Film Review: Tiger Zinda Hai

    Salman and Katrina's team work is what makes this sequel work


    If you enjoyed Ek Tha Tiger, then Tiger Zinda Hai will set the screen ablaze for you.

    You may say Tiger Zinda Hai is predictable, far fetched in some scenes, but this sequel is an enjoyable watch.

    The story fast forwards eight years on from where it left from the first franchise. Indian RAW agent Tiger (Salman Khan) and ISI agent Zoya (Katrina Kaif) are now married and living a peaceful life with their son, having long left their lives as spies. However, their plans soon change when Tiger is hunted down by his former boss at RAW to go on a mission to rescue 25 Indian nurses who are held hostage at a hospital by a dreaded terrorist organisation that has taken over Iraq.

    From here it becomes a Salman Khan show and the Sultan delivers with screen presence, punchy one liners and above all huge star power.

    Nonetheless, Katrina is not far behind. She too follows Salman in the mission, although from the Pakistan side, to rescue a further 11 Pakistani nurses. It is because of his wife Zoya that fuels Tiger to unite RAW with ISI for the rescue mission.

    The marriage between ISI and RAW for this mission, adds a human touch to the storyline, which is heartening to watch especially considering the political tensions between both countries.

    Peace lovers will most certainly enjoy the scene where the agents from both sides talk about how if India and Pakistan were one, they would have the best cricket team in the world, as is the conversation about the music artists that if the likes of Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Abida Paveen and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan were all doing a concert together, how wonderful would that be! It all makes it a jubilant watch.

    However, for me the real scene stealer is Katrina. When it’s a Salman Khan action drama, it’s hard for the female lead to get much mileage, but Kaif does and delivers some kick ass stunts.

    Katrina compliments Salman Khan perfectly and it’s this team work that makes the film work, in an otherwise predictable and loose storyline. The pace of the film could have been a little tighter and perhaps the storyline could have been a little tenser, especially considering the subject has been taken from a real-life incident. I also feel that Ali Abbas Zafar could have done a lot more with the direction, considering he had the star presence of Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif.

    The supporting cast do a good job. Paresh Rawal is effective and the antagonist, Abu Usman played by Sajjad Delafrooz performs his role well.

    Over all Salman fans are not going to leave the theatres disappointed as they will most definitely get to see an avtar that they’ve enjoyed before in Ek Tha Tiger.

    Rating: 4/5

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    Fukrey Returns trailer is here and it promises a joyride for audiences


    The 'Fukrey' boys – Choocha, Hunny, Lali, Zafar – are back and so is Bholi Panjavan who has returned from the jail and is in no mood to relinquish her evil hold over the boys. The whole team of 2013's sleeper hit is back with 'Fukrey Returns' to tickle the funny bones of audiences once again by its unique characterisation and funny moments.

    Fukrey Returns trailer is here and it promise a joyride for audiences

    The trailer of 'Fukrey Returns' which released today promises more fun and gambol this time and shows the wilder side of the gang. Choocha (played by Varun Sharma) who used to see the winning lottery numbers in his dreams in the first part, can now see the future. And due to his this new trait which has been called ‘deja-chu’, the boys get in trouble again. Courtesy Choocha's extrasensory perception ability, the entire group takes off on yet another adventure that is filled with fun and chaos.

    Besides Varun Sharma and his friends-in-crime, Pulkit Samrat, Manjot Singh and Ali Fazal, Richa Chadda also returns in the sequel. Her character of Bholi Punjavan is back from jail and wants to take her revenge from the four and make them run again. Actor Pankaj Tiwari has also an interesting role and he lends a great support to the boys. Especially the last scene between Pankaj and Varun is hilarious.

    The trailer also shows the strange encounter with a snake and tiger leaving the audiences wondering what role they have in play and how the Fukrey gang clash with them. There are lots of moments in the trailer that will make you smile and even scream.

    Overall, 'Fukrey Returns' trailer is already a winner. It promises a joyride for the audiences. Directed by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, this comic-caper is releasing in cinemas on 15th December.


    O mere Mehboob song from Dharam Veer to be recreated in Fukrey Returns

    The makers of 'Fukrey Returns' have recreated the iconic song, "O meri Mehbooba", from Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Zeenat Aman and Neetu Singh starrer 1977 fantasy-adventure, 'Dharam Veer'. Picturized on the four boys, this song is the first track in 'Fukrey Returns' and comes at a crucial point. Although the new version has Raftaar's rape and 'Kaala Chasma' fame Prem Hardeep's composition, Mohd. Rafi's voice and the original hook line have been retained in it.

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    Ittefaq Trailer Review


    Yash Chopra's 1969 murder mystery 'Ittfaq' starring Rajesh Khanna and Nanda is considered a classic coming from Yash Raj banner. It's one of the path-breaking films of that era and is still counted as one of the best mysterious drama made in Bollywood. Now, Dharma Productions, BR Studios, and Red Chillies Entertainment have come together for the adaptation of the 1969 eponymous which has been directed by the original producer BR Chopra's grandson, Abhay Chopra.Ittefaq movie stills

    The trailer of the new 'Ittfaq' which was released a few days back seems intriguing and gives a sense of adrenaline rush throughout. It keeps you at the edge of your seat making you eager to know more. The crime thriller which has multiple points of view, by the trailer, looks gripping, thrilling and fascinating backed by a strong storyline.

    'Ittfaq' is a whodunit murder mystery and revolves around a night when two people are brutally killed by an anonymous person. Two suspects are trapped while investigating the double murder case. However, both of them give different perspectives about the same night to prove their innocence.

    The trailer begins with a dialogue,"What were you doing there?". An injured Sidharth Malhotra (Vikram Shetty) lands up at Sonakshi Sinha's (Maya) doorstep to ask for help. She lets him inside the house but that mistake turns their lives around. The duo who are the only witness as well as the prime suspects, through interrogating with police, depict the incident different way making the case more challenging and cryptical.Ittefaq movie stills

    While all fingers point to Sidharth and Sonakshi's characters, the end of the trailer shows the doorbell ringing which indicates that a third person might have also been involved in the incident that happened that calamitous night.

    Sidharth who has been seen in rusky look again after 'A Gentleman' shows his rowdy attitude and trapped suspect pain brilliantly. Sonakshi as a "misunderstood" woman intrigues with a never-seen-before performance from her. However, it's Akshaye Khanna who shines in the two-and-half-minutes trailer. Akshaye plays the role of a no-nonsense cop who will stop at nothing to find the truth since both the witnesses' testimonies are immensely different.

    The visuals in the trailer are fantastic. The dialogues raise the curiosity. There is a scene in the trailer where Akshaye proclaims, "There are three versions of the story. His Story. Her Story. And the Truth. We've to find the Truth." This surely arouses the interest to this crime thriller.

    Ittefaq movie stills

    However, despite the trailer is riveting, it has its own flaws. Although it's been said that 'Ittfaq' will not be a direct rip-off of the original, it doesn't seem the movie has been updated to keep up with the times. There are some scenes which are very unconvincing and won't go well with the audience in 2017. For example, Sidharth climbs up to the first floor to ask for help. Usually, if someone gets injured in an accident, he goes to the nearest house which would probably be on the ground floor. So when a physically injured guy jumps to the first floor of a flat just to ask for a phone call from her landline, it doesn't look anything than flimsy.

    Overall, the 'Ittfaq' trailer looks amazing. A crime thriller told through multiple points of view, no songs, no romantic angles, 100-minute run-time and a new twist to the end are the factors enough to make it an interesting watch. It seems like a not-to-be-missed movie and I am excited to catch it in theatres when it releases on 3rd November 2017.

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    REVIEW: Sukanya – Indians can do opera

    Even if you’re not familiar with classical Indian music you’ve probably heard of the global sensation, composer and musician Ravi Shankar. At the age of 90 ‘Pandit’ Ravi Shankar began to write his only opera -Sukanya, which is a love letter to his now, Widow Sukanya Rajan.

