Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Margarita with a straw - a perspective!

If you are into cocktails, you know Margarita is hardly ever served with a straw, but who is to say you can’t have it with a straw? Who sets these standards of normality? What is normality? When life throws a lemon out at you, make lemonade? That might be the “normal adage” but don’t doubt that you might as well slice wedges of that lemon to spunk up your cocktail – have it with a straw, if you may. The magic, after all, is in the concoction - not the goblet, glass or straw.

I don’t think the highlight of “Margarita with a straw” is that it is the story of a patient of cerebral palsy. Neither is it her unusual journey of discovering her sexuality.. I think the biggest achievement is how “normal” the story is.

Sex and handicap have so far both been terribly misunderstood and/or misrepresented in our movies (and perhaps our society). Let’s recall what Bollywood has us believe mostly:
  • Handicap in bollywood – a good human being, who is tragically handicapped and the big bad word is mean to this person for no fault of his/her. Poor he/she lives a life of suffering and sympathy is the least you can give him/her.
  • Sexuality in bollywood – (usually means homosexuality) and is the butt of all jokes (pun intended). So a gay angle in mainstream Bollywood is usually intended to provide comic relief (?) and almost always is physical comedy – to evoke laughter over dressing or mannerism. At best, it titillates homophobia (remember kantaben!).

"Margarita with a straw" is a slap-on-your-face impolite departure from both these stereotypes. It is in the end a story of a girl with her unique flaws (and I don’t mean her physical flaws), and how she handles her life on her terms. Yes, her disability is a factor, but who in this world is perfect. And then again, who is perfectly happy. Aren’t we all but a group of mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive list of flaws?

But then who are we to call anything a flaw. Perhaps there are no flaws, simply facts - which we all accept and get on with life. So what would a mother do, if she found her child was challenged physically? Brood? Perhaps momentarily. But, Brood forever? Nope. She will take it in her stride and do what she must to make sure the child does not feel the pinch.

So welcome to Laila’s (essayed remarkably by Kalki) life – different, but raised normal -  A girl whose dreams do not show any signs of the struggle that her mortar skills do. A musician, composer and writer, in her late teens, who Skypes and messengers with her boycrush, even writes him a song in his languages, only to get her heart broken. But she is a today’s educated girl – who can dabble between software, men and even porn, at her will and has no shame asking a desi dukaandar for a vibrator.

With crushes and sexcapades behind her, her story takes a defining turn when she is accepted in New York University. A lot changes for her and for her Aai (the ravishing, refreshing, rare, Revathi) in the Big Apple. For starters, Aai no longer needs to carry a manual ramp in her non-cosy van, for the developed country is equipped to give her daughter the wings she never imagined. But old habits die hard – in her brief stay in New York she still shadows her daughter without her knowledge only to make sure she is fine. As a confident, yet worried mother returns to India, the brave, yet newly independent daughter stays on to pursue her dreams and live her life.  

While academic flight is underplayed, it is the unfurling of Laila’s innerself, that forms the crux of MWAS. When she meets Khanum from Pakistan (Sayani Gupta) in New York, you can sense sparks flying. Make way for Hindi cinema’s most unconventional coupling  - one a patient of cerebral palsy and other with no eyesight. Both women. Chemistry crackles and couple starts to live together. But is Laila sure of herself? Is she as committed as her partner?

In the last leg of the story, the couple of New York arrive in Delhi to make a few announcements. Attempts are made, and Aai, misunderstands bi for baai – and can only empathise that all women are but baais at home – dealing with chores day in and day out. A determined Laila makes it but obvious in the next attempt but has little chance to converse. For beneath the fighter exterior, Aai is losing her battle against cancer.

The protagonists real battles are finally not about her physicality or her sexuality, they are about her family, her infidelity, her personal choices. Does she tell her partner the truth? Does she choose convenience over companionship? Career over family?

