Padman’s take on menstrual hygiene strikes a perfectly logical and cinematic balance

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Second AC journey (4/5)

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte, Sonam Kapoor

Director: R.Balki

R.Balki’s films have always had a subtle and stylish take on Indian women and his portrayal of India’s Padaman is another classy piece of cinema. Padman is the real-life story of Arunachalam, who is widely recognized for his vision and efforts on promoting menstrual hygiene in rural India. The film weaves through the hardships Arunachalam faced in his endeavors and brilliantly depicts his journey from a social outcast to a national hero.

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So it all starts in a village in India, where Lakshmi (Akshay Kumar), is happily married to Gayathri (Radhika Apte) and they are happily settled in a compact family. Balki takes some time to introduce his main and immediate supporting characters and as soon as we are done understanding who is who, he places his inciting incident to the audience. It does not take the protagonist, Lakshmi much time to understand the lack of menstrual hygiene being followed by the women in his immediate surroundings and how detrimental it could be in the long run. Given the sensitivity of the topic, Mr.Balki  carefully presents his problem statement on screen. The film takes us through multiple scenarios to highlight the rigid mentality, lack of awareness and the financial crunch that forces such detrimental conditions upon women in the rural space India.

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In his urge to improve menstrual sanitation for the women in his family and village Lakshmi goes above and beyond going to the extent of making sanitary pads, but, his act is taken as a serious offense by the women in his family itself. The film raises and gets answers to a lot of questions that have lead to the current chain of events by placing a protagonist, who is logical, practical and caring in the middle of this situation. The character of Lakshmi is simple, to begin with, but evolves as the journey moves forward. The director focuses on Lakshmi and Gayathri’s relationship and how his care for her transforms into an undying urge to provide better sanitary conditions for her during her periods, to begin with.

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The actors ensure the film keeps on track and the purpose is not lost. The introduction of Sonam Kapoor in a supporting role adds the much-needed refreshment and suave to the screen. The first half of the film showcases the issue from a rural background while during the second half Mr. Balki tries to shelve an urban angle into the film. Padman guarantees comedy, emotion, tears, and drama during its 140 minutes running time. Despite a bold subject, the film dons its dialogues and screenplay. The dialogues strike hard and go a long way in delivering the much-needed message.

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The film calls curtains with an enigmatic yet simple speech from the Pad Man that is surely going to move you. There are moments where it seems that Padman does add the extra unnecessary Bollywood flavor, which tends to typecast this journey also into a romantic drama, but I believe the message the film delivers is far important than that. The film is bold despite the setting it is filmed in and definitely strikes on the chord it was expected to.

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Padmavat: Bhansali’s cinematic aura and an engulfing Khilji are the standouts in this sufficiently entertaining period drama

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Third AC journey (3.5/5)

Starring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Aditi Rao Hydari, Jim Sarbh

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

With all the buzz around, Bhansali and co. did not need a lot of publicity or advertisements for their latest period drama. Despite a lot of fingers pointing at the substantiality and the authenticity of the story, Padmavat does manage to clear a lot of ground and ends up being another feather in Bhansali’s cap. Deriving its storyline from Jayasi’s version, Padmavat’s grandeur is nonparallel but at the same time, the film suffers from something I would term as “enhanced attention on acting skills” in the film world.

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Without wasting much time the film reveals its frontline characters including Shahid Kapoor as Rawal Ratan Singh and Deepika Padukone as Padmavati. What’s interesting is the route Mr. Bhansali follows in order to get the Rajputs and the Khilji’s face to face and no matter how authentic and well directed it is, it tends to slacken the process for someone who is not aware of the chronology and significance of the events.

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If you have known him and his films, a Bhansali film never falls short of a binding screenplay with sharp and punchy dialogues. The script and screenplay of Padmavat bring forth cracking dialogues delivered in Hindi, Urdu and Rajasthani dialects, which despite a traditional touch manage to set the scenes ablaze at times. The cinematography, locations and camera angles do complete justification to the production costs and Mr. Bhansali’s image as one of Bollywood’s finest. While the costumes sparkle and dazzle, the music goes hand in hand with the time depicted, as we see a combination of both, Rajasthani folk and Sufi background brace the film.

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Now, the part which I wanted to talk about the most, the acting. We all know a Bhansali film is never shy of powerful on-screen characters and Padmavat is just another proof of this claim. Ranveer Singh’s character casting of Alauddin Khalji is splendid. He may not be as ghastly and treacherous as Christopher Nolan’s Joker, but Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Alauddin is one of the most perfect villains played by anyone in a long time. Not to forget Anurag Kashyap’s Raman from Raman Raghav 2.0 last year. With every scene featuring Khilji, the film takes a slightly interesting turn, which made me woo him more over the leading lady, Padmavati.

