Category Archives: Movies Review

KGF, Zero box office collection: Hindi version of Yash-starrer makes Rs 24.45 cr; SRK film falls short of 100 cr

The Hindi version of KGF: Chapter 1, starring Yash, has been a bonafide success, beating even the star-studded Zero. The film witnessed a growth by 40 percent on the second Saturday at the box office, but the release of Simmba did have a negative impact on its collection, especially in the Mumbai circuit. The film has raked in a total of Rs 24.45 crore.

A still from the trailer of Kolar Gold Fields (KGF). YouTube

Despite the reduction in screen count from 1500 to 780 as well as the number of shows in week two, the film has had a steady performance at the domestic box office.

A report by Box Office India states that Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma’s film’s collection has fallen flat. The report predicts that the second weekend earnings are not likely to exceed Rs 3-4 crore. Bollywood Hungama writes that the Aanand L Rai directorial has only managed to earn an estimated Rs 1 crore through the second weekend. The film’s total stands at Rs 91 crore as of today.

KGF was touted as one of the most expensive works of the Kannada film industry. Directed by Prashanth Neel of Ugramm fame, the film also stars Ramya Krishna, Anant Nag and Achyuth Kumar. The first chapter of the two-part period drama has been in production for the last two years and hit cinemas on 21 December.

Simmba box office collection: Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali-starrer earns Rs 75 cr over opening weekend

Rohit Shetty’s action entertainer Simmba, starring Ranveer Singh as Sangram Bhalerao, a Goan police officer, earned Rs 20.72 crore on the opening day and Rs 23.33 crore on the second day. The third day earnings saw a growth by 33.13 percent, report trade analysts. The film earned Rs 31.06 crores on Sunday, taking its opening weekend collection to Rs 75.11 crore.

Ranveer Singh in a still from Simmba. YouTube screengrab

Trade analysts were also of the view that Simmba will witness further business at the domestic box office owing to the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Further, trade analysts reported that the film performed exceptionally across the Mumbai circuit, earning a total of Rs 29.01 crore over the weekend.

Based on Telugu film Temper, the film also stars Sara Ali Khan as Ranveer’s love interest. It is produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Rohit Shetty Picturez.

Akshay Kumar on 2.0: Shankar is like James Cameron on steroids; everything is larger than life in the film

Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar’s action sci-fi thriller, 2.0, releasing in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu on 29 November, has been in the news for a variety of reasons. A sequel to 2010 hit Enthiran, the film’s gigantic budget (estimated at over Rs 500 crore), the technology used to make the movie and the film’s star cast has been making headlines from the time it was announced.

Akshay Kumar as the cell-phone robot antagonist in Rajinikanth-starrer 2.0. YouTube screengrab

Akshay’s villainous role in the film has garnered a lot of interest, and now that 2.0 promotions are in full swing, the superstar says he is excited to be part of India’s most expensive film. “It’s a huge release and I am nervous about how the film will fare at the box office but it was a relief when I last spoke to my producer. He sounded happy though I am not sure how they will recover the cost. But if this film works then I will be confident enough to say that I have set a benchmark and I will feel motivated, or else I will be back to square one,”

Working with Rajinikanth

“I was very excited when S Shankar (director) offered 2.0 to me. I knew everyone’s character when the script and screenplay was narrated. It talks about how the world is not only for us humans, the earth also belongs to animals, birds, and just because they can’t speak, we shouldn’t take advantage, we shouldn’t play with the nature. It’s such a brilliant concept and I wondered why no filmmaker came up with this idea before,” says Akshay, excitedly adding, “I was also very happy working with The Rajinikanth. I would enjoy talking to him in Marathi on sets.

Rajinikanth has repeatedly said that 2.0 is Akshay’s film, to which he responds, “He’s just being humble. I’m just the Amrish Puri of the film. It is very much his film, because the title is 2.0 and he is 2.0.”

