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NTR Kathanayakudu - Honest Movie Review

With over 280 films experience and releasing a single movie every month in his prime years, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao is Telugu Cinema's First Male Superstar, considered as an icon and a demigod of the industry and is most importantly a hard-working individual with an admirable work ethic. Been discussed and in-development for several years, his biopic is specifically curated, performed and produced by his son Nandamuri Bala Krishna with Krish Jagarlamudi (Gamyam and Vedam fame) handling the directing job.

Verdict - “Underwhelming!”

The narrative of the film follows NTR's journey from his early days working as a sub-register at a government institution, him finding his first-acting job, his immediate rise to stardom, his directorial jobs, social and charity works to him finally joining politics due to public demand and announcing his political party name.

Although I hate to draw comparisons, let's take a look at what last year's blockbuster hit Mahanati accomplished to do. It gave an in-depth look at the highly regarded yet emotionally fragile superstar in Savitri and never backed down in showing the stardom and also the dire downfall of one of the prominent actors in the industry. In Kathanayakudu, although, Krish (director and screenwriter) succeeds in crafting the significant aspects of NTR's character and personality, the struggle was barely shown, and the setbacks were invisible. Subsequently, it was tough to feel or cheer for his character apart from admiring his gentlemen qualities. The movie felt more like a celebration or his greatest hits collection other than as a seamless narrative between his real and reel life. As a result, the movie was three hours long, and the snail-paced screenplay progressively deteriorated the film to boredom.

However, the film accomplished to what it set out to do. It showcased the stubborn, no-nonsense character of the superstar who never gave up when asked to perform a ten-hour long immovable shot. It also established, the kind-hearted side of the legend when he performed and organised charity events with the aim of helping the poor and unaided people. If the goal of the film is to celebrate the bright side of his character and to remind the audience that a performer of his talent and integrity will never be born or will see the face of the industry, consequently, Krish and NBK had done justice to their roles respectively.

Complimenting NTR's gargantuan character is his wife Basavatarakam played by Vidya Balan. The care, relation, support and understanding between the two was displayed well throughout the runtime, and Vidya Balan impressed with her decent acting skills. But, the main focus of the film is on its titular character played magnificently by Balakrishna. Despite the fact that his 58-year old age is distracting at times, he commanded his role with confidence and excellence all-around and did not disappoint or fail performance wise.

Overall, with only one phase of his career displayed, a three-hour runtime is, in my opinion, a tough flick to cruise through. Kathanayakudu suffers from its storytelling flaws of being slow and uncultivated but impresses when it comes to exhibiting NTR as a prodigy that we all already know and love. Nevertheless, I'm still excited to watch the second part and hopefully it's not 180-minutes long.

Rating - 2.75/5 | Grade - C+


An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal
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Vinaya Vidheya Rama - Honest Movie Review

“A parody is an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.”

'Burning Star' Sampoornesh Babu, who is notoriously famous for his ridiculously comical romantic-action movies at least understands the meaning of parody and doesn't expect his audience to take them seriously unlike the highly regarded commercial director, Boyapati Sreenu who went balls-out-crazy with his recent action film, Vinaya Vidheya Rama bringing back the nostalgia of the early 2000s Balakrishna films that we dearly do not miss or care about.

Verdict - “An Atrocity!”

Starring Ram Charan Tej in the lead role with Vivek Oberoi portraying the heavily dramatised antagonist role, the storyline amplifies the journey of five orphan men who persevere by living their lives together as brothers, and one of them (Rama [Ram Charan]) single out and becomes the human shield of the family defending them from all-around chaos and foolhardy gundas until he meets a super slick, death-defying Bihar native, Raju Bhai Munna (Oberoi) in one his crazy normal escapades.

Question: List one of the main aspects which distinguishes the difference between a well-written script and a horribly written one?

Answer: A well-written script branches out and is easily memorable even after you reach home and reminisce about it. A horribly written one is so easily forgettable that you can't even recollect what happened previously in a five-minute old scene.

The primary problem with Vinaya Vidheya Rama is not even it's routinely old, tried and tested, rehashed and revamped storyline. The actual pitfall is Boyapati's chaotic screenplay which takes numerous turns by making zero sense along the way and the bothersome continuity errors that are literally spread all throughout the film. Although they're a few good one-liners and punch dialogues adjusted for comic relief, the confusing narrative makes you question How and Why a particular scene is transpiring right in front of your (already sleepy) eyes.

Question: Who is a Superhero?

Answer: A superhero is a type of heroic stock character, usually possessing supernatural or superhuman powers, who is dedicated to fighting the evil of their universe, protecting the public, and usually battling supervillains.

Question: Is Rama (Ram Charan) a Superhero in Vinaya Vidheya Rama (2019 Telugu Movie)?

Answer: Absolutely not! But... Wait...!

Jumping on a rapidly running super-fast train, blasting through brick walls and saint-gobain glass, killing 300 super-angry hooligans in your expedition from point A to B are outrageous tropes which were heavily criticized and made fun of in the past. But, in an era where smaller budget films like Arjun Reddy and Goodachari are re-defining how an audience member enjoy an action sequence by shooting them more realistically, it is, in fact, sad to see Boyapati Sreenu still stuck in the bygone era where death-defying and out-of-this-world bombastic scenes were a thing. Filled with one atrocious scene after another, I've never heard an audience scream out so loud not with joy or excitement, but with disbelief and anger. The entire auditorium loaded with Ram Charan fans went nuts and shouted "Reiiii!! Boyaaaaa!!" and those were the only few moments which made me laugh in the entire film.

However, Ram Charan come across as the only saving grace for the film even with a half-baked character. His delivery and charisma boarded well with the film's vibe that the director is aiming for and his performance was not that bad. Other characters and performers including Vivek Oberoi, Sneha and Kiara Advani (who is solely underutilized only for duets and displaying glamour) didn't have much to add and were again overwhelmed by idiocy. Devi Sri Prasad, who generally impresses with his commercial music numbers completely missed the mark with this monotone and joyless songs and the background score is not that great either.

Overall, I hope this movie will be a healthy reminder and a straight answer to all the directors and producers who still think that the audience member will enjoy and support mindless action scenes and poor storytelling. With that being said, Vinaya Vidheya Rama is a failure and a movie that never should have existed in the first place.

Rating - 1/5 | Grade - D


An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Petta - Honest Movie Review

When director Karthik Subbaraj promised that Petta (2019) would be a tribute to Superstar Rajinikanth, he delivered as promised. The film is basically a modern re-imagination of Baasha and as the audience, you pretty much know the course of where the film is headed. However, the director has placed certain clever plot twists that keeps you from guessing how it ends. The director constantly reminds you that Petta is a throwback film by subtly throwing in certain “feelers.” The film consistently has old Tamil film songs littered throughout the movie and the side characters and their names are a throwback to Baasha, which I found smart. There were some impressive Gun-Kata action sequences towards the climax of the film which is a breakaway from the usual Tamil cinema hero fights.

Verdict - “Intha Aatam Pothuma?”

Bringing back vintage Rajinikanth with his trademark swag and bounce works for the masses because it encapsulates the very root of his acting dexterity. Superstar Rajinikanth, with his larger-than-life screen presence, is simply a performer. Thus, Karthik Subbaraj paints the film with bouts of Rajinism, allowing the actor to showcase emotion, throw punch dialogues and capture the audience with his inimitable style. Personally, I think this is one of the main strengths of the film as it does not pretend to be director’s film and it belongs uniquely to the Superstar himself. 

