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Naveen Andrews terrorizes Aishwarya Rai in “Provoked.”

“Provoked”: Starring Aishwarya Rai, Naveen Andrews, Nandita Das, Robbie Coltrane, Miranda Richardson; directed by Jagmohan Mundhra; music by A. R. Rahman.

Director Jagmohan Mundra’s penchant for controversy carries forward in his latest film. Based on a true story of a landmark case in the U.K., Aishwarya Rai stars as Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a battered Indian housewife and mother. Her hopes of a happy future settling with her husband who lives in London are short-lived when she discovers he is an abusive alcoholic who continually assaults her. After having two children, the conditions have become intolerable and one day Kiranjit, in a fit of anger and defense, sets him on fire. She is charged with murder and sent to prison for life. Her cellmate, played by Miranda Richardson, happens to be a wealthy woman with connections who takes in interest in her plight. She asks her brother a respected counsel to file Kiranjit’s appeal. A group of South Asian social workers learn of her case and bring it to the media through rallies gathering support for her freedom. Eventually, she is freed by the judicial system, reunited with her children, and even honored by the prime minister’s wife for her crusade against domestic violence.

Bobby Deol and Celina Jaitley make music in “Shakalaka Boom Boom.”
“Shakalaka Boom Boom”: Starring Bobby Deol, Upen Patel, Celina Jaitley, Kangana Ranaut; directed by Suneel Darshan; music by Himesh Reshammiya.

Set in the world of the international music industry, this urban film tackles different shades of professional rivalry involving four main characters. Bobby Deol plays AJ, a musical icon but also a suave businessman who has achieved success in a foreign land and will do anything to maintain it. Upen Patel is Reggie, a talented young singer, with his eye on a similar success. Celina Jaitley plays Sheena, a glamorous PR professional, who spots Reggie in a small pub and sees his potential. She opens many doors for him but then finds herself blocking his further advancement. Another aspiring singer is Ruhi, played by Kangana Ranaut, who adores AJ for his knowledge and success, but loves Reggie for his simple charm. Ruhi is confident and adverse conditions don’t stop her from reaching for her goals. A struggle of ambition and desperation involving each character ensues. Extensively shot in Johannesburg, this popcorn entertainer promises chartbuster music by Himesh Reshammiya.

Tusshar Kapoor looks to impress Ayesha Takia in “Kya Love Story Hai.”
“Kya Love Story Hai”: Starring Tusshar Kapoor, Ayesha Takia, Karan Hukku; directed by Lovely Singh; music by Pritam.

This youthful love story stars Tusshar Kapoor as Arjun, a young man who has inherited a fortune and is now living a carefree life. Its love at first sight when he meets Kaajal played by Ayesha Takia, but Arjun is afraid to express his feelings. The two become acquaintances and he discovers what Kaajal wants in her ideal man, someone who creates his own destiny and is self made. Arjun mysteriously disappears from her life and in the meantime, a successful entrepreneur played by newcomer Karan Hukku enters. He seems to be everything she is looking for and even he feels he has found his soul mate played by newcomer Karan Hukku. They are engaged when Arjun reappears onto the scene hoping to now be the kind of man Kaajal deserves. Who will emerge the winner in this contest of hearts? What kind of love story will this be? Watch for Kareena Kapoor who makes a guest appearance in a special dance number.


When you think about watching a movie version of a treasured book, the anticipation is mixed. You hope it remains true to the story and includes all your favorite parts. If you read and loved Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake,” you won’t be disappointed with this film. Of course, every event in the book cannot be translated on screen and some cinematic license is taken, but “The Namesake,” directed by Mira Nair, magnificently captures the essence of the poignant novel.

The story covers three decades in the life of a family starting in the late 1970s Calcutta with the arranged marriage of a young girl, Ashima (Tabu) to Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan). Years before, Ashoke survived a fatal train wreck and is now studying for his Ph.D. in the United States. The newly wedded couple journey to New York to begin their life together. Soon, Ashima has a baby boy and is informed by the hospital staff they cannot leave without giving the child a name. They decide on Gogol, the name of Ashoke’s favorite Russian writer as a pet name and Nikhil as his proper name. Ashima overlooks feelings of loneliness for the promise of better opportunities for her son in their new homeland.

Years pass, they have a daughter and when Gogol/Nikhil begins school he tells his teachers to call him Gogol. This choice has significant consequences for the character as he struggles to find his identity. Those who have grown up in America will relate to many of the situations in the film, whether it’s large gatherings at home with Indian family friends or summer long trips to India as teenagers.

As a young adult Gogol, played by Kal Penn grows to resent his seemingly dumb name. Distanced from his family and now, known as Nick, Gogol has become a successful architect living in New York City with an American girlfriend. A tragic event leads him to question his identity yet again and eventually understand the significance of his name.

With the story of two generations dealing with two cultures as the backdrop, the film’s narrative, full of visual imagery, deals with many themes. City shots of New York and Calcutta are overlapped and strike a chord with anyone who has left one home to find another. A lot happens in the span of two hours but you truly feel you’ve come to understand and empathize with the main characters. Credit goes to director Nair for her rich yet intimate style aided by beautiful cinematography and a moving screenplay. Several scenes stay with you, long after you leave the theatre.

But what make the film truly satisfying are the performances. Bollywood veteran Tabu delivers a graceful yet powerful performance. Khan embodies the role of Ashoke so effortlessly that one can’t picture him playing any other character. And Penn was a surprise delight as he displayed his acting prowess in this layered dramatic role. Zuleikha Robinson gives credible support as the equally confused Bengali girl Gogol marries.

Even at the film’s conclusion, you wish to be a part of Gogol’s life for a while longer or learn how Ashima fares in the next stage of her life. I guess that would be a question for the author. And if you haven’t read the book I’m sure you’ll want to after watching the movie. I highly recommend “The Namesake” as a must-see when it opens in theatres March 23 in the Miami area and March 30 in Tampa.


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