Tag Archives: Dipannita Sharma

Movie Review: Neeyat (2023)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Neeyat (“Motive“) draws from classic mystery stories, though it falls short of becoming a classic itself.

Ram Kapoor plays AK, a wealthy industrialist on the run from the Indian government due to shady financial dealings. He hasn’t paid his employees in two years, leading to at least eight suicides by people on his payroll suffering financial distress.

AK gathers his closest friends and family members at his Scottish castle — the eerily named Highgrave Manor — to celebrate his birthday. Everyone invited is subsidized by AK in one way or another, whether it be the boarding school tuition he pays for his niece Sasha (Ishika Mehra) or the jewels he buys his much-younger girlfriend Lisa (Shahana Goswami). They all depend on him to maintain their lavish lifestyles.

As a dangerous storm closes in, event manager Tanveer (Danesh Razvi) sends the rest of the staff home before the only bridge leading to the castle is raised, stranding everyone there for the night — but a late arriving guest reveals AK’s ulterior motives. AK announces at dinner that he plans to turn himself and all of his remaining assets over to the Indian authorities, and that CBI officer Mira Rao (Vidya Balan) is there to take him into custody the following morning when her cohorts from Scotland Yard arrive.

This causes an uproar as the guests realize that their gravy train is about to derail. All of them have reason to stop AK from carrying out his plan. When he falls over a cliff to his death, officer Mira tries to determine which of the guests turned murderer.

There are lots of characters (in the colloquial sense) among the characters, played to varying degrees of success. Kapoor’s AK is boisterous, but not over-the-top. Same cannot be said for Rahul Bose’s depiction of AK’s hard-partying, bisexual brother-in-law Jimmy, whose big reactions border on cartoonish.

Subtle performances from Goswami as the current girlfriend, Shashank Arora as AK’s neglected stepson Ryan, Dipannita Sharma as AK’s former flame Noor, and Neeraj Kabi as Noor’s husband Sanjay steady the film and help to maintain movement as the investigation into AK’s death kicks into gear.

The big question mark among the characters is Mira. She’s part quirky detective and part taciturn loner, and Balan never quite hits the right tone to make her feel believable. Due to Mira’s penchant for describing the situation with technical specificity, one of the characters refers to her as a “walking encyclopedia.” It’s a nod in the direction of a brainiac detective like Sherlock, but she lacks his charisma.

Further, writer-director Anu Menon shows some of Mira’s tics — like her periodically eating butterscotch hard candies — that seem like they are going to meaningful but ultimately aren’t. The thing about detective stories is that the audience has been trained to pay attention to the smallest details, making the choice of what to include in the narrative crucially important. If something isn’t going to be either a clue or a red herring, leave it out.

That said, the setting — an isolated castle in Scotland on a stormy night — is evocative, making the whole film feel very comfortable for genre fans. While not perfect, Neeyat does what it needs to do to meet the needs of mystery aficionados.


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Movie Review: Jodi Breakers (2012)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Fine. Nice. Okay. Those are probably the best words to describe Jodi Breakers (“Couple Breakers”), a pleasant but unremarkable romantic comedy about a pair of divorce facilitators.

Fresh off his own financially disastrous divorce, Sid (R. Madhavan) hires himself out to men looking to entrap their cheating wives, thereby avoiding costly alimony payments. Sid hires Sonali (Bipasha Basu) as his partner, which allows them to expand their client base to include women looking to divorce their wayward husbands.

Sid meets privately with the wife of a wealthy businessman with a mistress, who arranges for Sid and Sonali to travel to Greece. There, the duo successfully plants evidence to frame the mistress, Maggie (Dipannita Sharma), who’s tossed out by the businessman, Mark (Milind Soman).

Sonali and Sid get drunk and sleep together while in Greece. Only after they return to India does Sonali discover that Sid lied about the identity of the woman who hired them to break up Mark and Maggie.

As a romantic comedy, Jodi Breakers isn’t particularly romantic or comical. Director Ashwini Chaudhary strikes an uneasy balance between wackiness and more straightforward comedy. Direct-to-camera speeches by Sid’s best friend, Nano (Omi Vaidya), periodically ruin the flow of the film. The leads are instructed to overact in scenes that don’t require it.