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Deepika is rock solid in her character, but it takes really long for her virtues and boldness to become a part of her on-screen personality. Shahid Kapoor continues his love affair with his characters as his dynamic as Rawal Ratan Singh completely engulfs the charm and pride of a then Rajput ruler. However, the Shahid-Deepika chemistry is palatable but lacks the charisma that the Ranveer-Deepika pair shared in Bajirao Mastaani. The supporting cast that ropes in small but impacting performances from Jim Sarbh as Malik Kafur and Aditi Rao as Mehrunisa make a major impact on the flow of events in the films.

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As this journey nears its ending station, Padmavat gets gripping as every scene passes. With magnanimous war scenes to the bold and gutty Jauhar scene, the film touches a different level as another Bhansali romantic tragedy looks to end its course with utmost grandeur. After a gripping 180 minute running time that does not begin on a very strong foot, Padmavat ends adding a feather of glory and respect to Rajput honor and simultaneously doing utmost justice to the story of Padmavati that has been carried over the ages.

Qarib Qarib Single is as funny and adorable as any romantic comedy can get

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Rajdhani First AC journey (4/5)

Starring: Irrfan Khan, Parvathy, Brijendra Kala, Luke Kenny

Director: Tanuja Chandra

Romantic comedies have always been one of the genres I have enjoyed the most. So far this year, Bollywood has faired really well in the rom-com section. We had Bareilly ki Barfi, backed up by Shubh Mangal Savdhan and now Qarib Qarib SIngle is just what was needed. With the Irrfan-Parvathy combo at the helm of things, the film is done pretty well flavored with a comic screenplay and refreshing storyline.

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The journey from Mumbai to Rishikesh, then Delhi followed by Jaipur and finally reaching its climax in the beautiful valleys of Gangtok covers quite a bit of the country. With vivid locations keeping you intrigued at all times, the journey kicks off in Mumbai when two middle-aged single people come across through an online dating website. What follows is a series of insecurities and questions, which generally flow in the current online dating scenario. Talking more about our lead pair, on one hand, we have a poet cum flamboyant consultant, Irrfan Khan, who is spontaneous and relishes every moment of life while on the other is Parvathy; stylish, suave, but also insecure and withholding at the same time.

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As the journey progresses into the second gear, Irrfan, the poet reveals his romantic encounters in the past and the next thing we know, our lead pair are on a flight prepping for a series of encounters with Irrfan’s ex-girlfriends. Director, Taruna Chandra is back after a series of flip-flops and once again proves that she still has the Dil Toh Pagal Hai mettle in her. She takes time to build her characters up and the more we dig deeper into her film, she adds more essence and simplicity to her characters. For example, Irrfan being utterly careless at times and then being ignorant about it while Parvathy trying to imitate Irrfan’s Urdu words are some moments that help the film gel really well.

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Both the halves of the film are equally brilliant. Despite all the quality and character int he film the screenplay, at times, tends to spoil the party. Just like all the other en-route stations, the music is soothing, refreshing and limited which makes the journey even more enjoyable. Supporting actors play a limited role but the constant variety in faces with Neha Dhupia, Brijendra Kala, Isha Sharwani and Luke Kenny keep tinkling with the momentum of the film.

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With all its merits and some negligible flaws, Qarib Qarib Single made a huge impact on me. Taruna ends the film with Jaya settling all her insecurities of Vyogi and getting two completely opposite characters together, which should be enough for people doubting Bollywood’s ability with romantic comedies. To sum this journey up, Qarib Qarib Single is Qarib Qarib one of Bollywood’s finest films.

Ittefaq is one of the finer crime thrillers of the year

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Second AC journey (3.5/5)

Starring: Siddharth Malhotra, Sonkashi Sinha, Akshaye Khanna

Director: Abhay Chopra

The crime thriller genre has been something that Bollywood has practiced and perfected itself in over the last few years. With exceptional films like Gupt, Manorama, Ittefaq(1969), Kaun, Talvar and much more, our film fraternity has proven that they can really take audiences by surprise when it comes to cocktailing suspense and crime on the celluloid. Looking to derive its essence from its 1969 namesake, Ittefaq, is, without a doubt, a valuable addition to the list of those fine Bollywood thrillers.

