Review: ‘Kuttey,’ starring Naseeruddin Shah, Tabu, Arjun Kapoor, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Radhika Madan and Shardul Bhardwaj

January 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Kumud Mishra and Arjun Kapoor in “Kuttey” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Kuttey”

Directed by Aasmaan Bhardwaj

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India’s Mumbai area in October and November 2016, the action film “Kuttey” features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with some black people and white people) representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: Various criminals compete to rob an armored van with loads of cash, and a corrupt cop thinks he can outsmart them all. 

Culture Audience: “Kuttey” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching incoherent action films that don’t look believable.

Shardul Bhardwaj and Radhika Madan in “Kuttey” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Kuttey” wants to be a complex story about a corrupt police officer, but it tries to do too much with a silly plot that gets more ridiculous as it goes along. The movie’s film editing is also very sloppy, with repeated mishandling of flashback scenes. The back-and-forth timeline jumping just makes “Kuttey” look even more confused than it needs to be, considering that the story would already be a mess without the flashbacks.

Written and directed by Aasmaan Bhardwaj, “Kuttey” (which means “dogs” in Hindi) is essentially about some factions of criminals in the Mumbai area of India who are in a battle to steal money from an armored van that has a small fortune in cash. The story, which takes place in October and November 2016, is told in a jumbled manner, with various flashbacks showing how these criminals reached this point in trying to rob the same van. And (cliché alert) there’s someone in these gangs of thieves who thinks he’s the smartest and toughest of them all.

This self-appointed “alpha male” is Gopal Tiwari (played by Arjun Kapoor), a corrupt police officer who is married with a young daughter. Gopal wants the money so that he and his family can have a life of luxury. Gopal’s cop partner Paaji (played by Kumud Mishra), who is also in on this heist plot, wants the money so that he can pay off his debts. Gopal and Paaji work as undercover cops.

At first, Gopal and Paaji try to get money by offering to be hit men for a drug-smuggling crime lord named Narayan Khobre (played by Naseeruddin Shah), who wants them to assassinate someone in the drug-smuggling ring who’s suspected of betrayal. It’s just an excuse for the movie to have a nonsensical shootout at a pool party, where Gopal and Paaji massacre several innocent people. (Some of this scene is shown in the “Kuttey” trailer.)

Gopal and Paaji get suspended from the police force and become even more desperate for money. They have a jaded cop friend named Pammi Sandhu (played by Tabu), who introduces them to her friend Harry (played by Ashish Vidyarthi), a driver for the armored van carrying the cash. Harry foolishly tells Gopal and Paaji how much cash is in the van. And you know what that means. The trailer for “Kuttey” already reveals that Pammi ends up trying to rob the van too.

Two other people who want to rob the van are Lovely Khobre (played by Radhika Madan) and her boyfriend Danny Dandekar (played by Shardul Bhardwaj), who want to act like they’re trying to be in a “Bonnie and Clyde” movie, but they really act more like “Dumb and Dumber.” Lovely is the spoiled, loose-cannon daughter of crime lord Narayan. Danny is a dimwitted son of a builder, and he has a caste/social-class inferiority complex about it because Lovely grew up pampered and privileged. Lovely wants to run far away from her domineering father, which is why she and Danny want the money so they can move to another country, possibly Canada.

Showing up in the last third of the movie is Lakshmi Sharma (played by Konkona Sen Sharma), the leader of a guerilla gang that’s also after the money from the armored van. Lakshmi is a completely one-dimensional character who doesn’t have a single thing to say that’s interesting or memorable. The same goes for the people in her gang. Lakshmi and her gang didn’t really need to be in the movie at all.

“Kuttey” is one of those action flicks with ludicrous shootouts and other fight scenes, where the main character gets cornered and outnumbered more than once and could easily be murdered, but he always manages to escape. And it’s also one of those movies where someone looks like they died a brutal and bloody death. But surprise! That person really isn’t dead. The possible double-crosses and other treachery in “Kuttey” don’t mean much when all of the criminal characters are despicable.

Making things worse, the dialogue in “Kuttey” is relentlessly idiotic. The movie is cluttered with unnecessary scenes that stretch out the already very thin plot for “Kuttey.” The cast members’ acting look like they don’t care much because they know they’re in a stupid movie. Considering all the better heist movies that exist, “Kuttey” is just mindless mush that’s easily forgotten soon after people waste time watching it.

Yash Raj Films released “Kuttey” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on January 13, 2023.

Review: ‘Vadh’ (2022), starring Sanjay Mishra and Neena Gupta

January 17, 2023

by Carla Hay

Neena Gupta and Sanjay Mishra in “Vadh” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Vadh”

Directed by Jaspal Singh Sandhu and Rajiv Barnwal

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Gwalior, India, the dramatic film “Vadh” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A retired schoolteacher and his wife, who are in heavy financial debt to a loan-shark thug threatening to kill them, become in involved in the murder of the thug. 

Culture Audience: “Vadh” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in crime dramas about murder cover-ups and don’t mind if the story is long-winded and disjointed.

Manav Vij in “Vadh” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Vadh” has moments that can appeal to viewers interested in crime dramas, but the editing and storytellng for this overly long and tedious movie don’t quite come together in a cohesive way. The movie’s total running time is 170 minutes, when the story could have been told in a movie that is less than 120 minutes. Too many things about “Vadh” are repetitive. It’s also fairly easy to predict how the movie is going to end.

Written and directed by Jaspal Singh Sandhu and Rajiv Barnwal, “Vadh” (which means “slaughter” in Hindi) takes place in Gwalior, India, where retired schoolteacher Shambhunath Mishra (played by Sanjay Mishra) and his wife Manju Mishra (played by Neena Gupta) live quietly and modestly. Shambhunath and Manju have been married for 40 years, but trouble is brewing in this couple’s seemingly peaceful existence. Years ago, Shambhunath and Mishra borrowed a lot of money from a ruthless loan-shark thug named Prajapati Pandey (played by Saurabh Sachdeva), in order to send their only child Guddu (played by Diwakar Kumar) to college in the United States.

After graduating from college, Guddu decided to permanently reside in the U.S., where he lives with his wife and their baby daughter Erica. Guddu has a unnamed job where he earns enough money to easily pay back his parents for the college expenses, but Guddu doesn’t think of offering to repay his parents. Instead of being grateful to his parents, Guddu is arrogant and unappreciative.

Shambhunath and Manju are heartbroken that Guddu has a dismissive attitude toward them. Guddu also refuses to got to India visit his parents. In a video chat with Guddu (which Shambhunath and Manju have to do at an Internet cafe because they can’t afford Internet service at home), Guddu has this excuse for why he won’t visit his parents: “Do you know how expensive flights to India are?”

