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Film round-up: Fast 8, Begum Jaan hit the screens, Arnold’s back

LiveMint logoLiveMint 14-04-2017 Lata Jha

New Delhi: The run-up to Baahubali 2: The Conclusion is littered with small Bollywood and regional releases and a major Hollywood action film in theatres this week.

Period drama Begum Jaan starring Vidya Balan directed by Srijit Mukherji could have been an impactful drama full of memorable characters, led by its leading lady but climbs up to a high-pitched melodramatic perch, and progresses in episodic lurches, never climbing down, says The Indian Express. Many elements remind you of older, better films. The whole concept of a brothel run by a crude, feisty madam is very much like Mandi – Shyam Benegal’s excellent film. The ecosystem of that brothel and this one is similar too, but that one we believed in, and this one looks all dressed up for the next shot.

Scroll.in calls it a history lesson delivered at full volume. The mostly faithful remake of Mukherji’s 2015 Bengali movie Rajkahini means that the sensationalist plot, overwrought storytelling, screechy acting and tabloid account of the Partition have made it across the language divide unchallenged. Perhaps it might have been more effective if the movie has opted for subtlety rather than crudeness and the women had been flesh-and-blood rather than paper-thin. The arms akimbo stance, outward jutting hips, and revealing clothing are all from Mandi, but Begum Jaan doesn’t have a single character worth rooting for.

For the Hollywood fans, action film Fast and Furious 8 directed by F. Gary Gray starring Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Michelle Rodriguez comes to India this week. Variety magazine calls it a dazzling action spectacle that proves this franchise is far from out of gas. Though nothing more than pulp done smart, but scene for scene it’s elegant rather than bombastic, and it packs a heady escapist wallop. You may not be sure how you feel about heroes being made into a pack of world-saving James Bonds, but what’s clear is that there’s probably no turning back. Most franchises, after eight films, are feeling a twinge of exhaustion, but this one has achieved a level of success — and perpetual kinetic creative energy — that’s a testament to its commercial/cultural/demographic resonance.

Empire magazine calls it a movie to which the brake pedal is but a rumour. If you can’t abide the Fast franchise, you’ll be furious, but fans will have a nitrous oxide blast. This is no longer a down-and-dirty series about loveable carjacking criminals; it’s a globetrotting, scenery-smashing, logic-jacking extravaganza. Fast 8 is more of the same, more or less, with the emphasis heavily on more.

Drama thriller Aftermath directed by Elliott Lester starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Grace and Martin Donovan is one of those mopey coping-with-grief movies in which the characters grapple with intense emotions, while audiences feel nothing, says Variety magazine. Inspired by the real-life Überlingen mid-air collision, a 2002 incident in which the blame was placed on the tower crew, inspiring a Russian man whose family perished in the accident to murder an air traffic controller in front of his wife and kids, the confrontation between the two men allows for the only remotely Schwarzeneggerian moment in the whole movie, which is otherwise a drab, desaturated affair. Everything else suggests an unnatural attempt to reposition the one-time action star as a serious thespian.

Empire magazine is more impressed, lauding a low key performance by Schwarzenegger that should get him back to where he belongs in the public consciousness. The relaunch of his acting career has, thus far felt a long way off auspicious with 2013’s The Last Stand turning out a passable bit of action fun and the cruelly overlooked Maggie from 2015. The good news is that Aftermath continues down this path, dials up the intensity ever further, and exhibits what is unquestionably one of Schwarzenegger’s most layered performances ever – and certainly his most vulnerable.

In the south, Dhanush’s directorial debut Power Paandi featuring Rajkiran is a heartwarming film that, despite its conventional storytelling, packs in a huge emotional wallop, says The Times of India. Where Dhanush scores the most is in handling this subject in an understated manner befitting his story, letting characters and their emotions take the pride of place, instead of resorting to flashy filmmaking just because this is his first film as a director. As a writer, he strikes a fine balance between the emotional and crowd-pleasing moments.

Kannada film Chakravarthy directed by Chintan A V featuring Darshan and Deepa Sannidhi is a package of romantic and family elements, says pressks.com. Darshan and primary antagonist Dinakar Thoogudeepa make this one worth a watch.

Malayalam film Puthan Panam directed by Ranjith starring Mammootty is a one-time entertaining watch but hardly a signature Mammootty-Ranjith classic, says Filmi Beat. The movie maintains a good pace throughout the first half, with some light comical moments but things take a different turn in the strictly average second half. Mammootty has exceptional screen presence but little to do thereafter.

Several releases this week haven’t inspired any reviews yet. These include Tamil action horror comedy Shivalinga, Tamil epic action drama Kadamban, Telugu film Mister, Marathi films Saha Gun and Sangharsh Yatra, Punjabi film Manje Bistre and Bengali action thriller One.

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