Dhoom 3 | Movie Review

Dhoom-3

In every interview, Aamir has been going on and on about how he chose to do Dhoom 3 because of its amazing script. I’m sad to report that Aamir (whom I happen to like the most among today’s actors) seemed to have lost it. He probably should have done Mela 2 instead of Dhoom 3 for probably that would have been better. Co-written and directed by Tashan director Vijay Krishna Acharya, the film borrows its storyline from one of my favorite Hollywood film, one directed by Mr. Nolan, whose work Aamir has already enacted in the past. Instead of coming up with something innovative, or even copying it directly, Acharya decides to add a lot of masala, crazy, unbelievable and mostly dumb chases and stunts ala Rohit Shetty to bore us. Add to that a pathetically slow screenplay which adds to our misery. I can’t even write of all the dumb episodes for I will then have to write the entire script. Unimaginative and crappy is all I can say.

Abhishek proves with this film that he is no better than Uday Chopra (seriously). He has the same pathetic expression throughout the movie. Uday on the other hand, if not acting, made people laugh more than a couple of times at least (intentionally and unintentionally). Katrina sizzles, but barring the songs, has screen presence of less than 10 minutes. The entire bhoj therefore is on Aamir’s shoulders, and thankfully, he is the only saving grace of the film. But somewhere down the line, he seemed to have realized what he landed himself in to for he didn’t seem at his usual best. He reminded me of SRK on a couple of occasions while playing the “secret” role.

There is nothing great on the technical front either. Music by Pritam is mediocre, but the background score by Julius Packiam was decent. The tap dance was a bore with the taps not in sync more than once. Editing by Ritesh Soni could have been better: he could/should have deleted the entire intro sequence of AB and Uday, and the movie could have gained a couple more ratings. Cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee is pretty good, but the graphic work was terrible.

Is it worth your time and money??: Unless you like no brainer films, I’d say stay away. This holds true especially for Aamir Khan fans like me. On the other hand, if you wanna laugh your asses off watching some seriously funny and impossible action sequences apart from the super hot Katrina, go for it.

Acting: 6.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 3/10
Technical Aspects: 5/10

Verdict: 5.5/10 (only because of Aamir)

PS: Have you ever wondered how Aamir enters the bank?? 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | Movie Review

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Now that you’ve started with the series watching the first one, you can’t miss out on the middle pages of the book can you? But honestly, after watching the trailers, I thought the movie would be a huge disappointment, and I was not really excited about it. However, I ended up liking it better than The Unexpected Journeyfor the second installment of the trilogy has more meat and substance, where the plot unravels slowly yet steadily, and everything seems to start to make sense finally. Peter Jackson does a commendable job with the direction, and an interesting screenplay gets you engrossed in the film.

On the acting front, kudos to Ian McKellin for putting up such a consistent performance in the series. He’s brilliant. I was starting to wonder what all and how much Gandalf had to survive through the books. Uff! The rest of the cast, but for the only female character were good. Though she looked beautiful, I though Evangeline Lilly looked odd and did not exactly fit into the role.

On technical front, the editing is much better than its predecessor. Cinematography is brilliant, and the 3D effects are alright. The graphics looked a little artificial at times though, and the music too seemed too melodramatic and not as great as the LOR score.

Is it worth your time and money??: Yes, it’s a decent watch.

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 8.5/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10

Verdict: 8.5/10

Travelogue | Experience of a Lifetime!

I’ve been wanting to add some spice to my life for a long time and I needed some adventure in my boring routine life. That’s when I came across a post on CouchSurfing, about a motorcycle trip to Ladakh. This caught my attention, but the price turned out to be a little steep for my pockets – 28k for the 15-day trip + additional 25-30k for bike, petrol and other expenses. But I got caught up in the idea, and I had made up my mind that I wanted to visit Ladakh at any cost.

After a little thought, I decided why not plan a trip on the same route as the motorcycle ride all by myself. So, using their itinerary, I planned a hitch-hiking trip – Hyderabad – Delhi – Chandigarh – Shimla – Dharamsala – Manali – Leh and back. But then I did a little more research, added more locations, took routes to avoid altitude sickness, and finally came up with the following. My planned itinerary can be found here.

