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Friday, August 14, 2020

Shubhra Gupta

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.

Khuda Haafiz review: The Vidyut Jammwal-starrer feels dated
Fri, Aug 14, 2020

The only time Khuda Haafiz, streaming on Disney+ Hotstar VIP, lifts off the screen is when Vidyut Jammwal gets going, minus the weepy wife or the scenes in which he has to emote.

Churails review: Asim Abbasi’s web series brims over with feisty, feminist, fast-paced fun
Tue, Aug 11, 2020

While the churails going all Charlie’s Angels is good for some fun-and-games, the real strength of the series comes from getting up close and very personal with the women.

Gunjan Saxena The Kargil Girl review: Janhvi Kapoor movie doesn’t soar
Tue, Aug 11, 2020

Gunjan Saxena The Kargil Girl movie review: Janhvi Kapoor does get better as she goes along, but performance-wise, she is still clearly a work-in-progress. She was excellent in her small part in Ghost Stories, and going by that, I was expecting more.

Pareeksha movie review: A well-intentioned film
Thu, Aug 06, 2020

Pareeksha movie review: An underdog-as-winner is an always-in-demand subject; a little less exposition would have made this well-intentioned film better.

Bandish Bandits review: Naseeruddin Shah towers over web series
Sat, Aug 08, 2020

The conversation around the need to revive interest in classical music, and the fact that there doesn’t need to be a rift between the classical and the popular, needs to be on-going. Despite its flaws, Bandish Bandits keeps up focus on this crucial theme.

How the reality show ‘Indian Matchmaking’ hides the reality
Sun, Aug 02, 2020

It skips the money deals that greases alliances and the rules that keep women in check and only unpacks selectively what an upper-class, upper-caste Indian marriage entails

Lootcase review: A bland comedy-drama
Sat, Aug 01, 2020

The length of the film begins weighing upon the plot, which starts stretching and flattening. A crisper plot and faster pace would have made Lootcase what it was aiming to be.

Raat Akeli Hai review: Nawazuddin, Radhika film is sufficiently twisty
Sat, Aug 01, 2020

A few of the bits and pieces in Netflix's Raat Akeli Hai feel a bit contrived, but not enough to take the enjoyment away from a film which has a terrific sense of time and place, and a crime in which everyone has stakes.

Shakuntala Devi film review: A Vidya Balan show
Sat, Aug 01, 2020

Vidya Balan owns the material that she is given, course-correcting every time she tends to slip into being mannered. The supporting cast is fine.

Yaara review: Tigmanshu Dhulia directorial works only sporadically
Fri, Jul 31, 2020

Yaara should have been a uniformly fast-paced ride, studded with interesting performances, but it works only sporadically.

Run Kalyani is a beautiful exploration of tedium and solitude
Sun, Jul 26, 2020

Geetha J’s debut feature opened the 20th edition of the New York Indian Film Festival

Dil Bechara review: Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer is equal parts dirge and catharsis
Sat, Jul 25, 2020

Dil Bechara movie review: It is the occasional sweetness that Sushant Singh Rajput and Sanjana Sanghi Sanghi manage to rustle up that carries the film.

Why the policeman in Hindi films needs a makeover
Sun, Jul 19, 2020

The time for a humane, enlightened cop, in and out of the movies, is here: is there a real-life example that the reel can borrow from? It is time to take a knee.

Indian Matchmaking review: Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match
Sun, Jul 19, 2020

Under the guise of giving us a detailed look at a culture which privileges marriage amongst ‘equal’ families and not individuals, all kinds of classist, casteist stereotypes gets an airing.

Emma is a fun and exuberant retelling of a classic
Sat, Jul 11, 2020

By the end of Autumn de Wilde’s film, we move from exasperation to fondness, and that’s pretty much the path that author Jane Austen had set us on

Breathe Into The Shadows review: A preposterous web series
Sat, Jul 11, 2020

Somewhere in there, in all the roiling and toiling, are the bones of a crackerjack thriller. But this loosely written season 2, bouncing in and out of a kidnapping drama, and the creation and search of a psychotic killer, gets mired in its own muddles, and ends up being plain preposterous.

Greyhound review: Solid, dogged portrayal of battle processes
Sat, Jul 11, 2020

Tom Hanks’ performances habitually do not call attention to themselves. In this one, he goes even more minimalistic, literally battening down on his hatches, as he takes split-second calls.

Jagdeep (1939-2020): Soorma Bhopali lives on
Thu, Jul 09, 2020

You think of Jagdeep, and the first thing that comes to mind is Soorma Bhopali, the Sholay (1975) character who became so wildly popular that it nearly eclipsed everything else he did.

The Old Guard review: A superhero movie with a difference
Sat, Jul 11, 2020

There are some lax moments, and a bit of portentousness in the dialogue. But in the way of slick superheroes flicks, there’s enough wham-bam, guns rattling and bodies piling up, to keep things ticking over nicely.

Sufiyum Sujatayum review: Aditi Rao Hydari starrer doesn’t live up to its premise
Sat, Jul 04, 2020

Sufiyum Sujatayum review: It doesn’t help that the lovely Aditi Rao Hydari doesn’t really fill her part. For someone who doesn’t have spoken dialogue, the body language needs to be strong: Hydari has a few nice moments, but she is limited in the rest of it.

Saroj Khan: The legend who made stars dance to her tunes
Sat, Jul 04, 2020

Saroj Khan was the first woman to become chief choreographer, before it was a thing, in Bollywood. She was an excellent dancer herself.

Netflix’s Homemade: Intensely personal peek into lockdown life
Wed, Jul 01, 2020

Not all 17 shorts work as well as the others. A few don’t really move very far away from the banal: how significant can one dish of spaghetti, split over several days, be? But almost every one tells us that for a filmmaker, having a phone and an idea, and the will to get out of bed, can be enough.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always shows what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world
Sun, Jun 28, 2020

Eliza Hittman’s film uses an unwanted teenage pregnancy to tell a bigger story.

Kadakh: A tantalising morality tale
Sun, Jun 28, 2020

There are well-etched performances all-round, some with more depth than the others: Shruti Seth, Nupur Asthana, Tara Sharma, Palomi Ghosh, Chandrachoor Rai, all leave a mark.

Bhonsle review: Manoj Bajpayee is in top form
Sat, Jun 27, 2020

The last time Manoj Bajpayee internalised a role as much was in 2017's Gali Guleiyan. Here he is even better. Bhonsle, streaming on SonyLIV, gives us an actor on the top of his game.