However, the film did have its drawbacks. The first half of the film was a bit too long for me and I wished it could have been edited shorter to get the actual plot of the film going. There were many characters introduced that were not really necessary and if they had actually been edited out, the movie would have rated much better. Simran and Trisha barely had 15 minutes of screen time before they disappeared. The antagonists of the film, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Sethupathi felt really underused and underwritten and it could literally have been just anyone else to play their roles. Vijay Sethupathi is delightful to watch and the screen times he spends with Rajinikanth are some of the highlight of the film. However, if you’re thinking of some sort of Vikram Vedha type of cat and mouse game between the two, you’d be left disappointed.

It could have been a much smoother ride if not for certain speed breakers, but Petta (2019) is a treat for ardent Rajinikanth fans who have been waiting to see their Thalaivar of old.

Rating - 3.75/5 | Grade - B+


An Honest Movie Review by Siddharthen R.
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Antariksham 9000 KMPH - Honest Movie Review

Taking a chance and directing one of the most enthralling and diverse movies of last year in 'The Ghazi Attack', Sankalp Reddy's new directorial venture, Antariksham 9000 KMPH, is Tollywood's first sci-fi space film and stars Varun Tej and Aditi Rao Hydari in the lead roles and is touted as one of the most ambitious (Telugu) project in recent times.

Verdict - Riveting!

The storyline of the film involves an unresponsive and soon-to-be-crashed (Indian) satellite (Mihira) slowly declining in its trajectory and requires manual intervention to avoid the thunderclap. Indian Space Center (ISRO in real-life) requests their former astronaut/expert Dev (Varun Tej) to involve and save them from a disaster. Sooner than later, they realise that Dev is a  tough-nut-to-crack because of his past experiences with the organisation and he might not be interested in assisting.

For any (or at least, most of them) film with a set-goal, the end result will most definitely see the 'good guy' or in this film's case, the 'hero' coming out on top and saving the world. It's the usual trope that every Superhero film falls into, Antariksham doesn't let go of that attribute as the story is pretty much predictable for the most part. But, notorious for his sterling screenwriting ability (demonstrated in 'Ghazi'), Sankalp keeps the movie interesting by changing things, taking detours and adding edginess to the script when needed. Although labouring under overly-dramatised scenes and long dialogue at crucial times, the film keeps the significant tension intact and uses it to create a captivating atmosphere around that most of the Telugu films abstain from.

Additionally, the film also delivers with reference to emotional moments between the well-established characters. They're combined and portrayed well when needed and genuinely gathered the poignant expressions rather than manipulating them for no particular reason. More on the positive side of things, the performances from the entire cast complimented excessively with the engaging characters as everyone involved worked splendidly with the different range of emotions that their characters had to offer in various sequences.

Furthermore, Sankalp also deserves some special appreciation here for investing his time, researching and executing a technically sound movie which involves more scientific terms rather than magic and believable production sets rather than hi-tech extraterrestrial technology. On the other hand, the visuals are predominantly impressive, and the camera-work by Gnanasekhar V.S felt immersive especially with wide and the steady-cam shots. Prashanth R. Vihari's music (songs) and background score can be noticed as the backbone of the film as it accommodated flawlessly within the narrative and didn't feel like a distraction.

Overall, Antariksham 9000 KMPH is Tollywood and Sankalp's courageous attempt to diversify and tell great stories in different genres which are left unexplored. Although the film has its own flaws, it still dispenses the plot with riveting and emotional moments and constructs an entertaining two-hour nail-biter worth watching on the big screen.

Rating - 3.25/5 | Grade - B

-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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ZERO - Honest Movie Review

This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

It is almost 2019 and the Indian audiences have exposure to some of the best Sci-Fi movies from the other side of the world. Yet, we have a big-ticket Hindi movie insulting our intelligence! Director Aanand L Rai’s biggest movie till date, ZERO, starring Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif is an ambitious idea, killed by lazy and uninspiring writing.

Verdict - "Insipid and Uneven!"

Bauua Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) is a 38-year old son of a well-to-do Meerut-based businessman, Ashok (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Bauua is free-spirited, fun-loving singleton with just one drawback – he is physically stunted. At 4 feet 6 inch, he is short, but not in ambition. Along with his motley of friends, especially the half-blind Guddu (Zeeshan Ayyub), Bauua idolizes, loves and revers reigning star Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif). He is the quintessential fanboy from the Hindi heartland – wear shirts with Babita’s pictures, dances in gay abandon, calls her ‘iss ghar ki bahu’ and even throws a bundle of money to celebrate her break-up with a ‘Kapoor’ (too much of reel-life mirroring real-life)! Here enters Aafia Yusufzai Bhinder (Anushka Sharma), a renowned space researcher with Cerebral Palsy. The rest of the movie is an overdrawn mixture of unnecessary and illogical twists, filled with dozens of cameos.

The problem with ZERO majorly lies in its story and execution. I pity the lead actors for their earnest efforts, because only they seem to have complete conviction in the narrative, even when the screenplay and the direction falter. Writer Himanshu Sharma is known for his witty dialogues, best of which were seen in 'Tanu Weds Manu', and does not disappoint here. The dialogues are effervescent, funny and with a lot of references to yesteryear’s Bollywood. It is in the screenplay that Himanshu disappoints. There is no mention of what Aafia’s disability is. (I got to know from Wiki and IMDB that it was Cerebral Palsy) The love story between Aafia, a renowned scientist, and Bauua, a ‘Tenth Pass’, is not built well enough and when they part ways, it comes up as an unconvincing plot twist. The audiences wonder what really led to these chain of events – was it just to lead up to the fantasy-like Sci-Fi filled second half? Only the makers can answer!

I understand that a movie with the Badshaah of Romance does not necessarily need scientific logic. Even at this age, Shah Rukh Khan has his charm intact and his trademark romance is in full display in the beautifully shot song, ‘Mere Naam Tu’. But before the launch of a spacecraft, as a checklist, if a character asks the lead scientist on the space mission – ‘Maths Theek Hai?’ and she replies ‘Yes’, it appears fake and reflects on the lazy writing! Even the ‘scientists’ in the mediocre ‘Krrish’ had better and more intelligent questions to ask! While it does not ridicule or poke fun at physical disabilities – something commonly seen in Bollywood comedies – it does reduce them to outliers amongst normal people. It is understandable that people with stunted growth are poked fun at or called ‘Bauna’, but not even discussing about the disability of a lead actor and referring to her as ‘Hilti rehti hai’ is almost like ridiculing them and their abilities. Even Guddu, played by Zeeshan Ayyub, is shown to be partially blind and is made to evoke laughs with his improper demeanor.

Giving credit where it’s due, the camerawork by Manu Anand and the music by Ajay Atul are top-notch. The next best thing about the movie is the performances by all the three leads. Anushka Sharma looks beautiful and delivers well, though she seems like a caricature before you get used to her. Shah Rukh Khan is sure to charm his fans with his trademarks histrionics – he has a charming flamboyance, perfect comic timing and repeats his favorite tropes – wide-stretched arms and ’toote hue taare’. Honestly, he does not look like a physically stunted man – his body is not disproportionate or has smaller hands. He just looks like a man shrunk in his size by the ray gun from Honey I Shrunk the Kids! Kamal Haasan looked more believable in his 1989-hit, 'Appu Raja'. But SRK’s charm lets you overlook it. The other performance that made me sit up and take notice was by Katrina Kaif! I think after 'Namaste London', this was the first time she tried emoting. Playing an almost autobiographical role, she displays the insecurities and sadness that some of the biggest actors in our country go through. Though a relatively smaller role, she shows the vulnerabilities of a superstar ‘jiska poora UP deewana hai’, who puts up a happy façade for the outside world while crumbling within. Zeeshan Ayyub is the only one who stands out among the supporting cast and is fine as the supportive friend/sidekick.

