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Panchlait teaser: Prem Modi’s directorial might leave you with more questions than answers

The teaser of Prem Modi’s Panchlait has been released. The film is based on a story by Phanishwar Nath Renu, one of the pioneers of modern Hindi literature. Set in a small village in Bihar, the film brings back memories of the original story by aptly recreating the characters and the setting.

A still from Panchlait. Screengrab from YouTube.

Starring Amitosh Nagpal, Anuradha Mukherjee, Rajesh Sharma, Ravi Jhankal and Brijendra Kala among others, the film brings forth several issues which are still faced by people of the lower rung of the economy. Shortage of electricity is the overarching issue which has been presented in a lighthearted manner. However, the teaser will leave you with more questions than answers.

The original story revolves around a village and its inhabitants who are so innocent and inexperienced that they do not know how to light a simple lamp. Their lack of knowledge leads to hilarious situations, something which has been projected in the teaser too. The makers have made sure to put across the conundrum of the villagers as much as possible which explains the frequent shots of villagers gathered around the lamp, examining it intently.

Aamir Khan on Thugs of Hindostan co-star: Watching Amitabh Bachchan on-screen is ‘fulfilling’

Mumbai: Superstar Aamir Khan, who is working with Amitabh Bachchan in the upcoming film Thugs of Hindostan, says watching the megastar on the big screen is “a fulfilling experience”, and his superstardom can’t be re-created.

Asked if working with Big B was surreal, Aamir, an admirer of the veteran actor, told media here on Sunday: “Watching Mr Bachchan on screen in a theatre… His aura, action, every nuance of his acting was such a fulfilling experience in cinema.”

Picking his favourite from Amitabh’s filmography is a tough one for Aamir.

“I have many favourites like Natwarlal, Don and Namak Halaal. In fact, I remember after watching Namak Halaal in the theatre, I called up Mansoor (Khan) and asked him to come with me to watch the film. We went to watch its next show again.”

Talking about Big B’s stardom, he said: “I think the superstardom of Amitabh Bachchan can’t be re-created. It is so unique, the charisma he has….I mean imagine, there was a time when seven of his films were running in the theatre for months.

“Films like Don, Mukaddar ka Sikandar and Trishul in the same year! He used to date clash with his own film!”

As times are changing, and social media culture is playing an important role in building the public image of Bollywood film stars, Aamir says the definition of stardom has also changed.

“The fabric has changed. There was a time when access to a star was so limited, especially in the 1950s-60s era when there was no television, and fans used to wait for their stars to appear in cinema or a film’s premiere. They used to wait outside houses.

“Then came television when the interview started and people got the access to see how they looked and talked when not acting….That apart, of course, there were magazines and newspaper interviews. Now everything has changed, and how…,” said Aamir.

Now movie stars, he feels, are more communicative, accessible to their fans and it’s more interactive.

“It has changed from waiting outside the house to one click away….Everything about your favourite star is on the phone, and the phone is in your pocket. So you have the favourite star in your pocket,” he said.

The actor is excited about the Diwali release of his film Secret Superstar, also featuring Zaira Wasim. It will hit the screens on October 19.

Movie Munchies: Like Saif Ali Khan’s Chef, a good food film should make you hungry

When I stepped out of the theatre after watching director Raja Krishna Menon’s Chef earlier this week, I hoped that Roshan Kalra’s (Saif Ali Khan) food truck Raasta Café was parked outside. Even though I have never tasted a Rottza (a desi version of quesadillas made with rotis instead of tortillas that Roshan describes as his invention), I was craving that with a side of banana and potato crisps.

A remake of Jon Favreau’s 2014 sleeper hit, Chef has Saif Ali Khan playing a frustrated three Michelin-star chef in New York. A very public meltdown, where he ends up assaulting a customer, results in him being fired. In a bid to reconnect with his habitually disappointed son (Svar Kamble) and to get his cooking mojo back, Roshan reinvents himself with a food truck.