Akshay pointed out that he and the rest of the team were simply awestruck by Rajinikanth’s style. “He has a huge aura. It is amazing that he would add his unique style in every dialogue. Just give him one simple line and he would make it so entertaining. He is very professional and not put on. He is never worried about his appearance.” Akshay is often been asked why he agreed to play the antagonist, and he jokingly says, “The advantage of playing a villain is that you shoot for less number of days. I shot for just 40 days and Mr Rajinikanth shot double that number.”

The VFX in 2.0

While everyone is talking about Akshay’s fierce and ferocious look, the actor is completely awestruck by the technology used in making the film. “I don’t know if my look is a highlight but technically it is the best that India has produced. It is an original 3D film and you can feel the beat of it. It is not transformed into 3D. Mr Shankar is equivalent to James Cameron on steroids (laughs). Everything’s larger than life,” he says.

Akshay Kumar in a poster of 2.0

“When we watch two robots fighting with each other in Transformers we come out saying, ‘Wow, that was great fun’. 2.0 is a similar attempt from India, we can’t compete with the West because their budget is some 17 times higher than ours. But trust me, they cannot make what we have produced here in Rs 510 crore. Technology wise it will definitely be appreciated. I would leave the reception of film and screenplay to the audience yet I feel the technology will enhance the story and narration. The message comes out very clean and clear and it is the finest 3D film India has ever produced,” added Akshay.

The supposed divide between Hindi and south films

Besides having a wish list of working with directors in the South, Akshay further said that he would love to take up such projects in the future.

“I would love to do more sci-fi films,” says the actor. He continues, “I feel this divide between Hindi and South films should blur completely and hence I would call 2.0 a lovely Indian film. But, professionally, too, South film industry is much ahead of us and one can learn a lot from them. I feel, a newcomer should do five films in the south industry and then come here. They take 35 to 40 shots in a single day, whereas we manage just 12 to 13 shots. They are very fast. They don’t take others for granted, they value people’s time. 2.0 is an experiment, it is an experience for me.”

Lauding Akshay’s discipline, dedication and patience, the film’s director recently said that Akshay suffered a lot while getting the prosthetic make-up, costume, sunlight to match, to which the actor said, “I didn’t suffer but it was very tough. For three-and-a-half hours I would be sitting quietly in one place and three people would work on my body. After shooting, it would take one- and- a- half hour to remove the make-up. Every night I would sleep with the thought that I have to go through this process again the next day, and it continued for 40 days. That was a painful. My pores couldn’t breathe, so for six hours sweat would accumulate inside my body, and when I would get out of the costume, my whole body would smell of sweat. Also, I was only on liquid diet — water, juice and milkshakes. I wasn’t allowed to eat because the costume had to fit me. And the first thing I did after I saw myself in that get up was click selfies with my family, my wife, my children,” he reveals.

His future projects after 2.0

Akshay is one of those rare actors who has moulded himself as a comic actor who is also good at drama and action, and he never shies away from experimenting if convinced about the project.

Akshay Kumar. File image

Someone who muscles in four to five films every year and all in different genres while striking a fine balance between commercial and meaningful cinema, Akshay, with a ridiculously high success rate, has an incredible line up of films like the historical war drama Kesari in collaboration with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, which is near completion with just six days work left; he teams up again with Kareena Kapoor for Dharma Productions’ Good News (shoot starts next year); there is the fourth instalment of the popular franchise, Housefull, and his own production, Mission Mangal, based on ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission.

Kesari is also a high budget film, and when my film is talked about for its content and it is commercial as well, I like that,” he says. In fact, the superstar is also game for collaborating with OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon that is attracting a lot of popular actors. “I would surely love to do something on a digital platform,” he adds.

When asked about the other projects that he is likely to take up in the future, for instance, the historical period drama, Prithviraj Chauhan (he will be finalising this next year end), the third instalment of Hera Pheri and sequels of OMG Oh My God! and Rowdy Rathore, the actor bursts out laughing, saying, “Looks like I am doing 35 films! I can do only five films at a time.”

