Monthly Archives: November 2019

Peshwa Baji Rao’s descendant says Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat depicts Maratha general, wife Mastani derogatorily

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A descendant of Peshwa Baji Rao has expressed serious discontent with the way the legendary Maratha general and his second wife Mastani have been presented in a dialogue in the upcoming Hindi movie Panipat, and has decided to move court against the filmmaker Ashutosh Gowarikar.

Ahead of the release of the film Panipat — which is based on the historical Third Battle of Panipat fought between the Marathas and the founder of Afghanistan’s Durrani empire, Ahmad Shah Abdali in 1761 — the eighth-generation descendant of the Peshwa, Nawabzada Shadab Ali Bahadur, has served notices to producers Sunita Gowarikar and Rohit Shelatkar, and director Ashutosh Gowarikar to either remove the ‘controversial’ dialogues or make necessary changes.

According to Shadab Ali, Gowariker has introduced a dialogue in Panipat that defames Mastani as well as the Peshwa.

“The particular dialogue in the movie — ‘whenever Peshwa returns from battleground, he brings one Mastani’ — is in bad taste and highly objectionable. The way it has been used, presents a bad picture of not only Mastani Sahiba but also of the Peshwa to our audience and to young minds unaware of Maratha history. Mastani Bai was the bona fide wife of Peshwa Baji Rao and not just another woman,” Shadab Ali, who now lives in Bhopal, told Firstpost.

“After seeing that portion in the trailer of the movie, I have sent notices to the producers and the director to remove that portion or make necessary changes. If they don’t respond, I’ll move court against them,” he added.

In the trailer of the movie Panipat, Parvati Bai (played by Kriti Sanon) tells her husband and protagonist of the film Sadashiv Rao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor): “Maine suna hai Peshwa jab akele muhim par jaate hain, to ek Mastani ke saath lautte hain (I’ve heard whenever Peshwa goes to battle all alone, he returns with a Mastani).

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Peshwa Baji Rao (1700-1740) married Mastani, the daughter of Bundelkhand ruler Chhatrasal, and returned to his capital Pune with his new wife, after one of his many war campaigns. The couple had a son — Shamsher Bahadur, the Nawab of Banda — who played a crucial role in the Battle of Panipat along with Baji Rao’s nephew Sadashiv Rao Bhau, who had led the Marathas in the battle.

Citing family history, Shadab Ali said that Sadashiv Rao and Shamsher Bahadur (also called Sardar Shamsher Bahadur Peshwa) didn’t have much of an age difference between them, and grew up together. In the Battle of Panipat, Shamsher Bahadur, who fought valiantly, was grievously injured and later died. Baji Rao, the sixth Peshwa (the Maratha Empire’s Prime Minister) had fought 40 battles in his 20-year military career and won them all.

Shadab Ali, the son of Nawab Ashfaq Ali Bahadur, traces his lineage to Shamsher Bahadur, son of Mastani. In his notice to Panipat’s makers, he has asked them to justify several points, including:

1. The way Mastani’s name has been used doesn’t represent the status of a queen. The relationship between the Peshwa and Mastani has been shown in a disgraceful manner.
2. Were the names of Mastani and Peshwa Baji Rao used to gain the attention of the audience, especially after Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie Bajirao Mastani (2015) became a hit?
3. Another lead character, Shamsher Bahadur, has been shown wearing a dress and a cap used by ‘shayars’ (Urdu poets), whereas he used to wear a turban (pagdi) like the Peshwas.

“Mastani sahiba had died 21 years prior to the third Battle of Panipat. There’s no logic in using her name along with the Peshwa’s. It has been done in an indecorous manner to gain cheap popularity,” says Shadab Ali. “Nawab Shamsher Bahadur was a tall, handsome man and a great warrior like his father. He always wore pagdi like the Peshwas. In the film he has been shown in the attire and cap of a shayar.”

Ali lamented that complaints to the CBFC and moving court against filmmakers for faulty presentation of historical facts yields little.

“We’ll hold a press conference in Mumbai soon. If, after the release of the movie, we find anything further that is objectionable, we’ll file a defamation suit,” he said.

Panipat is scheduled to release in theatres on 6 December 2019.

Bala box office collection: Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar’s comedy inches closer to the Rs 100 cr mark

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Ayushmann Khurrana’s Bala is gradually inching closer to the Rs 100 crore mark at the box office. The slice-of-film depicting the travails of a young man battling premature balding, is slowly making its place in the hearts of the audience. The film, also featuring Bhumi Pednekar and Yami Gautam, earned a total of Rs 98.80 crore as of Thursday (third week).

