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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Kesari (2019) – Movie Review

The story of Valor and Sacrifice.

Kesari (a saffron color representing bravery and sacrifice) is a period action-drama film written and directed by Anurag Singh.

The film depicts the events leading to the Battle of Saragarhi, a battle between 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikhs of the British Indian Army against 10000 to 12,000 Pashtun Orakzai tribesmen. The film stars Akshay Kumar in a lead role of Havildar Ishar Singh, who led the battle at Saragarhi.

The Battle of Saragarhi is considered one of history’s longest hold against the enemy and one of the greatest last stands. If we read history, we can actually see the valor and renunciation of those 21 Sikh soldiers. But this film hardly captures that. In the process of dramatizing and making it an entertaining one, the makers have totally ignored the crux of this historical event. The film lacks the authenticity and the rawness, which needed the most for a film like this. Everything in the film was just polished, for instance, the uniforms of the soldiers were looked like brought straight from the designer shop.

The film is a two and a half hours long, and out of which less than an hour was actually about the battle. In the remaining time, it focuses on some unnecessary subplots, the deceased wife of Ishar Singh played by Parineeti Chopra (the most irritating part of the film), and too many slow-motion shots. Some of the moments in the film will definitely make you remember the superhit war film Border (1997).

The film feels really slow and boring in the first half and comes to life only in the second half. The performance of Akshay Kumar is worth appreciating in a film. The film also has some interesting and compelling characters with apt comic timing, which makes the film watchable.

Verdict : Kesari is definitely not the best patriotic film of Bollywood but it surely worth a watch.

Rating : 3.2/5

Check the trailer here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFP24D15_XM

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019) – Movie Review

I won’t give up my Jhansi!

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi is a biographical period drama film written by Vijayendra Prasad, and co-directed by Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi and Kangana Ranaut. The film stars Kangana Ranaut in the title role.

Mainly, the film revolves around the rebellion against British dominance in India in 1857. A rebellion in a true sense, which had sparked the fire of independence in the heart of every Indian against tyrannical British rule. And queen Lakshmi Bai (Kangana Ranaut) was one of the leading figures of that Rebellion. The film tells the story of her becoming the queen of Jhansi after king Gangadhar Rao’s (Jishu Sengupta) death and her fierce resistance to the British Rule.

In the first half, the film narrates the early years in the life of queen Laxmi Bai. The film shows the different shades and stages of the queen’s life – a brave daughter to Moropant (Manish Wadhwa), who likes to read, who has a decent knowledge of history. An exceptional queen of Jhansi, who after marriage denies the traditional ways, and instead takes a keen interest in the political atmosphere of Jhansi and the state of the country.

Comparatively, in the second half, the things start moving in a much faster way. There happens most of the action, when Queen defends the fort of Jhansi by being a brave and fearless warrior. We also see the compassionate mother and generous queen who wins the love and loyalty of the people of Jhansi. The moment literally gives goosebumps, when queen rides on a horse, with a sword raised in the other hand, and her son Damodarpant tied on her back.

At the start of the film, the disclaimer is shown that some moments are dramatized and fictionalized for the film’s purpose. So the film is the larger than life representation of the valor of queen of Jhansi. The picturization of the film is beautiful and vibrant. The camera angles are very well utilized, especially for the wide angle shots. The battle scenes look impressive with cannons and sword fights. The flaw which I felt is that the screenplay was lazy which made the shots seem disconnected from each other. While watching the film, the things were too glossy for me, I’ll rather opt for something which is more raw and real.

The biggest plus point of the film is Kangana’s extraordinary performance as a fierce warrior queen. She has delivered some powerful monologues with her commanding voice and screen presence. Besides Kangana, some of the impacting performances are Danny Denzongpa as Ghulam Ghaus Khan, Ankita Lokhande as Jhalkaribai, and Atul Kulkarni as Tatya Tope. Definitely, the film manages to inspire and gives the feeling of patriotism.

First Uri and now Manikarnika, and as we all know that 26th January is India’s Republic day; And that’s why this year January has truly become a month of patriotism.

Verdict : Just go for it, and celebrate the valor of Laxmibai, the fearless queen of Jhansi, who fought for our independence.

Rating : 4/5

Check trailer here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKmkMVaNu9g


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First Man (2018) – Movie Review

We need to fail down here so we don’t fail up there.

First Man is a biographical drama film directed by Damien Chazelle and written by Josh Singer. The film is based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, and it stars Ryan Gosling as a lead character Neil Armstrong (The first man to walk on the moon). It is the second time when Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling are teaming up, after working together on Academy Award-winning film La La Land (2016). Plus, Steven Spielberg has served as an executive producer on this film.

The film spans across 8 years from 1961 to the legendary Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in 1969. At the core, the film depicts the emotional ups and downs in Neil Armstrong’s life in that specific time span. The film starts in 1961 when Neil Armstrong is flying the X-15 rocket plane working as a test pilot for NASA. At the same time, his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Karen, is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. Neil is desperate to find the possible treatments to save her, but she dies soon afterward, which throws Neil in a lifelong grief. Soon after that, Neil applies for the Project Gemini of NASA, and get selected for the same, wherein 1965 he completes the extravehicular activity in the Gemini 8 mission. In 1968, after nearly being killed while ejecting from the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, Armstrong is selected to command Apollo 11, which will likely be the first lunar landing mission.

firstman

For the whole world, Apollo 11 mission was the giant leap of mankind towards space exploration. And for the American government, it was just another great mission to stay ahead of Soviets and the whole other world in a race. But this movie goes beyond that and explores the different emotional states of astronauts, their families and personal lives, the accidental deaths of astronauts, the government strategies, and people asking questions to the government about why to spend so much money and sacrifice lives and is it really worth it.

I watched this in IMAX format, and after a few shots, I noticed the grainy effect throughout its runtime. This particular film-format is intentionally chosen by the director and the cinematographer to make the audience feel that they’re actually watching the film of that time. Most of the film was shot in 16mm and 35mm film format, except for the breathtaking moon landing sequence which was shot on IMAX 70mm film. The background score of the film by Academy Award winner Justine Herwitz is very much effective and unsettling in some moments. All the shots, where the astronauts are in a cockpit of a spaceship in space, are noisy with shaky cams, which gives thrilling and real effect in a really good way.

Ryan Gosling does a really good job of portraying the legendary Neil Armstrong of very robotic, focused, and calculative nature. And Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong also delivers a flawless emotionally heavy performance. As the film is spanned across eight years, and that too in a running time of 141 minutes, it feels choppy and truncated. But above all, the moon landing sequence at the end gives the satisfaction.

Verdict : Worth to watch this compelling and fascinating biographical story of ‘The first man to walk on the moon’.

Rating : 3.9/5

Check trailer here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSoRx87OO6k

Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran (2018) – Movie Review

Heroic and Patriotic.

Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran (Parmanu – Atom in English) is a period action drama film directed by Abhishek Sharma. The film stars John Abraham in a lead role, who has also produced the same.

The film is based on the nuclear bomb test explosions conducted by the Indian Army at Pokhran, Rajasthan in 1998. The film starts in the era when America and the other countries have already become a superpower with the possession of nuclear bombs. America, who had been a superpower for many years, and now are trying to have a grab on the warfare happening across the world by deploying ‘eye in the sky’ in the form of satellites. And now, it’s a high time for India to be a superpower by conducting nuclear test explosions, and that too by maintaining the secrecy of this operation.

The story depicted in the film is one of the most important events in the Indian history and the people who made this event possible. In the running time of this film, practically it is not possible to include all the little details of the operation, but makers have successfully accommodated the significant aspects and delivered a gripping drama film. It has a flavor of the documentary film, but the engaging storyline and compelling performances by characters made the film thrilling and entertaining at the same time. The only problem with the film is its bombarded background sound, which felt unnecessary and overloaded at some situations, which overtakes the drama and does not let it breathe.

Verdict : Overall it’s a really good, proud, and patriotic film to watch. Go for it.

Rating : 4/5

Phantom Thread (2017) – Movie Review

Kiss me, my girl, before I’m sick…

Phantom Thread is a period drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who is known for his peculiar way of storytelling and has been nominated eight times for Academy Awards in different categories including this film as well. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, the winner of three Academy Awards in leading actor category, and also got the nomination for this film in a similar category. Daniel Day-Lewis is a very much talented and versatile actor who is well known for his method acting. Supposedly, this is Daniel Day-Lewis’s final film, he announced the same on June 20, 2017, that he was retiring from acting. So sadly, this film is the last chance to see this time’s finest actor performing from his heart and bones and veins on screen. Just Go for it.

The film sets in 1950’s after war era of London and dives into the life of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a meticulous renowned dressmaker, who designs dresses for members of high society, and lives with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who manages the operations of his luxury fashion house. Not so far in the film, Reynolds gets interested in a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) and asks her for a date. Impressed with her willfulness and determination Reynolds asks her to move in with him where she acts as his muse, assistant, and love interest. Soon Reynolds finds out that Alma’s presence in his life is disrupting his daily perfect quality routines which he adores so much. Alma, on the other hand, obsessed with love, out of fear of losing Reynolds, and seeing her expectations being lashed, chooses some extreme ways, which will keep Reynolds closer to her. Rest of the film depicts the fate of their relationship when the moral clashes happen between both of them because of their ambitions, obsessions, love, insecurities, and vulnerabilities, and how they find their way through all this mess towards understanding, acceptance, and patience.

It is a pure romance drama film filled with heightened complex emotional moments, and definitely, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. The performances by all the leads are flawless and feel so real that one gets completely get drawn into the film. In particular, Daniel Day-Lewis is just phenomenal in his role, he just has the commanding presence on the screen, and he literally makes the character alive on screen by living the same. The storyline of the film is pretty straight-forward, but compelling characters and detailing in little things makes it very much interesting. The melodious piano music playing in the background is so good that it lifts up the drama beautifully.

Verdict : Just Go for it and witness the legendary performance by the legendary actor of our time.

Rating : 4.2/5

Padmaavat (2018) – Movie Review

Obsession vs. Honour

Padmaavat (formerly titled Padmavati), is a classic period drama film co-written and directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who is one of the most critically acclaimed filmmakers in Indian cinema, and well known for his astonishing filmmaking styles filled with huge sets, powerful performances, soothing music, and epic storylines. The film is based on the epic poem Padmavat (1540) by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, and that’s where protests and bans on this film have started, stating that the film is deteriorating the history and hurting the sentiments of the Rajput community in India. After facing so many controversies, after making the required cuts (even the name of the film has changed), and then after getting a green signal from Supreme Court of India, the film has finally arrived at the movie theatres. The film has released in three different formats as 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D, and this is the first Indian film to be released in IMAX 3D format.

Set in 1303 AD, the film tells the story of bravery and sacrifice of exceptionally beautiful Rajput Queen Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), the wife of Rawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor), a righteous king and the noble ruler of Mewar. Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh), the power-drunk ruthless Afghan ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, who hears about Padmavati’s beauty, and lays siege to Chittor fort to obtain her out of his obsession. Before Alauddin Khalji could invade Chittor, Padmavati and her companions commit Jauhar (self-immolation) to protect their honor. The story of the film is not so convoluted, but the artistic directional approach, rich set designs, finest music, and theatrical performances are worth experiencing in cinema halls.

In the final moment, the film has literally given goosebumps to the audience, the chants, the visuals, the sound, just takes over the audience. The background score of the film is splendid. The film is a truly cinematic experience with breathtaking visuals that it does not let the audience to take their eyes off the screen. The storyline of the film is pretty straightforward but the characters are compelling enough to drag the audience totally into the film. The film has some really powerful performances. In particular, hats off to the portrayal of menacing and barbaric Allauddin Khilji by Ranveer Singh, which is truly outstanding and deserves all appreciation, he steals every scene he is in, audience hates his character and likes his performance at the same time. Shahid Kapoor as the noble ruler is shining in his own moments, he can talk so much with his eyes. Deepika Padukone as Queen Padmavati is to the point, not more, not less. The supporting roles by Aditi Rao Hydari as Mehrunissa, Raza Murad as Jalaluddin Khilji, and Jim Sarbh as Malik Kafur are surprisingly impacting, and seeing all these characters coming together is a delightful treat.

