THUGS OF HINDOSTAN: A candid reflection

By

Sharada Iyer

Thugs of Hindostan is just a fun film depicting a different kind of fantasy adventure hitherto not seen in our films. Agreed that  is not a great epic or classic which it could have been considering the brilliant cast signed up and the kind of resources at the disposal of Yash Raj Films but it certainly does not deserve this kind of whipping either… 

The barrage of negative reviews and venom being spewed by the public and critics for Thugs of Hindostan is frankly quite surprising! 

For starters, the trailer of the film released last month gave a clear indication of the story, the kind of characters we will be seeing as well as the type of fights and special effects which would be unfolded on the big screen. Added to this, YRF had also released about a dozen videos on YouTube sharing the making of the film right from the time the idea was conceived four years ago to the painstaking efforts to build the massive ships and the hunt for the proper location to film the ship sequences which led them all the way to Malta. Also revealed in the videos were the kind of costumes worn by the cast and the choreography behind the song and fight sequences. To be honest the film was exactly what was shown in the trailer.

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PLUS POINTS:

-The coming together of Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan for the first time in their careers.

-They have plenty of scenes together including a superb fight between them in the second half of the film. There is also a foot-tapping dance number ‘Vashimalle’ picturized on them. The song is catchy and sung very well by Sukhwinder and Vishal Dadlani.

Here is link to the one-minute teaser of the song:

– Amitabh Bachchan’s unfading charisma even at the age of 75! He rides the screen like a modern day Colossus and his action scenes are unbelievable. How he has managed to pull off all fight sequences and stunts with such agility and fluidity at this age is simply remarkable! He is truly the ‘Shehenshah’ of Bollywood and the peerless ‘evergreen’ superstar of our industry.

-Aamir Khan plays a light-hearted conman who talks non-stop and switches sides in a jiffy without any qualms to suit his selfish needs. He has maximum screen space expectedly and has lots of witty dialogues as well and has given an effortless performance. His affable character with negative shades is in stark contrast to Amitabh’s honesty and integrity.

-Katrina Kaif has only two dance sequences but she has really done an amazing job. Her ‘Suraiyya Jaan’ number is so fast-paced and energetic. Wonder how choreographer Prabhudeva conceived such difficult steps and how she managed to execute them so effortlessly!

Here is the YouTube link to the making of the Suraiyya song:

-Fatima Sana Sheikh like in her earlier film Dangal looks very convincing in her action scenes and she has plenty of them throughout the film.

-Superbly choreographed and spectacularly shot fight scenes. And as mentioned earlier it is a treat to watch Amitabh in these scenes. He induces nothing but awe and respect in the audience with his dedication and conviction.

-Ronit Roy in a special appearance leaves a mark

MINUS POINTS:

-The film was too long and could have done with some crisper editing.

-Lack of any kind of surprise element in the story-line and no engaging twists in the narrative.

-Fatima Sana Shaikh is the character whose story forms the backdrop of the film. As the princess who escapes the clutches of the British after her parents and brother are killed in front of her, she trains to be a warrior and is helped in her revenge by her father’s faithful guardian played by Amitabh Bachchan. Unfortunately her emotive ability and dialogue delivery leave much to be desired and she fails to engage the audience in her journey.

-Katrina’s role was so miniscule that even if her character had been removed the story would have still remained the same.

-Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub as Aamir Khan’s friend was quite irritating.

-The British generals are shown to be dullards without any brain and for some strange reason spoke to each other in chaste Hindi!!!

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POINTS WHICH PROBABLY PROVED TO BE THE UNDOING OF THIS EXTRAVAGANZA

-Unnecessary hype generated by the producers about this film being a magnum opus starring two titans of Hindi cinema for the first time.

-All the songs had already been released on YouTube and there was no surprise there also.

-Too many videos on the making of the film even before the release of the film only made the producers and director seem very arrogant and over-confident of their product.

-The spectacular success of the two ‘Bahubali’ films have raised the bar and standard of action packed mega-budget films to unprecedented heights and in comparison what Thugs of Hindostan offered was not enough. Had this film released ten years ago it would have been received with open arms.

