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.

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.

 

Arjun Rampal’s persona as Arun Gawli is dazzling but unfortunately Daddy does not entirely cash in on it

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Third AC journey (2.75/5)

Starring: Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rajesh, Rajesh Shringarpure, Anand Ingale, Nishikant Kamat

Director: Ashim Ahluwalia

The Indian film industry, over the years, has continued to shed light upon some of the darkest, most notorious and petrifying characters of the Indian mafia. Whether it be the flamboyant and charismatic Sultan Mirza of Once Upon A Time in Mumbai, the many stylish and deadly faces of Dawood in films like D-Day or the cool, composite and stealthy Ramadhir Singh of Gangs of Wasseypur, Bollywood somehow manages to do justice to their characters that evolve out of the stories of real life gangsters. Ashim Ahluwalia’s portrait of Arun Gawli is dark and engrossing but suffers from some directorial and editing casualties in its 140-minute long run.

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What kicks off in the streets of Dagdi Chawl in 1976, soon begins to take shape around the evolution of the BRA gang and the metamorphosis of Arun Gawli, the protagonist, into a gangster from an average mill worker who loses his job. Just like every Bollywood-gangster film, Daddy also builds upon the hardships of Arun during his early days and how circumstances force him into partnering Babu Reshim and Rama Naik in their unscrupulous activities. Yes, it matches the tonality of others in the genre, but Daddy adds the unique touch to it. The time, locations, costumes and above all, the characters add a tangible and believable aura to the film. The first half gets almost all aspects of a Mumbai based gangster right; from the chawls and slum style life to the encounter with Dawood followed by shootouts and chase scenes, everything is done justice to.

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Daddy follows a pretty simplistic and already explored story line but with a sensational protagonist at the helm of things. Gawli’s character is completely nailed by Arjun Rampal. From the prosthetics to the accent and the makeup, Arjun Rampal is without a doubt the best thing Daddy has. Music of the 80’s and effecient supporting cast members play their part in the transformation of Arun to Daddy, but after a rather eventful first half things start to get a little dull and dark in the second part of the journey. With Gawli reaching his peak as the leader of the BRA gang, Ashim Ahluwalia’s film tends to solely rely on Rampal’s on-screen persona.

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Another feather in the cap for Daddy is that it keeps facts and figures in check. The film is well researched and ensures the chronology of events is not tampered with. As we near the end, the film successfully exits its temporary monotony as Arun Gawli enters into politics. From this juncture, the film sprints towards the end, giving a very high level view of Gawli’s career as a politician.

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It’s well finished by a bold and touting speech by Rampal as we see Gawli being sentenced for life. Despite some of its flaws, Daddy ended it up impressing me. It could be because it does not conveniently tamper with facts or even because of the relentless efforts put into making this film given the innumerable challenges faced by the production unit. Summing it up, I’d say Daddy is watchable if you enjoy dark and treacherous hindi cinema, Daddy fits your genre.

 

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.

 

Bareilly Ki Barfi is the perfect sweet to be tried this week

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

The atmosphere of a small town, bold, mushy and bubbly characters, a delightful screenplay, well tied up plot points supported by meaningful subplots and a perfect music mix present a rather strong case in support of Bareilly Ki Barfi. Though another love story with a very ordinary chain of events, Bareilly Ki Barfi impressed me because it sticks to its kin, moves with a plan and does nearly nothing obtuse to overdo its entertainment factor.

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Set across the state of Uttar Pradesh, the film revolves between the towns of Bareilly and Lucknow, with the former occupying a larger chunk of the film. From purposeful camera angles to the introduction of its characters, the film manages to get everything spot-on throughout its running course of 120 minutes. The journey begins with the adorably funny and emotionally liberating relationship of the Mishra family. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, the director, takes her time to get you familiar with the Shastri family. The director spaces out the entry of her lead actors making sure she gets time to build bonds between her characters and develop captivating subplots that help this barfi get even tastier. Ashwini, whose last film, Nil Battey Sannata revolved around a mother-daughter relationship, gives us an engaging father-daughter bond shared between Bitti(Kriti Sanon) and her father Narottam Mishra(Pankaj Tripathi) with Bareilly Ki Barfi.

