Category Archives: Views on News

Newton brings forth the point of view of those who conduct elections: Amit Masurkar

It was the search of a political idea on the web that led to the inception of Newton.

Amit Masurkar was determined to make his next film a political one after the critically acclaimed Sulemani Keeda. Amit spent the subsequent days doing things that writers often do – type out words on Google and look for all possible search results.

“The words that caught my attention were ‘polling booths’, ‘EVMs’ and ‘Presiding Officer’. I typed other words too and the search threw up ‘political dynasties’, ‘conspiracies’ and ‘scandal’. We already have seen films dealing with the latter topics but one has never seen anything from the point of view of people who conduct elections,” reveals Amit, on how Newton was born.

After having travelled to roughly 50 film festivals across the world with the film, the moment is finally here for the director, as his labour of love will be screened in cinema halls of its origin country.

Newton was shot in the Naxal prone areas of Chhattisgarh.  Amit maintains that he was very clear about rooting his film in the region of Chhattisgarh because of its red earth and unique tree topography. So was it a cakewalk shooting in the Naxalite zone? Amit answers, “Do you think so? It was quite tough actually. We wanted to cast local people for the film. It would have been tough getting them to a different location. With so many people it was easier for us to just go there and shoot.”

Despite the assurance and cooperation by the state government, the first day of the film unit in Chhattisgarh was anything but a smooth ride. The first location earmarked for the shoot was a forest area near Raipur. To the unit’s horror, ten days before the shoot of this low budget flick was to commence, the forest officer (also the signing authority), was found guilty of corruption charges. The subsequent raids yielded millions in cash stashed at his house.

“We had no clue what to do next as he had also turned a fugitive. After the officer was sent to jail, the next one was scheduled to join in his place only after few days. It was only after the local line producer informed us of another location called Dallirajara that the shoot could commence,” informs Amit. When the shooting began, the unit was informed by the local police chief not to take any police protection, as it would have meant danger to their lives. The covert message was to be behave like locals.

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Being a low budget flick, the film also had its share of disappointment even at the scripting stage. Two leading production houses rejected the script even before reading the plot. Was it disappointing? “Not at all. I am more comfortable working with faces that I know. If somebody green lights a project and later quits his job, chances are that when someone replaces him your project might just go south. No one is interested in taking chances at these foreign studios.”

Amit was also part of the writing team that gave the fabulous The Great Indian Comedy Show, but the following years were full of struggle bearing no results despite the hard work. He would pitch ideas to directors and after being signed would start working on a script. The saga continued for four years and not a single script could fructify in the shape of a film. This was also the phase when he suffered depression. “I don’t know how I got out of it. I just decided not to depend on other people. It was then that I decided that I should do my own thing. I made a list of things that were available to me and then wrote a script around it and that’s how Sulemani Keeda happened.”

It was sheer luck for Amit when Newton metamorphosed from an independent film to a studio-backed film. It was a one-month assistantship under Aanand L Rai in 2004 for a telefilm that tilted things in his favour. “Rajkummar Rao showed him a clip of Newton and the shots impressed him. When Raj told him about me, his instant reaction was ‘I know him’. He then took my phone number and called to say that he loved the clip and was open for help of any sort,” reveals Amit.

Thanks to the filmmaker of Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhanaa, the initial plan of releasing the film in 150 screens has now trebled.

For this engineering drop out, jungles have now become addictive. “I realised after the shoot, jungles are very addictive. You have to build your own infrastructure. There is a thrill and it gives a very sublime feeling,” he adds.

Bhoomi director Omung Kumar on Sanjay Dutt: ‘The industry loves him for who he is’

Sanjay Dutt is all set to make yet another comeback to films with this week’s release Bhoomi, and even as director Omung Kumar says that it’s a huge responsibility on him, he appears quite confident and upbeat. That’s probably because Omung feels the film will be lapped up by Dutt’s fans, who’re eager to watch him on the big screen after such a long hiatus. For Omung, who previously helmed two biopics — Mary Kom and Sarbjit — Bhoomi is a different genre altogether, an out-and-out mainstream commercial potboiler.

Bhoomi is certainly a different genre for me but I have done it in my style. I have paid lot of attention to the performances. You won’t see the hero Sanjay Dutt, you will see him as the character, Arun Sachdeva,” Omung told Firstpost in the run-up to his film’s release. The director’s confidence also stems from the fact that Dutt has chosen him over other filmmaker friends to make his big screen return with. In fact, Dutt has expressed his confidence in Bhoomi being his perfect comeback vehicle.

Sanjay Dutt with Omung Kumar on the sets of Bhoomi. File Photo

Bhoomi is an entertainer, a commercial action film and this is the genre I want to be in,” Dutt told Firstpost in a recent interview. Omung seconds: “Bhoomi is a complete potboiler. It has the quintessential Bollywood score, whistle-worthy dialogues, raw action sequences. I’ve also shot in unusual locations like Chambal.”

