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Movie Review: Sardar Ka Grandson

The digital platform has been a boon for many films boasting of edgy and out of the box content. However, ever since the pandemic hit the world, we have seen some conventional family films also make its way on OTT. SARDAR KA GRANDSON, which has been released today on Netflix, joins this club. The trailer has sparked curiosity among viewers and it seems to be a feel-good entertainer. So does SARDAR KA GRANDSON manage to entertain and touch the hearts of the viewers? Or does it fail to impress? Let’s analyse.

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SARDAR KA GRANDSON is the story of a devoted grandson trying to fulfil his ailing grandmother’s last wish. Amreek (Arjun Kapoor) resides in Los Angeles with his girlfriend Radha (Rakul Preet Singh). Both run a movers and packers company called ‘Gently Gently’. Amreek has a laidback and carefree attitude and doesn’t believe in owning up to his mistakes. This affects his work and also his relations with Radha. Fed up with his behaviour, Radha breaks up with him. Amreek is devastated. This is when his father, Gurkeerat aka Gurki (Kanwaljit Singh) calls him from his home in Amritsar, Punjab. He tells Amreek that he should return immediately as his grandmother, Sardar (Neena Gupta), is sick. Sardar, aged 90, has a tumour. The doctors advise Gurki that they should take her home as operating her at this age can prove fatal. Gurki realizes Sardar doesn’t have much time but he hides this fact from Sardar. Sardar, meanwhile, has a wish. She wants to go to Lahore, Pakistan and visit the house that she built with her husband, late Gursher Singh (John Abraham) in 1946. A year later, during Partition, Gursher dies while fighting the rioters. Sardar however escapes and reaches India. Since then, she has been missing Gursher and the house. Hence, it’s her desire to visit Pakistan so that she could see her ancestral house. Sardar tells Amreek about it. Gurki advises Sardar that she can’t travel in this condition. But Amreek realizes how much this means to her. He promises her that he’ll help fulfil her wish. He tries to get her visa. However, her application is rejected as she’s blacklisted from visiting Pakistan. This is because a few years ago, she had attacked a Pakistani official, Saqlain Niazi (Kumud Mishra) when she had gone to watch an India vs Pakistan cricket match. This is when Amreek learns that Radha has transplanted a nearly hundred-year-old tree in the USA. Amreek thus begins to learn about structural relocation and realizes that a lot of people have successfully lifted a house and transplanted it to a different location. Amreek requests help from both the government of India and Pakistan for his mission. Both decide to help him, in principle. Amreek then decides to visit Lahore. However, he hides about his plan from Sardar. He fears that if he fails in his endeavour, she’ll be heartbroken. Hence, Amreek pretends to go back to Los Angeles in front of Sardar. Amreek reaches Lahore and successfully is able to find Sardar’s house. But when he reaches there, he sees that the local authorities are about to demolish the structure! What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Anuja Chauhan and Kaashvie Nair’s story is lovely and quite promising. Anuja Chauhan and Kaashvie Nair’s screenplay is first-rate. Yes, there are a few loose ends and something should have been done about it. But the writers score when it comes to emotional quotient. And that compensates for most shortcomings. Also, the message of harmony between India and Pakistan is well-woven. Amitosh Nagpal’s dialogues are in sync with the film’s mood and the character’s personality traits. However, one dialogue of Amreek being a little crackpot because he was injured in childhood is repeated too many times needlessly.

Kaashvie Nair’s direction is superb. This was not an easy film to pull off. But Kaashvie comes out with flying colours especially in the emotional and dramatic scenes. The character of Sardar is the soul of the film and one can easily connect with her tragic past and her desire to see her Lahore house. However a few scenes defy logic. For instance, it’s amusing to see that Sardar’s house was left untouched for as long as 70 years in what seemed to be a congested and prime locality. In fact, when Amreek enters the house for the first time, one expects the house to be in a shabby condition but surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to have been abandoned since 7 decades. Also, the manner in which Sardar’s family cuts off internet and DTH connection from their residence so that Sardar doesn’t learn about Amreek’s mission is hard to digest. Lastly, a teenaged boy named Chhote (Mir Mehroos) starts helping Amreek. It’s quite touching the way he goes all out but why he does it or why does he oppose the demolition in the first place and his backstory are never established.