Hyderabad – Delhi – Amritsar – Jammu – Srinagar – Kargil – Leh – Keylong – Manali – Dharamshala – Shimla – Kalka – Delhi – Hyderabad – a total of 6000+ kilometres!!

I decided to take a train till Jammu, and hitchhike thereafter. I planned the trip initially for about 20 days, but later increased it to 24. Even with 24, I wasn’t able to do justice to places like Dharamshala and Shimla, and the plan of hitchhiking had to be dropped. I still planned to keep the budget to a maximum of 20k.

My parents suggested I take someone along to keep me company. The thought was tempting for more than anything, it would help keep my budget down; but the fact that I would have to depend on someone else throughout the trip made me reluctant. However, I hesitatingly asked a couple of my friends and cousins if they’d like to join me. Thankfully (evil grin), no one could make it!!

I booked a train directly from Hyderabad to Jammu on three different trains, with halts at Delhi and Amritsar. Since I booked all 3 trains together, it cost me 1500 bucks, saving 500. I also booked my return trip, and the toy train from Simla to Kalka.

Tip: When on long journeys, book trains from starting location to final location. As long as the distance between the first two points is 500 kms, you can break your journey as many times as possible. This gets you a better deal on ticket prices. You will have to go to the booking counter to avail this option.

Apart from the train reservations, I made no further plans. I decided to drop in at every place and take it further from there. I started from Hyderabad on 23 August and returned on 15 September.

I packed my backpack with a sleeping bag, a shawl, three sweaters, a sweat-shirt, rain coat, gloves, couple of jeans, one shorts, one kurta, two shirts, five t-shirts, and undergarments. Trust me when I say I was over-packed (I’ve learnt my lesson!!).

Tip: When on such long trips, pack as less as possible. The lighter your bag is, the better it is. A friend on the trip suggested a best way to do this: pack your bag two days before the journey, unpack it the next day and repack, this time only with the things you need.

Here, I shall try to give you a detailed day-to-day travelogue of my 24-day trip.

Day 1: Hyderabad – Delhi

Day 2: Delhi – Amritsar

Day 3: Amritsar

Day 4: Amritsar – Jammu – Srinagar

Day 5: Srinagar 

Day 6: Srinagar (Gulmarg) 

Day 7: Srinagar – Kargil

Day 8: Kargil – Leh

Day 9: Leh (Monasteries)

Day 10: Leh (Magnetic Hill)

Day 11: Leh (Pangong Tso)

Day 12: Leh (Khardung La) 

Day 13: Leh

Day 14: Leh (Rafting)

Day 15: Leh – Keylong

Day 16: Keylong – Manali

Day 17: Manali

Day 18: Manali (Paragliding)

Day 19: Dharamshala (McLeodGanj

Day 20: Shimla – Kalka – Delhi

On the whole it turned out to be a great trip and the best experience of my life thus far!! Once back, I so missed the journey that I felt weird sleeping in my bed. The trip did burn a big hole in my pocket (it cost me Rs. 30995/-), but was totally worth it!!

Places to stay in Leh:
Hotel Lung-Se-Jung,
Fort Road, Adj. Rafica Guest House, Leh
Rent’s start from Rs. 400/- per day (If they quote higher, bargain!!)
Ask for Room No. 105 for it comes with a TV (This is the room I stayed in).

Indus Guest House,
Malpak, Leh
Rent’s start from Rs. 400 and go upto 1200 per day.
Very neat place, has free Wi-fi!! I’d recommend making a prior reservation.

Oriental Guest House,
Fort Road, Leh
Rent’s start from Rs. 300, but with shared bathroom.
Quite a few people recommended this place.

