Varun Oak-Bhakay’s Writer’s Block

Cinephile Stock: Logan Lucky


Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Rebecca Blunt
Produced by Channing Tatum, Gregory Jacobs, Mark Johnson & Reid Carolin
Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Dwight Yoakam
Katie Holmes & Hilary Swank
and Introducing
Daniel Craig as Joe Bang
Photographed by Peter Andrews
Edited by Mary Ann Bernard
Music by David Holmes

In 2013, the man behind the Che Guevara biopic(s), Erin BrocovichTraffic and the incredible Ocean’s Trilogy retired from moviemaking after expressing his disappointment with the Hollywood studio system.

Traditionally, once the film is completed, studio marketing teams take control of cutting trailers and executing the advertising and promotional strategy of the film. They control things from poster designs to dialogue promos to media events, thus leaving a director isolated from his/her product and often creating a wrong perception about the genre of the movie (a common mistake Hindi film marketing teams make, cases in point Azhar and Daddy).

So what does the most multi-talented filmmaker of his generation do? He cuts the studios out completely by raising the film’s budget from the sale of overseas distribution rights and paying for P&A through the sale of post-theatrical rights. His actors – including leading stars like Daniel Craig and Channing Tatum – took pay cuts to ensure the film remained within a recoverable budget zone. Indie distributor Bleecker Street partnered up with Soderbergh for marketing and received a $1 million fee upfront for their services. They will collect more based on the film’s box office run and DVD and streaming sales. There’s no doubt that what Soderbergh has tried to pull off is a risk and it remains to be seen whether it’ll pay or not. Either way, he deserves a big hand for daring to pull away from studios and going it alone.

Logan Lucky is a messy film. You know, like a chocolate ice cream dessert on a holiday. It has a ton of characters for a film of its length and scale.

The story is about the Logan siblings and a robbery they plan and execute at the Charlotte Motor Speedway after one of them loses a job. The younger brother is a one-handed Iraq veteran who is a bartender and the sister is a hairdresser. Their accomplice is an explosives expert, aptly named Joe Bang. We also have a couple of racers, Jimmy Logan’s daughter and ex-wife, Bang’s dimwitted but enterprising brothers and an FBI agent, all of whom make for the one of the weirdest ensembles I’ve seen.

The cinematography, handled by Peter Andrews (Steven Soderbergh), is nothing to write home about, though the NASCAR bits are shot well and the simplistic style benefits the story. Edited by Mary Ann Bernard (also Soderbergh), the film is sharpened out though a little slow. David Holmes’ music is what I like to call ‘folkish American stuff’ and is passable.

The supporting cast don’t really do much of note and I even wondered what the point of casting Sebastian Stan was, since almost anybody could’ve played his role. That said, Seth MacFarlane was pretty funny as a pretentious Brit and Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson, playing the other Bang brothers, were quite good too. Farrah MacKenzie, playing Jimmy’s daughter Sadie, was incredibly sweet and her scenes with Tatum were pretty nice.

Katie Holmes and Hilary Swank were wasted in teeny parts but they did well despite their lack of screentime. Riley Keough was great as Mellie Logan, the hairdressing car expert. She held her own against some seasoned performers and left a beautiful mark. Adam Driver, playing the one-handed Clyde, was pretty good and brought an interesting innocence and honesty to the part. Channing Tatum was also quite good as Jimmy and played it low-key, much to his credit. The outlandishness was left to a fantastic Daniel Craig, who was so incredible in this new avatar that you couldn’t believe he plays 007. He was especially good in two scenes: one in which he tells Mellie not to look in the rearview mirror because he was about to get ‘nekkid’ and the other in a scene where he explains the science behind his explosive to the Logan brothers.

The film is penned by Rebecca Blunt and she delivers a no-frills heist comedy. Our heroes hardly use technology and rely on science and smartness to pull off the job. It’s a smartly written film but could have done without some characters and with a little more depth. The characters that matter are well-written and the dialogues they deliver are downright hilarious.

Steven Soderbergh is not known as a pretentious filmmaker. He was frank about The Ocean’s Trilogy and the canvas those films encompassed. Similarly, he is honest here about making a heist movie with ‘rubber band’ technology. The trademark Soderbergh stamp is there in the humour of the film. It does struggle from pacing issues but that is the only complaint I have of Soderbergh’s work on the film. It is a refreshingly fun film and ends on a cool cliffhanger, making you wish that a sequel is already being written.

Logan Lucky is the return of a great filmmaker with a fun film. Watch it for the laughs and for Craig. Yes, he does get almost ‘nekkid’. That may serve as incentive for some of you.

Verdict: (Delightful and Driven). 7/10.

Varun Oak-Bhakay


Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Ranjit Tiwari’s musical prison drama Lucknow Central on September 15.


Cinephile Stock: 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
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


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

Cinephile Stock: 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
 Kanwaljit Singh, Kenneth Desai, Mrudula Murali, Vijay Verma
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


Cinephile Stock: Dunkirk


Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Based on the Dunkirk Evacuation of 1940
Produced by Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan
Introducing Fionn Whitehead
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney
Photographed by Hoyte van Hoytema, ASC, FSF, NSC
Edited by Lee Smith, ACE
Music by Hans Zimmer

They were trapped by one of the most dreaded armies on the face of the planet. They were low on ammunition, they were hungry, they were scared and inevitably faced annihilation. They were stranded in a French town called Dunkerque. The shores on which flew the Union Jack were no more than twenty-six miles away. When 400,000 men couldn’t get home, Home came for them.

The Dunkirk Evacuation of 1940 is perhaps one of the most well-known events in the annals of modern warfare. Those of you who know about it should skip ahead to the paragraph after the next. Those of you who don’t, read on.

The Second World War began in September ’39. After the declaration of war on Nazi Germany by Great Britain and France, a British Expeditionary Force was dispatched to France in order to aid the latter in case it was attacked. On May 10, 1940, Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland. Three Panzer Corps pushed towards France through the Ardennes Forest. They steam-rolled through France and by the 21st, they had confined the BEF, remnants of the Belgian forces and the three French armies to a small section of the northern coast of France. BEF commander Lord Gort decided that an evacuation across the Channel was possible and the troops moved towards Dunkirk. The next day, the German forces stopped the advance rather strangely. The order of ‘Halt’ meant that the donkey work of cleaning up the surrounded forces was left to the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force. This meant that the forces managed to put defences in place and pull back troops, in large numbers, to Dunkirk. The Germans resumed their pursuit on the 26th but had to face off against 40,000 valiant Frenchmen in the Siege of Lille between the 28th and the 31st. The evacuation from Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo, saw battleships, cruisers, destroyers, corvettes, vessels, trawlers, torpedo boats and various other types of waterborne vehicles, including large numbers of civilian boats which, in many cases, were manned by civilians, participate. In nine days, close to 340,000 men were evacuated (As I researched for this history lesson that I’m imparting, I realised that though a majority of the forces made it back, about forty thousand men sadly fell into German hands). The British were understandably ecstatic, so much so that their Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, had to remind them on June 4 that “we must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

Dunkirk sees Christopher Nolan reunite with the usual suspects in Warner Brothers, Cillian Murphy, Hans Zimmer, Lee Smith, Nathan Crowley, Scott Fisher and, in an unexpected cameo, Sir Michael Caine. Nolan’s DP from Interstellar, Hoyte van Hoytema (who also photographed Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the latest 007 flick Spectre), is behind the camera for this one as well, Tom Hardy also jumps aboard and producing the film with Nolan is his long-standing producing (and life) partner, Emma Thomas. Brother Jonathon Nolan is conspicuous in his absence, having co-written six of the previous nine Nolan directorials.

Well before the film came out, Nolan insisted that it wasn’t going to be a war film. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I heard this piece of news. It is a suspense thriller which focuses on the men involved in Dunkirk and how they survived the horrors of it rather than being a historical film. Nolan uses three perspectives to tell the story: land (the Army), sea (the Navy and civilian boats) and air (the Air Force). Omitted are the Jerries (the Germans) and Churchill and his boys in London. Nolan opts to focus wholly and solely on the men and boys at Ground Zero.

The film opens with British soldiers running through the streets of the titular town. They are being pursued by the invisible but ever-present enemy. The film’s central protagonist, Tommy, runs to the beach, where he sees a vast sea of fellow soldiers and a vast sea, with a couple of ships here and there. The tension sets in pretty quickly as the Luftwaffe bombs the beach, making one slightly nervous.

Nolan writes this film as he does most of his work: in a non-linear format. It isn’t tough to follow as long as you keep your wits about you. The three perspectives are titled The Mole, The Sea and The Air. The writing is excellent in every possible way. The perspectives change lithely and your attention never dawdles. The enemy is never seen in the film, but the writing makes one wonder where Jerry will pop up from. While the overt focus of the story is on the minds of the men, it is also, more subtly, a human story filled with emotion. It is a slap in the faces of those who say Nolan’s films have no heart. You have to use your loaf and look for the heart a little.

