THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER: Movie Review

Akshaye Khanna is brilliant but Anupam Kher falters in this familiar political drama

By

Sharada Iyer

As the title suggests, the film is based on the book of the same name written by Sanjaya Baru, the journalist who became the media advisor to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in 2004. The film wastes no time and takes us immediately into the heart of the political scenario prevalent in our country right after the UPA government wins the 2004 elections with a thumping majority.

The narrative seems to have been put together by some of the incidents taken from the book and clearly pinpoints as to where the true power lay during this government’s reign. Much of what is shown is already known to the general public but the timing of releasing the movie just before the upcoming elections is clearly to refresh the memories of voters and maybe bias their views at least to a certain extent.

In this respect the movie offers nothing new and does not add anything by way of a gripping plot or a brilliant screenplay but definitely familiarizes us with the powers lurking in the corridors of the highest authorities and how they play their subtle games to get things done. The film thus reiterates how and why Dr Manmohan Singh came to be referred to as the accidental PM.

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PERFORMANCES:

There are only two main protagonists in the film- The Prime Minister played by veteran actor Anupam Kher and his advisor (and author of the book) played by Akshaye Khanna.

As always I feel a biopic can be brought to life only if the actor playing the main character is able to imbibe and convey the spirit of the character. Though Anupam Kher gets full marks for clinching the looks, the same cannot be said about his performance. He has concentrated so much on modelling himself on the external appearance of Dr Manmohan Singh that he forgot to feel like the character. His high-pitched voice was quite irritating and that walk he tries to copy was bordering on the ludicrous. He fails to capture the humility, dignity and intelligence of our ex-Prime Minister and ends up being more of a caricature.

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On the other hand, it is Akshaye Khanna who makes the film worth watching. He is the heart and soul of the film and keeps the viewer engaged from beginning to end with his breezy presence, natural dialogue delivery and an innate charisma which is endearing. The novel technique used in the film whereby Akshaye addresses the audience directly is highly entertaining and is the USP of the film. He establishes a direct connect with the audience and so it is through his eyes the audience also views Dr. Manmohan Singh’s tenure as the PM of this country, his thoughts, his actions and the problems he faced and how he deals with them.

There is a warm friendship between the two which comes across very nicely and their fallout is also shown which is unexpected. The film does comes to life when these two stalwarts are there together but we really have to make an effort to tolerate Anupam’s voice modulation. Maybe a less familiar actor would have looked more convincing in the role. Anupam Kher is too well-known a face and everyone knows his real voice also; so the voice modulation ends up making the whole get-up quite artificial.

The actress playing Sonia Gandhi looks like her wax statue and her character comes across as a cold-blooded conniving politician. The actor playing Rahul looks lost and Priyanka has hardly any screen time.

What works for the film

-The political content: Any film dealing with politics is like an elixir for Indians and with the kind of drama we have in our country such films will always be welcomed and enjoyed. So it is safe to say the movie is entertaining and it is good to know the reality of the people we vote for. It is always good to watch and then interpret in our own way how much of what is shown could be the absolute truth and how much is fabricated.

-Akshaye Khanna’s superlative performance: He is easily one of the most talented yet underrated actors of our industry and here he lifts the film several notches higher with his convincing portrayal of the author of this political drama.

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-Anupam Kher’s physical transformation: Kher has definitely worked hard to look the part physically.

What does not work for the film

-The one-sided linear approach of the script. Nowhere in the film is any interaction shown between the PM and any of his ministers. The sole concentration is to show his problem with the PMO’s office which made it look like Dr Singh never did anything except the nuclear deal and in the second term was surrounded by scams.

– Anupam Kher’s unnecessary voice modulation and that nonsensical walk which made the PM look like a physically and mentally challenged individual.

-The wig and trousers of the actor playing President APJ Abdul Kalam!

-The real footage in the end where Naraendra Modi claims that the era of mother and son is over was a direct hit at the opposition for the 2019 elections.

In conclusion

For our film industry the movie though tackily shot is quite a bold attempt as a political film. It is probably the first of its kind as all names of the ministers are retained as such. Most of the actors chosen are also look-alikes so that there is no confusion in the viewer’s mind.

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If you are in a mood to just enjoy what unfolds on the screen without being too judgemental then don’t miss it…

 

 

 

 

 

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A quick recap of Bollywood 2018 and a sneak peek into a few upcoming films of Bollywood 2019

By

 Sharada Iyer

2018 will be remembered as an interesting year for the sheer variety of subjects tackled as well as for some superlative performances by many of our younger stars. While some much awaited big-budget films with top stars crashed at the box-office some unexpected films with unique concepts helmed by ‘gen-next’ hit the bull’s eye reiterating the changing taste of the audience and their thirst for something new and novel in every script.

The topics ranged from biopics (Soorma, Gold, Padman, Sanju) and real-life incidents (Paltan, Parmanu) to love stories (Manmarziyaan, Kedarnath, Loveratri, etc.) and family socials (102 Not Out, Badhaai Ho), from horror and dark comedy (Stree, Blackmail) to murder thrillers (Andhadhun) and spy thrillers (Raazi), from historical (Padmaavat) and fantasy fiction (Thugs of Hindostan) to spectacular action films with mind-blowing special effects (2.0).

Top 10 films of 2018:

 Andhadhun, Raazi, Padman, Blackmail, Karwaan, Gold, Padmaavat, Badhaai Ho, Soorma, Stree

Next rung of top films:

102 Not Out, Sanju, Manmarziyaan, Sui Dhaga, 2.0, Paltan, Raid, Parmanu, Hichki, Mulk

5 films which were appreciated for overall good music:

Padmaavat, Kedarnath, Padman, Manmarziyan, Soorma, Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety

5 Totally senseless films:

Zero, Race 3, Kaalakaandi, Thugs of Hindostan, Satyamev Jayate

TOP PERFORMANCES

The younger generation stars did exceedingly well in all their films. Ayushmann Khurrana in the path-breaking Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho, Rajkummar Rao in Stree, Varun Dhawan in October and Sui Dhaga, Vicky Kaushal in Raazi, Manmarziyan and Sanju, Diljit Dosanjh in Soorma and Ranveer Singh in Padmaavat and Simmba were lauded for their excellent performances. Vicky was also appreciated in the Netflix films- Love per Square Foot and Lust Stories.

Some other performances which found resonance with the audience were Irrfan Khan in Blackmail and Karwaan, Amitabh Bachchan in 102 Not Out, Rishi Kapoor in Mulk and 102 Not Out, Gajraj Rao in Badhaai Ho, John Abraham in Parmanu, Anil Kapoor in Fanney Khan and Race 3, Manoj Bajpai in Satyamev Jayate and Aiyyary, Ranbir Kapoor in Sanju and the ever dependable Akshay Kumar in Padman, Gold and 2.0.

Among the heroines also there were a number of memorable performances. On the one hand we had young Alia Bhatt’s stunning performance as the spy in Raazi and on the other there was the veteran Tabu in Andhadhun giving yet another hair-raising performance. The audience was left spellbound by these two. We also had Tapsee Pannu adding life to her characters in Manmarziyan, Mulk and Soorma. She was also seen in a short film Baarish aur Chowmein on the online entertainment channel Zee 5 opposite Amit Sadh. Radhika Apte also had a good year with three films- Padman, Bazaar, Andhadhun and two online shows- Sacred Games, Ghoul and a film Lust Stories on Netflix. She was appreciated in all her outings.

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Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat and Rani Mukherjee in Hichki were also superb in their respective roles. Neena Gupta in Badhaai Ho was the surprise of the year. As the 50-plus woman who has grown up sons and much to her embarrassment ends up getting pregnant, she was excellent. Her chemistry with Gajraj Rao rocked! Swara Bhaskar in Veere Di Wedding, Sonam in Padman, Nusrat Barucha in Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety, Anushka Sharma and Yamini Das in Sui Dhaga and Renuka Shahane in 3-Storeys were also well appreciated for their acting.

End of the road for the Khan trio?

The year also seemed to be significant for the three Khans- Salman, Aamir and Shah Rukh – as their waning popularity and absurd choice of films left them at the receiving end of a lot of flak from the critics and fans alike. It is most decisively the end of their ‘superstardom era’ and unless they move over to playing interesting characters, there is not much future for the three stars if they continue to pamper their images without accepting the tides of change.

The performances of Shah Rukh Khan in Zero, Salman Khan in Race 3 and Aamir Khan in Thugs of Hindostan were thrashed mercilessly by the audience.  Zero with its bizarre script was definitely one of the worst films of the year. It failed on all counts- the story, the characterization of the protagonists, the absurd and ridiculous narrative, the dialogues, the acting, the songs, the unnecessary cameo by so many heroines and above all the direction. The much hyped special effects to present him as a dwarf were also not up to the mark and that probably was its biggest failing. 

Should such films be made?

Two new star kids were introduced this year amid much fanfare and unprecedented publicity- the late Sridevi’s daughter Jahnvi Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s daughter Sara Ali Khan. But sadly their launch vehicles happened to be regressive love stories which makes us ponder whether such films with so much violence against women should be made at all and worse still used as glamorous launch vehicles for star kids!

In both the films the violent treatment was physical, emotional as well as psychological. Will the fathers in this country ever treat their daughters as human beings with a thinking mind? There was a time in the early 1900s, as depicted in films like Achchut Kanya and Devdas, where caste played a major role and parental pressure was prominent. But by showing such stories in today’s times we are only stating that nothing has changed in society for our daughters and that their lives are still at the mercy of their fathers and brothers. The terror induced by them in their daughters’ psyche for just falling in love with a person of a different caste was scary.

In Dhadak, the heroine runs away with her lover to escape her father’s wrath and after a lot of hardships the two manage to get married and even have a kid. But the brother somehow tracks her down and to avenge them for their defiance and audacity he reaches her house with his goons and unleashes violence of an unbelievable kind. The ending was changed from the Marathi original Sairaat and was even more shocking and terrible.

There is a scene in Kedarnath where Sara Ali Khan’s father, a Hindu priest, holds her head and forcibly immerses her head in the ice-cold river water to purify herself- just because she dared to befriend a Muslim boy and enter his house! Soon after this horrible purification ritual she is married off to a useless fellow much against her wishes.

Satyamev Jayate propagated senseless violence of another kind. In the film, John Abraham’s dad who is a police officer is suspended on false corruption charges. Instead of finding out a solution and getting to the core of the matter, he decides to abandon his young children and commits suicide by immolating himself in front of them. This affects the psyche of the children and one of the sons grows up to take revenge by burning all corrupt police officers. All these scenes were revolting and nauseating.

