‘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.

 

 

SHOLAY: The greatest story ever told

For someone who, as a kid ‘heard’ Sholay for about 5 years before actually ‘watching’, ‘Sholay’ isn’t just a film but an integral part of my growing up years. I vividly remember the cover of a ‘double-cassette’ pack of ‘Dialogues from Sholay’, which my father had bought for me.

Each and every dialogue, background score (The rust-ridden swing’s sound that terrified me every time I played the cassette), were something I could mouth with much alacrity than Math ‘tables’. A digression here: I was in the fourth grade and had watched an Amitabh Bachchan film, last show with parents. The next day, in the middle of school lecture, I suddenly started uttering dialogues from Sholay, much to the chagrin of my class teacher. Reeling with anger, she wrote a remark in the school diary, addressing my parents: Please come and see me and STOP SHOWING AMITABH BACHCHAN FILMS TO YOUR SON.

Once the ‘ban’ was lifted, I finally got the privilege of watching Sholay on a rented VCR – this time with visuals, and not just dialogues on a cassette set. I devoured it as if it were a buffet of forbidden fruits, and ended up watching Sholay thrice over till the wee hours. The anonymous voices of characters like Jai, Veeru, Thakur, Gabbar, Basanti, Angrezo ke zamaane ke Jailor entrenched in my memory finally found faces. Even after so many years, I often indulge in Sholay dialogues on iPod while travelling.

Despite being hailed as ‘The greatest movie ever made’, Sholay didn’t even win Filmfare Award, except for one award to M.S. Shinde for editing. It later bagged the Best Film in 50 years by Filmfare in 2005, perhaps as an apology.

In fact, when Sholay was released on 15th August 1975, it flopped. The critics were harsh on it and had already written it off. During its first screening, the audience seemed to be in a stupor, with no reaction. Some dismissed it as a second-rate version on Mera Gaon Mera Desh, which had a similar storyline. Film magazines wrote it off as a film that remains imitation of a Western – neither here nor there.

Amitabh Bachchan, who was shooting for Kabhi Kabhi, broke down on Shashi Kapoor’s shoulder. But the worst-affected among the cast was Amjad Khan, who had no other film but Sholay. Furthermore,  the critics had already made digs at his voice, which reminded him of writers Salim-Javed, who according to Amjad Khan, had allegedly convinced Ramesh Sippy during the film’s shoot that they made a mistake in suggesting his name to play Gabbar, owing to his voice that lacked baritone of a villain.

As luck would have it, Sholay picked up pace after the first week of its release, so much so that it ran for over 5 years at Minerva Theatre Mumbai and went on to become a milestone in Hindi Cinema.  The film marked the trend of including writer’s name in film posters, thanks to insistence of writer duo Salim-Javed. With passage of time, Sholay, for me, evolved to become as much about Salim-Javed than about Jai-Veeru.

The writing of this film never ceases to inspire awe for the writer duo. They used to pay from their pockets to publish ads in film trade magazines with their names printed in larger font size than the makers. Never before did any writers have such audacity. I believe, writers of our times should be thankful to Salim- Javed for proving that writers are indeed the true heroes of a good film.

The film originally had an ending where Thakur kills Gabbar with his feet. There was a scene where Ramlal fashions the shoes made of nails and offers to Thakur. The armless Thakur crushes Gabbar’s arms first, so as to make him an equal warrior. And then Thakur pounds Gabbar to death, uttering the dialogues, “Saanp ko kuchalne ke liye pairr hi kaafi hai, Gabbar!”  Though the end seemed justified, Ramesh Sippy was forced to end it on a politically correct note.  The alternate ending is available on original DVD.

While watching Sholay on TV, DVD or online, today’s youngsters might wonder how a village can have an overhead tank when they have no electricity. ‘How did they transport water up there?” “Hey how did the villager ‘Dholia’s character suddenly become ‘Shankar’ in the second half of the film?”

Well, such questions of logic die an illogical death the moment Gabbar Singh growls: Soowar ke bachho!

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Baar Baar Dekho is an engaging hypothesis

 

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It isn’t every day that you get to relive a day. It isn’t every day that you feel like revisiting a film, gleefully bashed by every critic worth his salt, just to figure out what went so wrong that these Fellini worshipers wrote it off.

Directed by debutant Nitya Mehra, Baar Baar Dekho, produced by Dharma Productions and Excel Films, Baar Baar Dekho is a film on the importance of ‘choti choti baatein’, and not just the bigger picture.

To begin with, it’s the ‘choti choti baatein’ i.e. the meticulous attention to details in cinematography that makes Baar Baar Dekho an interesting film. The film has been beautifully captured by Ravi K. Chandran, so much so that you’ll be tempted to revisit Terrence Malick’s visual poetry, ‘Tree of life’ starring Brad Pitt. Cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran and Editor Amitabh Shukla, take a bow.

While we are at it, one wonders how we’d have reacted if this film had been made in Hollywood starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. We’d have probably hailed it as one of the finest films of 2016. But here, since we have Katrina Kaif and Siddharth Malhotra as the lead pair, who aren’t known for their acting skills, it’s their good looks that gets noticed and talked about.

Well, Baar Baar Dekho has a rare thing which is amiss in films these days: Story. Yup, the film has an interesting story. Kudos to writer Sri Rao and other writers Anuvab Pal (Also terrific stand-up comedian and playwright), Anvita Dutt (For dialogues, which tread the route of minimalism with effortless ease), and Nitya Mehra.

One more clarification: Baar Baar Dekho is not a rom-com, but a premise based on a what-if situation i.e. hypothesis or postulation in mathematical parlance. Remember that scene in 3 Idiots, where Rancho asks Maddy to follow his dream, else one day, when he looks back at life, he’d repent that if he had mustered up courage, life would have been different.

Now picture this scenario in its literal sense. What if you had a chance to fix your life and value things that you otherwise take for granted? Well, that’s Baar Baar Dekho for you.

The song, ‘Kho gaye hum kahaan’, which is the opening sequence (and an endearing sequence towards the end) deserves a special mention here. The song has been beautifully shot and is quite a breather from those jump cuts that we have gotten used to while watching a love song video. The song chronicles the growing up years of the lead characters, Jai and Diya and is easily something that stays with you after watching the film.

Siddharth Malhotra essays the role of Jai Varma to perfection, barring some hiccups in few scenes when he turns old. The body language is quite inconsistent in these scenes, especially the one where he confronts a much-older Katrina Kaif’s Diya at a funeral. She looks lovely and approaches her role of Diya just like she does every other role, right from Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani to Bang Bang, which thankfully, doesn’t actually harm the film much.

Jai Varma’s obsession for Vedic Mathematics is well-established, but Diya’s artistic pursuit is royally ignored. She is shown only at art exhibitions and her yearning for a personal studio (Which is apparently an important aspect of the story) is never depicted. A few scenes of an artist’s madness and struggle to create something spectacular wouldn’t have hurt and wouldn’t have marred the beauty of the shots.

Ram Kapoor, like always, is spot-on as the bride’s father and Lord Hanuman Bhakt. Sarika makes her presence felt and one wishes to see more of her. Rajit Kapoor as the all-knowing Pandit is first-rate, more so, in the song, Kaala Chashma.

To sum it up, Baar Baar Dekho is a ‘beautiful looking’ film with a ‘beautiful message’ about striking balance in one’s work and personal life. Like the senior professor in the film would like to put it: Balance ke bina koi bhi equation adhoora hota hai. Baar Baar Dekho is a postulate (Assumption a mathematician makes in order to derive a conclusion) that makes this hypothesis engaging, Baar Baar!

 

Wrong Side Raju has its heart in the right place

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The line you’re reading isn’t about how Gujarati cinema has come a long way from Kedias to College so let’s drop those obligatory intro lines while referring to a Gujarati film. We don’t do that for Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil or Assamese (Yup, the state exists, and so does its cinema) cinema, do we? More so, if the film happens to be ‘Wrong Side Raju’, a thriller to the core, with its heart in the right place.

A Gujarati film backed by production houses like Cineman (Abhishek Jain, the director of Kevi Rite Jaish and Bey Yaar) and Phantom Films (Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Behl and Vikramaditya Motwane) was easily one of the reasons people flocked to watch ‘Wrong Side Raju’, right on its first day of release.

Here’s the good news: The film doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it keeps you engaged all through its screen time of 130 minutes. The real hero here is director Mikhil Musale, who makes you forget you are carrying a mobile phone with you.

The film, as expected, begins with an accident, on which it is pegged upon, but later takes a course of its own, revealing the darker truths of our society, system and the ever-widening gaps between haves and have-nots.

Writers Karan Vyas, Niren Bhatt, and Mikhil Musale must be applauded for coming up with a screenplay that does away from the clichéd ‘Three friends dream big, face obstacles and emerge triumphant’ kind of storyline rampant across the Gujarati ‘Urban’ Cinema. The film never loses its focus from being a thriller and keeps the audience guessing till the last 20 minutes.

Among the actors, Pratik Gandhi is first-rate. There’s an unmistakable endearment in his eyes, which makes you root for him. He is someone who has done the Gujarati theatre proud with his play, Mohan No Masaalo, wherein he essays the role of Mahatma Gandhi along with other characters as a solo actor.

In the same vein, Pratik’s approach in playing Raju Bambani in ‘Wrong Side Raju’, too, encapsulates varied characters in him – a bootlegger supplying the best-in-class brewery including French Wine, a dreamer aspiring for a ‘startup’ travel agency, a lovelorn guy yearning for the attention of Shailey Asher ‘medam’ (Played to perfection by Kimberley Louisa McBeath), and a meek driver who doesn’t bat an eyelid before lying to his boss (Kavi Shastri in a brilliant performance) while trying to woo his ‘medam’.

Asif Basra, playing Amitabh Shah, the business honcho who is always hard-pressed for time, wastes no time here in making you convince that this ‘villain’ is going to be a tough nut to crack for Raju Bambani. The other actor who deserves a special mention is Jayesh More as the corrupt cop. An ace actor who has already won many a heart with his Gujarati plays like ‘Aaj jaane ki zidd na karo’ and ‘102 Not Out’ directed by Saumya Joshi, Jayesh More adds layers to his character with his nuanced performance.

Though gripping to the core, ‘Wrong Side Raju’ does meander aimlessly towards the second half, especially in the court scene. To begin with, this one was supposed to be a high profile case and there had to be no room for those filmy references like Taare Zameen Par and Ghajini. Just because you have Siddharth Randeria in cameo doesn’t make it mandatory for the screenplay to have lighter moments. Remember, there was humour in ‘Jolly LLB’ too, but that had many layers to it. As an audience rooting for a path-breaking Gujarati film, this wasn’t too much to ask for.

Furthermore, the character of Tanmay Shah (Kavi Shastri) is established as an indifferent guy who isn’t even interested in his parents’ broken marriage and isn’t remotely possessive for his supposedly ‘girlfriend’ Shailey.

But there’s a sudden transformation in his character after the ‘Garba song’, where he threatens Raju of dire consequences. For what? Teaching Garba to his girlfriend? In fact, wasn’t it Tanmay who was looking for a Garba teacher and Raju pitched in, recommending his sister’s name to him? So what was all the fuss about, especially when his priority should have been procuring money from his rich dad.

In hindsight, one also feels why ‘Wrong Side Raju’ was made in Gujarati? The local flavor once guiltlessly savoured in films like Kevi Rite Jaish and Bey Yaar is often missing in the screenplay. The film could have well been made in Hindi and it won’t have made much difference.

Barring such speed breakers, ‘Wrong Side Raju’ is indeed a trip worth embarking upon. The music by Sachin Jigar is one of the best things about the film. The song, ‘Satrangi’ by Arijit Singh has already become a chartbuster. Cinematographer Tribhuvan Babu captures the film’s moments in a unique style. The opening montage of night sequences, reminiscent of ‘Be a rebel’ song from Rang De Basanti, employing the slow shutter speed technique is brilliant, and so is the crisp editing by Cheragh Todiwala.

So, fasten your seat-belts folks, ‘Wrong Side Raju’ has just crossed the divider of language and is on his way to win your hearts.