Tag Archives: 2022

Movie Review: Mr. Malcolm’s List (2022)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the novel Mr. Malcolm’s List at Amazon

Mr. Malcolm’s List releases in US theaters July 1, 2022

Freida Pinto executive produces and stars in the Georgian era romance Mr. Malcolm’s List, based on the novel by Suzanne Allain (who also wrote the screenplay). The film has all the trappings of a mannered period drama, but it’s not as witty as it could be.

London, 1820s. Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) is aging out of her desirability as a marriage partner. She gets her hopes up when London’s most eligible bachelor Mr. Jeremy Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) escorts her to the opera but is humiliated when he declines to ask her out again. She’s further incensed when her cousin Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) discovers that Mr. Malcolm has a list of requirements for a prospective bride, and that Julia was eliminated for being unable to hold an intelligent conversation.

Julia concocts a plan to trick Mr. Malcolm into falling in love with a seemingly ideal woman, only for the woman to produce a list of her own and dump him, paying back Julia’s humiliation in kind. Her childhood friend Selina Dalton (Pinto) — a pretty pastor’s daughter from the country, and an unknown in London society — is the perfect candidate for Julia’s scheme. Selina reluctantly agrees to help.

Upon her arrival in London, Selina is immediately beset by suitors. Besides Mr. Malcolm — whom Selina suspects is not the villain Julia believes him to be — handsome Captain Ossory (Theo James) also approaches her, fulfilling his late aunt’s wish for the two of them to meet. The attention paid to Selina doesn’t escape Julia’s notice, and she realizes her plan may not have been so brilliant after all.

Mr. Malcolm’s List meets most of the requirements for this kind of period romantic comedy drama. The costumes and sets are fancy. The actors are all good-looking. The dance at the masquerade ball is steamy, despite the fact that the participants’ physical contact is limited to holding hands. The plot unfolds at a good clip.

Yet the interactions between the characters leave a lot to be desired. Conversations lack a crisp back-and-forth exchange (2016’s Love & Friendship offers a good example of how it should be done). First-time director Emma Holly Jones and editor Kate Hickey leave too much dead air within conversations. Allain’s dialogue also needs punching up. Characters say obvious or straightforward things but react as though they’ve uttered something much more clever (Julia is especially guilty of this).

There’s also a character who exists as comic relief — Julia’s servant John (Divian Ladwa) — who never says or does anything funny enough to deserve the screentime he gets.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is not a stand-out in its genre, but it is a passably good example of it. The film’s shortcomings are less obvious once the plot really gets rolling.

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Movie Review: Heropanti 2 (2022)

Entertainment Factor: 3.5 Stars (out of 4)
Quality Factor: 1 Star

Watch Heropanti 2 on Amazon Prime

This review is a tribute to Dr. Julia Bulgaria, the star of Heropanti 2. She’s a veterinarian who wears a sash that reads “Prom Queen” over her cleavage-baring lab coat. She utters the line, “There’s a zombie party down the road,” with a straight face. Her name is DR. JULIA BULGARIA!

Heropanti 2 — which has nothing to do with the original Heropanti from 2014 — is an objectively bad movie. But Dr. Julia Bulgaria (Amber Doig-Thorne), flamboyant feather jackets, and Tara Sutaria’s casual champagne-tossing all play their part in making Heropanti 2 so bad it’s good.

Even before my new hero Dr. Bulgaria appears, the movie gives plenty of warning that it exists in a parallel universe where normal rules do not apply. The story opens with the villain Laila (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, whose commitment to his bonkers performance is unimpeachable) interrupting a magic show that he is performing in order to meet with his crew of henchmen. Laila’s plan is to steal all the money from every bank account in India on Tax Day. Laila stabs a guy to death while wearing a suit jacket with feathers on the shoulders and a bedazzled eagle on the back. Lesson? Don’t mess with a guy with such outrageous fashion sense.

Cut to Tiger Shroff, who plays a nerd named RJ. He wears glasses and suspenders and rides a bicycle throughout the Yorkshire town where he lives.

By this point, if you think this movie is not for you, cut your losses and move on. It’s doesn’t get any better.

RJ runs into Inaaya (Tara Sutaria) — England’s youngest self-made billionaire. How’d she get rich? “By making a game.” Inaaya thinks RJ is her ex-boyfriend Babloo, who ran off more than a year ago. And wouldn’t you know it, she’s right! “RJ” is really Babloo: a genius hacker who’s been in hiding after double-crossing Laila — who is Inaaya’s brother!!

With Babloo’s cover blown, Laila’s men track him down. Cue the acrobatic fight sequences — the whole reason anyone watches a Tiger Shroff movie. Babloo flips over cars and swings around poles, with the occasional assist from Inaaya.

During a pause in the fighting, Inaaya does something inexplicable and hilarious. She seductively offers Babloo a glass of champagne, pours a glass for herself, then — instead of setting the bottle down on the table behind her — casually tosses the bottle to the side as if she was tossing her jacket onto a chair. Off camera, we hear the sound of glass breaking. Now there is broken glass and champagne all over the floor! Why did she think that was a good idea? Such reckless insanity makes me love Inaaya — though not as much as I love Dr. Julia Bulgaria.

The sexy veterinarian enters the picture when Babloo and Inaaya flee to the countryside in search of a doctor to remove a bullet from Babloo’s behind. Babloo’s butt is so muscular that bullets cause only minor damage to it, allowing him to dance at the aforementioned “zombie party down the road” immediately after surgery. Dr. Bulgaria’s high level of skill also plays a part, no doubt.

For all its faults, Heropanti 2 pulls out all — well, most — of the stops to make its action sequences and dance numbers visually interesting. Not that they’re all good, but they are made with good-faith attempts at grandness. Tiger Shroff is a very good dancer, and Tara Sutaria is even better, so their performances hit the mark. A. R. Rahman’s soundtrack is inconsistent, with catchy tunes like “Miss Hairan” and boring slogs like “Dafa Kar” (the zombie party song).

Nothing about the story makes a lick of sense, and a plot structure that bounces around in time doesn’t help. Yet everything is so over-the-top silly that inconsistency doesn’t really matter. If whatever the hell it is that Heropanti 2 is doing works for you, you’ll have a great time. I did.

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Streaming Video News: June 2, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with today’s streaming debut of the blockbuster K.G.F: Chapter 2. It’s available in its original Kannada, as well as dubbed versions in  Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the premiere of the Hotstar Specials series 9 Hours. In addition to the original Telugu, the series is also available in Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, and Tamil.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with yesterday’s addition of the Malayalam film Jana Gana Mana. The Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu versions of Jana Gana Mana are all titled Jana 2022 in the Netflix catalog.

This was a surprisingly busy week for news about Netflix Original projects in production. Filming wrapped on the series Rana Naidu (an official remake of Ray Donovan). The movie based on The Devotion of Suspect X finished its Darjeeling schedule. Filming began on Anushka Sharma’s Jhulan Goswami biopic Chakda ‘Xpress. And the Sanjay Leela Bhansali series Heeramandi got a new director. Not sure how many of these we’ll get in 2022, but I wrote about most of them in my 2022 preview for What’s on Netflix.

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Movie Review: Toolsidas Junior (2022)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Toolsidas Junior on Netflix

An overly-long first half keeps Toolsidas Junior from reaching its full potential, but a strong second half rewards those willing to stick with this underdog story.

Writer-director Mridul Mahendra (listed in the credits as Mridul Toolsidass) based his film on a true story: his own. Perhaps that’s why it feels like there’s a lot of extraneous material in Toolsidas Junior — stuff personally important to the filmmaker that he wanted to include, even though it slows the pace of the film.

The movie opens with a snooker tournament at the Calcutta Sports Club in 1994. Toolsidas (Rajiv Kapoor, in his final film) is a bit of a showboat, doing tricks to impress his adoring 13-year-old son Midi (Varun Buddhadev). Toolsidas earns his spot in the next day’s finals, set to face the reigning champ: the villainous Jimmy Tandon (Dalip Tahil).

Toolsidas celebrates at the club bar with what he promises is just one drink. Hours later, Midi’s furious mom (Tasveer Kamil) sends him to collect his drunken dad. This is something Midi has clearly done numerous times. At the tournament finals, Jimmy uses a break in the action to trick Toolsidas into getting drunk, allowing the villain to come from behind and win for a sixth consecutive time.

