Tag Archives: Gaurav Pandey

Movie Review: Tumse Na Ho Payega (2023)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Do yourself a favor and only watch the first two-thirds of Tumse Na Ho Payega (“You Won’t Be Able to Do It“), when it appears to be an anti-capitalist parable about the moral, psychological, and social cost of growing a business to sate the voracious appetites of institutional investors.

Turn it off before you get to the part where, actually, turns out you just need to align yourself with a beneficent venture capital firm that will allow you to engage in “good” capitalism.

Ishwak Singh plays Gaurav, an office drone who gets fired when his boss overhears him complaining that his boring engineering job is boring. Against the advice of his mom Pooja (Amala Akkineni) and bossy neighborhood gossip Anu Aunty (Meghna Malik) — whose snobbish son Arjun (Karan Jotwani) is the youngest general manager in his financial firm’s history — Gaurav decides to start his own business.

Gaurav’s downstairs neighbor Pummy Aunty (Farida Dadi) is a great cook. Whenever he would bring a tiffin full of her dishes for lunch, his coworkers — young, single people living in Mumbai away from their parents — would go crazy for her tasty home-cooked meals. Gaurav gets the idea to recruit other aunties to make extra food to sell to office workers who are sick of takeout. Thus is born the food delivery service Maa’s Magic.

Maa’s Magic takes off with the help of Gaurav’s programmer buddy Mal (Gaurav Pandey) and his social media manager crush Devika (Mahima Makwana), who is currently dating that jerk Arjun. But being able to support themselves doing work they like isn’t enough to impress Arjun and Anu Aunty. Soon, Gaurav and Mal make a deal with an unscrupulous venture capitalist who pushes them to expand their business, even if it ruins everything good about Maa’s Magic.

At this point in the story, the movie’s message is obvious: don’t sell out for the sake of money. Being successful is about more than just money, and no amount will ever be enough to satisfy your naysayers. Making a difference in your community and being happy day-to-day is priceless.

Then Tumse Na Ho Payega throws all that feel-good stuff out the window to remind us that growth is paramount. In fact, you owe it to your customers to always grow your company. Speaking on behalf of customers, that’s a load of bunk.

The story’s disappointing twist stems from the fact that the movie is adapted from the mostly autobiographical book How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-Founded a Million Dollar Company by Varun Agarwal. While the plot may be accurate to Agarwal’s experience, it makes for an inconsistent and ultimately disappointing narrative.

Also working against Tumse Na Ho Payega are dialogue and performances that are strictly utilitarian. There are some interesting sequences where the characters address the camera directly or in mocking voice-over conversations, but the film overall is forgettable.

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Movie Review: A Flying Jatt (2016)

AFlyingJatt3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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A Flying Jatt is a throwback to a time when superhero movies could be colorful and silly instead of grimly serious. It’s so much fun.

One nice feature of genre films is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Drawing on classic examples like Christopher Reeve’s Superman films and Michael Keaton’s Batman allows writer-director Remo D’Souza to add specific cultural influences to a formula that is proven to work. For years, filmmakers have tried to create an Indian superhero from scratch, but none has been as successful as D’Souza is here.

Tiger Shroff plays Aman, a martial arts instructor with low self-esteem. He’s lived in the shadow of his heroic, deceased father for so long that he feels no one can see him for who he is. That goes for both his disappointed mother (Amrita Singh) and Kirti (Jacqueline Fernandez), a chipper fellow teacher with whom he’s secretly in love.

Aman’s mom and Kirti aren’t his only problems. The school’s music teacher, Goldie (Sushant Pujari, without the curly hair he sported in ABCD), is trying to woo Kirti. More importantly, an industrialist named Malhotra (Kay Kay Menon, with a perm) wants to tear down the colony where Aman’s family lives, including a sacred tree bearing a Sikh Khanda symbol.

Aman isn’t as religious as his mom, so he’d rather sell their land to Malhotra to avoid a confrontation. Mom’s refusal prompts Aman to visit the tree one rainy night to beg God to protect his mother. There he finds a large Aussie named Raka (Nathan Jones of Mad Max: Fury Road) poised to take down the tree with a chainsaw at Malhotra’s behest.

The two men engage in a fight, during which Raka slams Aman against the tree’s Khanda symbol. Lightning strikes, imbuing Aman with superpowers and launching Raka far away into one of Malhotra’s piles of toxic waste. Raka emerges from the sludge hand-first — a la Jack Nicholson’s Joker — as a monster who feeds on pollution.

In keeping with his character development, Aman doesn’t automatically embrace his superhero status. His brother, Rohit (Gaurav Pandey), is the first to fully understand what has happened to Aman, triggering a funny scene in which Rohit and Mom take turns stabbing a sleeping Aman just so they can watch his wounds heal immediately.

Mom and Rohit enthusiastically select a costume for Aman and study old Superman films for tips on proper flying techniques. However, Aman is still the same timid guy he always was, scared of dogs and too nervous to fly more than a few feet above the ground. Televised reports of his successful hostage rescue are equal parts inspiring and embarrassing.