Madhavan and Basu have a friendly rapport with each other, but their chemistry doesn’t go further than that. Even though their love scenes are racy by Bollywood standards, they lack sizzle. Mark and Maggie convey more passion and longing in their glances, upstaging the lead couple.

The screenplay hits the necessary plot points and generally makes sense, but scenes drag on too long at the expense of character development elsewhere. Chaudhary, who also wrote the screenplay, spends too much time showing Sid and Sonali getting drunk, without showing why they fell for each other in the first place.

Also missing from the script are scenes of Sid and Sonali executing the jobs they are hired to do. Sid’s first solo job and the duo’s takedown of Mark and Maggie in Greece are the only time we see them at work, other than some brief, humorous client interviews. Scenes of Sid and Sonali successfully entrapping cheaters could’ve set up their inevitable romance while providing laughs.

Other elements of the film are similarly okay, but uninspiring. The music is catchy and the dance numbers are fine, apart from one that’s memorable for the wrong reasons. Someone needs to have a word about appropriate fringe placement with whomever designed the costumes for the female backup dancers in “Bipasha” (below).


Movie Review: Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl (2011)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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There’s a decent romantic comedy buried within Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl. Unfortunately, one has to slog through the interminable opening hour of its 140 minute runtime to find it.

Briefly put, Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl is about three women who get revenge on a conman. Rather than get right to the revenge, however, the movie shows, in tedious detail, how each of the women is taken for various amounts of money by Ricky Bahl (Ranveer Singh), a grifter who goes by the aliases Sunny, Deven, Iqbal and Vikram.

In fact, the opening credits don’t even run until twenty minutes into the film, after “Sunny” tricks a naive, spoiled brat named Dimple (Parineeti Chopra) into falling for him. After he makes off with Dimple’s dad’s money, Sunny changes his name to Deven and tricks a businesswoman named Raina (Dipannita Sharma) into buying a bogus painting.

When Raina and Dimple are contacted by a third conned woman, textile shop owner Saira (Aditi Sharma), the three team up to get their money back. They hire a beautiful and uncommonly persuasive salesgirl, Ishika (Anushka Sharma), to trick Ricky into returning their stolen funds.

This is when the story finally gets interesting, but it’s an hour into the film. Up to this point, the plot is simultaneously predictable and directionless. It’s obvious how each of Ricky’s cons is going to end; the only mystery is why we need such a large volume of set-up material.

It’s also a huge mistake to keep the film’s biggest asset — Anushka Sharma — under wraps for so long. Sharma has an infectious smile and an undeniable charm. Her ease in front of the camera has elevated every film she’s starred in during the course of her brief career.

Singh is a perfectly suitable leading man, particularly for Yash Raj Films’ particular brand of light, popcorn fare. Singh’s got a killer smile as well, his hair looks great when a high-powered fan is directed at it, and his muscled torso is manscaped within an inch of its life. But that’s probably not enough to warrant anchoring a film when a legitimate superstar like Anushka Sharma is in the cast.

And let’s not forget that Ricky is a conman. We want to see him get his comeuppance at the hands of someone we like. That’s Ishika, someone who’s similarly clever but earns her paycheck legally. She enters a grey area by accepting the ladies’ job, but that makes her interesting, not a criminal. Ishika has the most room for growth, so she should be the main character, not Ricky.

The rest of the titular ladies carry off their somewhat narrow roles well. Notable is newcomer Chopra (actress Priyanka Chopra’s cousin), who successfully makes Pringle-chomping rich girl Dimple more amusing than annoying. Some of the most enjoyable scenes in the film feature the ladies working together to extract money from the thief.

The music and dance numbers are entertaining, thanks in large part to Singh’s impressive skills on the dance floor.

Had the backstory of how each woman was swindled been trimmed down to a total of twenty or thirty minutes, this might have been a pretty good film. But Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl has too many missteps early on to make it a “must see” movie.