Lost in Europe: Jab Harry Met Sejal is not even a visual delight

Harry and Sejal listlessly travel from one city to another, none of which is distinguishable from each other,

Even before Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal (JHMS) released last Friday, concerned voices had made themselves heard. “Why couldn’t they at least come up with an original title?” said a fellow Shah Rukh Khan fan to me. Indeed, the title was similar not only to the genre-defining 1989 romantic comedy classic When Harry Met Sally but also to Ali’s wildly successful Jab We Met (2007). In the run-up to the release, almost everything — the trailer, the songs — seemed to disappoint fans eagerly waiting for the old Ali or SRK-Anushka Sharma magic. Finally, on the big screen, all the fears seemed to have come true.

Within hours of the release, critics panned it almost unanimously. Rajiv Masand for News 18 wrote that SRK and Anushka deserved a better film, Anupama Chopra bemoaned the loss of the filmmaker Ali, who gave us Rockstar (2011) and Highway (2014) and could once combine stars and demands of mainstream cinema with raw narratives. Others were less kind: HuffPost said the film was everything wrong with Bollywood, and in a visceral review, The Wire described it as a 144-minute tribute to Shah Rukh Khan’s ego. In fact, the responses have been so devastating that the director and the leading man have been compelled to defend their project with such clichés as this film was not an intellectual exercise but aimed to appeal to masses.

But a look at the box office figures prove how this ambition, too, has been thwarted. In its first weekend, considered the most important in determining the success or failure of a film, JHMS managed to rake in only a dismal Rs 45.75 crore. This is a personal low for Khan in five years, and it prompted a Mint analysis piece: “flop show signals star power alone can’t guarantee success”. Read more


Woman battles open defecation in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. Here’s the reality

The woman’s revolt leads to social change but women do not appear to be a position to rebel in India


Akshay Kumar’s movie Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (A love story), releasing on August 11, 2017 tells the story of a young bride who walks out of her marriage when discovers that her in-law’s home does not have a toilet. The satire deals with open defecation and Kumar calls it his “contribution” to the Swachh Bharat Mission spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The prime minister responded with words of appreciation for the film.

In the film, the young woman’s revolt leads to social change, but in real India, women do not appear to be a position to rebel–even if they are educated.

Women have limited decision-making powers in the construction of toilets in homes, according to a 2016 study conducted in Puri, a coastal Odisha district, by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Women and girls are most vulnerable to problems associated with open defecation.

In 80% of households, decisions on the construction of sanitation facilities were made exclusively by men, the study found. In 11%, the decision was made by men in consultation with their wives, and in no more than 9% was the decision made by women.

These findings are relevant because only 37% of households in Puri district have improved sanitation, according to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4). However, this is higher than rural Odisha’s average of 23% and state average of 29.4% of households with toilets. Read more

Movie review: Aamir Khan shines in a cliche-ridden Dangal

In recent times, a surfeit of real-life stories were imitated in Hindi cinema, namely Sarbjit, Dhoni, Mary Kom, Neerja. While some inspired to a certain extent, others seemed to have lost the plot in one way or the other. What makes Dangal stand apart is the fact that it sticks to a view that seems grandiose even in 2016— women are no less than men.

Aamir Khan is his typically terrific best as the once-upon-a-time-good wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat of Haryana who is dejected after having four daughters and no son to take his legacy in the akhada ahead. The former player laments to his wife (the wonderful Sakshi Tanwar for whom such roles are a walk in the park on the small screen) that his desire of seeing his son win a gold medal for the country in wrestling will remain unfulfilled.

He, however, gets pleasantly surprised when his daughters — Geeta (Zaira Wasim) and Babita (Suhani Bhatnagar)—prove that wrestling is in their blood as they thrash the neighbour’s child who bullies them. The father then turns into a determined coach and trains the school-going girls to become wrestlers and win medals. He single-mindedly pushes the girls and pays no heed to naysayers. These sequences are some of the movie’s most scintillating moments when we see the girls put through the motions in a gruelling manner.

The disciplined ways of Phogat irks his young daughters so much so that they plead in front of their mother but to no avail. Both the actors’ smouldering delivery of crisp Haryanvi dialogues makes the first half a lovely journey. The writers, Nitesh Tiwari (who is also the director), Piyush Gupta, Shreyas Jain and Nikhil Meherotra, to their credit, keep the narrative straightforward. Yet, multiple scenes appear stretched. (more)

Captain America: Civil War is MCU’s best yet

With Captain America and Iron Man locking horns, the world of superheroes comes alive on screen

In March this year, critics had a field day pointing out how and why DC Comics and Warner Bros went wrong with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Less than two months later, Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War has hit theatres and this time there is little to complain about.

The Russo brothers (Joseph and Anthony) have taken the challenge of a superhero face-off head-on and succeeded in making an entertaining movie that completes the trilogy neatly. Take a leaf out of Marvel’s book, DC — this is how you make a clash-of-the-superheroes movie.

For the fans, the movie is a treat, with superheroes walking in and out of the frame. The very presence of so many Marvel characters meant that the movie ran the risk of being rushed and cluttered. The director duo, however, manage to keep things simple, the story and screenplay tight and the pace brisk.

In terms of screen-time, Civil War identifies Steve Rogers aka Captain America(Chris Evans) and Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) as the leads, each gaining depth in their character as the movie progresses. The rest of the cast — Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton aka Hawkeye), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson aka Falcon), Paul Rudd (Scott Lang aka Ant Man), Paul Bettany (Vision) and the others — come in, do their job and leave the screen.Read More