KGF: Chapter 2 review

Mindless machismo is the jewel of many a masala movie and blaring background music its birthright. The louder this combination, the louder audiences are expected to applaud. Call it a formula, a fallacy or an ingrained belief among film-makers but solo strength triumphing over a battalion of bad guys is a visual that isn’t retiring any time soon.

We’ve had countless avatars of this scenario. One of them is Writer-Director Prashanth Neel’s KGF Chapter 1, a hyper-stylish concoction of Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man and simply south sensibilities that creates a grimy, greasy, over-the-top world of legends and lore.

Considering the entire saga unfolds out of the pages of a contentious book named El Dorado, its unreliable narrator gives the makers ample license to go bonkers around its wafer-thin plot. And Neel has zero tolerance or taste for restraint.

Three-and-a-half years later, the sequel is equally full-on.

If Chapter 1 of this Kannada blockbuster chronicled the origins story of a young man’s rise in ranks from Raja Krishnappa Bairya to ‘Rocky’ (Yash) in the world of crime against the backdrop of the Kolar gold mines, Chapter 2 glances at his reckless reign and growing enemies.

Though the events take place somewhere between 1978-1981, KGF‘s soot-covered world wears a bleak, post-apocalyptic air where Mad Max and Need For Speed collide.

Kohl-eyed women draped in black saris and bearded men of all ages and sizes abound while Rocky makes his swaggering return in an introduction marked by drum rolls on screen and wolf whistles off it.

I watched a 7 am show at a theatre and noticed the Hindi-dubbed print had quite a few takers. It helps that not all is lost in translation. The punchlines retain their puffed up threats in dialogues brimming with animal analogies and aggression.

Whatever socialism or saviour of the downtrodden it means to brandish in the awestruck eyes of his endless followers, KGF contradicts those ideals in the rash flamboyance and business-minded ambitions of Rocky’s moody messiah.

Rocky lives in the lap of luxury and coffers filled with gold but his loyal subjects look as destitute as ever. Rocky guns down a police station for the sake of a biscuit that he retrieves anyway without any resistance. His behaviour is regularly questionable, but KGF 2 is too smitten by its leading man to question his greed, let alone correct him.

It begins early on with regards to his romantic interest (Srinidhi Shetty), whom he abducts and forces to cohabit for ‘entertainment’. Guess even the Stockholm Syndrome is a luxury in its wham-bam scheme of things so the director just miraculously makes her fall in love with her kidnapper and prolongs a cringeworthy subplot’s existence for the sake of needless songs.

Often KGF 2‘s confused stance towards morality dilutes the impact of its conflicts and makes the bad guy entitled to his misgivings legitimately, as is shown in Rocky’s case. Barring a mother who passed away ordering him to procure wealth and never be at the mercy of the affluent, one never gets a meaty insight into his course of power play.

Rocky doesn’t seem as bitter and looks jubilant about enjoying his overwhelming clout over the masses. Even his detractors gathering evidence to nab him are coloured in hilarious ardour. A CBI officer listing Rocky’s transgressions to the prime minister, as if enumerating his tales of valour, is a case in point.

On the positive side, KGF 2‘s bleached palette and stark production design is one of its stronger attributes and Neel highlights its impact to the hilt. The other plus is a cast that puts some muscle on a thin premise and immerses itself wholeheartedly in the overblown daredevilry and defiance of its violence-worshiping protagonists.

Sanjay Dutt plays Adheera — a Viking-inspired brute whose blood ties with Rocky’s former foe and personal humiliation make him charge at our hero like a vile beast. Full of tattoos, braids and comic-book vigour, Dutt has a blast taking on his debut movie namesake, which coincidentally, released in 1981.

There’s Raveena Tandon as fictional Prime Minister Ramika Sen, looking sharp in ikat saris and exuding authority like a veteran politician. Yash’s face-offs with these two are far more effective than any of the elaborate action pieces it dispenses ad infinitum.

Yash has a tricky part to play. In real time, he’s a boorish hero, tiptoeing between style and sass, whose unpredictability and rowdy instincts make him an acquired taste. In retrospect, he’s a larger-than-life figure, deliberately erased from history but whose impossible adventures make him a raconteur’s delight. But his sly humour and unbridled ferocity hits all the right notes.

The upshot would be a lot more refined if not for the excesses of Neel’s chaotic screenplay, never-ending climax and badgering background score. Too often, the intercuts play out like a cacophonous orchestra and render the overall sequence disoriented.

Testosterone, not rationale, is the driving force behind the KGF franchise. Will it ever slow down? Not if that little tease of KGF: Chapter 3 in its post-end credits is any indication.

This review was first published on

Share on TumblrSubmit to reddit+1Digg ThisPin it on PinterestShare on LinkedIn
Posted in Columns & Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Drive My Car review

A staggering quietness envelopes Drive My Car. But as Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s sublime, soulful adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story from the Men Without Women anthology silently progresses, the storm it conceals reveals itself bit by bit.

Winner of the Best International Film Oscar and several other accolades since its premiere at Cannes where it received three awards including Best Screenplay, the Japanese drama is a meditation on grief and art, the process of coping with one and crafting another.

Though its characters are capable of profound passions and impenetrable enigma, their deeply deposited sorrow and haunting guilt has silenced them into a routine that is comforting if not therapeutic.

Drive My Car is about two people journeying in a state of suppressed agony over a course of connection and catharsis.

One of them is an actor and theatre director Yusuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima). Two years after his wife’s sudden death, he accepts a residency offer to direct a multilingual production of Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima.

Kafuku shared an erotic creative process with his writer wife (Reika Kirishima), where they regularly made love and inspired the latter to weave a seductive yarn about a girl fascinated by a teenage boy whose apartment she frequently sneaked into when no one is around.

It’s a harmonious, fulfilling relationship bound by a personal tragedy they may or may not have overcome, at least in Kafuku’s mind, until he learns of his wife’s betrayals.

But his silence and her passing deny Kafuku a chance at closure or peace.

In Hiroshima, he is assigned a chauffeur, a 24-year-old girl named Misaki Watari (Toko Miura) inclined to speak only if spoken to but immediately recognises Kafuku’s attachment towards his bright red Saab 900 Turbo.

She is a skilled driver, a talent that doesn’t go unnoticed by the owner in the back seat. Misaki has a tiny scar on her cheek but the ones she harbours within are far severe in nature. A relationship of listening develops inside the cherished red car, which is both — a cocoon and character.

Kafuku listens to taped cassettes of his wife’s voice, Misaki listens to what he is feeling through them and the car lends an ear to their unexpressed grief as well as the many significant and moving confessions that happen when guests are offered a lift.

Drive My Car moves a lot in and around Hiroshima, a city that resurrected itself following the infamous nuclear destruction during World War II. But a great deal of its three hours long unhurried drama unfolds within the theatre company.

Between auditions and rehearsals, Kafuke keeps laying emphasis on text until internalised, much to the amusement and frustration of the actors hailing from different nationalities.

There’s a lovely scene to acknowledge the power of communication when Kafuke visits the home of a deaf-mute actor (a luminous Park Yu-rim) and discovers her relationship with his colleague in the theatre company.

Kafuke isn’t quite ready to face his own fears though. He feigns indifference when one of the actors turns out to be his late wife’s lover. But by burdening the young man in ‘terrifying’ Chekov’s titular part of Uncle Vanya, he conveys a resentment only his wife and soulmate would understand.

When a character reminds him how he and his deceased half, ‘value the finer details that people won’t even notice,’ he speaks for Director Hamaguchi’s craft as well as actors Hidetoshi Nishijima and Toko Miura.

The disquiet around their calm and the volume of unsaid imprinting their silence is a give and take between actors at their most human. Drive My Car looks at the nature of grief through the emotions of reserved characters, but conveys a world of healing that cannot be summed, only felt most ardently, most appreciatively.

Drive My Car streams on Mubi.

This review was first published on

Share on TumblrSubmit to reddit+1Digg ThisPin it on PinterestShare on LinkedIn
Posted in Columns & Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sharmaji Namkeen review

Everybody knows the Kapoors love to eat. But just how much is something I caught a glimpse of a decade ago, when Rishi Kapoor and former NDTV journalist Aneesha Baig spoke food and savoured a multi-course meal at the popular South Mumbai eatery, Bombay Canteen.

I was moved by his child-like excitement as he nibbled on the lotus stem chips, gushed over yakhni pulao and sang nonstop praises of their signature gulab nut — a rum soaked, pistachio cream bursting marriage of gulab jamun and donut. Within a week, I landed at Bombay Canteen and sampled all the yumminess for myself.

Rishi Kapoor’s infectious foodie is tailor-made for the titular description of Sharmaji Namkeen, his final movie.

The actor died on April 30, 2020 while Hitesh Bhatia’s directorial debut was still in mid-production.

A foreword from son Ranbir shares the project was close to his father’s heart and when the choice was between him plastering on prosthetics or Paresh Rawal stepping in to finish the shoot, they opted for the latter.

It is an emotional decision. This is an emotional film. Though this is not the first instance of posthumous substitutes. They used a stand-in for Brandon Lee in The Crow. They resurrected Paul Walker using CGI in Fast & Furious 7. They rewrote the plot of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus in a way that multiple actors — Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell — could play Heath Ledger’s part. They did the same for Sanjeev Kumar in Professor Ki Padosan and rendered him invisible one-fourth of the film while Sudesh Bhosle dubbed his lines. Rekha dubbed for Smita Patil in Waaris.

