New Delhi: Having deferred its release date by two weeks to accommodate Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, Akshay Kumar-starrer Padman makes it to theatres this Friday, also finally providing audiences an alternative to the controversial period saga.

The R. Balki-directed comedy drama, also featuring Sonam Kapoor and Radhika Apte, is a well-intentioned film that derives strength from Kumar’s gutsy performance, says NDTV. It is by no means a bad film hiding behind the cloak of social relevance. The writing (by the director himself with additional inputs from Swanand Kirkire) is generally neat; and both the cinematography (P.C. Sreeram) and the editing (Chandan Arora) are first rate. But it’s still hard to ignore that even as it seems to be mindful of enforcing gender balance, Padman reinforces standard Bollywood notions of masculinity at some points.

Padman packs in a lot of meat within two-and-a-half hours but most of it is the concentrated second half whereas the first one stands diluted, says Firstpost. Balki’s direction elevates the film almost as much as Kumar’s charged portrayal. It is certainly one of the best in his career so far. An extra hoot to Padman for being the first mainstream film to dare address what has long been stuck between the legs. A small film (Phullu) did try to make its presence felt last year, but Padman has proved to be not only a bigger but a better film.

For Hollywood fans, American biographical thriller The 15:17 to Paris, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, comes to India this week. Variety magazine calls the film a fluky experiment of a true-life thriller that sounds, at least on paper, like a metabolic piece of Eastwood red meat. If you go into The 15:17 to Paris with no idea that you’re watching three young men play themselves, re-enacting the moment of their own valour, you’ll see a docudrama that looks convincing enough, with three performers who sort of resemble movie stars but who all seem a bit unsure in their roles. Eastwood would have been wise to let them improvise—to draw on their personalities more, revealing things a conventional movie wouldn’t. Instead, they’re playing cut-and-dried versions of their own selves.

The Hollywood Reporter says the director’s risky decision to cast the three actual guys who pulled off the heroic act stands as the most novel and interesting aspect of the movie, which unfortunately is mostly comprised of banal, drama-free, quotidian scenes that merely reinforce the men’s status as regular Joes who, one day, had the opportunity for greatness thrust upon them. Virtually every sequence exists only to convey simple exposition; there are no internal dynamics, complexities, nuances, character revelations, left-field humour or, above all, dramatic conflicts within scenes. The storytelling consists of individual building blocks methodically placed, one at a time, next to or on top of others, on the road leading to the ultimate destination of the train, which is alluded to in several quick foreshadowing cuts to the heavily armed terrorist commencing his aggression.

In the south, Tamil drama Savarakathi, directed by G. R. Adithya and starring Ram, Mysskin and Poorna in the lead, is a poignant dark comedy, says Sify. The film’s writer Mysskin has rightly blended humour, emotion and value of humanity to keep audiences engrossed and also conveys a touching message without being preachy.

Marathi film Aapla Manus, starring Nana Patekar, Iravati Harshe and Sumeet Raghavan and directed by Satish Rajwade, neither wastes any time on preliminaries, nor provides unnecessary diversions like songs, says Pune Mirror. It sticks to the bare bones of the plot, and lets it develop logically. When the film has certain amount of repetitions, the challenge for the director is to keep things interesting for the audience. Rajwade is up to this challenge, and keeps the audience involved. The responsibility is shared by the script, which keeps us guessing throughout.

Several releases this week haven’t inspired any reviews yet. These include Tamil films Kalakalappu 2 and Sollividava, Telugu action drama Gayatri, Kannada romantic drama Naanu L/O Jaanu and Malayalam films Rosapoo and Aami.

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