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Death Does Them Apart

Film: Ready or Not

Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Duration: 1 hrs 37 mins

Rating: * * * *

 During a time when originality has taken a backseat in English films (most box office successes are sequels or comic book-based films), Ready or Not comes as a whiff of fresh air. It is original, quirky and smart, making it a thoroughly enjoyable joy ride – this is one of those Get Out (2017) like gems, with this one set after the couple has said “I do”

It doesn’t take too long for them not to live happily ever after – in fact it happens on the wedding night right after when Grace (Samara Weaving, terrific) and Alex (Mark O’Brien) exchange their vows. He comes from a very rich family and they assume that she might be a gold digger. But that is far from true, the couple is well and truly in love and wealth is not a consideration for her.

But for the family, it is – after all, the wealth has been generated after a deal with the devil and there is no way they will let anyone into the family without really testing the person.

While the wedding ceremony goes through smoothly, at night they gather in one of the many luxurious rooms in the antique but sprawling mansion, to play a game. The in-laws are about to reveal their true selves. There is the dominating father (Henry Czerny) who wants to carry out the ‘ritual’, the mother (Andie Macdowell) who plays along and the rest of the family. The game is about picking a random card and one of them is most dreaded. No prizes for guessing which one Grace picks – the game is called Hide and Seek – it basically involves her trying to hide while the rest find her and kill her, with a bunch of antique weapons in tow. There couldn’t possibly be a worse wedding night for any bride.

They have to catch and kill her before dawn – they believe that if they don’t do that, they all will die. The hunt begins as if their life depends on it, while she tries to stay safe because her life is definitely at risk. A fair bit of Tarantino like violence ensues – the wrong people end up with a hole in their head and heads roll, literally.  There is an element of humour in the manner in which it all unfolds – it may all sound silly but the writing and snazzy direction (the director duo is a part of the Radio Silence collective) ensures that you are engaged in the proceedings, no matter how crazy they are. There is an elderly spooky-looking aunt who is happy to wield an axe while Grace also has the odd sympathiser in the clan.  

Apart from all the chase and running around, the writing also adds another layer of social comment to it – this is also about people who get rich by devious means and will do anything to protect it, including train the next generation to do the same. In one scene towards the end, Grace screams, “F*****g rich people” which says more than the expletive-laden sentence suggests. The smartest line though is the last one uttered in the film.   

Along with the production values, the snappy editing deserves a mention. The Australian Samara Weaving, who resembles her compatriot Margot Robbie, is super good as the troubled bride. Shock, surprise, fear, anger – her expressions are apt at every moment.

Her Master’s Voice

Film: Dream Girl

Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Nushrat Bharucha, Annu Kapoor

Directed by: Raaj Shandilya

Duration: 2 hrs 12 mins

Rating: * * 1 / 2

In Dream Girl, Ayushmann Khurrana plays a man who can speak in a woman’s voice – and he can speak so well that a bunch of guys and a woman fall for him. The basic premise is interesting and goes well with what the actor has been doing; carving a niche for himself by playing alternative characters.

But the screenplay doesn’t have enough fuel for smooth sailing and at 130 odd minutes your patience starts running out towards the end, particularly when a lavish but pointless song and dance routine starts towards the fag end of the film.

Set in Mathura, Khurrana plays Karam, a young man who, since childhood, has the ability to speak in a woman’s voice.  Since there aren’t enough jobs in town, he takes up one at a call centre, where women talk to lonely men. He goes by the name of Pooja and soon, he has a bunch of obsessive admirers. There is a police constable (Vijay Raaz) who loves Shayari more than anything else, he finds a sympathiser in Pooja. There’s also a young man with a punk hairstyle, a simpleton (Abhishek Banerjee), a woman (Nidhi Bisht) who has had enough from her opposite sex and Karam’s own father (Annu Kapoor) – they are all in love with Pooja – or her voice rather. Now, this shouldn’t be a very difficult tangle to resolve but that’s where the film labours, big time.

Karam meanwhile is engaged to a young woman (Nushrat Bharucha) who doesn’t know of his profession. The screenplay keeps digging the hole deeper for Karam to wriggle out, but it starts getting a bit too tedious. Instead of going all out in terms of telling the core story, it strays into becoming a typical Bollywood film in trying to tick the boxes.

Ayushmann Khurrana is on a roll these days and the actor is taking chances with challenging roles – unfortunately, this screenplay doesn’t quite do justice to his talent, even though he makes the best of it.

Court Unquote

Film: Section 375

Cast: Akshaye Khanna, Richa Chadha, Meera Chopra

Directed by: Ajay Bahl

Duration: 2 hrs 10 mins

Rating: * * 1/2

Section 375, the film as well as the section of the penal code deals with sexual harassment which is been in the focus particularly after the #metoo movement – dealing with such a thorny issue is not easy because it is a double-edged sword. To his credit though director Ajay Bahl, tries to balance the issue – one could look at his approach as a cop-out or a balancing act because there two sides to the story that is being told.

This courtroom drama revolves around an allegation made against a film director Rohan (Rahul Bhatt). An assistant costume designer Anjali (Meera Chopra) files a case stating that he molested her at his residence. With enough evidence to prove his guilt, the Sessions Court sentences him to prison.

But the matter goes to the High Court and that is when two prominent lawyers trade legal blows – Tarun (Akshaye Khanna) has a reputation that precedes him and the prosecution is led by his former understudy Hiral (Richa Chaddha), a young and feisty woman.

The two judges (Kishore Kadam, Kruttika Desai) interject from time to time and actually contribute to the proceedings rather than the standard “Order, order” response that we hear often in Hindi films.

Having said that, the whole episode of public outrage and media coverage of the case, is done in a very stereotypical manner. Bahl, whose debut film BA Pass (2012) made waves back then, tries to balance the issue by mixing personal issues and the power equation which is at play in a workplace, which has, in turn, led to so many victims of harassment, in real life.

Commendably, there is an attempt to address the issue – rather than make it preachy, it comes out during the courtroom drama. Even if someone doesn’t agree with it, it gives an opportunity to bring it to the fore, through this medium.

Akshaye Khanna has a relatively meatier role and he makes the best of it. All arguments heard, the jury is out on this one.

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