Saif Ali Khan in a still from Chef. Image from Twitter

Even before the father-and-son duo bond over cheese-laden (paneer, egg burfi and kheema) rottzas, Roshan takes Armaan on a culinary journey from the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk to the world’s largest communal kitchen in the Golden Temple and dhabas of Amritsar. The film opens with the crusty surface of an aalu tikki being broken open before being slathered with the usual chaat paraphernalia of cold yogurt, tangy tamarind and fiery mint chutney and juliennes of ginger. And, every single shot of food being cut, prepared and served is a feast for the eyes.

Imagine this – the theatre is dark; the film is rolling and, you are dreaming of chugging a chilled glass of lassi in Amritsar or a mouth-water grilled cheese or marching into the nearest patisserie for glorious gateaux or charming choux pastries.

Some movies make you fall in love, some movies make you cry, and a handful of them make you very, very hungry.

Roshan Kalra is not the only desi celluloid chef returning to his roots this year. In director Pratim D Gupta’s Bengali film Maacher Jhol, Dev D (Ritwick Chakraborty), a Parisian chef comes back to Kolkata to see his ailing mother (Mamata Shankar). Her only request – maacher jhol (film curry) like how he used to make it. It’s been more than a decade after he had last made jhol for his mother so Dev struggles to get the flavors right. He tries different combinations of cauliflowers, peas and potatoes with fish in mustard broth but his mother tells him ‘it’s not ‘that’ maacher jhol’. On his last attempt, Dev dazzles his mother with Katla Komola, a jhol with orange juice and no vegetables and garnished with fried curry leaves.

Like Maacher Jhol, director Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Malayalam gangster film Angamaly Diaries also celebrates local culinary traditions. Unlike the previous two films, it seems that unlikely that food could be an integral part of a gangster film but it is. The food is always there in the background, being prepared or eaten. The main conflict between the two gangs is over pork; Pepe (Antony Varghese) describes his first love as Kappayum Muttayum (mashed tapioca with eggs) in the local thattukada; and a pivotal fight breaks out over the last plate of rabbit stew. And, all of this is washed down with abundant supply of home made arrack (toddy).

Poster of Angamaly Diaries.

Malyalam cinema has delivered some delicious food films in recent years. In Ustad Hotel, a man takes baby steps toward repairing his relationship with his grandfather by perfecting the flaky kerala porottas. The duo cement their relationship over cups of fragrant sulaimani chai on the beaches of Kozhikode. The tagline of direct Aashiq Abu’s 2011 film Salt n’ Pepper is ‘Oru Dosa Udakkiya Kadha’ (A story born out of a dosa).

In the film, the love for dosa brings together two strangers.

Internationally, there’s a food film out there for every palate. Watching Jiro Ono, the subject of the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, lovingly mold fish and rice together will make the pickiest eaters hungry. Food is an integral part of the Chinese culture and the opening sequence of Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman, features some of the most breathtaking shots of traditional Chinese cooking.

In I Am Love, a much married Emma (Tilda Swinton) falls in love with an Italian chef after he whips up a shrimp dish for her. Helen Mirren and Om Puri’s The Hundred Food Journey is all about the clash of the cuisines when an Indian restaurant opens opposite a world-famous French one.

Ready for dessert? There’s enough dessert porn in films to satisfy everyone’s sweet cravings. Watching artfully arranged plates of petit fours in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette will definitely trigger a hankering for the pastel-coloured delicate confectionaries. Remember the satisfying crack when Amelie (Audret Tautou) hit the caramelized top of a crème brulee with the back of her spoon? In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) bakes courtesan au chocolat, the three-tiered chocolate-creme-filled pastry glazed with pastel colours.

When food is done well on the big screen, you can almost hear the audiences dreaming about what to eat or even cook once the credits roll. Hopefully, some day taste-o-vision will become a reality and we’d be able to taste all the food we can see on screen.

Salman Khan-Jacqueline Fernandez’s Race 3 might star Sidharth Malhotra, Aditya Roy Kapur

Jacqueline Fernandez had confirmed her involvement in Race 3, alongside Salman Khan, a while ago.

Firstpost had also earlier reported that Sidharth Malhotra might be joining the cast of the action thriller, as the makers are looking for a fresh face with Khan. However, according to a bollywoodhungama.com, apart from Malhotra, Aditya Roy Kapur is also in final talks with producer Ramesh Taurani for a role in the film.

