Mom is too much of melodrama and too little of story

Despite all its noble intentions of amplifying the crime against women, director Ravi Udyawar’s Mom reiterates the stereotypes associated with rape. A youngster keen on going to a Valentine’s Day party at a farmhouse is a premise that goes on to state: Girls shouldn’t party till late, else they can be sexually assaulted.

The parent, i.e. the mom (step-mom, to be precise) of this young girl in question takes every precaution to ensure her daughter’s safety. For instance, right from the usual checklist questions like ‘whom are you going with?’, ‘who is going to drive?’ ‘is there a male member with you?’, ‘call me as soon as you are about to leave’, etc.

Needless to mention, this ‘safety checklist’ doesn’t stop the inevitable from taking place. The second half is your usual ‘Zakhmi Aurat’, ‘Phool bane angaarey’, ‘Mardaani’ and ‘Maatr’ fare. Speaking of Maatr, the film steered clear of the usual ‘girl goes to party and gets assaulted’ or ‘couple go out in the dead of the night and the woman gets raped’ and showed an ordinary situation of being late from an award function and taking the wrong road, which eventually proves to be fatal for the mother and daughter. Pink went on to break the clutter and stand out with its realistic treatment of getting inside the criminal’s mind, as well as the victim’s emotions. The screenplay written by Girish Kohli heads south. What could have been a smart cat-and-mouse game ends up becoming a yawningly predictable affair.

The key focus of Mom remains on Sri Devi, who makes a comeback after English Vinglish (2012), understandably so, owing to the fact that it’s her 300th film. The emotional graph of her character is portrayed with a veteran’s ease, which is indeed worth an applause. The other actors worth a mention are Sajal Ali as the daughter (An unmistakable look-alike of Kareena Kapoor), Adnan Siddiqui as the cool and composed dad who is quite a find, and Vikas Verma as one of the baddies, who in a brief role, leaves an impression that he is here to stay.

Mom oscillates between ‘Stepmom’ and ‘Maatr’ and while the film is at it, we are introduced to some fascinating characters like Dayashankar Kappor aka DK (Ably played by the ‘unrecognizable’ Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Mathew Francis (Akshaye Khanna in a terrific form). DK is a failed detective frantically looking for work and often doubles up as a matchmaker. Nawazuddin seems to be uncomfortable in the odd get-up and yet shines out with witty one-liners delivered in his inimitable style. On the other side, Akshaye Khanna’s Mathew Francis is an aggressive cop with a rich repository of informants yet is bogged down by bureaucracy and corruption.

These traits of DK and Mathew Francis, though hinted at the outset, remain unexplored throughout the film. There’s a scene where Mathew Francis is interrogating DK and breaks into an impromptu grin, which is the second-most powerful scene of the film. The scene will fascinate you even after reading this criminal of a spoiler. Cinematographer Anay Goswamy, take a bow.

Second-best, because the only scene from Mom that will stay with you even after leaving the auditorium will surely be the one where rape is being depicted without showing anything gory. The scene catches you unaware and forces you to imagine the unimaginable by deploying a bird’s eye view camera angle and a haunting background score by AR Rahman.

Speaking of music, the songs of Mom, especially ‘Be nazaara’ and ‘Muafi mushkil’ are gems that remain hidden in the film as mere background scores and leitmotifs. Thankfully, the song, ‘O sona’ is the only one to survive the editor’s (Monisha R. Baldawa) merciless snips, but by the time you watch this song, you have already given up on the film, blame it on truckloads of melodrama thrown at you.

To sum it up, Mom is too much of Sri Devi and too little of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Akshaye Khanna. Too much of AR Rahman’s background score and too little of his brilliant songs. Too much of melodrama and too little of a story. Too much of promise and too little of delivery.