-The audience today is not swayed by stars and big-budgets. Coming in the wake of the success of unusual films like Stree, Andhadhun, Badhaai Ho, Raazi, Blackmail, 102 Not Out, Padman, etc., the expectations and tastes of the audience has changed and they cannot be taken for granted; Thugs of Hindostan somehow did not live up to its hype for them.

-Right from the beginning there were comparisons drawn between ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ films and Thugs of Hindostan and this rumour really proved to be its undoing and soon after the trailer Aamir started receiving flak as the poor man’s Johnny Depp!

But whatever the verdict, the marketing strategy employed was so good that the first day collection of the film touched Rupees 50.25 crores making this the highest first day collection for any Hindi film ever! So the producers are going to make their money without doubt. With the kind of mass adulation and fan-following Aamir Khan is having in China currently, the film will definitely be lapped up by the audience there. For them it will just be a fantasy film and they will have no reservations in accepting the film at its face value.

And whatever the final outcome there is one unanimous positive reaction from every viewer coming out and that is for the fantastic portrayal of ‘Khudabaksh’ by the one and only Amitabh Bachchan. The movie is worth watching just to see his awesome action scenes!  

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BAZAAR: Worth a dekko just for Saif Ali Khan’s effortless performance!

By

Sharada Iyer

Director Gauravv K Chawla’s BAZAAR is yet another film with an off-beat theme and finds entry into the already long list of unusual subjects tackled this year.

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Using the cut-throat competition of stock-market as its central plot the film gives us a glimpse into the morals, ethics and emotions of the people involved and the astute games they play to stay on top. The film also brings to fore the intriguing and powerful nexus between the politicians, money brokers and industrial big-wigs to manipulate high-profile deals and their control over the media as well.

PLOT:

Rizwan (Rohan Mehra) is a young and intelligent lad from Allahabad. Bored of his small-town mundane life and raring to prove himself in Mumbai’s stock market he has a showdown with his father one day and taking the help of his sister leaves for the city of his dreams to try his luck and play his game. His aim is to somehow crack the stock market and impress the one and only Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan), the city’s most successful and ruthless player and a Gujarati trader who cannot understand anything beyond money.

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Without going into details, it will suffice to say that he does succeed in getting to work with his idol and everything is rosy for a while until one day when he gets a shock as the police walk into his apartment and arrest him on charges of fraud and cheating.

So what does his journey entail? How does the powerful Shakun Kothari operate? Is there room for morals and ethics when the stakes are so high? What happens to the dreams of this small-town boy? Does he take revenge or does he comply and learn to play the unwritten tactics of the game by deciding to cross the line?

PROS AND CONS OF THE FILM:

The unique theme of the film is a big plus point and the director manages to stick to the plot without going astray. The film is shot in a slick and stylish way and dialogues are well-written.

Undoubtedly Saif Ali Khan is the USP of the film and all scenes with featuring him are a must-watch and make for interesting viewing. He embraces the character of Shakun Kothari with aplomb and panache and adds a special charisma even though he is portraying a grey character. If it was not for him, the film would have lost much of its verve and meaning.

This talented Khan has somehow never been considered as part of the ‘Khan brigade’ and never quite got his due. He is a brilliant actor and has never shied away from playing a variety of characters right from the beginning.

Chitrangada Singh plays his wife and their forced relationship only throws light on the shallow marriage of such power couples in the upper strata of society.

Rohan Mehra (who is incidentally the son of yesteryear actor Vinod Mehra) has a charming screen presence and has done a decent job considering it is his debut film. But he is not brilliant. In the crucial scenes, his eyes lack expression and look blank. Perhaps an actor like Rajkummar Rao or Ayushmann Khurrana or Sushant Singh Rajput could not only have added a little more fillip to the character but also given a better ‘takkar’ to Saif Khan’s towering performance.

Both Rohan’s rise and fall in this powerful game seemed too fast and a little unconvincing. That could have been elaborated. Too much of background narration by the character of Rohan also feels unnecessary after a while.

Radhika Apte who plays Rohan’s love interest in the film has an interesting role and adds a sparkle to the screen with her ebullience.

Music is nothing great and songs are quite forgettable!

