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.

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.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Jai Lava Kusa: the unexpected

Life throws surprises and so do movies.
Jr. NTR movies are to be watched on TV only...this has been my dictum since the time he started acting. The OTT performances in his 'mass' movies aren't the kind I enjoy watching. There have been a few exceptions of late. But he still roars in one of his movies, 'class anukunnavemo, lopala mass aalage undi'.
So, watched 'Nannaki Prematho' with the same expectation but was nicely surprised with the intelligent story and combined performances of Jagapathi Babu and NTR. Perhaps this sentiment made me watch Jai Lava Kusa (albeit reluctantly) in its first week of release.The underlying thought was how do I put up with three NTRs in one movie? It also doesn't help to know that it is directed by K. S. Ravindra, known for directing/writing for pakka mass movies.
And was I surprised when I watched this one?!
The story is of triplets who, separated in childhood, develop into three different personalities with three different shades of gray due to the environment they are brought up in. One is Lava, the gentleman, Kusa, the petty thief and Jai, the dark villainy character. This portrayal is brilliantly showcased by the best in the VFX and the prosthetics department, equally supported by remarkable performance by NTR.  He played around with the nuances of the portrayal of the three characters so well that when he gave an interview post the movie release, I was wondering about the absence of the other two NTRs! The story concludes to show how blood is thicker than water.
The heroines (Raashi Khanna and Nivetha Thomas) are ornamental but catalytic to some twists to the story. Ronit Roy in his debut role as a Telugu villain does not look as comfortable or sinister as do his contemporaries from the Hindi cinema playing villain roles in Telugu.
It is still not a class act. You still have those melodramatic dialogs, dances, action, costumes, an item number et al. Go watch it with no expectation and you will be in for a pleasant surprise.
A 3/5 from me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Arjun Reddy

With people raving about this movie; with no tickets available over the weekend for any of its shows, I thought that writing a review about Arjun Reddy is redundant. But I write as I have a slightly different take on the movie.
Ok, at the outset I didn't understand at all why the movie is A-certified. The expectation it sets is that it has copious amounts of sex or violence or plenty of expletives but no, it doesn't really have scenes depicting nudity, nor scenes of gory violence and has just a handful of expletives. (The censor board may need a rethink as those expletives are very much a part of the narration and beeping them, despite an A certificate, hampers the narration.)
So what's it about?
The movie is about a very passionate and honest love story. Vijay Deverkonda, the hero, is passionately in love with his junior in medical college. He turns alcoholic when he loses the heroine (Shalini Pandey, in her debut role). It is an unconventional love story as it persists through all circumstances. It stands against caste, religious, regional differences.
This is exactly why it has so strongly appealed to the youth. It will appeal to the youth who feel choked because of all these restraints imposed by conservative thinking of parents and the society. The nonconformists will easily be able to take this story in their stride.
Why else will the movie attract universal audiences?
For me, because it stands by values. This movie appeals to the higher intellect. It teaches you to respect every human being. It teaches you not to objectify a woman. It teaches you to be honest and truthful to life, and more important, to yourself. It teaches you to value love and relationships. It teaches you to be passionate about life, love and living and not live like an inanimate object. It teaches you to live fearlessly, without hypocrisy. It teaches you the value of friendship that stands firmly with you through all ups and downs of life.
The director, Sandeep Reddy, has extracted the best from Vijay Deverkonda who makes a deep impact with his superlative acting skills after his brilliant 'Evade Subramaniam'. Together they bring out brutally honest emotions that we all die to display but are scared to.
The movie also boasts of slick editing and story-telling. The heroine has a presence and importance throughout. Maybe her rather plain looks has a message that looks don't matter in love.
Happened to catch a sparkling glimpse of yesteryears' Kanchana, as the hero's grandmother, who has lost none of her radiance.
This movie doesn't bank on crass comedy, punch dialogs, heroine's midriff or the hero's deification for its salability. (All these easily get by the censors).
I definitely think the movie is not just for the youth but for everyone who has forgotten to live a life.
For all the above factors, I give it a 4/5.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


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


"God can't be everywhere...and hence he created mom," is the only clichéd 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 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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mann mein doosara laddoo phoota?!

