Oppo F9 Pro Review

Oppo F9 Pro Review

The Oppo F9 Pro is a phone for those who want to be noticed.

In a world of increasingly generic-looking phones, and manufacturers all racing to copy the same design cues, Oppo has decided to be a little different. The F9 Pro is instantly noticeable and recognisable, no matter which of its three very different finishes you choose – and no, there is no sober,

low-key option. If you want something that will work unobtrusively in a corporate environment, or if you don’t like getting curious glances when you’re out in public, there are plenty of other smartphones that will suit you better.

While looks will be the primary consideration for buyers, Oppo is prioritising fashion as well as features. There’s a new, more subtle notch; the promise of excellent battery life plus quick charging; and of course Oppo’s usual emphasis on selfies. All these things combined might earn the F9 Pro a few fans – and it needs to play up every advantage it can draw on, now that the Poco F1 (Review) has completely rewritten the rules of the Rs. 20,000 – 30,000 price bracket.

Unlike most phones these days, the emphasis here is on the back. Oppo has come up with three extremely eye-catching finishes for the F9 Pro, all of which are multi-coloured, patterned, and shimmery. The Sunrise Red finish, which you can see on our review unit, has a gradient of rich, deep crimson and violet, with a swirly diamond pattern. The Twilight Blue option has a similar pattern but the colour runs from dark navy to light blue – it’s amusing to think that this is the most low-key. Finally, Starry Purple has a mangenta-indigo gradient with light speckles scattered randomly across it.

All three have an iridescent metallic finish, and at least on our Sunrise Red unit, the colours look different depending on the light and the angle you hold each phone at. The diamond pattern isn’t always visible, but as you turn this phone in your hand, or if light happens to hit it in just the right spot, it will suddenly pop out. Oppo includes a completely transparent rubber case in the retail box, so you can show your F9 Pro off even if you like having some extra protection.

That isn’t all though. Oppo has managed to tone down the notch that we’ve all now gotten used to, and so instead of a ‘tab’ shape with ‘ears’ to either side, there’s only a slight rounded dip in the centre of the top of the screen to accommodate the front camera. Oppo calls this a ‘waterdrop’ shape, and while it is definitely more organic (and, to many people, stylish) than what we’re used to, it’s no less distracting. Interestingly, while you can still force apps to block off the top of the screen in order to prevent content from being gouged out, there’s no way to camouflage the notch within a black bar on a system-wide level.

oppo f9 pro rearpattern ndtv oppo

One of the ways that Oppo managed to reduce the notch was with a clever bit of design. It might seem like the borders on the top and sides of the screen are extremely narrow, and in fact Oppo claims a 90.8 percent screen-to-body ratio. However, the frame of the phone bulges slightly outwards around the front panel, masking about 1mm of space on all sides. The earpiece is designed into this margin, right above the front camera. This also means that the multi-coloured body is visible all around the black front, even when looking at the phone head-on.

The frame of the Oppo F9 Pro isn’t metal, and the company hasn’t specified whether it has used reinforced glass for the front and rear, which is quite disappointing at this price level.

Oppo has stuck a scratch protector onto the front of the F9 Pro, and it says that third-party ones might interfere with the hidden ambient light sensor. The film doesn’t extend till the edges of the F9 Pro’s front face, creating a distracting border around the screen and diminishing the smooth curve of the waterdrop notch. Our review unit’s film got scuffed badly within just a few days of use, and the harshest conditions we exposed it to were the insides of our pockets.

The dual camera module on the rear sticks out a little and there’s a rough lip around the front face, but otherwise construction feels solid. This is a reasonably easy phone to hold and use, and at 169g, it isn’t too heavy. You’ll still have to stretch your thumbs to reach all corners of the screen though.

There’s no dust or splash resistance. The power button on the right and volume buttons on the left are within easy reach, as is the fingerprint sensor on the rear. We were surprised to see a Micro-USB port on the bottom rather than a more modern Type-C port, but this is required for Oppo’s VOOC rapid charging system. There’s also a 3.5mm headset jack and a single speaker on the bottom. The tray on the left has individual slots for two Nano-SIMs and a microSD card, which is always nice to see.

oppo f9 pro notch ndtv oppo

As we stated earlier, Xiaomi’s Poco F1 has upset the applecart in the price band that Oppo has targeted for the F9 Pro, and its hardware will not seem impressive now. There’s an octa-core MediaTek Helio P60 processor (incidentally, the same one that Oppo used on its own disruptively priced model introduced under a new sub-brand, the Realme 1 (Review), not too long ago). This SoC has an integrated ARM Mali-G72 GPU and boasts of AI processing and power efficiency enhancements.

Oppo sells only one version of the F9 Pro, with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. However, the company has taken the unusual step of also announcing the Oppo F9, which is identical in every way other than having 4GB of RAM instead of 6GB. This model isn’t available in stores yet, and the company has not said when it will be. We’re quite surprised that there’s a Rs. 4,000 price difference between these two models.

One of the F9 Pro’s headlining features is its 3500mAh battery and support for Oppo’s VOOC rapid charging standard. All the required circuitry is built into the charger rather than the phone, which Oppo says prevents the phone from heating up too much. You’ll have to use the charger and modified USB cable that come with the phone, both of which are bulkier than usual. Oppo claims that being plugged in for five minutes will give you two hours’ worth of talk time.

Oppo has also used an LTPS (low-temperature polysilicon) LCD panel, which consumes less power but is expensive to manufacture. The panel measures 6.3 inches and has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 1080×2340. The rest of the F9 Pro’s specifications are pretty standard: Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, and VoLTE.

oppo f9 pro sides ndtv oppo

Oppo’s ColorOS skin is now at version 5.2, and is based on Android 8.1. Our review unit had the July 2018 security patch, and Oppo hasn’t committed to any schedule for future patches or Android updates. To say that ColorOS is heavily customised would be an understatement. There isn’t an app drawer, and the icons on the homescreen are all comically large. There’s a ‘Smart Assistant’ screen to the left of the first homescreen with widgets for app shortcuts, the weather, step tracking, events, etc. You can pull downwards to perform a systemwide search, just like on iOS. A floating panel gives you quick access to app shortcuts as well as screenshot tools. If you use it while watching a video in landscape, some apps can launch as floating windows.

The settings app has a number of options to discover. You can swap around the on-screen navigation buttons or disable them and use gestures instead. There are assorted gestures and shortcuts. A Smart Driving mode can block notifications and calls, but you have to either turn it on manually or set it to trigger when your phone is connected to your car using Bluetooth. An interesting privacy feature is that you can choose to spoof your call history, contacts, messages and events if apps try to access them. Face recognition is supported but you have to wake your phone and then swipe upwards to trigger the front camera, which is an annoying extra step.

There’s a fair bit of bloatware, including UC Browser and Amazon Shopping. We were prompted to install more during the initial setup process, through an Oppo AppStore, and also through a ‘Hot Apps’ panel on the home screen that looks deceptively like an ordinary system folder. Oroaming is an app that claims to let users buy cheap roaming plans in multiple countries without needing a local SIM, but how this works is never really explained. The Theme Store has quite a few free themes and wallpapers.

oppo f9 pro screenshots ndtv oppo

The F9 Pro’s full-HD+ resolution is enough to keep everything on screen looking crisp even at 6.3 inches. Colours are bright and vibrant, and viewing angles are also very good. We were able to use this phone outdoors without any trouble. The notch and rounded corners do result in quite a bit of cropping when watching videos full-screen. Unfortunately the built-in speaker is quite awful. Everything is screechy and distorted, and most of the music we tried listening to was not enjoyable at all.

If you judge the Oppo F9 Pro only by its performance in benchmarks, it will come out looking quite weak. Setting aside the obviously more powerful Poco F1, this phone still doesn’t compare favourably against similarly priced models such as the Honor Play (Review) and Huawei Nova 3i (Review). It’s also outperformed by the lower priced Xiaomi Mi A2 (Review) and is of course on par with the even more affordable Realme 1. We got a score of 137,739 in AnTuTu, and Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests managed 1,348 and 5,305 respectively. Graphics test scores were disappointingly weak, with this phone scoring only 1,078 in 3DMark’s Slingshot Extreme scene, and pushing out only 34fps in the basic GFXBench T-Rex test.

Casual games seemed to run fine, but Asphalt 9:Legends struggled. Gameplay was a bit too choppy to be enjoyable, and even the UI and menus were sluggish. We tried PUBG and had a much better experience. It ran without any stutters using the Balanced preset. We also noticed that the upper rear of this phone got warm almost instantly when a heavy game loaded, and remained warm enough to be distracting throughout. It’s safe to say that this phone isn’t your best bet if you’re serious about current-gen games.

