A one man show with scope for awards without rewards

MUMBAI: Paan Singh Tomar is a biopic of a lesser known outlaw from Chambal (compared to ones like Phoolan Devi). The story is worthy of telling because it is about a national-level sportsman who takes to a life of crime when justice is denied to him.

Producer: Ronnie Screwvala.
Director: Tigmashu Dhulia.
Cast: Irrfan, Mahie Gill, Rajendra Gupta, Zakir Husain, Rajeev Gupta, Vipin Sharma, Brijendra Kala.

Irrfan is a simple villager with his family of four-mother, father, wife and himself-having a few acres of farmland. To support his family, he joins the army, unaware of his hidden athletic talents which would win him national and international fame. The army has a ration system for food which is a problem for Irrfan and his insatiable diet. When some extra rotis that he is helping himself to are grabbed from his hands, he mentions his huge diet. It is suggested that he join army sports, where there was no limit on food. He reaches the senior‘s house with his request and is put to the test immediately: he is asked to deliver a box of ice cream to a major‘s house before it melts. He does that in four minutes flat and earns his entry in to army‘s sports cadre. The coach is amazed at Irrfan‘s talents as he outruns the star runner in a 5,000-metre race. But there is a hitch. Irrfan can‘t run 5,000 metre as he would win and coach‘s star will lose. The star pupil is the brother of coach‘s daughter‘s husband and his losing would create turmoil in her life. A simpleton and pure at heart, Irrfan would make any sacrifice for his Guru. The Guru in turn introduces Irrfan to steeplechase, a race with water and wooden hurdles. Irrfan excels and becomes the National Champion (and goes on to be so seven times). His big chance comes at the international level in Japan at the Asian Games. But he has to wear spike shoes as against canvas ones at home. Uncomfortable with this sudden development, Irrfan removes his shoes halfway through the race and runs barefoot. This wins him many hearts even as he loses the race. It is time for Irrfan to retire from the army; he is offered the job of a coach in the army but he asks for enrolment for his son instead.

The man that Paan Singh Tomar was is aptly established. That is why the later part, when he takes to arms and killings, shows the helplessness and irony of the system where a national idol till few days back has no one to turn to with a plea of help when his farmland is usurped by his cousin and his crops burnt for Holi fire. The cousin has the might of four double-barrel guns and goons. Things come to head when Irrfan‘s son is almost beaten to death and his mother killed with gun butt. The reluctant Irrfan decides to pick up a gun and turn into an outlaw. The rest of the story is about his exploits and betrayals.

Paan Singh Tomar is a one-man show. It is Irrfan all the way. His simplicity does not deprive him of native intelligence and a sharp sense of humour. Without him, the film could well have become a documentary. The film has a horde of actors doing various roles. Of them, Rajendra Gupta, Rajeev Gupta and Brijendra Kala deserve a mention. Mahie Gill as a coy wife is okay.

The film is well written and though things slow down a bit towards the end, director Tingmashu Dhulia‘s eye for detail and execution are praiseworthy. Dialogue adds to the film‘s merits. Photography is very good. The language used is the local dialect which takes some getting used to.

A biopic is a tough choice as the box office prospects for most of them, save for a Gandhi and Phoolan Devi, have been slim. Paan Singh Tomar too has scope for awards without rewards.

Well made but poorly timed release

London Paris New York is a love story with three chapters in three locations spread over eight years. It is contemporary in its approach and content in that there is no mush or melodrama and tries to be as true to life about today‘s youth as it can.

Producers: Shrishti Arya, Goldie Behl.
Director: Anu Menon.
Cast: Ali Zafar, Aditi Rao.

Ali Zafar is a film producer‘s son from Bandra, Mumbai. His father shows his love for his son in the form of money as he spent all his love on the elder brothers who died in an accident before Ali was born. Ali makes the most of this as he travels first class and is seen only abroad and never in Bandra!

Aditi Rao is born of a Tamil Brahmin and Maharashtrian Brahmin parents. She is from a middle-class background in another Mumbai suburb, Chembur. Unlike in old films where the heroine dropped her handkerchief, here, being an intellectual type, Aditi Rao happens to drop a book on her way out of the airplane. Ali Zafar picks it up, returns it to her and both get talking. Having missed her connecting flight from London to New York (of course, there are direct flights from Mumbai to New York!), Aditi uses her middle class acumen and opts for cash from the airline instead of hotel stay in lieu of the delay which caused her to miss her flight. But then she is stranded because the friend whose house she planned to take refuge in is away. Seeing her dilemma, Ali Zafar suggests they spend the night roaming around London, sightseeing. By the fifth hour of togetherness he is already in love with her and on a bridge over the Thames, makes his first attempt to kiss her. However, enamoured Aditi Rao may have been watching kissing scenes in films, she is not ready to be kissed yet. The night of fun is over and it is time to part, with Ali Zafar making a promise to visit her in New York. This is a promise he is unable to keep. The letters he writes to her remain unanswered. Exasperated, Ali Zafar decides to trace her and learns that she is in Paris as an exchange student.

Again it is a one night tour round Paris with a bridge over the Seine symbolic of the gap being bridged between the two as they kiss and end up in bed. The girl is ready for sex now and as if as in indication her look in this chapter is quite tartish. To give a suitable gap to the next chapter of romance-after all it is an eight-year love saga-Aditi Rao parts in anger professing her hatred for him. That is, until one fine morning a day before she is planning to take vows of matrimony with some Alan. She finds Ali Zafar standing outside her apartment building. Since her Appa-Ayi (mom and dad) are around to attend her wedding, this time it can‘t be the bedroom. The affair with riverfronts continues as both end up spending the night kissing and smooching on a bridge over the Hudson River in New York till it is sunlight and she realises she is running late for her wedding. After a semi-emotional outburst by Ali Zafar where he calls her a cock-teaser and just happy to know she has him by his balls, it all ends well as love triumphs after eight years.

London Paris New York caters to the new generation to which not much is taboo, be it in Bandra or Chembur. Thankfully, the viewer is not taken to be an imbecile. Despite some loose ends, the film has been written intelligently; dialogue is natural and full of subtle humour. Music composed by Ali Zafar himself blends with the story though one durable melody would have been very welcome. Ali Zafar is natural as a carefree, wannabe filmmaker; he is sure to add to his fan following. Aditi Rao has nothing Tamil or Maharashtrian Brahmin about her except spouting bookish theories, including one on the chemical reaction of exchanging a kiss. She acts and looks suitably loveable. Photography, as it should be in such a film, is very good. There is not much of a supporting cast except for passing characters.

London Paris New York would have stood much better prospects if released when its target audience, the youth, was not facing exams.

Lacks in logic and almost everything else

Producers: Anil Dalmia, Rakesh Sabharwal.
Director: Vinod Mukhi.
Cast: Udita Goswami, Rati Agnihotri, Rajesh Khattar, Harsh Chhaya, Naseer Abdullah, Sofia Hayat, Aryan Vaid.

There are romantic films, thrillers, comedies, adventure and then there is Diary of a Butterfly. It is impossible to find a genre or the logic behind making it. It looks like an outcome of a ‘Have money will make a movie‘ whim.

Udita Goswami is a well-to-do Jaipur girl, who nurses an ambition to make it big in Mumbai. She gets her chance when a friend arranges for a job as a designer in a fashion house. Ready to leave for Mumbai, she drops her boyfriend whom she generally uses as her sex toy. Her job is cushy, has a friendly boss and she shares an apartment with two friends. All goes well until her firm is faced with a challenge to design a range for an international brand within ten days if they want the account. The designs she makes are instantly rejected by her senior. Her ambitious side surfaces as she lures her senior into spending a night in her bed; the next day her rejected designs are approved. Soon, while you were not looking, she is the big shot in the ultimate fashion house; the global one her firm was vying to win over. Meanwhile, Udita Goswami maintains a diary of her day-to-day activities on the insistence of her mother Rati Agnihotri.

Her mother maintains one too: don‘t know why since as a housewife she would not have much to write about except how much she paid the dhobi or for vegetables! On the 72nd day or so, she goes through her diary and realises she has hurt many people in her thirst for success and approaches each of them to apologise only to be shunned by them all. In revenge, she decides to remain as she is, using her bed as a ladder to rise in her career.

Since one sees no sense in making this film, there is no sense in anything else about it either.

Finding the minimum number of patrons to run a screening at cinemas will be a miracle for Dairy of a Butterfly!

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