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!

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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.

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.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania: Love vs. Love

So far, 2017 for Bollywood has been filled with lots of drama and action flicks and very little romance. The team of Shashank Khaitan, Karan Johar, Alia Bhatt, and Varun Dhawan returns to the silver screen with Badrinath Ki Dulhania, the much-anticipated part two of the Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania franchise. A complete package entertainer, Badrinath Ki Dulhania is a typical romantic-comedy that focuses on two main characters – Badrinath Bansal (Varun Dhawan) and Vaidehi Trivedi (Alia Bhatt) – and the marriage-related politics in their families and communities.

This film is uniquely set in the rural small towns of Kota and Jhansi, amidst the backdrop of middle-class family weddings and dowry politics. Although director Shashank Khaitan’s social message of gender discrimination is not new, it has been packaged in a different way to showcase how these issues still affect classes of society in certain parts of India. As a film (re)viewer far removed from dowry-related politics in India, I can only hope that those who need to see this film for that message understand the filmmaker’s critical undertone about the treatment of girl children in India.

Badrinath Ki Dulhania is a very colorful movie, and the vibrant colors are only magnified on the big screen. From bright pinks and blues to subtle purples and yellows, the visuals in this film capture almost every color of the rainbow and beyond. A great way to kick of Holi celebrations! Alia Bhatt’s outfits as Vaidehi Trivedi are gorgeous, with different looks for each location that stay true to her character.

Almost every person in this film – Badri, Vaidehi, Somdev (Sahil Vaid), and all the family members – goes through a unique journey, with their own struggles and challenges along the way. In 2 hours and 20 minutes, it is only possible to get glimpses of each journey, but this leaves the emotional core of the film hanging and not very deep. Viewers may not be able to fully empathize with the struggles of any one character, including Badri and Vaidehi, whose emotions seem to be explored at a surface-level. The film’s editing, particularly in the second half, could have been more crisp. No matter how much Badri’s acts of aggression reflect his internal struggles, it becomes tough to watch him repeatedly act out his aggressive impulses, that too in Singapore, a nation with strict law enforcement policies.

One of Badrinath Ki Dulhania’s strengths is its dialogues and the actors’ comic timing. Varun Dhawan has proven himself in comedy and his chemistry with Sahil Vaid in this flick is lovely. Alia Bhatt is an excellent actor who can do justice to just about any role she is given, and she excels alongside Varun as a rebellious, self-confident career woman. The lead pair’s regional dialect and accents seemed authentic, helping viewers see them not as as Varun and Alia but as Badri and Vaidehi. Kudos to all the choreographers for the catchy dance numbers in this flick; my personal favorite – Ganesh Acharya’s choreography for Aashiq Surrender Hua!

Final Verdict: Romance, drama, comedy, action, and a social message. This film has all the ingredients for a superhit masala Bollywood flick. Badrinath Ki Dulhania is surely a refreshing start to Spring and the 2017 upcoming season of Bollywood rom-coms. A nice pleasant watch that will make you feel good!

Dear Zindagi: Frustration, Contemplation, Reconciliation

4 teasers, 3 songs, and several behind-the-scenes videos later, Gauri Shinde’s most awaited flick Dear Zindagi finally hit movie theaters worldwide. Dear Zindagi follows the story of Kaira (Alia Bhatt), a cinematographer and aspiring filmmaker who goes on a journey of self-discovery with the help of her therapist Dr. Jehangir Khan aka Jug (Shah Rukh Khan) amidst the gorgeous scenery of Goa. The result is a series of revelations connecting Kaira’s past and present interactions and relationship patterns.

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At its core, Dear Zindagi is a film about relationships – starting, continuing, and ending them. From romantic and familial to personal and professional, we see Kaira struggling with the balancing act of managing all the relationships in her life while trying to stay sane and accept herself for who she is. The narrative’s power, however, lies in the complex yet powerful therapeutic relationship between Kaira and Jug. Shinde plays with the stereotypes of counseling and mental health, with references to the impact of childhood trauma and neglect, while challenging and breaking through stigmas associated with seeing a therapist.

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Coming from the exalted filmmaker of English Vinglish fame, the expectations for Dear Zindagi are high – perhaps a bit too high that Shinde is unable to live up to the bar she set for herself. The fact that Dear Zindagi conveys a powerful message about increasing awareness of mental health in Indian society is a major leap forward for (relatively) mainstream Bollywood cinema. While the message is clear, the process of communicating it is a long-winded, two-hour journey that could have been shortened significantly, particularly in the first half. What this film lacks in effective plot and pacing Gauri Shinde makes up with Jug’s profound dialogues that leave viewers with something to ponder even after leaving the cinema hall.

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Dear Zindagi is an out-and-out Alia Bhatt film, and she is a natural onscreen as the spoiled confused rich girl Kaira. Needless to say, Shah Rukh Khan is excellent as Jug, effortlessly embodying the role of a therapist who self-discloses more than a typical counselor with the intention of drawing Kaira out of her shell. Amit Trivedi’s music is not particularly unique and gets rather repetitive. Laxman Utekar’s cinematography of picturesque Goa makes the visuals of this drama highly appealing and attractive. It was nice to see Kunal Kapoor and Ali Zafar onscreen after quite a while as two of Kaira’s paramours.

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Final Verdict: Dear Zindagi is not excellent as per Shinde’s prior track record but it’ll make you shed a few tears towards the end. It presents a fresh concept and relationship not previously explored in Bollywood cinema in a stereotypical yet non-stereotypical way. A poignant film that leaves you thinking and reflecting!

Khoya: Loss, Belonging, Meaning

Khoya. Lost. The word lends itself to feelings of sadness and abandonment. Experience all these emotions and more in Sami Khan’s poignant drama Khoya, which follows the journey of Roger (Rupak Ginn) as he sets off from his hometown in Canada to find his birth family in India.

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Khoya is a deeply evocative film that takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster with Roger through India. From encountering the consequences of corruption firsthand to traversing the road with nothing but the clothes on his back, Roger goes through significant trials and tribulations in his quest for family and belonging. As an audience member, I felt an immense amount of sympathy for Roger as he,a brown-skinned foreigner with a linguistic barrier, experiences in India for the first time. Issues of forged adoption papers and child trafficking bring in social messages about serious matters that are seldom spoken about but nevertheless plague the adoption industry worldwide.

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Metaphors and symbolism are galore in this profound film, particularly with subtle subtextual references to different religious and spiritual traditions. The cinematography by Kevin Wong beautifully captures realistic imagery of India in ways that are unlike the colorful over-the-top visuals often portrayed onscreen in mainstream cinema.

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There is a lot to unpack in Khoya, from Roger’s identity struggles as an Indo-Canadian unaware of his Indian roots to his feelings of shame about being adopted. The film’s pace is mellow and contemplative, seeming slow at times, but it intentionally flows with the protagonist’s internal struggles throughout his journey. Contributing to the reflective vibe of the film, there are minimum dialogues so much of the story moves forward in silence through body language. Needless to say, Rupak Ginn has done an excellent job essaying the role of Roger. The directorial technique of flashback to introduce bits and pieces of Roger’s past is an interesting touch that adds more dimension to this ruminative drama.

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Final Verdict: Khoya is a film that requires more than 100% of your attention while watching. Because there is so much to absorb, a thorough understanding and analysis of the film can only emerge from multiple watches. Visually grey and hazy with thought-provoking and reflective content!

Venue: 3rd i South Asian Film Festival (San Francisco, CA)

The World of Goopi and Bagha (Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya)

Based on Satyajit Ray’s film written by Upendra Kishore Roychowdury, The World of Goopi and Bagha (Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya) is an animation comedy musical directed by Shilpa Ranade that follows the tale of two musicians – Goopi the singer (Rajeev Raj) and Bagha the percussionist (Manish Bhawan). The film begins with them getting thrown out of their respective villages due to their horrendous musical renderings. After encountering an evil ghost who grants them four boons, the rest of the film follows their journey towards achieving musical harmony involving two rival brother kings, a sinister commander-in-chief and his sidekick wizard, and a princess’ hand to win in marriage.

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The film has a very old school animation feel to it, with caricatured hand-drawn depictions of the characters. It communicates a universal message of peace and brotherhood that is very applicable in light of current political dynamics in the western part of the world. As in most kid-friendly animation flicks, the typical good versus evil trope appears, with Goopi and Bagha coming to the rescue with their music.

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The highlight of this film is its dialogues and music. At its core, The World of Goopi and Bagha is a musical, with several songs interspersed to carry the plot forward. Narayan Parshuram’s music composition weaves different musical styles, including Indian classical and regional folk elements. The integration of Hindi, Sanskrit, and Urdu words in Rohit Gahlowt’s dialogues contributes to the all-inclusive view in which Indian society is portrayed in the film. The rib-tickling lyrics are charming and add even more lightness to the movie.

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Final Verdict: Despite the corny jokes and some over-the-top silly moments, Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya is an animation that is for both kids and adults. If you are familiar with Satyajit Ray’s original work, it is likely you will enjoy this adaptation even more. For a change, immerse yourself in art that is light-hearted, positive, and enjoyable!

Venue: 3rd i South Asian Film Festival (San Francisco, CA)