Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Tere Bin Laden (2010)

A review on Indian satirical comedy film, Tere Bin Laden (2010) starring famous Pakistani Singer Ali Zafar in his debut acting role. The film is written/ directed by Abhishek Sharma and is distributed by UTV Motion Pictures.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Abhishek Sharma
  • Written by Abhishek Sharma
  • Cinematography by Santosh Thundiyil
  • Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
  • Produced Pooja Shetty Deora and Aarti Shetty

+ Note

Tere Bin Laden is essentially a satirical comedy on the mass paranoia that erupted after the 9/ 11 bombings. According to the legend, the concept of the film was conceived when, due to a severe headache, Abhishek Sharma wrapped a cloth around his forehead to ease the pain which led to someone commenting that he resembled ‘Osama Bin Laden’. This got Sharam to write the first initial draft of the film. 

For this screwball comedy, Ali Zafar was apparently the first actor to be cast for the lead role since Abhishek Sharma thought that his “quirkiness and wit” from his music videos would suit perfectly for the film. The most difficult role to cast was indeed the role of fake Osama Bin Laden. After a long tedious process of casting, Sharma finally decided upon Pradhuman Singh who later studied tapes of Osama and learnt Arabic within 8 months of preparations. In order to depict Karachi in the film, the production was held in Mumbai and Hyderabad to resemble the setting as much as possible. 

Understandable, the film was proven to be controversial in some nations and many middle eastern countries outright banned the film from being released there. The critical and commercial response was mixed but the film was a decent box office success which promoted a sequel Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive in 2016.

 + Main Cast

  1. Ali Zafar as Ali Hassan
  2. Pradhuman Singh Mall as Noora / Osama Bin Laden
  3. Sugandha Garg as Zoya Khan
  4. Nikhil Ratnaparkhi as Gul
  5. Piyush Mishra as Majeed Khan
  6. Rahul Singh as Qureishi
  7. Seema Bhargav as Shabbo

 + Supporting Cast

  1. Barry John as Ted Wood (Ted-ji)
  2. Chirag Vohra as Lateef
  3. Chinmay Mandlekar as Usmaan
  4. Rajendra Sethi as Jamal Bhai (Travel agent)
  5. Harry Josh as Security guard
  6. Masood Akhtar as Goga from Rahim Yar Khan
  7. Sudipto Balav as an ISI agent

+ Plot

Ali Zafar plays the role of an ambitious reporter who badly wants to migrate to the US but does not possess the finances to do so. After shooting a report on a local Chicken show, Ali meets Noora who is the exact doppelganger of the most wanted man in the world, Osama bin Laden. This gives Ali an idea to disguise Noora as the infamous personality and sell the threatening videos to local news channels for profit.

+ High Points

i – Tere Bin Laden has a great premise for a screwball, satirical comedy. The idea works on so many levels and just the concept alone was enough for the audience who bought the ticket in the cinema. So major props for Abhishek Sharma for creating the perfect “hook” for the cinemagoers.  

ii – I think the biggest question going into this film on everyone’s minds was “Can Ali Zafar act?”. And the answer is; yes, yes he can. At least he did exactly what the script required of him. Could any other more seasoned actor have done a better job? Probably but after watching the film till the end, Ali Zafar did not feel out of place so some praise should go to his performance in the film.

iii – Talk about perfect casting; Pradhuman Singh as “Osama” was picture perfect. This film would have never worked if “Osama” was not visually convincing enough to fool the characters in the film but with good casting of fake Osama, Tere Bin Laden pulled the stunt successfully in the end. 

iv – From beginning to end, the story flows smooth and doesn’t feel stagnated at all. Around the 90 minute mark, Tere Bin Laden has the perfect length which neither feels too long or too short. 

v– To the film’s credit, the greed and hunger for success and capital is evenly depicted between all facets of this “War on Terror”. Al Qaeda is out there killing innocent bystanders in their Holy War while the U.S authorities are there to deceive the world as saviours but instead are making profit off human lives. There’s a good line of dialogue from the FBI agent Ted Wood after being asked why he ordered to bomb Afghanistan if Osama is hiding within Pakistan:

“We have a 100 Billion Dollar budget for hunting down Osama, I can’t spend all of that on sipping coffee!”

 + Low Points

i – Tere Bin Laden commits the most cardinal sin imaginable for any comedy film; too many bad jokes. The film can easily be described as the feature length version of ‘Kapil Sharma show’. With obnoxious “funny” sound effects and over the top acting, the film just utterly fails to live up to its interesting premise. Abhishek Sharma is unfortunately not talented enough to create a good satire out of this premise. He just ends up doing what he can do, creating an unfunny, unintelligible “comedy”.

ii – For a story satirising such serious, real life events, the film also needed to be convincing when it comes to creating the atmosphere. But unfortunately, Tere Bin Laden also utterly fails in that department. The film is supposed to be taking place in Karachi but being a fellow Karachitie, it felt nothing like the city that I’ve grown up in! The city itself is obviously Mumbai, no real effort was made to disguise it as the city of Lights (also, slapping a mere PIA logo on a shop in the background does not automatically make it Karachi!). And since the majority of the actors are Indian, they can only deliver their dialogues in Hindi/ Mumbai slang and nothing even comes close to it even remotely sounding like a Karachite! It was utterly embarrassing how badly the film fails in this aspect. And there is no one to blame for this other than the director Abhishek Sharma for this.

iii – The film is just utterly ridiculous. And I don’t mean it in a good way. The comedy, dialogue, performances, production/ set design, everything feels so cheap and disposable. Abhishek Sharma was sitting on a gold mine with such a unique premise but due to lack of actual writer/ directorial skills, Tere Bin Laden fails to become even remotely what the potential was behind such a premise.

iv – The characterization of each individual felt like they just walked off the variety hour TV set. Why does the TV news CEO wear a wig? Why is a communist a being a part of this scheme? Why did Osama’s look alike needed to be obsessed with chickens? None of this makes any sense and was only there for the sole purpose of a second long gag which they can stretch for 90 minutes. When it comes to comedy, Tere Bin Laden lacks real effort. The script needed a lot of work before it would’ve been remotely ready for production.

v – Although the jingle is memorable, the songs themselves are nothing praiseworthy. They are cheap renditions of thousand other Bollywood film songs.

vi – “White people are always idiots!”. Or at least that’s what every Bollywood film wants you to believe. And this film is no different. It’s obvious that Tere Bin Laden needs a bit of “suspension of disbelief” but there is also a limit to how far the viewer can go with this. The American authority figures are depicted as complete buffoons who can’t differentiate what is real and what is fake.

vii – So the main protagonist Ali Hassan creates a fake Osama Bin Laden video, threatening a Holy War against the US army which leads to them bombing Afghanistan in return, killing hundreds of innocent civilians. Are we supposed to root for our protagonist? Was he unaware this would eventually happen? I’m completely baffled what the intention of the director was with this film. Although later in the film, Ali Hassan tries to make things right, it’s too late for that. The civilians are already dead. As a viewer, why should I now even care if Ali Hassan would get to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming big in the US? It’s very insensitive to the people who have actually become victims in this War on Terror. 

viii – The conclusion of the film also made absolutely no sense. It’s obvious that the writer was stumped on how to conclude the story so he just decided to ignore logic altogether.

+ Overall

With such an interesting premise, Tere Bin Laden fails due to lack of effort in every department. From script to production to performances, the film could’ve been a sharp, satirical look on post 9/11 paranoia but instead, ends up being just another run of the mill Bollywood “comedy”. Talk about wasted potential.

Rate: 1.75 out of 5 stars

Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Tribhanga: Tedhi Medhi Crazy (2021)

A review on Indian family drama feature length film, Tribhanga: Tedhi Medhi Crazy (2021). The film is directed by Renuka Shahane and is co-produced by the real life husband of the lead actress, Ajay Devgn. The film is an Ajay Devgn FFilms, Banijay Asia and Alchemy Films Production and is a Netflix Original Film. 

+ Crew

  • Directed by Renuka Shahane
  • Cinematography by Baba Azmi
  • Written by Renuka Shahane
  • Music by Sanjoy Chowdhury
  • Edited by Jabeen Merchant
  • Produced by Ajay Devgn, Parag Desai, Deepak Dhar, Rishi Negi, Siddharth P Malhotra and Sapna Malhotra

+ Note

Tribhanga is a standing dance pose in Odissi where the body bends in one direction at the knees while the other at its hips and the upper body leaning the other way with the shoulders and neck. Its characteristics are supposed to represent the three leading women of the film, played by Azmi, Kajol and Palkar. The film is also a debut for Kajol in her very first Netflix film. 

Tribhanga was originally supposed to be a low budget Marathi film but later turned into a Hindi Netflix original when big name stars like Kajol came onboard.

+ Main Cast

  1. Kajol as Anuradha “Anu” Apte
  2. Tanvi Azmi as Nayantara “Nayan” Apte
  3. Shweta Mehendale as young Nayantara
  4. Mithila Palkar as Masha
  5. Kunaal Roy Kapur as Milan
  6. Vaibhav Tatwawaadi as Robindoro
  7. Kanwaljit Singh as Raina
  8. Manav Gohil as Raghav

+ Plot

Anu, a famous, well renowned performer, receives news that her Mother is in a coma and is in critical condition at the hospital. This makes Anu revisit and finally come to terms with her disturbing past so that she could eventually provide a prosperous future for her daughter Masha in the process.

Tribhanga is a family drama and its plot revolves around its three female protagonists; Nayanthara, Anu and Masha. Each one is different from the other but one thing that always binds them together is the hardships that they go through Life; being a female in a male dominated society of India.

+ High Points

i – Netflix Originals usually are always technically sound films and Tribhanga is no exception. The cinematography captures the vibrancy and atmosphere of the city of Mumbai quite well. Each frame is carefully crafted to excellence. 

ii – The music by Sanjoy Chowdhury is noteworthy and plays a vital role in creating the sense of dread and solitude that our female protagonists feel as they have to face different hardships and obstacles in Life.

iii – Tanvi Azmi’s performance is exceptional throughout the film. The consistency of her greatness whenever she was onscreen really elevated the even tiresome, badly written scenes and dialogues of the movie.

+ Low Points

i – The script is a total disaster. I cannot imagine how this film even made it to the library of Netflix originals. The plot is arbitrary, the emotions are completely misplaced in almost every scene, the dialogue is cringeworthy and completely absurd to the most dramatic moments of the film. It is truly amazing to me how Shahane got his very own script so wrong! For most of the film, Azmi’s coma is laughed off as a hilarious inconvenience. As a viewer, I was completely baffled how the story almost failed in every single set piece of the film. 

ii – There is waaay too much happening in its 90 min runtime! Although the film’s main core is the severed relationship that Anu has with her mother, new unnecessary plotlines are introduced mid to late into the film’s end. And thus, the story feels bloated with its message and lacks focus on what it really wants to be; a tragedy or a comedy? Also the laughable dialogue does not help either.

iii – Speaking of laughable dialogue, Kajol is supposed to be playing a strong female lead. So how could you depict that in a film? Easy! Give her a vocabulary which could make a Scottish sailor blush! There is absolutely a place for violence, nudity and vulgar language in the medium of film but it does indeed need to fit in with the overall tone of the movie. Kajol’s obsessive cursing felt extremely forced and the absolute wrong idea of how a “strong female protagonist” should be depicted on screen.

iv –  SPOLIER ALERT! (skip to the next point if you would like to watch the film):

Sigh… as mentioned above, the film tries its very best to make you feel emotional and connected with its characters by introducing unnecessary plot twists throughout its runtime and in turn, over compensating its lack of coherent storytelling. Sexual Abuse and forced Abortions are used as plot points just to add even more emotional weight to the plot and in the process, everything just comes off as trivial at the end. These topics deserved much more exploration and depth and sadly, should never be used as tear jerking techniques to exploit your audience’s emotions. Each one of these issues are either quickly resolved or just mentioned in the climax scene of the film which leaves the audience no time to react to it.

