Category Archives: Movies Review

Gold movie review: Akshay Kumar-starrer’s penchant for overstatement overshadows its few moments of moving quiet

Chak De! India is arguably the gold standard for any contemporary Hindi film hoping to use sport as a showcase for this country’s complex multi-cultural landscape. Gender politics, a factious nation’s religious and regional tensions, and the inevitability of inter-personal rivalries in a team game all found a place in Shimit Amin’s fabulous 2007 film about the Indian women’s hockey team at the turn of the century finding its oxygen under a new coach, yet it appeared not to strain a nerve to sermonise. Chak De! is a hard act to follow.

Director Reema Kagti’s Gold sets itself on the same playing field — hockey, this time for men — but shifts its gaze to a period stretching from 1936 pre-Independence India to the first Olympics we played after the British left our shores. India, as we know from history texts, dominated world hockey for several decades back then. Cobbling a team together for the 1948 Olympics was a challenging task, however, for a fictional team manager called Tapan Das (Akshay Kumar), with Partition having robbed us of many of our great sporting talents. In this scenario, Tapanda battles his own alcoholism and a cynical hockey establishment, in addition to the parochial and class divisions within the team to get free India a gold, not so much for sporting glory and self realisation but to take revenge on our former colonisers.

Akshay Kumar in a still from Gold. Image via Twitter

In the tradition of several Akshay Kumar films of the past 3-4 years, Kagti — who earlier made the neatly irreverent Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and the wonderfully mellow Talaash — goes full throttle into loud, chest-thumping nationalist territory for Gold. If a point has to be made, it is spelt out not once but repeatedly. If a personal experience has to be a source of inspiration for a brainwave on the hockey field, the dialogue from the earlier moment must be replayed, on the assumption perhaps that viewers are not bright enough to get the hint from the proceedings on screen. If two characters are going to be at war in the dressing room, then their potential clash is announced through a long song that stresses and re-stresses and further stresses their class differences, just in case the audience did not quite get it from the initial indicators of one chap’s evident wealth and the other’s evident lack of it. And when the national anthem plays in a scene that is truly and unexpectedly moving, the emotional resonance of the turn of events that preceded it is not deemed enough, the film’s patriotic fervour has to be underlined with a fluorescent marker in the form of one man — you can guess who — shouting “Vande Mataram.”

It is hard to understand why a filmmaker as gifted as Kagti could not see that there is melodrama and great beauty intrinsic to the story of a newly Independent and poor nation winning a hockey Olympic gold for the first time under its own flag. The failure to recognise this is Gold’s Achilles heel. When Kagti does manage to weave some moments of quiet into the larger tapestry of overstatement she is working on — such as that scene in which the team first realises they will be ripped apart by Partition, or the dynamics in the bar fight which almost destroys Team India, or the warmth between the former teammates turned rivals from India and Pakistan at Olympics 1948, and most of all the two hockey matches that dominate the closing half hour. These are the scenes in which we get to see what Gold could have been if it had not underestimated its audience or been overly anxious to cash in on the raucous, aggressive patriotism dominating the current national discourse.

Kagti has saved her best for Gold’s last 30 minutes, during which, despite all the film’s follies, I found myself cheering for the Indian team and welling up with emotion for them.

Of the cast, Sunny Kaushal and Amit Sadh play the only hockey players who are well fleshed out in the writing. The excellent Vineet Kumar Singh takes on the role of Imtiaz Ali Shah, captain of the undivided Indian team, giving his character far more heft than the screenplay affords. Akshay Kumar gets the most screen time, of course, as manager-cum-talent scout-cum-coach-cum-everything to the team, but delivers an awkward, uninspired performance in which his effort to be Bengali overshadows all else.

The oddest part of Gold is the fictionalisation of the hockey players who in reality won India a gold at the 1948 Olympics. Dhyan Chand and his teammates are all part of sporting legend in India, yet for some reason, instead of using the names of these men who did us proud and bringing their characters to life, we get made up names and characters based on their experiences in Gold instead. Yelling out “Vande Mataram” on screen can hardly compensate for this disservice to these great men.

Gold has its occasional redeeming moments, but for the most part it just skims the surface of a landscape once examined with such depth by Chak De! India.

Race 3 makes opening day box-office record in Pakistan post ban, beating Avengers: Infinity War

Karachi: Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s Race 3 has set a new opening day box office collection record in Pakistan despite being released a week after the Eid festival holidays.

According to the Box Office Details website, Race 3 did a business of Rs 2.25 crore approximately on its opening day on 23 June beating Avengers Infinity War and the top Pakistani release, 7 Din Mohabbat Kay.

Still from Race 3

The film, directed by Remo D’Souza, released eight days late in Pakistan after the government imposed a ban on the screening of Indian films two days before and one week after the Eid holiday period.

The ban was imposed so that four big banner Pakistani films and other smaller regional language releases on Eid do good business without competition from Bollywood movies.

Three of the four big banner films were not well received while the Mahira Khan-starrer 7 Din Mohabbat Kay had a respectable business, raking in Rs 8.65 crore approximately from its release on Eid day (16 June) to 22 June.

Eid holidays were celebrated in Pakistan from 15 to 18 June.

Javed Sheikh’s Wajood, another big star release on Eid, also managed a total collection of just 2.55 crore in a week’s time.

The Mahira Khan-starrer had collected just Rs 1.5 crore on its opening day despite the ban on Bollywood releases.

The website said Race 3 collections were the best for any Hindi film released this year in Pakistan, making it the third biggest single day collection for any Hindi film and the highest for 2018. The film minted Rs 2.62 crore by 23 June after it started screening with a few mid-night shows at some cineplexes in Karachi and Lahore on 22 June.

The website said Race 3 had made the collections despite having lesser shows than Avengers at some cineplexes.

(Also Read: Race 3 may be another Salman Khan hit but his best films are those where he’s surrendered to director’s vision)

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero actor Ashish Verma to play drug peddler in British film Imperial Blue

Actor Ashish Verma, who has been receiving rave reviews for his role in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, will play a drug peddler who carries a specific type of drug that can make people see the future, in a British film titled Imperial Blue.

It is not the lead role but an important one.

A still from Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. YouTube

“I am playing Sanjay, a drug peddler, who carries the drug, which makes one see the future. As far as playing the protagonist is concerned, every actor would love to play the protagonist and with changing time, you see a lot of films which no longer subscribe to the typical notion of a ‘hero’, Bhavesh Joshi being one of them,” Ashish told IANS in an email interview.

Indians are generally stereotyped in the West. How is his role in Imperial Blue going to break that?

“When you are a minority or are different from others, you are often seen in a specific way. This is applicable at a macro as well as a micro level and this leads to stereotyping,” he said.

“As far as my role is concerned, my character is an Indian, in India. Me and the director Dan (Moss) were on the same page as far as the pitching was concerned. It was to keep it as real as possible and not to cater to a perception or an ‘idea’ of an Indian,” added the actor, best known for featuring in the digital project InMates.

The casting of Imperial Blue happened in India.

“The Imperial Blue casting process was very interesting. During the audition, me and my co-actor played the scene in many languages…in English, the way it was written and in our native languages, mine being Hindi and his being Swedish,” he said.

Ashish has also worked as a casting director.

“Gurvinder Singh, the director of Anhey Ghore Da Daan and Chauthi Koot was a friend of mine as well as a senior from Film and Television Institute of India. He asked me to come on board for the films, and I am glad I did. I saw it as an opportunity to learn,” said the actor.

“We were mainly working with non-actors and a part of my job was to cast, as well as to make them act. Since the language was Punjabi it was quite challenging. So I started to pick up the language.”

He had never imagined that making non-actors act would be so enriching as at times, they “subconsciously bring out nuances which professional actors struggle to”.

He has also been writing dialogues for feature films.

The Hungry is one of them. As far as producing is concerned, I limit myself to the creative end of the deal…like developing web shows for platforms,” said Ashish.

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero movie review: Harshvardhan-starrer has the right intention but is bogged down by slow pace, uneven narrative

Superhero and vigilante films lean perforce on certain tropes: A huge motivating factor (usually loss of a loved one), a set of skills and resources, the determination to do good, and a distinctive costume.

Vikramaditya Motwane’s homespun masked crusader checks all these boxes. But in this all-black ensemble with LED lights twinkling in his helmet, Bhavesh Joshi is not Batman, Superman or even Deadpool. He’s closer to American cult character Kick Ass. He gets his butt kicked, he makes rookie mistakes, he operates more from passion and guilt than with a plan. But these are the very characteristics that also connect you to this reluctant hero.

A still from Bhavesh Joshi Superhero/Image from YouTube.

The story of Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is narrated by Rajat (Ashish Verma) who recounts the escapades of his two college besties Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyuli) and Siku (Harshvardhan Kapoor). Charged up by a ground swell of public protests against corruption, they decide to stop complaining and begin acting.

Bhavesh and Siku set up an underground online channel called Insaaf TV on which, with a paper bag covering their heads, they go about exposing minor – but endemic – violations in Mumbai city. These include illegal tree cutting, urinating in public, burning of garbage in public spaces etc. They are idealistic and righteous, including making a taxi cab back up to the signal because he jumped a red light. Many of us living in Indian metros share Siku and Bhavesh’s rage and exasperation.

Siku describes their unit as the “Indian justice league”, but their only weapon is a video camera. Things get steamy when Bhavesh gets a tip-off about a man-made water shortage and the water mafia. He jumps in, feet first, to expose the corruption and nexus between various civic authorities, public servants and politicians. It’s a web that’s too big and powerful for a lone crusader.

Writers Motwane, Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Koranne have poured in their frustrations with a crumbling civic set-up and a benign law and order system in this script. The screenplay is unhurried in establishing the prologue to Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’s origin. At over 150 minutes, many of the scenes are over told and oversold and the crucial martial arts training scenes, which are part of the birth of Bhavesh Joshi, are uninspiring.

The high points in the film are action scenes at the water tanker yard and a bike chase through skywalks, parking lots and local trains, which are accented by Amit Trivedi’s pulsating background music.

Motwane inserts subtle references to what plagues Mumbai, including using an abandoned hotel emblematic of corruption. In this world, the bad guys are squarely black, in particular corporator Patil and politician Rana (Nishikant Kamat), and the cops appear to have no qualms about being unjust. Look out for a crazy scene in the dance bar with Siku, Patil and the police inspector.

There are, however, some conveniences in the script that are irksome. For instance, don’t these boys have families? How has Siku walked away from a life but not been reported as a missing person? As he wanders around the city without disguise, doesn’t Siku fear being spotted?

The find of the film is Priyanshu Painyuli – tonally correct, emotionally consistent, believable as the realist-patriot you might meet at a protest march at Gateway of India. Ashish Verma provides the binding voice to the narrative. Kapoor is a respectable addition to the troika but its in the solo scenes, in particular when the brooding is replaced by heightened emotions, that the young actor exposes his inexperience. The weakest link is Nishikant Kamat as a sleazy politician. One wonders why the director gets cast in acting roles when his range is clearly limited.

Bhavesh Joshi is not yet a superhero. While Motwane’s blueprint is derivative (you will think Kick Ass and Arrow), his thoughts and setting are localised enough to make this a convincing character within the genre. But the film’s flaw is that it’s trying to say too much and doing so at such a painful pace that much of a good intention is lost in execution.

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.

Padman banned in Pakistan; Akshay Kumar-starrer under fire for its ‘tabboo’ subject

Akshay Kumar’s Padman, based on the life of social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham who introduced low-cost sanitary pads, has been banned in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Federal Censor Board refused to clear the Bollywood movie for its release in the country. According to the members, the film deals with ‘taboo’ subjects such as menstruation and, thus, cannot be allowed to screen in Pakistan.

Furthermore, the Federal Censor Board announced a ban on the film in all cinemas across the country. “We can’t allow our film distributors to import films which are against our traditions and culture,” FCB member Ishaq Ahmed was quoted as saying by PTI.

A still from Padman/Image from Twitter.

The members of Punjab Film Censor Board also refused to watch the film saying it is based on a “taboo subject” and rejected any clearance certificate to it. “We can’t allow the screening of films on taboo subjects in our cinemas as it is not in our culture, society or even religion,” a member said.

Syed Noor, a well-known Pakistani filmmaker, said that there was a need to speak to the local film distributors and exhibitors about the films they import from other countries. “Not only this film Padman, but I think even Padmaavat should not have been released in Pakistan as it portrays Muslims in a very negative light,” Noor said.

Directed by R Balki, the film also stars Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor in pivotal roles. The movie has opened to a good reception in India as it earned Rs 10.26 crore on its first day, and is expected to cross the Rs 50 crore mark during the weekend.

Manikarnika: Rajput Karni Sena backs Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha’s claims over ‘historical tampering’ in film

Jaipur: The Shree Rajput Karni Sena, which has strongly protested against the release of periodic drama Padmaavat, has decided to back the Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha’s protest against the “historical tampering” of Queen Lakshmibai, also called Jhansi Ki Rani, in the film Manikarnika starring Kangana Ranaut.

The film is based on the life of ‘Jhansi ki Rani’ and allegedly shows the relationship of the queen with a British officer.

Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika (left); Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat (right). Facebook

Shree Rajput Karni Sena founder Lokendra Singh Kalvi, asked if his outfit is lending support to the Brahmin Mahasabha in its fight against the film, said, “Agar Brahmin ka khoon bahega to Rajput kya chup rahega, jab Rajput ka khoon baha to Brahmin kabhi chup nahi raha (Rajputs will never keep quiet if Brahmins are affected, and vice versa).” He claimed that 10,000 letters were signed with blood by Brahmins to protest the release of Padmaavat.

On the issue of quashing of FIR against Sanjay Leela Bhansali, producer of Padmaavat, and against Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, he said it had to happen as the apex court has already declared that the film should be released and linked it to the matter of freedom of expression.

“The High Court will definitely follow the Supreme Court. There is nothing new in it,” he added.

Asked if there is any chance of the film being released in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat, Kalvi said the “Supreme Court cannot dictate to cinema halls to release the film and depute paramilitary forces outside cinema halls”. The four states had earlier decided against releasing the film, and three of them had approached the apex court.

“What we know is that cinema hall owners are not ready to screen the film in any of these states,” he said, adding that on 9 February, new films are releasing and hence cinema hall owners will be more interested in those.

Film distributor Raj Bansal, who looks after the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradeh market, has refused to release the film in the two states. The Multiplex Association has also refused to release the film in Rajasthan, Kalvi said.

“We have asked the government to set up a pre-screening board to look into issues related to historical tampering of facts. We strongly propose forming a panel to look into the controversies emerging in films as Padmaavat and Manikarnika.”

He said the proposal was liked by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and even Vice President Venkaiah Naidu when he was heading the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

“This board should be constituted by the censor board, state government or government of India and should sort out the disputes emerging at any time when any historical tampering is reported. In such times the expert panel’s role should come in,” he added.

He said the censor board had invited three panelists to watch Padmaavat but their views were not paid heed to, and added that a pre-screening board will have a legal voice.

Today in Wait, What? Karni Sena announces a film on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mother

Through its actions in the run-up to the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati Padmaavat, the Shri Rajput Karni Sena has consistently shown that they’re possibly the most juvenile determined fringe group in the business.

