Tag Archives: Aditi Rao Hydari

Movie Review: Padmaavat (2018)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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A note on 3D: My local theater only carried Padmaavat in 3D, but I recommend watching the film in 2D, if possible. The 3D effects don’t enhance the experience, and the glasses dull the colors and details of the costumes and sets. 3D also adds a visual distance between the subtitles and the action, for those reliant upon subtitles.

Spoiler warning: Because Padmaavat is based on a centuries-old poem, I will discuss the end of the movie in this review.

Filmmakers can choose to make whatever movies they want. Why, then, would Sanjay Leela Bhansali choose to make Padmaavat? Why now, and why tell the story in this way? What does he want his audience to take away from this story? Even after watching the movie, I can’t answer those questions.

Bhansali’s story follows the parallel paths of two 13th century Indian rulers until they converge: the ambitious Muslim warrior Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) and the milquetoast Rajput king Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor). While ruthless Alauddin fights the Mongols and steals the sultanate of Delhi from his uncle, Ratan Singh searches for some replacement pearls after he gave away his wife Nagmati’s (Anupriya Goenka) favorite necklace.

Ratan Singh is waylaid in the pearl-producing kingdom of Singala (which resembles the Nopon Braidbridge in Noctilum from Xenoblade Chronicles X, for both of you out there who’ll get that reference), when the princess Padmavati (Deepika Padukone) accidentally shoots him with an arrow while hunting. They fall in love while he convalesces, and she returns with him to his palace in Chittor as his second wife.

Their trouble begins when the palace priest Raghav Chetan gets busted watching Ratan Singh and Padmavati make out. Banished, Chetan vows to destroy Chittor. He meets Alauddin, telling the sultan — who has an infamous Gollum-like obsession with precious things — that not only is Padmavati the most beautiful woman in the world, but Alauddin needs her in order to fulfill a bogus prophecy that sees him conquer the globe. Alauddin and his army head to Chittor to besiege Ratan Singh’s castle.

This is where things really fall apart for Ratan Singh as a character, at least in the way Bhansali depicts him. Whenever Ratan Singh mentions his “honor”, it signals that he’s about to do something incredibly stupid. On multiple occasions, he either underestimates Alauddin’s capacity for deceit or refuses to kill Alauddin and end the war, citing some mitigating rule of decorum that stays his hand. Whenever Padmavati tells him, “You know it’s a trap, right?” Ratan Singh just smiles and walks right into it.

Charlie-BrownAbove: Alauddin swears to Ratan Singh that this time he really will let him kick the football.

There comes a point when rigidly adhering to one’s principles is selfish, especially when it means not just your own death but the deaths of everyone you love, the deaths of all the innocent civilians you’ve vowed to protect, and the loss of your entire kingdom.

Then again, none of the characters in Padmaavat are written like real people, only symbols for concepts like honor (Ratan Singh), lust (Alauddin), beauty (Padmavati), treachery (Chetan), jealousy (Nagmati), and bravery (the Rajput fighters Gora and Badal). All the other soldiers and civilians are just there to take up space. What happens to them doesn’t matter. We know as much because the end notes only mention the place of Padmavati’s sacrifice in Rajput lore, with no mention of the hundreds of other women who killed themselves alongside her.

Ah, yes, the ritual suicide for which Padmavati is famous. The movie opens with a note that the film does not intend to endorse “sati,” the practice of women immolating themselves on their husbands’ funeral pyres. That’s a little hard to believe given the glamorized way Bhansali depicts the mass suicide of the women of Chittor following Ratan Singh’s defeat on the battlefield. Rather than be captured by Alauddin’s army, Bhansali shows Padmavati and the palace women (and girls) resolutely marching to their death in an inferno, defiant tears filling their eyes but refusing to drop. The camera cuts away before we see them burn or hear their anguished screams, preserving their memories as paragons of virtue rather than showing the  charred corpses of the terrified victims of male egos run amok.