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Tiyaan shatters the barriers of language and religion 

A sadhu uttering ‘Allah Hoo Akbar’. A Muslim proclaiming ‘Om Namah Sivaay’. A youngster being roughed up by his cop father for eating beef and the inspector making him chant a Gau rakshak slogan, spitting his paan inside the police station and invoking ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’. A film, especially regional, replete with many such bold scenes would have been stuck with the censors and one wonders how ‘Tiyaan’ (‘the above-mentioned’ in Malayalam) escaped unscathed and made it to the theatres. The filmmakers need to be lauded for their audacity and sheer grit to drive home their point.

To begin with, ‘Tiyaan’ is the first-ever Malayalam film I watched. And mind you, watching a film in a language you don’t understand and that too, without subtitles could be quite a daunting task. Well, not exactly, if the screenplay and story is engaging, direction is awe-inspiring, and performances are way beyond your expectations. Add to that, a mallu wife for the company, whispering translations of lengthy dialogues to keep you in sync with what transpires on the screen.

Beyond a certain point, one no longer misses the translation or subtitles. Nevertheless, I’d request regional filmmakers to include English/Hindi subtitles in their films or maybe the Board of Film Certification can make it mandatory so that the film can reach wider audience. Thankfully, the second half was mostly in Hindi, which made the viewing easier.

Tiyaan is a socio-political thriller, generously sprinkled with religion, miracles and spirituality. Written by Murali Gopy, and directed by Jiyen Krishnakumar, Tiyaan features Prithviraj Sukumaran and Indrajit Sukumaran playing the lead roles. Muraly Gopy, the writer of the film, doubles up as the film’s antagonist, essaying the role of a menacing godman to perfection.

The film is set at an idyllic village, perhaps in Uttar Pradesh. The strategic location of the village draws attention of a self-styled godman, Bhagwan (Muraly Gopy) to establish a temple. The only obstacle he and his goons face is a Brahmin’s (Indrajit Sukumaran in a brilliant performance) home, which needs to be demolished before the construction of the temple resumes. A Muslim fakir (With an interesting back story), essayed by Prithviraj Sukumaran with a veteran’s ease, lends his ‘divine’ support to the Brahmin, in his combat against the evil godman.

A story of such simplicity has multiple layers, which the director Jiyen Krishnakumar unveils one scene at a time. The screenplay writer Muraly Gopy’s craftsmanship and the deft storytelling skill of Jiyen Krishnakumar makes Tiyaan a compelling film. Satheesh Kurup captures the essence of a remote village to perfection with those aerial shots of barren landscapes. Even the action sequences that he shoots, amplify the characters’ emotions rather upping the film’s commercial ante. The editing by Manoj is slick to a fault, not a single frame more, not a single moment less. The music by Gopi Sundar blends with the film’s narrative seamlessly and becomes almost a character, especially in the song invoking Lord Shiva, lip synced by Muraly Gopy. When was the last time you loved a song sung by an antagonist in a film?

If Prithviraj Sukumaran commands screen presence with his smoldering persona and piercing eyes, Indrajit Sukumaran (his real-life brother) owns the frame with his dialogues and histrionics. Muraly Gopy depicts anger and greed using his eyes and with a restrained performance. Any other actor in his place would have surely gone overboard to make himself menacing. Muraly knows his skill too well to succumb to such temptations. Besides the powerful lead cast, the film has an interesting ensemble of supporting actors like Padmapriya Janakiraman, Ananya, Paris Laxmi, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Shine Tom Chacko, and Rahul Mahadev, who are indeed worth an applause.

To sum it up, Tiyaan is a film that goes on to prove that regional cinema is here to stay and shall always remain way ahead of mainstream Hindi cinema. This film makes a much bigger impact than those loud OMGs or PKs that we have been watching and appreciating. The film reiterates the fact that humanity, spirituality and compassion are above godmen, religions and miracles.

 

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‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ is worth the pay

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Guy meets girl. They fall in love. Girl’s father opposes the alliance. Guy wins her over. How different can a plot this archaic be translated into an engaging film? Watch ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ to know. The title here is justified by the fact that the public toilet was christened after the name of a local politician.

Well, I was told there was a double entendre there in its title but let’s not get there, as the film’s director, Krishnadev Yagnik, too, refrains from the indulgence of toilet humour in his film. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ effortlessly replaces toilet humour with dark humour, a rare feat to achieve.

An actor with brilliant screen presence, Mayur Chauhan, who had earlier essayed a brief role in Krishnadev Yagnik’s previous blockbuster, ‘Chello Divas’ (The highest grossing Gujarati film), as a Saurashtra accented tea vendor. This time around, he plays Tilok, the caretaker of a public toilet who makes a living by helping people answer the nature’s call. The actor uses the Saurashtra dialect to his character’s advantage. Never does the accent feel forced or fake.

As an audience, you are convinced that Mayur Chauhan speaks the same way. More than the accent, it’s the actor’s ability to emote in front of the camera and sink his teeth into the character that makes him believable. In fact, the character is so well-written, you can’t resist rooting for him, even if the means he chooses to meet the ends aren’t morally correct.

Deeksha Joshi, in a role far different from her previous outing, ‘Shubh Aarambh’, where she portrayed the role of a confident and independent urban girl, essays the role of Jaya, a housemaid, with such conviction that there isn’t a trace of the urban girl you’d seen before. The house that she inhabits is a complete mess, replete with four (plus one, I guess) sisters, and a ruthless father, Chinubha (Chetan Daiya, a terrific actor), who drives an autorickshaw, when not busy impregnating his wife, hoping against hope for a male child.

The other actor who makes his presence felt is Hemang Shah, who plays Sundar, the brother of Tilok. The chemistry between these brothers is far effective than the one shared by the lead characters, i.e. Tilok and Jaya. Barring a scene on the terrace, where Jaya and Tilok meet, the other ‘romantic’ scenes are shot in slo-mo peppered by a reggae leitmotif becomes too repetitive after a certain point of time. The special touches like onion peels replacing rose petals and the ‘Vikram Rathod’ (He also plays a cameo here) scene are worth an applause.

The ‘mohalla ruckus’ has been given an authentic feel in ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’, where the director recreates the tension to perfection, making you believe that you are in the middle of the action. Brief characters like swachhta karmchaari kaka and an over-enthusiastic news reporter are sure to leave you in splits. The highpoint of this film is surely the faceoff between Tilok and Chinubha, ably supported by Jay Bhatt, the benign Pani-Puri vendor (An actor worth a mention here).

Well, to sum it up, ‘Kasandas Pay and Use’ is a departure from those multiple ‘Urban Gujarati Films’ churned out after the success of ‘Kevi Rite Jaish’, ‘Bey Yaar’, ‘Chello Divas’, and ‘Wrong Side Raju’. This film has many sub-texts to it, which I’d better leave on you to discover. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ is sure to appeal both urban as well as rural populace, especially because of its authentic rustic treatment. Despite being shot in Vadodara, the film thankfully distances itself from those mandatory Laxmi Vilas Palace or Bird Circle shots.

A film on such topic would have been replete with toilet humour, but director Krishnadev Yagnik ensures that you root for Tilok till the end credits roll. Hope other filmmakers take a leaf from this film and think beyond ‘jugaadu friends helping the hero woo his girl’, ‘bootleggers and terrace daaru parties’, ‘American dreams’, and ‘Patang restaurant shots’. Gujarati cinema surely deserves better and this might just be the beginning. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ offers Gujarati cinema the much-needed relief from the stereotypes. After all, there are miles of ‘Sairat’ to go before we sleep…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In admiration of ‘Hindi Medium’ in English medium

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In a nation where English is more Hindustani than Hindi, a film like Hindi Medium is likely to strike a chord with many, be it the ones with an inherent attribute of minding their Ps and Qs and often indulging in an ‘exasperating farrago of distortions’ debate, the average English speakers who have mastered the art of surviving with ‘functional English’ of sales and marketing, to the ones who just couldn’t crack the Queen’s code and believe that a suffix of ‘ing’ makes every language English – yup, they’re the Hindi Medium types.

“How would you introduce poverty to your child?” is one of the questions asked by the school authorities to the parents of their prospective students. Hindi Medium, despite centering around the Babel that divides two classes, is about the deprived and destitute populace who receive water supply for barely ten minutes and ration in marginal quantities. In hindsight, one feels that Hindi Medium is an introduction of poverty instead of an eye-opener of education lacunae.

Irrfan Khan essays the role of one such ‘Hindi Medium type’ to perfection. So much so that you’d be tempted to google his name in the dubbing credits for Namesake, Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire or the latest editions of Jurassic Park and Spiderman series in Hollywood. This earthiness surely stems from his humble upbringing, where the actor might be drawing parallels and finding inspiration.

Hadn’t it been for experience, what kind of reference would this gem of an actor ever find while playing a Chandni Chowk garment shop owner interacting with an affluent woman and her daughter with those ‘Aji Kareena lagti hain aap to…” and “Juice piiyengi madam?” to sell them ‘Manish Malhotra designer lehengaas’. This, dear folks, is just the beginning and there are multiple of such nuggets you’d discover on your way while watching Saket Chaudhary’s Hindi Medium.

Saba Qamar, in her Hindi (Medium) film debut, impresses by the way she approaches this role with varied emotional graphs. She essays the role of a wife, as well as mother with effortless ease, sans melodrama. And trust me, the film had immense scope for melodrama but the engaging screenplay by Zeenat Lakhani and Saket Chaudhary avoid it like plague, and emerge triumphant with many a lump-in-the-throat moment in the offing.

The film is sarcasm cinefied. Right from what is wrong with our education system, to the definition of poverty reminiscent of ‘Asli Naqli’ (The Dev Anand starrer directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee), Hindi Medium ticks all the boxes of a well-rounded film that engages, inspires and educates, all in the same breath. A story about the desperate measures a couple would take to admit their kid in an upmarket English medium school takes a completely different route in the second half, by questioning the norms, and shaking up collective conscience.

Amrita Singh, too leaves an impact with a role that suits her persona, but is quite a caricaturist one. The other actor who makes his presence felt with his mind-numbing performance is Deepak Dobriyal. Having explored the rib-tickling terrains in the Tanu Weds Manu series, the actor goes on to prove that he can make you go ‘LOL’ in a minute, and ‘OMG!’ in the next. There is one scene that would linger on your mind for a long time after leaving the auditorium, and I’d better leave at that.

Well, to sum it up, Hindi Medium essentially belongs to Irrfan Khan, be it his chemistry with Saba Qamar, friendship with his lil daughter, camaraderie with Deepak Dobriyal or equation with his nemesis, Amrita Singh, the actor justifies the nuanced writing and a direction by Saket Chaudhary that dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts. Didn’t get the phrase? How Hindi Medium type!

 

 

 

Bahubali 2: The Conclusion is a spectacular celebration of cinema

There are films and there are experiences. Films like Bahubali easily fit into the latter category, where the canvas is so grand that you keep wondering what hue the artist is going to paint next, in this chef d’oeuvre of a film. In a generation of Harry Potter and Hobbit, the granny’s stories that lulled kids to blissful sleep have become a thing of the past. The art of storytelling, especially in films seems to have lost its sheen, and we as audience find solace in mere star presence, where a certain Khan outstretches his arms for the nth time, another Khan rips off his shirt, and the third one adds method to the similar madness by losing and gaining his weight, and lo and behold, we attain our ‘paisa-wasool’ nirvana.

If not the Khans, we have Kumars, Kapoors and Singhs to help producers keep their cash registers ringing. Amidst these assembly-line moneymaking films, there comes a mammoth ‘dubbed’ film without a known face, conjures up a magical world and takes the entire box office by storm. While it exudes charm by its resplendent visual imagery, it narrates a fascinating story, akin to those granny tales, where she’d mix up Ramayana, Mahabharata and Krishna’s pranks, dishing out a mishmash of mythology that is far from the banal ‘Ek tha raja ek thi rani’. Director SS Rajamouli, with his gripping screenplay and visionary direction, is the modern-day granny of filmmaking.