Thugs of Hindostan is nothing but a failed masala film going through the motions of patriotism

Thugs of Hindostan is a disaster, and it will remain so even if it makes some profit in the end, since more things than economics decide ‘success’ in cinema. It may be difficult to make this point to a Bollywood producer, but the success of a film venture is less dependent on the genius of the director and the technical or visual add-ons than on touching emotional chords with the film-going public, traceable to the socio-political issues of the day — though the political links may not always be visible. 3 Idiots (2009) had a message pertaining to self-actualisation just when the urban youth had been enthused by stories of Indians doing well in the global arena, and it celebrated the ‘Indian genius’. Patriotic films similarly latch on to sentiments in the public space but they need to tap the right kind of patriotism.

At the present moment, it would appear, anti-Pakistani sentiment is a more reliable way of bringing audiences into the halls than anti-colonial rhetoric, which is what Thugs of Hindostan offers. My own view is that anti-colonial rhetoric stopped being pertinent after the Congress era — since the Congress subsisted on the mythology around the freedom struggle, and kept the sentiment alive. Even under the Congress, the sentiment was already weakening and the last (moderately) successful anti-British film may have been 1942: A Love Story (1994), which was sold more on the basis of RD Burman’s music. If Lagaan (2000) was also ‘anti-British’, it tapped into cricketing patriotism, current to this day, rather than into any anti-colonial feelings. The anti-colonial rhetoric in Thugs of Hindostan is ludicrous and the film’s closest relative from Bollywood may be Manmohan Desai’s Mard (1985), a failed masala film; Thugs of Hindostan may also be described thus – as a failed masala film going through the motions of patriotism.

Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in a still from Thugs of Hindostan. Image via Twitter

This leads us to the question of what a ‘masala film’ is and why Thugs of Hindostan cannot be termed a ‘successful masala film’. My view here is that a masala film is a difficult object to create and one of the few masala classics in Hindi cinema hitherto has been Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar Anthony (1977). A masala film by definition is a film that uses all the standard ingredients of popular cinema self-consciously, to the extent of making it border on its own parody. Amar Akbar Anthony, for instance, has all the ingredients familiar from films like Deewar and Yaadon ki Baraat – the sacrificing mother and siblings separated in childhood; there is also divine intervention when the villains try to get at the protagonists. The very shape of the miracle – a cobra which blocks their path into a sanctuary where a bhajan is being sung – is deliberately excessive, and a sophisticate cannot but laugh out aloud. At the same time, the film also allows some people to take all this seriously and it is not straightforward parody. The poor man played by Pran whose wife is afflicted by disease also invokes laughter (‘meri bibi to TB ho gaya hai’) although this again can be taken quite seriously as pathos by a segment. Another masala classic is David Dhavan’s Hero No. 1 (1997), which also borders on its own parody; part of its humour comes from Govinda’s comic imitation of Rajesh Khanna in Hrishikesh Mukerjee’s Bawarchi (1972).

It may seem that a masala film is generally without a message but it is almost mandatory for any popular film to have one; it would be more accurate to say that the masala film delivers an inflated message that can be read as self-mockery. It is not a half-hearted message but one that is almost nonsensical that makes for a masala film. Given this element, it may not be appropriate for a masala film to appear when political passions are running high. Amar Akbar Anthony came at the end of the Emergency when elections had already been announced and Hero No. 1 also when there was no strong political discourse in the public space. Just to give an idea of the political messages in masala films, in Amar Akbar Anthony, the children separated in childhood near a statue of Gandhiji can be read as Gandhian values not being able to unite the nation, and I take this to refer to the two Gandhians then opposing Mrs Gandhi — Morarji Desai and JP Narayan. Manmohan Desai was perhaps a Congress supporter since his later film Coolie (1983) also toys with Mrs Gandhi’s kind of populism. The original films that the two classics partly parody were serious efforts tapping into national sentiments and the timing of the masala films (and not only their inspired content) made them successful.