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IN CONCLUSION

Probably the editing could have been tighter and the screenplay more taut thus reducing the running time and making it nail-biting. But all the actors have played their part well and the character artistes look convincing.

Though the film does fall short of becoming a gripping thriller, it is a good time-pass and paisa-vasool film and can be watched just for the different theme and Saif’s sincere performance!

 

BADHAAI HO: Thoroughly entertaining with its perfect blend of humour, romance and emotions

By

Sharada Iyer

After the brilliant Andhadhun earlier this month, Ayushmann Khurrana is back again with yet another quirky, fun-filled, zany and enjoyable film- Badhaai Ho. 

One can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of the writers to come up with such an unusual script and turn it into such a fun-fest.

PLOT:

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What happens when a couple in their fifties with two grown-up children discover to their utter surprise and disbelief that they are going to become parents all over again? This unexpected pregnancy puts them in an embarrassing spotlight and they are at the receiving end of all kinds of admonishing glares, small talk and gossip by everyone around them-right from their children to the husband’s aged mother to all the relatives, neighbours, friends and colleagues. The parents even become the butt of jokes for people who get a kick out of laughing at them.

With this unique incident as the backdrop director Amit Sharma takes us on a breezy roller-coaster ride where we experience myriad emotions felt by the various characters in the film from their individual perspective. The middle-class setting of Delhi and the natural dialogue delivery laced with dollops of humour and emotions keeps us engaged from beginning to end.

PERFORMANCES:

The film is on the lines of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee ‘school of film-making’ where it is the characters that stand out and the actors just blend in with the script. This is especially evident in the main protagonists -the parents- played by Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta. These kinds of scripts give a lot of opportunity for our character artistes to come to the foreground and display their talent. Gajraj Rao fits into the role like a glove. The talented Neena Gupta has not got too much chance in our film industry but whenever the opportunity has arisen, she has done a brilliant job.

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With their endearing chemistry and subtle nuances these two become the real scene-stealers in the film. They give serious competition to the pair of Amitabh-Hema in Baaghban and Rajesh Khanna –Shabana Azmi in Avatar who had also charmed us with their winning chemistry as old couples in the said films.

 

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Surekha Sikri as the elderly lady is priceless! Her relationship with her son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren and her daughter has various shades and she is a natural! Ayushmann Khurrana never ceases to surprise. He has a meaty role and does a marvellous job. This youngster like many others who entered as outsiders has proved that to rock in the industry nepotism need not be the rule!

Other characters like Ayushmann’s girlfriend played by Sanya Malhotra and her mother played by Sheeba Chaddha are also apt and so are the actors who play Ayushmann’s brother and his friends.

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Music is also good and as usual songs are played more in the background except for the song which plays during end-title credits. Once again a few lines from a couple of Kishore Kumar songs played in the background soothe our senses and make our day! Nowadays many music directors compose songs for one film and it becomes difficult to remember who has composed what…

Here is the YouTube link for a catchy number from the film:

IN CONCLUSION:

The film also gives us food for thought: it makes us ponder over the age-old values of our society where romance between a slightly elderly-couple is either frowned upon or almost unimaginable as they are generally expected to be busy in their mundane activities and be involved in their children’s lives. Into this scenario if such a pregnancy comes to fore, the parents are almost made to feel guilty of having shared an intimate moment. The grown-up kids also have problems accepting the unbelievable and unforeseen situation.

Under the director’s skillful handling such a bold script turned into a superb entertainer but the fact remains that in reality the circumstances could have been very different and maybe more traumatic!

Don’t miss the opportunity to have some fun and head for the cinema halls to watch this delightful entertainer!

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ANDHADHUN: A must-watch riveting edge-of-the-seat thriller!

By

Sharada Iyer

Director Sriram Raghavan whips up a mind-blowing, racy, taut, suspenseful, unpredictable, murder thriller which is engaging from start to finish. He revives a long-forgotten genre of Bollywood- suspense thrillers- with an original story-line, a brilliant screenplay, an excellent cast and a gripping narrative full of unexpected twists and turns.

The story revolves around the events that take place in the life of a blind piano player. His seemingly ordinary life undergoes a catastrophic transformation because of certain events. There is evil lurking at every corner and there are hidden secrets which come tumbling out.

