Tag Archives: Sonam Kapoor

Movie Review: Neerja (2016)

Neerja3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Neerja would be a riveting picture even if it weren’t based on a true story. The fact that it is makes the movie all the more remarkable.

The story begins late in the evening of September 4, 1986, and the action switches between simultaneous events in Mumbai, India, and Karachi, Pakistan. In Mumbai, twenty-two-year-old flight attendant Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) returns home from work for a brief rest between shifts. She’s the life of the party and the pride of her parents: father Harish (Yogendra Tiku) and mother Rama (Shabana Azmi).

Meanwhile, in Karachi, a group of Palestinian terrorists prepare to hijack a plane and fly to Cyprus to free their jailed comrades.

Back in Mumbai, Neerja gets ready for her first opportunity to serve as head purser on Pam Am Flight 73 from Mumbai to New York, with stops in Karachi and Frankfurt. Worry-wort Rama wants Neerja to give up the job she loves to focus on her burgeoning modeling career. Bubbly Neerja says good-bye to her folks and her boyfriend, Jaideep (Shekar Ravjiani).

Introducing the terrorists at the same time as Neerja ratchets up the tension early in the film. As the smiling flight attendants greet the boarding passengers in Mumbai, our stomachs churn, knowing who’s waiting for them at their first layover.

The movie maintains its tension by introducing another parallel storyline once the plane lands in Karachi and the two initial storylines intersect: that of Neerja’s anxious parents, waiting for news in an age before cell phones and the internet. Harish waits in his office at the newspaper, but Rama is stuck at home, fretting with chores and trying to convince herself that everything will be all right. Even when the action cuts away from the danger on the plane, our respite is to watch parents wonder if their daughter is alive or dead. It’s heart-wrenching.

Despite her fears, Neerja epitomizes professionalism. She alerts the cabin crew to the hijacking, allowing the pilots to escape. With no one to fly them to Cyprus, the bewildered terrorists hold the passengers hostage, growing angrier as the hours drag on. Throughout, Neerja finds ways to subvert the terrorists murderous plans, keeping her passengers calm and her crew focused. She keeps repeating that she’s just doing her job, as though it’s easy to do with a gun pointed at her head.

Kapoor is amazing, portraying not just Neerja’s courage but her vulnerability as well. She’s not some hardened superhero, but a woman two days shy of her twenty-third birthday. Still, her moments of doubt are brief, her wits sharp. It’s a career performance by Kapoor.

Rama is interesting. She’s raised Neerja to be a dutiful wife, only to wind up with an independent, self-reliant daughter. It’s only through Neerja’s heroic actions during the hijacking that Rama finally comes to see her daughter for who she really is, opening her mind up to more progressive possibilities for other girls. Azmi’s performance is complex and sympathetic.

It’s only a shame that Neerja’s father doesn’t get as much screentime in the present-day scenes as her mother does. It’s his words — in flashbacks — that Neerja remembers when things are at their worst. She’s very much her father’s daughter — his “brave girl” — yet his feelings during the crisis are glossed over.

This is a really remarkable story, and Neerja does great justice to the woman who inspired it. The movie is easily accessible to international audiences, which is fitting Neerja’s commitment to protecting all of her passengers, regardless of the country on their passport.

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Movie Review: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015)

PremRatanDhanPayo2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Devoted Salman Khan fans have expectations of movies starring their Bhai, and surely Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (“Received a Treasure Called Love“) fulfills their expectations. For moviegoers who aren’t hardcore Salman fans, the film seems too familiar.

Don’t get me wrong, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (PRDP, henceforth) is a fine enough film. It lives up to its billing as a spectacle, with colorful dance numbers and magnificent sets. The story is full of teary-eyed reunions and blossoming romance.

But this all feels like something we’ve seen before, and that’s coming from someone who hasn’t seen any of Salman’s three previous collaborations with writer-director Sooraj Barjatya. Salman plays the same character he always plays these days, no matter if he’s starring in an action flick or a romantic comedy.