Sensing turmoil in the family, Midi’s older brother Goti (Chinmai Chandranshuh) becomes convinced that the boys have to start earning money. A fan of get-rich-quick schemes, Goti wants to use Midi’s diligence and athletic aptitude to make a ton of money. Goti’s assumption that Midi will be naturally gifted at whatever sport he tries is ridiculous, but the film treats it seriously, devoting way too much time to Midi failing repeatedly and Goti getting mad at him. What should have been a brief montage drags on interminably.

The pace plods along even after Midi convinces Goti that there’s money to be made gambling on snooker. Plus, learning to play will give Midi the chance to avenge his dad’s loss and defeat Jimmy. Midi’s too young to play at the Sports Club, so he finds a pool hall in a seedy part of town where he meets his mentor: crusty, enigmatic former national champion Salaam Bhai (Sanjay Dutt). The process is so protracted that Midi’s training doesn’t begin until an hour into the film.

One can’t blame viewers for bailing out before this point, but this is when Toolsidas Junior gets good. Salaam Bhai has clever ways of explaining techniques to Midi, like equating various methods for striking the ball to the punching styles of Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, and Mithun Chakraborthy.

Salaam Bhai also uses the opportunity to teach Midi a lesson about economic class. Midi’s family has membership at an exclusive country club. Salaam Bhai is poor and always has been. When Midi takes a win on a technicality and passes up a chance to play, Salaam Bhai lights into Midi. A privileged kid like him can’t understand what it’s like to skip eating just to save enough money to play. Midi leaves food on his plate because he’s never has to worry where his next meal will come from. Ever the good student, Midi takes Salaam Bhai’s lesson to heart. There’s plenty of cruft in Toolsidas Junior, but Mridul Mahendra deserves credit for including this subplot in his story.

Varun Buddhadev is Bollywood’s go-to child actor of the moment for good reason. His performance in Toolsidas Junior is really solid, and it’s obvious how much effort he put into learning snooker for the film. The movie is at its best when Buddhadev and Sanjay Dutt interact with one another. They make a winning team.

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Movie Review: Jungle Cry (2022)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Jungle Cry — based on the true story of India’s surprise performance at the 2007 Under-14 Rugby World Cup — struggles to find its style, blunting the emotional impact of this underdog story. But if you’ve ever wanted to learn the rules of rugby, Jungle Cry is a great tutorial.

After an unnecessary voice-over giving background on the true story, the movie opens with a well-shot chase sequence. Four schoolboys run from some older men with a jar of stolen marbles, displaying incredible athleticism in their flight. A white man named Paul (Stewart Wright) witnesses their skills, convincing him he’s in the right place to find untapped rugby talent.

Any long-time watcher of Hindi-language films reflexively cringes as soon as a white person appears onscreen, knowing that these movies sometime are forced to hire non-actors (or at least actors who sound uncomfortable speaking native-level English) for these roles. But fear not. Jungle Cry is a British-Indian co-production, so all of the white actors are actually good. The film even employed Diane Charles as dialogue writer for the United Kingdom portions of the movie.

Paul’s mission is to train a team of Indian boys to play rugby for a tournament in the UK in just four month’s time. The head of the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences in Odisha, Dr. Samanta (Atul Kumar), relishes the opportunity to give a dozen of his students — all kids from impoverished villages — a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the world.

The Institute’s athletic director Rudra (Abhay Deol) disagrees. He recruited most of the boys to play soccer and thinks they won’t be able to learn a new sport. Rudra decides he’d rather quit than partake in this ultimately harmless experiment, even if it means leaving the students who’ve come to rely on him.

Even if this objection is grounded in reality, it’s a strange hill for Rudra to die on in a movie. It’s also weird that Dr. Samanta doesn’t immediately assign Rudra to be Paul’s much-needed translator, giving Rudra the chance to see the boys’ progress firsthand. The subplot feels like an attempt to force tension into the story, but it doesn’t achieve its goal.

