Pages

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fidaa

Going by its non-Telugu title I hadn't cared much about watching Fidaa until I discovered it was directed by Sekhar Kammula.
The opening scene is very interesting and very different from the routine star entry of heroes in Telugu films. It has three orphaned brothers and their early-morning routine in the US with the hero cooking.Yes, this Telugu hero does the unthinkable! There is a disparity in age as the youngest is a late adoption.
One day, they decide that Raju, the eldest should get married so that the family is complete. Towards this, they travel to India. There they meet Sharanya whom they together select to be Raju's bride..
But it is the naughty sister of Sharanya, Sai Pallavi, who soon becomes the center of the story.
Varun Tej, the second brother and Pallavi are drawn to each other. Yet, a misunderstanding separates the two, with Varun returning to the US with his brother and the newly-wed bride.
But after returning, Varun understands that he isn't able to overcome his feelings for Pallavi and messages his proposal to her. Pallavi not only rejects the proposal but also goes on to get engaged to someone else. Heart-broken, Varun tries to forget her, in vain.
Later, Pallavi comes to the US to visit her sister. This allows the two to meet once again and realize their feelings for one another.
When Pallavi returns to India, her father convinces her to marry for love and no other reason.
The story line maybe thin but what makes the movie a run-away success is its execution.
One, as is his wont, Kammula knows how to direct his movies towards a youth appeal. The very bubbly and energetic acting by the female lead in combination with Kammula's known focus on women characters helps too. A big and bold move by the director is relying on Telangana flavor for his movie. He tells the story in this backdrop without making a mockery of either the region or the language. Third, is the way Kammula has kept his movie so devoid of all theatrics and close to everyday life. That village life doesn't equate to backwardness is illustrated well.
Sai Chand as Sharanya and Pallavi's father,  Geetha Bhaskar as their aunt, Aryan as Varun's younger brother have added great value to the movie.
I did not watch Varun Tej's movies earlier, wary as I am of the OTT performances from the Konidela stable. But Varun in the role of a quiet, educated and dignified NRI has done a very decent job.The giant personality also seems so apt for the role. Full marks to Kammula for a great casting in the movie.
Of course, there are a few weak links too. Sharanya looks like a wannabe in trying to fit into the western style and her acting seems a little forced. Pallavi's sudden transformation in the way she dresses in the US is inexplicable.The end, where Varun decides to stay back in India also doesn't look convincing. It isn't that easy to chuck one's dreams, no?
Pallavi is definitely NOT a looker. In fact, her very first scene has her running and screaming her gut out. I was hoping that this was not the female lead. Yet, she is the main draw. Kudos to a non-Telugu girl in learning Telugu and pull off the Telangana accent so well.
The movie is a smooth, light hearted love story which will appeal more to the youth in their 20s.
My rating 3/5. You will not be bored, for sure.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A disaster called Jagga Jasoos

I have managed, so far, to avoid going to watch movies with Katrina Kaif in it. It is like watching it with one half of the lead cast missing. Her presence/absence with the jarring accent makes no impact whatsoever on the movie.
Well, Jagga Jassos is about how Ranbir Kapoor sets out to trace his missing father (played by Saswata Chatterjee).
Ranbir's father leaves for some undisclosed destination after admitting him to a boarding school in his childhood. But he makes sure he greets his son on his birthday through a video tape he sends every year. One year, when the tape doesn't arrive, Ranbir sets out to look for his father. The story is supposedly based on the infamous Purulia Arms drop case in the 90s. Saswata discovers the conspiracy and is then forced to be a fugitive as his life is threatened. Katirna is also a detective of sorts in international crime and helps Ranbir find his father. There is also another weird logic because of which Ranbir is sure Katrina could help find his father. But wait! Why bother...
The director, Anurag Basu, invests about an hour of 'Interstellar'isque kind of plot combined with a 'Sound of Music' one... resulting in a musically confounding movie which does justice to neither. Whether the move is to be a mystery, a musical, an adventure or a romantic comedy...Basu remains undecided till the end. Ranbir's Tintin-like curl in hair and how it helps the story is also as unfathomable as its story.
Any reason to watch Jagga Jasoos? Hard to find. Yet...
The bright spots in the movie are all the wonderful locales that it takes you through in the quest of Ranbir's father. Second, very decent job by Saswata Chatterjee. Third, Ranbir's brilliant performance through all his idiosyncratic behavior, namely that of a child-adult with a stammer. Following his father's advice, he sings his way through his stammer to be able to converse. This jars after a while in this non-musical movie.
The execution of the plot is poorly handled. I am sure Basu finds no help from the break-up between the lead pair in real life. As it is, getting Kaif to emote is an elephantine task and a miffed Kaif is so plastic, a touch and she would smash into smithereens. Finding an excuse for her accent in every movie is an unenviable task for each of her directors. Nawazuddin Siddique in a 10-second appearance packs more punch.
You can still survive the ordeal, maybe, if you ask someone to wake you up in the second half of the movie.
A 1.5/5 for the movie from me.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Mom

"God can't be everywhere...and hence he created mom," is the only clich├ęd sentence you'd hear in this otherwise unconventional thriller movie.
There are times like these, I am glad I don't have a TV connection at home. I had no clue of the story, the actors or what the film is about. All I knew and wanted to know was that it had my favorite, Sridevi in it.
The film starts with a family of four: parents and two daughters, the elder one, Sajal Ali trying to convince her parents to be allowed to go to a farm house to party. Sridevi's advice to her to be careful and safe are not heeded as she is her step mom and Sajal doesn't like her.
Yet, when she goes out to party, she is cautious, refusing to dance with strangers and even turning down drinks offered by them. As in all of the rape cases, rape happens not because it is the girl's fault but because of a man's hurt ego. Sajal is kidnapped from the party, raped and thrown into a roadside ditch.
(The music during this scene is so eerie, it gives you goosebumps!)
Sajal is later found and admitted into a hospital. Cloning the infamous Nirbhaya case, the trial goes on for days, the accused go scot-free, appeals in the High Court etc etc.
How Sridevi ensures justice is done to her daughter forms the crux of the story.
In this. she is assisted by Nawazuddin Siddique, a private detective and Akshaye Khanna, the police officer. Nawaz's role is described as a special appearance but Akshaye and he share similar screen presence.
Nawaz's rat-like appearance took me by surprise. Guess as a detective, he needed that look to merge with the crowd. For an actor, it must have taken guts to make himself appear almost grotesque. Scenes which Sridevi and he shared lit up the screen with brilliant performances. Akshaye Khanna as the police officer who keeps tabs on criminals, both "who do something wrong" and those "who do something very wrong," has done a brilliant job.
None of the actors try to outshine the other. On the other hand, they fit into their respective roles so well! Adnan Siddique in the role of Sajal's father leaves a mark in the portrayal of a father-daughter relationship. He isn't given much to do though.
Writing even one extra line about the movie, will give away the plot, thin as it is.
The movie is pretty predictive offering simplistic, implausible and impractical solutions. These things don't happen in real life
As a child we used to clap when viewing the dishoom-dishoom scenes between the hero and the villains. You get a similar feeling when you watch the villains get punished in this movie. The approach is as simple as that. Dishoom-dishoom and your work is done. No time or effort has gone into weaving intricate details of a complex plot into this thriller.
Why should you watch the movie then? Subtle and brilliant performances by Sridevi, Akshaye Khanna and Nawazuddin Siddique...and a story that manages to keep you interested to the end.

In the last five minutes...you know what's going to come but still, be prepared to pull out your large handkerchiefs for the copious tears which are sure to flow.
My rating: 3.5/5....the extra 0.5 sheerly for my bias towards Sridevi. And why not? Look at the thousand and one expressions she is capable of giving in any scene.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Duvvada Jagannadham

Isn't a movie about a story, creativity, entertainment and some take-away?
Well, Duvvada Jaganndham has none of these elements.
To begin with, why is DJ's character portrayed as a brahmin? What is the relevance to the story (?!)?
There are two sides to Allu Arjun's character: one, a brahmin caterer (Duvvada Jagannadham) in Vijayawada and another a police informer and assistant (DJ) who helps Hyderabad rid of crime and criminals. The modus operandi is simple...bash them up or finish them off.
I am not sure how I sound when I say this, but to date I haven't witnessed a brahmin capable of so much violence! In fact, none.
When he acts as the police assistant, he dresses modernly by wearing shirt and trousers and when he is the caterer, he wears a long-sleeved shirt and panchi (dhoti). In the former avatar, his language is brash and in the latter, a sing-song way of speaking which is supposed to represent the brahmin way of speaking Telugu.
Through this brahmin character, the director (Harish Shankar) has made a mockery of brahmins and their mannerisms. Just because they don't protest , doesn't mean you can get away with anything.
If one were to make a film on brahmins and their language, culture and mannerisms, watch Mithunam (directed by Tanikella), a beautiful movie portrayed by two characters, SP and Lakshmi. It makes such peaceful watching!
Except Tanikella, no one in DJ has been able to do any justice to the essence of a brahmin in the movie. Well, for that the director ought to have done some research. There is no evidence of any.
Rao Ramesh, otherwise a good actor, has dared to imitate his father's character from Sankarabharanam and has fallen flat. The comparison is obvious. Some greats just cannot be imitated.
Chandramohan and Subba Raju, both good actors, are wasted in insignificant roles. It is Allu Arjun all the way.
Allu Arjun has made his fans wait long but this movie is just not worth the wait.
My rating: 1/5. Not worth wading through the rain-flooded streets to go watch this film. Sit at home and sip some hot coffee instead.
By the way, the female presence is fulfilled by Pooja Hegde. She is there too.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ami Thumi

The best thing about watching a movie is not knowing what it is about beforehand. Not having watched the trailers, I knew nothing of the cast, the story, the director...nothing. All I went by is the word going around.Therefore, Srinivas Avasarala's presence in the beginning of the movie, came as a pleasant surprise.
In fact, there are not one but three male leads, all having equal screen presence: Adivi Sesh, Srinivas Avasarala and Vennela Kishore. There is not much for the female leads in this movie.
Written and directed by Ashtma Chamma's director Mohan Krishna Indraganti, this movie, also a romantic comedy, falls in the same genre (of neat, small budget movies).
Adivi Sesh and Eesha are in love with one another. This is opposed by Eesha's father played by Tanikella Bharani because Sesh is an orphan. On the other hand, Srinivas, Tanikella's son is in love with Aditi, who is the daughter of Kedar Shankar, Tanikella's arch rival. And therefore, Tanikella is opposed to both these alliances.
Vennella Kishore's proposal to Eesha comes as a great relief to Tanikella as he is happy his daughter will get married into a rich household, not knowing that under the camouflage of opulence, Vennella Kishore's family is in deep debt and looks toward this alliance to redeem their lost riches.
The director uses the name Maya like he had used Mahesh before, to create confusion. Eesha uses this confusion to get the right pair married to each other.
Music is a pleasant plus to this movie. The background score is soothing and no where jarring. There are (thankfully) only two songs. The third one is a medley of old songs, done very charmingly by Srinivas Avasarala.
On the surface it looks like the movie copies Ashta Chamma, but the story is different.
Srinivas Avasarala has a great comic timing but he has close competition with Vennela Kishore who is simply brilliant in this movie. Despite his portrayal of a person from a highly sophisticated background, he gets conned by Eesha and her cook (an insuppressible Shyamala Devi). Tanikella Bharani, always a great actor, throws himself into his role with a great abandon as he sings and dances around gleefully at the prospect of getting his daughter married to a person of his choice.
On the minuses, it lacks the balance of a substantial role for the female leads (miss the spunk of a Colors Swathi). The story could have been crisper. Adivi Sesh, is good at acting and is good looking too but appears a bit too thin. The meaning and relevance of the title seems delusive.
All in all, a simple story which keeps you smiling throughout.
A 3/5 from me. Do watch. All your tensions of the real world will be forgotten for the 128 minutes it runs. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hindi Medium

I missed seeing many of Irfan Khan's earlier movies but make it a point to see most of them now. His mere presence brightens up the most mundane stories. So is the case with Hindi Medium, his latest offering.
Hindi Medium is a reflection of the competition these days between parents who are willing to go to any extent to get their kids admitted to the best schools and colleges.
The story starts with Irfan Khan, a retailer, effortlessly selling 'original' designs from top designers in India in the lanes of Chandini Chowk. He is threatened, emotionally blackmailed and coerced by his wife (Saba Qamar) into doing anything and everything for their daughter who would, if not educated in the best private school, grow up feeling inferior to others and  'end up taking drugs!'
However glib may Irfan be in his business skills, he sets them aside to cater to Saba's every whim and wish.
They move into posh premises as the best school mandates that they live close to the school. For Irfan Khan, the transition from Chandini Chowk to Vasant Vihar is not easy as he has to leave behind the house he grew up in. But they do it for the sake of their daughter.
Interesting and humorous are the moments when they try to adapt their life style to literally try to keep up with the joneses.
They seek a consultant whose business is to train the parents face the school interview. However well tutored, it cannot be hidden that Irfan Khan isn't the educated person he pretends to be. Hence the school admission is denied.
As they both sit depressed at this rejection, they are surprised to learn that the worker in their business was successful in getting his son admitted into the same school. When they learn that he got through in the poor quota, they prepare themselves to stay in the slums and apply through the poverty quota.
How Irfan manages to completely transform his body language to match that of a poor person is a pleasure to watch.
Mentionable is Deepak Dobriyal who, unbelievably, has been around since 2003. But this film is going to give him a recognition he has hankered for all along! He assumes that the couple has happened to fall on bad times and that they had once lived a good life. He is brilliant in training Irfan Khan on how to be poor. The moments spent in the slums are both hilarious and touching as they find solace in one another's depravity.
The movie was great till here. But then the convolutions that the story takes to make Irfan deal with guilt at passing off as a poor person to get a seat for his daughter seems rather contrived and couldn't really bring it to a logical conclusion.
The film runs for 133 minutes only but still needed to be padded up at times with the jokes about education commonly found on internet.
My thoughts, while watching this movie, were 'Thank God! We had the best schooling from the best teachers without getting into all this absurdity!'

I would go for a 3.5/5 for the performances of Irfan, Saba and Deepak and for the story bringing into focus the pathetic condition of education system in India.
Good movie. Go watch!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Vinod Khanna

70 is too young to die, man!
I was a little too young to remember the beginning of Vinod Khanna's journey in movies but I grew up watching him in his different avatars in movies of various genres.
For me personally, there  were and are only three MEN in Hindi cinema: Sunil Dutt,Vinod Khanna and Dharmender. None before and none after qualify to be the quintessential macho man. No 6-pack/8-pack nonsense with these men. These were men, tall, good looking with great, firm bodies: physiques that would set many a heart aflutter. Girls swore by Khanna's handsomeness.
I read recently about a journalist writing about how he never got his due. This is oh-so-wrong! Through my teenage years I remember the close rivalry between Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna so well. Both were at the peaks of their career. And Vinod Khanna acted in many movies reveling in the fame and adulation they brought. So it is not right to say that he wasn't appreciated. His stardom was perhaps second only to Rajesh Khanna's.
It was then that, breaking crores of hearts, he quit everything to join Osho, his spiritual guru. I remember that so well. We were all so disheartened, unable to understand his decision, about how someone can just throw away everything like that in pursuit of spiritual fulfillment.

What is this handsome hunk doing in the garb of a sanyasi?
But later, when I grew a little older I understood how courageous one needs to be to follow one's heart.
This action, in tandem with Rajesh Khanna's declining stardom, left the field clear for the rise of Amitabh Bachchan and many of his mediocre angry-young-man movies.
He was a young 35-year old in 1982 when he quit films. At an age when people are poised for greater things in life, he so easily gave up everything! After the 5-year hiatus, the comeback was never the same. Five years is a big time in one's career, more so in films where an actor has a limited shelf life. Despite not finding his niche back, he worked and kept working till his death. He is said to be one of the most dignified and professional people on sets.
His death, a little too soon at 70, may not have been painless but at least he lived the life of his choice.

Define Cool!
Image courtesy: Google Images