Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dear Sri

Amma brahma devudo
Kompa munchinavuro
Entha goppa sogasuro
Yeda dhachinavuro

Pula rekkalu
Konni thene chukkalu
Ila bomma chesthivo

Asalu bhoolokam
Ilanti siri chusi untadha
Kanaka ee chithram
Swarganiki chendhi untadha

--Ram Gopal Varma's tribute to Sridevi's beauty in this song from the movie Govinda Govinda
His love and admiration for her could not be expressed better. All meaning, passion and feelings will be lost in translation to a non-Indian language, but here is an attempt.

Oh God!
I am devastated
by this charm
where have you been hiding it?

Some petals
a few drops of honey
mixed together
to transform into this doll

Has the earth
ever beheld such richness?
therefore this miracle
must surely belong to the heaven

Yes. Indeed such ethereal beings do not belong to earth. She has returned to her right home.

Sunday morning I opened my sleepy eyes to view this whats-app forward. Shocked, I quickly searched the internet hoping it was just a hoax. But it was not to be!
And the posting of these messages was not with a feeling of grief, as they would be followed by the usual cheerful  'Good Morning' messages. All eager in their attempts to sensationalize, nothing more!

On phone, someone calls and says, "Do you know that your favorite Sri has..."
I froze when I heard that word, wondering, 'how can you say that about her?!'
I couldn't and haven't till date said that dreadful word.

Within a few hours, even before the news could sink in, an analysis about she, her beauty regime, her surgeries etc. stormed the internet.
I couldn't tolerate this nonsense.
Never more have I been thankful of absence of a TV connection at home. I protect myself from allowing the image of Sri from being tarnished and blindly delete any forward I receive about her.
For me, she is a goddess, someone inviolable, sacred, ethereal, a blemish-less gossamer fantasy!
From my childhood, I have worshiped many an actor but sooner or later they would be unseated by someone more good looking or talented. But not Sri..
Someone made a very insensitive remark in one of the newspapers about 'her mediocre movies in Bollywood, apart from one or two'.
But that's what Hindi cinema extracted from her! Have a look at her rich repertoire of movies down south. Her movies with Kamalhasan remain unsurpassed to date
Just look at her big, round eyes and the gamut of expressions they capture in this bewitching lullaby with Venkatesh, both at the peak of their beauty and talent. (another RGV ode to his muse)

Even before the dhak-dhak song was enacted in Hindi, Sri had already done it in a Telugu film with an actor who could match her step-for-step:

Coming to pairing, where else have you seen an actress paired with, both, father and son, ANR and Nagarjuna, in not just one film but many of them, fine tuning herself according to the pairing all the time?
Where else have you seen an actress playing the grandchild (of NTR)  and romantically paired with the same actor in several movies?
Films have proved time and again that beauty and tragedy go hand-in-hand.
So, with Sri.
We are blessed to have captured her on screen for eternity with all her pristine beauty, charm and  performances in tact.
I am glad she is free of all the strife that she had to undergo in her temporary abode here.
We have proved ourselves unworthy of her in her existence on earth and beyond!
God will now take care of this special child!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Hello: a charming love story

Has Akhil proved the Akkineni lineage with this movie?
Saw Hello with not much expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
The movie opens with a fight and chase scene. The filming in the yet-to-be-inaugurated Hyderabad Metro is something a proud Hyderabadi will very well relate to. Akhil tries to nab the thief who is running away with his phone. From here, you are taken back to Akhil's childhood and into the reason that phone was important enough to warrant this chase.
Akhil, an orphan, befriends Kalyani Priyadarshan (a debut) and their bond strengthens as they hang out playing childhood games together.
This goes on till Kalyani's father gets transferred out of the city. Very filmy as the heroine throws the phone number scribbled on a 100 rupee note and throws it out of the window which in turn gets stolen by the thief...the same thief who steals his phone years later!
In pursuit of the thief, the hero dashes into Ramya Krishnan's car. Ramya and Jagapathi Babu adopt him later.
Though separated, Akhil and Kalyani pine for each other through their growing years.
Years later, and through a wrong call, Akhil hears a tune in the background, A tune that he had composed in his childhood for Kalyani. How he, after the phone gets stolen, tries to trace the caller and finds his childhood love back forms the rest of the story.
The movie is clichéd to the core. There is nothing that you have not seen before. But then why does it work?
Remember the movies of the 80s?  'Love Story', 'Qayamat se Qayamat Tak...'? This belongs to the same genre...a very cute love story, without being silly.
The director, Vikram (of Manam fame), has taken care to not portray the villain as too  wicked. With shades of comic, he (Ajay) is just vile enough  to allow Akhil show off his skills in action.
Both the hero and heroine at 23 and 22 respectively look convincing for this love story. So, if you are ready for a mushy-mushy film and want to come home feeling good about it, this is the movie for you.
Ramya Krishna and Jagapathi Babu's acting makes you long for seeing them back in main roles.
My rating a 3.5/5