The culprits here are writer Himanshu Sharma and director Aanand Rai, for making an insipid and uneven movie. If not for the audiences, they should have worked better at least for the hard-work put in by the leads. While the movie’s name itself says ZERO, thanks to the lead actors, I would rate this movie slightly higher!

Rating – 2/5 | Grade - C

-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)
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Maari 2 - Honest Movie Review

Having witnessed how the sequel to films like 'Saamy' and 'Endhiran' turned out this year, I was extremely skeptical about how Maari 2 was going to do. But I’m glad it turned out better than its predecessor. Maari 2 is a good entertainer to close out the year. With interesting new characters and a different side to the “Maari” persona added to the mix, this film is fun and entertaining.

Verdict - "A Joyride!"

I really liked how the script allowed every actor the opportunity to shine. Special shout out goes to Tovino Thomas, the antagonist of the film, who is miles better than the baddie from the prequel. With his Jamaican hairstyle, tattoos and “Thanatos” moniker, Thomas actually felt like a worthy adversary to Dhanush’s Maari. Sai Pallavi is a good actress and she gives a committed performance as Anandhi. You just can’t help but smile at her attempts to covet the protagonist and her comedy timing alongside Robo Shankar and Vinoth is commendable. There were also certain scenes where Maari is shown to be absolutely respectful of women and certain dialogues that were written for these scenes were spot on and relevant.

However, when Maari (the predecessor) came out in 2015, Dhanush’s role felt fresh. His character was that of an anti-hero that had more than a few shades of grey. It was refreshing to watch him strut his stuff without needing to cater to the typical Tamil hero mould. But I Guess when you talk about character development, there has to be new elements added to his disposition to keep the story interesting. So to watch a mild Maari, because of certain circumstances, feels rather old and reminiscent of other movies, in an ironic sort of way. This made the plot more predictable than it should be. Also, I personally did not feel that Dhanush and Sai Pallavi was a great match. While they are individually good actors, their chemistry felt less than 100%.

A masala entertainer usually does not have much to offer plot-wise. It’s the new dimensions added to them that makes or breaks a film. Maari 2 makes it and throws in the extra fittings. (Please feel free to disagree with me)

Rating - 3.25/5 | Grade - B

An Honest Movie Review by Siddharthen R
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Aquaman - Honest Movie Review

Believed as one of the last rays of hope in the downtrodden DC Extended Universe, Aquaman, directed by James Wan serves as the origin story of Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa's) character and stars Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe as the supporting cast in a superhero-fantasy-drama drenched in the Kingdom of Atlantis.

Verdict - "Crazy Ridiculous Fun!"

The storyline follows the journey of Arthur Curry, a half breed (who can swim and breathe in deep sea and also can drink beer and have fun as all normal people do) and the love child of Thomas Curry (from Maine, USA) and Queen Atlanna (from Atlantis). Sooner than later, Arthur gets oppressed by an overwhelming proposal from Mera and Vulko to visit and acquire his rightful throne as the King of Atlantis and put an end to his younger step-brother's belief to start a war with normal humans.

Let's dismiss the negatives first! For an origin story, especially with a gargantuan scale and countless possibilities (like Aquaman), setting up a storyline from scratch and introducing new worlds and characters to the mix seemed like an uphill battle for the writers accompanying James Wan in bringing his idea to reality. And, in the course of creating a visually appealing action-entertainer, the storytelling aspect of the film takes its toll, as the screenplay doesn't resemble fluidity from scene-to-scene. With more than two storylines developing at the same time in the midst of gigantic action set-pieces, the narrative moves on a decent pace and doesn't feel tedious, but, forgettability definitely plays a factor. However, thankfully, the plot is not as complex as the other DCEU movies like Dawn of Justice and Justice League, which is always a plus point.

Having said that, Aquaman delivers when it comes to bombastic action sequences. The entire narrative is jammed and overwhelmed with one fight scene after another, and they do not let you down at any moment. Owing to the fact that James Wan shoots spellbinding action scenes with his unique camera angles and compelling tracking shots with no fast cuts, the entire stack was incredibly enticing and entertaining enough to watch on the big screen. Glorifying the spectacle of action were the MARVELous visuals, which were, by far, the best I've seen in any film. The creative imagination that allowed Wan to build this aesthetically appealing world filled with the most ridiculously riveting aspects like a giant octopus playing the drums, people riding on seahorses and herculean crocodiles, the innovativeness felt endless and Wan excelled with his skill to make everything look out of this world and unlike anything you've ever seen before in any superhero film.

Additionally, the pivotal characters and the performances from the entire cast also play a significant role in the film. Jason Momoa fully embraced his character of Aquaman and portrayed it with utmost joy, charm and personality that he expresses everytime he's on-screen or off-screen. Most importantly, he transformed a character from something that is disparaged as a joke to more of a badass magnetic hero that we all deserve. Amber Heard as Mera had a crucial role to fill in the film, her addition as Aquaman's apprentice was peppered well throughout the entire script and her performance didn't feel substandard or poor. Nicole Kidman as Queen Atlanna had some of the best emotionally riveting scenes in the entire film and the supervillains Patrick Wilson as King Orm, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta commended their roles decently with minimal screen time.

Overall, Aquaman is a game changer extravagant with some of the most outrageous, ambitious and spectacular set designs and visuals which will ensorcel you to the fullest. James Wan took a script which shouldn't work or tough to present and offered something really special and monumental to watch on the big screen. Although the movie suffers at times with subpar storytelling issues, Aquaman will safeguard the sinking DCEU ship and will remain as a contemporary movie in years to come.

Rating - 3.5/5 | Grade - B+

-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal
Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks
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Kedarnath - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

This week’s release, Kedarnath, brings an interesting collaboration between two contrasting film personalities – director Abhishek Kapoor and writer Kanika Dhillon. I say contrasting because if you have followed Kanika Dhillon’s work, she gives a distinct voice to the female protagonist and requires abled filmmakers to bring that out beautifully. Abhishek Kapoor, though extremely ambitious in his scale and execution, slightly falters in building his characters emotionally. And both these traits are visible in Sara Ali Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput starrer, Kedarnath. Unfortunately, it is not a great blend.

Verdict - "High and Dry!"

The story was predictable from the trailer itself – an inter-faith love story set against the backdrop of the devastating Uttarakhand floods of 2013. Mandakini ‘Mukku’ (Sara Ali Khan) is a feisty, confident and a frank girl, born to a Pandit’s family in Kedarnath. Belonging to a well-to-do family that runs lodges in Kedarnath, she is an outlier. She cusses, picks up petty fights, has a sharp tongue that does not even spare her opportunistic father and openly woos the guy she likes. As one would expect, she falls for a Muslim Pitthoo (the ones who carry pilgrims on their back), Mansoor Khan (Sushant Singh Rajput). The love blooms in the backdrop of a picturesque Kedarnath, till the deluge hits them and wipes the city off.

As I mentioned, the story has a distinctive Kanika Dhillon stamp. Her stories always revolve around the female protagonists and includes a third wheel. Third wheels like Simran (Sonal Chauhan) in Size Zero, Vicky (Vikky Kaushal) in Manmarziyaan have had strong roles in her stories. Interestingly, while we do have a romantic antagonist in Kedarnath, I felt Brinda (Pooja Gor), who plays Mukku’s elder sister was the third wheel in this case. The writer deserves another brownie point for creating a sub-track on the friction between the two sisters, which adds to the main love story. Also, like Sweety (Anushka Shetty) in Size Zero and Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) in Manmarziyaan, Mukku is a girl who lives on her own terms. It was refreshing to see a female lead eyeing the male protagonist and wooing him. It could have looked awkward, given the rural setting, but the dialogues (also by Kanika Dhillon) give us some endearing moments. The progression of their love story, while taking Pitthoo rides from Kedarnath to Rambada have been developed well.

Making her debut, after repeated delays, Sara Ali Khan appears confident and makes a promising start. Dressed in best of the clothes, which seem out of place given where the movie is set, Sara looks comfortable in the character and delivers a variety of emotions, though she needs to work on her romantic lines. It is a well written role for an actor to make her debut with. Complementing her well, Sushant Singh Rajput, delivers a strong performance. His shy demeanor and hushed smiles in reply to a flirting Mukku, are a delight to watch. There are a few sequences where the religion of Mansoor and their communal difference are touched upon, but these never come out convincingly.

Director Abhishek Kapoor’s 2013-hit, Kai Po Che, set against a communally fragile Gujarat riots had a better weaving of the story of three friends in a communally disturbed environment. Here, it seems rather forced because during the development of the love track between Mukku and Mansoor, their different faiths never really comes out. Again, this is the fallacy of Abhishek Kapoor, where he assumes the audiences are emotionally connected and hence keeps certain things unsaid. And this is how the movie starts to crumble in the second half, where suddenly a love story is meddled with religion at first and then an overdrawn sequence of the Kedarnath floods. The tonality of the movie changed completely in the last 10 minutes, when it seemed more like a documentary on Kedarnath floods and not a love story that it began as. Not to mention, the graphics and VFX used for creating the flood scenes looked very mediocre. Giving credit where it is due, the music by Amit Trivedi and Cinematography by Tushar Ray are beautiful and bring Kedarnath alive. I almost packed by bags to visit this picturesque place!

Kedarnath had way too much cramped in a run time of 2 hours– a beautiful love story, inter-religion troubles, the rampant urbanization and the devastating deluge! If not for the strong performances by the leads, despite the deluge in the end, the movie may leave you high and dry.

My Rating – 3/5 | Grade - B

-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)
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2.0 - Honest Movie Review

Costing just over 540 crores, Shankar's tour de force 2.0 is India's biggest movie ever, in terms of budget, production and technical grandeur. Lead by Super Star Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar fulfils the role of the antagonist with Amy Jackson as the supporting character and Chitti's love interest. Also marketed as India's Biggest 3D Spectacle, 2.0 serves as the sequel to the 2010 Blockbuster Hit 'Enthiran' and is easily one of the most anticipated films in the past few years.

Verdict - "A Visual Spectacle!"

The film's storyline aligns with the unsound situation of modern-day India, a social-media and a selfie-clicking infused lifestyle which culminates to mental health issues and other environmental calamities. Pakshi Rajan (Akshay Kumar), the bird-friendly supervillain takes matters into his own hands by stealing every mobile phone in the city which develops into an immense government issue, who sooner or later seeks help from Vasee (Rajinikanth) and his andro-humanoid robot Chitti.

Written and directed by Shankar, it is evident that the storyline of the film is predictable from the glimpses of the trailers and the TV spots that we've already seen. The narrative explicitly moves in the same direction that we prevision and takes no twists and turns to elevate the uncertainty factor. But, for a two-hour fifty-minute runtime, the film doesn't feel like a chore to get through and manoeuvres at a decent pace. Furthermore, on the positive side, Director Shankar utilizes the opportunity of the film's wider reach and expresses a significant yet disturbing message about the current day's environment and subject matters in an engaging fashion.

However, the film's heart, years-long hard work and dedication were clearly exhibited in the visual effects and the special effects department which resulted in a product, unlike anything we've ever seen before in Indian Cinema. The extravagant scale and inventiveness of Shankar and his crew were magnificently brought to life on the silver-screen as every single frame and scene felt like monumental and splendid referring to the production design, cinematography and the creative outreach. On top of that, shot (not converted) in 3D, this film also succeeds in resisting a fierce competition to it's Hollywood counterparts when it comes to the immersive three-dimensional theatre experience rather than being a distraction.

Penultimately narrated only between a limited star cast, Rajinikanth doesn't let you down as far as his Super Star Swag goes. He super quirky one-liners, classic style and mannerisms were all on-point and were utilized flawlessly for entertainment purposes. Akshay Kumar's CGI-filled adversary role lacks emotional depth, but, was never a let-down relating to the thrilling action sequences against his challenger Chitti. On the other hand, Amy Jackson's casting choice was spot on and impeccable as she possesses all the right attributes needed for a female andro-humanoid robot; the good looks, robotic movements and minus the acting skills.

Overall, barring the mundane storyline which is easily predictable from a million miles away, 2.0 flourishes when it comes to its majestic visuals, ostentatious production design along with Shankar's rich visualization and ambitious imagination. The movie has all the right ingredients needed for a commercial entertainer, capped with an important social message and is a real treat watching it on the big screen in 3D format.

Rating - 3.5/5 | Grade - B+

-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
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Bohemian Rhapsody - Honest Movie Review

Celebrating the life of Rock's Greatest All-Time Entertainers, Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the inspiring yet involute life story of Queen's lead singer Farrokh Bulsara, professional known as Freddie Mercury. The film stars Emmy Award-winning Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek in the lead role and co-stars Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as the supporting cast with Bryan Singer as the spearheader of this prestigious project.

Verdict - "A Celebration!"

The movie commences by introducing us to Freddie's initial working days as a baggage handler at the Heathrow Airport and builds up by narrating his first taste with the band to selling out arenas throughout different cultures and countries to his emotional and distancing complications with his band, friends and loved ones. 

Nailing all the right notes essential for a typical biopic, the movie, by and large, serves more like a Greatest Hits Collection of Mercury rather than a comprehensive in-depth look of his arduous journey to preeminence and beyond. Screenwriter Anthony McCarten offers a storyline which is, on the whole, paint-by-numbers and predictable from start to finish. Contrary to that, if you contemplate this movie as a celebration rather than a detailed observation, these criticisms might surface as a nonsensical argument.

But, the positives overweighs the negatives, as the rocking Oscar-worthy performance of Rami Malek and the overall journey of Mercury is engaging enough to keep you glued to the silver screen. Coming from a conservative family in Zanzibar, Mercury inspired generations of artists and millions of fans worldwide with his talent, music, charisma and flamboyant persona. However, although moving forward on a straight line shorn of any abstract deviations, the film did a decent job unveiling the man behind-the-mask, Farrokh Bulsara. His intentions were pure, but the ignorant decisions he made from time to time labelled him as controversial or hardhearted and distanced him from his friends and family perpetually. The movie discusses every aspect of love and emotions, highs and lows, success and failure, and Malek triumphs every hurdle with ease by making his exemplary character likeable, relatable and above all the focal part of the entire movie.

Adding to the celebration aspect, similar to its awards season counterpart, 'A Star Is Born', this movie had that concert-like-feel especially the glorious, breathtaking climax which will make you clap, cheer, and absorb that unreal musical experience to the fullest. 

Overall, Bohemian Rhapsody is not perfect considering the screenwriting issues, but, it is, in fact, a virtuous display of Freddie Mercury and his extraordinary life. This is more than just a movie it's a Celebration!

Rating - 3.5/5 | Grade - B+

-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - Honest Movie Review

Verdict - "A Visual Treat!"

Being one of the most anticipated films of the year, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald pleases the followers and surprises the muggles by acting more like a channel for the development of the story rather than independently being one. With highly renowned actors in the cast, the performances are enticing to watch and the visual effects and cinematography, enchanting!

Jude Law playing Albus Dumbledore maintains the poise as well as the playfulness of the beloved character, and Johnny Depp is flawless as usual. Eddie Redmayne connects Newt to the audience much more effectively than the previous movie while Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol manage to cheer the audience between intense scenes. The most impressive and fulfilling part of the film is Ezra Miller and Zoe Kravitz who were successful in giving impeccable and acute performances which were important because of the anticipation of their characters from the books.