Meanwhile, Prajapati has gotten impatient with Shambhunath and Manju for taking years to pay off their debt to him. He starts making violent threats to the couple to demand payment in full, or else he says they will be tortured and killed. Fearing for their lives and desperate for money, Shambhunath and Manju beg Guddu to pay them back for some of the money that they spent on his college expenses. Guddu coldly refuses.

As already revealed in the “Vadh” trailer, after Prajapati assaults Shambhunath and does some other terrible things, Shambhunath brutally kills Prajapati. It’s a crime that Shambhunath and Manju cover up by dismembering the body and hiding everything. Shambhunath goes to the local police department and confesses to the crime, but the police deputy on duty—a buffoon named Sitaram Gadariya (played by Nadeem Khan)—doesn’t believe Shambhunath (who looks like a harmless old man) and doesn’t record the confession. Shambhunath goes home and thinks he’s gotten away with murder.

When chief police inspector Shakti Singh (played by Manav Vij) finds out about this confession, he’s infuriated and slaps Sitaram hard in the face. Inspector Singh then orders Sitaram to get Shambhunath back to the police station to record the confession. This time, Shambhunath denies knowing anything about Prajapat’s disappearance. And so begins a “cat and mouse” game between the police and the Mishra spouses.

One of the problems with “Vadh” is that the tone is so obvious in wanting the audience to root for Shambhunath and Manju. Therefore, every plot development seems too calculated to lead to a predictable conclusion. The acting in the movie also ranges from very good (Mishra gives a fairly credible performance) to mediocre (most of the cast) to downright awful (some of the cast members in supporting roles). The movie also tries to have some darkly comedic moments that just seem out of place with the rest of this grim story.

The scenes just drag on and on, with a lot of repetition. Inspector Singh is the type of generic police investigator that has been seen in countless other movies. Shambhunath and Manju made their problems worse, but they have a self-pitying attitude that gets very irritating after a while. “Vadh” tries to be a suspenseful film, but when the protagonists are presented from the beginning as elderly people who deserve sympathy just because they’re elderly and regardless of how many horrible things they do, there’s no suspense at all in how the movie is going to end.

Yash Raj Films released “Vadh” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 9, 2022.

Review: ‘Vijayanand,’ starring Nihal, Anant Nag and Bharat Bopanna

January 15, 2023

by Carla Hay

Nihal and Bharat Bopanna in “Vijayanand” (Photo courtesy of VRL Film Productions)

“Vijayanand”

Directed by Rishika Sharma

Kannada, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India (mostly in the state of Karnataka), from 1969 to 2011, the dramatic film “Vijayanand” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Vijay Sankeshwar overcomes many obstacles, rivals and skeptics to become a successful entrepreneur and politician. 

Culture Audience: “Vijayanand” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in epic-styled biopics about business people and politicians, even if those biopics have exaggerated elements.

Nihal in “Vijayanand” (Photo courtesy of VRL Film Productions)

Based on a true story about how a family’s small business was turned into an empire, “Vijayanand” often looks like a glorified fairy tale and shameless promotion. However, this drama has enough realistic moments that can be entertaining and inspirational. It’s not just a story about success in business and politics. It’s also a story about fathers, sons, and the dreams they can pass on through generations.

Directed by Rishika Sharma, “Vijayanand” is a sweeping tale that takes place in India (mostly in the state of Karnataka), from 1969 to 2011. The movie (which is told in chronological order) clocks in at 159 minutes to make it look more like a saga than the average biopic. The story centers on real-life entrepreneur/politician Vijay Sankeshwar (played by Nihal) and his rise, fall and comeback in many areas of his life.

The movie protrays Vijay first defying expectations as businessman when his stern father B.G. Sankeshwar (played by Anant Nag) reacts with skepticism when Vijay has purchased a used, semi-automatic Victoria printing machine for the family’s printing press business. Vijay has inherited the business from B.G., but Vijay wants to radically revamp the business by pocket dictionaries and cookery books.

In order to buy the semi-automatic Victoria printing machine, Vijay had to take out loans totaling ₹80,000. B.G. thinks Vijay made a big mistake by going to this debt. Vijay disagrees and thinks it’s an investment. It should come to no surprise to viewers that Vijay made the right decision.

The movie depicts the courtship and marriage of Vijay and his wife, Lalitha Sankeshwar (played by Siri Prahlad), who got married in 1972. Also chronicled is the birth of their first child, a son named Anand Sankeshwar, who is portrayed as an adult by Bharat Bopanna. The adult Anand is also the movie’s narrator.

It should be noted that the real-life Anand is a producer for “Vijaynand,” which is distributed by Anand’s VRL Film Productions. Therefore, the movie is very biased, which explains why some parts look fabricated for the sake of making Vijay look like he’s got extraordinary physical strength. For example, in some parts of the film, Vijay turns into an amazing action hero in fight scenes with certain villains. These fight scene are overly staged and look very phony.

Shortly after Anand’s birth in 1976, Vijay took another big risk and announced that he was leaving the family printing business to his brothers because Vijay wanted to start a new business: truck transportation. The name of the new business would be Vijayanand, a combination of Vijay’s name and Anand’s name. And once again, Vijay takes on a huge amount of debt to launch this business.

Almost everyone in Vijay’s family—including his father B.G. and mother Chandramma (played by Vinaya Prasad), also known as Chandra—think he’s making another foolish mistake. And this time, B.G. tells Vijay that he won’t bail him out financially if Vijay can’t get out of debt and the business fails.

By 1983, Vijay expands into the grocery store business, by launching Hubli market. And he makes another big decision: He moves away from his parents and siblings to focus on this new business venture. But there are major setbacks, including public backlash against Vijaynand over labor issues, a devastating warehouse fire that injured about 45 people, and negative publicity from a newspaper owned by media mogul Rama Rao (played by Prakash Belawadi), who becomes a personal enemy of Vijay.

Vijay’s reinvention as a media mogul and a member of India’s parliament are also included in this biopic. Vijay also mentors Anand and grieves when his father B.G. passes away. “Vijayanand” chronicles the highs and lows of all these endeavors. The movie doesn’t really present Vijay as saintly (he can be stubborn and ruthless), but viewers will get the sense that the movie definitely left out a lot of unflattering details about how he conducted his business and personal life. Being this type of hugely ambitious workaholic can put a strain on family relationships, but those issues are barely acknolwedged in the movie.

Viewers who know in advance that “Vijayanand” is a movie financed by Anand Sankeshwar will have a better idea of what to expect from this biopic. The movie has a little something for everyone: drama, some comedy, action and musical numbers. At the very least, “Vijayanand” accomplishes its goal of presenting an engaging story with good acting in depicting persistence during tough challenges.

VRL Film Productions released “Vijayanand” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 9, 2022.