UPCOMING FILMS OF 2019:

There are many interesting films lined up for 2019 with unique stories and scripts. January itself has two biopics coming up: The Accidental Prime Minister where Anupam Kher will be playing Dr Manmohan Singh with Akshaye Khanna playing a journalist and Thackeray which will have Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing the role of Bal Thackeray.

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Vicky Kaushal will be seen in URI- The Surgical Strike which will show the events which led to the Indian Army’s retaliation for the Pakistani attack in Uri, Kashmir in 2016. Kangana Ranaut in the role of Rani Laxmibai will bring to life the story of the brave Jhansi Ki Rani in Manikarnika. Emran Hashmi will be seen in Cheat India which will address the problems in the education system. The trailers of all these films look awesome!

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Ek Ladki ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga will have Sonam playing a lesbian and for the first time a mainstream heroine takes on the challenge to portray such a character. Giving her support in this will be Anil Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao. Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh will team up together for the first time in Zoya Akhtar’s musical drama Gully Boy. The film also stars Kalki Koechlin.  Alia Bhatt has two more interesting films releasing this year- Kalank, a multistarrer period film starring Madhuri Dixit, Sunjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Varun Dhawan and Aditya Roy Kapur as well as Brahmastra- a sci-fi film starring Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Mouni Roy and Telugu superstar Akkineni Nagarjuna Rao.

 

 

2019 9Akshay Kumar will be seen in Mission Mangal, a film about India’s Mars mission. The film has an excellent cast of Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Sharman Joshi and Sonakshi Sinha. Akshay Kumar will also be seen in Kesari- a period war drama which deals with the Battle of Saragrahi. Student of the Year 2 will introduce two new heroines Tara Sutaria and Ananya Pandey opposite Tiger Shroff.

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2019 films

Southern superstar Prabhas will be seen in Saaho– a big-budget extravaganza being shot simultaneously in Hindi-Tamil-Telugu. Starring opposite him will be Shraddha Kapoor. Salman Khan will be seen in the ambitious Bharat which will have Katrina Kaif as his heroine. John Abraham will be seen in an action thriller Batla House based on the encounter case of the same name.  

These are only a few of the films which are in store for us in 2019 and from the looks of it the year seems to be a promising one! The magic of cinema is indeed overpowering and irrefutable and so as the Friday fervor catches on, we look forward to every new release with enthusiasm and excitement…

 

Remembering Mohammed Rafi on his 94th Birth Anniversary: A glimpse into his early years

By

Sharada Iyer

To encompass the greatness of a singer of Mohammed Rafi’s stature into one blog-post is not only impossible but will also not do justice to this incomparable jewel of Hindi film music. On the occasion of his 94th birth anniversary, this blog-post attempts to trace his early steps in the forties which eventually set him on the path to become the emperor of Hindi film music.

Right from childhood he had the rare gift of picking up any song he heard and singing it exactly like the original much to the surprise of the people around him. As a little boy he was drawn to the songs sung by a wandering ‘fakir’ (minstrel) in his village. Enchanted by the fakir’s song little Rafi would follow him everywhere and was able to reproduce it to perfection. The fakir was so impressed by the little boy that he predicted that one day he would become a great singer.

When we look back at Rafi’s early days it is interesting to note that he never really struggled too much to make it as a singer. It was almost as if Rafi Saab had a divine hand guiding him right from the beginning slowly but surely to reach the path for which he was born.

Mohammed Rafi was born on 24th December 1924 in Kotla Sultan Singh, a village near Amritsar in Punjab, India. When Rafi was around 15 years of age, his family shifted to Lahore where he started working in his father’s salon. His job was to cut the nails of the customers. He had the habit of humming a tune or a song while working. As luck would have it one day one of his customers happened to be music director Firoze Nizami who also worked at the All India Radio, Lahore. Impressed with young Rafi’s voice he invited him to sing for the Lahore Radio Station. Soon Rafi’s voice was heard over the radio and the people back in his village were very thrilled to hear the voice of this talented boy from their village.

Years later in 1947, it was this same Firoze Nizami who gave Mohammed Rafi his first duet in Hindi films with singer Noorjehan.

MOHAMMED RAFI’s FIRST DUET IN HINDI FILMS:

Film: JUGNU, 1947

Song: ‘Yahan badla wafaa ka bewafaai ke siwa…’

Jugnu went on to become the highest-grossing film of 1947 and the songs became very popular. Rafi’s voice was being talked about in the industry and he was getting noticed by all the music directors. This song is considered to be the first super-hit song of Rafi’s career.

Here is another  interesting incident that happened in Lahore which was nothing short of a miracle. K L Saigal was to perform at a function in Lahore and Rafi was in the audience to hear the great legend’s live performance. It so happened that just before Saigal could arrive, electricity went off and the crowd started getting restless. To control the crowd, someone suggested young Rafi’s name and he was asked to come forward and sing till the arrival of the great K L Saigal.

Rafi who by then had started singing on Lahore Radio station and with his inimitable golden vocals managed to mesmerize not only the audience but also the great singing giant-Saigal himself. He later called the young Rafi and blessed him saying that one day he would become a great singer.

Music director Shyam Sunder who had heard Rafi sing at the Saigal concert in Lahore had been very impressed by the youngster’s voice and it was he who gave Rafi his first break in film singing. It was a duet with Zeenat Begum for the famous Pancholi Arts Productions Punjabi film Gul Baloch in 1942. Here is the YouTube link of the few lines of this song. The full song is missing.

