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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SAAND KI AANKH : Quite a Misfire

The unbelievable real life story of the Shooter DadisChandro Tomar and Prakasi Tomar is the stuff of legends. It is such an incredible story of triumph over so many kinds of isms – sex, age, class (and counting..), that it naturally fits in to be a very engaging cinematic drama with opportunities to explore so many layers of story telling.

It is a pity then that filmmaker Tushar Hiranandani is least interested in exploring any layers and complexities of such an incredible plot setup in Saand Ki Aankh, and wants to play it to the gallery in a full blown massy commercial setup in the most simplistic and loud manner. He shoots completely out of range, and there are only very few moments sparsely showing up in an unbelievably dragging long film, that genuinely connect and get anywhere close to the bull’s eye that he was aiming for.

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THE SKY IS PINK : ‘Coz the Colour of Grief is very very Personal

In one of the scenes in The Sky is Pink, Niren Chaudhary, the helpless father, asks his terminally ill child Aisha to consider going for a lung transplant because it can possibly add 10 more years to her life sinking off pulmonary fibrosis. To this, Aisha very pragmatically asks him back if saying goodbyes would become a tad easier at 28 instead of 18. Niren is obviously left speechless. And along with him we are also reminded how it is never going to be easy to face the final eventuality how much ever preparatory time you get. Not today, not tomorrow, not few years later; and not for any of the family members, who are possibly all dying their own emotional deaths even though only one of them will be finally going away. It is then a personal journey of every individual how one wants to deal with the impending death, and find moments of happiness and hope along the way in the zeal of life.

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DO PAISE KI DHOOP CHAAR AANE KI BAARISH : Of Rough Weathers of Life

Do paise ki dhoop.. chaar aane ki baarish..
Baarah maas main mausam bechta hoon…

Watch Do Paise Ki Dhoop Chaar Aane Ki Baarish on Netflix for how the Mumbai rains, and the poetry from old hindi film songs become integral characters by themselves in the lives of three marginalized and struggling individuals seeking each other’s company for acceptance and affection.

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SECTION 375 : A muddled perspective

section-375-trailer-main.jpg

Surprisingly the thing that lands the most in Ajay Bahl’s Section 375 is its gaze towards the ‘Me Too‘ and ‘Men Too‘ narrative. It is sensitive & balanced, and even though it does take a final side, it does not humanize or demonize the accused or the victim with unidimensional broad strokes. Bahl infact succeeds in creating an engaging courtroom drama, where both versions of a reported rape play out in a Rashomon style. And the narration has enough meat and logic for the audience or the judiciary bench to not take sides blindly at any time, or feel terribly compromised on wokeness, even if one may want to accuse the film of an unreasonable conscience. In fact, the film does well to lay out the distinctions between law and justice, and how both of them (especially the later) can get muddled by personal perspectives and biases.

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JUDGEMENTALL HAI KYA : Does Not Raise Itself Above Judgement

Bobby Batliwala Grewal in Judgementall Hai Kya is almost like a reel embodiment of the real life actor trying to make a statement – “Don’t judge me with my on the surface psychic and narcissistic behaviour, I can often see things that you can’t, and all you need is the right perspective to sense what is more dangerous around.

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ARTICLE 15 : When Change Begins with Each of Us

In one of the most impactful scenes of Article 15, Anubhav Sinha wants to expose the caste hierarchy deeply rooted within the system even amongst the protectors of law of our country. Most of them are not corrupt police officers per say, but they are just conditioned in a way since birth – so unconsciously aware not just of their castes, but even of the subdivisions within the highest and lowest stratas of that hierarchy. This is the team who have switched themselves off to a part of India that co-exists with them, but they turn a blind eye to ‘their‘ life and death problems, even without realising that their own life will become a dumpster without ‘their‘ help. This non-chalance and convulated thinking is baffling for their privileged and idealistic officer, and his extreme frustration shows up as he is at a loss of where to start cleaning the mess from. This is the India that has become.

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TEEN AUR AADHA : Memoirs of a Room


Ukranian filmmaker Dar Gai‘s (Daria Gaikalova) first Indian film (released for festivals in 2017, but finding its wider digital release only now in 2019 on Netflix) Teen aur Aadha has an interesting film premise when a house, more specifically a room, becomes a constant character across three different stories along its maturing timeline, with almost a common theme of central characters in each story wanting to break free off the confines of the same room. It becomes even more interesting when the each of the three stories are shot as continuous forty minutes long shots each without any cuts, as if trying to follow the arc of the protagonists up close.

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