to stay away and wait for its OTT release and not take the trouble to go to cinema halls.

Ranbir Kapoor, whose film is coming after a gap of four years, gets to play a double role for the first time, that of a father and son. Much was expected from this talented actor. However, that is not the case. Though he acts well, he does not add any zing to the characters and has not made any attempt to give any distinct identity to both the roles. Further, the two Ranbirs don’t get to share screen space because the son appears only after the father dies leaving no scope for any scenes of either confrontation or camaraderie.

The story of the film is set in the year 1871 in a fictious city of Kaza and it is about the people of a fictional tribe, called Khameran, and their oppression and sufferings not only at the hands of the British but also the Indians who worked for the British. Added to that was a ‘caste’ angle as the Khamerans belonged to the lower caste, the Hindu upper caste were more against them than the British also. Which brings us to the so-called deadly villain, Inspector Shuddhi Singh, played by Sanjay Dutt. He gets a vicious pleasure in torturing the Khamerans and loves working for the British.

The Khamerans become dacoits and start looting the upper caste of the society and the latter in turn appeal to the British to capture them and get back the looted treasure. With the help of Sanjay Dutt, the British capture them and keep them locked in a walled fortress and now these people have not only lost their freedom but are also subjected to extreme torture. Their leader ‘Shamshera’, fails in his plan to free them and is killed and they have to wait for 25 years before Shamshera’s son ‘Balli’ succeeds in freeing his tribe.

Though there is no novelty in this plot, yet the story could have been turned into a thrilling entertainer had the writers concentrated on an engaging screenplay with a taut narrative. But unfortunately, the screenplay is linear, there are no surprising twists, no extraordinary fight sequences, no visually spectacular scenes, and even the romantic track is quite pathetic. With the result, after the first few minutes into the film, the viewer knows exactly what to expect in the next two and a half hours.

Ranbir in the father role should have been given a lot more screen time -maybe the entire first half-as his character seemed a little more intense but he is killed off in a hurried manner and the son Ranbir enters too early. With the entry of the son, the screenplay becomes very slow and loses the grip for a long time. Surprisingly there seemed to be no youngsters of his age in the tribe, and he is shown playing the fool with small children which didn’t make much sense.

When every other person is tortured and made to work Ranbir somehow gets away singing and dancing and also escapes getting caught. Added to this, why he is kept in the dark about his father’s sacrifice is not explained. Ronit Roy in the role of Shamshera’s trusted friend could have been a great character but again he had a very small role and could hardly leave an impact. Similarly, Saurabh Shukla also looked a misfit in his role.

Such a story would have maybe found an audience in the 1950s when films on lower caste and upper caste would have worked but today this done-to-death plot of oppression by the British was too boring to watch from the first scene to the last. The running time of 2 hours and 38 minutes was quite harrowing as many scenes could have easily been edited out. The torture scenes inflicted on the poor people just don’t connect with the viewer and hence the heroic struggle of the father and son had no impact on our emotions. By the time the first half ended, it seemed like an eternity and the second half dragged even more.

Sanjay Dutt as the villain sports ‘vibhudi’ and a red ‘tilak’ and keeps shouting and frankly looks more like a mentally deranged and comical character rather than the evil oppressor he is supposed to portray. There is no menace in his body language or expressions. He is also not shown to age with the passage of time. (We do so miss our super villains like Amrish Puri and Pran!)

Vaani Kapoor has not been given a good role. She is a talented actress capable of much more as seen in her films Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui and Befikre, but she is just used as a glam doll who has to dance. The romance between the lead pair seems contrived and is forcibly incorporated in the story and does not do much for the film.

The 10-minute commentary with some painted visuals in the beginning of the film to narrate the background story was also not very appealing. Some scenes in the film did not even look like they belonged to the era in which the story is set. The climax fight scene was too long-drawn and Sanjay Dutt with his huge physique and brute strength was just not ready to give up.

Why do a flock of crows appear every now and then to help Ranbir remained a mystery! Towards the end there is a fight scene against the British army and in the ensuing chaos, a pregnant Vaani manages to hide inside a tree trunk and lo and behold! even manages to gives birth to her child inside the tree trunk without any problem… This scene is so ridiculous, one wonders how did the writers come up with this one?

Surprisingly, music is a plus point and the songs are quite catchy but the songs are really not essential to the plot and only end up dragging the narrative further. But for a few minutes, they do come as a breather in the otherwise lame proceedings.

In the four years that Ranbir was away from the big screen, a lot of talented actors have arrived on the scene and there is so much talent on OTT platforms where actors are exploring all kinds of new and refreshing characters. He should choose his roles wisely in future otherwise he will lag behind. Shamshera has been a huge disappointment and he needs to introspect. Incidentally the film was simultaneously released in Tamil and Telugu languages as well.

All eyes are now on his much-touted Brahmastra: Part I Shiva where he plays the main protagonist. As with Shamshera, the trailer has given away the entire story and the main song has been released on You Tube and been viewed many times. What fate awaits this epic film remains to be seen…