FIRST EVER SONG RECORDED BY RAFI

Punjabi Film: GUL BALOCH, 1942

Music director : Shyam Sunder

Song : ‘Heeriye ne soniye ne…

FIRST HINDI FILM SONG RECORDED:

FILM : GAON KI GORI, 1944

With G M Durrani for music director Shyam Sunder

Song: ‘Aji dil hai kaabu mein toh dildar ki aisi taisi…’

Rafi’s voice can be heard distinctly at time 2:17 on the video

Mohammed Rafi and G M Durrani got together for another catchy duet in the forties.

FILM: SASSI PUNNU, 1946

THE COMING TOGETHER OF RAFI AND NAUSHAD

With the stupendous success of the music of the film Rattan in 1944, the popularity of music director Naushad was on the rise and his fame was spreading far and wide. When Rafi decided to come to Bombay to try his luck in films he first visited Naushad’s father in Lucknow and took a letter of recommendation from him before landing at Naushad’s doorstep.

Naushad immediately made him part of his chorus group and therein commenced the historic musical association of Naushad and Rafi…

FIRST SONG RECORDED FOR NAUSHAD

Film: PEHLE AAP, 1944

With G M Durrani and Shyam:

Song: ‘Hindustan ke hum hain Hindustan hamara…’

Rafi’s voice can be heard in the first stanza…

WHEN RAFI’S DREAM CAME TRUE:

On Rafi’s persistence and request, Naushad gave him his dream opportunity to sing with the legendary singer K L Saigal in the film Shahjehan. Rafi was not only part of the chorus throughout the song but also got to sing a few lines towards the end and his lines are picturized on a wandering ‘fakir’ (mendicant/minstrel).

His voice can be heard at time 3:05 on the video.

Film: Shahjehan (1946)

Song: Roohi Roohi Roohi, mere sapnon ki rani…’

MOHAMMED RAFI’S FIRST SOLO IN HINDI CINEMA:

Film: ANMOL GHADI, 1946

Music director: Naushad

Song: ‘Tera khilona toot gaya…’

Once again it was music director Naushad who gave Rafi his first solo song in Hindi films. Anmol Ghadi was a love triangle and all the three protagonists of the film- Noorjehan, Suraiya and Surendra- were accomplished actor-singers of that era. The film also had a duet sung by two other stalwarts Zohrabai Ambalewali and Shamshad Begum. Yet newcomer Mohammed Rafi managed to leave his mark with this philosophical song picturized on a toy-seller. Note how his voice had the same golden quality in his first song itself. A divine voice indeed!

FIRST DUET WITH LATA MANGESHKAR ?

In the 1947 film Shaadi se Pehle music director Karnad Paigankar got together the young Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar for this duet which could probably have been their first duet together. 

DUET WITH KHURSHID

Besides Noorjehan and Suraiya, Rafi also got to sing duet with another famous actress singer of the forties-Khurshid. Here is a song picturized on Dev Anand and Khurshid in the film Aage Badho, 1947, for music director Sudhir Phadke.

THE YEAR 1948

The year 1948 was a significant year in Mohammed Rafi’ s life as many of his songs attained nationwide popularity.

A Rare Feat:

BAPU GEET: 1948

Music directors: Husnlal Bhagatram

Song: ‘Suno suno ae duniyawaalon Bapu ki yeh amar kahani…’

The horrific and dastardly assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on 30th January 1948 plunged the nation into unprecedented depths of shock and tragedy and the people were thrown asunder. Their beloved ‘Bapu’-‘Father of the Nation’-was no more and the nation felt orphaned.

A few days after the assassination lyricist Rajinder Kishen penned a fitting tribute to ‘Bapu’ by capturing his entire life in the form of a song which was then set to a haunting tune by music directors Husnlal Bhagatram. And it was Mohammed Rafi who was fortunate to have been chosen to render this song. Rafi put so much emotion and feeling that not only made the song immortal but made him also famous. Every house across the nation heard the song and Mohammed Rafi became a household name.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru heard the song at a function held in Gandhiji’s memory and was so impressed by Rafi’s voice that he invited the 23-year old Rafi to his house and made him sing at a private get-together of leaders. Pandit Nehru also awarded the young singer a Gold medal for his outstanding rendition which Rafi Saab preserved till the very end.

In the same year 1948, a solo composed by the music director duo became a super-hit and there was no stopping Rafi’s popularity. The song was picturized on Rehman and Suraiya was the heroine.

Film: PYAR KI JEET, 1948

Song: ‘Ek dil ke tukde hazaar hue koi yahan gira koi wahan gira…’

Solo for music directors Husanlal Bhagatram

FILM: MELA, 1948

This song with the philosophical lyrics and Rafi’s emotional rendering became a rage and is popular even today for its superb tune, lyrics and memorable singing by Rafi.

Music director: Naushad

Song: ‘Yeh zindagi ke mele duniya mein kum na honge…’

THE YEAR 1949

In the year 1949 again got the opportunity to sing popular numbers. When music directors Shankar Jaikishen made their entry into Hindi Films with Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat, they recorded a solo with Mohammed Rafi which was a hit. the song is played in the background when Raj Kapoor and Nargis are separated and feeling sad.

First film of Shankar-Jaikishen as music directors

Song: ‘Main zindagi mein hardam…’

RAFI’S FIRST DUET WITH ASHA BHONSLE

Asha Bhonsle made her debut in 1948 and the very next year in 1949 she got to sing a duet with Rafi Saab.