On the other hand, this phone’s battery life is quite remarkable. With just a 3500mAh battery, the Oppo F9 Pro managed to run for 13 hours, 12 minutes in our HD video loop test. That’s thanks to the low-power LTPS screen, the Helio P60 SoC’s efficiency, and optimisations built into ColorOS. With ordinary use including some gaming, video streaming and plenty of time spent online, we easily sailed through a full day and didn’t have to worry about the battery level till the next morning. The VOOC charger is enormous and will be a pain to carry around, but it works brilliantly. A 10-minute charge from zero took us up to 19 percent, and we were able to get to nearly 75 percent in just 40 minutes.

oppo f9 pro tray ndtv oppo

Oppo’s camera app is somewhat like the iOS app, just with a lot more going on. The main mode ribbon at the bottom includes Timelapse, Slo-mo, Portrait, Sticker, Pano, and Expert modes along with the standard Photo and Video. Portrait mode was pretty fussy about prompting us to move closer to or farther away from our subjects. There are also “lighting effects” which are little more than mild filters. The Slow-mo and Timelapse video modes didn’t have any options at all for us to tweak – not even the resolution. You get Google Lens integration in the standard Photo mode, along with beautification, filters, and a choice of aspect ratios.

You can simulate a depth effect with the front camera, but it isn’t very natural. The beautification mode is set to ‘AI’ by default, and we found it to be way too aggressive, making us look almost like cartoon characters. Selfies taken indoors weren’t very impressive. In daylight, we found the app to be responsive, locking focus quickly. Our sample shots looked crisp, with good colours and adequate detail. In portrait mode, the app often took a few moments to settle the difference between foreground and background objects, but we were able to see the effect on screen and decide when to capture our shots.

Tap to see full-sized Oppo F9 Pro camera samples

At night, there was quite a bit of focus lag. Shots came out with murky details and a lot of blurring when dealing with even slightly moving objects. Most of our sample photos were very well lit, but strong post-processing appeared to have taken its toll on overall quality. These shots looked fine on the phone’s screen, but weren’t suitable for use at full size.

The front camera is usually one of Oppo’s biggest highlights, but in this case we weren’t terribly impressed. Faces looked sharp, but background details were completely lost. The depth effect made backgrounds look a little cartoony. which might not be a bad thing, and edge detection was fairly good. Selfies taken at night were grainy and we wouldn’t want to show them off on our social media.

You have a choice between 720p and 1080p for video recording with the rear cameras, and there are no settings to play with. We saw a lot of focus shifting, and the lack of stabilisation was evident throughout our sample clips. Overall, we’re somewhat disappointed with the Oppo F9 Pro’s camera capabilities.

Oppo F9 Pro in pictures

The Oppo F9 Pro reminds us of the early 2000s when Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and others used to come up with wildly imaginative designs all the time. Very few phones these days take any risks with colours, patterns, shapes or materials. The ones that do are usually trying to be high-end and sophisticated, leaving no room for edgy or whimsical options. Oppo obviously knows that the F9 Pro’s aesthetic won’t be for everyone, but that’s okay. People who are most concerned with practicality have plenty of other choices anyway. If a bright red and purple phone makes you happy, then by all means, go for it.

Our biggest question is whether buyers will be willing to prioritise this design over performance. The Oppo F9 Pro does deliver great battery life and a reasonable overall usage experience, but it isn’t the best you can get for your money by a long shot. We would have at least liked a metal body, weatherproofing, and basic video stabilisation at this price. Better cameras would also have made us more forgiving.

The Oppo F9 priced at Rs. 4,000 less comes across as much better value for money. Most people can live quite happily with 4GB of RAM rather than 6GB, and if you’re most concerned about Fortnite gaming performance for example, you should be looking elsewhere anyway. Also, while the base variant of the Poco F1 is a clear outlier in this price band (and will be difficult to buy for the foreseeable future), we can’t ignore how much value it offers.

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Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se Movie Review

Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se
Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Kriti Kharbanda
Director: Navaniat Singh

Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se is like one of those party jokes which you anticipate will entertain you, but instead leave a bad taste in your mouth when someone actually blurts it out. The Deols are back with one more attempt at slapstick comedy with the focus firmly fixed on ‘daaru’, ‘Punjabi’ and ‘dhai kilo ka haath’ jokes. The first film of the series in 2011 worked because there was an indigenous charm to it. The whole Canada-Punjab-Benares set up offered enough to the audience. The Deols cast their charm and, overall, it managed to make us laugh. There was a spontaneity to it. A lot has changed in seven years. The Deols have done a couple of more films together to dilute the interest of watching them perform together, and their mojo is also lost. Though Sunny and Bobby Deol gave us a glimpse of how crazy it could be with them together in 2017’s Poster Boys, this time they seem trapped more in the burden of making a silly yet comic film, than actually making it.

It had to be a place in Punjab, so Amritsar fetches the director Navaniat Singh’s attention. Puran Singh (Sunny Deol) is a local favourite, beloved for his knowledge of Ayurveda, while his brother Kaala (Bobby Deol) is hell bent on maligning the family’s reputation. Of course, this is meant in a funny way, at least this is what the director intended in the beginning.

They come to loggerheads with a big pharmaceutical giant Marfatia (Mohan Kapoor) who wants to buy a secret medicinal formula from Puran. After a couple of scuffles in which nearly a 100 people lose to Sunny Deol’s screaming, the case reaches the court where advocate Parmar (Dharmendra) pleads on behalf of the brothers.

There is some promise in the beginning. Dharmendra talks to invisible women, Sunny blasts pillars with his punches and Bobby grooves to the surprisingly melodious tune of Nazarbattu (sung by Sachet Tandon). In short, the ‘90s nostalgia is back, but it becomes troublesome when you keep soaking in reflected glory of the past for the next 40 minutes. Where is the new film, you wonder!

A predictable storyline is least of the problems with Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se. The actors are trapped in their own images while the viewers have probably moved on. The jokes start to fall flat and scenes get stretched for no apparent reason. The proceedings become so lackluster that by the time the climax arrives, you have had at least five re-runs of it in your head. You’ll also miss the freshness and impeccable performances of secondary characters; the way they added value to the proceedings in the first film was praise-worthy.

The second film also suffered due to an absurd central theme and an omnipresent monkey. You wouldn’t believe how out of place it was till you watch the second film of the franchise. Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se isn’t as bizarre as Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, but it’s nowhere close to the fun quotient of Yamla Pagla Deewana either.

You’ll need a couple of popcorn boxes to munch on, but more than that, you’ll need Himalayan patience to sit through this 147-minute of convoluted mess.

Rating: 1/5

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Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi Review

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi
Sonakshi Sinha, Diana Penty, Jimmy Shergill, Jassi Gill
Director: Mudassar Aziz

The charming innocence of the key characters in Happy Bhag Jayegi (2016) was the prime reason behind its success. The film created a parallel world where even the most cynical characters appeared funny. They didn’t know what was happening, yet they whole-heartedly participated in it. The sequel, Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, takes a cue from there, but actors seem much more confident as if they know what the future has in store for them. The bigger canvas and addition of new actors add value to the film, but overall, the fun quotient has been diluted. That doesn’t mean Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi wouldn’t be able to entertain you at all. It has its own moments, thanks to actors like Jimmy Shergill and Piyush Mishra.

It a tale of two Happys (Sonakshi Sinha and Diana Penty) who land in Shanghai (China) at the same time. The original Happy (Penty) has a history with a prominent Pakistani politician, played by Abhay Deol in the first film. So, a Chinese businessman Adnan Chow (Denzil Smith) wants to kidnap her to pressurise the Pakistan government for money. He abducts the other Happy (Sinha) instead. After this, half of Amritsar lands in Shanghai and creates mayhem on its roads.

The director, Mudassar Aziz, tries to take the film forward through personality traits, and that works in his favour. Khushi’s (Jassi Gill) lack of a social life and occasional soliloquies will give you a reason to laugh. Then there is Jimmy Shergill’s Daman Singh Bagga, who is still desperate to get married. Repetitive, but Shergill has aced such a character arc by now, so you laugh. In fact, it’s his chemistry with Piyush Mishra’s Lahore cop Usman Afridi that you’ll cherish the most. The director has stretched their scenes though, but they manage to sail through.

The first film relied on situations, but the sequel is more about characters. There the spirit gets dampened a bit as the new Happy doesn’t get much to do. Sinha’s role is more like the binding thread than the core of the story itself.

