Movie Review: “Guilty’ Will Make You Question Patriarchy, Privilege and Consent

Consent has become quite a popular term in the post #MeToo era and Guilty, starring Kiara Advani, reminds us that men of privilege do not think twice before violating women. Furthermore, the film also throws ample light on the fact that a large number of rape cases still go unnoticed. Guilty, directed by Ruchi Narain, throws light on a set of burning questions that are often swept under the carpet.

An Overview: 

 Less than a minute into the film, we see a college-goer being questioned ( grilled, in some ways) by the cops. The members of a college rock band are questioned after VJ, the band’s lead vocalist, and the son of a powerful businessman, is accused of raping one of his batchmates. All hell breaks loose when Tanu, the victim, posts a tweet targeting VJ. In no time, we see VJ being targeted by various sections of the society, but there comes a point when everybody, even those investigating the case, begins questioning the victim’s claims. 

Storyline:

Quite frankly, the storyline is watertight and doesn’t give you much time to think. It took less than 10 minutes for the makers to establish all of the characters. The best part about the story is: it goes about its business without beating around the bush. A large chunk of the film is narrated from Nanaki’s (Kiara Advani) perspective.

 There are sequences that make you uncomfortable. For instance: one of the students being questioned tells the cops that the victim is nothing more than a f*ck girl. Furthermore, the viewers are also made aware of the fact that Rani, the victim, had ” trouble written all over her”.

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The Film does raise some Important Questions:

Right from frame one, the film succeeds in maintaining a ‘stern’ look and feel. Well, that’s because the director wants the viewers to know that sexual harassment is a serious offence. 

  • Why is a girl called a sl*t if all she wants is attention?
  • Why are rape cases politicized?

Despite a few minor flaws, guilty has its heart in the right place. The narrative of the film keeps swinging to and fro, much like a pendulum. The first half of the film showcases Tanu as the ‘helpless victim’ who has been raped by a rich and spoilt brat. But victim-blaming shows its ugly head and everybody puts Tanu in the line of fire. 

Performances:

Kiara Advani is the star of the show and looks unbearably hot in her ‘punk’ look. She plays the heartbroken lyricist and does so with ease. Also, she comes across as a ‘coconut personality’ and it won’t take long for the viewers to realize that this punk babe has demons running wild inside of her. (Does that remind you of Alan Walker?).

Gurfateh, who plays VJ, the spoilt brat, does everything you could have asked of him. There is that carefree (rather nonchalant) look in his eyes that screams aloud at times. Also, right from frame one, you get a feeling that this guy will get away with the crime unscathed. 

Taher Shabbir enters the scene right from frame one as he begins interrogating VJ’s friends. He doesn’t speak much and goes about his business with the utmost sincerity. Unfortunately, he comes across as a stone-faced investigator who has little or no room for emotions. In short, our investigator required a few punchy dialogues to make his presence felt.

Next on the list is Akansha Kapoor, who plays Tanu Kumar, a girl from Dhanbad, one of the country’s mining powerhouses. She is shown as a headstrong woman and doesn’t shy away from voicing her opinion. Despite being raped, she chooses not to hang her head in shame (which comes across as a big positive). Akansha shines right from the start despite having a limited screen presence. 

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Here’s the biggest problem ailing this film: despite playing the victim, Akansha hasn’t been given enough screen time as most of the film is narrated from Nanaki’s perspective. 

Direction:

Ruchi Narain does a fairly decent job behind the camera by handling rape, an immensely sensitive subject matter with a great deal of sincerity and maturity. A 2-hour-long runtime does test your patience (at times), but the film deserves a watch for the powerful message it has in store for its viewers. 

‘Guilty’, despite a few minor flaws, ends up holding the viewer’s attention. Watch it for the message it has in store.

Film review: “Marjaavaan” will crush your will to live

Marjaavaan, Milaap Zaveri’s latest directorial venture, has finally hit the big screens. Starring Siddharth Malhotra, Tara Sutaria and Riteish Deshmukh, the film tells the story of Raghu, who works as a thug under Narayan Anna (Nassar), a water mafia don.

Well, could Siddharth and Riteish recreate the magic of Ek Villain? Well, not quite.

Spoiler Alert: It’s no prequel to Ek Villain. (Sigh)

Overview

As stated earlier, the film follows Raghu, the ace hitman of a local Don named Narayan Anna. Narayan loves Raghu more than his son. 