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Music falls in place laying equal emphasis on both moods, the desi hip-hop one and the slow romantic one. Moving the focus of our so-far-so-good journey towards the acting department, one really does not have anything to fuss about. Whether it be the leading trio of Rajkumar-Ayushman-Kriti or the supporting framework of Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Bhargava, the characters gel perfectly with each other adding richness to this Bareilly Ki Barfi. To support the laudable acting and the phenomenal storytelling skills of the director, the film has one of the finest screenplays I have seen this year in Bollywood. Nitesh Tiwari tries a different flavor after his obliviating success with last year’s Dangal, and presents a comical love triangle to keep up with his standards of entertainment.

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This journey hardly gives us anything to woo about, but even this lovable pulp of emotion and comedy suffers from a few unstimulating moments in its route. The tone tends to rattle you in few scenes as the film does quick shuffles between comedy and serious emotion to pull you down. Nevertheless, the supporting compartments of acting and brilliant writing and a splash of the occasional laugh helps you get past this short-lived lean patch. Summing up my experience, Bareilly Ki Barfi is perfectly rich, tender and tasty, exactly how I had expected it to be and would strongly urge not missing this entertainment riot.

Toilet:Ek Prem Katha: delivers its message but as a film, its just another in the lot

The Cinema Station’s Rating: Ordinary Non AC chair car journey

Starting with Baby in 2015, Akshay Kumar’s spirit of patriotism and urge to end the social taboos within the Indian society has been quite evident in his films. Within 2017 itself, he attacked fake encounters and power abuse with Jolly LLB 2 and now with Toilet, the veteran looks to educate people on sanitation and use of toilets in households. Well, to be on the side of Bollywood, the film does pack a punch with its delivery and surely looks the one to spread the message, but as a film, it’s just another ordinary piece of cinema which misses on some important aspects.

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The film is set in the rural sectors and small towns of Uttar Pradesh in India and as per the film’s mood, it fits the scene. The makers handle the dialect, screenplay, casting and scene settings with momentum through a major section of the film. But if these attributes earn the applause, patched quality of the cinematography and abundant songs that constantly spoil with the momentum the film builds, spoil the flavor. The journey unrolls with a gabroo Keshav (Akshay Kumar), who fears his father (Sudhir Pandey)so much that he agrees to marry a Buffalo on superstitious grounds. As things unveil the director prefers the audience deal with a love story for a good 40 minutes before actually facing a glimpse of the issue the film looks to tackle. Again, the romance is very ordinary yet adorable and it does not take much time for a hot headed, egoistic and educated Jaya (Bhumi Padnekar) to fall for her stalker, Keshav.

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The first half of the film is over stretched as we see unnecessary scenes and frequent songs all valiantly dragging the journey to the climax station. Given his expertise as an editor, it’s surprising how does the director, Shree Narayan Singh, let such unwanted chunks transpire in his final cut. The quirky and amusing screenplay coupled with Akshay and Bhumi’s chemistry helps digest an otherwise tasteless first half. The second half picks up as if in the middle of a roller coaster ride and for some reason, it feels right. The songs are out, the action is purposeful and everyone starts behaving as they should have in the first half. The second half seems more meaningful and more related to the film as it resurfaces interesting information about scams and ‘ghotalas’ related to the Government’s sanitation program. It’s now that Akshay and Bhumi’s love story feels correct as it helps the film progress.

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The film gets its casting spot on as every character leaves an impression on the screen. The return of Divyendu Sharma into mainstream cinema is enjoyable as he picks up his form from his famous role of Liquid from Pyaar Ka Punchnama. The presence of Anupam Kher (Kakka), Sudhir Pandey, Mukesh Pandey (Rastogi), Rajesh Sharma and Atul Srivastava (Jaya’s father) definitely enhance the look and quality of the film.

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If we scrutinize, there were things really wrong with the way the story was built up in the first place. This journey which was heavily disturbing in the first half somehow achieved a stable tone in the second half to end things with a silver lining. Despite, not a very great experience, I’d urge the masses to watch the film as it adds a valuable message to the end of its 160 minutes running time.

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