In a biographical film, do we judge the subject or the filmmaker?

Packaging one’s life for cinema has been a running trend and even today, people are putting their money on films that are inspired by real people. Biopics are the new in thing.

Not just the audience, but even film makers find solace and inspiration in people they have looked upto (or read about) all their life. Irrespective of stumbling blocks, biopics are a glossy, money-making blockbuster production. But things are not as free flowing like they used to. The digital age, where everyone is on social media platforms, has and continues to make life difficult for the story teller.

If at all any details are omitted out of the production, a mob is always ready to fight out and question the matter that has been projected on screen.

We have all seen and praised superlative performances in films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Dangal, MS Dhoni- The Untold Story, but to go through the part through various people’s perspective is a complex task. Initially you don’t even know what you are looking for. If you find something, you are unsure if that is what would be enough to showcase and build an entire narrative around. It won’t be wrong to say that biopics are not just challenging to make but are very complex in nature too.

Many times film makers struggle between documenting and dramatising the chosen character for the film to making sure there is a moral in the story. How rational can we actually be? And can there be a moral in every story we decide to make?

We have seen many films of the biopic nature that have not made a mark post the first weekend excitement. Be it Mary Kom, Azhar, Sarbjit,  Main Air Charles, Steve Jobs — none of them could survive the day of the light once the excitement died down, or it wouldn’t be wrong to say after the first few people watched it and told others not to go through them.

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Not just Bollywood but even Hollywood is time and again enamored with the glorious biographical productions. All Eyez On Me, a film on the rap artist Tupac Shakur opened so big recently that it earned $ 12.8 million on the first day and eventually was pulled out of 1000 theatres in a couple of weeks because fans couldn’t relate to the film.

If you look at these films with a magnified eye, you will find an uneasy quid pro quo between the creator and the muse. Usually, biopics insist on eulogising their subjects and the maker would hardly take the road less traveled. If that is not the case, a delivery of a story without illusions and the inclusion of lived events would just be vile. Don’t you think?

But there’s always a catch twenty-two in most situations as the audience is very inquisitive and needs to know every spec of semblance there is to authenticity. So does that mean biopics should be made from a fan’s point of view? In that case, will we ever be able to show case the character flaws of a human being? How do we answer that?

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The life of Mark Zuckerberg was packed in The Social Network and it did face flak as a fair amount of detractors were unimpressed with how Aaron Sorkin, the screen writer, dramatised the lives of those involved with Facebook. The co-founders were not involved in the making of the film and Zuckerberg was even quoted being hurt after watching all the creative alterations.

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Speaking of packaging, a very public yet vulnerable life in a film would be the upcoming Raj Kumar Hirani’s biopic on Sanjay Dutt, essayed by Ranbir Kapoor. Baba (Working Title) is not a story of an athlete bringing laurels for the country, nor a rags to riches story. It would be a life led in the middle of stardom, loss, prison, drugs and what not. But the question still remains, are we judging the man or the film maker while we watch biographical dramas?

In Arun Gawli’s Daddy, Arjun Rampal takes the part of the gangster and wears it like second skin. Many times people have questioned glorifying the men with guns whenever a biopic on a gangster has surfaced. How true is the truth and how biased are we? The most fun thing I have observed while I watch dramas of this nature has to be how there are no favourites when you jump in the film and while you come out, there are many. Every minute your love and hate changes for the people you watch simply for the human flaws you see in them, which makes them absolutely normal.

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While I watched Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar on the life of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Spielberg’s take on the presidency in Lincoln, I was awestruck.

These are the only rare films that seem to have served the purpose of elevating the mythical status of their subjects to a higher ground and purpose. These are some rare films that have set high benchmarks to biographical dramas that no film has even come close to touching them.

And now, since biopics are not going anywhere, I close my eyes, and keep my fingers crossed every time a new one is announced.

This article was first published on Firstpost 

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Daddy Is Wonderful In Shots, But Not As A Whole

The minute Daddy’s trailer was out, I was ecstatic. I for one, love a film that has murky locations and a cold blooded gangster and to top it all, it is a real story about Arun Gawli who was feared and worshipped by the people of Dagdi Chawl. First and foremost, this film deserves a round of applause for its technical prowess. The camera work is so stunning that it takes you deep in the shady bars, murky streets and dilapidated buildings that you’re breathless of all the claustrophobia that is being thrown at you. Ah!