Consequently, Vishnu, Anna’s biological son, falls short of his father’s love. Not to forget, he’s a dwarf and keeps shooting metaphors around height. The story is simple: Raghu is Anna’s most trusted right-hand man and was taken in by Anna after he was abandoned as a child. Vishnu is jealous of Raghu and wants an opportunity to destroy him.

Storyline

Quite frankly, the story has nothing new to offer. Marjaavaan is a standard revenge drama film with half-baked dialogues and mindless action sequences. Five minutes into the film, Siddharth Malhotra can be seen smashing the bad guys. Also, a few plain and tasteless dialogues have been used to ‘ornament’ a largely mediocre film.

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Tara Sutaria, who plays a mute Kashmiri girl named Zoya, wants to transform the lives of slum children. She believes music can change lives. So, our hero converts a Mumbai slum into Indian Idol. Zoya happens to be assembling a troupe for a music festival in Kashmir.

Halfway through the film, the leading lady dies, and our protagonist can be seen crying his eyes out over her lifeless body. The second half is no less painful. Just when you think you have had enough, goons jump into the frame, and you will get to see some substandard ‘dishoom-dishoom’ sequences. Simply put, Marjaavaan’s story will remind you of those over-the-top revenge dramas from the 80s.

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Dialogues

Okay, here’s the interesting part. The dialogues don’t leave much of an impact but do end up providing some unintentional comic respite. Five minutes into the film, Siddharth Malhotra says: “Main Ek maarunga, Marr jaayega. Doosra Janam lene se darr jaayega.” Post interval, we can see Raghu staring at Zoya’s (Tara Sutaria) grave. At this moment, yet another flavourless dialogue can be heard escaping Raghu’s lips: “Zoya, main badla Nahin, Inteqaam loonga” ( Badle ko Urdu mein inteqaam kehte hain. XD). There’s love, there’s melodrama (a lot of it). Not that melodrama hasn’t worked for Bollywood films in the past, but some uninspired dialogue delivery tires you out eventually.  

The film’s writers are to blame. Not much thought has been put into the writing bit.

Performances

Siddharth Malhotra looks disinterested in the film. His dialogue delivery doesn’t end up creating much of an impact. Also, why is he wearing a leather jacket? Does it get cold in Mumbai? Well, god knows. Rakul Preet Singh plays Aarzoo, a dancer. She looks bubbly and charming but was not given much to work with. Also, her dress sense reminds us of the cabaret dancers from the good old 1980s.

Tara Sutaria looks charming. Her expressions are quite believable. Also, her on-screen presence is bound to instil a sense of optimism. Unfortunately, she has been shown as a helpless young woman. A gush of blood pours out of her mouth after she is shot. Optimism and charm die a slow and painful death, alas!

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Ravi Kishan, who plays a cop, looks quite convincing. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given a meaty role. Also, South Indian actor Nassar looks impressive as an underworld don.

Riteish Deshmukh, the film’s antagonist, tries hard to look ruthless, but nobody fears a three-feet tall ball of hair. Also, a villain doesn’t talk in verse, does he? Our villain seems to be obsessed with metaphors around height. All in all, the acting part is weak. The film needed some well-defined characters.

Music

The film’s background music makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s too loud. As far as the soundtrack is concerned, “Tum Hi Aana” sung by Jubin Nautiyal will remain in your playlist for a long time. “Thodi Jagah” by Arijit Singh is easy on the ears. The rest of the songs have just been copy-pasted. Boy, music directors and lyricists need to unleash their creativity.

The verdict

Simply put, Marjaavaan is a hotchpotch of epic proportions. It is not something you’d want to watch. Well, if you wish to kill time, then give it a try. Marjaavaan is a film that could have been a full masala entertainer, but a largely predictable plot doesn’t let it rise above its limitations. 

Rating: 1.5/5

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A Journey Through Dystopia: Revisiting V for Vendetta

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Before bombarding you with my earth-shattering ideas and opinions, let me tell you that I happen to be a big fan of Dystopian literature. It thrills me to the core when I get my hands on a dystopian graphic novel or watch a film having a dystopian plot. With the contemporary world facing problems such as unemployment, political unrest, insecurity, etc., the concept of dystopia has no longer remained just a part of the fiction.