Thugs of Hindostan was initially announced as an adaptation of Confessions of a Thug by Phillip Meadows Taylor (1839), based on the Thuggee cult in India in existence for over 500 years. The Thugs were described as murderers and robbers and eliminated by the British when Lord Bentinck was Governor General. The man credited with destroying the cult was William Henry Sleeman and the town of Sleemanabad in Madhya Pradesh was named in his honour. With history being revised in the post-colonial era, the real truth about the Thugs was called into question, especially the notion of ‘criminal tribes’ created by the British, implying that everyone in a tribe could be branded a criminal. Thugs of Hindustan, which is now denying that it has anything to do with Meadows Taylor, appears to have hit upon the idea that Thugs were freedom fighters and embarked upon the project as an exercise in patriotism.

Thugs of Hindustan casts Amitabh Bachhan and Aamir Khan as principal characters and this casting itself reveals that it does not know which way it is going. Amitabh is evidently a tired man and even endorsing a ceiling fan may be making too many demands of energy upon him. He also takes the patriotism very seriously, as do the other bit players, something that the energetic Aamir Khan, wisely, does not do. Aamir Khan is probably the only one who had an idea of where the film might have gone. The film also brings in a British villain John Clive (perhaps brother of Robert Clive, the Company’s first Governor General) who plays his role very straight. I propose that a fake Britisher in a blonde wig reminiscent of Mogambo from Mr India (another successful masala film) would have served Thugs of Hindostan much better. Lloyd Owen who plays ‘John Clive’ is a genuine Britisher and a phony was what the film craved for – a fake Britisher as objective correlative to the fake anti-colonial sentiment spewed!

The film is being touted as the most expensive Indian film ever made but it is not a good strategy for a masala film to spend so much money. When the entire film is based on a fake premise visible from miles away, what is the good of trying to persuade the audience that it is all real? It is not always a good thing for a work of cinema to be sincere, especially when it is based on an unpalatable premise, but when it is insincere it should be conscious of its own insincerity, admitting to it without hesitation. Only such an approach makes for a great masala film, and Bollywood would do well to understand that.

Bollywood uses the word ‘fun’ rather loosely and film critics are quick to believe that the worst kind of trash can become ‘fun’ if only the spectator watched it with the right attitude (rather than a ‘critical’ one). My point here is that true ‘fun’ is difficult to produce; what happens most often is that people recognise that something is intended as fun and oblige the film-maker by mimicking ‘enjoyment’. This is like one’s polite response to a bad joke: one laughs simply in recognition of an intention rather than at genuine humour. Enjoyment is a component of happiness and we need desperately to convince ourselves that we are not unhappy. Since it takes discernment to recognise when one is not enjoying oneself, it is heartening that spectators and critics alike have given Thugs of Hindostan the thumbs down, implying recognition that true joy is not so easily to be had and only a successful work produces it. Perhaps Thugs of Hindostan will help audiences move to a new level of self-awareness with regard to the emotions that entertainment actually generates — rather than what publicity tells us it produces.

Thugs of Hindostan movie review: Aamir Khan is fun, Amitabh Bachchan lifeless in B’wood’s Pirates of the Caribbean

Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Fatima Sana Shaikh — this is the order in which the lead cast’s names are placed in the credits of Thugs of Hindostan. The ranking is representative of their star stature combined with seniority in the industry. A more truthful list reflecting the substance in the roles they play would have read: Khan, Bachchan, Shaikh, Kaif. And if you want to know which of these stars scores in terms of quality of performance and conviction, this is my list: Aamir Khan, Aamir Khan, Aamir Khan, Aamir Khan.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s third directorial venture (the others being Tashan and Dhoom 3) might have been a lifeless parade of spectacular visuals without Khan. Whenever he is on screen though, the film develops a pulse. Khan is Thugs of Hindostan‘s heart and soul, breath and blood.

The story is set in an India overrun by the British, and revolves around an unscrupulous rascal called Firangi Malla who serves only one master, himself, until he encounters the freedom fighter Azad (Bachchan). Torn between self-interest and patriotism, Firangi keeps his associates guessing about where his loyalties lie, swinging back and forth between the British led by Clive and his own people. The road he will ultimately take may be obvious to the audience, but how he takes it is unpredictable enough to keep the film going.

Aaamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan in a still from Thugs of Hindostan

If the mention of a Clive suggests that Thugs of Hindostan is historically accurate, then let it be placed on the record: it is not. “What’s in a name?” as that most famous of Englishmen once wrote. A white man by any other name would have smelt just as rotten. So yeah, in all their confrontations here, the Brits are made to look like incompetent, gullible asses, forever suffering defeat at the hands of Indians. Since India is the wronged party in the imperialist equation, it could be argued that taking this sort of liberty with the past can hardly be treated as a crime especially since this is nothing compared to Western cinema’s casual portrayal of true thugs of the colonial era, most recently Winston Churchill, with affectionate indulgence. In any case, Thugs of Hindostan is unapologetically commercial, characteristically masala-filled Bollywood fare, that does not ask to be taken seriously. It is an action adventure in the mould of Hollywood’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, and does not pretend to be anything but that.

Acharya’s actual crime lies in the weak writing of every character other than Firangi Malla. Azad is a pallid creature, and Bachchan invests nothing beyond his towering personality and baritone in his uninspired performance.

The women are laughable asides in the screenplay. Kaif as the courtesan Suraiyya gets to look sexy and dance mechanically, displaying technique but little grace in two lavish song and dance sequences on elaborate, eye-catching sets. She has a third scene but disappears for the rest of the proceedings, which is just as well since she seems unable to move even those few facial muscles that she has exercised in her earlier films.

Shaikh, who made a mark as a skilled wrestler and rebellious daughter in Dangal, is not required to act at all. As Zafira, who is part of Azad’s band of warriors, she barely has any lines, and most of her screen time is spent running across battlescapes, firing arrows and throwing punches. She is fair enough doing all this, but not outstanding, and since she lacks charisma it is hard not to wonder why she landed the job. She also has less chemistry with Khan than Lloyd Owen who plays Clive.

It is thus left to Khan and the technical departments to save this film, and they do. Thugs of Hindostan‘s production designers (there are four) and DoP Manush Nandan ensure that the film is never short of pretty and grand. John Stewart Eduri serves up a throbbing background score and Ajay-Atul’s songs are all hummable.

Given the only well-written character in Thugs of Hindostan, with an abundance of mischievous dialogues and credible motivations, Khan throws himself into his role with gusto, summoning up Munna of Rangeela and Siddhu of Ghulam, imbuing Firangi with a relentless zest, and switching from good to bad to inexplicable to exasperating to lovable within a twinkling of those delightful kohl-lined eyes.

Thugs was promoted as the first film ever to pit him against the great Bachchan. The legendary superstar is a pale shadow here of the best he has been. Khan, on the other hand, crackles, pops and sparkles as a swashbuckling scoundrel. The writing of his character and his performance are the only reasons why Thugs of Hindostan does not turn out to be a stylishly produced but disastrously dreary repeat of Acharya’s first film, Tashan. Despite all its minuses, Thugs is light-hearted fun.

Baazaar, Badhaai Ho, Tumbbad box office collection: Saif Ali Khan’s film collects Rs 11.93 cr on opening weekend

Baazaar, Saif Ali Khan’s newest release which hit screens on 26 October has now amassed Rs 11.93 cr in box office earnings. The stock market drama had a slow opening day and only managed to collect Rs 3.07 crores. Baazaar witnessed a growth on the second day (Rs 4.10 crore) and third day (Rs 4.76 crore) of its release.

Saif ali Khan in Baazaar. Image via Twitter/@Subrata56010558

Trade analysts had previously said that the film, which also stars Radhika Apte, Rohan Mehra and Chitrangada Singh was doing well in Mumbai. Baazaar has performed well in comparison to Khan’s previous films like Chef and Kaalakaandi.