    Sold as a semi staged production the story is a tiny segment from the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. With an amalgamation of a fifty-five piece London Philharmonic Orchestra, five Indian musicians, nineteen BBC Singers, an international cast, dancers from the Aakash Odedra Company and libretto from Amit Chaudhuri, you no doubt walk into the auditorium with plenty of expectations.

    Alok Kumar sings Chyvana and Susanna Hurrell sings Sukanya

    Sukanya begins and we’re introduced to Chyvana, an old sage who sits to meditate for so long that he becomes cocooned by an ant hill. When the unaware Princess Sukanya stabs at the ant hill she accidently blinds Chayvana. To make amends her father King Sharyaati offers his daughter to the sage. The loving marriage is disrupted when two jealous demigods challenge Sukanya, asking would she still recognise her own husband if he was of similar resemblance to them. She declines the challenge but her husband accepts on her behalf.  

    Admittedly there was a sneaky dread that Sukanya may become lost in its own grandness, thankfully this wasn’t the case. The Opera was beautifully directed by Suba Das who made his Royal Opera debut. The six singers sang their roles well, the demigod duo (Aswini Twins) singers Michel de Souza and Njabulo Madlala enjoyed great chemistry. The choreography and dancers were effortlessly perfect, mesmerising us with their swirls, turns and stamps.    

    The magnificent Welsh conductor David Murphy was also making his debut. The Easter and western music effortlessly danced into the air in perfect harmony, there were moments you could have easily closed your eyes and be lost in the magic. The musical utopia gave you shivers down your back and goose bumps on your arms.

    The demigods were sung by Michel de Souza (L) and Njabulo Madlala (R)

    The stage was designed as three staircases, with the central staircase including steps large enough to allow performances to sing or dance on, which worked perfecting when a fifty-five piece Orchestra sat at the base. I’m very fond of video imagery, the mood and space is created perfectly and quickly. However there were times when the imagery projected on performers and the background was not the background, which was a little off putting if you want to be lost in the world of the story. Saying that, one of my favourite visual moments was when the ant hill formed around Chyvana, it was a greatly effective and creative use of video projection.

    Although there is love for a fusion of music and an admiration for a multicultural cast, I’m not sure it worked so well when Keel Watson (King Sharyaati) a black singer and actor played the part of a white Susanna Hurrell’s (Sukanya) father. It did lead me to ponder over questions of lack of opportunities and representation. The brilliant Alok Kumar who played Chyvana is a beyond capable singer and performer but it was clear that this character was referred to as ‘old’ and then begins the spiral down questions of where are the mature actors? Does it make a difference? How old is old? Should it make a difference?   

    During the interval a white lady turned to me to say “I didn’t even know you had opera” I had to get her to repeat two more times, purely because I didn’t understand the statement. It was evident my repeated ask unintentionally made her and her friend very self conscious and unintentionally I allowed an uncomfortable politically incorrect feeling fill the air.  
    She didn’t know I had opera?
    What I concluded from that was “I” meaning “we” meaning South Asians did Opera. To be honest nor did I, but if it comes my way looking and sounding anything close to what Sukanya did, I’m not going to complain.

    Excited for the future development of Sukanya and hoping the full production will be alive and touring in the very near future.

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    Restaurant review: The Pind, in Bradford

    Authentic Lahori food can be enjoyed at the Pind restaurant in Bradford.
    Watch our review here:

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    Finding Fatimah: When Millennial Muslims look for love

    Finding Fatimah is a fresh take on the great British Muslim matrimonial crisis. How to find love (and get married) as you approach your 30's while keeping it all strictly 'halal'.

    The film starts with Shahid, played by Danny Ashok, approaching the big Three-Oh, trying to make last ditch efforts to get a printing business running, a business that he would eventually have to sell and worse of all, he is divorced already! After failing to find a suitable partner in his own circles , Shahid, like a true blue millennial turns to the internet.