The story picks up right from the beginning with grand escapades and entrances but towards the climax leaves you confused much like in the later Harry Potter movies. A few expected characters like Nagini (Claudia Kim), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) are given less screen time and also Grindelwald resembles The Dark Lord a lot which is why it is hard to acknowledge his unique personality.

Enclosing I'd like to say that David Yates has done yet another spectacular job making this movie a visual treat and for JK Rowling, well, I have only one thing to say - the brightest writer of her age!

Rating - 4.5/5 | Grade - A+

-A Just Stream Editorial by Nikitha Kashyap aka WW
Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Instagram's Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Taxiwaala - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

Horror comedies seem to be the flavor of the season. After the recent stupendous success of ‘Stree’ in Hindi, director Rahul Sankrityan brings us a Telugu comedy thriller, Taxiwaala, starring Vijay Devarakonda in the lead. Just to jog your minds a bit, this genre has largely been successful in the Telugu Film Industry, though the movies have been rather sporadic. Most recently, notable movies in this genre were the 'Raju Gari Gadhi' series and 'Anando Brahma'. Taxiwaala, with a supernatural plot, falls in the same category, yet, is different in some ways.

Shiva (played by Vijay Devarakonda) moves to his uncle’s (played by Madhunandan) garage in Hyderabad, to earn a living. After dabbling at odd jobs, he buys an old Contessa car to turn into an Ola driver. Dressed in leather jackets and ganjees that flaunt his toned body, Shiva starts earning while also making a pretty doctor, Anu (played by Priyanka Jawalkar) fall for him. His life with his uncle and his English movie fanatic help, Hollywood (played by Vishnu) is turned upside down, when he experiences paranormal occurrences in his car. This leads to series of thrills, chills and a whole lot of laughter!

While I began discussing Taxiwaala in the same light as 'Anando Brahma' and 'Raju Gari Gadhi', it is similar in genre yet different in treatment. The movie has a very real, plain and quirky treatment of camera (by Sujith Sarang) and sound – reminiscent of one of the first Telugu movies in this genre, the 2005 sleeper-hit, 'Anukokunda Oka Roju'. Like 'Anukokunda Oka Roju', there are no cheap thrills or jarring background scores. Most of the thrills and laughs are induced organically, using the camera angles, lights and the performances. The movie is filled with little moments of laughter – band-aids on all their fingers for a hilariously stupid occult experiment, Shiva’s naïve ‘thanks’ to the ‘ghost’ in his car for steering it while he fell asleep or Hollywood (the boy who works for them) fidgeting with a bottle in the middle of a serious scene in the Hospital. It is such moments that bring this movie alive.

The movie also reminded me of the 2004 Hindi-disaster, 'Tarzan: The Wonder Car', where a car turns rogue with Ajay Devgn’s spirit trapped in it and seeks revenge. While the premise and the treatment are interesting, it is the execution where the movie slightly falters. The writing by Rahul Sankrityan takes time to set the base and the ride is pretty much fun after that. Well, almost. Until, there is a slight slump in the narrative in the second half, where the explanation of the paranormal activity takes centerstage. Even though it has a crisp run-time of a little over two hours, the second half seems a bit of drag, especially towards the climax, sprinkled generously with trademark Telugu masala.

Having said that, the movie is still an enjoyable ride thanks to the witty dialogues and superb performances. Vijay Devarakonda has already proven his mettle and he does not disappoint here either. While his swag, rugged look and clothes off a runway model seem a bit contrived for a cabbie, he uses his charm and wit to make the viewers overlook it. Another contrived sub-plot happens to be his love story with a doctor, which also seems highly unlikely in real life. Since this love plot is cleverly shown very little, it does not take away from the main premise. Vijay’s comic timing and acting chops are further elevated by his Babai, played by Madhunandan and Hollywood, played by Vishnu. These are not mere sidekicks, but very well woven into the plot. The camaraderie between the three is fun to watch. One of the funniest moments is the sequence where the three stealthily break into someone’s home. Like Laya in 'Amar Akbar Anthony', another actress makes a comeback this week – Kalyani. Along with another yesteryear actress, Yamuna, Kalyani gets an extended cameo and delivers whatever is expected of her. Malavika Nair is decent in her small part in the second half, when the supernatural part is explained.

While there are a few irregularities and hiccups in the second half, the movie manages to keep you entertained with its thrills and humor. If nothing else, Vijay Devarakonda’s rugged charm is enough to stay invested till the end.

Rating - 3/5 | Grade - B

-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Amar Akbar Anthony - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

Director Srinu Vaitla’s latest release, Amar Akbar Anthony, is an opportunity completely wasted. He uses his tried and tested template – a hero running the show, surrounded by a bunch of comedians and fighting against a gang of shrewd villains. Despite using all his formulaic tropes, the film is an incohesive drag, that tries every trick in the trade, yet, falls short of hitting the mark.

Verdict - "An Incohesive Drag!"

Amar Akbar Anthony (played by Ravi Teja), much like their Hindi namesakes, are three characters from three major religions. Amar, a Hindu, is the son of a pharmaceutical baron, who is destined to marry the daughter of his father’s business partner, Aishwarya (played by Ileana). The love birds are separated in their childhood by the four suave looking antagonists, who take over his father’s business. Akbar, a Muslim, speaks Urdu-laden Telugu, and is a Robinhood in New York – cheating the cheaters. Anthony, a Christian and thankfully the last one of these wretched characters, is a congenial and smiling psychiatrist. Just like any other Srinu Vaitla movie, the protagonists go against the treacherous antagonists, while being surrounded by a bunch of comedians, headlined by Sunil and Vennela Kishore.

The problem begins in the first 20 minutes itself, when the narrative feels like two different movies. The comedy track at ‘Whole Andhra and Telangana Association (WATA)’ seems completely unrelated to the parallel track involving the conniving villains, all of who look way better than Ravi Teja in their salt-and-pepper looks. Ignoring the logics (or the lack of it), Srinu Vaitla’s movies have always been madcap comedies, which keep the audiences entertained throughout. This is where Amar Akbar Anthony fails miserably. While the comedy does evoke a few laughs, it remains underwhelming in comparison to his previous works in Ready, Dookudu, Dhee or King (actually, any movie before Aagadu)! Also, the insipid dialogues feel nauseating. Sample this – one of the antagonists says, “Not to expect badness from bad people is madness”, which is quickly translated into Telugu by his partner in crime, “Chaddavadi degara chaddatanam expect cheyakapovadam pichhitanam’! It’s almost 2019 and its high time we are spared of such nonsensical dialogues.

One of my major contentions was Ravi Teja’s mysterious demeanor and performance. For the longest time in the beginning, he makes you wonder if he is playing a blind character again, after Raja- The Great. He stares into oblivion, keeps a straight face for most part of his performance and surprisingly, barely does he emote! (If this frozen face and staring gaze is due to a medical condition in his real life, my apologies!) Even his impeccable comic timing, which is usually on point, is faltering in this movie. He comes across as an uncomfortable hero amid a chaotic narrative. Ileana, making her comeback to Telugu movies, looks healthier than before and has dubbed for herself for the first time. This is all one can say about her, because that is all that she brings to the table. I wish we saw the sparks that were there between the two in Kick, but even that ends in a disappointment here.

Giving credit where its due, the cinematography and the casting of actors for comic relief were pretty good. Venkat C Dileep captures New York in all its glory and makes the frames comes alive. The supporting cast, especially Vennela Kishore as the comedian and Abhimanyu Singh as the conniving cop, are quite good. There are moments of hilarity, especially the sequences involving a religious leader, Junior Paul. Sunil, who appears pretty late in the movie, misses his charm but manages to be decent. It was surprising to see Laya in a movie after a long time, and equally shocking to see her get a completely inconsequential and small part. Again, another opportunity wasted.  

We have seen psychological angles being used in movies like Aparichitudu and Chandramukhi, but it feels like a quick fix in this movie, without adding much to the plot or the narrative. Srinu Vaitla seems to be stuck in the early 2000s, and he needs to evolve with the changing audiences. If he doesn’t, he is not going to find many takers again.

Rating – 1.5/5 | Grade - D+

-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Thugs of Hindostan - Honest Movie Review

Directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya, YRF's latest 300 crore outing Thugs of Hindostan, continues the Bollywood's moneymaking tradition of producing grand-epic films once or maybe twice a year. Consistency doesn't seem a concerning factor here, as the audience will, by and large, feel tickled when they're affectionately served with flamboyant trailers, multiword genre, prolific star cast, extensive social media marketing and a sexy Katrina Kaif who seem to have a problem putting on extra clothes.

Verdict - "Boring! Disappointing! Frustrating!"

Set in the late 1700s, the film's storyline follows the reign of John Clive (Lloyd Owen), a generic, cold-blooded and an easily manipulated English Officer, who is slowly but conventionally, capturing Indian Territories one after the other. Soon after Clive executes and captures her turf, a young Zafira takes off with Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) and his eagle buddy before getting caught. Eleven years later, now an adolescent highly-skilled archer and a bungee jumping expert Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) plots for revenge against Clive alongside her old-grimy sword-fighting specialist (Bachchan Saab), now hailed as Azaad.

In simple words, we can contemplate Thugs of Hindostan (The Film) as a battleship, struck by lightning, dynamited by other adversary warships and submerged underwater in a sea of blood-soaked negatives. So, let's pick apart the drawbacks of the film one by one. The plot, which, as expected, is predictable for the most part and is a perfect blend between 'Point Break (1991)', 'Pirates of the Carribean' and a million other movies you've already seen before. But, that's not the worst part. Vijay Krishna Acharya as a writer/storyteller failed twice before (with 'Tashan' and 'Dhoom 3') and dropped the ball once again with TOH. Similar to Remo D'Souza, the guy can shoot a bombastic scene which is lit, choreographed and produced nicely, but, the seamless transition and the crisscrossing of the storyline between these theatrical episodes was utterly non-existent. It honestly felt like a bunch of ridiculousness knit together with the intention of making an entertaining movie.

Marketed as an Action/Adventure/Drama, this film is overbrimmed to the fullest extent with action sequences, so much to a point where you can pause every five seconds of the movie, take a screengrab and put it on a billboard, and that's a compliment! As I said earlier, the composition and choreography behind each shot, especially the battle scenes, were proficient enough to watch them on a big screen. But, unlike Tollywood's magnum opus 'Baahubali', the combat scenes had no creative thinking or artistic imagination behind them and just felt like a myriad of sword fights with distinct knife-edged metal on metal sounds.

The characters and the performances serve as another disadvantage to the film. Aamir Khan's character Firangi Mallah felt like less charismatic and a not-so-funny rip-off of Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Carribean. Amitabh Bachchan and his stunt double deserve appreciation for taking the physical risk in most cases but were thwarted by a generic heroic character. Fatima Sana Shaikh, who for the most part, designated to intense standoffs, had very little to speak and was wasted despite having an interesting story arc. Katrina Kaif, on the other hand, was treated like a sensuous ghost of the film, who only appears to provide "entertainment" with her commendable dancing skills, a glittery attire, and a total screen time of fewer than fifteen minutes. That's about it!

Overall, exaggerated with mammoth expectations, a year-long hype and TV spots on every other channel, Thugs of Hindostan is a perfect example and display of why you shouldn't hop on the 'Baahubali' bandwagon with a terrible script and a lousy storyteller like Vijay Krishna Acharya. This movie is a disappointment and will, no doubt, contend with 'Race 3' for the #1 spot, not the best but, for the worst.

Rating - 1.5/5 | Grade - D+

-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Sarkar - Honest Movie Review

To all you neutral fans and general audiences, expecting a ‘Thuppaki’ or ‘Kaththi’ from this blockbuster combo of Vijay-A.R. Murugadoss, I’m sorry to say that Sarkar might disappoint you. Pre-release problems are no alien to Vijay and his films, yet a problem occurred this time in form of an assistant director Varun Rajendran complaining against A.R.Murugadoss for plagiarism. After some sordid fights and moving to court, Murugadoss agreed for compensation and the movie had a 30-second slide thanking the assistant director.

Verdict - “A Huge Letdown!”

The storyline of Sarkar is about a wealthy CEO, Sundar Ramasamy nicknamed as ‘Corporate Monster’ returning to Chennai to cast his vote for Tamilnadu legislative assembly election, only to find that someone has already cast his vote. Disappointed by this felonious act he decides to fight back the corrupt politician Masilamani (Karuppaiah) and his political party. 

Okay, with that being the plot of the movie, I wondered why they went till High Court for such a simple and predictable story. They could have easily settled the matter among themselves. With so much pre-release hype created, I expected something different from A.R.Murugadoss but comparing  Sarkar with his previous two films starring Vijay, this is dull, dreary and an inferior piece of work.

I appreciate ARM for throwing light on a lesser know Indian Law, Section 49P in The Conduct of Elections Rules and educating the people about their Right to Vote. For me the problem was with the screenplay, I don’t know why but I couldn’t connect with the movie and the scenes, they lacked a punch and didn’t create much impact on me. I would also blame ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay for it, as he performed his role insufficiently. 

Remember the 'Kaththi' or 'Mersal' climax, where Vijay boldly criticizes the ruling government through his thought-provoking speech? That spark is long gone and he has gone back to the days of ‘Vettaikaran’. He has overdone certain scenes, with a lot of enthusiasm that it couldn’t register on the audience because of his displeasing expressions and body language. Also, the movie tried to parody the ruling government of Tamilnadu, as certain scenes could be related to some major political event that had happened. Even with that, they have failed unlike Director Anand Shankar’s ‘NOTA’ where he satirizes the Government with his well-written screenplay.

It is better to avoid a female lead right than just making them stand like a junior artist next to a hero. It was pathetic to watch Keerthy Suresh being wasted as her total screen time including a not-so-needed song was less than 10 minutes. Being a Rahmaniac, I felt A.R.Rahman’s songs and background score with Qutub-E-Kripa was mediocre. 

Without further whining, I would like to conclude by saying that ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay has started his political journey and Sarkar serves as the platform for it. Had A.R.Murugadoss worked more on the script, finely tuned it in a proper way and Vijay not overplayed his role, they could have repeated their magic.

Rating – 2.5/5 | Grade – C+

-An Honest Movie Review by Nirmal Raj aka AK (@Nirmalraj2911)
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Namaste England - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

Director Vipul Shah’s second offering in the ‘Namaste’ franchise, Namaste England, is a baffling example of reputed names coming together to create an extremely insipid and nauseating fare. Writer Ritesh Shah, who has written movies like 'Pink', 'Chef' and 'Raid', has co-written this incoherent and disjoined story of Punjab flying to London. Casting director Honey Trehan, whose previous work boasts of casting strong ensembles in movies like 'Kaminey', 'Fukrey' and 'Talvar', casts the most disinterested bunch of actors who make Arjun Kapoor’s performance seem Oscar worthy! Even director Vipul Shah’s passable filmography highlights his not so great skills, but some of his previous movies were bearable thanks to its leading cast. Sadly, even they let him down here.

