Bareilly Ki Barfi Review

Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon, Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Seema Pahwa, Rohit Choudhury, Swati Semwal
Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari Bareilly Ki Barfi is what you’d get if you took Saajan and gave it the Basu Chatterjee or Sai Paranjpye treatment. It’s a sweet, inoffensive romantic comedy based on a slim premise, but buoyed by strong performances, the unmistakable charm, and texture of small-town India, and garnished with moments of crackling humor.

Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari transports the viewer to the bustling by-lanes of Bareilly where we meet our protagonist Bitti Mishra (Kriti Sanon), a free-spirited young girl who could well be a distant cousin of Kangana Ranaut’s character Tanu from the first Tanu Weds Manu film. Bitti is the complete antithesis of the small-town girl as depicted in most Hindi movies. She sneaks off and smokes cigarettes, rides pillion with the boys in the neighborhood, and routinely puts off prospective grooms by refusing to play the coy virginal cliché.

One of the small joys of this film is the relationship between Bitti and her father, a sweet shop owner (Pankaj Tripathi), who has raised her with all the freedom he’d give to a son. Unlike her permanently exasperated mother (Seema Pahwa) who is having a hard time reconciling with her rebellious spirit, Daddy Dearest lets her fly. A voice-over by Javed Akhtar describes the family as a zany, eccentric bunch but the irony is that in their very oddities and contradictions they’re your average Indian family.

The plot kicks into motion when Bitti chances upon a pulpy novel and discovers that the feisty heroine is a lot like her. Thrilled that there’s someone out there who understands and appreciates her kind, Bitti becomes obsessed with tracking down the author, a fella named Pritam Vidrohi. For this, she enlists the help of printing press owner Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana), who, in fact, is the real author of the book.

You see, Chirag banged out the novel while struggling with heartbreak and bullied his friend Pritam (Rajkummar Rao) into putting his name and photograph on it. Now clearly smitten by Bitti, Chirag forcibly coaches the mild-mannered Pritam into behaving like an arrogant oaf in order to repel Bitti and clear the path to her heart for himself.

The film’s script, by Nitesh Tiwari and Shreyas Jain, bubbles with situational humor and terrific one-liners. The writers evoke a strong sense of place, rooting the story and the characters in a landscape that’s both rich and real. For a film so specific in texture, the casting of the supporting players is crucial, and Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa shine as Bitti’s parents, while Rohit Choudhary is very good too as Chirag’s devoted best friend Munna. Yet the plot itself is thin and frankly predictable; hence much of the film feels stretched, particularly in the first hour. Too much screen-time is committed to establishing Chirag’s growing feelings for Bitti. We get it.

Bareilly Ki Barfi really takes flight with the arrival of Pritam, whose transformation into a boorish lout gives the film some of its best moments. Rajkummar Rao is in superb form and pretty much chews up the scenery each time he’s on the screen. His performance is in all in the little touches: the accent, the body language, slipping from the soft-spoken Pritam to the obnoxious ‘rangbaaz’. He’s got it all down to the last detail.

Ayushmann Khurrana holds up well too, although it’s a familiar role for him, having played both shades of Chirag – cunning North Indian ‘fixer’ and doomed romantic – a few times already.

At the center of this love triangle is Bitti, and it’s easily Kriti Sanon’s most fleshed-out character yet. She’s sincere and throws herself into the part, but the rawness shows. The accent and the lines don’t roll off her tongue quite as naturally, and Kriti never feels entirely convincing as the small-town-bred firecracker.

There is a lot to enjoy here but the script contrivances rankle. This is a movie that works on account of the trimmings: the acting, the clap-trap dialogues, and the authentic texture of the world that it’s set in. If only there was more meat to the main dish. Nevertheless, Bareilly Ki Barfi is appropriately sweet and not a bad way at all to spend two hours. I’m going with three out of five.

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Babumoshai Bandookbaaz

Director: Kushan Nandy
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Jatin Goswani, Divya Dutta
Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is a little better than a typical run-of-the-mill film. Mainly because it takes you back to the Gangs Of Wasseypur days, only to make you realise what a gem of film that was (is). The film doesn’t bear resemblance per se but reminds you of the Anurag Kashyap-directorial. Why? Because, Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

While Gangs of Wasseypur effortlessly made the audience sit up and take notice of Siddiqui’s potential, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz tries to rest itself on the shoulders of the cast. Siddiqui plays Babu Bihari, a dedicated gun-for-hire, who works for anyone who offers him a decent ransom. His first killing dates back to childhood – when he was 10 years old and decided to take someone’s life for two bananas. A professional king in his own right, Babu is now habitual to the trotting lifestyle but finds himself hooked to a shoe-mender, Phulwa (Bidita Bag), during one of the missions assigned to him by a fierce politician, popularly known as Sumitra jiji (Divya Dutta). Soon, a steaming romance strikes off between them.

All is good in the lands of UP until another bounty hunter comes in the frame. He introduces himself as Banke Bihari (Jatin Goswami), a disciple of Babu, and his techniques obviously bear an uncanny resemblance to those of Babu. Soon the harmless banter of them two turn into a killing game. Having received the contract of killing the same people, they challenge each other on who kills the most number of people and the one who loses is expected to step out of the profession.


The tale of love, lust, and gunfire further deepens when the Babu-Phulwa-Banke dynamics unfold. While Phulwa’s presence lights up the life of Babu; Banke, who’s dating an ‘item-girl’, gets visibly attracted to Phulwa. Meanwhile, a host of political-driven motives gets a series of twist and turns to the plot while the story unfolds.

Siddiqui as Babu is backed with nonchalant, curt yet smooth one-liners. The rustic appeal only gets the better of him. He makes you laugh when he takes jibes at himself, delivering punchlines like “Kaalapan kaafi demand mein hai aaj kal” or “tall nahi toh kya, dark aur handsome toh hu.” Even though his transformation from a mere profit-driven killer to a revenge-seeking lover is spot on, Babu, somehow, fails to etch a character strong enough. Jatin Goswami as Banke is impressive. He matches Siddiqui scene to scene, dialogue to dialogue and smile to smile, and emerges as a promising actor. Bidita Bag, the popular Bengali actor, is such a find for Bollywood. She oozes out a certain raw sensuality and delivers an earnest performance all throughout. Her intimate scenes with Siddiqui come out so polished. The ever-reliable Divya Dutta is in top-form as a lusty yet manipulative Sumitra jiji. She knows when to give a stare and when to hold back.

While the first half somehow manages to interest, the second derails soon enough. Amid superficial plot twists and story curves, even the power-packed performances feel short. While most seem unnecessary, the overall vibe of the film reduces to a familiar mash-up of this genre and leave the viewers longing for something better imaginably.

The film has its moments – like the one where Babu and Banke discuss the mehengai (inflation) and their respective salaries over glasses of alcohol or when, every time, the police officer receives a call from his wife, he picks up saying, “Haan Meenaji.. boliye” even if it means taking a break in a significant run and chase sequence. Of course, there’s curt humour, but it’s not compelling enough to make the film work.

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, in short, is a dry film of love, lust and gunfire. Siddiqui and the cast deserve a better story to fall back on, perhaps.

Rating: 2/5

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A Gentleman Review

‘Risky’ Rishi kills two Thai policemen, unmindful of international intrigue, who were trying to just control the violence that suddenly erupted in their neighborhood between two groups of armed individuals; 10 minutes later he objects to one of his fellow agents killing an innocent street food vendor who’s parked next to their getaway vehicle.

These two incidents are representative of the moral dichotomy that plagues the two types of gentlemen played by Malhotra (spoiler: Rishi isn’t that gentle). Gaurav is an upcoming sales executive and new American home-owner while Rishi is a highly-skilled extra-governmental special forces operative in “Unit X”, which clandestinely works for Indian authorities. How they come together is a fun pre-interval denouement, hitherto unexplored in Indian cinema.

What Salaam Namaste started, A Gentleman is continuing: the normalisation/generalisation of a more contemporary morality. Dil Chahta Hai pointed out a change in values but still went for a standard Bollywood ending.

Living in, casual sex, interracial marriages, a black hitman who loves Puran Poli aka “This Indian Shit” but hates when Desis “talk Indian”, LGBT innuendo in not completely bigoted scenarios, as well as Netflix and Chill are all part of A Gentleman’s cinematic lexicon, sans Sanskaar or a lecturing morality.

An earlier music review of the film states that it’s essentially millennial, without emphasizing so. It must take after the actual film, reflective of directors Raj and DK, who’s previous films displayed a similar “Western” aesthetic (we still adore “Go Goa Gone”). This isn’t cinema, as the critics would define it, but it is a damn fun film. There’s even a garden gnome on Gaurav’s suburban Miami lawn.

Also, a tip of the hat to the film’s product placement. It’s highlighted without being obvious, so well done. We’re definitely buying some Euro sleeveless cotton vests (in grey) and Ching’s condiments next time we go shopping.

With elements of Mark Wahlberg’s The Big Hit (secondary antagonist Darshan Kumaar even resembles the original’s Lou Diamond Phillips character in attire and personality) and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s True Lies, A Gentleman still retains its own masala, which includes a Gujju-American gangster – “Jignesh bhai”, Kavya’s matchmaking parents essayed perfectly by Supriya Pilgaonkar and Rajit Kapur with Gaurav ka dost, Dikshit (Hussain Dalal), lawful NRI turned badass. There’s also a nice homage to Along Came Polly, see if you spot it.

Jacqueline has gotten quite a bit of flak over her body of work (pun unintended). However, while she definitely ornaments the visuals of this film, as Gaurav’s colleague Kavya, she also seems to have found her metier with a comic timing that rivals US sitcom fan favorites. And speaking of finding one’s metier, Suniel Shetty makes for a brilliant rogue militant leader. His character’s motivation in this particular film is money rather than inter-country politics, but woh hain na.

And when it comes to Sidharth, well. He still gives out a nice-guy vibe, whether he’s murdering inept but harmless policemen or stopping the murder of his paramour. He’s basically India’s Martin Freeman (Watson in BBC’s Sherlock). And you can see him as both the dull Gaurav and deadly Rishi. He’s a nice guy; no wonder Kavya’s parents love him, despite some misconceptions.

In conclusion, this is a gentleman you can introduce to friends as well as family.

Rating: 3/5

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American Made Movie Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Jayma Mays, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones

Director: Doug Liman

It’s been a while since Tom Cruise made a really good movie, but the dry spell may have ended with his latest, the entertaining romp that is American Made. Reteaming with his Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman for this wildly implausible, but as it turns out, based-on-true-events comedic drama, Cruise reminds us just what he can do when he’s working with solid material. He plays Barry Seal, a bored commercial airline pilot who’s recruited by a smarmy CIA agent (Domhnall Gleeson) to “serve his country” by helping the department gather vital intelligence. All he’s got to do is fly over Latin American hotspots and take photos of resistance movements. These surveillance missions are only the start of an adventure that sees him getting involved in arms-transporting, drug-trafficking, and money-laundering businesses that make him very rich very soon. Before you know it, he’s stacking away bags of cash, pampering the wife silly, and – believe it or not – getting away with all of it.
Fact is indeed stranger than fiction, and Liman keeps the tone decidedly light even as he’s showing us the extent of Barry’s misdoings and all the parties involved – from the White House to the Colombian jungles. A scene in which he crashes his plane into a residential street to escape Border Patrol who’re on his tail is flat-out hilarious, and also very telling of just how far he was willing to go. Amidst the laughs, we slowly learn the significance of Barry’s work in the larger political context.

It’s a smartly made film that moves briskly, and Cruise, at the center of it, brings his mega-watt charm. He’s terrific as a cocksure fella involved in all manner of offenses while cheerily fulfilling his domestic responsibilities to his wife and kids.

American Made is consistently rollicking, although at the heart of it, you can’t miss the deep cynicism, the mistrust of the authorities involved. It’s what grounds the film, gives it relevance, beneath all of Barry’s crazy shenanigans. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five. Just very good fun!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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Bareilly Ki Barfi Movie Review

2017 has been the year of small towns and adding to the league is Ashwini Iyer’s Bareilly Ki Barfi. Starring Kriti Sanon, Ayushmann Khurrana and Rajkummar Rao in rather interesting roles, the film is a romantic-comedy set in Bareilly. The story revolves around an unapologetic and free-spirited small-town girl Bitti, who is in search of someone who would love her for the way she is.

The film has a certain raw flavor to it and deals with the lighter side of romance and lots of drama that comes with it. The trailer sees Ayushmann and Rajkummar fighting for Bitti’s love resulting in a hilarious love triangle. Just like Ashwini’s previous film, Nil Battey Sannat, Bareilly ki Barfi also captures the little things in life in a normal household.

Will the film be able to find enough dose of romance and humor in Bitti’s normal life? Will Kriti Sanon be able to overcome her Raabta debacle with this film? Will the film be different from regular run-of-mill rom coms? Sameeksha from News18 is inside the theater to find out. Tweets about #BareillyKiBarfi from:s_dandriyal
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Toilet-Ek Prem Katha Movie Review

Toilet-Ek Prem Katha

Occasionally comes a film that has been successful in pushing the limits and tackling real issues in real time. Interestingly, Akshay Kumar-Bhumi Pednekar starrer Toilet: Ek Prem Katha has been one such project that has managed to create huge buzz not because of the publicity gimmicks, but due to its strong message. For the unversed, PM Narendra Modi had lauded the film’s trailer as ‘good effort’ because it not just creates awareness about the risks of defecating in open, but also the highlights the need to build a toilet at home.

Directed by Shree Narayan Singh, the film(Toilet-Ek Prem Katha) – which also features Sana Khan, Anupam Kher, Satyajeet Dubey, Sachin Khedekar, Divyendu Sharma in key roles – comes across as a socially conscious, topical and most progressive project of the year so far.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard Review

From its oxymoronic title to its premise to its cast, eagerly-awaited The Hitman’s Bodyguard promises to take out its competition. While Ryan Reynolds added action hero to his Hollywood heartthrob with instant classic Deadpool (let’s none of us mention the Green Lamp-thing), Samuel L Jackson has always just been, well, Samuel L Jackson (apart from that time one he played a nerdy scientist/dinosaur snack in Jurassic Park). Both actors also possess excellent comic timing and are generally big crowd-pullers. So expectations are riding high on this meta buddy-action-comedy.
Obviously they’re not buddies in the beginning. Reynolds’ Michael Bryce is the world’s foremost bodyguard and Jackson’s Darius Kincaid is the world’s top assassin. So you can see why they might not get along. Yet, with the connivance of Hollywood scriptwriters and their reliance on Deus Ex Machina, Bryce gets shanghaied into providing Kincaid from a bunch of nefarious villains. Action and laughter shall hopefully ensue. Join us on our live tweet review as we watch the film.

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Jab Harry Met Sejal Review

My biggest takeaway from Shah Rukh Khan’s new film “Jab Harry Met Sejal” is that at 51, after 25 years of cementing his image as this generation’s most popular romantic star, he’s finally transformed into the sort of sexy, dangerous ‘bad boy’ who might actually sleep with the girl. It’s true!

His Harvinder Singh Nehra aka Harry is a far cry from the PG-13 version of the irresistible charmer that he’s played so many times. The one that’s caused women to dump their fiancés at the altar or walk out on their parents, but, ironically, never posed the slightest threat to their modesty. This time, oozing sex appeal and brandishing machismo evocative of Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna in the seventies, he’s the guy your father warned you against.

Which is why it’s such a shame that he’s trapped in a film that pussyfoots its way around intimacy. Harry is a tour guide in Europe who reluctantly helps a desperate but determined young woman named Sejal (Anushka Sharma) to retrace their steps in order to locate the engagement ring she lost during her holiday. It’s a tricky affair. Harry, a bruised, cynical man who finds comfort in meaningless one-night stands doesn’t want Sejal to be another notch on his bedpost. She, of the funny Gujarati accent, is insulted that he doesn’t think she’s “layak” enough to be one of his conquests.

The pair rambles on about love, attraction, sex and marriage as they traverse a gorgeous landscape that includes Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest and Frankfurt in pursuit of the ring. But the ring is merely a metaphor. If you’ve watched any Imtiaz Ali film, you know that what Harry and Sejal are searching for is each other, and of course, their own true selves.

Now the truth is this shtick has gotten old. After successfully exploiting themes of self-discovery in “Jab We Met” and “Rockstar”, it became clear watching “Tamasha” that Imtiaz may be running out of ideas. There are just so many times you can romanticize self-healing and coming-of-age before it all starts to feel contrived. In the case of this film, frankly Harry and Sejal come off as characters in search of a plot.

The film starts out light and breezy. The first half coasts along on the strength of the actors’ charm and their chemistry, even the verbal sparring between them delivers many laughs. But post-intermission it slips into a quagmire of pointlessness and repetition before it becomes a complete slog. There are way too many songs that stretch the already flimsy narrative, and diversions like the run-in with a Bangladeshi goon (Chandan Roy Sanyal) are excruciating.

Imtiaz, who has been frequently – and let’s face it, prematurely – described as the Yash Chopra of this generation, falters on account of an undercooked script. There is just not enough meat on the bones to keep you invested in the protagonists’ journey, or in their relationship, which feels clumsy and muddled but not in an interesting, honest way.

It’s a pity, because Shah Rukh Khan breathes life into a character that could so easily have been a turn-off. His performance is one of the film’s few strengths. Despite the baffling, contradictory nature of Sejal, Anushka Sharma works hard to imbue her with genuine feeling. The two actors deserved a better film, and so did we. I’m going with two out of five.

Rating: 2 / 5

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Gurgaon Review

Cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Akshay Oberoi, Ragini Khanna, Shalini Verma
Director: Shanker Raman To call Gurgaon a neo-noir film would be a bit of an understatement; blacker than black, the film follows the lives of the Singh family, each intertwined in a snarl of jealousies, betrayals and resentment. Kehri Singh, the ultimate Haryanvi patriarch, formerly sharp as a dagger in the dark is now blunted by the ravages of time and alcohol. It’s his children who are on their ascendant, at least daughter Preeto, who is the apple of Kehri’s eye, just as his elder son Nikki is a fleck of dirt in it. Mother Karma Devi is the silently suffering, but loyal onlooker to her family’s foibles, played flawlessly by Shalini Vatsa.

Nikki (Akshay Oberoi) is a boxer and wants to open his own gym, but having previously failed at several other endeavours, this plan doesn’t pass much muster with his father. Meanwhile, Preet (Ragini Khanna) has completed her degree in architecture and dutifully fallen in with the rest of her fathers’ wishes, be it in life or career. So naturally, Kehri decides her new office complex should be built on the site Nikki had set his sight on for the gym. Anger leads to recklessness and Nikki soon finds himself in a dire need for funds, owing a substantial amount to a no-nonsense bookie over a bad bet. And so the stage is set.

Along with Nikki, we find ourselves going deeper and deeper into the murky past of the Singhs and discover the skeletons lying at the foundations of Kehri’s real estate empire. While the story itself may not be original, it’s executed beautifully. Pankaj Tripathi is of course uniformly excellent as Kehri but is also supported by a stellar supporting cast, each of whom manages to hold their own. Also, kudos to them all for having picked up the Haryanvi dialect for the film and speaking it so naturally.

gurgaon-poster-1Image: Official poster of Gurgaon

Mention also must be made of the Singh’s inner circle. Arjun Fauzdar as Rajvir, Nikki’s minion, and Chintu, Nikki and Preet’s hapless younger brother, are simultaneously servile and swollen-headed and provide some much-needed comic relief in the midst of all the pathos while Aamir Bashir, Kehri’s confidante and oldest friend, is a glowering, but ultimately moral force. In any case, the Singhs are not very nice people to know.

The family itself is a metaphor for the urbanised rural sprawl that is Gurgaon. Like the newly minted city, the Singhs were farmers not too long ago, before their fields came in the notice of developers and real estate barons. A sudden inflow of funds and the transformation of the molehill into skyscrapers left the previously hardworking farming community with too much time and money on their hands; excess and chaos followed.

Director Shanker Raman grew up in the NCR region and it shows. Every frame of the film fabulously captures a different facet of Gurgaon, with nary a wasted shot. From the glittering facade of towering steel and glass buildings to the scarred and pitted roads that wind between them, from the highly westernised nightclubs with booming English music to the thet Jat language and attitudes that space within and outside them, every nuance of the city is presented in a wholly uncompromising light. There are fast foreign cars and long jams at toll booths, there’s foreign liquor juxtaposed against ghee ke ladoos and paranthas and everyone is some baap ka beta. While it all does lead to some comedy, it also causes conflict, and the easy availability of guns probably doesn’t help, at least if you’re at the wrong end of the barrel.

Rating 3.5/5

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