Ajji – a D.A.R.K revenge drama that’s uncomfortably satisfying

Ajji is just like any other granny. She’s frail on the outside, her wobbly knees could give away any time. Yet she never ceases to run that feet-powered, ancient yet trusty sewing machine. What’s wrong if she can help contribute to her family’s meager income? And, what’s not to like if the family has a little girl all of 10? The girl’s mother sells home-cooked eatables on a bicycle and her father works at the factory. The family stays in a dark, dingy slum with a pregnant out-of-work prostitute as a neighbour.

Ajji is tender at heart, just like marshmallows she melts to her grand daughter Manda’s very being of existence. Still, the depths of her love can only be fully fathomed at the end. How far would she go, to save the dignity of her beloved Manda? Because, where there is a little girl all by herself, minding her own business, there is a big, bad wolf, too!

Ajji, the dark thriller directed by Devashish Makhija and co-written by Mirat Trivedi, is an Indian take on a Korean revenge thriller, but minus the action and the gore. It slowly builds up your hunger for a fantastic revenge by our wobbly, old granny, as it generates hatred for the bad guy in the pits of your core, but finally leaves you very satisfied in the climax.

One night Manda does not return home; a search party comprising the duo gets into action – our wobbly Ajji and her faithful companion, the pregnant prostitute. Together they find the little girl dumped in the trash, brutally raped and bleeding. They bring her home, call a cop who then proceeds with a fake investigation, and adds more insults to their collective injury.

Although Manda identifies her attacker as the son of a local politician, the cop refuses to file a report citing the family itself is into illegal/unlicensed activities. They could be jailed instead, he frightens them. So, life goes on as usual at home.

Our little Manda has no clue about what has happened with her, her mother is strangely aloof about the mental repercussions of this lowly crime on her 10-year-old. She is worried about having to cook eatables and then sell them on a cycle all around the area. “Is this my life?”, is her top most concern!

Ajji decides to take up the matter, and we begin to wonder – ‘How?’ On one side, there is utter poverty, helplessness and frail knees, and on the other, there’s political power dynamics at play. But, her single-minded determination takes her from pinning down the bad guy’s hiding den to ultimately pin him down – badly bleeding and bruised, writhing in pain, with no idea about what just happened.

Source: Wikipedia

Ajji is never, even for a moment, revealing in her expressions. There’s no inkling of an actor’s angst or pretentious venting out fumes of revenge. Just pure, effortless playing of an inwardly resolute but outwardly frail old woman. “I know what I need to do, and I’ll find my way to accomplish it, come what may.”

A particularly long scene between a female mannequin and the bad guy sets the level of gore and misogyny that exists in our society. Post watching that scene, just as ajji is from behind the bushes, you are scarred for life. Like her, you too sub-consciously start working out a plan to do unto him what he does to helpless little girls and women.

The cinematography is like truth; it’s ugly and you need to take it with a pinch of salt. There is absolutely no effort to hide the truth – the sinister truth about dark, unsafe places and big bad wolves. The hardly there background score only adds to the thrill.

The film’s poster is understandably dark in tone, but if one were to look at the wolf in it, they’d know they are in for a sumptuous meal of revenge!

The 2017 film has deservedly been a part of prestigious film festivals all over the globe, and is now available for paid screening if you’ve missed it. On a budget of INR 3.5 crores, in under 105 minutes, Ajji is one memorable film for lovers of dark cinema.

Kangana shines in ‘Queen’

Bollywood dishes out such stereotypical and superficial movies that one just ends up watching one if they have nothing better to do. But this is changing and how. I watched ‘Queen’ starring Kangana Ranaut and I must say I’m quite blown with the level of film making Bollywood has been experimenting with lately. ‘Queen’ lingers on in your entire being much after you leave the theatre.

QuenmovieposterIf a movie can do that to you, it’s a must-watch, isn’t it? Never mind what some critics say…they are best ignored and also forgiven for they know not what they say! A simple girl’s discovery of her self, her strengths, her dreams, her aspirations, unfurls layer by layer to finally see her blossom into a confident, self-realised being of substance.

Though the protagonist sets off on a honeymoon all by herself after her fiancé cancels off the wedding a few days before, the storyline is almost believable because Kangana is a sheer powerhouse of talent. She carries you with her throughout, scene by scene, so much so that you feel a little alone when the movie is over, but, nevertheless so happy for her.

It starts off the loud Punjabi wedding way, where the bride-to-be ‘Rani Mehra’ from Rajouri Garden Delhi is seen imagining all sorts of things a simple, middle-class, over-protected girl thinks about before her one special day. You see her dancing away to glory with her equally excited family, relatives and a best friend at the sangeet. I want to describe each and every scene from here on but that wouldn’t be fair.

Let me just break the coming-of-age film into portions that are neatly beaded together on a string. You see her on a smooth path of transformation, almost surreal but never dramatic. One moment Rani is crying helplessly, right after her fiancé, Vijay Dingra (played excellently by Rajkummar Rao of Kites and Shahid fame) calls off the wedding because she hasn’t ‘changed’ unlike him who went to the UK and is now officially ‘modern’. The next moment you see her forge ahead with her dream to explore Paris and Amsterdam on her own, and you say “Whoa girl!”


Flashbacks of Vijay wooing her since her student days hover around her, but she channelizes all of this into self determination, and not self-pity.

Rani lands in Paris, the city of love, dressed in a short kurti and jeans with a big suitcase. She does all the predictable things a girl from Rajouri would do in Paris. She calls loudly for a taxi for starters!

Then begins her journey in a foreign world – the culture shock of seeing people greet with a kiss, eating stuffed fish, her chance encounter and bonding with a half-Indian hotel maid, her getting sloshed and dancing away at the stage, her getting almost mugged but fighting tooth and nail for her bag, her living in a shared hostel room with three boys (a black Frenchman, a Spanish artist and a cute Japanese), her friendship and city tours with them, her encounter with a pole dancer from India, her selling and making money off feeding spicy “Queen’s Golgappas” to the French at a food fair and even a lip-kiss with an Italian hunk to prove to him that Indians are the best in everything including kissing! But nothing ever gets into an overtly Bollywood style, thankfully!


Lisa Haydon as the hotel maid, Vijaylakshmi is a short but significant contribution to the story. She helps Rani break out of her shell and learn to have fun in a foreign land, accepting her the way she is. The three boys and Rani make for a wonderful combination of comedy with their language limitations. But what is endearing is that despite the limitations, the foursome bond through the language of the heart. A scene at a church and one in the hostel room is particularly moving.

Meanwhile, having realised his folly, Vijay lands up in Paris and then to Amsterdam to apologize and regain her trust, but Rani makes a wonderful choice. Watch it to believe it.

Back in India after a journey of a lifetime, her suitcase replaced with a smart backpack, Rani is seen walking triumphant and confident in the choices she has made. You are sure to clap loudly as she walks away in that last scene.

The film has been directed by Vikas Bahl (of Chillar Party fame) and produced by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. The editing and choice of costumes is perfect. Rani never leaves her Rajouri Garden simplicity even in her pretty dresses from Paris and Amsterdam. The music is handpicked to perfection for the scenes. Don’t miss this one for anything!

Happy 2014 to all you movie buffs!

Image credits: Wikipedia for movie poster, MovieShoovie, Koimoi.

Why Besharam should go to the Oscars

Image courtesy: wikipedia

You ask me why? I ask you “Why not?!” Without a doubt, Besharam is 2013’s only defining film of Indian cinema. It is crassitude unlimited with a major focus on Ranbir Kapoor’s itching crotch. Why, it even highlights Rishi Kapoor’s toilet antics, complete with the many variations of constipated facial expressions, by the end of which unsuspecting viewers are enlightened about the erstwhile actor’s painful bowel movements.

By virtue of many such deeply philosophical moments that define India, and the country’s fascination with potty humour and itchy crotches, the movie certainly deserves to be India’s nomination to the Oscars. No other film even comes close to calling itself an authentic rendition of the Indian saga. Remember… we prefer mobile phones over toilets, the Chulbul Pandeys over Dabbawalas, the pelvic thrusts over cranium ones and…never mind!


If you are still not convinced, let us discuss about the key characters that make ‘Besharam’ the iconic movie that it is.

Bablee the car thief – Ranbir plays him to the ‘T’. One is almost tolerant about the poor orphan who steals cars not for a living but to give back to the orphanage so it does not create any more car thieves. What an original Robinhood inspired move by director Abhinav Singh Kashyap, one that does not make you lift an eyebrow after reading ‘original’ and ‘inspired’ in the same line.

Titu – Bablee’s friend and partner in crime, who along with Bablee has been far removed from any kind of logical reasoning.

Tara Sharma – Bablee’s love interest played by Pallavi Sharda. We last saw her in the psychological thriller ‘Table 21’ opposite Rajeev Khandelwal. They had to bring the ‘rich girl-poor boy’ angle now, didn’t they? Except that she is the daughter of a middle class widow and is striving hard to climb the Delhi wall of status. (read ‘own a fleet of the most expensive cars!’)

Chulbul & Bulbul Chautala – They could have very well been surnamed the ‘Pandeys’, for if I were the director, I too would have stolen popular names from my debut blockbuster film. The relief is that they are being played by Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, a childless cop couple who are in the trace of Bablee, Delhi’s most wanted car thief, who steals with love. They had to bring the ‘orphan boy-childless couple’ angle now, didn’t they?

Bhim Singh Chandel – The lean-mean-shooting machine with a small army who is sometimes seen using a bazooka like missile anywhere and everywhere in the city. The hawala operator played by Jaaved Jaffery gets Bablee to work for him for big money, because Bablee isn’t afraid of his bazookas.


The story is an inspirational take on Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ – If you wish for something very badly, the entire universe conspires to get you that’. Logic can take a beating.

Bablee steals Tara’s new car unknowingly, right after she rejects his love proposal as he is an orphan-thief. To win her love, he steals it right back putting his life on the line. Her heart softens on the way.

Meanwhile, Bhim Singh, The Chautalas and logic are all in hot pursuit of the newly-fallen-in-love couple, each for their own reasons. It has to end in a climax at a warehouse, doesn’t it? The orphanage kids are kidnapped, a huge police force is waiting outside, Bulbul Chautala is shot, Bablee’s intentions are misconstrued, etc. etc. etc.

Everything is sorted out as the bad guy is caught. Bablee is adopted by the Chautalas in case you didn’t know that one was coming! Bablee, no more an orphan now, need not steal cars anymore, so his lady love is delighted too!


Believe in your dreams; you can change your destiny. An orphan car thief can also find a pair of cop parents and a sophisticated girl, despite his itchy crotch. The film was declared a flop in the first week itself, but these are the movies that go on to make everlasting history at a later time. Sholay was a flop too, in its time.

Character assassination is insignificant when weighed against what the film teaches you – that a badly behaved girl who does not give a damn about insulting people lower than her in status, can actually transform into an angel with the touch of love. Love brings miracles, love one and all folks! What a message to take to the Oscars and share the love!

Now that you are convinced, dear reader, please help me decide what genre can we put this movie into – romance, comedy, action, thriller or something hitherto unknown?!

Warning: Do not watch this movie while having a meal, unless you do not mind losing your appetite over loo jokes with background sounds and thankfully no smells as movie technology is yet to master the art of bringing in olfactory senses on celluloid.

Movie Review: Madras Cafe is Brilliant!

Image source: Wikipedia

No war is won on fair grounds ever. Dirty politics, power play and the mass killing of innocent people are the remnants of every war ever fought on the face of this planet. Each time a side wins, a mother loses her son, a wife her husband, and a child her father. A nation wins while mankind loses.

And before I wander onto the philosophy of war, let me pull myself back in into the realm of celluloid war – The ones that are recreated painfully after years of research and camouflaged for a wider social acceptance, the ones that win the big awards and critical acclaim, the ones that leave you lingering with the futility of it all.

Madras Cafe is one such film that makes a courageous foray into new ground in Indian cinema. Yet it stops short of using ‘real’ names!

Brilliantly directed by Shoojit Sircar of Vicky Donor fame, Madras Cafe is a thriller set against the civil war ravaging Sri Lanka in the late 80s and early 90s, and the political interference by India leading to the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. John Abraham, the lead actor and one of the producers of the film, plays Major Vikram Singh, a military officer who is sent to Jaffna to head RAW’s (Research and Analysis Wing) covert operations. Nargis Fakhri plays Jaya Sahni, a British war correspondent who eventually helps him ‘see’ the even more sinister plan being hatched underneath the covert operations.

The two names might seem out of place when taken in the same sentence as Shoojit Sircar. But then, there are exceptions. John is not his usual bulky self and has managed a real portrayal of the wrath and pain of Major Vikram Singh. Moreover, his body language did some talking too in this movie. Nargis, on her part, has played a very believable Jaya. An almost right fit for her accent!

Actors in other key roles also shine through in their performances. Interestingly, most of them are journalists, and prominent people from the media. Remember Siddharth Basu, the quiz master from Mastermind? He plays Robin Dutt (RD) who leads the covert operations for RAW and the one Vikram Singh reports to in India. There is ad man Piyush Pandey playing a role as the Cabinet Secretary of India. Prakash Belawadi, a journalist and an award-winning theatre personality, has enacted a brilliant two-faced Bala, the one whom Vikram Singh reports to in Jaffna. Managing Editor of NDTV India, Dibang, plays a small but vital role as an ex-intelligence officer of RAW.

Apart from Nargis, there are two women whose screen presence is worth noting. Newcomer Rashi Khanna as John’s wife, belies the fact that this is her first movie. Malayalam actress, Leena Maria Paul as the Tamil rebel gives a memorable performance too.

Madras Cafe also excels in its ability to build suspense, even though the viewer is aware of the outcome. This can only be attributed to the writers – Somnath Dey and Shubendu Bhattacharya. An interesting bit of trivia for you is that the script for the movie has been in waiting since 2006. Sircar had narrated the script of Madras Cafe to John in that year, but they could not get around to begin it then.

True to the nature of the film, there are no song and dance numbers. And to my relief, there is no item number by Nargis too! Brilliant background music by Shantanu Moitra sits well with a “political espionage thriller” movie genre and does manage to enhance the scenes as per the mood. ‘Sun le re‘ sung by Papon is a beautiful, earthy number – the kinds that go into your playlists. Besides, look at any scene from the movie and you will know that the cinematography and editing are done by perfectionists.

Despite intercepting and decoding correctly, Major Vikram Singh is unable to stop the inevitable assassination. You know it yet you wait and watch anxiously trusting the storyteller to bring in a new twist!  A must watch for lovers of intelligent cinema.

My thoughts on Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Image courtesy: Wikimedia

Inspired by the life of legendary Indian athlete, Milkha Singh – also known as the Flying Sikh – Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is a gripping tale painted in vivid Bollywood colours. Produced and directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, of Rang de Basanti fame, the film is a classic that will go down memory lane. Although I’m no film critic or share a passionate expertise on films, I know this film will click with the Indian masses, for its sheer storytelling technique.

Well, at least it has compelled me to share my thoughts on it. They say a good film critic does not unveil the plot, yet manages to paint his views on the canvas of your mind. But, this film is being described as a biopic taken from Singh’s biographical journey ‘The race of my life” written with the help of his daughter. I haven’t read the book, nor did I read any reviews prior to watching the movie, but I was apprehensive about the duration – 3 hours. But, trust me, these would be the most defining 180 minutes of cinematic experience for you!

I can give you 10 reasons why you should invest 3 hours for this movie, but one is enough – Farhan Akhtar.  The actor is so brilliant in enacting the Flying Singh, that the viewer is automatically transformed as an onlooker in each of the scenes, be it his early childhood, the painful partition or the many athletic events including the Olympics. It is said that Farhan went through a gruelling fitness regime – a workout in two shifts for 5 to 6 hours daily, for six days in a week and all this for 18 months!

This is a coming-of-age movie for Farhan as the actor has transformed from a good one to a brilliant one, leaving behind many mainstream actors and raising the bar in that genre. When he ran his races as Milkha, one could also parallel him racing against other popular actors, and winning the game in a smooth finish. It was high time a quality standard was set in the mainstream Hindi cinema space, else it would remain sadly ruled by some irrational and stupid crap that goes by the name of popular cinema.

Yes, I admire Farhan Akhtar and hence I’ll be biased towards him, but this film has earned him my lifelong respect.

There are heart-wrenching scenes by other actors that add on to the film. If you aren’t a fan of Farhan, watch it for Divya Dutta’s superlative portrayal as Milkha’s elder sister, who loves him more like a mother after they are orphaned cruelly during the partition. Watch it for Pawan Malhotra as Gurudev Singh, Milkha’s coach and a caring father figure enacted beautifully by the seasoned actor.

And, watch it for little Japtej Singh, the actor playing young Milkha who I’ve heard is new to the medium, much to my surprise. Japtej has picked up his scenes like a charm, and somehow reminded me of Ayesha Kapoor, the splendid child actor who played the blind and deaf young Rani Mukherji in Black.

Other aspects of film making are awesome, although highly dramatic. It is reported that the writer, Prasoon Joshi took 2 years to write the script. Superb cinematography coupled with an emotional storytelling approach, has worked its magic in the biopic. You will leave enriched with real inspiration and respect for the protagonist and everyone involved in the making of this movie.