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Film: Mulk

Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Tapsee Pannu, Ashutosh Rana

Directed by: Anubhav Sinha

Duration: 2 hrs 20 mins

Rating: * * * 1 / 2

Sensitive issues like communal tension are not dealt with very often in Hindi cinema and even if they are, subtlety is never the forte. Mulk directed by Anubhav Sinha ranks among those films that handles a relevant subject with a certain deftness and isn’t afraid of asking some tough questions. Importantly, even though it is a story of a Muslim family that has been wronged, it is a well balanced portrayal, bringing up the black, white and grey areas. When it comes to religious tensions, it has always been a case of ‘It’s complicated’  in the country from a macro point of view but Sinha humanises the issue and also gives a strong rebuttal of this us and them attitude.

The story is set in the holy city of Benaras where Murad Ali Mohammed (Rishi Kapoor) plays the patriarch of a joint family – he is a retired lawyer who is highly respected in the neighborhood. We are given a sense of the communal harmony as everyone is jovial and nice to each other. But there is the odd reservation among some – at his birthday celebration a lady says “Naach gaana to theek par hum inke ghar ka khana nahi khayange” (it is okay to sing and dance but we can’t eat in their house) even if the food being served is vegetarian, especially cooked for them.

Aarti (Tapsee Pannu) plays their daughter-in-law who lives abroad and has come back, alone. The family’s life is thrown out of gear as Murad’s nephew (Prateik Babbar) gets involved in a terrorist conspiracy and finds himself on the run after a bomb blast. As it happens, the family doesn’t have a clue about his involvement in these activities – they even refuse to accept his dead body given his misdeeds.

But that is just the beginning of the harrowing time that lies ahead for the family – Murad’s brother (Manoj Pahwa) is arrested and aspersions are cast on all of them and friends turn foes.  A fair bit of drama unfolds in the courtroom as Aarti decides to fight for her in-laws.

The screenplay addresses all significant issues and makes valid points – no animal in the room, including the elephant is left alone. Right from the issue of literacy in the Muslim community to their population growth and the tainting and the prejudiced outlook of the Hindus towards them and the insecurity of the Muslims in that scenario – all of it is dealt with here.

Of the cast, the ensemble is terrific. Manoj Pahwa as wronged one and Neena Gupta as matriarch are first rate. Tapsee Pannu has a meaty role and she makes the best of it. With a beard and a receding hairline, Rishi Kapoor looks and plays his part to the hilt. He also brings grace and dignity to his character, like only he can. Murad Ali is a very likeable gentleman and you like him even more because the manner in which Kapoor portrays him.

Mulk is an important film in many ways – it also reminds you that when it comes to right or wrong, there cannot be any riders with it.


Film: Fanney Khan

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Aishwarya Rai, Pihu Sand

Directed by: Atul Manjrekar

Duration: 2 hrs 10 mins

Rating:  * 1 / 2


Fanney Khan is the kind of film that can send you into depression and make you wonder, how on earth such films get made. They have no place to be – not on earth, not in this universe.

Based on Belgian film Everybody’s Famous!, their Academy award submission in 2001, this is a text book example of how to ruin a film with some extremely mediocre writing. Towards the end, it’s cuckoo to a degree you have rarely seen before. With a poorly structured screenplay, characters that don’t make sense and scenes that are most probably enacted in a lunatic asylum, the only saving grace is the cast and that doesn’t include the former Miss World.

Anil Kapoor plays Prashant aka Fanney Khan, he works in a factory but his passion is music – he is a singer, composer and trumpeter all rolled in one. While he doesn’t quite make a name for himself the way he would have liked to, his hopes are pinned on his teenage daughter Lata (Pihu Sand), an overweight girl with a lovely voice which comes across in one song. In fact, in the first scene, fun is made of her weight and singing both but before you know it, she is singing like Monali Thakur.

Her idol is Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai, desperately in need of a crash course in acting) a pop star with a JLo like fan following. In the first half, at least some of these issues of body shaming and this craze about glamour rather than talent is highlighted but not in the most convincing fashion.

Meanwhile, Fanney, out of desperation and in a fit of pique, kidnaps Baby Singh keeps her in the locked down factory. His partner in crime is his co-worker Adhik (Rajkummar Rao) who is smitten by her. So far, so tolerable but then it goes down faster than rocket entering the atmosphere. Girish Kulkarni plays Baby’s manager and surely that hideous hairstyle was avoidable and the ultra talented actor is wasted in that role. Towards the end, logic and common sense is chucked out of the window in the most spectacular fashion.

Even prior to that, there is no clarity on the characters, particularly Lata and her motives. She is always in a grumpy mood when she sees her dad and her attitude deserved no sympathy. Baby Singh enjoys the captivity as if she was holidaying on the Swiss Alps.

The film fails to find the right tone and oscillates from being a comedy to a satire to melodrama and a charade.

Anil Kapoor hits all the right notes particularly in the emotional scenes and Rajkummar Rao is a hoot in the kidnapping scenes. Debutant Pihu Sand is impressive and there is certain confidence in her strides.

But apart from that, this Fanney business is not funny, nor engaging.

Name of the game

Film: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Cast: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper

Directed by: Ol Parker

Duration: 1 hr 53 mins

Rating: * * *


Mamma Mia! became a monster hit back in 2008 and the success was rather unexpected. But was a film in which several elements came together well, the cast, plot and above all, the music of ABBA. Unfortunately, the film makers used all the fire power of hit songs in that film – so what we have in this sequel are the leftovers. Effectively, this Ol Parker film is fun in parts but overall, it is not a patch on the previous film.

The first film was a winner with A-list songs like Super Trouper, Dancing Queen, Voulez-Vous, Take A Chance on Me, I Have a Dream and so many others. The ones here are not so popular but there is still Waterloo, Fernando, When I kissed the Teacher, Andante Andante with a repeat of Dancing Queen and string of not so popular songs.

Besides, some of the songs looked forced and didn’t really go with the flow – the structuring was almost like a modern day Bollywood film where songs sometimes just pop up out of the blue. Meryl Streep makes a cursory appearance and Cher is also seen – she looks like she borrowed Lady Gaga’s wig and a mask.

The story oscillates between the past and the present. Lily James plays the young Donna which was played by Meryl Streep in the first film – we learn about she got involved with three different men and eventually, how her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) had three fathers. In the present time line, Sophie is revamping the farm house hotel on the Greek island (shot in Croatia) and a whole bunch of guests are invited for the opening of Hotel Bella Donna but the preparations don’t go according to plan.

There isn’t much of a plot to speak of and it doesn’t really go full steam since it keeps cutting back and forth. It just works out in a way where a song can be inserted and couple of them (especially Waterloo), are very well choreographed.

Had playback singing not been invented back then and even they had missed Brosnan’s from the first installment, it surely would have come into the picture after hearing the men sing in this film. To put it politely, couple of them are awful. The ladies fare much better especially Lily James who is as good with her singing as she is with her acting.

The rest of this film hinges purely on sentimental and nostalgic value.

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