Also, the resolution to the estranged Mother/ daughter relationship is swiftly resolved near the end after a few measly dialogues which were already mentioned a couple of times throughout the film. Why? Cause the film needed to end I suppose.

v – Almost all characters are deplorable or uninteresting (namely the doppy documentary maker in the film) . But Kajol’s hokey performance really takes the cake! Her exaggerated performance does not at all fit with the overall tone of the film. There was no scene which made me sympathize with her plight. An actress like Nandita Das would’ve knocked this role out of the park but unfortunately, Kajol is a total, unfortunate miscast.

vi – The costume design and makeup is completely at odds with the dire situation presented in the film. Every day, Anu does a whole new fancy wardrobe change and makeup just so she could visit her mother who is suffering from a coma (and potentially, life threatening) at the hospital. I mean, good grief…

vii – Now here is a problem which many feminist films suffer from; over compensation. Almost all male characters in the film are either idiots or a**holes just to present an opportunity for the female protagonists to fight through. Most of the issues that women face in our society are seeped extremely deep into our culture and psyche. Women are not necessarily tough by depicting their world solely in black and white. Societies are much more complicated than that and should not be insulted by depicting antagonists purely as two dimensional obstacles to overcome. 

+ Overall

Tribhanga is a bloated mess of a film. Kajol’s exaggerated performance and a directionless, half baked script really destroyed any chances of this being a good film. The premise is great and had so much potential of being even a brilliant, low key family drama but unfortunately, almost nothing lands in this film. What a total debacle.

Rate: 1.25 out of 5 stars

Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Awāra (1951)

A review on Indian melodrama feature length classic film, Awāra (1951). The film is directed and produced by Raj Kapoor and stars the famous onscreen couple of Raj Kapoor and Nargis. The film is an All Indian Film Corporation production and is also produced and distributed by R.K.Films.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Raj Kapoor 
  • Cinematography by Radhu Karmakar
  • Written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas
  • Music by Shankar-Jaikishan
  • Edited by G.G. Mayekar
  • Produced by Raj Kapoor

+ Note

Awāra is considered to be one of the greatest, all time classic of Bollywood cinema and also a film that solidified Raj Kapoor’s influence on Indian Cinema. It tackles themes like crime and social issues, accompanied by musical melodrama. Upon its release, Awāra became an instant sensation not just in India but also overseas in Africa, Middle east and the Soviet Union for its socialist/ reformist approach on poverty and lack of social justice for the common man. The film is estimated to have sold over 200 Million tickets worldwide and considered to be one of the most successful films of all time. In 2012, the film was even included into the 20 new entries added to the All-Time 100 greatest films by TIME magazine.

+ Main Cast

  1. Raj Kapoor as Raj
  2. Shashiraj as Young Raj (child artist)
  3. Nargis as Rita
  4. Baby Zubeida as Young Rita
  5. Prithviraj Kapoor as Judge Raghunath (Raj’s father)
  6. K. N. Singh as Jagga
  7. Cuckoo as Bar dancer
  8. B. M. Vyas as Dubey (Rita’s father)
  9. Leela Misra as Mr. Raghunath’s Sister-In-Law
  10. Leela Chitnis as Leela Raghunath
  11. Honey O’Brien as Dancer
  12. D. Basheshernath (Grand Pa) as a Judge

+ Plot

The film is a quintessential Bollywood melodrama; a young boy named Raj (Raj Kapoor) is born in the slums of India after his mother was rejected by his biological father (Prithviraj Kapoor) due to the suspicion of having an extramarital affair with another man. While living the life of a petty criminal, Raj has a change of heart when he meets the love of his life, Rita (Nargis) who is his childhood friend but is brought up in a higher social class. Will an alleged son of a criminal remain one by association or can one change himself for the better? Will Raj be able to successfully redeem himself or is doomed to live the rest of his life as a petty thief? 

