Aattam, Who Is The Culprit: Ending Explained

Aattam Movie explained and find the culprit
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If you ask me, which is the brilliant Malayalam film from the 2024 first quarter, I would say it’s Aattam. Aattam is a 2024 Malayalam suspense chamber drama. Penned by debutant director Anand Ekarshi, Aattam navigates through the politics of gender dynamics, patriarchy, situational morality & selfishness in humans, within a theatrical setting. If you have seen this movie, most viewers ask a question: Who is the culprit in Aattam. Let me explain the layers of Aattam first, and if you are impatient, just scroll down.

Plot Overview

Aattam is a thriller of accusation and betrayal set against the backdrop of a theatre troupe. The plot circles around Anjali, the group’s only female actor, levelling charges of sexual harassment against a newly joined popular movie star in their team.

A scene from Aattam
A scene from Aattam

What starts as a straightforward allegation soon spirals into a complex web of deceit, manipulation, and shifting loyalties, especially when the proposal of a European tour throws the troupe into moral disarray.

The narrative cleverly employs a classic whodunit structure, yet the way it unveils the innate biases and hypocrisy of its characters is what makes it interesting.

How Aanand, wrote each character is truly admirable; for example, the character Aji (the eldest among them): Aanand constructed the character through micro interactions (mentioning phone calls, his mannerisms, etc).

A scene from Aattam
Transformation scenes of Aji from Aattam

At the same time, Aji’s transformation didn’t go well (someone who doesn’t care about dying suddenly willing to compromise on himself so that he can go to Europe is a bit forced, in my opinion). And all this was just so that he could say what he said at the end.

Finding The Culprit & Theme of Aattam #Whodunnit  

Aattam is not about Whodunnit; by the end of the film, if you are just curious to know Whodunnit, then I would say this film is not for you. This film is not about the sinner; rather, it’s about the sin.

It’s like wondering if Teddy Daniels in Shutter Island chooses to live in a lie or faces the truth in the end. The real question isn’t what reality he picks. It’s about Teddy reaching a point where he prefers peace over constant torment, regardless of whether his world is real or made up. So, he makes a choice that might lead him to a lobotomy, showing he’d rather forget than live with the pain.

A scene from Shutter Island
A scene from Shutter Island

The movie is sprinkled with so many minor flaws in human interactions, be they judgmental, generalisation based on experience, selfishness, hypocrisy, vigilantism, patriarchal mindset, social influence, arrogance, or demeaning others.

A scene from Aattam
A scene from Aattam

Even in the way he shows patriarchal ideologies in all layers of society, for example, there is a scene where a politician requests Madan’s vote, saying, Come and vote for me with the same finger that you have voted for my father.

By the end, when Anjali says: “നീ ആരാണെന്ന് എനിക്കറിയണ്ട. നീയും ആ 11 പേരും തമ്മിൽ ഇന്നെനിക്ക് ഒരു വ്യത്യാസവുമില്ല”

Climax scene from Aattam
Climax scene from Aattam

The director Anand Ekarshi summarises the movie there. But if you are curious to find the culprit from Aattam, I will help you. Scroll down straght to the last sub-heading.

12 Angry Men v/s Aattam

Aattam is very similar to the classic 12 Angry Men, be it the style, theme, and narration. It’s evident that Aanand Ekarshi is highly inspired by 12 Angry Men.

The film 12 Angry Men exemplifies many social psychology theories. This tense, compelling film, features a group of jurors who must decide the guilt or innocence of the accused.

12 Angry men scene
12 Angry Men

Initially, eleven of the twelve jurors vote guilty. Gradually, through heated discussion, the jurors are swayed to a not-guilty decision. Upon examination, the film highlights social psychology theories in areas of conformity, attitude change, and group processes.

Don’t you think it’s the same structure that Anand is following here?

When the inverter stops working, everyone leaves the house and steps outside due to the heat. Later, when it starts to rain, everyone rushes inside the house. These 2 scenes are one of the few scenes in which background music can be heard.

I think the director Anand Ekarshi wants to emphasise these 2 scenes, to show how we change our stance depending on the situation. The whole team was sure about throwing out Shajon’s character initially, but when the London Trip was introduced, everyone changed their stance.

Climax scene from 12 angry men movie
A scene from 12 Angry Men

A similar scene you can see from 12 Angry Men, where they open the windows because it’s too hot inside, and they open up the windows.

This shows that we humans change our stands as per our needs. This is where, I thought it would have been great if there were a couple of women who initially stood with Anjali and then turned their backs after the European trip offer came, It would better show that most people are hypocrites, not just men.

Attitude Change and Persuasion in the First Half

The central route to persuasion is all about logic and reason. It’s where you convince someone by using strong arguments, evidence, and facts to back up your position.

In the first half, you can see that Madan, Sijin, Jolly and Santosh are doing this.

For example, Sijin asks Madan: “What exactly did she tell you”, or Jolly asks: “So it happened not when she was awake”

Peripheral v/s Central persuasion from AATTAM
Peripheral v/s Central persuasion

The peripheral route of persuasion is the opposite of the central route. It’s a shortcut to influencing someone, relying on indirect cues and associations rather than strong arguments.

It targets our emotions and biases, and doesn’t require much effort from the audience to process. Vinay, Aji, Nandan, Sudheer, and Selvan are following this route.

For example when Nandan says: “He will do it, he always shares bawdy jokes”. or Selvan says: ” A sober mind wouldn’t do such things, it happened becuase they were drunk”. Through the use of non-factual, environmental cues, the sick gentleman utilises the peripheral route to persuasion.

Another important factor is Social loafing. It describes a situation where people exert less effort when working in a group compared to working alone. It’s like slacking off a bit because you think others will pick up the slack.

Prashanth and Jolly are in that stage, where they are slacking off with excuses.

And by the end of the first half, you can see group polarisation.

Imagine you and your friends are discussing a movie. Some might initially like it a little, some might be neutral, and a few might dislike it. Through discussion, those who liked it a little might become more enthusiastic, and those who disliked it might become even more critical. This is group polarisation.

Vinay brilliantly polarised everyone in one direction, by the end of the first half.

Moral Disengagement in The Second Half

Throughout Aattam, you are going to witness a few complexities in human behaviours like Moral Disengagement and Hypocrisy.

What is moral disengagement?

Moral disengagement is basically a fancy way of saying someone talks themselves into believing ethical rules don’t apply to them in a specific situation. It’s a psychological process that lets people act unethically without feeling bad about it.

Moral Disengagement from AATTAM
Moral Disengagement

Moral justification: Coming up with reasons why their actions are good, even if they aren’t. In Aattam, how conveniently the characters brought different reasons after they got to know about the European trip.

Observe how Selvan, Madan, Aji and Jolly. For instance, Jolly, the silent guy in the first half is aggressive and says “Just swallow the story in the whole”.

Moral Disengagement from AATTAM

Euphemistic labelling: Using nicer words to downplay the seriousness of their actions. For example when Madan talks about “Tactile Halluccination” he is trying to nullify her arguments in a sweeter way compared to Santhosh and Sijin.

Discrediting the victim: This involves downplaying the harm caused to the victim or portraying them as deserving of the negative consequences.

For example, Selvan saying about Anjali’s drinking habit, Prashant talking about her relationship with a married man, Sijin talking about her relationship, even addressing her as “Set-up”.

Disregarding or minimising consequences: This involves downplaying the negative outcomes of the action. For example, Vinay saying Anjali ” No one did anything to you, let’s believe it like that.”

I really love that scene where Anjali asked the question to vinay: “If it’s not Hari, who was it? , no one raised this question”. this is where the brilliance of the script, in the beginning, everyone was talking about the punishments, but when they realised it’s not Hari and one among them, they conviniently went through the moral disengagement and forgot the whodunnit part.

Who Is The Actual Culprit: Aattam Ending Explained

If you really want a culprit, let me share some thoughts:

In the final scene of the movie, in Anjali’s drama, the culprit confesses while Anjali is holding a yellow cloth. There is only one character in the whole movie who is wearing a yellow dress. Is that the culprit? 

That’s not a rational finding, right?

Okay, one more theory:

Anjali said, there was an intense perfume smell. Guys who fell in the pool won’t have that intense smell.

Jolly, Sudheer, Prashanth and Vinay were the people who didn’t fall in the pool.

Let’s eliminate Vinay, since, he is her lover. Jolly was busy with his video call and was disturbed, so let’s eliminate him.

Now either it should be Prashanth or Sudheer. Sudheer and Prashanth are the ones who got disturbed while hearing this, and went out for smoking.

I believe it’s Sudheer. WHY?

During that party, Sudheer was disturbed by seeing Anjali’s cleavage, that disturbance can be an arousal as well. Sudheer tried to hide the evidence in the first half, without any rationality. Near to the climax, while Jolly is showing the screenshot to others, Sudheer acts like he is seeing the first time. He was in a hurry to establish Hari as the culprit. He consistently avoided involving the police.