Back in 2005, when I was a school-going chap, released one of the most influential dystopian thrillers in the history of cinema. (At least, I would like to believe so.) V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue, took us into the 2030s, giving us a glimpse of the dark and dingy streets of dystopian London. A cinematic representation of Allan Moore’s graphic novel, the film beautifully portrayed rebellion and revolution in order to overthrow autocratic regimes.

Starring Hugo Weaving and Nathalie Portman as V and Evey respectively, the film was so influential that today the Guy Fawkes mask has become a perpetual symbol of rebellion against totalitarian governments and injustice. Today, the internet, as well as the social media, runs berserk with countless Guy Fawkes images whenever the idea of a protest or an uprise is brought to light. The film, with its gripping storyline, makes sure that you don’t lose interest. It is one of those films which keeps you hooked and guessing right till the very end.

Here’s a look at all the factors that led to the film’s success

A Refreshing Change:

Hollywood has, for long, been associated with the Captain Americas, the Hulks, the Logans, and the Venoms. Indian audiences get attracted to the superhero genre quite effortlessly. At a time when the Superhero genre was overpowering the Indian audiences, V for Vendetta came as a breath of fresh air. It took us through a fictitious autocratic society wherein people were governed using surveillance systems. It further gave us ample reasons to respect and admire democratic governments. A country shouldn’t run according to the will of only a few, it should function according to the will of its citizenry.

The Element of Fear:

Rebellion became a way to liberate the masses. The movie tells us that fickle-minded governments can only be overthrown if people break the shackles of fear. It made people realize that giving in to their fear only makes oppressive governments stronger. It is because fear is the ultimate tool used to control the masses. It further brought to light the tricks governments play to instill a sense of fear amongst the masses. V, disguised as  William Rockwood, tells Chief Inspector Finch about the planned attack carried out by Adam Sutler’s party. He tells him how fear became the ultimate tool of Sutler’s party.

A Fictional Representation of Real-World Problems

V for Vendetta is nothing more than a piece of fiction, but the problems portrayed are pretty much real. Autocratic governments, like the one in North Korea, have snatched away the vox populi and commit severe human rights violations. Wars and political unrests have dismantled countless African nations. Autocratic regimes have denied freedom of speech and expression. Those found ‘guilty’ are being executed. Political scenarios have become as complicated as they possibly can. Many countries (Syria for instance) have been destroyed and crippled. Dystopia is no longer just a piece of fiction. It has turned into a shocking reality.

 V, the titular character and the film’s leading protagonist, beautifully sums up the need to overthrow  oppressive governments when he says:

EmilysQuotes.Com - people, afraid, fear, government, threat, motivational, Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

Deconstructing V

V, the film’s titular character, is undoubtedly the perfect protagonist. He is a deeply-learned man who also happens to be a skilled martial artist. He is a skilled swordsman as well. Nothing that he does is a matter of chance. He is not someone who’d leave loose ends. All that he does is carefully planned.

Well, I must admit V’s revolutionary speech reminds me of Mark Antony’s speech from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. His ideology is simple: Only a revolution can overthrow autocratic governments, and that a revolution would succeed only if there are enough people standing beside you. His arguments are highly rational and his grammar and diction are as good as William Shakespeare’s. He rightly nurtures the belief that fairness, justice, and freedom are not merely words, they are perspectives.

Furthermore, one could easily figure out that V had developed a soft corner for Evey Hammond. He fell in love with her and confessed the same before dying.

So, to top it all, V for Vendetta, with its tight storytelling and excellent performances, doesn’t only provide the viewer with entertainment. It also makes the viewer learn a few important lessons.

Calibre, with all its Thrills and Spills, Makes for a Great Binge-watch…

It certainly would be no hyperbole to say that the quality of content available on Netflix has improved quite considerably. 2018 saw some excellent feature films and web shows being churned out for viewers across all age groups. As far as the films are concerned, the American entertainment giant has treated its viewers to some excellent feature films this year around. Right from the Spanish period thriller ‘Gun City, which deals with the countless reasons that led to the outbreak of the Spanish civil war to the Indian romantic comedy “Love per Square Feet”, an Indian romantic comedy that deals with the ever-so-serious problem of housing in Mumbai, we’ve seen some top-notch stuff on Netflix this year around.