Omung recounted how he got Sanjay to agree to do the film. “I went to meet Sanjay and showed him Sarbjit’s trailer which he loved. Then I narrated four scripts to him, out of which, Sanjay chose Bhoomi. Maybe the script touched his heart and it matched his sensibilities. I was just producing the film at that time but then he insisted that I direct it as well. At that time my psychological thriller Five was about to go on the floors but since I got busy with Bhoomi, I had to push that one (back).”

Dutt has had many ‘comebacks’ — like a cat’s nine lives, his career has received fresh impetus every time he’s returned from a (forced) break. Jaan Ki Baazi (1985) was his first movie after he came back from his drug treatment and rehabilitation in the US;  Daud (1997) was his first film after his 1993 arrest in the Mumbai serial bomb blast case, and having wrapped up his jail sentence, Dutt is now back with Bhoomi. His last two films before being sentenced to imprisonment in early 2013 were PK and Ungli (both released in 2014).

Omung looked back at how Dutt’s always managed a successful return and said, “(It’) probably because the industry loves him for whatever he is that the offers keep flowing in. He has had a long journey of about 186 films but few films touch you more like Vaastav, Naam, Saajan, Munnabhai… For us, he is a fabulous actor, he is known for his style, for his swag, his physique…but in my film, I didn’t want all of that. I wanted a new person. I have broken that mould and you will see his acting ability. His face speaks, each frame looks like a painting because his wrinkles talk, his beard talks, all that oozes emotion — and to me those were the high points.”

Omung revealed that Dutt and he were both nervous on the first day of the shoot as they tried to understand each other’s method of acting. “I realised that Sanjay would want me to okay the shot in the first take. He hates rehearsing!” said Omug, adding with a laugh: “There is a huge court room scene with dialogues running into 10 pages. He did that scene in one take — he had told me earlier that he won’t give a second take at all!”

Daddy: Arjun Rampal gives his heart, body and nose to the film, but is let down by Ashim Ahluwalia

The first time you see him, it’s through a glass wall. Light tinted, slightly oversized sunglasses  and a small, neat moustache embellish the face, carefully half hidden in profile. He hasn’t spoken and you don’t take much notice of him except as a big gangster, Maqsood (read Dawood). He is, apparently, a man of some importance. We know this because he has a sidekick who addresses him as “Bhai”.

The second time you see him, he is seated in a car. He is dressed in a printed silk shirt. His hair is long and thick and the camera is close enough to see his eyes through those light gold shades. And then he speaks. The unmistakable grainy voice belongs to Farhan Akhtar. The hitherto dull and dim lit screen, suddenly lights up. The rest of the long hour and a half, you wait for the next glimpse of Bhai.

Oh, but isn’t this film about Arun Gawli, the gangster who became known as Daddy?

Unfortunately, yes. It is also a film that attempts to walk the thin line between the real and commercial cinema. But how real can a movie be, without it being a documentary?

In the previous scene with Bhai, the men, sort of huddled outside, are being given an important assignment. One of them dares to enquire about the payment. He is Arun Gawli, a small time goon from Dagdi Chawl in Mumbai’s Byculla area.

If Farhan Akhtar is unrecognizable, with the perfect detailing of the underworld man from the eighties; Arjun Rampal as Arun Gawli fondly called Daddy, is equally nondescript behind the prosthetic big nose and long hair. Utmost care has been taken to recreate the real world of a man whose humble beginnings in the 70s and 80s are traced to a place called Dagdi Chawl.

The old staircases, the crowded, long balconies, the small rooms with faded, cracked paint and weak, wooden doors — are painstakingly lit with dim light to show a world as dark as Gawli is made to be. This is that Mumbai chawl  where he woos a Muslim girl across the balcony and eventually marries her. This is the unsafe place which he builds into a mini fortress, armed with his faithful men and guns. This is where crossfires are exchanged every time the cops come to get him. This is the hideout where he religiously prays to his God — Shiv Shambho.

This is the home where he holds his baby and a gun with one hand and a toy rattle with another.

The latter, particular image should ideally evoke some strong, mixed emotions.  But it doesn’t. In fact, the film, does not stir up any emotion, whatsoever.

Daddy has been positioned as a ‘real’ film with ‘commercial’ value given by Arjun Rampal’s name. But this faithfulness to the realistic feel, ends up overlooking the required drama and entertainment in films, which go beyond repeated shootouts. The silk shirts and the bell bottom pants also need some flesh, blood and soul, just like a simple Dagdi Chawl-made vada pau needs its dry garlic, and red, hot chutney.

Rampal’s Gawli says “ikde ye” quite comfortably but does not engage you with a real conversation after that.