    Fatimah-poster2What is British Muslim online dating all about? Shahid finds out pretty soon. After a few dates go horribly awry, Shahid almost gives up but just before he does, he finds a young doctor called Fatimah, played by the beautiful Asmara Gabrielle. There's only one tiny problem though - Shahid hasn't told Fatimah that he was previously married! Will the misunderstanding be resolved in time? I'll let you watch the film to find out.

    Both Danny and Asmara do complete justice to their parts, as they play characters with their own complicated backstories. There's something endearing about seeing them together as they navigate their relationship and  the people around them.

    Finding Fatimah does have its shortcomings though. The execution of the comic scenes could have been better as I felt a lot of the situations that might have potentially been hilarious on paper turn out to be a bit blah when played out. That shouldn't stop you from watching it. If nothing else, it will open up a window into a very real struggle that a lot of young British Asian Muslims are going through.

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    City of Tiny Lights: Riz Ahmed is the star of this noir crime thriller

    If you aren't a Riz Ahmed fan already (WHY aren't you by the way? but more on that later) you will be by the time you walk out because Riz is the brightest thing about the otherwise slow crime thriller set in London.

    The story revolves around ace private detective, Tommy Akhtar - an obedient and caring son to his ailing father - who gets himself embroiled into a case that requires him to investigate the circumstances surrounding a missing prostitute.

    The director, Pete Travis, whose previous works include, Vantage Point, has tried his hands at this noir piece of cinema that succeeds in showing London, in all its multicultural, multiracial glory. This is the London that is rarely shown in mainstream cinema. It is gritty and grimy and yet it is warm and interesting. There are dark alleys and neon signs and a living, breathing city.

    The premise of the film has everything going for itself, on paper at least. We have the ghosts of the last hanging over the main characters like thick, invisible clouds, the policemen you can't really trust and religious fundamentalists preaching their own brand of religion.

    Where the film suffers greatly is the pace. The story takes a while to unravel and by the time it gets to the climax, you might not care anymore. And that is not the sign of a film that calls itself an edge of the seat thriller.

    This is not Riz's first mainstream cinema outing. He has recently starred in Rogue One, the HBO mini-series The Night Of and Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, all roles where he has been recognised. Ahmed has also been admired for his speech in the parliament on the need for British TV to reflect the diverse reality of the people who make up modern Britain (hear, hear). City of Tiny Lights is definitely carried through by Ahmed and is sure to get him acting accolades and critical acclaim.

    The supporting cast tries its best to add something special to the film. Billie Piper as Ahmed's love interest from the past is brilliant but sadly doesn't have much material to play with. One of my favourite characters has to be Ahmed's dad, played by Roshan Seth. Roshan is a treat in the few scenes that he is in.

    Overall, City of Tiny Lights is a film that audiences who are fans of noir cinema will enjoy. Others might want to go in with some extra patience!

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    Phillauri: A tale of love and longing

    Phillauri is Anushka Sharma’s second home production, and much like her first, NH10, it tries to tell a different story. The film has a simple storyline. It starts off in the present day, as Kanan Gill (Suraj Sharma) returns from Canada to get married to his childhood sweetheart, Anu (Mehreen Pirzada) in a big fat Punjabi wedding. There is a problem, however. The priest tells the family that Kanan is ‘Manglik’ which means that he has to symbolically marry a tree first in order to ward off evil influences that might affect his life with Anu. Much against his will, Kanan agrees and gets married to an old tree. Unknown to anyone though, the tree has a resident ghost, Shashi (enter Anushka Sharma) who now considers herself to be married to Kanan. Thus, begins a Love Aaj Kal-esque love story where the past guides the present through, to find the real essence of love.

