Tag Archives: Vidya Balan

Movie Review: Shaadi Ke Side Effects (2014)

Shaadi_ke_side_effects2 Stars (out of 4)

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Shaadi Ke Side Effects (“The Side Effects of Marriage“) should be retitled Parenthood Ke Side Effects. The main characters — Sid (Farhan Akhtar) and Trisha (Vidya Balan) — enjoy their married life just fine until they have a kid. Then their lives go to hell.

Shaadi Ke Side Effects (SKSE, henceforth) is a standard marital romantic comedy, full of all the expected clichés about marriage. The wife controls the relationship, and the husband has to accede to her ridiculous demands to keep her from making his life miserable. Also, he must tell her that she’s not fat, despite the fact that he secretly thinks she is (and despite the fact that she objectively is not).

Trisha gets pregnant, and the couple decides to have the child, even though they’d planned to wait until they felt more settled financially. Parenthood turns Trisha into a control freak, and Sid goes to increasingly complicated lengths to get away from her and their daughter, Mili.

Writer-director Saket Chaudhary deserves credit for the progressive way he handles the couple’s response to Trisha’s pregnancy. They initially decide — due to Sid’s reluctance — to abort the fetus and try again in a few years. Sid changes his mind while Trisha is in the operating room, following a chance encounter with an overwhelmed father of quadruplets conceived as a result of fertility treatments. It’s refreshing to see a movie couple consider abortion as an option, like many real-life couples do.

Unfortunately, the rest of SKSE is unimaginative, and the considerable talents of Vidya Balan are underutilized because of it. Balan has little to do besides play the shrew, and her character only changes for the worse over the course of the film.

Akhtar’s character narrates the film as he evolves from free-spirited musician to henpecked husband to duplicitous lout. Like Balan’s role, Sid doesn’t give Akhtar many opportunities to shine. It’s nice that Akhtar gets to sing a couple of songs in the movie, but the trite script causes his talents behind the mic to overshadow his talents in front of the camera.

As safe as the script is, the story takes an unexpectedly dark turn in the last twenty minutes of the film. It’s jarring and by no means an improvement. If anything, it makes marriage and parenthood seem like traps to be avoided at all costs.

Such a turn might work if SKSE was meant to be subversive, but it isn’t. It’s light popcorn fare for couples to enjoy on a rare night out while Grandma watches the kids.

With such escapist fare, the outcome of the film should never be in doubt: Sid and Trisha overcome their problems to ultimately reaffirm their love for one another. We should never wonder if Sid and Trisha would be better off apart. After watching Shaadi Ke Side Effects, I’m not so sure.


  • Shaadi Ke Side Effects at Wikipedia
  • Shaadi Ke Side Effects at IMDb

Opening February 28: Shaadi Ke Side Effects

The romantic comedy Shaadi Ke Side Effects (“The Side Effects of Marriage“) opens in Chicago area theaters on February 28, 2014. The film is a sequel to 2006’s Pyaar Ke Side Effects, with Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar taking over the lead roles of Trisha and Sid from original stars Mallika Sherawat and Rahul Bose.

Shaadi Ke Side Effects opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

Chicago fans long-awaiting the U.S. release of The Lunchbox will have to wait a little longer. It also releases in the U.S. on Friday, but only in New York and L.A. The Lunchbox opens in the Chicago area on March 7. Click here for the full list of where The Lunchbox will open in the U.S over the course of the next two months.

After posting solid first-weekend earnings, the wonderful drama Highway carries over for a second week at all of the above theaters except for the Woodridge 18. The South Barrington 30 gives a third weekend to Gunday and a fourth weekend to Hasee Toh Phasee.

Other Indian movies playing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include 1983 (Malayalam), Bheemavaram Bullodu (Telugu), Jaatishwar (Bengali, with English subtitles), and Thegidi (Tamil).

Movie Review: Ghanchakkar (2013)

Ghanchakkar-poster3 Stars (out of 4)

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Would the presence of gun-toting goons really make it easier to remember a critical piece of information? Probably not, yet that’s the situation in which Emraan Hashmi’s character finds himself in Ghanchakkar.

Hashmi plays Sanju, a safe-cracker happily retired from his life of crime. An associate passes his name along to a pair of crooks — Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) and Idris (Namit Das) — who offer to make Sanju rich with “one last job.” Sanju’s tacky, fashion-victim wife, Neetu (Vidya Balan), encourages him to take the job so that they can buy a nice apartment and a big-screen TV. The TV sells Sanju on the idea.

The bank robbery scene is hilarious thanks to some masterful camerawork that makes the most of the celebrity masks the crooks are wearing. Following the heist, the Pandit tells Sanju to stash the money until the police give up on their investigation.

When Pandit and Idris come to collect their share of the loot three months later, Sanju claims that he doesn’t recognize them and that he doesn’t remember hiding any money. Both Neetu and Sanju’s doctor confirm that he had an accident that caused “anteretrograde amnesia.” Sanju can remember things from before the heist, but he has trouble recalling anything since then.

Since Sanju’s accident isn’t shown on screen, the audience is put in the same position as Pandit and Idris: we have to take Sanju’s word that it actually happened. Hot-tempered Idris would just as soon kill Sanju, but Pandit has the two of them move in with the couple so that they can keep and eye on Sanju and help him remember where he hid their money.

The performances by the main cast members are terrific. Even though there’s a chance that Sanju could be faking his amnesia — duping the audience as well as Pandit and Idris — Hashmi makes Sanju so sympathetic that we want to believe him. As the pressure mounts and the film’s tone changes from comical to serious, Sanju’s manners and appearance grow wilder. His grim, wordless performance during a song montage just before the climax is captivating.

Balan gets to have fun as Neetu. The character’s gaudy, trendy outfits are hysterical, as are her mood swings. She’s so self-interested that it’s distinctly possible she’s taking advantage of Sanju’s memory loss. And the movie’s best fight scene is when Neetu attacks her unwanted houseguests with a broom.

Sharma and Das are great as Pandit and Idris, respectively. They’re not menacing enough to seem like real threats to the married couple, though there’s always the chance Idris could act impulsively without Pandit’s calming influence.

What keeps Ghanchakkar from achieving greatness is an ending that feels too convenient. There’s no sense of inevitability, a feeling of the pieces falling into place. The movie highlights many circumstances that could be either coincidences or evidence of a conspiracy, but it never really resolves which is which.

Further, the movie plays loose with Sanju’s amnesia. While it’s clear that he remembers who he is (unlike with retrograde amnesia), the doctor says that Sanju’s memory could disappear completely at any time, without provocation. Since he’s been fine in the three months since his accident, that seems unrealistic.

There are also a number of scenes in which Sanju takes pills for his memory loss. What are they supposed to do? Cure it? Stabilize the memories he has? If his entire memory could fail him at any time, why bother with the pills? By giving Sanju’s memory loss such wide parameters, it seems less like a legitimate problem and more like a convenient plot device.

Quibbles aside, Ghanchakkar is funny and smart and features some top-notch acting. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the mood for something a little quirky.


Opening June 28: Ghanchakkar

The crime caper Ghanchakkar — starring Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi — opens in the Chicago area on June 28, 2013. I am really, really excited to see this.

Ghanchakkar opens on Friday in five area theaters: AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.

After earning $414,211 in its first weekend in the U.S., Raanjhanaa carries over for a second week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30, and Cantera 17. With total earnings of $3,637,806 so far, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani gets a fifth week at the South Barrington 30 and Cantera 17.

Other Indian movies showing locally this weekend include the Telugu film Balupu at the Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge and the Golf Glen 5, which is also carrying 3 Dots (Malayalam), Annakodi (Tamil), and Jatt & Juliet 2 (Punjabi).

Bonus Streaming Video News: Dabangg 2 is now available on Netflix.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

2012 was a good year for Hindi movies. Of the fifty 2012 releases that I reviewed this year, thirty-one earned positive reviews of 2.5-stars or higher. The ten films below were the best of the best. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

My favorite movies of the year were almost exclusively dramas, whether the subject matter was political (e.g., Shanghai and Chakravyuh), social (e.g., Ishaqzaade and Talaash), or personal (e.g., Cocktail and Patang).

English Vinglish — a personal drama about a mother’s quest to regain her self-worth — proved to be one of the years most delightful surprises, thanks to a triumphant return to the big screen by Sridevi.

I awarded a perfect four-stars to three movies this year — movies that could not be more different from one another. Supermen of Malegaon is one of the most fun and fascinating documentaries I’ve ever seen. While it never released theatrically in the U.S., the whole movie is available for free with English subtitles on YouTube.

Evaluated in a vacuum, Barfi! is a wonderful and heart-wrenching movie. But given director Anurag Basu’s apparent lifting of whole scenes from other films, I have trouble recommending it with a clear conscience. Therefore, I instead recommend the (unfortunately-titled) Jism 2, a movie so bad, it’s good. There’s no movie I had more fun watching in 2012.

