1917 : Spectacle with a Soul

Enough and more has already been said about the awe that you are left with as you experience the cinematic spectacle called 1917, and how the tremendous craftsmanship of Sam Mendes wonderfully integrates everything from the ‘one take‘ cinematography in constantly changing war terrain, to impeccable battlefield action choreographed against mighty impressive warzone design, to terrific editing, to pitch perfect sound design and background score, to deliver the most compelling and visually enthralling theatrical experience in a long long time.

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CHHAPAAK : Gruelling Horror, Triumphant Human Spirit, & A Deeply Moving Experience

It has been a few hours now since I have watched Chhapaak, Meghna Gulzar‘s new film based on acid violence, and inspired by the journey of Laxmi Agarwal – right from the horrific attack, her painful fight back, and her plunging into the larger cause to arrest the issue at its root. Yes it has been a few hours, and I still haven’t gathered myself to write in detail about it. It has been an overwhelming experience and the horror of what unfolded on the screen for two hours is still seeping deep into my skin, still shaking me up and the shock is difficult to come out from. The film feels so disturbingly real from its first frame to last – the trauma almost leaves you feel violated, but at the same time you can’t look away from these tremendous champions of life and their amazing story of hope.

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GHOST STORIES : When Fear Gets The Makers

The first film of 2020 starts on a disappointing note. The latest of the anthology series by Zoya-Anurag-Dibakar-Karan, Ghost Stories, is their weakest collaborative effort so far (scaringly enough the trend on quality is downward with every passing film). Horror isn’t the easiest of genres though, and one needs to have a tight control on the sense of eeriness, atmospherics as well as metaphorical subtext to really make a lasting mark with it. None of these should be overdone just for the sake of it. Horror will only be haunting if one can elevate oneself from the jump scares and gore, and blend in a deep subtext of more relevant societal horror into the expansive play zone that the genre offers. Which is why there are only two shorts in the anthology that actually work.

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ROBIBAAR – Delayering Deceit

Through Robibaar, filmmaker Atanu Ghosh wants to take the audience on a journey of delayering love, heartbreak and deceit that are essential elements of the complex human mind. There are shades of black and white in everyone, everyone is struggling with boxed up memories and hasn’t really been able to go forward much with life where it really matters, and the frustration has led to a sense of opportunism in everyone.

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Professor Shanku O El Dorado : As Flat as it Can Get

It takes some special kind of talent to make a boring film out of Satyajit Ray‘s most exciting character, and that too when he is making his on screen debut. Prof. Trilokeshwar Shanku has been a brilliant enigma for many of us since the very childhood, we have only been amazed by his brilliance and his very special inventions, even his pet cat Newton is a work of science (or art?)! His adventures have had repeated reading value and has left us wowed every single time. But then Sandip Ray has some special powers when he can convert such a thrilling central character and his dazzling universe to a film that goes as flat as possible. That is the world that Sandip Ray creates with Professor Shanku o El Dorado.

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SURJO PRITHIBIR CHARDIKE GHORE : Stand With Your Sun

Surjo Prithibir Chardike Ghore may not be a perfect film, but it deserves to be watched.

How far will one go in his or her passion to stand by their conviction and the sense of right or wrong? Why is the battle for ideals only reduced to opportunistic escapism for some, who only hold on to things per their whims and convenience? Why is there such lack of appreciation for genuine passion and the courage to be different, even if it may not align with the most prevalant or popular?

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HOTEL MUMBAI : Humanity Under Attack

Hotel Mumbai, the cinematic dramatization of the horrific 26/11 attacks in Mumbai eleven years ago, by the Australian filmmaker Anthony Maras brings back chilling memories of one of the worst terrorist attacks ever anywhere in the world. The inhuman episodes of terror went on for three longs days and ended up with loss of human life of the worst kind and harrowing experience of the lucky survivors that will haunt them forever . While Maras briefly touches upon the initiation of the attacks at the VT station (to stitch in the Ajmal Kasab story point) and Leopold Cafe; his primary focus is to recreate the incidents that happened at Mumbai’s iconic Taj Palace hotel before, during and after the incident. This was ofcourse the site where the terror prolonged for the maximum amount of time, resulting in very high casualties.

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GHAWRE BAIRE AAJ : When Life loses out to Politics

Aparna Sen‘s contemporary take on the Tagore classic, that she has named Ghawre Baire Aaj is an unabashedly political film. So much so that I was almost wondering as I sat through the film, as to how difficult would have been the film’s certification process. So much so that much before Sen would have finally completed the film would she know that many would outright reject her film just because they don’t agree with the film’s politics. In a country that has never been this politically divided before, just that Ghawre Baire Aaj exists makes a strong enough statement. It takes a lot of courage to just be there. As a viewer, I just wished that the film was as flawless in its execution as clear it was on its intent, and didn’t compromise on the emotional quotient to meet its aggressive political ambition.

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LITTLE THINGS S3 : Wide Perspectives, Deep Impressions

The new season of Little Things, that takes forward the journey of Dhruv and Kavya on a more grounded and realistic journey, grows wider in perspective and leaves behind deeper impressions. Unlike the previous seasons that dealt more with the live-in couple exploring life with and in each other, this time around life takes them long distance, and that possibly gives them a breather to look outward, rediscover themselves in their individual worlds, take them back to their roots on what shaped them to be the people they are today, and find their own happy places and comfort zones. That doesn’t mean though that the show achieves that at the expense of the chemistry between Dhruv and Kavya. If anything, we only find them more matured and stronger to handle spaces, people and things of past and present that life has offered them over time, that in turn make them more lovable individually and together.

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BALA : Has its Moments, But Just About That

The weakest parts of Amar Kaushik’s new film ‘Bala‘ is when it tries to go extreme by embracing the fake to drive home a point – whether it is the much discussed odd dark skin paint on Bhumi Pednekar’s Latika; or the ultra repetitive mimicry acts by Ayushmann Khurrana’s Bala or Javed Jaffery’s Bachchan Bhaiyya – whether of Shahrukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan or Dev Anand; or the ultra-smart facade or soon getting stale desperate tricks by Bala to salvage his balding hairline; or most of all the entire tik-tok act of Yami Gautam’s Pari and her plastic courtship with  Bala built on an artificial and messy chemistry.

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