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Well, director Ashim Ahluwalia is a brave man for this attempt where he experimented with an unconventional narrative structure. He doesn’t shy away to establish how cold blooded this murderer was with all the brutal killings and the ambition that is cold as ice. There is a scene in the film around a lift shaft of a building that captures the essence and the establishment of the B.R.A Gang ( B- Babu Reshim, R- Rama Naik, A- Arun Gawli) which is absolutely amazing. The film takes you through the bloody killing in 2011 and then flashes back to 1976 and keeps going back and forth which sometimes is tough to keep track of all the characters that keep coming at you.

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From cops to colleagues, everyone shares their version of the story about Arun Gawli who they remember as Daddy and how he gets entrenched in the underbelly of the city we called Bombay. While these are the high points in the film, the point of the matter lies in the fact that even after watching the film, do we know more about the feared gangster? Honestly, barring a few things here and there, not much insight has been given to us than what we already know which gets in the way of me appreciating the film too much. I like it, but then I wanted to know more especially about the genesis of the new crime collective that was formed in 1970.We see raids on Matka dens, smuggling and how Gawli aligns himself with the local don Maqsood which is played by Farhan Akhtar in the very 70’s shades.

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This is a story of a man who is as repellent as he is feared. It is intriguing how a son of a jobless mill worker became the larger than life phenomenon everyone called Daddy. How everyone worshipped a cold blooded murderer?

Speaking of the man who gives structure to the protagonist, Arjun Rampal’s intense depiction of the man is quite interesting to watch. He tries to convey the threshold of crime convincingly but sadly doesn’t elevate the part with magic. His physical transformation is commendable but as a thirsty cine goer, I am parched. It is a wonderful film in shots but lacks the glue that holds the entire film together.

This article was first published on Filtercopy

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Poster Boys Is Another Silly One You Can Miss

The love I have for Sunny Deol is diametrically opposite to the kind of films he has recently been putting himself through. Frankly speaking, Poster Boys is no different. It is a Hindi remake of Sameer Patil’s 2014 Marathi film Poshter Boyz which was Shreyas Talpade’s home production. The film is set in a North Indian Village that goes by the name Jangheti Village and we have our three poster boys with their solo introductory scenes which sets the pitch of the film. While Shreyas is a local goon who goes by the name Arjun, Sr. Deol is a retired army officer and the Jr. one is a school teacher. Sunny Deol is a retired army officer in the film because they tried too hard to work the, ‘JP Dutta Ka Khud Ka Border Hai’ line into the narrative! *Slow Clap*

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Our Poster Boys are shocked to find themselves on the posters of vasectomy which is a big deal for the village people. The village feels that this is a foolish attempt to do away with their masculinity and no one wants a relationship with them until they clear their names from this whole debacle of a situation. This sets the premise of this dramedy as Talpade wants these boys to be butt of all the jokes to follow.

Poster Boys is full of silly jokes but the best one is where the Deol brothers pay odd tributes to each other’s hit films. Soldier Soldier is Bobby Deol’s ring tone and I was in splits. While this is the best part about the film, this remains the problem too as the film never rises above the Deol Family Fan Club. A blind man touches Sunny’s face and says, ” Arre Dharmendra?” and He replies, ” Nahi, Unka Beta.”

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While Talpade and the Deol brothers are stuck in an uncommon situation and are trying everything to get their name cleared from the vasectomy scare that is ruining their lives, I liked the fact that someone tried to focus on the population explosion problem in our country where everyone wants a son and won’t stop till they get one. But it could have been better as when the film tries to make sense, I lost interest as it was too late. I was stuck in the over blown caricature of everything there was from needless butchery of English to just not moving on. These 131 minutes could have been better if there was more in the film than silly humour in the name of slapstick comedy. But then coulda…woulda..shoulda..!

This article was first published on Filtercopy

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Sex comedies are fine, but female sexuality isn’t?

Many years ago, Imtiaz Ali’s Geet from Jab We Met was told by a lech, “akeli ladki khuli tijori ki tarah hoti hai,” and many men have not been able to sense the sarcasm displayed in these lines. Especially the ones who work closely with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in our country.

For years, we have been witnessing abla naaris screaming ‘bachao’ at the top of their voices, as they were raped by heinous men on screen. All they did was wait for the hero or their son to take revenge, so they could rest in peace.

Nobody ever raised a voice against such films, and gradually, they became the foundation of sanskaar in the world of Hindi cinema. Everything was running smoothly until we came across films where women said something more than ‘bachao’. They started taking their own life decisions, and the foundation was shattered. We weren’t sanskaari anymore.

Lipstick Under My Burkha released recently, and has been winning hearts all across. Much before it released in India, the film garnered much appreciation internationally, and the minute the makers brought it back for a release in India, hell froze over. Because we cannot see our women as sexual beings; we can only look at them as sexual objects. We teach them to be hush-hush about their sexuality, but never miss an opportunity to be lecherous, as everything about them is salacious.

If you don’t believe me, this is why the film was stalled by CBFC:

The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit of sensitive touch about one particular section of society, hence the film is refused.

Firstly, the term ‘lady oriented’ immediately creates a divide between the two genders, as no one in the history of cinema has ever stopped a film for being too ‘male oriented’. They could fly from mountains, break bones, shoot people and do everything under the sun, but we would be gushing. They were super heroes and we were waiting to be rescued, always.

While the thought of a woman’s fantasies distorted the beliefs of some people, the longest scene of sexual violation in the stupendous Baahubali was passed without even a thought.

However, the success of Lipstick Under My Burkha only tells us that it is not disrupting anything in the country, especially when it comes to the feelings of the people who hold the baton of morals. While people told Ekta Kapoor that the film would not even recover the budget of promotions, today the film stands tall with pride and a big smile.

Speaking of battles, when Anushka Sharma took charge and became a super hero, as she willingly bashed the goons of Haryana in NH 10, it brought out CBFC’s inner conflict one more time. The question is why was there an issue with this particular sequence, when we all have grown up watching angry young men bashing up goons? What was the trigger this time? That a woman didn’t wait for someone to be rescued, as she cried and begged?

I remember sitting down with Leena Yadav, the director of Parched which starred Radhika Apte, Tanishtha Chatterjee and Surveen Chawla. We spoke about what a tedious process it was to get the film screened in India. While the film bagged 18 international awards, in India, the whole narrative surrounding the film was focused solely on the leaked scene where Radhika Apte was seen making love to her co-star.

Reducing a film to something as irrelevant as this is what is terrifying. Even after so much appreciation internationally, the makers had to fight with tears, blood and sweat to make sure that the film releases in India. Isn’t it ironic? The film spoke about liberation, but on the other hand, the experience of making sure it got a wide release was diametrically opposite.

While the makers of such films had to walk through fire to get their films released, nothing really happens to sex comedies in India, as far as censuring is concerned.

We all watch them, laugh, cringe, and hoot. If we are progressive enough to release films about sex while any discussion about the subject is considered taboo, why do we suddenly assume a moralistic stand when women take the forefront rather than being on the receiving end in films? Don’t we all remember Grand Masti, Mastizaade and Kya Kool Hai Hum?

These are just a handful of films dealing with female desire which have faced judgments, but the full list is long and tedious. From Angry Indian Goddesses to a kiss in Spectre, the reasons get more absurd by the day. When will this hypocrisy end?

This article was first published on Firstpost

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Review Mubarakan: Thank God For Anil Kapoor

When it comes to Anees Bazmee, Welcome is my absolute favourite. I have watched it so many times and every time it makes me laugh immeasurably. Speaking of Mubarakan, Rupinder Chahal and Balwinder Singh Janjua have sketched a narrative around a dramatic Punjabi family with one uncle who happens to be everyone’s favourite. Trust me, we all have one! Kartar Chachu & Mamu to Karan and Charan (Arjun Kapoor) respectively is played by Anil Kapoor and hands down he is the funniest thing in the film. He is the reason trouble brews in the family and comes up with the weirdest ideas to solve those problems as well. Kartar Singh has an opulent mansion facing the sunflower field in London which he fondly refers to as Mini Punjab. He drives a striking red car which says, ‘You are chasing a Punjabi…’ Well, many gags are up his sleeve and he is on point every time he cracks them, I swear on the Queen. Anil Kapoor’s energy is infectious and puts a smile to your face instantly.

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Arjun Kapoor takes up the double role of twins Karan and Charan who thankfully are not at all like each other. No homage to Judwa happens here, which is a good sign. While Karan is an over smart guy who lives in London, Charan is taken care by his aunt in Chandigarh. He is docile and a mild mannered, way too polite Sikh boy. One thread that binds them is the fact that they are petrified of telling their families the truth about their love life and trouble brews- Bazmee style.

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Pavan Malhotra is an angry hotelier from Chandigarh, another one to look for in the film. He owns being a sardar and he is done it so many times but still, manages to do it so well. He is crazy and screams at every opportunity. He is hilarious and you’re sitting there like, Oh boy!

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Ileana D’Cruz and Athiya Shetty have similar personalities as their love interests in the film. While Sweety ( Ileana D Cruz) is a hot headed Sardarni like Karan, Binkle (Athiya Shetty) is shy and docile like Charan. They are in the film to create chaos for Kartar Chachu to fix.

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Mubarakan is a funny film and the ensemble has pulled off a comedy without any double entendre puns. The first half provides way too many laughs as compared to the second half where it bends towards family drama. If they would have chopped that part out with some songs, it would have been hilarity on steroids. But the minute second half seems to look like a drag, Anil Kapoor wears a cape and tries to save it with full force. Thank God for Anil Kapoor!

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This article was first published on Filtercopy

“I Will Revive RK Films When I Direct”: Ranbir Kapoor

He is the finest we have, better than fine wine most of the times. He aces whatever part he picks up and makes sure you never forget it. I sit with Ranbir Kapoor to talk about how he crumbles the cookie, all the time.

You wanted to revive the RK banner but with Jagga Jasoos you started Picture Shuru Productions. Do you still plan to revive the family banner?

My intention is to make a film for my own banner but that is when I direct a film. Anurag Basu is a very big name and his contribution to this film is way more than mine. It was only fair for me to produce with him 50-50. I did not want to take the entire credit of producing this film. That is why we started Picture Shuru Productions for Jagga Jasoos and not to start a big company or anything. We have made Jagga Jasoos like a franchise film and want to do more films relating this character but all that depends if the film does well.

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Did all the waiting whilst you act and produce your first film get a little easier as the family understands how things work in the business?

My father was completely against this process. He used to take my case every time. He would keep telling me that I am not being responsible while producing a film. He would say, “ Why is this taking so long? There is money involved by other people and your reputation, your money is at stake too…” Honestly, I am an actor and that is my skill set and do not have a skill set of a producer. It is a job that I don’t do well. I am not the actor who will tell the director that I will give you 50 days and you have to finish the film in it. I understand film making as an art that requires a certain time and everything happens in its own time and destiny. Eventually, when the audience watches the film, it doesn’t matter if you have taken 5 years or 3 days. As long as the film is good, that is what matters. I have always lived my career by this principle and would follow that in future as well. But having said that, I think Jagga Jasoos was made in an irresponsible way. We could have been more responsible. But it was a very hard genre for dada.

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You have been touted as the finest actor of the generation. Do you sometimes feel that some scripts don’t do justice to your talent?

I don’t feel that I am so talented that nothing is on my level. But I feel that I have been very lucky that I have got support from the film industry, the media, the audience.  and so many good film makers have come to me.  They have really supported me even in my failures. You know, whenever I have tried to go by formula like a Besharam, I have fallen flat on my face. It is not something that comes naturally to me. The riskier parts, the non-heroic parts where the deeds are heroic are the roles I connect with. I like playing the under hero and not the larger than life hero. I go by my instinct so if my gut likes the story and the director, I sign it. You know, my father always pulls me up for the fact that I do a lot of risqué films. He wants me to do more Hindi-masala-commercial films. That is the school of thought that he has lived his life by. I know that if I follow that, I will fall flat on my face. I have my own perspective about life and pre conceived notions about certain things, so I follow my instinct. My mother is a healthier creative partner to me. Whatever script I get, I do give it to her. She always has some very interesting things to say. Not that she will ever influence me to do or not do any film but she will always give a very honest opinion. My father is a little over critical, so I don’t think he would be able to operate my career. 

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The nepotism debate has been stirred again. You hail from the first family of Indian Cinema, do you feel any differently?

Well of course it exists. I am a product of nepotism. I got opportunities because of my parents, my father got opportunities because of his father and his father got opportunities because of his father’s father. For my children, if they choose to be actors, I would give them a platform also. If they want to become doctors, I would give them that platform as well. I would give them the education, the backing to follow their dream. So I mean it in that way. My family business has lasted for the last 85 years. It is unfair to a lot of people who are way more talented than us but we do get opportunities and attention. This is a big example but if Lionel Messi’s son wants to become a footballer, you want to watch him play to know if he has his father’s talent.

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If any person has accomplished something in any person in any field, you want to see if their kid is as good as them. There is a curiosity about them. The film industry is more glamorous and more focused on because it is exciting. People like to get point of views and a debate on. Yes, nepotism exists everywhere but in the film industry, it exists more. I don’t want to be a cry baby about this that I have so much pressure on me or so many expectations. I have been given a lot and I am very grateful. I am grateful for the fact that I get to do what I love. Very few people in the world get to do what they love and am very grateful that my parents gave me such an opportunity. Sanjay Leela Bhansali launched me but after that, it is about your talent, your vision and how hard you work. Thank fully I have not been compared to my family. I had my own stamp. There are certain actors who have a style and their children try to follow that. My father didn’t have a style as he has always been a spontaneous natural actor. So you cannot compare our styles, so that is a positive.   

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Things were not going the way you must have wanted in the last few years. Did the negativity ever boggle down your confidence?

You are as good your last film. But I have got tremendous support from everyone around me. People know my intention as an actor and like my work. I have a Karan Johar, Rajkumar Hirani, Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Basu- the premier film makers come to me. Yes, I accepted the failure and understood that I was a hard time but it was a very important time. You know, the first few years of an actor’s career you don’t think because there is so much adulation and fame that you’re getting. Like after 10 years, a saturation point comes when you think how can you take it to the next step. I have been tagged as the next superstar for a really long time but honestly, I have not really reached that stage. I think it is very important to accept that and not be in denial of it. Those films happened because I chose them, not because of any other reason. So they are a part of me. Even when a successful film has come to me, I have not been affected by it because for every actor it is a case of survival in the industry. I have survived for 10 and hope to survive for the next many.

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That is what I want to do- do good work, with good people. I had this ambition to become the biggest superstar of the country but that was very immaturely said. It takes a lot to reach there. Now when I have finished 10 years here, I admire the efforts of the Khans, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan for so many years. They have been constantly reinventing themselves for so long. It is admirable as it is very hard to do that.

Every character that you play is searching for something and the emotional graph of them seem to touch my heart. All the time!

To be honest, I don’t think it is by design. Subconsciously I get attracted to these characters. Fortunately or not, I have done a lot of coming of age films where this guy is on this journey of finding himself until a girl reminds him of what he actually is. I think I have to change that too and discover a new me. The core emotion in Hindi cinema is very important as people want to laugh and cry. You can’t make a superficial film and just impress them visually. The core emotion always stays with the person. If I have moved you in one way or the other, then the love stays.

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Speaking of emotionally driven parts that you’re terrific at, you’re not expressive at all when it comes to the reality of things. Right?

I am an introvert and a very closed person. It is very hard for me to express in my real life to my family and friends about what I am feeling. With cinema, I have an outlet so I find it easier to express myself in films. I don’t fear judgment here but I fear judgment in real life. That has helped me. I think it is a manufacturing defect. I have always been like this. My mom tells me when I was a kid, if I was scared, or saw a snake or something, I would never express. I would just feel some chemical imbalance in my body. Yes, it is a manufacturing defect.