It takes some time to adjust to two actors randomly swapping places in the same role. Often Sharmaji leaves his home as Rishi Kapoor and arrives at his destination as Paresh Rawal. Both actors are so physically and artistically disparate. Their combined performance though is akin to a samosa: Where Kapoor is the wholesome, flavourful filling while Rawal graciously forms the necessary pastry cover keeping it all together.

Co-written by Supratik Sen and Bhatia, Sharmaji Namkeen works delightfully on the strength of its sweet, solid heart and generous doses of wit.

In this endearing slice-of-life conveying the mild grievances and monotony of prematurely retired elderly, a 58-year-old widower Brij Gopal Sharma (Kapoor) and his two sons inhabit a typical middle-class neighbourhood in the West of Delhi.

His eldest (Suhail Nayyar) is a bit of a stuffed shirt who works, dates his colleague (Isha Talwar) and wants to buy an apartment in Gurugram. His youngest (Taaruk Raina) is all play no work.

Punjabi-dominated Delhi suburbs, middle-class woes and whims are a familiar space for Kapoor. He embodies their spirit to perfection in films like Do Dooni Chaar and Bewakoofiyan. But there’s no shadow of those characters in his wide-eyed enthusiasm and universal complaints of ‘Kitna TV dekhoon? Kitna walk karoon?’

Sharmaji Namkeen acknowledges boredom as a genuine problem but doesn’t turn it into an excuse for melodramatic fits. Sharmaji’s boys are preoccupied and close-minded. They cannot appreciate their dad’s undeterred spirits even after a VRS is forcibly thrust on his potential or his desire to evolve and explore. They are embarrassed by his adventurous endeavours and brand new friendships.

Kids can be self-seeking and expect their parents to stay set in their roles, never age, never falter, never alter the status quo. Except Sharmaji’s sons aren’t greedy gold-diggers. They simply want him to rest and enjoy his retirement like a good old piece of furniture. So when Sharma’s bestie (Satish Kaushik) recommends the last scene of Baghban be made mandatory watch in every school and college, the upshot is a laugh tinged in truth.

This inoffensive tone of bittersweet reality is Sharmaji Namkeen‘s greatest triumph as it unfolds the droll journey of a man — neither eager nor ready for retirement — finding a perfect outlet for his passion and free time as a specialist cook for kitty parties.

Affluent Punjabi housewives hanging out at each other’s kitschy kothis and exchanging juicy WhatsApp gossip and Tambola wins over chaat and chole is a significantly Delhi attribute. But Sharmaji Namkeen doesn’t simply mine it for laughs. Though I guffawed hard when one shocked auntyji shared the after-effects of an insurance agent turned burglar, ‘Mr Kalra ne te agle din lab (Labrador retriever) lag deeta.’

These are unapologetically loud and saucy portraits of compromise, happy to focus on fun over the disappointment. Of the motley bunch, Sheeba Chaddha and Ayesha Raza are reliably spunky and have a ball letting their hair down. Juhi Chawla enjoys a slightly meatier chunk as Sharmaji’s sympathiser and saviour.

The Chawla-Kapoor pairing has brought much cheer from Bol Radha Bol to Luck by ChanceSharmaji Namkeen is an ode to their charming camaraderie where Kapoor’s verve and vulnerability is beautifully complimented in her mischief and zest. She is equally tender and heart-warming.

Ultimately though, this is Rishi Kapoor’s swansong and show. His cinematic memories are coloured in liveliest hues of celebration and happiness. Sharmaji Namkeen faithfully upholds that imagery in a film that’s as delicious as tribute as it is food for thought.

It’s a pleasure to watch the jolly foodie whip up a storm inside his modest kitchen and pack his cooking tools in a tiny briefcase. It’s a joy to watch him roll a ghee dripping tikoni paratha, season pakode wali kadhi, sprinkle pomegranate seeds on dahi bhalle, attempt his first-ever gobhi Manchurian and dimsums, not momo, mind you. It’s adorable to watch him learn from YouTube videos and make notes in his little diary. It’s hilarious to watch him SOS his sister-in-law (and the woman threading her brows) and save an over-salted dal from disaster. It’s heart-warming to watch Mera Naam Joker‘s innocent Raju peek through his shy smile as he sneaks out to see everyone’s reaction to his culinary skills. It’s a lump-in-a-throat moment to watch him shine and smile against the most iconic song of his career and refuse to give another take in that trademark candour, ‘Bhai, isse better shot nahi ho sakta.’


Sharmaji Namkeen streams on Amazon Prime Video.

Share on TumblrSubmit to reddit+1Digg ThisPin it on PinterestShare on LinkedIn
Posted in Columns & Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment