Tag Archives: Arshad Warsi

Movie Review: Irada (2017)

irada3 Stars (out of 4)

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A case of industrial espionage exposes an ecological crisis, awakening a federal investigator’s sense of justice in Irada. Debutant writer-director Aparnaa Singh’s movie survives early missteps to culminate in a satisfying, performance-driven second half.

The investigator, Arjun Mishra (Arshad Warsi), doesn’t appear until the movie is more than thirty minutes old, which is one of the problems with Irada‘s first half. Only after Arjun arrives does the story really take shape, as it is his emotional journey that drives the narrative.

Instead, Irada opens with Parabjeet Walia, a character played by Naseeruddin Shah, the film’s other marquee star. Retiree Parabjeet trains his daughter, Riya (Rumana Molla), for the Air Force entrance exam, coaching her through swimming sprints in the local canal. A medical emergency reveals that Riya has cancer, likely from exposure to toxic canal water polluted by the local chemical factory.

While seeing a father watch his previously healthy child succumb to cancer is obviously affecting, Singh cuts corners with character development. We endure training montages when we should be getting to know more about the father and daughter and their relationship. Only much later do we learn that Parabjeet himself was a career military man, explaining Riya’s distress at her inability to follow in his footsteps. It’s as though Singh is so familiar with her characters’ backstories that she forgot to share them with the audience.

In fact, when we see Parabjeet again a year after Riya’s death, he has become a writer and part-time investigative journalist. He’s published a book, likely of poetry given his fondness for speaking in couplets, though the contents aren’t specified. He’s also become an authority on the shady corporate dealings of Paddy Sharma (Sharad Kelkar), wealthy owner of the chemical factory.

With the blessing of corrupt politician Ramandeep Braitch (Divya Dutta, who crushes every scene she’s in), Paddy is able to conceal his company’s polluting ways. The company disposes of waste through a process known as “reverse boring,” in which pollutants are injected into the ground where they can contaminate the local water supply. I’d never heard of reverse boring before Irada, and it’s not until the very end of the film that someone mentions that the process is illegal, which explains Paddy’s willingness to protect his secrets at any cost.

Paddy’s henchman, Jeetu (Rajesh Sharma), kidnaps an activist named Anirudh (Nikhil Pandey), triggering a series of events that exemplify the director’s tendency to forget that the audience doesn’t know her characters as well as she does. A journalist named Maya (Sagarika Ghatge) throws mud at Paddy during a speech. Someone watching the speech remarks that she and Anirudh are an item. This is followed by Maya wistfully remembering the romance she shared with Anirudh, in song form. We don’t know Maya or Anirudh well enough to care about them after seeing each of them in one brief scene, so a boring love song feels like time-wasting.

Arjun the federal inspector finally joins the story after Paddy’s plant explodes, the result of tampering from within. Ramandeep the politician wants Arjun to resolve the matter quickly, promising him a promotion if he does and reassignment to the dangerous hinterlands if he doesn’t.

Arjun’s character is initially all over the place. He condescendingly dismisses Maya’s offer to help, but he grills Jeetu based on minimal evidence. Arjun’s wall is covered in maps and photos linked together by pieces of string, in front of which he paces while blindfolded. Curse the BBC’s Sherlock for influencing every screenwriter since to make their detectives “quirky.”

In one unintentionally funny scene, Arjun deciphers a coded message about the explosion. He determines that the word “players” in the cryptic couplet refers to the number of competitors per team. He muses (incorrectly): “Volleyball has five players. Basketball has six players.” Cracking the code apparently depended on the solver not knowing the rules for sports, as Arjun arrives at the right answer.

When Arjun finally meets Parabjeet just before the midpoint, the movie gets really good, and it stays that way through the end. Parabjeet’s personal trauma opens Arjun’s eyes to the extent of the environmental tragedy, forcing the ambivalent bureaucrat to decide if it’s time for him to finally take a stand. Warsi and Shah are great in their scenes together, recreating their chemistry from the Ishqiya films.