An ambitious Punjabi girl, Jasmeet (played by Parineeti Chopra), aspires to be a jewelry designer but is oppressed by her patriarchal family. She uses her bunch of friends and boyfriend, Param (played by Arjun Kapoor), to get out of her house and work. Upon finding of their daughter’s deceit, they decide to get her married to Param. Due to the ridiculous turn of events, she convinces Param to relocate to London (though she could have relocated to Delhi, Chennai or Timbuktu and it would have made no difference). Now, do not even try looking for logic here because there isn’t any. So, due to yet another ridiculous subplot, Param cannot get a visa and hence, a desperate Jasmeet leaves him and flies to London. Just when you think good riddance, the makers remind you that you are just halfway through this excruciating emotionless saga.

Their lack of conviction or common sense is evidently visible in almost every sequence. Param and Jasmeet exchange besotted looks from Dussera to Diwali to Holi, but Param says, ’Punjab mein pyaar toh doosro ki shaadiyo mein hi hota hai’. So, out of the blue, there is a wedding. How? Don’t ask! A rich, elite, supposed seductress meets a ‘Gabru Punjabi Munda’ and decides the next minute to marry him. How? Don’t ask! A guy sharing a dingy shanty in London and shown to be living in the bathroom there, steps out in perfectly gelled hair and tuxedos, sweeping rich girls off their feet. How? Don’t even ask!! The makers seem to have answered all these with just one phrase – Who cares?! Vipul Shah repeats the same tropes from 'Namaste London' – a smart girl, a lovelorn naïve guy, a patriotic monologue in London and a sad song by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan! But, his poor directorial skills in 'Namaste London' were overshadowed by good performances by the ensemble, especially Katrina Kaif. It remains Katrina Kaif’s only memorable performance as an actor and reprising the same Jasmeet, Parineeti Chopra makes this a poor caricature. While Katrina’s Jasmeet was flawed and shrewd, she still evoked some empathy and connect. Parineeti makes a shoddy caricature of Jasmeet, with a below average performance and awful dialogue delivery in emotional scenes. It is probably her worst performance till date.

Arjun Kapoor does not have a great filmography to boast of, and he adds yet another poorly acted role to the list. Akshay Kumar had a naughty and lustful swag to his character in Namaste London. Here, Arjun repeatedly says ‘Tumhe dekhke mere dil mein aisi aisi feelings aa rahi hai ki kuch ho jaega’ and you still find it hard to believe. The love story between the leads is so poorly developed in the first 10 minutes of the movie, that the audiences do not connect with them at all. There is no sympathy evoked for his difficult journey to London, travelling through half the world. As I mentioned earlier, the rest of the cast is a bunch of novices who have no weight in their characters nor have any acting chops. Aditya Seal and Dijana Dejanovic as the lead’s partners in London look good but get poorly written characters with no scope to perform. As if the main plot was not tiring enough, there are useless subplots talking about illegal immigrants, dark side of patriarchy and over-the-top nationalism – none of them required in the central story line!

A movie that lacks a tight script, good dialogues, abled craft of filmmaking and captivating performances deserves not to be rated at all. At a time when small budget movies are pushing the boundaries with innovative content, this is a major let down. With nothing really working in the movie, except may be the clothes that the leads wear, I do not think it deserves anything on a scale of 1 to 5.

My Rating – 0/5 | Grade - B+ (A Disaster Piece!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Badhaai Ho - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

You know you are in for a good ride when a movie opens in a middle-class household, with a bickering mother-in-law and subtle humor over daily household chores. In ‘Badhaai Ho’, debutante director Amit Ravindernath Sharma and his writers Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor create a funny and believable canvas filled with real characters that are stuck in a supposedly embarrassing, yet hilarious situation – when the middle-aged couple of the family get pregnant!

Verdict - "A Delectable Fare!"

A young boy from a middle-class family, Nakul Kaushik (played by Ayushmann Khurrana), has a perfect life. A doting family, an understanding girlfriend and a high-flying career. His life seemingly crumbles down when he discovers his middle-aged parents (played by Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta) are expecting a child, 25 years after he was born! What ensues is hilarious ride of children feeling contempt for their parents and the society adding insult to injury. Adding to their woes is the matriarch of the family, Dadi (played by Surekha Sikri), whose taunts leave you in splits. His colleague and girlfriend, Renee (played by Sanya Malhotra) bears the brunt of this commotion and so does her elite IAS mother (played by Sheeba Chaddha).

Firstly, full points to the art director and costume designers for authentically setting up a typical middle-class household, replete with women of the neighborhood bonding over Tambola after a Satsang, crockery neatly stacked in a glass cupboard and the drawing room doubling up as the room for the granny in the house. The makers do not take time in setting up the theme and quickly get to the point, which reflects in the crisp runtime of the movie as well. Director Amit Sharma beautifully exploits his cinematographer, Sanu Varghese, to create frames that come alive on screen. The congested and tiny house becomes the vibrant epicenter of this hysterical entertainer, only because of the brilliant shots. These frames are further lifted by the witty writing by Akshat Ghildial, where humour is mostly understated. Some of the best examples of the brilliant writing are the hilarious scenes where an awkward Gajraj Rao breaks the news at home and the one where Dadi, played stupendously by Surekha Sikri, rebukes her daughter and elder daughter-in-law at a wedding. Also, it was good to see an organic progression of the story, sans major melodrama. The taboo surrounding an elderly couple conceiving a child, despite having a son of marriageable age, is normalized delicately without being over the top.

As is the case with any such content-driven movies, it is the actors who bring these character to life! Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta are perfectly cast as the embarrassed couple, never letting their characters slip into farcical shame. Ayushmann Khurrana, who has become a flagbearer of sorts for this kind of cinema, is in top form and uses his charm and comic timing in equal measures. Supporting him well in a relatively smaller part is Sanya Malhotra and her mother, Sheeba Chaddha, who provide ample support to the narrative. Surekha Sikri as Dadi, is hilarious and one of the most endearing characters for a granny written in Hindi cinema in recent times. Also, it was fun to watch all the characters speak in chaste western UP dialect, adding another dimension to their characters.

Over the last few years, content-driven stories from the small towns or inspired by the middle-class folks have fancied filmmakers in Bollywood. Badhaai Ho takes a similar route as ‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’ and picks a taboo topic. With a similar plot as Steve Martin’s 1995 comedy, ‘Father of the Bride 2’, Badhaai Ho uses a topic perceived as embarrassing and injects comedy in right measures, to create a delectable fare.

My Rating – 3.5/5 | Grade - B+ (A Perefect Weekend Pick!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Vada Chennai - Honest Movie Review

‘Jeikurom’o Illaiyo...Modhala Sanda Seiyanum!’ opines Anbu when he earns the enmity of other gangsters. Vada Chennai is the result when you bring together two National Award Winners for a film once again. It is intense, rugged and sticks true to its nature. Vada Chennai is the tale of two gangsters Guna (Samuthirakani) and Senthil (Kishore) who run their illegal business along the coastal line area of North Chennai and how the life of Anbu (Dhanush) interweaves with theirs in such a manner as not to be easily separated. 

Verdict - “Raw! Gritty! Authentic!

Now, the story isn’t completely about Anbu and his life with the gangsters. Instead, the character of Dhanush is entangled into the main plot and it is not a hero-centric film as the story and the other characters play a pivotal role. Vetrimaaran, who is known for his screenplay and also won a National Award had composed the film with much competence as the characters are neatly sketched and every scene was crucial in building the movie. I loved the way the story took time to construct itself onscreen, running on its own pace and most importantly there isn’t any mind-numbing ridiculous songs or clichéd romantic scenes to disrupt the flow. The narrative of the film was in such a way that if something happens on screen, like a murder, it was explained later on in the film without a plot hole. So, there is a steady search for answers for the audience as they weren’t foreseeable. 

