JAI HO

When his bracelet enters the frame before his face, you know it is going to be yet another Salman Khan bash. More of an advertisement for his NGO, this one is a potpourri of borrowed ideas, which talks about the power of the common man but underestimates his common sense in the process. Not just the title, the basic premise of helping three people in need, leading to an altruistic chain reaction, thereby making society better is lifted from Chiranjeevi’s Telugu hit Stalin .

No doubt the idea retains potency, but the way the noble idea is shoved down the throat with a sledgehammer, you choke for a whiff of fresh treatment. From disability and organ donation to alcohol addiction, director Sohail Khan employs every trick to stir melodrama, but for the most part one doesn’t feel any emotional rush. It could well have been Salman’s Munnabhai moment. However, the episodic and shallow treatment of the points that the script raises mutes the punch.

The humour is stale, the action sequences fall short of expectations and the music fails to salvage the situation. Sohail takes Dilip Shukla’s lines a little too literally. So, when he writes a common man can become a tiger, Sohail makes Salman bite off his opposition.

Like in a public service advertisement, Salman’s friends have turn up in thankless cameos and make way for the centre of attraction the moment he makes an entry into the scene. Here again, Sohail fails to bring a degree of cohesion.

As Jai’s sister, Tabu returns after a hiatus and looks jaded in a role that hardly tests her talent. Similarly, Nadira Babbar is wasted in a generic mother’s role. As for the romantic angle, Salman seems to believe that even shapely cardboard will do opposite him. Daisy Shah disappoints. She seems to believe that fluttering of eyes and simpering before the camera constitutes acting. It is not a film that will convert one into a Salman fan. Instead, it is going to test the patience of even the most hardcore loyalists.

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

An uplifting biopic of a man who rose from the hotbed of hatred to embrace peace and propagate pluralism, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom needs to be accessed for its sincerity and honest performances. Reverence for the modern-day apostle of harmony is palpable as edges have been gilded and conflicts airbrushed, but, on the whole, director Justin Chadwick has put together a humbling experience.

William Nicholson’s screenplay is drawn from Mandela’s autobiography and, perhaps, that’s why we get to see the events from Nelson Mandela’s (Idris Elba) point of view. Mandela was a man of many parts and it is difficult to paint a comprehensive portrait of him, but Chadwick is ambitious. So, he starts from the time when Mandela left the countryside for a career as a lawyer in Johannesburg. He argues for the underprivileged but is no saint when it comes to women. A charmer, he finally finds his match in Winnie Madikazela (Naomie Harris). The two bond in more ways than one and together they take on an unjust government. Chadwick hurries through from one event to another, reminding us how Mandela picks up the gun against the racist rulers. The atmosphere turns contemplative only when Mandela is jailed at Robben Island and gets time to reflect on his ideals. His meetings with his wife and daughter make you reach out for the handkerchief and small victories like the demand for long pants fill you with hope.

Mandela spends 27 years in jail and during this period Winnie keeps the movement alive on the streets and suffers at the iron hands of the system. So, when after years of suppression and segregation, Mandela talks of peace and forgiveness, her opposition seems justified. Apart from a small argument in jail, the contrarian view is mostly expressed through silence and suggestions, leaving you with much to read between the lines. His moral fibre to go against the popular opinion and say that a leader should have the guts to tell followers that they are wrong shines through. His opinion that you can’t beat them in battle but you can outshine them on the ballot rings a bell. Elba and Harris make the events look true. The local support cast adds to the authenticity. The production design is superlative and background music and make-up bring alive the times.

Chadwick’s silence on the controversies that hit Madiba’s regime makes it feel like an incomplete story at times.

To make the ANC appear as a one-man or one family show amounts to oversimplification of a complex anti-Apartheid movement, but that is for another day, for another director.