With the story rolling, Singh gets great performances from the rest of her talented cast, including Sharma as the twitchy henchman and Ghatge, who handles the movie’s most thrilling scenes. It’s worth reiterating just how fun Dutta is as the entitled politician who’s too secure in her own power. Top-notch acting makes Irada worth a watch.

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Movie Review: Jolly LLB 2 (2017)

jollyllb22.5 Stars (out of 4)

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In spite of a compelling performance by Akshay Kumar as Jolly LLB 2‘s flawed hero, narrative inconsistencies keep the well-intentioned black comedy from achieving its full potential.

Kumar plays Jolly Mishra — a different character from Arshad Warsi’s title character in the original Jolly LLB — an ambitious lawyer who yearns to be more than an errand boy for the more established attorney, Rizvi. In order to raise money to establish his own practice, Jolly assures a pregnant young widow, Hina (Sayani Gupta), that Rizvi will take on her case, collecting the fees from her up front and keeping them for himself.

Hina’s case is politically dangerous. She believes that her husband, Iqbal (Manav Kaul), was falsely arrested on terrorism charges and murdered by police, all for the sake of securing a promotion for notorious Officer Suryaveer Singh (Kumud Mishra). With crooked, wealthy Lucknow attorney Sachin Mathur (Annu Kapoor) defending Singh, every other lawyer knows that Hina’s case is a lost cause.

When Hina learns from Rizvi that he never agreed to take her case, she realizes that Jolly duped her, declaring as much in front of Jolly, his wife Pushpa (Huma Qureshi), and his father, who spent decades working as Rizvi’s legal secretary. Devoid of hope, Hina kills herself. Rizvi fires Jolly, and Jolly’s father tells his son he never wants to see him again.

Jolly is a complicated character. He’s a doting husband to drunken Pushpa and a loving father to their son, but he doesn’t work for any ideals higher than his own ambition. It’s impossible to pay penance for driving Hina to suicide, but Jolly takes on her case in the hopes of righting some of the wrongs he did by her and her family. Kumar’s grounded performance makes us believe that Jolly can become a better man by the end of the movie than he is at the beginning.

The case pits Jolly — who has the truth on his side — against the nakedly corrupt Mathur, who is sleazy in typical sleazy movie lawyer fashion. The presiding Judge Tripathy (Saurabh Shukla) isn’t explicitly corrupt, just distracted by his daughter’s upcoming nuptials.

Tripathy is the weak link in Jolly LLB 2. It’s hard to figure out how exactly he fits into the story. He’s not funny enough to provide true comic relief, but he’s clearly too light for a somewhat grim case involving suicide and extrajudicial police killings. He’s prone to drawing out conversations, leading to dull patches. Unlike the other characters, his balance is off.

The judge is also tasked by the script with driving the tension in the courtroom, but he’s not consistent in the way in which he does so. Tripathy believes or discounts witnesses’ testimony depending on the needs of the story at that moment, not because of any internal logic. Some of his other decisions are so blatantly provocative that it dispels the illusion of organic story flow. We can all but see writer-director Subhash Kapoor pulling the strings.

In Jolly LLB 2‘s favor, Kumar and Qureshi look great together and share a comfortable rapport. Rajiv Gupta is the film’s unsung hero as Jolly’s harried assistant, Birbal. Shukla’s dance sequence as Tripathy rehearses for his daughter’s wedding is pretty funny.

Jolly LLB 2‘s sentiment is admirable, especially at a time when citizens in India and around the world are desperate for reassurance that their justice systems aren’t fundamentally irreparable. The story just needed more refining to maintain a consistent tone throughout.

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Movie Review: Welcome 2 Karachi (2015)

WelcomeToKarachi0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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When a character in Welcome 2 Karachi says, “I want to shoot myself,” it felt like he’d read my mind. Watching this alleged comedy is torture.

I’m still not entirely sure where the film’s first scenes take place. Former British Navy officer Shammi (Arshad Warsi) and his idiot friend, Kedar (Jackky Bhagnani), work for Kedar’s dad, an event planner. They discuss Kedar’s desire to move to America, preferably via a boat from London.