Within the crime-thriller genre, Calibre, a film directed by Matt Palmer, kept the netizens such as myself on the edge of their seats. The film is set in the Scottish Highlands and features two friends who embark on a hunting trip. The rest of the film deals with the trials and tribulations both of them face in their bid to keep their crime under the wraps.

An Overview

The story begins rather simply, with two childhood friends Vaughn and Marcus embarking on a hunting trip. Vaughn and his wife are expecting their first child.  Both of them make their way to the Scottish Highlands. The woods appear silent, but there seems to be a significant degree of uneasiness engulfing the highlands. The economic hardships of people, the lack of investment in the area. Both Vaughn and Marcus realize that the place isn’t as welcoming as they thought it’d be.

While hunting, Vaughn sees a deer, lines it up, and shoots, but the bullet accidentally hits a young boy, who happens to be camping in the woods along with his father. Things turn even murkier when Marcus, in his bid to protect Vaughn, ends up shooting the boy’s father.  Then begins a game of cat and mouse wherein Vaughn and Marcus try almost all tricks in the bag to cover their crime.

The Good:

The Locations:

The film’s story is pretty simple. It doesn’t have anything extraordinary, but what stands out in the entire film is the execution. The locations where the film has been shot are beautiful. Another striking feature of the locations happens to be the fact that they do look spooky and secluded. The locations add a certain degree of tension to the overall scenario.

The Storyline

The story might be simple, but it’s quite gripping. Kudos to the film’s writer for adding a pinch of salt and pepper to a cliché suspense thriller. All the ingredients seem to be in place. There’s a perfect blend of suspense, drama, tension, and adrenaline-pumping action. The writers have stuck to the basics and have nailed it, literally. The story is tightly-knit and nothing feels unnecessary. Also, the 100-minute runtime doesn’t feel long and keeps the viewer hooked and guessing.

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The Performances:

Take nothing away from the hard work put in by all the actors. The likes of Jack Lowden, Martin McCann, and Tony Curran have pulled off stellar acts to give us one of the finest thriller films of the decade. The actors haven’t relied on dialogues, but on facial expressions. The fear and uncertainty, both of which form the heart and soul of the film, can be clearly seen on the lead pair’s face. There’s no fancy make-up stuff. The faces of all the actors narrate stories. As a viewer, you can feel the tribulations both Vaughn, as well as Marcus, are going through after they accidentally murder the child and his father.

The Dichotomy, the Emotions, and Everything in Between

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Throughout the course of the film, there’s an uncanny uneasiness that a viewer can feel. There comes a moment in the film when both Vaughn and Marcus think “Should we confess, or should we not?” There happens to be tension and uncertainty brewing everywhere. Vaughn, in particular, is adamant on keeping the secret covered. He fears for his unborn child and his wife. The mental and emotional toil both of them are subjected to makes one develop a softer side for them. (Come on, you have to feel sad for them. After all, they didn’t murder the boy and his father intentionally. It was an accident. They were at the wrong place at the wrong time, to say the least.

Economic Problems

Logan (Tony Curran) tells Vaughn and Marcus about the economic problems their village happens to be facing. There seems to be a severe dearth of investment in the area. Marcus promises to bring business and investment into the village. The locals happen to be well aware of the economic prosperity Marcus can bring in the area. The director hasn’t stretched the issue too much. He’s left it wide open and moves on to concentrate on the characters.

The Bad

Just about nothing. The film stays true to its purpose. It doesn’t go haywire even once. Also, the climax happens to be quite inevitable but take nothing away from the way it has been executed. I hope there aren’t any spoilers in this review. The film makes for a great binge watch. Miss it at your own risk.

Two decades down the line, why is Dil Se one of parallel cinema’s most beautiful offerings?

Loving someone deeply makes you feel vulnerable. Love someone deeply and your heart is bound to get broken into pieces. Love ends up intoxicating the mind. It makes you feel miserable. The beginning of love is unpredictable, while the end of it is sad, but all that happens in between makes the experience worthwhile and pretty much unforgettable.

Mani Ratnam’s 1998 romantic thriller ‘Dil Se’, a film starring Shahrukh Khan, Manisha Koirala, and Preity Zinta brings to light the extent of fragility and emotional turmoil one goes through when one falls in love. The film, shot across picturesque locations such as Assam, Leh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, and Bhutan, explores the seven stages of love mentioned in ancient Arabic literature.

