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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Evaru

Writing a review for an Adivi Sesh movie seems an exercise in futility. I went to see the movie without reading a review or even viewing the trailer. His movies beckon the rarest cine-goer to the theatres. Evaru is brilliant too but a tad less than his previous Goodachaari.
Its time Adivi Sesh (à la Atul Kulkarni of Hindi films) gets his due with his brilliant line-up of movies... besides the very handsome looks.
Evaru, like his earlier movie Kshanam is an edgy thriller. Adivi Sesh is a cop who doesn’t care too much about inane stuff like scruples. He is assigned to a murder case involving Regina Cassandra to help her.
Every step is a brilliant mind game between the two characters Adivi Sesh and Regina Cassandra. Every detail provided by Regina is countered with an opposite view by Sesh. Writing Evaru review can be a very tricky exercise because any unthinking remark can give away the plot. There are very few characters in the movie…only those that are required to take the story forward. Naveen Chandra & Murali Sharma have important roles in the movie. Naveen has a meaty role that is very different to the ones he played in his movies so far. The plot takes you through many surprising turns and reveals deeper and darker secrets, each adding to more intriguing elements to the story, leading towards the climax.
Its drawback lies in the fact that it should have ended five minutes before it did when Sesh walked out of Reguina’s room. It would then have led to a stunning climax. But adding one more twist post that seemed pretty contrived.
It is based on the Spanish film, The Invisible Guest. But that’s just the premise. The screenplay is its own and keeps you engaged from start to end.
A 4/5 rating from me. Go watch!


Friday, July 12, 2019

Telugu Films: June-July 2019


The cine-goers have been hankering for a ‘different’ movie. We were lapping up girl-meets-boy-running-around-trees storyline for decades.
But soon enough, the tired audience wanted different. And different is what the Telugu audiences are getting in abundance these days. Each of the films, especially the low budget ones, come up with stories so widely varied!
To name a few:
Falaknuma Das: A Malayalam remake, is adapted to fit into the image of Falaknuma, Hyderabad old city, its streets, its flavours, the botis, the payas, Irani chai, lassis, the street brawls et al. It is about how the hot-headed 23-year-old protagonist, VishwakSen, mellows down after many high-drama experiences in life. 3.5/5

Mallesham: Priyadarshi, who has only been playing the hero’s comic friend from the beginning of his career chooses to portray the true story of Mallesham and his travails in trying to improve the ilk of Pochampally weavers by inventing a machine to make weaving easier. Priyadarshi was brilliant in this movie slipping effortlessly between different moods and moments. The movie is a tad slow though, reminding you of the ‘art’ films of the yore. 3/5

Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya: Naveen Polishetty a relative novice, playing the role of a wannabe sleuth with some fixed, (unintentionally funny) ideas in his mind about how a detective ought to be and behave. A comic thriller that has you engaged with its myriad twists and turns as the hero gets inadvertently drawn into a 'big' case that he was hungering for. Brilliant acting by the hero. And some great comic scenes. 3.5/5

1st Rank Raju, a Kannada remake, speaks about the futility in the mad pursuit of people (parents) who measure success in terms of ranks in academics. About how important is an all-round development. 2.5/5

Brochevarevaru Ra: For me the best of the lot. This movie is a writer’s narration to a female lead. How the characters from the narration and reality interact and affect each other’s lives forms more than an engaging narrative. Sri Vishnu, Nivetha, Ramakrishna and Priyadarshi playing their roles brilliantly. 4/5

Make use of this weekend to view some of these movies with story lines as different from each other as possible.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

De de pyaar de

De De Pyar De trailer looked interesting. There was a prospect of comedy I was looking forward to watching.
To summarize, the movie is about a 50-year old romancing a 26-year young thing. So, what’s new, you may ask. Let me tell you, then.
This movie takes you back to those days when comedy need not equate to crassness. It need not be slapstick to be entertaining. It shows how one can have a decent storyline with all elements of drama, melancholy and comedy woven into it.
It starts with how Rakul Preet Singh, the 26-year-old meets the 50-year-old Ajay Devgn and what starts as a random acquaintance blooms into a full-blown romance. Much time is wasted trying to establish the bond between the two, though.
You get to sink your teeth into the juicy parts of the story only after interval when Devgn, who his daughter had declared dead to her fiancé, lands bang in the middle of her betrothal along with Rakul Preet. The ill-prepared Rakul Preet then discovers that Devgn has two grown up children in their 20s; that he has a sexy looking ex-wife (Tabu); that he has a set of parents who blame Devgn for the break-up between Tabu and him.
What ensues is a set of emotional moments between the bitter daughter and father, the son’s crush on Rakul Preet (who is introduced as Devgn’s secretary), the father (Alok Nath)’s caustic comments about the age difference...
Tabu has some powerful lines written for her and seems to remain in control through all this chaos as she tries to bring the groom’s family and hers together.
There are moments, mostly unspoken, which reflect fine lines in relationships. It does not boil to a simplistic 'Age doesn’t matter in relationships’ theory. It is that hesitant touch when Devgn wants to draw Rakul Preet close but feels awkward when he realizes that she had worn his daughter’s clothes. About when Devgn’s sense of responsibility towards his daughter overpowers his attraction to Rakul Preet. Despite that, his brooding moments through his daughters’ engagement reflecting his longing for Rakul Preet. This tells us that age doesn’t take away our longing for loving and being loved. It only awaits the right person to re-ignite it.
The Indian hero always shows himself being much younger than what he actually is. In such scenario, it takes a lot of courage for Devgn to allow himself to not only be shown as a 50-year-old but also to be called a ‘buddha.’
Javed Jaffery, a psychiatrist, plays the practical voice of the societal expectations from such a skewed relationship.
Like the many movies cautioning the teenagers of the perils of hastily venturing into inappropriate relationships, this one too cautions about the possible long-term effects of this age difference on a relationship.
This hitherto unapproached subject of age difference is supported by a powerful statement like ‘In earlier times also we had marriages with huge age differences but at least this is happening with the girl’s consent.’ 
A good entertainer this one with splendid performances by Tabu and Devgn. There is nothing intense about this movie. But, rest assured, it is not a Total Dhamaal either. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Maharshi


The movies of Mahesh Babu that I like are far and few between. I do not like those commercially-oriented ones with barely-there story lines. To his credit, he does try different genres in his films.
What evoked my interest in watching Maharshi was Allari Naresh’s presence. That Naresh is a good actor (forcibly confined to certain genre) is no secret. I am so glad that in this film he got to do something other than hare-brained comedy (though he excels at those too).
The 3-hour film is divided into three phases of Mahesh Babu’s life. A college, corporate and village life.
The movie starts with a college scene with blossoming friendship between Mahesh Babu, Naresh and Pooja Hegde, the heroine. (Suspended belief called for.)
It is the usual college scene except that Mahesh Babu has extraordinary intelligence (and loads of attitude).
He has mapped himself to a path of success wherein relationships don’t hold much meaning and are seen as impediments. He loses the two friends he makes in college before he sets forward on the journey of his life to the US where his innovative ideas in mobile applications, find him soon heading the company he works for. Just as he starts wallowing in his long-dreamt success, a blast from the past makes him visit Naresh in his village. The visit sets him re-thinking the meaning of success and this forms the third and final part of the movie.
The next act in village and the ensuing confrontation with Jagapathi Babu forms an interesting duel between two minds.
Both Naresh and Jagapathi Babu shine in their performances. Mahesh Babu looks uncannily like his father. Of course, with far better dancing skills.
The very brief almost cameo- like appearances of Tanikella Bharani, Prakash Raj , Jayasudha and Vennella Kishore remain inexplicable. I mean such powerful performers in such blink-and-miss roles? To the extent that even Pooja Hegde, the heroine’s presence was just not required. When will we get rid of the obsession with glamor quotient in Telugu films?  The heroine for Naresh is completely justified though. Without all the song and dance, we would have a crisper movie on hand. and, the fights too...too many of them just to showcase Mahesh's action skills.
The story, though not really new, is very predictive but still gripping throughout, so much so that I never realized when the 3-hour long film got over.
What works for this film by Vamsi Paidipally, is that after a long time, we have a message delivered very effectively in a film without sounding preachy. At the end of the movie, your heart will go out and want to do something for the farmer.
Brings to mind the slogan so aptly raised by Shastriji “Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan!” So true! Where would we all be without the two?
Yeah, go watch the film while remaining vigilant of the above-mentioned minuses.
A 3.75/5 experience for me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Jersey


The tag ‘Natural Actor’ sits on Nani well. This aspect is reinforced in the Telugu movie, Jersey.
 That, after a plethora of attempts at larger-than-life portrayals, he has returned to his Amol Palekarisque role brings great relief to his audience.
This is what he does best and not the Krishnagadi…Krishnarjuna etc. etc. kind of movies. (Perhaps the word Krishna doesn’t suit him?)
Neither Nani nor the movie fight shy of portraying the hero in a grey shade, a rarity in Telugu movies where even heroes over 50 want to show themselves as young and inviolable. In this movie, Nani’s age is a year older than what he actually is in his real life. He allows himself to be amidst 19-year-old youngsters bringing forth the stark difference in age and physical sprightliness.
As is his wont, he doesn’t seem to act. He lives the role. He portrays a successful but an arrogant cricketer who loses both, cricket and a government job, giving up the former and suspended from the latter. He now sits moping at home watching cricket and, in general, wasting time as his wife works, albeit reluctantly, in a job that doesn’t pay her much and in which she is humiliated from time to time.
But his love for his son keeps him going. Nani must have had an emotional attachment to the role as he named his reel son Nani and himself Arjun (his son’s name in real life) in the movie.
The son’s simple wish of getting the Indian jersey for his birthday is what forms the premise of the film. Nani feels humiliated and helpless as he sees himself unable to fulfil his son’s one wish.
The awakening happens when his wife catches him taking money from her purse. That triggers the end to his inaction.  He now wants to do something about his life instead of whiling away his time hoping to get back his job (by bribing the lawyer, which he refuses to).
Nani has played the role seemingly with lot of ease. In reality, how hard he must have worked, how much he must have practised to get those perfect shots with his bat. Not once does he make you feel he is a novice at cricket. At the same time, he allows his efforts to be noticed in his attempts to fit in and show himself as physically fit as the 19-year-old cricketers.
The movie is simple with no twists and turns. The hero tries to shed his looser label and fulfil a purpose in life. The journey from an insignificant existence to a meaningful one is what makes it so endearing to the audience. Plus, the fact that Nani is one of us, adds to the appeal.
The heroine, Shraddha Srinath’s acting was a little forced as she doesn’t have much to do but keep yelling at Nani. The kid is cute, a tad too cute perhaps. The cuteness factor could be turned down a little to concentrate more on some unspoken moments between father and son.
Sathyaraj as Nani’s coach and mentor is brilliant. Brahmaji, Rao Ramesh and Sampath Raj do well in their cameos.
There are times when you feel the movie is pursuing too many sub-plots. The more the sub-plots, the greater the difficulty in tying them together and bring them to a cohesive end.
Go watch for the Nani who was before Krishna etc…you will find him again in this movie.
After the director takes you to a crescendo in the post-interval portion of the film, the end was a definite let-down.
What works for the movie is the sincere efforts of the director, Gowtham Tinnanuri, a relative novice who knows how to cash in on Nani’s histrionics.
For me Jersey is a 3.5/5 experience.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Apna Time Aayega

Indian cinema trying to replicate a success story has become quite a hackneyed theme.
In this scenario, though based on a true story, Gully Boy offers a fresh approach, a fresh story and is different from all the movies (biopics being the latest trend) that get churned out regularly.
Apart from the odd Lootera in the beginning days of his acting, Ranveer is known more for his loud expressions, attire and persona.
In Gully Boy he has proved he can also underplay and do it well. The movie is about the underdog and pursuit of his dreams. When I heard this one-liner, my reaction was a yawn…so, what’s new?
What’s new, however, is its treatment by director Zoya Akhtar and execution by the lead actor, Ranveer Singh.
The hero doesn’t portray the typical larger-than-life persona. His no make-up look shows him as a very real person. The body language accentuates the humble demeanor he displays when in the presence of his employer, (eyes bend down, speaking in controlled voice).
Ranveer is accepting of his vulnerabilities and makes mistakes just like you and I do. He witnesses a deep rich-poor divide when he works as a temporary driver to his rich employer, yet there is no bitterness in him…. only a quiet note to himself ‘apna time aayega’ (my time will come). He defies his father who believes that they are born for and meant to serve the rich meekly all through their lives. Despite his poverty, Ranveer exhibits a strong set of values, standing by his friends, his mother…
The movie is filmed in Dharavi, the famed slums of Mumbai. Zoya speaks of the humdrum of life; of how the lead pair of Ranveer and Alia meet unknown to their parents; of their daily commute together in the local train; of their respective lower middle-class households; of Alia studying to become a doctor. All this is shown in a very matter-of-fact way without belittling the people of Dharavi or their surroundings.
Ranveer, on the other hand, is clueless about his life and its goal. He is happy penning lyrics for rap songs. Life has its plans when he happens to meet Siddhant Chaturvedi (an Emcee himself) who nudges him into singing (or is it called rapping?).
I don’t understand rap much but what I can empathise with is the yearning in the mind of a young boy who is from an impoverished background and hopes to make it big one day. Alia adds the subtle counterfoil to this ambitious Ranveer.
The movie could be considered as a take-off from where 3 idiots left. it will appeal more to the suppressed lot and not to the middle & upper middle class where lot of us have already allowed our children’s dreams to take wing.
Chaturvedi adds greatly to the energy but seems, unfairly, to be left out of the so-far-shared success journey towards the end. What could distract you is his uncanny resemblance to Shahid Kapoor.
I loved the simple synergy in this movie. One need not get unduly stressed wondering who is backstabbing who. The emotions of anger, happiness, friendship are never camouflaged. At 153 minutes, especially post interval, the film does drag a bit though.
I’d rate it a 3.5/ 5.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Thailand: its culture and practices

This is my concluding post in the Thailand series on Preparing for, Eating at and Touring Thailand.
Here I list some of my observations regarding Thailand culture and its practices. Hopefully, they will be of use to people who plan to travel there.

About Thailand Hotels:
  1. The hospitality industry doesn’t pander to you as the ones back in India do. Even at a 4-starred hotel you’d rarely find bell boys to help carry your luggage … neither during check-in nor check-out times.
  2. The best of the hotels doesn’t provide you with shampoo bottles or soap bars. You’d find these provided in different soap dispensers in liquid form.
  3. For the coffee and tea preparation in your room, you are daily provided with just the required number of coffee, tea and sugar sachets, not one more.
  4. The toothbrush kit, when available, is of superior quality, similar to what you buy for your regular use.
  5. Many a time you find, close to the reception area, free snacks and sweets available throughout the day for you to dip into for your hunger pangs.
  6. Along with all the usual stuff, we found, in two of the hotels we stayed in, clean beach towels and umbrellas for the sudden torrents.
  7. All three hotels we stayed in provided us with pin-drop silence and a peaceful night’s sleep.
  8. Thankfully, the hotels are strict about smoking and non-smoking rooms and therefore my room didn’t have the smell of smoke hanging in the air.
  9. Bottled water, one for each person each day, was provided free of cost in the hotels.
  10. All the hotels have the check-in time at 2 pm and check-out at 12 noon. They allow you to store your luggage with them even after you check-out.
  11. The hotels aren't really costly there and compare with those in India.
  12. Of the three hotels we stayed in, Ibis, Krabi was the best experience and The Mailka, Phuket the least.Holiday Inn Express, Bangkok was a pretty good experience too. 
Other practices
  1. As in India, Thailand too charges its foreign tourists higher than the local ones for entry to various tourist spots. For visitors from the West, the cost is a fraction of their currency but for the Indian tourists, it is multiplied by two and a half ( at current currency conversion rate). 
    Entrance ticket to one of the tourist sites.
  2. Tissues are used abundantly. Not only do you find it in the bathroom in the form of toilet paper, but you also find boxes of tissues in the bathroom, at the dressing mirror, at your bedside…in short, everywhere. Being an avid tissue user, I really didn’t mind. The quality of tissue is also amazingly soft and not abrasive like the ones we find here.
  3. Some hotels provide you with shuttle services to the beach every hour.
  4. What saddens you though is the abundant use of thin plastic carry bags. Every time we shopped, we politely turned them down.
  5. English is spoken or understood by very few. We  approached some school kids on the street for directions, assuming that, like in India, English is spoken by almost every school kid. But , no, they didn't understand the language either. 
  6. The different modes of transport are the abundant cabs found on the street, the tuk-tuks (like our autos) and the sky train in Bangkok. Like in India, you can negotiate with the cab and tuk-tuk drivers.
  7. Most of the cab drivers are swift and smart with their phone use. You name the place and you are quickly driven there. But you can never see where they drive you because guess what…the Google maps are also in Thai.
  8. Bangkok airport has a complicated wi-fi connection system and takes 20-30 minutes to connect.
  9. Most of the temples are of Buddha and you need to take off your shoes to enter a temple. You also need to make sure you cover your knees and shoulders before you do.
  10. Most of the restaurants run till late in the night, almost round the clock with no breaks between lunch and dinner times.
  11. Water isn’t available for free anywhere. You’d need to buy it.
  12. Forex exchange kiosks are found almost everywhere.
  13. The roads are free of troughs and craters and are very beautifully maintained.
I hope you find this list useful in guiding your preparations when you visit Thailand.