Tag Archives: Sukant Goel

Movie Review: Ghost Stories (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Ghost Stories on Netflix

Ghost Stories is the third installment in the Hindi anthology series from directors Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, and Karan Johar, following Bombay Talkies and the Netflix Original Lust Stories. The latest is a strong collection, but some of the short films are more enjoyable than others.

Akhtar’s opening short is a fitting introduction to the overall theme, with a beautiful young woman in a creepy house. Janhvi Kapoor plays Sameera, a home health nurse sent to care temporarily for bedridden dementia patient Mrs. Malik (Surekha Sikri). Sameera was told Mrs. Malik’s adult son was taking care of her over the weekend, but there’s no sign of him when Sameera arrives at the cluttered, dimly lit apartment. Mrs. Malik says he’s hiding. Suspicious sounds in the hallway tip Sameera off that something is very wrong.

Akhtar bucks horror conventions by making Sameera a woman of questionable ethics, rather than some imperiled virgin. She invites her married boyfriend over for a romantic rendezvous and riffles through Mrs. Malik’s jewelry box. Instead of being about virtue under threat, Akhtar’s story explores which morals really matter when times get tough, and what obligations we have to other people and ourselves.

Anurag Kashyap’s story is next. It’s the most ambitious but least successful of the four films. After her first child died minutes after its birth, Neha (Sobhita Dhulipala) has eventually become pregnant again. She’s still struggling with the psychological damages from her previous loss. On top of that, the little boy she babysits, Ansh (Zachary Braz), isn’t keen on sharing her affections with anyone else. And she may have been cursed by a bird.

There’s so much going on that it’s hard to keep track of why things happen, let alone differentiate between what’s real and what’s not. Is Neha simply paranoid or out of touch with reality? Is she cursed, or does Ansh really have some kind of evil powers to harm her unborn child? Everything ends in gory, bizarre chaos. Women with a history of fertility problems or miscarriages may find this film disturbing.

The gore-fest continues in the third film, director Dibakar Banerjee’s parable of a small village literally cannibalized by its big-city neighbors. A bureaucrat (played by Sukant Goel) arrives in Smalltown to find it destroyed, with a boy (Aditya Shetty) and a girl (Eva Ameet Pardeshi) the only survivors. They explain that her father — a councilman from Bigtown — ate most of the residents and turned everyone else into zombies. Only when the man is nearly eaten himself does he accept that they kids are telling the truth.

Despite some truly disgusting moments, this is an intriguing story of greed and the sacrifices people will to make to save themselves. Banerjee does an excellent job building a world and giving his audience a lot to chew on (cannibal pun intended).

The anthology’s closing tale is much what you’d expect from a Karan Johar ghost story. Two rich and very attractive people, Ira (Mrunal Thakur) and Dhruv (Avinash Tiwary), agree to marry. When Dhruv interrupts their honeymoon lovemaking to say “good night” to his grandmother — who’s been dead for twenty years — Ira wonders what kind of mental illness afflicts her new husband. But maybe she’s the one who can’t see the ghost right in front of her.

Johar’s story is a light, fun respite after the two heavy shorts that came before it. Dhruv’s family mansion is gorgeous. There’s also a minor theme about faith that gives the story some dimension.

Other than Kashyap’s dense narrative, the stories all suit the short film format. They say what they need to say and end before they run out of steam. There are so many ideas in Kashyap’s story that he might have been able to better organize them in a feature-length film. Overall, Ghost Stories is an interesting collection that creates chilling scenarios without relying on jump scares. Just be ready for some blood and guts.

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Movie Review: Kapoor & Sons (2016)

Kapoor&Sons4 Stars (out of 4)

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Buy the soundtrack at Amazon or iTunes

Kapoor & Sons packs enough of an emotional wallop to leave one reeling. It’s going to be tough to beat when the Best of 2016 rankings come out.

The Kapoor family — father Harsh (Rajat Kapoor), mother Sunita (Ratna Pathak), elder son Rahul (Fawad Khan), and younger son Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra) — reunite at the bedside of ailing patriarch Amarjeet (Rishi Kapoor) when he suffers a heart attack just before his 90th birthday. The birthday provides a reason for the boys to linger for a few days in their childhood home.

All of the undercurrents of tension between the family members surface as soon as the boys come home. Harsh and Sunita are shorter with one another than they used to be, though they fall back into old patterns with their sons. Rahul is the golden boy, his room a shrine to his accomplished youth. Perpetual screw-up Arjun finds his bedroom re-purposed as his mom’s closet, overrun with purses and exercise equipment.

There’s trouble between the boys, too. Rahul waits for his brother to grow up, while Arjun harbors resentment toward Rahul, not just for his exalted status but by a suspicion that it may have come at Arjun’s expense. None of these concerns are addressed openly, leaving wounds to fester.

Two people make the trip home worthwhile. First, Grandpa Amarjeet, whose abundant love for his grandsons only grows when they teach him how to watch pornography on his iPad. Second, Tia (Alia Bhatt): a fun-loving neighbor who meets the boys separately and charms them both.

Kapoor & Sons is beautifully balanced, with funny moments juxtaposed against serious revelations. Writer-director Shakun Batra and co-writer Ayesha Devitre Dhillon set the perfect tempo, allowing subplots and relationships to develop at a pace that never feels rushed.

Behind all of the action is a beautiful, evocative score by Sameer Uddin. Of all the film’s wonderful qualities, the score may be the very best.

The acting in Kapoor & Sons is top-notch, the whole cast striking the right tone under Batra’s direction. Ratna Pathak and Rajat Kapoor are so strong as a couple whose marriage suffers after their kids have grown up and moved out. It’s wonderful to watch Alia Bhatt and Sidharth Malhotra grow as young actors.

Fawad Khan is hypnotic. His acting is graceful and grounded and stands out even when compared to the film’s other great performances.

Rishi Kapoor is terrific as well, equal parts funny and moving as an old man who just wants his family to be happy again. His makeup and prosthetics (designed by Greg Cannom) age the 63-year-old Kapoor effectively, without being distracting.

Two supporting performances of note belong to Sukant Goel as Arjun’s pal Wasim and Fahim Shaikh as Wasim’s bodybuilding brother, Boobly, who steals every scene he’s in.

Batra’s directorial debut Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu showed a ton of promise, though it was marred by a frustrating ending. Those frustrations are nowhere to be found in Kapoor & Sons, a mature, satisfying film. Well done.

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