Review: ‘Anth the End,’ starring Divya Dutta, Mukul Dev, Dev Sharma, Samikssha Batnagar, Deepraj Rana, Arun Bakshi and Aman Dhaliwal

January 11, 2023

by Carla Hay

Divya Dutta and Mukul Dev in “Anth the End” (Photo courtesy of Holy Basil Films)

“Anth the End”

Directed by K.S. Malhotra

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India, the dramatic film “Anth the End” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A serial killer escapes from prison and goes on a revenge mission against the person who got him arrested. 

Culture Audience: “Anth the End” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching ridiculous crime dramas where there is no suspense.

Dev Sharma and Samikssha Batnagar in “Anth the End” (Photo courtesy of Holy Basil Films)

As a mystery thriller, “Anth the End” is a shoddy mess with a “master of disguises” gimmick that fails to be convincing. The performances in the movie are also very substandard. The tone for “Anth the End” is too erratic to be taken seriously: Menacing murder scenes segue into giddy musical numbers, and vice versa. Bollywood movies are often known for putting song-and-dance scenes in all types of films, but these musical scenes look especially out-of-place in “Anth the End.”

Directed by K.S. Malhotra (who co-wrote the “Anth the End” screenplay with Hardev Singh), “Anth the End” (which takes place in an unnamed city in India) begins with serial killer Ranjeet (played by Deepraj Rana) escaping from prison by impersonating a doctor and killing the police security guard in a hospital room. Viewers find out early on in the movie that Ranjeet is a “master of disguises,” who can not only change his face but he can also change his height and body size to look like completely different people. He can turn himself into a tall, hulking brute named Vicky Sandhu (played by Mukul Dev), who uses at least one other alias.

It’s all just so unrealistic, but “Anth the End” does not have an explanation that is based in science-fiction or the supernatural as the reason why Ranjeet can go through these extreme chameleon-like transformations. Viewers are supposed to believe that Ranjeet is just a one-man visual effects team who can morph into these different physical appearances through unexplained skills. And when a vengeful serial killer breaks out of prison in an unimaginative movie like “Anth the End,” that can only mean one thing: The killer is going after the person who was chiefly responsible for his putting him in prison.

The person who is the main target of this vendetta is a fashion model named Simran (played by Samikssha Batnagar), who was a key witness in the case that sent Ranjeet to prison. Simran’s colleague is fashion photographer named Sumeet (played by Dev Sharma), also known as Samit, who is a formulaic “hero.” Simran and Sumeet also work with a model named Tarry (played by Aman Dhaliwal), who becomes a target by association. A generic, no-nonsense cop named Anarjeet Singh (played by Arun Bakshi) is the chief police investigator who’s lead the hunt to capture Ranjeet.

The news has gotten out about Ranjeet’s escape. Simran is already suspicious that somethig terrible is about to happen, because she tells Sumeet that a strange man recently barged into her home, but he ran off before he could be caught. Tarry is portrayed as a vain airhead who spends a lot of time bodybuilding in a gym.

To celebrate Simran’s birthday, Sumeet arranges a party for her at a nightclub. (It’s just this movie’s excuse to have a big song-and-dance numbers.) The festive mood is ruined when Ranjeet suddenly shows up at the party (in disguise, of course) and attacks Sumeet, who manages to fight off Ranjeet. As already shown in the movie’s trailer, Ranjeet gets away again, but not before Sumeet rips off Ranjeet’s disguise on his face to find out that Ranjeet is this mystery attacker. Everything this scene looks so fake, it’s almost laughable.

But the worst of the movie is yet to come. Ranjeet is looking for $100 million, he kidnaps someone for ransom, and something goes very wrong with the kidnapping. Ranjeet, in disguise as Vicky, then pretends to be a motorist who is stranded because of car trouble. As shown in the trailer for “Anth the End,” Ranjeet/Vicky sweet-talks his way into Sumeet’s house, where Sumeet’s wife Divya (played by Divya Dutta) is with their daughter Khushi, who’s about 5 or 6 years old.

You can easily guess what happens next: “Anth the End” turns into a stupid home-invasion movie. Everything is so badly staged and sloppily paced in “Anth the End,” absolutely none of it looks believable. Thankfully, this forgettable flop doesn’t make the mistake of dragging on for more than two hours (the movie’s total runtime is 106 minutes), but viewers looking for quality entertainment are better off looking anywhere other than at “Anth the End.”

Holy Basil Films released “Anth the End” in select U.S. cinemas on December 9, 2022. The movie was released in India on November 11, 2022.

Review: ‘An Action Hero,’ starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Jaideep Ahlawat

January 7, 2023

by Carla Hay

Jaideep Ahlawat and Ayushmann Khurrana in “An Action Hero” (Photo courtesy of AA Films)

“An Action Hero”

Directed by Anirudh Iyer

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India and the United Kingdom, the action comedy film “An Action Hero” features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A famous action movie star goes on the run after he accidentally kills a corrupt politician, and the dead man’s brother goes after the movie star for revenge. 

Culture Audience: “An Action Hero” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching action movies that make up for their simple plots with plenty of high-octane thrills and satirical comedy.

Ayushmann Khurrana and Jaideep Ahlawat in “An Action Hero” (Photo courtesy of AA Films)

“An Action Hero” is a completely predictable chase movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It manages to be entertaining because of its cheeky comedy, thrilling action and satirical take on celebrity worship of movie stars. Many of the stunts in “An Action Hero” are very over the top, which will either amuse or annoy viewers.

Directed by Anirudh Iyer and written by Neeraj Yadav, “An Action Hero” takes place in India and the United Kingdom in a non-stop action-adventure that tells the story of an international hunt for a movie star suspected of murder. The movie begins in India, where action movie star Maanav Khuranna (played by Ayushmann Khurrana) is being interrogated about his connection to the death of Vicky Solanki (played by Sumit Singh), a corrupt politician from Mandothi, India. The movie then switches flashbacks to show whot Maanav ended up in this predicament.

At the time of Vicky’s death, he was in the midst of contesting election results showing that he has lost his most recent election. Vicky was seeking out Maanav to get Maanav to give Vicky a personal endorsement, in order to use Maanav’s star power to possibly sway the results of the election. Vicky was also star-struck and desperately wanted a photo with Maanav. Maanav doesn’t want to get involved in politics, so he was actively avoiding Vicky, who went as far as showing up uninvited on the set of one of Maanav’s movies in Mandothi, and interrupting Vicky’s work.

One day, Maanav gets a new Ford Mustang as a gift. He’s eager to take his new car out for an evening drive. During this drive, Maanav notices that Vicky is following him on a deserted road. Vicky forces Maanav stop the car. The two men have a heated argument, which results in a physical brawl, where Maanav pushes Vicky back in self-defense. Vicky falls down, hits his head on rock, and dies instantly.