If Bhansali wanted to dress up Deepika Padukone in elaborate costumes, wasn’t there another ancient Rajput tale he could have picked? One that didn’t make a hero out of a woman for killing herself? Padmavati’s actions — though true to the original poem — don’t even match with her character in the film. As interpreted by Bhansali, Padmavati is a skilled archer and military tactician. Why should we believe that she wouldn’t first try to kill Alauddin herself, rather than follow her husband’s foolish lead and let Alauddin live to besiege another kingdom?

There’s so much more that could have been done with this story, especially since Bhansali appears to have taken some liberties with the original poem (based on a cursory Wikipedia search). The theme of jealousy could’ve been brought to the fore, not just in the rivalry for Ratan Singh’s affection between Nagmati and Padmavati but in the jealousy toward Padmavati felt by Alauddin’s slave and consort, Malik Kafur (Jim Sarbh). The fact that Alauddin and Malik are lovers and it’s depicted as no big deal is Padmaavat‘s greatest strength.

However, that relationship also plays into the characterization of Alauddin as a dirty, feral creature, one who snarls while tearing meat off the bone with his teeth and who will have sex with anyone. He is also Muslim, as we are constantly reminded by the green flags bearing a crescent moon that flank him at all times. Bhansali goes to such lengths to conflate Alauddin’s base appetites with his religion that it becomes gross.

Singh, for his part, makes the most of his problematic character, overshadowing Kapoor in all of their scenes together. Sarbh likewise seems to enjoy his free rein. Padukone looks regal — as does Aditi Rao Hydari, who plays Alauddin’s wife — but she has little to do once she leaves her forest kingdom.

Virtually all of the scenes between Padmavati and Ratan Singh are shot in slow-motion, the two of them making moon eyes at one another. This reliance on slow-mo — which extends to battle scenes as well — highlights just how little actually happens in the movie, both in terms of plot and character development. Padmaavat looks gorgeous, as Bhansali’s movies always do, but looks aren’t everything.

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Movie Review: Wazir (2016)

Wazir2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Wazir (“Queen,” as in the chess piece) opens with a bang but fails to earn its too-tidy ending.

The setup of Wazir is not to be missed. A montage of happy moments introduces anti-terrorism officer Daanish (Farhan Akhtar), loving husband of Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) and doting father of little Noorie. While running errands with his family in Delhi, Daanish spots a high-profile terrorist who was thought to be out of the country. Daanish pursues him, with catastrophic results. The sequence is fast, intense, and jaw-dropping.

Suspended from the force and guilt-stricken, Daanish befriends Noorie’s chess teacher, Panditji (Amitabh Bachchan). From his motorized wheelchair, Panditji teaches chess to children, all of whom outclass Daanish. Panditji informs his new student that the point of studying chess isn’t necessarily to win but to learn how to learn.

Panditji has an ulterior motive in befriending Daanish. One year earlier, Panditji’s adult daughter, Nina, died under mysterious circumstances in the home of the nation’s Welfare Minister, Izaad Qureshi (Manav Kaul). Qureshi says that Nina accidentally fell down a flight of stairs, but Panditji claims that he could tell from the look in Qureshi’s eyes that Nina was murdered.

A look in the eye is not much to go on. While the movie presents reasons to be suspicious of Qureshi, Panditji and Daanish don’t have access to the same evidence that the audience does. All the characters have to go on is Panditji’s gut feeling.

It’s hard to believe that Daanish would risk his life and career on the hunch of a man he only recently met. Even harder to accept is the participation of Daanish’s ranking officer (played in a cameo by John Abraham) in a crazy scheme that should result in his and Daanish’s court-martial at best, their deaths at worst.

The only reason that Daanish can take such risks based on so little information is that the story refuses to impose consequences on him. After brilliantly setting up Daanish as a man struggling with the consequences of a rash action, by movie’s end, he’s free to do whatever he wants in the name of what he considers justice. Never mind that he and John Abraham maim and possibly kill innocent people in the process.

In the course of the unsatisfying climax, the truth about Nina’s death is revealed in a way that feels too convenient. It doesn’t feel earned.