Denzil Smith’s Urdu-speaking Chinese mobster evokes smile in the beginning, but recurrence takes away the sheen. He goes by the mood of the film though.

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi is a feel good film which you’re not likely to remember much about after a while. That’s its major drawback. You’ll have a good time, but there isn’t much to make you come back to it. Nevertheless, it’s 137-minute of sheer fun. Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi will lift your mood for sure, but that will also depend on the fact that whether you would like to forgive the makers for such an average recreation of the iconic Howrah Bridge song Mera naam Chin Chin Chu.

Rating: 3/5

Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha

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Akshay Kumar’s Gold Review

Akshay Kumar’s Gold Review

Akshay Kumar, Mouni Roy, Amit Sadh
Director: Reema Kagti

In the Olympics of 1948, the Indian hockey team isn’t playing just to win the tournament, but to beat the British legacy of slavery of over 200 years. There can’t be a better venue than London. With tempers running high and biceps bulging at the slightest provocation, it’s history in making. India is up against Britain, the host, in their den. The crowd is hostile, but admires a good game. It’s similar to the hockey finale of 1936 when British India destroyed the host Germany in Berlin. It’s also a metaphor of how it takes years and generations to see dreams come true, and how the history repeats itself. Such connecting dots make Gold a cut above the rest and an absolutely delightful watch. Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar) is a paradoxical character. Throughout called ‘paagal Bengali’, he is what Jerry Maguire would have been in his circumstances. Or, maybe better, thanks to his understanding of a flawed team manager who drinks like a fish and retaliates like a hyena. He is tactical, non-confrontational and the go to man for players who have not yet risen above their social conditions back home.

There is an excellent dribbler in Raghubir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh), the scion of a princely state in erstwhile United Province, who finds the untamed energy of Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal) threatening. There are others who are yet to find a purpose in the stick, but they’re all glued together with Tapan’s passion to see the flag of independent India hoisted above others.

This is an ideal, somewhat predictable, set-up, and it’s totally up to the director Reema Kagti (Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Talaash) to turn it into either an intense drama like Chak De! India or an overtly patriotic saga invoking tears. She chooses the middle ground and Gold transforms into a smart film on-screen. It adjusts Akshay Kumar brand of comedy and emotion-driven songs with ease into a script that’s mostly about a simple man’s desire to see the world in a new light.

In fact, truth be told, the first 30-minutes of Gold’s screenplay is one of the finest this year. You meet the key characters, get introduced to their struggles and understand the conflict that’s getting bigger. And guess what? All this happens without being in your face that’s so typical of Bollywood sports dramas.

There’re, at least, three parallel tracks a la Chak De! India which culminates on hockey and how the game can be the best ambassador for a people. While two players jostle for the center forward’s space, others feel comfortable with players from their own vicinity. Reema Kagti has tactfully weaved in small snippets from players’ lives to talk about larger issues. It’s so good to see such a mainstream patriotic film not resorting to Pakistan bashing. On the other hand, Vineet Kumar Singh (Imtiaz, ex-British India captain who also spearheads the Pakistani team after independence) ensures we treat them as passionate players and former allies in our collective freedom struggle.

This is an extension of what Akshay has been doing in films like Toilet Ek Prem Katha and Padman, but he has championed the art of mixing with other characters and being comfortable in his own skin. This is so vital for a story like Gold where a superstar’s presence could take the focus away from the theme. He is there but not on the ground. His powers are limited and the game doesn’t even revolve around him, but that sense of helplessness makes his victory even bigger.

In most of the scenes, somebody else and not Akshay takes charge of the situation. Sometimes it’s Mouni Roy’s Monobina and sometimes it’s Kunal Kapoor’s star hockey player Samraat. A couple of songs and easy to anticipate plot points make Gold slightly less innovative in the second half, but I am ready to overlook them as it catches us by the neck and make us notice the fluidity of the proceedings. Doing so for 153-minutes is definitely not an easy job.

Gold can’t boast of a great CGI though. Actors try to make up for a little slack in pace, but its capacity to moist your eyes at will is Gold’s real strength. Akshay is in top form and this is your must watch Independence Day film.?

Rating: 4/5

Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha

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Kolamavu Kokila Review: Drug-peddling Nayanthara Shines in this Black Comedy

Kolamavu Kokila
Cast: Nayanthara, Yogi Babu
Director: Nelson Dilipkumar

After playing an upright Indian Administrative Officer on the right side of law in 2017 film Aramm, Nayanthara flips on to the other side in her latest dark adventure, Nelson Dilipkumar’s Kolamavu Kokila. As innocent sounding as the title itself may be – kolamavu in Tamil means rice-powder used to draw alpana/rangoli – Nayanthara’s Kokila appears naive and even a wee bit muddleheaded till her mother’s (Saranya Ponvannan) potentially fatal lung cancer drives the girl to plunge into a drug cartel. It is not that she connives and cons right from the start, but as luck would have it, she finds herself pushed into the seedy business after she had knocked all doors for money to treat her mother. A chance encounter with a drug operative, who uses the guileless, almost schoolgirl-like Kokila to get a packet of cocaine from the toilet of a women’s hostel. And she walks through the police cordon in a breeze. Yes, the film has far too many convenient junctures – call them sheer coincidence – for the script to get top billing. But if one were to overlook these, and Yogi Babu’s (who sets up shop right outside’s Kokila’s) desperate affection for Kokila, which turns sillier by the minute, Dilipkumar’s work stays on course without distraction.

A black comedy into which not just Kokila, but also her ATM guard father, her sick mother and college-going sister get sucked into, the movie manages to lighten the journey of a motley crowd, which includes good cops, bad cops, drugs dons in Chennai and their menacing boss in Mumbai.

Somewhat poorly paced and lacking any penetrating dark humour, Kolamavu Kokila manages to engage without throwing up too much blood and gore. Nayanthara carries the plot with conviction. She could have added a few variations to her docile demeanour though.

Rating: 3/5

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator, movie critic)

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Dhadak Movie Review

Cast: Ishaan Khatter, Janhvi Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana, Kharaj Mukherjee, Shridhar Watsar, Ankit Bisht

Director: Shashank Khaitan

A young fellow, having worked his way through a shared snack with his female companion, drinks from a mug of water in a plastic drum at the roadside food vendor. She crinkles her nose when he offers her the mug for a sip, prompting him to buy her bottled water instead. It’s a seemingly innocuous moment from Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat, but oh, so telling – the couple, their backs against each other, both drinking water. Yes water, that great leveler; required by both the rich and the poor, by those belonging to every caste and class, and yet the very clue in this moment that points to the yawning divide between this pair. That scene – like many others – has been left out of Dhadak, the Hindi remake of Manjule’s excellent Marathi film from 2016 about the intensely gripping and ultimately tragic romance between a lower-caste boy and an upper-caste girl in rural Maharashtra. Caste is a thorny, complex issue with a history of deep-rooted prejudices, injustice, and far-reaching consequences. When honestly explored, we get extraordinary stories like Sairat, Masaan, and Manjule’s own previous film Fandry. But the caste angle, evidently too hot to handle in a mainstream Bollywood film, is largely swept under the rug in Dhadak.

The story, which is robbed of texture and nuance when relocated from Bittergaon village in central Maharashtra to a tourism-brochure version of Udaipur, is centered on the romance between Madhukar aka Madhu (Ishaan Khatter) and Parthavi (Janhvi Kapoor). She is the daughter of a rich, influential father who owns a hotel and has political ambitions. He is the son of middle-class parents who run a modest restaurant. Her family will have none of it. The young couple must flee.
Director Shashank Khaitan is faithful to the beats of the original film but makes some questionable decisions. The hero’s friends, so crucial to the plot in Sairat, are reduced to stock caricatures here, particularly a vertically challenged fellow exploited strictly for laughs. With the caste narrative reduced to a mere footnote, the villain too – Parthavi’s father (Ashutosh Rana) – is at best your standard disapproving parent, a role the actor already played in the director’s previous film Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania.

In the original film the action shifts to Hyderabad and the couple (Parshya and Archie) are put through the wringer as they go about building a life together. Madhu and Parthavi in Dhadak land up in Kolkata, but their struggle, relatively sanitized, can be best described as the Dharma Productions version of a hard life.

There’s also the matter of the film’s climax, a different one from the original. It’s chilling and devastating, not unlike Sairat. But again, given that the caste narrative is never integral to the story, it doesn’t feel suitably earned. Ultimately you could interpret it as the final move in a revenge plot.