Film : ROOMAL, 1949

Music director: Hansraj Behl

Song: ‘Lo dum dabakar bhagey…’

RAFI’S DUET WITH LATA MANGESHKAR

FILM: BAZAAR, 1949

Music Director: Shyam Sunder

Solo from the same film

THERE WAS NO LOOKING BACK AFTER THIS SONG:

Film: DULARI, 1949

Music director: Naushad

Song: ‘Suhani raat dhal chuki na jaane tum kab aaoge…’

Even 70 years after its release, this song retains its freshness, melody and soothing quality.

Another gem from Naushad in Rafi’s voice:

In the film Andaz, Mukesh was the voice of Dilip Kumar and sang several solos for him. There was just one duet of Rafi and that was picturized on Raj Kapoor.

FILM: Andaz,1949

RAFI’s TRYST WITH ACTING

Mohammed Rafi also tried his hand at acting. He made two very brief appearances in song sequences in Laila Majnu, 1945 and

FILM: LAILA MAJNU, 1945

Music director: Rafiq Ghaznavi

FILM: JUGNU, 1947

Music director: Firoze Nizami

Our country in general and our film industry in particular was indeed blessed when Mohammed Rafi decided to settle in India after partition. To a large extent he was one of the pioneers who laid the foundation of playback singing in Hindi cinema. He became the voice of almost all heroes as well as most  of the supporting artistes. He is probably the only singer who got the opportunity to sing such a variety of songs for so many heroes as well as supporting artistes and he was absolutely magnificent.

Mohammed Rafi was not only a singer par excellence but also a rare human being full of humility, kindness and affection. All these qualities put together make him a unique and towering personality of our industry. We are truly indebted to him for it is indeed difficult to imagine Hindi cinema without Mohammed Rafi’s golden voice…

Here is a small landmark erected in the great singer’s memory in a lane on both sides of the junction leading to his home in Bandra, Mumbai. 

BOLLYWOOD 2018: A musical rewind

By

Sharada Iyer

As another eventful year comes to an end we take a look at some of the songs which made an impact and became super-hits in 2018. This year we had a variety of songs belonging to a variety of genres ranging from romantic duets to foot-tapping dance numbers to patriotic songs and inspiring anthems. There was also an outstanding devotional song in Kedarnath and a touching ‘bidaai’ (song sung after the  wedding when the bride leaves for her husband’s home) in Raazi.  These two songs stood out because today’s films don’t really give much scope for such songs. 

There were films in which all the songs were good viz., Padmaavat, Raazi, Manmarziyan, Soorma and Kedarnath. Ironically, while the biggest blockbuster of the year 2.0 (the sequel to the 2010 super-hit Robot) did not have any good song, a super-flop like Thugs of Hindostan had some really catchy songs like ‘Suraiyya jaan..’ and ‘Vashimalle…’. A surprising hit was the song ‘Chogada taara…’ from the dull film Loveratri sung by Darshan Rawal. The Gujarati lyrics with the ‘dandiya’ beats became quite a rage!

Among the singers apart from the talented Arijit Singh, Atif Aslam, Amit Trivedi, Neha Kakkar, etc. we had many new voices like Harshdeep Kaur, Asees Kaur, Shivam Pathak and Diljit Dosanjh who sang some excellent songs and their voices sounded very good.

Apart from the dance numbers, nowadays more and more songs seem to be picturized in the background and lip-syncing seems to have taken a backseat. Therefore associating a particular song with the actor/actress is getting quite difficult. Only the song lingers on as a separate entity to be played at clubs and parties or at award functions and in many cases remembering the singer, the lyricist or the music director seems to be gaining less and less importance. 

ROMANTIC SONGS:

Akshay Kumar the ‘all-rounder’ superstar seems to have a great chemistry with all his heroines and gets to sing romantic gems every year. This year too there were two good songs especially this song from Padman in Arijit Singh’s golden voice was so endearing!

PADMAN: ‘Aaj se teri…’

GOLD:’Nainon ne baandhi…’

As the Hockey coach in the film Gold, Akshay aces up the romantic quotient once again with this heart-felt song in the voice of Yasser Desai:

SOORMA: ‘Ishq di baajiyan…’

Diljit Dosanjh’s vocals sounded fresh and youthful in this lovely song form Soorma, one of the best films released this year.

DHADAK:  title track

This Janhvi-Ishaan starrer had some interesting songs one of them being this breezy romantic song by Ajay Gogavale and Shreya Ghoshal:

PADMAAVAT: ‘Ek Dil Hai…’

Trust Sanjay Leela Bhansali to craft an exquisitely shot and delicately composed romantic song from his grandiose project Padmaavat. This song in the golden voice of Shivam Pathak is really melodious…

SAD/POIGNANT SONGS:

KEDARNATH: ‘Jaanissar…’

This tragic love-story had some lovely songs one of which is this song which has dual versions sung by Arijit Singh and Asees Kaur. 

MANMARZIYAN: ‘Chonch ladiyan…’

A different kind of a love-triangle, the movie was appreciated for its excellent songs apart from the superb acting by the protagonists.

DANCE NUMBERS / ITEM NUMBERS:

THUGS OF HINDOSTAN: ‘Suraiyya jaan…’

Katrina Kaif at this stage of her career seems to be concentrating more on doing only item numbers. This song is a duet sung by Shreya Ghoshal and Vishal Dadlani.

STREE: ‘Kamariya…’

This is a mind-blowing number sung by Aastha Gill and Divya Kumar. The fast beats and robust dancing made this a super popular number of 2018.

PADMAAVAT: ‘Khalibali…’

This song could probably be regarded as the best song of the year. Shivam Pathak’s robust vocals and Ranveer Singh’s energetic dancing set to some outstanding choreography add up to make this song a visual treat to watch on the big screen. 

PADMAAVAT: ‘Ghoomar…’

Another memorable song from the same film-Shreya Ghoshal’s voice, the lovely costumes and the unique setting of the song capture the perfect feel of Rajasthan’s ‘Ghoomar’ dance style…

SOORMA: ‘Goodman di laltein…’

This is just a fun song to celebrate Soorma’s achievement in the film which became very popular.

SONU KE TITU KI SWEETY: ‘Bom diggy diggy…’

This film was a surprise hit and all songs became a hit especially this dance number sung by Zack Knight and Jasmin Walia:

INSPIRING ANTHEMS:

There were many biopics which came this year which depicted the real-life stories of individuals who overcame many hurdles to achieve their goals. Such scripts offered scope for inspiring anthems which fit the character and the setting and were well appreciated. Here are three such songs:

PADMAN: title song

SANJU: ‘Kar har maidan fateh…’

SOORMA: title song

PATRIOTIC:

Both Raazi and Parmanu dealt with themes dealing with patriotism and were based on real-life stories. Both had very touching songs which kindled patriotic feelings in the viewer’s heart.

RAAZI: ‘Ae watan…’

PARMANU: ‘Thare vaaste…’

DEVOTIONAL:

KEDARNATH: ‘Namo Namo…’

The opening shots of the film with the sweeping landscape of the Uttarakhand valley captures the full path leading up to the Kedarnath temple and with the reverberating song about Lord Shiva in the background actually manages to give goosebumps. Amit Trivedi is superb in the song.

WEDDING SONGS:

We had our usual share of wedding songs as most of the scripts managed to include a wedding song on some pretext or the other. Many had catchy beats. Here are two dance songs  and a ‘bidaai’ song:

MANMARZIYAN: ‘Kundali…’

KEDARNATH: ‘Sweetheart…’

RAAZI: ‘Dilbaro…’

SOME UNIQUE SONGS:

We also had some unique songs which were very catchy and cannot be categorized into a particular genre:

ANDHADHUN: ‘Naina da kasoor…’

PADMAAVAT : ‘Binte Dil…’

Arijit Singh steps outside his comfort zone of his usual romantic numbers to give us this unique and melodious love song.  Picturized on Alauddin Khilji and his slave general Malik Kafur, this bold song is laudable for its idea and composition.

KARWAAN: ‘Banjara…’

A song sung during a road trip, this one had the soothing vocals of Arijit Singh…

REMIX SONGS

When there is no dearth of talent, we still continue to churn out remixes of old songs which is indeed sad and definitely a waste of time and resources.  The following five songs are only a few examples. The last one is from the upcoming film Simbaa which incidentally also has a love-duet which is again a remix of an original song.

FANNEY KHAN: Song-‘Badan pe sitarey…’

HAPPY PHIR BHAG JAYEGI: Song-‘Mera naam chin chin chu…’

SATYAMEVA JAYATE: Song-‘Dilbar dilbar…’

BAAGHI 2: Song-‘Ek do teen…’

SIMBAA: Song-‘Aankh maare…’

It is indeed fascinating how year after year the same seven notes are set to new tunes by new music directors and sung by new voices giving us a fresh take on our ideas of songs as well as their picturization.  

Indeed songs touch our hearts and minds in ways which probably cannot be described in words but only felt. And so after an enjoyable 2018 we are now ready for a super melodious 2019 as well…

2.0- SPECTACULAR VISUAL EFFECTS MAKE THIS A FITTING SEQUEL TO ROBOT

By

Sharada Iyer

 Eight years after director Shankar gave us the mind-blowing ROBOT, he is back again with a masterpiece of a sequel studded with jaw-dropping special effects befitting the presence of not one but two superstars this time!

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With Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar joining the team as the villain, writer-director Shankar certainly had the daunting task of not only living up to the sky-high expectations of his fans but also to spin a story to justify the presence of two Rajnikants as well as Akshay in the sequel. After all, Rajni Sir’s career had touched an all-time high with the super-hit Robot in 2010 and to outdo that would be no mean feat.

In the double role of the robot- ‘Chitti’ and the scientist –‘Dr Vaseekaran’ who creates the robot, the original had pitted one Rajnikant against the other and that is what made that film an unforgettable treat for the fans. This time around both the robot and the scientist are pitted against ornithologist turned ‘Birdman’ Akshay Kumar. To help them in their task is Nila (played by actress Amy Jackson), another robotic creation of Dr Vaseekaran. She looks perfect for the part.

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Right from the opening title credit scene, the superb 3-D effects come into play giving us an indication of the stunning VFX in store for us. In fact, the first half builds up the tempo so well and the special effects incorporated are so brilliant that we get totally immersed in the narrative which conveys the presence of a dark evil force lurking around the corner causing unimaginable and uncontrollable destruction to the city.

Everybody is foxed until the scientist Rajnikant comes up with the idea that that the only solution to combat this evil force could be to resurrect the robot Chitti which had been deactivated and dismantled many years back. But it is not easy to do that as the one to oppose this move is none other than the scientist son of Danny Denzongpa who was the villain in the original and who was killed by the robot. This then sets the scenario for some interesting action scenes.

So who is this ‘Birdman’? Why is he causing so much destruction and havoc? Is there any way to stop his attacks? Can the combined forces of Chitti and Dr Vaseekaran match this evil force? The audience is taken on an adrenalin-pumping roller-coaster ride with mind-blowing sequences which leave us spellbound.

Yet again there is an emotional message in the film like its original which would connect with the viewers in a big way. Another common thing between the two  film is the blurry line between what is right and what is wrong and who is the true villain here! Just like Chitti won our hearts for his gimmicks in Robot, our heart does feel for the ‘Birdman’ and his ideology and once again questions the wisdom of all this technology being bombarded by the humans. In the end are we with our vast knowledge of artificial intelligence and technological wizardry sounding our own death-knell!

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Watch the film for its visuals and the questions it raises and above all for the never-fading-charisma of ‘Thalaiva’ Rajnikant. Added to this is our own Akshay Kumar who brings an amazing dignity to his villainous character. He also gets to don an outstanding get-up which is thoroughly enjoyable!

Rajnikant is once again in full form and manages to recreate both the roles with his usual panache and conviction. It was wonderful seeing Akshay Kumar alongside Rajnikant and he does a superb job. He makes his entry only post-interval but once he arrives he has a lot of screen-time and also gets to bash Rajnikant in the fight sequences which is something almost unheard of in a usual Rajnikant film!

Of Course! The real hero in this film is actually the director and his vision and the pains he has taken to execute the brilliant vision to give the audience an unbelievable experience. The film deserves full marks for that. The plot is unique and the narrative is fast-paced and action scenes are truly amazing! There are no songs to distract us from the story-line. The background music is superb! And do wait for the post-credits scene at the end.

To be honest, it is not easy to write a review for a film like this as it is not just about a story being told. It is the visual treat to be experienced on the giant screens of cinema halls. No words can justify or describe what we feel while watching a film like this. Mounted on a lavish scale the director has spared no expense as is evident in every scene of the film. Made on a budget exceeding rupees 500 crores, it is the costliest film to be made and also the first Indian film to be fully shot in 3-D.

When a film has so much to offer I wonder why some reviewers just give bad star ratings and spread the bad word. Each film is a unique experience and every viewer responds differently. So why spoil the fun for those who are yet to watch.

Just go and have an amazing two and a half hours away from the daily humdrum of life and see the magic unfold …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering SURENDRANATH: The popular singing star of 1930’s and 1940’s

By

Sharada Iyer

Music and songs have always been an integral part of our films right from the silent era when a bunch of musicians used to sit behind the screens and play music to give the right emotion to the scene. With the arrival of the talkies, songs became an inseparable part of our cinema and it was but natural to choose such artistes who could not only act but also sing their own songs.

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Surendranath and Suraiya

There were many stars of 1930’s and 1940’s who laid the foundation of our Hindi film industry with their invaluable contribution in the field of acting as well as singing. One such cinematic icon of yesteryear was actor-singer Surendranath or Surendra as he was popularly referred to. 

Who can forget the evergreen duet ‘Aawaz de kahan hai, duniya meri jawan hai…’ composed by music director Naushad for the Mehboob Khan directed 1946 super-hit film Anmol Ghadi ? Sung in the voices of Noorjehan and Surendra even today the song remains as fresh in the hearts of movie-lovers as it was when it was first heard 72 years back:

Famous duet with Noorjehan in Anmol Ghadi

The same film had this superb solo in Surendra’s voice ‘Kyun yaad aa rahe hain guzare hue zamaane…’ which touches a poignant note even today in the listener’s heart. This could possibly be rated as his best solo.

Anmol Ghadi 1946

Naushad also gave him some super songs in the love triangle Anokhi Ada which came in 1948– two years after Anmol Ghadi.  Starring Surendra, Naseem Bano and Prem Adib the movie was once again directed by Mehboob Khan. The songs of this film also became very popular. Surendra played a character with slight negative shades as he becomes possessive of his love for Naseem Bano knowing that she has lost her memory and had loved another man before her accident.

Here are two lovely songs from the film:

Anokhi Ada 1948

ANOKHI ADA

EARLY DAYS

Surendranath was discovered by director Mehboob Khan and he made his debut in an action film titled Deccan Queen in 1936 which was the latter’s second directorial venture. It so happened that Ardeshir Irani  who had made the first talkie ‘Alam Ara’ decided to start another new company Sagar Movietone as a subsidiary company to his already existing Imperial Film Company in partnership with two of his associates and Mehboob Khan was transferred to the new setup as the head of production.

Sagar Movietone was at that stage on the lookout for a singing star to offset New Theatres Calcutta’s singing sensation Kundan Lal Saigal who had become a national rage after the release of Devdas in 1935. With this in mind Mehboob Khan signed the tall and handsome Surendra Nath who could also sing well. In fact in this film Surendranath was given a song ‘Birha ki aag lagi more man mein…’ whose tune was an exact copy of Saigal’s super-hit song ‘Balam aayo baso mere man mein…’ from his 1935 film Devdas. People loved the song and Surendra was noticed immediately.

Deccan Queen

Here is the original from ‘Devdas’ in Saigal’s voice:

The commercial success of Deccan Queen established Surendra as a ‘singing star’ of immense potential. His second film Manmohan also met with success and some even started referring to him as Bombay’s Saigal! The story of Manmohan was on the lines of Devdas where two childhood friends get separated when they grow up as she is forced to go back to the man she had been engaged to in childhood and he takes to alcohol. The film starred singer-actress Bibbo as the heroine.

The film had a chart-buster duet ‘Tumne mujhko prem sikhaya…’ and the music arranger was young Anil Biswas who had not yet started out on his own! The film ran for 50 weeks at Bombay’s Imperial cinema.

In 1937 director Mehboob Khan pitted ‘singing star’ Surendra against ‘natural actor’ Motilal in the romantic thriller ‘Jagirdar’ which also involved a murder. In the film Surendra played Motilal’s father.

In 1940 in Mehboob Khan’s Alibaba , Surendra played a double role –that of Ali Baba as well as his son. The heroines were Sardar Akhtar and Waheedanbai (actress Nimmi’s mother).

Mehboob Khan directed Surendra in eight films which also included the 1940 classic Aurat which was the precursor to Mehboob Khan’s own magnum opus Mother India. Based on the same story of the sacrifices made by an Indian peasant woman and the unimaginable hardships faced by her, Mehboob Khan made a few minor changes and remade his own Aurat seventeen years later in 1957.

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Sardar Akhtar, Surendranath and Yakub in AURAT (1940)

In Aurat, Surendranath played the role of the elder son which was played by Rajendra Kumar in Mother India. The film when released in 1940 was considered a milestone in Hindi cinema and even today the director’s brilliance comes through in every frame. Even though it was Mother India that attained a cult status in later years due to international recognition and more publicity there is no denying that the 1940 original Aurat was more realistic and natural.

AURAT 1940

Plays the role of elder son which years later was  Rajendra Kumar in Mother India

SURENDRA’S HIT MELODIES

As Surendranath got to be paired with all the top female singing stars of his time, he had many hits to his credit. There were several duets with the then reigning stars like Noorjehan, Suraiya, Bibbo, Khurshid, Naseem Bano, etc. Here are links to a few of his hit songs.

GRAMOPHONE SINGER (1938)

ELAAN (1940)

GHARIB (1942)

1857 with Suraiyya in 1943

Even though the audio and video of the links is not clear, it is still worth listening because of the melodious tune and rendition:

LAL HAVELI with Noorjehan in 1943

MAJHDHAR (1947)-Duet with Khurshid

A rare fast-paced duet from the film MERI KAHANI 1948

MERI KAHANI 1948

DUKHIYARI

AS A CHARACTER ARTISTE IN LATER YEARS

With the advent of playback singing in our cinema, the era of singing stars slowly came to an end. Soon Surendranath also started accepting character roles and for the next two decades acted in small roles in many films like Dil Deke Dekho, Hariyali Aur Raasta, Daag, 36 Ghante, Geet Gaya Pathron Ne, Johar-Mehmood in Goa, Saraswatichandra, etc.

The most notable among them being the Vijay Bhatt directed super-hit musical of 1953-Baiju Bawra. Surendranath played ‘Tansen’ in the film and was noticed for the same. He was fortunate to lip-sync to a noted classical singer like Ustad Amir Khan.

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Watch the extraordinary face-off between Tansen played by Surendranath and Baiju Bawra played by Bharat Bhushan:

He reprised the role of ‘Tansen’ once again in K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam and this time he had classical exponent Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sing for him Though there were only a couple of shots director K Asif and music director Naushad felt that only an accomplished singer like Surendra would do justice to the lip-syncing of the song.

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His other popular films include Milan (1967) where he played Nutan’s father:

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He was Sharmila Tagore’s father in Waqt and also ends up rescuing the young Sunil Dutt after the earthquake shatters Balraj’s Sahni’s family.

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In 1968 he played father to twin girls Rupa and Deepa played by Sharmila Tagore who has a double role in the film An Evening In Paris.

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While Gawaiyah in 1954  was his last film as a singing actor, Abhi Toh Jee Lein released in 1977 was his last film as an actor after which he retired from films and started his own advertising company and made commercials. Today his son Kailash Surendranath (best known for producing the original version of ‘Mile sur mera tumhara…’ in 1988 for Doordarshan) is a well known ad-director having his own company.

Born and educated in Punjab Surendranath was a lawyer and came to Bombay to try his luck on the recommendation of a distributor friend of his. Destiny played its hand when he was handpicked by director Mehboob Khan for Sagar Movietone’s Deccan Queen and there was no looking back. On his family’s insistence, his qualifications appeared in the titles along with his name-‘Surendranatn B.A. LLB’ . He passed away in 1987 at the age of 76 leaving behind a body of work which forms an important part of the early musicals of our cinematic history.

LIVE PERFORMANCE in 1982 :

There was a music concert held in 1982 when Noorjehan returned to India after 35 years. Many cine artistes and singers were part of the function. When Noorjehan was called on stage to sing, she chose the famous duet from Anmol Ghadi ‘Awaaz de kahan hai…’ but instead of calling Surendranath also on stage to render alongside her, she chose to sing his lines also. Probably this hurt him because he mentioned about this incident in an interview with Tabassum. 

Later Surendranath came on stage and sang a few lines of his hit solo song ‘Kyun yaad aa rahe hain…’

Not many pause to remember Surendranath’s contribution today. This blog is but a small attempt to revive old memories and to take the readers on a trip down memory lane…

 

(Note: All images have been taken from the internet)

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!