Force 2 is a refreshing action film from John Abraham, despite its faux-patriotism

Right away let’s establish one thing, and this will likely hold true for a few years at least: Popular Indian cinema is going to milk patriotism and pride in the nation as much as it can, given the direction in which national discourse has swung. (Check your WhatsApp forwards for a quick confirmation.)

No genre of popular cinema is going to tap into this more than action entertainers, because nationalism is a natural ally of grandiose masculinity and brute physical power, attributes that we’re trying to ascribe to a nation we, strangely enough, call our ‘Motherland’.

Expectedly, given that it gets to play with a big action star as a cop, Force 2 does it with élan.

At one point John Abraham’s ACP Yashvardhan declares that the days are gone when India couldn’t carry out covert operations on foreign soil. ‘Ab hum ghus ke maarte hain’, he exclaims. Translation: ‘Now, we barge in and kill our enemies!’ (Does anyone else feel that ‘surgical strike’ has the potential to be a smashing new drinking game? Surely we deserve a pun on ‘shot’.)

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Once you accept that we’re going to see this quite often now — at least until India (as a collective consciousness) has more important things to worry about than projecting a strong masculine image to the world — and once you accept that cinema is going to assimilate popular culture in order to maximise footfalls and profit, you might just find Force 2 to be a refreshingly decent actioner, unlike the ludicrously overcooked action films Hindi cinema in particular frequently subjects us to. (I’m looking at you, Dilwale and Shivaay.)

For starters, Force 2 is set in a world where everyone doesn’t speak Hindi (imagine). The film is based primarily in Budapest, and mercifully, Hungarians and other foreign nationals in the film get to keep their language and not converse in awkward Hindi with the Indian lead pair. The foreign language lines are subtitled in Hindi, which is encouraging. It’s a sign of not taking the audience for granted, while also ensuring that the audience does not remain a passive viewer throughout. (In general, this would be a good time to brush up on our Hindi reading abilities, please note.)

This trait, of not taking the audience for granted, runs through the film.

The plot itself is standard international espionage fare for a seasoned viewer of Hollywood’s self-aggrandising CIA movies. (Stories of the CIA blatantly using Hollywood, for something that goes beyond even propaganda, make for a fun read if you love conspiracy theories.) However, beyond that, the film actually does a good job of not dumbing everything down.

In fact, Force 2 can well be compared with any commercial film with an espionage backdrop from anywhere in the world, and it would hold its own because at the heart of it, the film’s intent is clear. There exist different types of patriotism, and even service to one’s nation cannot be seen through a monochrome  prism. It blurs the lines between what we call ‘massy’ and ‘classy’, keeps the setting contemporary, and serves up a fairly engaging plot all the way till the end.

Credit for this must go to director Abhinay Deo, who has always displayed a sensibility that is far more evolved than most other filmmakers. Incidentally, he happens to be one of India’s finest advertising filmmakers. He has made plenty ads over the years that showcase his ability to use the visual medium effectively without having to spell everything out. Watch one particular scene early in the film, where an Indian RAW agent is assassinated while riding a motorbike. It is a brutal scene that eschews gore in favour of pure imagery to make its point.

The hiccups in Force 2’s screenplay mostly come from trying to straddle that line between what’s right and what sells, and this is something even the most hardened cynic must grant to at least the producer of the film.

So, you have an Indian police officer appointing himself for a mission abroad involving the death of RAW agents. You have a perfectly made-up woman, from RAW no less, who partners with him on this mission. And you have a charming, baby-faced villain who oozes snarky charm. A few convenient liberties here and there are bumps in a film that otherwise keeps you interested for the most.

A special mention for John Abraham here.

The man does best in roles where he doesn’t have to emote, so he sticks to them. Back in 2013, when the Congress was in power, he co-produced and starred in Madras Café, which took a more than sympathetic view of (if not one that was downright in favour of) Rajiv Gandhi. This year alone, he has had Dishoom and Force 2, both of which firmly take a position aligned with the current government’s rhetoric.

Here’s a man who plays his cards right, and it explains why he’s still able to continuously churn out films as producer and solo lead, even if some of them don’t emerge winners at the box office.

