Cinephile Stock: A Gentleman

A GENTLEMAN

Directed by Raj & DK
Written by Sita Menon (Story); Sumit Batheja (Dialogues); Raj & DK (Story & Screenplay)
Produced by Fox Star Studios
Starring Sidharth Malhotra, Jacqueline Fernandes, Darshan Kumar, Hussain Dalal, Amit Mistry
and
Suniel Shetty
Photographed by Roman Jakobi
Edited by Aarif Sheikh
Music by Sachin-Jigar

Engineers-turned-filmmakers Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK, better known by their screen credits – Raj & DK – have given Hindi cinema its first zombie film in Go Goa Gone. That was the first film of theirs that I watched. And I loved it. A fun ensemble and a kickass plot. Happy Ending was one of the few Hindi films that actually followed a rom-com pattern. Usually, Bollywood rom-coms get too drama-heavy and melodramatic. It got panned but I honestly enjoyed it. Light, breezy, funny. With A Gentleman, the director duo turn their focus to a genre not to successfully tapped into in Hindi cinema: the action-comedy.

A Gentleman is a film about mistaken identities, wherein ‘sundar evam susheel’ NRI Gaurav is mistaken for an assassin called Rishi. Rishi used to work for an agency called ‘Unit X’, run by a man known only by his rank (or maybe it’s a nickname): Colonel. Tired of the life of an assassin, Rishi escapes and Colonel, who is also his mentor and father figure, vows to ‘dhundke maro’-fy him. Somewhere the lookalikes cross paths and we are introduced to Gaurav. He likes the simple life and is craving for a wife and a family. He is mocked by his friend and colleague Dixit (pronounced as Dick-shit) and ignored by Kavya, the girl he is smitten by. Things take a turn when Colonel sees a picture of Gaurav and assumes he is Rishi, commencing the revenge spree.

The first problem in A Gentleman is ‘Unit X’. A bunch of covert operatives who are bizarrely foolish and careless. They have tattoos all over their goddamn bodies (so much for blending in like operatives) and wreck their operations to the extent that you wonder how nobody has ever caught them. There also seems to be no accountability to the government they serve, making you wonder why they aren’t just dissolved and finished off with.

The humour is off, shocking for a Raj & DK movie. The Dick-shit joke gets old pretty quickly. There are a few laughs and some genuinely funny scenes sprinkled over the film but it is nowhere close to the standards of GGG and Happy Ending.

Sumit Batheja’s dialogues are a miss too, often becoming corny.

Sita Menon and Raj & DK’s story is pretty good (though predictable) but it isn’t exploited, courtesy the poor screenplay. The peeling off of layers is damn slow at first and then everything happens too fast. The first half of the film should’ve been shorter and the screenplay should’ve gone deeper. Instead, we are given superficial, shallow characters whom we couldn’t give a shit about. A loosely written screenplay can ruin a good story, as has been the case with so many Bollywood films before.

The editing by Aarif Sheikh is pretty slick and nicely done.

Prime Focus once again delivers poor VFX and the composition against the green screen is clearly visible.

Sachin-Jigar deliver some quirky foot-tapping music, especially the background piece ‘Bandook Meri Laila’. They fortunately don’t do a remake of the actual Baat Ban Jaye and spare the classic, delivering a fresh dance number instead.

Roman Jakobi’s cinematography is flashy and cool, though nothing to write home about. There are loads of high-angle shots. The song ‘Chandralekha’ is shot pretty well.

Cyril Rafaelli, Parvez Shaikh and George Aguilar do a fabulous job with the action. The stunts have cool written all over them in big bold letters. The gunfights are well-executed, as is the hand-to-hand combat but it is one particular stunt that is incredible: that of a car flying off an elevated parking lot and getting stuck between two buildings, emphasising upon the lack of space in Mumbai.

