REVIEW 385: NIL BATTEY SANNATA

Release date:
April 22, 2016
Director:
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Cast:

Language:

Swara Bhaskar, Riya Shukla, Pankaj Tripathi, Ratna Pathak Shah, Cameo: Sanjay Suri
Hindi


WARNING: LONG REVIEW AHEAD

A struggling single mother, an only child who takes her for granted and a supportive employer – three bright women lie at the heart of this film by debutant director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.

Nil Battey Sannata is a reminder that there is no such thing as a life less ordinary. We are, after all, the heroines of our own existence. Writers who plagiarise are clearly not looking around them. If you must lift an idea, lift from life. Chanda Sahai is not the sort of person who would attract a second glance if she passed us on a street. Her sweet face is overshadowed by drab saris and a boring hairdo. Yet Tiwari, her co-writers Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudhary and Nitesh Tiwari stopped, not just to take a look but to weave an entire screenplay around her.

It is a good thing their collective imagination did not go in search of the millionaires, billionaires and bhais that Bollywood is so pre-occupied with. In telling us the story of a bai (housemaid) instead, they have ended up creating a unique, inspiring and exceedingly moving Hindi film.

Like many impoverished mothers, Chanda works relentlessly to make ends meet, holding down multiple jobs to supplement her income as a maid in Agra. Her daughter Apeksha a.k.a. Apu barely notices her labours though. Apu is in Class X and has been scraping through all her tests so far. With Mathematics, she does not even manage that (hence the song Maths mein dabba gul, meaning: useless in Maths) and Chanda fears the subject will cause her to flunk her finals.

Worse, Chanda is shocked to discover that none of this matters to Apu because she has no career dreams. Just as an engineer’s kid becomes an engineer and a doctor’s kid becomes a doctor, so also a bai’s kid becomes a bai, the girl tells her mother nonchalantly one day.

The lady of the house where Chanda works, the kind Dr Diwan, suggests that she return to school herself, in fact to the Xth (the class she failed as a student) in Apu’s school. This would put her in a position to help Apu with her work and also monitor her.

The film takes us through the ensuing tension between mother and daughter, the effect of the increased demands on Chanda’s time and how this decision alters the course of their journey.

Nil Battey Sannata literally means zero divided by absolute silence, stillness and desolation, which is a mathematical metaphor for hopelessness or an existence that could amount to zilch. Chanda is determined that she and Apu will add up to more than that.

It is a charming tale told with good humour, sensitivity and confidence. The characterisation of both the leads and the supporting players – including Apu’s classmates – is richly layered and plausible. They all come across as real people from a real world.

Even Apu’s extreme nastiness towards Chanda is straight out of reality. Is there a kid out there who has never ever been hatefully mean to a sacrificing, loving parent?

The team of Nil Battey Sannata wisely recognises that there is no need to artificially heighten the drama in their film when life is a drama in itself. The result is a minimalist directorial style that is apt for the realistic story at hand. Both are complemented by a background score so gentle that you could forget it is there. Just as you forget cinematographer Gavemic U. Ary’s camera that is self-effacing and self-erasing to the point that a viewer might believe she has herself entered the frame and is watching Chanda and Apu from the margins of their lives.

The film does falter occasionally. First, the girls-are-not-good-at-Maths stereotype is stated as a truism by a seemingly liberal character. The continuing worldwide prejudice against women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics related professions) is not an imagined problem and it hurts when a sensible film casually perpetuates gender typecasting.

The other off-key point comes in the end with Apu’s response to the question of why she wants her chosen profession. Her answer is rather thin and poorly thought out. Surely the idea is not to belittle baisbut to have worthwhile goals and sound, specific reasons for zeroing in on them.

Besides, the ode to mothers in the climax is out of sync with the rest of the film’s non-schmaltzy tone. There are plenty of crappy parents (mothers included) out there. The point should be to acknowledge great parents because they are great, not merely because they happen to be parents.

These portions are especially jarring because they rear their heads in an otherwise lovely venture.

The film’s dialogues, for instance, are uncommon on the Bollywoodscape. There is a lyricism to the language these characters speak and Chanda’s vocabulary in particular. While the use of “bai” may have been more convincing in a western Indian setting, it is not unknown in north India with this meaning. Besides, there is such pleasure in hearing words like “kantaap” (slap) and “kandam” (useless) that so rarely find their way into Bollywood scripts. My pick of the film’s phraseology though is “nil battey sannata” and how it smoothly rolls off Chanda’s tongue.

It helps that the actress playing her is brilliant. With Nil Battey Sannata, Swara Bhaskar – a memorable satellite player in Raanjhanaa and the Tanu Weds Manu films – gets a lead role in a worthy project. A city-bred, educated woman herself (Bhaskar is an MA from JNU) she subdues her naturally sophisticated body language to slip into this role without becoming a cliche.

Riya Shukla is a flaming ball of energy and well cast as the little spitfire Apu. She is a discovery.

Ratna Pathak Shah plays the elderly doctor-householder who helps Chanda along with her ambitions. She brings warmth, empathy and dignity to the role which, incidentally, is vastly different from the part she plays in Kapoor & Sons that is still running in theatres.

She is the sort of employer about whom newspaper articles are not written because the media, justifiably so, is focused on those who ill-treat their domestic help. While their cruelty, casteism and classism ought to be chronicled and condemned, it is also good to be told about this benevolent memsaab who goes out of her way to help her bai, because such people too do exist.

Pankaj Tripathi is a scene-stealer and showstopper as the school principal and Maths teacher Srivastava Sir. Despite the thoroughly entertaining, quirky mannerisms and mincing speech, it is to Tripathi’s credit that he does not reduce Srivastava to a caricature. In this performance, it is impossible to spot the bloodthirsty Sultan Qureshi he played in Gangs of Wasseypur 1&2.  

The writing of his character too is nicely shaded. Srivastava is well-intentioned, yet humiliates his weak students, perhaps thinking, like so many Indian teachers do, that he is motivating them. Extreme portrayals are easy, the challenge lies in the middle path. Nil Battey Sannatareminds us that as with all categories of people, among teachers, parents and children too there are the good, the bad and the ugly, and sometimes the entire spectrum within the same person.

The film’s finer details though are what make it an all-round interesting experience. Such as the unspoken caste, communal and gender equations. Dr Diwan’s husband is sweet but stays in the background and no information is offered about Apu’s father. Whatever happened to him apparently no longer warrants discussions. Chanda’s singleton status also adds dimensions to the story, such as the relationship of equals as much as mother and child in the household.

Even the use of the Taj is refreshing. Most films mindlessly latch on to architectural landmarks as city identifiers. Example: a character who lives and works in south Delhi passing Red Fort in north Delhi on her way from home to work. In this film, the Taj first makes a fleeting – and logical – appearance, and in the end forms the backdrop to a long monologue Chanda delivers to Apu. It feels right. If you have visited the Taj you would have experienced the calming effect of the monument which, here, matches Chanda’s sedate words in Bhaskar’s velvet voice.

Nil Battey Sannata has a light touch, yet is serious as hell. Despite the frenzied pace of Chanda’s days, the film itself has an air of composure. To see it merely as a lesson in the importance of education would be to limit it. This is an uplifting film about the importance of having dreams.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, where have you been hiding all this time?

Rating (out of five): ****


CBFC Rating (India):
U
Running time:
100 minutes

REVIEW 385: NIL BATTEY SANNATA

Release date:
April 22, 2016
Director:
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Cast:

Language:

Swara Bhaskar, Riya Shukla, Pankaj Tripathi, Ratna Pathak Shah, Cameo: Sanjay Suri
Hindi


WARNING: LONG REVIEW AHEAD

A struggling single mother, an only child who takes her for granted and a supportive employer – three bright women lie at the heart of this film by debutant director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari.

Nil Battey Sannata is a reminder that there is no such thing as a life less ordinary. We are, after all, the heroines of our own existence. Writers who plagiarise are clearly not looking around them. If you must lift an idea, lift from life. Chanda Sahai is not the sort of person who would attract a second glance if she passed us on a street. Her sweet face is overshadowed by drab saris and a boring hairdo. Yet Tiwari, her co-writers Neeraj Singh, Pranjal Choudhary and Nitesh Tiwari stopped, not just to take a look but to weave an entire screenplay around her.

It is a good thing their collective imagination did not go in search of the millionaires, billionaires and bhais that Bollywood is so pre-occupied with. In telling us the story of a bai (housemaid) instead, they have ended up creating a unique, inspiring and exceedingly moving Hindi film.

Like many impoverished mothers, Chanda works relentlessly to make ends meet, holding down multiple jobs to supplement her income as a maid in Agra. Her daughter Apeksha a.k.a. Apu barely notices her labours though. Apu is in Class X and has been scraping through all her tests so far. With Mathematics, she does not even manage that (hence the song Maths mein dabba gul, meaning: useless in Maths) and Chanda fears the subject will cause her to flunk her finals.

Worse, Chanda is shocked to discover that none of this matters to Apu because she has no career dreams. Just as an engineer’s kid becomes an engineer and a doctor’s kid becomes a doctor, so also a bai’s kid becomes a bai, the girl tells her mother nonchalantly one day.

The lady of the house where Chanda works, the kind Dr Diwan, suggests that she return to school herself, in fact to the Xth (the class she failed as a student) in Apu’s school. This would put her in a position to help Apu with her work and also monitor her.

The film takes us through the ensuing tension between mother and daughter, the effect of the increased demands on Chanda’s time and how this decision alters the course of their journey.

Nil Battey Sannata literally means zero divided by absolute silence, stillness and desolation, which is a mathematical metaphor for hopelessness or an existence that could amount to zilch. Chanda is determined that she and Apu will add up to more than that.

It is a charming tale told with good humour, sensitivity and confidence. The characterisation of both the leads and the supporting players – including Apu’s classmates – is richly layered and plausible. They all come across as real people from a real world.

Even Apu’s extreme nastiness towards Chanda is straight out of reality. Is there a kid out there who has never ever been hatefully mean to a sacrificing, loving parent?

The team of Nil Battey Sannata wisely recognises that there is no need to artificially heighten the drama in their film when life is a drama in itself. The result is a minimalist directorial style that is apt for the realistic story at hand. Both are complemented by a background score so gentle that you could forget it is there. Just as you forget cinematographer Gavemic U. Ary’s camera that is self-effacing and self-erasing to the point that a viewer might believe she has herself entered the frame and is watching Chanda and Apu from the margins of their lives.

The film does falter occasionally. First, the girls-are-not-good-at-Maths stereotype is stated as a truism by a seemingly liberal character. The continuing worldwide prejudice against women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics related professions) is not an imagined problem and it hurts when a sensible film casually perpetuates gender typecasting.

The other off-key point comes in the end with Apu’s response to the question of why she wants her chosen profession. Her answer is rather thin and poorly thought out. Surely the idea is not to belittle baisbut to have worthwhile goals and sound, specific reasons for zeroing in on them.

Besides, the ode to mothers in the climax is out of sync with the rest of the film’s non-schmaltzy tone. There are plenty of crappy parents (mothers included) out there. The point should be to acknowledge great parents because they are great, not merely because they happen to be parents.

These portions are especially jarring because they rear their heads in an otherwise lovely venture.

The film’s dialogues, for instance, are uncommon on the Bollywoodscape. There is a lyricism to the language these characters speak and Chanda’s vocabulary in particular. While the use of “bai” may have been more convincing in a western Indian setting, it is not unknown in north India with this meaning. Besides, there is such pleasure in hearing words like “kantaap” (slap) and “kandam” (useless) that so rarely find their way into Bollywood scripts. My pick of the film’s phraseology though is “nil battey sannata” and how it smoothly rolls off Chanda’s tongue.

It helps that the actress playing her is brilliant. With Nil Battey Sannata, Swara Bhaskar – a memorable satellite player in Raanjhanaa and the Tanu Weds Manu films – gets a lead role in a worthy project. A city-bred, educated woman herself (Bhaskar is an MA from JNU) she subdues her naturally sophisticated body language to slip into this role without becoming a cliche.

Riya Shukla is a flaming ball of energy and well cast as the little spitfire Apu. She is a discovery.

Ratna Pathak Shah plays the elderly doctor-householder who helps Chanda along with her ambitions. She brings warmth, empathy and dignity to the role which, incidentally, is vastly different from the part she plays in Kapoor & Sons that is still running in theatres.