Kedar’s dad puts the guys in charge of a yacht party, accompanied by a dozen bikini clad white women. The boat sinks after being caught in a ridiculous CGI cyclone, and Shammi and Kedar wash ashore in…Karachi, Pakistan?

Despite all the indications that the movie opens in the UK — Shammi’s British Navy discharge, talk of traveling from London to America, a boatload of white women — they must have been in India all along. Otherwise, their arrival in Pakistan would make no sense. Not that sense has much value in Welcome 2 Karachi.

The movie is casually violent to a jarring degree. While the guys are still passed out onshore, a bomb explodes next to them, killing dozens of people. They joke around in a morgue. When the guys seek help from the Indian embassy, they trigger gun battles between several other embassies: the US and Iraq, Israel and Palestine, and Russia and Ukraine. Because ongoing conflicts with civilian casualties are hilarious.

Lowbrow jokes based on offensive generalizations are tossed about without care. Every Pakistani is violent. White women are scantily-clad sex objects. Americans are buffoons keen to take credit for military victories they didn’t earn. India is always the best, yet the first thing Shammi and Kedar request upon their rescue as accidental heroes is joint US-UK citizenship.

Lauren Gottlieb plays a Pakistani spy, but the fact that she’s actually a white American means that Kedar and Shammi can hallucinate her performing a sexy dance number in a bra top and hotpants.

Her character doesn’t do much to drive the plot forward, but then again, neither do any other characters. Stuff just happens, and characters drop in and out of the narrative at random. By the time Shammi & Kedar’s redemptive arc peaks with them having to rescue a plane full of deaf Paralympians, I wanted to barf.

As poorly constructed as the story is, the technical execution in Welcome 2 Karachi is worse. Every bit of CGI — from the cyclone to the plane taking off — looks cheap. The voice dubbing is wretched. It’s easy to tell which characters have been dubbed because their lips don’t match the words they speak.

The movie has particular trouble with its American characters. The dubbing is so bad that the same character’s voice changes from scene to scene. A high-pitched Southern accent becomes a flat, middle-American accent the next.

Also, why is the American embassy in India staffed by Aussies, and the American embassy in Pakistan staffed by Brits?

Welcome 2 Karachi‘s single biggest problem is that its main characters are annoying. Almost every character who meets Shammi and Kedar eventually tells them to shut up. If everyone else in the film finds them that irritating, imagine how annoying they must be to a bored, confused audience.

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Opening May 29: Welcome to Karachi

On new Hindi film opens in the Chicago area on May 29, 2015. The comedy Welcome to Karachi stars Arshad Warsi and Jackky Bhagnani alongside So You Think You Can Dance‘s Lauren Gottlieb, who plays a Pakistani spy. Movies in which Warsi is the marquee star don’t often release in North America, so this is a surprise.

Welcome to Karachi opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 11 min.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns carries over for a second week at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, South Barrington 30, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Piku gets a fourth week at MovieMax, Cantera 17, Woodridge 18, and South Barrington 30, which also carries over Bombay Velvet for a third week.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Masss (Tamil) and Pandaga Chesko (Telugu) at both the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont and MovieMax, which also carries Gaddar: The Traitor (Punjabi), Rakshasudu (the Telugu version of Masss), Lailaa O Lailaa (Malayalam), and 36 Vayadhinile (Tamil).

Movie Review: Dedh Ishqiya (2014)

DedhIshqiya4 Stars (out of 4)

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There are times when the most appropriate review of a really good movie boils down to: “GO WATCH THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW!” Dedh Ishqiya merits such praise.

Dedh Ishqiya combines many genres by being equal parts comedy, thriller, mystery, and romance, with a bit of action thrown in as well. The particular combination gives the movie its own unique flavor that builds on the tone of its predecessor, Ishqiya. Writer-director Abhishek Chaubey and his co-writer/producer, Vishal Bhardwaj, create a wonderful, distinct world for their two thieving protagonists: Khalu (Naseeruddin Shah) and his nephew, Babban (Arshad Warsi).