Ayushmann Khurrana’s Badhaai Ho is still reigning the Indian box office. The film witnessed a substantial growth in the second weekend since its release. On Sunday, the film earned Rs 8.15 crore, taking its total numbers fo Rs 84.25 crore. It was previously predicted by trade analysts that the film had the potential to cross the 100 crore mark.

The horror flick Tumbbad, which was the first Indian film to open Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week in August, is currently in its third week at the box office and has amassed Rs 10. 14 crore so far.

 

Andhadhun, Sui Dhaaga box office collection: Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer collects Rs 15 cr on opening weekend

Sriram Raghavan’s new thriller Andhadhun topped the Indian box office in its opening weekend, pulling in an estimated Rs 15 crores in ticket sales, trade analyst Taran Adarsh reported on Monday.

The movie, featuring Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu and Radhika Apte, earned critical acclaim and performed well at the box office over the weekend, with takings of Rs 2.7 crores, Rs 5.10 crores and Rs 7.20 crores on Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Ayushmann Khurrana and Radhika Apte in a still from Andhadhun. Image via Twitter

Andhadhun revolves around a visually challenged piano player, played by Ayushmann, who gets into a mysterious situation. It is about how a series of incidents get unfolded afterwards, bringing about significant changes in his life. The story has been written by Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti, Yogesh Chandekar along with Raghavan.

The Anushka Sharma and Varun Dhawan starrer Sui Dhaaga earned Rs 9.20 crores in it second weekend, taking its total collection to Rs 71.70 crores.

Sui Dhaaga is based on Make in India campaign launched by the government in 2014, which was aimed at promoting the country’s indigenous industries.

Adarsh also declared the horror-comedy Stree officially as a “blockbuster” after the film earned Rs 1.11 crores in its sixth weekend. The film has raked in Rs 129.21 crores since its release last month.

Sui Dhaaga box office collection: Anushka Sharma, Varun Dhawan’s film crosses Rs 55 crore

2 October proved to be a lucrative opportunity for Hindi films as box office collections witnessed a substantial growth. While Anushka Sharma and Varun Dhawan’s Sui Dhaaga crossed 55 crore on its fifth day, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha showed a positive turnaround.

Sui Dhaaga and Pataakha. Image via Twitter/@SRKnitin_rathod and @avradeep83

Sui Dhaaga raked in an impressive Rs 11.75 crore on Tuesday and was able to milk the national holiday. Its five-day total now stands at a neat Rs 55.35 crore.

Bhardwaj’s Pataakha, a tale of two feuding sisters, bounced back with a Rs 1.56 crore haul on Tuesday. Starring Radhika Madan and Sanya Malhotra, the film’s five-day gross now stands at Rs 6.55 crore.

In a surprising turn of events, Rajkummar Rao and Shradda Kapoor’s horror comedy, Stree, also raked in another crore on 2 October. Currently in its fifth week, the Dinesh Vijan production has Rs 127.42 crore in its kitty.

 

Batti Gul Meter Chalu movie review: Shahid Kapoor is earnest, but Shree Narayan Singh’s direction flickers

Editor-director Shree Narayan Singh and writers Siddharth-Garima move on from the issue of toilets and open defecation (addressed in their earlier effort Toilet: Ek Prem Katha) to another widespread problem. In Batti Gul Meter Chalu, which is based on a story by Vipul K Rawal, they train their lens on issues of electricity bills, load-shedding and power scams.

Shraddha Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor in a still from Batti Gul Meter Chalu

The action unfolds in Tehri, Uttarakhand. Three childhood friends live a happy life. Sushil Kumar Pant (Shahid Kapoor), aka SK, is a small-time advocate whose biggest victims are local businesses that make tall and false claims in their advertisements. His ‘bust friend’ Sunder Mohan Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma) is all set to open up a printing press. Lalita ‘Nauti’ Nautiyal (Shraddha Kapoor) is a local fashion designer. The threesome is inseparable, until Nauti decides to date the two boys for a week each before picking one. Suddenly, a love triangle is created and there is one sore loser.