Sidharth Malhotra and Aditya Roy Kapur. Images from AFP.

The two actors have not had an exceptional year at the box office. While Malhotra’s A Gentleman bombed at the box office, Kapur’s Ok Jaanu also failed to leave an impression.

The report suggests that in order to turn the tables in their favour, the two are hoping to get cast alongside Khan’s, in roles that would otherwise be underwhelming considering their star power.

Demanding a remuneration much lesser than what they usually command in the market, both the actors are staggering under the pressure of delivering a hit. However, despite the conjectures, there is no official word of confirmation on these developments.

An inside source also revealed to the publication that Taurani himself does not feel the need to have another male actor alongside Khan.

Paresh Rawal on why he thinks Ranbir Kapoor is like Naseeruddin Shah, demonetisation and his latest film

The politician in Paresh Rawal is yet to be overshadowed by the actor. Clad in blue jeans and a loose shirt when I meet him at a five star hotel, it’s evident that Rawal is on familiar turf. So what’s his first love these days — films or the Parliament? “Basically I am an actor so it has to be film sets, but these days I am enjoying my stint in a different way. The experience inside the Parliament is enriching. It helps one learn tricks of the world which helps me polish my craft as an actor,” Rawal says, as we settle down for a chat.

People who have interacted with Paresh Rawal will vouch for his reserve. He hardly engages with people he does not know and intracting with the press seems to be anathema. The cumulative result is that he is perceived as a snob. Is the assessment true? “If I keep appearing in front of them (people and the press) on a regular basis, they themselves will get bored of me. Rest assured, I am not media shy. People who know me and are close to me know this well that I don’t even have an iota of snobbishness. As far as perception goes, it’s difficult to win over perceptions because that’s not tangible. You can’t please everybody,” Rawal explains.

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Paresh Rawal has never looked back after he shot into the limelight with his menacing act in Arjun. He was handpicked for the role by director Rahul Rawail after seeing him perform in a play. Rawal, a gifted actor, excelled in virtually every role that was offered to him. He believes that this could happen only because he did not receive formal training from any school. He cites his villainous acts in Dacait, Kabzaa and Sir, which were all inspired from people he knew. “It’s difficult for me to get into (the skin of) a villainous character who is an idiot. These days no one is scared of villains. Whatever make-up you apply or weapon you carry, people will never be scared of you. Behude lagte hai hum. If it’s all about portraying a behuda character, might as well make it amusing,” he reasons.

His upcoming film Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi has been compared to 2 States, but Rawal denies any similarities. He maintains that the film is a laugh riot and the Gujarati character that he plays is neither stereotypical nor caricaturish. The film also reunites him with Rishi Kapoor after almost 25 years. The last time the two shared screen space together was for Rajkumar Santoshi’s Damini. So was there a moment when the passage of time hit home? “Never,” says Rawal. “Those from the Kapoor clan are such large-hearted people. I never got this feeling that I am acting with him after such a long period. He is a straightforward man.”

Currently he is also busy shooting for Sanjay Dutt’s biopic. The very mention of his co-actor Ranbir Kapoor brings a twinkle to Rawal’s eyes and it’s fair to conclude that the younger actor has the veteran in thrall with his acting prowess. In fact, Rawal believes that Ranbir is in the same league as Naseeruddin Shah. “An actor is known by his choices and just look at Ranbir’s choices. No one can dare stand in front of him.” He recalls: “When I was acting with Ranbir in the Dutt biopic, I got a feeling which I had experienced when I was acting with Naseer Bhai during Sir 25 years back. There is an actor in front of you to whom you reacting. The feeling was surreal and it happened after 25 years.”

Rawal is, of late, known for his acerbic tone on social media platforms. His Twitter account was in the eye of a storm when he mentioned Arundhati Roy in a tweets about Kashmir. Has his wife ever chided him to tone down his tweets? “She knows that there is no point chiding me but she also knows that I mean every word that I say or write on my social platform. I know that sometimes my style is acidic and harsh but during such cases it becomes impossible for me to keep things inside because of my anger.”

