Thursday, August 24, 2017


Movie Review : Manjha
Language : Marathi
Director : Jatin Wagle
Genre : Thriller
Starring : Ashwini Bhave, Sumedh Mudgalkar, Rohit Phalke
Released : July 2017
My Rating : 5 out of 10

Sometimes it’s about expectations. I was happy that a Marathi movie is venturing into a relatively uncharted territory of the thriller genre. The trailer was promising. I really hoped to like it, but in the end I came out disappointed.

Samidha (Ashwini Bhave) moves to Lonavala with her son, Jaideep (Rohit Phalke) to escape from her abusive husband. Jaideep is an introvert, understandably, and is emotionally traumatized. Samidha as a mother is modern, understanding and determined to rise out of the situation. She starts working at a friend’s resort. At school, Jaideep is befriended by Vicky (Sumedh Mudgalkar) who is what Jaideep is not - flamboyant, confident and charming. Vicky’s friendship starts transforming Jaideep, but soon he starts sensing a sinister side of Vicky. The rest of the movie deals with who Vicky really is, and how Samidha and Jaideep face the challenge, and counter Vicky’s plans.

As you can see, this is not a very novel idea. That’s OK. Lack of novelty is not the main drawback of this movie. I think it is the lack of genuine suspense. The movie does not keep you guessing. Even the surprise at the end, can be seen coming from a mile across. There are so many hints, right from the beginning, as to what Vicky is really after that only a very novice movie-goer would fail to anticipate it. 

That’s a serious drawback for a movie aiming to be a gritty thriller. There are other positives and negatives as well. Without any doubt, the biggest positive is the acting, of both Sumedh Mudgalkar, and Rohit Phalke. They get the most screen time, and really shine. Sumedh especially, considering that this is his first major role. He seems like a seasoned confident actor, and is able to display many different shades. The script gives him very little to work with, and he still manages to bring creepiness and fear to the screen.

Sumedh succeeds quite brilliantly, till the final scene, where the movie just deflates. This is not the fault of the actors, but mostly of the director and the scriptwriter. I suspect, the intentions were good, to not cross the boundaries of decency. I get that. But for a theme that’s trying to push the envelope, the ending was exact opposite of a crescendo of tension. The movie is never “on the edge of the seat” thriller in the first place. It’s slow, overly talkative, and has very little action. As a result, even at two hours, it feels long. Whatever tension it manages to generate, evaporates in the end.

I want to applaud, encourage and support the team for trying to be bold and different than the pack. But I can only give a lukewarm recommendation for this movie. In my opinion, it’s not for kids.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Marathi Rubaai - 5

Rubaai number 5. With a rough translation.

एक रुबाई श्रावणी
मेघ दुःखांचे गर्जती, विजा वेदनेच्या झळकती
सिंचित नित मनाची माती, अश्रुधारा वर्षवर्षती
हवामान हे कुंद बघुनी, अंदाज सोप्पा अगदी 
भरपूर पीक ह्या वर्षी, येणार कवितांचे नक्की
It's hard to translate this. Here is a very rough translation. 
Clouds of sorrow are roaring, lightening of pain keeps striking
Tears keep raining down, irrigating the soil of imagination
Considering the gloomy weather, it's an easy forecast to make
That this year, there will definitely be a bumper crop of poems

Friday, August 4, 2017

Better Call Saul : Season 2 and 3

Review : Better Call Saul (Season 2 and 3)
Aired on : AMC (2015 - )
My Rating : 8 out of 10

Please note : This is a review of Season 2 and 3, and may contain spoilers if you have not watched Season 1. Please click here for season 1 review.

I completely loved the first season of “Better Call Saul”. The second and third seasons are as wonderful as the first season, almost. Almost.

Season 2 picks up the story right where season 1 ends, and the arc continues through Season 3. This time, Saul/Jimmy McGill doesn’t have to go through so much professional struggles. He is moderately successful, ends up having his own practice and even manages to have a stable relationship. The story this time is less about his struggles to be a lawyer, and more about his relationship with the person he loves and respects, his brother Chuck. It is an interesting, complex, multi-dimensional and realistic relationship.

At the beginning of the Season 2, Jimmy takes the job with the law firm in Santa Fe. This is the continuation of the thread about the class action suit against Sandpiper that began at the end of Season 1. This thread continues to run through the end of the Season 3. Jimmy is very uncomfortable in this job. His employers are even more uncomfortable about the legality or lack thereof, of Jimmy’s methods. Eventually Jimmy starts his own practice in partnership with Kim. Kim’s efforts to help secure the Mesa Verde contract, and Jim’s way of helping her, forms a major plot element throughout the second and third season. 

Along the same lines, the story threads involving Mike, Nacho and related characters span both Season 2 and 3. Most of the threads get proper closure, if not all. End of Season 3 indeed feels like the end of a book in a longer series.

That brings me to the “almost” part. As captivating the storytelling is, as fantastic the character portrayal is, the pace of the story is slower than what was in Season 1. These 2 seasons could have been combined into one season. A lot less details would have seen the light of the day, but I think that would have been fine. This is one complaint I have against most series. The desire to extend episodes often wins over compactness of narration. 

In spite of that complaint I still give very high rating to both these seasons. Because they are full of artistic brilliance. Acting, directing, script writing, character development, dialogues, editing, everything is top notch. Even the camera angles are worth admiring. To me, this is how television should be. Series like this is why I hardly watch any movies and allocate most of my non-sport TV time to long series. The investment of time in Better Call Saul is absolutely worth it.

I expect a lot more nominations, and frankly it’s high time Bob Odenkirk wins the Best Actor category, at the Emmy’s or the Golden Globe. Other wins are certainly possible too. There is a lot diverse talent packed in this series.

I cannot recommend this series enough. It’s perfectly fine for older teenagers. The complex characters and their complex interactions, presented in a slower quirky manner would be a welcome change from most of the two dimensional stuff out there. As a final note, it’s worth stressing how un-formulaic the series is. There is no action, no edge of your seat suspense, no gory violence, no unnecessary twists, no profanity, no nudity, no sex, no romance, no crude humor, no in your face controversy and no shocks of any kind. In spite of that, it’s gripping and addictive. Watch it.

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