Alia Bhatt is the heart and soul of Meghna Gulzar’s riveting thriller, Raazi

You’re bound to expect matured storytelling and nuanced characters from a director whose creative lineage is exemplary. Having woven stories around surrogacy in 2002 with Filhaal and the intricacies of the Indian judiciary with Talvar, Meghna Gulzar subtly etches the futility of war in Raazi.

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“Aap log na rishtey samajhte hai, na jasbaat, “recounts a heartbroken Sehmat(Alia Bhatt) in one of the soul-stirring scenes of the film. While this is just an underlying theme of the otherwise patriotic spy thriller, the director-actor duo often leaves you with moments that shake you from within!

Sehmat is a simple young girl who is pulled into a confidential alliance with Pakistani soldier Iqbal(Vicky Kaushal) owing to familial duty. Sehmat must fulfil her father’s (Rajit Kapur) wish of living for the nation and thus begins her journey as a spy with a focussed and rather ruthless trainer, Jaideep Ahlavat. While tensions begin to build up between India and Pakistan just before the war of 1971, Sehmat is compelled to provide undercover information about Pakistan’s secret plans that eventually led to the Ghazi Attack. Camouflaging under the garb of a newly-wed, and risking her life every minute, Alia Bhatt’s Sehmat draws you in to her world so much so that your heart thereafter beats along with hers. You sense her vulnerability, embrace her courage, pulsate in her fear and eventually drench in her tears! She almost paints an emotional graph of the transformation of simplistic humans into ruthless individuals compelled by war and you cannot help but empathise with her as she breaks down in self-pity. “Isse pehle ki main bhi aap sab jaisi ban jaoon, mujhe yahaan se jaana hai…mujhse aur ek khoon nahi hoga” she exclaims poignantly in a powerful scene from the film.

Meghna’s careful hands handle an otherwise controversial story with utmost dignity. She cleverly turns your attention into the emotional journey of two individuals under the backdrop of war and patriotism. While an overtly dramatic and rather cliché climax could have been avoided, it’s only a minor hiccup in the otherwise compelling thriller. Meghna is also careful to leave emotions and sequences open to audience interpretations.

Shankar Ehsaan and Loy provide just the right tunes in the background that blend into the story with Gulzar’s soulful words, a refreshing Kashmiri folk song and a reverberating Ae Watan by Arijit Singh.

With a strong supporting cast, some edge-of-the-seat moments and two leading ladies (Alia and Meghna), Raazi makes for a perfect watch this weekend!

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What if the antagonist becomes the hero? Padmavat(i) or Allauddin Khilji?

With layered eccentricity and fierce intensity Ranveer Singh’s Allauddin Khilji brings alive the antagonist once again in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic drama, Padmavat.

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Mewar’s Rajput prince Maharawal Ratan Singh(Shahid Kapoor) is at once smitten by Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), Singhal’s charming princess who soon walks into Chittor as the Queen of Mewar. Envied for her beauty and her intellect by Ratan Singh’s first wife, Rani Padmavati also unknowingly evokes her charm onto priest Raghav Chetan. Chetan is ostracised for interrupting the couple’s privacy and in a fit of revenge, provokes the ferocious Sultan Alauddin Khilji to own the Rajput Kingdom along with its beautiful Queen. Battles both physical and intellectual are fought to possess the queen and also protect the gallantry of the Rajputs. But, when Ratan Singh is deceived and killed by Khilji, Rani Padmavati must uphold the Rajput valour by performing Jauhar(the ancient Hindu custom of mass-immolation) with hundreds of other women, thereby defeating Khilji’s purpose.

Bhansali’s grandiose is here to stay with exquisite costumes, lavish sets and (of course) splendid war scenes but lacks an overall essence of magic like his previous films. Nevertheless, be sure to find his signature in the chandelier scene(read Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) or a gigantic door that closes to leave the characters on either side(read Devdas).

Biting into the character just as he bites his meat, Ranveer plays Khilji with barbaric sumptuousness! While Khilji’s megalomania takes you by both awe and utter disgust, there’s seldom a spark between Ratan Singh and Padmavati’s characters. Deepika’s Padmavati shines in gorgeous costumes, intricate dance movements and expressive eyes but her core character often blends with Leela(from Ram Leela) or Mastani(from Bajirao Mastani). Little is invested in Ratan Singh’s character, who continues to glorify Rajput values in his dialogues, never hitting the right chord. However, Raza Murad and Aditi Rao Hyadri do justice to their special appearances.

The songs except for Ghoomar(already having done it’s fair share of rounds at most Indian weddings) are almost forgettable whereas the background score is decent. The jauhar scene is picturesquely shot while most other scenes that stay with you long after you’ve left the theatres belong to Ranveer Singh, who clearly is the man of the hour.

Padmavat is a one-time watch for its cinematic experience but more importantly for Ranveer Singh’s Allauddin Khilji who constantly asks you, “What if the antagonist was the hero?”

“Tale as old as time..song as old as rhyme- Beauty and the Beast”

Enchanted as much as I’m mesmerized,

Bringing alive in me that li’l child,

Who’s revisiting one of her bedtime stories,

Pumped with technology, grandiose and glory!

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–The story begins with ‘Once upon a time in France..’

Casting the spell of old-school romance.

Bewitched are a Prince and his castlemen,

By an enchantress, who had been scorned by them.

Prince turns Beast and the castlemen are locked,

Morphed under teapots, cups, pianos, candelabrums and clocks.

On one condition only would they to human turn,

If the Beast loved a woman and she loved him back in return.

And so by fates glory and unusual circumstances,

Witty and charming Belle entered the palace premises!

And with her essence, warm, fearless and bold,

The Beast’s kindliness did unfold.

And then of course they fell in love gradually,

Living happily forever after, breaking the spell finally!—

 

Ms. Watson is charming as can be,

The cutlery and furniture sets too, become friendly,

Stealing the show are the VFX and those rhythmic accounts,

Blending technology and a Sound of Music or Mamma Mia that you’re bound to recount,

A delightful piece of a lyrical this,

Taking me back to the school/college abyss,

Disney’s own fairy tale is retold fairly well

Only beware that it is upon nostalgia that you shall dwell!

© 2017 reachyashika. All rights reserved.