Bobby Deol: ‘Yes the film industry has let me down, but I can’t keep sulking’

After a four year hiatus, Bobby Deol — the flamboyant star of the 90s — is back on the big screen.

He hopes to win back his audience and his fading stardom, and revive his career with the upcoming comedy, Poster Boys, which marks the directorial debut of actor Shreyas Talpade, and also features his older brother, Sunny Deol. “People ask me why was I so choosy and why I didn’t do any film in the last four years. I tell them that I wasn’t choosy but people had become choosy about me,” says the actor candidly.

After a successful debut with Rajkumar Santoshi’s Barsaat (opposite Twinkle Khanna) in 1995, he went on to appear in many hits and is best remembered for his thriller and action films like Gupt, Soldier, Hamraaz, Ajnabee among others. Bobby’s career slowed down with duds like Chor Machaaye Shor, Kismat, Bardaasht, Tango Charlie. Years later, his fading career got a new lease of life with Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011) but his success was short-lived as younger actors displaced the once blue-eyed boy of the 90s. To make it worse, his films like Thank You and Players tanked at the box office.

He’s back in his flashy avatar — donning trendy shades and leather boots — and Bobby has now decided to speak his heart out.

“This is me, there is no defense mechanism,” he reiterates, adding, “I have no idea what went wrong with my career. I haven’t worked for four years, and these four years of my life has gone so fast but it has made me a better and stronger person. I have been dying to work, I love being on the sets. Now I feel refreshed, more positive in life and it reflects in my attitude or else I wouldn’t have been able to talk so openly. This way I will attract people’s attention and get more work.”

“A good subject, a good script is hard to find, God doesn’t give you chances again and again,” he says, as he looks around at his fans waiting for selfie. “I hate these selfie pics, it is the worst photograph possible…you look so distorted and ugly. We look like mannequins,” laughs Bobby, and gets down to chatting with Firstpost.

The actor says that the perception that he’ll only do starry roles and central characters has caused a dent in his career. “People started carrying false news about me and maligning me. The industry and social media kept saying that I don’t want to work. That I was content and happy. That I was busy as my wife’s going through a legal battle, but nobody knows the reality. It was tough for me to come out of all that. I want to change their outlook. I am now meeting people and telling them that I want to do good characters. Nice and meaty roles in all genres,” he says.

Few months back, Bobby had opened up about how the industry let him down and as a result he missed chances of doing hits like Jab We Met and Highway with director Imtiaz Ali, but without holding any grudges, he says, “Yes, the industry let me down but I can’t keep sulking. If work comes my way and people don’t ditch me, I would love to work with dedicated people and with some of the contemporary directors. Abbas Mustan are the only directors I have worked the maximum with. But somehow we have not been able to work together because when you are not in circulation then it is very difficult to get the project on floor.”

He further adds, “I haven’t really seen too many films off-late but I will start watching now. But I like the way Akshay is picking up scripts these days.”

While in the past Bobby was often refused roles of a small town guy, he grabbed the opportunity with Poster Boys in which he plays a naive, sincere and honest school teacher. “That’s going to be my approach now — to break stereotypes and surprise people. Earlier, whenever I would ask for the role of a poor guy, I was refused because I didn’t look like one. I always played a rich guy in many of these thrillers and rom-coms. The only time I played a small town boy was probably in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Kareeb. I never looked at myself as good looking or bad looking. There are so many films made where actors don’t look the part but perform the part. That is what I am hoping for,” says Bobby.

But one thing that will never change with Bobby is ‘disappearing’ from the city on the eve of his film’s release. Laughing out loud, he says, “I really get stressed with these box office collections. This time I am leaving for Manali. I would always run away on the release day. I am too sensitive a person, I can’t handle all this. I won’t lie; I get nervous and scared.

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 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.

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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.

Indu Sarkar: Madhur Bhandarkar uses a plethora of stereotypes; of women, politics and morality

Of all the things wrong about Madhur Bhandarkar’s vapid movie Indu Sarkar, two things stand out the most — the unbearably forced writing and the intolerable rigidity of its characters.

