Judwaa 2 – A few things should have updated in 20 years

 

I really wanted to like Judwaa 2.  I had a blast watching the first Judwaa earlier in the week, starring Salman Khan and Karishma Kapoor.  While Varun Dhawan gave 1000 percent to the double role, I just didn’t find it as funny.   Jackie Fernandez wasn’t given as much to do as Karishma.   Both she and Taapsee were treated like bimbos.

It was depressing to watch a scene of Varun smacking Jackie’s behind in a store.  Really?  You’re going for that same joke 20 years later?  And Taapsee gets kissed to the point she cries.  Again.  NOT FUNNY.

So much could have been done with this twin story.  It needed a better script.  One set in the 21st century.

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Fukri – A Mediocre Malayalam Family Farce

fukriFukri is an amusing timepass family comedy directed by veteran Siddique who also acts as the Fukri family patriarch in the film.  Jayasurya stars as Lucky.  Lucky is a wannabe engineer who with his band of friends tries different get rich quick schemes.  They accept a job for two young women caught skipping school for a Salman Khan film.  They girls want Lucky to pretend to be their cousin to meet the school principal.  Of course Lucky falls for the beautiful Nafsi (in the red scarf below) played by Prayaga Martin.

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The girls say he is the son of their long lost uncle who left after a violent argument with their grandfather over his interfaith marriage.  The girls saying that Lucky is their cousin sets everything in motion.  Both his Brahmin “grandmother” and his Muslim grandfather (Fukri) then want to meet Lucky and welcome him back into the family fold.  To complicate matters, the real child (Anu Sithara) of that long lost son reveals herself to Lucky.

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At first Lucky and his friends are enjoying staying in the wealthy homes of his “family”, but Lucky’s good nature lends him to try to mend the rift between the two families.  I’m sure you’ve suspected that the long lost son makes a dramatic appearance, and it’s Lal, so it’s quite the entrance.

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Family farce comedies like this are a staple in Indian film.  Mistaken identities, family feuds, arranged marriages to the wrong partner, all with happy ending wrapped in a bow.

I’ve only seen Jayasurya as a supporting player in films like Mumbai Police and Classmates, and he has impressed me in those roles.  He is charming here as the mischievous scamp with a heart of gold.  I don’t know if he quite though has the magnetic star power to carry a film like this however.  Lal has a powerful impact as the estranged son of patriarch Fukri (Siddique).  None of the actresses in the film blew me away.  They were fine, but not exceptional.

I’m not sure I’ve seen another of Siddique’s Malayalam  directed films, but I did enjoy the light Hindi film Bodyguard (remake of his Malayalam hit) starring Kareena Kapoor and Salman Khan.

I wouldn’t tell you to run out and catch Fukri in the theaters.  It’s a decent timepass to watch on a streaming service.  It had some amusing moments, but wasn’t consistently laugh out loud.

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Running Shaadi -Fantastic Rom Com with some fresh faces

http-%2f%2fo-aolcdn-com%2fhss%2fstorage%2fmidas%2fbafcd286fb08688cd59882f7f9020aba%2f204779235%2fscreenshot2017-01-06at6-19-49pmMargaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood let me know that I HAD to go see Running Shaadi which I don’t remember hearing anything about before.  I went in barely glancing at the poster, and not even seeing a trailer.  I haven’t yet seen Pink, so this was my first Hindi film with Taapsee Pannu.  (Just looking her up, I forgot she was in the wonderful Telugu film Mr. Perfect with Prabhas, as that movie is all Kajal to me.)  But you can’t imagine my delight that the lead male actor in Running Shaadi is Amit Sadh.

When I saw Sultan last summer, I was really taken with Amit Sadh, who plays the MMA promoter who convinces Salman to come out of retirement.  I remember thinking to myself, Who is that?  I want to see a movie with him as the lead!  Wish granted!  Evidently, he was also in Sonakshi’s Akira, which I will be seeking out directly, and I had forgotten he was in Kai Po Che.

Running Shaadi reminded me in some ways of Vicky Donor, in that it’s an under the radar movie that deals with some serious topics in an amusing and ultimately very sweet way.

running-shaadi-com3_I was completely blown away by what happens in the very first 5 minutes or so of the movie.  I have never seen a rom com start this way, but I won’t spoil it for you.  Just know that the film begins with Amit working for Taapsee’s father in the family sari shop.  Taapsee is in pigtails and her high school uniform and goes to Amit with an impossible situation.  He is the only one she trusts to get her out of this jam.