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It all sparks off in a rainy Mumbai night as we see Siddharth Malhotra escaping from the clutches of the local police and coincidentally entering into Sonakshi Sinha’s house to find a place to hide. The film does not take much time to introduce its characters as within the first few minutes we get a fine nudge of the main faces of this journey. What unfolds is a series of versions of a night which around which the journey revolves. While Akshaye Khanna dons his tough cop role, the actor continues to be at the helm of things throughout the film. Sonakshi and Siddharth up their game as they keep their acting skills in balance through a rough and thorough police investigation.

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Both halves of the film are equally well made with the second one just feeling a little dragged on. Director, Abhay Chopra, ensures perfection is maintained throughout every frame. He brilliantly infuses the changing weather of Mumbai and the times of the day to depict the metamorphosis and evolution of his chilling script. As the train ruffles through the plot twists, the film plays with your imagination as you feel you are always rooting for the wrong guy. Dialogues and screenplay do add the momentary humor to the screen which helps relish the journey. No songs and a thankfully short running time help Ittefaq edge closer and closer to our list of suave Bollywood thrillers while the twist in the tale is more than sufficient to propel the film into the selects list.

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With Rajesh Khanna and Nanda in 1969 and Siddharth and Sonakshi in 2017, the Ittefaq brand maintains its standards as the phenomenally crafted journey comes to a halt. Perfectly measured presence of actors and believable plot points make Ittefaq one of the films you should definitely watch this weekend.

Shraddha Kapoor’s prosthetics and poker face are the only convincing thing in Haseena Parkar

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Sleeper Chaircar journey (1.5/5)

Starring: Shraddha Kapoor, Siddhanth Kapoor, Sunil Upadhyay, Ankur Bhatia

Director: Apoorva Lakhia

The gangster genre has been the in thing for quite some time with Bollywood. With Arun Gawli’s biopic, Daddy hitting theatres earlier this month, Bollywood’s underworld characters have been quite in the limelight. While Daddy was a one-man show driven by Arjun Rampal, Shraddha Kapoor’s Haseena Parkar, even fails to cash on its protagonist, leave alone the story and supporting cast.

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Being in the buzz for quite some time, there is no question regarding the expectations from the gangster biopic. Apoorva Lakhia, takes you through this journey in a flashback mode which continues in the backdrop of a raw, meatless and deprived of taste court case. The journey across the underworld of Mumbai begins with a subtle yet power packed entry of Shraddha as Haseena, but the courtroom dramatics take no time to shift focus to their abysmal arguments and saltless screenplay. Every scene seems meaninglessly added as continuous flashbacks marr the momentum of the film which was pretty much going nowhere.

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To add to the soaring displeasure, Haseena Parkar’s marriage and love life are also equally tasteless and added just for the sake of it. The first half of Haseena Parkar shuffles around its characters way too much and its quite evident that they are unable to cope with the pressure, hence bringing the film down to a terrible low at the halfway mark. I would take a moment to figure how does Apoorva Lakhia come down from Shootout at Lokhandwala to something like this.

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After a punishing first half and with quite a lot already going to dust with this journey, the film suddenly starts focusing on moments and events rather than its characters in the second half. I would not say that the shift guides the film to success but definitely helped me sit through the rest of the film. Lakhia, sheds light upon the killings of Sabbir Kaskar, the Pathan’s, Haseena’s husband, Babri Masjid demolition, Mumbai riots and 93 blasts that at least guide the film to a sensible end. The film does well in aligning the events that shaped Haseena and the Mumbai underworld but once again miserably falters in depicting them on the celluloid. There were scenes of the truce of the Kaskar brothers with the Pathan’s and the killing of Sabbir Kaskar that could have been done with much more style, intent and perfection.

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Music of the film is pretty much like the script and screenplay, a no-show; the film could have done without it. Acting skills are again a debatable state of affairs. Just like their characters, Shraddha and Siddhanth step up their level while playing the later days of their real-life characters, while their younger versions are naive and spineless. The courtroom drama lacks everything you need in one as even the momentary comedy seems apologetic.

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The journey finally ends with an impacting speech from Shraddha Kapoor but it comes after the battle is completely lost. Haseena Parkar is the perfect example of purposeless cinema that only aims at making the celluloid look glossy. To sum it up, apart from the prosthetics of the characters and the scene setting, Haseena Parkar has nothing much to offer to anyone.

The Farhan Akhtar lead Lucknow Central is another feather in Bollywood’s real life adaptations

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Second AC Chaircar journey (3.5/5)

Starring: Farhan Akhtar, Gippy Grewal, Diana Penty, Deepak Dobriyal, Rajesh Sharma, Inamulhaq, Ravi Kishan, Ronit Roy

Director: Ranjit Tiwari

The story of 5 prisoners who plan a prison escape in the backdrop of a band performance was an idea that needed sheer diligence and character to be carried out. Revealing the most of itself in the trailer, Lucknow Central’s story does not come as a surprise, but the articulate direction, perfection in acting, well lined up chain of events and the music that binds the film together left me impressed.

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What begins on a shaky wicket with an out of sorts small town struggling singer quite easily speeds into its second gear with a rather early and weakly presented inciting incident. A fairly large majority film revolves in the jail campus of Lucknow Central,  which is often personified as a person and given the beginning, it seems the makers were in dire urge of shifting focus to the prison. The good part of this speedy transformation is that it quickly helped me shift focus from the crooked start and conveniently aligned events. As the journey gets into its jail phase director Ranjit Tiwari slows down the accelerator as we see more attention to detail and a very well directed entry of supporting characters. Starting from Ronit Roy to Gippy Grewal and Diana Penty, the writer cum director Ranjit Tiwari nurture his film’s course with meaningful sub plots and challenging dilemmas. WIthin no time, the journey gains momentum and starts to flow under the control of the director and his characters.

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With a splendid combination of plots and sub plots, the film gives due attention to its characters and their on screen portrayal. From the leading man, Farhan Akhtar to every supporting character the load is equally shared and carried by the cast members of the film. Lucknow Central may not exceed certain aspects of Bollywood films, but, certainly, keeps in line with the high standards of film making followed in the industry. The second half of the film carries forward the good work of the first as the attentions shifts to the evolving sub plot characters of Panditji (Rajesh Sharma), Paali (Gippy Grewal), Dikkat (Inamulhaq) and Victor (Deepak Dobriyal) with the story already having a steady growth in the rear.

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As we near the moment of deliverance, the film ties all ends up with the characters and the story reaching their ultimate goal. On one hand, we see the protagonist fulfilling his ambition of creating a band while Ravi Kishan, playing the Chief Minister of U.P. gets his desire of a band performance in Lucknow Central accomplished. Due credit needs to be given to the cinematographer for giving his best shot at covering the city of Lucknow followed by weighty camera shots as per the scene’s demand.

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What started off with a song depicting freedom and struggles of an aspiring singer ends with another impacting musical performance from Farhan and his band of prisoners, keeping the film critic’s equation well in balance. The director takes the last few minutes to close all loops and ensures the wrongs are undone as Lucknow Central ends its journey on a soaring note with entertainment written all over it.

 

Baadshaho is the perfect example of a cinematic catastrophe

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Unreserved Journey from Jaisalmer to Delhi (1.5/5)

The 1975 emergency background, the reunion of Ajay Devgan and Emraan Hashmi with the stealthy presence of Illeana D’Cruz and Sanjay Mishra and a versatile director like Milan Luthria at the helm of things, Baadshaho’s trailer left a decent impression on me. But, sadly, the 3-minute trailer does not end up as a very delightful 3-hour film and hence adding another number to my list of disappointments.

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It all starts during the year 1973 introducing Priyanshu Chatterjee playing a dull Sanjay Gandhi, who tries his flirting skills with a young and charming princess, Gitanjali devi (Illeana D’Cruz). Now, when the very first scene of the film fails to come up with charm, vigour and intent, one is just left with a depleting interest in what follows, especially if it goes on for 3 hours. Characters are introduced with a little background as more details would have been an unnecessary atrocity on viewers. Not only is Baadshaho built on a spineless story but also exhibits a dull and wannabe screenplay. Dialogues are terrible and end up complementing the damp storyline. The only part where Milan Luthria gets it correct is the entry of his characters and a part of his casting.

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In an attempt to confiscate the royal gold the army brings in Vidyut Jamwal who also goes on a rampage of philosophical and stylish dialogues that do not suit his stature or character in the film. After producing a lively twist towards the tail of the first half, Baadshaho gave me a ray of hope for the second half. But, I was mistaken. There comes a point in the film, where the truck carrying gold actually looks more thought of than the characters and story of the film. The characters go on a rampage in the second half as character conflicts, intent, climax, plot and dilemmas are just rendered baseless terms. Despite a whole bucket of problems, Baadshaho gives you a generous background score, which is not enough to overshadow the perils of this journey. The acting department is also on a shaky wicket as on one hand Ajay Devgan, Sanjay Mishra and Emraan Hashmi are the eye candies while Illeana D’Cruz, Vidyut Jamwal and Esha Gupta destroy all that was left of this shipwreck.

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After a lot of chaos and asymmetrical direction, Baadshaho finally nears its end in the deserts of Rajasthan. To sum it up neither the characters nor the plot of the film reaches its end making Baadshaho a waste of both, time and money.

