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Samsung Galaxy M40 review: A worthy alternative to Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro

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Brand: Samsung

Product: Samsung Galaxy M40

Key specifications: 6.3-inch Full HD+ Infinity O display, Snapdragon 675 Pro, 3,500mAh battery, 6GB RAM, 32-megapixel, 5-megapixel and 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, Android Pie, 16-megapixel front camera, fingerprint sensor.

Price: Rs 19,990

Rating: 3.5/5

Samsung has continued to deliver near excellent phones under its Galaxy M series. From Galaxy M10 to Galaxy M30, Samsung has covered all major price points in the budget and mid-range segments. Its latest offering Samsung Galaxy M40 covers the upper tier of the mid-range segment. At Rs 19,990, it’s the most expensive Galaxy M smartphone thus far.

Samsung Galaxy M40 is more expensive than Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 7 Pro, which is priced at Rs 16,999 for the 6GB variant. For around Rs 20,000, there are barely any new smartphone, even the popular Poco F1 is now a generation old. Samsung has a big opportunity to tap this gap with Galaxy M40.

As explained in our Galaxy M40 first impressions, Samsung’s new phone bets big on design. With a glossy back panel, Galaxy M40 has more refined design than Galaxy M30 and older. It’s incredibly light compared to the likes of OnePlus 7 Pro. Samsung Galaxy M40 boasts of full HD+ display with punch-hole camera (Infinity O) and 91.8% screen-to-body ratio. The placement of punch-hole, which is on the top left corner, makes it convenient to watch movies in landscape mode. While any notch is a permanent distraction, Galaxy M40 is no exception. The display quality, however, is far superior to any of phones in this segment. It’s bright and vibrant. The Widevine L1 support brings HD experience from apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

While Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro offers 48-megapixel camera, Samsung steps up the camera game with a triple-camera setup of 32-megapixel, 5-megapixel and 8-megapixel wide-angle lens with 123-degrees field of view. The camera is generally good, especially in daylight conditions.

The Live Focus mode gives you adjustable depth mode. The bokeh shots are also quite impressive as they retain the sharpness of the subject. The wide-angle mode, however, still needs work. You will notice a fish-eye like effect in some of the images. This is something we’ve noticed in the older Samsung phones as well. The slo-mo and other camera modes are average if not better.

Galaxy M40 is the first phone to run on Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor – also the same chipset that powers the Redmi Note 7 Pro. The chipset helps the Samsung phone deliver a much smoother performance, especially when you’re in power usage mode. Graphic intensive games or apps run like a breeze. There’s a fair bit of battery of drain in power usage mode.

The phone is powered by 3,500mAh battery which is surprisingly smaller than the 5,000mAh battery on the Galaxy M20. The smaller battery does affect the phone’s backup overall. On power usage which includes longer sessions of gaming and video streaming Galaxy M40 may last less than a day.

Samsung Galaxy M40 doesn’t come with 3.5mm headphone jack. While the company bundles USB Type-C headphones, you may prefer newer headphones for better audio experience. Probably, you can invest in a connector to continue using your existing headphones.

Verdict

Samsung Galaxy M40 ticks all the boxes for a premium mid-range phone. From smooth performance, UI to an impressive camera, Galaxy M40 gets almost everything right. At Rs 19,990, it’s still more expensive than rest of Galaxy M phones and the competition. If you’re looking for a good looking phone that doesn’t compromise on performance, Galaxy M40 is worth considering. But if performance is the main criteria, Poco F1 with one-year-old Snapdragon 845 is still a good option. You can also consider Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro which is much cheaper than Galaxy M40.

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The Zoya Factor movie review: Sonam Kapoor-Dulquer Salmaan film offers feel-good vibes but little else

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The Zoya Factor
Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Dulquer Salmaan, Angad Bedi
Director: Abhishek Sharma

When luck is on your side, nothing can go wrong. But it is hard to say what will work as a ‘lucky charm’ for The Zoya Factor. An adaptation of Anuja Chauhan’s novel by the same name, The Zoya Factor, starring Sonam Kapoor and Dulquer Salmaan as lead characters, explores a world that is unreal yet director Abhishek Sharma makes it believable. Though the central premise of the film is thin, it’s the feel good factor that holds your attention. Since it’s a novel adapted for the big screen, you pretty much know what’s going to happen next, but Abhishek has adds quite a few elements that keep you hooked.

For instance, the script incorporates timely and hilarious puns about Ranveer Singh being head over heels in love with Deepika Padukone and the nepotism debate in Bollywood. The references to films such as Dhoom and Baahubali or Amitabh Bachchan’s game show Kaun Banega Crorepati crack you up.

