The Tashkent Files (2019) – Movie Review

Who Killed Shastri?

The Tashkent Files is a drama mystery-thriller film written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri. The film depicts the conspiracies surrounding the death of India’s 2nd prime minister Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri.

The film sets in the present time, when a low time journalist Raagini Phule (Shweta Prasad) publishes the article regarding the conspiracies surrounding the death of former Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. This article raises the questions amongst masses and forces the government to form a committee to investigate the truth behind this alleged event; is it really a natural death, or a well planned assassination.

The trailer of the film has given the exact idea about what to expect from this one. And this film delivers the same in a really compelling and grounded way. I was desperately avoiding watching this film as it is widely deemed to be politically motivated in light of the concurrent 2019 general elections. But I finally went to watch this film without having much idea about its content, it made me feel how ignorant (I am/we are) about our own political history. The film goes deep into the darkest chapter of our political history. In 1966, when India’s 2nd prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri went to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to sign a peace pact between India and Pakistan. And just after 8 days, Prime Minister Shastri dies of a heart attack in Tashkent.

Even if the film is politically motivated and biased against a certain political party, it does educate the people about that event, which is the most appreciated thing about this film. The film is good at delivering the content but loses the balance between the documentary and the political thriller. Even the screenplay of the film seems dull in some places. If we ignore some of the technical issues and its political motivation the film shines like anything.

The film stars Naseeruddin Shah and Mithun Chakraborty in lead roles. Besides leads, the film also stars Mandira Bedi, Pallavi Joshi, Rajesh Sharma, Vinay Pathak, Prakash Belawadi, and Pankaj Tripathi. The film has got a totally talented caste, and hence we get to see some really powerful performances. Some of the monologues in the film just steals the show.

Verdict : It is a must watch for its hard-hitting content and some really powerful performances.

Rating : 4/5

Check the trailer here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgWylHdfIdo

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Sacred Games (Season 1 – 2018) – Review

The Game has just begun.

Sacred Games is an Indian crime-drama web tv series by Netflix directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. The series is based on Vikram Chandra’s thriller novel of the same name. The novel was adapted by Smita Singh, Vasant Nath, and Varun Grover. The series consists of eight episodes which were made available on Netflix for streaming on 6 July 2018.

The series tells the story of Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan), a righteous and jaded police officer, whose paths intersect with Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the self-obsessed notorious gangster boss. Sartaj, who is at conflict with the questionable moralities of the police force, when receives a cryptic message from Gaitonde and learns about the lurking attack on Mumbai, starts his own investigation to prevent the attack.

The series chronicles a diabolical plot, one depicts the efforts of an honest police officer caught between corruption, dirty politics, and deadly conspiracies, and still has all the will to do the right thing, another one sets in the flashbacks of past exploring the rise of all-powerful Ganesh Gaitonde, a mob boss with delusions of grandeur, operating out of a Mumbai ghetto called Gopalmath, and how they both become part of these sacred games.

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Overall the plot is intimidating, and as the trailers had suggested, which were released a couple of months before, it is truly intense, darker, grittier than ever, and maintains that thriller vibe throughout. According to one interview, the Gaitonde’s gangster life portion has been directed by Anurag Kashyap, and it’ll definitely make the audience remember his previous directorial film Gangs of Wasseypur (2012). And the other part following the present day story of Sartaj’s character showing the underbelly of the society has been directed by Vikramaditya Motwane. Structurally, it is a well-put story, and well-shot as well. The lightings, costume design, camera angles, background score, and instrumental music are remarkable.

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Undoubtedly, the casting of characters is top notch, and this can be seen in their grounded and compelling performances. The role of a brash and brutal gangster is not new for Nawazuddin, but here it feels totally different from his previous portrayals, he steals every scene he’s in, and unknowingly audience loses the moment when they start feeling for an unquestionable baddie. For Saif Ali Khan and his character Sartaj, this series has become a point of redemption. It’s a stellar performance by Saif, he has literally embodied the broken persona of a mistreated cop who can go to any limit to set things right. Along with leads, the supporting cast is also impressive. In particular, Radhika Apte as the investigating RAW agent, Neeraj Kabi as Sartaj’s commanding officer Parulkar, Jitendra Joshi as constable Katekar, Jatin Sarna as Gaitonde’s henchman Bunty, Girish Kulkarni as Minister Bipin Bhosale, and Kubra Sait as Kukoo. Every single character in the series has their own character arc which creates the emotional gravity, and it’s just moving.