The cast of the film was a perfect selection, be it Samuthirakani or Kishore or Daniel Balaji, Vetrimaran has roped in the ‘Best’ for the movie. Andrea Jeremiah unsurprisingly steals the show, yet another vital character and she's impressive as always. The impact she created when uttering the dialogue ‘Enna Patha Thevdiya Mari Iruka?’ is enormous. But, the stand out characters for me was Rajan played by the ace-director Ameer. His character had an emotional narrative which was very interesting to watch.

On an interesting note, I found a similarity and contrast in concept between Vada Chennai and Pa. Ranjith’s ‘Kaala’. First, let me tell you about the similarity, which was, both the films are primarily or basically is about the discrimination of downtrodden and the politicians’ aim of removing them from their own place. Kaala Seth (Rajni) from Kaala and Rajan (Ameer) from Vada Chennai voices for the people, stand against the government and fight for their rights. The contrast in concept which I mentioned is the way both characters fight for their land. What Kaala said that the people from slums are not what Vada Chennai is. Maybe, the timeline in which both movies are set in might answer the contrariness. 

Vetrimaaran seems to not compromise in anything for making the film utterly realistic. They even went for ‘Adults Only’ certification from the censor board without muting the unparliamentary words which was a bold attempt cause that made the film more native. Another pillar to the already astonishing film was Santhosh Narayanan (SaNa) and his pulsating background score. As I mentioned earlier, there weren't dance numbers or a hero introduction song which films of this genre generally tend to have. Instead, the songs blended well with the scenes. SaNa did know when to use the background score, thereby elevating the film on a tremendous level. 

A movie without a flaw? I would dare to say, Vada Chennai is undoubtedly the best movie of 2018. All the fans of ‘Pudhupettai’, who were asking for its sequel, Dhanush is back again but as Anbu. Congregated with a gripping narrative, intriguing characters, impressive performances and overall some masterful storytelling this movie is Cinematic Brilliance.

My Rating – 4.5/5 | Grade – A+ (Don’t Dare to Miss It!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Nirmal Raj aka AK (@Nirmalraj2911)
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A Star Is Born - Honest Movie Review

Directed and starring alongside Pop Megastar Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper's directorial debut A Star Is Born is a modern-day retelling of the 1937 film of the same name and co-stars notable and elite performers like Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay alongside a promising young talent Anthony Ramos.

Verdict - "A Beautiful and a Tear-Jerking Story!"

The story of the film narrates the journey of Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a beloved superstar singer but a reckless alcoholic and a drug addict. Maine runs across Ally (Lady Gaga), a day job worker and a discouraged singer, at a drag bar where he sees her perform and fells in love with her incredible singing talent. After exchanging a conversation with her in person, Maine recruits her into his band, and eventually, Ally receives multiple offers to record her first album and experiences success across every aspect. In the midst of her glory and fame, Jackson, on the other hand, deteriorates from raging alcoholism which affects their healthy relationship romantically and professionally.

Having already been told three times before in 1937, 54 and 76, the story of this A Star Is Born is, for the most part, predictable, but Cooper along with his co-screenwriters Eric Roth and Will Fetters does a decent enough job to keep the movie fresh and captivating. But, at times, the plot tries to wane in the background, thanks to the electrifying chemistry between the two main leads. And that brings me to the primary and the most intriguing aspect of the film, the alluring scenes between Cooper and Gaga. The movie never tries to fortake anything away from both the characters as their lengthy yet very compelling moments of love, anger and affection are what makes it feel poignant and very much sentimental.

Now, making the characters relatable is a task, but Cooper takes it up a notch by making his hard to connect dipsomaniac character engaging. His role felt authentic and pitiful, everything from his deep-toned voice, messy look to his wrinkled clothes made me feel sorry for the man, and Cooper gives his career-best performance as a disgruntled dwindling rockstar. Accompanied by his stellar acting display is Lady Gaga who gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the innocent yet supremely-talented singer, caring girlfriend and overall an inspiring individual. As a real-life singer/songwriter (who might have a similar path to stardom as Ally), Gaga impresses not only with her astounding singing talent but also with her phenomenal acting ability which surprised everybody in the audience. She gives an equally valiant performance as Cooper and will no doubt be a frontrunner for the Best Actress category.

Furthermore, Bradley Cooper, who fills five different roles in the film as the actor, director, screenwriter, guitarist and singer, does a heroic job by putting together a movie with marvellous skill and perfection. Crafting subtle changes to an already told story, Cooper made it seem all seamless by making the film follow a consistent tone throughout its runtime. Moreover, the music and the songs all through were breathtaking to watch and listen as it felt like I'm sitting in a concert with Gaga and Cooper, kudos to the sound mixing department there.

Overall, A Star Is Born tells a beautiful and a tear-jerking story of a polar opposite couple in the most convincing way possible. The chemistry and the scenes between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper were the most riveting parts of the film along with their dominating performances. I teared up a couple of times watching this movie, and that doesn't happen very often.

My Rating - 3.75/5 | Grade - B+ (Highly Entertaining!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
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First Man - Honest Movie Review

Directed by the Youngest Academy Award-Winning Director Damien Chazelle, First Man stars Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy in the lead roles and chronicles the inspiring yet complex journey of the First Man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong. The storyline gets underway in the year 1961 and takes us through the eight-year journey of Neil Armstrong till the Apollo 11 mission. It delves into the personal life of Armstrong, him dealing with the loss of his young child, getting promoted from a test pilot to the Mission Commander, and his complicated relationship with his wife, friends and family.

Verdict - "A Heart-Stirring Theatre Experience!"

Damien Chazelle is without a doubt, the main star of the film. Right from the opening scene, Chazelle locks you in with his incredible ability to make you feel that you're right there sitting next to Armstrong in his hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft. The most captivating aspect that Chazelle stands by throughout the runtime is not sugar coating the film. He doesn't display the epicness of space-travel as we saw in movies like 'Apollo 13' or 'Gravity' nor does he use extravagant shots of the Moon or the Earth to make us believe that it's all happiness and joy comprised in travelling to the ether. His unique filmmaking style helps the movie to feel much raw as every scene including the spaceships felt real, brutal and visceral accompanied by some extraordinary camera work by Cinematographer Linus Sandgren who uses the shaky cam gimmick in the right away and gave the movie more of a documentary look than a space drama.

But the only drawback of the film lies within the protagonist's character which slows down the pace a bit. Neil Armstrong is a very professional, stubborn and has his separate ways of dealing with his family problems or the passing of his young daughter. That might not be relatable or engaging to the audience member as we do not see Armstrong getting disturbed emotionally with his past experiences nor having a healthy conversation with his concerned wife. However, it is what it is, and as I stated before, Chazelle doesn't try to get you sympathetically connected to his focal characters. He makes it very clear that it's not an easy journey for anyone involved and sacrifices were over it.

Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy's performances were yet another plus point for the movie. Gosling, similar to his previous outings in 'Blade Runner 2049' or 'Drive' is a silent murmuring guy, but he had a wide range of emotions to go through from anguish, aggravation and self-confidence. Foy, on the other hand, did her part exceptionally well as the stern mother of two kids and the fretful wife of Armstrong. Her character clocked up a substantial chunk of the storyline, and it never felt mundane to watch.

Overall, First Man is unlike any space movie I've ever seen before. It's harsh, emotional, gut-wrenching and the most realistic take in this genre. Everything from Chazelle's remarkable direction, breathtaking camera work, soothing background music and the performances from the lead actors worked and is most definitely a heart-stirring theatre experience.

My Rating - 4/5 | Grade - A (The Best One Around!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
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