The matter of fact tone is as dull as the Wikipedia page which informs you of as much as you see in the movie. The story had sufficient meat in the way three men — Baba (Anand), Ramu (Rajesh) and Arun (Arjun) — formed the BRA gang and their eventual journey. However, you never really get to know who they were as people or friends.

None of the fantastic detailing to recapture the ’80s matters. The flat dialogues make the pace  and the tone feel so stretched that the songs provide a welcome break. Particularly, an item number that reminds one of Parveen Babi in a gold, shimmery costume and of the popular disco beat.

Arjun Rampal seems to have given his heart, mind, body, soul and ‘nose’ to this film as actor, co-writer and producer. Hence, it’s disappointing to see it all ruined by director Ashim Ahulwalia who is obsessed with art direction and the costume department. The setting and sepia tones take precedence over the screenplay and the character.

This is not so surprising, considering his debut film — the Nawazuddin-starrer Miss Lovely — which drew some attention during film festivals but failed when released in theatres.

Rampal in Daddy, is like Aishwarya Rai in Sarbjit. Both are fighting their immense good looks and their image, with heartfelt sincerity. Rampal gives a satisfactory, restrained performance in Daddy but he needed better scenes, especially with the ineffective and badly miscast Nishikant Kamat who plays Inspector Vijaykar.

Daddy could have been like Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya but ends up as fake as Farhan’s character name, Maqsood, in its guise to be real. Was Dawood singing in their ears — “main hoon kaun…main hoon, main hoon… DON”?

Kumaraissance: Tracing Akshay Kumar’s reinvention from ‘Khiladi’ to India’s most bankable star

Just this year, Akshay Kumar has delivered two crackling performances in two very different films and won the National Award for his work in 2016’s Rustom.

He also launched Bharat Ke Veer, a website and app that enables donations to families of army personnel.

His social media feeds are peppered with videos that address social issues. Akshay’s public image is currently undergoing a multi-media reinvention.

And, then there were buzz-worthy moments when he sang Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers in the Night’ to his wife Twinkle Khanna on Koffee With Karan or when he thanked his ‘overpaid trainer and underpaid cook’ while accepting the award for ‘Most Beautiful Man of the Decade’ at the recent Vogue Beauty Awards 2017.

We’re in the throes of a full-blown Kumaraissance, and it’s been long overdue.

For about three decades, Akshay has been a Bollywood A-lister, which in itself is a genuine accomplishment. But his career spanning 124 movies has mostly banked more on ‘Akshay the Star’ rather than showcase his talents as an actor. His filmography has the odd Sangharsh or Dhadkan but action and comedy has always been his forte.

From being stuck in the doldrums of mindless films like Rowdy Rathore and the Housefull franchise, Akshay seems to have re-invented himself as an actor who is not just pushing boundaries but also consistently delivering hits.

In the last two years, he has picked films unlike anything he’s done before. Rustom was based on the Nanavati murder trial of 1959 that transformed the judicial process in India. His portrayal of Naval officer KM Nanavati earned him the National Award.

He essayed another real-life character in the hugely appreciated Airlift. Akshay delivered his first blockbuster of 2017 as the Lucknow-bred underdog lawyer Jagdishwar Mishra aka Jolly in Subhash Kapoor’s Jolly LLB 2. In Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, which released on the Independence Day weekend,

Continuing the trend, Akshay’s next release Padman will attempt to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene. Directed by R Balki, the film is based on the life and work of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social entrepreneur who invented a low-cost sanitary pad making machine.

The actor is also filming director Reema Kagti’s Gold, a sports drama on the hockey team that won the first Olympic medal for India as a free nation in 1948.

What is common to Akshay’s recent films has been the focus on meaningful stories. He’s moved beyond generic masala crowd-pleasers to films that do more than just entertain.

Many credit Akshay’s association with filmmaker Neeraj Pandey for triggering the Kumaraissance. The duo first collaborated in the 2013 heist thriller Special 26 and, since then, Neeraj has directed Akshay in the spy film Baby and co-produced Rustom, Naam Shabana and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.

After decades of being Khiladi Kumar, Akshay is going towards not having an image. While his contemporaries like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are struggling to reinvent themselves, Akshay has laid claim to being the ‘superstar everyman’.

(Clockwise from top left) Stills from Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Padman, Jolly LLB 2

Whether he is Kuwait-based Indian businessman Ranjit Katyal spearheading the largest civilian evacuation in history or cycle store owner Keshav who would do anything to build a toilet for his wife, Akshay never stops being a Bollywood hero. There is also enough swagger, high-decibel dialoguebaazi and humour to keep the single-screen viewers happy. His directors seem to have found that elusive balance between realistic and revved up.

If we measure this shift in Akshay’s career in terms of financial success, it’s obvious that the audience loves it.