But wait, it’s not as if Dhadak is entirely a waste of time. There’s something especially refreshing about watching young, raw newcomers discover their craft… witnessing the unpredictability of a performance, a new approach to a familiar emotion. Ishaan and Janhvi have a winning, charming chemistry, and they’re both extremely watchable even if they have contrasting styles.

Ishaan, who was especially impressive in his debut film Beyond The Clouds, once again radiates warmth and innocence, and reflects both the grappling and the growing maturity of a boy on the cusp of adulthood. Janhvi, meanwhile, has less to work with, because Parthavi is never as well-defined as Archie in Sairat. But Janhvi, who’s making her debut here, has a fragility that makes her instantly endearing, and a soulful quality that makes it hard to take your eyes off her on screen.

The director utilizes them well, giving them scope to perform drama, the odd bits of comedy, and really puts their dancing skills to test in the madly infectious Zingaat number, which composers Ajay-Atul and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya successfully refashion in Hindi.

Dhadak is ultimately a homogenous Karan Johar production that offers comfort in the familiar…for those seeking it. For the rest of us, it’s just baffling why the folks involved would choose to remake a film about the horrors of caste supremacy, but erase practically every mention of caste from the film.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five. The kids make it worth your time.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

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Sanju Movie Review

Sanjay Dutt – the son of superstars Nargis and Sunil Dutt – has often been referred to as the controversy’s favourite child. Take a look at his past and you’d notice that the actor – who has been a part of the Indian showbiz industry for over 40 years – has lived a life that has been spiced with multiple affairs, breakups, marriages, divorces, deadly drug phase, underworld connection, court appearances and incarcerations. His is a life that is perfect for a Bollywood movie script. And it’s interesting to see that filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani decided to direct the film Sanju on Bollywood’s most controversial yet adored star.

Hirani – who had resurrected Dutt’s career with Munnabhai – is also his close friends. Will he do justice to Sanjay Dutt biopic Sanju as it is a genre he hasn’t tried so far? Or will he end up glorifying the actor in what many think is a propaganda film? Divya Pal is watching the film to live tweet the experience and get you all answers.

Go for Ranbir’s honest portrayal and for a more humane insight about Sanjay Dutt’s turbulent life

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Equalizer 2 Review

Equalizer 2
Cast:Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Jonathan Scarfe, Orson Bean
Director: Antoine Fuqua

This vigilante film is a sequel to the 2014 released The Equalizer which was originally based on the 1980s Television serial with the same name. It is about a retired CIA agent Robert McCall, who plays a lone ranger delivering justice to the abused, the defenceless and the oppressed. The film opens with an elegant scene on-board a speeding train of the Turkish Railways some 400 km away from Istanbul.

Robert McCall dressed as an Arab swiftly disposes of thugs who kidnap a young girl, just to harass her mother. The incident feels so insignificant yet, serves as a reminder that McCall was created to offer help to random people on everything.”

Back in Boston, McCall works as a driver for a company called Lyft which is akin to Uber and he seems sincerely dedicated to those in need of help.

But when his only friend and former CIA handler, Susan Plummer is murdered, he stumbles upon that she is done with for investigating the case of multiple murders of upscale officials at their homes, how he solves the mystery and delivers her justice forms the crux of the tale.

The story is simple and the main plot is juxtaposed with other subplots that in turn dive into an abstract universe.

The plot takes a bit long to get into gear. There is a break in the narrative, perhaps because it seeks a reflexive vision, and that together with the naturalness in the staging, results in a frankly strange and evasive film.

The dreamlike detail in which the director uses to teleport McCall to events such as a crime scene or projects him in a place of his past or the type of mental musing he uses to psychoanalyse the supposed murders, serve as good examples.

Also, one of the main peeves is that the story never shows you that McCall is in real trouble. The whole conspiracy he faces feels very light and casual, as if it does not matter.

The climax that takes place in an evacuated town hit by a storm, offers an interesting and unusual setting but there are moments that could be termed as preposterous.

But the camera undertakes an emotional journey from the locales to the fine nuances of the characters, which produces an excellent symbiosis between the character and environment. It makes us witness the lone fighter in a rigid and focussed manner.

And before we complain about Denzel’s performance as McCall, he tells us: “There are two kinds of pain. Pain that hurts and pain that alters.”

And you witness the change with an open heart. Reuniting with Director Antoine Fuqua for the fourth time, after ‘Training Day’, ‘The Equalizer’ and ‘The Magnificent Seven’, Denzel plays the unusual action hero with elegance and intelligence.

He is aptly supported by Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer, Pedro Pascal as Dave his one-time operational partner, Aston Sanders as the local kid Miles who McCall saves from getting sucked into the underworld and Orson Bean as the Holocaust Survivor. They all add flavour and gravitas to the narrative.

Overall, despite keeping you hooked for nearly two hours, the film lacks the excitement of the cat and mouse chase between the bad men and the vigilante.

Rating: 3/5

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Bhavesh Joshi Superhero Review

function collapse(){$(‘.qr’).toggle(500, function() {if ($(‘.qr’).is(‘:visible’)) {$(“.expup”).css(“background”, “url(https://images.news18.com/static_news18/pix/ibnhome/news18/exp-uparrow.gif)”);} else {$(“.expup”).css(“background”, “url(https://images.news18.com/static_news18/pix/ibnhome/news18/exp-downarrow.gif)”);}});}Vikramaditya Motwane- the man behind the films like Udaan, Lootera, and Trapped, is back in the experimental game with Bhavesh Joshi. However, this time he misses the mark by a fair distance. It would be unfair to call Bhavesh Joshi, Hindi cinema’s answer to the recent trend of superheroes, in fact, the film lacks and owns characteristics more common to a dark, vigilante thriller.

The film is about a group of three friends, Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyuli ), Sikander (Harshvardhan Kapoor)and Rajat(Ashish Verma). Bhavesh and Siku are two passionate youngsters who want to clean up their country for good and bring ‘insaaf’ to anybody in need. However, reality hits them soon enough and while Siku and Rajat get into the routine of life, Bhavesh keeps the ‘insaaf-man’ in him, alive. Things take an ugly turn and Siku takes it upon himself to keep his friend and vigilante, Bhavesh Joshi, alive in the hearts and minds of wrong-doers. The entire story is built around a big water-scam in Mumbai involving ministers, corrupt police, and few opportunists.

If plainly put, Bhavesh Joshi belongs in the list of watchable Hindi noirs, and the credit goes to the writers more than the executors. The intention behind making the film is clear right from the beginning and the subtle hints to the current socio-political situation in the country, questioning everything from the double standards of bureaucracy, the media and ‘Swachch Mission’ of certain politicians to throw any voice of dissent to the forbidden borders of the neighbouring country.
However, not everything is as rosy and perfect as written in the script. There are major loopholes in the narrative, where you keep questioning certain moves or routes taken by the hero(es). The makers wanted to make the film as close to reality as possible, but certain impractical and naive methods make you believe that in the end they did get swayed by the ‘superhero’ moral code of giving unrealistic solutions to the real-world problems. Another big issue with the film is its length. There are certain scenes and scenarios which could’ve been easily chopped to make give the story a crisp, thrilling mood, however, the idea of righteousness takes its toll after the interval.

Talking about the performances, the real breakout star in the film is Bhavesh Joshi. Not Harshvardhan but Priyanshu Painyuli. The actor wears the insaaf mask with required ingenuity and conviction, so much that it makes you believe in his cause. He is a find in the film and let’s hope Motwane and Kashyap use this talent in their future projects as well. Priyanshu keeps the pace and plot interesting but as soon as Harshvardhan steps into his shoes the plot becomes as dead as his expressions. It’s not that Kapoor does a terrible job. His deadpan expressions are perfect for his state of being a heartbroken, vengeful best friend, but he fails to bring anything new or genuine on the table. The fire that gets ignited by Priyanshu’s conviction gets a little dim and grim with Kapoor’s arrival.

The story also fails to use the potential of Mumbai in building its narrative. Sure, the chases and whistle-blowing moments in the film do take you through the lanes of the city, but somewhere the heart is missing. One of the key characters in any vigilante superhero film is the city he resides in, like Gotham for Batman or Hell’s Kitchen for Daredevil, Bhavesh Joshi fails to tap that. The action chases and sequences are enjoyable and the entire paper-mask style and using videos and internet to put across the truth reminds you of V for Vendetta, in a good way.

Overall, Motwane did try to bring a rather relatable and noble topic upfront without being too preachy. However, the execution couldn’t convey the emotions of the writing completely and sloppy editing makes it a slow take-in rather than a thrilling vigilant watch. The film deserves a watch for Priyanshu’s conviction, some relatable chapters of life and friendships, and the ‘insaaf-punch’ trickled by the writers here and there. Even heroes deserve to fail, but only if there is glory for the world somewhere. The glory here is bleak, thus making Bhavesh Joshi Superhero an underwhelming experience.

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Deadpool 2 Review

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin
Director: David Leitch

At a time when superhero films are all about saving the world and universe from madmen and their clan, Deadpool 2 comes as a sweet relief as it focuses on saving one child from himself with Deadpool’s distinct ‘merc with a mouth’ manner. Sassier, funnier, grosser and more coherent with its plotline, the sequel of 2016 blockbuster hit is everything fans were expecting and more. Featuring Wade Wilson unloading both sarcasm and pop-culture references at any given moment, a bombastic introduction to the stern and mechanical Cable, a kid with issues and deaths – lots of deaths, Deadpool 2 has it all.

The film begins with a boom (literally) and ends with an X-Force, which is how far one can go without giving out many details on the story. Frankly, this is one plot you can’t expect spoilers from but just experience the genius of Ryan Reynolds in this cinematic version of Deadpool. The film is packed with innuendo, which are thrown at the audience at every given moment without a care if they would register or not. It’s like a joke-machine firing joke every time you feel the story is taking a dark turn. The predecessor thrived as an A-rated satire of the studio, with most of the humor coming at the expense of its own mega-franchise, X-Men. This time the seat has been taken (or shared) by Avengers, (made funnier when you consider Josh Brolin starred in both). You can’t help but laugh with a sense of familiarity with which the makers have included the puns and lines of an altogether different mini-verse in a bigger umbrella of MCU.

Directed by ‘One of the Two Guys Who Killed John Wick’s Dog,’ the first 20 minutes of the film feature a good amount of gruesome but spectacular bloodbath as both Wick films combined. But that is just the beginning. The film ups its ante with some pretty disgusting visuals and some very interesting cameos, both by A-list Hollywood stars to popular characters from the comics. And we thought the studio doesn’t have money to ‘entertain one more X-Man’.

Hiding behind constant self-critiquing- from pointing out budget restrains to ‘bad-writing’ and ‘CGI fights’ Deadpool acknowledges everything even before you have the chance to say it in your mind. Thus, giving a glimpse of sarcastic and intelligent filmmaking, often found missing in the VFX-crammed superhero universe. The film has a lot of puckish puns that could’ve headed towards being borderline racist, but clever writing saves the day and makes you laugh at yourself for completing the joke.

Unlike Deadpool, Deadpool 2 has a streamlined narrative and a mission for the mercenary. The only thing splashed on the walls here are his puns and lot of blood. A funnier, jazzier and grimmer version set in a 2-D format, Deadpool 2 deserves a watch for its sass and loony toons treatment of the story where the ‘ wheelbarrow full of Stage 4 cancer’ is the R-Rated masked Bugs Bunny-esque mercenary in his natural element.

Oh and wait for the mid-credit sequences. They’ll crack you up.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Hope Aur Hum Movie Review

Director: Sudip Bandhyopadhay
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Sonali Kulkarni, Naveen Kasturia, Aamir Bashir, Kabir Sajid
In ad filmmaker Sudip Bandhyopadhay’s Hope Aur Hum, three parallel narratives flow side by side. Seeped in nostalgia, the film has many moments- some striking, some memorable and some fleeting- in a story told through three generations of the Srivastava family.

At the centre of this story is an old man Nagesh Srivastava (Naseeruddin Shah), who is attached with his old school photocopy machine. He has named it Mr. Soennecken after Friedrich Soennecken, the famous German office products supplier. And at a time when everyone is technology obsessed, Nagesh finds solace and refers to the work of Mr. Soennecken as art. He is still stuck in the era when he first brought the machine home and all his neighbours had lined up outside to get just one glimpse of it. His son Neeraj (Aamir Bashir), who is under constant pressure to get that due promotion at work, understands his father’s attachment but to his wife Aditi (Sonali Kulkarni), the room where the machine is kept can be used to provide their kids a more comfortable living and separate rooms. She keeps practicality over both emotions and nostalgia.

The two grandkids – a teenage Tanu (Vidhi Vaghani) and a cricket lover and enthusiastic commentator Anu (Kabir Sajid)- are perhaps the only members of the family who understand what Mr. Soennecken means to their grandfather. They feel for him and feel with him. Nagesh’s younger son Nitin (Naveen Kasturia) arrives from Dubai for a surprise visit and brings home a play station for Anu, mobile for Tanu, watch for Aditi and the latest model of a photocopy machine. He loses his phone upon arrival but “destiny” has something else in store for him. Meanwhile, Anu visits his maternal grandmother’s home with his father.

Three important events- Nagesh’s dying Mr. Soennecken and arrival of a new model, Nitin’s phone getting lost and Anu’s visit to his maternal grandmother- change the course of the story and brings forth several facts of human emotions.

Nagesh comes from a time when even machines, gadgets and appliances, had a place of their own in people’s life. When his grandson retorts saying the machine is old and needs to retire now, Nagesh tells him, “ye machine bekaar nahi hai, yaadgaar hai.” Whether it was someone’s first car, first watch, first television or even the first photocopy machine – it meant more than just an electronic device. To them, letting it go means to let go a part of oneself. But, in his mind, Nagesh knows that whether it’s a human or a machine – it has to work because there’s always someone younger or advanced waiting to take its position. Shah is in his top form and delivers a wistful performance throughout. He speaks lines that have depth and delivers them with an impact that not many can boast of.

Nitin, from the second generation, has his life revolving around his phone which he loses upon his arrival in India. But who knew a lost phone can help find him love! His story relies more on chance encounters and destiny, but you wish to see more of it and more of Kasturia too. He is a talent to reckon with but doesn’t get enough screen time and enough shades to portray.

The third narrative, also the most prominent one, is that of the youngest generation – Anu. To let go of irrational fear and free oneself from the guilt of what would have happened or what could have happened is as tough for him as it is for his grandfather to let go off that old machine. Despite being a child actor, Sajid hooks you. His innocent yet enthusiastic commentary makes you smile and his fear and guilt make you worry.

While actors do their part well, the film in its entirety doesn’t seem well enough. The obvious connections between humans and machines is a strong base but that doesn’t come out the way it should have. The film tries to be a poem but the lines are not strong enough and the plot doesn’t convert to prose in totality. The metaphors relating to life and transition are in plenty but only some leave an impact. It also feels that the film is not worthy of the ending we are served with, but of something better.

Hope Aur Hum is a well-intentioned film. It has its heart in the right place and manages to seep you in its own nostalgia and think of things beyond the film. But there’s something that doesn’t quite make it through. The message of this family drama stays with you but the film, unfortunately, might not.

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Omerta Review

Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Keval Arora, Rajesh Tailang, Blake Allan
Director: Hansal Mehta
In his new film Omerta, director Hansal Mehta seeks to dive into the mind of a cold-blooded terrorist, the real-life Omar Saeed Sheikh, played superbly by Rajkummar Rao. As the story unravels, we see how a highly-educated, British-bred Pakistani gets radicalized into becoming an icy murderous agent, currently serving life imprisonment in a Karachi prison for the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

Omar, who was accused of having connections with Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 bombings, was one of three men released after the Indian Airlines Kandahar hijacking by the Taliban in 1999. Mehta, as you can see, has a fascinating subject at hand – a young man who becomes such an Islamic fundamentalist that he drops out of the London School of Economics and leaves his comfortable home in England to train in a terror camp in Afghanistan where he is shaped into a diabolical terrorist.

What the director is interested in is the ticking of an insidious mind. We see how Omar meticulously plans the kidnapping of the four foreigners in New Delhi, casually striking up conversations, hanging out and winning their confidence. Mehta painstakingly builds up a portrait with details – like the glass of milk Omar drinks unselfconsciously while others lug beer, or the way he switches in a split-second from the friend playing chess, to a steely-eyed assassin. The film explores this again in the way he wins over Daniel Pearl, luring him as a helpful ‘contact’. One of the film’s most stomach-churning scenes is the one in which the journalist is killed. Mehta shoots this so skillfully, the violence here is both invisible and yet all-pervasive.

The screenplay jumps back and forth in time, going back to a young Omar, disturbed by the war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims, and how he convinces his reluctant father that he must go serve his “brothers and sisters”. Omerta pieces together the protagonist’s story like a clever jigsaw puzzle, but it’s also true that we are never fully sucked into his life. There are portions that drag despite the 6-minute run time because Omar’s motives don’t feel convincingly explored and the backstory involving his father is weak.

