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Number Game


Film: Super 30

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Mrunal Thakur, Aditya Shrivastav

Directed by: Vikas Bahl

Duration: 2 hrs 24 mins

Rating: * * 1 / 2

In Bollywood, when a film is ‘inspired by true events’ or ‘based on a true story’ you have to take it with not just a pinch but a truck load of salt. The core story sometimes gets unnecessarily diluted with the song and dance routines and it is a pity because more often than not, the basic story itself is powerful enough.

Take the story of Anand Kumar – he decided to coach 30 underprivileged children for IIT, arguably one of the toughest examinations in the country and as luck and more importantly, hard work would have it, they all qualified. That story itself gives goose bumps when you hear it but instead of keeping it subtle and simple, Super 30 directed by Vikas Bahl goes for full drama, even when it is not necessary.

Hrithik Roshan plays Anand Kumar, a prodigy from Patna, when it comes to Mathematics. But like many other prodigies, he comes from an extremely humble background – his father is a postman and when he gets admission to Cambridge, they can’t muster enough money to send him. Anand is heartbroken and at one point, he starts selling papads. His girlfriend (Mrunal Thakur) is also forced to leave him for better pastures.

That’s when a coaching institute head (Aditya Shrivastav) takes him under his wings and makes him rich. Entrance exam coaching after all is one thing where parents don’t mind pouring money. Anand is well off but then his conscience awakens and he decides to coach 30 very poor children, who want to become NASA scientists, biotech engineers and more. A large part of the film delves on his struggles and the odds that he has to face with virtually no resources on hand.

There are a few rousing and touching moments but there are also an equal number of scenes where you wonder why this was needed, or did it have to be so dramatic. Take the scene where he helps them overcome their fear of the English language by enacting a scene from Sholay – it doesn’t land the way it is intended to – or the climax which doesn’t quite fit in the schemes of a true story. The students also have very sketchy characters and none are memorable by any stretch of imagination.

Pankaj Tripathi as seen as a wily politician and given the actor’s talent, you wish there was more of him. Hrithik Roshan may not look like Anand Kumar but with his sincerity and earnestness, he pulls it off.

Come Together

Film: Yesterday

Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Duration: 1hr 56 mins

Rating: * * * *

“A world without the Beatles is a world infinitely worse” says a character in the film, echoing the sentiments of millions around the world – some of whom are not even alive now. It has been almost 50 years since the Beatles split but their music continues to be a source of inspiration not just for musicians and music lovers but for those into all kinds of art forms, including cinema. More than a decade ago, Julie Taymor made Across the Universe (2007), the story which revolved around songs by The Beatles.

Director Danny Boyle has a very clever and fantastic premise on hand – what if the world has forgotten the songs of the Fab Four from Liverpool and there is only one person who remembers them all? This is a crafty tribute, which warms the heart and more.

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) is a struggling songwriter-musician who does the odd show but his career is not going anywhere. With his best friend and manager Ellie (Lily James) he is still looking for his big break. They are both charming characters – she loves him dearly, to him, she is his best friend. But that will get resolved eventually – after all, this is a film about The Beatles, who gave us some memorable romantic songs.

One fine night, there is a power cut, for reasons not mentioned, all across the globe. Jack gets knocked down by a bus and the world has already changed by the time he wakes up in the hospital with broken teeth and bruises. In passing, he says: “When I’m 64” to Ellie who asks, “Why 64?”

Jack realises then that no one knows about The Beatles – even Google has no information about them. He sings Yesterday to his friends, they are teary eyed and they wonder when he wrote the song. Jack starts dishing out their numbers which are quickly lapped up by the public – remember, they have never heard these songs before and it is Beatlemania all over again, or rather, Jack Malik mania. It is not just The Beatles, even Coca-Cola, Oasis (the British band), Harry Potter and cigarettes have vanished from public memory but the focus here is on the band.   

Ed Sheeran plays himself, the Ed Sheeran that we know – he admires Jack’s writing abilities and it is a very sporty role that he plays. There are plenty of goof ball moments when he makes an entry and even later – he even suggests that Hey Jude will sound better as Hey Dude.

Fame usually also makes you rich but it has its own price as Jack discovers. Kate McKinnon plays his new manager who has nothing but commercial interests in mind.

But the biggest moment in the film is the cameo and a rather unexpected entry which is bound to move every music buff – I was reeling from it long after the character disappeared from the screen.  

Boyle keeps the tone lightweight virtually through the film – like Jack not remembering the lyrics of Eleanor Rigby and there is no way he could have Googled them because they didn’t exist.

Himesh Patel in the lead role is perfectly cast while Lily James is definitely one of the better actresses from the present generation.

All in all, Yesterday gives you more than enough value for your money – all you need is love and a good film to go with it.

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