Raazi Review – A wonderfully restrained thriller with riveting performances


Raazi, helmed by Meghna Gulzar, is a worthy successor to her previous film “Talvaar”, as she keeps it brutally authentic, weaving out a compelling espionage story with a minimalistic jingoistic tone.

Based on a true story documented in the book Calling Sehmat by Lt Commander Harinder Sikka (retd), Raazi sketches the story of a Muslim Girl Sehmat ( Alia Bhatt),  a Delhi University student who is reluctantly persuaded by her father to spy for India while staying in Pakistan. Set in 1971 when relations between the two warring neighbors were particularly tense, Sehmat gets married to Iqbal , a Pakistani Army officer and son of a high ranking military officer. What follows is a series of events which pitches Sehmat to crushing conflicts between her heart and duty towards her nation.

Raazi’s biggest strength is the refreshing perspective it renders without any artifice. Director Meghna Gulzar skillfully keeps the proceedings simple and keeps the fabric devoid of any jingoistic overtones and flag-waving nationalism. There is an inherent sense of dignity and self-respect in each and every character, and no matter which side you belong, you end up rooting for virtually every one of them as you relate to them so strongly as the film progresses.

The film is gripping especially in the first half when Sehmat arrives in Pakistan after undergoing rigorous and bone-crunching training under the aegis of Indian intelligence officer Khalid Mir ( a terrific Jaideep Ahlawat). Tension dials up when Sehmat applies her cerebral skills to uncover vital information for India,  while consciously trying to win over her in-laws in parallel.  But some vices do crop up in the film, with the easiness with which Sehmat infiltrates over the secrets within the family of army men, which, though nicely shot, seems to be a bit too simplistic. Raazi-Dilbaro-1900x-1000x500

But despite these minor shortcomings, the film scales higher due to its taut screenplay and diligent performances from its ensemble cast. Rajat Kapoor and Shishir Sharma are solid as Sehmat’s father and father in law, and Jaideep Ahlawat is particularly brilliant as a stoic intelligence officer who is hard fisted and caring at the same time . Vicky Kaushal brings a vulnerable charm to his sincere portrayal of Iqbal. His affection for Sehmat is glistening, and he plays his restrained act with conviction and valor. Its also nice to see Soni Razdan on the big screen after a hiatus, and of course one wonders why she is not doing more films.

But the sole of the film is undoubtebly Alia Bhatt, who unsurprisingly, brings out her class again with a performance everyone will root for. The film provides her a solid platform to showcase her talent, and she laps it up with both hands. Her transition from a naive student of Delhi University to a hard fought trained spy is so powerful that its difficult to move your eyes away from her. Alia plays a gamut of emotions with sheer prowess and her vulnerabilities will surely melt your heart.

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Measured and thoughtful, Raazi is a well-made film in the espionage thriller genre. Without any pomp and fuss, it makes an indelible mark through its sheer authenticity, gripping narrative and terrific performances.














Raid Movie review – An engrossing fare with terrific performances

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Raid, directed by the Rajkumar Gupta who previously helmed the impressive Aamir and No Killed Jessica, is a real-life adaptation of one of the longest raids that took place in Lucknow during the mid-80’s.  And similar to the directors’ previous films, Raid is an absorbing recount of what happened during the invasion by the tax officers and is suitably peppered by some powerful moments.

Amay Pattnaik ( Ajay Devgn) is a principled Income tax officer with unwavering honesty. The incorruptible officer is committed to the core, and in his 49th transfer in Lucknow, he is tipped from an insider to conduct a  tax raid at Rameshwar Singh aka Tauji ‘s (Saurabh Shukla) mansion.  Tauji, whose nexus with politicians and local goondas makes him a reverent figure, is suspected to hide an undeclared amount of 420 crores. Amay and his coterie of tax officers are entrenched at Tauji’s house to rummage out the black money from its hook and corners.

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A taut thriller with some rousing moments, Raid benefits primarily from the confrontations between the two principal characters. Scenes between Ajay Devgn and Saurabh Shukla are pure gold, and the seasoned actors play to the gallery with some claptrap dialogues. The initial portions of the film builds up the tension nicely and stays mostly on course during the tax invasion scenes within Tauji’s sprawling mansion. The romantic interludes between  Amay and his wife ( Illeana) are weaved in nicely, though it acts as a minor bump with misplaced songs during the Raid procedure.  Same applies to some implausible scenes in the second half and climax of the film as an untimely song stretches the film to touch the finish line. But the makers pull out other strings by mining efficient performances from its colorful supporting cast. In a nice little cameo of Tauji’s ageing, toothless and humorous mother, Pushpa Joshi delivers a crackling act, with some of the best lines reserved for her, and  Illeana D Cruz shines in a minuscule eye-candy role.

Ajay Devgn delineates his role with a   searing sincerity and confidence. Leading the pack with a calm and composed demeanor, Devgn underplays his conscientious character nicely . But the standout performance comes from Saurabh Shukla, who is a class act as Tauji.  Displaying his histrionics with a varied range of emotions, he expresses his ballistic attitude and vulnerabilities with an undeviating balance. You end up feeling bad for him , as he fails to identify the backstabber within his family.

Raid’s release is positively timed, and despite some minor hiccups, is a healthy mix of content and entertainment.  A good thriller in recent times, RAID deserves a watch for its novel content and engaging performances.



Padmavat Review – A visually enriching tale with a riveting Ranveer!

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Padmavat, formerly known as Padmavati, is a sweeping saga intertwined with melodrama, skilled war duels and a tragic love story. Embellished on a magnanimous canvas , Padmavat duly fits into an impressive repertoire of Sanjay Leela Bhansali,as he delivers an enriching cinematic experience with a grandeur stamped with authenticity.

Padmavat traverses  the tale  of  the ruthless Sultan Allaudin Khilji and his indefatigable obsession  for Rani Padmavati, the queen of Chittor and wife of Maharawal Ratan Singh .The film serves as an ode to the chivarly and courage of Rajputs, and Rani Padmavati’s honourable death through self immolation.


Devoid of the emotional complexities that had crafted the director’s previous historical saga Bajirao Mastani, the script of Padmavat is unidirectional and uncomplicated.  But what’s striking is the way Bhansali lavishes the film with luxuriousness. Each and every frame of the film just appears to be a canvas of richly layered opulence. Equally jaw-dropping are the impressively staged war scenes which are a perfect demeanor of skill and dexterity. The duel in the battlefield between the two male leads is particularly spectacular, keeping the menacing tone intact in sync with the brutality of one of the protagonists.  Bhansali applies the same skill proficiently in the beautifully crafted climax portraying the controversial  “Jauhar “scene, which is the one of the best moments of the film. Keeping the controversies aside related to the regressive depiction of Jauhar, I was thoroughly moved with the poignancy of the entire episode till the credits started rolling.

Both Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone lend authentic credence to their respective portrayals .  As the uptight Maharwal Ratan Singh,  Shahid sincerely puts his charisma to subtle effect, glorifying the impeccable values of Rajput dignity and moral ethics. Deepika, unsurprisingly looks like a dream, and pitches in a competent performance as the upright Queen who prefers death over dishonour .  The chemisty between the two leads though is a bit undecorated, as it tends to drag in certain segments, especially during the second half .


But Padmaavat  is undoubtedly powered by Ranveer Singh and his engaging portrayal of the shrewd and zealot Alauddin khilji.  Ranveer breathes life into the eccentricities of the megalomaniac Khiliji and makes it just impossible to remove your eyes from him whenever he is on screen. Right from the grotesque physicality to his maverick individualism, Ranveer weaves out a fascinating performance with equal measure of repugnance and abhorrence. Its an absolute masterstroke as he pulls the film much notches higher through an engrossing act. He is ably supported by Jim Sarbh as Mallik Gafoor, his obdurate companion who indulges in Khilji’s perverse ideologies.

At an over two hours and forty five minutes, Padmavat is overtly long . But I was hardly bored, thanks to the curiosity value, grand scale and a delectable performance from Ranveer Singh, who keeps you hooked on Alauddin Khiljis ruthless tryst with love. He is the core reason why Padmavat deserves to be seen. Watch him when he goes ballistic in the Khalli Balli song, and you know a superstar has arrived!




Tiger Zinda Hai – Packed with thrilling action, its a treat for Salman Fans



Its futile to review a Salman film, but the actor who faced a setback earlier this year with Tubelight underperforming at the box office, is back with a bang with Tiger Zinda Hai, a heady cocktail of high octane action and patriotic jingoism.  And the makers skillfully traverse the route to render the perfect platform for Salman to deliver a charismatic performance.