Raking in Rs 126.94 crores at the box-office, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is this year’s highest grossing Hindi film as yet. Also in the 100-crore club are Jolly LLB 2 (Rs 117 cr), Rustom (Rs 124 cr) and Airlift (Rs 123 cr).

Akshay has been one of Bollywood’s most bankable actors but at a time when the industry is going through a slump, he is undoubtedly Bollywood’s biggest money-spinner right now.

In the past, Akshay has always managed to stand up to the draw of the Khans but this reinvention has given him a substantial edge over his contemporaries. It’s their move now.

Shraddha Kapoor’s next film Haseena Parkar will release on 22 September, says director Apoorva Lakhia

Haseena Parkar director Apoorva Lakhia on Tuesday cleared the air about the film’s release being postponed and said the film is releasing on September 22.

Originally the film was supposed to release on July 14 but it was pushed to August 18 to avoid the clutter at the box office.

Then according to a statement issued on behalf of the producers the film’s release date was finalized as September 22.

When media asked about the film’s release being postponed again, Lakhia said, “People can write what they want as long as we are coming in the news. We are coming to theaters on the 22nd of September and we never said anything otherwise. We are really looking forward to it and today we start the promotions for the film.”

He was present at the Twitter office for the song launch of the film.

Asked why the makers chose to release a romantic song first from the film, Apoorva said, “From the trailer it seems like a very violent and action oriented film but that is not the case, Haseena was married to her elder brother’s best friend Ibrahim who not only ran a restaurant but in his free time used to work as a stunt man in Bollywood.

“They were madly in love and she was married at a very young age. She had a beautiful marriage and she lost her husband at a young age. This song is by Sachin and Jigar and we thought this would be an ideal song to show the world a softer side of Haseena Parkar because when she was young she was very romantic but her circumstances were what got her where she reached.”

Shraddha Kapoor plays the title role along with her brother Siddhanth Kapoor as Dawood Ibrahim and Ankur Bhatia as Haseena’s husband. The film marks the time in Haseena’s life from 17 to 40 years old.

Shraddha, the lead actor in the film, said that she does not want to generalize their (Shraddha and Siddhanth Kapoor) characters as villains. She said, “I would not generalize our characters because that will be putting a judgment and a point of view, so we are completely portraying this as a character and it’s entirely up to the audience to decide. We are showing a wide perspective so that people can judge based on the film.”

The song Tere Bina is the first song released from the film. Composed by Sachin-Jigar and written by Priya Saraiya, Tere Bina is a duet sung by Arijit Singh and Priya Saraiya.

This film will also mark Shraddha Kapoor’s first female protagonist film. She was last seen in Half Girlfriend with Arjun Kapoor.

Sidharth Malhotra: ‘I never felt left out while working with the star kids’

There is a lot of hustle-bustle in Mumbai’s Mehboob Studio, with quite a few vanity vans parked in the compound. In this chaotic scenario, one man who is looking bright and sunny is Bollywood’s resident hunk Sidharth Malhotra. Dressed in a floral blue shirt and joggers, he steps out of his vanity van flashing a charismatic smile and does a quick photo shoot with his happy-go-lucky and glamorous co-star Jacqueline Fernandez as part of promotions of their upcoming film, A Gentleman – Sundar, Susheel, Risky.

He playfully strangles her with her jeans jacket, she utters a yelp and gives a light punch to her screen hero making for a perfect capture for a fun photo. Soon, Sidharth settles down in his colourful vanity van for an exclusive chat with Firstpost. He is playing a dual role in the movie that revolves around a mistaken identity; one is ‘susheel’ while the other is ‘risky’.

“We never shot for both the characters on the same day and hence I could separate them mentally. Gaurav loves his 9 to 5 job, he wants to learn to cook for his wife and take his family for a drive, whereas Rishi is a loner and does not mind taking risks. Lots of humour has come out of both the characters,” says Sidharth, who bonded big time with his first time heroine. “Jacqueline doesn’t carry stress, she is always happy. She loves the outdoors, just the way I do. We bonded even off-camera; we would go horse riding and have poker nights in my house. Today we are great friends and that shows,” he adds.

Sidharth Malhotra has so far had six releases in his five-year-old career. He is a huge fan of action comedies and a great admirer of director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s (popularly known as Raj and DK) work. It’s essentially what made him give a nod to this project.

“I would love watching action comedies while growing up but so far we have seen only loud films in this genre, with elements of gags, slapstick. A Gentleman, however, is very stylised. It has deadpan humour and a lot of physical comedy. I love Raj and DK’s work, especially in the humour zone. Their debut film 99, and Go Goa Gone are my favourites. The film speaks a universal language and has got a good mix of what I have done in the past — romance, comedy, action,” says the actor.

Talking about the confusion surrounding the movie being a sequel to Bang Bang, Sidharth says, “We had to write it on the clapper board of the movie, ‘Not Bang Bang 2′. The cast, directors, story, characters, everything is different.”