Kismet...what else can describe today's incident?
I had to attend to some work at the bank and I was putting it off for some time. The super-hot sun blazing away at 43° makes sure I confine myself to the cool interiors most of the time.
But then I went today as I had to get this work done. There was a queue and I decided to check the attached ATM meanwhile...rather reluctantly and with a certainty that there will be, as usual, no cash.
Since 8th November 2016, this has been the fate of the common man...running from ATM to ATM hoping to lay hands on some cash.
The ATMs are once again drying up after a short period of availability a month ago. Ironically, I haven't been able to draw money from the ATM of this bank (which is my main account) since November. And therefore, when I tried, I tried with really very little hope. And lo and behold! There was cash!
I typed 5500. It rejected suggesting that I draw 4000/- . The usual story, I thought...dispensing 2 two thousand rupee notes. Sigh! With the no-cash-no-change dictum presently in India, I despaired thinking of how to pay my tailor today.
I tried at another machine hoping to get 500 rupee notes. It rejected again with a suggestion of drawing 4000/ . With no other go, I typed in 4000 and guess what? I got 40 x Rs.100 notes! Can you believe that? For the first time, no 2000s or 500s but the whole of 4000 in 100s!
While I was smiling away gloriously, this guy standing at the next machine was muttering...'getting 100s only, want 2000 rupee notes.'
Man mein doosara laddu phoota! I was carrying the only cash I had at home...a 2000 rupee note and offered it to him. I watched with a gluttonous rapture as he counted, 1...2...3...4...20 of the limited edition. I wish I had another 2000 to exchange for that bundle of 20 x 100s that he was holding!

Am I not today?! 6000 rupees of spendable money in hand!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Closing cycles: Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho has always inspired me with his thought-provoking writings.The principle in the below excerpt is something I understand so well, yet I know, not as easy to follow.

One always has to know when a stage comes to an end. If we insist on staying longer than the necessary time, we lose the happiness and the meaning of the other stages we have to go through.
Closing cycles, shutting doors, ending chapters – whatever name we give it, what matters is to leave in the past the moments of life that have finished.

Did you lose your job? Has a loving relationship come to an end? Did you leave your parents’ house? Gone to live abroad? Has a long-lasting friendship ended all of a sudden?
You can spend a long time wondering why this has happened.

You can tell yourself you won’t take another step until you find out why certain things that were so important and so solid in your life have turned into dust, just like that.
But such an attitude will be awfully stressing for everyone involved: your parents, your husband or wife, your friends, your children, your sister.
Everyone is finishing chapters, turning over new leaves, getting on with life, and they will all feel bad seeing you at a standstill.

Things pass, and the best we can do is to let them really go away.

That is why it is so important (however painful it may be!) to destroy souvenirs, move, give lots of things away to orphanages, sell or donate the books you have at home.

Everything in this visible world is a manifestation of the invisible world, of what is going on in our hearts – and getting rid of certain memories also means making some room for other memories to take their place.
Let things go. Release them. Detach yourself from them.

Nobody plays this life with marked cards, so sometimes we win and sometimes we lose.
Do not expect anything in return, do not expect your efforts to be appreciated, your genius to be discovered, your love to be understood.

Stop turning on your emotional television to watch the same program over and over again, the one that shows how much you suffered from a certain loss: that is only poisoning you, nothing else.

Nothing is more dangerous than not accepting love relationships that are broken off, work that is promised but there is no starting date, decisions that are always put off waiting for the “ideal moment.”

Before a new chapter is begun, the old one has to be finished: tell yourself that what has passed will never come back.
Remember that there was a time when you could live without that thing or that person – nothing is irreplaceable, a habit is not a need.
This may sound so obvious, it may even be difficult, but it is very important.

Closing cycles. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because that no longer fits your life.

Shut the door, change the record, clean the house, shake off the dust.

Stop being who you were, and change into who you are.

Original link here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Casa Loma: the courage to dream

Though a not-so-good student of history in high school, as a traveler history has me enthralled. To see what a person yearns for, fights for, gathers, wages wars for, amassing wealth and territories, the opulence and grandeur of an era gone by...all these hold a great fascination to me.
Yet, a visit to Casa Loma palace bowled me over for a different reason altogether. Princes, kings, queens, lords living in opulence is well-established in history but for a common man like you and me living in a palace is a dream and that is what Sir Henry Pellatt aimed for. He built and lived in a palace, the grandeur of which is beyond the wildest dreams of a common man.
Pellatt rose from a very humble origins as a stock broker. He made fortunes through his ambitious hydro-electric and railway projects. His larger-than-life persona sought to make a mark in history in the form of this grand castle in the North of Toronto built on the top of a hill in 1914.
Casa Loma on a foggy day