    Shashi shares her backstory in flashback and we are taken back to pre-partition India, more precisely to a small village called Phillaur, which is steeped in tradition. Shashi lives with her strict brother, who is a doctor who believes that music and arts are tabooed pastimes and must be avoided. The doctor, who has a sympathetic corner for the freedom fighters of the time, is unaware of the fact that his own sister Shashi is a talented poetess whose poems are loved by readers all over Punjab. Keeping in line with her brother’s beliefs, Shashi keeps her identity hidden and writes under the pseudonym ‘Phillauri’. All is well until she comes face to face with Roop (Diljit Dosanjh) and what follows is a beautiful love story that will make your heart skip a beat.

    Shashi and Roop’s love story offers audiences a window into a very different world. A world where love isn’t transient, it holds and lives on through distances where all lovers have are stolen glances and infrequent letters from the other. In that regard, Phillauri’s tale of love will appeal to audiences of all ages; in today’s age people may not believe in love that lives on beyond death but the idea is still an endearing one. The director Anshai Lal lends subtlety to the romance, which I wish he brought to the modern day couple of Kanan and Anu as well.

    While Phillauri’s basic premise may have shades of Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’, the treatment is different. Phillauri is also much more than just a love story as the writer, Anvita Dutt, adds a lesson or two about the importance of letting women pursue their dreams and the value of respect and dignity in a relationship, but without making the narrative preachy and that is always a win!

    Phillauri is a musical treat. Shashwat and Jasleen have put together an album that takes influences from folk melodies and gives them a refreshing feel. From the soulful Dum Dum to the melancholic Sahiba, the music is hard to forget; a much needed, pleasant break from the auto-tuned songs that we have been subjected to of late. Anvita Dutt’s meaningful lyrics add to the magic.

    In the acting department, Anushka Sharma is a clear winner. She delivers her hilarious wisecracks with a straight face and does an equally good job emoting the pain of love lost. During the flashbacks, she looks every bit a strong, yet vulnerable girl. A special mention must be made of the costumes – from the traditional shalwar suits to the silver jhumkas – everything adds to the authenticity of the story. Diljit, who brings honesty to his role shines as a kohl-eyed musician who is transformed by love. Mehreen Pirzada doesn’t have so much to play with but she still makes an impact – I particularly liked her in the second half. The only let down is Suraj Sharma, who albeit brilliant in his Hollywood outings, just could not express himself in Phillauri. So much so that in the first half it feels like he pretty much has the same expression of bewilderment on his face.

    Overall, Phillauri has more positives than negatives and despite its weak moments, it is a film you need to watch, especially if you like love stories. You will leave the theatres with a smile on your face!

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    Movie review: Udta Punjab – This is what cinema should be!


    Before I go on to the film itself, a small note: Udta Punjab has had more than its share of controversy. First, the censor board refused to pass it without substantial cuts and even a name change (they insisted on ‘Punjab’ being dropped from the title – the producers, thankfully, held their ground). Eventually the Mumbai High Court ruled in favour of the film’s release with only minor changes. Just as the makers Udta punjab kareen diljitbreathed a sigh of relief, and resumed promotions in full swing, it emerged that the full movie had been leaked online. While it remains to be seen who was behind the leak, the pirated downloads will definitely affect the film’s business – both in India and abroad. I would urge readers to see the film at the cinema – you will not be disappointed!

    Udta Punjab is not your typical Bollywood family entertainer. That, however, doesn’t mean that Abhishek Chaubey’s film isn’t a great piece of cinema. Abhishek takes the audience on an emotional journey, which offers scenes of stark realism. There is no sugar-coating and no fluff – just good, dark raw cinema.

    The story reudta punjabvolves around the separate yet entwined lives of a Punjabi rockstar, Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor), a migrant worker, Kumari (Alia Bhatt), a doctor, Preet (Kareena Kapoor) and a police officer played by Diljit Dosanjh. The four characters live seemingly separate, imperfect lives that are impacted in one way or another by drugs.

    Udta Punjab shows you another side of the state of Indian Punjab, a place that is best known for its rich food and strong sense of joie de vivre. The drug menace is eating away at the heart of the land which was once the agrarian centre of India, brimming with optimism. What makes the film such a success is that director, Abhishek Chaubey, doesn’t shy away from the hard-hitting reality and sheds light and makes great effort to elaborate on the nexus between the different forces at play without preaching.

    While the director paces the movie well overall, there are a few sequences in the second half that could be edited shorter. Even these do not take away from the bigger picture that makes Udta Punjab some of the most heart-felt cinema I have seen in a while.

    Punjabi superstar Diljit Dosanjh makes his Hindi movie debut playing a Sikh cop. Kareena Kapoor is her usual A-list self as a doctor who looks after addicts and is working on a report to lend awareness to the shahid_udta_punjab_980x457cause. The two standout performances for me, however, belong to Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt. Shahid, has emerged as an acting powerhouse, glimpses of which we have seen in a slew of films that the actor has done. If you thought his phenomenal portrayal in Haider set a benchmark then Udta Punjab will leave you floored. There is not one flawed frame where Shahid’s acting is concerned.

    Alia Bhatt might not be the first name that comes to mind when one says ‘Bihari migrant worker’ but the actress takes the character and makes it her own. Alia might be one of the youngest in her generation of

    Handout Picture: A still from Udta Punjab

    A still from Udta Punjab

    Bollywood actresses but is fast cementing her place as the finest. Abhishek Chaubey once again extracts a performance to remember from Alia. Many scenes, Alia reminded me of a young Kareena in ‘Chameli’ with her earnestness and honesty playing the role of Kumari.

    By the end of the film, I was shaken and stirred. Somewhere in my mind, I am still thinking about the characters whose journey I felt I was a part of. And of the countless others who have become mired with the menace of drugs. For me, this is what cinema should be.

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    Fan: Watch it, 'Fan' or no 'Fan'!


    Fan has a very basic premise – there’s Gaurav, a middle-class boy from Inder Nagar in Delhi who is obsessed with a Bollywood superstar called Aryan Khanna. The highlight of Gaurav’s year is winning a ‘Super Sitara’ talent competition in his colony (or clony as he calls it) – his special act being imitating his idol to get much love and applause from the society residents.

    #FANMotionPosterGaurav feels that he has a special connection with Aryan Khanna. Firstly because of the uncanny resemblance that he shares with Aryan Khanna and also because Aryan himself grew up in Rajinder Nagar, another locality in Delhi, not much different from his own. Gaurav’s bedroom is a shrine to the star who he worships. For Aryan’s birthday, Gaurav decided to finally go to Mumbai to give a personal gift Aryan.

    The scenes that follow change the mood of the film, taking it a few notches darker – as the fan in Gaurav pits himself against his idol. There is major drama, action sequences but surprisingly, for a Shah Rukh Khan film no songs!

    As you see Gaurav’s obsession take on unhealthier shades, you can see an underlying creepy viciousness while at the same time your heart goes out to him when he somewhat naively carries on with his actions without much thought to the consequences. It is in these parts that we see the Shah Rukh of Darr and Baazigar and oh, how good it feels to witness that again on the big screen.

    Even when the screenplay and story become a tad tedious in the second half, it is Shah Rukh Khan’s powerhouse performance that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The challenge is two-folded:  to play the 25 year old fan so that he comes across as menacing yet vulnerable and to play a superstar, essentially himself. Shah Rukh smoothly slips from one into the other giving keeping his portrayal of both highly nuanced and making it look much easier than it was.

    Shah Rukh is in every frame of the film and completely owns his space. You cannot help but feel Untitledemotionally invested in the journey which makes the film stay with you long after you’ve finished watching. Add to this the excellent editing and the crisp storytelling and you can see the genius of the director, Maneesh Sharma!

    After acting in films that did no favours for his acting skills for the better part of the decade, Shah Rukh finally seems to have found a good balance when picking scripts. This one is definitely one of his career best performances.

    Fan is triumphantly different to any other Bollywood film I’ve seen recently - go watch it to see a vintage classic! We give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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