Credit for Force 2 must go to the man who is at the receiving end of enough jokes about his acting talent, or lack thereof. Yes, we’re still a long way off from giving the world a global action film that we can be proud of, but Force 2 seems like a surgical baby-strike in the right direction.

Dear Zindagi movie review: Incredibly cute Alia, Shah Rukh Khan need a more consistent script

Dear Zindagi is clearly straining at the formula-ridden Bollywood straitjacket to give us a refreshing take on love and family, and for the most part it sticks to its guns. In the end, it does succumb to the pressure to bow to perceived public demand with passing mentions of what we have come to consider inevitable in every Hindi film, but the ride up to that point is so rewarding so often that it is tempting to look past those needless moments.

Writer-director Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi comes four years after her remarkable debut with English Vinglish. If that film brought the charismatic Sridevi back to the big screen as a leading lady after a 15-year hiatus, this one redefines the concept of hero and heroine in Hindi cinema.

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Dear Zindagi revolves around Kaira (Alia Bhatt), a talented young cinematographer in Mumbai who despises her parents, appears confident in her romantic relationships yet is ridden with insecurities about the men she is drawn to. Those insecurities lead her to deliberately hurt her boyfriends before they get a chance to hurt her. It does not take a degree in psychology for a viewer to figure out her behaviour patterns, but Kaira is naturally confused by her fears. She ends up seeking professional help, and with some wise counsel, finds her answers herself.

When one of the biggest stars in the history of Bollywood appears on screen about 40 minutes after the opening credits, it goes without saying that this is an extremely unconventional film. Bhatt’s Kaira is the focal point of the story from start to finish whereas Shah Rukh Khan – playing her therapist Dr Jehangir Khan – surfaces towards the latter part of the first half and is nowhere to be seen in the concluding scene.

In a male-obsessed industry still tending to subordinate women in most mainstream projects, this is a decision that shows guts on Shinde’s part and Khan’s evident willingness to experiment. That other MegaKhan, Aamir, took a similar gamble with rewarding results in Taare Zameen Par (2007), and this is a winning aspect of Dear Zindagi too.

SRK gets less screen time but owns every scene he is a part of. In fact, Doc Jehangir enters the picture just as the film is sagging and appears to be repeating itself. His arrival immediately lifts Dear Zindagi. It sags again occasionally thereafter, but never when he is around. Besides, there is such warmth in Kaira’s interactions with the Doc that it envelops the rest of the narrative too.

It is worth mentioning that Khan in this new phase of his career when he is acknowledging his age gracefully, showing us a dash of gray and a whiff of wrinkles, is looking hot.

Kaira explodes in anger at one point when someone describes her as a pataka (firecracker). Well, that’s precisely what Bhatt is – a pataka with pizzazz and verve. What makes her so impactful is that she has had an internal journey with each of her roles so far, and not so far allowed that journey to be overshadowed by her attractive personality. Kaira is simultaneously exasperating and endearing, and Bhatt remains in control of that difficult blend throughout.

Still, the film needed more matter to wrap around these two lovely stars, and Dear Zindagi too often does not. Some of that comes from the failure to build up the satellite characters who are Kaira’s go-to people in times of need. We get that she is pre-occupied with her own emotional struggles to the point of not noticing their problems, but that is no excuse for the writing to neglect them too.

Who is Fatima (Ira Dubey) beyond being a mature, married friend? Who is Jackie (Yashaswini Dayama) beyond being a sweet, supportive, possibly younger friend? Who and what is that chubby male colleague beyond being chubby and funny? Who is her brother Kiddo (Rohit Saraf) whom she loves, beyond being her brother Kiddo whom she loves? Who and what are her boyfriends Sid (Angad Bedi), Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor) and Rumi (Ali Zafar) beyond being a good-looking restaurateur, a good-looking producer and a good-looking musician?

(Spoiler alert) And then there are those two oh-no moments towards the end – you know the kind that make you say, “Oh no, you too Dear Zindagi”? One of them seems to go along with the traditional view that characters played by a major male star and a major female star must inevitably be attracted to each other if they interact long enough in a story; the other underlines the essentiality of a man in a woman’s life to make her feel complete. Both are fleeting suggestions, but they pull down the film’s assuredness about what it is trying to say until then. Oh no, you too Dear Zindagi? (Spoiler alert ends)

For this and other reasons the film is inconsistent and intermittently lightweight. Yet, there is much else to recommend in Dear Zindagi.

The use of music, Amit Trivedi’s breezy tunes and Kausar Munir’s conversational lyrics are lots of fun, as are Kaira’s many amusing interactions with her friends. DoP Laxman Utekar fills the film with pretty frames of Goa beyond what we are used to seeing of that picturesque state, and is just as imaginative in his focus on Khan and Bhatt’s faces. Watch out for the closing shots of Bhatt on a beach.

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From an industry that usually treats parents as deities deserving to be worshipped, it is also unusual to get a story that does not ignore these gods’ feet of clay, especially considering that Dear Zindagi is co-produced by Karan “It’s All About Loving Your Parents” Johar.

Above all, it is nice to see a film making an effort to destigmatise patient-therapist interactions, in a portrayal far removed from the “paagalkhanas (lunatic asylums)” of an earlier Bollywood era.

Dear Zindagi then is a mixed bag. I loved SRK in the film, Bhatt is always a pleasure to watch, the story visits many themes that are uncommon in Bollywood, and several of the discussions are either witty or insightful or both. Overall though, the film comes across as being not enough because the writing needed more substance.

Dear Gauri Shinde,

You broke the mould with the delightful English Vinglish. Since you have defied convention in so many ways this time round too, you may as well have gone the entire distance without worrying about the consequences. We believe in you. Please do have faith in our faith in you.

Dear Zindagi an unusual Bollywood movie that explores the inner life of a troubled woman

There are several lines of dialogue in Dear Zindagi that you are unlikely to have heard before in Hindi cinema. A woman telling a man to pull up his (unsightly low-slung) pants before he goes in front of the camera; a woman telling a man, “I need to pee.” (In Bunty Aur Babli, Rani Mukherjee implies it when she asks Bunty to come guard the railway station. And in Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Lajja, Manisha Koirala learns to pee on the side of the road while drunkenly cavorting with Madhuri Dixit.) Dear Zindagi also features a woman announcing that she failed Class II, and a man saying his former lover would never have achieved success if they had stayed together.

Dear Zindagi stars Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt

I was looking forward to Dear Zindagi in a vague way, aided by the memory of watching Sridevi’skabuki mask-like, but still absorbing face in Gauri Shinde’s first film, English Vinglish. In Dear Zindagi, Alia Bhatt is also often expressionless-yet-not, prickly and grouchy to hide her wealth of feelings. At one point, when Kaira (Bhatt) hears from her friend Fatima (Ira Dubey) that her lover has gotten engaged to someone else, she bites into a green chilli and eats it with steady viciousness. You want to look away from her tiny red lips, but you can’t. She sniffs, and when her friend asks her if she is okay, she blames the chilli. Then she goes back to the editing studio to edit the music video she’s directing.

English-Vinglish was the journey of a well-adjusted, middle-aged woman who thinks well of herself. She only has to understand why the world doesn’t think well of her — just because she doesn’t speak English. In Dear Zindagi, Kaira doesn’t think well of herself, but others do. She veers between fragility and irritability, and we don’t know why. We don’t quite know why she’s so mean to her parents and relatives. (That’s a lie; the relatives are so well-calibrated in their smugness that I was ready to slap them on Kaira’s behalf.) We find out what has created her brittle unhappiness, as she finds out, through her therapy sessions with cool shrink Jahangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan).

This explicit exploration of the inner life of a young woman is fairly unprecedented in Bollywood. In Tanu Weds Manu 2, we do get a chance to see Tanu’s emotional struggles with her self-destructiveness. But the black comedy of that movie and that heroine didn’t permit the earnest pursuit of mental health. Instead, in the opening scene, Tanu manages to turn marriage counselling into an opportunity to get her husband locked up in an asylum. In Queen, Rani needs the trip to Paris to recover from heartbreak and gain confidence in her own ability to navigate the world.

It’s soothing, therefore, to hear Khan tell Kiara that she doesn’t have to forgive her parents or confront them for abandoning her. To hear Khan tell Kiara that she is not “cheap” but “superfine” to not settle for the first man who comes down the pike. Kiara has literal-minded nightmares about society judging her for being unmarried and unloved (troublingly, Shinde visualises this as working-class men mocking married middle-class women). It’s even more soothing when Khan tells Kiara that no society — no matter how judgmental — doesn’t have to think well of her, as long as she thinks well of herself. It’s so soothing that you are tempted to ignore the outrageous wish-fulfilment that is the tailpiece of the movie.

A friend who went to Dear Zindagi with me began with pessimism, saying warily that the scenes of Kaira zooming above her sets in a cinematographer’s crane are likely to be the most empowering things about the movie. (He changed his mind). For me, the wish-fulfilment moment was when Kaira tells the newly engaged ex-lover Raghuvendra (Kunal Kapoor) that she has decided to not work with him on his next project. Raghuvendra, dejected but trying to be a good guy, begins some spiel about what he thinks. This sets off Kaira like a bomb. She yells at him because she has already announced her decision, he wasn’t going to get a chance to now pretend it was his decision. Ah, the ridiculous, petty, total satisfaction.

Shinde’s story stays true despite any temptations that may have come along. Kaira doesn’t find herself in a romance with her ex-lover, a new lover or even in her crush on Khan. The climax is a classic emotional breakthrough about her childhood. If you have any doubts that Bhatt can act, this is the scene for you. She cries hard enough to melt a rock. This is also a scene of unintentional comedy. SRK, who should be a proud therapist, has never looked more uncomfortable than he does at this stage. He looks like he wants to say, “I hate tears, Kaira.”

My formerly pessimistic friend explained, “No one told him he has to do anything but smoulder. Or may be it’s those pants.” It’s true that the pants seem very tight, Aki Narula. It’s also that SRK is frequently a smouldering shoulder, but he is more. Shinde’s several on-the-nose pitches and Khan’s sussegad style makes an attractive case for therapy.

Kaira has her breakthrough and slowly makes her peace with her family. Which brings us to that fantasy tailpiece. Her long-stuck short film about a cross-dressing Portuguese soldier is finally made. It is screened on the beach to an audience of her whole life. All her friends, her whole family, the man she broke up with (Angad Bedi), the man who broke up with her (Kunal Kapoor), the man who wasn’t quite right for her (a shockingly muscular Ali Zafar). They are all there, flushed with admiration, applause and goodwill for Kaira. There’s also a new man who has solid potential of being the next love interest (Aditya Roy Kapoor).

Dangal’s first song ‘Haanikaarak Bapu’ champions everything that’s right with Aamir’s film

Comparison is the fuel of Bollywood at the moment, what with the many clashes (read: Mohenjo Daro and Rustom; ADHM and Shivaay) we have seen in 2016. However — and we never thought we would say this before its release — Aamir Khan’s  Dangal seems to be doing everything right, where Salman Khan’s Sultan went wrong.

Allow us to elucidate.

After its intriguing trailer, Dangal‘s first song, ‘Haanikarak Baapu‘ revolves around Aamir Khan coaching his daughters to become competent wrestlers. The song is shot and sung from the girls’ point of view, where they seen working out really hard, training their bodies to be wrestlers, and facing the wrath of Aamir, who is shown to be brutal with them in their training.

You don’t need us to tell you that Aamir can really act. He plays the stern father part with complete conviction, and it works well for a song that laments about this very fact.

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‘Haanikarak Baapu’ is peppered with dialogues; Sakshi Tanwar, who plays Aamir’s wife and mother to the girls, has her Haryanvi accent bang on. Aamir rocks a dad bod (an elderly man with a paunch and a flawed, yet desirable body, for the uninitiated) in this film, much like Salman in Sultan. However, he is a lot more nonchalant about it.

The song itself is catchy, and we’re sure kids will love it, but the real champion of ‘Haanikarak Baapu’, and by extension Dangal, is its nuanced and unbiased portrayal of the fact that it is actually two girls who Aamir trains; his daughters.

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Bollywood loves naming films after hit songs

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge still runs successfully at Maratha Mandir today. What runs along with it in the film industry, are all the DDLJ clichés that the film gave birth to, in 1995. The train sequence, lovers running and uniting in the fields and the girl’s furious father letting go of his daughter in the climax – all these scenes became historic and, in turn, the formula for all commercial entertainers.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil borrows its title from the Johnny Walker's iconic song from the 1956 film CID.

An unnoticed trend or formula that Aditya Chopra’s film injected into the veins of the industry was that of dedicating the title of the film to the name of a famous song. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was the name of a song from Yash Raj Films’ 1974 movie Chor Machaye Shor starring Mumtaz and Shashi Kapoor.

Chopra, who was just four years old at the time of the release of the film, is likely to have imbibed the dialogues, scenes and songs of his legendary father Yash Chopra’s films. Thus, while selecting a title of his directorial debut, he chose one of the famous songs that he grew up listening to. The title fit into the context of the film aptly as well.

What followed was a trend of naming films after famous songs as a formula, on the director’s part, to replicate DDLJ’s momentous success. One of the first attempts at executing the formula was in the 1998 Sohail Khan directorial Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya starring Salman Khan and Kajol.

The film could have been named anything else but Khan chose to bank on the popularity of the legendary song from K Asif’s 1960 historical drama Mughal-e-Aazam. The film emerged successful and the trend of naming films after famous songs continued.

While intertextuality was not a new phenomenon in Hindi cinema, these allusions to popular songs gained traction as a mere market trend. There were several instances when the title of the film had little to do with the story but was used nonetheless as the song it was named after had immense recall value among its target group.

For example, Samir Karnik’s 2011 comedy Yamla Pagla Deewana was named so to attract the fans of Dharmendra to cinema halls. The film was nothing more than an ode to the revered actor and the fact that he was sharing the screen space with his sons Sunny and Bobby Deol for the first time. The right packaging, in which the title played a crucial role, ensured the film was a huge success at the box office, though it was panned by the film critics.

Similarly, after Ranbir Kapoor had a flawed launch vehicle in Saawariya, Yash Raj Films decided to capitalise on their own formula when they re-launched Kapoor through the film Bachna Ae Haseeno, named after his father Rishi Kapoor’s iconic song from the 1977 action film Hum Kisi Se Kum Naheen. The film worked and launched the fourth generation star in the process. Incidentally, another film of Ranbir, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani was named after the title song of his uncle Randhir Kapoor’s 1972 film Jawani Diwani. The titles of the two films were in tune with Ranbir’s characters but at the same time, they indicated the fact that Ranbir is carrying forward his family legacy.

There were a few films which took their titles from popular songs but presented it in an entirely new light. The most recent example is Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. The title is inspired from Johnny Walker’s historic song from the 1956 film CID. Though the context of that song was the trials that one faces while making his ends meet in Mumbai, Johar’s version turned into an anthem for unrequited lovers.

Another good example is Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, which was a complete detour from Rishi Kapoor’s song from the 1980 thriller Karz. Though both the films were based on the theme of reincarnation, the title had little to do with the coincidence. It alluded to the characters of the film, Shantipriya and the two incarnations of Om.

Another interesting example is Rakesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya. The title referred to a dance number in Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Since the song was a children’s favourite, Roshan decided to name the film after the song to please his target group. However, the rationale behind the title was not superficial as unlike the song it was named after, the ‘koi’ in the song did not refer to first love but to an extra-terrestrial creature.

Roshan’s 2003 fantasy film came just six years after Johar’s film so the song had good recall value by then. Similarly, films like Guzaarish and Jai Ho also followed the same path as they banked on the popularity of recent hit songs from Ghajini and Slumdog Millionaire. Though Sanjay Leela Bhansali added depth to the title of Guzaarish by addressing the issue of euthanasia, Sohail Khan changed the name of his film from Mental to Jai Ho after AR Rahman won an Academy Award for composing the renowned song sung by Sukhwinder Singh.

As the trend continues with upcoming films like Meri Pyari Bindu and Raabta, we are yet to see whether these films hold any titular relevance or are merely spin offs of popular songs with good recall value.

Force 2 movie review: Slick mix of action, John Abraham, suspense and an appealing villain

It is hard to find a film that does not promise an iota more of anything than what it intends to deliver, and then efficiently delivers on its promise. Force 2 is an intense action flick that serves up slick stunts and technical finesse to support its straight-laced storytelling style.

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Director Abhinay Deo’s latest film is a sequel to Nishikant Kamat’s Force (2011), which starred John Abraham and Genelia D’souza. That film in turn was a remake of the 2003 Tamil blockbuster Kaakha Kaakha directed by Gautham Menon, starring Suriya Sivakumar and Jyothika.

Force did not have Kaakha Kaakha’s emotional heft, but it did have gripping, not-before-seen action plus a villain worth living and dying for. Its Achilles heel was the casting of the heroine. Four years since Force, the franchise repeats the mix, giving us gripping action once again, a solid villain and a contentious heroine.

Abraham is back in Force 2 as a well-intentioned Mumbai policeman who does not play by the book because the book, in his opinion, can tie a good cop down. In the years since Yashvardhan lost his wife (played by D’souza) in the first film, he has remained as strong-willed, impertinent and determined to vanquish evil as he was back then. When a bunch of agents of the Indian intelligence agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) are exterminated in well-planned back-to-back killings, Yash enters the picture to find out why and to prevent further deaths.

The case lands him in beautiful Budapest. His partner and supposed boss in this mission is RAW officer KK, Kamaljit Kaur, played by Sonakshi Sinha. KK is to the always-defiant Yash what chalk is to cheese, so of course they clash repeatedly.

Together, they find themselves up against an antagonist who somehow manages to stay ahead of them every step of the way. Shiv Sharma (Tahir Raj Bhasin) is driven by an unexplained grouse against RAW and India. It is evident from the moment we meet him that Yash and KK will solve the case when they crack the reason for his animosity.

The purposefulness of this film’s writing is both its strength and its weakness. Parveez Shaikh and Jasmeet K. Reen are here to entertain us with suspense and unrelenting skirmishes – involving wit, guns and fisticuffs – and they do that well. If only they had paid more attention to the characterisation of Yash and KK, Force 2 would have been more than just that.

Yash relies almost entirely on our pre-existing investment in him from the previous film, on Abraham’s dimpled charm and the actor’s unapologetic willingness to be objectified without denting his dignity in the way Hindi cinema tends to do with women. However, we do not see enough of the character’s journey here, nothing much to add to the Yash we already know from Force.

The film’s potentially most interesting element is the most problematic. Leading ladies in Hindi cinema are rarely in positions of authority over leading men, and they are certainly rarely at the centre of hard-core action cinema. KK, then, is a fascinating proposition. Having envisioned her though, the writers give her short shrift.

Sections of Bollywood these days are taking a long, hard look at the way women have been straitjacketed in films since the 1970s. While some are ushering in genuine change, too many are struggling to pull themselves out of the morass of their own misogyny. Sinha earlier this year starred in Akira, which made a woman the central figure in an all-out action-reliant drama but then spent so little time on fleshing her out as a human being, that the most engaging character in the film turned out to be her arch enemy – who was a man … of course. Deo & Co are better in the sense that their KK is not a one-line concept note. We do get to see her for the person that she is. Still, she is a RAW agent who screws up on an important assignment in a way you know the male lead of this kind of Hindi film would not, and when it comes to the crunch, she still needs a man to be decisive on her behalf and have the last word.

The saving grace of the Yash-KK equation is that despite the hint of a romance between them, the film does not go too far in that direction. This is a good thing, since Sinha looks like a child in comparison with Abraham. The actress does a fair job of what she is given to do, but I wish she had been given more to do and the screenplay had been less patronising towards KK.

The best written character in Force 2 is Shiv Sharma, a criminal who is both cold-blooded and nuanced, a man we can fear yet empathise with without the film getting too maudlin in its portrayal of him. Tahir Raj Bhasin is wonderfully controlled in his execution of Shiv, making him as intriguing as Vidyut Jamwal’s Vishnu was in Force yet completely different.

Koffee with Karan episode three: Varun, Arjun say it best when they say nothing at all

Koffee with Karan season five is most certainly all about busting secrets. Or atleast, you’ll see Karan Johar trying really hard. Episode three saw childhood buddies Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor share the Koffee couch and Johar wasted no time in addressing the (multiple) elephants in the room.

The first question that was asked to the two chaddi-buddies was whether there was a girl that ever came between them. For those of you who were hoping that Kapoor and Dhawan would address the rumours of either of them dating Alia Bhatt, you will be disappointed. Neither confirmed anything of the sort, infact they both denied having any sort of romantic involvement with Alia.

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However, much more was revealed about Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor’s long-standing friendship. We found out that both are nudists, ie, both roam around their homes with minimal clothing (thank us later for the image).

In typical Koffee with Karan style, both actors were grilled about their love lives and even asked about their penis size. (this seems to be a recurring theme, and also found a mention in Twinkle and Akshay Kumar’s episode).

The highlight of this episode was that a lot of secrets were ousted without really saying anything. Arjun choosing any other actress whenever given the option of Sonakshi Sinha, and Varun always slotting Sidharth Malhotra in the last rank of any choice question, gave us a little inkling of the fact that where Bollywood and gossip are concerned, there’s no smoke without fire.

Also both Varun and Arjun chose to marry Ranbir Kapoor and kill Ranveer Singh in their rapid fire answers. Also neither wanted to hook up with Katrina Kaif, for reasons best known to them.

We were also shown snippets from a short film that both Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor were a part of, back in their struggling phase. The film, which shows a much younger Dhawan and Kapoor, was shot during Barry John’s acting classes, that the two were a part of. It was shot in 24 hours and with a budget of Rs 5000.

However, the moment of Episode 3 was Arjun Kapoor reacting to Karan Johar’s innocuous question with the most brazen answer.

Hrithik Roshan, Kangana Ranaut’s legal spat might have reached an official conclusion

March 2016 marked the beginning of one of the biggest controversies in Bollywood for the year.

Kangana Ranaut and Hrithik Roshan had slapped each other with legal notices through their respective attorneys, Rizwan Siddiquee and Deepesh Mehta.

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After Kangana made a comment about a ‘silly ex’ of hers, Hrithik Firstpost slapped a defamation notice against her that seemed to indicate that (he believed) the comment was directed at him. The fight got murky, and allegations were thrown from both the parties.

As had reported earlier, the crux is that an email ID, from which Kangana claimed to have received messages from Hrithik, seem to indicate that they were in a relationship. Hrithik, on the other hand, said he never had an email account with that ID, and that it was an impostor who had been communicating with Kangana
all along.

He even tweeted that he would rather have an affair with the Pope. Ouch.

An officer connected with the Cyber Crime Cell has been quoted by various news outlets as saying the emails came from a US server, and in the absence of data from there, no user could be identified, which for Kangana’s team was a win-win situation.

With Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, it seems Ranbir is remaking Rockstar with different directors

Think about it for a bit, and you’ll recall a stock shot that Ranbir Kapoor seems to have in so many of his films. You’ll recognise it when you see him walking towards the camera, which linearly tracks away from him. In this shot, there’s usually emotion writ large on his face, as he leaves something behind. And then, as you think about it some more, you realise that Ranbir seems to have made *that* pain – of unrequited love – his pièce de résistance, so to speak.

In his films — while he may or may not have ended up with the person he loves in the end — when he’s pining for that person (or for whatever it is his character is seeking) Ranbir emotes like no one else. Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, of course, was the crowning glory in this regard.

Ranbir-Kapoor-ADHM

While the cult of Rockstar endures, it is still a film that seems to have more haters than (passionate) lovers, and that will always be one of the tragedies of Ranbir Kapoor’s career. He had famously gone into a depressive phase post the intense shoot of Rockstar, and somehow, he gives the impression that he isn’t done with Imtiaz Ali’s mystic ode to eternal unrequited love quite yet.

It seems, in fact, that since Rockstar, Ranbir’s choices have veered towards characters that need a desperate sense of validation from love. (Think Barfi, Bombay Velvet and Tamasha.)

And here’s the thing — no film suggests this more than Ae Dil Hai Mushkil does. In so many ways, ADHM is basically Rockstar made less cryptic and esoteric, more universal and accessible (and hence, more ‘commercial’). In fact, once you start counting them, the similarities between Rockstar and ADHM will astonish you.

There’s Ranbir playing the talented but devoid-of-success aspiring singer, who’s yet to grow up and come of age. He falls in love with a gutsy, full-blooded woman, but doesn’t get her because she marries someone else. Thus begins the saga of intense one-sided love, which causes him to channel his pain into his art, infusing his talent with that magic element it hitherto lacked. Success follows, but life isn’t done playing games with him yet. He’s destined to run into his love again, only to feel more pain, and then some. (I must stop there, because anything more and I’ll run into serious spoiler territory.)

So much about Ae Dil Hai Mushkil will make you feel that both films are actually the same story told in two different ways; and the difference between Rockstar and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil lies in the difference between the filmmakers whose vision the respective films are.

If Imtiaz Ali’s film was complex, nuanced, tinged with Sufism and left with you with a sense of crippling loss, Karan Johar’s film is frothy, contemporary, set in a significantly upper class milieu and eschews intensity in favour of breezy palatability. Rockstar versus ADHM is essentially grungy love versus glossy love. (ADHM, though, does give you a glimpse of how Rockstar could have been, if the character of Heer Kaul had a more accomplished actor – or just *an* actor – in place of Nargis Fakhri.)

In the commercial compromises, so to speak, that Johar makes with his film, he ends up missing out on some heft for sure. Rockstar was never meant to leave you with a happy feeling, while ADHM tries hard to make sure that no matter what, you don’t really walk away from the film primarily in pain.

Make no mistake, some of the sequences and character interactions in the film are loaded with life-changing advice about love and loss for the more ‘filmy’ folk among us; but the film firmly caters to an audience that comes for a Hindi film with only one expectation – ‘paisa vasool’.

Karan Johar’s efforts to make the film more universal, though, might just go in vain. Because it seems like those who liked Rockstar will probably like ADHM too, while those who hated the former may just dislike the latter as well.

Hence, ADHM will probably just end up being a fair one-time watch for most, unlike Rockstar which, for so many, keeps pulling you back to it again and again, as you discover more love and more pain hidden within it with each successive viewing. (Then again, who knows. Perhaps ADHM has more depth to it than is apparent in the first viewing? Only time will tell.)

It is Ranbir Kapoor, eventually, that deeply links the two films together. You get the impression that a piece of Rockstar is still stuck in Ranbir’s heart, and it’s going to make him go back over and over again to it, until he gets some closure. Perhaps there really is no escaping what Imtiaz Ali and Ranbir reminded us with Tamasha – that it’s always the same story.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil speeds to 100-cr mark; Shivaay picks up on day 4: Box office report

Diwali has long been a coveted box office slot for Bollywood filmmakers, with its potential to draw in the festive/holiday audience.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has pulled ahead of Shivaay in their box office battle

But the two high-profile Diwali releases this year — Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Shivaay — haven’t given the industry as much of a boost as expected.

In fact, the joint collection of both films by the end of their opening weekend (Rs 64.16 crore), is reportedly the lowest in six years — and by a substantial margin.

“Diwali puja and festivities made a dent in the business of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Shivaay on Sunday. Business should witness an upward trend on Monday and Tuesday,” tweeted trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

Distributor Joginder Mahajan told IANS: “People are more inclined towards festivities during Diwali. So these collections are good for both films. The crucial days will be Monday and Tuesday.”

Of the two films, both of which released on Friday (28 October), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has pulled ahead with a comfortable margin.

Opening collections: 

Shivaay‘s opening weekend collection (ending Sunday, 30 October) came to Rs 28.56 crore, trade reports confirmed.

Taran Adarsh and trade publication KoiMoi.com confirmed these numbers for Shivaay’s domestic box office collections over the three days — Friday: 10.24 crore; Saturday: 10.06 crore; Sunday: 8.26 crore.

In contrast, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil registered domestic weekend collections of Rs 35.60 crore.

At Rs 13.30 crore on Friday, ADHM gave Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma the third highest opening figures of their careers so far, and collections stayed strong on Saturday, at Rs 13.10 crore.

Just like Shivaay, ADHM too saw a drop in collections on Sunday, to Rs 9.20 crore.