Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Release date:
February 23, 2018
Najeem Koya

Shebin Benson, Joju George, Baburaj, Shammi Thilakan, Aiswarya Suresh

Kaly is a film with a split personality. The first half lolls about for too long establishing the six male leads, best buddies from a lower middle class background in a Kerala city, who shoplift and indulge in other petty criminal activities to sustain their obsession with branded clothing and shoes. The second half is devoted to a plan that goes completely awry with far-reaching consequences for them and a group of absolute strangers.

The former is just another clichéd storyline with clichéd characters featured so frequently in commercial Malayalam cinema. We have seen them even recently in films ranging from completely low-brow fare like Chunkzz to the more tolerable Velipadinte Pusthakam, these directionless Malayali youth (students or unemployed adults) hanging around doing nothing beyond drinking together, eating together, picking fights with each other or others, behaving as if sightings of women are rarer than visitations by Haley’s Comet, stalking women and having conversations steeped in sexism, parochialism and colour prejudice.

It does not help that in Kaly these roles are played by an ineffectual lot of male artistes, while an equally ineffectual Aiswarya Suresh contributes the token attractive female presence. 

The rest of Kaly is the part with potential, when a crime is committed, irresponsible behaviour has a ripple effect on everyone around and the effort to cover up one wrong leads to another and another then another, until you wonder how the persons mired in that situation could possibly extricate themselves from their self-created mess.

What the writer of Kaly needed to do was dispense with the first half almost entirely and invest just a little more thought in the writing of the second to chop out its predictable portions and the trivialisation of the leads’ earlier actions. It could then have been a taut thriller on how casual crime can have disastrous consequences and the differing police reactions to crime based on the financial status of the victims and perpetrators. Its flaws notwithstanding, it remains the tighter, better-written, better-acted part of Kaly.

The film takes too much time to get here. Once it does, it takes a while as a viewer to settle into the complete alteration in tone. That said, there is some fun to be had guessing where everyone’s misdeeds will ultimately lead them.

From the moment of arrival of the unscrupulous, conniving senior policeman played by Joju George, Kaly lifts off to another level. The impact of this corrupt cop is the combined effect of the interesting characterisation and George’s chameleon-like transformation from role to role. His portrayal of amorality here is in sharp – and intriguing – contrast to the stiff-necked, eccentric school principal he played just a few months back in the Manju Warrier-starrer Udaharanam Sujatha.

It is as if a completely new team is handling Kaly post-interval, or the existing team had a proper night’s rest and then proceeded to roll out the second half. Here is an idea, dear director Najeem Koya: how about catching up on your sleep before, instead of after, starting work on a film? Kaly is a half-baked affair that looks and feels as if there is a good film lost somewhere inside it.

Rating (out of five stars): *

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
162 minutes

This review was also published on Firstpost:

Friday, February 23, 2018


Release date:
February 23, 2018
Luv Ranjan

Kartik Aaryan, Nushrat Bharucha, Sunny Singh, Ishita Raj

Sonu and Titu have been buddies since nursery and almost brothers. The motherless Sonu even addresses Titu’s mother as “Mummy”.

Titu is the pretty and gullible one, an innocent darling who keeps falling for manipulative, controlling women. Street-smart, worldly-wise Sonu sees these women for the witches that they are and has been saving Titu from them for years.

Enter: Sweety Sharma as sweet Titu’s potential biwi. Sonu is immediately suspicious of her, as he is of any new woman in his Titu’s life, and as he probably will be of any man too, you realise as the film rolls on. But Sweety comes up trumps in every test Sonu throws at her until his opposition to his best friend’s wedding becomes: she is too good to be true, so she must be faking her goodness.

Is Sonu right in doubting Sweety? Or will Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety prove that in a world filled with godawful, devious women and their male victims, there are some decent women after all?

If you have watched writer-director Luv Ranjan’s earlier works, the answers to these questions are so obvious that you may as well fast forward to the final scenes. Ranjan’s calling card so far remains the sleeper hit Pyaar Ka Punchnama (2011), which was about three hapless, innocent young men embroiled in abusive relationships each with an all-out evil, calculating she-devil. He briefly flirted with sensitivity in Akaash Vani (2013), a film on marital rape, but returned with a second woman-hate-fest in the form of Pyaar Ka Punchnama (PKP) 2 in 2015, a near carbon copy of the first with a marginally different cast.

Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety recycles the cast, clichés and convictions of both the PKP films.

Kartik Aaryan and Nushrat Bharucha who play Sonu and Sweety here, have been fixtures in all Ranjan’s films so far. Bharucha still looks like she might have the potential to do something different, but Aaryan, who showed some spark in the first PKP, is tiresome and hammy now.

Sunny Singh, who was in PKP2, delivers an off-the-mark performance here as a duh-ish Titu, although the director’s intent seems to be to portray him as naïve and golden-hearted, not dumb.

Sonnalli Seygall and Ishita Raj played horrid girlfriends in the two PKPs. Seygall has a few seconds long cameo here as one of Sonu’s female human playthings, while Raj has a longer role as – wait for it, c’moooonnnn, try guessing – a horrid girlfriend. Raj is the only breath of fresh air of the lot.

The opening scene of Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety features Sonu lecturing a man with a monologue of a length that is designed to remind us of the extended monologues assigned to Kartik Aaryan’s characters in PKP 1&2. Thankfully this one is much shorter, but it serves as a teaser to the formulaic story that follows. The inside joke is also amusingly self-important considering that while this actor and director have enjoyed some success, they have yet to enter the mainstream consciousness.

From that opener, the film cuts to Titu weeping over a girlfriend who has accused him of invading her privacy because he accessed her Tinder account. Sonu goes into a detailed description of the scheming harridan that she is. We are only minutes into the film, and already a cloying repetitiveness has set in.

Cut to the opening credits accompanied by a song called Bom diggy diggy, during which Sonu and Titu drum the bums of dozens of women who shake those butts in vibratory movements aimed at the camera, each other and the boys.

What comes next is from the same old mould, just much louder, more garish and even more open about its contempt for women than Ranjan’s earlier films.

When Titu asks his parents to find him a bride, Sonu asks why he needs to marry when he could just change his cook, they have already bought a new washing machine and dishwasher, and alternative arrangements could well be made for sex. I guess you have to grant it to Ranjan for frankly acknowledging what most Indians do not: that these motivations are indeed what prompt many men to marry.

The lack of pretence continues all the way up to the song playing along with the end credits, when Sonu, Titu and Sweety dance together to the Yo Yo Honey Singh track Chhote chhote peg. “Itne der se baitha bas mind main tera padd ra hoon (all this while I have been reading your mind),” a male voice sings as Sonu stares pointedly and reductively at Sweety’s almost bare breasts, because hey, that is where a woman’s mind resides, I guess?

While the director makes no bones about his desire to cash in on the deep-seated resentment towards women among a section of the film-viewing audience, I doubt whether the homosexual undertones of the Sonu-Titu bhaichaara were planned. Sonu’s lurving gaze could be read either way, but what else is one to make of the song Tera yaar hoon main playing as a moony Sonu watches Titu with Sweety?

Tu jo roottha,

Toh kaun hasega.

Tu jo chhoota,

Toh kaun rahega.

Tu chup hai toh,

Yeh darr lagta hai.

Apna mujhko,

Ab kaun kahega.

Tu hi wajah tere bina,

Bewajah bekaar hoon main.

Tera yaar hoon main.

Tera yaar hoon main.

If you are displeased,

Who will laugh?

If I lose you,

Who will I have?

When you fall silent, I get afraid,

Now who will call me his?

You are my reason,

Without you I am nothing.

I am your friend.

I am your friend.

Commercial Hindi cinema sorely needs a homosexual romance, but not an unwitting one. The impression of a gaymance in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety comes not from a well-meaning director’s deliberate intent. It is a product of poor acting and writing.

It is possible that Ranjan may make a better film some day, once he recovers from his raging hatred towards women and realises that in giving vent to that feeling, he is also repeatedly portraying men as manipulable fools and cowards. The unfortunate part of Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety is that in small patches – especially in a scene in which Ishita Raj’s character Pihu is re-acquainted with Titu’s family – it shows a penchant for humour and good timing. Mostly though, this is a tacky, trite recycling of a recipe that has brought box-office success twice to this director. Why bother writing an original script when a photocopy machine is at hand?

Rating (out of five stars): 1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
140 minutes 23 seconds

This review was also published on Firstpost: