Tag Archives: Jacqueline Fernandez

Movie Review: Judwaa 2 (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Even with a new cast, Judwaa 2 feels dated.

Judwaa 2 is less of a true sequel to 1997’s Judwaa than a reboot, switching out Salman Khan in the lead role for Varun Dhawan (son of the director of both films, David Dhawan). Unlike a lore-heavy fantasy or superhero flick, watching the original Judwaa isn’t a prerequisite for watching Judwaa 2.

The reboot opens with Mr. Malhotra (Sachin Khedekar) flying home for the birth of his twin sons. A seemingly friendly fellow passenger named Charles (Zakir Hussain) slips some contraband into Malhotra’s bag, but Malhotra has already alerted the police, who attempt to apprehend Charles when he shows up at the hospital to collect his goods.

Charles escapes with one of the newborn baby boys as a hostage, accidentally dropping him on some train tracks. Charles blows up a building, lying that the boy was inside and vowing to come back some day for Malhotra’s other son. This seems like a disproportionate revenge response given that the police were already on to Charles and Malhotra just made their job a little easier.

As the cops haul Charles away and Malhotra grieves for the son he believes to be dead, a train bears down on the dropped baby. The boy — who will shortly be named Raja by the lady who discovers him — gets a metaphysical assist from his brother, Prem. The doctor who delivered the boys explained to the Malhotras that, because the boys were born attached at the arm (separated by a surgery that doesn’t even leave a scar, LOL), they share a connection that occurs “one in eight million” times. When the boys are within even a few miles of one another, they will feel each other’s emotions and physical sensations.

Sensing Raja’s fear at the oncoming train, Prem — displaying remarkable muscle control for a newborn — rolls to his side in his crib, causing Raja to roll safely off the tracks as the train passes by. The sequence is exactly as stupid as it sounds, made stupider by cheap-looking CGI.

The Malhotras flee to safety in London, where Prem grows up to be a wimpy nerd who is nevertheless built like a Mr. Universe contestant. Raja is a brash street urchin with a heart of gold who gets into trouble when he beats up rich guy Alex (Vivan Bhatena) for being a jerk. Raja and his adopted brother Nandu (Rajpal Yadav) flee to London to escape Alex’s wrath. Nandu is excited at the opportunity to sexually harass the air hostesses on the flight, and Raja hits on Alishka (Jacqueline Fernandez), the beautiful woman sitting next to him.

With the long-lost brothers finally in the same city, their metaphysical link reactivates. Raja feels the pain when a bully grabs Prem’s junk, and Prem slaps people when Raja gets into a fight. Prem also kisses his cute classmate Samaira (Taapsee Pannu) and her mother (Upasana Singh) when Raja smooches Alishka in an attempt to hide his face from the police.

While multiple Baahubali references root the story in the modern day, elements such as lazy plotting and the normalization of sexual harassment make Judwaa 2 feel out-of-date. There’s no reason why the gags involving the female love interests couldn’t have been updated to reflect the progressive direction many Hindi films have adopted regarding gender politics.

It’s a missed opportunity, considering the caliber of Judwaa 2‘s two leading ladies. Jacqueline Fernandez is perhaps Bollywood’s best female physical comedian. She sells every scene she’s in, no matter how silly she’s asked to be. If you can take your eyes off of her impressive dance moves, watch her expressive face during her song performances. She’s a total pro.

Taapsee Pannu’s performance is a reminder of her incredible versatility. She proved her dramatic chops in Pink and her action skills in Baby and its follow-up Naam Shabana, a spin-off created just for her. Judwaa 2 is a return to her roots in Hindi cinema; her debut film was the 2013 comedy Chashme Baddoor, also directed by David Dhawan. Judwaa 2 not only finds Pannu playing for laughs again, but dancing up a storm and flaunting a physique as impressive as any of her Bollywood contemporaries.

Varun Dhawan is charismatic in his double role, but there’s not much that we haven’t seen from him before. His resume is already heavy on comedies, and this isn’t one of the better ones. It’s not just the poor treatment of the female leads at his characters’ hands that makes Judwaa 2 feel like a throwback. There’s an offensive fight sequence involving a group of black men whom Raja refers to as “the West Indies team.” Raja repeatedly taunts them, ending his sentences with a Caribbean-accented “mon,” even though the men themselves say the word “man” with British accents.

Other than those issues, Judwaa 2 isn’t as morally problematic as it could have been (faint praise, indeed). The dance numbers are fun, and Fernandez and Pannu make more out of their roles than they’re given to work with. Judwaa 2 is a watchable movie, but not a memorable one.

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Movie Review: A Gentleman (2017)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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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.”

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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: Dishoom (2016)

Dishoom2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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As I walked out of the theater following Dishoom, I tried to downplay my concerns about the way the film handles its female characters. Then something in the lobby reminded me that one’s social conscience doesn’t turn off when viewing media billed as light entertainment.

Dishoom‘s main hero is Kabir (John Abraham), a tough cop who doesn’t play by the rules. He’s introduced tossing a man out of an elevator for daring to ask him not to smoke indoors. We’re supposed to laugh when Kabir tells the man that he offered to let him take the stairs instead.

In the next scene, Kabir meets his girlfriend, Alishka, in her apartment. He deduces that she’s been having an affair and that the man is hiding in the apartment. Kabir draws his gun, points it at Alishka’s head, and tells the hiding man that he has three seconds to reveal himself or Kabir will kill Alishka. (The man reveals himself, sparing Alishka’s life.)

Writer-director Rohit Dhawan underestimates how disturbing this scene is, lumping it in with the elevator scene as a means to establish Kabir as a rule breaker. I was almost lulled into acceptance myself until I saw something most ironic playing on a monitor in the theater lobby. There was Jacqueline Fernandez — Dishoom‘s leading lady and Kabir’s eventual love interest — dancing to the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” in front of a banner that read “End Violence Against Girls.” (The video is embedded below.)

Violence against women is enough of a problem in India (and around the world) that Fernandez was moved to star in a public service announcement decrying it, yet her character in Dishoom falls for a man who was ready to murder his girlfriend. One step toward ending violence against women in the real world is to stop normalizing it onscreen.

The scene with Kabir’s girlfriend is such a shame, because Dishoom is otherwise a pretty fun movie. Kabir travels to the Middle East to find a kidnapped Indian cricketer (played by Saqib Saleem) before a high-stakes match with Pakistan. Kabir is aided by a rookie cop named Junaid (Varun Dhawan) and a wise-cracking thief (Fernandez).

The performances are uniformly solid. Varun (director Dhawan’s brother) supplies the laughs while Abraham serves as straight man. Fernandez gets to be funny, too — and she steals the show in the killer dance number, “Sau Tarah Ke.” Saleem does fine work, as does Akshaye Khanna in a villainous role.

Dhawan knows how to make a great-looking movie, full of bright colors and pleasing shots. The cricket scenes in particular stand out. Here’s hoping that Dhawan chooses a sports film as his next project.

Yet, for all the things that I enjoyed about Dishoom, it’s hard to fully recommend it given its troublesome lead character. It would be easy to write Dishoom off as a mindless action entertainer, but maybe that’s exactly why we should be even more critical of the message it sends about violence against women.

Here’s Jacqueline Fernandez’s PSA for The Global Goals:

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Movie Review: Housefull 3 (2016)

Housefull32 Stars (out of 4)

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Lies. Manipulation. Betrayal. When considered from the perspective of the three female leads, Housefull 3 is a tragedy, not a comedy.

Wealthy sisters Gracy (Jacqueline Fernandez), Jenny (Lisa Haydon), and Sarah (Nargis Fakhri) live in London with their doting father, Batuk Patel (Boman Irani, playing a different character from the first two Housefull films, but with the same name). The beautiful, accomplished women — Gracy is a doctor, Jenny an artist, and Sarah a philanthropist — have grown up under the shadow of a curse: catastrophe befalls anyone in their family who marries, thus their father has forbidden them from ever falling in love.

However, Batuk’s family curse is a ruse to hide a more treacherous reason for keeping the women single. The sisters’ entire lives are built upon lies told by their own father.

Despite Batuk’s warnings, the women find romance. Gracy loves Sandy (Akshay Kumar), a wannabe footballer who dreams of owning a soccer club just so he can give himself a place on the roster. Jenny loves Teddy (Riteish Deshmukh), an aspiring race car driver who can’t find a sponsor. Sarah loves Bunty (Abhishek Bachchan), an untalented rapper who wants to start his own record label.

The three men realize that the only way to finance their delusional dreams is by marrying wealthy women. They set their sights on the three sisters, vowing to do whatever it takes to get their hands on a share of the Patel fortune.

Throughout the film, the women have no idea that they are being used by their boyfriends. Their father’s lies eventually put their very lives at risk. In a perfect world, the sisters would take their money and run, ditching all of the men who’ve deceived them.

But this Housefull 3, the third installment of a franchise built on the disposability and interchangeability of it female characters. Gracy, Jenny, and Sarah are hollow shells in sparkly outfits. For them to appreciate the degree to which they’ve been manipulated, they’d have to be fully realized humans, which they are not.

Instead, the story focuses on the three loser boyfriends who feign various disabilities to deceive first Batuk and later Urja Nagre (Jackie Shroff) a recently paroled mafia don. There are mistaken identities, wacky fight scenes, and people running around flailing their hands in the air. It feels so very tired.

Housefull 3 also feels cheap, as if directing duo Sajid-Farhad were instructed to spend as little as possible in order to maximize profits. Teddy’s big car race pits him against just one other driver on a giant track. When Teddy has to fake blindness, he uses a regular walking cane, not the white cane used by blind people. The climactic fight scene takes place in a wax statue factory full of rejects from Madame Tussaud’s, including a statue of The Rock with oversized ears.

The plot is stretched to maximum thinness to lengthen the amount of time between the few important plot revelations that exist, padded out with Bollywood in-jokes and movie references. Chunky Pandey’s character Aakhri Pasta is brought back for a third time because, well, why not?

One point in Housefull 3‘s favor concerns Kumar’s character, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Sandy has an angry alternate personality named Sundi whose sole goal is to cause Sandy suffering, but Sundi does so in ways that are more annoying than harmful. One funny sequence finds Sundi in a bathroom, rubbing liquid hand soap in Sandy/Sundi’s eyes and kicking his shin against a towel rack.

Beyond Sandy’s cartoonish internal nemesis, there isn’t much clever or new in Housefull 3, and it’s hard to see a way to freshen up the formula for a fourth time. Maybe it’s time to close the doors on this franchise for good.

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Movie Review: Brothers (2015)

Brothers1 Star (out of 4)

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Among screenwriting jobs, Brothers: Blood Against Blood should be as easy as it gets. The movie is an official remake of Warrior, a great Hollywood film by Gavin O’Connor. Translate the dialogue, relocate the action, cast some Bollywood stars, and boom, you’re done. So why is Brothers so bad?

Warrior is superbly written. Every character has clear motivation and a goal in every scene. Background information is doled out efficiently. The plot is brisk.

For some reason, director Karan Malhotra and his screenplay adapter/wife, Ekta Pathak Malhotra, abandoned the original film’s efficiency in favor of overly long melodrama. The characters in Brothers are left adrift. We know too much about their history, but nothing about what they want right now.

Former alcoholic Gary Fernandez (Jackie Shroff) emerges from prison sober but unhinged. His son, Monty (Sidharth Malhotra, no relation to the director), brings his father home, watching as the broken old man sees the ghost of his dead wife Maria (Shefali Shah) in every corner. Gary wants to know why his other son, David (Akshay Kumar), hasn’t come to meet him.

David is a high school physics teacher, burdened by the cost of his daughter’s dialysis. He earns some cash in an illegal street fight, but his bruises cost him his job. David’s wife, Jenny (Jacqueline Fernandez), worries about the danger of his return to the ring, but he can’t resist the allure of fighting in India’s first televised mixed martial arts tournament, Right 2 Fight (R2F). Neither can Monty.

Most of the copious flashbacks in Brothers are time-wasters (really, we need to see David and Jenny falling in love?). The only useful one explains why the brothers are estranged. Monty is Gary’s son from an affair, and David blames his younger half-brother for destroying his family. Maria makes is clear that she loves Monty as much as her biological son, but David doesn’t care.

The single biggest problem in Brothers is that the Malhotras think that David is a hero. Having a sick kid may make him sympathetic, but it doesn’t automatically mean he’s a good person. During a match at R2F, David is so enraged that he continues to pummel an unconscious opponent, even as his physics students watch on television. (Gary is proud of him for this. What a guy.) David is the one who turned his back on his little brother, and he apparently never tried to reach out to Monty in the years since.

It’s not clear how Monty spent the decades that his father was incarcerated. When he starts his fighting career, he’s terrible, and he doesn’t decide to pursue it seriously until halfway through the movie. There’s a hint that, because Gary is a former fighter, Monty fights to gain his father’s approval, but that storyline goes nowhere.

Sidharth provides no help in elucidating his character’s motivation because he has only two emotions: sad and bewildered. When Monty isn’t moping, he’s flinching from the bright lights of the arena, as though he’s a defrosted caveman fearfully trying to comprehend the modern world.

spideyPictured Above: Sidharth’s acting coach for Brothers?

Akshay is a trained martial artist, but his salt-and-pepper beard makes him look too old to play a competitive fighter. It looks like Sidharth is fighting his dad while his grandpa, Jackie Shroff, watches. David’s a bad enough guy as is, and Akshay doesn’t do anything to make him more likable.

The two women in the cast — Jacqueline and Shefali — give the strongest performances, but they cry in every one of their scenes. The excess of melodrama peaks when David looks at his battered brother in the ring and hallucinates Monty as a smiling little boy. It’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Another bit of unintentional — but totally predictable — comedy in Brothers: David’s daughter is called “Poopoo.” The ladies in the theater with me hooted every time someone said her name.

Nothing happens quickly in Brothers. Something as simple as a character walking into the arena takes several minutes. An inordinate amount of time is devoted to the R2F promoter, who has nothing to do with the main story. There’s a lengthy item number featuring Kareena Kapoor Khan dancing in a Benihana, intercut with scenes of David training, for who knows what reason.

Brothers isn’t bad in comparison to Warrior, it’s just bad. Why would anyone watch this when they could just rent Warrior?

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Movie Review: Roy (2015)

Roy_film_poster1 Star (out of 4)

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Roy is full of so much talking and so little action that it should have been an audiobook instead of a movie. Then again, with such dull dialogue, who would listen to it?

Arjun Rampal plays Kabir, a celebrity film director. Kabir is the kind of narcissistic jerk who stomps out his cigarette butts on the floor of a hotel hallway and who uses a manual typewriter while flying on a plane.

After the success of Guns and Guns 2, Kabir is stymied by writer’s block while working on Guns 3. The first fifteen minutes of Roy consist of shots of Kabir sitting idly in front of the typewriter, brushing his teeth, feeding his fish, and fending off the concerned inquiries of his excessively patient producer, Meera (Shernaz Patel).

In the world of Roy, news reports consist entirely of details of Kabir’s romantic life and reports of art theft. A TV report about a painting stolen in Malaysia prompts Kabir to take his crew there to film Guns 3. There, Kabir becomes smitten with an independent movie director, Ayesha (Jacqueline Fernandez).

[Correction: In addition to art theft and Kabir’s romantic life, news reports in Roy also feature extensive coverage of indie film festivals. Just like real life.]

Kabir casts an actress who looks exactly like Ayesha to play the romantic interest in Guns 3, opposite his protagonist, Roy (Ranbir Kapoor). There is absolutely no explanation offered for Ayesha’s doppelgänger.

Action — such as it is — switches between Kabir and Ayesha in the real world and Roy and the lookalike, Tia, in the movie world of Guns. Both worlds are dominated by boring, pseudo-intellectual conversations, punctuated by languid song montages in which people drive around in cars or Roy rides a motorcycle.

Given that Kabir is an emotionally stunted pre-teen trapped in a 40-year-old body, nothing he or Roy says on the nature of being contains any kind of insight. There’s so much undirected angst in the dialogue, it’s like it was written by the guys from the ’90s band Bush.

An excess of ennui in their characters yields clunky, detached performances by Rampal and Kapoor. Fernandez — whose beauty is the best thing Roy has going for it — is better in scenes as Tia, in which she plays an heiress trapped in a 1960s time warp, at least as far as her teased hair is concerned.

Debutant writer-director Vikramjit Singh has a good sense for framing shots, and the movie is quite pretty. Sadly, the visual interest ends there, since Singh focuses all his attention on writing bland dialogue instead of considering what it would look like when delivered onscreen.

Without additional assistance on the script, Singh’s story feels hollow. Even after Kabir undergoes his supposed metamorphosis from spoiled man-child to emotionally mature adult, he still does something incredibly selfish.

Ayesha is on her way to a film festival in another country. For independent filmmakers, festivals provide opportunities to network and drum up publicity and funds for their next projects. Wealthy, connected Kabir stops Ayesha at the airport, telling her, in essence, “If you love me, you won’t get on the plane.”

Kabir puts his own desires ahead of Ayesha’s career, which is all the more selfish since Kabir’s got more than enough cash to buy his own plane ticket and go with her. Considering that Singh’s debut film features A-listers like Kapoor, Rampal, and Fernandez, it’s not surprising that he has an easier time identifying with a celebrity like Kabir rather than a struggling filmmaker like Ayesha.

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