Shubhra Gupta is film critic and senior columnist with the Indian Express. She watches world cinema for delectation, Hollywood for fun, and Bollywood for work. She has a huge capacity to sit through terrible Bollywood movies, but no patience at all with bad Hollywood. And world cinema has to be really cutting edge to grab her attention, and keep it. When she began reviewing, over 20 years ago, people would commiserate and say, “oh, you poor thing, you have to watch Hindi cinema”. But soon, Bollywood became cool, cool, cool. So now she hears this more often “oh my god, you watch Bollyood films, can you introduce me to Shah Rukh Khan”? No, she can’t, sorry, though she can vouch for the fact that he is really sharp and good fun in conversation. But what she can do, and has done week after week, month after month, year after year, without a break, is to lead you into the magical world of movies, and share her experiences of watching all those hundreds of films over the years. In her reviews and columns, she lets you into what she likes, and doesn’t, and invites you to be bewitched. And to know how to choose between the good ones and the turkeys, and how you can take away something from even the really ghastly ones. Because life is a movie, isn’t it? Bahut picture baaki hain, mere dost.
An Insignificant Man movie review: From a tax officer to a protestor, to an activist, to a reluctant rookie politician, to winning an election, and to becoming the chief minister of New Delhi, the film is the journey of Arvind Kejriwal, and his AAP.
Tumhari Sulu movie review: Vidya Balan channels her distinctive voice and full-bellied laughter to invest Sulu with real warmth. Equally wonderful is Manav Kaul as her husband.
Qarib Qarib Singlle’s beating heart is Parvathy (the lead actor of the terrific Malayalam film Take Off). She is such a breath of fresh air, such a break from the dressed up dolls of Bollywood.
Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana movie review: The plot looks straight out of the 80s, with its implausible 'revenge' theme, the characters who look 'seedha' but are totally 'ulta', and a leading lady who is presented as a modern, thinking girl, but is given very little agency or a mind of her own.
Ittefaq movie review: The film manages to sustain itself post that dreaded interval, the one thing that can sink mysteries. In fact, there’s more briskness and confidence in the way the all the characters come across, and very little time is wasted as we go along.
Ribbon movie review: Nice to see man and woman working, and dealing with stuff that happens post-marriage: all the messy, irritating stuff that has not been part of the happily-ever-after Bollywood landscape. Kalki Koechlin leaves a mark as a harried professional.
Rukh movie review: There’s a somberness to the way this chronicle of a death unfolds, which holds your attention. Some scenes sit heavily, though. And if you are an alert viewer, you will figure out what happened much before the big reveal.
Jia aur Jia movie review: One Jia is quiet and broody, the other is bright and chirpy. One chokes and splutters, the other smokes and drinks. One wears six inch stilletoes and flouncy chiffons, the other short shorts and cool singlets. On a rugged road trip.
Tabul is an unexpected pleasure, and lifts Golmaal Again. This a series which looks like it’s never going to end, and Shetty has the formula pat after all these iterations. I do hope Tabu becomes a fixture in the future Golmaals.
The 19th edition of the Mumbai Film Festival, which concluded earlier this week, was a varied play of emotions, and colours, filled with flavours from unexplored lands
Aamir Khan shows up as the out-of-flavour musician Shakti Kumaarr, all tight animal-printed Ts and crotch-hugging jeans, and while his I’m-so-irresistible strutting schtick starts off funny, you wish he had more to do.
Ranchi Diaries movie review: Sattwik Mohanty's directorial comes off as a random assemblage of scenes-- in forests (that’s where the ‘Naxals’ live), a large mansion (that’s where the bad guy stays), police chowkis, and a crumbling building which is meant to house a bank.
Kundan Shah, the man who gave us Indian cinema’s blackest comedy, whose brilliance remains undiminished despite its datedness, is no more.
Chef movie review: Saif Ali Khan's film has some interesting flavours. But 'Chef' feels derivative, and is a late coming of age tale of Peter-Pan-like adults. And that's got to do with the uneven writing. It is a good-looking film, with good-looking people only.
Tu Hai Mera Sunday movie review: Arjun (Barun Sobti) is a charmer who has chucked the fast track corporate maze to explore other ways, and whose chance encounter with a shaky old man (Shiv Subramanyam) and his attractive daughter Kavi (Shahana Goswami) gets this thing rolling.
What he stood for was the spirit of India, plural, proud and diverse. Where a person of American descent could be, profoundly and forever, Indian, whether he was Dick, Harry, or Tom.
Spyder movie review: ‘Spyder’ pits a good Shiva (Mahesh Babu) against the evil Bhairavudu (SJ Surya), and gets off the mark with a bang, like an effective spy thriller should. Shiva’s thing is to rescue people in distress, but when he comes up against Bhairavudu, whose blood-lust is beyond all sane comprehension, he is stymied.
CRD movie review: CRD’ is a strange mix of fact (tyrannical theatre gurus, natch) and fiction (several other elements within), real and not-real, or plain shimmering illusion. The film is refreshing in its willingness to go down paths less trodden.
Varun Dhawan wades fully into both characters, and shows a nimble-footedness here and there. He is better at the broad, physical, crotch-lowering ‘gali ka gunda’, than the straight, subdued fella, and judging by the roars and claps of the mostly youthful crowd at the first-day, first-show, he knows it too.
Haseena Parkar movie review: Shraddha Kapoor manages the young wife-and-mother part well enough, but her transition to the other side is never fully realized: she appears to be speaking her lines to order and the cheek-pads to add flesh to her jowls, and the deliberately heavier voice, is all put on.
Bhoomi movie review: Sanjay Dutt's face is kept in close-up for much of the film, and there is still power in it. This is an actor who can explode off the screen, given the right story. Maybe he needs something better told to vent his anger.
Newton movie review: It’s rare that an Indian film uses dark comedy to make its points so effectively. ‘Newton’ could also, just as easily, have been called A Day In The Life Of The World’s Largest, Most Complex Democracy. Or, The Great Indian Electoral Circus. Rajkummar Rao is enjoying a purple patch.
Lucknow Central movie review: It is the supporting cast which is spot on, especially Rajesh Sharma and Deepak Dobriyal. But more than anything else, it is the mawkish sentimentality which overcomes the story-telling.
Simran movie review: Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut drives from the front seat, keeping her feet firmly on the accelerator, and everyone else in the cast follows.
Sameer movie review: Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, whom we’ve seen earlier this year in Tubelight, makes a meal of his young college student forced into a difficult situation not of his making.
Poster Boys movie review: Whenever the plot feels like it, it picks up on Sunny Deol’s punchy dialogues from his past films. This really tired device only serves to remind us of a time when Sunny made watchable films.
Daddy movie review: The Arjun Rampal starrer has a thickly-populated circuitous plot, which goes back and forth in time, which comes in the way of a solid crime thriller cum study of the making of a gangster.
Peter Dietze (pictured), long-time resident of Melbourne and full-fledged Australian of German descent, remembers feeling “centred” rather than “thrown”, when he found out that he was the grandson of Himanshu Rai, pioneer of Indian cinema, and founder of the iconic Bombay Talkies.
Reconnecting with Australian cinema and watching the buzz that is Bollywood at the Melbourne Film Festivals
Baadshaho movie review: The women in the film are decorative. Ileana D’Cruz is togged out in regal chiffons, one of which remain spotless through the long proceedings. Esha Gupta’s role (she hangs out with the three 'khazana chors') seems to have been created simply to include a second pretty face.
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan movie review: This comedy of middle-class-Dilli-manners-and-mores suffers from a sit-com flatness. And when everything is meant to make us laugh, you can quite easily deflect attention from the main premise. The Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar film resists the temptation to tart up the ordinary, which is the best part: no one’s calling attention quirky, everyone is real.
Big Bollywood is petrified of angularities: what if the mass gets turned off? The broadest of brushstrokes are still the default mode. But do look at how badly a Tubelight (Salman Khan) or a Jab Harry Met Sejal (Shah Rukh Khan) has fared: both helmed by the most powerful Bollywood A-list club.
Qaidi Band movie review: More realism would have made this a film we could have believed in. But we do take away the young faces with us, especially Anya Singh whose bright-eyed earnestness is wholly convincing. She is a real find.
A Gentleman movie review: Sidharth Malhotra who helms this enterprise plays a good guy who can also be bad. Now while the handsome Sidharth is perfectly pitched as the 'sundar’ and 'susheel’ fella of the title, he isn’t quite as convincing in his ‘risky’ avatar.
Babumoshai Bandookbaaz movie review: Nawaz is fully immersed in his role; as is Goswami. The banter between Babu and Banke makes you smile. And then you are back to the film playing out the beats of the genre. It’s all there, but we’ve seen it all, or variations of it, before.
Sniff movie review: What an absolutely lovely premise for a film crafted for children, which adults can potentially also enjoy. But Amole Gupte, who gave us the delightful Stanley Ka Dabba, falters with this one, because of a slack plot and treatment.
Happy Birthday, Sushmita Sen: 10 times the diva enthralled us with her style this year
Sister Cyril claims herself to be a very practical human. She writes: "Look, I'm practical. Here we're all practical. A lot of foreigners go out to places like Eastern Bypass (in Kolkata), take one look at the living conditions and say, 'poor things, poor things'. I say, don't pity them, do something for them!"