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: ‘Drishyam 2’ (2022), starring Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Akshaye Khanna, Shriya Saran and Ishita Dutta

December 2, 2022

by Carla Hay

Shriya Saran, Ishita Dutta, Ajay Devgn, Yogesh Soman and Akshaye Khanna in “Drishyam 2” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Drishyam 2” (2022)

Directed by Abhishek Pathak

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Pondolim in India’s Goa region, and briefly in London, the dramatic film “Drishyam” features an all-Indian cast representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A family with a terrible secret about the death of a young man becomes the focus of suspicion again when new clues are uncovered. 

Culture Audience: “Drishyam 2” will appeal primarily to people interested who are fans of the movie’s stars; the first “Drishyam” movies; and crime dramas with unusual plot twists.

Kamlesh Sawant and Tabu (center) in “Drishyam 2” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

In order to fully appreciate the crime drama “Drishyam 2,” viewers need to have seen or know about what happened in the original “Drishyam” movie—a story about a family keeping a scandalous secret about a dead sexual predator/blackmailer, and how the parents of this deceased man will do whatever it takes to uncover that secret. (This review has spolier information about the first “Drishyam” movie, which is necessary to discuss “Drishyam 2.”) “Drishyam” began as a 2013 Malayalam-language film and was then remade into 2015’s Hindi-language “Drishyam” film. A Malayalam-language “Drishyam 2″ movie (also known as Drishyam 2: The Resumption”) was released in 2021.

The Hindi-language “Drishyam 2,” released in 2022, is a remake of the Malayalam-language “Drishyam 2.” It’s a dependable remake of a movie sequel that didn’t really need to be remade. Most people who don’t know how “Drishyam 2” ends will be impressed by the clever and very unexpected plot twist, which is not far-fetched but could actually work in real life.

Directed by Abhishek Pathak, the Hindi-language remake of “Drishyam 2” (which was co-written by Pathak and Aamil Keeyan Khan) is more intensely dramatic than the Malayalam-language “Drishyam 2,” which is also a very good film with fine performances from the cast members. One of the main reasons why the Hindi-language version of “Drishyam 2” has a more urgent tone is Devi Sri Prasad’s musical score is very pronounced in creating suspense. The movie’s cinematography and editing look worthy of being seen in a movie theater, compared to the Malayalam-language “Drishyam 2,” which was released directly to Prime Video and has some very TV-movie production characteristics.

The “Drishyam” saga is a tale of two feuding families in the fictional city of Pondolim, India. On one side of the feud is the Salgaonkar family: Vijay Salgaonkar (played by Ajay Devgn), his wife Nandini Salgaonkar (played by Shriya Saran), and their two daughters: Anju Salgaonkar (played by Ishita Dutta) and Anu Salgaonkar (played by Mrunal Jadhav), who’s six years younger than Anju. Vijay, who is passionate about movies, owns Mirage Cable Networks and a movie theater. He’s also an aspiring movie producer. On the other side of this feud are wealthy businessman Mahesh Deshmukh (played by Rajat Kapoor) and his wife Meera Deshmukh (played by Tabu), who has had a career in a police law enforcement.

This version of “Drishyam 2” picks up in 2021—seven years after the events of the first “Drishyam” movie, with the principal cast members reprising their roles in this sequel. In the first “Drishyam” movie, which takes place in 2014, the Salgaonkar family covered up the death of Sameer “Sam” Deshmukh (played by Rishab Chadha), the only child of Mahesh and Meera Deshmukh. Sam had secretly recorded a video of Anju (who was 18 at the time) taking a shower. Sam threatened to make the video public unless Anju or her mother Nandini had sex with Sam.

In a physical fight to get the video, Anju accidentally killed Sam while her mother was in the same room. Nandini helped Anju bury Sam’s body in the family’s backyard. Anu witnessed the murder and cover-up. Vijay wasn’t home at the time of this manslaughter, but when he found out what happened, he helped destroy evidence, in order to protect Anju and Nandini from being arrested.