+ High Points

i – The Raj Kapoor/ Nargis duo is and will always be one for the ages. The enigmatic onscreen chemistry that these two permeate will remain unmatched.

ii – Whenever Raj Kapoor is onscreen, his magnetic personality will always draw you into the film. No matter if you’re a Bollywood fan or not, his wit and charm is unparalleled with anyone else that has graced the silver screen of Bollywood.

iii – Awāra was the beginning of the creative collaboration between Raj Kapoor and Khwaja Ahmad Abbas who made several films together after this, spanning almost 30 years of work together. When analysing its script, direction, music and performances; one cannot be much surprised as to why their minds came together so well, time and time again.

iv – Some of the most memorable songs that we all know and love originate from this film; “Awaara Hoon”, “Tere Bina Aag Yeh Chandni”, “Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi”, sung by the great Lata Mangeshkar. Shankar Jaikishan’s composition is in a league of its own and Awāra’s Soundtrack really solidified its place in the early decades of Bollywood cinema.

v – Awāra stars generations of Kapoor family all in one film; Raj Kapoor plays the protagonist, his real life father Prithviraj Kapoor plays his father, Raj’s brother Shashi Kapoor plays Raj’s younger self and finally, Raj’s grandfather D. Basheshernath also has a cameo role as the Judge in the film. Since they were so familiar with each other’s acting skills, the Kapoor family played off one another with such ease and surprisingly, this conglomerate of Nepotism never proved to be detrimental to the film.

vi – Some of the superimposition of pictures and sequences to visually depict grief and longing are very clever and innovative for its time. 

vii – A man who is born in criminal lifestyle destined to become a criminal?  Does he deserve redemption for his wrongdoings? Will he ever be accepted by society? The social issues addressed in the film were and are still very relevant in the modern day.

viii – The ending is surprisingly very convincing and well written. It refuses to be seduced by the typical “Bollywood happy ending” and leaves a slight question mark in our hearts and minds.

ix – The gritty Set Design of the slums of India, rain sequences convey gorgeously the feeling of emotional solitude and isolation.

+ Low Points

i – Although the film is mostly entertaining, it does drag on from time to time, namely the childhood sequence which could’ve been easily reduced for the betterment of the film as a structural, coherent narrative.

ii – The melodrama and dialogue can be very tacky and eye rolling at times. 

iii – Jagga as the antagonist is incredibly silly, does not pertain to have the viciousness and imminent threat that a Bandit should have. One could easily compare him to Gabbar Singh from Sholay (1975) who had the ruggedness and tenacity of being Evil. Even during his most menacing scenes, Jagga comes off goofy and has definitely not aged well.

iv – So as the main plot of the film goes, Jagga kidnaps the Lawyer’s wife because he wrongfully accused Jagga of his crime. When Jagga finds out that the lawyer’s wife is pregnant, he decides to let her go back to her husband in order to create a misunderstanding that perhaps she had an affair with Jagga while being in his vicinity. Okay… but what if she had already told her husband before the kidnapping that she was pregnant? Jagga didn’t know that, how was he so sure that she didn’t? The catalyst to the plot apparently has no strong basis to it.

v – Although the dream sequence contains one of the most memorable Bollywood song of all time “Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi”, it does bring the whole film to a halt and disrupts the overall flow of the narrative. The costumes design and makeup of “savages” in the dream sequence have also unfortunately not aged too well.

+ Overall

It certainly goes without saying that Awāra will always remain a classic and a pinnacle of artistry in Bollywood cinema. Even after Sixty plus years, it has certainly stood the test of time. Although the melodrama is laid on thick, the charm lies in its performances by the two main leads (Raj Kapoor and Nargis) and the timeless songs of yesteryear. If the modern audiences can get past the “Black and White”-phobia, this timeless classic has a lot to offer. 

Rate: 4 out of 5 stars

Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on AK vs AK (2020)

A review on Indian/ Hindi language black comedy thriller film, AK vs AK (2020). It is directed by Vikramaditya Motwane and the Production House is Andolan Films. The film is distributed by Netflix.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Vikramaditya Motwane
  • Cinematography by Swapnil Sonawane
  • Written by Anurag Kashyap (dialogues)
  • Screenplay by Avinash Sampath and Vikramaditya Motwane
  • Produced by Deepa De Motwane

+ Note

Ak vs Ak is a dark, comedic look into the culture and impact that Bollywood has on everyday life of India. AK vs AK is unique for its “film within a film” style of storytelling and everyone is playing as “themselves” makes everything seem authentic. The idea was initially pitched in 2013 with Shahid Kapoor playing the title role alongside Anurag and Vikramaditya Motwane attached to the project as its director. But delays and rewrites pushed the project further back to 2019. Finally, Motwane decided to cast Anil Kapoor for the role instead as he has been a bigger “commercial” star of Bollywood and fits the narrative of India’s obsession with its stars much better.

+ Main Cast

  1. Anil Kapoor as himself
  2. Anurag Kashyap as himself
  3. Yogita Bihani as herself
  4. Sonam Kapoor Ahuja as herself
  5. Harshvardhan Kapoor as himself
  6. Sucharita Tyagi as herself
  7. Boney Kapoor as himself
  8. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as himself (voice, cameo)

+ Plot

While attending the MAMI event, Bollywood icon Anil Kapoor and renegade director Anurag Kashyap get into a major public feud with one another as to who the bigger “star” of Bollywood is. This leads to Kashyap writing and directing his best film yet; kidnapping Anil Kapoor’s real life daughter (Sonam Kapoor) and forcing him to search for her within 10 hours time (till sunrise) while being filmed throughout this ordeal. No breaks, no cuts, no reshoots. Everything goes!

+ High Points

i – Its safe to say that the filmmakers had a lot of fun making the film and it shows! Every scene/ performance was taken up to 11. Nothing was off limits. All real life actors made fun of themselves and their dwindling careers. Is Anil Kapoor just a relic of the past? Is Kashyap just a talentless hack who only knows how to write obscene dialogue? 

ii – Unsurprisingly, the snappy dialogue of the film is written by none other than Kashyap himself and its always fun to witness how he blends spoken dialogue with a sprinkle of ‘Bollywood masala’ mixed into it.

iii – The film (very successfully) takes shots at Bollywood and how deeply rooted it is to the lives of every person growing up in the slums of India. The Bollywood stars are not mere actors but dancing gods who cannot be separated from their onscreen personas.

iv – The dark humor is hilarious. There were numerous times I chuckled at the absurdity of the scene or just burst out laughing. The collaboration of Kashyap and Motwane always bring out the best in both of them.

v – The performances are great all across the board. Surprisingly, even as a non-professional actor, Kashyap kept up with Anil Kapoor pretty well throughout the film!

vi – The ‘Lakhan’ scene. ‘Nuff said!

vii – The city of Mumbai is as vibrant as ever and is undoubtedly a character on its own.

+ Low Points

i – Although the film was engaging for the most part, the last act of the movie felt a bit like a deadend with its creativity and the filmmakers really had to take a very “uninspiring” way to end the story. Predictable and lackluster end to what was a very fun ride.

ii – Such an ‘off the wall’ script could’ve been accompanied by experimental editing but unfortunately, that was not the case. The footage was sped up numerous times throughout the film (to save time I suppose) but it just felt tacky and amateurish. 

iii – As you would expect from a Kashyap/ Motwane project, the film throws every idea they can concoct onto the wall to see what sticks. Some do, some don’t, namely the presentation of the film. Video game sprites and text don’t match up well to the dark, humorous tone that they were going for. It belongs more to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) rather than the gritty streets of Mumbai.

iv – The music is (for the most part) pretty forgettable. I thought Kashyap/ Motwane projects always had an excellent soundtrack to them (Dev.D (2009), Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016), Sacred Games (2018-19)). What happened?

+ Overall

AK vs AK is definitely a fun ride but the somewhat predictable/ disappointing ending will leave you a bit deflated at the end. But the duo of Anil Kapoor and Anurag Kashyap play off each other hilariously and for that alone, its definitely worth a watch!

Rate: 3.75 out of 5 stars