The film starts with Zoya Solanki (Sonam Kapoor) being born on the day when India won the cricket World Cup in 1983 and is labelled a ‘gift from cricket gods’ by her father (Sanjay Kapoor). Though considered a lucky charm who can make teams win ‘tosses and matches’ merely by sharing a breakfast with them, Zoya’s personal and professional life is a sob story. She is caught between dating losers and having a deadbeat job as a junior copywriter in an ad agency.

This middle-class Rajput girl from an army household gets an opportunity of a lifetime to work with the Indian cricket team for a shoot. The starstruck Zoya meets the hunk of the team Nikhil Khoda (Dulquer Salmaan), who believes ‘luck has no role to play in success; it’s only an excuse to failure’ and immediate connection is forged.

Surprisingly, Sonam and Dulquer as a new onscreen pair have quite a sizzling chemistry.

Things change when Zoya gains currency as a lucky charm and the entire team starts counting on her to win the game. Even the the cricket board offers her a whopping amount to be the lucky mascot for the team. In a fix between dating the team’s captain and her dilemma to take or leave the offer, Zoya goes through a tsunami of emotions.

Dulquer Salmaan, son of legendary actor Mammootty and a heartthrob in Malayalam cinema, delivers a pitch-perfect performance, and is clearly the star of the film. He stands out in every possible way and you register his absence when he is missing on the screen. He’s the team’s skipper who doubles up as a chef and biker when not playing on the field.

For a high-on-cricket film, the director and writers have tried hard to make the stadium portions look convincing and they succeed in some places.

Sonam Kapoor is in her element as she plays Zoya, a character that’s clueless about what’s happening in the world and has a perpetual dumb expression. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that it’s a tailor-made role for Sonam where she’s not even required to act and she seamlessly fits into Zoya’s shoes. Between wearing stylish clothes and looking good onscreen, I seriously wonder when filmmakers would start writing intelligent characters for this Kapoor scion. She did prove her mettle with Neerja, so it’s not that acting isn’t in her genes. Guess it’ll take a few more movies to get there.

Surprisingly, Sonam and Dulquer as a new onscreen pair have quite a sizzling chemistry. However, their romance gets a hasty treatment, bracketed as ‘love at first sight’. At some points, the film reminds of you Sushant Singh Rajput’s MS Dhoni: The Untold Story for the way a cricket team’s captain is shown falling for a girl who hates the sport and is ready to walk that extra mile for her.

Brand integration is one thing that The Zoya Factor has in abundance.

Among the supporting cast, Angad Bedi as the bad guy of the team has a strong screen presence but gets a half-baked role with little for him to do. Sikander Kher as Zoya’s brother Zorawar delivers some clever comic punches. A 45-second cameo by Anil Kapoor doesn’t go unnoticed. The running cricket commentary by two men — specially the one doing it in Navjot Singh Sidhu’s style — keeps the laughs coming.

For a high-on-cricket film, the director and writers have tried hard to make the stadium portions look convincing and they succeed in some places. The players give glimpses of Indian cricketers like Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, and you instantly draw comparisons. The scenes where the entire crowd in the stadium is shown chanting slogans ‘Zo Zo Zoya’ looks a bit too much. Even the TV sports journalists have been made to look like funny caricatures as they report animatedly in high-pitched voices.

The Zoya Factor’s music isn’t forgettable but could have been better.

Brand integration is one thing that this film has in abundance. From Nerolac paints, Cadbury Dairy Milk to Orilite Cement and Pepsi, they get such frequent mentions in the film that Sonam might have had a FOMO for her fashion label and her husband’s shoe line couldn’t make it to this list.

The Zoya Factor’s music isn’t forgettable but could have been better. Lucky Charm at the beginning sets the bar so high that Shankar-Ehsan-Loy themselves would have struggled to keep the momentum going. Tracks like Kaash and Maheroo do register in your mind.

On the whole, the film doesn’t ask you to apply your brains. If you are a cricket fan and enjoy chick flicks, Sonam’s over-the-top act and Dulquer’s good looks will hold your attention. A good watch with your friends where the fun lasts only till the film does.