 

A Gentleman fails to build around an impressing plot and a flurry of shiny actors

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Sleeper class journey (2.0/5)

The only thing common between Go Goa Gone, 99, Shor In The City, Happy Ending and A Gentleman: Sundar, Susheel, Risky is their formidably talented directing team of Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. Well, to be honest even I was not aware of the fact and after learning so I really started expecting wonders from a film that had glossy faces and meaningless action written all over its trailer. Our gentleman, Siddharth Malhotra, is all the 3; Sundar, Susheel and risky, but sadly his film is not.

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What kicks off with a weird car crash and a bunch of flashbacks with lots of characters does not take much time to get the action and bullets started. The film portrays two characters of Siddharth Malhotra, one sundar and susheel, while the other, yes you guessed it right. Risky ! The film takes a good deal of time to get us acquainted with its characters. What’s good about the characterization in the film is the impact the presence of so many stars on the screen creates, but what’s bad is that the film does not do much to make anything of it. On one hand, we have a charming protagonist playing 2 roles, Gaurav and Rishi (Siddharth Malhotra) supported a by a suave and impulsive Kavya (Jacqueline Fernandez) and on the other, we have a team of some badass negative characters, Yakub (Darshan Kumar) and Colonel (Suniel Shetty). The film, according to me, was supposed to sell on the buzz of its star cast and the return of Suniel Shetty, because the story line and script hardly have any meat to offer in a running time of 120 minutes.

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Music in the film is as unnecessary as an empty station. Despite a lot of drawbacks, the film actually builds its characters with a bit of finesse adding some efficient camera work to help things get a bit appealing. Another merit, which was almost a hooting moment for me was the one twist in the plot that makes me still believe in the writing abilities of Raj and D.K. As we progress into the second half things get a bit interesting as the momentary comedy helps you digest a tasteless meal. Hussain Dalal as Dikshit and Amit Mistry as an American based Gujarati don add a fun element to the script and manage a raw script score some laughs here and there.

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A Gentleman gets most of its cinematic attributes right but demeans its qualities with a botched up script and a dull story telling method that makes the film want to thrive on just 2 minutes of a ‘WOW’ moment with some goofy comedy and Siddharth-Jacqueline romance. Sadly, none of it adds, to sum up a meaningful script. Well, it may have its gloss right, but the route this gentleman follows is not pleasant enough and definitely not advised. Though, if you would want to make a choice between Babumoshai Bandookbaaz and A Gentleman, I would urge you to save money for either Baadshaao or Daddy.

It catches your attention for some time but elsewise Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is a misfired bullet

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Sleeper Class Journey (2.0/5)

Gangsters from the rural section of the country, political killings and dark characters are all tried and tested themes in Bollywood. Babumoshai Bandookbaaz experiments a genre that’s been Bollywood’s baby off late but despite a few interesting scenes and well-carved characters, the Nawzuddin starrer has very less to offer. Directed by Kushan Nandy the film revolves around the dark lives of hitmen hired for political killings in the rural parts of the country.

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The journey kicks off with bashing dialogues and loud gunfires that set the tone of the next 2 hours of this gangster drama. From the very beginning, the film establishes Nawazuddin as the sole care taker of the film, which gets more evident as we move ahead. With his sassy dialogues, cheesy flirting and badass attitude, the character of Nawazuddin looks to be well invested upon. Characters of Phulwa (Bidita Baig), Jiji (Divya Dutta) and Baake (Jatin Goswami) are provided an interesting background and list of sultry dialogues and acts that keep you glued to them during the first half. The scene settings and expositions are brilliant and well thought of. Locations and camera angles are beautifully done and add more intent to the film than the story line does. Vishal Mittal and his cinematography adds a lot of value to this otherwise confusing gunfight drama.

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The film offers a lot in almost every department in its first half and the second half begins with the same passion and charisma. Intense conversations, emotions and intriguing twists and turns to the story line start to take shape as the engine keeps roaring on its way to an expectedly thrilling end. It’s right after an intense chase scene of Nawazuddin and Jatin that I felt the film starts to lose its charm. The characters which were are heroes in the first half are reduced to mere dialogue delivering bodies as the responsibility of entertainment solely falls on the Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. Unwanted songs, surplus conversations and plot points marr this journey which could have been much more than what it is reduced to.

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After losing its course for a good 45 minutes, the film somehow manages to find its destination which is again, more of a crash landing than a systematic and aligning train halt. I just wish the makers would have given the same amount of thought to their story as they did to their characters. Finally, neither Babu nor his stylish and charismatic on-screen aura is able to save you from being doomed by a highly expected entertainer meeting a dreadful end.

 

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