Review: Pihu plays on our sympathy

One of my mother’s worst memories is when I got locked out in the next-door neighbour’s apartment and clambered my way to the balcony ledge.

It was on the second floor. The balcony had no grills. And I was 18 months old.

The ordeal she went through, until a brave young resident volunteered to climb up from outside and rescue me, is something she wouldn’t wish upon her worst enemy.

Not all such episodes are freak accidents.

Often adults don’t realise the repercussion of their actions on the child and how it can put them in harm’s way. Director Vinod Kapri looks at this grave possibility around the experiences of a two-year old (Myra Vishwakarma) in Pihu.

The premise is stuff of dark thrillers, a real-time horror, which is somewhat thawed by the cuteness and curiosity of the titular tot at its centre.

Pihu‘s innocuous opening credits build around the clamour of a birthday party and animated chalk doodles give little indication of the trouble ahead. The morning after begins on a cruel note for Pihu. But the tragedy is lost on the little girl.

Too young to understand why her “Mumma” won’t respond to her cries or demands, she wanders about her duplex apartment alone and oblivious to its increasingly danger prone surroundings.

A scalding-hot iron, loose stack of electrical wires, a relentlessly running tap, toxic bottle of phenyl, broken pieces of glass and a dangerously bare balcony of a high rise, Pihu is walking through a minefield in her own home. The microwave sequence, in particular, is daunting and nauseous.

Her mother’s still state and a pile of pills scattered on the floor tell its own story. As do the bruises on her face and wrist. The mirror bears a burden far brutal than this family’s reality whose happier times only reflect on walls and frames.

Her father’s angry phone calls and family friend’s apologetic tone does not confirm what we sense is deceit or suspicion. Pihu plays on its intrigue and our sympathy.

Kids are a vulnerable lot after all. They need constant care, attention and protection. It is interesting to see how a two year old will survive in an environment devoid of ‘Don’t do this’, ‘Stop’, ‘This is too dangerous’ or ‘You are too small’.

The potty-trained, remote control-operating Pihu does surprisingly well. 

Though it runs only 90 something minutes, Kapri fails to sustain a sense of real terror around the crisis. A lot of it looks orchestrated; the dubbing is sloppy and the ease with which Pihu overcomes her boo-boos would be a lot more believable in an Incredibles movie.

Despite its shortcomings, Pihu is an experiment worth encouraging. It may not be a flawless work of film-making but it has something valid to say about lousy parents.

Rating: 3

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Review: Beware of Thugs of Hindostan

Looks like Aamir Khan forgot his invincible script sense at home the day director Vijay Krishna Acharya narrated Thugs of Hindostan. The movie is so atrociously stale and dreary, it makes Manoj Kumar’s Kranti look like a work of a dystopian future and rebooting Pirates of Caribbean an agreeable idea.

Neither Aamir’s hard-at-work whimsicality nor Amitabh Bachchan’s stoic presence can salvage a second of this bloated, blundering bore.

Unlike Acharya’s masala-coloured Tashan and Dhoom 3, Thugs of Hindostan is an empty spice box that forgot to progress beyond a star-studded cast.

Not only does it confine Aamir and AB in trite parts but puts us off casting coups by serving up the tamest face-off between actors, who seldom get it wrong.Sans chemistry, camaraderie and charm, you’ll find more imagination in Baahubali writer K V Vijayendra Prasad’s trashcan than Thugs of Hindostan‘s witless spectacle.

Somewhere in the early 1800s, Acharya sets a fictional reality where a cult of revolutionaries calling themselves Azad, led by Bachchan and Fatima Sana Shaikh, seek independence and retribution from the oppressing Britishers, singularly represented by an Officer Clive (Lloyd Owen).

Sana Shaikh is essentially Gamora raised by Katappa instead of Thanos. Except no matter how fierce her warrior avatar looks or how furiously she leaps and pulls out her archer’s kit, she is never above her damsel-in-distress fate with constant need of masculine supervision.

