Baby: Neeraj Pandey is the Raju Hirani of Bollwyood action thrillers! #Review

It’s been a while since I’ve felt compelled to write a review of a Bollywood film and to be honest, I didn’t think an Akshay Kumar film would be that film but here we are! The horribly named Baby, Neeraj Pandey’s third film, is the Indian action thriller that we didn’t know we needed, and if enough people watch it, I do hope it become exactly the blueprint of what an Indian action thriller *should* be.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Yes, the bar for a ‘Bollywood’ action thriller is so low that in retrospect, Ghajini seems like a classic, especially because it was the starting point for the downward spiral of the garbage dump that were the South remakes, from Bodyguard all the way to Action Jackson. Many of such crimes committed on the audiences in the name of cinema were inflicted by Akshay Kumar himself, so what Neeraj Pandey has pulled off in Baby, with Kumar at its helm, is nothing sort of an achievement!

To reiterate: Baby is an absolutely awesome surprise. I did not go into the theatre expecting to be as thrilled as I ended up being in the nearly three hours of its runtime, which really went by just as fast as the speed in which Akshay ran throughout this movie – because clearly, this time he was running for the cause that is his career. And if this is an attempt at redemption, Akshay can consider all his sins forgotten (including Rowdy Rathore, which I as *very* reluctant to forgive), because the man’s redeemed himself and how.

Baby is another film in the long line of films trying to decode the India-Pakistan issue through a cat-and-mouse game between Pakistani fundamentalists (or ISI) and the Indian ATS/IB/RAW/Whatnot. Where many others have failed in the past, Baby succeeds on the merit of a tight, gripping script that really gives you no time to think in between scenes. The film starts with action, ends with action – and baring a few awkward, cringe-worthy attempts at showcasing the ‘family’ angle of things – there is loads of action everywhere in between.

But the action here follows a plot that is just a little too smart for your average Bollywood action film, and just a little too Bollywood for your superior action thriller. Pakistani jihadists are planning a bigger attack than 26/11 and it is upto Akshay Kumar and his special ATS forces team (codename: Baby) to save the day, but everything done, acted and shown, leading upto the climactic saving of the day is done with great flair, structure and even logic(!). I’ve realised that in that way, Neeraj Pandey may just be the Raju Hirani of Bollywood action thrillers: his films manage to walk run across the fine line between ‘typical Bollywood’ and ‘good cinema’, and deliver some power packed punches in the simplest manner.

So while there are scenes where Danny Denzongpa (brilliant, as usual) spends a good chunk of time explaining the logic behind what is happening and what needs to, whenever there is the opportunity of a seeti/taali moment, Neeraj Pandey never shies away from that either. And there are *many* such moments, and when I heard the audiences maaroing either, for the first time in ages, I didn’t feel like throwing up… because they were surprisingly well deserved! Then, of course, there’s all the humour that Pandey brought to the proceedings in the most unpredictable of ways, and some moments *really* had you laughing hard (especially the ones with the rod and the slap – you’ll know which).

To be very honest, I always thought Neeraj Pandey was a gareebon ka Paul Greengrass, but he’s proved me wrong and how. It’s not that the film is super slick or jazzed up (it isn’t). Could Baby have looked more Agent Vinod and less A Wednesday? Yes. Does it matter? Absolutely not. Because while Pandey has ensured enough aerial shots, wide shots, and other camera tricks to give the film that grandness, what ultimately works for the film is how real it is: not for a second do you believe something like this is not being pulled off by our own soldiers already. And that’s really Pandey’s trump card. He makes make believe believable!

There’s just so much I loved about Baby – the action sequence where Taapsee Pannu kicks major ass, the level of detail wherein after an explosion, Akshay Kumar’s character sports a bruise on his face throughout the film, the fantastic acting by the supporting cast no matter how small or big a role they had, Anupam Kher the legend, and so much more – that the Argo-inspired climax is but a little bump in the bigger picture that is the movie.

So though I already may have, I don’t want to wayyy oversell Baby, but I *cannot* stress enough that this movie deserves to be watched, and in theaters. Watch it for Akshay, watch it for Pandey, or watch it because there is nothing else playing in Indian films that is remotely watchable, but do watch Baby. It is perhaps the most fun you’d have in watching an Indian a Bollywood action thriller.

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THE BEST OF 2014 TV – OVER 50+ SHOW RECOMMENDATIONS

I watched 119 international TV shows (at least 4 episodes of each show – and over 70 shows where I saw full seasons) this year .  Even by my ridiculous standards (I watch more stuff than I sleep, eat or take baths), I would say THAT IS A LOT. In spite of these numbers, I have  missed out on some super TV shows movies and that is my shame to bear. But among the ones I did watch, here are my recommendations for the BEST TV of 2014:

BEST NEW SHOWS (DRAMA)

1. Fargo (Crime thriller/drama) –  Because the best ensemble of the year (Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Alison Tolman, Colin Hanks, Key & Peele!) makes the best crime series of the year.
2. True Detective (Crime thriller/drama) – Because Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are movie stars on *any* screen (also, what gyaan!)
3. The Missing (Crime thriller/drama) – Because Brit drama (& thriller) writing in the hands of James Nesbitt is a national treasure.
4. Manhattan (Period/War drama)- Because this outstanding show about the men behind the atomic bomb will probably explode in a big way into mainstream pop culture soon too.
5. Happy Valley (Suspense thriller) – Because this Brit crime thriller can match any American thriller worth its salt and may even whoop their asses every once a while.
6. The Honourable Woman (Political/spy thriller) – Because this whooped House of Cards’ ass last year for the best political drama.
7. The Flash (Teen superhero) – Because sometimes a fun and lightning-paced drama can be just as awesome to watch as the slow-burning ones.
8. The Affair (Drama) – Because the he said-she said structure is the most interesting play out of an age old premise (also, RUTH WILSON I LOVE YOU).
9. The Assets (Crime/spy thriller) – Because this is The Americans (a cold war spy thriller) if made by Brits.
10. The Leftovers (Drama) – Because this strange, sad and brilliant series is like the spiritual, mature and grown up Lost if there was no plane crash.
11. The Divide (Legal drama) – Because this Innocence Project-inspired series is the best surprise of the year (also, Marin Ireland RULES).
12. The Knick (Period drama) – Because what Steven Soderbergh could bring to 1900s racially charged New York needs to be seen and relished.
13. Mozart in the Jungle (Dramedy) – Because Gael Garcia Bernal and Malcolm McDowell facing off in the backdrop of the symphony   orchestra world is a bunch of fun to watch (also Jason Schwartzmann writes!).
14. Transparent (Dramedy) – Because Jeffrey Tambor.
15. Penny Dreadful (Horror) – Because THIS is how you do horror, American Horror Story.
16. Outlander (Period Drama) – Because a period romance set against the backdrop of a revolution is never going to go out of fashion.
17. Turn (Period/war drama) – Because a spy thriller against the backdrop of the civil war is just the right kind of awesome.
18. The Red Road (Drama)- Because it stars Jason Mamoa and the brilliant Julianne Nicholson and is on SundanceTV, which has shown the mad awesome Rectify, Top of the Lake and The Honourable Woman.
19. Kingdom (Drama) – Because Nick Jonas playing a mixed martial arts fighter is the gritty fix you need when your favourite shows are away (also, Frank Grillo is awesome).
20.  Satisfaction (Drama comedy) – Because this is one of the most interesting takes on a mid-life crisis you’d see.

Note: I haven’t caught up on Oliver Kitteridge, Marco Polo, How to Get Away with Murder, Gotham, Grantchester, Detectorists, and Glue yet.


BEST NEW SHOWS (COMEDY)

1. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Because JOHN OLIVER!!!!!!!!!!
2. Silicon Valley – Because awkward nerds spewing R-rated curses is funny as f–k.
3. You’re The Worst – Because an antiromcom is just what was needed to give the genre a boost.
4. Deadbeat – Because an underrated Tyler Labine comedy is a thing to cherish.
5. Broad City – Because this is what Girls should’ve turned into before it went batshit crazy.
6. Survivors Remorse (Drama comedy) – Because Entourage set in the sports world is just as awesome to watch as it is to read.
7. Betas – Because before Silicon Valley came along, awkward nerds trying to launch a startup was executed to perfection here.
8.  Black-ish – Because a comedy that work its black-ishness on its sleeve is exactly the kind of fresh we need.
9. Married – Because Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Jenny Slate and Brett Gelman is an FX comedy cast from heaven.
10. Mixology – Because this was the most candid, foul-mouthed comedy network television ever made (and hence scrapped).

Note: I haven’t caught up on Jane The Virgin, Selfie, A to Z, Please Like Me, Faking It, High Maintenance, Getting On, Looking, Doll and Em and Review yet.

 

BEST RETURNING SHOWS (COMEDY & DRAMA)

1. The Americans (spy thriller/drama) – Because it is the best damn drama on television at the moment.
2. How I Met Your Mother (comedy) – Because in the year of its farewell – and perhaps its best season ever – it deserved a LOT more love from awards and critics lists.
3. Game of Thrones (fantasy drama) – Because The Viper vs The Mountain and the trial by combat, goddamit!
4. The Good Wife (political/legal drama) – Because it is the best damn network show on television on any given day.
5. Sherlock (suspense drama) – Because Benedict Cumberbatch.
6. The Wrong Mans (action comedy) – Because it is the funniest TV series you aren’t watching, Brit or otherwise.
7. Rectify (drama) – Because it is the most brilliant, affecting and sadly underrated TV drama you don’t know about.
8. About a Boy (comedy) – Because it is the most refreshing, funny and sweet comedy on network TV at the moment.
9. Ray Donovan (crime thriller/drama) – Because in its second season, Ray Donovan truly came into its own as a badass TV show.
10. Homeland (political thriller) – Because it managed to overcome the awkwardly written first half of the season with an OUTSTANDING second half.
11. Vice (news docu) – Because it is a gonzo style news journalism and it KICKS SO MUCH ASS I CAN’T EVEN…
12. Suits (legal drama) – Because Harvey Specter and Mike Ross are the best partnership on television by a long mile.
13. The Walking Dead (thriller/drama) – Because how does it stay so consistently good when its premise is basically, ‘Kill zombies’.
14. Bates Motel (mystery drama) – Because this show balances the suspense, the creepy, the atmospheric and the dramatic brilliantly.
15. New Girl (comedy) – Because there’s something endearing and awesome about the motley bunch of demented actors that form its cast.
16. House of Cards (political drama) – Because even with a season that had as many insane twists as it had people, Francis Underwood is a legend.
17. Elementary (mystery drama) – Because even with a shaky third season, this Sherlock Holmes interpretation remains one of the best done.
18. Veep (Comedy) – Because even when it falls short of being brilliant, it is still better than most comedies on TV.
19. Key and Peele (sketch comedy) – Because there’s always that one gag in every episode that will go down as a classic.
20. Boardwalk Empire (period crime drama) – Because though it may not have ended as strongly as it began, it was some of the BEST TV on TV.
and 20. (tied) The Newsroom (drama comedy) – Because it ended a pretty great first half with a messy second half, but it still remains a piece of art because AARON SORKIN wrote it.

Note: I haven’t caught up on the 2014 seasons of In The Flesh, Peaky Blinders, Person of Interest, Masters of Sex, Scandal, Mad Men, Justified, Parks and Recreations, Shameless, Brooklyn Nine Nine, The Comeback, Louie, Utopia, Banshee, Da Vinci’s Demons, Line of Duty, Rev, The Mindy Project, Orange is the New Black, Arrow, Hannibal and Vikings yet.


In case you are looking for *even* more recommendations, I had reviewed 50 summer TV shows in August. Here’s the list – https://tanejamainhoon.com/2014/09/01/summertv2014/

Next post: The Best of 2014 Indies – Over 50+ Indie movies reviewed!

What are your favourite TV shows of the year? Agree/disagree with  this list? Any shows I missed out on? Do leave your favourites in the comments below 🙂
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