Of the performances, Amit Mistry is funny as the Gujarati hitman from Miami, delivering some laughs thanks to his Gujarati instructions on what to do. Darshan Kumar, who was so good in NH 10, is shockingly bad. He plays an underdeveloped character but he overdoes his bit, coming off more as moronic than menacing. Hussain Dalal plays Dixit and gets the funniest lines in the film, pulling them off with ease. Most importantly, unlike the rest of the cast, he looks comfortable in his role. Suniel Shetty’s comeback is not all that great, simply because there is no meat to the character. Sad that Raj & DK couldn’t do with Colonel what they did with Armaan-ji, played by a hilarious Govinda, in Happy Ending. ‘Anna’ tries to put his skill to use and does seem quite cool but the character is all surface and no soul.

Jacqueline Fernandes still has the accent but the effort she puts into dubbing her dialogues is evident in the film. And her Hindi is not as much a struggle to understand as Katrina Kaif’s is. She emotes well too, even though her character is more like eye candy. But then, that term can be used for everyone in this movie. Still, she does a fairly decent job and that’s saying something.

Sidharth Malhotra is charming as good boy Gaurav and comes across as the kind of guy you find in a matrimonial ad. His turn as Rishi is pretty good too, though he does take his shirt off way too many times. He performs the action credibly and seems pretty good at it. Though not as good as his performance in Kapoor & Sons, he does manage to redeem himself after the disaster that was Baar Baar Dekho.

Raj & DK disappoint big time. The film needed more depth and humour than it had. It’s all gloss and glamour but there doesn’t seem to be much heart in it. They are talented directors but that doesn’t come across in A Gentleman.

My advice is to not watch this movie unless you’re an action fan or a fan of either of the lead actors. Do not, I repeat, do not go for it if you’re fond of Raj & DK films.

Verdict: B (Bland and Banal)

Varun Oak-Bhakay

25.8.2017


Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar-starrer Shubh Mangal Saavdhan on September 1.

Advertisements

Cinephile Stock: Bareilly Ki Barfi

BAREILLY KI BARFI

An Adaptation of Nicolas Barreau’s novel Ingredients of Love
Directed by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Written by Nitesh Tiwari & Shreyas Jain
Produced by Vineet Jain & Renu Ravi Chopra
Starring Kriti Sanon, Rajkummar Rao & Ayushmann Khurrana
with
Pankaj Tripathi, Seema PahwaSwati Semwal Rohit Choudhary
Photographed by Gavemic U. Ary
Edited by Chandrashekhar Prajapati
Music by Tanishk Bagchi, Arko, Samira Koppikar & Tanishk-Vayu
Background Score by Sameer Uddin

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari gears up for the ‘second film test’ after having delivered in her debut Nil Battey Sannata. The film is based on a novel Iyer Tiwari apparently read on a flight, gave to her husband to read and then got her producers to acquire the rights to adapt, shifting the action from France to North India.

Bareilly Ki Barfi revolves around Bareilly native Bitti Mishra. Unlike most other girls in the small UP town, she break dances, watches English films (which she translates hilariously for her friend Rama), smokes, drinks and eats non-veg. She lives with her parents: her mother is hell-bent on getting her married while her sweet shop owner father is the doting one, having raised his daughter like one would raise a son in the heartland of India. Exasperated with her mother and feeling that she is worthless, Bitti tries to run away from home, only to be brought back after reading the titular book, whose protagonist she feels resembles her. She seeks for the author of the book – Pritam Vidrohi – to no avail. But she does come across the printer/publisher of the piece, Chirag Dubey who, smitten by her, decides to help her find and get with Vidrohi. Or does he?

Technically speaking, the film is fine. The costumes are the kind the average Joes and Janes in North India wear. Chandrashekhar Prajapati’s smart editing works well to enhance the narrative of a film. Not once does it let up, nor does it feel out of place. Gavemic U. Ary’s camerawork is crisp. He doesn’t go for flashy shots, opting to manoeuvre his cameras in a way that the artists remain the centre of attention in the frames. The way he lights the final scene in the film is also very remarkable. The music is neat too, with Twist Kamariya and Sweety Tera Drama standing out (Indian instruments are utilised wonderfully in both numbers).

Swati Semwal is pleasant as Bitti’s friend Rama, bringing a natural charm to the part. Rohit Choudhary as Chirag’s sidekick Munna goes a few steps further. He turns a stock character into something worth remembering, looking and feeling like a regular guy from Bareilly. Choudhary gets some of the best lines in the film and pulls them off exceedingly well. Veteran Seema Pahwa is endearing as Bitti’s conservative mother. She steps into a role seemingly tailor-made for her. She does well to not let her act slip into a stereotype of Indian mothers. Fellow veteran Pankaj Tripathi shines too as the more liberal, doting dad who wants, above everything else, his daughter to be happy. His scenes with Kriti Sanon are some of the warmest in the film.

Ayushmann Khurrana comes alive as an actor for the second time since his debut (Vicky Donor) five years ago. He gets the tone of the manipulative and scheming Chirag right. What he does better is make you feel for the character despite his many shortcomings. He also does a good job with the dialect.

Rajkummar Rao takes a break from the serious stuff he’s been doing (he still has the web-series Bose: Dead or Alive and Hansal Mehta’s terrorism drama Omerta this year) and delivers the best performance of the film. Alternating between a shy, subdued sari salesman and a leechad and rangbaaz launda, Rao is a revelation. You knew before that the guy could act, but you didn’t know he could pull off the latter character with as much ease as he does. His act is an excellent follow-up to his work in Trapped.

Kriti Sanon also does a good job, delivering her best performance till date. Yes, she is still a little rough but she proves with her performance that if she is given a well-written character, she can deliver. She shares a wonderful chemistry with not only Rajkummar and Ayushmann, but also with Shweta, Mrs. Pahwa and Mr. Tripathi. In one word, she is, much like Bitti, spunky.

Two of the writers of Dangal – Nitesh Tiwari and Shreyas Jain – deliver a wonderful screenplay, laden with some sparkling scenes and incredible dialogue. They get the humour spot-on and the characters are each given their own space. Bitti especially is written in a way that makes her relatable to the urban audience but a new person to the tier 2 and tier 3 city audiences. Her ballsy stand on virginity and throwing her jooti at a guy who passes a lewd remark are interesting characteristics. The incorporation of the typical UP Hindi adds a lovely touch to the film. They keep the audience engaged in the film’s primary question post-interval: Dulhania Kaun Le Jaayega? The climactic twist is convincing and they do well to keep the film light and breezy.

Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari helms the film admirably. Not only does she not allow herself to get pulled into useless subplots, she also holds for the audience a subtle mirror to the patriarchal Indian society. At the same time, she indicates a change in society through the parenting of Papa Mishra and the overall attitude of Bitti. For people in urban areas, drinking and smoking may not seem to be a big deal for a girl, but in the smaller, more conservative towns, it is. And that is what Iyer Tiwari highlights. She is going to be a force to reckon with as more and more lady filmmakers enter Hindi cinema.

Verdict: D (Delightful and Delicious)

[Guide to Ratings is mentioned below, primarily for the benefit of my friend Pradyumna A. Kalagi]

Varun Oak-Bhakay

18.8.2017


Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Steven Soderbergh’s heist comedy Logan Lucky and Raj & DK’s action comedy A Gentleman.

If you liked the piece, please comment below. You only need to leave your email address and do not need to sign up. Cheers.

*Guide to Ratings: In descending order: F, E, D, C, B, A. Accompanied by one or two words beginning with the corresponding alphabet.

Unabashedly Frank: Do You Have Proof?

Recently, India has seen a rise in demand for proof. Evidence. Saboot. Certification. The majority (Hindus) needs to prove that it is secular and the minorities (mainly Muslims) need to showcase their patriotism or, better still, provide certification for it.

The other day, the MoS Minority Affairs for the state of Uttar Pradesh Baldev Singh Aulakh was arguing on a news channel for the singing of Vande Mataram to be made mandatory. Yet, when asked to lead by example, Mr. Aulakh was unable to get going. Maharashtra MLA Raj Purohit – another flag bearer of the suggestion – went a step further and mutilated the song by forgetting half the lyrics, going terribly out of tune and basically making a joke of himself. The man’s been in state politics for a quarter of a century, by the way. Samajwadi Party’s Mavia Ali decided to thrown in his two paisa on the subject by saying, like a lot of hard-line clerics, that he was a Muslim first and an Indian second.

Nationalism today has taken on a form of extremism (thank you, BJP). We’re ready to jump at one another’s throats over it. And there is nothing more shameful for a country as unique and as diverse as ours. Let’s face it: singing Vande Mataram does not make anybody more patriotic than someone who doesn’t. There are those who have sung it at some point of time in their lives and then gone on to betray their country. The same applies to the National Anthem. I’ll admit that I love singing it. I am gung-ho about it. But I wouldn’t ask anybody to sing along just to ascertain whether they’re truly Indian. That’s bollocks. Respect doesn’t have one standard procedure in regards to how it is conveyed. And nobody has the right to decide how patriotic someone else is. One shouldn’t have to prove their nationalism to any of the trolls on the internet, quite a few of whom are part of the ruling party’s IT cell. Being patriotic is subjective. Otherwise one would say that only people in government jobs are patriots. No. A software engineer working for an MNC can be just as patriotic as someone who is in the Armed Forces. His/Her way of loving and serving his/her country is just different from what is deemed the ‘real’ method.

As a new atheist (a form of atheism), I’d probably shut my trap on religion but I won’t. The Constitution gives every citizen the right to practice their religion freely. Do it. Please do. Hindus shouldn’t have to prove they’re secular. For the longest time, secularism has meant minority appeasement (thanks, INC) and that is totally and completely wrong. Why must Hindus have to prove that they’re pro-minority? Can they not be without having to yell it out, just like one can be a nationalist and a patriot without yelling about it on all possible social media forums. Is it wrong to want equal treatment with the minorities? Why must they feel slighted each and every time? And why should they keep quiet each time and take all that is being heaped on them?

On a slightly different note, people should be willing to take criticism about religion too. This applies to all religions (looking at you with a death-striking glare, supporters of Triple Talaq). Even religion requires updating. It requires criticism. Culture needs to move forward, instead of staying in the 18th century. That’s the way forward.

This paragraph is dedicated to the upholders of religion and law and order, the biggest, most nationalistic patriots the world will ever see. You know who you are. POLITICIANS! (And your stooges). Know what? Stop bullshitting and get some work done. Appearing on media channels and making a fool of yourself every once in a while is nice, but it gets irritating when you turn up every evening. And stop certifying people. Or people will start cutting you, a la Pahlaj Nihalani. The day is not very far when the people of India get restless and barge into Parliament House to thrash the living daylights out of the politicians. Even the police won’t protect them because they’ll be just as fed up as the rest of us and may just join in. Politicians have no right to decide who is a nationalist and who isn’t. And they’re the last people who should give sermons on that topic. We know they’d do a deal with the devil to fill their pockets. Hey, you! Politicians! You are supposed to do a particular job. You are elected to office for a purpose. You don’t receive votes to decide who goes to Pakistan and who goes to China and who goes to Timbuktu. Kiren Rijiju, a Union Minister, commented about the entire Gurmehar Kaur incident without having watched the video which started the entire tamasha. Is that how a Union Minister should behave? Knee-jerk reactions like Rijiju’s boost the morale of online trolls and give them validity. Inciting people, not reigning in your supporters, talking rubbish….all of this has a greater impact on the country than you’d think (or we’d hope). You are ruining what our ancestors most tried to preserve: our country.

If you pay your taxes, if you don’t commit a crime and if you’re genuinely a good citizen of India, you’re a nationalist. You are showing your love for your country by not throwing garbage on the streets, not by roughing up people in the darkness of a movie theatre.

Our strength as a country has been our diversity as people. Nowhere in the world is there a nation wherein reside people from so many occupations, religions, ethnicities, regions. Politicians and internet trolls and news anchors are dividing the country. Today, you have Hindus and Muslims, Nationalists and Anti-Nationalists, Communists (or as I, ever the Commando fan like to call them, the Reds) and Right-Wingers, UPites and Maharashtrians. In the midst of our religious beliefs, political ideologies and regional loyalties, we’ve forgotten that we’re Indians. We’ve allowed ourselves to get pushed into a corner where we are punched by the powers that be, constantly. And we have refrained from reacting till now.

On the seventieth anniversary of India becoming an independent nation, I want to thank each and every sensible Indian who has done their bit for the country (or will do, in the future).

Varun Oak-Bhakay

Independence Day 2017


UNABASHEDLY FRANK is going to be a series similar to CINEPHILE STOCK. The piece ‘Unconsciously A Feminist….Until Recently’ will be out on August 29, after which the series will be updated every Sunday. Cheers.

Cinephile Stock: Jab Harry Met Sejal

JAB HARRY MET SEJAL

Written and Directed by Imtiaz Ali
Produced by Gauri Khan
Starring Anushka Sharma & Shah Rukh Khan
with
Aru K. Verma & Chandan Roy Sanyal
Photographed by K.U. Mohanan, ISC
Edited by Aarti Bajaj
Music by Pritam
Background Score by Hitesh Sonik

Imtiaz Ali’s last film was my favourite film of the year it released in. Highly underrated and not-properly-understood by audiences and critics, Tamasha was an incredible film, set as it was in the Imtiaz Ali Universe.

Jab Harry Met Sejal is in the same space….well, almost. Locations change more frequently as Ali takes the audience on a tour of Europe. And how does he improve upon the sights of Europe? He hires Shah Rukh Khan as the tour guide and Anushka Sharma as a traveller looking for her lost engagement ring.

Harry is a Kanidda da Punjabi (technically….his passport is Canadian) who is suppressing memories of his pind and getting into bed with women, mostly travellers on his tours. He is, in his own words, cheap. Sejal is one of the travellers who has lost her engagement ring somewhere on the tour and wants to find it. She drags Harry along, mainly because her family trusts the guy (no background checks there) and his boss, on the verge of firing him, consents. Thus begins the journey which takes the duo to a number of places, where they meet a number of ‘characters’.

Aarti Bajaj does some swift work with the scissors, enabling the film to keep moving in places where it could’ve stagnated. Picturesque locations are aided by K.U. Mohanan’s elegant cinematography. It’s better than his work in Raees, which was drenched in bright colours. Here, the colours are more subdued and the pictures look more lifelike.

Pritam is unable to match up to Rahman. The music is better than it was in the last two films he composed for, but I have to admit that I am getting tired of Arijit Singh. He’s not the sole singer in the film industry, is he? There are some trendy, upbeat numbers like Radha (Sunidhi Chauhan and Shahid Mallya’s vocals are fantastic) and Beech Beech Mein, and there are also the more soulful, more Imtiaz Ali numbers like Safar and Hawaayein. Hitesh Sonik’s background score is not too evident in the film but is soaring when it turns up.

The film has only two supporting characters (Thanks, Imtiaz, for not crowding it with too many to handle). Aru K. Verma as Harry’s fellow guide Mayank does a pretty good job. Chandan Roy Sanyal as the illegal immigrant/criminal Gas is riotous, adding to the troubles of the guide-traveller duo.

Anushka Sharma is fantastic as Sejal. She nails the Gujarati accent and mannerisms. Her comic timing is incredible and she is pretty good in the more dramatic portions too. The sense of individuality her character has is greater than what Deepika had in Tamasha. She isn’t reduced to a supporting character, which would’ve been terrible for the film. She owns her moments in the film with ease.

Shah Rukh Khan is on a roll. Fan, Dear Zindagi, Raees and now this. I officially forgive him for Happy New Year and Dilwale and sincerely hope he doesn’t slip back into that kind of movies again. This is Shah Rukh as a character not a lot of people are used to. He sheds the ‘lover boy’ tag and becomes cheap, crass and womanising, very anti-Rahul/Raj. He is a tad bit over the top in a couple of scenes but does well for the rest of the film. The Punjabi accent feels authentic and adds a lovely touch to the character. Add to that the brooding expressions, the charming smile, the dimples and the intense dialogues, and you have the entire package of Shah Rukh Khan the actor (Yes, I’m a fanboy.)

The lion’s share of the pie is, without a doubt, Imtiaz Ali’s. After having made three rather serious films, he writes a fun, frothy story. He doesn’t relegate one character to the sidelines, even though the story is more about Harry than Sejal. His dialogues are incredible, laugh-out-loud hilarious at times and worth pondering over on a few occasions. The humour works because it isn’t crass or vulgar. It’s naturally funny. As usual, Imtiaz has an underlying theme. How we may attempt to hide our real selves (different from Tamasha because Ved didn’t know who he was.) in order to create a perception people will have of us. Imtiaz even showcases a bit of class divide, of how we may treat someone we believe to be inferior to us. There is also the offering that one shouldn’t bottle up what one is feeling. If you don’t tell another person what you’re thinking/feeling, you’ll never know their point of view. Imtiaz scores on the direction too, simply by keeping the film short (140 minutes approx.) and tonally light. He could’ve made it darker despite the story but he doesn’t. The sole quibble I have is that Imtiaz stays within his comfort zone of self-discovery. Another film like this and people may actually not want to see someone find themselves again.

Jab Harry Met Sejal is a fun movie, one that can be watched with anybody (I watched it with around 500 people, none of whom I knew). It is worth a watch, just so one can have a hearty laugh after a rather serious month in terms of films. The premise is unique and it’s a pretty good ride.

Verdict: E (Entertaining and Enjoyable)


Please leave your thoughts about the piece in the comments section below. You can also add yourself to the mailing list or you can tell me to do that. Cheers!

Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Bareilly Ki Barfi on August 18. BUT! A different segment is out on Independence Day, so drop in to check that out! Cheers!

Varun Oak-Bhakay

4.8.2017

Cinephile Stock: Raag Desh

RAAG DESH

 Based on the Red Fort Trials
Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia
Written by Tigmanshu Dhulia Pramod Singh
Produced by Gurdeep Singh Sappal
Starring Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh Mohit Marwah
with
 Kanwaljit Singh, Kenneth Desai, Mrudula Murali, Vijay Verma
and
Kenny Basumatary as Subhas Chandra Bose
Photographed by Rishi Punjabi
Edited by Geeta Singh
Music by Rana Mazumder Siddharth Pandit
Background Score by Dharma Vish

State-owned Rajya Sabha Television’s foray into film production comes at a time when major production houses and studios in India are shutting shop and films are losing people large amounts of money. Kudos to RSTV for taking on a subject which is tricky as far as box office collections and general public interest go.

To give you a gist of what the film is about, here is a brief history lesson. Bear with me. The Indian National Army was formed from the Indian PsW taken by the Japanese Imperial Army after the Fall of Singapore in 1942. It folded up pretty quickly, thanks to their Founding General Capt. Mohan Singh’s distrust and disenchantment with the ways and intentions of the Japanese and the Indian Independence League. The force was revived upon Subhas Chandra Bose’s arrival from Nazi Germany in mid-1943. Within days of his arrival, Bose took command of the INA, legendarily proclaiming to his ‘soldiers’ the words “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe aazadi doonga.” The fact that a similar experiment with PsW in Nazi Germany – the Indian Legion – had not fared well did not deter the INA. They were utilised as a guerrilla force, participating in operations in Arakan, Imphal and Kohima before being pushed back by the better-equipped British Indian forces. The wheels fell off the INA’s campaign quite rapidly as their opponents pushed on and they retreated to Singapore. Soon after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bose boarded a flight to Saigon. He was never seen or heard of again. The INA was finished but the British weren’t. They decided to try prominent figures of the INA as deserters in a court martial. The first trial was that of the film’s three protagonists.

All three were charged with ‘Waging War Against The King’, Dhillon was charged with ‘Murder’ and Shah Nawaz and Sahgal with ‘Abetment to Murder’. A defence committee was set up by the Congress; lawyers of the calibre of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Bhulabhai Desai, Asaf Ali and Jawahar Lal Nehru were a part of the defence team with the prosecution headed by the Attorney General of India, Noshirwan P. Engineer. The British intended on making an example of the trio and show India that they were traitors. But when censorship ended and people realised what the INA was, public opinion turned in favour of the defendants, going so far as to causing mutinies and riots. The fact that the three men were from different religions – the three largest in number – united the country, something our rulers failed to foresee.

The film wastes no time in needless prologues and throws the audience into the battleground with the INA after a brief narration by director Tigmanshu Dhulia himself. It goes from Singapore to Burma to Delhi and halts in other places, including battlefields, along the way.

The first hurdle is the screenplay. Written by Dhulia and Pramod Singh, it has too many unnecessary scenes. The romance between Col. Sahgal and Capt. Lakshmi Swaminathan doesn’t fit with the proceedings. There is just too much crammed into the film. A little tightening would’ve been hugely beneficial. Geeta Singh’s editing is haphazard. The nonlinearity of the writing requires swift jumps from place A to place B but that is poorly handled. The film’s authenticity loses a few points when officers, who wore pips on their shoulders in the British Indian Army are also shown to be wearing stripes, which are worn by NCOs only. Dharma Vish’s background score is a little repetitive and gets a little on your nerves after a while.

But we’ve dwelled too much on the negatives. Despite its shortcomings, the screenplay has plenty of beautiful scenes to offer. The historical research is applaudable and it makes the film feel real. Rishi Punjabi’s photography is okay for the most part, but the wide-angle shots and the action sequences are extremely well shot. FRI, Dehra Dun serves the purpose of multiple locations quite well. Mukesh Chhabra’s casting is spot-on. The production design is solid too. Rana Mazumder and Siddharth Pandit do a wonderful job with the music of the film. Mazumder’s rendition of ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaaye Ja’ is the best I’ve heard and the track ‘Tujhe Namaami Ho’ fits in beautifully. Pandit’s Teri Zameen is slow but just as good as the two previous tracks. Sandeep Nath and Revant Shergill’s lyrics are powerful.

The supporting cast is perfect. Vijay Verma is earnest as the fictitious journalist Jamal Kidwai. Mrudula Murali does a fairly decent job in her limited scenes as Capt. Laksmi Swaminathan. Kanwaljit Singh as Acharuram Sahgal, a Judge in the Lahore High Court and Col. Sahgal’s father, is wonderful. Kenny Basumatary as S.C. Bose imbues the character with a sense of honour and honesty. Instead of putting the man he plays on a pedestal, he humanises him. Kenneth Desai goes all guns blazing as the ailing Bhulabhai Desai. He pushes himself into the character brilliantly, delivering a rousing monologue towards the end of the film.

Mohit Marwah as Col. Prem Kumar Sahgal is a revelation. He is very good and given that he has only been on screen once before this, he is exceedingly believable as Col. Sahgal. Amit Sadh is intense as the hot-headed Lt. Col. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon. His Punjabi speaking skills are fantastic and he is able to add the appropriate rawness to the character, which is a result of Lt. Col. Dhillon having risen through the ranks in the Army, unlike the other two. Kunal Kapoor is more subdued as Maj. Gen. Shah Nawaz Khan and does a great job with the Urdu-Punjabi dialect. He portrays the conflict of the character with ease and a sense of dignity. What they do absolutely right is that they are distinct as heroes. They aren’t larger than life and their speeches about loving their country aren’t jingoistic. They feel like flesh and blood.

Tigmanshu Dhulia may have slipped a little in the screenplay but his direction drives the film. He doesn’t let it become over-bearing or sentimental or chest-thumping jingoistic, all of which has been done by the likes of Sunny Deol and Akshay Kumar and a large number of social media users. He examines Indian society and politics of the time quite subtly and the subtleness is where his strength lies. The scene where Bose tells his officers to wipe off the vermillion from the foreheads is remarkable because of how sync it is with the way things are happening today. He keeps clear of Bose’s disappearance and focuses on the job at hand. His direction that makes one forget about the film’s shortcomings whilst watching it. He doesn’t have the same objectiveness he had in Paan Singh Tomar but that was expected.

Would I recommend Raag Desh? Hell yes! It is a reminder of who our heroes should be and what all we have lost in fighting for Independence and what we may lose if we don’t stop squabbling. It is patriotic in a more relatable sense than those shrieking panellists on news channels. Most importantly, it is the story of an event we should all know about. So, skip the Bazmee and Bhandarkar bonanza and watch the Dhulia movie this weekend.

Verdict: D (Daring and Definitive)


Please share the review around. And watch the movie. And comment. You don’t even need to sign up for the last.

Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal on August 4.

Varun Oak-Bhakay

28.7.2017