Friday, December 22, 2017

MCA entertains well

Perhaps this will be my last movie review for the year. I don't foresee any other movie worth reviewing in the near future
These days, not watching any trailers, I go to a movie with absolutely no idea what it is about. The drawing power, this time around, is Nani. Don't we all wait eagerly for his movie releases?
It is believed that there are only a fixed number of stories in the universe retold in various forms. With this movie, the director has mixed in a spoonful of every 'rasa' and attempted to give us all Navarasas in one as all story ideas seem to be exhausted.
Lest that give you an impression of a bad movie, let me tell you, it isn't. The movie is pure entertainment and Nani's 'natural' acting ensures you empathize with all emotions along with him. Sai Pallavi, the female version of 'natural' Nani, has proved her brilliance once again in her second movie in Telugu.
The story may not be new but the way the relationships are treated is new and refreshing to watch. Have you ever before in our Indian movies watched a girl woo a boy? And when since the days of Rama and Sita have you seen a Lakshmana-like devotion to one's sister-in-law on screen?
The emotions are handled well and the first half of the movie runs at a brisk pace but the second half loses its tempo.
Priyadarshi is going the Brahmandam way. Seen in every second movie, it wont take long for him to be labelled blasé.
MCA  is Middle Class Abbayi. This concept seems forced into the movie dialogs without actually showcasing many examples from a middle class life. Another funny interpretation of MCA is Mandu, Cigarette Aarogyaniki hanikaram...according to Nani
Veterans like Aamani and Naresh shine even in the small roles they play. The not-so-veterans Rajeev Kankala and Bhoomika also do their fair bit. But, somehow, in the second half, Pallavi seems to be reduced to what every other heroine does in our films.
Vijay, who debuts as a villain, doesn't intimidate us with either his physical presence or his acting skills. Or is it that they didn't want too treacherous a villain in this middle class family drama?
Well, the story, in short, is about how the hero fiercely protects his sister-in-law, a Collector, from the local goons.
The plus side of the movie is the energetic performances by most of the actors. Second, the whole family can happily watch the movie together with not one instance of vulgarity or obscenity.
On the minus side, the songs are completely unnecessary and only break the rhythm of the narattion. Also,the movie needs a stronger plot to continue the tempo and entertainment of the first half
Nani's acting makes the movie worth watching
A 3/ 5 from me. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

My Hyderabad, My Metro

When the Metro was announced in Hyderabad ten years back, I wasn't much affected by the news.
Ten years back the traffic wasn't this bad. My office was closer and the roads still good enough to allow commute by one's own vehicle. Once the offices moved far to the newly built Hi-Tech City, we traveled by the MMTS (running on train tracks). It had its limitations in terms of timings and frequency, but we managed with a combination of traveling to and fro from the stations in shared autos.
Then came the convenience of Ola/Uber cabs and we thought it was a blessing till we hit surge prices, and surge indeed they did.
In this scenario, the Metro comes as a big blessing!
Don't know why the officials even doubted its viability. There are people in Hyderabad and there is a great need for a convenient public transport. For those saying that the tickets are heavily priced, I say look at what you get in return...pollution-free AC environment with half the travel time. And isn't time equal to money these days?
I traveled the first time by the Metro yesterday, exactly one week after its inauguration.
I have been into Metros in India and abroad. Yet, seeing the Metro stations, the ticketing, the train, the entire infrastructure... I was super thrilled and lapped up all these sights greedily like a child. Everything that looked beautiful, everything that worked right filled my heart with delight. 'Mana Hyderabad!' said the heart with glee. A great closing gift of 2017 to the people of Hyderabad.
Okay, now for the actual experience:
I started at home at 12 noon and walked down to Tarnaka station. As I approached the station, I saw that the escalator was not working! Already?! I thought with a sigh, as I clambered up all those steep escalator stairs!
The station at Tarnaka was beautiful! It has been waiting for the last three years since why not?! There were personnel every ten feet waiting to help people, including a person beside the ticket counter! I queued up to buy a ticket to Ameerpet. At Rs.40, I felt it was a very decent deal considering that the same would have cost me at least three times that by a shared cab. As you get in, you and your bag are scanned. You need to press the issued token against the marked area on your right to allow the gates to open. And keep the token safely with you till you get down at the destination.Two kind of tokens are issued, red and blue ones for the two different routes.
 The idea was to just get into the Metro, have lunch somewhere and return by the same. This ride, covering a 12 km distance, took me 30 minutes. I stuck to the window trying to guess the position of the stations vis-a-vis the surrounding areas. (Not all the stations are on google map yet)
I inferred, Prakash Nagar stop meant Shoppers Stop; Rasoolpura stop is Fortune Manohar/Old Airport; Begumpet  stop is  beside Country Club/Life Style building/opposite Vinn Hospital at the beginning of SP Road. More trips and I will be able to decipher the location of the other stations better  and where they lead to.
Getting down at Ameerpet, I was pleasantly surprised to see people standing in a queue waiting to get in. I walked out of the station, down the stairs into a rubble of cement. Construction work is yet to be completed at the station and its  surrounding areas.
It was 1 pm and I chose to visit a restaurant in Kondapur.
Generally, I avoid going to a restaurant 26 kms from my home as, in shared cabs, by the time I reach through different pick ups and convoluted ways, I'd be famished. Even after having traveled half the distance by Metro, the 15 kms to the restaurant at Kondapur took me another hour by road. So, I reached the destination 2 hours from the time I started at Tarnaka.
Lunch and a couple of shared autos (30/-) later, I found myself at Miyapur station. Miyapur station, 10 kms away, is closer to Kondapur than Ameerpet is. So next time, in order to get to Kondapur, I need to travel directly to Miyapur to save, both, time and money.
Miyapur station is something we Hyderbadis truly deserve. Long, open stretches of greenery with families gathered around the aesthetically designed benches of  attractive hues all around was a heart warming sight---starved as we are for open spaces! Keeping in line with the pollution-free surroundings, were cycles available for rent.

At Miyapur station
The fare from Miyapur to Tarnaka was 55/-. Miyapur being the first station, I got to sit beside the window and watch the stations and the roads below.
My Metro, My Pride
There were halts every minute or so till we reached Ameerpet, an intersection and a signal to change platforms. This time there was no queue, resulting in a jostle with people trying to get in and get out at the same time. I got into the train headed to Nagole on the platform below. Like in the morning train, the crowd this time was okay too but only till another train full of passengers added to this lot! Then it got really crowded
The journey from Miyapur to Ameerpet took me 30 minutes. Once you alight, you drop the token into a provided slot to allow the gates to open and let you out.
Remember, A/B exits open to the road and enable you to go with the traffic and C/D exists to go against the traffic.

Exit & Customer Service Counter at Tarnaka

On things that can be improved:
1) We need to have queuing system, especially at busy intersections like Ameerpet
2) Lift to be strictly used by the senior citizens or physically challenged people. Right now it is used by all
3) Near the station exits, water is getting sold at Rs.2/-  per cup! Really?! Shouldn't this basic need be provided free of cost? What about the plastic waste being generated? 

Outside Ameerpet station

4) The frequency of the trains at 16 minutes from Nagole and 8 minutes from Miyapur needs to go up
5) Only three bogies are attached now. Double that number needed. Traveling standing all the time is not a pleasant experience.
6) Shorten run time. Now, it takes more than an hour to travel from Miyapur to Tarnaka.

Every time a government provides great infrastructure, it means that it respects the citizens and their needs. I would ask the government to continue to maintain these high standards of infrastructure and educate/help the people live up to these standards.
L&T has done Hyderabad proud in architecting this impressive world-class infrastructure, making it a prominent land mark in the city.
In turn, the people need to ensure that they safeguard this beautiful property as its custodians.

The Route Map

I look forward for the early completion of the other routes. Will greatly ease the Hyderabadis' commute.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Gruham /The House Next Door

It is a month since this movie released and not once did I have a thought of watching it.
Two reasons:
When I was a child my mother used to narrate experiences from her younger days. Some of those stories included movies screened in her college. Through all those memories, one movie stood out stark and sharp and that was: The House of Wax. Her story telling and compelling power of imagination had me swear off horror movies forever.
Two, my father-in-law, a great movie buff, used to take us to watch movies of all kinds, horror being one of the genres. I was like a kid then and would obediently tag along. And...the (regional) horror movies that he made us watch were so comical that I decided not to watch these ridiculous movies any more. Catching an occasional one on different TV channels or internet further reaffirmed the belief.
But, because it is Siddharth, an actor I have a soft corner for, and because of the interviews in which he kept insisting that it is not like your typical comic horror drivel in the name of watching horror, and his assurance that this movie measures up to international standards, how he worked for 4 years, polishing the script to produce it in 3 languages...all these compelled me to go watch it.
I was prepared to literally run out of the theater screaming in fright. But thankfully nothing of the sort happened. It was scary but not to the extent I expected. Maybe I should watch some more 'real' horror movies to compare.
Well, the first thing that goes right with the movie is its brilliant casting. Each character, small or big, so apt for the role he/she plays! Second, the very crisp writing with not a wasted moment in the movie. Third, the startling, hair-raising moments that catch you unawares abated by the equally intimidating music.
The story is about a haunted house and why the ghosts within compel the new resident, Atul Kulkarni, to vacate the premises by possessing and controlling his daughter, Jenny.
Siddharth, a neuro-surgeon helps Suresh , the psychiatrist in this process. A sorcerer and a priest (Prakash Belawadi) are roped in too to get rid of the ghost who possesses Jenny. Of course, after each of these people  go through various trials and tribulations, the ghost is rid of. But even as we think the movie has ended, there is still a twist waiting at the end.
I like this one. Horror I come!
This movie is for me  3.5/5 experience. On a scare-o-meter, it scores a 2.5/5.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Secret Superstar

Aamir Khan's name, whether associated with acting or producing, always raises one's expectation. Going by that standard, Secret Superstar doesn't meet the anticipated bar. It is produced by Aamir Khan and directed by his manager, Advait Chandan, a debut director
Yet, there are a lot of pluses which make the film watchable.
For me, this movie is a little behind my times. We don't stifle our children's dreams like that these days, do we? Secret Superstar is a voice for all those children from middle class households where following traditions and fulfilling the expectations of the society is more important than fulfilling one's dreams.
That's the plot premise.
Okay, now what really works for the movie is Zaira Wasim's outstanding performance. After watching her in Dangal and now in Secret Superstar, it looks like she can play any role with an enviable ease.  She is also well-supported by her mother, played by Meher Vij.
The strict father's role, espoused by Raj Arun, is against his 15-year old daughter playing the guitar and her singing. He wants her to be educated just enough to make her a good prospect for a marriage and not remain uneducated like her mother. Therefore, the only way Zaira can fulfill her dream is to post her videos on You Tube wearing a burkha. Zaira's confidants in this journey are her mother, younger brother and her classmate (Tirth Sharma) .
There are some powerful yet subtly delivered messages on women empowerment and how, a woman when she discovers her inner strength, becomes indomitable..
Aamir Khan, in an extended cameo, plays an obnoxiously arrogant music director who had once touched the peaks of fame but has now slipped as he tries to adapt himself to the requirement of modern music. Later, he helps Zaira in both, her journey of music and her life journey.
What will really touch your heart is the innocent friendship between Zaira and Tirth. You feel transported to your younger days as you remember your childhood crushes.
The minuses come from the fact that the film lacks a cohesion. Beautiful parts but not stitched together seamlessly.
I will go with 3/5

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Where's the food, Chef?

Suave sophisticated, urbane, cool...this is the air Saif carries around him and these are the kind of roles that he can carry with an easy aplomb, as witnessed in Chef.
The (Airlift) director, Raja Krishna Menon, has done a brilliant casting in Saif as the Chef,  Padmapriya Janakiraman as his ex-wife, and Svar Kamble as their son.
Having seen Favreau's CHEF earlier I was a little reluctant to watch this one but I can safely state now that the story hasn't been messed with over-the-top performances.
So what works for this movie? It is not the typical hero-heroine-villain-songs formula. It is about a person (Saif) who follows his passion to be a chef instead of the engineer/doctor professions most prevalent in India. He runs away from home as a child, going to the US eventually and earning 3 Michelin stars.
Yet one fine day, he finds himself in scuffle with a customer who criticizes his food.
As a result, Saif is fired and he uses this break to be with his son who lives with his ex-wife, Padmapriya, in Cochin.
Milind Soman as Padmapriya's friend, with his chiseled body and a salt and pepper hair is a treat to the eyes. He is a business man and offers a run-down truck to Saif to conduct his food business from.
Mentionable is the driver of the truck played by Dinesh Nair who brings in the humorous flavor to the movie.
In getting the food truck ready for its journey to Delhi, is also a journey of a relationship  between Saif and his son, Svar. They together discover what it is to be a son and a father. The movie captures these moments beautifully. Credit to the two for the very cool casualness with which they handle these emotions.
Here you have a hero who is not afraid to show his shortcomings, his weaknesses and how he is willing to learn and pass these lessons to his son.
The movie, very predictably, ends with the success of the food truck and a family union.
In Chef, if you assume you will get to watch some great culinary experiences, some gastronomically delightful cooking, some tantalizing tastes and sights, you are in for a big disappointment. The movie only brushes through those much-anticipated moments fleetingly.
Also some incidents and characters are rather sketchily etched.
Despite these flaws, the movie is quite watchable and perhaps will help bring Saif that much-needed hit after the debacles in the last few years.
A 3/5 from me.