Tag Archives: Raj Kumar Yadav

Movie Review: Dolly Ki Doli (2015)

DollyKiDoli1 Star (out of 4)

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Was footage accidentally left out of Dolly Ki Doli? That’s the only way to account for a climax and resolution that come completely out of left field.

Sonam Kapoor plays Dolly, “The Plundering Bride” as she’s known by the police. She flits around the outskirts of Delhi, marrying eligible bachelors and drugging and robbing them on their wedding night. She arranges marriages with men of various religions and traditions, requiring her to change her appearance and mannerisms to appeal to each family she’s marrying into.

Dolly is a seductress only in a fantasy sense. She never so much as allows her grooms to kiss her, delaying their affection with excuses* until the drugs she’s administered have taken effect.

While Dolly’s swindled grooms — including nouveau riche braggart Sonu (Rajkummar Rao) and horny loser Manjot (Varun Sharma) — are jerks, so is she. Dolly works with a group of fellow cons who pose as her family, and her fake brother, Raju (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), is in love with her. Dolly knows this, and she ridicules Raju for it.

Dolly’s pride derails their criminal enterprise. After being rejected as a prospective bride by Manjot’s mother for being too tall, Dolly insists on pursuing Manjot in order to take revenge on his family. This mistake lands her in the clutches of police officer Robin Singh (Pulkit Samrat), who has his own reasons for pursuing Dolly. The history between Robin and Dolly isn’t developed enough for the film’s final act to feel remotely believable.

While Kapoor imbues Dolly with a fun vibe, that’s the thief’s only positive attribute. She lacks chemistry with her potential beaus, and she lacks character depth. Dolly says that she’s a thief because she’s good at it. That’s a valid enough reason, but the movie gives no sense of what ambitions Dolly has for her future, when she can no longer keep up the con.

I’m still not sold on the acting abilities of Samrat and Sharma, who got their big breaks in 2013’s Fukrey. Ayyub is earnest as lovelorn Raju, but the script gives his character no room to grow.

What Dolly Ki Doli does show is what a terrific actor Rajkummar Rao is. Sonu tracks down Dolly not for revenge but because he genuinely loves her. He stares at her with such devotion and longing that one secretly hopes Dolly will return to him. It’s a quality performance that deserved a better film.

* – I’d like to thank Dolly Ki Doli‘s subtitles for me teaching me a nauseating euphemism for menstruation I’d never heard before. When Dolly puts off one of her grooms by saying she’s having “ladki problems” (“girl problems”), the subtitles read, “I’m chumming.”

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Movie Review: Shahid (2012)

Shahid4 Stars (out of 4)

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The best and worst aspects of humanity are on display in Shahid, a biographical film based on the life of the lawyer Shahid Azmi. Azmi’s assassination while defending an innocent man against terrorism charges embodies the personal and social costs of choosing quick, easy solutions at the expense of the truth.

Rajkummar Rao plays Shahid, whose own past mirrors the lives of the men he defends in court. As a teen, Shahid witnesses the gruesome murders of his neighbors in a religious riot in his Muslim neighborhood. Feeling powerless, he joins a militant Islamist training camp, only to flee after a few months.

Upon his return home, Shahid is arrested when his name is found in a terrorist’s diary. Torture and coercion at the hands of the police result in Shahid’s imprisonment for seven years.

In jail, Shahid finds his calling. Two fellow prisoners — a kindly professor and a reformed militant — recognize Shahid’s intelligence and steer him away from the terror recruiters in the jail. Professor Saxena (Yusuf Hussain) tutors Shahid and War Saab (Kay Kay Menon, who is delightful in every scene) finances Shahid’s studies.

On the outside, Shahid finishes his law degree and discovers how easy it is to manipulate the legal system. Shahid’s first case of note involves a computer repair man named Zaheer who lends his laptop to a friend. Unbeknownst to Zaheer, the friend uses the laptop to plan a terror attack, and Zaheer is implicated in the crime.

Despite having no direct evidence tying Zaheer to the crime, the prosecutor, More (Vipin Sharma), drags the trial on for years. Shahid’s persistence results in Zaheer’s eventual release and earns Shahid a reputation as a defender of unjustly persecuted Muslims. Shahid himself is violently targeted while defending a man wrongly accused of participating in the Mumbai terror attacks of November 26, 2008.

What stands out in the two trials depicted in the film — the real Shahid earned seventeen acquittals in his brief career — is how weak the state’s cases are. More’s stalling tactics are outrageous. In the second case, the prosecutor’s arguments are easily disproved.

Why would a government spend so much time and money to convict innocent men when those resources could’ve been spent trying to catch the real perpetrators? The prosecutor in the second case, Tambe (Shalini Vaste), reveals the answer when she says that even citizens who weren’t personally endangered during the attacks now feel scared in their own homes. The government needs to convict someone — anyone — so that the people will feel safe again.

As flawed as the justice system is, its agents aren’t depicted as monsters. Prosecutor More has one of the sweetest moments in the film. Following an intense argument with Shahid, More spies a sandwich in Shahid’s briefcase and tries to goad the young lawyer into splitting it with him, dissolving Shahid into giggles.

Shahid himself is far from perfect. He’s a lousy husband to his wife, Mariam (Prabhleen Sandhu), a former client. He refuses to address the persistent threats made against him, keeping his family in the dark even though their lives are in danger, too.

The character closest to perfect is Shahid’s devoted brother, Arif (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, who’s great in the film). Arif covers for Shahid when he joins the militants and encourages him to study law, even if it means Arif must support the family financially by himself. When Arif finally blows up at Shahid, it seems deserved.

Director Hansal Mehta uses the camera to emphasize how the justice system can diminish an individual. During Shahid’s initial interrogation, he huddles on the floor naked, the camera positioned at the ceiling to make him appear tiny compared to the police officer towering above him. In his first difficult days in prison, Shahid tells Arif to stop coming to visit him. Arif is fully in focus while Shahid stands behind a screen, the camera partially fulfilling Shahid’s wish to fade into obscurity.

Rao navigates skillfully through all the ups and downs in Shahid’s life. Rao’s infectious smile comes to Shahid’s face easily and often during the character’s first trial and initial courtship of Maryam. As the story progresses and the cycle of unjust imprisonment of innocent men persists, Shahid’s smile all but disappears.

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Movie Review: Kai Po Che! (2013)

Kai_Poche_film_poster4 Stars (out of 4)

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Kai Po Che! gets its title from a Gujarati phrase shouted in celebration during the annual kite festival in Ahmedabad. There’s reason to celebrate, as this is a great movie.

If Kai Po Che! has any flaw, it’s in the way the film begins. The film opens with a man named Govi picking up another man, Omi, upon his release from prison. Omi asks where Ishaan is, and Govi explains that Ishaan will meet them at the cricket stadium. Then a subtitle reads “Ten Years Earlier” to signal the real beginning of the story.

Opening with present day footage only to flash back to the real story is the trendy way to start a movie these days, but I suspect the technique will seem dated in the years to come. Rather than watching the story as it unfolds, the audience is forced to ponder questions throughout the whole movie, such as when and how Omi is going to wind up in jail. It’s distracting. However, I’m willing to forgive the opening because the technique is currently so common and because the rest of the movie is essentially flawless.

The three disparate friends — Govi (Raj Kumar Yadav), Omi (Amit Sadh), and Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput) — are united in their struggle to figure out what to do now that they’re adults. Straight-laced Govi plans to open a sporting goods store and cricket academy, if only he can get his two layabout buddies to cooperate.

The plan hinges on Ishaan, a cricket player with enough talent to be a local hero, but not enough to play in the big leagues. Having sailed through life on his athletic prowess and his family’s wealth, Ishaan is not in a hurry to grow up.

Omi is the most intriguing of the three. He’s devoted to Ishaan and resents when Govi chastises the cricketer for being lazy and selfish. Omi demands respect but does nothing to earn it.

As the business takes off — thanks to a loan from Omi’s shady politician uncle, Bittoo (Manav Kaul) — the three friends undergo some major changes. Govi starts a clandestine friendship with Ishaan’s younger sister, Vidya (Amrita Puri). Ishaan devotes his attention to developing the talents of a promising young cricketer, Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh). That leaves Omi on the outside, making him easy prey for ambitious Bittoo.

The friends’ lives are also shaped by real-life events that occurred in Ahmedabad in the early 2000s, including a devastating earthquake. The city is rife with religious and political tension between Bittoo’s majority Hindu party and the Muslim-favored party, lead by Ali’s father.

All of the circumstances allow for tremendous character growth, and the actors perform brilliantly. Yadav and Rajput get to have the most fun, with Govi growing (slightly) more rebellious just as Ishaan becomes more responsible.

Sadh is fascinating as Omi. Early in the film, while Omi is still firmly in Ishaan’s thrall, there’s a dimness in Omi’s eyes. While it’s obvious that Ishaan isn’t living up to his potential, it seems like Omi has reached his: Ishaan’s toady for life. Only when Omi feels himself pushed aside for Ishaan’s twelve-year-old protege does the spark alight in his eyes, and not in a good way.

The story is so well-paced and allows enough time to establish a real sense of place. Ahmedabad is shown as full of opportunity, if only nature and the people who live there will cooperate. Kai Po Che! is a nice tribute to the city and the notion of friendship that endures through dramatic changes.

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