Mahanati: Intense, Dramatic, Inspiring

Biopics are becoming all the rage in the current wave of Indian cinema, with each industry producing and popularizing lesser-known aspects of beloved celebrities. Mahanati follows the life of the South Indian actress Savitri, from her childhood days to her final days. The film begins in the 1980s by introducing Madhuravani alias Vani (Samantha Akkineni), a journalist who has been assigned to cover the story of Savitri (Keerthy Suresh). She, along with her photographer Anthony (Vijay Deverakonda), embark on a journey to uncover bits and pieces of the actress’ life, including her entry into films, her love affair and marriage to Gemini Ganesan (Dulquer Salmaan), and other highs and lows of her career and personal life.

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In any biopic, storytelling of a character’s life narrative is important and can make or break the film. Nag Ashwin’s direction is excellent and the interweaving of Savitri’s life (through flashback) with the lives of Vani and Anthony offers a comfortable balance of past and present. The characterization of Savitri provides viewers with a multifaceted view of who she is both as a superstar and a human being. From her magnanimous nature to her brilliance as an actress, Savitri is a fiercely dedicated and hardworking woman with a kind and compassionate heart. The blossoming of her love for Gemini Ganesan is shown so subtly and beautifully, alongside her upward climb towards success in the movie business.

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As a period film set in the 50s/60s and 80s, Mahanati’s settings and recreation of these eras is a nostalgic walk down memory lane for folks who grew up idolizing Savitri during these times. Dani Sanchez-Lopez’s cinematography is fantastic, and certain scenes depicting Savitri’s relationship with alcohol and alcoholism uniquely capture the quandaries of her mind and substance addiction. The music and background score by Mickey J Meyer infuses Indian elements with string orchestration in melodies that appeal to the ears and suit the visual vibe of the movie. While certain scenes appear dramatic and over the top by current standards of filmmaking and storytelling, they are justified by the fact that the majority of this film is set in a time period of up to six decades ago.

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Coming to the performances, Keerthy Suresh has done an incredible job as the superstar Savitri. From the young bubbly adolescent to the successful superstar to the helpless alcoholic mother, Keerthy excels in all facets of the dynamic actress Savitri. Dulquer Salmaan is charming as ever as Kadhal Mannan Gemini Ganesan, portraying the character’s love and admiration for Savitri as well as his insecurities and inner turmoil in their relationship. Samantha perfectly fits the role of the intelligent but shy journalist Vani, and her ending conversation with the Mahanati herself is heartfelt.

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Final Verdict: Mahanati is an inspiring Telugu-Tamil biopic that highlights the life of one of yesteryear’s beloved starlets Savitri. Although it is relatively long (almost 3 hours), this film is a definite tear-jerker, even for folks who are less familiar with Savitri’s life and body of work.

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102 Not Out: Hopeful Visions for Healing and Aging

102 Not Out has been making its rounds in media promotions for several months with viewers waiting in anticipation for the return of one of yesteryear’s dynamic duos – Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor. After a three-year hiatus, director Umesh Shukla (of Oh My God fame) returns with an entertaining dramedy (drama + comedy) about a unique father-son relationship between 102-year-old Dattatraya Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan) and 75-year-old Baabulal Vakharia (Rishi Kapoor). Caught in the middle of this dynamic is a young lad named Dhiru (Jimit Trivedi), who keeps these men company in all their antics and adventures.

From the start of the movie, Dattatraya’s exuberant zest for life is infectious and exists as a stark contrast to the highly routined lifestyle of his son Baabu. In his quest to beat the world record of the oldest man alive and win that title for himself, Dattatraya is determined to transform his grumpy son into a more positive spontaneous person who loves life. In the process of following his father’s conditions, Baabu gains a newfound approach to and respect for his past, present, and future through a series of transformative experiences that remind him of the reasons why life is worth living.

The move towards more realistic storytelling in the Bollywood film industry is a welcome change from the frivolous (yet classic and quintessential) romance that characterized previous eras. In addition to being entertaining and comedic, 102 Not Out also touches on some heavy themes, including death and dying, attachment, aging, and adult parent-child relationships. The nuances in the multiplicity of roles held by Baabu, as both a son and a father, are an integral part of his characterization, transformation, and subsequent realizations about how to live in a self-compassionate way. Dattatraya does not simply help his son survive – he gives him space to thrive and helps him find energy to direct his own life. From the silly jokes to the deep meaningful insights about life, every moment of this film feels so real and human.

One of the highlights of 102 Not Out is certainly the music by Salim Sulaiman, whose infusion of jazz, salsa, and other styles are as diverse as Mumbai itself (where the film takes place). Laxman Utekar’s cinematography of concluding scenes with snapped pictures and sketches captures the essence of every scene and highlights important moments throughout. Needless to say, Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor deliver fantastic performances in their respective roles, and their chemistry and camaraderie is both entertaining and endearing. One can only hope for more films that display such unique but important themes and focus on different kinds of relationships.

Final Verdict: 102 Not Out is a movie that instills hope and offers new visions for how to approach living the latter part of life. Short, sweet, and sentimental, this heartwarming love story between a father and son is a must watch for 2018!

Black Panther: An Empowering Fantastical Legacy

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is easily one of the most anticipated superhero films of 2018 and I must say, it was worth the wait. The film begins with a brief history of how Wakanda (a fictional kingdom nation in Africa) and the tradition of the Black Panther came about. Within a few flashbacks, we see that the kingdom of Wakanda is rendered heirless, with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) next in power to become King of Wakanda. When faced with an unexpected enemy Erik Stevens (Michael B Jordan), T’Challa must fight to protect his kingdom alongside his main supporters, including his bodyguard and commander-in-chief Okoye (Danai Gurira), his sister and resident scientist Shuri (Letitia Wright), and his “ex” and an intelligence spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).

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Amidst the political atmosphere of hate crimes and police brutality against African Americans in the US, Black Panther is a superhuman social commentary on racism, oppression, colonization, and African diasporic experiences, raising questions about connection, responsibility, and identity. Writers Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole excellently weave this underlying thread throughout the film, framing it as both a serious issue that demands attention and inserting it into witty one-liners as satiric comedy. Here’s hoping and wishing that a nation as technologically advanced and culturally rich as Wakanda exists not only in futuristic fantasy and science-fiction but can in due course become a reality in Africa, proving that Western industrialization and colonization need not be a benchmark for progress and development in the world.

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Black Panther is a holistically African film, deriving visual elements from various different African countries, tribes, and subcultures. From village squares and streets resembling North Africa to jewelry and costumes like East African tribes, the makers of the film have clearly put in a great deal of effort in doing background research for this superhero spectacle. I particularly loved the connection to ancestors as a source of strength, support, and healing for Wakandans. The growth and use of the innovative technology of the imaginary element vibranium was also amazing to see onscreen.

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Needless to say, the visuals and cinematography by Rachel Morrison is absolutely brilliant, giving folks who have been to Africa all the feels and a serious dose of nostalgia. In his background score, Ludwig Goransson uniquely combines an EDM base, hip-hop beats, and traditional African drumming, singing, and instrumentation to create a sound that is representative of African and African diaspora cultures.

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Black Panther features all-star cast members who have all essayed their roles well. While the characters themselves may be fictional, fantastical, and transcend reality, their motivations, intentions, and actions are realistic and demonstrate the essence of human nature. One of my personal favorites is T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), whose strength, power, and sass as a scientist steal the show.

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Final Verdict: Black Panther is a unique superhero movie that traces the narrative of a historically ignored people through mind-blowing visuals and powerful thought-provoking storytelling. Bearing some resemblance to the Hindu epic Mahabharata and the recent multilingual two-part blockbuster Baahubali, Black Panther is so gripping and engaging that I wanted the film to continue. As always, stay till the very end for a sneak peak into Black Panther in Marvel’s next flicks!

Padmaavat – Intensity, Extravagance, Familiarity

After much controversy and debate, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Padmavati – renamed to Padmaavat – officially released worldwide to packed movie theaters and thundering box office sales. Following suit from his previous films, Bhansali once again explores historical fiction, situating this one in the 13th century context of the Indian subcontinent’s politics and the lives of Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor), Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), and Sultan Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh). Also in the milieu are archetypal characters one would expect to find in any historically-based drama film – Nagmati (Anupriya Goenka), the disgruntled first wife of Ratan Singh, Raghav Chetan (Aayam Mehta), the scheming revenge-plotting expelled Brahmin priest, Mehrunissa (Aditi Rao Hydari), the neglected and abused wife of the tyrant, and Malik Kafur (Jim Sarbh), a subservient servant who is (not so) secretly in love with his maniacal monster of a master.

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There is no doubt that Bhansali knows how to create a visual spectacle and display extravagant opulence on the big screen. But for viewers who have seen Bhansali’s body of work as a filmmaker, there are no surprises or particularly new elements in Padmaavat that distinguish it from his more recent films. Like Ram Leela and Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat musically and choreographically features a traditional Indian group dance, an ode to and display of traditionally strong and energetic masculinity, a sensuous expression of lust (“Binte Dil”, which resembles a male/queer version of “Ang Laga De” from Ram Leela), and a romantic heartwarming ballad. The action and fight sequences are all too predictable and the level of violence and gore is extreme.

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Padmaavat is rooted in and filled with Hindu mythological tropes and themes. Bhansali clearly draws comparisons of Padmavati to Goddess Durga and Savitri and Alauddin Khilji to Raavana – both directly through the dialogues and indirectly through the cinematography and the characters’ actions. His directorial touch and attention to detail in certain scenes throughout the film do not go unnoticed but in fact provide more insight into the inner workings of his characters. That said, there is no real plot in this film, which makes it feel like a drawn-out ordeal for viewers who are left waiting for a significant sequence of events.

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Any discussion of Padmaavat would be incomplete without a few words about the mass self-immolation (jauhar) that marks the climax and resolution of this film. It goes without saying that this ending is intense and powerful, particularly on a large screen, but it left me feeling confused about choice and empowerment. It certainly raises questions surrounding the chronological context of women’s roles and rights then versus now. As a feminist and mental health professional in-training watching the jauhar scene in the audience, I felt angry and helpless, as I struggled to identify an alternative to this form of collective suicide. Part of me secretly hoped that instead of committing suicide themselves, the women would set Alauddin Khilji and his troops on fire, with an alternative ending of Padmavati ruling the Rajput kingdom thereafter as Queen. Needless to say, if Bhansali’s goal was to re-author this narrative from history, that would have been a solid empowering ending to make the story of Padmavati even more relevant in a 21st century context.

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Coming to the performances, the highlights of Padmaavat are definitely Ranveer Singh and Jim Sarbh, whose chemistry and passion for power are a treat to watch. Despite the one-sidedness of Malik Kafur’s adoration and love, the queer subplot between him and Khilji is much appreciated as a welcome change from the heteronormativity of Indian cinema and testimony to the fluidity of gender and sexuality across time in Indian culture and history. Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone hold their own as strong leaders, and their display of Rajput pride in their roles as King and Queen of Mewar cannot be overlooked. While Shahid’s dialogue delivery and punchlines reverberate with resonance, Deepika’s are not quite as effective, falling short of the power-packed performance expected of her. Sanchit Balhara’s background score personifies epic grandeur, especially in the climax as all the red-clad Rajput women run towards the fire. Ganesh Acharya’s signature choreography in “Khalibali” reflects Alauddin’s madness personified through movement, which Ranveer Singh executes excellently and energetically.

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Final Verdict: Padmaavat is an intense and extravagant display of greed, opulence, materialism, and power. For those who are familiar with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films, there is nothing particularly novel or unique in Padmaavat that distinguishes it from his other movies. Watch for the stunning visuals and riveting performances by Ranveer Singh and Jim Sarbh.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

After the release and popularity of the book in 1981 and the Robin Williams film in 1995, the Jumanji franchise returns in the 21st century, with more action and adventure than ever before. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle begins by showing the lives of four teenagers in Brantford, New Hampshire, who happen to end up together in detention and subsequently embark on an adventure into the video game world of Jumanji. The bulk of the film focuses on the characters’ journey through the video game, as they work together to advance through the levels and save Jumanji while trying to stay alive.

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This standalone sequel is a great blend of comedy, action, and adventure. We enter into the world of Jumanji with the characters, feeling their emotions and experiencing the roller coaster of navigating the game with them. Despite the fact that it is an enjoyable time-pass movie, there are some philosophical words of wisdom interspersed in the script here and there. Since the characters embody the roles and bodies of avatars in the video game, there is a clear emphasis on the idea that appearance is not everything. The limited number of lives for each character in the game brings in an additional existential element of only having one life to do what you want to do and be who you want to be.

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In any kind of theater, be it cinema or live performance, actors take on roles and bring their characters to life onscreen. In this film, there is an interesting inception of roles within roles, as each teen character and personality exists inside the video game avatar role. So essentially, Dwayne Johnson plays the character and personality of Spencer inside the body and characteristics of Dr. Bravestone. For the adolescent characters in the movie, taking on the roles of Dr. Bravestone, Ruby Roundhouse, Mouse Finbar, and Professor Oberon in the game gives them a different perspective about and insight into their real lives as Spencer, Martha, Fridge, and Bethany.

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As someone who has not seen the first Jumanji film, I thoroughly enjoyed this latest edition, which features a stellar star cast of Dwayne Johnson as Spencer, Kevin Hart as Fridge, Karen Gillan as Martha, and Jack Black as Bethany. It was a pleasant surprise to see Nick Jonas onscreen as Alex, the boy who disappeared on account of being stranded in the video game for years. The chemistry and evolution of friendship between Spencer and Fridge is incredible, and Jack Black slays as a self-obsessed teenage girl inside a man’s avatar body. Special shoutout to cinematographer Gyula Pados and the beautiful nature, scenery, and Hawaiian locations where the movie has been filmed.

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Final Verdict: Jumanji is an entertaining and humorous flick with an appropriate balance of action-adventure and comedy. It is definitely a little scary in bits with certain scenes that could make you jump out of your seat, but ultimately you may find yourself cheering on the teenage characters within the video game avatars to face their fears and overcome the challenges in front of them. A fun (PG-13) movie that will transport you to another world!

Thor Ragnarok: Stunts, Superheroes, and Strength

One of the most anticipated superhero movies of the year, Thor Ragnarok is shattering the box office with its billions of dollars in revenue and raging reviews! Continuing where the previous movie left off, Thor Ragnarok begins with a scene of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) captured and held prisoner by the demon Surtur, who explains the prophecy of Ragnarok impending on Asgard. The rest of the story revolves around the family conflict between Odin’s children – Thor, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Hela (Cate Blanchett) – regarding the rightful heir to the throne of Asgard.

As someone who is not very familiar with characters from Marvel Comics, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie but some context from previous films is certainly needed and helpful, especially in the beginning scenes. (Pro tip: read through the Wikipedia summaries of the first two Thor movies just before watching this film). A perfect blend of action, comedy, and drama, there is much to appreciate in this superhero flick. Deep moments of interpersonal connection between characters are immediately followed by fight sequences and fantastic comic timing to lighten the mood and add an extra dose of entertainment for viewers. I appreciated the interspersing and special appearances of other Marvel characters like Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), in addition to the Avengers insiders here and there.

In any superhero movie, a series of different mythical worlds and time periods often serve as backdrops and settings in which the plot takes place, and in Thor Ragnarok, there were several. From the faraway mystical castle of Asgard to the cluttered junkyard of Sakaar, each planet is characterized by unique lifestyles that invite the viewers into an ethereal experience transcending reality. The visuals and animations in Thor Ragnarok are amazing, and due credit must be given to the entire team of artists, designers, and animators for all their hard work.

The characterization in this film is absolutely brilliant, with the undertone of a shared humanity in each individual despite their magical powers and superhuman abilities. Even though Thor is God of Thunder, he is essayed by Chris Hemsworth as someone who is eternally on a journey of self-discovery and developing self-awareness of his strengths and weaknesses (as a warrior and otherwise). Both Cate Blanchett and Tessa Thompson slay onscreen as the two powerful female leads in the film, although the makers ought to have given a proper name to Tessa’s character, who is simply known as the Valkyrie/Scrapper 142. I definitely appreciate the lack of any clear or established romance between the Valkyrie and Thor, as the love and attraction angle is stereotypically portrayed and/or expected when heterosexual characters of the opposite sex fight side by side in any action flick.

The relationship and chemistry between Thor and the Hulk is adorable, endearing, hilarious, and filled with many “aww!” moments. But by far one of the most interesting characters is planet Sakaar’s Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), whose quirky comments, spunky personality, and self-obsessed narcissism provided much needed lightheartedness and laughs throughout the movie.

Final Verdict: Thor Ragnarok is a supremely entertaining film that could be classified within the broad Indian film genre of a “masala movie”. Equal parts action and comedy, this movie has all the ingredients of a Marvel movie – stunts, superheroes, and strength. Definitely stay till the end of the credits for a sneak peek of what is to come!

Judwaa 2: A Wacky Blast from the Past!

Easily one of the most awaited sequels of the year, Judwaa 2 recreates the double dose of laughter, entertainment, and loudness from its prequel 20 years ago. Featuring Varun Dhawan as Prem and Raja, with Jacqueline Fernandez as Alishka and Taapsee Pannu as Samara, Judwaa 2 follows the same ghisa-pitta movie plot of every double-role Bollywood film from the late 20th century: a gangster, a pregnant mother, separation of twins at birth, a stuttering sidekick, and several instances of mistaken identity with the twin brothers (who, needless to say, have lives and personalities that could not be more opposite).

Having been in the profession for as long as he has been, David Dhawan has clearly made a place for himself as a filmmaker in the genre of comedy. From Govinda and Salman Khan hits in the 90s and early 2000s to directing his own son now, not much has changed about his style of direction in Judwaa 2, which very much embodies a loud, slapstick, filmy vibe. True to its name, this film is essentially a 90s comedy movie that has been made and released in 2017, so those who are a huge fan of films from that era will feel nostalgic in this trip down memory lane. There were several cool throwbacks to the 1997 Judwaa, with the song remakes of “Oonchi Hai Building” and “Tan Tana Tan”, and a very special appearance by none other than Salman Khan, the original Judwaa star.

As a film aficionado and critical viewer of all cinema, I believe that a review for movies like Judwaa 2 is incomplete without a brief mention of the objectification and racism consistently perpetuated in Bollywood. In an era where heroes and heroines alike dedicate themselves to the gym to achieve a “perfect hot bod”, objectification too has adapted with the times and become more “feminist” (for lack of a better term), with abs being projected and zoomed in onscreen just as much as asses. Racism in Bollywood is just as if not more problematic than the objectification phenomenon. The representation of Africa and blackness in Indian cinema is an ongoing, problematic issue that has been present for a long time, with Bollywood directors disrespectfully portraying African countries and cultures as tribal, underdeveloped, and uncivilized. Judwaa 2 has a couple of cringeworthy scenes involving race and culture that really made me question my decision to watch this film. Clearly I didn’t fully leave my brain at home for this one as advised!

Judwaa 2 has all the ingredients of a mindless masala movie, namely: crass comedy, objectification (of men and women), the melodrama and emotion of the 80s, and ridiculous action sequences. Movie buffs will appreciate the sprinkling of references to and mimicry of other Bollywood films and actors in the dialogues, which add an extra element of humor. Varun Dhawan has consistently proven himself as a capable actor when it comes to comedy and Judwaa 2 is no exception, as he rolls off Raja’s one-liners with ease. Having dabbled quite a bit in comedy herself, Jacqueline Fernandez suited the character of Alishka perfectly. After her serious avatar in Pink, it was a surprise to see Taapsee Pannu pull off a role in such a mainstream masala movie – a true testament of her versatility as an actress. The best part about this movie for me, however, was all the funky dance moves choreographed by the maestro Ganesh Acharya!

Final Verdict: Judwaa 2 is a wacky blast from the past with some laughs and much silliness along the nonsensical ride. The highlight is the songs and dances, which will make you want to get up and groove along to the catchy beats. Not super family-friendly film but proceed with caution!

A Gentleman: Sundar, Susheel, Risky

Meet Gaurav (Sidharth Malhotra). A well-mannered, successful Mr. Nice Guy with aspirations and intentions of settling down with his vision of the American Dream – a minivan, single-family home in the suburbs, and a loving family. The only thing missing is his ideal partner. Enter Kavya (Jacqueline Fernandez), the impulsive, adventure-seeking woman of Gaurav’s dreams. Gaurav’s life and vision of a happily-ever-after are turned upside down when he is confronted with a case of mistaken identity as thugs knock on his door searching for Rishi, a secret agent who happens to be his lookalike. What unfolds in the rest of this flick is action, comedy, and the politics of relationships past.

A Gentleman bears some resemblance to films and TV shows like Knight and Day/Bang Bang and White Collar, which all fall into the same genre of action/romance/comedy, making it appealing to a diverse range of viewers. The stunt scenes and action sequences are crisp, and the plot line is slick and gripping throughout. Thanks to the filmmakers switching back and forth between the stories of Rishi and Gaurav, there is never a dull moment in this narrative.

At its core, this film is about a man with a simple dream of having an ordinary life. Gaurav hesitates and seems overly committed when it comes to romantic relationships, but his genuineness and friendly nature make his character very relatable. On the other hand is Rishi, who we sympathize with for hating his adrenaline-filled life and wanting to escape the adventure and thrill that accompany his risky profession as an agent.

Sidharth Malhotra’s performance in this film is convincing, and he makes people fall in love with the sundar, susheel Gaurav. Jacqueline Fernandez perfectly fits the bubbly, fun-loving Kavya and her pole dancing in the song “Chandralekha” is mind-blowing! Suniel Shetty flaunts his salt-and-pepper look and brooding demeanor as the classy, silent villain Colonel. Sachin-Jigar’s music is catchy and aptly suits the Miami party vibes of the film, as do the costumes and outfits for Sid and Jacqueline.

Final Verdict: A Gentleman is a paisa vasool, masala entertainer that promises love, laughter, and lots of action. A solid feel-good movie that lets you temporarily forget your troubles!

Jagga Jasoos: An Eccentric Experience

Jagga Jasoos is a film that has been in the making for nearly five years now so it’s no surprise that it opened to viewers eagerly waiting to see Anurag Basu’s next production on celluloid. The film follows the story of Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor), starting from the beginning of his life in a hospital to his hostel days. We hear about his relationship with Bagchi (Saswata Chatterjee), a father figure who plays a prominent role in shaping Jagga throughout his childhood and adolescent years then suddenly vanishes. The latter half of the film focuses on Jagga’s adventure with journalist Shruti Sengupta (Katrina Kaif) to uncover the mystery of the missing Bagchi.

Compared to other films of this era, Jagga Jasoos is certainly an eccentric experiment in which director Anurag Basu slowly pushes the boundaries of cinema in this dramedy (drama + comedy) flick. The fact that the movie is a musical makes it all the more entertaining, with short, energetic bursts of song and dance every now and then when Jagga uncovers truths in his mystery-laden journey. The choreography for every song in Jagga Jasoos has its own incredibly unique style; my personal favorites are Ullu Ka Pattha and Galti Se Mistake.

Script-wise, there is not a dull moment in Anurag Basu’s writing. At any given point, there is something subtle or extravagant happening onscreen, whether it is nostalgic flashbacks of Jagga’s time with Bagchi or his developing friendship with Shruti. The interweaving of political intrigue and illegal arms trade provides an interesting backdrop for putting pieces together in this puzzle. Visually, Ravi Varman’s cinematography and Akiv Ali’s editing superbly integrate the past and present effortlessly into a single frame onscreen. The scenery of North Africa and Eastern India are particularly picturesque and colorful.

Although quite a bit is covered in this three-hour film, I wish there was more depth into the characters’ emotions and relationships with one another. The father-son connection between Bagchi and Jagga, though heartwarming, seems minimized by the chase and action sequences, which seem to form the bulk of the second half. As a psychologist, I was curious to learn more about abandonment and attachment dynamics playing out in Jagga’s inner life. There are also some moments where we witness Shruti’s vulnerability too; yet, these are just fleeting glimpses into her states of being.

All things considered, the entire cast has done justice to their given roles in this film, especially Ranbir Kapoor, who has the most screen time but probably the least dialogues. Special mention must be given to Saravajeet Tiwari, who played young Jagga beautifully. As usual, Saurabh Shukla shines in his role as an officer, and music director Pritam steps outside his comfort zone to deliver an appropriate soundtrack for this vibrant musical.

Final Verdict: Jagga Jasoos is quirky and very different for a film of 2017. Despite the strange, anticlimactic ending and somewhat confusing plot twists in the second half, the combination of comedy, mystery, and kid-friendliness makes this Disney venture appealing to all ages.

Baahubali 2: A Conclusion with Pomp and Circumstance

Baahubali 2 is easily one of the most highly anticipated films of India. This multilingual franchise has become a national event for Indians worldwide, who are all dying to know the answer to one important question: Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali? Discover this and much more in SS Rajamouli’s grand epic Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.

The film picks up where part 1 leaves off, continuing to narrate the history of Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas), this time, focusing on his adventures with Kattappa (Sathya Raj) and his romance with Devasena (Anushka Shetty). Also in this tale of  treason and betrayal are Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan), Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati), and Bijjaladeva (Nassar), who each have their own complexities and responsibilities in royal family politics.

In all its grandeur and glory, Baahubali 2 bears similarities to several popular epics, including The Lion King, Jodhaa Akbar, and Mahabharata (particularly with the cousins rivalry trope). Filled with conspiracy theories and the struggle between justice and injustice, SS Rajamouli takes us on a three-hour journey into the world and internal dynamics of Mahishmati (Magizhmati) and beyond. Baahubali 2 seems like a fairytale, with all the special visual effects, yet at its core it is a film about humanity in the face of greed, power, love, and loyalty.

One of the major strengths in this film is definitely its strong female characters. Anushka Shetty and Ramya Krishnan deliver power-packed performances as Devasena and Sivagami (respectively), who are two fiercely loyal, determined women faced with insurmountable difficulties and circumstances in a manipulative kingdom. With ease, Ramya Krishnan simultaneously embodies a compassionate, concerned mother and a righteous, commanding leader. Although Anushka’s stunts and action sequences in the first part of the film are brilliant, the cherry on top would have been seeing her in full form fighting off villains in the latter half. Nevertheless, as Devasena, she sticks to her tenacious principles and maintains a confident attitude throughout.

K.K. Senthil Kumar’s fantastic cinematography, combined with MM Kreem’s haunting, melodious music and background score, only enhance this epic conclusion. The occasional visual throwbacks to this film’s precursor, particularly in the end, make it more holistic and integrated for viewers of both films. The grandeur of the sets and costume design are visually appealing and appropriate to the development of the plot. I also appreciated the interspersion of pure Sanskrit words and phrases here and there; it definitely gives Baahubali 2 more of a historical context.

Another highlight of this saga is the bromance and bonding between Kattappa and Amarendra Baahubali, whose relationship is characterized by respect, teasing, and mutual trust. It is truly heartbreaking to witness the moment where Kattappa does the deed and we are faced with the reality why it happened. Rana Daggubati and Nassar too stay true to their roles as the neglected ones who are determined to rule and rise to power.

Final Verdict: Baahubali 2 is not just a film. It is an experience filled with romance and revenge, comedy and conspiracy, treason and triumph. Brace yourself for gory violence, some lighthearted moments, and a lot of intensity.