Prem (Salman) is a supremely righteous devotee who narrates religious plays. His best friend, Kanhaiya (Deepak Dobriyal), is an actor who dresses in drag to perform the lead female roles in the plays. At Prem’s insistence, they donate all of the money they earn to a charity run by the beautiful Princess Maithili (Sonam Kapoor).

On their way to meet the princess in person for the first time, the guys are intercepted by representatives of the princess’s betrothed, Prince Vijay (also Salman). Prem looks exactly like the prince, who is presently comatose following an attempt on his life by his scheming younger brother, Ajay (Neil Nitin Mukesh). Vijay’s right-hand man, Deewan Saheb (Anupam Kher), convinces Prem to temporarily pose as the prince, giving Prem the perfect opportunity to spend time with the princess.

While posing as the prince, innocent Prem comes to learn that Vijay is kind of a jerk. Complicated family dynamics — Vijay is his father’s firstborn, Ajay was born to their father’s second wife — have strained the relationship between the brothers. Their younger half-sisters — Chandrika (Swara Bhaskar) and Radhika (Aashika Bhatia) — by their father’s mistress have turned their back on the family completely.

Worst of all, from Prem’s perspective, is that Vijay is mean to Maithili. The royal couple argues all the time, and Vijay once tried to get fresh with Maithili (a big no-no to Prem, who doesn’t even approve of kissing before marriage).

Prem takes his opportunity as Vijay to try to heal the relationship between the siblings and to make things right with Maithili. If he can’t have her himself, at least he can lay the foundation for a happy marriage to Vijay. Prem asks her to list all of Vijay’s faults, which she does in song form. Unfortunately for international fans, the song lyrics in PRDP are not subtitled.

As one would expect, Salman is almost always the focus of attention. This myopia means that the villainous machinations against Vijay take place primarily offscreen. The revelation of who was plotting what and why is abrupt and confusing.

If you’re going to cast Neil Nitin Mukesh as the villain, use him. Don’t give him fewer than thirty minutes of total screentime, especially in a movie that’s nearly three hours long.

Same goes for Deepak Dobriyal, whose character is sidelined once they get to Vijay’s palace. Dobriyal is one of those actors who has my attention whether he’s the focus of the scene or not. Again, if you’re going to cast him, use him.

Prem describes his relationship with Kanhaiya thusly: “You’re my compulsory companion.” That’s a good description of any character who plays sidekick to Salman. Salman’s characters are often written as being unconcerned by money, which means that it falls to his “compulsory companions” to pay for everything Salman’s characters buy. Since Salman’s characters are usually supposed to embody moral purity, why are they always mooches?

PRDP delivers a bunch of songs, many of which are lavish spectacles. Sonam is pretty, and Salman is heroic. Things proceed pretty much as expected. A happy ending is all but guaranteed.

I don’t know that that’s enough to make PRDP a must-see movie for its own sake. For a holiday weekend outing with family and friends, it’s reasonably entertaining (although the lengthy runtime is a challenge, especially if your theater doesn’t have an intermission break). But is it unique? Is it memorable? I’m not so sure.

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Opening November 12: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

One of the biggest releases of the year drops into Chicago area theaters on Thursday, November 12, 2015. Salman Khan stars opposite Sonam Kapoor in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.

As far as I can tell, PRDP is getting the widest ever release for a Bollywood movie in the Chicago area with a total of thirteen theaters. PDRP opens on Thursday at twelve of them: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC Showplace 12 Niles in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Marcus Addison Cinema in Addison, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, AMC Showplace Naperville 16 in Naperville, Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and AMC Loews Crestwood 18 in Crestwood. Then on Friday, PRDP opens at the Muvico Rosemont 18 in Rosemont. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 46 min.

Bollywood Box Office: January 23-25

Akshay Kumar’s Baby posted a solid opening weekend at the North American box office. Released into 99 theaters, Baby earned $434,952 ($4,393 average) during the weekend of January 23-25, 2015, according to Rentrak data supplied to Bollywood Hungama.