The film is on technically solid ground, with some great sound design, fine production qualities (Nathan Crowley) and fantastic practical effects by Scott Fisher and team.

Hans Zimmer provides epic music to the nerve-wracking on-screen events. Brilliant use of the ticking clock sound (from one of Nolan’s own timepieces), reminding the audience that, as James D’Arcy’s Colonel Winnant says, “Every hour the enemy pushes closer!” Music has not been used so stylishly in a film of this kind before.

Lee Smith cuts from one perspective to the other fluidly, leaving no room for error. He goes full throttle in his efforts to make the 106 minutes of screen time count.

DP Hoyte van Hoytema is in top form. I have not seen such photography in film in quite a while. He has a variety of looks on hand: the colours are cold and stripped down for the beach sequences but warm and solid for the aerial shots. One particular shot, that of three Spitfires flying side-by-side over the Channel, reminded me of Guy Hamilton’s Battle of Britain. Hoyte shoulders the 40-pound IMAX camera for quite a bit of the screen time and squeezes it into the Spitfire cockpits to create a claustrophobic environment. His team too deserves a huge clap on the back for the capturing of the shots of The Sea and those done masterfully in The Air. Hoyte doesn’t mind getting the camera drenched either in some nerve-wracking underwater sequences. I envy the people who got to see the film in IMAX 70mm. If it was so breathtaking in digital, it must have been awesome in the original format. It is really marvellous how the IMAX has been attached to the exterior of aircraft while the damn thing is airborne. Fantastic stuff!

The cast does a great job too. Sir Kenneth Branagh and James D’Arcy as Commander Bolton and Colonel Winnant respectively are the anxious senior officers on Ground Zero, worried about the men under their command and the lack of transport. Their agony is evident when Bolton wishfully says, “You can practically see it from here.” Winnant asks what he’s talking about, and Bolton replies, “Home.” They are so near and yet so far. Sir Kenneth particularly is brilliant, which he always is. British pop star Harry Styles is pretty good as the slightly brash young soldier Alex. I doubted whether he could act, but Nolan isn’t known for bad casting and his belief in Styles really pays off. Aneurin Barnard as the silent Gibson also makes a mark, reminding viewers of the fear that can take over a person in situations like Dunkirk. Barry Keoghan (George) and Tom Glynn-Carney (Peter) embody the ‘British lads’ who are eager to do their bit for the war effort. Both are quite believable and bright prospects in cinema. Sir Mark Rylance (Mr. Dawson) steps up the emotional aspect of the movie, getting into the skin of the ordinary British civilian who went to help the boys at Dunkirk. He is firm but calm in a role tailor-made for him. Cillian Murphy, a Nolan regular, is frighteningly real as the PTSD-stricken Second Lieutenant who, when rescued by Dawson and the two lads, is insistent that they ‘turn it around’ and return to England. Jack Lowden (Collins) and Tom Hardy (Farrier) are impressive as the RAF fighter pilots, sharing a complex chemistry despite never being in the same frame. Playing their boss, in a surprise cameo, is Sir Michael Caine, whose voice is as reassuring as always. Hearing it made me feel that everything would be fine. Fionn Whitehead debuts as the average British teen soldier and plays the role with a wonderful innocence and a curious determination that doesn’t make him seem like a first-timer at all. Kudos to him!

Christopher Nolan is at the top of his game as a director. He tells the story in its entirety without becoming over-indulgent, which he has been in his last two films. His direction takes this film to new heights. He serves it cold and warm. He keeps out sobbing girlfriends and wives and mothers, proud dads and sons, and most importantly, politicians. He opts to aim his guns at the men that matter and that perhaps made all the difference in the end. It is exactly the film he said it was in pre-release interviews. Take a bow, Christopher Nolan. With Dunkirk, you’ve officially entered the League of the Legends.

Whether you enjoy thrillers or not, Dunkirk is a must watch. It is powerful, taut and amazing. It is happy and it is sad. Above everything else, it is a masterclass by perhaps the greatest filmmaker of the 21st century.

Verdict: F (Frightening and Fabulous)

If you liked the review, please do share it on social media with every homo sapien that you know. And do watch Dunkirk. And no, Warner Bros. and Syncopy did not pay me, though I wish they had.

Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Raag Desh on July 28.

