Friday, October 9, 2015

Movie Review - Rudhramadevi (Telugu) - An epic biopic!!

Rudhramadevi is a historical drama layered with a solid story that unfolds sword fights, war strategies, cabals hungry for power and many more in its narrative course.

The impeccable set design calls for an applause and so is the mind-blowing and mesmerizing music by Maestro Ilayaraja. 

Of all the actors, Anushka and Allu Arjun effortlessly take the cake. The latter's rendition of his lines is a killer. Chiru's voice-over and Bunny's makeover take you on a high.

Though there are few lags and technical snags, the novel treatment to this piece of history overshadows them. The twists also pop up at right places to hold your attention.

The film also defies some elements of science esp. when it comes to acoustics, there's an entwining rope acting as a pulley, and to add further a rope pulls the weight of a man and a horse through a closing gate. 

The editing becomes botched up as the film inches towards the climax. As all the soldiers are dressed in same uniform it's difficult to differentiate and the brothers making merry on the wall is supporting whom? Their own soldiers or Gona's army? So many questions pass by leading to incoherence in the narration. 

Gunasekhar with his army of cherry-picked cast and crew unleashes magic. His social commentary is relevant to stigmas and taboos prevalent then and now. The promising revelation towards the end of the western world learning from Indian ethos is so heart-rending. Many scenes take you through an emotional upheaval and the background music complements them quite well. 

In this Guna's magnum opus, 3D adds depth to the visual style and occasionally hits you with flying leaves and arrows. There are few 'popping out of the screen' effects.

On the whole, the film is worth the wait and worth the watch, and stands tall as an interesting tale of history!!

My Rating - Expectation - 9/10; Reality - 7/10

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Movie Review – O Kadhal Kanmani / Ok Bangaram – Alaipayuthey / Sakhi 2.0

Harmless spoilers ahead!

O Kadhal Kanmani / Ok Bangaram is a warm welcome to the world of Maniratnam tropes – rain and train, pain and gain, a bubbly lead pair, search for your loved ones, a city trying to become a standalone character, gift-wrapped visuals, refreshing music... and many more sans the heavy-duty emotional drain that used to be a highpoint in his films – at least the ones where LOVE took the centre stage. With this film, the director dishes out a light-hearted version of ‘love’, tailor-made to suit the palates of the younger generation. The end result is that your eyes are left dry and your expectations run high and dry.

The protagonist of the film Adi (Dulquer Salman) is a video game designer who chances upon an architect Tara (Nitya Menen). Adi has a tight deadline to design a game called Mumbai 2.0. A casual reference or the one that surfaces the intricacies of OKK, which can be safely called Alaipayuthey 2.0 – a prequel and an upgraded version of the 2000 flick. The film also borrows some traces from Siddharth and Trisha side of the story from Aaytha Ezuthu (Yuva in Telugu and Hindi). This is Mani sir trying to relive his glorious past and recreating characters and milieu that made him a name to revere upon.

There were endearing moments in the film between the young pair of Adi and Tara, and a stark contrast of them can be seen when the camera swings to an older pair of Ganapathy uncle (Prakash Raj) and Bhavani aunty (Leela Samson). Prakash Raj’s presence is subdued to an extreme. Here, Mani tried to do a balancing act on his tight rope walk to convince everyone. He showed the polarities of casual flings and serious relationships, love and career, living for you and living for others et al.

The art director gets the trick right in creating a Maniratnam ambience. There are cool office spaces that allow you to walk-in and walk-out at your convenience and there are lodges and PG accommodations that are aesthetically kitschy! Where else can you find such beautifully designed set pieces? And wait; a sermon on architecture, by a doyen in that field, for a bunch of working architects looks like a class for freshman.

The city of Mumbai wears a different look through the lens of P C Sreeram, but couldn’t stand as a whole in building the chaos, tension or exuberance into the lives of the characters. Unlike a Kahaani (Kolkata) or a The Lunchbox (Mumbai), here, the city just remains as a prop. What Mani succeeds in is the way he piles many layers of stereotypes and quashes them by unfolding something different at the end of each scene. However, they too turn monotonous after a point.

Had it been a movie made by one of the fresh breed of directors, I would have appreciated the content and effort. But being a fan boy of Maniratnam and growing with his movies, l had a truckload of expectations before I walked into the cinema. Making it visually appealing with some cranky angles and framings, and lacing it with classical yet refreshing music of A R Rahman is just a glimpse of the veteran film-maker I wished to see. You won’t win brownie points just by scratching the surface and giving a touch-and-go treatment for relationships.

Where is the soul and emotional core of a Maniratnam love story?? To be precise, ‘Where’s the story’?

OKK has a resemblance to many Telugu films like Swayamvaram, Orange and Anthaku Mundu Aa Taruvaata and something like a Cocktail from Bollywood. Many directors such as Gautham Menon made some better films that operate in this format. Moreover, I presumed Mani sir would challenge the conventional s of marriage and give us a different ending by not marrying the couple. But the conservative personality in him came to the fore and that left me disheartened.

In a scene, Nitya’s Tara (getting into the shoes of Revathi’s character from Mouna Ragam) asks ‘Is a marriage certificate an approval for being together?’ What happened to this thought, which died all of a sudden, when insecurities crept in and the couple wanted to get married?

Mani sir also said love is about understanding and living together but not about the institution of marriage but all this was brought to a hasty climax by marrying each other.

So, owing to all these incoherences, Mani’s fanboy got disappointed.

My Rating: Expectation – 8/10; Reality – 5/10

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie Review - Oka Laila Kosam (Telugu) - A mediocre mishmash!!

There were love stories that filled the air with romance and pain, and then there are love stories that only bank on the salable factor by forcefully inducing old school clichés and masala tropes in the narration. Oka Laila Kosam struggles to get into the zone of the former, but nestles in the arms of the latter. Director Vijay Kumar Konda won the hearts of many with his first film and tries to recreate the same magic by weaving a similar fabric replete with embellishments. However, this time the gloss stays afloat keeping other elements at the bottom. 

Time and again, we are forced upon a happy-go-lucky guy who is self-indulgent to the core. On the day of his convocation at Indian School of Business Studies (nice name though), he professes about 'freedom' and leaves many cushy job offers for it. This spoilt brat falls head over heels for someone with the qualities of a good samaritan. One after the other, few misunderstandings pop up and the gal tries her best to stay away from the guy. But the guy never loses hope and makes it a point to throw many gibes at the gal to the level of intolerance. 

The hero also dabbles with writing and pens his love story with the title Oka Laila Kosam; if that offers some respite, so be it. However, the book gets a mention only during the start and somewhere towards the end, making it another ill-placed prop in the screenplay. After multiple episodes of 'comedy of errors', finally, an untimely twist brings things to a cinematic conclusion paving a way for 'all’s well that ends well'. That's some effort from my end to forcefully fit in Shakespeare in this review and nothing magical of sorts happen in the film. 

Oka Laila Kosam seems like a bag of borrowings – some from recent times and some as old as mountains. All these make it a mediocre mishmash. The visuals and few scenarios offer freshness but the director is hell bent to Telugu-fy the screenplay with mundane treatment. Some sparks which fly in the film’s initial run time are barely visible after interval. Only when Ali appears on screen, you muster all your energy to giggle, otherwise the film stretches like a chewing gum to test your patience. 

The three principal characters (one being a comedian) are not handled with conviction and lot of inconsistencies creep into the narrative. Even some sub-plots protrude as sore thumbs. Adding further woes, the chemistry between the lead pair couldn’t crackle and the jokes, at times, appear as assortments of canned laughter. As the end credits roll, you'd be surprised to see the names of 'Satyam' Rajesh, Dhanraj, Josh Ravi, Vennela Kishore etc., and wonder where they were... err, why they were!

Anup Rubens and Andrew are the real winners with their music and camerawork respectively. The visual panache is finely coupled with few lilting tunes and refreshing background score. Towards the end, the film gets a melodramatic tinge with an over use of emotional tracks, but the performances fail to live up to it. Even the character incoherencies play spoilsport in this film, which stands tall on lackadaisical writing.

Oka Laila Kosam harps on a cliched plot and an age-old storytelling technique. So, it remains as a haphazard effort to paint a coming-of-age love story on a stereotypical canvas. And, if you are looking for some 'love' or some 'story' in this love story, then you may be disappointed!

My Rating: Expectation - 7/10; Reality - 4/10

This review was originally written for Metro India newspaper.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Movie Review - Govindudu Andarivadele (Telugu) - A colorful canvas!!

Picture this… An urbane bloke from the most urbanized surroundings lands up at rural premises to square things off, a family head melts like a slice of butter towards the end, a gal unleashes her vigorous side when with friends but shifts to a different gear when at home, a generous exchange of gibes by the lead pair, a rival family tries to use the village for their selfish goals, a member of the house with a villainous shade, more colors splatter on the frames than those seen in any commercials for a paint brand, chlorophyll soaked landscapes, larger than life sets and a magical ‘yellow’ light. That’s a warm welcome to the world of Krishna Vamsi.

In a time tested formula; Ram Charan plays Abhiram in Govindudu Andarivadale, whose objective is to unite the family. He crosses paths of a Pawan Kalyan from Attarintiki Daredi, a Jr. NTR from Brundavanam, a Venkatesh from Kalisundaam Raa, and not to forget a Meena from Seetharamaiah Gari Manavaralu. Even other films of Krishna Vamsi fall in the line of the character sketches, conflicts and resolutions. However, every aspect of the film gets a proper shaping with KV’s mark style and sensibilities. You may feel such kind of emotions and expressions can’t be churned out in a daily humdrum, but the perceptions take a detour in this entertaining throwback to other films, with its lead performers firing on all cylinders. Though some characters get a miniscule screen time, the casting never goes wrong.

Prakash Raj is not the regular patriarch limping with a stick but holds a prowess of gyrating it to make a hard-hitting statement. Jaya Sudha does lot of talking through her eyes and her climactic breakdown is sheer brilliance. There’s an electrifying chemistry between Ram Charan and Kajal that sets off a fiery romance laden with a sacrifice. Albeit wearing a dark hue, Srikanth adds humor to the proceedings and acts as a key plot driver. Kamalini looks endearing but still tries to breathe in the mould created by Sekhar Kammula. The other bunch of actors just get their act right.

The protagonist’s character needed some pruning to ward off few character incoherencies. He is seen as a Telugu speaking lad in a foreign nation, but all this goes for a toss when he comes to India. He mouths only ‘Dude’ and ‘Bro’ while talking to people. And his pretext of entering the village to learn the nuances of agriculture never sees the light of the day. He is only busy fighting, romancing, emoting (for lack of a better word) and setting things right for all the members of the family. However, the rugby playing skills of the character are used to good effect in crucial fight sequences.

The cameraman Sameer Reddy takes a pat on the back and also the writers for inducing the concept of mood based lighting in the screenplay. The lighting is soft, ambient and makes a hyperbolic pronouncement of the vibrant nature of the family. On the other side, it is dark and surfaces the gloomy side of the villain’s house and also in the climax when Jaya Sudha talks about the consequences that may force a family to become separated. The ‘yellow’ light makes its presence felt in most of the frames. The music also pumps soul into the narrative. Thanks to Yuvan Shankar Raja, we could listen to lot of wind instruments in the background. This comes as a relief when our movies are replete with heavy percussions.   

Govindudu Andarivadale may be an effort to dig deep into the same genre again and again, but this time it gets a master stroke from Krishna Vamsi on a colorful canvas. The wafer-thin storyline is supplemented with an ensemble cast of performers, overcrowded frames and dollops of melodrama to bring a gleam on your faces. 

My Rating: Expectation - 8/10; Reality - 6/10

This review was originally written for Metro India newspaper.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Movie Review - Loukyam (Telugu) - A cringe-worthy cocktail

What’s the difference between film-making and cocktail mixing? In the latter, the mixologists have made mixing drinks an artful endeavor and their adroitness of how to shake, stir and pour churns out a perfect blend. But, alas! This skill goes missing in the film-makers who never think twice to make a film on an age-old template. We can’t even call them ‘an old wine in the new bottle’, ‘leave your brains at home’ etc., as these phrases, like our formulaic films, are getting into the folds of clichés with their repetitive usage.

Yet again our hero Venky (Gopi Chand) is a happy-go-lucky guy who is always there to help and is very effective than any ‘Public Grievance Redressal System’. He helps his friend to runaway with his loved one and, for this valiant act; he earns the wrath of the girl’s family. Let’s call it a Ready or a Rabhasa.

Hero falling in love with villain’s sister can be attributed to a Mass or a Dhee. This time it tilts more towards Dhee as the tone is comical. Wait, our hero asks her to spend a day with him so that he can make her realize his love. The end result arrives in the form of a text message – ‘Hi’. That’s strange. That’s Mass.

Our hero enters the college and tries to woo the girl by pretending as a police officer. This can trace back to a Vishal starrer Malaikottai (Bhayya in Telugu). Not only that, he also learns her hobbies through a friend and makes her dance! Even Gopi Chand’s Ontari had a similar spin-off  And when she realizes that our hero is not what he pretends to be, she asks for an apology and the regular teasing, singing, dancing routine starts. During these episodes, there’s lot of eye candy painted on the screen and Rakul Preet looks drop dead gorgeous. All thanks to her styling, but she needs more meat to her character.

There are many illogical and unwarranted scenes in Loukyam, which do no good for the screenplay rather than offering some throwback to Gopichand’s previous films. May be the writers wanted to pick few good scenes that may work out effectively for this hero and put the audience’s grey cells in active mode. Yes, they need to identify which scene is from which movie. Here, the regular mould of Kona Venkat gets a slight tweaking as the villain and his henchmen visit the hero’s place post interval. That’s a structural reversal. 

Though the entire film looks like a bag of borrowings, the high point of Loukyam comes in the form of comic playoff. Brahmanandam as Sippy and ’30 Years’ Prudvi as ‘Boiling Star’ Babloo pack so much of humor ranging from cheesy, slapstick, situational and lots more. The Legend spoof comes as a relief package towards the end. So, the fact can be reiterated that the comedians can only anchor a movie and keep it afloat amid turbulence. Loukyam also tries to blur the difference between a villain and comedian. This time around, Gopi Chand mellows down the action quotient and stays close to the safe zone of comedy.

Loukyam treads a path where comedy overpowers creativity and peels a layer of irreverence when the hero believes that a journey to a woman’s heart is not through roses or exchanging pleasantries but a tight slap on her face. So, where has all the respect and susceptibility for women gone. Although few bits-and-pieces of comedy and the film’s rich texture drives you to buy this product, a sickening blend of stale ingredients makes it a cringe-worthy cocktail that leaves a bad aftertaste. 

My Rating: Expectation - 6/10; Reality - 4/10

This review was originally written for Metro India newspaper.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Movie Review - Aagadu (Telugu) - Superstar, the showstopper!!

Director Sreenu Vytla has verve about his film-making; rich, buoyant and lion-hearted. For the third time in a row, he gets his hero to don a cop avatar and for some strange reason, police and their rib tickling modus operandi to deal with goons exude a weird allurement. He ensures to make Aagadu grand, potent and obligatory like folklores, which can draw the viewers into them. This time he even goes overboard with his allusions to Ram Gopal Varma!

After chewing some time for the lead character’s childhood episodes and explaining the current status quo, the director gives a hat tip to the Spaghetti Westerns to pull off a dusty entry for the hero, where the latter flashes his towering machismo with a monumental fight sequence amid the dust flying in the air. Like every other film coming out in recent times, Aagadu, too, is based on a masala cliché: a wisecracking yet dead serious cop taking on the evil forces that bring the clouds of gloom to a town. And this template is fleshed out with flavorful Tollywood masala. This time the protagonist wears a new attitude and gives some importance to his sidekick as they set on a hilarious mission.

The plot of Aagadu belongs to a bygone era featuring a messiah of masses and may not figure among those intense cop dramas or thrillers which would drop the jaws or freeze the eyelids. The technicalities are adequate to showcase decent visuals. However, the film emanates gibes and quips, and its use of different slangs for the hero’s character amply accentuates the comic quotient.

Mahesh is a natural charmer stealing the show with his screen presence and immaculate rendition of his lines. Though, at times, I felt he missed a pause or a punctuation here and there. Tamanna makes a comely appearance with her ethnic look. She has a very limited role and is barely visible in the second half. Shruti Hassan sizzles in an inevitable item number. Brahmanandam and M S Narayana put in their parts to good effect. As standalone entities, the former’s comic episodes make you fall off your chair but don’t quite gel well into the narration.

