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India’s Most Wanted movie review: Arjun Kapoor’s earnestness has more weight than this

Do you sometimes sit in a movie hall and sense that what is unfolding on screen began with an interesting concept that somehow choked at the execution stage? India’s Most Wanted is that kind of film.

Indian intelligence officials and globe-trotting espionage agents have in recent years become a Bollywood fixation, but from the Saif Ali Khan-Kareena Kapoor-starrer Agent Vinod in 2012, to Baby (2015) with Akshay Kumar in the lead, and last year’s Aiyaary headlined by Manoj Bajpayee and Sidharth Malhotra, these films have tended to kick off with a promising premise and then struggle to be anything much beyond that. India’s Most Wanted (IMW) goes down the same path.

Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor), IMW’s central character, is a stubborn fellow who has a mind of his own independent of his well-intentioned immediate superior Ravi Raj (Rajesh Sharma) and the intelligence agency for which he works. As the film opens, India is being rocked by bomb blasts engineered by shadowy figures believed to be in Pakistan and Dubai. A source gives Prabhat a lead about the mastermind behind these explosions, which indicates that the man is, in fact, in Nepal. Higher-ups in Delhi are not convinced, but Prabhat decides to head off to Nepal anyway with a motley crew of colleagues, all of them conducting the operation at their own expense. Bossman Ravi Raj gives them his blessings but not his on-the-record assent.

India’s Most Wanted movie review: Arjun Kapoor’s earnestness has more weight than this screenplay

Honest, efficient government servants defying their senior’s orders in their frustration with sarkari red tape and obduracy, and ending up in a clash with Pakistan’s ISI in a third country while hot on the heels of a brutal terrorist, that too purportedly based on a true story – this is the stuff that dreams are made of, this is thriller heaven. With such ingredients at hand, IMW should have been an exciting suspense saga. Yet from the starting block the film struggles to get into the groove, despite assembling an interesting cast who look convincing as real people rather than actors to play Prabhat’s team of rogue agents.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in the screenplay. Firstly, it took me a while – too long a while – to wrap my head around the chain of individuals that had got information to Prabhat and why. Some amount of confusion, especially initially, is not unusual in films of this variety, but they usually offer compensation in the form of an accelerated pace or breathtaking action or, in the case of directors opting for a quiet tone, an under-stated sense of urgency that taps the audience’s own instinctive assumptions about the drama and danger intrinsic to such situations in real life although they are alien to ordinary folk like us. Not here.

IMW aims at being an intelligence agency procedural rather than a Mission Impossible / James Bond enterprise, which is fine in theory since writer-director-producer Raj Kumar Gupta demonstrated his natural affinity for the genre in the excellent Ajay Devgn-starrer Raid (2018) set in the world of income-tax officials. IMW, however, simply does not lift off.

Even after the initial cobwebs are cleared, the narrative remains fuzzy. The primary informant’s motivations are never convincing, Prabhat & Co find their prey with what seems like considerable ease, the actions of their Nepalese counterparts are inexplicable, and the ISI comes across as a sluggish lot.

That last point – the absence of a powerful antagonist – is the final nail in the coffin. Before it is hammered in, the film has already been betrayed by its own seeming lack of faith in the tenor it has set for itself. In life-and-death scenarios towards the end, for instance, precious seconds and minutes are spent just staring down opponents in conventional Hindi filmi style. And the voiceover by the lead terrorist at regular intervals is ineffective.

To be fair to IMW, neither the Indian agents nor the ISI are downright dumbos, unlike the desis and their enemy targets in Baby.

What IMW does have going for it are Arjun Kapoor’s earnestness, the credibility of the supporting cast especially the inimitable Rajesh Sharma, the non-judgmental tone adopted towards Sharma’s Ravi Raj although he is not willing to stick his neck out as Prabhat does, the warm equation between him and Prabhat, and the realness of the settings. Nepal looks gorgeous, but cinematographer Dudley cleverly uses the visuals not so much to impress us with their prettiness as to conjure up an ominous atmosphere.

Most important, although the terrorist being hunted down by Prabhat is a Muslim, his religious identity is not over-emphasised to crudely cash in on the Islamophobia prevailing worldwide in the way Bollywood films like Padmaavat and Kesari have done since 2017-18 – he is what he is, that is a fact, nothing more, nothing less. His ISI backers too are not stereotypically portrayed as demonic or fumbling cartoons – they may be sluggish, as mentioned earlier, but they are not foolish. And thankfully Prabhat’s Muslim colleague is treated as a regular person, not a contrivance planted in the screenplay to be condescendingly positioned as redemption for the Muslim community – the fact that he happens to be Muslim struck me rather late in the film because a big deal is not made of it. Despite its inevitable allusions to patriotism, inevitable considering the overall theme, India’s Most Wanted also does not resort to the kind of loud, chest-thumping nationalism that is all the rage in Bollywood and the public discourse these days.

At a time when many Bollywood stalwarts are revealing themselves to be either opportunists or bigots, Raj Kumar Gupta deserves high praise for this aspect of his writing and direction, especially since such opportunism has yielded solid box-office dividends in the past year. Sadly, his decency alone cannot hold up a film. Barring occasional suspenseful passages, India’s Most Wanted does not live up to the expectations it raises in its opening scenes. It lacks the punch, pizzazz and substance to make its Shah Rukh Khan reference truly effective.

Kabir Singh new song ‘Bekhayali’ shows Shahid Kapoor coping with heartbreak

The first song ‘Bekhayali’ from Kabir Singh was dropped by the makers on 24 May (Friday). Composed by Sachet-Parampara, the song has been written by Irshad Kamil and sung by Sachet Tandon. The track encapsulates the agony of heartbreak.

Even before the song’s launch, various covers had started making the rounds on social media.

Kabir Singh new song Bekhayali shows Shahid Kapoor coping with heartbreak

The song features the lead actors, Shahid, who plays the titular role and Kiara Advani as Preeti. The video gives the viewers a glimpse of their blossoming love story and its tragic end with Preeti marrying another man.

The film is the official Hindi remake of Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy, which starred Vijay Devarakonda and Shalini Pandey in the lead. Sandeep Reddy Vanga, who helmed the original, has directed the remake as well.

Kabir Singh, a T-Series and Cine1 Studios presentation, is produced by Bhushan Kumar, Murad Khetani, Krishan Kumar and Ashwin Varde. The film is slated to release on 21 June.

Student of the Year 2,The Jawaani Song

Student of the Year 2’s ‘The Jawaani Song’ recently dropped and has received mixed reactions from the audience. Many have expressed their displeasure at altering the original number ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’ by Kishore Kumar and RD Burman from Randhir Kapoor and Jaya Bachchan’s Jawani Diwani. The composer duo Vishal Dadlani and Shekhar Ravjiani have reprised the song, which has been picturised on Tara Sutaria, Ananya Panday and Tiger Shroff.

Randhir Kapoor on Student of the Year 2s The Jawaani Song: Remixes are making old songs accessible to youth

Randhir has spoken in support of the new version. “I feel there is no harm in recreating songs. The original track came out four decades ago. Many youngsters were not aware of the song, but today, everyone knows it because of the remix. [After the redux version released], they all went back and searched for the original song on the Internet. I haven’t seen the song but I have heard it; it has a nice tune. Also, Karan [Johar] has officially bought the rights of the number. So, his intentions are honest,” the actor told Mid-Day

In February 2019, the remixed version of 70’s classic ‘Mungda’ from Total Dhamaal had received criticism from veterans in the music industry. After Rakesh Roshan expressed his displeasure with the new version, legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar and her sister Usha Mangeshkar reacted to the number and complained that no one seeks their consent before using the songs.

Kalank, The Curse of The Weeping Woman, Jersey, Kanchana 3: Know Your Releases

This week the movie goers will have plenty of options as films from several genres and languages are hitting the big screens across the country all on the same day. From an intense romantic drama like Kalank to a spine-chilling horror film like The Curse of The Weeping Woman, the audiences are spoilt for choice.

Kalank

Kalank, The Curse of The Weeping Woman, Jersey, Kanchana 3: Know Your Releases

What is it about: Directed by Abhishek Varman, Kalank is a multi starrer set in pre-Independent India, which tells the story of complex relationships, forbidden love, deep-buried truths, secrets of betrayal and a history of affairs that threaten to destroy the contrasting worlds of characters in the film.

Who is in it: Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Madhuri Dixit Nene

Why it may work: Apart from its ensemble of cast which is a blend of veteran actors and youth, Kalank features arresting frames full of grand visuals along with Pritam’s songs that tug you at the heartstrings like ‘Ghar More Pardesiya’ and the Kalank title track.

The Curse of The Weeping Woman

Source: Twitter

What is it about: Directed by Michael Chaves, The Curse of The Weeping Woman tells the story of a woman stuck between heaven and hell as a consequence of throwing herself in the river after drowning her two sons in jealous rage. She’s now on a lookout for souls of children to replace her own.

Who is in it:  Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez

Why it may work: Originally titled The Curse Of La Llorana, the film will bring to creen one of the most well-known horror stories based on the Mexican legend of La Llorona. Set in the Conjuring universe, this movie is sure to be packed with horrific scenes that promise to scare even the bravest.

Jersey

Source: Twitter.

What is it about: Directed by Gowtam Tinnanuri, Jersey is a sports drama about a passionate and a gifted cricketer in his mid-thirties. With everyone encouraging him to give up on his dreams, the story will reveal whether he gives in or continues to pursue his career.

Who is in it: Nani, Shraddha Srinath, Sathyaraj

Why it may work: Considering Nani’s previous unforgetabble performances, one can expect him to get into the skin of this character as well and make the film less like a fictional drama anymore, and more like a real-life story based on an actual cricketer’s life.

Kanchana 3

Source: Twitter.

What is it about: Directed by Raghavendra Lawrence, Kanchana 3 will mark the fourth installment in the popular Muni film franchise. It will narrate the story of a popular ghost hunter as he returns to fight evil spirits.

Who is in it: Raghavendra Lawrence, Vedhika, Oviya, Soori

Why it may work: The film stars three heroines – Vedhika,  Oviya and Nikki Tamboli — with Raghava Lawrence in dual role. The trailer garnered immense praise from the audience who are eagerly anticipating the film’s release.

De De Pyaar De song ‘Vaddi Sharaban’ sees Ajay Devgn, Rakul Preet grooving to a peppy number

De De Pyaar De’s new song, ‘Vaddi Punjaban’, is a groovy number that describes Rakul Preet Singh’s love for alcohol in the film. Rakul is seen matching steps with Ajay Devgn in this song, composed by Vipin Patwa and penned by Kumaar.

The song reaches a new level of energy with Sunidhi Chauhan and Navraj Hans’ vibrant vocals. Chauhan proves yet again that her voice can lend magic to any number she’s a part of. ‘Vaddi Punjaban’ has a peppy beat and as the song proceeds, the tempo reaches an exhilarating climax.

De De Pyaar De song Vaddi Sharaban sees Ajay Devgn, Rakul Preet grooving to a peppy number

Also featuring Tabu, De De Pyaar De’s narrative deals with the love triangle between a 50-year old man (Devgn), his ex-wife (played by Tabu) and a 26-year-old girl-next-door (Rakul Preet).

As reported earlier, the film was initially supposed to hit screens in October 2018 but it was postponed in order to avoid a clash with Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra-starrer Namaste England and Ayushmann Khurrana and Sanya Malhotra-starrer Badhaai Ho. Later, it was announced that the film would go head-to-head with Kangana Ranaut’s movie, Mental Hai Kya, on 22 February.

After countless delays, the film is now slated for release on 17 May, clashing with Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra-starrer Jabariya Jodi. De De Pyaar De is directed by Akiv Ali and produced by Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Luv Ranjan and Ankur Garg.

Photograph, Milan Talkies, Hamid, Mere Pyare Prime Minister: Know Your Releases

This week releases at the box office are off-beat films relying strong on emotions. While Milan Talkies celebrates the charm of single screens, Photograph feels like an ode to old-world Bombay. Among the releases is also Hamid and Mere Pyare Prime Minister, both films having poignant storyline, which may evoke empathy for the characters.

Photograph, Milan Talkies, Hamid, Mere Pyare Prime Minister: Know Your Releases

What’s it about: A struggling street photographer in Mumbai, pressured to marry by his grandmother, convinces a shy stranger to pose as his fiancée. This unforeseen alliance transforms them in ways they did not expect.

Who’s in it: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra

Why it may work: Directed by The Lunchbox fame Ritesh Batra, Photograph has impressed audience in the international film festival circuit. With an unconventional pairing, interesting narrative and raving early reviews, the film might just astonish the public.

Milan Talkies:

A still from Milan Talkies trailer. YouTube screengrab

What’s it about: An aspiring filmmaker and his girlfriend are in a fix after facing opposition from her family members.

Why it may work: Milan Talkies has been in the making for almost six years and had several Bollywood names attached to it. While Fazal will be paying tribute to yesteryear actors Prithviraj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, the film itself seems to be a homage to “old world charm of single screen cinemas.”

Hamid

A still from Aijaz Khan's Hamid which closed the Dharamshala International Film Festival. Image via Twitter

What’s it about: Eight year old Hamid learns that 786 is God’s number and decides to reach out to Him. Eager to know about his disappeared father, Hamid wants to ask God about what went wrong. One day his call is answered.

Who’s in it: Talha Arshad Reshi, Vikas Kumar, Rasika Dugal

Why it may work: Set against the backdrop of Kashmir conflict, Hamid’s trailer is a moving tale of loss and longing.

Mere Pyare Prime Minister:

MPPM-min

What’s it about: Eight year old Kanhu writes a letter to Prime Minister of India after his mother gets sexually assaulted.

Who’s in it: Anjali Patil, Om Kanojiya, Atul Kulkarni, Makrand Deshpande, Niteesh Wadhwa, Rasika Agashe

Why it may work: The Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directorial premiered at the Rome Film Festival. It was the only Asian film which was screened at the film festival and also received a standing ovation from the audience. Not only this, after the 91st Academy Awards, some netizens opined that the film had the potential to go for the Oscars. Hashtag

Luka Chuppi romantic song Duniyaa, featuring Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Sanon, is replete with picturesque shots

The latest song from Luka Chuppi, ‘Duniyaa’, starring Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Sanon, is a romantic track. The song is a recreation of ‘Khaab’. It is composed by Vijan Ganguly, penned by Kunaal Vermaa, and sung by Akhil and Dhvani Bhanushali.

Still from Luka Chuppi's Duniyaa. YouTube screengrab

Vermaa’s lyrics enhances the sensual chemistry between the lead pair. The song is visually stunning as well, with picturesque shots of forts and its winding interiors.

Luka Chuppi revolves around Kartik and Kriti’s characters Vinod and Rashmi. The movie narrates the tale of how they choose to be in a live-in relationship instead of getting married and the problems that surface after it. The movie also stars Aparshakti Khurana in a pivotal role.

Apart from Luka Chuppi, Kartik will also feature alongside Ananya Panday and Bhumi Pednekar in the movie Pati Patni Aur Woh. Meanwhile, Kriti will be seen opposite Arjun Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat, and will also star in Rohit Jugraj Chauhan’s Arjun Patiala.

Super 30: Hrithik Roshan-starrer to enter post-production without new director, confirm makers

The makers of Super 30 released an official statement regarding the film’s release date and Vikas Bahl’s exit. The Hrithik Roshan-starrer is currently in its post-production stage and gearing up for a 26 July release. With Vikas Bahl’s complete ouster from the project, the project is now being completed with in-house creative resources, the production house said in a statement.

Hrithik Roshan in Super 30/Image from Twitter.

Bahl was ousted from the film after he was accused of sexually harassing a former Phantom employee. The production house, which Bahl ran with Anurag Kashyap, Madhu Mantena and Vikramaditya Motwane, dissolved soon after the allegations come to light. In October 2018, Roshan had broken his silence on allegations against Bahl, saying it is “impossible” for him to work with any person “guilty of such grave misconduct”

Super 30 is based on the life of the Patna-based scholar Anand Kumar, who trains 30 deserving, economically-backward students for IIT-JEE entrance exams every year with commendable success rate.

Produced by Reliance Entertainment and Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, the film also stars Mrunal Thakur, Amit Sadh and Nandish Sandhu.

Gully Boy: Ranveer Singh says he signed hip-hop drama because of Divine, Naezy’s original song ‘Mere Gully Mein’

Gully Boy is one of 2019’s most awaited films and actor Ranveer Singh says it was the original ‘Mere Gully Mein’ track that had him hooked.

In the Zoya Akhtar directorial, the 33-year-old actor plays an up-and-coming rapper who sets out to achieve his dream by rhyming about his life on the Mumbai streets. Ranveer says the original number, created by underground rappers Divine and Naezy, blew him away when he saw its video for the first time.

Ranveer Singh in Gully Boy. YouTube

“When Zoya pitched me this film, ‘Mere Gully Mein’, the original video was the first thing she showed me. She said that this is the flavour of the film I want to make and the video completely blew my brains.

“I mugged up the entire rap and since then I started following Naezy and Divine’s music. ‘Mere Gully Mein’ for me, like for many others, is a huge breakthrough for the scene, the movement that’s happening in our society and I’m glad that I was the first one to whom this breakthrough of a song reached,” he told Press Trust of India.

The actor, who has recreated Naezy’s portion in the album, says incidentally it was the first song he rapped for the album.

He said it was “almost like my test”.

“Zoya was unsure about my rapping skills at first. I remember that day at Purple Haze studio; Divine was there – he was actually in the booth with me; hyping me and guiding me. And it happened in the first take.

“Divine loved it, Zoya loved it and it was decided there and then after I rapped Naezy’s verse from ‘Mere Gully Mein’ that I would be doing my own voice in the film,” Ranveer says.

Besides ‘Mere Gully Mein’, two other tracks — ‘Asli Hip Hop’ and ‘Apna Time Aayega’ — have been released from the album.

And Ranveer has lent his voice to a total of four numbers in the film’s album.

The actor’s last release Simmba was a massive hit and he is currently prepping for Kabir Khan’s sports drama 83.

Gully Boy, also featuring Alia Bhatt and Kalki Koechlin, hits the screens 14 February.

Ali Zafar hopes Manto releases in Pakistan: ‘This generation must get to know its literary heritage and heroes’

Pakistani actor-singer Ali Zafar hopes Indian filmmaker Nandita Das’ Manto is released in Pakistan as he feels the new generation will get a chance to know about the Urdu writer Saadat Haasan Manto on a deeper level.

Rasika Dugal and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Manto

Nandita had tweeted that she was disappointed after learning that Manto did not get clearance for release in Pakistan.

However, Pakistan’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry has extended help, while an online petition by writers and artistes has urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to lift a ban on its screening.

On his part, Ali, who has worked in Indian films too, tweeted in support of the movie.

Saw Manto on Netflix in Pakistan. Thoroughly impressed by the nuanced direction by Nandita Das and brilliant depiction by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. This generation must get know Manto on a deeper level and own its literary heritage and heroes. I hope it releases here,” Ali wrote.

The movie follows the most tumultuous years in the life of the writer and those of India and Pakistan where Manto inhabited and chronicled. The film also features Rasika Dugal and Rajshri Deshpande.