We’re told there is good and there is bad — the sarkar (government) is bad and those fighting against it are good. It can’t be ignored that the Congress government in 1975 did many gruesome things, the best known of which is, 42 years later, the Emergency and Sanjay Gandhi’s forced mass-sterilisation campaign.

But Indu Sarkar’s almost definitive portrayal of everyone in the government as evil and the rest of the world as innocuous makes you feel like you are watching a cartoon: Despicable Me: The Emergency Edition. (With apologies to Despicable Me which is rather great at exploring villainy) Political nuances be damned. Acuity in narrative be damned even more. Because, it isn’t about getting a nuance right as much as it is about having any nuance at all. (Bhandarkar fails to highlight why Emergency came about or the economic crisis in India during Emergency, thanks to the 1971 war with Pakistan.  Everything is equally sketchy. Bhandarkar fleetingly mentions Jayaprakash Narayan with no context whatsoever.)

All this to say that in Indu Sarkar, Bhandarkar relapses in his addiction for black and white characters. Plus a sepia filter.

The protagonist Indu (played by Kirti Kulhari), is a woman who only wants to be an “acchi biwi” (good wife). Except, the acchi biwi goes on to become an acchi krantikari (good activist) during the Emergency of 1975. Indu fights the Emergency against another Indu — Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (played by Supriya Vinod). ‘While one daughter of the nation is destroying it, another one can redeem it’ is the central idea. It’s good Indu v/s bad Indu. Good Indu empowered, and no cookies for bad Indu.

Good Indu protects children who lost their homes and stands up to her government-employed husband, Naveen Sarkar. Bad Indu is razing down homes and stifling voices. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, makes a short but significant appearance.  Even in the limited screen time provided to her, she is forced into the bad-girl stereotype by providing shots of her looking haughty and throwing in a sinister smile. Bhandarkar even tries to portray the 90s TV serial antagonist metaphor of ‘only villainous women wear sunglasses’ in a scene where Gandhi puts on her sunglasses while driving away to a rally.

“I am the flag-bearer of women-centric empowerment,” filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar has. But his movies usually focus on one type of woman — the seemingly strong innocent waiting to be misled and led astray. In Indu Sarkar too, his protagonist goes through a struggle of being misled by her husband before she finds her voice.

Bhandarkar’s female antagonists who actually do have power are also cruel and heartless. Like Kitu Gidwani’s character Anisha Roy, who runs a large modelling firm, in his largely successful if much giggled about film Fashion (2008). He failed to highlight any of Roy’s struggles or achievements, but what he did highlight was her outright selfishness and cruelty. Not that powerful women can’t be selfish or cruel. But are they only those? The only trope Bhandarkar uses to present his female antagonists (oh, and they’re almost always female) is evil with a side-dose of eyerolling and manic laughter.

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This can be observed in Page 3 (2005) as well. Konkana Sen Sharma’s journalist character is the epitome of morality in a dark world, while the women she mingles with at parties are terrible. They walk through the disco-dimmed world of celebrities with ‘shadeless morals’ (to quote Atul Kulkarni in Page 3) and no colour, but that of well, evil. A la Cruel Intentions but with less sexual frisson.

I really hoped he’d abandon this unrealistic masala in his ‘realistic’ films with Heroine (2012). Just for a change, you know. Just for fashion. Because Heroine did have a protagonist with a little bit grey. Mahi (played by Kareena Kapoor) was headstrong, fierce and above all, ambitious to the point of madness. She would do anything to achieve her dreams and had no damns to give about the damage she caused on the way.

But what does Bhandarkar make her do in the end? Abandon her ambitions. Because even driven, headstrong and ambitious women at the end of the day, are still women — which means they can’t be trusted because they’ll do anything to win. If a woman seeks power, it comes across as disgusting and contemptuous. It’s Hillary Clinton all over again.

Bhandarkar seems to have a formula-generator for most of his films: Put a good-lead-woman and a bad-antagonist-woman, add some misconstrued representation and a sprinkling of chemical sex.

