Sarkar 3 Review – Amit Sadh and Amitabh were great but film not my favorite

I went to see Sarkar 3 without seeing the first two films in the series beforehand.  Margaret of Don’tCallItBollywood clued me in to the backstory from the previous films, which are heavily influenced by The Godfather films.  I went to Sarkar 3 because I wanted to see Amit Sadh in this kind of role.  I loved him in Sultan, and he was fantastic in Running Shaadi earlier this year.   Here’s the video review I did for Bollyfools:

 

 

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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.

Dangal Review – Aamir Khan in his first biopic as the father of the wrestler Phogat sisters

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There have been a string of inspiring movies about empowering girls in sports recently in Indian cinema.  Just this year there’s been Sultan and the boxing movie Irudhi Suttru.  Dangal is not groundbreaking because it’s about the first women wrestler to win a gold at the Commonwealth games (and then the first Indian woman wrestler to make the Olympics.)  What’s groundbreaking is that Aamir Khan plays his age, and shows it.

He’s not the first of the three Khan’s to play a father.  Salman was just a father figure in Bajranig Bhaijaan and while Shahrukh Khan played a widowed father in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to little Anjali, he also was still acting like he was still in high school!  Aamir Khan took the bold step of actually playing a father of young adult girls with gray hair and a paunch.

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An Aamir Khan film is a true event since he is only making at most one a year, but it’s been two years since the blockbuster PK.  I’m glad he took the time to make this one right.  He’s so method that he gained lots of weight to show the older Mahavir Singh Phogat, and then lost it over months to play the younger wrestler in his prime.

From what I’m gathering some of the true events of the sisters Geeta and Babita and their coach and father Mahavir were changed for dramatic purposes.  But the basic outline remains.  They lived in a rural village in Haryana, an area that has one of the worst women to men ratios in India.  The film shows what the girls’ life could have been — married off by age 14.  Mahavir had four girls and no sons, so he decides gold is gold, and will train his daughters to be wrestlers to win gold for India.

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They took their time putting this movie together, and the casting is just exceptional.  The girls at the young ages are really good young actresses, and the older girls phenomenal.  Aamir lived with all four girls that were playing his daughters while they trained in wrestling together.  It paid off in a comfortable family relationship with the girls.  You can see the warm rapport they have with Aamir on the recent Koffee with Karan episode that aired last weekend.

aamir-dangal-trailer-759I loved the structure of the first half, as Aamir decides to train the girls in wrestling after they beat up a couple of boys (as we see in the trailer.)  The local wrestling school won’t let the girls train, so he builds his own mud arena for their training.  At one point the girls rebel against his strict regimen, and I loved how they impishly reset the time on his alarm clock and so on.

This is a film all about the relationship of a father and his daughters.  There is no romance subplot.  It’s another wrestling movie like Sultan, but it’s completely different than Sultan.  The conflict comes in Mahavir’s unwavering dream of gold medals for his girls and all that he puts them through to give them enough grit to accomplish it.

The second half conflict comes when Geeta reaches a level where she must move to another city to train with the national wrestling team under a new coach.  I adored a scene where the other girls on the team introduce her to DDLJ.  Geeta’s first visit home is quite bumpy in their relationship, and one of the most gripping scenes in the movie to me is when a quarrel over her new techniques learned from her new coach ends in Geeta and her father wrestling, and wrestling hard.  I actually gasped out loud it got so intense.

dangal-hd-imagesSince this is a real life biopic, we know the ending, but it’s the journey getting there that is so enjoyable.  It’s really an incredible story, and the neighbor I went with said she wants to take her young sons to see it.  It’s a great family film.  There’s no sex or bad language or violence.  It’s not bloody like boxing movies.  I was very glad of a nice little scene that explained the point system in wrestling so I could follow along when we got to the big matches.  The story is simple, and if it wasn’t real life, would almost be unbelievable that one father could train two girls to be gold medal winners.

Sports movies are really not my favorites, but I found the story really compelling.  Aamir is a driving force in the movie, but all four actresses really get to shine on their own, especially newcomers Sakshi Tanwar as Geeta and Fatima Sana Shaikh as younger sister Babita.  There’s a plot twist that I won’t spoiler that leads Geeta’s father to not be present at her gold winning match.  In retrospect, it was purposeful to show that she wins it on her own merit and grit – not because her savant coach father was yelling what to do throughout the match.

I’m glad they cast unknown actresses in these roles, because I could really just see them as Geeta and Babita.  But even Aamir, with so much screen presence truly disappeared into his role as Mahavir.  That’s a great actor.  He’s like Daniel Day-Lewis in that way, and equally devoted to his craft.  I applaud Aamir for getting this film made, as it has a great message, and not just for girls.  There are only a few songs, but they are woven into the film seamlessly, and make sense in their place in the movie.

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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.