That said, the performances in the film are generally good, especially by Bachchan, who looks physically broken and world-weary. Akhtar is solid, but his character’s emotional range is limited by the plot (same for Hydari’s character). Abraham is good in his cameo, as is Anjum Sharma, who plays Daanish’s reliable friend and coworker, Sartaj.

Another selling point is Wazir‘s efficient runtime of just over one hundred minutes. The movie is exactly as long as it should be to sustain tension.

While imperfect as a whole, Wazir‘s thrilling opening action sequence is almost good enough to merit a trip to the theater. Almost.

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Movie Review: Boss (2013)

Boss2 Stars (out of 4)

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Boss has some great individual elements that could make up either a great action comedy or a serious revenge thriller, but combining them together in the same movie doesn’t work.

The tone of the film changes without a moment’s notice, and it’s too much to ask the audience to follow along. One minute, we’re expected to be horrified by violence; the next minute, we’re supposed to laugh at it. Lighthearted scenes are followed by a brother threatening to slap his sister unless she locks herself in her room until he says she can come out. Boss never settles on what kind of movie it is.

The story structure is also odd. The film begins with a flashback to a teenage boy saving the life of the mafia don Big Boss (Danny Denzongpa). The don takes the boy under his wing, christening him Boss. Since this is obviously Akshay Kumar’s character as a teen, we expect to then see the man Boss has grown into.

Instead, the story switches to Boss’s father, Satyakant (Mithun Chakraborty), fifteen years later, still lamenting that his eldest son (known to him as Surya) is a criminal. Satyakant sends his younger son, Shiv (Shiv Pandit), to Delhi where the young man gets into trouble defending his lady-love, Ankita (Aditi Rao Hydari), from a creepy politician’s son, Vishal (Aakash Dabhade). The lovers star in a romantic music video on a yacht before Ankita’s homicidal cop brother, Ayushman (Ronit Roy), arrests Shiv.

Finally, thirty minutes into the movie, Satyakant vows to swallow his pride and ask Surya/Boss to save Shiv. When Boss is introduced, on-screen titles read: “Akshay Kumar in and as Boss.” After a funny, five-minute-long fight scene, the opening credits roll. The movie is already a quarter of the way over!

As a comedy, Boss is pretty entertaining. There are some clever scenes, such as Boss trying to surreptitiously beat up some assassins without his father noticing. There’s a humorous recurring bit involving Boss’ “portable rocking chair,” created when his henchman form a human-pyramid-style throne and sway in unison.

As a revenge thriller, Boss is also effective. Chakraborty is strong as the patriarch who chooses his principles over his troubled son. For my money, Roy is the scariest villain in Bollywood. The cold expression in his eyes after Ayushman tosses Satyakant down a flight of stairs is chilling. And nothing beats his method for quieting a group of rowdy grade schoolers: give them a gun and urge them to play Russian roulette.

But these elements belong in different movies. There’s no way to successfully integrate them. Emotional scenes are interrupted by comic relief characters, and again, it’s hard to discern how director Anthony D’Souza expects the audience to feel about violence. It’s funny when Boss breaks a coconut on someone’s head, but not so funny when he impales a sawblade in someone’s chest.

Boss — which is all about relationships between men — portrays women unfavorably. The visual that accompanies Shiv praising Ankita’s eyes, voice, and “mind-blowing attitude” is Aditi Rao Hydari emerging from a pool wearing a bikini. Party scenes feature white women in skimpy outfits getting drunk, though item girl Sonakshi Sinha gets to dance in a modest cocktail dress and abstain from alcohol.

For good measure, Ayushman uses his girlfriend to frame Shiv for rape. Frame him for any other crime, but not rape. Not in a movie that is primarily a comedy.

There’s a lot to like in Boss, enough so that it’s never boring. It just should’ve been two separate movies.

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Movie Review: Murder 3 (2013)

Murder32.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The trailer for Murder 3 poses the question: “How well do you know the person you love?” The film’s conclusion is a depressing: “Not very well.” Nevertheless, Murder 3 does evoke some fun chills along the way.

Randeep Hooda plays hot-shot fashion photographer Vikram. The movie begins with Vikram watching a “Dear John” video recording of his girlfriend, Roshni (Aditi Rao Hydari), telling him that she’s leaving because she feels she doesn’t know him any more. Vikram heads to a bar to drown his sorrows, and a pretty hostess named Nisha (Sara Loren) takes pity on him, even though he acts like an ungrateful, drunken bastard.

They hook up the very next night at his beautiful but creepy mansion outside of the city. The next morning, the police, including Nisha’s ex-boyfriend, Kabir (Rajesh Shringarpore), show up with a report on their ongoing investigation into Roshni’s disappearance. Kabir makes it clear that he thinks that Vikram made Roshni disappear, and Vikram’s relationship with Nisha adds urgency to his search for the truth.

Vikram’s eagerness to start a relationship with Nisha would make sense if Roshni had left him a long time ago, but he tells the police that the two of them had only moved into the mansion a few weeks ago. So Roshni — his great lady-love who he’s shown romancing in South Africa via flashbacks — has been gone a matter of days, and he’s suddenly in love with Nisha?

All of this — the police investigation, Vikram’s apparent fickleness, and the fact that his bathroom appears to be haunted — should make Nisha run for the hills. She doesn’t because she is a total moron. It’s hard to think of another movie character so oblivious and ditzy who wasn’t specifically written to be so.

The best example of Nisha’s bubble-headedness is the morning after her she has sex with Vikram. Nisha walks into Vikram’s bathroom and sees two toothbrushes sitting in a glass. Even though Vikram claims to be single, this would seem to indicate that someone else lives with Vikram and shares his master bathroom with him.

Had Nisha been smart enough to connect the dots, she would’ve realized Vikram lied to her, gotten her stuff, and left for good. What does Nisha the Moron do instead? She uses one of the toothbrushes to brush her teeth!

The movie would’ve been in real trouble had Nisha the Moron been the main character throughout the whole film, but fortunately the second half of the movie deals with the truth of what happened to Roshni. It’s riveting and tense, pulling at the audience’s emotions more than the mild jump scares of the first half of the movie.

Aditi Rao Hydari is terrific as Roshni. She’s excellent in both flashbacks to happier times and in the wrenching scenes when her world goes to hell.

Hooda is also good showcasing the two sides of Vikram. He’s super creepy in the present-day scenes, and perhaps too much so. Any woman with half a brain would peg this guy as trouble, so he could’ve dialed it back a notch.

Loren is not totally at fault for playing Nisha as such a dimwit. If writer Mahesh Bhatt and director Vishesh Bhatt didn’t want Nisha to seem so dumb, they should’ve added some backstory to explain whatever crippling self-esteem problems or daddy issues drove her into the arms of a nut like Vikram.

If one can get past Nisha’s frustrating vapidness, there are some decent thrills to be found in the second half of Murder 3. But if you’re looking for sweet, romantic Valentine’s Day fare, look elsewhere.

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Opening February 14: Murder 3

Nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day” quite like a movie called Murder 3. The latest Bollywood non-sequel sequel has nothing to do with its predecessor, Murder 2, but it does have the most unintentionally hilarious publicity photo I’ve ever seen:

Randeep_Snake_Murder3

That’s Randeep Hooda sporting the snake, alongside Sara Loren and Aditi Rao Hydari. The film is a remake of the Colombian thriller The Hidden Face.

Murder 3 opens on Thursday, February 14, 2013, in just nine U.S. theaters, one of which happens to be the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of two hours.

After earning $95,236 in its opening weekend in twenty-five U.S. theaters, ABCD: Any Body Can Dance gets a second week at the South Barrington 30, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, and AMC River East 21 in Chicago. I don’t have earnings figures for Special 26, but it also gets a second week at the South Barrington 30, Golf Glen 5, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

If those aren’t enough Hindi-film options for you, the South Barrington 30 is also holding over Race 2 for a fourth week.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include Mirchi (Telugu) at the Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge and the Golf Glen 5, which is also carrying 101 Weddings (Malayalam), Okkadine (Telugu), and Vishwaroopam (Tamil).

Movie Review: London Paris New York (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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The starting point for debutant writer-director Anu Menon’s London Paris New York (LPNY, henceforth) was undoubtedly the allure of setting a story in the three glamorous title cities; the plot and characters surely came second. But when the movie isn’t being a glorified travel show, interesting characters add spark to this edgy love story.

There’s a lot demanded of leads Nikhil (Ali Zafar) and Lalitha (Aditi Rao Hydari), who, after a chance meeting in London, utter almost every line of the film’s dialog. The young adults have in common the fact that they are both on their own for the first time, their overprotective parents having reluctantly agreed to let them attend college abroad. When Lalitha misses her connecting flight to New York, the strangers decide to spend the day exploring London together.

They have the types of conversations only had by movie characters (have you ever asked someone you just met, “So what do you want to do with your life?”), but form a genuine connection. Nikhil promises to come visit Lalitha in New York. When Nikhil tracks Lalitha down in Paris two years later, we learn that he didn’t keep his promise.

Nikhil starts out pushy and entitled but is humbled as the story progresses. I didn’t care for Zafar’s smarmy delivery in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, which he toned down for LPNY. He’s strong in the dramatic scenes but at his best in lighter moments when he can flash his killer smile.

The best surprise of LPNY is Lalitha’s character. Unlike many female leads, who are really just vehicles for the emotional growth of the male main character, Lalitha is an equal partner for Nikhil. That means she’s equally responsible for the bad choices that drive the two apart.

Hydari strikes the right balance with Lalitha, a young woman of strong ideals but lacking some emotional maturity. Hydari’s best moment is when Lalitha turns a devastating realization into an opportunity for revenge, her coldness underscored by a deep hurt.

Zafar, who made his name as a rock star, wrote and performed all of the music for LPNY. The soundtrack is appropriately poppy for a film about young urbanites. The music features prominently during the three montages of the highlights of each city. Though I suppose it’s hard to avoid showing iconic sites like the London Eye and Times Square, the montages feel stale.

Even when it comes to the music, Hydari again steals the show. She bravely chose to sing her own parts on two songs, giving the numbers a more natural feel than when actors lip sync to voices not their own.

In the United States, LPNY has an MPAA rating of PG-13 due to references to sex and scenes of the characters drinking and smoking. LPNY is a bit grittier than a typical Bollywood rom-com, so it’s not appropriate for the whole family. But those old enough to appreciate it will be rewarded.

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Opening March 2: London Paris New York and Paan Singh Tomar

Will rom-com fatigue doom London Paris New York, one of two new Bollywood movies opening this weekend in Chicago area theaters? With four romances having opened in the last three weeks — and the dismal U.S. box office performances of last weekend’s new films — it’s a very real concern.

London Paris New York (LPNY) stars Ali Zafar and Aditi Rao Hydari in a love story set in three of the world’s most beautiful cities.

LPNY opens on Friday, March 2, 2012, at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. The movie is rated PG-13 and has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 40 min.

Predictably, the two romantic comedies released last weekend split the audience share, to the detriment of both. Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya (the better of the two films) had the better weekend, earning just $94,583 in the United States. Jodi Breakers fared worse, earning a paltry $52,618. It departs area theaters on Thursday.

Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya carries over for a second week at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30, which also brings back Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu for a fourth week. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu‘s U.S. theater earnings stand at $1,130,842.

This weekend’s other new Hindi release, Paan Singh Tomar, opens on Friday at the South Barrington 30. It stars Irrfan Khan as an elite athlete who becomes a rebel fighter. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Aravaan (Tamil), Ee Adutha Kaalathu (Malayalam), Ishq (Telugu), and Love Failure (Telugu).