She is the sort of employer about whom newspaper articles are not written because the media, justifiably so, is focused on those who ill-treat their domestic help. While their cruelty, casteism and classism ought to be chronicled and condemned, it is also good to be told about this benevolent memsaab who goes out of her way to help her bai, because such people too do exist.

Pankaj Tripathi is a scene-stealer and showstopper as the school principal and Maths teacher Srivastava Sir. Despite the thoroughly entertaining, quirky mannerisms and mincing speech, it is to Tripathi’s credit that he does not reduce Srivastava to a caricature. In this performance, it is impossible to spot the bloodthirsty Sultan Qureshi he played in Gangs of Wasseypur 1&2.  

The writing of his character too is nicely shaded. Srivastava is well-intentioned, yet humiliates his weak students, perhaps thinking, like so many Indian teachers do, that he is motivating them. Extreme portrayals are easy, the challenge lies in the middle path. Nil Battey Sannatareminds us that as with all categories of people, among teachers, parents and children too there are the good, the bad and the ugly, and sometimes the entire spectrum within the same person.

The film’s finer details though are what make it an all-round interesting experience. Such as the unspoken caste, communal and gender equations. Dr Diwan’s husband is sweet but stays in the background and no information is offered about Apu’s father. Whatever happened to him apparently no longer warrants discussions. Chanda’s singleton status also adds dimensions to the story, such as the relationship of equals as much as mother and child in the household.

Even the use of the Taj is refreshing. Most films mindlessly latch on to architectural landmarks as city identifiers. Example: a character who lives and works in south Delhi passing Red Fort in north Delhi on her way from home to work. In this film, the Taj first makes a fleeting – and logical – appearance, and in the end forms the backdrop to a long monologue Chanda delivers to Apu. It feels right. If you have visited the Taj you would have experienced the calming effect of the monument which, here, matches Chanda’s sedate words in Bhaskar’s velvet voice.

Nil Battey Sannata has a light touch, yet is serious as hell. Despite the frenzied pace of Chanda’s days, the film itself has an air of composure. To see it merely as a lesson in the importance of education would be to limit it. This is an uplifting film about the importance of having dreams.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, where have you been hiding all this time?

Rating (out of five): ****


CBFC Rating (India):
U
Running time:
100 minutes

LAAL RANG: Randeep Owns it, Nails it, Kills it! [3/5]

The boy is on his first date. He is leaving after dropping the girl at her hostel. He recalls something, returns to her and hands over a greeting card written ‘I Love You’ in blood all over it. The girl loses her calm, “Where have you cut yourself?” The boy throws a swayed smile, “Don’t worry, I haven’t.”Syed Ahmad Afzal’s crime-thriller LAAL RANG in the very same way has blood all over it in almost every frame; either they talk about it or they play with it but still, it never gets bloody except for one particular slackly done scene. In fact, LAAL RANG turns out to be a serenely invested, edgily engaging thriller with a good set of dark humor and at least one towering performance under the name, Randeep Hooda.
Syed Ahmad Afzal throws us in Haryana of a fascinating era where YamahaRX100 used to be the class not many can afford. There rises Shankar (Randeep Hooda), an over-aged diploma student in local medical college of Karnal! He’s the kind every girl disgusts and every boy admires. The son of a government peon, Rajesh (Akshay Oberoi) too has no immunity to fall for swaggy Shankar’s persuasive power-display.  Shankar is a pro in the illegal blood-selling racket. His supplies come from the Bihar migrants in Karnal working as the rickshaw-pullers. A small token of money and they will lie down for you to suck the blood out. Considering Shankar’s influential connections in the system, it is nothing but an easy money territory Rajesh starts building his own mansion of dreams upon it, with Poonam (Piaa Bajpai). Things derail when one of the donors dies after excessive blood loss.
LAAL RANG has an interesting plot most of today’s Hindi films lack at the first place to start with. Syed Ahmad Afzalmakes sure it takes its own course of time to grow on the viewers. He never looks in hurry when establishing scenes or while making the shift from one to another. Not many filmmakers believe in doing so when Syed actually does it, you feel more relaxed but evenly more anxious about the part of plot yet to be revealed. Another big merit film possesses is its lingo. Be it the conversational dialogues between its real-looking characters or the lyrics of the album used all of it as background songs; LAAL RANG entices you with its unapologetically raw, rusty, ruthless yet delicious Haryanvi language.
Film also carries a brigade of fascinating characters on screen. There is a fakir interestingly talking in a women’s voice. A subordinate of Shankar is fondly named as ‘Dracula’ as he deals in maximum transfer of blood. In the chart of performances, LAAL RANG solely belongs to the devoted portrayal of Shankar by Randeep Hooda. Being a Haryanvi himself, he fabulously adopts the lingo and the attitude in its right place. See him flaunting his powers in sunny days or trashing it all when his girlfriend breaks up with him; and you’ll see the range he is capable of pulling it off as a confident actor. This could be a plate of starters before you’ll enjoy and respect him more in SARBJIT in coming few weeks. Akshay Oberoiacts well but his all chalky appearance often creates a sense of disbelief in his performance.
Overall, LAAL RANG is a good thriller that may not pump your heartbeat up in the usual way most of bollywood thrillers do. It also might not give you much of a pulsating action to cheer, and it definitely would not pitch obligatory twists & turns in the plot but even then, the firm writing has enough to make it an enjoyably unlike experience. [3/5]

LAAL RANG: Randeep Owns it, Nails it, Kills it! [3/5]

The boy is on his first date. He is leaving after dropping the girl at her hostel. He recalls something, returns to her and hands over a greeting card written ‘I Love You’ in blood all over it. The girl loses her calm, “Where have you cut yourself?” The boy throws a swayed smile, “Don’t worry, I haven’t.”Syed Ahmad Afzal’s crime-thriller LAAL RANG in the very same way has blood all over it in almost every frame; either they talk about it or they play with it but still, it never gets bloody except for one particular slackly done scene. In fact, LAAL RANG turns out to be a serenely invested, edgily engaging thriller with a good set of dark humor and at least one towering performance under the name, Randeep Hooda.
Syed Ahmad Afzal throws us in Haryana of a fascinating era where YamahaRX100 used to be the class not many can afford. There rises Shankar (Randeep Hooda), an over-aged diploma student in local medical college of Karnal! He’s the kind every girl disgusts and every boy admires. The son of a government peon, Rajesh (Akshay Oberoi) too has no immunity to fall for swaggy Shankar’s persuasive power-display.  Shankar is a pro in the illegal blood-selling racket. His supplies come from the Bihar migrants in Karnal working as the rickshaw-pullers. A small token of money and they will lie down for you to suck the blood out. Considering Shankar’s influential connections in the system, it is nothing but an easy money territory Rajesh starts building his own mansion of dreams upon it, with Poonam (Piaa Bajpai). Things derail when one of the donors dies after excessive blood loss.
LAAL RANG has an interesting plot most of today’s Hindi films lack at the first place to start with. Syed Ahmad Afzalmakes sure it takes its own course of time to grow on the viewers. He never looks in hurry when establishing scenes or while making the shift from one to another. Not many filmmakers believe in doing so when Syed actually does it, you feel more relaxed but evenly more anxious about the part of plot yet to be revealed. Another big merit film possesses is its lingo. Be it the conversational dialogues between its real-looking characters or the lyrics of the album used all of it as background songs; LAAL RANG entices you with its unapologetically raw, rusty, ruthless yet delicious Haryanvi language.
Film also carries a brigade of fascinating characters on screen. There is a fakir interestingly talking in a women’s voice. A subordinate of Shankar is fondly named as ‘Dracula’ as he deals in maximum transfer of blood. In the chart of performances, LAAL RANG solely belongs to the devoted portrayal of Shankar by Randeep Hooda. Being a Haryanvi himself, he fabulously adopts the lingo and the attitude in its right place. See him flaunting his powers in sunny days or trashing it all when his girlfriend breaks up with him; and you’ll see the range he is capable of pulling it off as a confident actor. This could be a plate of starters before you’ll enjoy and respect him more in SARBJIT in coming few weeks. Akshay Oberoiacts well but his all chalky appearance often creates a sense of disbelief in his performance.
Overall, LAAL RANG is a good thriller that may not pump your heartbeat up in the usual way most of bollywood thrillers do. It also might not give you much of a pulsating action to cheer, and it definitely would not pitch obligatory twists & turns in the plot but even then, the firm writing has enough to make it an enjoyably unlike experience. [3/5]

निल बट्टे सन्नाटा: जिंदगी-कहानी-सिनेमा! [4/5]

सपनों के कोई दायरे नहीं हुआ करते. छोटी आँखों में भी बड़े सपने पलते देखे हैं हमने. फेसबुक की दीवारों और अखबारों की परतों के बीच आपको दिल छू लेने वाली ऐसी कई कहानियाँ मिल जायेंगी, जिनमें सपनों की उड़ान ने उम्मीदों का आसमान छोटा कर दिया हो. हालिया मिसालों में वाराणसी के आईएएस (IAS) ऑफिसर गोविन्द जायसवाल का हवाला दिया सकता है, जिनके पिता कभी रिक्शा चलाते थे. अश्विनी अय्यर तिवारी की मार्मिक, मजेदार और प्रशंसनीय फिल्म ‘निल बट्टे सन्नाटा’ भी ऐसी ही एक मर्मस्पर्शी कहानी के जरिये आपको जिंदगी के उस हिस्से में ले जाती है, जहां गरीबी सपनों की अमीरी पर हावी होने की कोशिश तो भरपूर करती है पर अंत में जीत हौसलों से लथपथ सपने की ही होती है.
घरों, जूते की फैक्ट्री और मसाले की दुकानों पर काम करने वाली चंदा (स्वरा भास्कर) एक रात जब थक कर सोने से पहले अपनी 15 साल की बेटी अप्पू (रिया शुक्ला) से पूछती है कि वो बड़ी होकर क्या बनेगी? अप्पू खरी-खरी कह देती है, “मैं बाई बनूंगी. बाई की बेटी बाई ही तो बनेगी.” चंदा बहस में जीत नहीं सकती. 10वीं के बाद अप्पू को पढ़ाने के लिए पैसे कहाँ हैं चंदा के पास? वैसे भी, अप्पू मैथ्स में ‘निल बट्टा सन्नाटा’ है, मतलब ज़ीरो. पैसे तो बाद की बात हैं, पर इस मैथ्स का क्या करें? चंदा तो खुद मैट्रिक फ़ेल है. डॉ. दीवान (रत्ना पाठक शाह) के पास एक उपाय है. चंदा भी अप्पू का स्कूल ज्वाइन कर ले, खुद भी पढ़े और अप्पू की भी मदद करे. बच्चों के बेहतर भविष्य के लिए माँ-बाप क्या कुछ नहीं करते, पर हम बच्चे कितना समझ पाते हैं? अप्पू के पास तो कोई सपना ही नहीं है, और चंदा के पास अप्पू से बड़ा कोई सपना नहीं!
अश्विनी अय्यर तिवारी अपनी पहली ही फिल्म में साफ़ कर देती हैं कि सिनेमा कहानी कहने का एक सशक्त माध्यम है, कहानी जिसका कहा जाना जितना जरूरी है, उतना ही जरूरी है उसका सही ढंग से कहा जाना. आगरा की तंगहाल बस्तियां हों या सरकारी स्कूलों का वही जाना-पहचाना बेढंगापन; तिवारी बड़ी खूबी से फिल्म को सच्चाई के बिलकुल करीब तक रखने में कामयाब रही हैं. उनके किरदार भी अपनी जड़ों से एक बार भी उखड़ते दिखाई नहीं देते. चंदा गुस्से में होती है तो अपनी बेटी को भी गाली देने से झिझकती नहीं.
अभिनय की दृष्टि से ‘निल बट्टे सन्नाटा’ एक जोरदार और जबरदस्त फिल्म है. स्वरा भास्कर एक पल को भी चन्दा से अलग नहीं दिखतीं. बेटी की हताशा में बेबस, गरीबी से जूझती, सपनों को जिंदा रखने में दौड़ती-भागती एक अकेली माँ का सारा खालीपन उनकी आँखों में हमेशा तैरता रहता है, ऐसा शायद ही कभी होता है कि वो पूरी तरह टूट जाएँ स्क्रीन पर, फिर भी आपकी आँखों को भिगोने में वो हर बार कामयाब होती हैं. अपनी पहली फिल्म में ही रिया एक मंजी हुई कलाकार की तरह आपको चौंका देती हैं, और इन दोनों के बीच फिल्म के सबसे मजेदार दृश्यों में नज़र आते हैं पंकज त्रिपाठी! अक्खड़, अकड़ू और निहायत ही अनुशासित मैथ्स टीचर की भूमिका में त्रिपाठी आपको अपने किसी न किसी पुराने टीचर की याद दिला ही देंगे.

अंत में; ‘निल बट्टे सन्नाटा’ सिनेमा के उस क्लासिक नियम की जोर-शोर से पैरवी करती है, जहां फिल्म के बड़ी होने से कहीं ज्यादा ‘कहानी’ का बड़ा होना मायने रखता है. फ़िल्म के एक दृश्य में चंदा कहती भी है, “कृष 3 नहीं है, जिंदगी है जिंदगी”. और जिंदगी से ज्यादा दिलचस्प, जिंदगी से ज्यादा जज्बाती, जिंदगी से ज्यादा सच्ची कहानी और क्या होगी! [4/5] 

निल बट्टे सन्नाटा: जिंदगी-कहानी-सिनेमा! [4/5]

सपनों के कोई दायरे नहीं हुआ करते. छोटी आँखों में भी बड़े सपने पलते देखे हैं हमने. फेसबुक की दीवारों और अखबारों की परतों के बीच आपको दिल छू लेने वाली ऐसी कई कहानियाँ मिल जायेंगी, जिनमें सपनों की उड़ान ने उम्मीदों का आसमान छोटा कर दिया हो. हालिया मिसालों में वाराणसी के आईएएस (IAS) ऑफिसर गोविन्द जायसवाल का हवाला दिया सकता है, जिनके पिता कभी रिक्शा चलाते थे. अश्विनी अय्यर तिवारी की मार्मिक, मजेदार और प्रशंसनीय फिल्म ‘निल बट्टे सन्नाटा’ भी ऐसी ही एक मर्मस्पर्शी कहानी के जरिये आपको जिंदगी के उस हिस्से में ले जाती है, जहां गरीबी सपनों की अमीरी पर हावी होने की कोशिश तो भरपूर करती है पर अंत में जीत हौसलों से लथपथ सपने की ही होती है.
घरों, जूते की फैक्ट्री और मसाले की दुकानों पर काम करने वाली चंदा (स्वरा भास्कर) एक रात जब थक कर सोने से पहले अपनी 15 साल की बेटी अप्पू (रिया शुक्ला) से पूछती है कि वो बड़ी होकर क्या बनेगी? अप्पू खरी-खरी कह देती है, “मैं बाई बनूंगी. बाई की बेटी बाई ही तो बनेगी.” चंदा बहस में जीत नहीं सकती. 10वीं के बाद अप्पू को पढ़ाने के लिए पैसे कहाँ हैं चंदा के पास? वैसे भी, अप्पू मैथ्स में ‘निल बट्टा सन्नाटा’ है, मतलब ज़ीरो. पैसे तो बाद की बात हैं, पर इस मैथ्स का क्या करें? चंदा तो खुद मैट्रिक फ़ेल है. डॉ. दीवान (रत्ना पाठक शाह) के पास एक उपाय है. चंदा भी अप्पू का स्कूल ज्वाइन कर ले, खुद भी पढ़े और अप्पू की भी मदद करे. बच्चों के बेहतर भविष्य के लिए माँ-बाप क्या कुछ नहीं करते, पर हम बच्चे कितना समझ पाते हैं? अप्पू के पास तो कोई सपना ही नहीं है, और चंदा के पास अप्पू से बड़ा कोई सपना नहीं!
अश्विनी अय्यर तिवारी अपनी पहली ही फिल्म में साफ़ कर देती हैं कि सिनेमा कहानी कहने का एक सशक्त माध्यम है, कहानी जिसका कहा जाना जितना जरूरी है, उतना ही जरूरी है उसका सही ढंग से कहा जाना. आगरा की तंगहाल बस्तियां हों या सरकारी स्कूलों का वही जाना-पहचाना बेढंगापन; तिवारी बड़ी खूबी से फिल्म को सच्चाई के बिलकुल करीब तक रखने में कामयाब रही हैं. उनके किरदार भी अपनी जड़ों से एक बार भी उखड़ते दिखाई नहीं देते. चंदा गुस्से में होती है तो अपनी बेटी को भी गाली देने से झिझकती नहीं.
अभिनय की दृष्टि से ‘निल बट्टे सन्नाटा’ एक जोरदार और जबरदस्त फिल्म है. स्वरा भास्कर एक पल को भी चन्दा से अलग नहीं दिखतीं. बेटी की हताशा में बेबस, गरीबी से जूझती, सपनों को जिंदा रखने में दौड़ती-भागती एक अकेली माँ का सारा खालीपन उनकी आँखों में हमेशा तैरता रहता है, ऐसा शायद ही कभी होता है कि वो पूरी तरह टूट जाएँ स्क्रीन पर, फिर भी आपकी आँखों को भिगोने में वो हर बार कामयाब होती हैं. अपनी पहली फिल्म में ही रिया एक मंजी हुई कलाकार की तरह आपको चौंका देती हैं, और इन दोनों के बीच फिल्म के सबसे मजेदार दृश्यों में नज़र आते हैं पंकज त्रिपाठी! अक्खड़, अकड़ू और निहायत ही अनुशासित मैथ्स टीचर की भूमिका में त्रिपाठी आपको अपने किसी न किसी पुराने टीचर की याद दिला ही देंगे.