Margarita with a straw is more than a film, it is a perspective. Sexuality is not a situation, it is a fact. If you accept that your child has cerebral palsy, why not accept a child who discovers he/she is gay/bisexual? Cerebral palsy can not be cured, but as a parent (and society) you can try and make the environment more conducive to help the person lead a normal life. Is it a lot to expect the same for a person with uncommon sexuality? For everything that is uncommon is not unnatural.

To say so much about this film is to mean without saying that it excels in all departments, and superlatively so in performances. Revathi’s portrayal of Aai is as real as it can get – angry, loving, caring,  sometimes doting and nosey, she is the typical Indian mother, an epitome of affection. Both Sayani Gupta and Kuljeet Singh (as Laila’s father) deliver memorable characters for what they bring to the screen.

But the movie belongs to Kalki Kochlin – who makes Laila very three dimensional, very believable. She works effectively to nail the body language and voice without ever making Laila a caricature. You can see her inner struggle flash on her face and can feel for her everytime she struggles to move or to communicate or make a decision. This is definitely a performance of an international standard.

Kudos to director & writer Shonali Bose, who not only breaks stereotypes but sets a new benchmark of sorts. She has more than pushed the envelope in Bollywood. MWAS is a bold, daring, refreshing and very important film. It breaks conventions and asks you accept what you mustn’t question, and love without conditions.

Do not have fixations of what is right, what is acceptable or what is normal. And the next time you have a Margarita, (or even a filter coffee for that matter), remember you can also have it with a straw ;-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

NH10 - The Bold and the Ugly.

NH10 makes you cringe.

It reminds you that it is not safe for woman to be on the roads alone in Delhi suburbia. It strikes a fear that roads to hinterland getaways feel like less of a haven and more hell. And above all, it brings to cinema the idea that there exists an extremely regressive cult, where honor is above blood relations. and “karna zaroori tha” is reason enough for Honor killing, even if it's your own child.  Take these brutal realities and soak it in realistic portrayal, and what you have in the end is a film so shocking, so disturbing that makes you hope and pray  that this parallel universe exists only in cinema. It is so true, that I am surprised the film is not banned yet!! (Sarcasm) J

We all know those posts on Facebook where people share their treachery, or say they have some illness or share something disturbing and you are lost whether you should hit the “like” button. Because you clearly didn’t like what you saw and yet you want to acknowledge that you have noticed it - and just say something. Ditto with NH10.

I think NH10 could be the beginning of asking how much is too much. Was it too violent to be entertaining? Or was it not meant to “entertain” in general. (Sidenote: Glad that our movies have moved to these times when this movie wasn't classified as a "art film" and didn't die a unnoticed birth/death). 

By no means is this a bad film, but I would NOT recommend it to anyone who doesn’t want to see raw brutal action – no, there is no gore, but if direction is a visual medium, kudos to the director for making you cringe without too many close-ups of the brutality.

Anushka Sharma and Neel Bhoopalam play the quintessential cosmopolitan couple – smooching in an elevator, chatting on messengers even when they are in  the same room, juggling between friends, party and Work.

She is a feminist (stretched too far to be working on female hygiene products), she smokes, strikes back at sexist comments and wants to erase abuses in washrooms, (even those that are not hurled at her).

He is the typical egotist charmer, who cant even be told he is on the wrong road, forget be slapped in the middle of the road. He might not so much as skip a late night party to take his wife to her office for an emergency, but makes sure he buys her a gun for self defence and make up for all the bad times by booking a “private villa” somewhere in the hinterland.

So then, armed with recent trivial (?) trauma, love and a gun, they set off for what is supposedly a birthday weekend for the Protagonist. What follows on NH10 is a crazy turn of events and it isn’t long before the couple is in the middle of a nightmare – who could imagine that a seemingly random street fight would end in honor killing. From being innocent travelers, to concerned citizen to eventually being unfortunate victims, the couple would have hoped they never wanted to leave the city.

With a runtime of just under 2 hours, NH10 is a gripping watch. With adept cinematography, brisk editing and just the right amount of background music, the director manages create an eerie, haunting atmosphere that is almost like an invisible character in the narrative. The film is also backed by stunning performances, especially by the support cast (villains) who make you hate them from the very first time they appear on screen. Dipti Naval does justice to a tricky cameo. While Bhoopalam does well in the little that has less to do, the film is somewhat of a showreel for Anushka’s dramatic performance. Having almost only played unidimensional characters so far in her career, NH10 is the first time we see Anushka shed her bubbly girl next door image and be rough and brutal. Her characters journey gives the actor a canvas to portray her acting acumen, which she does reasonably well. Although it seems as if she put bit too much effort at places.

But for me, the film's real winner is the smartly woven story and a screenplay that keeps you at the edge of your seat. While the disturbing violence makes you cringe, the interesting twists in the story keep you hopeful that somehow, something might finally come to the protagonists rescue.

It is a scenario so unfortunate that you find yourself rooting for the protagonists guilty triumphs in the end – when she herself becomes a murderer. Just like ill minded crime lurks right outside posh metropolitan city like Delhi, a deadly murderer can be camouflaged by sophisticated looks. NH10 is a story of how a good human being can’t help but everything bad, when pushed to the unthinkable extreme.

It's raw, blunt and scary. Thank god it’s just a movie. Or is it?

I don’t think I personally can ever watch this movie again. But thank God I saw it once – it is not to be missed for the sheer audacity with which it discomforts you.

3.5 stars

Friday, February 21, 2014

Highway: No way!

For a really long time in the movie, Veera and Bhaati, played by Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda, are clueless of what is happening to them and where they are heading. Ditto audience! You're caught in a journey of two characters -somewhat joined by destiny and mostly forced together by Bollywood sensibilities. Their contradicting backgrounds are an obvious Bollywood pretext. And so we learn that as different as they may appear, they are victims of a troubled past and somehow not so different in how lonely and insecure they both are in their respective presents. Not the first time we heard that, but exploring the idea of being trapped in your own house and feeling liberated as a kidnappee might be a first, a Bollywood first. Yet, in the end the movie is not a very wholesome experience. It is easily Imitiaz  Ali's most experimental work and most definitely his least impressive.

Over the past decade, Imitiaz Ali's work has been rife with endearing characters enabling a potent ensemble. Remember the man from hotel decent in JWM or the music producer from Rockstar or Love aaj kals fun ensemble; this time the storytelling focuses on (and relies on) two characters and ends up being just a series of monologues spread across moments of travel and silence.

Perhaps comparing Ali's work to his own is a bad start, as would be comparing Rahman's soundtrack to his previous work. But even without those comparisons the film is an anticlimax of sorts.

So a bride to be just sneaks out a day before her wedding to catch some fresh air and ends up being kidnapped by a not so motley bunch of goons. With an accent thicker than his mustache, we see an intimidating Hooda, nailing the character of Bhaati who is resolved to kidnap, for that's the only thing he does. Over a few days, Alia struggles to come to terms with being kidnapped, then feels secure with strangers to the effect of not eloping when she easily can; and finally true to Bollywood sentiments, decides to "spend some more time" with her uncharacteristic hero.

Perhaps the only master stroke in story telling is how imtiaz manages to keep the chemistry broadly platonic. The intimate cuddle is as suggestive as it is real and it makes you want to believe that there is something special there, without calling it physical attraction or even love. As the scenery changes from the lonely hinterlands of Rajasthan in the first half to the serene peaceful and romantic escapes of the second half, the characters have come to terms with their differences and just want to live for some more time, before a more obvious climax interrupts their cinematic journey. The strongest point  of the movie has to be the breathtaking cinematography - an awe inspiring montage for incredible India!

In terms of acting, the pick of the two is Randeep Hooda, who manages to gain your sympathy when he cries or makes you smile when he smiles, which is rare for the resolute self that he plays. Alia was offered a role of her life, but can't hide her inexperience in handling a very nuanced character. Interestingly, her best moments are when she has no dialogues and she has quite a few of them. Watch her cry against the truck window or giggle n choke undecidedly against a gushing stream of mountain water. She has promise and potential, but ends up over or under emoting when it matters. In a screenplay that thrives on monologues, she fails to take the dialogues head on.

Undoubtedly the movie has it's moments. But they are few and for between. For a really promising idea, the film is an Imitiaz Ali experiment gone awkwardly wrong.

2 stars

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dhoom 3.. Magic + Aamir = Mediocre?

"I will watch this movie only because of Aamir khan", a friend of mine told me, as we merrily discussed the dhoom 3 weekend. I am sure thousands of Indians echoed that sentiment. With his choices and his devotion to every choice he makes, the audience, his fans and critics have learnt to expect a certain brand of perfection when it comes to Aamir khan! So you buy your ticket, pick your popcorn and wait. The ads, promos and previews end and the movie begins.

For the first 10 odd minutes of the movie, Aamir is set to impress you, without uttering a single word. First with action, and then his tap dance. Kudos to this guy, who at this accomplished stage of his career, still tries to impress you. It is this very quality that earns him respect and keeps him on the edge of negative criticism.

Dance, for example, was never aamir's strength and as hard as he tries, he doesn't manage to unlearn his native 90s swagger n stances. Tap dance, contemporary, hip hop. Why!?!?! That brings us to action - Aamir does a ghajini act again, (or the director picks a few tricks from that movie) and makes sure the focus is on the chiseled body. And then again, the dhoom franchise is that of chase sequences. Bikes, cars, motor boats, concept vehicles - Aamir doesn't get to "express" or "act" but it is the choreography (action) that is awe inspiring. 

True to its franchise, the movie takes a wafer thin plot (with a dramatic interval twist) and infuses a whole lot of style and super slo mo action moments, sprinkles in an item Number with an arm candy. In the end, the line between good and bad is as blurred as the films overall impression.

So there's a great Indian circus in Chicago (more like Chicagos got Indian talent) which is bankrupt and the bank simply does the right thing by asking it to shut down. But no, it's not such a simple thing. Think of how many lives this will affect- TWO!! (Okay, three, wink wink). It's a dramatic Bollywood moment, and the circus owner/lead magician is also an emotional dad who can't take the moment and shoots himself in the head. His 7-8 year old son who witnesses this is convinced that the bank is the culprit here and vows to put an end to the bank! He is all set to avenge this all by himself (or is he?).

The boy grows into a 6-pack strutting dude, who is all set to reopen the circus, cast the hottest desi gal in town and fulfill his dad's dream (what was the dream btw). In his free time, he's building concept bikes that'll aide him loot different branches of the same bank. Why Abhishek and Uday land in the USA to solve this case, is as much mystery to me as to why Katrina signed this film. May be answer to both those questions is: What else to do!

Unlike it's previous outings, a few things just don't work this time. Music, is the biggest let down. None of the numbers, NONE of them rock. The choreography of the magic number is good but nothing you haven't seen better versions of in reality shows.

The Abhishek-Uday comedy track is too overdone and simply blah. At some point it feels like even the two actors are bored of this part and are on the "fake it till you make it" mode. It's not funny, to say the least.

There's no chemistry whatsoever in the lead pair (dhoom 2 worked on another level, simply because of the lead pair's chemistry, remember). Forget chemistry, the one tender moment of the film also seems so forced and awkward. Something's awe fully wrong with the casting here. They don't work well together.

Everyone knew this was a hero's movie, Aamir's movie, from start to end. Aamir is given enough to play with and goes about like a child in a toy store. Obviously great. But, is this his best performance? Not even close. Is this even the years best performance by a lead actor? Not even close.

Well.. critical acclaim hardly matters to commercial viability. And so, In an industry where chennai express  and krish 3 will go down as the years most successful films, this film surely "deserves" to be a superhit for it's surely better than those films.

In the end though, this is a forgettable 1-time watch. Everyone enjoys the occasional adrenelin rush, but even hiccups can last longer than the memories of this film.

2.5 stars

Monday, September 2, 2013

The price one pays to become Steve Jobs?

My brother gifted me a 2nd generation video iPod back in 2006. That was my first brush with an Apple product. That was such a turning point. “You’ve tasted blood”, mocked a friend of mine, “and this is a point of no return.”

He was so right. 7 years and 3 more apple products later, I find myself using these products as if they were a “natural extension of myself” – much like what Jobs envisioned his products to be. So much so, that without knowing anything about Steve Jobs, I was a fan of the person behind the product. I was in awe of a man whose attention to detail and quest for perfection, changed the way the world functioned.

He pushed the enveloped, created products that create a new market, new secondary matter of applications accessories – millions of dollars, countless jobs! And as much as I believed that it was never a one-man-army, it was somehow believable that Jobs was the fountainhead of that vision.

When Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, I was engulfed in a sense of remorse – as if someone close to me had died. As if someone who cared about me was no more. Ironically, I hardly even knew the person. Apart from his dramatic product-launch presentations and press clippings, I hadn’t read and heard a word about this man. 

So when I went in to watch “Jobs”- the movie, I went in hoping to see a person full of insight, full of passion and someone so content with creating concepts and products which revolutionized the worlds. Purely on the basis of what I saw in the movie, I came back far too uninspired by Steve Jobs as a person.

He cared too much about his product to care about the people involved in its making. He sought a certain perfection that only he could envision. Not that he didn’t compliment his friends, not that he wasn’t enough appreciative, but his imagination continuously overpowered the projected outcome. “What is the next paradigm shift” seemed to always over power “what about the people in my life”?

Right from abandoning his girlfriend when she announced her pregnancy, to sacking his relatively inefficient friend, to letting go of the one man who stood with him for his vision in the initial years, Jobs simply didn’t care. Was it a failure in trusting people? Did he assume that such worldly ties, would stop his meteoric rise? Or was he simply all about the product?

Clearly, he wasn’t about the profit. While he always knew how to price his products and command a premium, it was in fact his attention to details and perseverant strides to achieve a better user experience, even if it was a cost that lead him to some of his failures – the first macintosh, for example. He wasn’t shy of admitting he was going for costlier options, but his reason (as unpopular as they would sound) were solid and were for the customer’s benefit.

He was simply following a vision for perfection – much like following the rainbow in the hope of finding a pot of gold. Did he really find it? Did becoming the “Worlds most valuable company” fulfill his dream? I wonder…

Even if it did, my question is, what is the price one pays to become a Steve Jobs? To lose friends, to not be connected with family, to be mocked at for his apparent arrogance – are those the qualities that I am willing to live to with to be at the helm of a respected company?

I don’t know the answer and I suddenly find myself questioning if I respect the product as much anymore. If I knew so much of Steve Jobs, would I have cared to shed a tear at his death? And then why only Steve Jobs, what about all the celebrities whose work is the only connection we have to their personality. Is Meryl Streep really the Devil who wears Prada? Is Amitabh Bachhan really a super citizen thanks to his social messages delivered in a credible tone or just a super star? Rajni really (K)cant do everything.

While their work is exemplary and inspiring, the people behind it might be just an imperfect as their audience. A bit like a bubble that burst, Jobs is a movie that reminded me that only a product can be perfect – people are invariably full of imperfections.

And Apple, is after all flawlessly executed vision of a man, who had his own tragic flaws.   

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The unending run of Farhan Akhtar.. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is one long movie!

Now, Mr. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra… I understand this is “inspired” by a true story.. I also agree that Milkha’s story is truly inspiring, so why did I come out of the theater 3+ hours later feeling not really inspired?

The movie begins with a tragedy.. We are told that Milkha Singh who was the favorite to win the 400m mens event at the Rome Olympics in 1960, unfortunately looked behind and gave away his lead in the final.. losing the bronze in a photo-finish  As he turns, we are shown blurry ghosts of his past.. This isn’t the first time he has heard the titular cry “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”.

His first tragedy was the trauma surrounding partition. He grew up to be robber of sorts, fell for a girl who wouldn't marry a goon. He joined army to “become someone”. Harsh training, bullying and 2 fantastic coaches later, he has the coveted “India” blazer. So when he goes to seek marital alliance of the girl he oh-so-loved, he’s told she’s already married. Another tragedy.

He finds himself awestruck, lovestruck/lust-struck with a gori, in his first Olympic appearance. However much he slaps himself staring at the mirror, he is not to forgive or forget this tragedy. That triggers a dedicated effort to break the 400m world record and the stage is set for Olympics 1960.

We are somehow narrated, that the baggage of the past lead to the catastrophic loss that lead to public outrage and self denial – both an inseparable reality for Milkha Singh. First thing first: As someone who gets tired of running from my building to the main gate (my 400 meter run once a week may be, when I am late to meet a colleague) – I feel dwarfed by Milkha Singh. As someone who went to gym 2 times and felt it was too taxing, I feel dwarfed by Farhan Akhtar, who has literally chiseled himself with a sculpting knife to look this fit for this role.

So let me just stop and not get dwarfed by the personalities, and just talk about my experience with the movie as a movie.

So there are moments, there is great music (the kind that makes me wonder why we don’t hear more of the talented Shankar Ehsaan Loy trio), there is a little bit of everything and yet the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.

If anything, the screenplay is over-thought and the movie over-directed (if you know what I mean). While the premise was great, the story was simple and neat, the presentation simply overpowers the message, which was essentially a heartfelt, individual struggle. The director (and writer) is too busy making it a non-linear film that has associative links to the three timelines of the movie, that none of the three timelines really create an impact. The director’s re-use of sepia tone for the past and speed blurs is so Rang-de-basanti-isque that I was partly wishing I was watching that movie, instead.

Of the three, the timeline of Milkha’s childhood creates the most impactf. Personal lives affected by partition are portrayed with raw fervor and the images of violence are stirring and scary. There is nothing very unique about his young adulthood – for cinema, at least. The boy meets girl sequences, the chori sequence and some random tomfoolery – all simply giving us another facet of the Milkha Singh personality, but doing nothing really to the movie itself. I honestly feel, that this timeline could’ve been chopped off to a large extent to make the film somewhat smaller.

But then it is a biopic. Or is it? For the director puts in enough commercial masala (save for an item number THANK GOD) to convince us this is just another bollywood film. And I think that is where the film falters – in trying to make up its mind on being entertaining, accurate and yet slick and punchy, the subtle emotions of Milkha are lost.

Farhan Akhtar submits himself to physically transforming himself into Milkha Singh. He looks every bit an athlete and perhaps outdoes the fitness levels of a professional athlete, and gets a runners body-language pitch perfect, even tries a Punjabi accent, but still somehow remains a Farhan Akhtar and doesn't become a Milkha Singh– his emotional moments, comic timings and dialogue deliovery are distinctively Farhan Akhtar, and not of the character he embodies. So as much as I am proud of what he has done to look and be the part, I am conscious I never forgot it was him. Which is not uncommon in bollywood, I have learnt. Like a Shahrukh is a Shahruk and a Salman is a Salman in every film. But I honestly don’t think the makers and the actor (who both represent a promising body of work) set those to be their benchmark.

Pawan Singh as the army coach and Prakash Raj as the accented trainer are the only supporting cast that leave a mark. Oh, and Divya Dutta hams (like it was a 50’s movie and not a movie set in the 50’s) and Sonam Kapoor I am told took 11 rupees for the movie (that girl is so overpaid!).

Everything said and done, this is NOT a BADmovie. It is long, it is entertaining in parts and has inspiring moments. If you are a Farhan Akhtar fan, you MUST watch it. If you are into biopics, you MAY like it, if you go in expecting some Rang de Basanti class of entertainment, just rent the RDB DVD, this one will do nothing to you.

2.5 Stars. If it wasn’t for Farhan’s hardwork and the stellar soundtrack, there wouldn’t be much to write home about. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Raanjhana, hua mai tera!

There were at least two moments in the movie where I had goosebumps. Without giving away any spoiler, the commonality in those two moments was the combination of a terrific performance heralded to another level by a soundtrack that speaks for the film. Needless to say, a lot of  credit goes to the makers - the director and the writers for creating such moment(s). 

Raanjhana is pushed from good to great because of the acting, writing and music. In what is a complete relief, the characters don't fall prey to Bollywood climax identity crisis which I held as a tragic weakness of yeh jawani..

Here are it's merits in random order: 

The performance of the protagonist- Dhanush, after Ranveer Singh, is a great example that Bollywood does once in a while, look beyond looks and give rank outsiders so much as a "chance". To dhanush's favor is his body of work, kolaveri fame (and of course the rajnikant connection). But unlike Ranveer, Dhanush can boast of no six pack. No dimples. No color. In an industry that has broken looks into measured checklist of abs, dimples, height and weight, it is shocking that someone like Dhanush even got a break. So what does Dhanush have? Simple - Talent. 

He brings to Bollywood what is the essence of successful commercial Tamil cinema - a heroic performance. He embraces the character so well that Kundan makes you laugh, smile, gasp in shock, stunned in disbelief with effortless ease. He exceeds superlative in playing the simpleton who is playful, sometimes stupid, but always, unashamedly, in love. 

He emotes so well that even ordinary dialogues would've been enough for him to nail his expressions.  But Dhanush is handed a script so taut and dialogues so apt that the concoction hits you like a tequila shot. Or a banarasi paan, eh? 

And those witty lines come handy for the able supporting cast. First with tanu weds manu n now raanjhana, the director impresses in creating an ensemble cast that win your heart with their honesty and perspective.  Swara Bhaskar, in particular, deserves a pat on her back to bringing bindiya to life on screen. She is a sweetheart and your heart will go out for her flirting, seduction and yearning alike. 

The writing is a winner. The second half is arguably over-written and seems to unnecessarily elaborate the many sub plots, but as it turns out, it is those details that makes the climax kind-of believable. Albeit, the connections in the plot rely on the  (in)famous Bollywood creative liberty - read "don't ask too many whys". 

In general, the movie is fast paced and the predictable twists and turns in the first half make way for some surprising action in the second half. The end in particular has expert writing finesse that steers the movie clear of an otherwise ordinary end. It helps that the director brought to table an editor and cinematographer who make the screenplay look crisp n beautiful. 

The music - Rahman at his best. Here's an artist with a fresh canvas, colors and imagination who has set off on a colorful journey. Rahman fills every corner of the celluloid canvas with Rich detail. He weaves magic with the tracks, the bgm and even moments of silence. In perhaps a first for bollywood, the movie ends with "music by a r Rahman" instead of "directed by Rai" - respect well deserved. With aise na dekho, he sparks the old debate whether he keeps the best song of the film for his voice or it becomes the best song since he gave it his voice. 

If I must find another flaw in the film, it is the in the leading lady. Even if sonam delivers the performance of her life so far, she doesn't do enough justice to layered character of zoya. Amid sparks of brilliance, she is mostly average and sometimes simply off mark. Chin up gal, it didn't help that you were paired opposite a star who is just too natural. sympathies there. 

So while the first half is predictable, and the second half is a slight information overdose, it still works, because here is a director who knew what he was working with and placed enough punches, enough music, enough Dhanush, to make it a fun watch. 

I will give 4 stars. It's not to miss and well worth your movie ticket n pop corn.