Tag Archives: Sandhya Mridul

Movie Review: Force (2011)

force3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Force is a damned fun movie, successfully integrating Bollywood’s signature “everything under the sun” approach to storytelling into an exciting action film.

Force opens with a man we later learn is named Yash (John Abraham) being thrown out of a window and over a cliff’s edge. He scales the cliff, only to collapse — body riddled with bullets — at the top. Taken by his friends to a hospital, his consciousness wavers as a surgeon begins to operate. Yash remembers… a montage?

Specifically, it’s a song montage featuring a beautiful woman named Maya (Genelia D’Souza). The song’s lyrics list the qualities any Bollywood heroine must possess: “The looks and complexion, the gait and attitude.” Maya certainly fits the bill.

The flashback takes us through Yash’s unconventional meet-cute with Maya, scaring her as he beats up drug dealers by throwing a motorcycle at them. Maya assumes — as do we — that tattooed, beefed-up Yash is a thug himself. A series of misunderstandings reveal Yash to be an undercover narcotics officer.

Acting on tips from an informant, Yash assembles a team of officers to help him obliterate the local drug trade: the veteran, Atul (Mohnish Bahl); the rookie, Mahesh (Ameet Gaur); and the loose cannon, Kamlesh (Kamlesh Sawant).

Meanwhile, Yash struggles with his desire to let Maya into his life. Atul’s wife, Swati (Sandhya Mridul), chides him for using Maya’s safety as an excuse to push her away. Swati explains that the wives of police officers know what they are getting into, and that it’s okay for Yash to allow himself to love. Cue the requisite romantic song number featuring Maya in a formal gown atop a sand dune!

However, Yash and his crew don’t realize that their successful operation opened the door for a new gang to take the drug trade in a more violent direction. Aided by his brother, Anna (Mukesh Rishi, best known as Bulla from Gunda), the sadist Vishnu (Vidyut Jammwal) returns from faking his death abroad to make the lives of Yash and his crew into a living hell.

Jammwal’s martial arts background makes him such an asset in action films. His skills enable impressive fight scenes that don’t rely upon wires and stunt doubles. Note how much longer the camera lingers on Jammwal during action sequences as compared to the quick cuts when Abraham fights.

Director Nishikant Kamat does some smart work in Force — aided by cinematographer Ayananka Bose and editor Aarif Sheikh — especially when it comes to storytelling efficiency. For example, when Yash and his crew concoct their plan to take out the gangs, the dialogue is delivered as though it is part of one continuous conversation, yet the camera cuts between the various groups of people involved at different points in the plan’s development. The first shot shows Yash receiving partial instructions from his boss; the second features Yash conveying the next set of instructions to his crew; then back to the boss, and so on. The audience knows that everyone involved is up to speed, without having to hear the same instructions twice.

Most impressive of all is a haunting song sequence that juxtaposes a funeral with violent action. As a mournful hymn builds to a crescendo, the camera cuts between mourners crying next to a pyre and Yash’s crew taking bloody revenge. It’s absolutely riveting, one of my favorite Hindi film song sequences of all time.

Force balances its darker elements with lighter ones, too. D’Souza is bubbly in the very best sense of the word, and her character gives Yash plenty of reasons to smile, bringing out Abraham’s softer side as a result. Swati, Atul, and the other members of the crew are sympathetic and well-developed, fleshing out the world in which Yash lives.

And then there’s that fight scene where Yash’s and Vishnu’s shirts simultaneously rip off for no good reason. Who wouldn’t be charmed by that?


Movie Review: Angry Indian Goddesses (2015)

AngryIndianGoddesses3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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A great opening sequence, compelling characters, and an unexpected climax make Angry Indian Goddesses a treat from start to finish.

Director Pan Nalin finds an inventive way to introduce the film’s six main characters, showing each woman encountering some form of sexism. Lakshmi (Rajshri Deshpande), a maid, is catcalled on her way to work. Housewife Pammy (Pavleen Gujral) overhears men commenting about her physique at the gym. Singer Mad (Anushka Manchanda) gets heckled during a performance. Jo (Amrit Maghera), an actress, is chided by her male director for not acting sexy enough as a damsel in distress.

Some of the sexism the characters experience has to do with traditional concepts of femininity rather than sexual harassment. A client mansplains how to shoot an ad for fairness cream to experienced photographer Frieda (Sarah-Jane Dias). CEO Su’s (Sandhya Mridul) employees expect her to show more compassion to her opponents in a land dispute.

As the background music builds to a crescendo, the women reach their boiling points, the camera cutting from woman to woman as each explodes in rage. It’s fun and satisfying, calling out to the desires of women to get really angry in a society that often demands that we repress those urges, lest we be viewed as unladylike.

Particularly satisfying are the responses of the women who are sexually harassed. Pammy tells off the muscly bro ogling her and drops a weight on his foot. Mad leaps off the stage to attack her heckler. Lakshmi grabs her harasser’s testicles and squeezes. The catharsis of the opening sequence alone makes Angry Indian Goddesses a worthwhile watch.

The characters are a group of old friends who gather at Frieda’s house in Goa, where Lakshmi works as a maid. Frieda is getting married, though she won’t say to whom. Her refusal to disclose the identity of her betrothed and the group’s patience with her deflections are the only unbelievable parts of the film.

As the pals reconnect, it becomes clear that their friendships aren’t as close as they once were. Frieda’s relocation to Goa is itself a surprise, as is Mad’s depression over her stagnant music career. Lakshmi’s legal troubles also affect the dynamic in the house.

After several days, the group is joined by Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee), a friend of Frieda’s who also happens to be the source of the land dispute troubling Su. Nargis’ integration into the group is awkward, though perhaps that’s to be expected given her enmity with Su and lack of connection to the other women.

If Angry Indian Goddesses were to just be a movie about a group of women reevaluating their lives and relationships while on vacation, that would be enough. The performances are that good. But that’s not where the story goes. Nalin steers the narrative toward a thrilling climax, providing a novel payoff that enables the characters to fulfill a wish expressed by Nargis: that women be allowed to author their own stories.

Narrative focus is nicely balanced between the characters, giving opportunities for all of the performers to shine. There are no duds in the bunch, and it’s nice to discover actresses who — unlike Chatterjee — don’t have many lead roles to their credit.

The one who steals the show is Pavleen Gujral as Pammy. Pammy is the most traditional of the friends, wearing a sari to a beach vacation, and Gujral portrays her as funny, challenging, and relatable. Gujral doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page yet, but I’m hoping that changes as offers flow her way following her winsome performance in Angry Indian Goddesses.


Movie Review: The Great Indian Butterfly (2007)

1 Star (out of 4)

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After debuting at a couple of festivals in 2007, The Great Indian Butterfly sat on the shelf for years before getting its theatrical release in 2010. I understand why.

The experience of watching The Great Indian Butterfly (TGIB) is uncomfortable. It’s like being a kid trapped in a car on a long road trip while your parents argue in the front seat… about their sex life. Ick.

The movie begins in the middle of an argument between married couple Meera (Sandhya Mridul) and Krish (Aamir Bashir). Krish — playing the role of the bumbling husband from every TV commercial or sitcom ever — has screwed up again by turning off the alarm clock, causing the couple to miss their flight. Meera complains about everything, even Krish’s solution to drive to their vacation destination.

Part of the point of the trip is so that amateur entomologist Krish can search for the legendary titular insect, which supposedly has the power to bestow happiness on he who finds it. The legend is revealed in abrupt cutaways to a random white guy in a Hawaiian shirt (Barry John) waxing poetic about his own search for the butterfly. The character plays the same role as Spike Lee’s “magical negro” archetype. Does that make him the Magical Anglo?

The unhappy couple hits the road, and the bickering continues. The dialog is almost entirely in English, allowing Meera and Krish to throw about the F-word with abandon. They argue in absolutes: you never, you always.

Eventually, the sources of their problems are revealed. Krish resents Meera for getting an abortion. Meera is jealous of Krish’s pretty ex-girlfriend, Liza (Koel Purie), whom Krish would’ve preferred to marry. When Meera overhears Krish talking on the phone with Liza, she goes ballistic and leaves.

The couple’s arguments don’t provide any insight into the human condition or comment on the complexities of marriage. Meera and Krish are simply two resentful people intent on making each other miserable.

The trouble with starting the movie in the middle of a fight between two mean people is that it doesn’t give the audience anyone to identify with. Meera and Krish are awful toward each other, casually throwing out insults so mean that most of us  wouldn’t think of speaking them to our spouses even in our worst moments.

Meera and Krish have no children, so there’s not even the “staying together for the kids” excuse holding them together. TGIB aims to rectify that problem by intimating that having a child will fix the couple’s relationship. That solution rarely works.

There’s not much to recommend this movie. The acting and writing are bad, and the cinematographer manages to make the resort paradise Goa look dull. The positives are that TGIB is short (only 90 minutes), and there are a number of time-wasting musical montages that can be fast-forwarded through if you’re watching on DVD.


Movie Review: Hum Tum Aur Ghost (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Most Bollywood remakes of Hollywood movies aren’t strict copies of the original films. In addition to a few dance numbers or musical montages, Hindi versions usually introduce extra plot material: a romance, medical problems or a parent-child conflict. Hum Tum Aur Ghost (“You, Me and the Ghost”) — a remake of 2008’s Ghost Town — includes all of the above. It works, but it’s not an improvement.

Arshad Warsi plays Armaan, a London fashion photographer who can’t sleep because he hears voices when he’s alone. To drown out the voices, Armaan gets drunk and naps on a bench in the train station: a charmingly quirky habit until the voices take form as people only he can see.

One of those people is Kapoor (Boman Irani), who explains that he’s a ghost, as are the other voices and apparitions. They all have unfinished business on earth, and, since they’re non-corporeal, they need Armaan’s help.

Most of the tasks are trivial, complicated or annoying. Armaan decides to help a ghost named Carol (Zehra Naqvi) find her son. Not to be put off, Kapoor –whose task involves bank robbery — blackmails Armaan into helping him by temporarily assuming control of his body and making him do embarrassing or dangerous things.

Armaan’s increasingly weird behavior concerns his girlfriend, Gehna (Diya Mirza). First, she assumes he’s having an affair with his best friend, Mini (Sandhya Mridul). Then, she fears that he’s schizophrenic. It’s up to Armaan to convince Gehna that he’s not crazy, while simultaneously aiding the ghosts that only he can see.

I liked the Hollywood version of this story, which starred Ricky Gervais and Greg Kinnear. Ghost Town ends when Gervais’ character is able to help Kinnear’s ghost complete his mission. Hum Tum Aur Ghost should’ve ended similarly, when Kapoor’s issues are resolved. But it continues, focusing on the search for Carol’s son and Armaan’s disintegrating relationship with Gehna.

The additional material isn’t as emotionally effective as the story that precedes it. In fact, it goes out of its way to be extra melodramatic. There’s a predictable “shocking” twist regarding Armaan’s parentage, and there’s even a car chase, both of which are unnecessary.

Director Kabeer Kaushik mistakenly thinks that the heart of the film is Armaan’s relationship with Gehna; it’s really Armaan’s relationship with Kapoor. Warsi and Irani give atypically subdued performances which emphasize the theme that love is the most important thing in life. There’s a shamelessly tear-jerking moment when Armaan, accompanied by invisible Kapoor, pays a visit to Kapoor’s widow. I’ll admit the ploy worked on me.