In a panic, Maanav quickly drives away, not noticing that one of his car’s side mirrors (which got broken off during the fight) has been left behind at the scene. Vicky is reported missing by his worried older brother Bhoora Solanki (played by Jaideep Ahlawat), a Mandothi municipal councilor. Bhoora tells investigators that Vicky had gone to meet Maanav.

Led by an inspector named Roop Kumar (played by Jitender Hooda), the local police arrive at the scene and find Vicky’s dead body. They also find the broken side mirror nearby. It doesn’t take long for the investigators to find out that Maanav is the new owner of a black Ford Mustang that has the exact same type of side mirror. Maanav has now become a person of interest in Vicky’s death and he is sought for questioning.

An enraged Bhoora is convinced that Maanav murdered Vicky. And so, Bhoora vows to get revenge by hunting down Maanav and killing him. Inspector Kumar is also leading a search to find Maanav, but Bhoora thinks the police are buffoons, and Bhoora wants to get his own brand of justice. Bhoora often berates Inspector Kumar, and he wages a public campaign to ruin Maanav’s reputation. The media has now branded Maanav as the chief suspect in Vicky’s death.

Maanav has fled Mandothi by taking a plane to Mumbai. While on the plane, there’s a satirical moment when Maanav meets real-life movie star Akshay Kumar, in a cameo as a version of himself. Akshay tells Maanav: “You’re going to win an Oscar for India some day.” Maanav confides in Akshay about why he suddenly left town. Akshay advises him: “I know from experience. Don’t tell anyone.”

After Maanav lands in Mumbai, he then takes another plane to London, where he hears on the news that police in India are looking for him. And, of course, Bhoora is hot on Maanav’s trail too. Most of the fight scenes in the movie (as already revealed in the trailer) involves Maanav’s conflicts with Bhoora, who has a group of thugs who are helping Bhoora.

Maanav also gets some help to evade the people who are after him. In London, Maanav gets assistance from his attorney Vishwas Patel (played by Siddharth Amar), who tell Maanav to lay low until they can figure out a way the best way for him to return to India to answer questions from authorities. Maanav also has a goofy personal assistant named Guddu (played by Pankaj Mathur), communicates with Maanav mainly by phone while Maanav has gone into hiding.

Maanav has a house in London, but it should come as no surprise that Maanav finds out that he isn’t going to be safe at his London home. The rest of “An Action Hero” involves Maanav getting mixed up with more shady characters, including Kaadir (played by Vaquar Shaikh), a notorious “fixer” for gangster Masood Abraham Katkar (played by Gautam Joglekar), who has a grudge against Maanav because Maanav did a TV interview saying that underworld gangsters are “irrelevant.” Maanav also enlists the help of two computer hackers: Sai (played by Neeraj Madhav) and Li Xian (played by Elton Tan), who might or might not be of any real help.

In between all the mayhem, the movie has a few musical numbers that poke fun at Bollywood action movies that force out-of-place song-and-dance numbers into action movies. In these sequences, Maanav sees himself as a hero who’s irresistible to women. Malaika Arora portrays Manaav’s leading lady for the song “Aap Jaisa Koi.” Nora Fatehi is Manaav’s leading lady for the song “Jehda Nasha.” Maanav is too busy trying not to get killed to really have a love interest in this story.

As the action here on the run, Khuranna carries the movie quite well, considering he has to portray a movie star whose action skills that he learned in movies are put to the test his “real life.” “An Action Hero” constantly lampoons Maanav’s “worth” as an action star, because on how well he can get himself out of predicaments. Don’t expect this movie to have complete realism, since much of it is quite cartoonish in how Maanav and the rest of the characters are portrayed.

“An Action Hero” is by no means an intellectual movie, but the movie is effective in poking fun at the media’s role in hyping celebrities while also seeking to “cancel” celebrities by always looking for celebrity scandals, only to try to build back up disgraced celebrities who are deemed worthy of making a comeback. The movie takes a sarcastic view of all the sensationalist, tabloid tactics that have become commonplace in mainstream media. These sardonic observations make “An Action Hero” slightly better than the usual formulaic action flick.

AA Films released “An Action Hero” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 2, 2022.

Review: ‘Subho Bijoya,’ starring Koushani Mukherjee, Bonny Sengupta, Churni Ganguly, Kaushik Ganguly, Devtanu and Amrita De

January 3, 2023

by Carla Hay

Bonny Sengupta and Koushani Mukherjee in “Subho Bijoya” (Photo courtesy of Reliance Entertainment)

“Subho Bijoya”

Directed by Rohan Sen

Bengali with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Kolkata, India, the dramatic film “Subho Bijoya” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-classs and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A family reunion during the Durga Puja festival results in turmoil and bickering while the family matriarch has a brain tumor. 

Culture Audience: “Subho Bijoya” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching predictable and long-winded family dramas.

Kaushik Ganguly, Devtanu, Kharaj Mukherjee, Manasi Sinha, Shweta Mishra, Amrita De, Churni Ganguly and Koushani Mukherjee in “Subho Bijoya” (Photo courtesy of Reliance Entertainment)

The concept of a family reunion is certainly not new as the plot for a movie. But in order for it to be interesting, the story and characters should be unique and engaging. Unfortunately, the family drama “Subho Bijoya” falls short in these areas. It’s just a rehash of so many other movies about family reunions where people argue, hold grudges, and are affected by a family member with a health issue. “Subho Bijoya” is just too sappy, too boring, and too long to make much of an impact.

Directed by Rohan Sen (who co-wrote the “Subho Bijoya” screenplay with Anubhab Ghosh), “Subho Bijoya” revolves around a family reuniting for the Durga Puja festival in Kolkata, India. (The words “subho bijoya” mean “good luck” in Bengali.) The family matriarch Bijoya (played by Churni Ganguly) has a brain tumor, and her doctors are suggesting that she get a biopsy. Bijoya’s husband Amarta (played by Kaushik Ganguly) wants the family to cancel its Durga Puja celebrations and not go out to any Durga Puja events.

However, Bijoy and Amarta’s daughter Uma (played by Koushani Mukherjee) suggests that the family members have their Durga Puja celebrations at the home of Bijoy and Amarta. The people at this reunion include Uma’s husband Aditya (played by Bonny Sengupta), also known as Adi; Aditya’s estranged younger brother Ahan (played by Devtanu); and Aditya’s older sister Aditi (played by Amrita De). Also at the reunion are Bijoy’s brother (played by Kharaj Mukherjee); his wife (played by Manasi Sinha); and their teenage daughter Mon (played by Shweta Mishra).