At its heart, it’s the raw and scary story told in a brilliant way, the story of Mumbai city where all this drama plays around religion, politics, corruption, and Bollywood. There are multiple themes run at a time in a story, one of which is a theme of corruption in the system, it gives a closer look at how it is crumbled from inside, and even if one tries to rebel will eventually have to compromise at some point. Another theme is the theme of religion, “The biggest business in the world is religion. Under the garb of faith, they make fools out of all of us.” when Gaitonde delivers this line, it firmly hints that what is going to come ahead, the catastrophic consequences of religious polarisation. For an international audience, India’s communal divide appears akin to the US’s institutionalized racism. Most of the parts of the story play in parallel with real-life past events which makes it relatable and interesting. The use of symbolism throughout the series can be seen, either in visuals or in monologues.

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There are intriguing endings to every episode, and in no time, the viewer goes for the next one, just like that. From the starting point, there are many characters been introduced one by one, episode by episode, and we actually need to keep track of them, as their paths are definitely going to cross somewhere ahead in the story. It is the mix of likable and unlikable characters, the good and the bad ones, which are going to intertwine in the interesting, upsetting and uncomfortable series of events.

At last, “streaming is liberating”, as it is the web tv series, there are no constraints of the censor board. Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane waste no time in exploiting the opportunity offered by a platform free of censorship to make a powerful and hard-hitting statement. The series doesn’t hold back while portraying an unapologetic content like a real gangster life, scenes of gore and bloodshed, sexually explicit scenes etc. Plus the brilliance and thoughtfulness of makers keep it understated and yet impacting.

Finally, with no doubt, on the global platform, Sacred Games has successfully made its mark and has earned the prestigious position among top international web tv series. Even the Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 91% approval rating based on 11 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3 out of 10. On IMDb, it is on the 25th rank as a top rated tv series, with an astonishing average rating of 9.4 out of 10.

Verdict : Without any second thought, just watch it, and get lost in Sacred Games.

Rating : 4.6/5

Kaala (2018) – Movie Review

Karikaalan : The god of death

Kaala is a Tamil-language action drama film written and directed by Pa. Ranjith and produced by Dhanush. The film stars Rajinikanth (Super Star) in the lead role. It is the 2nd time when Pa. Ranjith is working in collaboration with Rajinikanth after Kabali (2016).

The film revolves around the people who had migrated from Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu are living in the Dharavi slum. The film follows Karikaalan/Kaala (Rajinikanth), a family man, the leader of oppressed people of Dharavi, serving justice to his people by exercising criminal methods. Haridev “Hari Dada” Abhayankar (Nana Patekar), the union minister, previously a gangster who had carried out many attacks in Dharavi, tries to evict the people and seize their land. Over the years Hari Dada becomes a minister and plans to clear the area of Dharavi to construct buildings using his construction company in the form of government scheme with the help of his supporter Vishnu Bhai (Sampath Raj). Now, Kaala, must stand and oppose it to protect the area and his people.

Having Rajinikanth and Nana Patekar in one movie is enough reason to watch this film. The film is filled with many exciting moments, especially the confrontation scenes between Rajni and Nana are mind-blowing, and when these two charismatic characters come face to face, it’s just a total blast. The story of the film is completely new, but still, there are some similarities like any other south Indian film, like family dynamics, super cool action sequences, and of course revenge stories. Along with the lead characters, Easwari Rao as Kaala’s wife Selvi also steals the show.

The only thing which may hamper the film is its almost three hours of runtime, which could have been made half an hour shorter. The film is grounded, darker and funny at the same time. The film also talks about the revolutions of oppressed people against the cynical government, politicians, and builders. The artistic representation of the significant moments in the film is applauding. Watching it in a movie theatre full of fans whistling and shouting is just another level experience.

Verdict : Rajinikanth is in his full form, a great watch on this weekend. Do not miss this epic face-off of Rajni & Nana at any cost.

Rating : 4/5

Check out trailer here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSnMt6h6zk0

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (2018) – Movie Review

Real. Edgy. Unexpected.

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is an Indian action-drama film written and directed by Vikramaditya Motwane who is well known for his edgy storytelling style. In the film, Harshvardhan Kapoor is playing a lead role.

The film starts with two friends (I’m avoiding taking names to avoid spoilers), who are drawn towards sensitive issues like dirty politics and corrupt government. A question, as an individual, what are the possible ways to tackle these problems, which they keep on asking themselves, which ends up them making the online channel called ‘INSAAF’ (justice in English), which will become a stand against oppression. As they start working on the ground level, soon they realize that the system is very powerful and things can go lethal. While working on one of the issues reported by a user of their channel which could uncover the bigger conspiracy, things go wrong, and it results in the death of one of the friend. Now, the other friend must take a stand and must do the right thing, which will eventually bring the superhero out of him.

The film is a totally unexpected tale of a common man becoming a superhero. The film throughout is very raw and edgy. The story of the film is so simple yet impactful. The film is relevant in times that we live in. The only disappointment with the film is it’s slow-burning and unnecessarily lengthy. The film is not fully action-packed as per the trailers has hinted, but these action scenes were shot very beautifully. In terms of performances, Harshavardhan Kapoor does not shine as he should, better luck next time, rest all the other performances are best. The film is good in its own way but the audience may miss the excitement factor in it. As an origin story of a hero, it’s worth a watch.

