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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 completion...so 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 movies...here 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.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Mahanubhavudu: a fiasco

Going by the word-of-mouth propaganda, I watched this movie in a remote located cinema. The tickets were sold out in every other multiplex.
The opening song (Mahanubahuvudevera) and the trailers make you think it is some classic like 'Mithunam' or 'Rudraveena': a movie about relations and emotions. But till the end, it leaves you puzzled about what exactly it wants to convey.
Sarwanand's movies always send out mixed signals. When you go to watch his movies you don't know what to expect. It is true that he chooses his stories well and that he tries that they are different to the routine. Some of his movies are brilliant and some very run-of-the-mill types.
Therefore when I went to watch this one, and due to all the hype created with tickets sold out, I expected a lot out of the movie.
The character of Sarwanand is afflicted with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), a behavior which compels him to keep himself and his premises clean. Dirt and mess disturb him. This is established in the first half with all his reactions to situations when he encounters unclean people and surroundings.This intolerance hurts people close to him, including his mother. His brother (Vennela Kishore) just about tolerates this behavior and the only friend that Sarwanand has in his life.
He falls for Mehreen Pirzada as his first encounter is with her inclination to Swach Bharath.
Gradually the two fall in love . But his OCD makes him not even kiss her due to his fear of contamination. Eventually, this behavior creates circumstances that lead to a break up.
Yet, Sarwanand, who has managed to impress Mehreen's father (Nassar), travels to his village to take care of Nassar's health. He braces himself and tries to adjust to situations which make him face his fears many times.
The final test comes when he has to roll on the mud floor with a wrestler to restore the 'honor' of Nassar and win over the heroine. He passes out after this event due to his extreme reaction to the surroundings caused by his obsession with cleanliness.
There is nothing in the movie that makes you feel compelled to watch it.
The hero has a perpetual annoying smile throughout the movie and a more annoying hair style which makes you want to reach out and pin back that lock that keeps falling on his forehead. The heroine, as in most of the Indian movies, is ornamental.
But what was quite disconcerting was the treatment of OCD. It is not treated as a chronic disorder that it is but as something that is to be  made fun of. It might have been still okay if a character in a smaller role has this behavior and you laugh at it for the few moments that it lasts in the movie. But for this behavior in a full-length  role needs justice and a serious treatment.
Watch only if you are prepared for a typical Telugu film with a mass appeal. If you expect some brainy stuff, you are in for a big disappointment.
A 1.5/5 from me.