Although he’s skipped the misrepresented gay man out of Indu Sarkar (unlike his other movies — the male sex worker in Traffic Signal, the gay fashion designer in Fashion, or Konkona Sen Sharma’s friend, a make-up artist, in Page 3), he has plenty of other stereotypes to reinforce in this movie.

There’s the power-hungry government officer, Naveen, who overlooks ethics in pursuit of his dreams, and commits suicide when he realises his folly (perhaps for the first time, Bhandarkar shows that bad, ambitious men give up too). Another staple ingredient of the Bhandarkar stereotype is the constant and unnatural use of the term ‘activist log’ to describe activists fighting the Emergency. The usage is so forced, it almost incites a collective groan from the audience.

There’s also Farhana, a ‘bitchy’ political confidante of Chief AKA Sanjay Gandhi, played by Neil Nitin Mukesh. Of course, in the Bhandarkar world, any woman who is a political aspirant has to be portrayed with shades of cruelty? Not that she’s spared from some mockery herself. Chief remarks how she knows his government’s policies better than a Member of Parliament, ‘in spite of being a woman’. Eh?

Indu Sarkar, like many movies in Bhandarkar’s past, is trying to empower ladies log, using the ‘Madhur Bhandarkar Beti Bachao’ formula.

Except, only the goody-two-shoes protagonist qualifies for empowerment, the antagonists and secondary characters be damned. If his idea of ‘realistic’ is restrictive to an inflexible portrayal of women’s characters, then he is in need of a reality check.

As Bhandarkar abandons hopes for ladies log (again!) I’ve abandoned hope for him. Again.

Munna Michael movie review: Who cares about logic when you have dance, action courtesy Tiger Shroff?

It’s 1995. An aging dancer with a disturbing Michael Jackson hangover is removed from the chorus line of a dance troupe. Michael (Ronit Roy) is devastated. He’s seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle but fate has him wander past an abandoned baby. Michael adopts the child and raises him as Munna.

Inspired by his father, Munna Michael (Tiger Shroff) becomes a dancing machine and makes a quick buck by pulling cons on the dance floor. His inspiration is also Michael Jackson.

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It’s bad enough that our choreographers are stuck in a time warp – they either design sequences aping Jackson or are rehashing hip-hop moves from the mid-90s. But here we have a film where even the writer and director are holding on to nostalgia, not just in terms of inspiration and choreography but also a story line.

Munna Michael takes the comic route and the cold, corpse-like narrative comes alive with the introduction of the ever-reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Siddiqui plays Mahinder Fauji – a hotelier and a thug with a soft corner for a dancer called Dolly (Nidhhi Agerwal). He believes the best way to impress her is by learning to dance, and for this job he hires Munna.

Let me explain that by this time Munna has left his ailing father in Mumbai and moved to Delhi to continue his con-on-the-dance-floor act. We don’t know what his father is suffering from and why Munna cannot think of any other career option but being a dancing cheat. But there you have it.

The moment Munna sets eyes on Dolly, it’s love at first shimmy and shake. Dolly’s dream is to win a dance show on TV. The men believe she’s a dancing queen. But Agerwal dancing is passable at best with her studied moves making her barely convincing as a champion dancer. Maybe she should have joined Munna’s dance classes! Alongside her, Shroff’s robotic moves almost look fluid.

Munna is assigned the job of helping Mahinder court Dolly and then, when she flees from Delhi, Munna must bring her back to Mahinder. What Dolly wants is, of course, of little consequence to Mahinder giving Munna an opportunity to deliver a lesson about that. Fortunately Mahinder’s obsession doesn’t become too creepy as the character is shown to be mean as nails otherwise but soft when it comes to matters of the heart. Siddiqui looks like he’s really enjoying the dance lesson sequences even as he flubs the steps.

Director Sabbir Khan and writer Vimi Datta have designed a film that is serviced by Shroff’s two skills – dancing and action. In spite of being predictable story with slack storytelling, Khan once again (Heropanti, Baaghi) showcases just what is needed to keep Shroff’s fans satisfied.

Put in enough of these two elements and who cares about logic, story, acting or originality.