Tiger Zinda Hai begins where it left in its prequel Ek Tha Tiger, with Tiger leading his retirement life in contentment with Zoya and Junior Tiger somewhere in Austrian Alps. But duty calls when his RAW team lead Shenoy sir ( Girish Karnad) sends him on a impropable mission to evacuate  25 Indian nurses from the clutches of terrorist group ISC in Iraq, before US launches an airstrike to wipe out almost everyone in that zone. Tiger assembles his own coterie of army men and launches his own counter-mission to pull off this rescue misson.


Inspired from true events, though the political complexity is kept superficial at all the levels ,director Ali Abbaz Zafar creates authentic atmospherics and several  nerve wracking moments throughout the film. Added to the fun is compelling high octane action which will give ample bang on your bucks.  In several scenes though, logic is sacrificed for patriotic jingoism and emotional manipulation, but this fast paced film is inundated with several clap trap  moments which makes up for the logical flaws . Salman especially is in terrific form, with the actor clawing himself efficiently in the pulsating action scenes and portrays a matured demeanor in the film’s sensitive moments. The makers provide him ample scope to display histrionics, and our bhai certainly doesnt disappoint.  My favorite scene was the opening entry sequence of Salman, with him battling with pack of wolves in the austrian alps. Absolutely nerve-wracking. Katrina Kaif, too gets a meaty role and delivers a solid performance, especially impressive in the action sequences. The film is also elevated by decent performances from its supporting cast  , including the ever dependable Paresh Rawal as the Indian Fixer and the main antagonist, Sajjad Delfrooz as the menacing head of the terrorist organization.

At close to 2 hours 30 minutes, TZH is overlong and patterned with logical loopholes, but I was hardly bored.  The film is a slick made with terrific action and coupled with the mesmerising charisma of our venerated leading actor guarantees full-blown entertainment. Watch the scene where Salman comes out in a full-blown terminator form, decimating a brigade of terrorists. Bang bang boom !!

PoPcorn Entertainment Rating – 3.5/5





Ittefaq review – The film falls short of being a perfect whudonnit thriller


A remake of the original 1969 thriller with the same name, Ittefaq is a modern day reboot of the Yash Raj classic and an addition to the genre of murder mystery thrillers churned out from Bollywood.  While newbie director Abhay chopra crafts out a visually arresting thriller with some interesting twists and turns, the film falters with uneven pacing and a shoddy climax.

This stylishly made thriller comprises of two deaths, two suspects and various possibilities.  A best selling author Vikram seth ( Sidharth Malhotra) is on the run and is a primary suspect for killing his own wife. The same night, he lands up at Maya’s ( Sonakshi) house where her husband is murdered inside the flat.  Enters Dev Verma ( Akshaye Khanna) , the police  officer who gets the charge of investigating this convoluted double murder case, and gets into the act  to dig out the veracity of both the accused and their versions  of that fateful night.


Laced with an intriguing premise, the film carries on at a brisk pace and keeps you engaged for the most part. The narration oscillates between past and present, with  the suspects weaving  their side of the story alternatively.  But the film starts losing steam in the latter portions with contrived circumstances coming to the fore.  The big climactic twist, although well shot, is not entirely convincing. The director also fails to gear up the film with the required sense of  urgency and tension which could have elevated this film to be the perfect thriller of this year.

But more than the mystery engulfed in Ittefaq, the bigger mystery for me was  why we see so less of Akshaye Khanna on the big screen. He is absolutely brilliant in the film. As an unfathomable officer unravelling the truth  of this complex murder case, he is a mirror of grit and gumption in the film’s more authentic intense scenes. Watch him chiding his juniors in the crime scene or interrogating the suspects in the jail’s locker room – you just dont want to move away your eyes from him .   Equally convincing is Sidharth Malhotra, who blends vulnerability and passion in equal measure to weave out an honest act.  The same cannot be said about Sonakshi though, who comes up with an enervated and one dimensional performance, with she doing very little to invest energy into it.

Ittefaq is sleek and stylish, but its not compelling . And thats a bad news for a film which promises to be taut thriller. But the good news is that we have Akshaye khanna in Ittefaq, who makes up many of the films flaws with his bravura performance.







Golmaal Again – It has some genuinely funny moments


The 4th installment of  Golmaal promises what the comedy franchise has been churning out for the last 11 years – mindless entertainment . As the films tagline says , no logic only Magic, Golmaal 4 doesn’t dissapoint on the no logic count, as the film is frequently funny which keeps the viewers engaged in laughing out loud.

