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Sacred Games Review: Dense! Gritty! Authentic!

Starring - Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Radhika Apte
Director - Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane
Genre - Crime/Thriller
Streaming Platform - Netflix 

Introduction

Directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane (two directors who are known for their unorthodox and authentic storytelling), Sacred Games is Netflix's first Indian Web Television Series and is an adaptation of Vikram Chandra's 2006 novel of the same name. Starring few of the biggest names in Bollywood Film Industry, this crime based thriller was released globally on July 6th in 190 countries and is a multi-lingual series with characters talking in English, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, and Marathi.

Set in the tinsel town of India, Mumbai, the storyline kicks off with the return of Ganesh Gaitonde (infamous gangster of the 80's and 90's) [Nawazuddin Siddiqui] as he approaches Police Officer Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) to warn him about a threat that will devastate the city and alerts him that he has only 25 days left to salvage. The eight-episode series tells us more about the threat and how it is intervened and associated with the narrative which is far more deep, complex and mortifying.

Rationalization

One of the main reasons why this series worked remarkably on web television is because of the liberty it can take to articulate the story in an authentic way. The sex, violence, swear words used in this series is unlike anything I've ever seen before and would've been easily been censored on the silver screen or on network television. That's the beauty of streaming services like Netflix and directors Kashyap and Motwane tremendously handled the opportunity by not backing down in any aspect. 

Furthermore, another significant highlight of this complete series is the masterful storytelling. Writers Smita Singh, Vasant Nath, and Varun Grover had done an exceptional job adapting the story and the directors accomplished their job by executing it with perfection. Apart from being gritty and authentic, the storyline had numerous characters, subplots, and moving pieces which are convoluted to exercise. The series jumps from one timeline to another, intercedes itself with real-life political and terrorist incidents all through and editor Aarti Bajaj put together what seems to be a complex narrative to a skillfully comprehensible eight-hour riveting drama.

But, even after binging the series for the second time, my mind is still very much riddled with questions about how, why or when certain things about a particular character or scene happened, cause this season ended with a cliffhanger and hopefully, season two (if it happens) will connect all the loose ends which are left hanging.

Also, the characters were even more interesting. Saif Ali Khan (who I should appreciate for making interesting choices with his career) had a compelling story arc from a cop who is often chocked by the system to a human being trying to understand his role and concurrently showing some courage to face certain obstacles. Nawazuddin Siddiqui almost made his unhuman anti-hero character likable as he unsurprisingly steals the show in everything that he's in these days. Radhika Apte plays yet another vital character and she's impressive as always. But, the stand out characters for me at least are Constable Katekar and Kukoo played by Jitendra Joshi and Kubra Sait respectively. Both their characters had an emotional narrative which is very interesting to watch.

Conclusion

Nevertheless, Sacred Games is dense, gritty, authentic and is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Assembled with a gripping narrative, intriguing characters, impressive performances and overall some masterful storytelling this series is worth binging and deserves all your time and attention right now.

-A Just Stream Editorial by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Instagram's Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Lust Stories (Netflix) - Honest Movie Review

Verdict - "Breaking Ground!"

Distributed and released by the global streaming leader Netflix, Lust Stories is an anthology film consisting of four short stories based on love, lust, honesty, status, misery, and desire. Directed by the some of the most celebrated filmmakers in Bollywood (Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar), this film breaks new ground and highlights few significant problems and complications that men and (especially) women face in their relationships and everyday life.

Let's briefly discuss the storyline of the four short films without spoiling anything. Kashyap's film starring Radhika Apte and Akash Thosar tells the story about an unusual relationship between a college teacher and a student and trades with the subject of honesty. Zoya's short cruises on the lines of class and dignity and stars Bhumi Pednekar as a housemaid and Neil Bhoopalam as an unmarried day job worker. Dibakar's movie sees Manisha Koirala having an extramarital affair with Jaideep Ahlawat and also explores her reasons for not liking her husband's behavior and attitude. Finally, Karan's film delves into the life of a newly-married couple Kiara Advani and Vicky Kaushal and emphasizes the topics of sex being one-sided, women being confined to a traditional married life and more.

What makes this movie special is the significant directive it's trying to express. We live in a fast-growing world where we often forget about basic things in life which are important. Like in Kashyap's film Radhika Apte's character expects the same amount of honesty and transparency from her friend, but she gets upset and goes paranoid when he starts to lie to her. Dignity, despair, aggravation and even Karan's film tells a substantial story about how women have the same desire as men and so on. Also, this film breaks new boundaries when it comes to talking, expressing and opening (not in a vulgar way) about sex which is still considered as a taboo in India. 

Centered around four different female protagonists, the performances from every one of them were great. Radhika Apte is the most notable one as she embodied and portrayed the psychotic part of her character tremendously. Kiara Advani is also another pleasant surprise as her character was by far the likable and relatable one among others.

Overall, Lust Stories had an imperative and a distinctive message to share in each of its four films and was also remarkably narrated and directed. Go watch this film as this is one of the many steps that Indian Cinema is taking to divert itself from the commercial genre.

My Rating - 3.5/5 | -An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Pad Man - Honest Movie Review

Starring Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte in the lead roles, Pad Man is loosely based on the real-life story of Coimbatore based Social Entrepreneur Padma Shri Arunachalam Muruganantham who excelled with his innovation of affordable sanitary pads in India.

As you guys already knew about the primary storyline (I'm assuming that you've seen the trailers) of the film, let's quickly move on to the overall positives. 

First off, I should indeed admire Akshay Kumar, R. Balki, and Twinkle Khanna for producing a significant film with an influential subject which is a taboo in India. As Akshay Kumar stated, he didn't want to turn this film into a documentary but considered to make it commercial with the intention of reaching a wider audience and I honestly appreciate his reasoning.

If you've seen his earlier films, you should be familiar with Balki's work and the way he gets you emotionally invested in his characters. During the course of the film, I sometimes found myself tearing up a little and that only transpired because I'm fully rooting for the lead characters which I consider as the major plus points for the film.

As I always mumble in most of my reviews, when the characters are properly developed and were given enough character moments, we naturally root and get behind them which in turn favors the film during the emotionally impactful or climactic scenes. Furthermore, the performances should also aid the well-written characters and Akshay Kumar along with Radhika Apte was fantastic in their roles.

Akshay Kumar continues to surprise me not only with his unique choice of films but also with his magnificent character work and performance. His normal-courteous-average look made his character more relatable as he carried his innocent yet intellectual persona flawlessly. Likewise, Radhika Apte carries on to mesmerize everyone with her remarkable performance and is one of the only few actors who prefer content over masala and I should applaud her for that.

On the other side, they're a few negatives, the screenplay by R. Balki and Swanand Kirkire was sub-par which affected the pace of the film primarily in the first half that felt a bit stretched out. Also, we're well aware that 70% of the film was fictionalized and I normally don't complain when the dramatized storyline blends well with the actual storyline. But, more or less, the screenwriters fizzled out in this area when a few things happen which are easily convenient to the storyline as they're ridiculous to watch. Likewise, the sub-plot involving Sonam Kapoor's character and her addition to the film felt undercooked and uninteresting.

Overall, discounting all the negatives, Pad Man is a significant film with a strong influential message which should be articulated to everyone especially to the people living in the rural areas who still, to this day feel that menstrual cycle is something taboo. Kudos to all the producers and the crew for putting in the effort to deliver a much-needed message that will only improve our country's acumen.

My Rating - 3/25/5 | Grade - B (Entertaining! With Few Noticeable Flaws!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)

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Instant Movie Review #29 (Manjhi: The Mountain Man)

Ketan Mehta's - "Manjhi: The Mountain Man"

Positives:
1) Story 
2) Performances

Negatives:
1) Superfluous emotional drama

Introduction and Plot: Narrating an incredible real life story of  Dashrath Manjhi that recounts the struggle of a laborer from the suburbs from Gehlaur village in Bihar, who carved a path through a mountain with a hammer and a chisel for 22 years with the intention of a creating a trouble-free route from his village to the nearby town.

Analysis: First off, getting to know and learn about a diligent person with an astounding story who undoubtedly dedicated everything in his life to complete an insurmountable task was completely inspiring and fascinating.

With that being said, the biggest drawback I can point out is the unneeded emotional angle between lead actors that made the film look unreal and it lacked the pragmatic vibe. Also, few heartening situations were ended very abruptly where the story felt significant and director Ketan Mehta would've focused a lot more in these particular scenes.

Verdict: Nevertheless, Manjhi is indubitably an important movie in terms of introducing an incredible person and his heartwarming to all of us. But the fictional elements felt very generic and illusory as it damaged the tone of the movie by a large-scale.

My Rating - 2.5/5
Grade - C+ (It deserves your attention for a while!)
-By Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)

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Instant Movie Review #21 (Lion)

Satyadeva's - "Lion"

Positives:
1) NBK's performance
2) Dialogues
3) Sub plots

Negatives:
1) Screenplay and Direction
2) Music
3) Dim-witted villain

Story: Disoriented mentally with two different characters, the main narrative commences with Bose (NBK) struggling to find his real identity after recuperating from a major head injury which connects to his past.

Directions and Screenplay: Debutant director, Satyadeva's screenplay is surely my major concern about the movie, his distinct approach felt unique with all the subplots, but the exhilarating factor was totally missing in the first half and the second half has been just a bummer.

Performances: This movie is undeniably a one man show, NBK's over-the-top dialogues, and his outrageous performance certainly established the movie really well and his compelling screen presence was always fun to watch.

Verdict: Altogether, Lion missed out all the core ingredients of a solid family entertainer and you may have to think twice before taking this roller coaster ride.

My Rating - 2/5
Grade - C (Meh! Probably a rental)
-By Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)

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Hunterrr - Movie Review

Verdict - "A guaranteed disappointment."

It's quite clear to root for an amusing and a campy guy like Hunter and the same goes to the movie, with a beguiling premise and an appealing trailer, Hunterrr seized an enormous attention among the audience with uncertainty and was expected to hugely entertain.

Mandar Ponkshe (Gulshan Devaiya) is a player and has an obsessive habit of wooing girls in his ordinary life which is certainly not perceived well by his well-wishers as they suggest him to be mature and get married soon. 

Soon after, in the pursuit of meeting an appropriate life-partner, he meets Tripti (Radhika Apte), a carefree and a perceptive girl who had few setbacks in the past with her relationships. Will their relation win through or does it fall flat?

Apparently, this movie is a character study which was made-up to introduce a unique personality. In this regard, the screenplay has to be sharp and captivating enough to make us engage in this person's routines and the things he does in his everyday life. But, unfortunately, this movie deteriorate in setting up characters and when it demands us to feel emotive in a particular scene, we don't really feel concerned and that's the major drawback of the movie, it was not compelling.

Also the contemporary back and forth storytelling aspect was a little infuriating to watch as it introduced the perplexity factor to the movie and strengthened the fact that the screenwriter had nothing more to tell, they're definitely few aspects in the movie which had nothing to do with the storyline involved and it was totally tiresome.

But, they're few bright spots in the movie, few comedic scenes were amusing at times, the climax felt a little heartwarming to watch and concluded the movie on a good note. Also, the director and his whole crew did a great job in setting up the ambiance, the production design was impressive especially when you're filming the movie in a different timeline.

Regardless, Gulshan Devaiya did a decent job with his character, it was t phenomenal and with the ample amount of time he was given on-screen, I didn't really felt bored watching him. Radhika Apte was always mesmerizing to watch, as she got that alluring look on her face which was conceivable.

Anyhow, to cut a long story short, Hunterrr is nothing what you expect it to be, it had the ability to tell a unique entertaining story which is  pretty scarce in our industry, but in all fairness, it never really turned out into a movie which was memorable and the one which changes the game. In a generic way, I can quote it as a "missed opportunity."

My Rating - 1.5/5
Grade - D+ (A hangover!)
-By Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)

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