Saturday, June 29, 2019


Please visit deepagahlot.com for this review

Article 15 

Please visit deepagahlot.com for this review

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Kabir Singh 

Psycho Alert
So, this chain-smoking doctor with ‘anger management’ issues, sees a girl, as she is walking single-file with other female medical students, eyes down, demure gait. He falls in love, then goes and warns off every other man in the  college campus from even looking at her; then decides who she will sit with in class, and who will be her roommate.  Everyone submissively does as he orders, because he is known for violence. The girl in question, placidly follows him around—there is no question of consent. He frequently refers to her as “meri bandi” which could mean both “my girl” or “my prisoner.”
This toxic masculinity was in full display in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Telugu Arjun Reddy, and the noxiousness comes to Bollywood as Kabir Singh--  modern-day Devdas with alcohol, drug and mental problems that needed a shrink, not people calling him a genius doctor and free spirit.
After marking his territory, as if a woman was a piece of land, Kabir Singh (Shahid Kapoor) makes Preeti  (Kiara Advani) shift into his room in the boy’s hostel while his friends—sycophants, rather—clear the wing so that they have privacy. This is not considered goondaism by the college, simply because Kabir is a topper?
When her father refuses to let Preeti marry him, Kabir goes completely off the rails, drinking and doing drugs non-stop, yet performing surgeries and, annoyingly, telling a female colleague off for wearing lipstick. He then expects his loyal friend, Shiva (Sohum Majumdar) to procure girls for him, and propositions Jia, an actress (Nikita Dutta), with “can you help me physically?” and at one point tells her to strip at knifepoint. Instead of kicking him to the curb, she falls for him, turns instantly docile and is seen ironing his clothes.  The slavish friend, Shiva, actually offers his sister’s hand in marriage to this vicious lout, so that he can “settle down.” 
At a time when women are fighting a #MeToo battle for dignity and respect, a film like Kabir Singh makes a hero out of a misogynist, who treats all women like dirt. The film makes no effort to understand or even criticize this entitled moron, who is always about to blow his top and beat up someone, be it a boy who put colour on Preeti’s face on Holi, or a maid who broke a glass. Reddy has no doubt that this odious creep is a model of manhood--  there is no graph to the character, no introspection, no redemption.
It is disturbing that men in the audience laugh when Kabir is being an uncontrollable beast, and enjoy scenes of women being stalked and harassed.  Shahid Kapoor is all swagger no nuance; Kiara Advani’s Preeti is a total cipher.  It’s a shame a film like that gets made in 2019--or 2017, when the ghastly original was released.

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir 

Slumdog Chronicles

What’s with this western fascination with Indian fakirs, slums, dhobi ghat, cows? Ken Scott’s The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir, stays in India for a very short while, but a lot of clichés creep in. It sounds strange because slum characters and juvenile delinquents in a remand home speak English, but realism is obviously not important to this fanciful tale.
The protagonist with the odd name of Ajatshatru ‘Aja’ Lavash Patel (Dhanush) is a street magician and conman, who hopes to go to Paris and look for his father. He manages a passport, a ticket and a fake Euro note, but nobody bothers about a visa, when Schengen officials give even legit business travelers a tough time.  He lands in Paris, would have got conned by a glib cabbie, if he were less sharp and goes to a “Swiss furniture store” he dreamt of --the Romain Puertolas book in which the film is based was called on  The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe—which is how Aja’s journey begins.
After flirting with a pretty American, Marie (Erin Moriarty), he hides in a wardrobe in the store, which is thrown into a truck bound for England, with illegal refugees in it. The British cop, literally makes a song-and-dance of capturing the aliens and sends them off to Spain.
Aja hides in the massive suitcase of an actress, Nelly (Berenice Bejo), lands in Rome, has some adventures there, does a Bollywood-style dance in a night club, gets help refugees in Libya, takes a balloon ride, before landing back in the “small, small area of Worli” where his cow called Mohini is still waiting for him.
Dhanush is all charm and sincerity, but the film remains entirely without drama or humour (the gay jokes fall flat).  One can’t help thinking that only Bollywood can pull of this level of silliness. If Karan Johar had produced this film and cast Ranveer Singh, it might even have been entertaining-- not so ho hum.

Thursday, June 06, 2019


Slow Motion Mein

It is a grandiose idea—linking the fate of a man called Bharat to the story of India. If Ali Abbas Zafar wanted to pull it off, maybe he should have looked at Forrest Gump for inspiration, rather than Korean film Ode To My Father.

Bharat begins well, the seventy-year-old Bharat has taken his large brood to a particular station, where he celebrates his birthday every year. By his side is Kumud or Madam-Sir (Katrina Kaif), who, it turns out never married him, and had a journey far more interesting than Bharat’s—in fact, the story of post-Independence Indian women can be seen through Kumud’s progress, though she is just a bystander in Bharat’s life. 
For some inexplicable reason, the family does not know Bharat’s backstory and he decides to tell it in flashback, from the time of Partition, when he is separated from his father (Jackie Shroff) and sister, while his mother (Sonali Kulkarni) and two younger siblings make it safely to India. The father made Bharat promise to look after the family, and promised to come to the provision store run by his sister. Which is why Bharat resists offers to sell the shop for the establishment of a new mall.
Instead of weaving India’s historical milestones into Bharat’s journey, Zafar has him and his best buddy Vilayati (Sunil Grover) work in a circus (the film’s most colourful portion, with a Disha Patani dance!), then as oil field workers in the Gulf (where he and Kumud fall in love) and later as mechanics on a merchant navy ship. In a voiceover, Bharat talks of a few historical events, like the death of Nehru, India’s world cup victory in 1983, the advent of satellite television and globalization, but no mention of other important episodes like the wars with Pakistan and China, the Emergency, the assassination of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, or the telecom revolution.
What a waste of an opportunity to portray the evolution of modern India!  But that would have required research and deft writing; why bother when the Korean film’s template was there to adapt? There are a couple of throwaway touches, like a young Amitabh Bachchan watching the circus and adapting Vilayati’s man-in-egg act for a future film (Amar Akbar Anthony); or Somali pirates sparing the lives of Indian sailors, when they sing Bachchan numbers.
If Salman Khan plays Bharat, of course he gets to be heroic --he saves fellow workers from a gas leak and pirates, and even as an old man, beats up hitmen sent to attack him. He also remains fiercely loyal to his family to the extent of living in with Kumud instead of marrying her, but with his mother’s approval. For emotional manipulation Zafar includes a TV show that seeks to reunite family members separated during Partition!
Far from being an epic that it could have been, it is just a chance for Salman Khan to appear in varied costumes against different backdrops. With the focus on him at all times, to the extent of treating other actors-- except Grover and Kaif-- like pieces of furniture, the star musters up enough enthusiasm to give an earnest performance—Zafar had also got him to wake up and act in his earlier Sultan. However, Bharat is disappointing for viewers who are not Salman fans.

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