That’s significantly better than the weekend’s other new release, Dolly Ki Doli. The romantic comedy starring Sonam Kapoor took in $112,068 from 72 theaters, a so-so per-screen average of $1,557.

By comparison, PK — now in its sixth weekend in theaters — earned an average of $2,245 per screen ($40,417 from 18 theaters). That brings its total in North America to $10,507,134.

In its third weekend, Tevar took in just $138 from one theater, bringing its total U.S. earnings to $166,236.

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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Opening January 23: Baby and Dolly Ki Doli

Two new Hindi films open in the Chicago area on January 23, 2015. Akshay Kumar’s counter-terrorism drama Baby gets the wider release of the two.

Baby opens on Friday at AMC Showplace Niles 12 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 39 min.

The weekend’s other new release is the romantic comedy Dolly Ki Doli, starring Sonam Kapoor.

Dolly Ki Doli opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles and the South Barrington 30. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 40 min.

PK gets a sixth week at MovieMax and the South Barrington 30.

After a terrible box office response to Gangs of Wasseypur Part I, it looks as though Friday’s planned theatrical release of GOW Part II has been scrapped. Click here for information on upcoming showings of GOW in Dallas, Nashville, and Seattle.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include the Tamil version of I at the Cantera 17, Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge, and MovieMax, which holds over the Telugu version as well; Gopala Gopala (Telugu) at Seven Bridges and MovieMax; and the Telugu films Beeruva and Pataas at MovieMax.

Movie Review: Khoobsurat (2014)

Disney_Khoobsurat3 Stars (out of 4)

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Sonam Kapoor is Disney’s newest princess. The actress plays a perky doctor who stumbles her way into prince’s heart in the live-action romantic-comedy Khoobsurat (“Beautiful“).

Kapoor plays Dr. Milli Chakravaty, a sports physiotherapist on a romantic losing streak. She’s hired by an aristocratic family to help its patriarch regain his strength from a car accident that left him wheelchair-bound for the last decade. Thirty-nine therapists have already failed at the task, so the odds are stacked against Milli.

Further working against Milli is the formality of the Rathore household. The matriarch, Nirmala (Ratna Pathak), demands strict adherence to protocol, something that chafes at Milli, who is casualness personified. Milli also has the habit of endangering priceless antiques while trying to take selfies with them.

It’s not just the rules that put Milli out but also the emotional walls the family members erect between themselves, her, and each other. Nirmala is aloof, as is her son, Vikram (Fawad Khan). The patriarch, Shekhar (Aamir Raza Hussain), isn’t interested in getting better and rebuffs Milli’s attempts to help. The only one who opens up to Milli is Vikram’s 17-year-old sister, Divya, but even she is resigned to living in a home where no one is free to speak his or her mind.

Khoobsurat follows a traditional fairy tale formula. Vibrant, opinionated Milli first wins over the household staff, then Shekhar, before eventually falling in love with Vikram. Kapoor is an excellent choice for Milli. She’s bubbly and funny without becoming an irritant. She’s someone you’d want to hang out with, even if you’d be embarrassed to be seen with someone dressed in Milli’s tacky attire.

Khan suits his role perfectly, too. He maintains a regal distance, but he’s not mean. He’s been training so long for his role as heir to the family fortune that he has trouble separating the role from the man. Khan is funny as Kapoor’s straight man, and his hair is sublime.

Kapoor and Khan make such an attractive couple that it’s a shame we don’t get to see them kiss. When the characters smooch, Kapoor’s hair always blocks their faces. I know: traditional Bollywood conventions + Disney = no kissing. Still, if the characters can say, “Shit,” we should at least get to see them lock lips.