This sequence relies a lot on awkward, documentary-style interviews with the adult characters. These interviews are interspersed throughout the plot, subdividing narrative sections and keeping the story from flowing naturally. This continues as the boys succeed in qualifying for the tournament and fly to England (with Rudra after Paul gets dengue), where they meet their team physical therapist, Roshni (Emily Shah). Shah struggles the most in the interview format, though she’s more comfortable in her scenes with Deol (who gives a solid performance).

Jungle Cry doesn’t differentiate the boys or give their characters distinct personalities (unlike another underdog Hindi sports film, Chak De India, where the members of the hockey team are just as important as their coach). It’s also unclear how old the boys are supposed to be. In reality, the team was made up of kids under the age of 14, and the tournament in the film is repeatedly referred to as a “junior tournament.” Yet the athletes from all the teams–Indian and otherwise–look a lot older than middle schoolers.

Where Jungle Cry excels is in explaining the rules of rugby and showing how the game is played. The explanation part is handled as Paul introduces the game to the boys. During the tournament, the camera is always positioned to show what is important about the action taking place. That could mean positioning the camera at field-level to see what happens to the ball during a scrum or pulling back just far enough to watch the logical sequence of passes as the ball progresses downfield. It’s instructive but also exciting as it shows the narrative of what’s happening on the field. Again, if you’ve ever wanted to learn about rugby, watch Jungle Cry.

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Streaming Video News: May 20, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two big additions to the catalog: Shahid Kapoor’s Hindi remake of Jersey and the Hindi-dubbed version of RRR, which was preponed from its previously announced June 2 streaming release date. The original Telugu version of RRR is streaming now on Zee5, along with dubbed versions in Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam.

Netflix just announced that Season 2 of the crime drama She will release on June 17. And this is the last week to watch Raees (which I sort of liked) on Netflix before it expires May 26.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the Telugu action flick Acharya (which has Kannada, Malayalam, and Tamil audio options as well). Earlier in the week, Amazon debuted Season 2 of its original Hindi series Panchayat.

Finally, I added the 2022 films 12th Man (Malayalam) and Bhala Thandhanana (Telugu) to my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu. The new Hindi series Escaype Live debuted on Disney+ Hotstar in India yesterday, but it looks like we might not get it on Hulu in the United States.

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Book Review: This Place | That Place (2022)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Buy This Place | That Place at Amazon

*This Place | That Place will be released on June 14, 2022

The innovative format of Nandita Dinesh’s This Place | That Place, along with its timeless subject matter, make her debut novel an absolute must-read.

Dinesh’s background in theater and the study of protest movements informs how she constructs This Place | That Place. The novel is primarily a dialogue between two characters, organized to read almost like a screenplay. The conversations are supplemented with other documents, including excepts from a guidebook and a developmental materials for a curriculum, along with notes from the character reviewing the document. The inclusion of these materials reminded me of Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future.

The (sadly) evergreen subject of This Place | That Place is military occupation. Conversations between the two main characters — a man from the occupied country and a woman from the occupying country — take place inside his house during the first few days of a surprise military curfew.

In order to make her novel as universal as possible, Dinesh doesn’t assign names to either the countries or the characters. The book could be about Ukraine and Russia or Palestine and Israel, etc. Yet the setting is clearly inspired by Kashmir (“This Place”) in 2019, when India (“That Place”) revoked Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and cut off access to the outside world. Fans of Hindi films will appreciate the characters’ discussion of a “Shakespeare adaptation” set in the region, clearly referring to director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, an adaptation of Hamlet.

Conversations between the main couple tend to focus on limits: practical limits on the movements of people under curfew; the limits of her ability to understand his experience of living under occupation; limits on the ability of individuals and groups on either side to change the terms of the occupation. The pair deliberately avoid addressing the romantic tension between them in order to delay the most frustrating discussion of all: the limits the occupation places on their possible future as a couple.

The woman from “That Place” is in “This Place” to pilot a (secret) course to deprogram occupying soldiers, similar to tactics used to deprogram cult members. The goal is to get soldiers to question their orders, rather than follow them blindly and to view the local citizens as people, not enemies. It’s one of an array of interesting resistance tactics discussed in the book. Editorial notes attached to the woman’s curriculum give further insights into the characters.

Perhaps of most interest to those of us lucky enough to live outside of a military occupation is the man’s document on how to endure prolonged periods of curfew. Most of the man’s solutions involve taking control of time — the only thing one has in abundance when locked inside one’s house — or at least the perception of it.

As the book explains, despite an outsider’s best efforts to empathize, it’s almost impossible to truly understand what it’s like to be trapped with no access — physical or virtual — to the outside world for days or months. Dinesh does a wonderful job guiding the reader to empathize with the situation right up until the point when the reader realizes that it can’t really be done without personal experience. It’s a an effective call to action.

Dinesh uses her wealth of experience to craft a thought-provoking novel that doesn’t claim to have all the answers. Rather, This Place | That Place invites further exploration and provides a new lens through which to see the world. As one character states: “One of the things that people without the experience of curfew don’t understand, is how easy it is to keep entire nations subjugated when its citizens cannot access information.” That’s a warning all of us should take to heart, no matter where we live.

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Streaming Video News: May 9, 2022

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with upcoming expiration dates for a bunch of films from Shah Rukh Khan’s production house, Red Chillies Entertainment:

Other titles like Dear Zindagi have also expired in recent weeks, but I don’t think this necessarily means that Netflix’s deal with Red Chillies is done for good and that the films are headed to another streaming service. Chennai Express returned to Netflix in August 2021, and Yodha and two other titles returned in January of this year. This could just be a reset before the start of a new streaming contract. However, there’s no guarantee that the above titles will return to Netflix, or that they will return quickly if they do, so prioritize watching them if you’re so inclined.

Last week, Netflix added a pair of Hindi movies, including Radhe Shyam and the Original film Thar, which is really good. The Tamil action flick Beast — starring Vijay and Pooja Hegde — debuts on Netflix May 10 (in the afternoon in the US). And Netflix recently moved Masaba Masaba into the “Worth the Wait” row on their New & Popular page, joining She. No Season 2 release dates for either series yet, though.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with a bunch of additions in the last week:

The Amazon Original anthology series Modern Love: Mumbai premieres in the afternoon on Thursday, May 12.

Finally, I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with the debut of the Hotstar Special Hindi series Home Shanti, which is also available in Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu.

[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]

Movie Review: Thar (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Thar on Netflix

A veteran cop’s boring beat is upended by three murders and the arrival of a stranger in the Western noir Thar. Rajasthan is the ideal setting for a Western, and the stunning scenery is highlighted beautifully.

Inspector Surekha Singh’s (Anil Kapoor) decades-long career has been uneventful. Stationed in the Rajasthani town of Munabao in 1985, there’s little in the way of crime, except for the occasional drug bust of smugglers bringing heroin across the border from Pakistan.

All that changes in a single day. A married couple is found shot dead in their home, their daughter’s dowry stolen. Another dead man is found hanging from a tree, an axe embedded in his chest. For the first time in their careers, Singh and his partner Bhure (Satish Kaushik) feel like real police. They figure drug runners are responsible for the deaths, as they set about investigating the connection between the victims.

At the same time, a taciturn stranger arrives in town. He reluctantly gives his name: Siddharth (Harshvarrdhan Kapoor). He’s looking for a few men to help him move some antiques back to Delhi. Men in Munabao routinely work jobs in the city for months at a time, so his request isn’t unusual. A woman named Chetna (Fatima Sana Shaikh) assures him that her husband Panna (Jitendra Joshi) and his friends will be back in a matter of days, and Siddharth agrees to wait.

After Panna — an arrogant misogynist — and his compatriots return, it becomes clear that Siddharth’s intentions are not good. His polite interactions with Cheta are at odds with his actions when he’s going about his business. The mystery at the heart of Thar is: why is Siddharth doing what he’s doing?

Keeping Siddharth’s agenda a secret for as long as the movie does de-prioritizes his character development, blunting the emotional impact when his motivations are finally revealed. That said, Harshvarrdhan Kapoor is great at being mysterious. Nonverbal communication plays a big part in Siddharth’s interactions with Chetna, and Shaikh and Kapoor play off one another exceedingly well.

Relationships play a huge part in Inspector Surekha’s life. He’s got a supportive wife, and Bhure is his best friend, not just his coworker. Writer-director Raj Singh Chaudhary and editor Aarti Bajaj make a point to emphasize how much Bhure means to Surekha. Anil Kapoor and Satish Kaushik are a delightful duo. And Jitendra Joshi is really, really good at playing the loathsome Panna.

The desert location in Thar is not only crucial for making the way the story plays out possible. It’s also absolutely stunning. Though geographically and botanically distinct from the American Southwest, the area in Rajasthan where Thar was filmed feels like the perfect place to shoot a Western. The rocky hills spotted with scrubby brush make an ideal setting for a shootout.

One cautionary note for squeamish viewers is that Thar is very gory — more so than it needs to be to make its point about the nature of the violence being committed. But no one can say the makeup department didn’t do their job, that’s for sure.

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Movie Review: Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Gangubai Kathiawadi on Netflix

Alia Bhatt sparkles in filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi. Bhansali’s visuals are mesmerizing as ever, but the characters are the real stars.

Gangubai (Bhatt) was born Ganga, the educated daughter of a barrister. At 16, a man she loved tricked her into running away to Mumbai to pursue a movie career. There, he sold her to Sheela Mausi (Seema Pahwa), the owner of a brothel.

With her only choices being life as a sex worker or death, Ganga chose to live. Her first client nicknamed her Gangu, a moniker she adopted to mark this new phase of her life. When she became the madam of the brothel following Sheela Mausi’s death, the other women christened her Gangubai as a sign of respect.

Gangubai’s great strength is her empathy for the women around her. Her first act of defiance under Sheela Mausi is to take a handful of other women out to see a movie — hardly a radical act, but one that affirms their humanity. Gangubai knows that the only way to achieve her goals of securing safety and dignity for her fellow sex workers and education for their children is to put herself in a position of power, even if it means sacrificing her own personal happiness.

Gangubai succeeds because she’s great at understanding what motivates people. Bhansali drives that home by making sure that, in every scene, it is perfectly clear what every character wants. That goes for main characters and those in supporting roles. It’s so consistent throughout the film that it’s clearly something that Bhansali and co-writer Utkarshini Vashishtha put a lot of thought into.

Bhansali also pays a ton of attention to the way characters move. Choreography is obvious in the film’s two large-scale dance numbers, but it’s present in simpler gestures, too: the way someone tilts their head dismissively or the way Gangubai’s rival Raziabai (Vijay Raaz) sidles up behind her in an attempt to intimidate.

The focus on movement is most thrilling in the two love songs between Gangubai and Afshan (Shantanu Maheshwari), an apprentice tailor. Afshan leans back timidly as Gangubai leans in, tricking him into thinking she’s going to kiss him as she reaches for a bottle. Both songs “Jab Saiyaan” and “Meri Jaan” are super sexy, as Gangubai and Afshan move teasingly around each other. Maheshwari got his start in entertainment as a member of the Desi Hoppers dance crew, and his expert body control infuses every part of his performance. Casting him was an inspired choice.

Songs integrate into the story seamlessly — so much so that Gangubai Kathiawadi could make for a good starter “Bollywood-style” movie for someone who thinks they don’t like musicals. The song numbers fit perfectly within the flow of the story.

The only weak point in the film comes from another typical Bollywood element: a character giving a climactic speech in front of a crowd. The scene doesn’t have the same impact as it would have in real life, and it slows down the momentum. The movie also ends with a narrated outro that sounds like the closing paragraph from an elementary school social studies report.

Alia Bhatt’s charismatic performance can’t be praised enough. It’s a swaggering role, but it’s always clear why Gangubai is the way she is. Her brash persona is a necessary part of her plan to improve the lives of the women around her.

She’s surrounded by some colorful characters brought to life by even more great performances. Pahwa is appropriately loathsome as Sheela Mausi, and Raaz’s Raziabai is chilling. Ajay Devgn is terrific in his extended cameo as the helpful gangster Rahim Lala.

Best of all are those closest to Gangubai. Maheshwari’s Afshan is adorable, and Indra Tiwari is sensational as Gangubai’s best friend and sidekick Kamli. Bhatt’s lead performance deservedly gets most of the attention, but the ensemble around her is terrific as well.

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