Soon thereafter, Sunder’s desperation over a crippling electricity bill and subsequent disappearance leads to SK finding his dormant conscience. Overnight, he becomes a kind of local Munna Bhai, encouraging Gandhigiri type protests against errant power suppliers, and then taking up Sunder’s case against the electricity company.

A large portion post interval is devoted to the court case with SK being pitted against Gulnar (Yami Gautam) representing the power company. Here, Singh introduces a bleak attempt at humour – which is expected when you see Sushmita Mukherjee taking position as the presiding judge. It is tonally inappropriate and undermines the gravity of the issue being debated. Anyway, there is scant regard for courtroom decorum or accuracy in these scenes and yet, this is the more interesting segment. Through SK’s arguments, we learn of the depth of exploitation suffered by the common man.

Sharply styled hair and carefully manicured beard aside, Shahid throws himself into the role and brings some spark to SK. Divyendu keeps his head above water and connects as the everyman. Like the flickering light Lalita cribs about, Shraddha Kapoor’s performance also wavers.

The trailer of this film tells you almost all there is to know. Take that three minutes and add another 172: The main feature is a bloated narrative that skirts almost three hours. If the filmmaker had cut out the vapid first 15 minutes, and the black and white scenes (a narration device), think how much electricity and time could have been saved – not to mention how much more tolerable this film would have been.

Paltan movie review: Sitting through JP Dutta’s poorly enacted, overwritten war film is a battle in itself

At a 154 minutes running time, sitting through writer-director J.P. Dutta’s war drama Paltan is a battle.

There is an interesting idea in the beginning of the film, when a postman mechanically delivers telegrams leaving a street full of mourning families behind. But the voice-overs artists are so shrill and theatrical that it feels like a newcomer was in charge of directing a scene in a TV soap opera.

Dutta, whose penchant was seen in Border (1997) and LOC Kargil (2003), shows his craft and experience only at the tail end of this saga during one large battle sequence.

The middle 100 minutes are repetitive, poorly enacted, overwritten and unimaginatively directed. In a terribly acted post-script, we see another set of wailing family members, which negates any props Dutta earned with the cross-border battle between Indian and Chinese troops.

The main action takes place in 1967 on the border near Sikkim, at the Nathu La pass. Based on true events, we follow an Indian platoon trying to fend off unfriendly and violent advances by enemy troops. The soldiers are also carrying emotional wounds from a lethal and unethical attack in 1962, which all but wiped out a platoon.

Arjun Rampal plays Colonel Singh, freshly returned from serving under General Montgomery in Britain, and now assigned to Nathu La as commanding officer. Singh reports to Major General Sagat Singh (Jackie Shroff) who mandates that, come what way, Nathu La must not fall to the Chinese.

Serving under Colonel Singh are officers played by Sonu Sood, Gurmeet Choudhary, Harshvardhan Rane and Luv Sinha. Siddhant Kapoor plays the interpreter. Dutta gives some of these men very filmy back-stories, which allows him to take his camera and the viewer away from the stark landscape, where most of the action unfolds, into blander territory. So we see Harbhajan Singh’s love for his fields and family, Captain Dagar’s courtship with his fiancee etc.

These scenes are superfluous since they do not achieve what they should have — which is to make us care for these men. The primary reason for this disconnect is the characters are cardboard cutouts, and the actors are playing versions of toy soldiers.

If one had to sort them by rank, in terms of good to bad performances, Rampal, Shroff and Sinha would lead followed by Kapoor and Sood with Choudhary and Rane bringing up the rear. The actors playing the Chinese counterparts resort to glaring and grimacing, which would be fine in Kung Fu Hustle, but not in a serious war drama.

For a large part, we see the two sides engaged in petty skirmishes and shows of one-upmanship. At one point it appeared like Singh and Singh would adopt some smart war tactic, but alas, it simpered into finger-pointing and playground provocation.

Finally, Paltan is more testosterone and male ego than strategy or drama and, surprisingly, it’s tentative even in its jingoism.