After attacking school buses and burning down cars belonging to members of their own group (which, when you think of it, is really considerate of them), the Karni Sena have now announced a move that makes clear just who is going to win in this show of one-upmanship against Bhansali.

The revolutionary vengeance cooked up by the Karni Sena is this: They will make a film, on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mother. And they’re going to title it Leela Ki Leela. Whoever said ‘Yo mamma so fat’ jokes were passé?

Poster for Padmaavat that will serve as the reference point for Karni Sena-produced Leela Ki Leela

Here’s some information from a news report issued by IANS:

Addressing a press conference in Chittorgarh, Govind Singh Khangarot, the district president of Karni Sena, said the film would be directed by Arvind Vyas and its script writing process had already started.

In the next 15 days, a ‘muhurat’ marking the commencement of the film would be performed and it would be released in a year’s time. The movie will be shot across Rajasthan, Khangarot said.

“Bhansali has insulted our mother Padmavati, but we will ensure that he feels proud of the movie we will make,” he added (presumably in a loud, thundering tone). 

“As our country gives right to expression to everyone, we will ensure that this right is used to its fullest,” he said.

Take that, Bhansali!

But in the true spirit of tit-for-tat, we wonder if the Karni Sena will allow Bhansali to respond to their film in exactly the same way that they reacted to his.

Here’s a small list of the courtesies they could extend Bhansali, to ensure the situation truly mirrors the one they created when Padmaavat was being made:

1. Let Bhansali protest the historical inaccuracies of Leela Ki Leela, beginning with the shoot in Rajasthan. Bhansali, as is a matter of public record, grew up in a congested Mumbai chawl in Bhuleshwar. The chawls are an important part of Mumbai’s landscape and are closely linked to this city’s history. By shooting in Rajasthan, presumably on a constructed set, the Karni Sena is doing a disservice to the authentic portrayal of a Mumbai chawl. Mumbaikars must be allowed to protest this show of stark disrespect on the part of the Karni Sena.

2. The Karni Sena must allow Bhansali — once again, in the spirit of true reciprocity — to visit their sets in Rajasthan, a minimum of two times. On one of these occasions, he must be allowed to slap the director. On the other occasion, his henchmen must be allowed to burn down the sets for Leela Ki Leela.

3. The Karni Sena must promise to raise a sum of Rs 150 crores to make this film on Bhansali’s life. It seems only fair since he and his investors expended as much money in making a film about the Karni Sena’s ‘mother’.

4. The Karni Sena must promise that they will maintain the highest production values for Leela Ki Leela. Anything less than eye-wateringly-opulent will simply not make the cut.

5. They must get one of India’s best actresses to play the title role of Bhansali’s mom.

6. They must not protest if their entry into  Mumbai — the city where Bhansali’s mother raised him — is barred to them perpetuity, seeing as how they tried to do the same with the Chittorgarh Fort.

7. The Karni Sena will hold a special screening for Bhansali before the film’s release and wait for his approval before releasing the film.

8. The Karni Sena will make changes to their film as recommended by a panel of Bollywood enthusiasts appointed by the Central Board of Film Certification. They will at this point also agree to change the film’s title, preferably substituting one vowel for another.

9. The Karni Sena must prepare for the governments of at least four states to ban Leela Ki Leela — of course, the Supreme Court (yes, the same one they acted in contempt of) will possibly salvage their expression of creativity by upholding their right to screen the film.

10. Even after the Supreme Court’s clearance, the Karni Sena must allow for Bhansali and his supporters to: threaten theatre owners and distributors (until they fear showing Leela Ki Leela for the damage to their property that might ensue), riot in as many places as possible and generally create as great a ruckus as they can. They must also anticipate 16,000 women sending a signed petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to perform a mass ghoomar — if Leela Ki Leela is allowed to release.

Padmaavat: Bhansali invites Karni Sena for screening, confirms fringe group after demanding Bharat Bandh on 25 January

Even after the Supreme Court stayed the ban by four states on the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat allowing it an all-India release, it seems like the film might not see the light of day in Rajasthan, the hotbed of a majority of protests, as there are no distributors for the movie yet.

Deepika Padukone in a still from Padmavati.

We have no distributor yet. The film has not been sold to anyone. All the rights lie with Bhansali alone. I don’t think the film will be released until the controversy is resolved within the state,” said film distributor Sunil Bansal, according to a DNA report.

State officials from INOX are also reportedly in touch with the local police to assess and evaluate the law and order situation in Rajasthan before finalising and deciding upon anything. “The distributor hasn’t been finalised yet. We generally don’t flout orders. So, we will go ahead with whatever the authorities decide. We are awaiting a police orders. Nothing can anyway be done until a distributor comes in,” said the official, according to the same DNA report.

Film exhibitors were relying heavily on the Akshay Kumar-Sonam Kapoor-Radhika Apte starrer Padman as an alternative for the loss in business that they might have incurred in case Padmaavat did not release in Rajasthan. However, after addressing a joint press conference on Friday, Akshay Kumar and Bhansali announced that the makers of Padman agreed to defer the release of their film on Bhansali’s request.

Owners of local theaters like Raj Mandir (which also doubles up as a tourist destination) however, have said that they will not release Padmaavat, regardless of whether Padman sees a release or not.

Recently, the Maharana of Mewar has also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a “ban on the film”. According to the prince’s letter, “If art misappropriates history then it is anti-national”.

1921 movie review: Vikram Bhatt adds every horror trope to this ghastly film, but none of them work

1921 opens in 1927: Ayush is a celebrated piano maestro who is reluctant to come on stage. As he drowns his sorrows in alcohol, a single tear staining the make up on his face, the scene flashes back to 1921.

Ayush is a piano prodigy. Spotting his talent, his mentor Wadia (Vikram Bhatt) sponsors the young man’s studies in England with one caveat – that Ayush also take on the role of caretaker of Wadia’s stately home in York.

York circa 1921 is a gloomy, foggy place with barely any sunlight and lots of Indians dropping dead. The aspiring pianist Ayush (Karan Kundra), who travels from India to York to study music, discovers this in the most horrifying way. Part-time student, part-time caretaker of a vast mansion, who makes an additional living by conducting private piano recitals in the house, his finely balanced life is shattered by the presence of malevolent spirits.

It’s rather convenient that another student in the same town is a medium that communicates with the spirit world. Ayush seeks out Rose (Zareen Khan) and implores her to help him rid his house of this paranormal activity.

Rose is a fan of Ayush’s music, and readily agrees to help a man she has long adored from afar. During the course of their paranormal partnership, and between solving the mystery of the vagrant spirits, love blossoms between them. But as their intimacy increases, so does the malevolence of the hovering spirits.

The scares, with a dependence on smoke machines, sound effects and shadowy figures, that build the atmosphere and frights in the first hour are frittered away later. Writer-director Vikram Bhatt adds in every horror film trope and genre trick into a story that in the end has no top or bottom – much like some of its decapitated zombie characters. There are disquieted spirits, a reference to the Mongolian plague and a vengeance plot line.

Given that this is a template Bhatt film, there are quite a few songs, which are indistinguishable from one another. Their song picturisation is also bland.

Some effort to play piano might have gone so way in convincing us that Kundra might be a musician, leave alone portraying a maestro. Since that kind of attention to detail seems superfluous to Bhatt, there’s no point expecting Victorian era period correctness in the costumes and production design either. The storyline gets more and more twisted as we go along the 2 hours 24 minutes running time.

Khan and Kundra put on their most sincere faces and you genuinely believe they want to get out of this situation alive. But it’s hard for the audience to keep a straight face as Bhatt’s screenplay bumps along from ghostly to ghastly.

A fellow audience member described it best: It’s like an onion—you cry as you peel it and you can keep peeling it and keep crying, but you can also stop at any time.