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You’ve often said that you’re not expressive enough to be on social media as opposed to your father’s tweets.

I read it only when there is some controversy. My father is a very honest person, he says it how it is. There are very few people in this world and especially in the film industry who are not hypocrites or marketing themselves. He is not marketing himself, he believes that he is a normal citizen of the country. So be it a political statement, anything related to entertainment or if he has a point of view, he will say it. He doesn’t fear judgment. He gets into a lot of trouble. There are constant morchas outside his house. People are trolling him, they are hating on him. My mother is constantly fighting with him, throwing him out of the room. But that is how he is and you have to accept him how he is. He is not coming from a negative place to hurt anyone but is just expressing himself. I admire that as I can never be like him.

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You’ve always wanted to be a director, do you have a plan to execute the dream?

I went to a film school because I always wanted to be a director. I became an actor and found some success in it and every year I used to say that in 2 years, I will direct a film but that is again very immature. I can’t direct till I have a story to tell and I believe that I am not a writer. It is another shortcoming of mine. Once I get a story where I feel that I can express myself and make a nice film out of, that will be the time. It would be really silly otherwise. I don’t want to do it just like that. I want it to come very naturally.

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Barring all the negativity that was buzzing around for the last 3 years about Jagga Jasoos.   Did you feel full, vacuum or indifferent when you gave your last shot for the film?

I felt disbelief. I felt that he ( Anurag Basu) would call me anytime back on set. Iska kuch barosa nahi hai. He works in chaos and will always shoot till the last minute. So I was prepared. I’ll tell you, I have had 4 last shots in the film on 4 different days too. They all clapped for me, I hugged everyone then I was called to set again 4 times.

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Thank God For Ranbir Kapoor

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Saswata Chatterjee, Saurabh Shukla

Director: Anurag BasuRanbir Kapoor Acting HD Wallpaper In Jagga Jasoos

 

Going into the world of Jagga, one needs to surrender themselves to the genre. Anurag Basu is a very sharp director with a chief like Ravi Varman in his army. Varman has made sure that each and every element seems so beautiful that you want to dive right in that world where Jagga lives. Basu is the man behind this magnum opus and he has helmed it at its best as the story-telling is effortless and this is a musical done right. The lyrics bring in some comic relief and the musical is not so heavy that you’re at the deep end of the sea. You will laugh at the stupidity and shed a little tear at how earnest Jagga is.

Jagga is someone who you like in a jiffy and Ranbir has managed to wear this part as his second skin. I bow down to his sincerity to pull off anything under the sun. Right from the time when he was little, he is introduced as an ever wondering mind who needs to find the answers to all the questions which makes it easier for us to believe Jagga being a Jasoos as he grows up. From the beginning, I am invested right into the scheme of things and want to know more. Speaking of a sharp mind, Basu has painted the canvas with a backdrop of Manipur which is a brilliant fit. Adventure, fairy tale and a boy trying to be the best detective that he can.

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The chronicles of Jagga from solving local cases to becoming too big for his shoes takes you to places where you wouldn’t think- the larger scheme of things is where he lands himself in trouble time and again. The narrative is designed for children and the maker makes sure that he comments on the social evils in the world as well. Jagga’s longing for his father takes him on a search for the missing pieces of his father’s life. Saswata Chatterjee, who is loved as Bob Vishwas from Kahaani is floozy, clumsy and extremely loveable. You keep your fingers crossed and hope that Jagga finds his father.

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One thing that caught my attention was how cleverly written Shruti’s part essayed by Katrina Kaif is. She plays a journalist who is a goofball and nicely fits the scheme of things. Having justified the accent that comes from the west, she flip-flops and matches the energy of the narrative. The film has been shot in Morocco and trust me, Varman’s camera is so enticing that it makes you want to enter the world where ostriches and giraffes run free with you. The film is so beautiful that it’s soothing. The only word that describes the film is – picturesque! When you watch films for a living, there are days when you lose hope and then comes Ranbir Kapoor to ensure that your faith in movies is restored. Thank you for the movies RK!

This article was first published on Filtercopy.

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