The events of the sequel pick up with the two crooks still in debt to Khalu’s brother-in-law, Mushtaq (Salman Shahid). The pair get separated during a jewel heist, until Babban discovers Khalu posing as a poet hoping to woo an aristocrat’s widow.

The lovely widow, Para (Madhuri Dixit-Nene), and her protective assistant, Muniya (Huma Qureshi), aim to find the widow a new husband via a poetry contest. Khalu’s main competitor is Jaan Mohammad (Vijay Raaz), a gangster desirous of a more respectable social position.

Khalu and Babban are great, dynamic characters. Babban’s lack of impulse control drives most of the laughs, while Khalu’s romantic nature causes problems in his professional life. Aspiring Romeos should study Shah’s performance for how to properly look like you’re in love with a woman. Stare at a woman the way Khalu stares at Para, and she’s yours.

Dixit-Nene and Qureshi get the meatier roles, both because their characters are new and because Khalu and Babban wear their hearts on their sleeves. The women are complex and intriguing, but not cagey. We want to know more, and they draw the audience in as easily as they do the thieves.

As mentioned above, Khalu and Para have wonderful chemistry. They both find themselves in a position to finally live for themselves, rather than on behalf of other people in their lives. At 46, Dixit-Nene would in reality be a very young widow, but she brings such grace and wisdom to the role that she gives the impression of being older than she looks.

The relationship between Babban and Muniya is more tumultuous and results in some entertaining gender-role reversals. Babban’s role as pursuer is short-lived, and Muniya quickly steers them into a physical relationship. Fearing that Muniya doesn’t share his romantic feelings, he worries that she thinks he’s nothing but a whore: an ironic twist, given his own fondness for prostitutes.

Raaz is perfectly sleazy as the wannabe aristocrat, though not so sinister as to detract from the movie’s humorous tone. Manoj Pahwa, who frequently plays broad comic characters, gets a more subdued role as a poet forced to aid the gangster. The payoff for Pahwa’s character is simply amazing.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s music is terrific, as always. The dilapidated mansion in which most of the story takes place is gorgeous. And we get to see Madhuri Dixit-Nene dance! There’s nothing not to love about Dedh Ishqiya.

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New Trailer: November 10, 2013

The first trailer for Dedh Ishqiya is out. The dialogue-heavy trailer doesn’t have subtitles, so non-Hindi speakers will miss out on much of the fun, but the film retains the look of its predecessor, Ishqiya. Given how much I liked the original and how much I like this cast, I’m really looking forward to Dedh Ishqiya‘s release on January 10, 2014.

(Proposal for a trilogy: Dead Ishqiya. Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi as zombie grifters.)

Mini-Review: Jolly LLB (2013)

Jolly_LLB

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I’m not going to classify this as a full movie review with a star rating since I didn’t finish the movie, for which I have a good reason: after forty minutes, I had no idea what was going on. If you can’t read Hindi, don’t bother watching Jolly LLB.

The story generally concerns a lawyer named Jolly (Arshad Warsi) who wants to make a name for himself in Delhi. However, the movie opens with a dramatic chase scene in which the drunk driver of an SUV follows a sedan full of drunk young people. The car appears to veer successfully around a corner, but the SUV fails to make the turn, smashing into a concrete pillar.

As far as we are shown on screen, no one outside of the SUV is injured in the accident. There’s a line of laundry hanging from the pillar, but we don’t see any dead bodies or other evidence of injury. We learn later that the driver — the son of a famous, wealthy family — was uninjured in the crash when he is found not guilty of causing the accident.

All that is depicted on screen is a one-car accident in which no one was hurt.

Things get confusing when various characters say that this is the most sensational trial in recent memory. A scene shows the driver’s celebrity lawyer (played by Boman Irani) receiving payment from the rich family and admitting to bribery to secure a favorable verdict. Jolly mentions media reports alleging evidence tampering, and he finds an eyewitness who was never called by the prosecution.

None of this hubbub makes any sense, given the footage of the accident presented to the audience. I watched the scene a second time, and, again, there’s nothing to indicate that this is anything more than a non-fatal, one-car accident. Why would that cause such a media sensation?

I suspect the answer lies in the newspaper clippings shown in a montage of Jolly’s search for the truth. They are all written in Hindi and are not subtitled in English, so the clippings are meaningless for audience members (like me) who can’t read Hindi. The headlines may mention anything from multiple deaths to the high cost of repairing the pillar, but non-Hindi readers have no way of understanding what was written.

Then again, the headlines may not add anything to story and everyone may truly be freaking out about a minor traffic accident. I have no way of knowing.

Perhaps the events of the accident are explained in dialog later in the film, but forty minutes seems more than enough of an investment of time when I wasn’t given enough information to follow the plot. (Nor should anyone outside of India be expected to know the details of the 1999 hit-and-run accident that inspired the plot.) Since the majority of the audience for Jolly LLB likely reads Hindi, I don’t blame the filmmakers for presenting information the way they did. However, filmmakers need to consider that presenting critical plot information via written Hindi — and without subtitles — limits the size of their potential audience.

Movie Review: Zila Ghaziabad (2013)

Zilla_Ghaziabad1 Star (out of 4)

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When a movie is as crude and inept as Zila Ghaziabad, it’s hard to know what to prioritize when describing why it’s so horrible. The bad acting or the nonexistent story structure are both good places to start, but they miss what the film is really about: cigarettes.

Zila Ghaziabad is preceded by a two-minute video that graphically showcases the ways cigarette smoke ravages the human body. A voice-over implores the audience not to smoke. Then, throughout the entire film, every single time a character is shown smoking a cigarette or puffing on a hookah, a subtitle appears in the bottom right corner of the screen that reads: “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health.”

Because the vast majority of the characters in the film smoke, the warning appears on screen through almost half the movie, becoming the dominant image of the entire film. With just a hint of foresight into the likely dictates of the Censor Board, director Anand Kumar could’ve trimmed out a few shots of his characters lighting up and kept the audience focused on the story.

However, perhaps the focus is exactly where Kumar wants it to be. I posit that Zila Ghaziabad is really an anti-smoking parable and not a gangster movie. Vivek Oberoi plays the presumptive hero, a teacher named Satbeer. He’s admonished for smoking early in the film by his elder brother, and he abstains ever after. By the end of the movie, Sanjay Dutt’s maverick cop character, Pritam Singh, takes pity on the teacher because, “There was something about Satbeer that touched my heart.” Avoiding tobacco equals moral righteousness.

The short version of Zila Ghaziabad‘s story is that a guy named Fakira (Sunil Grover) gets jealous of his boss’s increasing reliance on Satbeer and causes a whole bunch of problems because of it. Lots of people get killed and nothing is solved by the end.

Arshad Warsi’s character — a hoodlum named Fauji — reunites with his gang in Ghaziabad and is welcomed home in spectacularly homoerotic fashion. Dozens of dudes break into a song about what a bad-ass Fauji is while firing long-barreled shotguns into the air and thrusting their pelvises with abandon.

The air-humping doesn’t stop there. Two item numbers feature a lone female gyrating while surrounded by dozens of horny guys. Since the lovely lady is obviously heading home with whatever rich guy hired her to dance in the first place, and there aren’t any other women in sight, one can only guess as to how the lathered-up lackeys will expend their sexual energy.

Fakira tricks Fauji into fighting with Satbeer in order to get back into the good graces of his uncle/boss, The Chairman (Paresh Rawal). This sets off a string of retaliatory attacks that draw national media attention to Ghaziabad. The overwhelmed police force turns to the only man who can fix this mess: Pritam Singh.

To say that Singh is a maverick is putting things mildly. While Singh has the requisite super-human strength of other movie supercops (e.g., those played by the likes of Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn), Singh lacks the moral righteousness supercops always have. Singh is at best a trickster, and at worst amoral.

A flashback shows how Singh resolves a dispute between a trio of lawyers who beat a food vendor demanding that the lawyers pay their bill. Singh slaps the lawyers around before handing his gun to the vendor and forcing the man to shoot one of the lawyers in the face.