McDonald’s | Restaurant Review

Place: McDonald’s 
Location: S D Road
Cuisine: Fast Food
Meal: Dinner (with cousins)

First off, let me make it very clear that I love McDonald’s, or at least used to until my visit to the store on S D Road. Wanting to have some fries and ice-cream, we decided to drop in at McD on a Sunday evening. I ordered for a medium McAloo Tikki meal, asking for Coke Float instead of the Coke, Peri-Peri mix, a McFlurry ice-cream and a portion of the Crispy Veggie Poppers. The bill came up to Rs. 195/-, and I paid using my credit card.

While I was waiting for my order to arrive, I started to calculate why the bill turned up to Rs.195/-. I checked the bill, and was charged as follows.

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In a nutshell, I was charged Rs. 102/- for the medium McAloo Tikki meal, Rs. 13/- for the Peri Peri mix, Rs. 25/- for the Poppers, and Rs. 22/- for the McSwirl, which comes upto a total of Rs. 162/-. I was surprised to see that I was charged Rs. 33/- as taxes. I don’t remember McD ever charging taxes on their food, for they were always inclusive, but having stayed away from India for a while, I thought it must be some new regulation, and was actually fine with it.

Then I look up at the display menus behind the counter, and see their new double burgers. This is what I saw.

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If you observe closely, you will find the price for the Double McAloo Tikki medium meal as Rs. 100/-. I was startled by this. Being charged Rs.102/- for a single burger when the double burger was priced at Rs. 100/-, I immediately asked the guy at the counter about the same, and he informed me that the 102/- was including the taxes, which wasn’t the case. When I demanded for a better answer, he called upon a bunch of guys, all of them arguing that Rs. 102/- was the right price. I wasn’t planning to budge and therefore stood my ground.

They took my bill in, discussed a bit, and a while later, a new guy calling himself the manager (though he didn’t look like one) walks up to me and says that they have a new menu and the prices haven’t been updated yet on the display menu. When I asked how that was possible, he didn’t have an answer. I demanded to know the price of the McAloo Tikki meal. They actually didn’t know the price, and were punching it into the machine to tell me how much it costs. This time around, they came up with an even better number of Rs. 126/-. I was shocked to see this attitude from one of the best service restaurants in the world.

The manager, Sai Kiran, asked me to take a seat and enjoy my meal while he sorted things out and got back to me. My cousins and myself walked up to the first floor to sit and eat. Ten minutes later, he walks up and says that there has been some error, and wanted my phone number and email so that they could get back to me later. When I demanded an answer right then, he went back again and came back after another ten minutes. He said that the menu which was displayed was the lunch menu, and therefore had different prices. The display menu didn’t mention anything about lunch, and so I asked him for better explanation. He requested that I come down with him which I did.

While he was trying to argue with me and convince me that what was billed was the right price, I asked him to give me prices of the items in the meal individually. The McAloo Tikki cost Rs. 25/- (which was on the display), medium fries and Coke costed Rs. 42/- and Rs. 51/- (prices they had quoted) respectively. This total comes up to Rs. 118/-. A McChicken meal, with a burger priced at Rs. 75/- costs Rs. 122/- (can be seen in the left corner of the picture) instead of Rs. 168/-, a discount of Rs. 46/-. The Masala Grill Veg., which costs Rs. 39/- had a meal priced at Rs. 92/-, a discount of Rs. 40/-.The McAloo Tikki had a discount of Rs. 16/-. When I asked how this was logically possible, neither of the guys trying to argue with me had an answer.

While all of this was happening, they showed me the display again and again and tried to argue that the Rs. 100/- displayed for the Double McAloo Tikki was the lunch menu, rolled it over to show a new dinner menu, where in there was no McAloo Tikki meal. Both the menus, before and after the roll, looked exactly the same, and none of them had any mention of Lunch menu on it. This argument went on for a while, where in the bunch of guys including the manager would agree on the mistake that there was no mention of lunch on either of them, but had no answer. They said the marketing guys were responsible for the prices and display menus.

Another customer who overheard my argument joined in and pointed out on how the prices for the same item were different before and after the roll over; The Double McVeggie meal was priced at Rs. 139/- (as seen in the picture) on one side, and at Rs. 131/- on the other (I wanted to click a picture, but the manager didn’t let me). The manager told the customer that the rollover was the lunch menu, satisfied him and sent him away. Something I realized however was that the menu which showed Rs. 139/- was the claimed lunch menu, with the Rs. 100/- Double McAloo Tikki (picture), while the other menu, the supposed dinner menu had the Double McVeggie priced at Rs. 131/-. So the dinner was actually cheaper than the lunch. In either case, there was an error. When I asked the manager about the same, he was clueless. When I asked him for the printed menu with prices, he refused to show it to me. The fact that the same item had two prices on their menu came as a real shocker.

Having just completed my Global MBA, and having done more than a couple of cases on the efficiency and high service standards of McDonald’s, I was absolutely stunned at what I was discovering. It looked like they had no fixed price for any item, and were charging whatever they seemed right, and we as customers were paying it without questioning. If it were just a one-off where in I was charged wrong and was refunded, I would have shut up and left. However, it doesn’t seem like a one-off thing but something they do very often. Being given the bill after the cash has been paid, on most occasions, we have no clue on how much we are being charged for each item, and taking this as an advantage, McD seems to be, for lack of a better word, looting its customers.

Having been a fan of McD for as long as I can remember, I nevertheless hope that this was an honest mistake and they rectify it. In the case that it isn’t, McDonald’s will no longer be the place I’d be visiting for a long time. If you plan to, I’d suggest that you double-check your bill, for you never know how much the original prices of the items are.

As of now though, I’m no longer lovin’ it!

Update: I got a call this morning from the manager Sai Kiran. He apparently spoke to the head office about the prices and this is what he had to say – “Normal McAloo Tikki meal is Rs. 102/- and the Double McAloo Tikki meal is Rs. 105/-“. A difference of 3 bucks for an extra patty. When I asked him how the display said Rs. 100/-, he said the prices were printed wrong on the menu 🙂

Verdict: N/A

P.S.: I was told I would be getting a refund for they agreed there was an error, but was never offered one.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag | Movie Review

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Is it worth your time and money??:
Oh yes, this ain’t a film to be missed. After a disastrous Delhi-6 four years ago, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has a winner at his hand. Direction is perfect, and similar to Rang De Basanti, Rakeysh uses a non-linear narrative to unfold the story beautifully written by Prasoon Joshi. However, though the film starts off great and the first half is perfect, the film loses steam in the second half and feels like a drag thanks to slow screenplay.

On acting front, Farhan Akhtar, take a bow!! He seriously got into the skin of the character and did an awesome job as Milkha Singh. His performance, especially in the national record break race is brilliant. Forget director, Farhan is sure to win a best actor for his perfect portrayal. Pawan Malhotra and Yograj Singh were both brilliant in their respective roles, and Prakash Raj is good in his brief appearance. Divya Dutta does a commendable job as well. Sonam Kapoor has very limited screen presence (about 10 minutes), and was the only misfit. Rebecca Breeds is decent in her brief appearance.

Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy adds life to Farhan’s performance. The title track and ‘Zinda’ are both brilliantly composed. Cinematography by Binod Pradhan is of top-notch quality while editing by P. S. Bharathi could have been way better. The film, at more than 3 hours in length, is too long to narrate the story effectively. A number of episodes seemed out-of-place and could have made the cut. Placement of songs also derailed the narrative on a couple of occasions.

Overall, ignoring its flaws, the film is still excellent. Farhan comes up with an unforgettable performance. Go learn more about the flying Sikh now!!

Acting: 9.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7.5/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10

Verdict: 8/10

Man Of Steel | Movie Review

Man Of Steel

Is it worth your time and money??I’d say NO!! Man Of Steel, for me at least, was a big disappointment. I found Superman Returns way better than this one. Coming from the house of Christopher Nolan (Story and Producer), a lot was expected, but alas! Zach Snyder, taking a page from Nolan’s work, tried non-linear storytelling, which I think failed miserably. Though the direction was decent, it’s the screenplay which kills the film – it was one of the worst screenplays I’ve seen in recent times (David Goyer). Most scenes seemed out of sync, and the fights especially were so fast that I couldn’t figure out a thing! Add to this some terrible graphic work (I’m not sure if it was because of the digital conversion for IMAX, but most scenes were grainy and bad). It seemed more like a sci-fi movie (reminded me of War of the Worlds) than a Superman movie. Acting and music were the only saviours. Overall, a mediocre movie. If given a chance, I’d skip it, and instead maybe watch Spiderman or something!!

Acting: 7/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 
6/10
Technical Aspects: 
5/10

Verdict: 5.5/10

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani | Movie Review

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Directed by Ayan Mukerji, whose last venture was the impressive Wake Up Sid, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani has all the elements required to make a good film. However, Ayan falters way too often, both with the screenplay and direction, which make YJHD just an average film. The story has shades of Dil Chahta Hai, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and 3 Idiots, but it does not charm you like any of those. I thought the screenplay was mediocre.

But its the leading pair which make the YJHD stand out. Ranbir is brilliant as the vibrant Bunny, chasing his dreams, while Deepika is superb as bespectacled Naina. Ranbir looked at easy and charms you with his performance, and Deepika oozed out the oomph factor and looks amazingly hot. Aditya Roy Kapoor and Kalki Koechlin are superb in their respective roles. Kunal Roy Kapoor is excellent, while Farooq Sheikh is brilliant in a small yet vital role. My only problem was with Evelyn Sharma, for she was plain irritating. Madhuri Dixit sizzles in the item song (However, I don’t like the fact that she’s stooped down to doing item songs!).

On technical front, music by Pritam is a definite plus point. The foot tapping numbers are well choreographed. Background score was pretty decent too. Cinematography by Manikandan is of top notch quality while editing by Akiv Ali could have been better. The film was way too long. Though the film looked extravagant and production by Dharma was excellent, I thought the artwork and sets, especially during the item song and Manali episodes looked pathetic (They looked similar to ones in second grade movies). That apart, the extras in all the songs looked plain dumb and out of sorts, especially the ones jumping without sync and rhythm in the far background.

Overall, a decent one time watch. Deepika and Ranbir sizzle up the screen, while the rest of the cast does a good job. On the downside, a shorter film with better screenplay would have been more effective.

Is it worth your time and money??: If fun is what you’re looking for, and have the patience to sit through a long movie, then Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is for you.

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7.5/10
Technical Aspects: 7/10

Verdict: 8/10

Charley’s Grilled Subs (Dubai) | Restaurant Review

Place: Charley’s Grilled Subs (Now Charley’s Cheesesteaks
Location: First Floor, Dragon Mart, Dubai International City
Cuisine: Fast Food
Meal: Dinner (with a friend)

After a couple of days of roaming in Dubai International City, dropped in to Dragon Mart with a friend. We were hungry, so decided to eat something before we explored the mall. The first floor food court looked pretty new with most of the places, like Subway and Pizza Hut yet to open. We stopped by at Charley’s, for their menu looked quite good. I ordered a Philly Veggie meal, with fries with cheese and ranch, while my friend ordered a regular 6″ Philly Chicken Sub.

The sub was being made in the open kitchen, so I could see what was being done. Being a vegetarian, my concern was that they would use the same spatulas as they were using to cook meat on the common hotplate, but thankfully, they didn’t. But on the other hand, the vegetables were cooked on the same hot plate. The chef gave me the option to choose the veggies I wanted, and he didn’t hesitate on the quantity. With loads of onions, mushrooms, olives, jalapenos and cheese, my sandwich was served in white bread, along with the fries.

The sub was huge and very filling. The stuffing, with the sauces, tasted very good, but I thought the bread was a little stale for it was very soggy. The fries with cheese and ranch tasted yum. My friend liked her sub as well. Overall, the staff was friendly and courteous, and it was a good meal. But for the price, which I thought was a little on the high end, I would definitely recommend this place.

Food: 8/10
Service: 9/10
Meal for 1: AED 25/-

Verdict: 8.5/10

Indijoe | Restaurant Review

Place: Indijoe 
Location: City Center, Banjara Hills
Cuisine: Indian, Continental
Meal: Lunch

Indijoe used to be one of my favorite restaurants in town about 6 years ago, but for some reason, stopped visiting it after a point. On a weekday, I finally came back to this place for their buffet. At around 2:00 PM, the place was packed. There were a bunch of guys (waiters) standing at the door, but none of them were interested on my entry, so I had to look for myself and find a table. Things were exactly the same as I remember them from the last time I was here, most of them in indecorous condition. The seat cushion was a little ripped, and in general, the place felt gloomy.

The soup and starters were not being served at the table, so I went ahead and got some for myself. On the veg front, there was Vegetable Broth Soup and for starters, there were Crispy Fried Okra, Potato Chilly Garlic Fries, Banana Fritters, Veg. Tikkies, Cabbage Bhel and Nachos with Salsa sauce apart from the non-veg counterparts.

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The soup was plain, had no real flavor and was boring. Of the starters, except for the Potato Chilly Garlic fries and the Cabbage Bhel, nothing else was memorable. The Fries had good flavor to them, while I thought the Bhel was pretty creative. The Banana Fritters were a bit soggy and oily, while the Okra and Tikki were decent.

Next I tried the Baked Spinach with Corn and Mushroom, and Mixed Pepper Polenta. I took another serving of the Fries, Bhel and the Tikkis. They had a live counter serving Omelettes as well, but didn’t try them.

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The Polenta had dried up, so I more or less got only the dcheese. It tasted alright. The Baked Spinach and Mushroom was creamy and good. It could have done with a little more flavor though.

Indijoe Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi

On the Indian front, they had Kadai Paneer and Dal Makhni. I served myself some, got back to the table and asked for some Naan, Roti or whatever, and to my surprise they weren’t serving any. When I asked how come, I was told that it’s a Continental restaurant, and they don’t serve bread with Indian curries. I was asked to eat the curries with white rice or Fried rice. Weird I tell you. I instead went and got myself some white rice with Thai Green Curry, which was pretty decent. I tasted the Paneer and Dal by themselves, and thought they were good. If only they had roti!

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Next I got some Chinese food for myself – Noodles and Fried Rice with Vegetables in Hot Garlic Sauce. The Noodles tasted pretty good, while the Fried rice was so so.

Indijoe Restaurant Review by Sasikanth Paturi

On the dessert front, they had some good stuff – Orange Cheese Cake, Vanilla Pastry, Apricot Cake, Black Forest Pastry, Rice Kheer, and a Chocolate Fountain apart from Strawberry and Vanilla ice-cream. I loved the Cheese Cake and the Pastry, while the Vanilla Pastry was decent. The Apricot cake was not that great. I didn’t try the Kheer. Ice-cream with the Chocolate sauce tasted yum.

Overall, an average meal. The desserts were impressive, but everything else was just decent. Them not having bread for the Indian curries and reasoning that it was a Continental restaurant was the highlight of the entire meal. The service was mediocre; I wasn’t served with the complimentary soft drink until I half way through. Ambiance, as already mentioned, needs to be taken care off. The place was too loud as well. Give it a shot, but for the price you pay, there are many other places which serve a better buffet.

Food: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Ambiance: 6.5/10
Meal for 1: Rs. 382/-

Verdict: 7/10

Star Trek Into Darkness | Movie Review

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Is it worth your time and money??: Oh yes. I loved Star Trek Into Darkness. Though the script is a little more complicated than the first movie, J.J. Abrams did a decent job with it. The direction is pretty neat, and the screenplay is decent. Chris Pine does a very good as Kirk, while Zachary Quinto does a brilliant job as Spock. Benedict Cumberbatch is equally good as Khan. The rest of the cast did a good job. On technical front, the visuals are excellent. Most of the IMAX shots were graphic works, but good. The rendered 3D work was excellent, but shooting with 3D cameras would have made it even better. Nevertheless, I loved the effects. Music by Michael Giacchino is good, while cinematography by Daniel Mindel is perfect. Overall, a worthwhile film.

Acting: 8/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 8/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10
Verdict: 8/10