What works is the director’s chemistry with his leading man. Mehta reunites with Rajkummar Rao after their work together in Shahid and Aligarh. It’s expected of Rajkummar to sink his teeth into and slip under the skin of any character, and he does that with this deliciously meaty role. The inconsistent accent notwithstanding, the actor plays a sociopath with an iciness that will stay with you – watch that smile as he’s taken away in handcuffs, or the way his eyes bore into his victims.

I’m going with three out of five for Omerta. You might see it as the other side of the same coin that is Shahid. The making of a man deeply affected by similar incidents, but one who chooses a different path.

Rating: 3 / 5

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Avengers: Infinity War Movie Review

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Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

I suppose any film with roughly 30 speaking parts, and intended as the grand culmination of story arcs explored across 18 movies over the last 10 years is bound to feel a bit overstuffed. Avengers: Infinity War, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, clocks in at a butt-numbing 2 hours and 29 minutes. I won’t lie, it does feel long. But it’s also very enjoyable for the bulk of it. Remember how the end credits sequence in the first Iron Man movie, all the way back in 2008, hinted at the idea of an Avengers Initiative? Who’d have thought at the time that this is what it was leading up to! Because, as you probably know already, unless you’ve been living under a rock, Infinity War teams up practically everyone that’s ever appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the Founding Avengers – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow; the Guardians of the Galaxy – all of them; later entrants Scarlett Witch, Vision, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and other characters from each of their respective worlds. Throw a stone and you’ll hit a superhero. You’re also likely aware that only one thing could bring all these good guys together – a bad guy, namely Thanos, who’s been a looming threat referenced in previous Marvel films, and who is finally centrestage this time around. Played by Josh Brolin in a terrific motion-capture performance that doesn’t miss a nuance, Thanos is a 12-feet-tall, purple-skinned mega villain with an oversized chin, who’s bent on acquiring all six of the Infinity Stones, and wiping out half of the galaxy’s population to save the other half – don’t ask! Every superhero in the MCU, summoned from their respective stomping grounds, must do what they can to stop him.

That’s as far as I can tell you in terms of plot. Much of the joy in Infinity War comes from watching the awkward interactions and the unlikely friendships developed within this massive ensemble of do-gooders, many of whom don’t know each other, or even of each other’s existence. At one point Bruce Banner asks, very puzzled, “There’s an Ant-Man and a Spider-Man?” The script mines humour from personality clashes, conflicts, mild irritations, and one-upmanship. Let’s just say the combustible pairing of two sarcastic ego-maniacs Tony Stark and Doctor Strange delivers plenty laughs. Banner is having a hard time unleashing his inner Hulk, Peter Parker won’t shut up with all the pop-culture references, and Thor is thrown in with the wisecracking Guardians, led by the irrepressible Peter Quill.

But because there are so many of them in the mix, it’s practically impossible for every significant character to get a huge amount of screen-time here. Inevitably some get more to do than others. I was especially bummed to see one of my favourites, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, criminally underutilised. Even a promising fight scene between four badass female characters is prematurely and abruptly cut off. Frankly the only fella who gets a chunk of cinematic real estate is Thanos. In addition to destroying everything in his path in pursuit of those coveted Infinity Stones, his complicated relationship with adopted daughters Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) yields some surprisingly affecting moments.

It’s true also of other narrative strands. Infinity War has some well-earned and genuinely emotional moments involving characters you’ve had many years to be invested in. The action too never feels like a blur. Superhero films tend to climax in loud, messy CGI battles (both the previous Avengers films are guilty of this) that go on and on until the razor-sharp cutting makes your eyes glaze over and you can’t tell who’s doing what to whom. The action sequences in Infinity War – and there are plenty – never feel generic, perhaps because there are so many distinct superheroes and superpowers at play. The final stretch, in fact, is especially bold and somber, with the filmmakers raising the stakes in a way that these films seldom do.

There’s been a lot of chatter online about who lives and who dies at the end of this movie. Don’t expect any clues or any answers from me, but I will tell you that it’s hard to take everything that you see seriously, given that you know there’s a second movie out next year that’s meant to wrap up this arc. Still, you have to hand it to the Russos for the extent they’re willing to go to in order to deliver shock, suspense, and a mostly thrilling experience.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Avengers: Infinity War. It is overstuffed and overlong, but there’s so much going on you’ll barely notice. Best enjoyed with a big tub of popcorn.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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Noor Movie Review: The Film Is Well Intended but Too Frivolous

Despite being part of several blockbusters in the past, Sonakshi Sinha has only been able to showcase her talent in select few films. The audience most often has seen her playing the arm-candy of the hero which gave her little scope to prove her worth.

The actress is all set to change her image with Sunhil Sippy’s Noor. Based on Pakistani journalist Saba Imtiaz’s book Karachi! You’re Killing Me, the film narrates the tale of a Mumbai based journalist Noor Roy Choudhary and her misadventures as a scribe. Her career is not going great, she aspires to do serious journalism and her love life is non existent. One fine day Noor stumbles upon a case that could change her life and career for the better.

The film also features Purab Kohli, Shibani Dhandekar and stand-up comic Kanan Gill. The book on which the film is based, was a bestseller. It would be interesting to see if the makers are able to recreate the same magic on the big screen as well. Will Sonakshi be able to carry the film on her shoulders? Will she be able to prove her talent? Shomini Sen of News18.com was inside the theatre to find out.

9:42 AM: We are all set to watch #Noor and her misadventures. Stay tuned for the tweet review

9:45 AM: Featuring @sonakshisinha in the lead, #Noor narrates the story of a Mumbai based journalist.

10:15 AM: Have not seen a news room this calm and peaceful. Which office is this? #Noor

10:41 AM: The film’s narrative is a tad slow. Takes time to establish the main plot. #Noor

10:51 AM: Moments between Noor and her Editor, her wanting to break a story- would be relatable to all journalists. #Noor

10:58 AM: #Noor begins on a breezy note and then suddenly turns grim. First half of the film is engaging despite its slow pace.

11:20 AM: #Noor huffs in exasperation more than doing the actual work of an investigative journalist.

11:32 AM: From Noor’s story it becomes a story of Mumbai. The transition is a bit sketchy. #Noor

11:44 AM: ‘Kuch to Trolls kahenge, Trolls ka kaam hi hai kehna’ 😉 #Noor

11:54 AM: Problem with #Noor is that it’s superfluous. It takes up a serious issue but only talks about it on the surface.

11:56 AM: It never goes deep into any of subplots. Or shows the greater impact of Noor’s research and work. #Noor

11:59 AM: Sonakshi Sinha as #Noor is endearing. Her on-screen camaraderie with Shibani Dhandekar and Kanan Gill looks genuine and fun

12:00 PM: Wish there was more of Purab Kohli and Kanan Gill in the film, though. #Noor

12:01 PM: #Noor begins as breezy, fun story and eventually becomes a story of self discovery. It tries to tell too many thiNgs at the same time

12:03 PM: Also, really where do you have such calm, serene news room? Which office is this? #askingforafriend #Noor

12:04 PM: Thanks for being with us throughout the tweet review of #Noor. More movie updates to follow soon

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Nanu Ki Jaanu Movie Review: Abhay Deol-Patralekha Starrer Is A Major Eye-Roll Fest

Cast: Abhay Deol, Patralekha Paul, Manu Roshi Chaddha
Director: Faraz Haider There are films that make you laugh at their silliness and then are some which make you cringe at the half-hearted efforts put in by a team with potential. Unfortunately, Nanu Ki Jaanu qualifies in both these categories. Touted as a horror-comedy, the film does make you laugh, but only at your decision to spend time and money on this farce posing as a film.

Given that it features talents like Abhay Deol and Patralekha Paul, you feel bad for the actors for signing a film like this and hope that at least the money offered to them was justified as the film has all the elements to sink their respective careers.

The story is of Nanu, leader of a gang of goons, who takes possession of apartments in Noida under the pretext of renting them. On the way to one such assignment, Nanu sees a woman lying at the edge of the road, bleeding to death. Despite his best efforts, Nanu is unable to save Siddhi (Patralekha). Leaving her body with her grieving father (Rajesh Sharma), Nanu returns to work, suddenly a changed man. Soon after, strange things start happening in his house and a ghost is detected. Who is this ghost and what are its intentions for Nanu is the story of the film (if that’s what you call it).