SARDAR KA GRANDSON isn’t really engrossing from the first sequence. It takes a while to get used to Amreek’s personality and behaviour. But things get better once he reaches Amritsar. His interactions with Sardar are lovely. The manner in which India’s Ministry of International Relations decides to help while being in foreshadows is too good. The second half presumably begins once Amreek reaches Lahore. The scene where he stops the demolition is hilarious. From here on, though the film drags, it is peppered with some very heartwarming and moving scenes that are sure to put a smile on one’s face and also leave one’s eyes moist. The last 20 minutes again could have been trimmed but at the same time, it is applause worthy.

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Arjun Kapoor delivers a very fine performance. In fact, this is his best performance in the last 3-4 years. In the second half especially, he puts up a very good act. Neena Gupta is adorable. The film revolves around her and she enhances the impact. However, her character’s quirks reminds one of Rishi Kapoor in KAPOOR &amp; SONS [2016]. Rakul Preet Singh is hardly there in the first half and is quite impressive in the second hour. Kanwaljit Singh is dependable as always. Kumud Mishra does great as the antagonist. Shahid Lateef (Pakistani cop Rauf Khalid) is apt for the part. Mahika Patiyal (Pinky; Amreek’s sister) leaves a mark. Soni Razdan (Simi; Amreek’s mother), Divya Seth Shah (Honey; Sardar’s second daughter-in-law) and Ravjeet Singh (Lovely) don’t get much scope. Arvinder Bhatti (Gurbaz Chacha) is wasted. Mir Mehroos gives a great performance but as aforementioned, one fails to understand why he is excitedly helping Amreek. The other actors who do well are Rajiv Kachroo (Pakistani High Commissioner Qureshi), Masood Akhtar (Khan sahab, who owns the house), Akashdeep Sabir (Contractor who organizes the demolition) and Priya Tandon (Pakistani journalist who interviews Amreek). Finally, John Abraham and Aditi Rao Hydari (Young Sardar) are cute in the flashback scenes.

Tanishk Bagchi’s music is not memorable but is in sync with the narrative. <em>’Naal Rab Ve'</em> is the best song of the lot and is well sung by Divya Kumar. <em>’Dil Nahin Todna'</em> serves as a nice opening credit song. <em>’Main Teri Ho Gayi'</em> is sweet while <em>’Jee Ni Karda'</em> is foot-tapping. Gulraj Singh’s background score goes well with the film’s mood.

Mahendra J Shetty’s cinematography is appropriate. Subhash Shinde’s prosthetic make-up for Neena Gupta is convincing though it could have been slightly more realistic. Sujeet Subhash Sawant and Sriram Kannan Iyengar’s production design is authentic. Sheetal Sharma’s costumes are real yet glamorous. Futureworks’ VFX is quite good. A lot of VFX is used in the later part of the film and it’s neat. Maahir Zaveri’s editing could have been better. The film is 139 minutes long and should have been shorter by at least 10 minutes.

On the whole, SARDAR KA GRANDSON is a heart-warming, touching tale that has its emotions in the right place. It might not be logical at some places but it compensates for this shortcoming with the emotional quotient, message, touching climax and performances. Also, it’s a clean entertainer and deserves to be watched with your whole family. Recommended!

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Movie Review: Radhe – Your Most Wanted Bhai

A Salman Khan film is special. RADHE – YOUR MOST WANTED BHAI – directed by Prabhu Deva – is in news for varied reasons. First and foremost, it’s a Salman Khan movie and he teams up with Prabhu Deva yet again. Also, the hybrid release, which is being viewed by one and all, more so within the film fraternity.

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Let’s begin with the plot, without revealing spoilers…

RADHE narrates the story of an honest cop – Radhe [Salman Khan] – who wants to rid the city of drug menace. The drug lord – Rana [Randeep Hooda] – is ruthless and eliminates anyone and everyone who crosses his path. Radhe and Rana come face to face at regular intervals. Will Radhe put an end to Rana’s nefarious activities?

Based on South Korean crime drama THE OUTLAWS, RADHE rests on a clichéd plot and predictable situations, but banking entirely on Salman’s star power to camouflage the deficiencies. The viewer can guesstimate what’s in store next, but the fast-moving narrative coupled with some stylishly executed action pieces keep you hooked.

RADHE has its share of hiccups. The romance between Salman and Disha looks forced. Ditto for Jackie Shroff’s track, which could’ve done with some electrifying moments. If the intention was to keep the character light, nope, that doesn’t really work.

Director Prabhu Deva is entrusted with an oft-repeated plot and there’s not much he can do. The confrontations between Salman and Randeep show the director’s expertise, so do the sequences between Salman and Azaan, but moments such as these are extremely few. The latter half, especially, could’ve done with some interesting twists and turns. Also, after a point, one genuinely feels that the writers have run out of ideas. The climax is arresting, but we have seen far better and more exciting action-packed endings in Salman’s films in the past.

<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”><strong>Salman Khan: “Radhe has got NOTHING to do with Wanted, ye Wanted ka BAAP hai”</strong></span>

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Salman Khan is fiery and it is his presence that keeps you glued to the proceedings, despite the shortcomings. He is in super form, but, sadly, the writing doesn’t do justice to his stardom. Randeep Hooda is menacing and delivers a convincing performance.

Disha Patani looks good, but her presence is purely ornamental. Jackie Shroff is funny initially, but his portions don’t really work after a point. The remaining actors are passable.

The soundtrack is a plus. However, the two best tracks – ‘Seeti Maar’ and the title song – are reserved for the latter half. While the former is already popular, the title track is energetic.

Cinematography captures the mood of the film right. The action sequences – although well executed – get gory and brutal at times.

On the whole, RADHE – YOUR MOST WANTED BHAI is a Salman Khan show all the way. The film has some massy moments, which would have attracted ample footfalls at single screens specifically. However, the clichéd plot and predictable proceedings act as a speed breaker. RADHE is strictly for Salman Khan fans.

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Movie Review: The Big Bull

Actor Abhishek Bachchan’s career has seen a lot of ups and downs. But one can’t deny that he is a powerful performer, as proven by his work in films like YUVA [2004], DHOOM [2004], SARKAR [2005], GURU [2007], DOSTANA [2008], PAA [2009], BOL BACHCHAN [2012], etc. After taking a break of nearly 2 ½ years, he returned to the big screen with a stellar act in MANMARZIYAAN [2018]. In the past one year, he has made his mark on digital with the web series BREATHE: INTO THE SHADOWS [2020] and the crazy comedy LUDO [2020]. Now he’s back with another web venture, THE BIG BULL. The trailer has been liked and there’s a curiosity to see what it has to offer, despite the subject being similar to SCAM 1992, arguably the most successful web series of India. So does THE BIG BULL manage to stand out and impress the audiences? Or does it fail? Let’s analyse.

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THE BIG BULL is the story of a common man’s journey from rags to riches. The year is 1987. Hemant Shah (Abhishek Bachchan), a resident of Bombay, is working at Bal Kala Kendra on a modest salary. He is in love with Priya (Nikita Dutta), his neighbour but since he’s not financially secure, he’s apprehensive about asking her father for her hand in marriage. One day, a parent of one of the kids, who comes to practice at Bal Kala Kendra, tells Hemant that after selling stocks of Bombay Textile, he’s able to earn a nice moolah. This makes Hemant curious about the world of stocks. Meanwhile, his brother Viren Shah (Sohum Shah) loses a large amount of money in stocks. Viren is in debt and Hemant decides to invest in Bombay Textile’s shares. But he does his homework before doing so. This enables Hemant to not just make Viren debt-free but also earn a neat little profit. In no time, Hemant enters the world of stocks and starts working for a stock trader named Kantilal (Hitesh Rawal). Hemant aspires to have a trading account but as per the rules, he needs to pay Rs. 10 lakhs for it. In order to earn the said amount, Hemant joins hands with union leader Rana Sawant (Mahesh Manjrekar) of Premier Auto. His insider trading activity soon helps him earn Rs. 10 lakhs. Hemant starts to now manipulate stocks and even gets banks on board to exploit the loopholes in the system. All this takes the sensex to dizzying heights. Thus, he becomes a hero of sorts among stock brokers. Since his financial condition improves, he marries Priya. While everyone is hailing Hemant Shah, Meera Rao (Ileana DCruz), the finance journalist at India Times newspaper, is least impressed. She’s confident that Hemant is illegally making money at the stock exchange. She writes critical articles about him. And one day, she stumbles upon shocking evidence about Hemant’s nefarious activities. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Kookie Gulati and Arjun Dhawan’s story is interesting. It is inspired from the life of Harshad Mehta, the infamous stock broker, and his experiences were fascinating, cinematically. Kookie Gulati and Arjun Dhawan’s screenplay is effective at most places. The writers have tried their best to make the goings-on as entertaining and as dramatic as possible for a better impact. They succeed, but not fully, for two reasons. One, they have edited out several important events from Hemant Shah’s life and have made it too fast-paced. Secondly, the comparisons with SCAM 1992 take away the impact to some extent. Ritesh Shah’s dialogues, however, are sharp.

Kookie Gulati’s direction is decent. He had the challenge of not just keeping the goings-on entertaining but also easy to comprehend. This is because not everyone understands the concept of stocks and shares. And Kookie succeeds to an extent at both the aspects. On the flipside, one can’t help but draw parallels with SCAM 1992. Even if one tries his/her best, one can’t forget the Pratik Gandhi-starrer web series as it was highly memorable. And it was handled in a much better manner. One wishes if THE BIG BULL had released before SCAM 1992 as then, it would have been more entertaining and interesting for viewers. Now, since most of the target audience of THE BIG BULL have already seen SCAM 1992, one already knows more or less the entire story. Hence, one knows in advance what’s going to happen. Thankfully, the writers have fictionalized some plot points and added a twist in the end which will leave the viewers surprised. Even if one keeps the SCAM 1992 comparisons aside, the film has another major hiccup. It moves too fast. Some developments are never explained properly. For instance, one gets a hint that Hemant’s father was upset with him and had even kicked him out of the house. But what exactly happened is never explained in the film. Then, Hemant starting his own consultancy, named Mile High, happens all of a sudden, leaving viewers bewildered. The character of Sanjeev Kohli (Samir Soni) is crucial to the narrative but the writers and director don’t give him the required due.

<span style=”text-decoration: underline;”><strong>Abhishek Bachchan: “I’d like to collaborate with Carryminati on…”| The Big Bull | Ajay Devgn</strong></span>

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THE BIG BULL has an average opening. The entry scene of Abhishek Bachchan should have been powerful but instead, it’s bland. The film thankfully gets better with the scene where Hemant walks with Priya at night and the former finds out about Viren’s debt. While the rise of Hemant is depicted neatly and quickly, what stand out are the scenes that come just before the end of the first hour. The song <em>’Ishq Namazaa'</em> is very well shot and keeps the interest going. Hemant’s experience at the party in Delhi is intriguing. The scene of the Income Tax Department’s raid and the interview scene of Hemant and Meera run parallel and is the best part about the first hour. In the second half, things get better as Meera attempts to uncover the truth based on the leads that she gets. This is also the time when Hemant gets on shaky ground and tries to his best to get out of the mess. The last 30 minutes is when the film really gets better. The press conference scene is treated dramatically and is bound to arrest attention. The twist in the climax is unexpected.

Abhishek Bachchan gives a commendable performance and he also underplays at several places. He is essaying the part of a flamboyant, egoistic man but he understands that it doesn’t mean he has to go overboard. Interestingly, the actor had done a similar role in the past, in GURU [2007], and the actor ensures that one is not reminded of that performance when they see THE BIG BULL. However, the brief shots of him laughing manically seem unintentionally funny and should have been done away with, ideally. Ileana DCruz hardly gets any scope in the first half but shines in the second half. However, she looks very unconvincing as an old lady in the present-day track. Nikita Dutta is lovely and leaves a huge mark. Sohum Shah is, as expected, dependable and maintains a strong position from start to finish. Mahesh Manjrekar and Samir Soni are decent in their special appearances. Supriya Pathak Shah (Amiben; Hemant and Viren’s mother) is convincing. Saurabh Shukla (Manu Malpani) gets his act right. Ram Kapoor (Ashok Mirchandani) has limited screen time but he rocks the show. Shishir Sharma (Rajesh Mishra; Meera’s boss) is fair while Lekha Prajapati (Tara; Viren’s wife) and Hitesh Rawal get limited scope. The same goes for Sumit Vats (Hari). Kanan Arunachalam (Venkateshwar) is too good especially in the scene where he spills the beans. Tripti Shankhdhar (Ashima; who meets Meera in the train) and Rio Kapadia (NCC MD Singh) register an impact despite being there for just one scene.

Music is average but is well placed. <em>’Ishq Namaza'</em> is soulful and shot beautifully. The title track plays in the background in some important scenes in the first half. <em>’Hawaon Mein'</em> is played during the end credits. Sandeep Shirodkar’s background score adds to the drama.

Vishnu Rao’s cinematography is appropriate. Durgaprasad Mahapatra’s production design is rich. Darshan Jalan and Neelanchal Ghosh’s costumes are reminiscent of the late 80s and early 90s era. NY VFXWaala’s VFX is praiseworthy. Dharmendra Sharma’s editing is too slick and quick at places.

On the whole, THE BIG BULL gets affected due to the comparisons with SCAM 1992. Yet, it stands out at several places and works due to the performances, the dramatic moments and the unexpected finale.

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Movie Review: Godzilla Vs Kong (English)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC Universe has made it clear once and for all that creating film series and getting popular characters from different films together is a great formula. Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures probably got inspired by this aspect and created a MonsterVerse. After delivering three films in this universe – GODZILLA [2014], KONG: SKULL ISLAND [2017] and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS [2019], the fourth and the highly awaited film is here – GODZILLA VS. KONG. The trailer has got a great response and the memes and jokes surrounding the epic battle in the film have contributed to the film’s hype. So does GODZILLA VS. KONG manage to give audiences a highly entertaining time? Or does it fail to impress? Let’s analyse.

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GODZILLA VS. KONG is the story of the gigantic clash of two titans. It is a usual day at the Pensacola, Florida complex of Apex Cybernetics. Suddenly, Godzilla attacks the company facility without any provocation and causes massive destruction. Till now, Godzilla was seen as the saviour of the humanity but this episode makes him the villain of the world. Meanwhile, in Skull Island, Kong has been kept in a very wide enclosure by Monarch. Dr Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) works in the facility as an anthropological linguist. She has been trying her best to communicate with Kong and to understand his behavioural patterns. She is surprised when she finds out one day that her adopted mute daughter, Jia (Kaylee Hottle) manages to forge a bond with Kong and communicate with him. Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) is hired by Apex’s chiefs, Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri) and Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir), based on his research and a book on the titans. Ren and Walter plan to lure Godzilla into the Hollow Earth through an opening in Antarctica and then destroy him there. Godzilla and Kong have a very old rivalry and they feel that if they manage to get Kong at Hollow Earth, Godzilla would follow and their purpose could be achieved. In no time, Monarch gives the go-ahead to take Kong to Antarctica for the mission. Kong is chained and taken into a vast ship. Dr Ilene, Jia, Dr Nathan and a top Apex executive, Maia Simmons (Eiza González), also accompany Kong in the ship. Dr Ilene orders to take a detour so that they don’t pass through Godzilla’s usual route while in sea. Yet, Godzilla senses Kong’s presence and it attacks the ape. Kong manages to save himself but gets grievously injured. With the help of Jia, he manages to recover. Meanwhile, in Florida, Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), an Apex employee is running a podcast wherein he’s telling his listeners that all is not well in the company. He finds a fan in Madison (Millie Bobby Brown), the daughter of Monarch scientists Mark (Kyle Chandler) and the late Emma Russell. She manages to track Bernie down. Bernie shares with her that a mysterious shipment is about to be sent to Apex complex in Hong Kong. To find out more about it, they infiltrate into the almost-destroyed Apex facility in Pensacola, Florida. Both are also joined by Madison’s nerdy friend, Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison). What happens next forms the rest of the film.

Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields’s story is entertaining and has all the ingredients of a grand, cinematic spectacle. Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein’s screenplay is highly effective. The focus is firmly kept on the battle between the two monsters and the build-up. A few human characters don’t get the deserved screen space but the writers compensate for it to some extent by giving some excellent scenes to the track of Jia and that of Bernie, Madison and Josh. Dialogues contribute a lot to the humour, especially in the track of Bernie.

Adam Wingard’s direction is simple and commercial. He makes the whole experience palatable for all kinds of viewers, especially for the masses and family audiences. What’s praiseworthy is that he packs in a lot in just 113 minutes. Though both monsters come face to face for a limited time, the build-up is done in a superb fashion. Also once they start fighting, viewers get totally involved. In fact, he has ably handled the climax and it is sure to give a <em>paisa vasool</em> experience to the viewers. On the flipside, to see Godzilla as the villain might not go down well with a section of viewers, especially those who have been emotionally invested with the monster in the previous MonsterVerse films. Secondly, in the process of keeping the focus on Godzilla and Kong, the villain track suffers. The antagonists hardly get time to shine. As a result, their back story and their character motivation are never explained properly. Not just them, even the characters of Dr Ilene and Dr Lind suffer from weak characterization. Lastly, it’s bewildering to see how soon Kong is allowed to leave Skull Island and travel to Antarctica. Knowing the dangers that Kong has in the open sea from Godzilla, a few minutes should have been spent to show Monarch and Apex management discussing the pros and cons of the mission.

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GODZILLA VS. KONG begins on a very sweet note and the tone suddenly changes into a shocking one as we realize that though Kong is roaming free in Skull Island, he’s actually caged from all sides. The attack on the Apex facility in Florida sets the mood. Much of the first hour is spent on introducing the characters, their motives and of course, the grand voyage in the sea with Kong. The first battle between Godzilla and Kong is highly entertaining. But the first half is not just about thrill and action. The emotional bond between Kong and Jia is sweet and adds a lot to the film’s appeal. Post-interval, a lot of unanswered questions get answered. Kong’s experience in Hollow Earth and Antarctica is also something to watch out for. But as expected, the best is reserved for the finale. The climax battle is epic in a lot of ways. The film ends on a completely justified note.

Speaking of performances, Rebecca Hall underplays her part very well. She gives her best even though her character is not fully developed. Kaylee Hottle is like the soul of the film. She expresses beautifully with her eyes and expressions and all her scenes are memorable. Alexander Skarsgård is fine and gets very limited scope. Brian Tyree Henry is highly entertaining as the talkative conspiracy theorist. He gets to mouth some of the best lines in the film. Millie Bobby Brown puts up a confident act. Julian Dennison is entertaining. Shun Oguri and Demián Bichir are okay as the villain. Shun Oguri plays a character named Serizawa and probably this means he’s probably related to Ishirō Serizawa, the Monarch hero who sacrificed his life in GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. But this connection is not mentioned in the film, not even for a second. Kyle Chandler essays the part from the previous film in the series and this time, his role is limited to that of a cameo. Eiza González suits the part.

Junkie X L’s music score is thrilling. The Sound mixing also enhances the entertainment by many notches. Ben Seresin’s cinematography is stunning and adds to the fun and madness. Tom Hammock and Owen Paterson’s production design is rich and superior, just as the film demanded. Ann Foley’s costumes are realistic. Action is just right and thankfully, it’s neither too gory nor violent. VFX is one of the pillars of the film. The special effects are out of the world and one can see that the attempt has been to go one level up as compared to other films of the series. Hence, this time, Kong’s expressions are even more detailed and vibrant. At the same time, the destruction of the city in the climax is also quite extreme and unbelievable. Josh Schaeffer’s editing is razor sharp as the film moves at a quick speed.

On the whole, GODZILLA VS. KONG is a <em>paisa vasool</em> entertainer which would be best enjoyed on the big screen. The film is laced with a great story and build-up and the climax battle between the monsters is amazing. At the box office, the film has taken the best start for any film since the lockdown, despite it being a mid-week release. In the days to come, it’s sure to attract more and more family and mass audiences. The rise in the Covid cases may have some negative impact but the opening has made it clear that the impact will be minimal.