Varun Oak-Bhakay


Cinephile Stock: Jagga Jasoos

Ranbir Kapoor
in & as


Written and Directed by Anurag Basu
Produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur, Anurag Basu Ranbir Kapoor
Starring Katrina Kaif, Saurabh Shukla & Saswata Chatterjee
Denzil Smith, Sayani Gupta & Rajatava Datta
Photographed by S. Ravi Varman, ISC
Edited by Akiv Ali
Music by Pritam

I have to admit that I really didn’t like Barfi a lot. It had good performances but instead of the ‘homage’ it claimed to be to many films before it, it seemed lifted in far too many places.

Jagga Jasoos is better in terms of originality, though it does have certain co-incidental sequences. But in almost all other aspects, it fails stupendously in comparison to Anurag Basu’s previous film.

The story revolves around Jagga and his search for his missing foster father. It goes from Bengal to Manipur to Africa, creating a major muddle. The backdrop of the real-life Purulia Arms Drop of 1995 and militants adds a little bit of intrigue, which Basu then proceeds to screw up royally.

While Bombay Velvet was overwritten, Jagga Jasoos is the opposite. Characters are picked up, written a little and abandoned, plot points are half-baked. There is no moment where the story seems to really take off. Despite the intended emotional impact, you couldn’t really care whether Jagga and his dad meet up.

The novelty of the cast singing the dialogues instead of saying them wears off after a while and becomes annoying.

The film has terrible visual effects, wherein one can actually make out the CG background and objects. Prasad Sutar and his team from NY VFXwala aren’t to blame, the hurried post-production is. When you spend close to forty months on making a movie and deliver a shoddy finished product, you don’t call for much appreciation.

Katrina Kaif’s casting is questionable since she is hardly able to transform a written character to a live-action creation. She does pull off the Calamity Jane bits with ease but is off-key in the more dramatic scenes.

The major portion of the blame for this carelessly made film lies on the doorstep of director Anurag Basu, who takes his mess of a script and messes it up even more. The film has no sense of coherence or continuity. Physics, logic and common sense are a few prominent victims of Basu’s overactive imagination. Rohit Shetty may have MDMA-fuelled action, but when you have a sub-plot involving arms dealers, rockets that change course 180 degrees do not work. The length of the film is another issue: it is at least half-an-hour too long. A tighter film would’ve made for fewer mistakes.

Pritam’s music is not all that great. It gets boring and repetitive after some time and has very few memorable tunes. He should’ve just taken something (second nature to him) from the films Jagga Jasoos seems to pay homage to: the likes of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and The Adventures of Tintin.

Noted action director Allan Amin provides some cool stunts and chases, almost making those scenes feel out of place, in a good way, in this film.

Akiv Ali’s editing was on point, with a special focus on the way scenes shot in different places merge into the same frame. Had Ali had more freedom, the film wouldn’t have been so clunky.

Ravi Varman’s lensing is reminiscent of his work from Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. He captures the vast landscape of the film very well. Despite the shabby visual effects, the frames look like paintings. Lit intelligently and coloured well by Ken Metzker, the visuals are the biggest plus in the film.

Actors of the calibre of Sayani Gupta, Denzil Smith and Rajatava Datta are wasted in their brief roles, though they do try their utmost, especially Mr. Datta. They were either given underwritten characters or their roles were snipped off in the edit (my allowance money is on the latter).

Saswata Chatterjee as Jagga’s foster father is the polar opposite of Bob Biswas from Kahaani. Warm, friendly and clumsy, Mr. Chatterjee has some of the more remarkable scenes in the film: those with the young boy playing Junior Jagga. He is the emotional lynchpin of the film and plays his part to perfection.

Saurabh Shukla is excellent. He has the best lines in the film and his recitation scene with Ranbir Kapoor is the funniest in the film. Mr. Shukla doesn’t really have the shades of villainy the character should’ve had but he is enjoyable nonetheless.

Ranbir Kapoor is quite good. There is a sincerity, an innocence and a determination to overcome the stutter in his performance as the titular character. He faces up to the challenge of playing detective admirably. However, he is far too old to pull off a school boy character which, even with some lein-dein, can’t possibly be older than twenty-two. He makes up with some wonderful stuttering and sing-talking, though Tushar Joshi has dubbed for roughly thirty percent of the scenes of the latter nature (not songs, scenes!).

Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos failed to live up to my expectations. It is a haphazard film whose director did not seem to have a confirmed course. Despite the cliffhanging climax, I’d rather there wasn’t a sequel.

Verdict: C (Clumsy and Cluttered)

Please do leave your comments in the section below. And if you really liked the piece, share it on various social media.

Up next on CINEPHILE STOCK: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk on July 21.

Varun Oak-Bhakay