Baahubali 2 Review

Director: SS Rajamouli
Cast: Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Ramya Krishnan, Tamannaah Bhatia, Sathyaraj, Nassar

The answer to that burning question – you know which one; the one that has spawned innumerable spoofs, memes and gifs – comes nearly an hour and forty-five minutes into Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. To be honest, you can spot it from a mile away. But it’s a testament to director SS Rajamouli’s unmatchable storytelling skills that he ensures the film is about a lot more than just the revelation of the suspense behind that punchline.

In 2015, Rajamouli’s sweeping epic Baahubali: The Beginning became the highest grossing Telugu film and one that effectively achieved what few regional films have, namely extraordinary pan-India success and popularity via its dubbed versions. We were instantly seduced by the story of Mahishmati’s princes Amarendra Baahubali and Bhalaldeva, by the conundrum of Sivagami who had to pick the future king between the two men, by the unflinching loyalty and subsequent betrayal of Katappa, and by the arrival of Mahendra Baahubali aka Shiva who freed the long suffering Devsena and learnt the truth about his identity.

Baahubali 2 is a king-sized sequel expressly designed to be a blockbuster. The clash between Baahubali and his cousin Bhalaldeva (Rana Dagubatti) is still at the core of this story, although everything here is bigger – from the sets, to the muscles in leading man Prabhas’ back. The comedy, mostly featuring Katappa (Sathyaraj), is squarely lost in translation, and romance remains the weak link in the Baahubali movies with way too much screen time committed to the blossoming of the relationship between a young Devsena (an impressive Anushka Shetty) and Amarendra Baahubali. Still, it’s never gratuitous like the frankly pointless courting of Tamannah’s character by Shiva in the earlier film.

Devsena, in fact, is a crucial player in the new film, a skilled warrior and, admirably, a fiery feminist who won’t let others make life decisions for her. As is often the case in stories involving kings and kingdoms, the woman is a catalyst for much of the drama that unfolds. In this case it’s two women: Devsena, but also Sivagami (a terrific Ramya Krishna) whose character, unfortunately, ends up being a bundle of unconvincing contradictions. A solid, headstrong woman who can stand up to any man in the palace, but who nevertheless falls prey to hearsay.

The simplistic, predictable story is the chink in the film’s armor. But it has to be said here that Rajamouli is a consummate craftsman who sweeps you up in the filmmaking. He skillfully uses every tool at his disposal, including rousing background music, slow-motion technology, clap-trap moments, and fantastical flights of fancy to transport you to the world of his characters. It’s impossible not to be impressed by a magnificent, larger-than-life coronation sequence. It’s hard not to cheer when a key character avenges an insult to a woman’s honor. There is also a ship that flies, a stampede of bulls with horns on fire, and palm trees that are used as catapults in a battle scene. There is virtually no stopping Rajamouli’s incredible imagination.

The other big draw, and frankly true of both films, is the committed, extraordinary performance by Prabhas, whose sheer physicality and intensity is a sight to behold. That key moment he shares with Katappa is milked to great emotional effect.

Baahubali 2 has better special effects and bigger battle sequences but its success lies in Rajamouli’s ability to turn a frankly standard story of sibling rivalry and revenge into an entertaining and consistently watchable film. Despite its running time of 2 hours and 47 minutes, I was never bored.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five. The last film felt more organic, this one throws everything at the screen, and it’s hard not to submit.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2 Movie Review

The time for superhero action is here. Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2 kickstarts the Comic Universes cinematic journey for 2017. It is the sequel to 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and the fifteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film follows the journey our favorite rookies into another adventure, saving the universe and taking a step closer to Infinity War.

Written and directed by James Gunn, the film stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Rooker, Gillan, Sean Gunn and Close, reprising their roles in the film. The new ones joining the crew are Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, Chris Sullivan as Taserface, and Kurt Russell as Ego.

Will Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2 be able to live up to the mark set by its own predecessor? How will the film fit itself into the storyline of The Avengers? Will our favourite gang of rookies be able to keep their swag while saving the galaxy the second time? Sameeksha from News18 is inside the theaters to find out.

11:13 AM: Giant spacecrafts and space action is here from the very first scene #GotGVol2

11:15 AM: #BabyGroot will get you grooving. #GotGVol2

11:23 AM: Trust these rookies to bring humour in the most dangerous situations. Entertaining to the core. #GotGVol2

11:38 AM”: A cameo will get you all excited. Now Guardians fans have seen everything :’) #GotGVol2

11:43 AM: Star lord has daddy issues and Ego is here to solve them maybe? #GotGVol2

12:05 PM: Starlord is not just an arrogant rookie, he’s much more powerful.. #GotGVol2

12:15 PM: #BabyGroot will kill you with his cuteness. So adorable ? #GotGVol2

12:17 PM: Music is an essential part of ever action sequence here. You have to do it, do it in style. #GotGVol2

