#Pellichoopulu review

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Nestled below the lofty Annapurna studios is an area called ‘Krishna Nagar’. Many a struggler in the film industry come to this area to find many of their ilk. A few succeed and a lot many are disappointed in their quest to gain a foothold in the Telugu film industry.

Opportunity and despair follow people living here. If the chance to shoot in Annapurna Studios is a dream many want to fulfil, the line of pawn broker shops on the main road tell you a tale of what people do to sustain themselves in face of dwindling hope and opportunities.

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Armed with a smart phone, internet access and a google account, many people, with stars in their eyes, begin with short films these days. It doesn’t guarantee anything. It at least ensures that you have a presence. It probably is the ‘okka chance’ that people crave for.

So, Tharun Bhascker started out with a youtube channel, making a brilliant video called Highderabad. He followed that up with a short film called Anukokunda; incidentally his heroine in this movie, Ritu Varma, gained fame from the short film.

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Slice of life movies are seldom made in Telugu Film Industry as the movie makers think that only established names ensure business. Though the strike rate of blockbusters is minimal, the producers continue to believe in the stars. Sometimes, out of the blue, a big production house/producer decides to back a ‘small film’ and reaps benefit out of it.

What’s new in #PelliChoopulu?

For starters, it’s one of those movies, in Telugu, which has a hashtag in its title. And then, it’s one of those few movies where the characters aren’t pretentious. They are like you, me and the people we see in everyday life.

Every single person who stars in the movie has a contribution to make to the movie, in one way or the other. Actors who provide comic relief are not there to just do that; they are involved in the journey of the protagonists.

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Vijay Devarakonda is an actor who is growing with every role that he enacts. In Yevade Subramanyam, he had an author backed role for whatever time he was on the screen. He doesn’t exactly play second fiddle here, but the story isn’t entirely running based on him. He delivers and how? Though the actions of his character are questionable, his understanding of human emotions is superb and he brings that part of the character out very well. The role was a banana skin for him and credit to him that he didn’t topple himself. In what can be a glowing tribute to him as an actor, it’s in his presence that most of the other actors bring the best out of themselves in this movie.

Ritu Varma had a small role in the movie with which Vijay Devarakonda made an impact. There she didn’t have enough screen time to bring out the good actress in her. In this movie, she does and performs her role with aplomb. Of all the characters in the movie, it’s her role that the director delves deep into and she performs the varied emotions her character has to portray with ease. Her character graph in the movie is quite similar to that of Kamalinee Mukherjee in Anand, but full marks to her that her acting chops made the role a good one and will be remembered in the days to come.

Apart from the protagonists, the people with good roles are Priyadarshi, Abhay and Kedar Shankara. The first two play the male protagonist’s friends and the latter plays his father. A special mention must be made of Priyadarshi as he brings the roof down with his comical interludes. The perfect Telangana accent adds to the role. The dead pan expression when he delivers those one-liners is amazing. Kedar Shankara, the man who plays Vijay’s father in the movie is also responsible for a lot of laughs. Every father-son scene in the movie is brilliant; Vijay and Kedar play excellent foils to each other.

The fact that sync sound (no dubbing, Dialogue delivery at the spot) was used adds feathers to all the actors caps.

Tharun Bhascker needs to be commended because he didn’t resort to silly humour. There were more than a few instances where he could’ve inserted entendre and generated more laughter, but he didn’t go that way. In the process, he gives us a movie which deviates from the type and yet generates laughter.  There was a time when Sekhar Kammula was hailed as the next K Vishwanath. Tharun would do well to not fall in the trappings of the inevitable comparisons that would follow with Sekhar Kammula. He does a good job of picking a story from the real life – the Spitfire Bbq food truck couple exist in Bangalore. He proceeds to give his own touches to the movie, in the process making it delightful. His second movie will be waited with bated breath as people would want to know if he lives up to the promise of the first movie. Many haven’t, but you can count on him as anyone who has seen the videos of Vinoothna Geetha will tell you.

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Whether you live in Krishna Nagar or dabble with short films, the thing one needs to keep in mind is the fact that if one works hard, they will be smart enough to spot the opportunity knocking at their door. One just hopes that they don’t squander it.

Verdict : #Pellichoopulu is a must watch.

 

Image courtesy: idlebrain.com

SSS Idli Hotel

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For long, I have heard that Vijayawada is/was the political and cultural hotbed of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh. The political hotbed nature of Vijayawada shows itself up whenever it’s the birthday of a politico based in the city. There are flexi posters wishing the man in question a happy birthday and also words praising his lineage.