The real star of the film is the director who shows us what it takes to make a good thriller. Apart from suspense, he has also managed to lace it with humour and good songs!

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Ayushmann Khurrana known for his choice of unique subjects has really hit the jackpot with this one. He is simply outstanding in the main role and holds the film in his grip throughout. After watching this film every actor in the industry will feel that this movie should have gone to them! Three cheers to Ayushmann for his amazing performance!

After playing remarkable characters in Drishyam, Golmaal 4, Haider and Fitoor, the ever dependable Tabu gets under the skin of yet another interesting character. She is really such an exceptional actress and it is heartening to note that filmmakers are writing such strong roles for her.

The current ‘Netflix queen’ Radhika Apte is also spot-on and brings a refreshing charm to her scenes with Ayushmann. It was nice watching old-timer Anil Dhawan who plays himself –a retired movie actor. We get to see some of his popular songs being played on TV/computer on the screen and it felt great to have the golden voices of Rafi and Kishore resonating in the cinema hall albeit for a few minutes only.  The credits of the film actually mention their tribute to the evergreen programmes ‘Chaya Geet’ and ‘Chitrahaar’.

The film also has a line-up of supporting cast like the Inspector, his wife, a doctor and some neighbours all of whom contribute to the racy plot keeping us guessing. And as with normal murder plots, there is also a cat in the film which adds to the eeriness.

As Ayushmann is a piano player, the piano plays an important role in the film and music director Amit Trivedi has come up with some brilliant symphony pieces which keep playing in the background adding to the suspense.

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This film has been released without much brouhaha and publicity which shows the director’s conviction in his talent to deliver but on the flip-side the awareness of this film is not as much as it deserves. The morning show that I went to hardly had much audience. The film will pick up only by word of mouth.  

Indeed 2018 is turning out to be one of the best years for Bollywood in terms of the variety of films being released as well as the outstanding performances from all our actors/actresses. And this film could well be the best movie released this year…

I cannot reveal anything more about the film as this may spoil the fun for others. The film is not-to-be-missed! So without hesitation and before anyone reveals the plot, do head to the nearest cinema hall ASAP and enjoy this super thriller…

TRILOK KAPOOR: Actor and younger brother of Prithviraj Kapoor

By

Sharada Iyer

Thirty years back on 23rd September, 1988, actor Trilok Kapoor passed away after a long innings spanning more than fifty years in the Hindi film industry (1933-1987). He was the younger brother of the grand old man of Hindi cinema- Prithviraj Kapoor and uncle to the famous trio Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor. He was thus an important part of the famous Kapoor family  and yet hardly anyone remembers him today or even talks about him!

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Starting at the young age of 18 as a romantic hero in Char Darvesh (1933) he moved on to mythological films and attained popularity playing the character of Lord Shiva in innumerable films. His film Har Har Mahadev (1950) where he played Lord Shiva with Nirupa Roy playing  Goddess Parvati was a super-hit of its time and turned him into an overnight star of mythological films. After this film both he and Nirupa Roy became household names as ‘Shiva-Parvati’ with their posters and photographs being sold to the public. He is said to have starred in a record of eighteen films with her.

EARLY DAYS:

Born in Peshawar, Pakistan he spent his early years in Peshawar and like many youngsters of that era took an active interest in the freedom struggle of our country. But father Basheswarnath Kapoor who was worried about the safety of his younger son wrote to his elder son Prithviraj Kapoor for help. Prithviraj at that time was struggling to make it as an actor in Hindi films in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Trilok Kapoor soon joined his brother in 1928 and later along with him shifted to Bombay (now Mumbai) in the late thirties.

Prithviraj Kapoor helped his brother also to get into films. Thus Trilok got his first film as a hero opposite Kanan Devi in director Prafulla Ghosh’s film-Char Darvesh. His second film was Seeta where he essayed the role of one of Lord Ram’s twin sons Luv while Prithviraj Kapoor played Lord Ram and Durga Khote played Goddess Seeta. After this he started assisting director Hem Chander and worked for five years under him. He also did some small roles in a few films.

In 1947 his pairing opposite ‘mallika-e-tarannum’ Noorjehan in the popular love story Mirza Sahiban was a big hit and the film went on to become a box-office success with all the songs also becoming a hit. Trilok Kapoor’s resemblance to nephew Raj Kapoor in this film is quite striking!  This was the last film in which Noorjehan acted before shifting her base to Pakistan after the partition.

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In 1951 Trilok was paired opposite Nargis in Pyar Ki Baatein. His other co-stars in the film were Pran and Cuckoo. The film was directed by Akhtar  Hussain.

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AS A HERO in MYTHOLOGICAL  FILMS:

After the super-hit Har Har Mahadev, It was his association with director Vijay Bhatt which proved to be very fruitful when the latter signed him up to play Lord Shiva in the 1954 film Ramayan. Trilok Kapoor got to act in a variety of mythological films.

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Har Har Mahadev

He played the role of the dwarf avatar of Lord Vishnu- ‘Waman’ in the film titled Waman Avatar  (1955) where actor Sapru played King Bali. He essayed the role of Lord Ram in the film Ram Bhakt Hanuman in 1948. He played Lord Vitthal in Chakradhari in 1954.

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Waman Avatar

In the 1970 film Bhagwan Parasuram, where Abhi Bhattacharya played the title role, once again Trilok Kapoor played Lord Shiv and this time actress Tabassum played Parvati .  Some of his other films include Shiv Shakti, Shiv Kanya, Jai Mahadev, Ganesh Janma, Ganesh Mahima, Ali Baba, Amar Raj, Alakh Niranjan, Vir Bhimsen, Dasa Avatar, Maya Machindra, Sri Vishnu Bhagwan, Ishwar Bhakti, etc.

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with dancer Cuckoo
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As Lord Ram in Ram Bhakt Hanuman

AS A PRODUCER:

He ventured into production under his own banner ‘TK films’ and wrote and produced the film Shiva Parvati in 1962. His elder son Vijay Kapoor was an assistant director in the film while his second son Vicky Kapoor was the associate producer. Actress Ragini played Parvati in the film. The film was directed by S N Tripathi who was also an actor and music composer.

CHARACTER ROLES:

Trilok Kapoor acted in small roles in several films. He was seen in R K Films’ Ram Teri Ganga Maili which released in 1985. He has played a judge,  a professor, a doctor, a villager, and other such roles but one is not able to recollect anything special as he had no mannerisms and did not restrict to any particular type of roles. Also his get-up being different it is difficult to immediately recall him in any film.

When he was acting in mythological films he was always dressed up as some God so his real facial features were never really visible in all that make-up and costume. When I went through his filmography, I was amazed to know that he had been part of so many films over the years that I have watched yet I could not place him immediately. Now that I know how he looks like I saw some of his films and tried to figure out the character he had played. For instance he was part of the cast of Jai Santoshi Maa, Dostana, Saudagar, Sargam, Raaste Ka Pathar, Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, Prem Kahani, Do Chor, etc.

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Jai Santoshi Ma

Trilok Kapoor has thus been part of this industry for more than half a century and contributed in his own way to the development of our cinema. Today in Chembur (a suburb of Mumbai), there is a road named after him-Trilok Kapoor Marg

He will always be remembered for his portrayal of Mirza and his roles as Lord Shiva

Links to two of his popular songs:

Mirza Sahiban

Waman Avatar

 

(Images are taken from the Internet)

MANMARZIYAAN: Taapsee’s vivacity steals our hearts in this new-age love story

By

Sharada Iyer

Just when I was wondering if Bollywood had washed its hands off the quintessential love-triangles, director Anurag Kashyap along with writer Kanika Dhillon spring a surprise in the form of ‘Manmarziyan’– a contemporary love story set in Amritsar. With an interesting star-cast of Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal and Taapsee Pannu, the film makes for an enjoyable watch thanks to the top-notch performances from the three protagonists, interesting screenplay and good music.

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Told from the perspective of our fiery, feisty and free-spirited heroine Rumi (Taapsee Pannu), the film takes us on a roller-coaster ride where we experience the ups and downs, confusions and dilemmas faced by her young heart. As her emotions oscillate between the crazy physical attraction she has for her lover Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) and the stability of a mature relationship offered by Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) the film addresses a lot of issues existing in today’s society especially for the young girls.

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The director makes the female protagonist the dominant partner here and so it is hot-headed Rumi who takes all her decisions albeit impulsively and so she gets to choose between her two contrasting suitors. On the one hand is young Vicky with whom she brazenly indulges in a physical relationship much to the chagrin of her family. She has no qualms about accepting her part after she is caught in her room and is determined to stand by him. Her family gives in to her emotions and agrees to get her married off to him.

But there is a hitch. Our lover-boy has no permanent job and is commitment-phobic. Though he genuinely loves Rumi, he wants to pursue music and cannot offer a settled stable married life right away as demanded by her family. When Vicky develops cold feet they even try running away but that also does not work out as they realize that they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. 

Now the family gives the ultimatum that either Vicky shows up with his parents at their house the next day and makes a commitment or she would have to agree to an arranged marriage with a groom of their choice.  Out of desperation she also threatens Vicky that if he does not show up she would get married to any person of her family’s choice.

Enter our third angle of the triangle Robbie who is the typical staid and brooding NRI with a secure job offering stability. He falls for her instantly but seeing her aloofness realizes something is amiss. He stalks her on Facebook and finds out about her boyfriend Vicky. Determined to win her he plays his cards slyly by pretending to be unaware of her affair and keeps up with a quiet and mature image of his.

Out of sheer anger and just to spite Vicky, Rumi gets married to Robbie. The marriage is dead from the word go as there is no love between them and she keeps remembering Vicky. Back from the honeymoon she continues to meet Vicky secretly.

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So what happens next? Does she opt out of her marriage to be with her lover? Or does she decide to remain with her husband even though there is no spark in the marriage? Or does she want to remain free of both of them? The director deftly navigates through her tumultuous thoughts and confusions and thereby even raises questions on love marriage vs arranged marriage in the current scenario.

The film is a tad long at 2 hours and 40 minutes but then as Abhishek’s mother interestingly points out in one scene-“Shaadi koi gudde gudiyon ka khel thodi hai”! so the heroine here has been given enough time to make up her mind. The story reiterates that marriage is not a frivolous game where emotions should be caged for the sake of commitment. It needs maturity to handle whatever decision is taken and stick by the outcome.

REASONS TO WATCH:

After all, a love-triangle cannot offer any great variations in terms of a suspenseful story. Either one of the two suitors will get the girl or she decides to be free of them both. But the USP here is the modern-day setting, the dynamic narrative dotted with many comical dialogues which keep us engaged as we travel the journey with Rumi sometimes feeling happy for her and sometimes feeling her pain.

Taapsee Pannu is the heart and soul of the film and she gets to essay one of the best roles written for a heroine. She fires the screen with her superb acting and her effervescence is infectious. Her remarkable chemistry with Vicky Kaushal as they scorch the screen with their passion and heady romance makes their scenes very natural and believable.

Vicky Kaushal who is currently having a great run in the industry tackles yet another role with finesse and panache. He adds life to his quirky character and has the audience rooting for him.  Abhishek  Bachchan returns to screen after a 2-year hiatus and brings a quiet dignity to his role and does most of the talking through his eyes.

Music by Amit Trivedi is another strong point of the film and there are many songs peppered throughout which definitely help to carry forward the narrative. Though the songs are very good they are mostly played as background songs making us wonder as to why our actors today shy away from lip-syncing to songs! Maybe that era where a singer became the playback voice of a particular artiste is gone now. Every movie introduces new talents nowadays and there are plenty of singers to choose from…

Here are the links to two interesting songs from the film:

https://youtu.be/wKkrrpKc-H8

https://youtu.be/wHHCO29mqiA

JUST A THOUGHT :

Though Abhishek has acted well and done justice to the role, he has not done anything new in the this film. He has stuck to what he has done before in his earlier films. Perhaps another young actor like Siddharth Malhotra or Sushant Singh Rajput who would have been in the same age group of Taapsee and Vicky could have added an element of novelty and excitement to this love-triangle…

 

 

A few thoughts as we bid farewell to Mumbai’s iconic R K STUDIO …

By

Sharada Iyer

Ever since Randhir Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor made the announcement of selling their father’s 70-year old property – R K STUDIO, fans across the nation including people from the film industry irrespective of age or gender have expressed shock, disbelief, sadness, disappointment and anger. It is heart-breaking to even think that an integral, important and iconic part of our film legacy will soon be razed to the ground only to be replaced by one of those ever burgeoning massive eye-sores in the form of a gigantic mall or an exorbitant residential property! 

Spread over a sprawling area of two acres in the prime locality of Chembur in North Mumbai, Raj Kapoor’s famed R K Studio has been an unforgettable iconic landmark in the city and a place of pride in the hearts of innumerable cine loving public for the past 70 years.

R K Studio

The studio came into existence one year after India got independence in 1948 and has not only given birth to some of the best talents of our industry but also witnessed the filming of several evergreen classics of the Black & White era made under the prestigious banner of R K Films – Awaara, Shree 420, Boot Polish, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Jaagte Raho, Sangam, and in later years Ram Teri Gaga Maili, Bobby, Mera Naam Joker, Dharam Karam, Kal Aaj aur Kal, Henna, Aa Ab Laut Chalein, etc.

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This studio was never just about the area encompassed within the four walls where scenes were shot. There are treasured memories embedded in the walls of an era gone by. Memories of the classic and precious films that were shot, of the various functions, premieres and ‘muhurat’ shots that were held, of cultural programmes, of discussions and debates vibrate in the atmosphere which can only be felt when one steps inside. Countless talents were discovered and it is from here that many an actor took his/her first steps into the world of films!

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A RARE LEGACY:

Raj Kapoor built this studio from scratch at a time when Chembur was like a concrete jungle with hardly any buildings in the area. His steadfast vision and unwavering passion for cinema  made him revere this place like a temple and everyday ‘puja’ was performed before the start of the day’s activities . He breathed and lived cinema every moment of his life. Every film of his was so dear to him and close to his heart that he preserved every costume ever worn by the stars of his films in a separate room. He also kept precious memorabilia like his ‘dafli’ used in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, his ‘shoes and coat’ from Shree 420, his ‘joker’ doll from Mera Naam Joker, etc.

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Raj Kapoor passed away in 1988 leaving behind a thriving studio and an incomparable legacy. It is tough to imagine that in the last thirty years neither his children nor his grandchildren could do enough to preserve this legacy. Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatres was resurrected by Shashi Kapoor and is still being maintained by his family. But one wonders what made Randhir and Rishi wait so long to crib and cry about financial losses of the legendary R K Studio. As none of the sons have inherited Raj Kapoor’s vision, passion or talent for film making were they not far-sighted enough to see this kind of situation arising after Raj Kapoor died?

Today many reasons are being stated by the Kapoor family for having taken this tough, historic but unbelievable decision to sell this property. According to them the financial losses being incurred by the family members in the maintenance and upkeep of this huge property has made it almost impossible to keep the place as it is for just its historic and heritage value. The number of bookings for shooting of films has gradually reduced over the past several years as the current lot of actors and directors prefer the studios situated at the Film City in Goregaon and do not find it convenient to come all the way to Chembur.

Though a few television shows were being shot here it was not profitable. Also after the massive fire which broke out during the shooting of a reality TV show in October 2017, a large part of the studio and lots of memorabilia were destroyed forever. Fortunately there was no loss of human life! Though big announcements were made, the Kapoors never really showed any interest in resurrecting the studio to its former glory and renovating it with newer state-of-the-art equipment and techniques in film-making.

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Going by the current real-estate prices, it is estimated that the starting auction price for this prime property could be anywhere between Rupees 500 and 750 crores but nothing concrete can be stated now. Though the studio technically may be their inheritance and they can do what they want with the structure, to the film-goers of this country there is a strong emotional connect with R K films, R K Studio and the showman Raj Kapoor himself. It is very sad that the fire last year destroyed many of the precious R K memorabilia and costumes! Had the Kapoor family had been more serious about preserving these artefacts, could this situation have been prevented? Did they take this legacy for granted in these past thirty years? These thoughts do enter our mind…

As a country we are known to be indifferent to preserving our own legacy and heritage which explains why so many of our films have been lost forever. A few years back many precious early films of Bombay Talkies were destroyed thus erasing them forever from our records. There is no print of our first talkie ‘Alam Ara’ in existence today. All reels have been destroyed. Somehow renowned archivist P K Nair managed to preserve two reels of our first silent film ‘Raja Harishchandra’ made by Dadasaheb Phalke.