12:29 PM: The moment you think, things are getting intense, one pun breaks the buildup. That’s the best thing about this? franchise. #GotGVol2

12:56 PM: There’s a greater purpose here and this time it’s StarLord himself #GotGVol2

1:15 PM: It’s hard to take your eyes off this action. #GotGVol2

1:27 PM: Lots of emotions by the end. Guess StarLord did find his dad afterall. :’) #GotGVol2

1:35 PM: The film is packed with action and lots of family drama. Not as sassy as part one but definitely a fun ride. #GotGVol2

1:38 PM: #BabyGroot and Yondu take the cake and all our attention here. #GotGVol2

1:39 PM: Unsaid @Marvel rule: Never leave the theater until the screen stays black, post credit roll for atleast 5 mins. #GotGVol2

1:43 PM: #GotGVol2 is more about past than the future but yes, something big is definitely coming. Another adventure or the end? Who knows…

1:45 PM: Staying true to its nature and bringing more soul, #GotGVol2 is a ride must-taken. Thank you for staying with us throughout.

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Noor Review

Think of the new Sonakshi Sinha starrer Noor as the possible outcome if Bridget Jones’ Diary and Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3 got drunk, hooked up, and forgot about protection.

Sonakshi’s Noor is a young singleton; klutzy, booze-loving, and weight-obsessed, who hates her life and can’t stop moaning about it. She’s craving romance but she’s drawn to all the wrong men. Professionally she’s a journalist assigned to doing puff pieces around vacuous celebrities when what she really wants to do is ‘serious’ reporting.

Problem is, she wouldn’t know what serious reporting was if it slapped her in the face. And believe me, there are times in this film when you wish that someone would.

Sonakshi’s idea of conveying frustration is contorting her face in ways that would give Jim Carrey a complex. And don’t even get me started on what Noor’s idea of journalism is. When she lands a ‘real’ story involving an organ harvesting racket, she records precisely one interview, never bothers to so much as verify the interviewee’s claim or reach out to the accused for his version, and demands that her editor run the story without delay. I can’t decide if she’s naïve, lazy, or plain stupid.

Wait, it gets worse! When it’s time to take responsibility for creating a big ol’ mess and for putting people’s lives in danger, how do you think Noor handles it? I’ll tell you how – she takes off to London to get her mind off her troubles. Talk about Rich People Problems!

And yet, to be fair, the film, directed by Sunhil Sippy, is more surefooted in its first half when it mostly concerns itself with matters of the heart. Buried somewhere beneath all the stream-of-consciousness voiceover and whippersnapper dialogue is a premise with potential: a young woman searching for love, somehow unable to see that it’s right under her nose. Adapted from the bestseller Karachi, You’re Killing Me! the film tries hard to straddle both its rom-com leanings and earnest coming-of-age drama. Alas, it only half succeeds.

Sonakshi pulls off the lighthearted bits with a ditzy sort of charm. It’s when the film takes a turn for the serious that she can’t keep up. Stand-up comic Kanan Gill in the role of Noor’s best friend Saad, imbues the character with a refreshing everyman quality.

Although handsomely mounted and evocatively shot, Noor lacks a sense of genuine urgency. The protagonist’s journey from flaky to fully reformed is never convincing, and in the end you’re left feeling that she could learn some empathy in addition to responsible reporting.

I’m going with two out of five.

Rating: 2 / 5

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Blue Mountains Review

Director: Suman Ganguli
Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Gracy Singh, Yatharth Ratnum

If there’s one thing in this film that deserves thumbs up, it’s the intention and nothing else. The film is a poor amalgamation of soap opera acting, cliched dialogues and an exaggerated version of ‘what-is-actually-happening’ plot.

The film revolves around the story of a hill-town boy Som, son of a yesteryear singing sensation, who accidently gets selected in a singing reality TV show. Vani, the mother, now begins dreaming of materialising her unfulfilled dreams through her son, and starts honing his talents. The father, meanwhile, has a tough time in seeing his son moving away from studies but gradually makes his journey from being apprehensive to supportive. But the child’s conquest for stardom doesn’t stay for too long and he finds himself sunk in the abyss of low self esteem. What follows is a twisted tale of teenage depression and how he overcomes the venomous depression with the support of his friends and family.

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Ranvir Shorey plays Om, the strict dad, who had dreamt of sending his son to an international university while Gracy Singh plays mother Vani, an overdramatic version of the ‘maa’ you see in age-old daily soaps. Despite Ranvir’s strong screen presence, the film fails to take a flight above the ground level and gets your attention wavering at most times. Even if you manage to develop a little interest in the predictable turns, the acting takes you and keeps you at a distance. Mostly. Rajpal Yadav, as a family’s confidante and milkman Damodar, too, fails to evoke any emotions.