Ultimately, it’s Rohit that makes the point to both Aman and the audience that real heroes are those who stand up to evil without superpowers to protect them. This is a family-friendly film, so messages about bravery and environmental stewardship are made explicit for the benefit of kids. D’Souza lays the environmentalism on pretty thick, but it fits with the tone of the film.

D’Souza delivers on his vision for A Flying Jatt, turning limitations into strengths. Fight scenes that rely heavily on slow-motion and harnesses emphasize the movie’s retro vibe. A Flying Jatt doesn’t have a big Hollywood budget, but it doesn’t need one.

I was unimpressed by Shroff in his two previous films, but he’s really good in this. His physical gifts are on display again — both in terms of his impressive martial arts skills and abs — but he’s also funny and vulnerable. It took a well-written character to allow Shroff to show his charming side.

Pandey’s endearing performance is essential to the film’s success. Rohit not only guides Aman through his hero’s journey, but he has motivations of his own. Envious of his brother’s abilities, Rohit dons the Flying Jatt costume — only to have their mother mistake him for Aman and break a coconut on his head.

Instead of the sexy characters Fernandez often plays, Kirti is cute, her playful punches among the only things that still hurt Aman after his transformation. Kirti wears glasses, which in a typical movie would require removal via a makeover sequence, so that she could finally realize how pretty she is. In A Flying Jatt, the only time she takes them off is for dance numbers, which is more a practical matter than an aesthetic one. When Aman finally tells Kirti that he thinks she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, she’s still wearing her glasses.

For a movie aimed at a family audience, A Flying Jatt is a little long. The song “Beat Pe Booty” feels more appropriate for the closing credits than the run-up to the climax. Failing to pit Shroff against Pujari in a dance battle is a missed opportunity (but maybe there’s room for it in a sequel?).

D’Souza never disappoints as a choreographer, but he’s become a really good director as well. I loved the dance flick ABCD, and now he’s created a terrific superhero movie. The world needs the kind of fun films that D’Souza makes.

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Movie Review: Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (2014)

Humpty_Sharma_Ki_Dulhania_Poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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First Student of the Year, then Main Tera Hero, and now Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (“Humpty Sharma’s Bride“). Three films into his career, and Varun Dhawan has positioned himself as Bollywood’s hero of the future.

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania (HSKD, henceforth) is made in the mold of classic romcoms, most explicitly Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. [Though references to DDLJ are sprinkled throughout, one need not have seen that movie in order to appreciate HSKD.] This requires Dhawan to carry the film with his dancing, crying, and goofing around, and he’s more than up to the task.

Dhawan plays Humpty Sharma, a good-natured college student prone to slacking off. He’s destined to take over the campus bookstore from his tolerant father (Kenny Desai), so why push himself in school? Humpty’s constant companions are Shonty (Gaurav Pandey) and Poplu (Sahil Vaid).

The trio are busted by Kavya (Alia Bhatt) when they try to extort passing grades from their history professor, her uncle. When Kavya agrees to fix their grades behind her uncle’s back in exchange for a bribe, the guys recognize a kindred spirit and friendship blossoms.

Humpty and Kavya fall in love, even though she’s engaged to an American guy she’s never met. Humpty must convince Kavya’s father (Ashutosh Rana) to let him marry Kavya instead of her betrothed, Angad (Siddharth Shukla), a nearly impossible task given that Angad is perfect.

Angad’s perfection sets up some especially funny scenes. Despite his loyalty to Humpty, heterosexual Poplu finds himself becoming enamored of Angad’s winsome demeanor, delicious cooking, and chiseled abs. Big thumbs up to the casting department for hiring Shukla, who looks like Superman.

Angad is also great for driving home the film’s theme that most people aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t preclude us from being loving partners or from striving to be better versions of ourselves.

In an effort to differentiate Angad from Humpty, debutant writer-director Shashank Khaitan finds the right balance in making Humpty flawed but likeable. None of his weaknesses are deal breakers, and values like love and loyalty govern all of his decisions.

Kavya is likewise written with a moral code. Her sense of justice is what first appeals to Humpty, making up for her short fuse and selective materialism.

Bhatt — whose had an even stronger start to her career than Dhawan after debuting alongside him in Student of the Year — is very good again, especially in quieter interactions between Kavya and Humpty. It’s a shame that her character’s dynamism is sublimated in the second half. Humpty must try to save their relationship mostly by himself, whereas he and Kavya had been partners to that point.

Dhawan is the total package: good looks, dance moves, and nuanced acting skills. He comfortably transitions between comedy and sexually charged romance.

Strong performances by Pandey and Vaid augment Dhawan’s performance and reinforce Humpty’s status as a good guy. The supportive and empathetic women of Kavya’s family make the story feel complete.

The story’s weakest point is that some of the supporting characters are denied satisfying conclusions, or any conclusion at all. Khaitan so effectively populated this universe that the movie becomes about more than Humpty’s and Kavya’s will-they-or-won’t-they romance.

But for light romantic comedy, HSKD hits the spot. It has some inventive dance numbers and strong turns by a pair of Bollywood’s brightest up-and-comers. It’s definitely worth a watch.

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