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Taapsee gives Amit a sweet kiss on the cheek afterwards, and you can just see how dumbstruck he is.  They start dating at that point, but once she goes to college, he feels a gulf coming between them as she gains new sophisticated friends.  He constantly thinks that he is not worthy of her, as he is an orphan that her father took a chance on and gave a job long ago.  It’s a familiar filmi trope, poor orphan boy in love with the rich girl, but I love where this movie takes it.

They break up and he impulsively calls his uncle and finally agrees to the arranged marriage his uncle has wanted with a young Bihari girl.  He quits his job and has an idea to start a business helping couples run away and marry the person they want, when their families are against it.  He and his pal, played by debut actor Arsh Bajwa, start RunningShaadi.com (the .com was censored out constantly!) and they have to ask Taapsee for help as she has a credit card to secure the domain name.

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They help out all sorts of couples, inter-religious, intercaste and even a same-sex couple.  There is a wonderful undercurrent social message to this whole film, that of course love marriage is best, and the young people should be able to marry whoever they want.  The schemes to help the couples get quite elaborate and amusing, but their “disguises” are pretty ridiculous.

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Taapsee comes to Amit asking for his help for her own running shaadi.  Amit asks who, and rejects that she’s joking when she immediately answers with you.  Then she tells him she wants to marry her college classmate Shunty, and he demands that they meet.  He goes through with the plan, and while they drive all night to the rendezvous point, Amit can’t help but look longingly at the sleeping Taapsee.  She then reveals that it was all an elaborate ruse to force him to marry her.  Zing!  I loved this twist that she just takes her fate in her own hands, and forces the issue.

Her family chases after them, and the three of them are on the run.  Taapsee gets injured and Amit is driven almost mad that he might lose her.  He is so caring with her while she heals that I was ready to swoon.  She goes out to buy condoms, and my jaw was about on the floor that that scene was in the movie.  Fist bump up in the air for that touch!

But oh noes!  Her family finds them again, and they must escape to Amit’s uncle’s, and that leads to dealing with the fact that Amit is still set to have his arranged marriage.

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They figure out quickly that his intended bride doesn’t want to marry him either, and there’s an elaborate plot to give Amit his own Running Shaadi.  When Amit and Taapsee  finally are able to show each other how they feel, it was perfectly sweet, sexy and meaningful.

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I absolutely adored this Rom Com.  It was one of the best Hindi romantic comedies I have seen in years.  I loved that it tackled some meaningful issues, and has a strong female lead who goes after who and what she wants.  Taapsee wasn’t the best actress ever, but Amit Sadh was just wonderful in this.  I cannot wait to see more films from him.  This is a debut directorial film for former cinematographer Amit Roy.  He also wrote the script which I thought was simply fantastic.  Running Shaadi may exit quickly from theaters, but if you don’t catch it there, it’s definitely one to seek out on Netflix or ErosNow.  Hindi movies with fresh actors can struggle to make a splash, but I will guess this film will gather fans over time.  There was just almost no marketing for it, and the songs weren’t anything special to give it that pre-release push either.  The film was only two hours and has just a couple of montage songs, and that was the only thing I had wished for — that it had more and better music numbers.  I will definitely be buying this film on DVD to watch again and again.

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My Top 10 Indian Films of 2016

It’s still January, if barely, right?  This is a list of my favorite films in Indian Cinema released in 2016.  I have not seen every film released, by a long shot, but I’ve seen quite a few of the top releases in Hindi and Malayalam cinema in theaters.  I still haven’t seen Pink, although that is definitely on my list, and it’s now on Netflix streaming.

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1.  Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)

Kapoor and Sons  was hands down my favorite Indian film of the year.  I just love the way the cast interacts.  It feels like you’re a voyeur in a real family and their drama.  I will admit that Sidharth is the weak link, but Alia and Fawad are so great in this.  Fawad Khan especially just blew me away.  And the soundtrack!  Kar Gayi Chull is my phone ringtone for a reason, because I never tire of hearing that hook.

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2.  Kammatti Paadam

Dulquer Salmaan had an amazing year, but Kammatti Paadam is just a masterpiece.  I’m so glad I saw this Malayalam gangster epic in a theater.  I was nearly shell shocked by the experience of seeing this Rajeev Ravi film.   Dulquer is our eyes into this world of gangsters, and dalit toughs.  He is very, very good, but the two actors, Vinayakan and Manikandan steal the show.

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3. Udta Punjab

Alia Bhatt also had a great year.  I’m still thinking about how fantastic she was in Udta Punjab, a film filled with great performances.  This is the film that introduced me to Diljit Dosanjth.  And how great was Shahid Kapoor as the comic relief?  This was an entertaining film, but also one with an important message about how the drug trade affects everyone– a message the censor board tried to suppress, and thank goodness they did not prevail.  Udta Punjab is currently streaming on Netflix.

kali-malayalam-movie-wallpaper-0922-006394. Kali

Oh my goodness, Kali is such a tense thriller.  Kali means rage.  I admire the script and how the director kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not know what would happen next at any given moment. I felt that anything could happen. And I loved that about this Malayalam movie!  The first half is a personal story of a marriage with young man with anger issues.  Then the second half grips you by the throat.  Dulquer Salmaan gives another stellar performance in a great year, matched by Sai Pallavi.

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5. Dear Zindagi

I adored Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi.  We were afraid when the film was announced it was going to be a romantic relationship, but SRK is her mentor and therapist in this fantastic film.  This is my first Gauri Shinde film, and she is a wonderful director.  This was a nice crossover film that I took some Bollywood virgins to see, and they loved it.

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6. Fan

Although not a perfect film, I submit Fan may be the one of the best performances of Shahrukh Khan’s career in the double role of Guarav and Aryan.

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7. Neerja

This really felt like a year for women in Hindi cinema.  Sonam Kapoor was perfect casting for Neerja.  This film reminded me very much of United  93 – you know what’s going to happen, but you’re still on the edge of your seat watching it unfold, filled with tension.  Neerja is currently streaming on Netflix.

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8. Dangal

I love that Aamir Khan made this movie about girl empowerment.  He let the young women at the center of this true story take the lead, and he was brave enough to play a father with a paunch, no less.  Dangal was one of the biggest family films of the year.

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9. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

I’m still not happy with the ending of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, but man it has some glorious moments.  It’s full on lush Karan Johar film making – actually my first Karan film on the big screen.  I’m reading his autobiography now, An Unsuitable Boy, and he says that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is about his own unrequited love story.  It’s a very personal film.  I wish there hadn’t been all the controversy about Pakistani actors, and Fawad Khan had a bigger part.  That soundtrack!!  I listened to the title track on constant repeat.

 

sultan-trailer-647_05241607500610. Sultan

I really enjoyed Sultan, and Salman made a great pairing with Anushka Sharma.  It was another Hindi film with a message of female empowerment, even if the majority of the film was about Salman’s character.  Great soundtrack, too!

Special mention for Brahman Naman which I saw the premiere of at Sundance back in January.  I’m not sure if it’s a purely Indian produced film, but it’s a quirky and wonderful teen sex comedy. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya – Or the one where Salman is shirtless with a guitar

pyaar-kiya-toI watched Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (If you loved someone, don’t be afraid) written and directed by Sohail Khan (brother of Salman Khan) over the last two days.  I bought it super cheap in one of my DVD orders from India and it had no subs, but Youtube to the rescue.
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Going in, I knew nothing about the film other than it was a love story with Kajol and Salman Khan coming out the same year as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.  I didn’t know that Dharmendra has a key role as Kajol’s uncle.  Kajol is an orphan raised by her brother Vishal (Arbaaz Khan) and her uncle.  Vishal is extremely overprotective of her, driving away suitors by beating them up.  Kajol finally convinces her brother to let her attend college, and that’s where she meets Salman Khan, a rather goof off student.  Salman starts the movie shirtless!  This is his intro scene for the movie — the famous “O O Jaane Jaana” song.
pyaar-kiya-to-darna-kya-1998-3Wastrel Salman first wins over Kajol, and then has to win over her family, especially her skeptical brother Vishal.  Salman is particularly ridiculous in many scenes playing his role for broad comedy, and I was wondering if he let the Vishal brother of Kajol character upstage him so much because it was his actual brother. I literally had no idea Arbaaz Khan was Salman Khan’s brother AND that he was the producer of Dabangg.  He is such a looker in Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya!  I think this is one of his first movies, and he did a great job.
 It was interesting that Arbaaz got a whole seduction song with the Ujala character.  (Kajol’s friend Ujala is the one doing the seducing.)  He’s a secondary character that in most movies would not get his own song.  Especially these days Salman is so, well, SALMAN that he overshadows everyone else.  In this earlier movie, he wasn’t quite so much larger than life, if you get what I mean.
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I don’t know that Kajol and Salman had any smolder whatsoever, but they were sweet and cute together.  The first half didn’t grab me, but the second half songs are great, and the finale scene with Dharmendra, Salman and Arbaaz fighting together to rescue Kajol is really something to see.
One other minor note.  The director made Kajol dance in what looked to be the most awkward type sandals for dancing, unless they had a strap on the back I couldn’t see.  Like slip on wedges or something.
Lots of shirtless or nearly so Salman and great songs so worth the watch!
I also don’t remember seeing another movie yet in my watching history, at least, where Dharmendra is playing this uncle fatherly type of role.  That was interesting, too.
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Pokiri – Fantastic Mahesh Babu flick by Puri Jagannadh

