GULABO SITABO : Jeevan ka Khela

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In general, our movie watching experience is often driven by a few things especially when we talk about the slice of life genre – How likeable are the characters? Can I emotionally root for one of them? How attached are the characters to each other thereby evoking compassion or sympathy? Is it explicitly making me laugh, feel sad, get angry? Is it aligning with my preconceived notion of how I am supposed to feel for this film? Sometimes when we don’t have clear answers to most or any of these questions, there is a chance we will dismiss the film as uninteresting, bland or confusing. But Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturverdi are not interested to find a happy path to these questions and create a feel good laugh out loud comedy to satisfy everyone. For the fourth time in a row, they present another deeply layered observational film packaged unconventionally yet again, this time as a dramedy, on the futility of attachments and running behind the eventually inconsequential things for a lifetime. Life is often about its nothingness and a goose chase to feed our desires, and the whole pointlessness of the entire journey and its disappointment is what one is left with in the end. Gulabo Sitabo shines because Shoojit Sircar and team intricately weave in this deep philosophy as the melancholic soul of the film, with an effortless ease into the everyday ordinariness of a seemingly brewing cacophonic premise.

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CHOKED : PAISA BOLTA HAI – waivers its potential

When the human moral compass waivers, and greed chokes the ability to feel anything else, the relationships go down the drain!

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CHINTU KA BIRTHDAY : Longing To Be Loved

What happens when the common ordinary man feels emotionally marooned because they are all trapped in a world of chaos and war? It could be a migrant Indian family desperate to go back home from a war laden Iraq, but their employer has opportunistically tricked them and their government has conveniently forgotten them. It could be a native Iraqi whose life has been shattered in the hands of an autocratic ruler and then by an unwarranted foreign invasion. It could be the trapped American soldier of the frontline whose inherent human instinct is long lost amidst all the violence and bloodshed but is desperately seeking a revival. Or it could simply be a young six year old boy whose innocent ask from life is to get his birthday celebrated, but last two years has robbed him of such simple joys of life. The new Zee5 Original film Chintu ka Birthday is a story of all such broken, marooned people who are desperate to cling on to life and its small gifts, however illusive they might be.

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NATKHAT : Soft Gloving Life Brats!

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Natkhat – The thirty odd minutes long short film by Shaan Vyas premiered on the We Are One global film festival and is an important film that talks about how misogyny is most often ingrained in young innocent minds in their homes and in the playful environments surrounding them, and how it is critical for parents to protect them from the same even at the expense of exposing their vulnerable selves to this impressionable innocence.

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EEB ALLAY OOO : Calling For Existence

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Because the basic human dignity of the marginalized has become a monkey business in this country!!

.. Prateek Vats‘s sharp political satire Eeb Allay Ooo that brilliantly inverts its lens for a bold commentary on the power dynamics between ‘Lutyens Monkeys‘ and ‘the common man at their mercy‘ is an essential viewing experience, more so now than ever before!

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SHUBH MANGAL ZYAADA SAAVDHAN : A Film We Need Even If We Don’t Love It Fully

In one of the more memorable scenes of Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan, writer-director Hitesh Kewalya poses a question back to an ordinary Indian couple on screen (read. us the audience) through one of his lead protagonists – Why does no one ever ask Jack whether he wants to go up the hill with Jill or Johnny? May be Jack and Johnny have a plan to live in love and laughter up there. He challenges the couple not to pre-set the mind of their young child that only Jack and Jill going up together will remain happy or should be accepted as the norm. He knows that the change for the child’s broadened perspective has to start happening right from there. He possibly wishes that at least that young boy doesn’t face the daily and most painful struggle of his family not accepting the way he is, and instead feel the imposed weight of their standards of normal to define his agency.

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PANGA : A Luke Warm Challenge

Panga is a good film that could have been great. It is set on a very relevant and important theme of how one can reignite the flame of passion in women who make do with themselves and their dreams trapped in the realms of a kid and a home, provided the same family can stand behind her like a rock. Naturally the potential of the film to touch some raw emotional core was huge. Ashwini Iyer Tiwari has a panache for picking up such relevant slices of life and let those stories soar through her deft and deep writing while sprinkling them with everyday humor. Unfortunately it is her uneven and somewhat impassionate writing here that does not reach the height of her first two films, and leaves behind a somewhat tepid Panga.

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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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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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