As expected in any movie about family reunions, it’s only matter of time before resentments and rivalries come to the surface. Aditya is angry at younger brother Ahan because Ahan cut off contact with Aditya for three years, with no real explanation. Ahan tries to get back together with an ex-girlfriend (played by Sayonima Roy), who is engaged to another man. Aditi is pregnant and separated from her husband, who wants Aditi to give their marriage another chance.

And you can almost do a countdown to when Bijoy ends up in a hospital. Speaking of keeping time, “Subho Bijoya” is so sluggishly paced and tedious, the average viewer will probably be checking what time it is on multiple occasions to see how much longer before the movie ends. Pity any viewers who don’t know in advance that “Subho Bijoy” has an unnecessarily long running time of 140 minutes. The entire plot of “Subho Bijoy” could have been been done in a movie that’s 90 minutes or less.

The cast members’ performances aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either. Everything in “Subho Bijoy” has been done too many times before in other family reunion movies that are of a much better quality. “Subho Bijoy” wants to be like a sentimental soap opera but lacks any sizzle or spark that will hook viewers into wanting to know what will happen next. The problem with all of “Subho Bijoy” is that viewers will already know what will happen next for each plot development that plods along until it’s inevitable conclusion. The hokey message at the end of the film sounds like it was lifted from a greeting card, which is the most emotional depth that this forgettable and trite movie can muster.

Reliance Entertainment released “Subho Bijoya” in select U.S. cinemas on December 9, 2022. The movie was released in India on December 2, 2022.

Review: ‘Cirkus’ (2022), starring Ranveer Singh, Varun Sharma, Pooja Hegde and Jacqueline Fernandez

December 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jacqueline Fernandez, Sanjay Mishra, Ranveer Singh and Varun Sharma in “Cirkus” (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)

“Cirkus”

Directed by Rohit Shetty

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the India, in the 1960s and briefly in the 1930s, the comedy film “Cirkus” features an Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two sets of identical twin brothers are separated and switched at birth by a scientist who wants to test the “nature versus nurture” debate, in order to prove his theory that someone’s upbringing has more influence on their personality than biological genetics.

Culture Audience: “Cirkus” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching an aggressively hyperactive and annoying movie with a horrible story about twins and mistaken identities.

Siddhartha Jadhav, Umakant Patil and Ashish Warang in “Cirkus” (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)

The vibrant cinematography and eye-catching production design of “Cirkus” are all wasted on a silly plot, bad acting and an unjustifiably atrocious ending that ignores ethical and legal issues of deliberately switching babies at birth. It’s a so-called comedy that will bring very few or no laughs to people who care about quality entertainment. The only thing that’s worth laughing at is how the “Cirkus” filmmakers spent a great deal of the movie’s budget on elaborate set designs and visual effects but then made the cheap-looking decision to have obvious toy dolls instead of real babies in the brief time that infants are shown on screen.

Directed by Rohit Shetty and written by Yunus Sajawal, “Cirkus” is loosely based on the William Shakespeare play “The Comedy of Errors,” which has hijinks that ensue when identical twin brothers have been separated at birth. It feels almost like blasphemy to mention Shakespeare and “Cirkus” in the same sentence, because it’s like comparing priceless art to worthless garbage. “Cirkus” is just too repetitive and too stupid to justify its total running time of 140 minutes. About 30 minutes into this abomination of a movie, viewers will feel like it’s less painful to have a circus elephant sit on them than to sit through watching all of “Cirkus.”

“Cirkus” begins by showing the two brothers who cause the chaos that later happens in the story. Sometime in the 1930s, Dr. Roy Jamnadas (played by Murali Sharma) and his younger brother Joy Jamnadas (played by Uday Tikekar) are operating Jamnadas Orphanage in Bangalore, India. One day, Roy and Joy find two pairs of newborn, identical twin brothers abandoned on the doorstep of the orphanage. The two pairs of twins are around the same age.

Roy decides that he wants to do an experiment to test the “nature versus nurture” debate, in order to prove his theory that someone’s personality is influenced more by that person’s upbringing than biological genetics. Roy wants to switch the identical twins, so that each twin will grow up with a brother he thinks is biologically related but actually is not biologically related. Joy vehemently objects to this very unethical and illegal decision, but Roy is determined to go through with it, and nothing can stop him.

The identical twins are switched so that one of the twin brothers is placed with a twin from the other pair who is biologically unrelated. When all four twin brothers are put up for adoption, they are presented as fraternal twins, not identical twins. Roy promises Joy that he will reveal the truth to all four brothers when the brothers are 30 years old. When Joy asks Roy what will happen if Roy isn’t alive in 30 years, Roy gives a vague response that maybe someone else can tell the twins the truth. Of course, in a predictable movie like “Cirkus,” Roy and Joy live for the next 30 years and show up again in the movie.

And what a coincidence: Both pairs of twins are adopted into families who want to name the twins after the Jamnadas brothers. One pair of the fake fraternal twins named Roy and Joy go to the Indian city of Ooty, where they have been adopted by a circus owner (played by Nikitin Dheer) and his wife (played by Supriya Roy). The other set of the fake fraternal twins named Roy and Joy stay in Bangalore, where they have been adopted by an affluent industrial engineer (played by Arjun Nagar) and his wife Shakuntala Devi (played by Ashwini Kalsekar).

After the babies quickly getting adopted, “Cirkus” briefly shows the two Roys and the two Joys as pre-teen children and teenagers. In these roles are Pratyaksh Panwar as pre-teen Roy, Hridansh Gokani as pre-teen Joy, Arya Mahajan as teenage Roy, and Krishna Panchal as teenage Joy. The movie then fast-forwards to showing the brothers at 30 years old.

For the purposes of this review, the Roy and Joy who grew up in Ooty will be called Ooty Roy and Ooty Joy. The Roy and Joy who grew up in Bangalore will be called Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy. Just like the brothers they were named after, Roy is the “alpha male” brother, while Joy is the “beta male” brother. Ooty Roy and Bangalore Roy are both played by Ranveer Singh. Ooty Joy and Bangalore Joy are both played by Varun Sharma.

Ooty Roy and Ooty Joy have taken over running their adoptive family’s circus, which is called Jubilee Cirkus, since their adoptive parents have retired. Ooty Roy has become a famous circus attraction known as Electric Man, for being physically immune when holding objects that conduct large wattages of electricity. Meanwhile, Bangalore Roy feels the effects of these electric jolts every time Ooty Roy does these electrical stunts. It’s a bizarre condition that Ooty Roy and Bangalore Roy have had since their childhoods. (No explanation is given in the movie for why they have this condition.)

The jolts are so big, Bangalore Roy can give people electrical shocks that can be harmful if they touch him. Bangalore Roy doesn’t know why he randomly gets these electrical jolts that run through his body and sometimes cause him to convulse wildly. Expect to see “Cirkus” show a lot of over-exaggerated slapstick comedy (that gets stale very quickly) of people getting electrical shocks and sometimes having seizures from these shocks.

Ooty Roy is happily married to a novelist named Mala (played by Pooja Hegde), who can’t get her work published under her real name for sexist reasons, so she uses the alias Col. Vikrant. And what a coincidence: Col. Vikrant’s biggest fan is Bangalore Roy. Ooty Joy has a girlfriend named Lily (played by Radhika Bangia). Bangalore Joy does not have a love interest in the movie.

The only discontent in the marriage between Mala and Ooty Roy is that they haven’t been able to conceive a child because Mala is infertile. Ooty Roy and Mala are seriously thinking about adopting a child. Mala wants to adopt a child from Jamnadas Orphanage, but Ooty Roy doesn’t like that idea. (You know where this is going, of course.)

Meanwhile, Bangalore Roy has a girlfriend named Bindu (played by Jacqueline Fernandez), whose arrogant and wealthy father Rai Sahab (played by Sanjay Mishra) does not approve of Bangalore Roy dating Bindu, because Rai thinks Bangalore Roy doesn’t come from a rich-enough family. By contrast, Bindu’s kind and open-minded mother Chachi (played by Sulabha Arya) accepts the relationship and treats Bangalore Roy with respect. Bangalore Roy has conflicts with Rai because Bangalore Roy wants to marry Bindu, but Rai refuses to give his blessing.

Rai is a blustering buffoon with a sidekick named Prem (played by Anil Charanjeett), whom Rai describes as his “manager,” but Prem is really just a “yes man” lackey and a completely useless character in a mindless story. The scenes with Rai are among the most cringeworthy in “Cirkus” because Mishra’s acting is so terrible. Rai, like almost everyone else in “Cirkus,” is a one-dimensional caricature.

Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy travel by train to Ooty, where they want to buy a tea-making farm. At the train station, three idiotic robbers, who have stolen ₹50,000 in cash, are being chased by police. The travel bag containing the money is accidentally dropped at the train station before the robbers make their getaway on a train that also happens to be the same train that has Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy as passengers.

The three robbers are nitwit leader Momo (played by Siddhartha Jadhav), who has a ridiculously large pompadour, and his two, less-talkative sidekicks Mango (played by Ashish Warang) and Chikki (played by Umakant Patil), who have utterly blank personalities. Momo is not only one of the most annoying characters in “Cirkus” (a movie filled with annoying characters), but he’s also perhaps the most annoying character that movie viewers will see in any given year.

Nothing that Momo says is funny, as he shouts his lines and makes dopey facial expressions for the camera. It doesn’t help that Jadhav gives one of the worst performances in the “Cirkus” cast. A recurring “joke” in the movie is that after Momo sees an incident of electrical shocks, he hollers, “Shock you!,” in the way that people curse, “Fuck you!”

These simple-minded robbers have lost their cash, but when they see Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy in a train car with a travel bag full of ₹50,000 in cash, the robbers decide to steal the cash from Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy. Later, viewers find out that Momo wants the cash to give as a birthday gift to a powerful crime boss named Polson Dada (played by Johnny Lever), who dresses like he’s stepped out of a 1970s pimp den, even though this part of the movie takes place in the 1960s.

Bangalore Roy and Bangalore Joy immediately notice upon arriving in Ooty that strangers already know their names and seem to know who they are. Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that Ooty Roy and Ooty Joy end up in Bangalore and they get, and they also get mistaken for the other Roy and Joy. Along the way, a taxi driver named Naagmani (played by Vrajesh Hirjee), a jeweler named Veljibhai (played by Tiku Talsania) and a bandit-turned-hotel owner named Daaku Bagheera (played by Mukesh Tiwari) get involved in the ludicrous antics.

From a visual standpoint, “Cirkus” has a lot of eye candy, but the movie’s foolish and grossly unfunny story is like overloading on bad junk food. The title of the movie is also misleading, because only a few scenes actually take place in a circus. But even those circus scenes are nothing but hollow spectacles with very little substance. “Cirkus” completely missed a potentially great story opportunity to have the circus lifestyle as a big part of the movie’s plot.

The movie’s song-and-dance musical numbers are adequate, when it comes to the choreography, but the song lyrics are so witless and boring, they ruin whatever impact the musical numbers were supposed to have. The ending of “Cirkus” hints that there will be a sequel with other characters who have a connection to Jamnadas Orphanage. “Cirkus” is an utter failure at being amusing entertainment. It’s more like an overblown, nonsensical and deceptively flashy carnival act that cheats people out of their time and money.

T-Series Films released “Cirkus” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 23, 2022.

Review: ‘Connect’ (2022), starring Nayanthara, Sathyaraj, Haniya Nafis and Anupam Kher

December 27, 2022

by Carla Hay

Haniya Nafis in “Connect” (Photo courtesy of Rowdy Pictures)

“Connect” (2022)

Directed by Ashwin Saravanan

Tamil with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2020, in Mahabalipuram, India, the horror film “Connect” features an Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: During the COVID-19 quarantine lockdowns, a widowed businesswoman finds out that her teenage daughter is possessed by a demonic spirit.

Culture Audience: “Connect” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching horror movies that don’t have many surprises but have above-average acting and plenty of suspenseful moments.

Nayanthara and Haniya Nafis in “Connect” (Photo courtesy of Rowdy Pictures)

“Connect” is not a groundbreaking movie about a teenage girl possessed by the devil. However, this horror flick delivers some effective jump scares and has very good acting, despite the predictable story. The movie excels at creating a foreboding and creepy atmosphere through its cinematography, production design and musical score.

Directed by Ashwin Saravanan (who co-wrote the “Connect” screenplay with Ramkumar Kaavya), “Connect” begins with a deceptively cheerful scene of four family members spending time together on a beach in Mahabalipuram, India. The family members are business executive Susan Joseph (played by Nayanthara), her doctor husband Joseph Benoy (played Vinay Rai), their teenage daughter Anna “Ammu” Joseph (played by Haniya Nafis) and Susan’s father Arthur Samuel (played by Sathyaraj). The adults watch in delight as Ammu, who is a talented singer/musician, plays an acoustic guitar and sings a song for them.

Ammu, who is about 16 or 17 years old, has been accepted into the prestigious Trinity School of Music in London. She’s excited about this opportunity. However, her parents aren’t quite ready for Ammu to live so far away from home. Susan tells Ammu that she can pursue whatever dreams she wants, but the timing has to be right. Ammu can sense that her parents won’t let her go to this school, but something happens that prevents the family from discussing the matter in more detail.

The COVID-19 pandemic comes on in full force, causing worldwide quarantine lockdowns. Joseph is a medical doctor at a hospital, where he has to work long hours during the pandemic crisis and he doesn’t have time to go home. Susan and Ammu communicate with him by videoconferencing. Ammu is considered a “daddy’s girl,” so she is very worried about what will happen to her father being around so many people infected by COVID-19.

Within a matter of days, the family’s worst fears come true: Joseph gets infected, and he quickly dies. The family is devastated by this loss. One night, Ammu secretly goes into a room by herself, lights a candle in front of a Oujia board, and communicates via a video chat with an unnamed woman (played by Mekha Rajan) who claims to be a spiritual medium. Ammu wants this spiritual medium to help Ammu contact the spirit of Joseph.

A ritual is performed. The spirtual medium sings an eerie song that seems to put her in a trance. Suddenly, Ammu’s computer screen freezes, and the room where the spiritual medium is goes dark. And almost immediately, the closed door behind Ammu opens, and Ammu notices that no one visible has opened the door. Ammu gasps in fright. And then the scene fades to black.

The next scene shows Susan on the phone with a doctor to report that Ammu hasn’t been eating or sleeping very well. Susan thinks that she and Ammu might have been infected with COVID-19 but are not showing severe-enough symptoms to go to a hospital. Ammu and Susan have been quarantining, and the only person Susan can think of who might have infected Susan and Ammu is the family housekeeper, who is never seen in the movie.

Ammu then begins to act strangely. She stays in her room for hours and refuses to let Susan inside. By the second day of Ammu appearing to be sick, Ammu refuses to talk to Susan. The rest of “Connect” goes exactly how you think it might go in a movie about a teenage girl plagued by demonic possession.

However, what will keep viewers interested is seeing how what happens during Ammu’s transformation and how Susan deals with it. Because they are stuck in a house together during pandemic lockdowns, it’s not as simple as leaving the house to get help. Similarly, people who could help are reluctant to make home visits during the pandemic. A priest named Father Alex (played by Avinash Yelandur) and a therapist named Sheela (played by Praveena Nandu) are contacted and try to help, but viewers see how Ammu deals with them. (It’s not as cliché as you might think it is.)

There’s also a great deal of the story where Susan has no idea that Ammu is possessed. She thinks that Ammu is going through a mopey teenage phase and grieving over the death of Joseph, until it reaches a point where Susan sees some things that she can’t ignore. It’s one thing for Ammu’s bedroom to have upside-down crosses drawn on the walls like graffiti. But it’s another thing when Ammu starts hiding in dark places and hissing, or when Ammu vomits when Susan makes Ammu drink a glass of water that Ammu doesn’t know has holy water in it.

As shown in the movie’s trailer, Anupam Kher has a supporting role as Father Augustine, the priest who is contacted to perform the exorcism. (Ammu and her family are Roman Catholic.) “Connect” is convincing in how it depicts Susan’s claustrophobic fear of being stuck inside because of quarantining from a deadly pandemic but also feeling like her life is in danger because of the person who’s stuck inside with her.

Nayanthara gets most of the screen time in “Connect” as Susan, but Nafis makes an impessive feature-film debut as Ammu, who becomes a genuinely sinister character. “Connect” director/co-writer Saravanan cleverly keeps Ammu off screen for most of the movie, in order to keep viewers on edge to see when Ammu might show up again and what she might do next. “Connect” isn’t gory by most standards of scary movies. What the movie does so well is show the horror of feeling trapped somewhere with a loved one who has become a monster.

Rowdy Pictures released “Connect” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 22, 2022.

Review: ‘Laththi,’ starring Vishal

December 27, 2022

by Carla Hay

Master Lirish Raghav and Vishal in “Laththi” (Photo courtesy of Red Giant Movies)

“Laththi”

Directed by A. Vinoth Kumar

Tamil with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in India, the action film “Laththi” features an Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A cop battles an army of villains and ends up trapped with his 10-year-old son in a high-rise building under construction.

Culture Audience: “Laththi” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching a ludicrous, overly long action movie that is repetitive and relentlessly stupid.

Ramana (second from left) in “Laththi” (Photo courtesy of Red Giant Movies)

“Laththi” is nothing but a long-winded rehash of several other forgettable action movies with ridiculous fight scenes, terrible acting and no originality. And with a total running time of 144 minutes, “Laththi” (also known as “Laththi Charge”) drags on for too long, considering the movie’s very thin plot that could easily fit into a film that’s 30 minutes or less. What viewers get in “Laththi” is a bombastic overload of poorly staged action scenes that are supposed to show gritty realism but look like something out of a hard-to-believe, shoddy fantasy movie. Worst of all, “Laththi” is a movie that takes itself too seriously, considering how trashy and moronic it is.

Directed by A. Vinoth Kumar and written by Pon Parthiban, “Laththi” is yet another movie about a cop being the lone fighter against an army of villains who have him trapped somewhere. And to raise the stakes for the police officer—cliché alert—he has a loved one who is put in this dangerous situation too. Before “Laththi” gets to that point, there’s a bloated section of the movie that shows how he ended up in this mess. None of the characters in the movie has a real personality, and there’s no real suspense.

The protagonist of “Laththi” (which takes in an unnamed city in India) is a constable named Muruganantham (played by Vishal), who is as generic as generic can be. Muruganantham has a happy family life with his wife Kavitha (played by Sunaina) and their 10-year-old son Rasu (played by Master Lirish Raghav), who goes to a school called St. Michael’s Academy. Rasu is proud of his father being a constable, and he begs Muruganantham to visit him in school while wearing his constable uniform. Muruganantham humbly puts off accommodating this request.

One night, a woman named Pavithra (played by Misha Ghoshal) is physically harassed on the street by a young man. She goes to the police station to file a harassment complaint. Even though Muruganantham tells Pavithra that technically, she has to wait until the morning to file the complaint, he feels sympathy for her and lets her file the complaint that night. Not long after filing the complaint, Pavitrha is viciously attacked, and she dies in a hospital.

The public is outraged by what happened to Pavithra, and protests are staged outside the police station. The police are under pressure to find the culprit or culprits who killed Pavithra. Their chief suspect is the man whom she identified as the harasser in her complaint. His name is Vellai (played by by Ramana), who happens to be the son of a ruthless and wealthy crime boss named Sura (played by Sunny PN).

Vellai is taken into custody at the police station for an interrogation, where he ends up alone in a room with Muruganantham. Vellai’s head has been covered with a sack, so Vellai can’t see anything. Muruganantham brutally beats up Vellai to try to get Vellai to confess to causing Pavithra’s death. Vellai doesn’t see the police officer who’s attacking him, but Muruganantham gets a phone call during this beatdown. The ringtone on Muruganantham’s phone is of the song “Guna,” which is a detail that Vellai does not forget.

Vellai ends up in a hospital and inexplicably has a yellow plastic bag over his face during his recovery. Apparently, the “Laththi” filmmakers want viewers to think that using a yellow plastic bag is better than using bandages to treat facial wounds. While in the hospital, there’s a predictable scene of an infuriated Sura and his cronies trying to get Vellai to remember anything about the cop who attacked him. Vellai is barely coherent, much like most of this movie.

After Vellai is discharged from the hospital, there are scenes where he drives around with his fellow thugs while trying to look for the cop who beat him up. And Vellai is stll wearing that yellow plastic bag over his head during the search. Meanwhile, Muruganantham gets suspended from his job and is then reinstated in a demoted position of being a traffic cop.

During Vellai’s search for the constable who beat him up, Vellai—still wearing the yellow plastic bag over his head—sees Muruganantham on a motorbike on the road. Vellai insists that Muruganantham is the one who attacked him, even though people in his entourage doubt that this traffic cop would be the one to have the authority to do an interrogation. And just when Vellai and his cronies are about to drive away, during an idiotic scene where Muruganantham has stopped on his motorbike on the road for a very contrived period of time, Muruganantham gets a phone call, and Vellai hears the ringtone.

Most of the action scenes featured in the trailer for “Laththi” don’t happen until the last third of the movie, when Muruganantham is trapped with Rasu in an isolated high-rise building that’s under construction. It’s just scene after scene of Muruganantham unrealistically taking on numerous armed thugs who could easily kill him when they surround him with their weapons, but they don’t kill him, because we all know how this movie is going to end. The only thing that gets really gets killed from “Laththi” are some of the brain cells of any viewers who have the misfortune of watching all of this mind-numbing garbage.

Red Giant Movies released “Laththi” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 22, 2022.

Review: ‘HIT: The 2nd Case,’ starring Adivi Sesh and Meenakshi Chaudhary

December 17, 2022

by Carla Hay

Adivi Sesh in “HIT: The 2nd Case” (Photo courtesy of Wall Poster Cinema)

“HIT: The 2nd Case”

Directed by Sailesh Kolanu

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Visakhapatnam, India, the action film “HIT: The 2nd Case” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A self-assured police detective goes on the hunt for a serial killer, who murders women and who leaves their body parts at the crime scenes were his other murder victims are found. 

Culture Audience: “HIT: The 2nd Case” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of “HIT: The First Case” and suspenseful movies about police investigations of serial killings.

Adivi Sesh and Meenakshi Chaudhary in “HIT: The 2nd Case” (Photo courtesy of Wall Poster Cinema)

“HIT: The 2nd Case” is a captivating thriller from beginning to end. It’s a winning example of a sequel that’s better than the original movie. The story’s mystery is wider in scope and told in a more compelling way than in “HIT: The First Case,” a movie originally released in 2020 as a Telugu-language film, and then remade as a Hindi-language film released in 2022. It’s also a great idea to make each “HIT” movie with a different detective protagonist.

“HIT” movie series creator Sailesh Kolanu has written and directed all the “HIT” movies so far. “HIT: The First Case” ended on somewhat of a cliffhanger for the movie’s protagonist, police inspector Vikram Rudraraju. “Vikram: The 2nd Case” has a brief mention of what happened to Vikram, but otherwise, it’s a completely separate story. What each “HIT” movie has common so far is that it’s a story about a hotshot investigator in a police department called Homicide Intervention Team (HIT) located somewhere in India.

“HIT: The 2nd Case” follows police inspector Krishna “KD” Dev (played by Adivi Sesh), as he investigates the case of a twisted serial killer who dismembers his victims and leaves their various body parts at the crime scene where the killer’s other victims have been found. All of the victims are women n their 20s and 30s. The first known victim is a woman in her 20s named Sanjana, whose torso has been found in Visakhapatnam, India. KD makes a promise to Sanjana’s devastated, widowed father (played by Tanikella Bharani) that he will find the killer and make sure that there is justice for Sanjana.

In “HIT: The First Case,” police protagonist Vikram had post-traumatic stress disorder. In “HIT: The 2nd Case,” KD doesn’t have any psychiatric issues that affect how he does his job. However, KD’s biggest weakness is his arrogance. Early on in the movie, KD tells a group of reporters who ask for his comments about an unrelated case where KD captured a man who killed his own brother: “Generally, these criminals are very dumb.” It’s a comment that will come back to haunt him when the serial killer does things to outsmart KD.

KD’s cockiness also shows in how unkind he is to one his female colleagues. His ex-girlfriend Varsha (played by Komalee Prasad) has been appointed as one of his subordinates. He tells Varsha: “Seeing your face is very annoying to me.” The movie never really goes into details over why Varsha and KD broke up, but it was a romance that obviously did not end well. KD is very unhappy that Varsha has been assigned to help him with this serial killer case. KD also has his trusty police dog, a German Shepherd named Max, who is a constant companion when KD is on duty.

Whatever negative feelings that KD has toward Varsha, they are in direct contrast to his adoration of his girlfriend Aarya (played by Meenakshi Chaudhary), who is a confident and independent feminist who also expects chivalry from men. When KD asks Aarya to move in with him, she’s reluctant at first because she doesn’t want to give up having her own place. But she eventually changes her mind, because she and KD are in love with each other and want to build a life together.

Aarya works at female empowerment center called HER Welfare Association, which helps female victims of domestic violence, and offers other female-oriented services. A flashback scene in the beginning of the movie shows how, 20 years earlier, women from HER Welfare Association staged protests in support of a woman named Jhansi (played by Neela Ramana), who accused her husband Ram Prasad Koduri (played by Harsha Vardhan) of raping her, after he caught her cheating on him with another man. The HER Welfare Association plays a prominent role in the story.

Other characters who are connected to this story include KD’s female police sidekick Shradda (played by Pavani, also known as Pavani Reddy); Sanjana’s roommate Rajitha (played by Divya Narni); Rajitha’s boyfriend Kumar (played by Suhas); Sanjana’s childhood friend Raghavudu (played by Majili Shiva); KD’s police colleague Abilash (played by Maganti Srinath), nicknamed Abi; KD’s immediate supervisor Shinde (played by Brahmaji); and director of general police Nageswara Rao (played by Rao Ramesh).

Describing the rest of “HIT: The 2nd Case” would be giving away too much spoiler information. It’s enough to say that the movie is a non-stop ride of suspense and intrigue, with all of the actors playing their roles very well. The movie’s big showdown scene comes across as a little too contrived, but it’s still packed with a lot of tension. Mostly, “HIT: The 2nd Case” succeeds in how this investigation unfolds in a riveting way and how solving this mystery has a few fascinating surprises.

Wall Poster Cinema released “HIT: The 2nd Case” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 2, 2022.

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