अंत में; ‘निल बट्टे सन्नाटा’ सिनेमा के उस क्लासिक नियम की जोर-शोर से पैरवी करती है, जहां फिल्म के बड़ी होने से कहीं ज्यादा ‘कहानी’ का बड़ा होना मायने रखता है. फ़िल्म के एक दृश्य में चंदा कहती भी है, “कृष 3 नहीं है, जिंदगी है जिंदगी”. और जिंदगी से ज्यादा दिलचस्प, जिंदगी से ज्यादा जज्बाती, जिंदगी से ज्यादा सच्ची कहानी और क्या होगी! [4/5] 

REVIEW 384: SANTA BANTA PVT LTD

Release date:
April 22, 2016
Director:
Akashdeep
Cast:


Language:
Boman Irani, Vir Das, Vijay Raaz, Sanjay Mishra, Lisa Haydon, Ram Kapoor, Neha Dhupia, Johnny Lever, Vrajesh Hirjee, Ayub Khan, Guest appearances: Sonu Nigam, Vikas Bhalla and Manmohan Singh
Hindi

Santa Banta jokes are a national treasure. Their long survival is, in a sense, an ode to the country’s Sikhs who are among the few Indian communities with the ability to laugh at themselves (an image that terrorists and sections of the clergy have been consistently trying to undermine, ever since bombs were exploded in theatres showing Jo Bole So Nihaal in Delhi in 2005).
Hindi cinema has also been guilty of unfairly exploiting the Sikh sense of humour by lazily and unintelligently stereotyping ‘Sardars’ as belligerent loudmouths and buffoons even in spaces where laughter is not relevant. There’s a thesis begging to be written here. Suffice it to say for the purpose of this review that director Akashdeep’s Santa Banta Pvt Ltd comes to theatres bearing the burden of a formidable legacy.
The film stars Boman Irani and Vir Das as small-time crooks Santeshwar Singh and Banteshwar Singh from Patiala. The two are mistaken for a duo of renowned and skilled spies going by the nicknames Santa and Banta, and are consequently roped in by India’s RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) to solve the kidnapping of the country’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Shankar Roy (Ayub Khan). Since the agent responsible for the confusion – a guy called Arvind played by Vijay Raaz – cannot afford to admit to his faux pas, Santa and Banta are packed off to Fiji.
There they meet the ambassador’s wife Kareena S. Roy (Neha Dhupia who also plays the love of Santa’s life, Billo), the wealthy antiques trader Sonu Sultan (Ram Kapoor) who is also the Roys’ friend, a RAW agent called Akbar Allahabadi (Sanjay Mishra) who is Santa-Banta’s pointsperson in that country, an undercover RAW operative called Queenie Taneja a.k.a. QT (Lisa Haydon), a Nepalese underworld don (Johnny Lever) and the gangster Antonio Kapoor (Ranjeet).
The multiplicity of characters introduced in quick succession justifies the text plates flashing on screen with their names and photographs in the beginning. You might assume that confusion over who is who would be the risk this film runs. That ends up not being the problem at all. The problem Santa Banta Pvt Ltd ends up with is: who cares who is who?
It is perhaps illogical to expect better from a  film that takes itself so casually. When the opening Hindi voiceover speaks of “Hindu, Muslim, Isaai, Sikh”, the English words flashing on screen are “Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Sikh” (umm, Catholics are only a sub-set of Christians). Actress-model Lisa Haydon’s name is spelt differently in the opening and end credits. And Ram Kapoor suffers from inexplicably inconsistent lighting and makeup – he is pink and perspiring in early scenes, after which his face seems to be cast in shadow. These are not crimes, as less finicky folk may point out, but they reveal a lackadaisical attitude towards the filmmaker’s own product which is bound to be in evidence in the rest of the film too.
And so it is. Irani and Das have personable personalities, good comic timing and the ability to let their hair down on screen. The film’s best scenes are the ones that bring them together and focus entirely on them. Oddly enough, the writers seem not to recognise that they and humour are Santa Banta Pvt Ltd’s USPs and end up spending too much time on a boring plot involving the High Commissioner that gives too much space to everyone and everything else.
Not that the rest of the cast do not deserve to be on camera. As you can see, they are a roll call of some of Hindi cinema’s best comedians. But good actors can do little when the script is so limited, and this one in any case has too little comedy and an abundance of nothingness. 
Take for instance the sub-plot involving the Nepalese gangster. For some reason the man keeps getting phone calls from a voice addressing him as Bahadur and asking him to open the gate. Wit that draws on community stereotypes require high-IQ writing to be effective. This one is unimaginative and irritating and yet is repeated ad nauseam. Besides, if Lever contorts his face and body on screen one more time in his career, I think I might scream. 
With Santa Banta Pvt Ltd, I was too busy keeping myself awake to summon up the energy to do so.
The film’s initial scenes feature the sort of wisecrack that regular Santa-Banta consumers know well. When they squabble over how to split Rs 1,000 between them, one of them suggests that they go 50-50. Okay, says the other, but what about the remaining Rs 900?
It’s the sort of light-hearted nonsense that should have filled the film. There’s simply not enough of it. Every 20 minutes or so, there is one really good, enjoyably silly joke (which proves the writers’ potential for this genre) and then – yawn, yawn, yawn – it is back to the dull grind. Considering that the film runs for about 113 minutes, that adds up to a total of approximately six jokes. Why?
Santa Banta also features too many noisy, unmelodious songs with redemption coming in the form of just one foot-tapping number, Machli Jal Ki Rani Hai sung by Sonu Nigam and Vikas Bhalla, both of whom make guest appearances to sing it.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh also has a cameo of sorts in Santa Banta Pvt Ltd. Sadly for him, like the government he headed till 2014, there is little he can do to save this film.

Rating (out of five): *1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
UA
Running time:
113 minutes 

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

REVIEW 384: SANTA BANTA PVT LTD

Release date:
April 22, 2016
Director:
Akashdeep
Cast:


Language:
Boman Irani, Vir Das, Vijay Raaz, Sanjay Mishra, Lisa Haydon, Ram Kapoor, Neha Dhupia, Johnny Lever, Vrajesh Hirjee, Ayub Khan, Guest appearances: Sonu Nigam, Vikas Bhalla and Manmohan Singh
Hindi

