‘Chor Bani Thangat Kare’ will steal your heart 

A day of dreams brimming with reality. A day of hopes finding happiness. A day of sweat on the brow shining against the sun of fame. A day of darkness bowing to the arc lights. A day of confidence. A day of goosebumps. A day of bouquets. A day of brickbats. The day of Chor Bani Thangat Kare’s release isn’t just another day for someone like Rahul Bhole, a Vadodara-based filmmaker who started out with short films.

Before we proceed with the review, a digression here: There are around 100 Gujarati films currently being made and the average cost including marketing and release per film is about two crores. With almost one or two Gujarati films releasing every weekend, the industry is growing exponentially to be reckoned as a 200-crore industry and still growing. Despite such encouraging figures and films like Kevi Rite Jaish, Bey Yaar and Wrong Side Raju (All from the same stable of CineMan films) already set higher benchmarks, Gujarati films seldom draw the audience to the theatre.

What keeps them away from Gujarati films is perhaps the kind of clones being churned out every Friday with films revolving around a group of friends (With toilet sense of humour), a girl (Wearing an expression of ‘what am I doing here?’), bootlegger (Dry-sigh state), jugaad for money (After all, Gujarat is a business-centric state so no films can be made without money being the core theme), and of course, Garba (Drone shots. Masked dancers’ shots. Flirting shots. Check.).

This is where Chor Bani Thangat Kare scores. It steers clear of all the clichés associated with Gujarati films and even if it does touch the ‘daaru’ aspect, it makes sure that the scene is an integral part of the film’s narrative, rather than just another dry state gag. What really works here is the engaging screenplay peppered by hilarious dialogues and a cast that essays characters you’d root for, despite the predictability.

Rajkumar Trivedi, aka Robin suffers from kleptomania, a psychological disorder that makes him a compulsive thief without him realizing it. The biggest obstacle this character must brave through is the ability to make people around him understand the fact that he is not a chor i.e. thief. Amit Mistry plays Robin with a gleeful ease, so much so that he might be christened as Robin after this film. This gem of an actor literally ‘stole’ the show in the second half of Bey Yaar and choosing him to play Robin is the best casting decision of the filmmaker.

Well, as karma would have it, here another actor steals the show from Amit Mistry (not that he would mind, as he is a character you’d never forget after watching the film), who is none other than Ojas Rawal. An actor who began with a rather serious role in Tejas Padiaa’s Gujarati film debut, Polampol, goes for a complete spin here by playing two hilarious characters, one being a local chor and the other as a lookalike of Baba Ramdev. Ojas is a sheer delight to watch and each time he appears on the screen, you’re already hoping for an encore.

Bijal Joshi, as the actress does a decent job playing a character which seems to be written in haste. Despite being a pivot to the film’s plot, she fails to leave an impact, blame it on the passive treatment her character is lent. There isn’t a single moment in the film where she is assertive and comes on her own and is always pushed to action by someone, either the lead actor or her grandma. Even the old Nokia and backstory is reminiscent of Kareena’s character in 3 Idiots and doesn’t add anything to the narration, except the predictable utility of her phone in the film’s end.

Prem Gadhvi impresses with his character of Lenti, a friend who is always by the side of Robin through every thick and thin. The actor has grown with each film, to become an essential part of every Gujarati film and already has a large fan following, which is evident when the audience cheers for him during his entry scene.

Manan Desai, an ex-RJ turned stand-up comedian and curator for India’s best talents in comedy, makes an interesting cameo as a terrorist with an ability to make the cops apologize for hitting him. No matter how farfetched this may sound, but the actor does it with a conviction that will leave you in splits. Chirayu Mistry, a popular stand-up comedian of Vadodara plays an interesting role of an instalment collection executive carrying a saw. These are one of those rare cameos that go on to prove that the length of an actor’s role doesn’t matter, if it has been written and portrayed well. Other stand-up comedians like Aariz Saiyed and Preeti Das show up as news anchors too.

The music by Sachin-Jigar is soothing and lends the film a much-needed breather (how long can you keep laughing continuously?). Speaking of songs, this is a film where the songs are seamlessly woven into the narrative. ‘Bhuli jau chhe’ and ‘Mauj-E-Dariya’ (Benny Dayal’s first Gujarati song) are tracks you’d look up on iTunes and listen on a loop.

Like any other film made on a limited budget (the production values are top-notch, mind you), few scenes do stick out as sore thumb, especially the yoga session that is supposed to have 3000 participants, while what barely hundred show up and the terrorists keep insisting that they are 3000. But thanks to Ojas Rawal, whose performance as the Ramdev Baba lookalike prevents you from noticing such slipups. Even the terrorists are replete with stereotypes (Why are the walls of their rooms always green?).

The film’s basic premise of a reluctant thief itself gives way to multiple possibilities, which the writer-director Rahul Bhole explores to the hilt, thankfully, without going overboard. The smartest thing that he does with the plot is to focus on one story and throw in an ensemble of madcap characters. It wouldn’t be surprising if Rahul Bhole comes up with a sequel of Chor Bani Thangat Kare. We’re already waiting.


Jagga Jasoos revives the art of storytelling and brings out the child in you

A film that kicks off by doffing hat to the legendary showman, Raj Kapoor (Gardish mein taare rahenge sadaa) goes on to establish his grandson as the tramp of our times. It goes without saying that if Raj Kapoor’s biopic were to be made, Ranbir Kapoor could play the lead with a veteran’s ease. Watching Jagga Jasoos makes one believe that Barfi! was the initial process of laying foundation for this helluva rollercoaster ride.

Musicals, though unexplored in our films (Let’s forget Shirish Kunder ever made Jaaneman. If you’re wondering which film was this, you’re indeed blessed). Hum Aapke Hain Kaun had songs for every occasion, but was far from a musical narrative. The Indian films find their roots in the Ramleelas, which were no less than musicals and later graduated to melodrama after Parsi theatre took the centerstage. So, it’s quite strange we never got this genre right, despite belonging to the land of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the epics which were ‘recited’ rather than being ‘read out’. Well, better late than never.

If AR Rahman made a breakthrough in the broadway musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams, Anurag Basu cracks the Indian musical code with Jagga Jasoos. The film plays out as a narration from a children’s book and handholds us to a whole new world of love & loss, innocence & acceptance, curiosity & simplicity.

The film solely rests on two wonderful characters, Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) and his foster father Tuti Phooti (The brilliant Saswata Chatterjee). The ‘taal-mel’ of these two actors is splendidly ‘aww-inspiring’. Such chemistry isn’t found even in the lead pairs or any lead pairs of late, for that matter. Both actors (or rather all three actors, if one were to include the child actor who is equally brilliant as the lil’ Jagga) complement each other. Think of it as a three-hour mime act underlined by seamlessly mellifluous music and punctuated by soulfully simple lyrics. The dialogues don’t matter. They have never mattered in any film with a strong screenplay. 

Ranbir Kapoor gives it all to his character and shines across every frame, becoming Jagga, the diffident yet determined, the stammering yet articulate, and the lonely yet lovable character reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and Satyajit Ray’s Feluda. In fact, the journey that he embarks upon with Katrina’s character Shruti Sengupta (The worst Bengali we have seen on screen, who doesn’t even bother to pretend being remotely connected to Bengal) is imbued with fantasy flavours of Ray’s Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne and Heerak Rajar Deshe.  This is quite a welcome change, where our filmmakers are looking within (read country) rather than seeking inspiration elsewhere.

Katrina may have got the Bengali thing wrong here but is nonetheless adorable as a narrator surrounded by kids. Supporting actors like the easygoing ex-IB officer played by Saurabh Shukla and Rajatwa Dutta as the cop surrounded by multiple hued landline phones make their presence felt with their nuanced performances. Saswata Chatterjee steals your heart as Tooti Phooti or Bad-luck Bakshi. One just can’t get enough of this gem of an actor. Having said that, Ranbir Kapoor makes his character endearing, as well as memorable. Once the credits roll, you find yourself already waiting for the sequel. When did you last feel that way, except for the ‘Katappa query’?

Jagga Jasoos is perhaps one of those few films where the music director Pritam and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya play the lead role without even appearing in a single frame. Right from the news anchors breaking into a song to the investigation scenes and the confrontation scene of Ranbir and Saurabh Shukla, each situation is unbelievably translated into gripping narrative through music and lyrics. Ravi Varman paints the silver screen with Disney hues and Ajay Sharma deftly edits each scene to perfection.

Through Jagga Jasoos, director Anurag Basu reminds us the long-forgotten art of storytelling. Watch this film and you just might stumble upon the child in you. Well, I just did. 


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.


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.



‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ is worth the pay


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


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!




Sarkar 3 isn’t just dimly-lit, but also dimwit


The format is set. A shady guy walks inside the artifact-ridden and electricity-deprived mansion of Sarkar. The henchmen are about to hit him while he speaks, but Sarkar’s eyes prevent them from doing so. Sarkar hears him out while sipping and slurping chaai in a saucer. The offer of the shady guy is refused with a prompt ‘Kisi aur ko bhi karne nahin doonga’. The shady guy walks out, resolving of making Sarkar’s life hell, instead of getting his work done elsewhere, despite Sarkar’s caveat. Add to this, some domestic issues, ego clashes and double (multiple) crossing, lo and behold, you have your Sarkar script ready.

Film after film, Ram Gopal Varma is churning out assembly-line of films under the pretext of The Godfather (It’s a blasphemy to compare the two). Well, the first film did leave us awestruck with its novelty factor of Amitabh Bachchan, the second one ambled along on the Anna Hazare-Kejriwal terrains, and the third one dumbs itself down with ‘naatak kar raha tha mein’. It’s as if the director telling his audience, ‘Ullu bana raha tha mein’. Yup, the joke is on us, who could have easily watched Bahubali 2 yet another time rather than sitting through this done-and-dusted Sarkar yawnathon.

The background score blares out the Govinda chant, making the audience secretly wish Raja Babu makes a brief appearance with ‘dil behelta hai mera aapke aa jaane se’ and brightens things up in this dimly lit and dimwit film. Amol Rathod’s camerawork is far from the brilliance demonstrated by Amit Roy in the previous Sarkar films. This time, the Sarkar mansion is so dimly-lit that many characters are barely visible in poignant scenes, especially where Sarkar reprimands his grandson, Shivaji alias Chiku, who stands in the dark. One can’t help remarking, ‘Sir, daantne se pehle lights on karke check to kar lo ke Chiku hi hai ya dhobi?’ Perhaps there was a load-shedding issue in the vicinity and the only electrical appliance you could see was television playing perfectly-timed breaking news (Why aren’t those channels playing irritating commercials like Vicco Turmeric ad in between those breaking news?). Guess those television sets must be battery-operated. Okay I give up here.

Among the actors, Amitabh Bachchan does try to recreate the magic of the first Sarkar, but it’s the lazy writing that lets him down. For instance, if you watch the first two films, Sarkar was never a verbose character. And here you see him addressing a plethora of extras with yellow flags (Not saffron, lest they’d resemble a certain family in Mumbai), uttering inane lines like ‘Ek haath mein maala hai to doosre mein bhaala’. When was Sarkar’s character about Maala and Bhaala, Mr. Varma? Wasn’t he someone who was a ‘soch’ and not ‘bol bachchan’, who let his actions speak louder than words?

This deviation right from the opening shot sets the tone of the film which entirely relies on its camerawork, be it using and abusing the shallow depth of field (Okay focus-defocus feature in your mobile), along with artifacts strategically placed inside every room, be it Ganesh idol, pug, laughing Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi or a large picture of Abhishek Bachchan (Who seems to be insisting upon the fact that he is the hero of the film, like he does whenever a Dhoom series is about to release). No character enters the Sarkar mansion without being depth-of-fielded along with an artifact. The director’s brief seems very clear in every frame, not to mention the camera peering through every possible aperture (no pun intended) in the dark Sarkar mansion.

Actors like Ronit Roy, Manoj Bajpayee, and Jackie Shroff are completely wasted with roles of glorified extras. Amit Sadh comes across as a miscast here, who seems to be wondering why he took up this role of playing Sarkar-Sarkar. Not a single emotion of Amit Sadh makes you root for his character or relate to his anguish, something Kay Kay Menon pulled off with a veteran’s ease. Just like Sarkar’s henchmen, you just cannot accept him as the Sarkar scion, no matter how hard the actor and director try.

As for Yami Gautam’s character, the lesser said the better. Here’s a girl, who seek vengeance against the man who killed her father (The allegation is conveniently written off as a misunderstanding over a single meeting with Sarkar that the director doesn’t even bother to film, and is mentioned in a dialogue as justification), but barely chalks up any strategic plan. There’s no trace of chemistry between her and Amit Sadh. Yami wears a constipated expression all throughout the film (Rubbing her fingers under the table, just in case you don’t get that she is a threat to the Sarkar family).

Manoj Bajpayee, who seemed to be the only saving grace of the film, is done away with midway, killing all your hopes against the hopes for this colossal mess of a film. There’s a Mahatma Gandhi scene where he clearly outshines Bachchan, such is the power of this gem of an actor, who must seek a compensation from Ram Gopal Varma, for being exploited in this film.

Jackie Shroff clearly wears the expression of ‘Mere ko kyu cast kiya Bhidu, khaali-fokat bikini babe aur dolphins ke saath time-pass karney ko?’ Even his face-off scene with Sarkar towards the film’s end is the weakest ‘filmy takkar’ we have seen of late. Heck, even the Mithun-Mukesh Rishi scene in Gunda (1998) was far effective, at least you felt the tension between the duo. In Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar 3, everything, except Sarkar’s chaai, is all thanda.