Shakuntala Devi

Let us begin by complimenting the writer director Anu Menon for trying to create a film, which tries to marry mathematics and motherhood- quite a task, indeed, well handled with the support of some good acting by Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra, Jishu Sengupta and Amit Sadh.

The challenge is that only a beautiful piece of computer-generated music does not create a riveting performance on stage. This well designed, well-shot, well-acted and well-directed film fails to give the audience an immersive experience in spite of so may good elements in the film.

The whole cinematographic treatment of the film has been kept soft and diaphanous which adds beauty to the vintage design of the film, but fails to generate contrasting experience especially with the initial (Bangalore/village) portion of the film. The DOP Keiko Nakhara, who has done films like London, Paris and New York, has treated this part of the film like she has treated the Hyde Park area in London. Thus the Mansion in London looks credible but the initial Bangalore/ village sequence lacks authenticity. Unfortunately this is the part, which could have resonated in the story going forward and provided emotional and visual contrast with the soft diaspora film like treatment of rest of the film.

A gripping film needs to have some moments of emotional highs and lows for the audience to have some immersive experience. Through out the film, one glides through the soft diaphanous clouds waiting for the clouds to burst open to bring in some showers of emotional roller coaster.

The idea of taking the audience on a journey of three motherhood generations was a well conceived one to create a roller coaster of a narrative, but it fails to take off, to my mind, because of the first section of the motherhood not getting drilled in enough in the film, thereby creating a ‘tiny foundation’ for a ‘ three storied building’, which the film was intending to set up. All said and done, it is definitely a Vidya Ballan show; without her nuanced shades of her acting, mannerism and body language the film could have been a rather dull viewing experience.


For last few weeks I have been thinking of writing about Irfan Khan, whom I adored as an actor. I thought about all his films, which I had seen and was broadly convinced that Paan Singh Tomar was his best film as an actor.  So I went back to see this film again. This film, Paan Singh Tomar had got imprinted in my memory because of an incredibly well acted scene (filmed on a roof top) in which a local journalist (played by Brijendra Kala) goes to interview the “baghi” portrayed by Irfan Khan . Honestly speaking this scene came alive because of the stellar performances of  Irfan Khan and Brijendra Kala both put together- the restrained yet menacingly cool demeanor of Irfan Khan and the equally petrified eyes and the camouflaged fear exuded by the journalist enacted by Brijendra Kala. Then by chance I came across this video of the film called ‘The Namesake’, which I had seen about 12 years back and I suddenly realized that I still remember this film and for me this film came alive through the piercing eyes of the protagonist Ashoke Ganguly. The Namesake is a film released in 2007, directed by Mira Nair and is based on the novel written by Jhumpa Lahiri starring Irfan Khan, Tabu, Kal Penn and Sahira Nair.  It is a story of the struggle of first-generation Indian immigrants, whose entire life gets vaporized in trying to create a hyphenated identity in an unfamiliar land called America . The film explores, through the eyes of their son, Gogol, the cross-cultural conflict, which the family goes through.  Gogol, born in America, struggles to discover his identity between the culturally overloaded Calcutta and the inorganic world of New York City, where his closest link  to life is his rich American girlfriend , who is clueless about the cultural differences.

To my mind, three things make this film remarkable:

  1. The story of the cross -cultural catharsis
  2. The deeply nuanced and restrained performances of Irfan Khan and Tabu and
  3. The sound track created by Nitin Sawhney. The music touches the right emotional chords, adding a deeper sensitivity to the story. The sound track has cross-cultural overtones- Indian Classical, Anglo-Indian and French. A New Jersey based Indian singer Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik sings the Indian classical piece.

For those who have seen this film, Ashoke Ganguly will always live in their mind space forever. The movie has such deeply layered meaning and the entire essence of the film can be seen deep down in the liquid eyes of Irfan Khan. Do watch this film if you wish to pay a tribute to Irfan Khan.

Chintu Ka Birthday

In spate of crime-thrillers streaming on various OTT platforms, Chintu Ka Birthday is like dipping into a river of fresh water literally as the protagonist is a salesman of   ‘OK Pure’ water purifiers, stuck with family in a war –ravaged town Bagdad in times of American invasion of Iraq. A well choreographed script by the siblings Satyanshu Singh and Devanshu Kumar, who have also co-directed the film. This is their second film after their National Award winning short film Tamaash. The film is produced by AIB’s production house named Final Draft. It is believed that the film was in the making for 10 years till it finally got streamed on ZEE5-once again highlighting the struggle that even brilliantly made independent films need to go through to reach the mass audience in India.