KK Senthil Kumar shoots the film with a style that matches scale with the international blockbusters and Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao edits the film with the deftness of an artist. The music by MM Kreem creates a whole new world of its own, especially the opening sequence. One hopes for a song like Dheevara in this one too, but the rest of the songs seem to have been lost in translation. Just like those good ol’ grannies, the story (Written by KV Vijayendra Prasad, the director’s father and also the writer of Bajrangi Bhaijaan) that the director narrates is far from original.

We know Amarendra Bahubali and his son Mahendra Bahubali (Prabhas in a role of a lifetime that easily secures his position as an iconic actor and a superstar-in-making) is going to triumph over his evil brother Bhallaldeva (Rana Daggubati as one of the finest antagonists we have ever seen in recent times), in a Mahabharatasque style, yet you still are all ears throughout the narration.

The character of Katappa (Satyaraj) is like Hanuman in Ramayana, Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) has shades of Kaushalya as well as Kaikeyi, Devsena (Anushka Shetty) has shades of Devaki in the previous installment of the film and Jodha, Sita as well as Draupadi in this film. In fact, Anushka and Ramya have the meatiest roles in this film, apart from, of course the titular Bahubali(s). Ramya, who had made her presence felt in the previous film, has an interesting character graph in this film, where she falters and eventually emerges triumphant, with that signature shot of an infant in her hand.

Satyaraj demonstrates his funnier side, which is a welcome change. The only ruse is the repeated usage of ‘Kutta’ for his character. Being a Senapati who commanded immense respect in the previous film, he deserved much more respect here too. His character is almost reduced to a caricature, especially towards the film’s end. The aggression displayed in the first film during his meeting with the Afghanistani king (Sudeep, who unfortunately doesn’t appear here) is missing here. The oft-repeated ‘Kutta’ word loses its gravity as an expletive (If it ever is), reducing him as ‘Kuttappa’ instead of Katappa (Pardon the pun).

Anushka Shetty, as Devsena, the fiery and ‘feminist to a fault’ princess, owns the screen in every frame she appears. One glance at her and you secretly hope Sanjay Leela Bhansali ditches his current favourite for his upcoming films, as you helplessly visualize Anushka in the roles of Leela, Mastani or Padmavati. The actress convinces you that she is indeed a warrior princess and a perfect match for Bahubali’s character. We are yet to see someone of her caliber in our films, after Madhuri Dixit.

As for Prabhas, it seems he was born to play Bahubali and the actor nails his role to the T. There is not a single frame where he lets you check your mobile phone or talk to the ones sitting next to you. In hindsight, it’s quite difficult to ascertain whether the actor commands such screen presence or is it the writing of his character that inspires awe. Prabhas is surely going to remain Bahubali for us, no matter what roles he might essay in the years to come, which is boon as well as bane for him (Remember Arun Govil, Nitish Bhardwaj, Mohit Raina as Rama, Krishna and Shiva?). Honestly, one won’t mind multiple Bahubali films or perhaps Arjuna in a Mahabharata made by the same director (Only SS Rajamouli can pull it off, if Mahabharata was ever to be made on celluloid). Bahubali could well become India’s first superhero franchise (You are forgiven if you just mentioned Shaktimaan, Krrish, RA1 or Flying Jatt).

As far as the proverbial question, by the film’s interval, you’d care two hoots about why Katappa killed Bahubali.  After all, with an engaging screenplay and a mammoth scale like this, who cares? Admittedly, I knew the ‘suspense’ well before watching Bahubali 2, thanks to a plethora of ‘FB friends’ who quite immaturely spilt the beans on social media. And believe me, the spoilsports of their ilk stood no chance in dampening my experience of beholding this spectacular film. With its charismatic blend of mythological stories, this granny’s tale is sure to mesmerize you. While we are at it, when was the last time you met that curious-eared child in you?

 

 

 

Rangoon is a visual symphony

 

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“All the world is a stage!” announce two jesters on the map of the world, where one is dressed up as Winston Churchill and the other Adolf Hitler, which is quite a befitting tribute to the Shakespearean adaptations of Vishal Bhardwaj. The gag takes a potshot at Hitler, who enacts a dog looking for a place to relieve itself and finally finding ‘relief’ in his own land, Germany.

The gag, in a way, is about Vishal Bhardwaj, who after having explored varied terrains from Saat Khoon Maaf, Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola and Kaminey finally finds solace in his own Shakespearean genre that he began with Maqbool and Omkara. Rangoon comes across as a beautiful blend of these two masterpieces by the filmmaker who composes his films, not just make them. Rangoon, featuring Kangna Ranaut, Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan is a stellar example of flawless casting and impeccable performances by its leads.

A love triangle with a patriotic twist, Rangoon transports you into its era, where filmmaking wasn’t about indulgence of directors with multiple takes as the makers had to be at the mercy of the British for their raw stock supply. Where love meant celebrating the scars and adorning a wounded finger with the ring of commitment. Where life is sacrificed because there is a reason worth giving up one’s life for. Vishal Bhardwaj encapsulates the varied hues of love in two hours and forty-seven minutes of sheer visual artistry.

Kangna Ranaut, as Miss Julia or rather ‘Jaanbaaz Julia’ gives her all to this role of a lifetime. The best part about her performance is that she sheds the Kangna Ranaut we have all known, and metamorphoses into Julia. Be it action, comic or emotional scenes, this gem of an actress nails it with the ease of a veteran. Saif Ali Khan as Rustom ‘Rusi’ Billimoria is spot-on. The handicap of his hand reminds you of Langda Tyaagi, an immortal role he essayed in Omkara.

Shahid Kapoor sinks his teeth into the meaty role of Jamadar Nawab Malik, convincing you that he has been a prisoner of war for 8 years in Rangoon and Singapore. Richard McCabe as Major General Harding is quite a surprise here, breaking the stereotype ‘Goras’ that we are used to watching in our films. This character is obsessed with Mirza Ghalib and Hindustani Classical Music and never misses an opportunity to quote Ghalib. Kudos to writers Matthew Robbins, Vishal Bhardwaj, and Sabrina Dhawan for such nuanced writing and character sketches. After watching Rangoon, you’d feel as if you knew these folks, including Saharsh Shukla as ‘Zulfi’, and Kawaguchhi, the Japanese soldier whom the characters of Shahid and Kangna hold captive.

Rangoon is a road movie, a war film, a love triangle saga, a musical – all packed into one. The production design and costumes adroitly recreate an era gone by. The only area where it lets you down is, surprisingly its music, which is the forte of Vishal Bhardwaj. After a point of time, the songs seem redundant and fail to connect with you as an audience. The only song that stays with you is ‘Yeh ishq hai’. Vishal Bhardwaj’s composition and Gulzar’s lyrics leave you awe-inspired, especially in the line, ‘Bekhud se rehta hai, yeh kaisa sufi hai. Jage toh Tabrizi, bole toh Rumi hai’. Tabrizi was the spiritual teacher of Rumi, the Sufi poet and philosopher.

Pankaj Kumar paints the reels with his masterstrokes reminiscent of the forties and shoots the film like a visual poetry. Aalaap Majgavkar edits the film with the deftness of a goldsmith, who knows the precise amount of artistic gold to be retained and commercial copper to be mixed.

Rangoon, in all its vintage glory, is a visual symphony punctuated with poetry.

 

 

Dear Zindagi is an inner journey you must embark upon

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Once while surfing TV channels, I chanced upon Anurag Basu’s ‘Life in a…Metro’. In the film’s climax, Irfan Khan tells Konkana Sensharma: “Yeh shehar hamein bahut kuch deta hai lekin badle mein bahut kuch leta bhi hai…” He prods her to loosen up, let it all go and scream her lungs out, atop a building. “Ab tumhari servicing ho gayi…” he concludes, in his inimitable style and embraces her. If one were to cull out this nugget to interpret it as a film, you’d get a gem of a movie called, Dear Zindagi.

Gauri Shinde’s latest film starring Alia Bhatt and Shahrukh Khan can be best summed up as: Relevant and refreshing. Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be better if we led a simpler life sans high aspirations? In our times, if a kid begins to match steps with certain film star, the parents are quick to predict that their child is born to rise and shine.

An A+ in Science subject at school convinces the student that he/she is the next Einstein. A college theatre performance alludes youngsters that they are destined to reign over the silver screen someday, only to later settle for a regular job and suddenly discover that life needn’t be that difficult. An ordinary life can also make one feel extraordinary.

We’re constantly motivated to take the ‘untrodden path’ – the difficult one and push our limits, do the impossible and emerge triumphant. At what cost? This pursuit for excellence often takes up much more than we might be willing to bargain for. Dear Zindagi delves into the terrain of soul-searching and introspecting on the decisions we take in life, the way we behave. And the root cause might be hidden somewhere within – buried in the grave of memories we wish to forget, but cannot.

Alia Bhatt has time and again proved her mettle with her craft. Pardon the blasphemy, but Alia Bhatt is the only actress of our times who can act. Before you write this off as a fanboy’s ode, you should see the way she emotes breakup scenes in ‘Just go to hell’ song, pulls off an encore of the chilli-eating act of Aishwarya Rai in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam with veteran’s ease, hangs around with her beer-guzzling friends and breaks into an impromptu jig, the way she deletes more messages on her mobile than she types them, her interactions with psychiatrist Shahrukh Khan, and taking mental notes about his clinic during the farewell scene, and so forth.

A performance of this kind could easily become the textbook of acting for our actresses. When was the last time you felt this way about any other actress? All one can talk about is the way a particular heroine looked in a film, the way she carried herself in traditional or bold attire and so on…but never can we say anything special about acting prowess of other actresses.

Shahrukh Khan, when given an author-backed role, can throw in some serious surprises. The actor’s performance in Dear Zindagi can find its pride of place in the list of his films like Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Swades, and Chakh De! India. The Kabaddi with sea, the counselling sessions and the scene where his character, Jehangir Khan enlightens Alia’s character, Kaira on the varied hues of relationship and reasoning why relationships don’t last longer these days are stuff classics are made of. Welcome back, Shahrukh Khan, the actor!

The character actors have been meticulously casted, be it Alia’s parents, relatives, friends and men in her life, i.e. Angad Bedi, Kunal Kapoor and Ali Zafar. The music by Amit Trivedi and lyrics by Kausar Munir stick out as a sore thumb, except for the ‘Just go to hell’ song. The bright side here is that the songs have been infused seamlessly into the narrative, and don’t hamper the film’s proceeding.

So, one can easily forgive the cardinal sin of messing up with ‘Ae zindagi gale laga le’ song penned by Gulzar and originally composed by Ilaiyaraaja in the film, ‘Sadma’.  Laxman Utekar beautifully captures Goa with utmost restraint. Hemanti Sarkar edits the film without letting the viewers go astray and lose focus from the film’s key characters.

To sum it up, the real ‘hero’ of Dear Zindagi is Gauri Shinde, the film’s director. After the brilliant English Vinglish, Dear Zindagi is a befitting reprise of role-reversal. While English Vinglish was about treating your parents right, this one has an important message for the parents. Yup, the parents can too be wrong and we must thank Gauri Shinde to break the clutter of those ‘Avatars’, ‘Jaisi Karni Waisi Bharnis’ and ‘Baaghbaans’ that we have been enduring all through our growing up years.

Dear Zindagi, though not as deep as ‘Goodwill Hunting’, is a film you should watch and pester all your friends to watch too – precisely what I am doing right now.