The best film of the year was a meticulously crafted thriller with character development to spare and a magnificent, evocative setting. My best Bollywood movie of 2012 is Kahaani.

This is a movie I could watch over and over again. Vidya Balan reaffirms that she’s the most talented actress working in Hindi films at the moment. Her co-star, Parambrata Chatterjee, holds his own alongside her, playing a police officer with a crush that’s doomed to go nowhere.

One aspect of Kahaani I particularly appreciate is its positive take on marriage. Balan plays Vidya, a pregnant woman from London searching for her husband, Arnab, who’s gone missing in Kolkata. Everyone tries to tell her that he has probably just run out on her, but she refuses to believe them. She knows in her heart that not only would he never leave their unborn baby, but he wouldn’t leave her, either.

So often, we’re confronted with cultural tropes that portray marriage negatively. Husbands are depicted as either incorrigible philanderers or hapless morons barely tolerated by wives who only need them for baby-making and yardwork.
Isn’t it more satisfying to see an onscreen marriage in which both partners really know and value each other? That’s what makes Vidya’s search so frustrating and engrossing: there’s real love at stake.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2012

  1. Kahaani — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  2. Barfi! — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  3. Supermen of Malegaon — Buy at Amazon
  4. Talaash — Buy at Amazon
  5. English Vinglish — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  6. Patang — Buy/rent at iTunes
  7. Ishaqzaade — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  8. Chakravyuh — Buy at Amazon
  9. Shanghai — Buy/rent at Amazon or iTunes
  10. Cocktail — Buy at Amazon

Honorable MentionJism 2 — Buy at Amazon

Previous Best Movies Lists


Movie Review: Ferrari Ki Sawaari (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

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Ferrari Ki Sawaari (“A Ride in a Ferrari”) is a cautionary example of the importance of pacing in films. This otherwise cute family movie is doomed by unbearably slow story progress and odd song placement.

I mention the strategic placing of song-and-dance numbers because of something that happened at the showing of Ferrari Ki Sawaari I attended. The title track — an upbeat number depicting a father and son celebrating — plays approximately 110 minutes into the film’s runtime, at what seems like a natural end-point for the story. As soon as the song started, everyone else in the theater with me walked out.

The film didn’t actually end until thirty minutes later.

The story focuses on a law-abiding widower, Rusy (Sharman Joshi), who works hard to provide for his 12-year-old son, Kayo (Ritvik Sahore), and his grumpy father (Boman Irani). They have very little money, but Kayo is a well-mannered kid with potential to be a world-class cricket player.

Kayo is selected to attend an elite British cricket camp that costs the hefty sum of 150,000 rupees. Given that Rusy spent every penny to buy Kayo a new bat for 2800 rupees, attending the camp seems like an impossibility.

A neighborhood wedding planner mentions to Rusy that she needs to rent a Ferrari for a couple of hours so that a groom can make a grand entrance to his wedding. The only person in town with such a car is the real-life star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar (who does not appear in the film).

The wedding planner promises to give Rusy 150,000 rupees if he can get her the car. Rusy visits Mr. Tendulkar’s house, hoping to reason with him. But when the opportunity presents itself, Rusy takes the car without permission. He intends to return the Ferrari after the wedding, but, predictably, things go wrong.

The premise for the story is good, and so is the acting. Sahore stands out at Kayo, performing much better than what is normally expected of child actors. The morality lessons about honesty, kindness, and empathy are meaningful and don’t feel forced. If the total runtime had been 90 minutes, this could have been a great movie.

But, at 140 minutes, Ferrari Ki Sawaari is way too long. Because of insufficient material, scenes drag on. The subplot about the groom who wants the Ferrari and his overbearing politician father could’ve been dispensed with entirely.

Vidya Balan’s appearance in an entertaining item number at around the one hour mark is all that saved me from abandoning the movie entirely. I later took a leisurely trip to the restroom to reapply lip gloss during one of the film’s myriad cricket scenes. Perhaps I would have enjoyed watching Ferrari Ki Sawaari on DVD more, with the ability to fast-forward.


Movie Review: Kahaani (2012)

4 Stars (out of 4)

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Note: I recently watched Kahaani for a second time. I have no idea why I initially rated it 3.5 stars. This is about as good a movie can be.

With each film she makes, Vidya Balan reaffirms her status as India’s best actress (one of the best in the world, in fact). She does it again in Kahaani, a gripping thriller about identity.

Balan plays Vidya Bagchi, a heavily pregnant woman from London who arrives in Kolkata searching for her missing husband. Her husband, Arnab, had been in constant contact with Vidya for the first half of his month-long assignment, but she’s heard nothing from him in two weeks.

When Vidya files a missing persons report at the local police station, the head inspector repeatedly pronounces her name “Bidya,” insisting that “b” and “v” are interchangeable in Kolkata. Adding further confusion, a junior inspector, Rana (Parambrata Chatterjee), explains that everyone in Kolkata has two names: a “pet name” and an official name. Rana is the pet name that everyone uses; his official name is Satyoki.

The guest house and office where Arnab was supposed to have stayed and worked while in Kolkata have no record of his having been there. Vidya gets a lead when the head of human resources at the office says that Arnab’s photo bears an uncanny resemblance to a former employee named Milan Damji, a suspected terrorist who’s been on the run for two years. Is Arnab’s disappearance a case of mistaken identity, or could he and Milan Damji be the same man?

Kahaani is wonderfully atmospheric in the way it emphasizes the impossible task before Vidya. The city is crowded and unfamiliar to Vidya, who staggers in the heat under the weight of her pregnant belly. Kolkata is at its most chaotic during a climactic scene set during Durga Puja, a festival celebrating the Hindu goddess Durga, a renowned demon-slayer who also embodies maternal compassion and patience.

Vidya is aided throughout by Rana, and their rapport is central to the movie’s success. Rana develops a crush on Vidya, feelings which are doomed to amount to nothing. If he succeeds in helping her find Arnab, she’ll leave, reunited with the father of her unborn child. If he fails her, she’ll be heartbroken.

Vidya is perhaps more playful with Rana than she should be. But, as pointed out by Intelligence Bureau Officer Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a pregnant woman is no threat to anyone.

Balan and Chatterjee are both spectacular. Balan makes Vidya tenacious within the physical limitations of her pregnancy. Chatterjee tinges the lighter moments Rana shares with Vidya with a longing for a love that can never be.

One of the villains deserves a special mention: Bob (Saswata Chatterjeeas). He’s a paunchy, balding, middle-aged guy in glasses that you’d take no notice of if you saw him on the street, but it’s a bad omen whenever he shows up on screen in Kahaani. His very ordinariness makes him a chilling presence.

The plot is well-paced, allowing enough time for character development and tense action scenes. The cinematography gives scenes a grainy, yellowish tinge, as though a smoggy cloud obscures Vidya’s search through the bustling city. Kahaani is an accomplished thriller that doesn’t disappoint.

*Some theaters list Kahaani‘s runtime as 2 hrs. 30 min. It’s closer to 2 hours long.


Opening March 9: Kahaani and Chaar Din Ki Chandni

Two new Hindi movies are set to open in the Chicago area on March 9, 2012.

Vidya Balan stars in the thriller Kahaani (read my review here) as a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband.

Kahaani opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min., but the actual runtime is closer to two hours.

This weekend’s other new Bollywood movie is the romance Chaar Din Ki Chandni, which opens on Friday at both of the above theaters.

Last weekend’s major new release, London Paris New York, carries over at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30.

Paan Singh Tomar leaves area theaters after earning just $20,568 in its opening week in the United States. Likewise, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu makes way after amassing a four-week U.S. haul of $1,150,019, as does Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, which earned $155,247 from two weeks in American theaters.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this weekend include the Telugu films Ishq and Mr. Nokia.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2011

2011 was a standout year for Bollywood in terms both experiments with storytelling style and elevating the status of women in the film industry. Here are my picks for the best movies of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

There were some good examples of familiar narratives — including the family drama Patiala House and the romantic comedy Mere Brother Ki Dulhan — but plenty of films pushed the envelope. Ra.One lead the Hindi film industry’s foray into 3D technology. Rockstar experimented with making a movie feel like an extended music video.

The most successful experiments of the year were created by Aamir Khan Productions. The company released two intriguing films — Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly  — with runtimes that clocked in at under two hours long, uncharacteristically brief for Indian movies. Further, the company insisted that the films show in theaters without the standard intermission break, paving the way for future success in international markets.

2011 was a tremendous year for women working in the Hindi film industry. Director Zoya Akhtar struck box office gold with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Actresses Vidya Balan and Kalki Koechlin played gritty, compelling main characters in The Dirty Picture and That Girl in Yellow Boots, respectively.

My favorite movie of the year also features a strong, complex woman as the lead character, in a story surprisingly macabre for Bollywood.

The Best Bollywood Movie of 2011 is 7 Khoon Maaf.

Talented director Vishal Bhardwaj puts his unique stamp on this dark comedy about a black widow and her seven husbands. In the lead role, Bhardwaj cast Priyanka Chopra, an actress who’s made a point of choosing a diverse array of characters throughout her career. Chopra manages to make the serial killer Susanna calculating yet sympathetic. Better still, the movie is often quite funny as the grim tale unfolds.

7 Khoon Maaf isn’t quite like any other Hindi movie released in recent years. Look past the dance numbers and cast of Indian A-listers, and it could easily transcend the “Bollywood” label — and instead be considered a “Foreign Film” (a genre with more critical cachet here in the US).

The movie is available for streaming on Netflix, making it accessible to an audience who may have missed it in theaters early last year. If you haven’t seen 7 Khoon Maaf, I encourage you to check it out.

Previous Best Movies Lists

Movie Review: The Dirty Picture (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

2011 has been a great year for actresses in Bollywood. Relative newcomer Kalki Koechlin mesmerized in That Girl in Yellow Boots. Veteran stars Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif gave some of their best performances in 7 Khoon Maaf and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, respectively.

Now the immensely talented Vidya Balan claims the spotlight in The Dirty Picture, the story of a sexually liberated screen vamp who pays a heavy price for bucking social convention. The movie is based on the life of 1980s South Indian film star Silk Smitha, though it’s not strictly biographical.

Balan stars as Reshma, a village girl who comes to the city with dreams of movie stardom. Reshma’s voluptuous figure is regularly ogled by men, but she isn’t supermodel beautiful enough to attract the attention of casting directors.

When a movie choreographer bemoans his inability to find a proper actress to perform a raunchy dance number, Reshma seizes the opportunity. The scene — in which Reshma writhes seductively while wielding a whip — sends male audience members into a frenzy, making the movie a hit.

A filmmaker named SelvaGanesh (Rajesh Sharma) sees Reshma’s money-making potential and renames her “Silk.” SelvaGanesh casts Silk opposite the aging screen star Surya (Naseeruddin Shah), and their racy films strike box office gold. Silk’s seeming willingness to do anything is fodder for gossip columnists and irks Abraham (Emraan Hashmi), a director of serious, art house films.

Silk’s life is a fascinating study in the way mens’ attitudes shapes the lives of women. If Silk is going to be treated as a sex object when she’s doing something as mundane as washing dishes, why not get paid to be ogled? Why is her dignity diminished by dancing provocatively, while the men who leer at her suffer no consequences?

Of course, that’s not the way female honor is perceived in the real world. Silk is typecast as a vamp, never able to get serious roles. When she tries to expand her range, the industry shuns her. It seems that, in the eyes of audiences and the producers catering to them, Silk has only one thing they want.

Balan is great in The Dirty Picture. She plays Silk with swagger, charm and humor. She’s a canny opportunist who asserts herself before she can be victimized. Her only real weakness, besides falling for a user like Surya, is that her ego leads her to think she’s bigger than a system that favors men over women.

The story construction of The Dirty Picture betrays Silk in the same way the men in her life do. The movie is sporadically narrated by Abraham, a character who doesn’t play enough of a role in Silk’s life to merit being its narrator. He’s present at the beginning of the film, but then disappears until the final act. His box office showdown with Silk is awkwardly inserted into the story just to elevate his importance.

Surya — who’s sleazy and comical in Shah’s hands — is the most important person in Silk’s personal life, but his self-involvement precludes him from narrating her story. Likewise, Surya’s brother, Ramakanth (Tusshar Kapoor),  doesn’t understand Silk well enough to be narrator, mistakenly believing he can make an “honest woman” out of her.

If Silk’s story must be framed using a man’s voice, that honor should have gone to SelvaGanesh. He’s the only man who looks at Silk without desire. Her cooperation and ingenuity is required in order for both of them to profit financially, so he treats her as a peer. He’s the only person who sees all of her potential and is willing to take a chance on her.

But I’m not sure that Silk’s story needs a narrator. I understand that it provides a point of view on a life cut short, but I think it distracts attention from the main character. Silk is larger than life. She’s both a product of male fantasy and the architect of that fantasy. A narrator just seems like another confining frame put on a spirit too big to be contained.