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Dream Girl movie review: Ayushmann Khurrana delivers yet another gem

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Dream Girl
Director – Raaj Shaandilyaa
Cast – Ayushmann Khurrana, Nushrat Bharucha, Annu Kapoor

Whoever said you don’t need to take your brain with you while going to watch a comedy film, think again. Dream Girl is a far cry from run-of-the-mill comedies that try hard to tickle your funny bone but in vain. Directed by Raaj Shaandilyaa with actors Ayushmann Khurrana and Nushrat Bharucha in the lead, Dream Girl hits the bull’s eye being the laugh riot it was touted to be. Without trying to enter the league of ‘superhits’ or ‘blockbusters’, Shaandilyaa has put all he could into his directorial debut. A quirky and crazy comedy, Dream Girl makes you laugh endlessly, thankfully on genuinely hilarious jokes, and nothing lame or yawn-worthy.

The story starts with Karamveer Singh (Ayushmann Khurrana) as a child, unwillingly agreeing to play the role of Sita in his town’s Ramlila, and continues to do this even during his mid-20s. Popularly known as ‘Ramlila ki Sita’ and ‘Krishanlila ki Radha’, a jobless Karam lands a job at a shady adult hotline where women sweet-talk with lonely men. No prize for guessing it’s a night-shift job that pays handsomely. Used to impersonating a woman’s voice without any hesitance, Ayushmann turns Pooja and makes it look like a cake walk, instilling a sense of tough competition among other sari-clad middle-aged ladies working there.

And his regular callers — as an old man in the film says — covers a variety of characters. There’s a middle-aged drunk cop (Vijay Raaz) dying to unleash his inner poet, a young chap (Raj Bhansali) with a heavy Haryanavi accent and testosterone level rising by the second, a dejected-in-love man-hating journalist (Nidhi Bisht), his fiancee’s brother (Abhishek Banerjee) and the fifth one who is a game-changer — his own father (Annu Kapoor). Insane how these five characters fall head over heels in love with Pooja and want to marry her, Ayushmann at one point compares his plight with that of Draupadi in Mahabharata, and how it would have unfolded in the times of MeToo.

The very fact that the film stars Bollywood’s self-professed ‘poster boy for taboo subjects’, the most bankable star in recent times, and also the National-Award winning actor, was enough to put all the pressure on Ayushmann’s shoulders. And the actor deserves a pat on the back for effortlessly pulling off this tough act proving once again why he continues to scale heights. Each time he talks in the voice of Pooja, you actually pinch yourself to believe it’s really him! Dream Girl gives Ayushmann ample space and scope to perform. It’s him who leads the narrative and weaves the whole plot bit by bit. The ease with which he switches on and off from his character, he, once again, has hit the ball out of the park. You think Ayushmann should consider keeping ‘quirky’ as his middle name?

With Dream Girl, Ayushmann Khurrana deserves a pat on the back for effortlessly pulling off this tough act.

Finally shunning the ‘Punchnama girl’ tag or the vicious Sweety she played last in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Nushrat Bharucha has convincingly stepped into the shoes of this demure yet modern girl, Mahi. Though her character gets a fair amount of screen time, including two songs, the way Karam and Mahi’s love story flourishes is a bit of a drag. Which girl accepts roses from a guy who she just called a stalker, and soon after, she is engaged to him. Living life in the fast lane or what?

The supporting cast consists of quite a stellar line-up. Annu Kapoor never fails to entertain, amuse and win hearts. Playing Ayushmann’s onscreen father, he often reminds you of their Vicky Donor camaraderie, which they take a notch higher in Dream Girl. Manjot Singh as Smiley, Karam’s best friend and partner-in-crime, gives major Fukrey feels while keeping his comic timing intact. Abhishek Banerjee and Vijay Raaz have a strong grasp of their characters that you can’t miss but notice their weird antics each time they are in the frame.

Dream Girl could have ended a bit earlier.

An entertaining screenplay makes for a fast-paced first half, which is followed by a rather long and slightly repetitive second half in which Ayushmann is only trying to get rid of this facade he has put on for long. How does he manage to do that without letting his love life go for a toss is what keeps you intrigued until climax unfolds. By this time, you feel the story could have ended a bit earlier. Nevertheless, Shaandilyaa manages to hold your attention with some great comic punches and subplots.

The director has put his writing experience of years penning scripts for noted comedians to its optimum use, and therefore, the overtly funny dialogues and comic one-liners give life to this romantic comedy. The seemingly preachy climax, however, with a message that won’t necessarily register in your mind looks a bit off-track. But Dream Girl, overall, is a winner for sure.

A must-watch mainly for Ayushmann’s laudable performance, and of course a heavy dose of laughter to break free from your boring and busy lives.

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The Spy review: Serious Sacha Baron Cohen saves new Netflix series from being a joke

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The Spy
Director – Gideon Raff
Cast – Sacha Baron Cohen, Noah Emmerich, Hadar Ratzon-Rotem, Alexander Siddig, Waleed Zuaiter 

Gideon Raff gives himself at least six credits in each episode of his new Netflix miniseries, The Spy. He doesn’t combine them for the sake of brevity (or humility), but instead, in highly irregular form, doubles down on them, giving himself a proud pat on the back before each episode has begun, and again, after it has ended.

As annoying as it is to see his name again and again and again, this knowledge comes in handy when you’re looking for someone to assign blame upon for the show’s many missteps, but also when you’re looking for someone to praise when it occasionally succeeds. Because by hogging the limelight, creator, executive producer, writer and director, Gideon Raff has also painted a target on his back. The Spy, for better or for worse, is a Raff enterprise. It lives and it dies on the back of its creator’s sensibilities.

Watch The Spy trailer here 

The six-part miniseries arrives less than two months after his highly problematic Netflix film, The Red Sea Diving Resort. The Spy is an infinitely better experience, but one thing is abundantly clear now: Raff is a much better fit for television than feature films. Long-form storytelling irons out some of his more controversial tendencies, which were there for everyone to see in The Red Sea Diving Resort, a film that had the unique ability to offend different audiences depending on which corner of the world they came from. So while I found its divisive politics rather troubling, others thought it celebrated the White Saviour trope.

And either by complete coincidence or by design, the lead character’s skin colour plays an important role in The Spy, as well. Eli Cohen’s Arab appearance was one of the key reasons he was handpicked by the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, to undertake a highly dangerous mission in the 1960s. He would be their man in Damascus, Syria, at a tumultuous time between the nations. He would establish himself as a patriotic Syrian businessman, host lavish parties for statesmen and military officials, and relay whatever he learns to his handlers back home.

Sacha Baron Cohen in a still from The Spy.

It took me a full episode to accept Sacha Baron Cohen as Eli, which is a shame, because once the initial shock of seeing him, a comic legend, deliver a dramatic performance wears off, he is revealed to be quite excellent in the role. The accent that initially seemed like it belonged to one of his Who is America? characters becomes less distracting as the actor sneaks under Eli’s skin. As broad as some of his choices may be, Sacha Baron Cohen can be disarmingly subtle, as well.

While Eli is shown to be a regular family man who adores his wife, his Syrian secret identity, Kamel, needs to wield an uncommon confidence as he develops relationships with important Syrian figures; he must be charming and sociable, authoritative but never arrogant.

The actor’s performance goes a long way in toning down some of Raff’s more eccentric directorial flourishes, none of which is weirder than his decision, in one dramatic sequence, to intercut between a military coup and an orgy.

The writing is also rather plain. As expensive as The Spy looks and feels (save for one glaring moment where modern cars can be seen on the streets of 60s Damascus), it is decidedly lowbrow in its treatment. It is the sort of show where fireplaces tend to make themselves available when letters are in need of burning; the sort of show where, if wives are being missed, a lookalike appears out of thin air to be followed on the streets; where secret conversations are conducted within earshot of exactly those people who shouldn’t be hearing them.

It sort of makes sense that the show is a smoother ride when it is focused on the character of Eli, and not when it slips into that uncomfortable political zone that Raff routinely finds himself veering into. You see, most of what has been documented about Eli’s life is from an Israeli perspective. To them, he is a national hero; a man who played a key role in his country’s victory in the Six-Day War. And it is with similar reverence that Gideon Raff tells his story.

Sacha Baron Cohen in a still from Netflix’s The Spy.

I’ve always thought of Israelis as a paranoid people. As a child, minding my own business outside the French cultural centre in New Delhi, I was approached by a man in dark glasses and a suit – he looked like a secret agent! He asked me what I was doing, and vaguely dissatisfied with my answer, he noted down my name and address in a pocketbook. As he walked back across the street, I learned that he worked the security at the neighbouring Israeli embassy. I was later told that the Israelis across the street kept a better record of the goings on at the French cultural centre than the French themselves. To be clear, this was in New Delhi, perhaps in the mid-2000s.

Israel of the 1960s was a very different place; it was when the seeds of the nation’s current belligerent attitude were first sown. And Raff, to his credit, offers a sort of explanation for his country’s psychology back them. Because barely two decades before Eli was sent into Syria — his patriotism exploited for the greater good of his nation — the Israelis felt that they had been let down by the world, and made to believe that if they didn’t take care of their own people, no one would.

The Spy isn’t perfect, but at least it has the humanism of Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi and Yoon Jong- bin’s The Spy Gone North — both recent benchmarks for the genre.

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