Sudheer's key scenes from Aattam which proves that he is the culprit of Aattam
Sudheer’s key scenes from Aattam

Being a smoker, Sudheer knew that Hari kept cigarettes in his car. He likely stole the car keys before the other person retrieved them.

Additionally, Sudheer watched pornography just before the incident. that was revealed later. Madan is asking why Nandhan went to Shajitha’s room, if we place Sudheer in Nandhan’s place, we have an answer: Sudheer might have gone there to see his wife and might have seen Anjali.

So, I believe it’s Sudheer. But let me remind you that the essence of film is not #Whodunnit

“നീ ആരാണെന്ന് എനിക്കറിയണ്ട. നീയും ആ 11 പേരും തമ്മിൽ ഇന്നെനിക്ക് ഒരു വ്യത്യാസവുമില്ല” 👌 { “I don’t need to know who you are. You and those 11 people are all the same to me today.” – Anjali }

Read more movie reviews and analysis here.

The Lunchbox vs. Photograph: Ritesh Batra’s Parallel Narratives

Ritesh Batra took 6 years to release his second Hindi film, Photograph, after my favourite film, The Lunchbox. This time he explained the story of two obedient individuals, Miloni (Sanya Malhotra), who is studying to become a chartered accountant, and Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a street photographer. Let’s see how Batra crafted a different movie from the same set of characters, elements, and geography that he used in The Lunchbox. In essence, both films are narrating the same crux.

Photograph Trailer

Miloni meets Rafi at the Gateway of India in Mumbai, where she allows him to take her photograph. Unfortunately, her family calls her away before he can give it to her in an envelope. Later, circumstances make Rafi ask Miloni to act as his girlfriend while his grandmother (Farrukh Jaffar) visits. She agrees, leading to the formation of an unexpected connection between them. Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra perfectly match the film’s gentle mood, expressing much through subtle body language, the setting, and their eyes.

“Years from now, when you look at this photo, you’ll feel the sun on your face, wind in your hair and hear all these voices again. Or it’ll all be gone. Gone forever.”

 – Rafi in Photograph (2019)

Two Parallel Rays From Different Sources

Miloni and Rafi have different backgrounds, yet they are moving in parallel in the same direction. Photograph explained this journey in The Lunchbox style. They both are not sailing in life for what they want; rather, they are living for others. They are obedient people who have followed whatever has been told to them

Miloni was always obedient to her parent’s choices. There is a scene where, during dinner, her family members say that Miloni wanted to become an actress before her family pushed her to study accounting. and her father is surprised. She wears what her family thinks looks good on her. She doesn’t even have a favourite colour in her life. Miloni conforms to her family’s expectations, donning attire they find appealing. 

Similarly, Rafi’s life is dedicated to his family’s well-being. He toils away, shouldering the heavy burden of his village home’s debt and single-handedly covering his sisters’ wedding costs. His unwavering commitment extends to fulfilling his grandmother’s desires without hesitation. His nights remind me of Saajan from The Lunchbox. Both are isolated in their own islands.

Symmetry happens From Asymmetries

The movie describes Rafi & Miloni both living for the sake of their family by killing their smiles; they were on the stage of life where they forgot their smile and were going through a monotonous life. In Rafi’s photographs, Miloni is finding her smile, which she lost in between.

At the post office, while sending off a money order, the clerk gently nudges Rafi to consider his own needs for once, suggesting he keep a little money for himself. “Keep some for yourself too, Rafi Bhai,” she advises. Rafi’s life is a testament to selflessness and familial devotion, painting a portrait of a man who lives not for himself but for the ones he loves.

Contrast in two characters: The position, brightness, and frame are louder than my words

Miloni and Rafi face similar challenges, though their lives began very differently. Miloni comes from a Hindu, upper-middle-class urban family, while Rafi is Muslim and from a lower-middle-class family. Their differences are stark, not just in their religious backgrounds but also in their skin tones and how they dress.

There are even moments in the film where people comment on Rafi because Miloni looks so different from him. Yet, at their core, they are the same: both are kind, empathetic, and lonely yet surrounded by people. Rafi is like a gulab jamun, and Miloni is like a rasgulla—both are sweet, yet distinct to those around them.

As the relationship between Miloni and Rafi unfolds, Photograph explained their progression from strangers to connected souls.

Being the Slave of Own Past

A smile

Miloni seems to live in her past, reminiscing about her childhood. She inquires about farm life from her maid and shares with Rafi her fond memories of drinking Campa Cola with her grandfather. There’s a scene where a doctor remembers her as a young, adventurous lady, visiting with her grandfather, Campa Cola in hand.

A smile again

Even in a matchmaking scene, when a man asks Miloni where she would like to live, she answers, “A village.” Surprised, he asks her what she would do there. She tells him, “I will do farming in the morning and take a nap in the afternoon“. Rafi, on the other hand, feels stuck due to his duties.

Who Do Not Move, Do Not Notice Their Chains

As their relationship develops, Miloni and Rafi start to move away from their obedient roles towards rebellion, each in their own way. What disappoints me is that, like Batra’s previous film, The Lunchbox, Photograph also ends with an open ending, leaving us wondering what happens next.

In the middle of the movie, when Rafi and Miloni go to a movie theatre, a rat runs over Miloni’s feet, making her uncomfortable. This scene quickly cuts to Miloni’s study table.

Initially, we don’t see what happens after the movie theatre incident. Ritesh Batra saves this crucial scene for the end, where they have a brief chat, Miloni asks him, “Don’t you want to continue the movie?” and Rafi says, “I know the rest of the story. They will fall in love, but because of their backgrounds, they won’t be together.”

The open ending of ‘Photograph,’ explained as a choice by the director The director wants us to follow the story in a linear style until the ending scene. Here, it becomes clear that both Rafi and Miloni understand their backgrounds and social status and that they are unlikely to end up together in this society. After recognising this reality and their probable future, they decide to go with the flow without saying it out loud.

Nostalgia is an Illusion

The story brings back memories with its use of public phone booths and the classic kaali-peeli taxis, even though smartphones and online cab services are common now. It feels like the story was meant for the last decade. Because of this, while the movie becomes nostalgic, it might not seem as relevant today.

I noticed something similar in Sriram Raghavan’s “Merry Christmas.” There is a dialogue in Photograph where a cola factory worker says: “Our country is big, but its memory is short.” But Photograph will definitely make sure to recall your memories.

Photographs are Footprints

Another notable aspect of the film is the frequent focus on characters’ feet, especially Miloni’s. When she feels nervous, the film often shows her feet moving restlessly.

Since Miloni doesn’t share her thoughts out loud and stays quiet, these shots of her feet help show she’s feeling nervous.

It seemed meaningful that the gift Miloni receives from Rafi’s grandmother is a pair of anklets, perhaps suggesting a wish for her to express her feelings more loud.

Parallel World, Parallel Events

The world of Photograph is not different from the one in The Lunchbox. Both films incorporate traditional elements like letters and photographs in an era dominated by text messages and selfies. The main characters exist in a state of isolation amidst the bustling life of Mumbai, where everyone else seems to be in a rush, and they are left hoping for a change.

In both movies, loneliness plays a critical role, almost acting as a character itself. Both stories gradually evolve after an accidental encounter, forming unexpected friendships and ambiguous relationships among the main characters.

A mix-up with a lunchbox initiates a classic letter-writing romance between Ila (Nimrat Kaur) and Saajan (Irrfan Khan) in The Lunchbox. Similarly, a random meeting at the Gateway of India sparks an impromptu romance between Rafi and Miloni. In each story, there is a noticeable age difference between the male and female leads, highlighting their distinct contrasts.

Same Templates, Different Emotions

Ritesh Batra employs familiar cinematic techniques in both The Lunchbox and Photograph. The Lunchbox starts with imagery of two trains moving in opposite directions, while Photograph captures traffic flowing similarly.

Notably, in The Lunchbox, we hear Deshpande Aunty’s voice without seeing her, and only glimpse the exterior of Ila’s father. Similarly, in Photograph, Rafi’s interactions at the post office feature only the voice of the postal worker, whom we never see, yet who seems to know him well and speak like a well-wisher.

Batra’s way of intensifying emotional scenes diverges from the age-old Kurosawa technique of using close-up shots of face gestures. He emphasises voices over facial expressions.

In Photograph, Batra effectively uses auditory elements multiple times. For example, the woman on the bus questioning Miloni about appearing on a billboard for Miloni’s coaching centre remains unseen.

The introduction of Miloni’s teacher delays showing his face until the scene nearly ends. When a potential suitor’s parents visit Miloni, everyone’s face, except Miloni’s is blurred. Additionally, in the scene where Rafi encounters the Campa Cola manufacturer, the factory setting is blurred, focusing on Rafi from behind, while the background sounds and music convey the scene’s essence.

Same Characters, Same Elements

In The Lunchbox, Ila says Deshpande Uncle always stared at the ceiling fan because he thought his life depended on it. Deshpande Aunty bought an inverter to keep the fan on forever. In Photograph, we also see and hear the ceiling fan a lot. Even after the very first scene of Rafi, it cuts to a ceiling fan. The movie shows some scenes as if we are looking down from where the fan is. Tiwari Ji took his own life with the fan.

In The Lunchbox, Saajan writes that he spent his whole life standing in trains and buses, and he will have to stand even when he is dead as there are no horizontal burial plots left and only vertical burial plots are being offered.

In Photograph, you can see a similar viewpoint from Rafi, he complains to Miloni about the hurry-burry of people in Mumbai. Even Batra added a symbol for the rat-race life of Rafi and his friends. The door of Rafi’s house opens upwards, making it feel like he is living in a box.

Even the elements of death and those haunting narrations are similar in The Lunchbox and Photograph. A woman jumps along with her daughter and commits suicide in The Lunchbox; In Photograph, it’s Tiwari ji, who commits suicide by hanging over the ceiling fan. Even there is a scene where Rafi’s friend Zakir comments over Tiwari Ji, “No one gets peace in Mumbai, not even in death”.

Even the utopian dreams of lead characters are nearly the same in The Lunchbox and Photograph. In the Lunchbox, it’s Ila and her desire to move to Bhutan for happiness.

In Photograph it’s Miloni’s desire to live in a village. They are yearning to move out of the cubicle life of bustling cities. Miloni connected more with people who came from villages, whether it was her maid or Rafi.

Photograph: A Pause Button

Even sometimes, I felt that Miloni was an extended version of Ila’s daughter in the Lunchbox. Mostly, Miloni’s character is inert in the movie, which makes it difficult to read her motivations. For instance, Miloni agrees to play Rafi’s girlfriend, but the film never explains her reasons for doing so.

Ritesh Batra beautifully packed Nostalgia or “those good old days,” in every frame of The Lunchbox and Photograph. The Lunchbox depicted old TV shows, radio shows, video cassettes, and letters. Photograph shows Campa Cola, softies, kulfi, kaali-peeli taxis, money orders, old theatres, and post offices.

 “I think we forget things if we have no one to tell them to,”

Saajan (The Lunchbox)

Perhaps this is the reason Ritesh Batra includes such nostalgic elements in his movies. By doing so, he leads us down a path where we too revisit our own childhood memories alongside him. Nostalgia becomes even more delightful when we have someone to share those memories with and look back on the times that will never return.

Read more about the Lunchbox here.

Animal Explained: Dissecting the Hidden Philosphies and Patriarchal Ideologies

Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal is streaming on Netflix with 3 hours and 24 minutes of adrenaline pumps. This is not a review, but rather an analysis of the propaganda art and politics of Animal. So, this blog contains spoilers, and if you haven’t watched it yet, skip this.

After Arjun Reddy (2017) and Kabir Singh (2019), two films about a sexually desperate misogynistic doctor with anger issues and Preeti obsession, director Sandeep Reddy Vanga returns with Animal. This time, it’s about a toxic patriarchal chain-smoking engineer obsessed with his father.

Animal movie explained
Animal Movie Poster

The crux of the story is a son protecting his father from animals in an animal park. Despite the script being imbued with his palaeolithic view of human instincts, Sandeep Reddy Vanga managed to infuse it with high adrenaline action, music, and a bloodbath. In essence, the hero is a carnivorous animal in human form, devoid of sin, vision, or empathy, driven only by instincts.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, although I disagree with a few of Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s perspectives. This film is a commendable mass entertainer.

How Sandeep Ignites the Adrenaline Rush With Animal

Sandeep Reddy Vanga brilliantly incorporates elements that have recently succeeded in commercial movies. Bringing in a weapon dealer, adding a massive gunfight scene, and retro songs like Roja, Punjabi DJ songs & Jamal Jamaloo, created high moments in theatres and on Instagram as well.

The cold-blooded revenge arc, fatherly sentiments, and nationalism (the weapons are made in India scenes) are well-placed. Surprises, such as the bystander-turned-traitor twists and the double climax, the 2-hour (so-called) street fight in the end (a reminiscent of Thallumala) the list is long. The high-adrenaline music is another highlight. Kudos to the long list of music directors from Harshavardhan Rameshwar, Jaani, Vishal Mishra, Shreyas Puranik, Manan Bhardwaj to last but not least: A. R. Rahman.

Forgot to add, the climax scene, inspired by Rolex, is particularly notable. Fans of Leo, Jawan, Pathan, and Arjun Reddy will find Animal a high-adrenaline theatre experience.

Animal’s Anthropology Class & Thrills from the Start

The movie begins with a narration, swiftly moving to a school episode of Ranvijay (Ranbir Kapoor) showcasing his love for his father. One of my favourite scenes follows, filled with A.R. Rahman’s Roja background score, where Ranvijay is now a college boy. The film transitions seamlessly to love at first sight.

Sandeep Reddy Vanga acts like an anthropologist, sharing perspectives on the evolution of poetry. These insights could be used to promote a whey protein brand or a fitness centre. He then progresses Ranvijay’s character arc to highlight his prejudiced and narcissistic nature.

Sandeep Reddy & His Art of Crafting a Predatory Protagonist

Sandeep Reddy Vanga meticulously wrote this character. Ranvijay cries only once in the entire movie. He never shows his vulnerabilities; even when he informs his sister about her husband’s death, he immediately consoles her by suggesting a remarriage. He consoles his wife by stating that happiness is a choice, and there’s a scene where he enjoys biryani made from human flesh (though Sandeep Reddy Vanga doesn’t explicitly show this). With all these elements, Sandeep tells you how umpathetic Ranjvijay is.

I appreciate Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s meticulous crafting of dialogues for Ranbir Kapoor. Ranbir’s dialogues always reflect an animal mindset, like his comments on business expansion or his various lectures. When Ranbir talks about patience and his fights with schoolmates, it reminds me of predators on Animal Planet. Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s portrayal of his hero as a tiger is contrasted with a more dog-like loyalty, treating others as subservient. Sandeep Reddy Vanga has a knack for highlighting character flaws, like Ranvijay’s.

The Subservient Female Roles in Animal Explained

Sandeep Reddy Vanga doesn’t give much importance to female characters like Geethanali, Zoya, or even Reet. They are portrayed as subservient to their male counterparts. Geethanali’s quick fall in love with Ranvijay, perhaps influenced by watching Arjun Reddy, is an example of this. Similarly, Zoya is depicted as submissive to Ranbir’s character. What is most disturbing is that Zoya is even ready to lick his feet for his love.

Rashmika Mandanna & Ranbir Kapoor from Animal

Unfortunately, Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s skill seems solely invested in building the character of Ranvijay. When it comes to the character arc, it only moves in one direction, continually ascending. I believe actions should have consequences, but nothing Ranvijay does in Animal seems to have any.

Sandeep’s Reply for Concerns Around Sexuality, Violence, and Gender Equality

Sandeep Reddy Vanga also tries to counter criticisms of male chauvinism. He addresses consent by having Ranvijay touch Geethanali’s feet and give a lecture on the importance of women in the Paleolithic era.

Ranbir kapoor and Rashmika Mandanna from Animal
Ranbir kapoor and Rashmika Mandanna from Animal

If there’s a problem with him slapping her, this time let her slap him. If there are issues with domination and masculinity, let her come to his home, kiss him in front of everyone, and let him praise her physique. He addresses body shaming by giving a spiritual lesson on pubic hair.

If there’s a problem with adult content and gory scenes, let’s have a three-hour blood bath with nudity and discussions of sexual fantasies.

What I really like is the idea of recording the moanings of their first lovemaking and using it to calm his angry wife, that was truly a wow! what an idea moment 🙂 .

So, in simple words, this movie entertains the majority with ease. I was expecting a Tarantino style but got an ultra-mode RGV style. Raw violence, sex, and obsession await you in this movie, sprinkled with a few good father-son sentiments.

The climax scene, with two sons fighting for their father’s honour and love, battling with emotions, and a background song echoing their family connection, made the whole theatre dark and silent without any mobile screen light or murmurs. That’s the power of bringing raw emotions to the screen.

From Ranbir to Tripti Dimri: Explaining Performances from Animal

Ranbir Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Rashmika Mandanna and Anil Kapoor from the Animal movie
Ranbir Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Rashmika Mandanna and Anil Kapoor from the Animal movie.

Regarding performances, Ranbir Kapoor establishes himself as a superstar with Animal. Sandeep Reddy Vanga did justice to Bobby Deol fans, though I expected more from Bobby Deol. My surprise was Tripti Dimri, whose screen presence was mind-blowing despite limited screen time. Charu Singh and Anil Kapoor did their parts as Ranbir’s parents with ease. Saurabh Sachdeva delivered a killing performance as Bobby Deol’s brother, especially in the climax. Rashmika gave a decent performance, possibly her best since Kirik Party

Why is it Animal ? Animal Explained

Let me explain my views on why the film is called Animal by Sandeep Reddy.

The film explores the more primal, instinctual aspects of human nature, as shown in how Ranbir celebrates his heart surgery and how Abrar releases his pain of loss. In Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal park, the lead male characters operate based on the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification. The climax fight is reminiscent of the survival of the fittest theory, living in a world where the law of nature prevails.

In this movie, after Papa, SWASTIK is the most highlighted word. It’s their family business, indicating a blend of traditional values and a darker quest for power (Nazi approach).

The tagline of Swastik, “Power, Progress & Victory”, is repeated by Ranvijay during his oath of vengeance. As per psychologist Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow, this tagline could be seen as manifestations of Ranvijay’s shadow, where his animalistic traits (aggression, dominance, the pursuit of power) are embraced and externalised as his personal and corporate ethos.

Animal & Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Propaganda Art

Regarding opinions, my friend argued,

How conveniently do we forget that Scorsese used slow-motion and rousing soundtracks for despicable characters in ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino’, and when Sandeep Reddy Vanga does an extreme Indian version of that, it’s suddenly ‘glorification’?

Robert De Niro & Martin Scorsese
Robert De Niro & Martin Scorsese

As a die-hard fan of Scorses, I feel Martin Scorsese never portrayed Travis Bickle or Jimmy Conway as heroes, nor did he justify their actions. His characters dealt with consequences, unlike in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Ranvijay. This is where Sandeep Reddy Vanga falls short as a responsible artist. I believe he is obsessed with certain ideologies and celebrates and promotes them through his movies. Scorsese’s Raging Bull highlighted male insecurity in 1980. Can we expect such a film from Sandeep Reddy Vanga?

Toxic masculinity is a propaganda tool for promoting patriarchal beliefs. Ranvijay’s words to his sister about killing any of her choices he dislikes, and his actions as a school kid stepping in with a gun to protect his sister, and delivering a lecture to his father suggest a patriarchal mindset. That’s where he fails to responsibly handle his craft.

Read about the Yadhoom philosophy & Sriram Raghavan’s Merry chritmas here.

Merry Christmas: A Tale of Yadhoom, Love, and Mystery

Merry Christmas, directed by Sriram Raghavan, is a beautiful film, especially if you like slow-paced yet engaging movies like the Before trilogy. Merry Christmas uniquely blends the romantic drama of Wong Kar Wai with the suspenseful elements of Hitchcockian noir thrillers.

Merry Christmas Title Credit

In essence, it’s reminiscent of Thiyagarajan Kumararaja’s Ninaivo Oru Paravai, which seamlessly fuses these two elements. It’s not surprising that the director, Sriram Raghavan, mentioned Thiyagarajan Kumararaja as an inspiration.

Retro Charm & A Mood For Love, Sprinkled with Witty Black Humour

Merry Christmas begins with a note saying, ‘When Mumbai was known as Bombay.The film takes place in Bombay during the 1970s and makes you feel nostalgic.

The colours, music, and songs in the film are sync with the era and make the experience even better. The story revolves around Albert (Vijay Sethupathi) and Maria (Katrina Kaif). Two souls wandering in the neon-lit lanes of Bombay, whose lives intersect in a serendipitous Christmas encounter.

Merry Christmas Title Card

It’s more of like a O.Henry short story; whatever you are reading and imagining in the first half will get a 180 degree shift in the later half. 

The movie’s pacing is deliberate, slowly building up to a climax. If you are expecting a thriller like Andhadhun, you may get disappointed. Merry Christmas is a cute black comedy.

Perfect Blend of On Screen & Off Screen Efforts

Vijay Sethupathi is outstanding in his role. Watching him dance with Katrina Kaif, who is famous for dance numbers like Chikni Chameli,’ is a treat for the fans of both. You can’t help but be drawn in by Vijay’s cute dance performance.

The film’s homage to the bygone era of Bollywood, Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, background score by Daniel B George, all these adds layers to its storytelling, makes ‘Merry Christmas’ more than just a movie set in the 70s. It feels like it truly belongs to that time.

Scenes from Merry Christmas

Cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan deserves a special applause for meticulously capturing the essence of the setting, focusing on even the smallest details. The vibrant red-blue-green colour palette that fills each frame is so catchy and sync with the moments. However, the close-up shots of Katrina Kaif are a bit of a letdown. Personally, I felt that these moments were jarring, as Katrina seemed to struggle with conveying the subtlety of emotions required for these shots.

Sriram Raghavan’s Yadhoom: A Merry Christmas with Self-Discovery

Sriram Raghavan’s Merry Christmas not only shines with performances but also with its intriguing scripting.The movie looks at ‘Yadhoom’ moments – those instances of clarity and realisation of one’s true purpose in life.

Tamil veteran actor Rajesh plays a kind man who took care of Albert’s mother, Celine, before she passed away. He also looks after her apartment. He gives Albert a bottle of homemade wine called Yadhoom.

But what does Yadhoom mean?

Rajesh explains it like this:

‘We spend our lives working, raising families, and doing other things. But we’re all waiting for a special moment. When that moment comes, it’s like you suddenly know what you’re supposed to do. That’s what Yadhoom is about.

Merry Christmas (2024)

Sriram Raghavan carefully places his characters right before the Yadhoom moments in their lives. He shows us how they find out who they are and what they want.

Before he starts his night adventure Albert reads a quote “Night is Darkest Before The Dawn”, this blend with the eastern version of Yadhoom philosophy where challenges and sufferings lead to self-realisation. Hope you have watched Lion King which beautifully portrayed this philosophy.

Albert’s return to Bombay is more than just a trip. It’s a journey through his past and into his own heart. The idea of Yadhoom is key in the movie.

The characters of Albert and Maria are skillfully crafted to evolve towards this Yadhoom realisation. Their interactions, laden with yearning and a sense of lost time, gradually lead them to their respective Yadhoom moments.

Complementary Yadhoom Arcs

The characters, Albert and Maria, are created in a way that Maria is skeptical, fragile and is more sure of her motivations than her decisions, while Albert is almost too careful, yet easy going.

Katrina Kaif & Vijay from Merry Christmas

There is a dialogue from Albert: “I’ve left a lot of things unfinished in life, but never a bottle of chilled beer,”. These complementary arcs in their behaviour is what makes them complete in the end while talking about the agony of remorse and awaiting. 

Sriram Raghavan’s storytelling is subtle, he cleverly uses the festive atmosphere of Christmas to create a striking contrast with the deep self-reflection experienced by his characters. This contrast serves to highlight their personal growth. Initially burdened by their pasts and uncertainties, Albert and Maria evolve throughout the film. They move from being individuals weighed down by life’s complexities to people who gradually come to embrace the concept of Yadhoom.

Yadhoom, Albert and Maria: Philosophical Layers in Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas is more than just a black comedy on screen. It introduces us to the deep ideas of some philosophies.

Katrina Kaif & Vijay Sethupathi playing Flying Wish Paper Swan

Existentialism

For example, the film reflects existentialism. This is the belief that people must create their own meaning in a world that doesn’t have a clear purpose. Albert and Maria are characters struggling to escape their past and the truth, and in the end, they use what happens in their lives to make their own meaning and purpose for their present.

Stoicism

The film also shows ideas from Stoicism. Stoicism consists of wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation.

This ancient philosophy teaches that people should accept what happens in their lives and use these experiences to grow and become better people. We see this in how Albert and Maria deal with their past and how they change to find their purpose. In the climax there is a shot where Maria burns a Teddy and keeps two fish in the flush tanks. The way that night ends was narrated beautifully by Sriram and captured elegantly. by Madhu Neelakantan.

Even there is an instance were, Albert talks about Violence, he says: “Violence is better than the sufferings from non-violence”. This reminds me of Dharma philosophy.

In summary, ‘Merry Christmas’ is not just a black comedy thriller but a philosophical journey that resonates with the heart and mind. Echoing the essence of trendy Ikigai, Existentialism, Dharma,and all other such philosophies, Merry Christmas inspires us to explore our own paths, encouraging us to find our unique place in the world.

Read more reviews and get updates here.

Hostar’s Masterpeace: Symmetry and Satire

Sreejith N’s Malayalam web series ‘Masterpeace’ on Hotstar looks like a homage to Wes Anderson.

In the cinematic world, few directors have mastered the art of visual storytelling quite like Wes Anderson. With every frame crafted like a painted canvas and a color palette that capture your eyes.

Anderson’s films are a feast for the eyes and the heart. Don’t you remember ‘Amen’ by LJP filled with quirks, emotions, and political undertones. That’s another example of Wes Anderson style for those who are not aware of this brilliant maker.

This rich element of Wes Anderson’s visuals and narrative brilliance is the highlight in director Sreejith’s latest Malayalam web series, Masterpeace. Compared to Sreejith’s previous flick, ‘Oru Thekkan Thallu CaseMasterpeace is a different experiment inspired by Wes Anderson style of storytelling.

Brief About the ‘Materpiece’

‘Masterpeace’ is a story about a young married couple, Riya and Binoy. They live in Kochi and have problems in their marriage. When they fight, their parents come to their home to help. But, the parents have their own ideas and want to be in charge. The show is satirical sprinkled with some serious moments. Most of the story happens in one day, inside Riya and Binoy’s flat.

Masterpeace Trailer

Religion, feminism, Liberalism, Dowry, Gender Neutrality, Male chauvanism, Intolerance, LGBTQ+, stereotyping of people & even Nityananda swami 😉 . The list is long and never ending, I believe, you will find at least one one-liner from all these topics in a satirical way.

Why You Should Watch This:

A Masterpeace ‘Visual Treat’

As I said in the beginning, that Wes Anderson style is the biggest plus here. Masterpeace is beautiful to watch. The homes, the colours, and the objects in the series are chosen carefully. They make every scene look like a painting, and every artist on the screen looks like a caricature in that canvas.

The series has a special style, you can find a symmetry in every frame just like the way writer Praveen crafted ultra-dramatic characters and Understated or muted characters in every events.

A Unique Story

The series gives a close look at Indian families and how they deal with problems. It’s not just about a couple’s fight, but about how older family members try to solve things their way. This drama gave you some high hopes and entertainment value in the first three episodes.

Humour and Drama

There are many funny moments in the series. These moments feel like they are taken from real-life situations in many typical Mallu families. It will remind you of some family gatherings and personally I felt like it’s laughing riot especially for those who have some ultra orthodox family members.

Director Sreejith made a great comeback with this quirky satirical experiment.

What Could Have Been Better?

Length: While the series starts off exciting, it becomes long. There are five episodes, and each episode is more than 30 minutes. Some parts of the story feel repeated and could have been shorter or edited.

Repetitive Themes: The series with some frsh approaches on how older people behave and how their orthodox views contradict with the neo-liberals. But, after some time, it feels like the same things are shown again and again.

Narration Gaps: Sometimes the voice-over in the series was confusing and slow down the narration. I wondered why it was even there.

A Masterpeace Performance From Ashokan

The series centering around six characters and my biggest entertainment was Ashokan, he will makes you laugh a lot. He hasn’t acted in big roles for some time, but he made a comeback similar to what lalu Alex did in Bro Daddy. 

Maala Parvathi also acts very well as a mother who likes to be in control. These two artists make sure that you won’t abandon this show in midway.

Shanthi Krihna’s & Renji Panicker’s muted characters were overshadowed by the other ultra-dramataic characters in the movie.

The music and camera work in the series are also very good. The director, Sreejith, has made the series look beautiful and quriky. But, it would have been better if the episodes were shorter.

Read more movie reviews and stories here.

Why ‘The Lunchbox’ More Than Just a Love Story

Whenever someone inquires about my favourite romantic films, my mind categorises them into ‘pre-The Lunchbox’ and ‘post-The Lunchbox’ eras. Before experiencing The Lunchbox, it was ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ and ‘Kandu Kondein Kandu Kondein,’ but not any more. 

In the Mood for Love and As Good As It Gets are my favourites from the post-Lunchbox era. This transformative journey commenced with a simple, unassuming film from 2013 directed by Ritesh Batra—‘The Lunchbox.’

The Lunchbox: Title Card
The Lunchbox: Title Card

The Lunchbox: A Lens into Realism

This movie is not just for a weekend entertainment; it offered me a fresh lens through which I could explore the nuanced, unspoken dialect of human connections.

The movie is set in the bustling life of Mumbai, home to the renowned dabbawalas and their near-perfect lunch delivery system. However, an unusual mix-up one day led a dabbawala to exchange lunchboxes, it became the link for an unexpected companionship between Saajan Fernandez and Ila.

Irfan Khan as Saajan in The Lunchbox
Irfan Khan as Saajan in The Lunchbox

As an accountant on the brink of retirement, Saajan’s character reflects every scene with an air of melancholy that resonates with anyone who has ever gone through loneliness once.

Saajan’s routine commute to work begins with a Mumbai urban bus ride, accompanied by a stop at his late wife’s grave before heading to his mundane accountant job.

Nimrat kaur as Ila in The Lunchbox
Nimrat kaur as Ila in The Lunchbox

On the other hand, we have Ila. Movie begins with Ila, a housewife who tries to get her husband’s attention by making tasty lunches for him. She thinks the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Her neighbor, Deshpande aunty, helps her out with recipes, joking that her husband will build her a Taj Mahal after tasting the food. Ila sends a lunchbox to her husband’s office using a dabbawala.

From Salty to Sweet: The Beginning

When fate humorously redirects Ila’s delicious lunchbox to Saajan, Saajan’s response to the first meal is precisely what you’d expect from a lonely accountant uncle – “Dear Ila, the food was very salty today.”

That’s all he has to say about the meal Ila put her heart into. However, this complaint marks the beginning of a unique bond between two lonely souls. Here begins the beautiful tale of ‘The Lunchbox’.

What follows is a series of letters exchanged between Saajan and Ila.

Saajan’s letters give a glimpse into his life and the changing world around him, like when he mentions,

“Life is very busy these days. There are too many people and everyone wants what the other has. Years ago you could find a place to sit on the train every now and then but these days it is difficult…When my wife died she got a horizontal burial plot. I tried to buy a burial plot for myself the other day and what they offered me was a vertical one. I spent my whole life standing in trains and buses and now I will have to stand even when I am dead.”

This newfound mode of communication allows them to open up in ways they hadn’t with anyone else before.

This is where I want to tell you, ‘The Lunchbox’ isn’t merely a story of romantic inklings; it’s just one layer of it.

Why The Lunchbox is More Than a Romantic Film

The Lunchbox is a film that explores a wide range of human emotions and relationships through its simple but powerful storytelling. It’s not just a love story between Ila and Saajan. It’s also a story about several characters who are searching for comfort and connection in their mundane loneliness.

Every character in ‘The Lunchbox’ has a touch of loneliness. Ila is trying hard to bring back the missing spark in her marriage; Saajan, a sad widower stuck in the same office job for over thirty-five years without even a friendly chat with his office neighbor; Aslam, the orphan seeking familial bonds; and the Deshpande couple, each lost in their own realm of silence. Even young Yashvi, Ila’s daughter, seems quiet and serious throughout the movie. Something not common for a child of her age.

Sonakshi Sinha as Pakhi in Lootera
Sonakshi Sinha as Pakhi in Lootera

Maybe this is the same reason, why I am obsessed with the characters of ‘Lootera’ and there Pakhi resonates with the same echo of solitude.

What Lies Beyond Romance in The Lunchbox?

Lens 1

There are multiple instances where The Lunchbox proves that it’s talking about human connections, a deep bond that’s formed between people when they feel seen and valued—not a curious attraction or mere romance.

One line from Saajan beautifully captures the underlying theme of his and Ila’s shared bonding: “I think we forget things if we have no one to tell them to.” This simple line tells us about the deep need we humans have for connection. It also shows how good it feels to find someone to share our everyday moments with, whether they’re boring or happy. Aslam, Deshpande Aunty, Saajan, and Ila are all looking for this kind of connection.

Just like Ila is searching for a new spice to rekindle her husband’s affection, each character is searching for something missing in their lives, and that missing piece is a bond to share!

In addition, look at the vegetable Ila chosen for her delicious dishes. Bitter Guard, Baby pumpkin aka Tinde & even Brinjal —could be a metaphor for their unconventional life choices, or maybe it seems like a gentle reflection of narrative’s core, where bitter experiences pave the path to the sweet essence of companionship, understanding, and perhaps a subtle hint of romance as well.

Lens 2

The Lunchbox is a film that celebrates the unity and diversity of the human connections. The characters in the film come from different shades of life though they are connected beautifully like a string of pearls.

Saajan’s poetic observation is a beautiful example of this. In a scene, Saajan explains his reflections on a painter’s works, “I felt like stopping to look at a painter’s works. All his paintings are exactly the same but when you look close, real close, you can see that they are different, each slightly different from the other…”

After that letter, Ila is sharing her memories with her daughter.

He sees himself in one of those paintings; he compares people to paintings, noting that they may all seem similar at first glance, but when you look closely, you can see the unique differences that make each individual special.

This is exactly what you are seeing in the film. In one angle, they all are same. But if you look close, you will see the differences.

Aslam is a Muslim, Saajan is a Christian, and Ila is a Hindu. Saajan writes in Queen’s English, I never heard someone referring to a ‘Brinjal’ as an ‘Aubergine’ and Ila replies in Hindi.

Deshpande Aunty and Ila share a deep emotional bond, even though they do not have a visual connection. This is because they are both able to sense and understand each other’s feelings.

Here communication goes beyond language, diversities, and limitations; it’s tapping into the essence of human connection.

The Lunchbox and its Painful Romance

In the romantic parts, Saajan’s sadness really hits you when he opens up to Ila, saying that he can only dream through her young hopes. He mentions, “No one buys yesterday’s lottery ticket.” This is a honest way to say that his own dreams are fading away.

But Saajan’s thank you to Ila is really heartwarming. He tells her, “You are young, you can dream. And for some time you let me into your dreams and I want to thank you for that.” You can really feel that he means it.

As the story moves on, Saajan sees that life still has more for him to experience. This part leaves you smiling with hope.

The movie gently encourages us to find the sweetness in the bitter, to look beyond the ordinary, and to appreciate the simple joys that life places in our everyday lives.

In doing so, The Lunchbox is not just a movie; it is a gentle nudge to appreciate the unspoken, the unexpressed, and the unnoticed nuances of human connections around us. In the beginning of the movie, we see Saajan’s neighbour, a young girl, closing the window on him, but by the end, that same little girl is waving at Saajan, and Saajan smiles back.

Reheating The Lunchbox: A Cliched Angle on the Ending

The ending of The Lunchbox really a debatable topic. The internet is full of explanations on climax interpretations. At first, I liked open endings but not recently, since, it confuses us.

Here are my two cents on The Lunchbox ending.

A part of me, maybe the pessimist Akhil, thinks that Ila might have given up and ended her life. When she took off her jewellery, it reminded me of the lady who jumped from the terrace to find peace (news in the movie).

Positive Akhil looks into Deshpande Aunty tells Ila that she was able to clean a running fan. Could this news have given Ila the courage to clear up her own life’s messes? Will the train bring Fernandez to Ila before she leaves? I hope so, deeply.

Window scene from The Lunchbox

The Lunchbox tells the stories of people tied together by thin strings of chance: a dabbawala’s mistake, voices across the old walls of a worn building, a basket dropped from one window to another. A lonely man and his letters, a housewife and her delicacies… Through life’s unsure moments, they all found relief in a unexpected bonds, and in the midst of loneliness, sparks of connection showed up, warming the hearts stuck in life’s endless give and take.

The Lunchbox is an experience about the simple everyday interactions between people that make a difference.  Experience it!

Read more perspectives and movie recommendations here.

OTT Releases This Week: August 11

Are you keen on catching the latest OTT releases this week? From thrilling spy genres to unconventional superhero movies, the list is exciting.

Por Thozhil: An Intelligent Twist to Investigative Thrillers

OTT Platform: SonyLiv
Directed by: Vignesh Raja
Cast: Sarath Kumar, Ashok Selvan, Nikhila Vimal

Plot Synopsis:
Por Thozhil follows seasoned police officer Lokanathan and young recruit Prakash as they join forces to nab a serial killer. A tale of intelligence and cooperation, the film transcends the typical buddy cop formula to delve into a more sophisticated story of action and intrigue.

Highlights:
Smart writing sets Por Thozhil apart from other investigative thrillers. The unlikely pairing of Sarath Kumar’s veteran wisdom and Ashok Selvan’s youthful ingenuity brings freshness to the genre.

Though the film draws inspiration from classics like Stray Dog and Lethal Weapon, it finds a unique spot with its combination of suspense, action, and intelligence.

Read a detailed review here.

The Jengaburu Curse: Noble Intentions Overshadowed by Overwhelming Drama

OTT Platform: Sonyliv
Directed by: Nila Madhab Panda
Cast: Faria Abdullah, Nasser, Makarand Deshpande, Sudev Nair, Deipak Sampat, and Hitesh Dave

Plot Synopsis:
Far removed from her Adivasi origins in London, Priya Das (Faria Abdullah) is thrust into the mysteries of her past when her activist father, Swatantra, disappears. The backdrop is Jengaburu, an ancestral village now under the iron grip of a mining company led by the unscrupulous Srinivas.

Local legends warn of a dragon king sleeping beneath the village, a creature that mustn’t be stirred. Yet, with each explosion and machine rumble, an ancient curse seems poised to awaken.

Highlights:
The Jengaburu Curse commendable foregrounds the Adivasi narrative and the contentious realm of Indian mining, an effort far more nuanced than similar takes like Aar Ya Paar (2022).

The series boasts an ensemble cast that shines in their roles, with Faria Abdullah’s portrayal of Priya being particularly spirited.

While the series is based on a compelling premise, it often finds itself ensnared by the trappings of its thriller genre.

Over-dramatization, convenient plot developments, and drawn-out scenes at times detract from the core message.

Made in Heaven: Season 2 – A Rich Tapestry of Indian Weddings and Social Realities

OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
Directed by: Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Neeraj Ghaywan, Alankrita Shrivastava, and Nitya Mehra
Cast: Sobhita Dhulipala, Arjun Mathur, Jim Sarbh, Kalki Koechlin, Vijay Raaz, among others.

Plot Synopsis:

Season 2 of Made in Heaven witnesses the return of Tara Khanna and Karan Mehra, our favourite wedding planners from Delhi. Diving deep into the opulent world of Indian weddings, the season unravels not just the grandeur of these ceremonies, but the undercurrents of societal norms, personal aspirations, and familial expectations. Picking up from where it left off, Tara’s personal life is in turmoil while Karan grapples with his sexuality.

Highlights:
This season magnifies its focus on complex issues, with episodes like Neeraj Ghaywan’s Dalit wedding narrative, featuring a formidable Radhika Apte, standing out.

Secondary characters add depth, notably Trinetra Haldar Gummaraju’s resonating storyline. However, amidst the multitude of narratives, Sobhita Dhulipala’s Tara feels slightly subdued.

Overall, Made in Heaven: Season 2 offers a layered exploration of contemporary Indian society, intertwining the allure of weddings with hard-hitting social commentaries.

Neymar: A Lighthearted Bond with Man’s Best Friend

OTT Platform: Hotstar
Directed by: Sudhi Maddison
Cast: Mathew Thomas, Naslen K Gafoor, Shammi Thilakan, Yog Japee

Plot Synopsis:
In Neymar, the directorial debut of Sudhi Maddison, the bond of friendship intertwines with the love for a dog, leading to a series of unforeseen adventures. Centered around Aakamsh and Shinto, staunch supporters of the Brazil football team and admirers of its star player Neymar, the story takes a twist when an indie dog, named Neymar, enters their lives. From dreaming about aviation careers to a whirlwind quest in Pondicherry to retrieve Neymar from a formidable new owner, the film serves an intriguing cocktail of comedy and chaos.

Highlights:
While the narrative takes a relaxed pace in its Kothamangalam setting, the momentum magnifies when the backdrop shifts to Pondicherry.

The camaraderie between Mathew and Naslen is palpable, though their established chemistry sometimes feels repetitive. Yet, it’s the veterans like Vijayaraghavan, manifesting as the vibrant Chackola, who leave an indelible mark.

Despite its predictability, the film scores with its heartwarming moments, especially those involving the titular dog.
For those seeking light-hearted entertainment, Neymar is a delightful pick.

Maaveeran: The Voice Within – An Audacious Superhero Story

OTT Platform: Amazon Prime
Directed by: Madonne Ashwin
Cast: Sivakarthikeyan, Yogi Babu, Mysskin, Sunil, Saritha, Adithi Shankar

Plot Synopsis:
In the bustling streets of Tamil Nadu, Sathya, a humble comic-book artist, sketches tales of valor. His life, shadowed by poverty and the need to protect his family, takes a radical shift when a mysterious voice (akin to the ‘Maveeran’ from his comics) begins forecasting imminent events. This auditory guide, coupled with socio-political upheavals, thrusts him into an extraordinary journey. As structures crumble and systems fail, Sathya grapples with his newfound ‘precognition’ power, while also confronting his own inhibitions.

Highlights:
Maaveeran brilliantly juxtaposes a superhero narrative with underlying political tones.

Sivakarthikeyan‘s rapport with comedic genius Yogi Babu enlivens the film, adding layers of humour amidst intense sequences.

Noteworthy is the film’s audacity to challenge and subvert traditional superhero tropes while still catering to the commercial palette.

The dynamics between supporting characters, notably Sunil and Mysskin, are intricately woven, ensuring every subplot gets its deserving closure.

Padmini: A Humorous Dive into Societal Scrutiny

OTT Platform: Netflix
Directed by: Senna Hegde
Cast: Kunchacko Boban, Aparna Balamurali, Madonna Sebastian, Vincy Aloshious.

Plot Synopsis:
Amidst the buzzing chatter and societal judgements, Rameshan’s life takes an unexpected turn when his wife, Smrithi, elopes on their wedding day. Left to face the brunt of the village’s ridicule, Rameshan, a poet and lecturer, embarks on a comedic journey to find love once again. Amidst the chaos, parallel narratives unfold, touching upon modern relationships, societal norms, and the quirks that bind us all together.

Highlights:
Hegde’s signature style of highlighting societal intricacies remains intact.

Kunchacko Boban excels as the heartbroken Rameshan, whose endeavours in love, interspersed with comedic interactions with his brother-in-law (portrayed by Anand Manmadhan), form the essence of the film.

A standout subplot showcases advocate Sreedevi’s (Aparna Balamurali) turbulent relationship with her over-protective fiance Jayan (Sajin Cherukayil). The inclusion of fictional brand advertisements, reminiscent of Tarantino-esque style, adds a quirky flavour.

Other Exclusive OTT Releases This Week

Vaan Moondru

OTT: Aha
Director: Amr Murugesh
Writer: Amr Murugesh
Stars: Ammu Abhirami, Aditya Badekar, Delhi Ganesh

Plot Synopsis:
A timeless romantic narrative that intricately binds six individuals, Vaan Moondru beautifully transcends societal norms surrounding age and relationships. This poignant tale of love paints a vivid picture of evolving relationships and emotions.