The very ambitious plan for the castle consisted of 98 rooms, 30 bathrooms, magnificent fireplaces, 3 bowling alleys, a swimming pool, a rifle range and huge grounds all around for walking. The best architect was hired to plan the construction of the palace, begun in 1911, with the help of 300 men at a total cost of  3.5 million dollars.The best of mahogany, oak, walnut, teak and marble from across the world used for the interiors added another 1.5 million dollars to the cost.
The Hunting Lodge and the stables right across Casa Loma were constructed first. It also housed the servants' quarters. It is said that each of the stables had the name of the horse embellished in gold.

The Hunting Lodge and servants' quarters

When the city built a road cutting across this property, Pellatt had a long 800-ft tunnel connecting the palace to the Hunting Lodge dug beneath the street. This long passage is said to have helped Pellatt protect himself from cold winters while walking from the palace to the stables.
The ground floor of the palace consisted of a palatial main hall at the entrance, a large library with a collection of 10000 books, the dining and serving areas, Pellatt's study and the impressive conservatory.
An example of Pellatt's ambitious plan is his collection of  50 various telephone instruments in the castle, accounting for more than half the telephones in Toronto, with its own exchange system.

One of the 50 phones in the palace
Pellatt had the grand Napoleon's desk replicated in his study. There were two secret passage ways from each side of the fireplace, one led to his bedroom and another to the basement. The movement across floors was also assisted  with the help of lifts that Pallett had installed...again an unheard of luxury in those days. Strangely there was no staircase from the central hall to the first floor.

Pellatt's study

The Oak room was one of the most formal rooms with grand interiors where Pellatt entertained important guests. Off the Oak Room are the huge Smoking Room and the Billiards Room.

The Oak Room
Towards the end of the main floor, there was a conservatory with the best floral arrangements. Steamed water helped maintain normal temperatures during harsh winters.
Between the huge library and the conservatory was the equally spacious dining room. A passage from the kitchen led to the Serving Room where all dishes were assembled before serving. Attached was a small hideaway where the orchestra would play in the background
The first floor consisted of palatial bedrooms of Henry Pellatt and Lady Pellatt. Only the rich could afford a bedroom each for the husband and wife in those days.The bedrooms showcased exhibits brought from all over the world.
Apart from the many bedrooms for guests, he had a special bedroom, the Windsor Room, for the Queen. Ambitious as he was, he hoped that one day he would boast of a Royal visit.

In anticipation of a Royal visit

The fireplace in Windsor room
Despite a temporary recess during World War I, the construction resumed in time to enable Pellatt and his wife to move into the near-completed palace in 1914.
The post-war recession witnessed Pellatt's fast-depleting reserves. He owned 1.7 million dollars to the Home Bank which collapsed in 1923. Adding to his woes, the property tax increased from $600 a year to $1000  a month! In addition, mounting fuel costs for heating the palace, the cost of maintaining the 40 servants, the lavishly-held parties which had the who's who of those times...all these led to Pellatt's bankruptcy.
The couple had to move out of the palace in 1924. Lady Pellatt died shortly after of a heart attack
Most of the assets in the palace were auctioned to repay debts.The artifacts lovingly gathered from all over the world were given away at throw-away prices: "A Persian rug for the cost of a doormat." Pellatt is said to move out with just three van full of belongings.
The grandiose plans for the palace were never completed and the whole of the second floor lies vacant. Once abandoned, the palace lay itself wide open to heavy vandalization. Not knowing what to do with the palace, the city thought of demolishing this 'appalling' structure at a point of time.
It is now restored and is open to public view. It is also used for conducting events and film shootings. In the now Gift Shop, you can see plans for the three bowling alleys.The grandly planned swimming pool houses the theater which runs a documentary film on Henry Pellatt.

Pellatt's story has me awed due to his sheer guts and gumption in building this palace. Common people would never dream of such ostentation but he dared to dream beyond the possible, to live in this imposing structure even if it was for nine years only. He shrugged away the label of being mad for his seemingly absurd plans. He had one son who in turn isn't survived by a progeny.
He never regained that opulence but yes, some redemption for Sir Henry Pellatt as people turned out in thousands to bear witness to his funeral procession held on a cold winter day in March, 1939.

(Most of what I have written comes from the audio tour provided during my visit to the palace and looking up several articles on the internet.)