Super filmi week: Why Akshay Kumar’s National Award win feels like a joke

From ranting about Akshay Kumar’s National Award and Vinod Khanna’s viral photos to raving about Adil Hussain’s Mukti Bhawan and Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies, my super filmi week is high on emotions.


Take a morning flight from Delhi, reach Mumbai airport past noon and then drive to Press Club in town to collect an award from Indywood for Media Excellence in online journalism. By the time I reach home, which takes longer than usual thanks to the city’s ruthless traffic, I am too pooped out to even touch my dinner.

What I do show an appetite for is the final episode of HBO’s marvellous mini-series, Big Little Lies. After six weeks of speculation over who’s dead and who did it, it is time for the big reveal.

David E Kelly’s adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s book starring talent like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley focuses on mothers of first graders in a coastal California town. But the swank lifestyle and confident demeanour of these ladies betrays its sinister air, damaging insecurities and dark theme of domestic abuse, which after mysteriously hinting at a significant someone’s murder culminates into an emotional finish.

The payoff is explosive even if a little too tidy for my liking. What’s extraordinary is Nicole Kidman’s masterpiece performance. As relevant its other actors are, Kidman’s insight into a silent sufferer is so intricate and upsetting, it upstages everyone and everything else.


While working on a story about Jeetendra, I stumble upon a 1985 baloney called Bond 303. In this poor man’s 007 directed by Ravi Tandon (Raveena’s dad and behind entertainers like Khel Khel Mein and Khuddar), Jeetu relives his secret agent memories from Farz for an even dumber premise.

What caught my eye though is Helen in a ridiculous costume wherein a heart-shaped cloth patch is incompletely stitched to her bodice. Before you blame this on shoddy tailoring, there’s a real reason why the sloppily seamed heart flaps wildly all through the cabaret number.

There’s a covert message for Jeetendra’s eyes only, back when there were no smart phones to send a simple text, Helen adopts this hilarious method, one that reads –Tonys sister.
Grammar Nazis, do you see what I see?


Mumbai’s infuriating traffic is working overtime to ensure I am late for a screening of Mukti Bhawan at the suburban Lightbox preview theatre. Luckily, I make it just in time. Straightaway, I am sucked into the private world of a father-son pair arriving in the holy city of Benares with a peculiar goal.

As I wrote in my raving review, “Shubhashish Bhutiani’s serene yet stirring Mukti Bhawan views the world with sagacious eyes and attends to one of its most inconvenient truths with a pinch of humour and pile of wisdom. What comes forth is craftsmanship of staggering depth and sublime vision.”

It’s also uplifting in its philosophy of celebrating something as depressing as death by looking at it as a passage instead of end. Such enlightenment may be ideal and calming but is challenging to achieve. Mukti Bhawan reflects this vulnerability.

Only last month I paid a visit to my ailing uncle in Gurgaon. A shadow of his former self, it was painful to note the extent his illness had worn him out. That’s the sad reality of life – everyone grows old and farther away from the shiny image we fondly hold on to, of others or ourselves.

And so it troubles me no end when a sickly Vinod Khanna’s hospital photos circulate to generate cheap curiosity and shock value in the media.

“OMG: Vinod Khanna is unrecognizable!”

“Vinod Khanna’s shocking look after illness.”

“Vinod Khanna: Then and Now!”

I can understand concern and sympathy but the sensational tone of these headlines reveals a creepy excitement, a disturbing trend of revelling in misery. It’s better we start treating actors as human beings instead of placing them on a toxic pedestal that robs their right to privacy, dignity or pain.

List of National Award winners is out and Akshay Kumar has grabbed Best Actor for Rustom. What would have made a brilliant April fool joke a few days ago is, unfortunately, true.

Now I like Akshay Kumar. Airlift was one of my favourite films of 2016 and I thought his pitch-perfect delivery in Jolly LLB 2 makes for a far superior sequel. But Rustom, no matter how dapper Akshay looks in that uniform, is an inarguable mockery of true events where neither he nor the film can be taken seriously even for a moment.

Rustom’s inferiority isn’t the real problem. Nor is Akshay’s talent in question here. If anything it’s rather unfortunate how his credibility has come in question due to this year’s ignorant jury — one that overlooks inspiring portrayals like Manoj Bajpayee in Aligarh or Sushant Singh Rajput in M S Dhoni to reward arbitrarily for reasons that make no sense and discredit a still prestigious tradition.

I am officially addicted to the new Netflix offering, 13 Reasons Why.

Based on Jay Asher’s young adult bestseller of the same name, it’s a subdued but intriguing drama about a 17-year-old teenager who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of tapes, containing her no holds barred account of what led to it, to be circulated among classmates somehow linked to the events.

Seven episodes down, six more to go but I am already appreciating its incisive commentary on various anxieties afflicting youngsters as much as its layered storytelling and sound acting.


Until now I had only heard that Basu Chatterjee’s Chhoti Si Baat takes inspiration from the British film School for Scoundrels or How to Win Without Actually Cheating, which itself is based on Stephen Potter’s novels Gamesmanship, Oneupmanship and Lifemanship. It’s somewhat of a relief to discover Chhoti Si Baat is superior to its 1960 source.

As engaging School for Scoundrels is, Chatterjee’s coming-of-age tale offers a more detailed understanding of the insecurities that hold back Amol Palekar’s adept but awkward young man from admitting his affection for Vidya Sinha or showing Asrani he’s no pushover. It’s only natural we root for his new, improved avatar, following Ashok Kumar’s resourceful intervention, to outdo the cunning Asrani at his own game.

By comparison, the protagonist in School for Scoundrels appears more slow-witted than inadequate whereas his speedy transformation renders him more sneaky than smart.

In the words of Potter, ‘He who is not one-up is one-down.’ Advantage Amol Palekar.

This column was first published on

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