Tag Archives: Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar

Best and Worst Bollywood Movies of 2021

2021 was a rough year, and one of the things that had to take a backseat for me was movie reviews. After a few months of catching up on some of last year’s releases, I feel like I’ve finally seen enough to pick some titles for my annual Best of and Worst of lists.

Here are my best and worst Bollywood movies of 2021, starting with the best:

Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is one of director Dibakar Banerjee’s finest films — which is saying a lot, considering his sterling body of work! Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor play a banker and her kidnapper on the run from assassins out to kill both of them. It’s a beautifully-paced thriller that allows enough time for substantial character development as well as an examination of the expectations and limitations placed on women by patriarchy and capitalism. It’s for sure my favorite film of 2021.

Bollywood has produced several successful horror comedies in recent years, and Bhoot Police is right on trend. Saif Ali Khan and Arjun Kapoor (again!) play brothers who conduct sham exorcisms, only to find out that ghosts might be real after all. Themes about sibling bonds and the unique relationship each child has with their parents are expertly woven into the story. I’m jealous of the terrific screenplay, written by the trio of director Pavan Kirpalani, editor Pooja Ladha Surti, and co-writer Sumit Batheja.

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui is Bollywood’s first mainstream romantic comedy with a transgender lead. Though it might have benefited from more transgender representation in front of and behind the camera, it does demonstrate the commercial viability of stories about transgender people. Plus, it’s a very enjoyable movie with likeable, complex leading characters.

2021 also had a lot of good but not great titles that fell somewhere in between — movies like The White Tiger, Haseen Dillruba, Tribhanga: Tedhi Medhi Crazy, and The Girl on the Train. (Just gonna note here that all four of these titles are Netflix Original Films.)

Of course, 2021 also had its share of duds as well. Here are my worst movies of the year:

Dybbuk is a ghost story with nothing to say about anything. It’s not even fun in a stupid way.

Bhuj: The Pride of India chronicles an interesting part of India’s 1971 war with Pakistan, but the story as it’s told is truncated to fit into a single movie. This would have been better as a series.

The title of Worst Bollywood Movie of 2021 belongs to the dreadful Akshay Kumar action flick Sooryavanshi. Part of director Rohit Shetty’s “cop universe,” Sooryavanshi the character is annoying. Sooryavanshi the movie is lazily written and hateful toward Muslims. I’m not sure why Shetty felt like he had to expand his “universe” (just kidding, of course I know: $$$), but he’d have been better off just making Singham sequels until the end of time.

Kathy’s Best Bollywood Movies of 2021

  1. Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar — stream on Amazon Prime
  2. Bhoot Police — stream on Hulu
  3. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui — stream on Netflix

Kathy’s Worst Bollywood Movies of 2021

  1. Sooryavanshi — stream on Netflix
  2. Bhuj: The Pride of India — stream on Hulu
  3. Dybbuk — stream on Amazon Prime

Previous Best Movies Lists

Previous Worst Movies Lists

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Movie Review: Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar (2021)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar on Amazon Prime

In 2012, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra made their lead debuts in the romantic thriller Ishaqzaade. They made an excellent duo, turning in nuanced performances in a story that tackled a number of thorny subjects. Reunited nearly a decade later in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar (“Sandeep and Pinky Have Absconded“), Kapoor and Chopra remind us that they might be at their best when they’re together.

Writer-director Dibakar Banerjee’s chilling opening scene sees a car full of rowdy bros gunned down as the opening credits come to an end. Shortly thereafter, we learn that their murder is a case of mistaken identity.

The real target is Sandeep “Sandy” Walia (Parineeti Chopra), a high-ranking executive at Parivartan Bank. She’s dating her boss, Parichay (Dinker Sharma), and is pregnant with his child. As Sandy waits at a restaurant for her boss/boyfriend, a messenger — Satinder “Pinky” Dahiya — arrives with a note from Parichay asking her to accompany Pinky to a different location.

Pinky is trying get his suspension from the police force overturned by doing jobs for a well-connected goon named Tyagi (Jaideep Ahlawat). Pinky assumes he’s been hired to turn Sandy over to some thugs who will scare her (he doesn’t care why). When he realizes Tyagi intended to have him killed along with Sandy in order to cover up her murder, Pinky reluctantly takes Sandy to a border town where they can cross into Nepal.

Pinky’s emotional arc is pretty conventional and self-contained. He needs to shed his tough guy self-image and learn to care about people other than himself. He does so first by realizing the special considerations Sandy has to take to protect her own health for the sake of her unborn child. Pinky’s progress is also helped along by Munna (Rahul Kumar), a young man who looks up to Pinky and needs a shoulder to cry on. Pinky’s compassion toward Munna — however grudgingly it’s given — yields dividends when Tyagi shows up in town.

Sandy’s arc is more complex and ties in with the film’s themes about misogyny, double standards, and capitalism. Sandy’s just as morally flexible as Pinky, if not more so — comfortable with both large scale corruption and simple interpersonal lies — but she’s often pressured to act by external forces. Parichay convinces her that the only way to save the bank is for her to do something illegal, so she acts in a way that saves her company and her relationship with him at the expense of faceless customers she thinks she’ll never meet. When she needs a clean place to stay, Sandy convinces an older couple — known simply as Aunty (Neena Gupta) and Uncle (Raghuvir Yadav) — to rent a room to her and Pinky even though they have no money. It’s an understandable act of deception for an expectant mother worried about her health.

The world as presented in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar allows women no margin for error and gives men full discretion over the terms of their existence. Sandy climbs the ranks in her field through hard work but becomes disposable once she asks for something for herself. She makes a mutually beneficial deal with a local bank manager (played by Sukant Goel) who abruptly changes the terms, then resorts to violence when she refuses to comply. Uncle values his pride more than Sandy’s safety.

Aunty tells a story to Sandy and a group of other women about being so angry at Uncle that she packed a bag and left the house. He followed her out and asked where she was going to go. Realizing she had nowhere else she could go, she turned around and went back in the house. Everyone laughs, but the truth of the story is incredibly sad. All of the options for women in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar are bad.

The only woman with a chance of making things right is a lawyer named Sejal (Archana Patel), hired by Parichay to track down Sandy. Like Sandy, Sejal is smarter than the men around her, so Parichay withholds information from her about the reasons why Sandy fled and what he plans to do with her when she’s found. Though at first she seems like another pawn working to preserve the power of capitalism and patriarchy, Sejal is Banerjee’s way of introducing hope into the story. Sandy didn’t see Parichay’s true colors in time, but if Sejal can, maybe she can balance the scales of justice a little bit.

Every performance in the movie is spot-on, down to the smallest roles. But boy do Chopra and Kapoor do an amazing job of reminding you just what they are capable of, especially when they’re working with a great director. Banerjee’s story — co-written with Varun Grover — heads in unexpected directions but never feels like it’s being clever for its own sake, and it does so at a pace that is neither too fast nor too slow. Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar is totally engrossing and dense enough to merit a second viewing.

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Streaming Video News: February 17, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s addition of the 2019 Hindi dark comedy Eeb Allay Ooo!. The 2020 Malayalam film Love debuts on Thursday, followed by the Netflix Original Telugu anthology Pitta Kathalu on Friday.

Yash Raj Films announced the theatrical release dates for five upcoming movies today:

YRF’s catalog streams on Amazon Prime in the United States, so the same should hold true for these releases. What will be interesting is how long of an exclusivity window YRF gives to theaters. Six weeks to two months was the standard pre-pandemic, but I won’t be surprised if the window is flexible based on box office returns, if not shortened outright. Keep in mind that, even if theaters are allowed to operate at 100% capacity in India, not all states are currently doing so. US theaters have occupancy limits (where they are operating at all), and other countries may have similar restrictions.

A smaller movie like Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar would be an interesting test case for a day-and-date digital rental via Amazon, even if only outside India. (I’m not holding out hope that’ll happen — just throwing that wish out into the world.) With so many people unable or unwilling to watch films in theaters, there is a need to make new titles available as widely as possible before people turn to pirated copies.