GUNJAN SAXENA: THE KARGIL GIRL – Soars High in the Sky

Early on in Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl when young Gunjan tells her folks for the first time that she wants to be a pilot, Anup Saxena, an army officer by himself, and Gunjan’s father very subtly tells his condescending elder son Anshuman “Jab plane ko faraq nahi padta ki use kaun udaa raha hai, to tumhe kyon padta hai barkhurdar..”. It is one heck of a statement delivered with the sweetest calmness, and immediately sets the tone of writer director Sharan Sharma‘s debut film. Full credit to him that he maintains that even tonality and pace throughout the film, and delivers a highly satisfying cinematic experience with a beautiful emotional core and a strong message, that challenges the ingrained patriarchy of our homes, our societies and our workplaces on one hand, and strongly rebukes the generic template of jingoistic patriotism on the other.

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RAAT AKELI HAI : Solitary Shades of Darkness

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In Honey Trehan‘s debut feature film Raat Akeli Hai, a dysfunctional family, with a rich socio-political backing, is facing the mysterious murder of its patriarch on his wedding night. But that is not the only mystery that inspector Jatil Yadav, in charge of solving this case, is dealing with. There are at least five other deaths that we encounter as a part of the unfolding narrative over two timelines, that have their own flavors of murder, revenge or redemption; and there are more lives on the line who have been used, abused and exploited in their own ways.

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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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ABYAKTO : Brilliance Beyond Words

Abyakto (The Unsaid) leaves you in a trance of brilliance which is indeed difficult to capture in words. At all of 88 mins of runtime, debutant director Arjunn Dutta transports you into a world that is immersively poetic, heartbreakingly beautiful, intriguingly complex, and simmering with the melancholy of ‘nibiro bedona te puloko laage gaaye‘ in every frame.

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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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