Meera Deshmukh was Pondolim’s police inspector general at the time. She immediately became suspicious of the Salgaonkar family’s involvement in Sam’s disappearance and had the family arrested. However, with no body found, it couldn’t be proven that Sam was dead. A twist at the end of the movie revealed that Vijay had tricked the police and moved Sam’s body somewhere else. Where he moved the body won’t be revealed in this review.

In “Drishyam 2,” the Salgaonkar family’s secret is constantly at risk of being exposed. Seven years after Sam’s disappearance, he is presumed dead. Meera is angrier and more vengeful than her husband Mahesh, who is more inclined to show some mercy on the Salgaonkar family if they just tell Mahesh and Meera where Sam’s body is. Mahesh makes this personal plea to Vijay when they happen to see each other in person, but Vijay continues to lie and say he doesn’t know what happened to Sam.

Vijay is close to fulfilling his dream of making a movie. And the movie he wants to make is about what he and his family went through when they were accused of foul play against Sam. Vijay has hired a screenwriter named Murad Ali (played by Saurabh Shukla) to write the movie’s script. At Mirage Cable Networks, Vijay continues to work with his assistant Jose (played by Prathamesh Parab), who is buffoonish and provides some of the movie’s comic relief.

Vijay and Nandini have some tension in their marriage not only because they are burdened with keeping this dark family secret but also because Vijay is heavily in debt because of the money he put into making the movie. Nandini thinks the movie is a bad idea because it will just bring unwanted attention to the family all over again. Many people in their community still suspect that Salgaonkar family was involved in Sam’s disappearance and the cover-up.

Meanwhile, Anju (who is now a 25-year-old college student living on campus) has developed post-traumatic stress disorder because of this secret. She has terrible nightmares and panic attacks. During the course of the movie, Anju is on a college break and is staying at her parents’ home.

“Drishyam 2” opens with a flashback scene of something that happened on the night of October 4, 2014. A man named David Brazagna (played by Siddharth Bodke) has met with a thug named Tony (played by Vineeth MV) to hand over a travel bag full of cash to Tony. David tells Tony after this handoff that he doesn’t want to do the job anymore, so David tries to get the cash back from Tony. A scuffle ensues, and David shoots Tony dead and flees with the cash.

Police officers nearby respond to the gunfire shots, and David runs away through the woods and hides. David makes his way home, where he has a wife named Mary (played by Ashmita Jaggi) and a toddler son named Agnelo (played by Pakshal Jain). David knows it’s only a matter of time before the police come to arrest him. And he is arrested for the murder of Tony. The movie later shows that David saw something important that night that is related to the Salgaonkar family scandal.

Meanwhile, in 2021, Vijay and Nandini have become disturbed when they find out that the married couple living next door is involved in domestic violence. The two spouses are Shiv Kulkarni (played by Nishant Singh) and Jenny Thomas (played by Neha Joshi). According to what Vijay and Nandini see, Shiv is an angry drunk who beats Jenny.

Vijay and Nandini intervene by calling the police and reporting the domestic abuse. Shiv is eventually arrested. Nandini and Jenny become friends, and they confide in each other about their marriages and other things. Nandini lets her guard down and lets it slip to Jenny that she knows more than she’s telling about Sam’s disappearance. Will this semi-confession come back to haunt Nandini?

Sam’s mother Meera, who is now retired from law enforcement, is still filled with vengeful rage over his presumed death. Certain things happen that jumpstart the investigation and put the Salgaonkar family on the radar of the police again. Meera uses her clout with her former colleagues in the police department to put pressure on the Salgaonkar family. The police currently investigating the case include a cynical inspector general named Tarun Ahlawata (played by Akshaye Khanna), a logical inspector named Vinayak Sawant (played by Yogesh Soman) and a hotheaded inspector named Gaitonde (played by Kamlesh Sawant).

“Drishyam 2” has enough intriguing plot developments that the movie’s total running time of 140 minutes is well-earned and doesn’t look like a waste. However, this movie biggest weakness is that it will confuse a lot of viewers who don’t know anything about what happened in the first “Drishyam” movie. “Drishyam 2” has some flashbacks that explain some key plot points, but some of those flashbacks sometimes a little too late in the story. All of the movie’s cast members give performances that range from better-than-average (Devgn as the complicated Vijay) to competent (most of the cast) to overly dramatic (Tabu as hate-filled mother Meera).

Despite the movie’s flaws, “Drishyam 2” will keep viewers guessing until the very end about what will happen next. It’s the type of thriller that sometimes attempts to be too tricky for its own good. However, the story explores themes of guilt and redemption in the context of leaving it up to viewers to decide who deserves to be punished and who deserves to be forgiven. By trusting viewers to make up their own minds, “Drishyam 2” offers a much more interesting story about human complexities than if the movie had been a simplistic tale of good versus evil.

Yash Raj Films released “Drishyam 2” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on November 18, 2022.

Review: ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2,’ starring Tabu, Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani

May 29, 2022

by Carla Hay

Kiara Advani and Kartik Aaryan in “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)

“Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2”

Directed by Anees Bazmee

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Indian cities of Bhawanigarh and Chandigarh, the horror comedy film “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” has an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: In order to get out of marrying a man she doesn’t love, a young woman and her new love interest pretend that she died in a bus accident, while he pretends to her family that he’s a psychic who can communicate with her spirit, and the woman hides in the family palace that is believed to be haunted by an evil female ghost.

Culture Audience: “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the stars Tabu, Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani; the 2007 movie Bhool Bhulaiyaa; and engaging movies that skillfully blend horror, comedy and musical numbers.

Tabu in “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)

A horror comedy is a difficult subgenre to make entertaining because there could be problems with blending tones of being scary and funny, but “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” succeeds on almost every level. The movie’s plot twists and musical numbers are intriguing. Unlike a lot of horror comedies that hold back on being terrifying, “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” doesn’t skimp on ghoulish footage (which has impressive visual effects), while still maintaining a comedic edge in the story for several laugh-out-loud moments.

Directed by Anees Bazmee and co-directed by Pankaj Kumar, “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” is a sequel to 2007’s “Bhool Bhulaiyaa” but viewers don’t need to see “Bhool Bhulaiyaa” to understand “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2.” (The words “bhool bhulaiyaa” translate to “labyrinth” in English.) That’s because both movies have entirely different stars, with the only thing both movies having in common is a female ghost named Manjulika Chatterjee, who is haunting a family palace.

“Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” (which was written by Aakash Kaushik and Farhad Samji) begins with an evil female ghost raging through a palace in Bhawanigarh, India. The palace is owned by the well-to-do Thakur family, and priests eventually capture this malevolent spirit, trap the ghoul in a room, which is sealed. Because the ghost is a direct threat to the Thakur family, they abandon the palace and find another place to live. At the time this haunting incident occurred, one of the members of the Thakur family is a girl, who’s about 7 or 8 years old, named Reet Thakur.

“Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” the fast-forwards about 15 years later. Reet is a recent college graduate who is engaged to be married to a man named Sagar (played by Sparsh Walla), whom she does not love. However, it’s an arranged marriage, and Reet is being pressured by her father Vijender Singh Thakur (played by Milind Gunaji) to go through with the wedding. She is traveling by bus from Chandigarh back to her hometown of Bhawanigarh to reluctantly prepare for the wedding.

During this bus trip, Reet meets a handsome and flirtatious bachelor in his 20s named Ruhaan Randhawa (played by Kartik Aaryan), who almost immediately asks for Reet’s phone number. Even though Reet tells him that she’s engaged to be married, and her wedding is in a matter of days, Ruhaan is undeterred in showing a romantic interest in Reet, especially since she says she doesn’t love her fiancé Sagar. Reet is obviously attracted to Ruhaan too because she gives her phone number to him.

However, Reet plays hard-to-get during much of the time that she and Ruhaan spend together. Ruhaan (whose family is never seen in the movie) can sense that Reet is independent-minded and doesn’t want to be forced by her family to do things that she doesn’t want to do. And so, Ruhaan tells her that she should just abandon this trip to Bhawanigarh and go with him to a music festival instead. Reet quickly agrees.

Reet and Ruhaan have a lot of fun at the music festival, as their attraction to each other begins to grow. But then, they find out some tragic news: The bus that they were supposed to be on crashed, and there were no survivors. Reet’s family members are devastated, because they think she died in this bus crash. Viewers will have to suspend disbelief for this part of the movie, because Reet’s body would have to be found, in order for her to be declared dead. Perhaps another woman’s unidentified body could have been mistaken for Reet’s, but even that is a stretch of the imagination, since DNA tests and/or dental records would realistically determine a dead body’s identity.

Reet decides to use this bus crash as an opportunity to hide from her family and start a new life with Ruhaan. In the meantime, Reet and Ruhaan decide to hide in the Thakur family’s abandoned palace in Bhawanigarh. While they are in hiding, Reet overhears in a phone call that her fiancé Sagar and her cousin Trisha (played by Mahek Manwani) have been secretly in love with each other. Because the family thinks that Reet is dead, Sagar and Trisha decide to go public with their love affair and get married to each other. Reet is surprised by this news, but ultimately, she’s happy for Sagar and Trisha, because Reet never wanted to marry Sagar.

The Thakur family decides to have Sagar and Trisha’s wedding celebration at the palace, which has been in a state of neglect for years. And so, preparations are made to clean up the palace to prepare for the wedding. Members of the family also believe that there’s a chance that Reet’s spirit has returned to the palace. Reet and Ruhaan don’t know yet that their hiding place is about to be visited by members of Reet’s family and people who work for them. But this “fugitive” would-be couple will soon find out that they won’t be left alone in this hiding place.

Ruhaan is discovered on the palace property, but he is able to avoid getting in trouble as an intruder, by convincing the Thakur family and he is a psychic friend of Reet’s who can communicate with her from the dead. It’s a lie that Ruhaan makes up on the spot, and the rest of the movie is about him going through with a charade that he’s a psychic who can talk to Reet and other spirits. While Ruhaan is able to talk his way out of being kicked off of the property, Reet has been hiding in the palace, but she’s able to see much of what’s going on from where she hides. Ruhaan also fills her in on the details.

Meanwhile, Reet supplies Ruhaan with personal information about herself and her family so that he can appear to be a convincing psychic. There are many comedic scenes where Ruhaan makes over-the-top statements and gestures, in the movie’s obvious parody of psychics. Ruhaan even says, “I can see dead people,” in an obvious spoof of the famous line from the 1999 movie “The Sixth Sense.” News of Ruhaan being a psychic eventually spreads through the community. He becomes a local celebrity and is given the nickname Rooh Baba.

Of course, Ruhaan and Reet desperately keep the lie going and go to great lengths to keep Reet hidden in the palace. However, some people begin to suspect that Reet is still alive, or at least that her spirit is haunting the palace. Ruhaan finds out the story of Manjulika, so he tries to blame any suspicious activity on Manjulika. Other family members who are involved in the story include a cousin named Uday Thakur (played by Amar Upadhyay); his wife Anjulika (played by Tabu); and a boy named Potlu (played by Samarth Chauhan), who’s about 9 to 11 years old.

The village’s senior priest (played by Sanjay Mishra), his wife (played by Ashwini Kalsekar) and the village’s junior priest (played by Rajpal Naurang Yadav) all become skeptical about Ruhaan’s psychic abilities. They also think that Reet might still be alive. And so, the three skeptics hatch a plan to “expose” Ruhaan.

All of the cast members rise to the occasion by playing their roles well. Aaryan has to do a lot of comedic lifting in the movie, since his con game is frequently the focus of the movie’s jokes and shenanigans. Tabu is also very good in the movie, where her acting gets more prominent as the movie progresses. Yadav’s performance as the buffoonish junior priest is strictly for comic relief.

Most of the twists and turns “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” are in the last third of the movie, which has a much darker tone than the previous two-thirds. It’s no surprise that Reet and Ruhaan fall in love with each other. What might surprise people is how the movie ends. “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” has some moments that are more predictable than others. The unpredictable moments are where the movie shines the most.

T-Series Films released “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” in select U.S. cinemas on May 20, 2022, the same date that the movie was released in India.

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