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Movie Review: Saina

SAINA is the story of the making of a legendary badminton player. Saina Nehwal (Parineeti Chopra) is a young girl who has just shifted from Hisar, Haryana to Hyderabad. Her mother Usha Rani (Meghna Malik) has been a district level badminton player in Haryana and she sees the same streak in Saina, who is her younger daughter. She decides to enroll her for badminton training. Despite the centre being almost 25 kms away, Usha makes it clear that she wants Saina to learn the sport. At the stadium, a coach says that the batch is full and hence, she can’t be enrolled. But Saina shows off her skills and it surprises everyone. Hence, she is given a chance. Under the guidance from her coach and motivation from her mother, Saina’s game improves. Usha convinces the coach to enlist her for district level and other such tournament despite the fact that she’s too new. Saina, however, surprises and emerges victorious in these tournaments. Finally, one day, she gets a chance to play for the Indian national team. All is going well until one day, just before her first match overseas, Usha Rani meets with a road accident. She is hospitalized in a critical condition. Saina has no choice but to continue with her practice. At Prague, she manages to win the game and soon she learns that Usha Rani is out of danger. Later, her mentor asks her to get a better coach now that she is in another league. Saina hence joins Rajan Academy, run by a disciplinarian, Sarvadhamaan Rajan (Manav Kaul). Rajan was a celebrated tennis player at one point. He had lots of endorsement offers but he declined all of those as he felt it would corrupt his idea of the sport. He makes it clear that he expects the same from his students and that if they follow his style and coaching, they could become top players. Saina follows all the instructions of Rajan to the T. She even drastically changes her diet just on the insistence of Rajan. His methods bear fruit and Saina further goes up. However, soon there arises friction between her and Rajan. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

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Amole Gupte’s story is inspirational. His screenplay is effective and he tries his best to make her biopic tantalizing for the viewers. Amole Gupte’s dialogues (additional dialogues by Amitosh Nagpal) are simple and conversational. Some of the one-liners of Manav Kaul are sharp.

Amole Gupte’s direction is neat. He keeps the execution simple and focused on the life of Saina Nehwal. He has handled some scenes with panache and it shows his growth as a storyteller. Saina’s relationship with her mother and her association with coach Rajan especially are two tracks that stand out. On the flipside, though Saina’s journey is impressive, cinematically it lacks the thrill.

SAINA starts off showing a recent victory of Saina Nehwal and it’s a very unconventional way to start a film. The flashback portions are engaging and the scene where Usha Rani suggests to Saina to pick up a racquet lying down and start playing to win the confidence of the coaches sets the mood of the film. Another scene that brings a smile is when Saina discusses her diet with Rajan. Two scenes are sure to shock viewers in the first half – first, where Usha Rani slaps Saina for coming second, and Usha Devi’s sudden accident. But overall, the first half is mostly about Saina’s victories. It’s post interval when the conflicts actually take centre stage. Saina’s fallout with the coach is well executed. The climax match stands out as it’s turned into a nail-biting one. The film ends on a lovely note.

Speaking of performances, Parineeti Chopra is in a great form and she pulls off a difficult role with ease. She looks convincing as an expert badminton player but it is her scenes off the court where she really shines. Meghna Malik gets to play a very crucial character. Manav Kaul is natural. Eshan Naqvi (Kashyap) is lovely as Saina’s love interest. Subhrajyoti Barat (Saina’s father, Dr. Harvir Singh Nehwal) is dependable and is too good in the scene wherein he brags after getting innumerable shuttle-cocks for Saina. Ankur Vikal (Coach Jeevan Kumar) comes at a very emotional juncture in the film. He does good later but he hams in the entry scene. Naishaa Kaur Bhatoye (Little Saina) is decent and sails through with hardly any dialogues. The actress playing Saina’s sister gets no scope. Rohan Apte (Rohan) and Sharrman Dey (Damodar) are alright as Saina’s friends.

As for songs, <em>’Parinda'</em> stands out and uplifts the mood. <em>’Chal Wahin Chale'</em> is soulful. <em>’Main Hoon Na Tere Saath'</em> doesn’t register. Amaal Mallik’s background score is well woven.

Piyush Shah’s cinematography is captivating, especially in the badminton scenes. Amit Ray and Subrata Chakraborty’s production design gives the feel of a sports film. Red Chillies VFX’s VFX is praiseworthy. Deepa Bhatia’s editing is smooth and the pacing of the film is appropriate.

On the whole, SAINA gives a great overview of one of the finest sports player of our country. The performance of Parineeti Chopra, the dramatic and emotional moments and the appropriate pace of the film contributes highly to the film’s appeal. Go for it

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