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Pokiri (Rogue) is simply a fantastic Mahesh Babu action romance flick directed and written by Puri Jagannadh.  I enjoyed it so much.  Pokiri is from 2006 and was filmed with a very modest budget of 12 crore.  The director wrote a great script and was really inventive in his shots.  The editing really enhances and propels the pace of the action.

I had rented the DVD through Netflix, but the DVD crapped out on me half way through.  I kept trying to make it work again because the movie is so delicious, but then realized I was watching a Telugu movie.  Of course, the whole thing is on Youtube with subtitles.  (Yay Chromecast!)

Among rival gangs in Hyderabad, Mahesh is the newcomer, Pandu.  He’s a rogue, a free agent and his intro in the film has him running down a street with a cart of red mirchi peppers fly into the air.  Loved that touch.

The action scenes are very visually inventive.  There’s a cool action sequence when the lights get shot out in a dark room and then it’s all flashing flickering light with sparks waterfalling down.  Mahesh kills off pretty much a whole opposing gang one by one in flashes.  So many film directors rely on a few big fireball explosions and slow mo to make an action scene look cool.

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The love interest is Ileana D’Cruz.  She’s an aerobics instructor living with her widowed mother and her younger brother.  Mahesh tries to stay away from her, but he can’t overcome his attraction to her.  And his friends delight in throwing them together.

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Quite literally thrown together, as in this fantastic little scene where they’re stuck in an elevator together and his friends make the elevator jerk up and down.
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Ileana’s in dire need of a protector.  Unfortunately she’s drawn the attention of a corrupt cop.  Ashish Vidyarthi is just so eeeeevil.  He’s not only involved in corrupt deals shaking down land developers with a local gang.  He has no compunction in viewing his cop underlings as expedient kills.  And then he approaches Ileana’s mother to propose she make her daughter his concubine.  “And you’re not that bad looking either.”

Ileana as Shruti approaches Mahesh to ask that he be her protector.  I really liked that she addressed it head on.  She had no one else in her life that she could ask.  But while he is drawn to protect her, he doesn’t think a rogue like him is right or deserving of her love.

My favorite scene was just right before the interval.  The editing and directing in this flick were really a step above, even if it doesn’t have the production money of something like Srimanthudu.  Shruti’s (Ileana’s) fallen in love with Mahesh, a rogue, and he’s trying to say don’t fall in love with me, I’m no good for you.  Then they’re attacked by a gang.  Mahesh is so intense, and torn.  He tells her he loves her, but can she live with a criminal like him after seeing him like this?

That’s the thing.  This movie is not just a great action gangster flick.  There is a real conflict and threat to the love interest.  The romance gets equal weight, and the dance sequences are fantastic.  I really liked the music in this one.  This is yet another reason I love Indian cinema.  All that love he cannot express, the music lets you see what he’s feeling in his heart.

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I think Mahesh really is what makes the romance work, too.  He just looks tortured, but you can sense an innate goodness in him even while he’s acting like a gangster.  He projects “heart of gold” better than just about anybody.  He wants to leave her alone because he knows she shouldn’t be attracted to a gangster, but she really, really needs a protector.  And I loved that she out and out asked for one!  She didn’t just sit there and whimper, she took some action to protect her family.

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Prakash Raj is the ultimate villain gang don in the film, but for once, though, I think the always fantastic Prakash Raj is upstaged by that creepy evil cop Ashish Vidyarthi. Nasser plays a key role in the denouement at the end.  There’s a great twist to the end of the film.  Pokiri was so successful that it was remade in several languages, including the Salman Khan Hindi film Wanted (which Margaret told me is not nearly as good as Pokiri).  The comedy uncles are even almost funny with a running gag about a beggars union.

I highly recommend this all ’round Telugu entertainer.  It’s going to be one I’ll love going back to rewatch.  The director Puri Jagannadh really impressed me, and he also directed one of my favorite Prabhas flicks, Bujjigadu.  He reteamed with Mahesh Babu for Businessman which is moving right on up on my watchlist.  Four stars out of five.

I’m convincing Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood to watch some Mahesh Babu movies.  Check out her rapturous review of Pokiri!

You can watch all of Pokiri FREE on Youtube with English Subtitles:

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Sultan – It lives up to the hype

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If it’s Eid, it must be time for the big Salman Khan movie!  There has been so much hype around Sultan, for months and months, and one can’t help but worry that the movie won’t meet the raised expectations.  But thankfully, it does!  Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw the movie together at the Indian MovieMax theater about 45 minutes from me.  It was quite the experience to see it opening night with a big crowd all dressed to the nines for Eid festivities they were going to after the film.

For me, Dabanng and Bajrangi Bhaijaan are two of my favorite Salman Khan movies, and some of his best work.  Sultan is good.  It’s very good, but for me, it’s not quite at the same level as those two movies.  Salman’s acting has moments of greatness in Sultan, and Anushka Sharma is simply amazing.  But the musical numbers in Sultan, while good, are not jaw droppingly great like in Dabanng and Bajrangi Bhaijaan.  Selfie Le Le Re and Tere Mast Mast Do Nain are extremely high bars to beat, however.  The songs in Sultan are pretty catchy, but I’m not running out to download the soundtrack, to be honest.

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Also, as I mentioned in my review of 1983, sports movies are not really my thing.  So a wrestling movie on top of a Mixed Martial Arts movie is not really my go to genre.  But it’s a measure of the strength of the movie, that I was completely sucked in.  My friend Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood have been wondering about the clues of the plot that we could see in the trailer.  Obviously there was some sort of tragedy in Sultan’s life, and we dreaded that he might be a widower in the second comeback half of the film.  I won’t spoiler what that tragedy is, but I can tell you that there is a happy ending and Anushka’s character does not die.

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I also wondered why Anushka Sharma agreed to be in a Salman Khan movie.  Her character is fantastic — a super strong wrestler, tough as nails, dominant even in a room of guys including Salman, and a fully formed character with her own flaws, firm to the point of being rigid at times.  I’m so glad she took on the challenge of this film.  She just keeps getting better and better with her acting in each film.

Salman meets her by knocking her off her bike and then hitting her helmeted head, not knowing she’s a woman.  Then she takes off her helmet and wallops Salman, as he stands there love struck.  He pursues her, but she rejects him as a suitor, telling him that he quite simply doesn’t measure up.  She is driven and has her goal to get to the Olympics, and he is just aimless.  Let me just say, watching Anushka verbally destroy Salman was really something to see.

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Their romance is what spurs Sultan to be a better man to win her.  To become a championship wrestler.  I loved their romance storyline, and Salman being sweet loving Sultan is fantastic.  What tears them apart is the key to him giving up wrestling.  Again, I won’t spoiler it, but those moments I really teared up, and were some of the most powerful in the film for me.

The framing of the comeback is that Amit Sadh is trying to get MMA off the ground in India, and needs an Indian fighter.  (Why haven’t we seen Amit Sadh more? – glad to look up and see he’s in the upcoming Akira.)  Randeep Hooda is the coach that trains Sultan in MMA.  Cue Rocky training montage.  (Seriously, there are so many Rocky homages in this film.)

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You’ve seen the scene in the trailer where Salman stares at his overweight belly in a mirror and breaks down.  What the trailer doesn’t show is that he then struggles to get his shirt back on, fighting with the sleeve as he cries hard.  It may have been the single best acting scene I’ve ever seen Salman do.

While the movie is pretty wonderful, there were some off moments.  Two of the MMA fighters are black, and at a press event the announcers refer in English (not just bad subtitles) to their owners, and not sponsors.  WTF??  Also, Salman refers to a the lightning quick style of one black fighter this way – “Is he more gorilla or chimpanzee?”  Again. W. T. ever-living F.??

That nonsense aside, the last fight is riveting, and I didn’t know what was going to happen which is uncommon in a sports film, believe me.  Much better MMA fights (like I would really know?) than last year’s Brothers.  It’s solid entertainment, and you’ll leave satisfied.

Four stars out of five.  Eid Mubarak!

Read Margaret’s spoiler free review of Sultan here.  And her full analysis with spoilers here on Don’t Call It Bollywood.