Saturday, September 10, 2016

MUSIC REVIEW : WRONG SIDE RAJU



It has been almost one and a half years now. I still remember the date. It was Valentine’s Day. After trying to contact them for several months, they had finally agreed. As I make way towards my destination, I get goosebumps. And then I finally reach their studio.

The first thing I do when I reach their studio is ask them, “Can I put my phone in charging please?”
They smile and say yes.

It is not every day that you get to meet one of your favorite composers, singers, lyricists. But that day was very special.

Jigar Saraiya and Priya Saraiya make such a cute couple. We talk about their upbringing, how they came into the music industry. They ask me how come a doctor like me is so much into music and movies.

Then they show me their recording room, and I was like “WOW”. I still remember that big Apple monitor. So this is where all the beautiful music comes from.

18 months later, as I listen to “Wrong Side Raju”, I again remember that room and wonder, “So this is where all these awesome songs were recorded, isn’t it?”

“SATRANGI RE” is that love song which the Gujarati film industry has been always waiting for. And who else but Arijit Singh could have done justice to such a song?

With dreamy vocals by Dawn Cordo to begin, we are treated to some beautiful guitar (Saloni Mehta), soon giving way to Arijit Singh’s flawless voice. His diction is quite good, but ultimately it is the “Oh – so - GORGEOUS” tune and the brilliant lyrics which make this song an outstanding one.

Niren Bhatt’s lyrics are simple and beautiful, describing the feelings of a person who is madly in love. Sachin – Jigar’s lovely tune does the rest of the magic. It is a restrained melody, mind you. Never does it try to be too over ambitious, nor too heavy on the instruments. The calmness is the USP. As for Arijit singh, he makes a perfect Gujarati debut. We definitely want more of you.



 “ZINDABAD RE” is Vishal Dadlani’s show all the way. He totally nails it. His diction is perfect. The tune is super catchy, the arrangements are mind blowing, and the lyrics are very creative, relevant and apt. there is not a single dull moment in the song. I loved it.



“AMDAVAD RE” is another version of the same song. The tune remains the same, the singer maintains the same awesomeness but the lyrics change. This is a song glorifying Ahmedabad. Niren Bhatt aces this one. His lyrics are brilliant.

Both the versions are full of attitude and Vishal does a fab job. No one but Vishal could have sung this one. Please sing more of Gujarati songs, Dadlani saab!


“KATPUTHLA” means “puppets”. It is a song which talks about how a poor man becomes a puppet in the hands of the rich and powerful. Keerthi Sagathia is simply superb. He never fails to amaze me. His voice provides the needed angst and pain in the song. Aiding him ably is Jasleen Royal whose unique voice creates a haunting effect which sounds beautiful. The song fits in perfectly with the theme of the film.

Sachin Jigar’s arrangements and tune are beautiful. Their very dependable Dilshad Khan gives goosebumps with his sarangi interlude.

“GORI RADHA NE KADO KAAN” is the best song of the album. Isn’t it obvious? You compose a lovely garba tune, pack it with heavy brilliant instrumentation and you back it off with a visual garba song – it is bound to be a hit.



Divya kumar is a surprise. This guy manages to amaze me every single time now and then. His diction is good, his singing is brilliant.

However, when you have another version of the same song sung by Kirtidan Gadhvi, you can’t help but love that one more. Kirtidan is simply outstanding.

But the real geniuses are the two composers who compose this magnificent tune. Right from the first second, till the ending “Duhaa”, Sachin and Jigar rock this one. This year’s navratri will feature this song everywhere in Gujarat and outside. Full marks to them for some superlative instrumentation. It is a foot tapping song in true sense. You feel like doing garba on it.


OVERALL, “Wrong Side Raju” is Sachin Jigar’s best Gujarati work till date. They are in top form. Their music, be it quality, arrangements or choice of singers is pitch perfect and very much upto bollywood standards.


I have always felt that composers need to contribute to their regional film industry. Look at Ajay – Atul, or Anupam Roy. Look at A.R Rahman – the biggest example. Because ultimately it is your regional work which will be appreciated the most. I am so proud of Sachin and jigar that they give their 100% to their own regional industry. You are already going places in bollywood, but now you will go places even in the Gujarati film industry. Thank you for the lovely album!   