These are:

  • Hub (attraction)
  • Uns (infatuation)
  • Ishq (love)
  • Akidat (trust)
  • Ibadat (worship)
  • Junooniyat (obsession and madness)
  • Maut (death)

Shahrukh Khan’s character Amar goes through all these stages after he meets Meghna (Manisha Koirala). At a time when Bollywood films focused excessively on foreign locations and baseless romance, Dil Se ‘dared’ to throw light on an issue as sensitive as the insurgency in India’s Northeast. The film is painted with a multitude of human emotions, right from love, innocence, and fragility to pain, anguish, and vulnerability.

What makes the film stand out?

A simple and innocent love story:

No exaggeration, no fancy outfits, no heavy piles of makeup, no fancy locations, just pure romance. The film has countless traces of innocence. Amar meets a mysterious woman on a rainy night at the Haflong railway station to catch the Barak Valley Express. She asks him to bring a cup of tea, but when he returns with two cups of tea, Amar witnesses the woman boarding a train along with 2-3 male passengers.

Amar meets Meghna yet again, this time in Assam. The rest of the story deals with various encounters between the two characters that end up bringing them closer to a point where they find it hard to live without each other. Amar returns to Delhi after completing the assignment, but as luck would have it, their paths cross again.

The film, with its tight and gripping storyline, doesn’t go off-track even once. Making a film showcasing the seven stages of love mentioned in the Arabic literature came as a breath of fresh air at a time when Bollywood producers were busy producing masala romantic and action films.

Soulful Music:

Dil Se’s music has undoubtedly been one of the prime reasons behind the film’s growing popularity in recent years. The soulful compositions of A.R. Rahman, backed by heart-warming lyrics by Gulzar sahib sound like poetry in motion. Right from ‘Chaiyya-Chaiyya’ to ‘Ae Ajnabee’ and ‘ Satrangi Re’, the film’s soundtrack is ornamented by a wide range of emotions.

The Song ‘ Chaiyya-Chaiyya’, sung by Sapna Awasthi and Sukhwinder Singh, has been filmed on a moving train and talks about a male lover’s love for his partner. The song borrows a lot of words from the Urdu language in order to paint a colorful imagery. Some of the lines from the song are as follows:

Woh yaar hai jo khushboo ki tarah,
Woh jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarah
Meri shaam raat, meri kainaat
Woh yaar mera saiyaa saiyaa

Other songs such as Jiya Jaley, Ae Ajnabee, and Satrangi Re were no less popular and became superhits overnight.

Another major feature of the soundtrack is that the songs blend effortlessly into the film. No song looks out of place. All of these songs are popular till date. The beauty of Dil Se’s music album has grown by leaps and bounds over all these years and is expected to grow even further in the times to come.

Poetry in Motion:

I remember Sabyasachi Chatterjee telling Manisha Koirala’s character

‘Ishq mein nasha hota hai, yeh hamaare liye nahi hai’

This is one of the countless dialogues that sound pleasing to the ears. Tigmanshu Dhulia has handled the dialogues with perfection. The sheer rawness of the dialogues adds significantly to the beauty. Most of the dialogues sound like poetry to the ears.

Tackling a Sensitive Issue to Perfection:

At a time when producers and directors shied away from throwing light on sensitive issues such as terrorism and political instability in India’s northeast, Dil Se broke all the barriers and threw ample light on the reasons behind the insurgency. The atrocities inflicted by the army on the citizens were also portrayed skillfully.

Despite having a tight and gripping storyline, great music, and excellent performances, the film failed to garner positive reviews in India. Most people disliked the film simply because ‘Ladki toh terrorist thi”. Two decades down the line, the film remains one of parallel cinema’s finest offerings.

Murder on the Orient Express: An old-fashioned detective thriller to take you back in time

Director Kenneth Branagh is here with a lavish remake of Murder on the Orient Express. The film is an adaptation of a novel written by Agatha Christie.  Detective thrillers are known for their jumbled plotline, unanswered questions, a significant breakthrough, and above everything else, a considerable degree of solemnity and thrill. Branagh’s latest offering is a blend of all these elements and to put the icing on the cake, Branagh, who also plays Hercule Poirot, succeeds in stealing the show with his calm and sophisticated demeanour and an old-school moustache. Read on to know more: Continue reading “Murder on the Orient Express: An old-fashioned detective thriller to take you back in time”