Naam Shabana

Vampire Owl: I know this person from Baby.

Vampire Bat: This is a spin-off prequel to that movie, and so it is no surprise that you know her.

Vampire Owl: So, this is both a spin-off and a prequel? That should mean two levels.

Vampire Bat: Yes, this one also has Ajay Singh Rajput played by Akshay Kumar, Anjali Singh Rajput played by Madhurima Tuli and Om Prakash Shukla played by Anupam Kher.

Vampire Owl: And joins Shabana Khan played by Taapsee Pannu, I see.

Vampire Bat: There is also our own Prithviraj with an evil side.

Vampire Owl: I don’t see what can be better than that.

Vampire Bat: Yes, Ivide had shown his negative shades better than any other.

Vampire Owl: And we remember that older movie with him playing the bad cop getting reformed – Vargam, I guess. I also liked him in his other Bollywood movie, Aurangzeb.

Vampire Bat: Bollywood needs a few more in their movies, just like him. I still have Memories in my head.

[Gets three cups of strong tea with Mariegold biscuits].

What is the movie about? :: Shabana Khan (Taapsee Pannu) is a college student who is also practicing Judo to take part in a number of competitions. Her mother, Farida Begum Khan (Natasha Rastogi) is in full support of her, whatever she plans to do. She doesn’t hesitate in beating up people who cause any kind of nuisance, no matter how small it is, or how meaningless the fight is. She has made herself tougher, as she had grown up watching her father beat up her mother mercilessly all the time after coming home drunk and out of his senses. On one of those days when he was attacking her mother, she had hit her father so hard on the back of his head, that he ended up dead – it had left her in the juvenile home, until coming back stronger to help her mother move forward with her life. This flashback about her is rather unknown to her new friends.

So, what happens next? :: Shabana is quite a popular girl in the college, and one of her friends, Jai (Taher Shabbir Mithaiwala) has fallen in love with her. He asks her to accompany him for dinner, and they seem to have fallen in love, but on that night, they come across some eve teasing, to which she decides to respond – the result is Jai getting killed and leaving her scarred for life. His parents blame her for the incident, and despite going to the police station almost every day, she finds no progress at all. Frustrated and without hope, one day while returning from the police station, she gets the calls of an unknown man (Manoj Bajpayee) who gives her an offer she can’t refuse. She will get her revenge against the four men, but he wants something from her in return. So, will she manage to live up to the promise on her end, and will he be able to do the same?

The defence of Naam Shabana :: A lot of reviewers who go around in Bollywood are sure to miss how good Prithviraj Sukumaran has been in this movie, and there is that tendency to figure out how much they can appreciate everyone else. The makers won’t give that much for someone of such calibre, and the reviewers will just focus more on the Bollywood stars – just like I had written earlier in the review of the short-film, Invisible Actor, that there are actors and superstars, and there are those who are good enough to become both and maintain the balance. Along with him and Taapsee, the movie has its thrilling side going. There are also some very nice action sequences, and nothing overdone in that department. There are also some nice dialogues to go with the same – some of them are actually funny, whether intentional or not. It also feels good to get an origin story, which provides more scope for a sequel.

The claws of flaw :: Some scenes in this movies are just strange – with people removing their shirts to fight, vengeance given so much importance by an intelligence wing, the villain willingly giving away his identity when there was other options considering how smart he is, choosing the rookie to do this dangerous mission when there are experienced people around, and so on. It is still good to see that such Bollywood tendencies get to be controlled up to an extent. Shabana also has rather less attention on her character than everything else about her. Some of the moments just get funny when they shouldn’t have been, and we also get so much less of the villain who should have been the highlight of this movie from the darker side. The first half of the movie, with its stretched romance, becomes the rather too long thing here too. They could have done without the songs too.

Performers of the soul :: As expected, Taapsee Pannu does provide some knockout punches here, and she suits the character really well – even when the character is not flawless, she nullifies a few bad sides. It her work in the original movie which has inspired this one, and she gets to play the girl with fire more. Everyone loved her in Pink, and this one no longer has her as a damsel in distress – she gets to make sure that her agency remains a proud one. Still, as her work in Baby was so effective in such a short time, that would be remembered more. Prithviraj Sukumaran who was seen in Malayalam movies which were different kind of thrillers, Oozham, Ezra and Tiyaan, here we have him playing the villain, and I am sure that having more of him would have helped this movie better. Akshay Kumar’s role is small, but quick and effective, while Manoj Bajpayee only gets to talk, without getting any action. Madhurima Tuli and Anupam Kher also cross over here from Baby.

How it finishes :: Naam Shabana is a movie which could have done better with more focus on its antagonist, and a more consistent character development of our protagonist. If you don’t go for this one with the expectations high considering Baby, you are surely not going to be disappointed – it is that one which automatically let the expectations go high, and the makers seem to have thought that this would bring the money. They could have made more money with better focus on Prithviraj, but here, they have taken rather too much time for even Taapsee’s training to begin. Still, Naam Shabana is another thriller that works, and even without the name of Baby attached to it, there is more to the tale. Maybe the stand-alone feeling will give the flick even more strength. You can only watch this one and come up with your own opinion, and the need for another movie in the franchise.

Release date: 31st March 2017
Running time: 147 minutes
Directed by: Shivam Nair
Starring: Taapsee Pannu, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Manoj Bajpayee, Akshay Kumar, Danny Denzongpa, Madhurima Tuli, Anupam Kher, Murali Sharma, Zakir Hussain, Bhuvan Arora, Taher Shabbir Mithaiwala, Natasha Rastogi, Manav Vij, Mohan Kapoor, Elli Avram, Shibani Dandekar, Virendra Saxena, Aparna Upadhyay

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Udta Punjab

Vampire Owl: I know a few humans who thought that they would never get to watch this movie.

Vampire Bat: There are humans who think that they will never get to see a vampire, but here we are, able to appear whenever we wish to.

Vampire Owl: I heard that they had a problem with censor board.

Vampire Bat: We should be thankful that the movies about the great deeds of Uncle Dracula are not given to them for certification.

Vampire Owl: You mean to say that the great imperial vampire video was uncensored?

Vampire Bat: Yes, you easily get that from the violence.

Vampire Owl: You mean to say that it is violence – what you see in the video feels rather natural than anything else.

Vampire Bat: It is more natural to humans than us, but they censor it, you know.

Vampire Owl: They are so afraid of the inherent evil in them.

Vampire Bat: Yes, and they blame everyone other than them for the same.

[Gets three cups of English tea with special snacks].

What is the movie about? :: The movie tells the tale of four people people in the state of Punjab, a Punjabi musician named Tejinder Singh (Shahid Kapoor), an unnamed Bihari migrant working at a farm known only by the name Bauria (Alia Bhatt), an inspector in the Punjab police department named Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh), and a doctor who is also a social activist named Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor), whose lives get connected to each other due to the smuggling of drugs into the state. Sartaj’s brother Balli Singh (Prabhjyot Singh) is one of those drug addicts who ends up in the hospital, and it turns out that the police officer had almost no idea about his brother using drugs. He is treated by Preet who hopes to bring him back to normal life, through her rehabilitation cenre. At the same time, she tells Sartaj that the drug menace has become too much and the police department is not taking action about the same.

So, what happens next? :: As Sartaj decides to get deep into the drug problem, Tejinder, who is known by the name Tommy Singh, and as Gabru among his fans, is leading a rather clueless life outside the world of music. Throwing parties all the time, and keeping on consuming cocaine, he has no control over his life. His fans are not that different either, as they follow his example, having no responsibility, and trying to be like him. As Tommy takes this troubled path, he ends up in jail, and there he meets his fans inspired by him ending up in prison just like him. Sartaj is also the one to arrest Tommy, and is influenced by Preet to do something against the drug problem which threatens to turn the state into a situation similar to Mexico. He decides that it is time that he does something about this problem against which nobody even dares to talk or take action.

And, what is to follow next in the adventure? :: As this girl known by the name Bauria wanders around in the farm where she is working, she ends up finding a packet. She understands that it is some kind of drug, as her landlord uses agriculture to hide his dealing with drugs. The girl, who had her dreams of playing national level hockey for the nation shattered, decides to sell this, and get some money. But she doesn’t know trouble she is getting herself into, as she is captured by a gang of drug dealers who sexually abuse her, and keep her locked in their farmhouse. It is then that a reformed Tommy decides to take responsibility to change the world, and Sartaj as well as Preet gets further in gathering information about the drug problem and the people behind the same. But with so many powerful people including police and politicians having their hands in the same, can anyone bring a change?

The defence of Udta Punjab :: There is sincerity about this movie, and we are put face to face against an evil which needs to be stopped as soon as possible. The best thing about the movie is that it never glorifies drug abuse – there was the movie Spirit against alcohol, which began with the glorification of the same only to end up with a message against the same as it strived towards the finish. But Udta Punjab begins and ends with the same idea shown on the screen, and chooses the right path. At the same time, we once again notice that it is Alia Bhatt who steals the show with that kind of a character which is to stay with us for long, unlike what she has been doing with ridiculous romantic flicks like Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya and Shaandar, or some half-cooked story like Dear Zindagi. Here she scores by playing the role of a commoner going through the struggle, and we know how good she can be, from Highway. Shahid Kapoor, at the same time, seems to live in this role, which is too good to watch. Diljit Dosanjh, whom most of us are seeing for the first time on the screen, has a controlled and memorable performance in store for us here. Kareena Kapoor, compared to the rest, has lesser to do, but remains the big presence.

The claws of flaw :: You will feel that the movie does go too slow in the middle, and it also takes a little too much in the beginning to get going, having you as a doubtful one in the beginning. The movie could have used its tale in a more effective way so that nothing is lost in the middle. There is rather too much of ups and downs in this movie, which could have kept itself at a certain level instead of coming down when not expected. A lot of people are also going to feel the essence of a documentary in this one, as there are no real heroes in this one, but common people who struggle against an evil which threatens to destroy our world – not really the usual Bollywood-ish kind of thing, is it? Well, it also seems to be forced to add a little bit of a romantic side to its main characters, and maybe the inspiration for the same is nothing more than knowing that we still have the Bollywood fans to please and gather support so that the one hundred crore mark could be reached. The seemingly funny side is also as a little bit too strange at times to be called funny.

How it finishes :: Udta Punjab is the movie that you can’t ignore, no matter what you think about it – it is also difficult to end up not appreciating this effort which seems so genuine right from the beginning itself. There is a certain amount of honesty here that we will end up appreciating – even when there is chance, the movie doesn’t pretend to be what it is not. It is surely a lesson, something for the new generation who is taking the easy path out with alcohol and drugs; the question will be whether they will learn enough from the movie to stop being addicted or if they will continue to fall into addiction. No matter what the youth decides, it is up to everyone to unite against the drug menace, and also spread the word against this kind of silent terror which has more strength than any direct act of terrorism to destroy our world as well as what goes beyond the same.

PS: Do watch the movie of the week, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum.

Release date: 17th June 2016
Running time: 149 minutes
Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Satish Kaushik, Suhail Nayyar, Prabhjyot Singh, Harpreet Singh, Manav Vij, Avinash Kumar

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.