The plot of the film revolves a simple Bihari family (stuck in the city of Baghdad in the times of American invasion of Iraq in times of Saddam Hussein) trying to have a normal birthday celebration for their 6-year-old son Chintu. With delightfully natural performances and intelligent writing dotted with bittersweet endearing moments of happiness in the middle of gunshots and bombs going off in the neighborhood, the film celebrates the triumph of humanity in the amidst the power drunk militaries and the megalomaniacs of the modern world. It is like experiencing moments of happiness in the middle of depressing times of COVID19. The narrative arc is well textured by an apt casting and naturally effortless acting by Vinay Pathak (delightfully natural), Tilotama Shome (effortlessly realistic) Bisha Chaturvedi (a brilliant acting discovery), Vedant Chibber (lovingly endearing) and Seema Pahwa (realistic as usual). Siddarth (Titli, Trapped, Queen) Diwan’s camera work brilliantly captures the texture of tension behind human faces within the confines of a closed space of a 2 bedroom flat, which in a way is a metaphor of a ‘trapped situation’, the characters are placed in.  Cinematically capturing the highpoint or the defining moment of the film, the lighting of the candles on the cake, would have given any DOP a tough challenge, but for Siddhartha Diwan, who has captured the moment in a most simplistically shot close up of lighting the sixth candle placed on top of a cake adorned with six colorful candles. It is a delightfully visual relief in the middle of the cacophony of bullet shots of the GIs and the fluttering noise of zipping helicopters. The color scheme of the film has been made to give you a visual feel of watching an Iraqi film, a good idea indeed. Chintu Ka Birthday is a poignant yet wholesome tale of basic human emotions, which remain the same behind different colors of human skin, whether in India or Iraq. Do watch it to cheer you up and warm your heart sitting inside the confines of your closed spaces. A visual relief in the COVID times.

Mee Raqsam

proves one point distinctly and certainly. If you can manage the right casting for your film and you shoot at real locations, then, it does not matter whether you have a script with high voltage drama or not, the film will flow. Mee Raqsam is a film , where all actors including the secondary line of actors look rooted in the soil of the land . The director has managed to take all of them to the real location of the plot (in this case to Mijwan, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, where Kaifi Azmi, father of Shabana Azmi and Baba Azmi was born) and made them act in natural surroundings. The result is that you have a film that connects with the audience in spite of the fact that its script does not have any surprise in store for you. Here is a film , which has a simple story that you must have come across hundred times and has no twists & turns, yet you will enjoy the film for its simple narration and an evocative authentic feel. Naseeruddin Shah, as usual, excels in his role as a hardliner Mullah with an amazingly beautiful get up. But for me the heart of the film is the character Salim, most naturally played by an actor named Danish Hussain. Danish plays the character of a loving father with so much ease and confidence that at times his mildly smiling face reminded me of the legendary actor Sanjeev Kumar. In spite of having a theatrical background, his acting has stability and cinematic depth. Another actor, who leaves an impression behind is Rakesh Chaturvedi, who plays the role of a character named Jaya Prakash, the Hindu counterpart of Naseeruddin Shah. There is nothing much to write about this film, except that it is an endearing piece of cinema and if you are fed up of binge watching crime thrillers, this film will entertain you.

Forbidden Love

Forbidden Love is an anthology of four long-short romantic thriller films streaming on ZEE5. On the face of it, romantic thrillers seem to be a fresh genre of films for the OTTs and should be a welcome change from the intense crime thrillers, which have been crowding the platforms for the last six months or so. Two of its films ‘Arranged Marriage’ and ‘Anamika’ directed by Pradeep Sarkar and Priyadarshan respectively were released on September 9.