That’s just par for the course in Zila Ghaziabad, a movie that has no moral center whatsoever. If anything, it appears to advocate violence over non-violence. When Satbeer decides to stop being Mr. Nice Guy, a song proclaims, “Forsaking his studies, he’s out to wage war.” Satbeer, with tears in his eyes, roars and shoves one of Fauji’s guys onto a pile of spikes. He then uses the dead guy’s own cell phone to break the news to Fauji. Satbeer tosses the phone over his shoulder, and I was disappointed when it didn’t explode on impact.

The point is that it doesn’t matter how many people Satbeer kills. He’s the hero because he doesn’t smoke.

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Opening February 22: Kai Po Che and Zila Ghaziabad

There are two new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area on February 22, 2013, though, sadly, Rise of the Zombie is not one of them. Kai Po Che is a coming-of-age story about three friends trying to establish themselves in Ahmedabad in the early 2000’s.

Kai Po Che opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 10 min.

The political action thriller Zila Ghaziabad is this week’s other new release. It stars Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, and Vivek Oberoi.

Zila Ghaziabad also opens on Friday at all of the above theaters except the River East 21. It’s rated PG-13 and has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 24 min.

Special 26 carries over for a third week at the Cantera 17 and South Barrington 30, which also holds over ABCD for a third week.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include Aadhi Bhagavan (Tamil), Annayum Rasoolum (Malayalam), and Jabardasth (Telugu).

Movie Review: Hum Tum Aur Ghost (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Most Bollywood remakes of Hollywood movies aren’t strict copies of the original films. In addition to a few dance numbers or musical montages, Hindi versions usually introduce extra plot material: a romance, medical problems or a parent-child conflict. Hum Tum Aur Ghost (“You, Me and the Ghost”) — a remake of 2008’s Ghost Town — includes all of the above. It works, but it’s not an improvement.

Arshad Warsi plays Armaan, a London fashion photographer who can’t sleep because he hears voices when he’s alone. To drown out the voices, Armaan gets drunk and naps on a bench in the train station: a charmingly quirky habit until the voices take form as people only he can see.

One of those people is Kapoor (Boman Irani), who explains that he’s a ghost, as are the other voices and apparitions. They all have unfinished business on earth, and, since they’re non-corporeal, they need Armaan’s help.

Most of the tasks are trivial, complicated or annoying. Armaan decides to help a ghost named Carol (Zehra Naqvi) find her son. Not to be put off, Kapoor –whose task involves bank robbery — blackmails Armaan into helping him by temporarily assuming control of his body and making him do embarrassing or dangerous things.

Armaan’s increasingly weird behavior concerns his girlfriend, Gehna (Diya Mirza). First, she assumes he’s having an affair with his best friend, Mini (Sandhya Mridul). Then, she fears that he’s schizophrenic. It’s up to Armaan to convince Gehna that he’s not crazy, while simultaneously aiding the ghosts that only he can see.

I liked the Hollywood version of this story, which starred Ricky Gervais and Greg Kinnear. Ghost Town ends when Gervais’ character is able to help Kinnear’s ghost complete his mission. Hum Tum Aur Ghost should’ve ended similarly, when Kapoor’s issues are resolved. But it continues, focusing on the search for Carol’s son and Armaan’s disintegrating relationship with Gehna.

The additional material isn’t as emotionally effective as the story that precedes it. In fact, it goes out of its way to be extra melodramatic. There’s a predictable “shocking” twist regarding Armaan’s parentage, and there’s even a car chase, both of which are unnecessary.

Director Kabeer Kaushik mistakenly thinks that the heart of the film is Armaan’s relationship with Gehna; it’s really Armaan’s relationship with Kapoor. Warsi and Irani give atypically subdued performances which emphasize the theme that love is the most important thing in life. There’s a shamelessly tear-jerking moment when Armaan, accompanied by invisible Kapoor, pays a visit to Kapoor’s widow. I’ll admit the ploy worked on me.

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