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Raazi trailer: Meghna Gulzar’s fierce espionage thriller could be a game changer for Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal

Right from the onset of the two-minute-long trailer of Raazi, you get a sense of what the film is going to, in a good way. It is definitely going to be one of Alia Bhatt’s finest performances of her promising career so far. For director Meghna Gulzar, it will be one more feather in her cap after Talvar and for Vicky Kaushal, it will be her big bollywood breakout role. Therefore, if what you see in the trailer is further enhanced in the film, then Raazi is going to be a game changer for a lot of people.

Alia Bhatt as Sehmat in Raazi. YouTube

Raazi is the tale of a young Indian woman Sehmat, who is married off to a Pakistani boy who hails from a family of army-men. Sehmat’s father is a true-blue patriot (or so he thinks) and asks his daughter to be the “eyes and ears of India” in the neighbouring country. Rigorous martial arts, shooting and fitness regimes take over and Sehma is fully equipped to be a spy. What follows is an intense tale of betrayal, lies, agenda and secrecy.

Torn between her duties as the wife of a Pakistani and her Indian-ness, Bhatt’s Sehmat remains the focal point of the trailer. Her character is mysteriously splendid and so self-aware. Kaushal, who clearly has no idea who he’s married to, is faithfully by her side, unaware. Considering the lasting impact of its trailer, Raazi looks like it has the potential to be one of the most successful films of the year.

Backed by Junglee Pictures and Dharma Productions, Raazi releases on 11 May, 2018.

Irrfan Khan-starrer Blackmail celebrates yet another man for not giving in to his violent urges

I watched his new movie Blackmail and he still seems to be sitting on the same terrace from Neeraj Pandey’s film A Wednesday. Either way, Blackmail’s Dev (Irrfan Khan) seems like quite a disturbed man from the get-go.

According to the filmmakers, Blackmail is alternatively spelt Blackmale or Blackमेल. This gives you more than enough reason to think that this is supposed to be a comment on men and their minds, the way they think, the reflexive actions they take and the plans they make when confronted with various scenarios.

Maybe that’s why I, patently not a man, found Dev so bizarre.

I will never understand why Dev regularly feels the need to steal photos of his colleagues’ wives to use as visual aids while masturbating in the office bathroom. But then again, perhaps this was just meant to be an edgy and complex addition to the movie and to Dev’s dark character. Dev seems to be very prone to graphic and murderous thoughts about the people who anger him, especially women. When he comes home and sees his wife Reena (Kirti Kulhari) in bed with another man, Ranjit, you’re shown his first instinctive reaction: He fantasises about smashing a heavy lamp into his wife’s head, and then about murdering the dude she’s with using a knife.

This is a thought process that — had he gone ahead and committed either of those murders by the way — would have received some sympathy from the courts and public. In many countries across the world, including our own, catching your wife in bed with another man is the textbook example of a situation that allows for a “crime of passion”. Murdering your wife or her lover in this situation is very likely to earn you a much lesser sentence than regular murder, simply because it wasn’t premeditated.

Meanwhile, India’s dusty old adultery laws ensure that in this situation, Ranjit was the only person committing the “crime” of adultery here at all, as only men can be found guilty of sleeping with another man’s wife (because you know, women have no agency and always belong to some man).

Perhaps this is why, when Dev settles on the option of blackmail instead of murder as his preferred form of retribution, he decides to send Ranjit text messages asking if he was having an affair with a “shaadi-shudha” woman. This sets off an extremely complicated chain of events that there really is no point getting into here, so let it be enough to say that Dev blackmails Ranjit, Ranjit blackmails Reena, Dev’s colleague Prabha blackmails Dev, and then the private investigator that Ranjit hires also blackmails Dev.

Irrfan Khan in a still from Blackmail. YouTube

Through the course of this complicated chain of events, we are shown the depictions of seven murders. Four of the murders take place in Dev’s mind, while the other three deaths occur in reel life.

Of the seven, one imaginary victim and one in-reel-life victim are male. The others are all women, murdered in reflexive male anger. One woman’s body, that of Ranjit’s wife Dolly, is dragged across a room and stuffed into a fridge. The shot is taken from above, allowing you to see a long, wet, u-shaped smear of blood adorn the breadth of the very large room. A little while later, you see the corner of Dolly’s dress hanging out of the fridge.

When I saw these scenes, I was immediately reminded of the British author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless. Back in January, she started the Staunch book prize for thriller novels “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered”. This is her attempt to clean up movies of glorified misogynistic violence, by addressing their usual source material, books. Lawless would give no prizes or money to the makers of Blackmail. Here, the majority of the murders depicted don’t even happen in the movie’s actual plot and isn’t serving as some larger plot device; but happen only in Dev’s own imagination. They exist either simply for their own sake, or as tools to show Dev is a true hero by not succumbing to these feelings and also not committing any murders himself. Three cheers for Mr Dev!

The shots of women’s bodies in Blackmail, especially poor Dolly’s, have a different flavour and texture from what we see of men’s bodies. The few shots of male bodies and murders are much shorter, and somehow far less gory. We don’t see them laid out aesthetically on a table for ages, like Dolly, and we’re not shown the same gruesome frames again and again, as with Prabha.

With the men, we’re shown just enough to know that they’re dead. With the women, you almost feel like we’re meant to see or appreciate something more, because we’ve sure as hell understood they were dead ages ago.

But in the midst of all this dubious imagery, there is one joke that’s extremely self-aware and hilarious. When Prabha, blackmailer #3, is found dead, all the men in the movie, including the policeman investigating her case and the closeted gay boss at her erstwhile workplace, keep talking or yelling about how sad they feel that a virgin has died. This is offered up with no explanation and plenty of exaggeration, particularly when the boss asks Dev if he’s looking depressed because Prabha was murdered and was a virgin.

Blackmail, as happy to shed female blood as it is, does offer up a few enjoyable moments like these. It also contains several boring cliches: like Dev’s hackneyed closeted-gay boss in the toilet paper company he works at (and all the juvenile butt jokes this combination can bring to mind), or a scene where Dev is sitting ponderously on his terrace and the billboard behind him flickers to show only the alphabets Life Suc. Still, these are silly cliches we can put up with, in the larger scheme of things.

High Jack trailer: Sumeet Vyas packs a punch in this trippy comedy filled with interesting characters

The trippy stoner comedy High Jack dropped its first trailer on Tuesday and it looks like one helluva ride.

The trailer reveals the story of three disgruntled employees of a failing airline who decide to hijack a plane. The first-time hijackers along with the passengers accidentally get high, resulting in a series of hilarious, whacky series of events. With stakes that have never been higher, it turns from a hijacking into one big party, high in the sky.

High Jack promo poster. Image via Twitter

High Jack stars Sumeet Vyas as DJ Rakesh, an out of luck DJ, who happens to be just one of many strangely interesting characters on the plane. It also features Sonnalli Seygall and Mantra Mugdh in pivotal roles.

The film is being produced by Phantom Films in association with OTT video service Viu. It marks the directorial debut of Akarsh Khurana in Bollywood and is also Viu’s first foray into films.

Vishal Maheshwari, Country Head, Viu India, said in a statement: “With the evolution of OTT platforms and consumers’ tastes, quality content rules and that’s why collaborating for a film like High Jack is apt for us.

“Phantom Films is known for giving its audiences an exceptional movie going experience and it gives us great pleasure to partner in with them. The film will definitely enhance the original content catalogue on our platform.”

High Jack is scheduled to release on 20 April.

Ten years of Race: Third installment celebrates everything the original film had — with the bonus of Salman Khan

Although many might not have noticed the timing of Salman Khan sharing a picture of Bobby Deol as Yash, a character from their upcoming film Race 3, it was rather fortuitous. The star tweeted his co-star’s picture just a couple of days before the tenth anniversary of the release of the first film in the ‘Race series’, Race (2008).

With a major overhaul both in front and behind the camera with Salman Khan replacing Saif Ali Khan as the male lead and Remo D’Souza helming the project instead of Abbas-Mustan, the third film in the action-thriller franchise is all set to join the likes of Jolly LLB to get a reboot — where the film ages the stakes only get bigger.

Traditionally, the concept of sequels tends to lose a bit of sheen with the passage of time. Take the case of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish series, which became a barely noticed almost B-film by the time the fifth film released 22-years after the original that came out in 1974. And then there’s First Blood (1982), the debut of the Rambo series, which was made on a budget of $15 million USD but the third, First Blood III (1988) was mounted on a budget of over $60 million USD and even though the film made almost $200 million USD the idea had became jaded and it would be two-decades before the fourth film, Rambo (2008) hit the screens.

In the context of Hindi films, the sequel has come as god sent and the combination of a ‘sequel’ and a ‘reboot’ has only made things better for the stars. For Salman Khan, the Race franchise offers the slick urban thriller template that is a stark contrast to his other franchise, Dabangg, where it’s the Chulbul Pandey character that lends repeat value. There are talks about a third Dabangg rumored to be directed by Prabhudeva and chances of a fourth Race cannot be ruled out as it gives the producer, Tips Films, a go-to project every couple of years.

Similarly, for Ajay Devgn, the Golmaal series offers a template that could work as well with or without standard character (Gopal) while Singham gives him the character that he could play well into his sunset years, a la Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson with Dirty Harry and Death Wish series. For Akshay Kumar, Jolly LLB offered a chance to go back to doing comic roles but with a tinge of social messaging, which has come to be seen as his forte.

For a Kangana Ranaut, and nearly most of the Tanu Weds Manu primary cast (R. Madhavan, Swara Bhaskar, Deepak Dobriyal, and Eijaz Khan) their characters in the series can be rekindled at any point in the future without much thought.

The is no question that the near-obsessive drive with which producers and production houses are investing in reboots and remakes is an indication of an abject lack of fresh ideas. In fact, it’s rather saddening to see how filmmakers, as opposed to paying homage to the greats from the previous generations, are choosing to rehash the past simply because frankly, they don’t give a damn (beyond making money, that is).

Some part of this nostalgia-driven reboot/ rejig drive is also an easy way out for many – after all, it’s all about the relationship between characters and the viewer, so why not revisit the tried and tested beloved characters rather than reinvent the wheel?

Salman Khan tweeted about Race 3 in the same week as the release of the film film, a decade ago. Race 3 also seems to be a subtle attempt to rekindle the memories of Salman Khan’s Wanted (2009); the pose that Khan is captured in on Race 3’s first poster is almost Wanted redux.

Alia Bhatt has made pact with Katrina, Deepika to do films together: ‘I’m game for a good chick flick’

Alia Bhatt has over the years cemented her position as a formidable acting talent in Bollywood. With her incredible performances in films (Highway, Udta Punjab, Dear Zindagi, to name a few) and a major fan following, she is one of the most-sought after actresses in Hindi film industry today.

Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone. Facebook

With A-listers like Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif as her BFFs, Bhatt says she’s all game for a “good chick flick” with the other two actresses.

According to a report by Deccan Chronicle, Bhatt has expressed her desire to work with Kaif and Padukone (individually) in films. In an interview, she is reported to have said that she has made a pact with the two actresses to do films together.

She particularly talked about the changing scenario for women in Indian films. She said, “It has become progressive for actresses today. But, there’s still a long way to go. The best thing is that now, they are standing by each other. For instance, imagine Dil Chahta Hai being remade with three girls today. It would be wonderful. I’m game for a good chick flick,” reports Deccan Chronicle.

Bhatt has been busy of late completing her shoot schedules for Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi along with Masaan actor Vicky Kaushal; Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy along with Ranveer Singh and then Ayan Mukerji’s magnum opus Brahmastra with Ranbir Kapoor.

Varun Dhawan, Katrina Kaif to pair up for the first time in Remo D’Souza’s ‘biggest dance film’

It is confirmed now that choreographer-turned-director Remo D’Souza’s magnum opus will star Varun Dhawan and Katrina Kaif. The film is touted to be D’Souza’s ‘biggest dance film’ — whether it will be the third installment of his dance movie franchise ABCD (Any Body Can Dance), or a fresh film is not yet known.

It was earlier reported that D’Souza and T-Series’ Bhushan Kumar are all set to collaborate for this massive project. Adarsh had previously tweeted on 3 March stating that the big announcement regarding the film’s cast will be made on 19 March.

Varun Dhawan and Katrina Kaif during a performance. Image from Twitter/@KatrinaKaifFB

Watch: Baaghi 2 song ‘Ek Do Teen’ is a musical tribute to Madhuri Dixit, but falls flat visually

As soon as it was reported that Jacqueline Fernandez is going to feature in a revamped version of Madhuri Dixit’s popular dance number — ‘Ek Do Teen’ from the 1988 film Tezaab — it became a huge topic of discussion, owing to the iconic stature the dance number commands in Bollywood. The wait is finally over and the new song is out. While the Baaghi 2 song (musically) is a tribute to the original track, but visually it remains far from it.

Jacqueline Fernandez in Baaghi 2 song 'Ek Do Teen'. YouTube screengrab

Fernandez also said that they never intended to compete with the original song and that Dixit was ‘unmatchable’ — the revamped version underlines her statement. Indeed, it is no match to the Tezaab track.

The new song retains the catch phrase, the same musical set up and makes you tap your feet. Shreya Ghoshal matches to the spark of Alka Yagnik’s vocal texture. There are moments when if you close your eyes and listen to the track you might actually get transported to the ’90s. But the moment you open your eyes, there’s a reality check waiting for you.

So what’s wrong with the track? Jacqueline looks pretty and expressive, and does seem like she’s paying a homage to Dixit (her dress also bears resemblance to Madhuri’s pink-yellow outfit). But the choreography is distasteful, regressive and cringe-worthy.

This is even more shocking because it was reported that three choreographers — Baaghi 2 director Ahmed Khan, Ganesh Acharya and veteran Saroj Khan — had collaborated for this song. Saroj Khan had even choreographed the original song. In spite of this deadly combination of dancing maestros, how could something like this be passed?

There is a part in the song where a few men take Jacqueline’s jacket off to unveil her dress while she unzips it. While Madhuri’s dance was more about her claiming her space and dancing her heart out, this revamped version seems to only want to succumb to the male gaze.

Trailer of Alia Bhatt-starrer Raazi to reportedly release with Varun Dhawan’s next film October

With Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan both gearing up for their upcoming releases where they portray unconventional characters, the trailer launch of Bhatt’s Raazi along with Varun Dhawan’s upcoming release October on 13 April seems to fit the narrative. It is being reported that Raazi’s trailer will be attached to Varun’s film October as reported by Pinkvilla.

Varun Dhawan has high expectations from his unconventional role in Shoojit Sircar’s October, which is touted as a unique love story between Dhawan’s unlikely devotion to Banita Sandhu who ends up in an ICU. “When I heard the story, I was so moved by it that I felt the need of doing the film. I need the film more than anyone else in the room at this point of time in my career,” said the actor about working on the upcoming release.

Varun Dhawan in October and Alia Bhatt in Raazi/Image from Twitter.

Karishma Tanna sued by event management company for allegedly backing out of show, causing losses

A legal notice has been sent to TV actress Karishma Tanna by the manager of a Delhi-based event management company for alleged fraud. Manas Katyal, who runs the company, claims that Tanna was supposed to perform at a wedding reception in Haldwani, Uttarakhand for which she had been paid in advance.

Karishma Tanna. Image from Twitter/@KARISHMAK_TANNA

However, according to his statement to Mid-Day, he alleges that Tanna, who was to travel to Haldwani from Delhi, told the driver to turn around after reaching Moradabad or she would accuse him harassment. Therefore, the driver was forced to turn around and take her back to Delhi. Katyal further claims that her no-show caused the company a loss of Rs 10 lakh.

However, according to Tanna’s version of the incident, she was told that the wedding was happening in Moradabad. But when the car crossed Moradabad, she realised that she had been duped and was being taken to Haldwani instead. She claims she had already told Katyal that her medical problem won’t allow her to travel long distances and he proceeded to make her believe that the wedding was at Moradabad. She tells the publication that she is not going to return the money because of the mental harassment she faced because of the incident.