The second of the series ‘Anamika’ directed by Priyadarshan is a story of a married woman, who finds herself trapped in a vacuum-filled life created by an uncaring husband (played by Harish Chhaya) and a deaf father- in -law, who is confined to bed. ‘Anamika’, working in a bakery, propelled by a quick set of circumstances, finds herself swept off her feet by a handsome young man, who breezes through her lonely life like a musical love–song; only to realize later as to how gullible she was.The end of the film will surprise you and may bring back memories, which may still be lingering at the back of your mind. Anamika, the bored housewife, is played by Pooja Kumar, an Indian American actor, winner of Miss India USA (1995). Besides acting in a number of Hollywood films, she has also acted in Kamal Haasan’s blockbuster Viswaroopam. The role of the young lover is played by Aditya Seal, who has earlier acted in Hindi films like Purani Jeans, Ssshh ..Koi Hai and Student of the Year. Both the actors have lived their roles. It is an aesthetically cinematographed film (shot in Pondicherry) based on a tightly woven screenplay, which is supported by well-crafted simple dialogues. Pooja Kumar’s acting is nuanced and carries a layer of hesitant naivety, which makes her character seem believable. Adiyta’s capability to change his body language as per the required shade of the character shows his potential as an actor. The 40 minutes of the film will pas through like a pleasant breeze.

Serious Men

Ayyan (Nawazuddin ) is the hero or the anti-her of the film , depending on which way you look at the film. The film is narrated from his perspective so as to emotionally empathize the audience with his personal story, which is full of angst, ambition and adventure. His comments like “ usko lagata hai ki voh-ich bhagwan hai” bare it all-the angst against the haves in the society, who have blocked his way to lead a dignified life in every walk of life- in his village where he was born , at his office, where he works, at the chawl ,where he lives and even at the educational institutes, where he wants to send his son to get education better that he had got in his life. The film has layers not only in the form of the undercurrents, which still resonate in the underbelly of our caste-crippled society, but with also layers of realistic story telling, unpretentious cinematography , satirical and witty dialogues, light hearted comedy and of course a sweet dose of hummable songs. Indira Tiwari, who plays Ayyan’s wife has complemented the story with her unpretentious acting. No wonder she comes from a theatre and NSD background. Akshat Das , who plays Adi has done complete justice to the various shades of acting as required by the character. His spectacle-framed face may stay with you after you have watched the film.

The credit for pulling off such a wholesome film with just one A -lister actor (Nawazuddin ) must go to the director Sudhir Mishra. He also deserves the credit for highlighting a deep –rooted evil in our society, without being too political about it. The film conveys, through its characters, what it set out to convey, without making too much noise or raising the temperature.

‘Serious Men’ is not so serious and a film, which needs to be watched with family. I wish the filmmaker had not chosen such a serious title of the film, as the title could act as a mental block for the common Hindi movie audience.

I am a fan of Swanand Kirkire , so sharing the song which aptly defines the seriousness of the film in a sweet and nostalgic way. …’raat hai kala chata jisme itne sare ched..”

A Suitable Boy

The celebrated director Mira Nair’s “ A Suitable Boy ”, an adaptation of celebrated novelist Vikram Seth’s 1300 page famous novel would have evoked the expectations of being a masterpiece of a kind. But have no misunderstanding it is not a film aimed at Indians staying in India, it is a series made for the International audience, although the story is set in India and the characters are Indians, yet they all lack Indian-ness be it in their uneven retro accent or their well crafted body language. The characters seem to have been ‘filmed as written’ in an English novel and then planted on an intricately designed tapestry named India thereby failing to evoke the smell, texture and the chemistry of Indian soil. To my mind, this is so because of the loss in transmission. Allow me to explain. It is a film based on a story of few Indians living in India of 1953 written by an Indian in English language. An Englishman then converts the story written in English about Indian characters into a screenplay in English looking at India through the prism of the written word in the English novel, which in all honesty was written for International audience rather than the Indians living in the real India or shall we say Bharat. So the world which the film has finally created on screen has been transmitted through the English- coated (for lack of a better word) eye lenses of the novelist, scriptwriter and director and hence the loss in transition of the ‘rootedness’ in the film. I wish the film’s screenplay was written by a desi Indian, who would have translated the story according to purely Indian sensibilities. Let me remind you the how popular was an earlier film by the same director. I am referring to Monsoon Wedding. There also all the crew was non- Indian but for the scriptwriter- Sabrina Dhawan, (born in Delhi working in New york) was an Indian having lived in India.

Technically, ‘A Suitable Boy’ is a very well made film with an intricately designed production canvas with authentic looking locations, architecture and a rich ensemble of handloom tapestry of the times. Even the music and the ghazals used seem to be well chosen to represent the mood of the period. The film has also been aptly casted with new faces like Tanya Maniktala, Danesh Razvi, Mikhail Sen well supported by Namit Das, Ram Kapoor, Vijay Varma, Rasika Duggal, Shubham Saraf, Vijay Pathak.Mahira Kakkar, Shahana Goswami and Ishaan Khatter. Yet the integrated effect called the film fails to evoke the soul and spirit of India of 1953. It was the time, when a young India was trying to find its voice in the melting pot of new choices which the new found freedom had just presented before them .In essence, the story of the novel/film also tires to capture this hesitation and indecisiveness through the searching eyes and the wavering mind of the protagonist Lata Mehra, who is looking for a suitable boy , a character very well portrayed by Tanya Maniktala. Enjoy the journey of six episodes, you may find a bit of India of 1953 in the searching eyes and charming smile of Lata Mehra.

Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story

Scam 1992-Part 1: The Casting Coup

Sometimes you have so much to write about a movie that you do not know where to start. So let me start by writing about one thing out of ‘n’ number of good things about this movie, which I think is a kind trendsetter for the film Industry. It is about a new technique, which has started gaining prominence in the Indian film industry only recently and the technique is called ‘Casting’. The credit for introducing and perfecting this art of casting goes only to one person in the industry and his name is Mukesh Chabbra. The website of his company MCCC defines the scope of his work as “ MCCC team analyzes each character and its underlying motivations- whether subtle, implied, derived or pronounced. This helps in a thorough scan of aspirants to evaluate their perceived competence for the given role. The chosen artists are trained through tailored workshops to help them translate their potential into performance that the audience would cherish.’ If this would be the contribution of a casting director in the making of a film, I believe the foundation of a good film is already laid. This technique has brought in yet another big change in our films, which are following this model of casting and that is the increasing screen time or the screen presence given to the secondary star cast. The screen presence created by the secondary actors in such films is so strong that the director/editor is forced to increase the screen time for the secondary actors, consequently reducing the length of the footage given to the lead actors. This is completely in contrast to the earlier approach of filmmaking, where the lead actors used to consume most of the footage, thereby pushing the role of the secondary actors almost into insignificance. This new approach of research based casting makes the landscape of a film look more inclusive and more realistic.

Starting with the films like Gangs of Wasaeypur, Shahid, Dangal etc. Mukesh Chabbra’s latest casting coup is Scam 1992. He has perfected this art to such an extent that in a 10 episode long series like Scam 1992, the characters casted by him have overshadowed the storyline itself. These characters seem to be an integral part of the story line and the entire film comes to life through its ‘varied set of characters’ only – the lead as well as the secondary – they all seem to be absolutely authentic and real, be it Harshad Mehta (flawlessly played by Pratik Gandhi), brother Ashwin, his conscience keeper (played by Hemant Kher), his lonely wife Jyoti (Anjali Bardot), his partner Bhutan Bhat with his internal burns (played by Chirag Vohra), his handsome debauch broker friend Pranav Seth ( played by Jay Upadhyay), the gritty professionalism of Sucheta Dalal (superbly portrayed by Shreya Dhanwanthary through her expressive face and quiet demeanor), the quiet helplessness of RBI Governor ( played by Ananth Mahadevan), the snobbish Citi banker Tyagi ( Nikhil Dwivedi) , the insidious money market broker Ajay Kedia (Shadaab Khan) , the cool menacing bear king, Manu Mundra ( played by Satish Kaushik to perfection), the frustrated NHB Chairman (KK Raina), the grand Parasi style classiness of SBI Chairman (Vivek Vaswani), the exasperations of a righteous CBI Director Madhavan ( played by Rajat Kapoor), the vulnerability of being a PSU banker ( Rajesh Jais), the romance of being a young investigative journalist Debashish (Faisal Rashid ) , the itchiness of being stuck in a frustrating routine job Sitaraman ( Jaimini Pathak), the political side of a scheming Swami (Karthik Krishnan) and the stammering innocence of Sharad Bellary ( Sharib Hashmi). Such powerful performances by a battery of secondary actors in a popular and successful film like Scam 1992 will, I hope, open floodgates of opportunities for talented character actors. In fact this casting coup is a kind of a mini-revolution in the film industry as it is enlarging the scanning universe of potential actors and taking the searchlight to the smaller towns and cities of India- a welcome trend indeed.

Scam 1992:Part 2: Branding the deficits

The most heartening thing about the film is that they have tried to bring to screen the factors that created a phenomenon called Harshad Mehta. Harshad was a super hero for the retail investors in India but the real Harshad Mehta was merely an embodiment of middle class aspirations, particularly the middle class Gujarati aspirations with an inborn hunger for money and recognition. He had the handicap of being born in a family of meager financial means and also being deprived of an opportunity to have a good education. These ‘handicaps’ created a bundle of inferiority complex in his personality, which got manifested in his strong dislike for the elite or the privileged in society. When he started dabbling in the share market he realized that the affluence in life was not a factor of merit, it was rather a by –product of manipulation and machinations. The more he tired to dabble into the market -an outsider- the stronger came the repulse from the gatekeepers of the ‘citadel’. This resistance fuelled his hatred for the elite club and ignited his zeal to break into their domain. All his life was spent in trying to invent ways and means to penetrate into this fiercely guarded terrain of the elite and beat them in their own game in their own territory. It was like David vs. Goliath. And in order to win this war against the ‘mighty ‘, all he had in his armory was his bundle of inferiority complexes but a deep diving mind. He also realized that the entire business of the share market and the money market was built around a world of perceptions. These perceptions he soon realized were only a matter of few intangibles and could be crafty created by undertaking an image building exercise, an exercise which nobody in the financial domain had done till then. The inspiration for creating his brand Big Bull came from his filmi inspiration Amitabh Bachhan, the Big B. Some of the tangible ways of building the brand ‘Big Bull’ were his lifestyle statements like wearing a luxury watch and a holding a branded pen while signing and driving around in a Lexus car. This exercise of brand building was supplemented by a lot of PR, advertising and word of mouth publicity. So he strategically converted all his ‘deficits’ into a fashionable brand called the ‘Big Bull’. The brand Big Bull packaged all his shortcomings into strengths (Growmore and Live Life King Size) and converted Harshad Mehta into an enigmatically magnetic phenomenon. The men on the streets of India lapped up this brand and became his followers.

Powered by brand Big Bull, he walked into the boardrooms of the elite financial community, be it foreign banks, PSU banks, financial institutions, Public sector Undertakings and the Corridors of the Power that be. The cleverly crafted brand became so powerful that these ‘elite bankers’ themselves lined up to seek his patronage and his business acumen. Every one in the financial world wanted to have a share in the Bull Run created by Harshad Mehta. This euphoria and the heightened level of perceived trust helped him play the game of ‘Merry go round’, which is to take from one hand and give it to the other. The Bull Run continued till one fine day ‘ ‘fate’ intervened and someone in the banking system bothered to do a reconciliation between the books and the BR’s ( Bank receipts).This long story is painstakingly captured by the ten episode long series called Scam 1992, the Harshad Mehta Story.

Besides giving prominence to the roles of the secondary star cast, this film has also helped in discovering two amazingly talented actors namely Pratik Gandhi and Shreya Dhanwanthary.

Pratik Gandhi (who hails from Surat, a place known for the speculative share market activity) has not only acted as Harshad Mehta, he has been successful in portraying the ‘phenomenon’ called Big Bull. A Gujarati stage actor, Pratik, has gone under the skin of the character to bring out the story of the making of the phenomenon called Harshad Mehta. His acting, his mannerism, his understated confidence or the lack of it, his searching eye glances with a quarter of a smile, his body language (a copy of AB’s gait) coupled with his Gujrati tinged accent and frequent use of Gujrati idioms and word play has been able to personify the complex character of Harshad Mehta, who till his last days was convinced that he did nothing wrong and was playing the game like the rest of the elite and his party was brought to a stop by somebody who had something deeply personal against him, an angle which the film also tries to hint at without confirming it.

The second discovery of the film is the female lead Shreya Dhanwanthary, who has been Miss India South 2008. This is her first big break in mainstream Hindi cinema and she has gracefully capitalized on the opportunity. The energy and rectitude with which she has carried the role of a professional financial journalist is admirable. She brings authenticity to an offbeat character of a young journalist, who was trying to take on the big bad world, while navigating the by lanes of Dalal Street. Shreya has been able to do justice to the character while managing to bring out the frustration, determination and the vulnerability of a young female financial journalist, who is trying to make her place in the domain of financial journalism, which was conventionally dominated by the men. Besides having an expressive face and beautiful eyes, she has the acting talent, the right combination to be a potential acting star in Indian film industry.

Scam 1992: Part 3: Hindi film with Gujrati Snacks

It is no secret that stock market lingo in India is Gujrati flavored Hindi and the makers of this film have used the same in the film to add authenticity to the characters and the storyline.

Though the film is based on a book, which is full of technicalities and financial jargons, the film’s script has focused on the human side of the story behind this complex web of transactions. It is heartening to see how the writers of the screenplay have simplified the financial jargon of the share and money market into simple and easy to follow dialogues in ‘Gujrati flavored Hindi’ with the use of idioms and word play. There are plenty of such interesting dialogues like ‘Ishq hai to Rishk hai’, ‘Bears ke ball bearings tight ho jayenge’, ‘Paper main upper ka line sirf attention ke liye hota hai’, ‘’Don’t value a company on the basis of its value’ (aka Value is a matter of perception), ‘Aap hamen jaan jaoge to maan jaoge’, ‘Sitaraman Bank of India’, ‘CBI has started liking the breakfast of my home’ etc.( I could not follow many. ) Backed by the shooting at authentic locations like the Bombay Stock Exchange, Dalal Street (you will recognize the white staircase of BSE, if you have been there), State Bank building, Fort, CBI office in Bellard Estate, Times of India Office at Fort, Mumbai etc., and by using names of the real persons like Ashwin Mehta, Sitharaman, Pherwani etc the film has become highly relatable. I specially enjoyed Sucheta’s conversation in Times of India office with the cartoonist RK Laxman when she asked him why he did cartoons of common man only and not common woman. His reply was witty as usual, “ Women are not common.” Such cameos make the film endearing.

Finally all credit must to the veteran filmmaker Hansal Mehta, who has a track record of a giving us such meaningful films like Shahid, City Lights, Aligarh, and Omerta. He has always picked up socially relevant issues and beautifully de-cluttered them to produce lovable films. More power to you Mr. Mehta, keep de- cluttering more and more Mehtas. India is full of stories for your kind of films.

Scam 1992: Part 4 (Last) : History repeats itself

The Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Buke, once said that ‘those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it’.

By that logic, Scam 1992 needs to be seen by the ‘man- on- the- street‘, the main victim of the scam 1992, so that we do not see repeat of such scams in future.

But looking at our track record, we Indians have not learnt much from our history. Our public memory is short and we believe in forgiving and forgetting things very fast. The Harshad Mehta scam happened in 1992 and by 2002, just a decade later, the financial market was again rigged by another stockbroker called Ketan Parekh, who used similar tactics to rig prices of certain hand picked securities, informally referred to as K-10 stocks. Again after 10 years of this rigging scam, the financial ecosystem in our country saw yet another loot in the form of huge amount of loans being doled out to another set of unscrupulous brands and biggies like Mallayas and Choksis. This reckless binge of banking created one of the largest crises in Indian banking industry in the form of Non-performing assets estimated to be of the order of Rupees ten lakh crore or so. Those in the know of the things would vouch for the fact that once again the banks and the financial institutions in India competed with each other in doling out favors to these new darlings of the banking industry. The point I am trying to make is that, this enigmatic animal called financial industry in spite of various reforms and numerous checks and balances does not believe in learning from its past mistakes and the scams have continued unabated in our country in one shape or the other. Every time, someone has found a new loophole in the system and exploited it. The genesis of all these financial frauds, to my mind, lies in our inability to educate people at large to exercise discretion and restrain and keep human greed in check. No wonder that in spite of so much of audit and supervision in the financial system, we still have PMCs of the world taking the gullible investors for a ride.

However, films like Scam 1992 help in drilling down the importance of learning from the past mistakes and sensitizing the common man about following some discretion and discipline when it comes to financial dealings and not to follow the heard mentality. It is, therefore, in the interest of the common man, the ultimate victim of all these scams that more and more suchlike research based investigative films are made to make us think, reflect and introspect on ourselves as individuals and as a society.

The brutal truth is that even after the so-called modernization or the digitization of Indian banking system, it continues to be as vulnerable as it was in 1992, when by using a small stroke of his pen (1 changed to 6) Sitharaman could evaporate Rs 500 crore from the banking system. Who knows this time instead of a stroke of pen, it could be a just a click of a mouse?

The fear and the irony is that once again after a gap of ten years from the NPA scam, our financial ecosystem is getting susceptible for financial scam of yet another kind. Haven’t you seen the trailer of this new –scam- in- the- offing in the form of the film ‘Jamtara’? Please watch this film on Netflix and educate yourself and your family. Till then enjoy the Gujrati breakfast with Harshad Mehta and his family. All said and done, you are watching most likely the best film of Hindi movie of 2020. 


I saw the film Ludo (2 hrs. 30 minutes), could not complete it in one sitting. After watching the film over two days, I did not feel like wasting more time writing about it, till I read the interview of the writer- director of the film, in which he seems to have said that he did not know how the script of this film got developed. Talking about the intuitive style of the director, an actor in the film has said and I quote “In life it is also nice to sometime just take a leap of faith. It’s so nice to do work, which takes you back to your training. Working with him is a lot like that because of the process he has. He does not over brief his actors. He wants their performance to be instinctive and their reactions to be as natural as possible. People might think, Arre Dada does not tell us this or that. We don’t know when we will shoot. But that’s a part of the process because he wants pure emotion to come out. That’s the film, he has made. Such a pure and clean film.”

The above made me imagine what could have been the process of making of this film. Let me lay it down. One day, during a break on the shoot of his previous film, Barfi, the director was playing Ludo with his cast and crew. Everyone was enjoying the game. Excited by the thrill of ups and downs in the game, someone suggested that we should a film on ‘Ludo’. Another person suggested that it could have four tracks like the four quadrants of the Ludo. The art director added that these four tracks should have four colors –red, blue, yellow and green like in the Ludo. The director topped up the discussion saying let us add a ‘dice’ of fate to give a metaphorical meaning to these tracks. The music director informed that he had the leftover tracks of film Barfi , which could be used for the new film. In case of any shortage, he could dip into old popular songs depending upon whether the track was ‘naram’ or ‘garam’.

The casting director suggested that we should have four distinctive styles of acting in these four tracks. Immediately four prominent actors with very different acting styles were called. They were telephonically briefed about their distinctive characters and they were asked to develop their tracks independently and instinctively. Days passed by and nothing happened. Then one fine day, a producer showed up and said I would provide ignition to your intuition. So the ‘ensemble’ was quickly assembled and the shoot started. The writer-director sat back and allowed each actor to act out his track till he (the actor) thought that his character had come to its full bloom! Must have been a pure joy for the actors as it is rare that a writer-director allows such long ropes to stretch so far that too in so many directions without bothering to know how he is finally going to knot them together at the end of the day.

As the producer had deep pockets, the art director, production designer and music director also added their own ‘inspired’ tracks and layers to the film. After canning so much footage, the writer-director realized the he had played no role in the making of the film. So he wrote an enveloping role for himself and played it himself to make the audience understand as to what was happening in the film and why.

After all this was canned, the ‘loads’ of footage was handed over to the editor to a make a Ludo out of it. The poor editor tried to cut the film to its size, but the big stars overpowered him as they had by this time got enamored with their characters and would not let anyone snip at it. The poor guy had to accommodate all the colorful tracks in the film hoping that the audience would be happy to see four different films in one film enveloped with a metaphorically metaphysical message explaining the deep difference between ‘sin and virtue’, a subject, which only Bhagwan Krishna had attempted to demystify centuries ago in Bhagwat Geeta. So much for the ‘instinctive’ style of the filmmaking.

All said and done, Ludo is an interesting colorful film with some quirky acting sessions and if you don’t use the glasses used by the critics, you may find the film entertaining. It is something between a black humor and a musical comedy. Play on if you can spare two and a half hours.


Chhalaang is a sports film like its predecessors Chak de and Sultan etc., but there is nothing much to make it standout or to give a different reason to watch another sports film, except that it makes you smell the popularity of sports in the small towns of Haryana like Jhajhar. The milieu and the language of the film make it a film probably made for the audience of north-India only as it’s typical local dialect and flavour restrict the film to travel beyond the boundaries of the Hindi heartland. However this localised treatment makes the film rooted. What restricts the film from becoming an excellent film is probably its script, which is not very well developed. Some twists and turns in the story look unconvincing jerking the credibility of the storyline. For example the scenes to convince the parents to send their children again to participate in the completion are not very convincing. Also the reasons for a young, attractive and intelligent female computer teacher to develop a liking for a ‘good for nothing’ PT Instructor (more so when a more capable new PT Teacher is also in the fray) are not fleshed out. Acting wise also Raj Kumar Rao acts like Raj Kumar Rao; perhaps he was chosen for this film as his general screen image fits into the required image of the protagonist for this film. The other actors who have added value or the credibility to the film are Saurabh Shukla, Satish Kaushik and Zeeshan Ayyub, besides the kids, who look authentic and naturalized. Chhallang is a big leap but not high enough!