Recognition for acting talent may not have come easy for this Delhi boy, with his good looks and modelling background coming in the way of him being taken seriously. But the 2016 release Kapoor & Sons kind of shifted this perception with the audience getting a glimpse of his acting chops.

“People have a perception that those who come from a modelling background can’t act. That is why I am here: to change the perception (laughs out loud). Nobody could tell 10 or 15 years ago that I would do a Karan Johar film. With a middle class upbringing in Delhi, I started from scratch but now I am a working actor. My next three films will change the perception that people have of the background that I come from, which is of an outsider or the modelling industry,” says Sidharth.

He has an interesting line-up of films like Ittefaq, a murder mystery, Neeraj Pandey’s thriller drama Aiyaary about a mentor-prodigy relationship, and Mohit Suri’s romance franchise Aashiqui 3. “Next six to seven months are very interesting for me. I have some amazing scripts coming up. People will get to see me in three different avatars in these credible, story-driven films. What else could an actor ask for?” he smiles.

Sidharth has had his share of ups and downs, and he believes nothing’s permanent in the industry. “It is all very temporary and seasonal, so you have to be on your toes. You can’t live off your previous hits or you can’t be low about your past flops. It is a matter of being relevant and reinventing yourself,” he says, adding, “But yes, there is a difference in how I choose my scripts now. There is definitely more instinct, more understanding of my craft, of my personality, my presence. With the audience getting more picky and choosy, they are pushing and nudging us to write better content.”

Work-wise, comparisons are often drawn between Sidharth and two of his first co-stars (and industry kids), Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhat; the trio debuted with Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year (2012). “In all honesty I am very consumed by the line-up of films and I mostly compete with my previous work. When Ek Villain did really well, I wished that (snaps fingers) Brothers worked better. Baar Baar Dekho was not accepted (snaps fingers again) so now I wish more aggressively that Gentleman becomes my biggest. It is all very personal, very internal. Nobody will help me in my journey, my journey is only mine,” he says.

One can’t resist asking this self-confessed ‘outsider’ about his take on the ‘N’ (Nepotism) word. Laughing uproariously, he queries, “Oh, so now it’s become the N word? Good thing is, majority of India and the youth now know the meaning of the word; we have become a bit more articulate.”

On a serious note, he adds, “Enough has been spoken about it but yes, nepotism exists. There are so many actors from film families who get chances again and again. There is no point denying it and I don’t know whether it is good or bad. The only advantage for them is that they have a sense of awareness and comfort because of the world they know, as opposed to people like us who come from outside. We take slightly longer to settle down. I never ever felt left out while working with the star kids but just that there was no awareness and I was absorbing the process until my second and third film, whereas the industry kids were comfortable right from their first film. But now that sense of awe is fading away and I’m genuinely enjoying the process of film-making.

How Dilip Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan’s camaraderie goes way beyond photo opportunities

Shah Rukh Khan’s recent visit to check on the health of the 94-year old Dilip Kumar, upon the latter’s return after spending a few days in the hospital for some kidney related problem, brought to mind the sweet bond that the two have shared over the years.

The thespian and his wife, Saira Banu, have publicly expressed their love for Shah Rukh Khan on numerous occasions and in fact, have even said that SRK is the child that they would have loved to have.

Besides having a few things in common with the younger Khan — including the same number of Filmfare awards for the Best Actor, eight to be exact, and both playing Devdas at some point in their careers — Dilip sahab’s fondness for Shah Rukh Khan also mirrors the manner in which he has interacted with some of the superstars who followed him.

Dilip Kumar’s influence on Indian cinema is peerless and this influence extends beyond acting prowess. It was Dilip Kumar’s persona that inspired more than a few generation of actors such as Manoj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, and almost every single one of them famously modelled certain aspects of their craft on Dilip Kumar.

In Manoj Kumar’s case, he even took his screen name ‘Manoj’ after a character that Dilip Kumar portrayed in one of his films, Shabnam (1949). Dharmendra often mentions that even though he came to (then) Bombay to try his hand at acting, meeting Dilip Kumar was perhaps a bigger draw for him. During the shooting of one of his initial films in the late 1950s, Dharmendra met Dilip Kumar’s sister, and thanks to her ended up spending an evening at Dilip Kumar’s residence. Late in the night when Dharam ji was leaving, Dilip Kumar gave him a sweater as it had been raining, and to this day, the sweater is a prized possession for the former.

Later the emergence of Rajesh Khanna as the new superstar coincided with the period where Dilip Kumar had considerably reduced his output, but even then the public interaction between Dilip Kumar and other leading men, such as Khanna and later Amitabh Bachchan, was the same. It’s not just Hindi films where Dilip Kumar’s impact, both as an actor and an elder, was felt. His friendship with the iconic Sivaji Ganesan, and later his influence on a Kamal Haasan, is also well documented.

Bareilly Ki Barfi: Bitti’s dilemma plays on a familiar film trope — the deceptive love triangle

In a particularly hilarious moment in Bareilly Ki Barfi (among all its hilarious moments), Bitti’s mother asks her friend Chirag Dubey to be “Hanuman” and set her daughter up with Pritam Vidrohi, since their jodi is that of Ram-Sita. Chirag (played by Ayushmann Khurrana) is the actual Ram here and the friend he’s bullied into pretending to be the writer Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao in his most comical role yet), was supposed to be his Hanuman.

Still from Bareilly Ki Barfi

This confusion — Girl thinks she is in love with charmer Boy B but it’s actually behind-the-scenes Boy A — is the underlying theme of this film. It’s a variation of the Cyrano de Bergerac/Hitch theme that has been played out and perfected in lots of Indian movies. From Saajan where Madhuri Dixit thinks she is in love with the dashing Salman Khan for his poetry, but the poems have been written by the poor orphan with a disability, Sanjay Dutt. Or the ‘90s Tamil movie Duet where an effervescent Meenakshi Seshadri falls in love with who she thinks is Ramesh Arvind, his poems and his beautiful saxophone playing when it’s actually the fat and awkward Prabhu who is the talented musician keeping her up at night. In Minnale, Madhavan pretends to be Reema Sen’s fiancée (who’s actually played by Abbas) and successfully lands the girl. Sapney (Minsaara Kanavu) had a thread of this theme where Aravind Swamy hires Prabhu Dheva to make Kajol fall in love with him. Or even Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi which takes it to #peakdrama where a dull SRK is married to Anushka Sharma and adopts a secret, glamorous identity to woo his own wife.

In Bareilly Ki Barfi, Bitti (Kriti Sanon) searches for the writer Pritam Vidrohi thinking he’s the one who’s written a novel that describes her to a T. A restless young woman, she thinks the man who’s authored the book and who really gets her, will fix her life. Except it’s her friend Chirag (Ayushmann Khurana) who’s actually written the book, is in love with her and gets her.

Rebellious Bitti, who asks random men on motorbikes to drop her off at her destination, who shares her cigarettes with her daddy, who break dances at whim, who runs away from home and comes back, who tells a prospective groom that no, she isn’t a virgin, is at odds with the small town she lives in. And when she comes across a book (also titled Bareilly Ki Barfi) where the protagonist resembles her so much, she’s determined to track him down and see where it goes. (Sidenote: I’ve been collecting unusual professions writers have given heroines in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films, Bitti’s is by far my favourite; prosaic, yet not: She works at the electricity board.)

Chirag doesn’t tell her the truth (for if he did, would we have the movie?) and instead says he knows the writer. Bitti, persuades a smitten Chirag to find Pritam who agrees, because he wants to eliminate the competition. Chirag and his friend go to Lucknow to meet and convince the mild-mannered, stammering, shy and hesitant sari salesman Pritam to turn into a paan chewing tharki. Pritam goes overboard with his transformation and brings fear into Chirag’s heart, especially when Bitti and family fall for him. This forcing Boy A to act as Boy B is a theme seen in Saajan as well.

Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao and Kriti Sanon in Bareilly Ki Barfi

In Saajan, after Sanjay Dutt’s character Aman’s poems get published (under a pseudonym) and he becomes famous, Madhuri Dixit’s Pooja corresponds with him. But Aman’s brother Akash (Salman Khan), falls in love with Pooja. And because Aman was a disabled orphan who was adopted by Akash’s parents, and because he thinks a woman would never love someone with a disability, he helps Akash pose as Sagar to win Pooja. It reminds me of a line Chirag spouts while drunk: “Pyar kiya hai, qurbani toh deni padegi“. The same qurbani is shown by Aman. And in the end, Pooja has to choose between the person she fell in love with and the poet she was entranced by.

Duet’s Guna and Siva — two brothers who run an orchestra — too fall in love with the same girl, Anjali, their choreographer-neighbour who cannot resist the saxophone music playing out of their house. Guna, played by Prabhu, is fat and awkward and doesn’t have the courage to confess his love for her, while the younger Siva makes a beeline for her and impresses her. The twist? Anjali thinks it’s Siva who is a skilled saxophone player, when it’s actually Guna. But here, there’s no qurbani, there’s no meetha barfi. Siva simply uses his brother’s insecurity to his advantage until Anjali comes to know of the truth — many arguments, some convincing and a fight late, Siva dies. Guna and Anjali unite.

What is so irresistible about the shell games of these movies? It’s partly because the heroine’s conflict becomes our own, and we’re suddenly taking sides. In Saajan, Sapney and Duet (and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, if dancer SRK was played by someone else), the heroines picked the underdogs, the nice boys, the ones who usually get left behind. In Minnale too Madhavan’s character is the underdog, but he doesn’t let us sympathise with him one minute, because the very next, he’s impersonating his loved one’s fiancée, especially one who happened to be his ‘enemy’ in college. Here, the heroine doesn’t have any real choosing to do; her dilemma is why should she pick him even after he lied to her. Each of the men on opposite sides usually represent a particular life, a way of fulfilling bigger dreams, especially when marriage = life as in the case of Bitti of Bareilly, who has been turned down  by many, many men because of her carefree but somewhat claustrophobic existence.

The pleasures of the Hitch version of the love triangle are manifold — there’s the tension of the unfolding drama even if you do know who will end up with whom, there’s that rush you get when you’re rooting for the loser and then there’s the unabashed mounting competition.

As I said before, the two men on opposite sides represent particularly different lives and Bitti picks Chirag, the one who didn’t quite sweep her off her feet, but one who offers her companionship, one she can share her small-town idiosyncrasies with. But what would’ve happened if she picked the other? On the face of it, the other is not an attractive choice: He’s a gullible, affable timid soul who’s been harangued by his mother all his life, resulting in the hopeless case that he is. Here’s a guy who has been bullied by Chirag tirelessly, whether it’s posing as him for the author photograph or getting doused in water for making a mistake. It’s hard to imagine Bitti with Pritam but boy Pritam does look like he needed a true vidrohi (rebel) like Bitti in his life to save him. Luckily for Bitti, she doesn’t share my soft spot for the real underdog in this story. She gets the last laugh and the last barfi.

Bareilly Ki Barfi: Ayushmann, Rajkummar are perfect foils for Kriti Sanon’s career-best act

Bareilly Ki Barfi starts with what has been its USP as seen in the trailer and songs so far – small town charm.

bkb social

The worn out yet cozy bylanes of Bareilly, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is introduced by the articulate voice of Javed Akhtar. His narrative takes you to the Mishra family – the patriarch (Pankaj Tripathi), matriarch (Seema Pahwa) and their daughter Bitti (Kriti Sanon), whom they have raised ‘as a son’.

She smokes, break dances, asserts her will on her neighbours and spreads out her legs while sitting on a bike.

While she has never been treated like a small town girl by her family, she gets disgusted by the misogyny that comes with every prospective groom, while she’s looking for prospective men to be married to. Dejected, she finds refuge in a book titled Bareilly Ki Barfi that she wantonly picks from a book stall.

The book that she grabs is ghost written by Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana). It seems like he takes off right where he left in his last film Meri Pyaari Bindu. He writes a book in memory of his unrequited love Babli. However, Bitti finds the character of Babli a carbon copy of herself and approaches the publisher of the book to get in touch with the author. The publisher turns out to be Khurrana who gets smitten by Bitti as he sees shades of Babli in her.

The hurdle however is the picture of the author on the book, which is that of Pritam (Rajkummar Rao), a gullible friend of Chirag who he had convinced to masquerade as the author in order to hide his love for Babli, as she’s now happily married.

While Chirag serves as the postman of Bitti and delivers her letters to the author, he realises that Bitti has actually fallen for the author, and not the publisher.

Chirag convinces Pritam to do him a favour yet again and sets up his meeting with Bitti. But he trains Pritam to project himself as an embodiment of everything that Bitti hates – all her misogynistic prospective grooms rolled into one.

Cue love triangle.

Kriti Sanon delivers arguably her best performance of the career. She fits the bill as the girl next door and gets everything right from the accent to the styling. While her small town girl act is pale in comparison to say, a Swara Bhaskar from Nil Battey Sannata but her author-backed role gives her ample scope to perform.

Ayushmann is endearing as the unrequited lover; his smitten expressions clearly project the butterflies in his stomach which makes one wonder why Bitti is not able to decode his boundless love for her.

Rajkummar Rao nails both his acts – the reserved saree-seller and the brash gali ka gunda, who he pretends to be to imitate Ayushmann. His arrogant avatar is overplayed in order to draw contrast from his restrained avatar, which he excels in organically.

Special mention to Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa who are brilliant with their comic chemistry. They have some of the best scenes in the film that are sure to leave everyone in splits. Pankaj Tripathi is as restrained as his last dark character in Gurgaon but still manages to make you laugh because of the lines that Nitesh Tiwari writes for him.

The story so far is predicated given the trailer of the film spelt it all. How it shapes up now will determine the graph of the film.

The rest of the story revolves around this typical love triangle. The edges are sharpened by Nitesh Tiwari’s crisp writing and his wife Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s tight direction.

Just like he did in Dangal, Nitesh gets all the local nuances right; Ashwini brings back the honesty and warmth of Nil Battey Sannata along with the street smartness and competitiveness she brought fore so aptly in that film. Also, the highlight of the music is ‘Sweety Tera Drama’ which is both irresistible and situational.

The editing, particularly the tug of war between Ayushmann and Rajkummar, is as sharp-edged as the writing.

Overall, Bareilly Ki Barfi is a character-driven as all the characters are pivotal to the plot and backed by substantial writing. The three lead actors drive most of the narrative – Ayushmann’s endearing expressions, Kriti’s livewire presence and Rajkummar’s unpredictable dialogue delivery provide the perfect ingrediendts for a sweet rom com that has its share of masala.

That masala surprisingly adds to the overall taste. While the film lacks the heartfelt moments of Nil Battey Sannata, it never gets pungent. It’s like a typical desi dessert that serves your sweet tooth but may result in adding a few pounds that you would certainly not mind.

Bareilly Ki Barfi review: Ayushmann, Kriti and Rajkummar bring small town charm to life

Bareilly Ki Barfi starts with what has been its USP as seen in the trailer and songs so far – small town charm.

bkb social

The worn out yet cozy bylanes of Bareilly, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is introduced by the articulate voice of Javed Akhtar. His narrative takes you to the Mishra family – the patriarch (Pankaj Tripathi), matriarch (Seema Pahwa) and their daughter Bitti (Kriti Sanon), whom they have raised ‘as a son’.

She smokes, break dances, asserts her will on her neighbours and spreads out her legs while sitting on a bike.

While she has never been treated like a small town girl by he family, she gets disgusted by the misogyny that comes with every prospective groom, while is looking for prospective men to be married to. Dejected, she finds refuge in a book titled Bareilly Ki Barfi that she wantonly picks from a book stall.

The book that she grabs is ghost written by Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana). It seems like he takes off right where he left in his last film Meri Pyaari Bindu. He writes a book in memory of his unrequited love Babli. However, Bitti finds the character of Babli a carbon copy of herself and approaches the publisher of the book to get in touch with the author. The publisher turns out to be Khurrana who gets smitten by Bitti as he sees shades of Babli in her.

The hurdle however is the picture of the author on the book, which is that of Pritam (Rajkummar Rao), a gullible friend of Chirag who he had convinced to masquerade as the author in order to hide his love for Babli, as she’s now happily married.

While Chirag serves as the postman of Bitti and delivers her letters to the author, he realises that Bitti has actually fallen for the author, and not the publisher.

Chirag convinces Pritam to do him a favour yet again and sets up his meeting with Bitti. But he trains Pritam to project himself as an embodiment of everything that Bitti hates – all her misogynistic prospective grooms rolled into one.

Cue love triangle.

Kriti Sanon delivers arguably her best performance of the career. She fits the bill as the girl next door and gets everything right from the accent to the styling. While her small town girl act is pale in comparison to say, a Swara Bhaskar from Nil Battey Sannata but her author-backed role gives her ample scope to perform.

Ayushmann is endearing as the unrequited lover; his smitten expressions clearly project the butterflies in his stomach which makes one wonder why Bitti is not able to decode his boundless love for her.

Rajkummar Rao nails both his acts – the reserved saree-seller and the brash gali ka gunda, who he pretends to be to imitate Ayushmann. His arrogant avatar is overplayed in order to draw contrast from his restrained avatar, which he excels in organically

Special mention to Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa who are brilliant with their comic chemistry. They have some of the best scenes in the film that are sure to leave everyone in splits. Pankaj Tripathi is as restrained as his last dark character in Gurgaon but still manages to make you laugh because of the lines that Nitesh Tiwari writes for him.

The story so far is predicated given the trailer of the film spelt it all. How it shapes up now will determine the graph of the film.

The rest of the story revolves around this typical love triangle. The edges are sharpened by Nitesh Tiwari’s crisp writing and his wife Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s tight direction.

Just like he did in Dangal, Nitesh gets all the local nuances right; Ashwini brings back the honesty and warmth of Nil Battey Sannata along with the street smartness and competitiveness she brought fore so aptly in that film. Also, the highlight of the music is ‘Sweety Tera Drama’ which is both irresistible and situational.

The editing, particularly the tug of war between Ayushmann and Rajkummar is as sharp-edged as the writing.

Overall, Bareilly Ki Barfi is a character-driven as all the characters are pivotal to the plot and backed by substantial writing. The three lead actors drive most of the narrative – Ayushmann’s endearing expressions, Kriti’s livewire presence and Rajkummar’s unpredictable dialogue delivery provide the perfect ingrediendts for a sweet rom com that has its share of masala.

That masala surprisingly adds to the overall taste. While the film lacks the heartfelt moments of Nil Battey Sannata, it never gets pungent. It’s like a typical desi dessert that serves your sweet tooth but may result in adding a few pounds that you would certainly not mind.