MY RATINGS - 9 / 10

MOVIE REVIEW : WRONG SIDE RAJU


“Change” is a word that carries a lot of weight. It is a movement which takes a lot of time.

5 years ago, Cineman productions brought one such change in the Gujarati film industry. Actually, they rediscovered the film industry. 

First came the witty “Kevi Rite Jaish” and then came the blockbuster “Bey Yaar”. And all of a sudden, as if all the doors of a dam were opened, there arrived a flood of films – ranging from downright horrible to just about average. Every film would proclaim itself to be “An Urban Gujarati film” and would ultimately be filled with mediocrity.

“Wrong Side Raju” brings an end to this mediocrity. As I walk down the steps of the theatre after watching the movie, I am filled with satisfaction and pride that we are slowly but surely getting there.

PLOT

The film has a strong storyline, loosely based on the infamous hit and run case of Ahmedabad of 2013.

Raju Bambani is a driver cum bootlegger who unfortunately gets involved in a hit and run case. The police arrest him and now he has to prove himself innocent. He is the driver of well known lawyer cum businessman Amitabh Shah whose spoilt son was actually the real culprit of the accident.

Can Raju save himself? Will he find love in the French girl he befriends? And most importantly, will the truth ever come out?


DIRECTION

This film is directed by debutante director Mikhil Musale and produced jointly by Cineman Productions (Abhishek and Nayan Jain) and Phantom films.

In his very first film, Mikhil excels. He adopts an indirect and unconventional style of narration and that works very well. The accident scene is shown very nicely and that lamp post falling scene is a beautifully done and significant scene.

The first half is spent in establishing the sequence of events that led to the accident. There are flashbacks, there is intermittent humor, and there is some very good acting. By the time it was intermission, the movie had me gripped, but just about.

Post interval, things change for the better. The plot becomes more and more engaging. There are some wonderful scenes which keep you hooked, until the unexpected suspense in the climax. Now that was very brilliantly done, Mr. Director! It changed the entire mood of the film, and gave the film the much needed impact.

The film is very well shot. Ahmedabad is captured beautifully.

There are a couple of scenes which standout among the rest – for example, the alcohol drinking scene in the police station, the navratri sequence, the entire courtroom sequence, and the scene involving Amitabh shah and Raju involving Rs 15 lakhs.


POSITIVES

The performances are the USP of the film. As Raju, Pratik Gandhi wins your heart. He is so very natural. He doesn’t act. He just behaves and responds to different situations just like we normal people do. That is why his act looks so honest, real and convincing.

As the wealthy businessman, Asif Basra delivers a flawless performance. With a mix of gujarati, hindi and English dialogues, he convincingly plays his role.

As “Saily madam”, Kimberley Louisa McBeath is good. She never seems out of place.

The three investigating officers are true gems. As the lead officer, Jayesh More is superb. So is Alok Gagdekar who plays the role of the other officer. You might remember him from Bajrangi Bhaiijaan. (He was the one who was on the bus when salman khan narrates this flashback.)


The third police officer who plays the role of a constable brings the necessary dose of humor. His dialogue delivery is too good. (POTIYU!)

As the lawyer, Hetal Puniwala does a very fine job. So does Kenneth Desai who is top notch as always.
As Tanmay Shah, Kavi Shastri is okay. Someone much better could have been cast instead of him.

Secondly, the script is developed well. Writers Niren Bhatt, Karan Vyas and Musale himself do a good job. The editing however could have been crispier.


NEGATIVES

I will come straight to the point. Just because this is a Gujarati movie doesn’t mean I will unnecessarily praise it. The film has its share of flaws and is definitely not a perfect one.

Firstly, the editing needed more work. The film could have been 20 minutes shorter.

Secondly, the entire plot of the climax needed more development. At some point, you feel as if they wrapped it up conveniently in the end and too hurriedly.

Thirdly, they have used a lot of English in the film, which will not be understood by everyone. For us, it is not an issue, but people will flock with their families to see this movie, and there will be quite a large section who would have preferred subtitles in those scenes.