Hidimbha

OTT: Aha
Director: Aneel Kanneganti
Stars: Ashwin Babu, Nandita Swetha

Plot Synopsis:
Set in the heart of Hyderabad, “Hidimbha” unravels a chilling medical mystery. As two diligent police officers embark on an inquiry into a peculiar case, the city witnesses a series of disappearances. Strikingly, all victims are young girls, bound by one intriguing similarity. As the plot thickens, truths emerge, and a sinister game begins.

The Killing Vote

OTT: Amazon Prime
Director: Park Shin-Woo
Writer: Eom Se-Yoon
Stars: Park Hae Jin, Park Sung Woong, Lim Ji Yeon

Plot Synopsis:
In an unsettling world where justice is questionable, “The Killing Vote” dives deep into the unsettling game of death penalty voting. Every adult citizen is polled. If majority votes favor the death sentence, the mysterious Gae Tal (Dog’s Tail) exacts lethal justice on offenders who exploit the system’s flaws. As the narrative unfolds, moral dilemmas arise, questioning societal norms and individual agency.

Heart Of Stone

OTT: Netflix
Stars: Alia Bhatt, Gal Gadot

Plot Synopsis:
Join the espionage world with “Heart of Stone.” Gal Gadot, celebrated globally for her iconic role as Wonder Woman, takes center stage in this thrilling spy drama. Taking cues from franchises like “Mission: Impossible” and “James Bond,” Netflix ventures into the realm of spy thrillers, positioning Gadot in a pioneering role. As intrigue, action, and suspense merge, “Heart of Stone” is poised to establish its niche in the spy genre.

For more reviews and suggestion click here.

Kerala Crime Files: A Thriller Story Stretched Thin

Kerala Crime Files, As Hotstar’s first Malayalam thriller web series, I held high hopes. And I was happy to see that Disney Hotstar managed to meet my expectations in terms of production quality.

The series, set in 2011, showed a clear investment in recreating that era’s technological and ambient milieu. The craftsmanship on display was remarkable.

Penned by Aashiq Imar and directed by Ahammed Khabeer (known for ‘Madhuram’ and ‘June’), I had a feeling that the narrative might have fared far better as a standalone OTT movie instead of a web series.

A Case of Too Long a Tale

The plot, at its core, is simple. Sub-Inspector Manoj and his team of four are on the heels of a sex worker’s murderer. Their leads? A fake address: Shiju Parayil Veedu, Neendakara, and a witness who claims the suspect has squinted eyes. They are solving the case within six days (6 Episodes).

It sounds gripping, doesn’t it?

However, as the story opened up, my interest began to wane. The narrative felt like a wafer-thin premise stretched far too thin; it’s pretty evident that the writer didn’t spend much time with the characters or the events. If it were a 100-minute movie, this writing might work well, but I am not sure about a crime-thriller web series.

The series takes off slowly, with the first two episodes feeling like they could have been compressed into one. The narrative regains momentum in the third episode, establishing a robust motive for the lead character (S.I. Manoj) to track down the killer. But after that, the excitement ebbs again, only to return in the fifth episode.

Although the choice to depict six days across six episodes lends realism, the thrill factor takes a hit, perhaps a side effect of my steady diet of thrillers.

Written Poor, but Executed Well

The characters, whether the killer or the police officers, lack depth and layers. The addition of officers’ personal lives seemed a ploy to stretch the runtime, lacking subtlety or layers. The writer tried to build an image of the murderer with the first five episodes, and when it was finally revealed, I found a mismatch between the buildup and reality. That’s where I felt the writer should have spent much more time with the scripting.

In the climax, the explanation of the motto felt artificial. The victim character did not pull it off well enough to make it convincing. However, I really enjoyed the villain and his subtle cues.

The series showcases commendable performances from Aju Varghese in the lead role, supported by Navaz Vallikunnu, Zhinz Shaan, and Devika Rajendran. Zhinz Shaan’s constable “Pradeep” deserves a special mention for his steadfast character arc. His obstinate and narrow-minded approach distinguishes him from his colleagues. Another noteworthy performance is that of Lal in the role of CI Kurian.

Watch Kerala Crime Files Here.

Lower the Expectations and Enjoy this Thriller

To sum it up, lower your expectations, and you may find ‘Kerala Crime Files’ enjoyable. While it manages to retain your attention, it falls short of being a nail-biting thriller. The expectations set by the trailer didn’t fully translate into the series, and it spoiled my experience with this thriller.

My Opinion: A Promising Start, but Does It Deliver? Doubtful

For more about OTT releases this week, click here.

Siya(2022): A Journey Through the Dark Corners of Indian Democracy

Before I talk about the movie Siya, let me share some horrible incidents with you.

Case – 1

On September 14, 2020, a case was registered at the Hathras police station in Uttar Pradesh, India, under number 194/2020. The victim was a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gang-raped and brutally assaulted by four men from an influential family.

The four accused men dragged the victim into a field and gang-raped her. They also tried to strangle her to death. The victim was found lying unconscious in the field by some villagers. She was rushed to a hospital in Hathras.

A scene from Siya
A Scene from Siya

The police were able to record the victim’s statement on September 22(After the protest). She died on September 29, 2020.

On the night of September 29, at around 2:30 am, the victim was cremated by the Uttar Pradesh Police without the consent or knowledge of the victim’s family. Petrol was used for the cremation.

When the news initially broke through social media, the Agra Police, Hathras District Magistrate, and UP’s Information & Public Relations department dismissed it as “fake news.”

A video surfaced in which the Hathras District Magistrate can be seen pressuring the family to alter their statement. He was heard saying, “Don’t ruin your credibility. These media people will leave in a couple of days. Half have already left, the rest will leave in 2-3 days. We are the ones standing with you. Now it depends on you if you want to keep changing your testimony…”

Inhumane Actions For Defence

On October 2, the head of BJP’s IT cell, Amit Malviya, tweeted a video of the 19-year-old victim, revealing her face, allegedly violating Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code.

On October 4, Rajveer Singh Pehelwan, a former MLA of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), organized a rally in support of the accused. The rally garnered hundreds of attendees, including family members of the four accused.

A BJP leader, Ranjeet Srivastava, claimed the accused were not guilty of the crime. He further questioned, “Such girls are found dead only in specific places. They are discovered in sugarcane, corn, and millet fields, or in bushes, gutters, or forests. Why are they never found dead in paddy or wheat fields?

Another statement that drew fierce criticism came from BJP MLA Surendra Nath Singh, who suggested that “Sanskar should be instilled in girls to prevent incidents of rape.

Reports from The Wire and other sources indicated that the Uttar Pradesh government engaged Concept PR, a Mumbai-based public relations firm. Allegedly, the PR firm released press statements on behalf of the government, asserting that the Hathras teenager was not raped.

Some Actions

The Hathras police arrested the four accused—Sandeep, Ramu, Lavkush, and Ravi—on charges of attempted murder and gang rape.

On March 2, 2023, the Hathras district court acquitted three of the four accused—Ramu, Luvkush, and Ravi. The fourth accused, Sandeep, was convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder (IPC Section 304) and offenses under the SC/ST Act. However, he was not found guilty of rape and murder, receiving a life imprisonment sentence along with a fine of ₹50,000.

The State government, led by Yogi Adityanath, and the district administration announced a compensation of ₹2.5 million (US$31,000) for the victim’s family. Additionally, they offered a junior assistant job to a family member. Furthermore, the family will be allocated a house in Hathras under the State Urban Development Agency (SUDA) scheme.

Case – 2

This is infamous 2017 Unnao Rape Case.

The 2017 Unnao rape case involved the gang rape and assault of a 17-year-old girl in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, India. The incident occurred on June 4, 2017.

According to the victim’s statement, she was enticed by a woman named Shashi Singh, along with her son, Shubham Singh, and daughter, Nidhi Singh, to relocate to Kanpur with promises of securing a job.

On the night of June 11, 2017, she accompanied Shubham Singh and allegedly endured multiple instances of rape by him and his driver, Awdhesh Tiwari.

A scene from Siya
A scene from Siya

On June 21, 2017, 17 days later, the victim was found in a village in Auraiya district, Uttar Pradesh. She received medical treatment for her injuries at a hospital in Lucknow.

The police recorded her statement on June 22, but prevented her from identifying one of her assailants BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar.

Apr 3, 2018: Rape survivor’s father is beaten up by MLA’s brother and his goons.

Though both sides lodge complaints against each other, the police choose to arrest only her father and he is sent to judicial custody. Her father dies in police custody. The post-mortem report lists the cause of death to be “blood poisoning due to perforation of colon”. It also lists multiple injuries on his body.

Prior to his death, he accused Atul, the brother of Sengar, of leading the assault. However, no action was taken in response to this complaint at the time.

On April 8, 2018, the victim attempted self-immolation at the residence of Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

April 11, 2018:  The victim and her family are confined to a hotel room on the pretext of protection, without water or electricity.

Getting Worse

April 12, 2018:  Sengar, Atul Singh and their accomplices are arrested by the CBI.

April 14, 2018:  The CBI makes a second arrest in the Unnao rape case . It takes into custody the woman who allegedly took the girl to Sengar on the day of the crime.

July 2, 2018:  The uncle of the victim is convicted in a 19-year-old case of attempt to murder that had been filed by Atul Singh. He is sentenced to 10 years in prison by a district court.

July 28, 2018:  A Rae Bareli truck-car collision leaves the girl and her lawyer critically injured. Two of the victim’s aunts are killed in the accident. The victim, who is battling for her life in a hospital in Lucknow with multiple fractures, head and chest injuries, and her lawyer are on ventilator support.

"Our MLA is innocent" on the wall & the victim is passing
“Our MLA is innocent” on the wall & the victim is passing

On December 16, 2019, Sengar was found guilty of rape and sentenced to life imprisonment. His associates were also convicted and received varying prison terms.

Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav

As we celebrate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, marking 75 years of our independence, we find ourselves questioning the very essence of our freedom. Has it truly manifested? Can we truly call ourselves free when there is an evident shift of power from one oppressive regime to another? Britishers may have left us, but did they leave a vacuum only to be filled by illiterate criminals?

Who should we blame for this?

The responsibility, I believe, falls upon each one of us. We, the citizens of India, who possess the right to vote, have the right to choose who shall represent us and who shall guide us.

There’s a saying, “Politicians are like diapers; we should change them frequently, otherwise it stinks.” Well, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A truth that most of us have learned through life experiences, but do we act upon it?

Politics in our country seems to have become a playground for the criminals and oligarchs. Once an individual assumes a political position, they cling to power like a leech for their entire life.

South-North-West all same

States like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, West Bengal, Bihar and Karnataka all reflect the same issue:

Look at Tamil Nadu; one family has been ruling the state for years. Go to Telangana; one person is ruling the state like there is no alternative. Look at Karnataka; it’s either Siddharamaiyya or Yedyurappa. On the national level, we have dynasty politics, or ultra-right-wing politics.

Our collectivist culture, our admiration of heroism—it’s not wrong! But when it transforms into blind admiration and political slavery, we must recognise and correct it.

If you are a communist, no matter what, you try to defend the party. You want that party to be in power, no matter how corrupt or fascist they are.

If you are a BJP supporter, you don’t care who your CM is or what they do. You just want to see the saffron flag waving.

It’s not about the party we support or the colour of the flag we want to see waving. It’s about who represents us and shapes our future.

Remember the atrocities that have been committed under these ultimatums of power? The VYAPAM scandal (Over 40 deaths, still a mystery) or the Balrampur gang rape—the list goes on.

Just like in our Telugu movies, where the common man bows down to the hero, the “devudu”, we too find ourselves bowing to these politicians and bureaucrats, suffering their injustices.

Pooja Pandey as Siya
Pooja Pandey as Siya

Siya – Untold story of 1000s of girls

Siya is Manish Mundra’s directorial debut, starring Pooja Pandey and Vineet Kumar Singh. 

I am happy that I choose Siya over Adipurush today.

I believe Adhipurush is the past, and Siya is about my present and future. 

Siya, a 17-year-old rape survivor, is being held captive and repeatedly abused by a group of powerful men. 
She had two options: “endure in silence” or “fight injustice bravely.” 
She chose the second option.

Siya decides to go against all odds and fight for justice. The film talks about how the police and politicians using their power to suppress the truth and oppress the oppressed.

Pooja Pandey, the lead character, beautifully plays her part as a simple, obedient, yet courageous woman. She doesn’t transform into a fiery fighter instantly; the character’s progression is remarkable.

Vineet Kumar Singh stands out as a modest lawyer who handles notary work and refuses to be intimidated by the police, providing strong support to Siya.

Siya is available at Zee5 with subtitles.

Siya & Her Question

We need more directors like Manish Mundra. Here, don’t expect the usual one woman, one man spectacle heroism. It’s a mirror, not a screen.

You are about to witness the experiences of past victims that we discussed. How you and I let them suffer. How cruel our society is. Watch it and feel our shared guilt.

People in power often escape consequences, and yes, sometimes they do get caught, but by then, the victim may have lost everything.

Siya asks us a question:

What good is justice when neither the victim nor her family will live to see it served?

This 1 hour and 50-minute movie serves as a reminder. If a politician or bureaucrat could abuse your sister or kill your brother tomorrow, how would you fight?

A drunk IAS officer killed a journalist in Kerala, yet the police saved him with dialysis, and he remains in power. Where is justice for the victim and his family?

Change your diapers before the smell becomes unbearable.

Read more about unpopular movies here.

Zara Hatke Zara Bachke Movie Review

Exploring Dreams and Quirks of Middle-Class Love

If I were to paint a simple picture of what ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’ is all about, it would be like this: Imagine a slice of life from a middle-class Indian home from Indore, few drama stuffed with humor and woven around the dreams of a young couple. The director, Laxman Utekar, has tried to create a lively canvas where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, much like his previous work, Mimi.

A collage of scenes from Zara Hatke Zara Bachke
Poster Collage: Zara Hatke Zara Bachke

Story of ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’

Let me introduce you to our main couple, Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan, who play everyday people just like any other middle-class urban couple. Vicky’s character, Kapil, is a yoga teacher with simple dreams and a clever way of finding shortcuts to solve big problems. On the other hand, Sara Ali Khan portrays Saumya, a spirited chemistry professor with dreams that extend far beyond her home and her lovely georgette sarees.

Their everyday life takes an interesting turn when the pressures of living with their extended family become overwhelming. They yearn for a ‘place’ they can call their ‘own’, a home where they can create their own space and cherish their dreams. And that’s when our story, ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’, begins to unfold.

What follows is a delightful rollercoaster of events, ranging from comical to dramatic, all revolving around this relatable and universal desire for a home.

In a nutshell, ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’ take us to witness the dreams, challenges, and hilarious complications faced by this young Indian couple. Especially, while they navigate through societal expectations, personal ambitions, and the quest for a place to call their own.

Why You Should Give A Try?

Firstly, let’s talk about the performances. Vicky Kaushal, known for his versatile acting skills, brings his A-game to the table as Kapil, the yoga teacher with a penchant for finding clever solutions. His portrayal is relatable and engaging, showcasing his ability to bring charm and authenticity to the character. Sara Ali Khan, on the other hand, captivates with her vibrant presence as Saumya, a chemistry professor who yearns for more from life. Her energy and commitment to the role shine through, adding depth to the narrative.

One of the film’s strengths lies in its ability to tackle real-life issues in a light-hearted manner. The storyline revolves around the dreams and challenges faced by a young middle-class couple, resonating with audiences who have similar aspirations and struggles. Laxman Utekar’s direction, as seen in his previous work like Mimi, ensures that the film strikes a balance between entertainment and thought-provoking storytelling.

Moreover, ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’ offers a glimpse into the world of Indore, a city that adds its own flavor to the narrative. The film beautifully captures the essence of small-town life, providing a unique backdrop for the characters and their journey.

What Could Have Been Better?

In my opinion, one thing that really felt odd to me was that the chemistry between Sara Ali Khan and Vicky Kaushal. It didn’t seem to have much chemistry on-screen.

Even though they are both talented actors with their own strengths, their pairing in the movie didn’t create the desired spark.

Sara Ali Khan

I was expecting a Sara Ali Khan from Atrangi Re, unfortunately, I only got that energy from her, not the natural demeanour. If Sara – Vicky chemistry had been stronger, it would have made Kapil’s & Soumya’s journey more interesting. Here audience may feel some disconnect with the story.

Plot of ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’

Another important point to consider is that the plot of the movie. I felt it was stretched out. The pacing, especially in the second half, was not well done.

If the script had been tighter and repetitive elements had been eliminated, it would have created a more focused and engaging narrative.

Originality & Freshness

The story was highly relatable, but it lacked originality and seemed similar to other films like old Dinesh Vijan films or “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” style. If the filmmakers had strived for a more unique storytelling approach, it would have made the movie stand out from its predecessors.

Chemistry between Vicky Kaushal & Sara Ali Khan

As I said before, Vicky Kaushal’ portrayal of Kapil is excellent, but I felt that Sara Ali Khan’s efforts fell short compared to Vicky. It’s important for Khan to refine her acting approach, finding a balance between being authentic and avoiding being too theatrical.

Laxman Utekar’s approach

From an audience perspective, Laxman Utekar’s approach to ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’ should be criticized for lacking energy and excitement. If he had incorporated more dynamic and innovative storytelling techniques, especially during crucial moments of the film, it would have injected more vitality into the overall viewing experience

Final Verdict

In conclusion, ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’ remains an opportunity to immerse oneself in a light-hearted tale that resonates with the dreams and challenges faced by many. So, if you’re willing to overlook its flaws and embrace its relatable themes, this film has the potential to provide an entertaining and thought-provoking experience.

Bookmyshow offers a Buy one Get one offer for this movie (Only for June 2 Bookings I guess) considering that, it’s worth to give a try.

We don’t have so many alternative options this week. If you are looking for OTT Releases this week, here are my suggestions.