Film trade analyst Taran Adarsh notes that the film will cross the Rs 100 crore mark by its third Friday at the box office. The film had earned a total of Rs 72.24 crore in its first week, while it raked in Rs 26.56 crore in its second.

Bala has become Ayushmann Khurrana’s third film, after Badhaai Ho and Dream Girl, to cross the Rs 40 crore mark in opening weekend earnings. When the film mints Rs 100 crore, it will become Khurrana and Gautam’s third film and Pednekar’s second to reach the milestone.

Pednekar’s character received backlash as she wore heavy make-up to reach the dusky skin tone required in the story. However, in an interview, the actress said that her decision to take up the role has been called “brave” by some.

“Everyone has been telling me that I have been brave to play this role but I have been telling them that I see myself as an artist, someone who wants to shed herself and become a character in the film because that’s what is important. I can’t always be thinking about how I’m looking on screen because I will do a disservice to the vision of the film and the character I have willingly chosen to do,” she told Deccan Chronicle.

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Pagalpanti movie review: John Abraham & Co goof around in a rehash of Bollywood comedy

Pagalpanti (Madness) is what happens when Anees Bazmee gets a couple of good ideas in the middle of a creative drought, but does not quite know what to do with them. Bazmee is not someone who can be dismissed as a mindless, crude comic in the league of Sajid Khan. He is, after all, the director who served up Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar in top goofy form in Welcome (2007), and brought a degree of freshness to the stereotypical Bollywood representation of boisterous Punjabis in Singh Is Kinng (2008). Just two years back, he did a ripping job with the Anil Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz starrer Mubarakan.

Pagalpanti is not Bazmee’s worst. Gosh no, that distinction goes to No Problem. But it is not a patch on his funnest works either.

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Bazmee appears to have been struggling when he kicked off Pagalpanti. Nothing else can explain why he and his co-writers Rajiv Kaul and Praful Parekh chose to rehash for this film so many elements from successful Hindi slapstick comedies of the past decade. For a start, they picked a hero who is a ‘panauti’, just like Akshay Kumar’s character in the first Housefull. They added to that a mansion housing a beautiful female ghost, as in Great Grand Masti, going so far as to cast that film’s bhootni, Urvashi Rautela, in this one too. And if stampeding camels wreaked havoc in the climax of Welcome Back, here that job falls on the shoulders of a trio of lions.

The screenplay does nothing to any of these tropes to elevate them to the level of tributes. Even the twist in the bhootni’s tale does not serve that purpose. In between the writers do have a couple of good ideas, but those and the ensemble cast that includes some fine actors are all overshadowed by the overall lack of novelty in the story and treatment of Pagalpanti.

Raj Kishore (John Abraham), Junky (Arshad Warsi) and Chandu (Pulkit Samrat) are friends and failed business partners. Raj Kishore is supposed to be an unlucky guy who destroys the fortunes of all those around him too, but his buddies stay with him. When their paths cross with the Indian gangster brothers Raja Sahab (Saurabh Shukla) and Wi-Fi (Anil Kapoor) in London, these two dreaded men choose to hire them despite knowing that Raj Kishore’s mere presence can spell doom in their lives. No credible reason is offered for their decision.

What follows is a series of financial disasters, chases, exploding cars, the escalation of Raja and Wi-Fi’s long-running feud with fellow gangsters Tulli and Bulli, and a new-found enmity with a crook called Niraj Modi (you read the name right) who cheated Indian banks of thousands of crores before fleeing the country.

That last chap is played by Inaamulhaq, styled very precisely to look like the real-life Nirav Modi. The obvious allusion to a high-profile real-life fugitive is interesting at first, until the scenario wears thin once it becomes clear that the writers do not know where to go with what started out as a clever move.

There is a point at which humour unexpectedly makes way for patriotic fervour, when Wi-Fi is given a passionate lecture about love for the country (meaning, India — of course — and not the UK which he has made his home). Just when it seems like Team Pagalpanti may be getting subversive and having a giggle at the expense of Bollywood’s hyper-nationalist brigade who have been churning out loud deshbhakti films in the past three years or so, they chicken out, and the scene ends tamely. This particular passage is unwittingly amusing in its effort not to appear too fixated on its desh prem, especially since it is clearly fixated on the same market as those aforementioned films.

It is always nice to watch Kapoor and Warsi letting their hair down, and they do manage to extract some laughs in Pagalpanti’s best moments. Years of facing the camera have given even Abraham a certain comfort with comedy that he did not initially have, and that too is nice to see. The younger members of the cast acquit themselves reasonably well, although they have not that much to do. Besides, there is only so much that actors can do in the face of lack of innovation.

The one effective aspect of Pagalpanti is that it continuously laughs at its genre. It does this primarily through the medium of Junky (Warsi) who rhymes words while he speaks and delivers lines rather than having normal conversations with people — each time he says something he is particularly impressed with, he expresses disbelief at his own smartness. Later, when Raja vomits out a monologue, he too responds to his own words in a similar fashion.

It is hard to be totally angry with a self-mocking film, especially considering that Bazmee manages to run through 165 minutes without a single wisecrack about rape, disability, farts and faeces, which have been favoured fodder in Hindi film comedies for some years now. But not being angry with a film, not disliking it is not the same as enjoying it. Pagalpanti is sporadically entertaining, but for the most part it feels stale and ordinary. Even the appearance of a Méhul Choksi lookalike in the end cannot lift the film out of its plainness. References to current events work if you have a take on them. Pagalpanti has none.

Marjaavaan movie review: Sidharth Malhotra, whatcha doin’ with this loud Neanderthal sermon?

Main maaroonga toh mar jayega tu, dobaara janam lene se darr jayega tu.” This line that the hero fires at the villain in Marjaavaan‘s climactic moments comes from an arsenal of rhyming bombast that he uses from the opening minutes of this exhausting film. Thankfully, there is an arsenal of adjectives in the English language to match his weaponry. Dated, loud, cliché-ridden, preachy, unimaginative, boring, flat – that is what Marjaavaan is.

Take the slotting of the characters for one. Each comes from a checklist that Bollywood in earlier decades felt compelled to cover exhaustively in most scripts. Virtuous hero, virtuous woman who exists solely for him to fall in love with her and thus give her the requisite qualification for the post of heroine, villain without a single redeeming quality, other woman in the ‘golden-hearted tawaif’ mould whose unrequited love for the leading man survives every trauma thrown her way – you will find them all in Marjaavaan.

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As if these Neanderthal formulae are not enough, there are more. The bad guy is a dwarf in a film that clearly sees a disability as nothing but a source of drama. The hero is a “lawaaris”. A glamorous woman pops up to do that thingie called an ‘item song’ with dance moves that include spreading her legs wide, thrusting her bottom out and wiggling it, and going down on all fours to lift her bottom again and wiggle it – gosh, there is no originality even in the objectification of women in Marjaavaan.

And while it is a relief to get a break from the Islamophobia that has been a regular feature of Hindi cinema in the last couple of years, there is no joy in returning, as Marjaavaan does, to an era when the co-existence of religious and linguistic communities was not treated as a fact of life but as a cause for sugary sentimentality and in-your-face messaging on secularism.

Oh, and then there is the fact that while the nice guy speaks in verse, the bad guy reels off “what is the height of (optimism, etc)?” kind of jokes and the female protagonist speaks in riddles.

Considering all this, it is appropriate that Marjaavaan’s soundtrack is dominated by remixes.

Sidharth Malhotra plays Raghu, the handsome orphaned foster child of the gangster played by Nassar. The latter’s son Vishnu (Riteish Deshmukh) has always resented his father’s love for Raghu, that resentment made worse by his crushing complex about his congenital short stature. Their life-long enmity is heightened when Raghu falls in love with the mute Zoya (Tara Sutaria) who tries to reform the children of the neighbourhood by steering them towards music and away from an otherwise inevitable life of crime. Rakul Preet Singh stars as Aarzoo, the sex worker who is devoted to Raghu.

Marjaavaan is written and directed by Milap Zaveri whose career has so far been built primarily on writing comedies, some of them largely harmless fun (such as the Varun Dhawan-starrer Main Tera Hero), many of them crude (case in point: Masti, Grand Masti). For this film, Zaveri ditches high-decibel sexist humour in favour of high-decibel sermonising. Perhaps in a bid to sound intelligent and relevant, at one point in Marjaavaan he has the hero yelling “mandir banega aur masjid bhi blah blah blah”, but in the absence of any political depth, that pointed allusion to the Babri Masjid imbroglio makes zero sense. In a more well-thought-out film it might have meant something that Zoya is a Kashmiri Muslim girl and she is assembling a troupe for a music festival in Kashmir. Here though it means nothing.

Marjaavaan is so hackneyed that even the usually restrained Malhotra is driven to intermittent over-acting during its two-hours-plus running time. Deshmukh hams his way through playing Vishnu. Ms Sutaria is bland.

Singh does better than her colleagues with the little acting she is required to do in her limited role. Her primary job here is to look hot, but she is not allowed to do that well by the photography, wardrobe and other departments who, for some reason, collude to highlight her protruding rib cage through much of the film – this inexplicable treatment meted out to an otherwise lovely-looking woman will hopefully spark off a debate on the impossible thinness required of Hindi film heroines these days. As for the great Nassar, his performance in Marjaavaan is a textbook example of how even the finest of actors can be reduced to embarrassingly strained performances by bad writing and direction.

Maybe the line Raghu should have delivered is this: “Yeh film dekhega toh mar jayega tu, dobaara koi bhi film dekhne se darr jayega tu.

Motichoor Chaknachoor movie review: A largely unaware script that manages to make meaningful social comment

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Annie, short for Anita (Athiya Shetty), claims she is ‘ambitious’. Her ambition is to go abroad and post a picture on Facebook that will provoke FOMO among her peers. It seems the only way to achieve this is by marrying a man who lives, or at least works, abroad. After rejecting almost a dozen suitors — as their status does not fulfil her aspiration – Annie’s parents are at their wits’ end.

Annie’s obsession is no secret. And yet, no one is suspicious when Annie is suddenly interested in her much older, unmarried, recently Dubai returned neighbour Pushpinder (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).

In 135 minutes, Motichoor Chaknachoor director Debamitra Biswal takes the audience on a roundabout ride about this odd couple. The story is limited to the two adjoining houses and their various inhabitants. Biswal works well to use this limited setting populated by a cast of characters including Annie’s parents and unmarried aunt on one side, and Pushpinder’s pushy mother, his younger siblings and other members of a joint family on the other. Both houses are determined to get their respective offspring married – but not to each other!

Pushpinder’s domineering mother (Vibha Chibber) sees her two sons as lottery tickets who will command substantial dowries. Annie, on the other hand, is completely against dowry demands. It’s the one progressive stand for this largely superficial character.

Annie’s aunt (Karuna Pandey) persuades her niece to woo Pushpinder, because Dubai is also foreign and better than nothing. Annie, once more displaying an absolute lack of integrity and independence, obeys. Pushpinder, 36, has thus far been dutifully following his mother’s plan. But he’s also been homesick and desirous of family contact. Easily duped by the taller, younger, fairer Annie, it takes time for us to see Pushpinder’s pluck.

The courtship is short and shallow, as is the wedding. In one of the only truly witty lines of dialogue, when a nervous Annie asks her aunt for advice on coping with the wedding night she’s told, “Just close your eyes and think of the Burj Khalifa” (a clever play on the 1900s English phrase ‘Lie back and think of England’). Pushpinder is desperate to consummate the marriage you see, unaware of its one-sided transactional nature.

Half-truths are soon exposed and Annie’s dreams of immigration check fade away. In the most telling moment, Pushpinder challenges Anita on why she needs a husband to realise her dream of travelling abroad. Expectedly Annie has no opinion.

Shetty throws her all into playing that one-dimensional small-town girl, but, pitted against Siddiqui, Chibber etc, the mismatch in aptitude is unambiguous. Within a regressive set-up, Pandey, Chibber and Siddiqui find nuance to their characters. However, the largely unaware script (Meghvrat Singh Gurjar, Biswal) does manage to make meaningful comments on dowry and the aspirational fascination with NRI life.

Panipat trailer: Kriti Sanon, Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt star in yet another Ashutosh Gowariker period drama

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The trailer of much-anticipated historical period drama, Panipat, was released earlier today. Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, the film will depict the story behind Third Battle of Panipat, which was fought between the Maratha empire and the King of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Abdali.

There were three battles of Panipat in total, which shaped Mughal history and rule in the country.

Panipat stars Arjun Kapoor as Maratha warrior Sadashiv Rao Bhau, Kriti Sanon as his wife Parvati Bai, and Sanjay Dutt as the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali.

Beginning with the chants of battle cry, “Har Har Mahadev“, the three-minute long trailer delves into the forgone history lesson of the Battle of Panipat. Sanon, in a voiceover, sings praises for the Maratha warriors, proclaiming ‘their bravery lies in their duty and religion’.

The clip further depicts glimpses of warfare, long stretches of deserted islands, and inner political movements within Peshwa royalty, who appoint Sadashiv Rao as the commander-in-chief of the Maratha army. When Rao realises the threat of Mughal invaders on Hindustan, specifically Afghan ruler Abdali, who is infamous for his cruelty and murderous rage, Rao begins prepping the army for a game-changing battle.

The film also features veteran actors Zeenat Aman, Mohnish Bahl, and Padmini Kolhapure.

Gowariker had confirmed the news of Aman’s cameo appearance in Panipat, in an interview with Mumbai Mirror. “Zeenat ji will be seen in a cameo as Sakina Begum, a feisty character leading her province of Hoshiyarganj. Her character lives within the confines of her kingdom, aloof from the politics of the region, till Arjun’s Sadashiv Rao Bhau turns to her for help,” he said.

Hindi litterateur, poet, and essayist Ashok Chakradhar has penned the dialogues for the film, produced by Sunita Gowariker via AGPPL in association with Vision World.

Gowariker brings to the audience another large-scale period film after Lagaan (2001) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008). Although his last film, Mohenjo Daro (2016), tanked at the box office, the expectations from Panipat already seem high.

Arjun Kapoor, Rakul Preet to share screen space in cross-border dramedy, produced by John Abraham

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Rakul Preet will be seen next with Arjun Kapoor in a cross-border dramedy, which mark the directorial debut of Kaashvie Nair.

Nair has previously assisted Nikkhil Advani on Patiala House (2011) and D-Day (2013). She has also co-directed a TV series P.O.W. – Bandi Yuddh Ke. The yet-untitled feature will be produced by Bhushan Kumar’s T-Series, Advani’s Emmay Entertainment, and John Abraham’s JA Films. The trio have previously collaborated on films like Batla House and Satyameva Jayate.

“It is a coming-of-age love story written by Anuja Chauhan, Amitosh Nagpal, and Kaashvie. It will be mostly shot in Punjab and Los Angeles. Arjun Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh will be sharing screen space for the first time and we will be finalising the title and release date soon,” Nikkhil tells Mumbai Mirror.

Arjun tells Mirror he loved the script instantly, and expressed his excitement to work with Rakul for the first time.

Rakul was recently seen in the Hindi comedy De De Pyaar De with Ajay Devgn and Tabu. Her previous projects that hit cinemas this year also include NGK with Suriya in Tamil and Manmadhudu 2 with Nagarjuna in Telugu. She will be seen next in the Sidharth Malhotra, Tara Sutaria, and Riteish Deshmukh-starrer Marjaavaan as well as Indian 2 with Kamal Haasan.

Arjun will take on the role of Maratha warrior Sadashiv Rao Bhau in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat, which also stars Kriti Sanon as his wife Parvati Bai, and Sanjay Dutt as the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali. He will also star in a remake of Comali, produced by his father Boney Kapoor.

Ujda Chaman movie review: Director Abhishek Pathak forgoes finesse, subtlety in storytelling in this poor adaptation

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What do you do when an astrologer predicts that your 30-year-old son must marry before he turns 31 or risk a lifetime of celibacy? If you are mummy and daddy Kohli (Atul Kumar and Grusha Kapoor) then you go into a tailspin and panic about your first-born’s fate.

Chaman Kohli might have been shaken by this prophecy, and keen to find a suitable wife before the year is out. But Sunny Singh’s deadpan expression makes it’s impossible to gauge what Chaman is feeling. Singh looks vacantly unsettled for the entire 120-minute film that pivots around Chaman’s early baldness and repeated rejection by prospective brides. This deeply receded hairline also makes Chaman an easy target for heckling and teasing on the campus where he teaches Hindi. The students are cruel and unkind, exacerbating Chaman’s self-consciousness.

Desperation drives him to create a profile on an online dating app where he is paired with Apsara (Maanvi Gagroo). She is as aware of her ‘healthy’ build as Chaman is of his hair loss. Both judge the other based on appearance. The introduction to their two sets of parents is the meet-cute moment of the film and, even while Apsara and Chaman are disinclined, the grown-ups are over-enthusiastically plotting wedding dates.

Sunny Singh is given a monologue when Chaman, having had an epiphany, delivers a speech about being comfortable in your own skin and not judging a book by its cover, etc. But oh dear, the vacant, slightly obstructed expression is hovering around.

Your sympathy bypasses Chaman and rests with the more sorted Apsara whose affections for this selfish and spineless man are completely misplaced. Gagroo deserved a better written character. So then it’s up to Grusha Kapoor, Atul Kumar and Gagan Arora (as Chaman’s younger brother) to inject vitality into a dreary remake, but even their gags and heightened bickering become repetitive.

Ujda Chaman is a poor adaptation (Danish Singh) of the 2017 Kannada film Ondu Motteya Kathe (Story of Egghead) directed by Abhishek Pathak. The director amps up the background music and sound effects in an attempt to underline the lame attempts at humour and also forgoes finesse and subtlety in storytelling.