We LOVED Bareilly Ki Barfi – joint review with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood

barfi

 

Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I met at the Chicagoland Indian movie theater lasts night to catch the new Hindi film Bareilly Ki Barfi with Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao.  It is SO GOOD!  Cannot recommend this film highly enough.  We absolutely loved it!

bareilly-ki-barfi-review-2

Rajkummar Rao was the main reason I was interested in seeing this film, because he looked so funny in the trailer.  He is just delightful as a nebbish and then transforms into a tough asshole type as part of Ayushmann’s scheme.  He was a RIOT!

bareilly-ki-barfi-box-office-0001

This film has a fantastic script based on a novel.  It’s very clever how the plot unfolds, and while I laughed my ass off so much, and then it had such an emotional ending that I teared up.  Kriti had agency in the end, and that made it even better.

bareilly-story_647_081917122053

Plus,  a woman director!!  Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari in her second feature film knocks it out of the park.

Check out Margaret’s Spoiler Free review here.

 

star_rating_4-5_of_5

Movie Review – Rana and Kajal in Nene Raju Nene Mantri

 

After the horrible events in Charlottesville on Saturday, on the spur of the moment, I went to a packed late show of Nene Raju Nene Mantri (I am the King, I am the Minister.)  Whoo boy, it was not an escape from violent politics.

Nene-Raju-Nene-Mantri-HD-Photos-6

I did like the film, but the ending, not just the very last moments, but the last ten minutes or so were very much wtf plot turns.  I left shell shocked and so did the audience.  I had to approach some women in the lobby to talk about their reaction to the ending.  I went by myself, and it was one of those kinds of films where you just have to talk to someone and say — what about that ending??  What did YOU think??  So please, if you’ve seen the film, please leave a comment and tell me what your takeaway was from that ending.

nene-raju-story_647_062317015234

It was just delightful to see the chemistry between Rana and Kajal.  This is a tour de force film for Rana Daggubati, but Kajal gets to show depths of acting that I have not seen in her other roles, especially in the melodramatic scenes.  Rana starts the film very sweet – he’s a money lender, but a soft hearted one who helps poor farmers, not the kind who bashes heads to demand payment.

nene-raju-nene-mantri-movie-review-759

We don’t see the romance of Kajal and Rana, but do see a flashback of them as childhood sweethearts.  The film shows them as an established happily married couple.  Jogendra (Rana) is obsessed with keeping his Radha (Kajal) happy.  When a tragedy befalls them, then he is hell-bent on revenge.  He sees a path through politics to gain the power he needs to rain down justice.  But then the power corrupts him as he climbs up the political ladder.  Nothing and no one can stand in his way.  He says it is from the love of his wife, but she points out that that is not really true.

Frankly, Jogendra becomes a monster.  I felt like it was an abrupt change of his personality when the tragedy happens, but the descent thereafter was somewhat believable as the power corrupts him more and more.  The last 10 minutes though.  Yowza.  I’ll leave this spoiler free, but again, please comment if you saw it!!

It was a worthy film to see, and Rana gave a great performance showing a range that he wasn’t able to fully show in the Baahubali films.  The people in the packed theater were there to see him, and I’m looking forward to see where he goes next in his career.  While the director Teja, tried to give a critical look at a corrupt political system, where he took it left me rather stunned as he showed crowds sympathizing with the extremes of Jogendra’s acts.

What was also fun for me was now that I’ve seen more Telugu films that just about every character actor in the industry had at least a small part in the film.  There was a lot of “Hey, it’s that guy!” for me.

star_rating_3-5_of_5

 

 

 

 

Movie Review – Dhanush’s VIP 2 with Kajol!

 

A month or so ago, I saw the teaser for the Tamil film VIP 2 with Dhanush and I was super excited that he was doing a film with Kajol.  This is her first return to Tamil films in 20 years, and it was great to see a woman in the kind of antagonist role that usually goes to a man in Indian cinema, like Sonu Sood et al.

Commenters on Youtube urged me to see the first film VIP before going to the sequel, and I’m so glad I did.

 

VIP 2, unlike many Indian sequels, does indeed carry on the story of the unemployed graduate played by Dhanush.  Pretty much all the main characters and actors from the first film are back, Dhanush still living with his father and brother, and his now wife played by Amala Paul.  I was a little annoyed that the film kind of made Amala’s character into a harpy, but the marital discord has real underpinnings in Dhanush’s characters drinking (an issue in the first film as well), and Amala’s unhappiness at giving up her job to tru live up to Dhanush’s sainted mother’s housekeeping.  At least the film showed that she regained happiness when she goes back to work when the family is in financial crisis — the title says after all that he’s an unemployed graduate!

dhanush-kajol-759

Something happens near the end of the film which I won’t spoil that was the perfect way to bring Dhanush and Kajol’s characters together, and to make them resolve their differences.  It was very specific to the place of the film.  Dhanush himself wrote the script and dialogues, and his sister-in-law Soundarya (daughter of Rajnikanth) directed the film.

There are a couple of great dance numbers in the first half of the film, one very modern, and the other a more traditional style.

You can see and enjoy this film without seeing the first, but I’m glad I had seen VIP first because there are many references to the first film.

star_rating_4_of_5

Pardesi – Launching my new YouTube Channel!

 

I have just launched my new YouTube Channel Pardesi with Kartik of Bollyfools.  He first interviewed me right after that very first IMAX showing of Baahubali 2, and we struck up a frienship.  After I did Indian Cinema reviews for the Bollyfools Youtube channel for the last few months, we’ve decided to strike out on our own with this new Pardesi Channel.  We decided on Pardesi because I’m a foreigner reviewing Indian Cinema, and Kartik is an ex-pat in America.

I’ll be doing movie reviews for the most part in the four main Indian Cinema:  Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.  I’m going to try trailer reactions and song reactions.  In fact I just did one for the first song Boom Boom from Mahesh Babu’s Spyder.  I had to take the Picture in Picture and audio out from the song because I got dinged right away.  I think I look ridiculous bobbing my head to silence but I have to know — why is there the word Hogwarts in a Spyder song??!!  It’s so strange!

 

I hope if you follow me here, you’ll subscribe to my new Youtube Channel Pardesi.

Dhanush is Excellent in VIP

In anticipation of Dhahush’s upcoming VIP 2, I took the first VIP movie with me on my recent vacation to watch.  Dhanush is such a good actor!   The title VIP is shortened from Velaiilla Pattadhari (English: Unemployed Graduate)

 

Raanjhanaa-2013-500x500

I am really impressed with Dhanush.  I had previously only seen his Hindi film Raanjhanaa with Sonam Kapoor.  He was very good in that, but his role was kind of stalkerish.

11In VIP, Dhanush plays a young man who has a civil engineering degree, and has been looking for the right job for 4 long years.  His father is frustrated with him.  Dhanush’s younger brother has a good job.  He applies and applies and can’t catch a break.  He belongs to a Facebook group of other unemployed young graduates.  I had no idea this was such an issue in India.

CS-16_25

There’s an adorable romance with Amala Paul who moves in to the house next door.  She sees a lot to admire in this unemployed young man, and can’t help but be witness to all his struggles next door, and family drama.  They have great chemistry together.

Dhanush is fantastic in the couple of action scenes, and a really good dancer.  I also really loved this montage love song:

 

After a family tragedy, a coincidence leads to him getting a break, and getting a construction project.  The second half of the film deals with his struggles with an arrogant young rich developer.  He calls on his extended network of other unemployed graduates to help him out, and it was very moving.

vip1s

I’m really excited to see VIP 2 now.  I don’t know if it will be a continuation of the story, or another retelling of a similar unemployed graduate tale.  The key is that it has Kajol! Not sure if she will be his boss or nemesis or what.

star_rating_3-5_of_5

Ninnu Kori – Wonderful Chemistry between Nani and Niveda Thomas

I went to see this Telugu film, Ninnu Kori (Wanting You) with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood, going in knowing nothing.  Margaret had heard it was a good Rom Com, so I took a chance.  It was a delightful Telugu Rom Com with great chemistry between the leads Nani and Niveda Thomas.  Go here to read Margaret’s review.

 

hqdefault

It was driving me crazy where I had seen Nani before — and at the interval I asked Margaret, and she reminded me Nani was the the hero in Eega!

ninnu-kori-759

The first half is fantastic and I loved the meet cute between Nani and Niveda.  Nani’s dancing is also terrific.  Character actor Murli Sharma who normally plays cops, is Niveda’s stern father, and it was great to see him in a comedy role like this.  The initial conflict in Niveda and Nani’s relationship is quite believable.

Ninnu-Kori5

The love triangle with Aadhi is where I started to have issues.  Maybe it’s just my American sensibilities, but the first half was SO great, that the resolution of the film was a let down.  I felt like the screen writers were forced to tell a more traditional story ending, and they didn’t sell it to me as Niveda’s HEA.

Still, I really enjoyed seeing Nani and Niveda on screen together, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more films from both of them.

star_rating_4_of_5

The Big Sick – My favorite Rom Com in years

The Big Sick - Still 1
Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani appear in The Big Sick by Michael Showalter, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Nicole Rivelli.

I have been anticipating The Big Sick‘s theatrical release since it started a bidding war at Sundance in January.  There was a slow roll out of the film, first just NY and LA and then adding a few cities each weekend until finally it came to my Chicago Suburb.  It made it to 5th in the US box office last weekend.  I saw it on a Wednesday matinee and it was nearly sold out!  On a Wed at 1:30!  (Granted it was Senior discount day, but still!)

I was worried the film wouldn’t live up to my hightened expectations — the trailer is so amusing, but I shouldn’t have worried.  I loved it!

I wasn’t familiar with Kumail Nanjiani really, as I’ve only watched a few episodes of his HBO series Silicon Valley.  He just is so charming and sweet in this film.  He immigrated to the US from Pakistan when he was 18, and has a tight knit family.  His father requested that Anupam Kher play him in the film, and they finally found a cousin of Anupam’s to reach him in India.  When Anupam first called Kumail after he read the script, Kumail hung up on him because he thought it was a prank!

the-big-sick-12002

Zenobia Shroff, who I think has a few Bollywood credits, plays Kumail’s mother in the film.  Kumail wants to pursue a career as a stand up comic, but his family just wants him to take the LSAT and agree to an arranged marriage.  His mother has girl after girl “just drop by” when Kumail is home for dinner with his family.

Kumail meets Emily at one of his stand up shows.  She yells “Whoo Hoo” when he asks if anyone in the crowd is from Pakistan.  Then he gently tells her she should never heckle even if it’s a positive thing.  “Even if I yell out that you’re great in bed?” They have so much chemistry in the film.  It’s adorable.

maxresdefault (27)When Emily finds the cigar box full of pictures of Pakistani women his mother has been trying to set him up with, they have a huge argument and break up.  Shortly afterwards Emily becomes seriously ill and is put into a medically induced coma in ICU.  Kumail has to notify her parents, and it’s very awkward when they are all in the waiting room together at the hospital.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play Emily’s parents, and they have a loving, but bickering relationship.  It felt very real to me.  Emily has told her parents about the breakup, so they don’t see any reason for Kumail to stay — but he has to.

170614_MOV_TheBigSick-1.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

Kumail has kept his relationship with Emily a secret from his family, because a cousin who married a non-Muslim white woman has been completely cut out of the family.  He is torn by his love of Emily and his devotion to his family.

Even though I knew things would work out, I cried in this film.  I also laughed out loud, and laughed a lot.  It is so funny.  Ray Romano and Holly Hunter were given license to improvise some of their lines, and they are gems.  Judd Apatow is a producer on the film and helped Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon write the real life story of their rocky courtship into a workable script.

I heartily recommend you listen to Terry Gross’s interview with Kumail and Emily on Fresh Air.  It’s fascinating hearing the process they went through to make this film with Apatow, and also more background on their families and relationship.

bigsick-kumail-kazan-kissing

This film is about a real life conflict and a traumatic time in the lives of Kumail and Emily.  I won’t spoil how it all works out, but it was glorious to watch it unfold.  I highly, highly recommend that everyone see this film.  It lives up to the hype, believe me.  Just a delightful script, and great performances all around.

I’ve been reading about how we’re finally getting to see and hear Muslim-American stories.  There was Hassan Minhaj’s fantastic comedy special Homecoming King and of course Aziz Ansari’s Master of None series also on Netflix.  But this is the big time — a film on the big screen.  This film was made before we were in the midst of the Trump presidency, but seems even more topical now.

 

star_rating_5_of_5

The Amazing Classic Malayalam Mohanlal film Spadikam

I’ve been on vacation out of the country for a couple of weeks, so I’m catching up on the films in theaters.  One of the films I brought with me on my iPad was Mohanlal’s Spadikam which is on ErosNow.  I love that ErosNow lets you download films now!

 

I loved the crazy action, but especially the intense family drama between Mohanlal and Thalikan, who plays his stern father.  Devasuram is still my favorite Mohanlal film, but this one is right up there.

The film is also readily available on Youtube.  Check out how crazy the first 10 minutes of the film are.  The viewer is just dropped into the action, with no initial clue as to who Mohanlal is fighting or why.

Baby Driver – Fantastic Fun Action flick with Heart

I unabashedly adore Edgar Wright.  His Cornetto trilogy  starting with Shaun of the Dead are so hilarious = the second, Hot Fuzz is one of my favorite films of all time.  And the brilliance that is Scott Pilgrim!

So, when I saw this trailer for Baby Driver, my anticipations was at a fever pitch.  It is fantastic.  Not laugh out loud guffaws like I had in Hot Fuzz, but oh, so clever.  I’m no Fast and Furious type of girl, but the driving is simply amazing.  I’ve read that it surpasses some of the Fast and Furious movies.

The music in it is insanely good.  Hot Fuzz is still my favorite film of his.  This one is a bit more “straight” heist film, but with quirks.

Ansel-Elgort-in-Baby-Driver

It doesn’t have quite the laugh out loud humor as Hot Fuzz,  but it has more heart.  Ansel Englort (Baby) I had seen in Fault in Our Stars, where he was very good, and in the Divergent series only.  He’s great.
Baby has to do “one more job” for Kevin Spacey and then he’s done with this life.  Yep.  Seen that plot before many a time, but it’s got some twists and turns that keep it fresh.
babydriver-elevator-cast
It’s just fun to see Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm in the same scene.  Full stop.
The character Baby has ringing in his ears from a childhood accident so he always has earbuds in with music to drown out that sound.  In one fun scene, one of the robbers — an actor I recognized from Walking Dead — challenges Baby about the head phones and takes off his sunglasses.  Baby just calmly pulls another pair of shades from his jacket pocket.  The robber knocks those off, and turns around, and Baby pulls out another pair of glasses from his other pocket.
In another scene, he stops the gang of robbers from pouring out of his car to start a heist until he can restart the song on his iPod.  Then every movement and shot of the gang is choreographed to the song.
There’s a lot of cleverness like that — and less the outright guffaws that Hot Fuzz gave me.  There’s so much choreographed to music and the insanely good soundtrack — the editing is soooo good in this film.
Baby Driver is one of the top films I’ve seen this year.
baby-driver-lily-james-ansel-elgort-670-380
I loved the romance of Baby and Deborah.  It was driving my crazy where I’d seen the actress, Lily James, before.  She was Rose in Downton Abbey!  Here with a drawling Southern accent.  The whole film is set in Atlanta, and I even recognized the Peachtree center food court next to my last conference hotel in one chase scene.  (Gotta love those Georgia film tax incentives!)
There’s a wonderful scene in a laundromat where Debbie and Baby share headphones and then dance to the song he’s sharing with her, with different colored clothes swirling around in the machines.  Just magical chemistry in that scene alone.
Highly, highly recommend this film.  I loved it.  It’s almost perfect, in fact.
star_rating_4-5_of_5
You’ll leave the theater with a smile on your face, humming this song:

Spoiler Free Review of the Very Entertaining DJ with Allu Arjun

My first Allu Arjun film on the big screen, and he was great.  DJ is a very entertaining film, both a comedy and action film.  Allu Arjun’s grace as a dancer makes for very acrobatic action scenes that look super cool.

Allu Arjun’s DJ is both a priest/caterer AND a vigilante.  This is a bloodthirsty film, not for young kids, although there were plenty in the audience of my theater.  There are quite a few impalings, but what’s blurred for the censors is a crotch shot of Pooja Hegde coming out of a swimming pool in a one piece bathing suit.  I wasn’t impressed with Pooja Hegde in Mohenjo Daro, but she was quite good in DJ.  She has good chemistry with Allu Arjun, and I loved the way she puts him back on his heels by kissing him on the cheek in public.

dj-7591

There are a lot of dance numbers in this film, but only one is a real show stopper even approaching the great dance moves in Allu Arjun’s Arya 2.

 

This one, though with the mundu dance, was my favorite of the first half.  It happens right after that momentous cheek kiss.

 

I didn’t like this film quite as much as Arya 2, but it’s very fun and entertaining.  The romance track isn’t the main thrust of the film — the vigilante action is the main story line.

 

star_rating_3-5_of_5