With the state separated now and Vijayawada being the region where the capital is based, one would see more of these activities happening. As is the case everywhere else, sycophants abound. In Vijayawada, it’s a lot more than normal. Every Tom, Dick and Harry roams around the city with his own Tom, Dick and Harry. Sometimes this coterie might be a larger group.

In the days gone by, Communist party had a large presence in the city. The memories of the communist past still live on: There are junctions named after prominent communist leaders – local and global.

One of those communists, Mallikarjuna Rao Medasani, opened an idli only restaurant as communism was on the wane. Glimpses of his communist past can be found in the restaurant – a pic of Puchalapalli Sundarayya is garlanded every morning.

The idli hotel (restaurants are also called as hotels in this part of the world) is known locally as SSS idli hotel. People refer to it, non-locals mainly, sometimes as ‘Paaka idli’, referring to its thatched roof with palm leaves.

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Whenever an idli hotel opens in Vijayawada, it’s always compared with Babai Hotel idli. While it’s difficult to compare favourably with Babai Hotel, SSS idli has managed to build a following for itself.

Do they serve idlis as good as Babai Hotel? Do they have a legacy as strong as Babai Hotel’s? Do they have as many people patronising the place as Babai Hotel? Do they have enterprising people at the helm as Babai Hotel? Do they have an appreciatory letter from the office of president of India? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding ‘no’.

What is it that makes SS idli popular in a place where iconic pushcarts are ubiquitous? The answer might probably lie in the levels of the hygiene maintained and the freshness of the idlis. It’s not to say that the other places don’t do it; it’s just that it’s more apparent in SSS idli hotel.

As you make your way in through a wooden door into the place, you will find six six feet long Cuddapah slabs as tables. On one side of the place is where you wash your hands and they share the walls with  an auto garage on the other side. If you look to your right, you would find three people working away furiously in what is the kitchen of the place. Two people busy in making the idlis and one person is in charge of the parcel. Depending on the time you are there one or two people would be involved in the serving of these idlis.

Two earthen pots in the middle serve as water containers. The chutney, groundnut chutney, is different from what is served at various places in Vijayawada. They are definitely not frugal when it comes to serving chutney as they are confident that people will clear up the remnants.

The first serving in a plate comes with couple of idlis, lots of chutney and some karappodi. Before you finish the idlis served on your plate, the person serving the idlis comes with the entire plate of idlis and it is difficult to resist the temptation of not having a repeat serving. The idlis are pretty soft and piping hot. When they are had with the chutney, for that moment, you feel as if you have had a trip to heaven.

I have been having idlis here from the time they were priced at 5/- per idly. Now, they are priced at 14/- per idly. They sell buttermilk, lassi and sunnundallu (a type of laddoo made from black gram(?)). Over time a pan shop has made an appearance too.

Location of the place : Pinnamaneni Polyclinic road. Close to Nalanda school. Once you are on the road mentioned, anybody can guide you to the place.

Image Courtesy  – Twitter timeline of Ravi Korukonda

 

A Aa movie review

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It’s easy to describe when sportsmen perfect a skill. They put in hours of practice and perfect that skill. Like Djokovic shifting to another invisible gear when he finds himself under pressure; like Kohli unleashing cover drive after cover drive regardless of where the ball pitches. How do you then explain Trivikram coming up with movie after movie that adds to the viewing pleasure? It’s not a skill that can be honed with constant practice. It’s not something that others can hope to do.  A lot of it has to do with the dialogues that he writes in his movies.

To compare the predicament of oneself with Biryani and fried rice might seem an inane thing to do. Yet, people do it sometimes. Trivikram too does it and he imparts sense with the most inane of the comparisons at that point. Therein lies the difference between him and others.

There seems to be something with his movies that we don’t get in other movies. From Nuvve Nuvve on, he has donned the hats of writer and director for all his movies. In the 8 movies that he has directed so far, he has laid a seed for thought with every movie.

If you have followed him well, it’s the post mortem of his movies that draws us to him after the movie has released. If he can explain his point of view so succinctly to the audience, imagine how he explains it to the actors in the movie. No wonder that most of the actors come up with winning performances in his movies.

All through his directorial career, he has made the star or the hero in his movies don a different avatar to that of what we have been used to seeing him in. Khaleja, Jalsa, Julayi stand as shining jewels in the respective careers of the heroes regardless of their box office fates.