This origin story of superhero almost reminded me of Ben Affleck’s Daredevil (2003). Even in the last scene of the film, the superhero and the main villain are standing face to face, with totally dark and stormy weather outside with some lightening (When the Daredevil and the Kingpin stands face to face).

Verdict : As an origin story of a hero, it’s worth a watch.

Rating : 3.7/5

Blackmail (2018) – Movie review

Revenge is sweet.

Blackmail is the dark comedy-drama film co-produced and directed by Abhinay Deo. The film has a flavor of Abhinay Dev’s previously directed exceptionally brilliant film Delhi Belly (2011). The film stars Irrfan Khan in a lead role, his versatility in his performances, and peculiarity in picking his roles is enough to drag movie lovers to the theatres.

The film revolves around the unexciting life of Dev (Irrfan Khan), a middle-aged married man stuck in a full day-time job. One fine day, Dev decides to give a sweet surprise to his wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari) by coming home early, but things turn sore after he finds that his wife is having an extramarital affair. Broken Dev, being not so common person, rather going for any obvious reactions he picks to secretly blackmail his wife and her lover as a form of revenge. What follows next is the not so ordinary film filled with black comedy and unexpected turns of events with quirky fun-filled characters.

The best thing about this film is that the film has managed to balance it’s funny, emotional, dramatic, and dark comedy moments really well, it never seems overlapping, and that’s the reason it is worth watching. The plot of the film is very unique, and the characters arcs are totally refreshing and engaging. The film has its own flaws, and there are some loose ends, but writers have managed to give a satisfactory full stop to the story. Irrfan’s character is so uncommon, who does some really funny and sometimes dark and unexpected things, and he has given full justice to it.

Verdict : Despite it’s flaws, the film has pulled very fresh and unconventional topic brilliantly.

Rating : 3.7/5

Pari (2018) – Movie Review

Not a Fairytale

Pari (Fairy in English) is a supernatural horror mystery film co-written & directed by debutant director Prosit Roy. The film stars Anushka Sharma Kohli in a lead role who has also co-produced the film.

The film starts with Arnab (Parambrata Chatterjee), while on the way in a car with his family meets an accident, causing the death of an old lady who was passing by the road. The police get involved and they track the residence of that old lady in the isolated dark forest area, where they find Ruksana (Anushka Sharma Kohli) chained in the house. Now being alone and afraid of the world Ruksana finds shelter at Arnab’s house, and Arnab being filled with guilt kindly accepts it. What happens further? who is Ruksana in real? whom is she running away from? and what is her purpose? these are the questions which keep the audience guessing until the end and gives memorable frightening experience.

Definitely, it is not a typical horror film with overdone background score or jump-scares or the story of possession and exorcism, it is a very fresh and daring attempt to explore the totally different aspect of the horror genre. The film is not what it has promised through its trailers, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad, it is an actually unique supernatural thriller in its own way. The film proceeds linearly with mystery hints at every step. Surely there are some flaws with pacing and execution of the film, but those are actually needed as per the tone of the film. There are some disturbing and unusual scenes in the film, so beware. Anushka Sharma, Parambrata Chatterjee, and Rajat Kapoor have given really good performances, which cover-ups the pacing issue and keeps the film refreshing.

Verdict : It is not an usual horror film. Totally different and refreshing. Worth a watch for horror genre lovers.

Rating : 3.2/5

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) – Movie Review

Raped While Dying…

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a crime drama film produced, written, and directed by Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh who is known for his take on crime and dark comedy genre films like Seven Psychopaths (2012) and In Bruges (2008). The film has been nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Motion Picture of the year, Best Actress in a Leading Role for Frances McDormand, and two nominations for Best Actor in Supporting Role for Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.

The film starts with Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a mother, grieving the death of her teenage daughter Angela. Angela had been raped and murdered that had happened seven months earlier. Despite taking this much long time, local authorities had failed miserably to find the culprits. Mildred, filled with rage over the lack of progress in the investigation rents three billboards to draw the attention of the chief of police Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), to her daughter’s unsolved murder case. Rest of the film depicts that how Mildred stands firm against all odds and how these billboards considerably affect the lives of people connected to it.

The film has encompassed a very powerful story with a really good depiction of the complexity of human emotions, about how different people see the same thing with a different point of views. The characters in the film are very strong and compelling enough to justify their very existence and actions. There are some pacing issues with the film and the ending is bit ambiguous. Despite having the dark tone the use of humor in the film is apt.

Verdict : The gripping drama, convincing story, and powerful characters surely makes the film Oscar worthy and definitely deserves audiences’ time.

Rating : 4.2/5