It hurts to frown at this film for the shades of resemblance it leaves around and for the way it does a repetitive act of a hero making a fool out of the comedians and the villains indulging in buffoonery rather than spreading menace all over. The perennial problem with a Sreenu Vytla film is that the main antagonist fails to get registered; same is the case with Aagadu. Just during the wet firecracker kind of a climax, you realize that there’s a villain character (played by Sonu Sood) that needs to be eliminated.

The piece de resistance of Aagadu is the way it draws the contours of irony by trying to overthrow stereotypical constructions staying in a formulaic zone. Albeit Mahesh’s character ridicules the practice of infesting a film with punch lines and one-liners, he indulges in mouthing many of them with remarkable ease. Even though the film lacks a novel storyline and traverses in an archetypal Sreenu Vytla zone, it doesn’t disappoint for there is a vigor that is contagious. 

With just enough comedy and drama to anchor the sweeping spectacle of Superstar Mahesh Babu smashing everyone and everything in sight, Sreenu Vytla’s Aagadu gratifyingly reverberates commercial cinema. To complain that the scenes are overdone and overproduced is to find fault with a kaleidoscope for having too many colors and patterns. That’s what Sreenu Vytla’s cinema is. That’s what Sreenu Vytla cinema needs! 

My Rating: Expectation - 7/10; Reality - 5/10

This review was originally written for Metro India newspaper.
An edited version of this piece can be found here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Movie Review - Anukshanam (Telugu) - Thriller sans thrills!

Anukshanam was in the news much before its release, not just for the reason it’s another RGV film; but for the innovative pattern of distribution it ventured into. With that, the premise and plot elements were also revealed to an extent. So, the audience expects an intense thriller before walking into the cinema. This concept may sound new on the landscape of Telugu cinema, but has been handled differently and perfectly in other languages, especially the crime thrillers of Malayalam. Then parallels would be rife and how RGV managed to create discretion by holding the bits and pieces of thrills so tautly will make it a cut above the rest.

The movie opens with a psycho killer taking his first victim. Then it runs on the track of a killing spree where the number becomes insurmountable to send enough shivers down the spines of the residents of the city. Gautham (Vishnu) is the special officer in-charge who is on his toes to nab the criminal. Revathi, an NRI who did an extensive research on serial killers comes to his rescue by helping him understand the modus operandi of such people. Together, they try to get close to the killer.

Anukshanam is a rare breed of cinema, where the audience’s preconceived notions get quashed one after the other. Some for good and some go beyond control. The killer’s character is revealed in the first scene, so it’s not another ‘Who done it?’ genre. The killer gets his prey so effortlessly without any resistance, so it’s not a police story where the cops overpower with their heroics. There is zilch of engrossing investigation or ‘connect the dots’ spinoff or finding any traces of vital clues all through the film. A major chunk of the film is dedicated to understanding the background of the softcore individual who turned into a killer, rather than piling more layers of intrigue. Don’t know whether the intention is to send the killer to a rehabilitation centre rather than to a place of confinement.

The characters behave quite differently than required. A journalist always goes with an overblown presentation of cops as spectators and mere caricatures. Revathi’s character brings her personal story to the fore, which is unwarranted. A senior cop gets the information on phone after a gruesome act, and pops up with some flash-in-the-pan moments during press meets. And the behavior of the Home Minister falls on the extremes with his callous nature in this age of media activism. The purpose of Brahmandam’s character still remains a boggling question!

RGV sparkles at places with his technique. There are no unconventional camera angles and the mood and ambience were set up meticulously for the flow of events to seep in. However, the repetitive use of similar sounds for every genre makes it quite jarring. In a typical RGV style, the performances by the central characters are well conceived. Surya as the killer spearheads the film with finesse.

The movie borrows some traces from the films of Davind Fincher and the pre-climax showdown is reminiscent of Se7en. The film’s short runtime and adequate pace may turn into its favour. However, Anukshanam neither stands tall for its substance nor for the sparkling implementation of the written material by the director to create an earth-shattering product. 

My Rating: Expecation - 6/10; Reality - 3/10

This review was originally written for Metro India newspaper.