Santa Banta jokes are a national treasure. Their long survival is, in a sense, an ode to the country’s Sikhs who are among the few Indian communities with the ability to laugh at themselves (an image that terrorists and sections of the clergy have been consistently trying to undermine, ever since bombs were exploded in theatres showing Jo Bole So Nihaal in Delhi in 2005).
Hindi cinema has also been guilty of unfairly exploiting the Sikh sense of humour by lazily and unintelligently stereotyping ‘Sardars’ as belligerent loudmouths and buffoons even in spaces where laughter is not relevant. There’s a thesis begging to be written here. Suffice it to say for the purpose of this review that director Akashdeep’s Santa Banta Pvt Ltd comes to theatres bearing the burden of a formidable legacy.
The film stars Boman Irani and Vir Das as small-time crooks Santeshwar Singh and Banteshwar Singh from Patiala. The two are mistaken for a duo of renowned and skilled spies going by the nicknames Santa and Banta, and are consequently roped in by India’s RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) to solve the kidnapping of the country’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Shankar Roy (Ayub Khan). Since the agent responsible for the confusion – a guy called Arvind played by Vijay Raaz – cannot afford to admit to his faux pas, Santa and Banta are packed off to Fiji.
There they meet the ambassador’s wife Kareena S. Roy (Neha Dhupia who also plays the love of Santa’s life, Billo), the wealthy antiques trader Sonu Sultan (Ram Kapoor) who is also the Roys’ friend, a RAW agent called Akbar Allahabadi (Sanjay Mishra) who is Santa-Banta’s pointsperson in that country, an undercover RAW operative called Queenie Taneja a.k.a. QT (Lisa Haydon), a Nepalese underworld don (Johnny Lever) and the gangster Antonio Kapoor (Ranjeet).
The multiplicity of characters introduced in quick succession justifies the text plates flashing on screen with their names and photographs in the beginning. You might assume that confusion over who is who would be the risk this film runs. That ends up not being the problem at all. The problem Santa Banta Pvt Ltd ends up with is: who cares who is who?
It is perhaps illogical to expect better from a  film that takes itself so casually. When the opening Hindi voiceover speaks of “Hindu, Muslim, Isaai, Sikh”, the English words flashing on screen are “Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Sikh” (umm, Catholics are only a sub-set of Christians). Actress-model Lisa Haydon’s name is spelt differently in the opening and end credits. And Ram Kapoor suffers from inexplicably inconsistent lighting and makeup – he is pink and perspiring in early scenes, after which his face seems to be cast in shadow. These are not crimes, as less finicky folk may point out, but they reveal a lackadaisical attitude towards the filmmaker’s own product which is bound to be in evidence in the rest of the film too.
And so it is. Irani and Das have personable personalities, good comic timing and the ability to let their hair down on screen. The film’s best scenes are the ones that bring them together and focus entirely on them. Oddly enough, the writers seem not to recognise that they and humour are Santa Banta Pvt Ltd’s USPs and end up spending too much time on a boring plot involving the High Commissioner that gives too much space to everyone and everything else.
Not that the rest of the cast do not deserve to be on camera. As you can see, they are a roll call of some of Hindi cinema’s best comedians. But good actors can do little when the script is so limited, and this one in any case has too little comedy and an abundance of nothingness. 
Take for instance the sub-plot involving the Nepalese gangster. For some reason the man keeps getting phone calls from a voice addressing him as Bahadur and asking him to open the gate. Wit that draws on community stereotypes require high-IQ writing to be effective. This one is unimaginative and irritating and yet is repeated ad nauseam. Besides, if Lever contorts his face and body on screen one more time in his career, I think I might scream. 
With Santa Banta Pvt Ltd, I was too busy keeping myself awake to summon up the energy to do so.
The film’s initial scenes feature the sort of wisecrack that regular Santa-Banta consumers know well. When they squabble over how to split Rs 1,000 between them, one of them suggests that they go 50-50. Okay, says the other, but what about the remaining Rs 900?
It’s the sort of light-hearted nonsense that should have filled the film. There’s simply not enough of it. Every 20 minutes or so, there is one really good, enjoyably silly joke (which proves the writers’ potential for this genre) and then – yawn, yawn, yawn – it is back to the dull grind. Considering that the film runs for about 113 minutes, that adds up to a total of approximately six jokes. Why?
Santa Banta also features too many noisy, unmelodious songs with redemption coming in the form of just one foot-tapping number, Machli Jal Ki Rani Hai sung by Sonu Nigam and Vikas Bhalla, both of whom make guest appearances to sing it.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh also has a cameo of sorts in Santa Banta Pvt Ltd. Sadly for him, like the government he headed till 2014, there is little he can do to save this film.

Rating (out of five): *1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
UA
Running time:
113 minutes 

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

REVIEW 383: LAAL RANG

Release date:
April 22, 2016
Director:
Syed Ahmad Afzal
Cast:
Language:
Randeep Hooda, Akshay Oberoi, Pia Bajpai, Meenakshi Dixit, Rajniesh Duggall
Hindi

Let’s get this out of the way first. Randeep Hooda is hot. It is worth the price of a ticket just to see him wandering around in sleeveless vests throughout this film. He also takes off his shirt at one point, letting the camera linger on a really really admirable yet not obviously gym-sculpted, over-muscled back. That is a second ticket taken care of.
A it happens, this man – who we first saw in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Weddingin 2001 – is one of contemporary Indian cinema’s most talented, most under-rated actors. It is a mystery why he is not a bigger star.
Hooda’s talent and looks are very much in evidence in director Syed Ahmad Afzal’s Laal Rang. Question is: does the film add up to more than what he has to offer?
Laal Rang revolves around an extremely important subject: corruption in blood banks. It is set in Karnal, Haryana, where Shankar Malik (Hooda) runs a successful blood donation racket. To make his illegal activities easier by becoming a government insider, he enrols in a Medical Lab Technology course at a government hospital. There he meets the young and impressionable Rajesh Dhiman (Akshay Oberoi) who is so awe-struck by his charisma, his swagger, his inventive ways of making money under the table and his Yamaha RX100 (which, the film tells us, makes men irresistible to women) that he soon becomes his protégé.
Also in the picture is their straight-laced classmate Poonam Sharma (Pia Bajpai) and a late entrant into the story, Superintendent of Police Gajraj Singh (Rajniesh Duggall), the local Haryanvi boy who made it big.
The film’s supporting actors are a uniformly competent lot, though a special mention must be made of Rajendra Sethi – another excellent yet underrated actor – playing one of Shankar’s cohorts. Bajpai is good for the most part even though she is not entirely convincing with her fake bad English.
In what is one of the film’s nicest touches, the characters in Laal Rang are not built up as menacing repulsive villains, yet they are clearly an amoral bunch who, for instance, celebrate a dengue epidemic because of the gains it brings blood racketeers like them. What the film teaches us about their underhand dealings is terrifying. It is the kind of story that will make you hesitate to ever visit a blood bank again, though of course we do not have a choice in this matter, a realisation that would chill any normal human being to the bone.
The film’s undoing is what seems to be confusion over the tone it wants to achieve. And so, although large parts of the narrative have a very apt, realistic feel to them, Laal Rang never becomes as gritty as it needed to be because of its tendency to intermittently wander off into long, loud songs supplemented by stylised, slow motion shots. The insistent background score is used to underline every single emotion, twist and turn as if for fear that the audience may miss the point.
As standalone scenes and music videos outside a feature film, some of these are pretty impressive. In one passage in the film, for instance, Shankar takes Rajesh for a ride on his mobike and as the music plays and the wind blows through his hair, he seems to ask his young pillion rider to take the handlebars while he himself lets go and reaches into his pocket for a cigarette. Ooh. Neat.
While this scene works because it comes before we discover the horrid reality of the blood underworld that is Laal Rang’s focus, once we settle into that theme, the repeated musical asides become an irritant.
A great subject alone doth not a great film make. Relevant topics translate into good films when they are peopled with human beings that we become completely involved with. That does not happen here. There is a distant feel to Laal Rang, the air of a newspaper reporter recounting a corruption scandal as a detached observer would and should, rather than an insider’s account, which is what this is supposed to be.
There is a memorable moment early in Laal Rang when Shankar hails a cycle rickshaw, and an aerial shot shows us every single rickshawpuller on that street immediately freezing at his summons. They do it out of choice and not for fear of him, as we soon find out. One of the poor men tells Rajesh that they consider Shankar god (the choice of divine name for the character even comes up for a mention at one point). Later we realise that all the men in that scene were probably professional donors (PDs) whose impoverished existence was greatly improved by the extra money Shankar’s business brings in.
The film needed more of that kind of material minus the overdone music. Laal Rang tells us a lot about the fraudulent operations of the country’s blood banks. Wish it had got us to feel invested in the lives of the men and women who run the fraud, especially the likes of Shankar and Rajesh who have a straight path staring them in the face yet choose a crooked way.
This film has many interesting individual elements but fails to lift off in its entirety. So yes, Randeep Hooda is hot, but Laal Rang is not.  

Rating (out of five): **1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
UA
Running time:
150 minutes

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

REVIEW 383: LAAL RANG

Release date:
April 22, 2016
Director:
Syed Ahmad Afzal
Cast:
Language:
Randeep Hooda, Akshay Oberoi, Pia Bajpai, Meenakshi Dixit, Rajniesh Duggall
Hindi

Let’s get this out of the way first. Randeep Hooda is hot. It is worth the price of a ticket just to see him wandering around in sleeveless vests throughout this film. He also takes off his shirt at one point, letting the camera linger on a really really admirable yet not obviously gym-sculpted, over-muscled back. That is a second ticket taken care of.
A it happens, this man – who we first saw in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Weddingin 2001 – is one of contemporary Indian cinema’s most talented, most under-rated actors. It is a mystery why he is not a bigger star.
Hooda’s talent and looks are very much in evidence in director Syed Ahmad Afzal’s Laal Rang. Question is: does the film add up to more than what he has to offer?
Laal Rang revolves around an extremely important subject: corruption in blood banks. It is set in Karnal, Haryana, where Shankar Malik (Hooda) runs a successful blood donation racket. To make his illegal activities easier by becoming a government insider, he enrols in a Medical Lab Technology course at a government hospital. There he meets the young and impressionable Rajesh Dhiman (Akshay Oberoi) who is so awe-struck by his charisma, his swagger, his inventive ways of making money under the table and his Yamaha RX100 (which, the film tells us, makes men irresistible to women) that he soon becomes his protégé.
Also in the picture is their straight-laced classmate Poonam Sharma (Pia Bajpai) and a late entrant into the story, Superintendent of Police Gajraj Singh (Rajniesh Duggall), the local Haryanvi boy who made it big.
The film’s supporting actors are a uniformly competent lot, though a special mention must be made of Rajendra Sethi – another excellent yet underrated actor – playing one of Shankar’s cohorts. Bajpai is good for the most part even though she is not entirely convincing with her fake bad English.
In what is one of the film’s nicest touches, the characters in Laal Rang are not built up as menacing repulsive villains, yet they are clearly an amoral bunch who, for instance, celebrate a dengue epidemic because of the gains it brings blood racketeers like them. What the film teaches us about their underhand dealings is terrifying. It is the kind of story that will make you hesitate to ever visit a blood bank again, though of course we do not have a choice in this matter, a realisation that would chill any normal human being to the bone.
The film’s undoing is what seems to be confusion over the tone it wants to achieve. And so, although large parts of the narrative have a very apt, realistic feel to them, Laal Rang never becomes as gritty as it needed to be because of its tendency to intermittently wander off into long, loud songs supplemented by stylised, slow motion shots. The insistent background score is used to underline every single emotion, twist and turn as if for fear that the audience may miss the point.
As standalone scenes and music videos outside a feature film, some of these are pretty impressive. In one passage in the film, for instance, Shankar takes Rajesh for a ride on his mobike and as the music plays and the wind blows through his hair, he seems to ask his young pillion rider to take the handlebars while he himself lets go and reaches into his pocket for a cigarette. Ooh. Neat.
While this scene works because it comes before we discover the horrid reality of the blood underworld that is Laal Rang’s focus, once we settle into that theme, the repeated musical asides become an irritant.
A great subject alone doth not a great film make. Relevant topics translate into good films when they are peopled with human beings that we become completely involved with. That does not happen here. There is a distant feel to Laal Rang, the air of a newspaper reporter recounting a corruption scandal as a detached observer would and should, rather than an insider’s account, which is what this is supposed to be.
There is a memorable moment early in Laal Rang when Shankar hails a cycle rickshaw, and an aerial shot shows us every single rickshawpuller on that street immediately freezing at his summons. They do it out of choice and not for fear of him, as we soon find out. One of the poor men tells Rajesh that they consider Shankar god (the choice of divine name for the character even comes up for a mention at one point). Later we realise that all the men in that scene were probably professional donors (PDs) whose impoverished existence was greatly improved by the extra money Shankar’s business brings in.
The film needed more of that kind of material minus the overdone music. Laal Rang tells us a lot about the fraudulent operations of the country’s blood banks. Wish it had got us to feel invested in the lives of the men and women who run the fraud, especially the likes of Shankar and Rajesh who have a straight path staring them in the face yet choose a crooked way.
This film has many interesting individual elements but fails to lift off in its entirety. So yes, Randeep Hooda is hot, but Laal Rang is not.  

Rating (out of five): **1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
UA
Running time:
150 minutes

This review has also been published on Firstpost: