Friday, January 17, 2020

Ala Vaikuntapuramlo

When a movie has ALL elements required of an entertainer, the expected outcome is, at best, a disastrous potpourrie of ideas. Yet, what turned this imminent debacle into a super success is Allu Arjun's  energy and style quotient  that took Ala Vaikntapuramlo to another level altogether.
The movie begins with Murali Sharma, in a hospital, swapping his new-born child with that of Jayaram as he wished for his son's luxurious upbringing in the latter's house. Arjun, despite being constantly mocked by Murali, turns out to be smart and intelligent. On the other hand, Sushanth, the son of Murali turns out to be an unassertive failure, pampered as he was in the lap of luxury. Half way through the film Arjun discovers the truth of his parentage and then on tries to bring his alienated parents together and help his family.
The first half of the movie was fun to watch, with Allu Arjun's (rarely seen) restrained performance. He struggles through  middle class living with Murali's constant put-downs. The first half was well-paced, representing a nice, comic and well-paced family drama.
In the second half, it looked like the director decided to put in all the elements that the mass audience expects of a Allu movie. Gone was the restraint of the first half, the pace quickened, throwing in as many characters as possible...reducing super talents like Navdeep, Ramakrishna, Tabu, Tanikella, Rajendra Prasad, Brahmaji, Sunil, Vennella Kishore, Nivetha Pethuraj ... to caricaturish portrayals. Sad to see the blink-and-miss roles.
Navdeep's presence, especially, made you look forward to watching the magic created by the duo in Arya 2 repeat itself. But alas, this was not to be!
Only three characters were etched well. Allu Arjun as hero, Murali Sharma as the villain and Sachin Khedekar as Arjun's grandfather. And what remarkable performances by all three!
Sachin' s character is a catalyst to all the important twists that the story meanders though and he made sure he involved Arjun at every pivotal point to highlight his grandchild's prowess.
The heroine is Pooja Hegde's  beautiful, long legs which are used to portray the message, 'when a girl says no, it means a no." That's the role and significance of the heroine in the movie.
The songs also have everything in them, local, melodic, folk, item song et al...Samaja makes a significant impression with its melody.
And for the very first time, I noticed fights in a movie. They were very stylishly choreographed  and quite gracefully executed by Arjun.
Despite the flawed second half, slick execution by the director, Trivikram and super energetic performance by Allu Arjun has helped create yet another successful movie by the duo
A 3.5 on 5 rating for the sheer entertainment value.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Sadguru's Re-Engineering program

There is no dearth of babas/sadhus/self-proclaimed gurus in India.The more suave and clever ones with even passable English speaking skills have been marketing spirituality brilliantly. Over decades, the materialistically rich but spiritually empty West has sought the Indian babas, willingly relinquishing their money and property to be emotionally, financially, physically and mentally exploited . Thus we find obscenely rich babas who have found means to escape the law, till they are (as wont to happen) ultimately caught by law.
My friends and even acquaintances know that I am a very unlikely claimant for such mumbo-jumbo.
Of late, as most of the needs and responsibilities of life and living seem dispensed with, pensive thoughts on meaning and purpose of life haunt me. Towards this pursuit I have been reading a lot. I read different philosophers. Somehow through all this, I was attracted to Sadguru/Jaggi Vasudev's videos. As a rationalist, I find myself agreeing to most of what he says. What he says isn't new.  These are things I already know. Yet, a validation gives me a sense of vindication.
I enrolled for his re-engineering program which consists of an online course of 7 sessions lasting 90 minutes each. I listened with rapt attention to the discourses as he spoke about everyday stuff that a common man experiences. It made so much sense to me. This course was offered free of cost. Following which, I enrolled myself for the paid physical class of 3 hours x 7 days. And that's when the magic started wearing off.
This is also a lesson for entrepreneurs to take care of their franchises as well as they do with the brand...
Videos from the same online course were played one each day in the classes. Thus, what I heard in the online course got reinforced. I found myself listening to that magnetic voice with the same attention. He didn't speak of religion or spirituality but of empowerment, responsibility, loving self and loving all...
My expectation from these classes was that I can further build on my thoughts on life, its motivation, peace, meditate in groups etc...
But what happened was totally the opposite. The volunteers are given a strict regimen to follow and they apply it with a vengeance. Apart from the 90-minute videos everyday, there was an introduction to Jaggi Vasudev's different courses, programs and yoga practices.
Learning is always good but what if it is enforced? No rules are mentioned at the beginning of these classes but they keep a watch with hawk-like eyes and if they find you violate any rule, they swiftly swoop down upon you, forbidding all that they have apparently been instructed to.
Some rules followed during  the program:

1. Be on time: if you are late by even a minute you are pulled up, made to stand outside the room and asked for explanations.
2. No notes taking.. I have this habit of making short notes of important things. When I wasn't allowed to on my tab, I started doing so in a notebook. But shortly this too was disallowed.
3. Sunday is a full day, When asked about the schedule, you are asked to wait and watch the next day. The venue for the Sunday program is informed at 9 pm the night before. You reach  home at 10 pm and are frantically looking at ways to re-schedule your commute at 5 am the next day! On going to the venue, you learn that some outdoor games are involved and a mandatory participation by everyone, sport shoes or no....
You are asked to come, attend the program on an empty stomach at 6 am but beware no breakfast comes till 9.30 ! You must have woken up at at least 4.30 to get ready and attend this program. So, see if you can remain without food for 5 hours' time after waking up.
Sunday was also a day for guru pooja and you are urged to bring flowers, fruits, coconuts, a white cloth. For those not religiously inclined, this request can be infuriating!
4. 40 people are stuffed into a non-ac room. Fortunately, I participated in winter. Can't imagine how summers would be
5. Any drinking water/washroom breaks are strictly frowned upon. You are supposed to  remain seated for 3 hours in your place.
6. During the program, you are asked to discuss topics among yourselves in small groups but not enough time is given to elucidate the information gathered.
7. If you have any queries regarding the videos/programs, the standard answer is "you will learn it in the next few days of this program."
Don't expect the volunteer conducting the class to have the knowledge or be enlightened enough to know these answers
8. In a room where the acoustics were not really taken care of, I ensured I sat next to the speaker so that I could hear clearly. I sat with my head bent and eyes closed which is my way of paying attention without distraction. But then a volunteer comes running to 'wake' you up.
If you love the discourse so much, you will not get distracted and if you find it boring, and drop off, nothing can make you listen to it anyway, isn't it?

I wanted to leave the program the very next day. But then I continued as I wanted to see it through...and also alert others about it.
What was good...
Breakfast and lunch was provided during the full day session on Sunday. The satvic food consisted of almost 0% cooking. The menu was made of a hot glass of ragi milk, various fruits and salads. It was not only very healthy but also quite tasty. I always believe that the taste of food depends on the care with which one prepares and all that love and care reflected in the food. All cooking was done by the volunteers. The menu, along with the recipe is predetermined.
I am sure that people will be more willing to participate if things are not enforced.
It will be good if they share the detailed program before it starts. You are at least aware of what to expect in the 7 days. Nothing would then seem enforced as you have willingly enrolled for something that you are conscious of and not something that is sprung upon you as a surprise
My recommendation is to continue listening to Sadguru's videos. The re-engineering program online is very good but then don't waste your precious time for these physical classes. Speaking of yoga, practising yoga has many well-known benefits. Just do that. There is no need for all this mumbo-jumbo. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Prathi Roju Pandage...really?

There is no panduga (a festival/ a celebration) in this Prathi Roju Pandage (meaning every day is a celebration).
On the contrary, it is slow, preachy with a very thin story line stretched to two and half hours.
It is for people who like Baghban. Got the drift, I guess.
The story is about Sathayaraj who, diagnosed with lung cancer, is given five weeks to survive.
He lives in Rajahmundry leading a happily retired life after having ensured the successful future of his four children. Three of them are abroad and are busily engaged with their projects, deliverables, deadlines. They all come to a mutual agreement that they can only be in India for the last two weeks of their father’s life and a total of four weeks which  included two weeks to perform the last rites. Sai Dhram Tej, our hero, is the son of the eldest son, Rao Ramesh, who could not be as calculative and lands in India at once.
He urges his grandfather to celebrate his last few days and do all that he had ever set his heart on. But the grandfather seemed to be content in his life already…not the one to pine for his missing children and feel neglected.  There’s very little value that Sai Dharam Tej adds to his grandfather’s life.
The movie has so many characters coming and going that you don’t really know who is who after a while…and frankly you stop caring after a point….
The heroine, Rashi Khanna looks beautiful and portrayed as a dumb head who is obsessed about tik-tok videos. So, you get an ideas about her contribution to the story.
Two people who do well are Ajay and Satyam Rajesh who play the comic villains.
Similar to Venky Mama, this movie stands on the shoulders of veterans like Sathyaraj and Rao Ramesh.
Rao Ramesh has outdone himself. The movie can be watched for him alone…
What the director forgets is that its nearly 18 years since Baghban. Times have changed. People are financially stronger. Parents have learned to live without depending on children and vice-versa. We have drawn our own lives in compliance with our needs that seldom concur. Yes, the loneliness persists but you don’t need someone to come redeem your life.
I expected to see some great family bonding and a comic relief but what I ended with was an unnecessary sermon about how one must take care of one’s parents.
Went with great expectations after seeing the trailers but just a 2/5 experience for me. This movie will make sense more to people who are still financially dependent on each other as a family and therefore need each other in their lives
A VenkyMama for me anytime over this if one must experience the 90s kind of movies.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Venky Mama

Movie trends keep changing every few decades. After the 70s wave, we now again live in the era of experimental movies and new form of story-telling.
Also, the era of bio-pics, the Dirty Picture heralding a beginning milked to exhaustion! Tired of watching these bio pics, (esp from our hero of hysterical nationalism), stories drawn from real-life incidents, the historicals, the gangster movies and all, the heart was yearning for the good old entertainers with a simple story-line. 
In Telugu movies, the 90s was dominated by Venkatesh kind of movies, attracting the family audience. Many of us would be dismissive of Venkatesh's stardom calling him an actor who catered to ladies' sentiment alone. 
Now again, we have in Venky Mama, a commercial, which has all elements of a pure entertainer. And we can only watch admiringly as Venkatesh emotes so effortlessly and so well! It was a treat watching him again in his original form after a couple of decades. Sorry Nag Chaitanya, your uncle has outshone you in this joint venture.
Nag's character gets orphaned in childhood and Venkatesh brings him up. The movie explores without emotionally exploiting this uncle-nephew sentiment. It touches your heart as you know that they are real life uncle-nephew and that Nag's father had indeed separated from his mother in his childhood. The story mostly builds on this sentiment, and how they try to get each other married and how misunderstandings are built around the grandfather's belief in astrology. The heroines don't really have much to do.
Those who yearn for movies based on  good family story (without again the trend of a large joint family kind of set-up), will love this movie.Towards the end there is some villainy, perhaps to showcase Nag Chaitanya's action abilities but that still doesn't help. Despite Nag's very sincere performance, Venkatesh, even at this age stands out with his brilliant comic timing, and the movie belongs to him alone. Go watch and be entertained!
I don't need to rate this. Sufficient to say it is the 90s Venkatesh kind of a movie. The Telugu movie buff will know :)

Sunday, August 18, 2019


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.