…Tillotama Shome in A Death In The Gunj

Every time I watch Konkona Sensharma’s A Death In The Gunj, I take out something different from it. Every single time I’ve had a bias towards some other character, I like some scene more than another, I fall in love with just another dialogue. But what doesn’t change is my love for Sensharma’s writing. When I watched the film today, I fell in love with Tillotatma Shome’s Bonnie. 

Bonnie is a kind of person we would meet in our everyday life. She’s a protective mother, the perfect daughter-in-law, a loving wife and an amazing friend, whether to Mimi or Vikram or Brian or even Shutu for that matter. She has a beautiful collection of sarees and shawls, she smokes with a kind of sass and ease at the same time which is tough to pull. Konkona seems to have taken a lot of time (and done a lot of research) while writing this character. And even though, all of us have a Bonnie in our lives, there is something different about Sensharma’s Bonnie. 

What works best for this character is the impeccable acting by Tillotama Shome. I had perhaps fallen in love with her craft in Monsoon Wedding. She’s recently played powerful roles in Qissa and Hindi Medium as well. Though her role in Hindi Medium is short, she owns the screen even when Irrfan Khan is on screen. Shome has always had a hold over the character she plays, no matter what she plays. Even in ADITG, Shome plays Bonnie like no one else could have. Even though I felt that Priyanka Bose and Sensharma herself would have played this character with equal ease, but Shome brings a certain texture to Bonnie that maybe just she could have. The raising of eyebrows, the (so natural) laughter at the dinner table, the tears in her eyes when Tani is lost, the irritation on her face when Mimi isn’t done cutting the tomatoes, everything is done with a kind of natural grace that we don’t see so regularly in Hindi Cinema. 

Basically, Bonnie, you have my heart! 

Hindi Medium: 1 run short of a century

Here’s a film you cannot miss…

Has human greed overpowered our emotions so much that we cannot look behind materialistic instincts? Hindi Medium is the answer to the same. The story is everything you saw in the trailer, no surprises here. As the title suggests, the film doesn’t deal with the problem of Hindi-English in our country alone. It also talks about greed, poverty and how a poor man’s life is better than a rich man’s; how his heart is bigger than a rich man’s. So Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar want to get their daughter admitted to the biggest, most popular and elite school of New Delhi, The Delhi Grammar School (which is, by the way, Modern School). And to get this done, jaan laga dete hai yeh log. They even pretend to be poor, to get admission through gareeb quota. 

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Now this story is very relatable. I’ve studied in one of the top 10 prestigious schools in our country (not bragging) and I thank my parents for that. But there were students in my class who had taken admission through the gareeb quota. Now I don’t really know about the atrocities against them, but of course there was a difference between them and us. Like, we did not create a difference or think that they weren’t a part of us, but the differences were just there and unspoken of.

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Back to the film. This film is just almost there. One more step and ‘yay, victory’! Where the film lacks from being a 10/10 is the second half, which, by the way, is the best they could have done. Though it is a little stretched, and I am not complaining at all. Had that extra bit been a little edited, this would have been a century. So now, it’s a run out at 99!

What makes the movie so perfect is the acting! Irrfan Khan will never ever fail to stun you. Is there anything that this man cannot do? No! His dialogue delivery is perfect, comic timing is perfect, dancing is also perfect and so is his romance! Matlab kuch galat nahi karta hai banda. Saba Qamar is a perfect find! This woman has acted in many Pakistani TV shows and Urdu films and is oh-so-talented. She catches hold of every single nuance of Meeta’s character with ease. There also is my favourite, Deepak Dobrial. Mann karta hai jaake ek jhappi le lu bande ki. He is so so so talented that there is no limit. His comic timing, serious dialogues, laughing, crying, all are brilliant! Swati Das makes her debut with Hindi Medium in a supporting role and is, like everyone else, perfect! She gets her accent on point and nails it while playing a poor man’s wife. There even is Tillotama Shome. I last saw Shome in A Death in the Gunj and she plays even this character, of a consulting agent, with equal panache! Dishita Sehgal plays Pia and even she is perfect! And, I couldn’t have asked for a better Principal than Amrita Singh.

The writing of Hindi Medium is crisp. Nothing is overdone, nothing remains underdone. The screenplay is how good screenplays are written. Here are my two favourite dialogues:

“Na aegi khushi, na rahega ghum…”

“Humare paas hai hi kya, dau pe lagane ke lie?”

-Deepak Dobrial

All in all, Hindi Medium is a film you should all watch, specially young parents.

If I had to rate the film, 25% seats are reserved for the poor, in good schools and the rich want them too. Think about it, we all have a role to play!

Noor: I saw Sonakshi Sinha from Lootera in Noor

Go watch Noor for nothing but Sonakshi Sinha. She’s terrific.

Lootera is one of my favourite films of all times. I am not saying that Noor (the character) is as layered or even well written as Pakhi (Lootera) but Sonakshi Sinha’s efforts seem the same.

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Noor is the story of a journalist, or rather joker journalist, who is trying to find her ground. She wants to engage in serious journalism and cover incidents like “subah ke 11.30 bhi nahi baje aur 17 log local trains mei marr chuke hai” but ends up taking a Sunny Leone interview, because her boss is just concerned about the TRPs. Then there is a scam and she wants to be at the forefront of it all, but is scammed herself. In order to undo the wrong that has occurred, Noor has to do something…

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The film starts off very well, matlab beautifully. But as it progresses, it just fails to hold your eyes at the screen because it lacks pace and matter. Everything is perfect in Noor (the film) till Noor (the character) doesn’t have a purpose and when she does, the film falls apart. Also, this is a very stereotypical depiction of the life of a journalist, nothing new.

Director Suhil Sippy and cinematographer Keiko Nakahara capture the essence of Mumbai beautifully. It seems like a tribute to Mumbai. The local trains, neglected Victorian buildings, the slims and of course the Sea Link, everything seems so beautiful.

Actors Shibani Dandekar and Purab Kohli do a good job but they are hardly there. Kanan Gill is placed oddly. The writing of his character Saad is top-notch. He is Noor’s best friend, but Gill cannot bring out the nuances of Saad in the dramatic moments, which by the way are many. He fits right during the comic moments, but there are very few of them.

But what keeps you through Noor is Sonakshi Sinha. Singlehandedly she holds the film together. Four years ago, we had all watched Lootera and Sinha’s amazing performance in the film. Honestly, I had fallen in love with her then and I’m in love with her performance again. I really hope she does more of such meaty cinema.

Also look out for Smita Tambe. She plays Noor’s maid Malti, without whom Noor cant function. There is a scene in her house when she and Noor are crying – it is so BEAUTIFUL!

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All in all, go watch Noor for nothing but Sonakshi Sinha. She’s terrific.

Begum Jaan: Even Vidya Balan’s strong performance can’t save an underwritten film 

Dedicating a film to Manto and then going wrong about both prostitution and partition is something that won’t work…

No matter how good the performances are, underwritten films never see the light of the day. Begum Jaan is such a film.

The film is a remake of the 2015 Bengali film Rajkahini with some changes, that didn’t really work for the film. Since I’ve watched both the films, I will not compare and tell you which is better than the other, but I think making an old woman strip in front of the national flag with patriotic background music is not something that should have been added. The film follows the life of Begum Jaan who is a kothe wali and has some ten girls under her. The backdrop is the Partition of India dividing one nation into two sects. Now, a border has to be carved out and this goes through Begum Jaan’s kotha, oops sorry, home. Now this woman is adamant about not moving from here. Why? Nahi pata.

The film has a bunch of talented actors – Ira Dubey, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rajit Kapoor and Vidya Balan herself but they’re all underwritten.
Ashish Vidyarthi and Rajit Kapoor play representatives of the INC and Muslim league respectively and director Srijit Mukherjee directs them in a very weird way. For closeup shots, he captures only half of their face. Why? Nahi pata. Probably he wanted to show the division between people as Hindus and Muslims but no. It’s just weird and creepy too.

Among the other girls, only Pallavi Sharda, Gauhar Khan and Ira Dubey are noticeable. Iska matlab yeh Nahi hai ki bahut acha kaam kia hai in logo ne. Bilkul Nahi. Though, these women are good, but what can they do after a point? Oh there is Mishti too. (Kanchi re Kanchi) This girl is still in shock for debuting with Subhash Ghai’s Kanchi so that’s why she’s just there. Kuch nahi karti hai yeh.

Finally, there’s Vidya Balan. Over the years, Balan has given us performances that probably no one could have done, but with her recent choices of Ghanchakkar, Humari Adhuri Kahani and now Begum Jaan, she’s not at par with her own self. Just last year we saw the brilliance of Balan in Kahaani 2 but now-

Though her performance is top notch, and her character is the best written character, but is a limited character. Through Begum Jaan Balan proves that she hasn’t lost her acting chops at all, but she can’t do much with it because the writing doesn’t allow her to.

Now I have a big problem with the depiction of the partition of India. I’ve been a History student and I’ve studied the roots of the British Raj and the Partition. Begum Jaan tells us nothing about it except the fact that “nakshe ke hisaab se yaha se ek taar jaegi aur Hindustan ka batwara hoga”. And it also tells us about the riots happening in Delhi, Amritsar and Allahabad, about Kashmir and Hyderabad having a choice to join any of the two new countries or remain independent, about Hindus being safe in India and Muslims in Pakistan, but that’s all. And all of this is told to us, not shown.

Though some of the dialogues are good, and almost all of them are given to Vidya Balan the rest are just bleh. Ki matlab aap sochne lag jaoge ki bola toh bola Kya aur kyu. At a point, Pallavi Sharda says, “Hum jaiso ke shauhar nahi hote, magar betiyan hoti hai” Kya?

And I think this film is also about feminism, but everywhere it’s just degrading women. Insult kar di aurton ki. Maybe at that time this was the scenario but aaj ke zamane mei itni insult karoge, after giving us a strong, powerful protagonist, toh Nahi chalega. Begum Jaan knows her way through life, but at a point, she says, “Yeh desh Hindu, Mussalman ya Angrez, jiska bhi ho, hoga toh mardo ka hi.”

Also, I know absolutely nothing about any character. Kaha se aae hai, kaha jaa rahe hai, Kuch Nahi pata. Bataya hi nahi.
I have a lot to say about this film, but I am running short of time. So all in all, if you want to watch Begum Jaan, I would suggest against it because nothing in the film is worth your time, except Vidya Balan, but to what extent?

If I had to rate the film, a 5th grade textbook tells you more about the Partition than Begum Jaan does.


Anaarkali Of Aarah: Swara Bhaskar’s best

Anaarkali of Aarah is just another proof that Bhaskar deserves to be called an A-list actor…

Films like Anaarkali of Araah arent made everyday. And we even don’t get to see such performances everyday.

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Anaarkali, played by Swara Bhaskar lives a very normal life of being a ‘nachaniya’ as they call her with her partner Rangeela played by the great Pankaj Tripathi. Things go haywire when she is assaulted on stage by the head of the University, Sanjay Mishra. And the rest is her struggle – her struggle against the society, the cops, her friends, and even herself.

Debutant director Avinash Das has held everything in place. Nothing is too much and nothing is over exaggerated. In fact, anything less would have seemed artificial. The houses in Bihar, the old lanes of Delhi, the stage, the studio, everything is just perfectly crafted and captured.

The great direction drives this narrative, but the brilliant acting is what puts a life in it. Swara Bhaskar, Pankaj Tripathi and Sanjay Mishra need no praise at all. They are all terrific. Pankaj Tripathi as the gang leader of the band whose wife has run away with the doodhwala brings every nuance of his character to the table without a hint of doubt. Sanjay Mishra’s character is a tharki. And no matter how seedha saadha Mishra is in real life, you will think he is a tharki in real life also. He is so convincing.

But this is a Swara Bhaskar show. We saw her last in Ashwini Iyyer Tiwari’s Nil Battey Sannata playing a maid servant who knows the value of education. Anaarkali is uneducated and dances for people, but thats all she does. When assaulted, even by a man in power, she knows how to show him his place and says – I can’t really say what she says so I’ll just say beep – “beep ho, beep se kam ho, ya biwi ho, ainda pooch ke haath lagaiyega”.

The movie leaves us with the message that Taapsee Pannu’s Pink had left us with – NO means NO. You might think that it is not original, but thats not all about the movie. Above everything, the movie teaches you how to fight for your rights.

And what acts as a highlight in the film are the costumes by Rupa Chaurasia.

All in all, Anaarkali of Aarah is a film that you should not miss. It might leave you a little disturbed, but all in a good sense.

If I had to rate the film, it has been 8 years since Swara Bhaskar is in this industry and she hasn’t got her due yet… okay…

Phillauri: Flawed, yet so Beautiful!

What Phillauri boasts about the most, is the cast…

Phillauri has many points that are unneeded, many that could have been edited, but you still walk out of it with a smile.

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Hindi movies are generally said to have the curse of the second half. Phillauri has the curse of the first half which is very slow and leads no where. There is too much set up for the second half in the first half and that doesnt really work, because people might just walk out. The second half is also not flawless. It is stretched, specially the climax.

The entire story revolves around Kanan, who is a 26 year old return from Canada, and Anu getting married in 2017. Now because Kanan is a manglik, he has to marry a tree before getting married to Anu. Ab kyuki shaadi ped se nahi ladki se hoti hai, he ends up marrying the ghost of Shashi and of course, wants liberation from her. Throughout the film, Shashi keeps going back to her life, when she was alive and in love with Phillauri and her life as a poet in 1919.

The movie celebrates costume, culture and traditions and the change in all of these by beautifully depicting each one of them. But what it celebrates even more is love. Love that does not change. Love, that remains pious over generations.

Director Anshai Lal has tried to include too many things in the movie, making it almost a mess, but it is not a mess. The performances by Anushka Sharma, Diljit Dosanjh, Suraj Sharma, and Mehrene Kaur Pirzada do not let the film become a mess.

Anushka Sharma is a natural. She plays Shashi who is a ghost in half of the film and a human poet in the other. As an actor, she knows no boundaries. Diljit Dosanjh doesnt have a very huge part but is so convincing as Phillauri. And one thing I really love about Diljit is the innocence in his eyes. There lies so much beauty and depth in them. Suraj Sharma who plays Kanan is good, really good but his brilliance from Life Of Pi is missing. Mehrene Pirzada as Anu doesnt contribute much to the narrative, except asking one question that really helped, but she plays her part well. Kya roya hai poori film mei…


You walk out of Phillauri with Sahiba. Kya bol hai, kya kavita hai…

All in all, because I love romantic films, I loved Phillauri, but not everyone will.

If  I had to rate the film, 7th ya 8th grade mei I had studied about the British Raj. And if you cannot connect the dots before the great suspense is revealed, I’ll think youre uneducated.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania: A genuine film in the wrong era

Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan deliver their honest best in this uncomfortable film…

Badrinath Ki Dulhania is an entertainer. Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan add the right amount of drama and comedy to it, but this film has a certain element of discomfort to it.

The story is very basic, ladke ko ladki se pyaar ho jaata hai, ladki ko nahi hota hai. Ladka ladki se shaadi karna chahta hai, lekin ladki aisa nahi chahti. So basically, ladka is obsessed. Now if Badri and Vaidehi get married or no, go watch the film and find it out for yourselves. I can tell you everything that went wrong and somethings that went right.


Feminism. Jab is term ka matlab nahi samajh aata hai, toh mat banao na movie. Director Shashank Khaitan has used the idea of feminism to show patriarchy, which is good, but there is too much of sexism and very little feminism to defy it. And woh jo thoda sa bhi tha, I think just one dialogue by Alia Bhatt ruined it ki Badri mei aaj jaha bhi hu, tumhari wajah se hu. No, Vaidehi is a self made woman and she has made her own choices.

The entire first half is full of sexism. There are talks and talks about dowry. Itna do, itna lo, kaise karna hai, aap bataiye. All the scenes and dialogues and no-dialogues – no dialogues because Badri’s mom doesn’t have a single dialogue throughout the film and his bhabhi has none in front of the father-in-law – are just plain offensive. In the last scene, Badri tries to undo all the wrong done to the women of his house and gets slapped. So he is then shouting “feminism, feminism, feminism” but the father just comes and slaps him, I think twice. In the same scene, Badri tells his father ki yeh 2017 hai. That’s what, yeh 2017 hai. People will get offended. I too have lived a large chunk of my life in a small town and it is not like this. Women do work, women do speak!

Now coming to the good part, that is the performances. I could bear all of this misogyny only because of Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. Dhawan’s comic timing is absolutely perfect. Alia Bhatt is a stunner. She’s probably one of the best things that has ever happened to the Hindi film industry. She adds the perfect amount of drama to her character Vaidehi. And together, these two make such an adorable pair. Their chemistry never fails to make you smile.

There even is Sahil Vaid, who plays Badri’s best friend and deserves equal mention. Supporting actors Shweta Basu Prasad and Aparshakti Khurrana are certainly a find.

The cinematography and direction are good, be it in Kota, Jhasi or even Singapore, and somewhere I even liked the story, though very cliche but good. What’s wrong is the stretched second half and, again the sexism.

And I was just dealing with the sexism, that this scene came. So Vaidehi and Badri are out in the night, in the streets of Singapore when Badri is mugged. Now, he is not only mugged but touched inappropriately by some 4 boys. The entire audience starts laughing, and I am looking around me, amazed. I ask this woman on my right “What if this happened with Vaidehi instead of Badri?” I think she got my point. But whats even more wrong here is that Khaitan made a joke out of this scene with the other supporting characters also laughing. When you have a platform, please use it wisely. Know what you are telling people.

All in all, Badrinath Ki Dulhania is like a buffet dinner, be careful of what you take of it.

If I had to rate the film, off the top of my head, 5 actresses I can name who Manish Malhotra has styled so beautifully in films – Sridevi, Kajol, Karisma Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan and now Alia Bhatt, aur bhi honge hi…