Khoobsurat is appropriately breezy and fun, but there’s not enough substance to warrant a 130-minute runtime. Plenty of scenes could have been shortened, and a sequence in which Milli is kidnapped should have been excised entirely. Nevertheless, Khoobsurat is a good choice if you’re in the mood for something sweet.

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New Trailer: July 21, 2014

The trailer for Khoobsurat released today. This fish-out-of-water tale starring Sonam Kapoor looks like it could be cute, and Disney’s name above the title should at least ensure high production values. Khoobsurat hits theaters on September 19.

Movie Review: Bewakoofiyaan (2014)

Bewakoofiyaan_Poster3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Do not be fooled by the title of Bewakoofiyaan (“Stupidities“). There’s nothing stupid about this movie. Director Nupur Asthana and writer Habib Faisal use a familiar romantic comedy formula to tell an unexpectedly thoughtful story about how economics affect romantic relationships and one’s sense of self-worth.

Life is sweet for marketing executive Mohit (Ayushmann Khurrana). He’s got a new job, a new car, and a beautiful, successful banker girlfriend, Mayera (Sonam Kapoor). Mohit’s driving instructor/life coach warns that one never knows what problems lie down the road, but as long as Mohit has Mayera, everything will be okay.

Mohit’s plans to marry Mayera hit a roadblock when he meets her stubborn father, V.K. Sehgal (Rishi Kapoor). After struggling to raise his daughter on the modest salary of a government bureaucrat, Sehgal believes that Mayera must marry a man with a lot more money than Mohit.

Just when Sehgal decides to give Mohit a probationary run as a candidate for future son-in-law, the real disaster strikes: Mohit loses his job. His pride keeps him from taking jobs he considers beneath his MBA status, and the financial stress of keeping up with their free-spending social circle wears on both Mohit and Mayera. All this while they hide Mohit’s unemployment from Sehgal.

Asthana establishes the appropriate humorous tone for Bewakoofiyaan given the characters. These people are executives, so scenes are funny without devolving into clownish wackiness, reliant more upon sly facial expressions than slapstick.

The secret of Bewakoofiyaan‘s success is Faisal’s story construction. The story never drags, and scenes don’t outstay their welcome. Themes are stated early and recur throughout the story. Faisal really, really knows how to write a screenplay.

One of my favorite aspects of the screenplay is a B-story that puts Sehgal in a similar position to Mohit, even though he doesn’t know it. Forced to retire at age sixty, Sehgal feels — like Mohit — that his skills that aren’t being utilized. He secretly enlists Mohit to help him find a job, over Mayera’s objections. Seghal’s introduction to the wonders of email, Google, and video games is very amusing.

The two jobless men form a bond, but they don’t suddenly become best pals. That wouldn’t make sense. Seghal is still stubborn, and Mohit still hates the idea of begging Seghal for anything, even Mayera’s hand. Yet their bond pays dividends for both by movie’s end.

Khurrana and Rishi Kapoor both do a great job at making their flawed characters sympathetic from the beginning and showing slow but steady growth. Both characters — united in their love for Mayera — must come to terms with the fact that they can’t provide for Mayera as well as she can for herself and decide what that means for them as men.

During an argument with Mohit, Mayera complains that she’s had to curtail her shopping since he lost his job. It’s a testament to Sonam Kapoor’s talent that she’s able to make this complaint sound reasonable rather than whiny. Mayera’s no less affected by Mohit’s job loss than he is, just in different way.

All this exploration of male ego and the side effects of job loss aside, Bewakoofiyaan is still a Yash Raj Films romantic comedy. There are exotic locations, a pair of flashy dance numbers, and an easily accessible story. It just deserves extra credit for being smarter than it needed to be.

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New Trailer: February 6, 2014

The trailer for Yash Raj Films’ Bewakoofiyaan is out now. The romantic comedy — starring Sonam Kapoor, Ayushmann Khurrana, and Rishi Kapoor — hits theaters on March 14. It looks sort of cute, but uninspired. [Update: I changed the video to one featuring English subtitles. I’m still not impressed.]