The good old gang of five — Gopal (Ajay), Madhav(Arshad), Lucky (Tusshar), Laxman (Shreyas) and Laxman, again! (Kunal) – are back with a bang, and this time in a haunted house.  Joining the  gang this time is  the clairvoyant Anna Mathew ( Tabu), who has the ability to see and talk to spirits . Its predominantly through her eyes that the film unfolds, with Parineeti (Chopra) , Prakash Raj  and Neil nitin mukesh playing other critical roles.

Like the previous installments of Golmaal, the highlight of Golmaal Again is the solid camaraderie between the male leads .  Whether its the lisping Laxman ( a terrific shreyas) or the prankster Madhav ( Arshad) ,all five of them create a  riot on screen. Watch the scene where a lisping  Laxman ( Shreyas) tries to send a scared Gopal ( Ajay) to sleep by singing a lullaby , and you will fall off your chair laughing . Ajay too, is in great form, playing the role of a bully who is horrified of ghosts. The film is resplendent with sharp and corny dialogues-  “Din ko dus dus ko dhota hai. Raat ko dar dar ke sota hai,” Johny Lever efficiently reprises his role of Pappi who loses his memory at the drop of a hat, and Sanjay Mishra delivers some of the best lines of the film with his usual panache and flair.  The film also smartly  derives most of the humour involving  an ageing Ajay falling in love with a much younger  Parineeti, with clever references to films like Lamhe and Cheeni Kum. Director Rohit Shetty additionally introduces  a horror angle this time which heightens up both the entertainment and emotional quotient.

While the first half moves at a brisk pace , its the second half which gets pedestrian for most of the time, when a backstory is revealed . The proceedings ranges from funny to average in this part, leading to a over the top climax.

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But what keeps the film going is its terrific energy derived from its principal cast and crisp editing, bright locations and some peppy numbers. Golmaal 4 is definitely not original neither it has any logic, but it was never meant  to be like that.  If you want to have a blast and laugh out loud this festive period, Golmaal 4 will surely do the honours. Its the best of this Golmaal franchise.



Raees Review -Despite hiccups, the film keeps you entertained.



Its often difficult for filmmakers to keep a even balance between a good story and its relevant treatment. Raaes, directed by Rahul Dholakia  and starring Shahrukh in the lead role, gets the balance right for most of the part, as he constructs a engrossing tale chronicling the rise of a small time bootlegger to a scandalous liquor baron of Gujarat. Its heartening to see Shahrukh , (who is also the co producer of the film)stepping out of his comfort zone and churning out a fascinating drama which moves at a breathneck speed in the first half, but loses a bit of steam post intermission due to irrelevant sub plots . Yet, there is lot to appreciate in this film.

Set in the 70’s , the film unfolds in a small city of Fatehpura in Gujarat, where we are introduced to a poor and diligent  boy  Raaes, who through his sharp and temperamental  mind , wins the heart of a local bootlegger and starts working for him. Possessing an ambition to scale up, he branches out to start his own business. He rises to to the top to emerge a liquor baron and a revered figure,  with his baniye ka dimaag and lots of daring and in the process, he faces obstacles and ultimately his nemesis in the form of ACP Majumdar ( a terrific Nawazuddin)


The first half is riveting stuff, as we see Raees extrapolating  his business ruthlessly. He aces all the right moves to emerge as a menacing and revered figure in the illegal liquor trade industry. But post intermission , the film slackens and loses focus. Predictability steeps in shape of venal and corrupt politicians and how they use the same trade and tricks to stop the juggernaut of Raaes, who becomes the messiah of the poor people .  But its the fascinating duel between ACP Majmudar and Raees that keep you hooked to the proceedings till the end.  The soundtrack of the film is another high point of the film, which keep the story well oiled throughout.

Nawazuddin Sidiqqui, playing the indomitable cop  with a dogged determination to pin down Raees  is absolutely outstanding . The witty repartees and the constant contest between the two are the high points of the film. Mahira Khan, playing the love interest of Raees exudes confidence and is charming in  a role  which actually, could have been done without her. The usually dependable Zeeshan Ayub delivers a committed performance as the sidekick of Raees.

But Raees, expectedly, belongs to Shah Rukh, who brings in  all his  swagger and style and mixes it with the right notes to deliver one of his finest performances till date . Playing the antagonist  with grey shades and  a heart of gold, Shahrukh is in command right from the first scene till the end.  Menacing as the ruthless gangster and holding is own in poignant moments, he pitches in a finely nuanced portrayal completely devoid of his usual mannerisms.


Raees is flawed, yes, but its worth it for its sheer entertainment value.Watch it for Shahrukh and Nawaz as they deliver ample bang for your buck.