The first half ends up trying to build up their version of what a reality show looks like. The second half fluctuates through Som’s growing obduracy and family’s concern of getting their kid back to life. And the exaggeration of it all is pretty disturbing, to say the least.

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The second half is confusing not because it requires you to exercise your brain muscles but because what’s happening seems pure nonsensical.

Why is Gracy walking like that? Why is Som talking like that? Why are the neighbours so excited? And what’s wrong with that little girl? When questions like these start bothering you, you know the film has failed to send across the message it intended to.

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The topic of teenage depression isn’t spoken about too often in the mainstream Bollywood and for that, just the intention, Blue Mountains earn a brownie point. And for rest everything else, the film sinks – mostly by its own weight of over-acting.

Rating: 0.5/5

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Mukti Bhawan Review: An Engaging Film You Must Watch Before You Die

Cast: Lalit Behl, Adil Hussain, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Palomi Ghosh, Navnindra Behl, Anil K Rastogi

Director: Shubhashish Bhutiani

The notion that the highest level of being is all about freeing yourself from the transient human life runs through Hinduism, much like other religions. And this idea of the breakout from the worldly pleasures which is called moksha becomes the core concept of Shubhashish Bhutiani’s debut feature Mukti Bhawan.

Set in Varanasi, the film revolves around a 77-year-old Dayanand Kumar (Lalit Behl) who announces to his family while having a meal that his time to die has arrived, and that he’d want to visit Varanasi for his last journey. This decision, quite clearly leaves his son Rajeev (Adil Hussain), Rajeev’s wife Lata (Geetanjali) and daughter Sunita (Palomi Ghosh) in a state of shock. And because Rajeev can’t let his father visit Varanasi alone, he – despite a hectic work life – decides to accompany him.

The sacredness of quaint Varanasi is obvious from the fact that the city on the Ganges is the best place to attain moksha, or as many call it ‘release’ at the moment of death. As Kumar prepares himself for the release from the cycle of life, death and reincarnation by breathing his last in Varanasi, he decides to check in to a moksha retirement lodge.

But attaining salvation comes with its own terms and conditions. Kumar is initially not allowed to stay beyond 15 days. So if he doesn’t die within the aforementioned time frame, he will be asked to vacate the room to make it available for other ‘dying’ visitors. While this remains the key rule, the manager doesn’t really adhere to it. Just when the time limit expires, the manager informs Rajeev, desperate to take his father back home, that he doesn’t have the right to ask a ‘dying’ guest to vacate. This further makes it incumbent for Rajeev to leave his father in Varanasi and join work and family.

Director Bhutiani does an amazing job in capturing the essence of the spiritual power of the city. From taking shots of a group of people crooning bhajans to displaying bodies tied to bamboo frame being carried on willing shoulders to focusing the varied moods of faith – Bhutiani does it all in the most real way. In a nutshell, he explores the long association with death in a way that will remain with you for the longest time.

What also works for Mukti Bhawan is the sensitivity and warmth with which Bhutiani handles the relationship that a busy son shares with a father awaiting his death. What makes the relationship even more interesting is the manner in which it evolves. From being compelled to arrange milk from a buffalo dairy to being made to sit up straight while sleeping to get water for his father, the dutiful and compliant son Rajeev shoulders his responsibility with utmost seriousness. It is a delight to see Bhutiani explain the complexities involved in their relationship, and also tackle the issues they’ve faced in the most genuine way.

In fact, there is a sequence wherein Kumar expresses his desire to be a kangaroo in his next life. The reason? Well, ‘kyunki unki pocket hoti hain aur mai saari cheezein pocket mei rakhunga,’ Kumar chuckles. This is the moment when we realize that even though this father-son relationship appears intense and dynamic, there are humorous moments to be found as well. And cry too!

Behl was last seen essaying the role of a father in Titli, which offered a disturbing story on Delhi’s underbelly. Even though he essays the same role, the understanding and depiction of the stormy relationship he shares with his son needs to be lauded. Even as he waits for salvation in a dingy room in Varanasi, he socializes with friends over meals and bhajans. In fact, his death unties Rajeev with his daughter Sunita. And the message ‘Karo wahi jo mann ko bhaye’ that he shares with Sunita also comes across as the greater truth because there is nothing more important than following your heart and never have regrets.

After leaving an indelible impact in films which are as diverse as Ishqiya, Parched, Life of Pi and English Vinglish, Hussain plays a role of a docile son battling his father’s attempts to attain salvation with maturity. Since he gets so deep into it, he doesn’t face any problem in losing his self in the role. Geetanjali and Palomi Ghosh also play their parts well.

At a time when being different isn’t taboo in Bollywood, we are happy that Bhutiani takes up a topic that we are aware of, but not explored much in movies. While the film will definitely find several takers especially amongst the older generation, it will also resonate with the youngsters. For, here’s a theme that nobody irrespective of their age group can’t avoid.

Rating: 4/5

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