Verdict : The story of Obsession and Greed versus Bravery and Sacrifice is worth watching. Bollywood at it’s best.

Rating : 4.2/5

The Post (2017) – Movie Review

Honest.. Amazing.. Courageous..

The Post is the period drama film directed and produced by brilliant Steven Spielberg, a winner of three Academy Awards in directing. The film stars versatile actor Tom Hanks, a winner of two Academy Awards, and talented Meryl Streep, a winner of three Academy Awards in acting. Just how one can miss this film!

The film tells the true story of the journalists from ‘The Washington Post’ who believed in the integrity of journalism and strived to publish and reveal the top-secret classified documents (Pentagon Papers) regarding the involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War, about which government continuously lied to their people. The film closely shows the struggles of The Washington Post’s first female publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) and its editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) to publish this undisclosed information, for which they must risk everything they’ve got to tell the world the truth to keep the light of honest and courageous journalism alive.

The film cleverly traverses through the crux of this sensitive event and the people involved in it. Like the last year’s release Dunkirk (2017), this film also talks about the event and not any central character(s). The film strictly focuses on the series of events which leads to the revelation of the government’s conspiracy, and not on the actual conspiracy or the consequences of this publication by several media houses into unprecedented judicial battle. The plot of the film is intriguing and informative. The film has some undoubtedly top-notch performances and seeing the works of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks together is always a treat.

Verdict : For interesting and educating story with amazing performances, it s a must watch drama film.

Rating : 4/5

 

Baadshaho (2017)

Not as Badass as it seems.

Baadshaho is the fictional action thriller directed by promising director Milan Lutharia reuniting the duo of Ajay Devgan and Emraan Hashmi from Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai (2010). And for the same reason expectations from this film are bit higher.

This period drama is inspired by real-life events during the Emergency and revolves around the armored truck full of gold. The story starts with young Rajput queen Rani Gitanjali Devi (Ileana D’Cruz) stands against the one who could impose emergency on the country. As the result of this enmity, the government takes charge of her royal gold treasure and locks her behind bars, which is then to be transported to Delhi in a truck no less than a battalion under the protection of army officer Seher Singh (Vidyut Jamwal). Then trustworthy loyal Bhawani (Ajay Devgan), who is Queen’s personal security in-charge and a lover set out on a heist to regain her gold treasure and royalty. In this heist, Bhawani takes help of a quirky all-rounder Dalia (Emraan Hashmi), all time drunk lock picker Tikla (Sanjay Mishra), and Queen’s loyal friend Sanjana (Esha Gupta). The story takes us to the ride of these mysterious characters whose loyalties remain unknown till the end with twists and turns in both characters and plots.

Ajay Dengan’s portrayal of angry action hero is intense and justifiable but seems familiar. Emraan Hashmi’s quirky dialogues and Sanjay Mishra’s accurate comic timing brings feel to some moments. The duo of Ileana and Esha are good maintaining their retro look as they did it in Rustom (2016) with just OK performances. Vidyut Jamwal tries to add some nicely done stunts and action sequences to the story; even his retro army officer look gives weight to the screen.

Even after having such a diverse and excellent star-cast this movie lacks some fundamental things like weaker script and its execution which offers zero novelty. On the ride of this, we get action, thrill, and romance but its central characters just feel shallow. It lacks the much needed high-octane climax. Characters are more defined by their dialogues than by their appearance/deeds. For such kind of heist-centric movie, not only characters and action but also precise moves are important.

Verdict : A good watch for action junkies if you can overlook some glitches here and there.

Rating : 2.5/5