The execution of the film is so shabby that there comes a point when you start to wonder if the team realised what they’ve signed up for and lost interest mid-way. There are glaring loopholes in the narrative which are more uneven than the roads in Noida. The director (Faraz Haider) did try to make the most of Abhay not by taping on his skills but by presenting him in nearly every frame. Patralekha has a bare minimum role in the film, and we feel happy for her as the lesser the association with a film like this, the better. The only person who somewhat tries to save this sinking ship is Manu Rishi Chaddha. The writer of Oye Lucky… plays Nanu’s partner in the film and his role does offer the counted five laughs in this ‘horror-comedy’.

Interestingly, Nanu Ki Jaanu is a remake of critically acclaimed Tamil film Pisaasu and we wonder if the makers of the original will lose trust in their own story after watching the film.

The film’s death comes with its climax where the makers shove a forceful traffic rule message in what appears to be a sad, remorseful scene. However, it ends up being a major eye-roll fest, if only your eyeballs haven’t rolled enough before that point.

Overall the film is uneven, half-baked disappointment, which completely wrecks the talent of Abhay, Patralekha and even Chadha. They all deserve better than this. We all deserve better than this.

Rating: 1.5/5

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Blackmail Movie Review

Director: Abhinay Deo
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Divya Dutta, Pradhuman Singh, Anuja Sathe, Gajraj Rao

Abhinay Deo’s Delhi Belly had an unusually intriguing flavor, but Blackmail is no Delhi Belly, it’s at best a half-cooked meal over-crowded with too many unnecessary ingredients. Reports suggest that Deo’s dark tragicomedy was initially titled Raita and going by how the film turns out, the makers should have stuck to that name.

Irrfan plays Dev, a Sales employee working in a toilet paper company My Handy, who sticks around in the office after wee hours. He steals photographs of his colleagues’ wives from their desk and secretly rushes to the bathroom to pleasure himself. Right in the beginning, we see him texting his wife “Leaving now” following a trail of same texts only with a changing date on his phone. It’s an indication of where their dry and possibly dusty marriage is heading. On the insistence of his colleague Anand (Pradhuman Singh), he decides to surprise his wife Reena (Kirit Kulhari) with a bouquet of flowers. Just that he couldn’t find them anywhere but at a crematorium. He returns home only to find her seeking solace in the arms of another man Ranjit Arora (Arunoday Singh).

Perplexed at the situation, he plays several threatening, bloodied scenarios in his mind but being the man that he is, he decides to formulate a plan of revenge. Soon enough we find Ranjit to be a married man living off of his wife Dolly’s (Divya Dutta) money. Or rather, her ill-mouthed father’s money.

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Dev begins to blackmail the boyfriend- one act turns into a trail, and one blackmailer gives birth to many more. His company is being headed by a foreign returned toilet paper-obsessed man Boss DK (Omi Vaidya) who rages war only against two things- jet sprayers and a man who continuously steals his wife’s photographs from his cabin. In his office is another sexist man Anand (Pradhuman Singh), who has a knack for making “non-veg” jokes and predicting a girl’s virginity only by taking one look at her. Joining them is Prabha (Anuja Sathe), a beautiful soft-spoken girl, who knows how to twist situations to her advantage. But as they say, too many cooks spoil the broth.

Irrfan, however, makes you bear the twisty-turny narrative with his mighty performance. He underplays and improvises as per his character demands and pulls off a devil-masked as an innocent impressively. While Kirti doesn’t have much to do in the film, Arunoday and Divya Dutta, bring the required over-the-top energy to their meatier roles. The likes of Pradhuman Singh, Anuja Sathe, Gajraj Rao also do justice to their parts.

The film has an overdose of revenge and greed sagas along with “dark” characters. And while one might credit the makers for shining a spotlight on every human’s inner villain and all things black, it all seems in vain as the film feels overindulgent at the running time of 139 minutes. The dark edges are finely crafted and the conversational humor emerges sporadically but a lot of it falls short in weaving an interesting film as a whole.

Some scenes, however, make you laugh at others’ despair and that’s when the mark of Deo becomes apparent and writer Parveez Shaikh’s work comes alive. The plot fails to unfold in a coherent fashion and leaves scope for a lot of distraction and watch-gazing moments and the second half feels stretched. Given the course the film takes, a little less running time would have come as a sigh of relief.

One of the film’s major strengths is its cinematography. Jay Oza’s visionary work in the film is commendable and adds layers to certain scenes- whether the hole-peeping scenes or a terrace corner scene. The performances, especially that of Irrfan, make the film bearable. A few dark scenes which have an underlying indication of a human’s greed and the functioning of a human mind also fare well. Urmila Matondkar’s “item-number” Bewafa Beauty is unnecessary and doesn’t add any lavage to the film.

At one point in the film, Anand asks Dev “Plan kya hai?”, to which Dev responds, “Abhi ban raha” and sums up the film for us.

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Begum Jaan: Despite Good Performances, the Film Fails to Impress

Cast: Vidya Balan, Gauahar Khan, Pallavi Sharda, Naseeruddin Shah, Vivek Mushran, Chunky Panday

Director: Srijit Mukherji

Films based on partition always manage to touch a raw nerve. The incident that changed the society that we live in now, has been narrated multiple times on the big screen with each filmmaker bringing his own perspective to the matter.

National Award winning director Srijit Mukherji’s 2015 film Rajkahini had touched upon the gory partition of Bengal. Narrated from the point of view of the marginalised section- that is the prostitutes, the film earned critical acclaim and did rounds of several international film festivals.

Two years later, Mukherji makes his debut in Bollywood with an adaptation of his Bengali film. Begum Jaan has the same premise- that of a brothel through which the border would be created to divide the newly formed countries India and Pakistan. The occupants, headed by the Madam (Vidya Balan), are asked to vacate the house in a month’s time or face consequences. Defiant, the women start a revolution of sorts.

On paper, the film may have appeared as a grand period saga. And why not? With an ensemble comprising of actors like Vidya Balan, Rajit Kapur, Ashish Vidyarthi, Gauahar Khan, Ila Arun and others, the film appeared to have a lot of potential. It also has one of Bollywood’s recurring themes- Partition- as its backdrop. So why wouldn’t the film be good?

Ironically, what appears good on paper may not always turn out that well on the big screen. The film begins in present day Delhi where a couple is chased by a bunch of drunkards in a deserted CP. An old woman comes to their rescue. Dressed mysteriously in a shirt and skirt with two pigtails tied neatly with yellow ribbons, she slowly starts undressing herself in front of the lecherous men, only to stop them from harming the girl. The director attempts to contextualize and put things in perspective with the first scene but it seems unnecessary by the end of it. Because the film uses partition as just a backdrop. It is ultimately a story of eviction. So a poignant scene on how the society treats its women is not needed perhaps.

As a performer Vidya once again excels in and as Begum Jaan. But her character carries too much weight of being the matriarch. She exudes anger, purrs like a cat and mellows down when the local King (Naseeruddin Shah) comes visiting. She speaks a language where constant references are made on how religion of a man does not matter to a whore, and how for her, all men are the same. It’s a story that tries to touch upon too many aspects at the same time and thereby jumbles up at what the core theme should be – that of a partition saga and the deep scars it left for generations to come or a story of a marginalised group fighting against the odds to rightfully claim their house.

The cast consists of gamut of character actors mostly. With nearly 20 characters in the story, it is difficult to establish everyone’s story. That said, a scene of Gauahar Khan and Pitobash stands out in which she explains that her heart loves him even if the body is used to satisfy other men. Pallavi Sharda plays Gulabo, a defiant girl, who despite Begum’s favours harbours dreams of marrying the kind school master (Vivek Mushran) who often visits the brothel. Sharda manages to shine in the limited screen space that is given to her. But perhaps the revelation in the film is Chunky Panday, who plays Kabir, a ruthless contract killer. Panday’s casting is perhaps the most interesting of the lot. Having played caricature roles in bad, slapstick comedies for years, the actor finally gets to prove his talent in an extended cameo and he shines.


Begum Jaan ultimately falls short because of an inconsistent story line and flawed screenplay. The actors are seen celebrating India’s independence in one scene and soon after, the festival of Holi. In another scene the characters are seen getting drenched and in the next, completely dry. The climax is unnecessarily loud and melodramatic and some of the scenes make you cringe.

The intentions are good. But too much is stuffed in two hours’ time. It’s crisper than the original film which Mukherji in an interview had stated contained a clot of ‘cinematic fat’ but the end result appears hastily put together.

Mukherji’s Bengali films have always had the best music but unfortunately Anu Malik’s songs in Begum Jaan do not leave a lasting impression either.

The film ultimately works only for its actors but most do not get to flex their talent in a script that is trying to tell too many things at the same time.

Ratings: 2.5/5

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October Review

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu, Gitanjali Rao
Director: Shoojit Sircar
October, directed by Shoojit Sircar, is a thoughtful, meditative film about love, grief, mortality, and the making of a man.

When a freak accident puts a young girl in hospital, the incident has a life-altering impact on her co-worker. Varun Dhawan plays Danish aka Dan, an immature twenty-something-year-old who works as a trainee at a Delhi five-star hotel along with several others, including Shiuli (newcomer Banita Sandhu) whom he knows as any other colleague. But her fatal condition following a mishap affects him much more than it does the others, and he singularly commits himself to her recovery.

It’s a thin idea, but Juhi Chaturvedi’s script brings nuance and beautiful complexity to this premise. The fact that Dan and Shiuli – who are not at all alike, and are barely even friends – become unexpectedly connected by something that resembles love is communicated without fuss or fanfare.

This is a film that asks to be felt. Very little actually ‘happens’ during the course of its running time. A lot of it is about waiting – on the part of both the characters on screen, and us, the viewers. Yet the languid passage of time – conveyed through the change of seasons – is crucial to the experience of the film. The pace is deliberately slow, as if Shoojit wants us to feel every excruciating minute of watching a loved one’s life hanging by a thread.

There is great sadness at the heart of October. I watched much of the film choked with emotion, and when it was over I wanted to be alone. It’s likely that some may feel the film ends too abruptly, or that characters and narrative threads are left without closure. But that is by design. Shoojit and Juhi have crafted a film that makes no grand announcements. There is no spoon-feeding, there are no manipulative music cues. Like life itself, the events in the film creep up on us without warning.

Our window into the world of the film is through its characters. Varun Dhawan strips away the affectations of the Hindi film ‘hero’ to play Dan, whom we first meet as a permanently irritable fellow in a job where he has no business being anything but polite. Dan’s awakening, his coming of age, is conveyed through a nicely realized performance from Varun, whose sincerity is unquestionable. Lighter moments, like his exchanges with a nurse, bring much-needed respite in a grim, mostly quiet film.

Banita Sandhu lets her big, beautiful eyes do most of the work for her, and it is again by design that we know so little of Shiuli – and what’s in her heart – even when the movie ends. Offering a deeply affecting performance as Shiuli’s mother, Gitanjali Rao is a portrait of grief, her face a canvas that reveals the progress and deterioration of her daughter’s condition.

The other ‘invisible’ character in October, and just as effective, is the strong sense of atmospherics. The evocative cinematography, a keen attention to detail, the unflashy score, and the unhurried pacing all work together to transport us to the world of these people, and to deliver a kind of immersive sensory experience that is unique to this film.

Unlike the case with Shoojit and Juhi’s previous collaborations Vicky Donor and Piku, the mood in October is decidedly somber; there’s very little to laugh about. Be warned the overwhelming sadness will take a piece out of you. If you allow it though it has the power to change the way you look at love and life.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

What’s your reaction to October?

Write your review of October

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Lost In Space Review

After grim, dystopian sci-fi series and films like Altered Carbon and Mute, Netflix’s new show Lost In Space is more family-drama than it is in the sci-fi genre. The reboot of the classic 60s series and movie, the series is a modern update to the old storyline with suitable changes. So does that mean space-lovers have found another binge-worthy watch? Unfortunately not. The story is of the five-member Robinson family who set out to colonise a new planet Alpha Centauri, after conditions on Earth aren’t viable enough to sustain life for much longer. The Resolute (the main shuttle carrying families to their new world and new life) gets attacked and the family lands on an alien planet with a (conveniently) viable environment. The youngest member of the family meets an alien-robot crashed on the same planet and thus begins the emotional journey of friendship, trust, betrayal and a lot of said as well as unsaid family matters.

The series relies less on thrills and more on drama. Being stranded on an alien planet, the Robinsons keep battling their weaknesses and fear instead of battling or exploring this new, unknown land, which, again very conveniently, has almost no threatening life form that could overpower humans with no weapons. The basic rule here isn’t survival but compassion for others, even if that means compromising the lives of 30 other people for one dying soul.

There are certain inconsistencies in the storyline, which either maker kept deliberately to keep the viewer guessing or to make his own stories or simply didn’t care enough to complete.

The one hour long episodes neither offer the quintessential alien-life thrills nor does it offer heart-wrenching drama, it’s somewhere in between ending up more like a hopeful tale of survivours with (almost) happy endings. The pace of the story and actors do keep you invested but in a ‘two-episode-a -day’ kind manner. In two hours you get mentally exhausted by the repetitive emotional lines and few predictable scenarios. You know who the hero is and you know who will end up as the ultimate villain.

Talking about the cast, while all others fit their bill perfectly it’s Parker Posey’s Dr Smith who takes the cake. Dr. Smith is manipulative, selfish survivor who keeps the interest alive in the series. She knows what she’s doing is wrong but is in denial at accepting herself as the villain of the story. Posey’s sincerity in few scenes and vulnerability in others make you sympathise with her often. Talking about the central character Will Robinson (Maxwell Jenkins), the young 11-year-old boy is just too naive and innocent as compared to the situation he is in and the kind of family he’s grown up in. There are moments when you feel the Will character has been written only as a tool to create perils and not as a personality to exist among the other members.

Overall, Lost In Space isn’t a worthless series but yes, Netflix does offer better options. It isn’t binge-worthy but if you are looking for a show on familial ties based outside of earth, this might just be your pick. Plus the note with which season 1 ends, gives you hope for a more thrilling and fast-paced season 2. For now, its a pretty average watch where favourable things keep happening in unfavourable circumstances.

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October Movie Review: Varun Dhawan Proves His Worth In Shoojit Sircar’s Poetic Lovestory

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu
Director: Shoojit Sircar 2017 was characterized as the breakthrough year in Hindi cinema when experimental and low-budget films with content made it big and instead of a Khan or Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao became the actor of the year. However, one youngster who kept the hopes of masala potboilers alive was Varun Dhawan. Touted as the most commercially successful actor of the younger lot, the actor is known for his boyish charms and an acting style inspired by the likes of Salman Khan and Govinda. So when Shoojit Sircar decided to cast him in his ‘not so glamourous’ October, eyebrows were raised, but Varun’s portrayal of a naïve and innocent Dan puts all doubts to rest.

Sircar’s latest offering is heartwarming, soothing to the eyes and as poetic as it could get while remaining close to real life. The story is that of a Hotel Management student Dan who isn’t very fond of the roles given to him in a 5-star hotel, where he’s working as a trainee. Then, there’s his course mate Shiuli, who Dan doesn’t like much because she shines at every task that he fails. How a fateful accident brings them closer and changes him as a person, is the story of October.

Once again it’s the story and the flow of the narrative that wins your heart. There are long pauses and silences with shots of corridors, or ground, with no activity, and in this stillness, you find the rhythm of the story. The film relies heavily on this silent rhythm, giving you enough time to think and contemplate the pain, suffering and understanding of each and every character present on-screen. Sircar once again proves his mastery in making the simplest of incidents and situations seem remarkable and his eye for details, be it a setup or a counter-reaction, is commendable.

In an interview, he had said that he never thought of Varun during the development of the character of Dan and after watching the film you would know what made him make this unusual choice. The innocence and boyish charm of Varun have been put to good use in the film. October is clearly Varun’s biggest risk so far, and he justifies his move beautifully. The way he gets attached to Shiuli and evolves throughout the film is satisfying to look at. You as an audience feel proud of all his decisions. Varun’s conviction makes you feel for Dan, even though he isn’t ‘that perfect character’.

The film isn’t perfect. It has its flaws but so does life. Another thing that catches your breath in the movie is the cinematography. The way Aveek Mukhopadhyay makes you experience Delhi, Manali and even the basement of a hotel is brilliant.

Calling October a simple slice of life drama wouldn’t do it justice. It’s a poem with its own pace, rhythm and a beautiful story of human bonding that’ll make you believe in selfless romance. Varun sets the bar high for himself as he proves his worth as an actor and not just a mass entertainer. Bandita Sandhu as Shiuli fits the role and the entire supporting cast just keeps the story fresh and intact.

October is one story that will remain in your heart even after you leave the theater. Oh, and if you are wondering why the film has the name of a month as a title, Juhi Chaturvedi and Shoojit Sircar provide a beautiful answer to that too.

A poetic journey that’ll warm your heart and might even want you to fall in love with the name Shiuli.

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