Under the circumstances it is hard to imagine losing this 70-year old living breathing piece of cinematic history for lack of funds. In an industry making crores of rupees of profit isn’t there anyway the studio can be saved from being completely destroyed? After all our top actors earning crores of rupees can still come forward and set up a fund or stage a show and collect money to turn this place into a Bollywood Museum. Top businessmen who don’t hesitate to get the stars to dance during their personal functions and family ceremonies must contribute to preserve this cinematic legacy. Can the Government intervene and preserve this area and turn it into a museum?

Mumbai boasts of being the mecca of the Hindi film industry yet there is not a single structure in the city dedicated to glorify of our 105-year old film industry…

A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE:

Not many are aware that before making his debut as a hero in Neel Kamal in 1947 opposite Madhubala, Raj Kapoor who started his journey as a child artist also acted in a few films in a supporting role. One such film was ‘Valmiki’ in 1946 starring his father Prithviraj Kapoor in the title role with Raj Kapoor playing ‘Narad muni’.

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picture taken from video of indiavideo.org

The film was directed by the veteran Bhalji Pendharkar who was fondly called ‘Mamaji’ as he was very close to the Kapoor family. Bhalji was very impressed with Raj Kapoor’s acting in Valmiki and when he wanted to pay him for his work, Prithviraj Kapoor refused to take any money from stating that he was family and that he should not pay them. However as a token of appreciation Bhalji Pendharkar then insisted on gifting a piece of land in Chembur. Prithviraj  Kapoor accepted it little knowing that one day it would become an iconic landmark of Mumbai.

Raj Kapoor soon turned director with Aag in 1948 and though it was not a big hit, he had set his eyes on direction and production. With his second film Barsaat in 1949, he established his banner R K Films . The film was a runaway hit and now he wanted to establish his own studio. When he started scouting around for land, Prithviraj Kapoor then remembered this area in Chembur and asked Raj Kapoor to take it and build the studio of his dreams. Raj Kapoor then decided to take the scene where Nargis comes and falls in his arms in Barsaat as the emblem of his R K Films and etched it at the entrance of the studio. 

The very first scene shot in the studio was the dream sequence song of Awaara‘Ghar aaya mera pardesi…’ for which a stupendous set was erected. It was the first of its kind to be witnessed in Hindi cinema ans set a precedent for many dream sequences in the years to come. But none has come close to the novelty and grandeur of the Awaara song. Interestingly, the walls of the studio had not been built fully and yet Raj Kapoor managed to shoot the entire sequence without any problem.

A look at his films will tell us the kind of sets which were erected and the attention to detailing to recreate the scene. Not only just R K Films but many other directors also shot their films in this studio. Popular directors Manmohan Desai and Hrishikesh Mukherjee are said to have shot most of their films in this studio. 

Here is a YouTube link wherein an emotional Raza Murad reminisces his journey with R K Studio:

Here is an interesting video which depicts R K Studio itself talking to us about its journey.titled ‘Main R K Studio bol raha hoon…’

The Kapoor family also must have had a hard time to make this emotional decision to sell the place. What is going to be the final outcome of all this and what will be the fate of R K Studio remains to be seen. Maybe like so many other precious aspects associated with this great film industry, this too shall pass away and remain a memory in the hearts of fans.

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When I  stepped out and paused by the studio thinking of the era gone by I couldn’t help but hum these 2 songs with meaningful lyrics from Raj Kapoor’s own film MERA NAAM JOKER which seems so apt in the current scenario…  ‘Jaane kahan gaye who din kehte the teri yaad mein nazron ko hum bichayenge’… and ‘Jeena yahan marna yahan iske siva jaana kahan…’

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