Tag Archives: Hussain Dalal

Movie Review: A Gentleman (2017)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the song “Bandook Meri Laila” at iTunes

A Gentleman delivers on its promise to be a funny, sexy action entertainer.

Strait-laced Gaurav (Sidharth Malhotra) wants nothing more from life than a nice house, a wife, kids, and a reliable car. While the wife and kids are still a work in progress, Gaurav is the proud new owner of the safest minivan on the market and a McMansion in the Miami suburbs. The dining room furnishings are from Pottery Barn and the kitchen Crate & Barrel, he proudly tells his guests.

Gaurav’s top candidate to fill the “wife” part of his dream is his peppy colleague, Kavya (Jacqueline Fernandez). She genuinely likes Gaurav, but he’s too boring for her taste. She wants a husband who suits her free-spending, fast-driving lifestyle.

While Gaurav gets advice from his married co-worker, Dikshit (Hussain Dalal), on how to appeal to Kavya’s wild side, the action shifts to Bangkok. A group of secret agents infiltrate the Chinese embassy, led by Rishi (also Malhotra), a dashing James Bond-type who’s a dead-ringer for Gaurav. This is the dynamic man Kavya has been dreaming of.

Following a botched safe-cracking attempt and subsequent motorcycle chase, Rishi and his crew — which includes his trigger-happy accomplice Yakub (Darshan Kumar) — return to headquarters to meet with their leader: The Colonel (Suniel Shetty). Rishi is tired of life as a extrajudicial assassin for Unit X, desiring instead a quiet family life in a home he can call his own — exactly the life that Gaurav has.

When his appeals to patriotism and personal loyalty don’t work, The Colonel offers to let Rishi go after one last job. Rishi and crew just need to intercept a package in Mumbai. Meanwhile, in Miami, Gaurav is chosen to deliver sensitive information in person to a client located — where else? — Mumbai!

Unlike previous films by the directing duo Raj & D.K. and their co-writer Sita Menon, A Gentleman is well-paced, allowing enough time to linger on details without ever feeling slow. The movie also establishes a sense of place, familiarizing the audience with the layout of Gaurav’s neighborhood and paying off that familiarity later on.

There are some great jokes in A Gentleman aimed at the US. Asked if she knows how to shoot, an exasperated Kavya says, “It’s America,” before cocking her gun like a pro. A laundromat owner named Jignesh (Amit Mistry) is tasked with finding someone, so he activates his spy network: the Desi Store Mafia Group, made up of the owners of Indian grocery stores and restaurants across Miami. My high school friend Ramya once lamented that there were no secrets within the local desi community, and attributing that to an organized business syndicate is pretty funny.

Malhotra and Fernandez suit this material, and not just because they are both gorgeous and fit for skimpy Miami attire. They bring energy to action scenes, heat to romantic sequences, and they share a nice rapport during lighter, humorous moments as well. It’s always a treat to watch Fernandez dance, and thankfully she gets a good soundtrack to dance to, including the Sachin-Jigar bop “Bandook Meri Laila.”

Links

Movie Review: Margarita with a Straw (2015)

MargaritaWithAStraw3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at Amazon or iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon

Margarita with a Straw is an insightful coming-of-age story about how a young woman with cerebral palsy explores her sexuality.

The focus on sex differentiates Margarita with a Straw from other stories of young people overcoming obstacles. The point of writer-director Shonali Bose’s narrative isn’t just to uplift the audience but to shine a light on an often ignored aspect of the lives of young adults with disabilities.

Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is in many ways a normal college student. She’s cheerful and outgoing. She’s interested in pornography. She writes lyrics for a rock band. She teases her best buddy, Dhruv (Hussain Dalal), for leering at women.

But Laila’s cerebral palsy distances her from her friends without disabilities. Her wheelchair limits her mobility; she spends a birthday party eating cake alone in the kitchen while the rest of the band sits out on the balcony. A speech impediment hampers her ability to communicate quickly in person, so she’s more fluent chatting online.

Dhruv, who also uses a wheelchair, levels a biting criticism at Laila, charging that spending time with “normal” people won’t make her normal. She’s devastated when her confession of romantic feelings is rejected by Nima (Tenzing Dalha), the handsome singer in her rock band.

The rejection spurs Laila to seek new adventures, and she enrolls at New York University. There she meets Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a beautiful, blind international student. Khanum — a lesbian — is the first person to express sexual desire for Laila, and Laila enters into a romantic relationship with her.

As happy as Laila is at finally finding love, she’s only been interested in men to this point. Her own confused feelings are coupled with concerns about admitting the truth to her parents.

Laila’s mother (played by Revathy) is not only Laila’s caretaker, but also her confidant. But Mom fears Laila’s blossoming interest in sex, changing the subject when Laila first mentions her crush on Nima. Whether it’s a fear of her daughter growing up or a fear of Laila being hurt, Mom is not ready to accept that her daughter is a young woman. The word “bisexual” is not in her vocabulary.

Koechlin’s commitment to her role is remarkable. Her accent is impeccable, and her every movement conveys how difficult mundane tasks are for those afflicted with cerebral palsy. While I support the idea of casting actors with disabilities to play disabled characters, I suspect that a casting notice for a “performer with cerebral palsy willing to participate in sex scenes with both men and women” wouldn’t find many takers in India.

Revathy’s performance is moving, but Mom’s role in Laila’s life comes to dominate the narrative as the movie progresses. The story is about a young woman finding her own identity outside of the shadows of her parents, but the way Laila is forced to do so feels unfair. The ending scene is well-intended but a little corny.

Nevertheless, Bose’s story is an eye-opener. Just because raging hormones don’t top the list of challenges faced by young people with disabilities, it doesn’t mean they’re not an issue.

Links

  • Margarita with a Straw at Wikipedia
  • Margarita with a Straw at IMDb