Also, I agree that sponsors are an integral part of a film, but here it is overdone. R.Balki does that a lot in his films. It is always a major turn off.


MUSIC

However good the film is, the music is undoubtedly the BEST thing about the film.
Sachin Jigar do a fantabulous job and their music only makes the film better. Satrangi re and the garba song look and sound so bloody good. This is their best work since “Happy Ending” for me.

For a full music review of the album, click HERE


OVERALL

“WRONG SIDE RAJU” is definitely not a perfect film. But it is very very near to perfection. Gone are the days of those tacky gujju movies. This movie proves that with a strong script, good music and good acting, any film in any language will do well. It is indeed heartening to see such high quality stuff in Gujarati cinema.

Also, I have always felt that we never support our own regional films. Look at the Telegu, Tamil, Kannada, Bengali and Marathi film industry. These industries flourish because people from those states take interest in these films. We need to do that too. If “Sairat” can make a hundred crores, our movies definitely can. Both “Bey Yaar” and “Kevi rite jaish” had that potential; and so does “Wrong side raju”.

Kudos to the entire team of “WSR”. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You people have set up new standards for our film industry, and it is indeed great that Phantom backed this project.
We are getting there! Slowly, steadily, but surely!


MY RATINGS – 3.5 / 5   

Saturday, July 30, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : SECRETLY YOURS



Romance is one genre that has been explored endlessly by almost all authors; and when a little bit of supernatural element is mixed with romance, the results are nothing but endearing.
Author Vikrant Khanna’s latest offering “Secretly yours” is one such endearing novel.

PLOT

Set in the backdrop of the picturesque city of Shimla, “Secretly yours” talks about the life of Sahil, an orphan who lives with his brother, grandma and his uncle’s family. Things change when Anya arrives in his life. On the other hand, there is a serial killer on the loose who is wreaking havoc in the usually quiet hill station. Who is behind the killings? What is the mystery behind Anya and her friends?

Vikrant Khanna weaves a thoroughly engaging plot with the right ingredients for a romantic as well a suspense thriller novel. There is a certain freshness in the plot which seems creative and yet highly believable.


WRITING AND POSITIVES

The writing is pretty simple and easy on the readers. The language is kept simple and the writing witty and to the point.

Vikrant does his characterizations beautifully. The characters of Sahil and Anya are done very nicely and in depth. Be it the mysterious Mayur and Sameer or that of Aditya or Monica, all the characters are written very well.

Secondly, keeping Shimla as the place where the entire novel is set up, is a lovely idea. There is always a different aura and beauty when a hill station is involved. Somehow I wouldn’t have loved this book so much had it been set up in a bigger city.

Lastly, the chemistry between Sahil and Anya is wonderfully done. Be it their initial interactions or the ones after the secrets are shared, everything is superb. One can feel those sparks of romance when these two hold the centre stage.

Also, the ending is done well. I was expecting something similar since the beginning. I kept guessing as to how the book would end, and I finally was proven right.

NEGATIVES

The climax is pretty hurried. I would have loved if the book would have been 50 pages longer but had a more elaborate and more believable climax.

Secondly, the entire revenant lore seems convincing, and yet the author fails to evoke that enmity between the revenants and the brothers. There is a lack of tension that should have been present. Ultimately, it all leads to a weak climax.

Apart from these few glitches, I have no complaints with the novel.


OVERALL, Vikrant Khanna’s “Secretly yours” is a breezy romantic supernatural thriller which can be easily finished off in one sitting. With easy English, crackling chemistry between the lead pair and an intriguing plot, this book is definitely a one time read. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : THE THIRTEENTH DAY



Attempting a partially fictionalized account of the greatest saga of our country is indeed a brave thing. And to come out of it with flying colors is even greater an achievement. Debutant author 
Aditya Iyengar joins the list of the authors who have tried re-telling the Mahabharata from different angles. Does he succeed in creating an engaging book?

PLOT

No one is unfamiliar with the plot of the Mahabharata; and yet Aditya’s unique narrative makes this book a lovely read.

The story unfolds on the tenth day of the war in Kurukshetra, leading to the events that ultimately led to the death of Abhimanyu. The entire plot is narrated from the point of view of three key characters – Radheya/Karna, Yudhishthira and Abhimnyu.
Out of the mammoth Mahabharata war, Aditya chooses to focus only on these 4 days that defined so many things and people.

POSITIVES

The simplicity in the language is one big plus point of this book. At times a bit more casual, Aditya’s style of writing is simple, appealing and caters to all audiences.

A lot of research has gone behind this book, and it definitely shows. An in-depth information about combats, formations, different war weapons and instruments has been provided. This is one aspect relatively unexplored previously.

Secondly, the characterizations are superb. The way Aditya develops each character, makes us feel as we know them personally. All three – Yudhishthira, Karna and Abhimanyu are characterized brilliantly.
Yudhishthira’s character is lovely. I loved how he is shown to be vulnerable, unsure, and insecure. He is the most humane character in the plot.

Our heart goes out for Abhimanyu’s character. However, my personal favorite was Karna’s character.
It is also a relief to see few of the central characters take a backseat – including Krishna, Draupadi, etc. Draupadi’s take on Mahabharata has already been described in the novel “The palace of illusions”.

Also, what attracts our attention is also how Aditya develops the other characters. There is Krishna’s son (Pradyumna), Suyodhana’s son (Laxman). Also, Shikhandi’s characterization is very well done. Arjuna and Bhima are depicted aptly too.

NEGATIVES

Aditya’s style of writing might not appeal to few hardcore Mahabharata fans. Despite the painstaking detailing, there are instances when we feel few superficial moments in the writing department.

Also, this book is a strict no no for those who don’t find the Mahabharata interesting. Those guys can very well give it a miss.

OVERALL, Aditya’s narration of the events from Bhishma’s death to Abhimanyu’s death is a must read for all those who love Mahabharata. I mean, is there anyone who doesn’t love it?

A fresh, different and well written novel, I would definitely recommend this one to all mythology lovers!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : THE HONEST SEASON



Making films on politics has always been the fancy of many directors. It is a genre which is loved by people. However when the same comes to books, it doesn’t always hold true. There are very few novels on politics which manage to remain gripping till the end. Most usually sink into deep depression and lose track midway.

Fortunately, Kota Neelima’s latest offering “The Honest Season” manages to stay above all these clich├ęs and turns out to be a page turning novel.

PLOT

It all happens in the city of Delhi where politicians reside, where the country’s most renowned news channels have head offices and where all the leading newspapers have their reporters vying to outdo each other.

Amidst the rivalry, the novel focuses on the life of “Know journalist” Mira Mouli. Along with a detailed offering into her personal and professional life as well as her thoughts, we are also introduced to the two main male characters Sikandar Bansi and Nalan Malik.

Both have their own traits, plusses and minuses. When Sikandar Bansi disappears and starts sending tapes to the news company, hell breaks loose. Each tape consists of hardcore evidence of corruption within the entire political system – be it the ruling party, the opposition party or even the country’s defence system.

With each tape, Sikandar sends a clue specially addressed to Mira, in order for her to find him.
What happens next? Does Mira succeed in finding Sikandar? Will she be able to fight her own inner demons and find that man who seems to know her inside out?

WRITING

Unlike Kota Neelima’s previous novel “Shoes of the dead”, this one is more pacy. She gets a brilliant grip on the entire political backdrop, effectively creating the right and apt amounts of tension whenever needed.

She also shows why journalism and politics are so interconnected in today’s world. She tells us that even today, there are both good as well as bad people in journalism as well as politics.


POSITIVES

The characterizations are superb. The characters of Mira and Sikandar are brilliantly sketched. That strong affinity between them is brilliant. The tension is so real and palpable. You almost want Mira to come out from that rented flat and meet Sikandar.

The other characters too are well done – Nalan Malik, Munshi, Bhaskar, Salat Vasudev, etc.
The monsoon is depicted so well by Kota Neelima. It is my favorite season and she only enhances my love for the rains. The title of the book is so apt. there is no season as honest as monsoon.

The ending of the book is perfect. With a Christopher Nolan like ending, the author leaves it to the readers’ imagination and intelligence as to what Mira actually does.


NEGATIVES

This is a near flawless book. The pace is good, the content is very good, but there are portions when the romantic angle gets too much. Priorities shift and the focus shifts from politics to a little too much of indulgence.

Apart from that, I hardly found any minuses in the novel.

OVERALL, Kota Neelima’s book “The Honest Season” is for those who love political fiction works. Along with being a fictional work, it very deftly exposes the loopholes in our own political system. It shows us that inspite of being the world’s largest democracy, we are miles behind when it comes to having a clean, moral and ethical political system.
It does require a lot of efforts. The cleaning up process is not so easy. But atleast people are being made aware – be it by a novel or by any other means.


Great work, Kota Neelima!!!     

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : SHE - EKLA CHOLO RE

Sometimes simplicity is all that is needed to touch the heart. The more uncomplicated a story, the better it penetrates within.

Santosh Avvannavar and Shayan Haq pen this poignant short story called "SHE - EKLA CHOLO RE" which can be easily finished off in a single sitting of about half an hour and yet move you.

PLOT

Set in the 1990s, this story revolves around 2 characters- renowned Dr Rajendra Mukherjee and a female called Kusum. The authors delicately talk about homosexuality and gender changes and how stupidly the society reacts to such things.

At one point, the authors write- "Real love and truth go together."
I couldn't help but agree to what they wrote.

The entire Bengali setup is very beautifully done. The overall plot is pretty simple - a man giving a lift to a lone lady on the highway. But what follows is very beautifully penned.

There are simple things which touch the heart - Kusum getting reminded of her own mother on meeting Raj's mother, Kusum remarking at how all men think alike and about the same thing.

What struck me was the ease with which the authors conveyed a very important message.
"YOU ARE WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO BE." - such a beautiful line.

Also, Rabindranath Tagore helps make the story into an even more beautiful one with his immortal poems.

There is one more line that I loved. It is relevant even today in any random scenario - "It is very natural for a person to get attracted to the opposite sex on hearing to his/her emotional story."

OVERALL, this is a very well written story. Uncluttered, uncomplicated and inundated with simplicity, this is a must read for everyone.

Monday, March 14, 2016

BOOK REVIEW : LIFE MANTRAS




Not all works of nonfiction are dull. I admit I myself am not a very hardcore fan of nonfiction, although I do occasionally read some beautiful works.

“LIFE MANTRAS” cannot actually be categorized under the category “Nonfiction”. It would be better to call it a book that teaches you a lot about life.

There are so many things in our daily life which we all know, and yet we always learn something new about it from someone else. This book is full of such lovely examples.

“SAHARASRI” SUBRATA ROY SAHARA talks about love, respect, admiration and all other virtues and characters of a human being with finesse.

He talks about marriage, about a husband  - wife relationship, about hard work, honesty, truthfulness, trustfulness, about a mother – child relationship, and what not.

The best thing however is that he cites hundreds of examples from daily life to prove his point – examples with which all of us can relate.

He tells us that apologizing is NOT a bad thing. It will NOT make you inferior to others. It will NOT hurt if you put aside your big fat ego for sometime. The world would be such a beautiful place if people understood these small things.

He tells us that working hard alone doesn’t serve the purpose. It is the quality that counts, not the quantity or number of working hours.

He gives us a very important lesson of never misusing your status.

He beautifully depicts the Indian woman, and even how “sex” is interpreted all over the world.

There are two wonderful chapters on “EGO” and “SANSKAARS”.

OVERALL, this is a book that is to be cherished. It is difficult to actually write a proper review because there is so much to write about. But it is a book that will be your guide during your bad times.

It is a book that preaches no doubt, but all the correct things.

It is a book which will improve the quality of your thoughts.

I read a lot of negative reviews of this book online stating that a person who has been jailed and been corrupt has no business writing such philosophical things.

Hello, who are we to judge any person? It is immaterial who the writer is, as long as he writes the truth. After all, he didn’t create “Sahara” in just one day.


Go for this book. It will change your perspective of life.