Tag Archives: Siddhant Chaturvedi

Movie Review: Gehraiyaan (2022)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Gehraiyaan is writer-director Shakun Batra’s third film, after his brilliant sophomore effort, Kapoor & Sons. Unfortunately, Gehraiyaan repeats some of the same missteps from Batra’s enjoyable but frustrating debut — Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu — including problems with pacing and a muddled thematic conclusion.

Deepika Padukone stars as Alisha, a woman plagued by fears of succumbing to the same fate as her mother, who died by suicide when Alisha was a little girl. Now an adult, Alisha is dating her childhood best friend Karan (Dhairya Karwa), working overtime as a yoga instructor to support his floundering dreams of being a novelist. She feels stuck — a sentiment her mother expressed before her death.

Then Alisha’s cousin Tia (Ananya Panday) re-enters the picture. Tia is rich, the sole beneficiary of her dad’s real estate empire, which he once shared with Alisha’s father. The parents split on bad terms shortly before Alisha’s mother’s death, separating the cousins and sending their financial fortunes in opposite directions. Now Tia is living the high life with her handsome fiance Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi), her father’s former protege who aspires to be a big-time developer himself.

On the night they first meet, Zain flirts with Alisha. That should be a red flag to Alisha, but she’s desperate for a change. When opportunity presents itself, she and Zain begin an affair. This exacerbates tensions in her relationship with Karan, leading them to break up. Zain promises to end things with Tia in six months, after he returns an investment she made in his company. Then, he promises, he and Alisha can be together.

Alisha and Zain make a sexy pair, and the thrill of their relationship is apparent. There’s always the danger of what would happen if Tia found out — especially since Tia repeatedly hints in conversations with her mother that there’s something important that Alisha doesn’t know.

About halfway through Gehraiyaan, the relationship drama takes a backseat, as the movie pivots to focus for way too long on financial shenanigans at Zain’s company. The details aren’t particularly interesting in and of themselves, and are even less so because they don’t prompt Zain to undergo any character growth. It’s established early on that Zain’s only priority is himself, and the time spent on his subplot feels like it comes at Alisha’s expense. She’s the only character in the film on a personal growth journey.

Part of Alisha’s journey is deciding what kind of relationship to have with her estranged father Vinod (Naseeruddin Shah), whom she blames for her mother’s death. Given their immense talents, it’s little surprise that the scenes between Padukone and Shah are highlights. Panday is also really good in her supporting role, playing Tia as both canny and vulnerable. The film could have used more scenes between her and Padukone as well.

Even when Alisha’s character growth is foregrounded in the plot, the ways the film’s themes are applied to her story feel off. One theme is about moving beyond the past and choosing the direction of one’s life, but it’s hard for Alisha to choose wisely, since every person she knows is hiding something from her. And the theme of moving forward is at odds with a contradictory theme that you can’t really escape the past anyway.

At best, Batra is trying to too hard to avoid a predictable ending. At worst, his theming is just a mess. Either way, the story ends on what feels like a pointless twist. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu suffered from a similarly disappointing fate. Kapoor & Sons didn’t have that problem, so here’s hoping Batra nails it next time.

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Movie Review: Gully Boy (2019)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Watch Gully Boy: Live in Concert on Amazon Prime

Aspiring filmmakers should study Gully Boy as a masterclass in character creation. Every character has a place in the story’s social fabric, and we see how they fit into the wider world — not just how they relate to the protagonist.

Murad (Ranveer Singh) is the spoke around which the rest of the characters in Gully Boy turn, but there’s always a sense that they have lives that continue when he’s not around. Murad suspects his criminal friend Moeen (Vijay Varma) is up to something dangerous, but he isn’t sure, since they’re not together all the time. The parents of their buddy Salman (Nakul Roshan Sahdev) are looking for a bride for him — something Murad’s fiery girlfriend Safeena (Alia Bhatt) uses to her advantage when the couple are on the outs.

Too often, Hindi movies with a male protagonist played by a big star consider the hero’s love interest only in terms of how she relates to him. Director Zoya Akhtar and writer Reema Kagti make sure that Safeena’s character is fully developed, showing her relationships with her parents and Murad’s friends. This doesn’t take away from Murad’s importance to the story, but instead emphasizes how he fits into his world. Giving all the characters agency adds to the movie’s realism and reinforces the notion that Murad’s actions have consequences for other people.

He and Safeena have kept their relationship secret from their parents for years, assuming that they’ll announce their intention to married when she finishes medical school and he earns a business degree. When Murad begins participating in the local rap scene, it changes the trajectory of his life and Safeena’s. Even though she supports his new endeavor, it means adjusting the plans for their future, since rapper isn’t an occupation that any of their conservative parents would approve of. A powerful scene in which Safeena asks her parents for the freedom to go places other than school highlights what she and Murad are up against, if he strays from the safe path to follow his dream.

Murad’s lyrics are born out of anger at the injustice that defines his world and limits his opportunities. His father, Aftab (Vijay Raaz in a chilling performance), accepts the limits imposed on poor Muslims and views educating Murad as a waste of money, since he’ll likely just end up a driver like his father anyway. Quashing Murad’s aspirations is a way of protecting himself from the truth that his own life might be better had he allowed himself to dream, instead of accepting what was forced upon him.

Gully Boy doesn’t pretend that Murad can succeed on desire alone, given the enormous societal forces he has to contend with at both the top and bottom of India’s economic ladder. He hones his craft under the tutelage of MC Sher (star-in-the-making Siddhant Chaturvedi), an established local rapper who understands Murad’s frustration and sees him as a voice for the underdogs in their neighborhood.

Ranveer Singh did his own rapping in the film, and the music overall is really good. (It would have been nice if the lyrics of the incidental music had been subtitled, and not just the lyrics from Murad’s scenes.) The lone weak points in Gully Boy are rap battle scenes — insult contests that have little in common with Murad’s introspective lyric-writing. I don’t know if one must be adept at rap battles to be considered a good rapper — or how one even wins a rap battle — but the sequences are dull.

Although Gully Boy isn’t an ensemble picture like Akhtar’s two most recent feature films — 2015’s Dil Dhadakne Do and 2011’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara — it almost feels as though it is, given how much care went into fleshing out the characters in orbit around the protagonist. Akhtar’s fascination with the connections between people sets her apart from her contemporaries and makes her one of India’s most compelling filmmakers.

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