When it’s not AB, there’s Aamir as Firangi Mallah, a jackass-riding, conscience-juggling Jack Sparrow-clone at her service. His shabby, costume-y, kohl-eyed, shifty-faced enthusiasm is a cross between a lecherous Prem Chopra and Paintal’s Shakuni.

There’s Katrina Kaif too — flaunting her rubberlike frame in two songs and three scenes. If she appears smug, it is mostly because her much-maligned Hindi accent sounds so much less lousy around the infuriating phirang assault. The movie made me appreciate the campy contributions of Bob Christo to Hindi cinema in an all-new light.

Thugs‘s biggest drawback is its inability to have fun.

Its escalating stiffness and flimsy dynamism glares at you in the form of the Big B and his weary eyes, every time they look at a CGI-induced eagle soar above him. Akin to a sleepy lion in heavy armoury, it is strange to see the man, whose firm shoulders once hosted Allahrakha, surrounded by this much fakery.

The VFX are especially ghastly. The bird looks phony. The fleet looks made up. The battles on the sea or land lack daredevilry and bluster. More charpai of spears than game of thrones, Thugs of Hindostan‘s only real special effect is to make Aamir Khan almost as tall as Amitabh Bachchan in some scenes.

Thugs of Hindostan is 1980s schlock at its most forgettable. Every single gesture, smile and betrayal of this 164-minutes long drag is done-to-death predictable.

Like when the villain’s sidekick spots the hero in the pre-climax group dance but is stopped from arresting him right away so that the performance goes on uninterrupted for the audience’s viewing pleasure.

When the heroine places her hand on the hero’s wrist only to sheepishly withdraw fearing to get too close.

When the assumed dead reappear in a public gathering to enjoy a dance performance featuring the hero and his two heroines while the villain and his sidekick look on.

I looked too — at my watch — it felt like a century had passed. Beware of Thugs of Hindostan. They rob you of time and more.

Rating: 1

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Review: It’s all downhill in Jack and Dil

At a time when champion content is available all around and even the most obscure web series pack in promise, nobody is going to bother with a sloppy, nondescript movie just because it got a theatrical release.

A case in point is Director Sachin P Karande’s witless and muddled Jack and Dil. It’s downhill from the word go. It’s like someone wrote the script in their sleep and then dropped a bottle of ink on it.

There’s little sense or point to any of it. So Amit Sadh plays a penniless, wannabe writer of detective novels whose shabby abode is desperate for a visit from the raddiwala. Except he’s obsessed with a pug and lands up at Arbaaz Khan’s bungalow requesting him to part with his pooch.

It’s as random as that. Khan runs an ad agency and suspects his wife (Sonal Chauhan) of having an affair — given how dull everything about this movie is, can you blame her? He hires Sadh to spy on her and promises the nameless dog in return.

Jack and Dil is no film and Sadh no spy. Chauhan sees through Sadh and they become friends. Two extremely bored individuals with another supremely boring guy in common doing everything in their power to rub off this collective boring energy on to the screen, Jack and Dil tests your endurance for drab matter.

Its idea of comic relief pops up every now and then in the garb of Evelyn Sharma’s jumpy airhead. We learn she broke up with Sadh after he puked on her and didn’t call back. And yet her first reaction on seeing him is demanding he takes his shirt off and show his six packs as proof of his love for her.

Meanwhile a glum faced Sonal Chauhan complains about finding a place where waves will touch her feet and nature abounds. How ridiculous is that coming from a character living in Goa?

The writing is pure junk, be it dialogues ‘cheez bikni hai to bikni pehanni padegi and lyrics that go Mera Ishq so strong ho raha hai overflow.

But the real torture is watching a drunk Arbaaz Khan whining about his flop marriage. The usually agreeable Amit Sadh seems to be following a brief that insists he undo all the good work and immerse himself into a cesspool of lousy acting.

Between Sadh’s feelings for a dog, two girls and man he may or may not help reconcile with his wife, Jack and Dil feels like a marathon to nowhere. It’s not funny when it ends with one.

Rating: 1

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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