In A Aa, he waits for sometime before he rolls the credits. They roll when the female protagonist says that though they are so close, it took them about 25 years to meet. When you see the titles roll, you admire Trivikram. Every name has the alphabet ‘A’ highlighted in yellow  and in a font size bigger than the rest of the alphabets. You are allowed to retrospect once the movie ends.

With every movie he tries to teach us something. In this movie, he sings praises of villages and the lifestyle. It is delightful to see Niithin behaving in the character that he was given. But, isn’t it par for course in Trivikram movies? A lot of the talk after the movie released revolved around whether or not the movie was copied/inspired from a novel. It affected them as Trivikram spoke about it at the success meet of the movie.

I haven’t read the book and Trivikram accepted that he discussed the character sketch with the author. Apart from this, I felt that this movie had certain similarities with his debut movie- Nuvve Nuvve. That movie got emotionally heavy towards the end, but in this movie he retains the comic flavour throughout.

One could say that he could’ve done a little bit more to establish the relationship between Nadia and Samantha, but then this movie was about the relationship between Niithin and Samantha. The path they travel to give it a suitable ending is what the movie is all about.

The movie flows like a breeze when it unfolds in Kalavapudi. The way the number of days being spent in Kalavapudi are shown is innovative. While the proceedings in Kalavapudi are on, one is gravitated towards spending time in village whenever possible.

Trivikram opens up the story in the train when Naresh, the father of Samantha, asks Niithin not to talk and remind her of death and the trauma. This movie shows us the rarely seen actor in Niithin. He is the one to profit most from the movie. For others, it just reinforces how good performers they are when they are aided by the script. A special mention to Praveen, Hariteja and Srinivas Reddy for their hilarious performances. What can be said about Rao Ramesh that has been left unsaid? He sizzles, more so  when he gets to close the movie.

Verdict: Not the best work of Trivikram, but you can live with some of those dialogues for years

Image courtesy: idlebrain.com

Santner saunters to success

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When Santner came to bat for New Zealand, they were in trouble. The third ball of the seventeenth over, Jadeja spun one across him and it was called a wide. By then Santner faced five balls  off Jadeja. He didn’t look convincing at all as the runs he got off Jadeja in the first four balls were all extras. After the wide in the seventeenth over, he looked at where the ball pitched, raised his head and smiled at no one in general.

At the same time, there was another script playing out. Jadeja bowled to a plan and while Corey Anderson was around, he kept attacking the leg stump. In the bargain, he conceded a few wides. That didn’t deter him or his captain. When he bowled a tossed up ball after the wide, Santner came charging down the track and attacked him. The very next ball, Jadeja took Santner’s wicket with a flatter and faster delivery. After taking the catch, Dhoni said something to Jadeja. It seemed as if Jadeja didn’t bowl to Santner the way Dhoni wanted him to.

Santner is a left arm spinner himself. Did he smile after the wide because he knew he would be a handful on this pitch when his turn to bowl came? Did he pick some cues from the way Dhoni wanted Jadeja to bowl on this pitch?

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Just before the game began, there was a discussion on how Kohli has improved his game since the tour to England in 2014. Laxman said that Kohli improved his off side game by getting behind the line of the ball rather than reaching for the ball.

They also discussed how Kohli would win the battle against Boult. When Wasim Akram was asked what he would’ve done if he were bowling to Kohli, he said that he would attack the stumps. Yes, in the bargain he might go for a few runs but if Kohli misses, the bowler stood a great chance of an LBW or uprooting the stumps.

When Anderson bowled the second over of the innings, he did the same thing. Kohli looked at ease while playing those sort of deliveries. It seemed as if he figured the pitch and the bowlers out. He had a plan to counter the plans of New Zealand. He looked to get as close as possible to the ball while defending or attacking. He scored 16 runs of the 23 runs he scored on the leg side.

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At the toss, after winning it, Williamson informed that they left out Boult, Southee, McClenaghan and Henry Nicholls. He decided to pack the team with spinners. The XI drew a chuckle from the discerning. After struggling with the bat, New Zealand seemed to have a total to take the game to the 17th or the 18th over.

Suresh Raina, one of the unexpected bowling and fielding stars of the innings, was interviewed at the innings break. He seemed happy with his and the team’s effort. His parting words were, ‘If I get the chance to bat, I would definitely win it for India.’

When Shikar Dhawan was caught plumb in front, it didn’t create a flutter because he was out to a bad shot than a good ball.

Santner set the cat amongst the pigeons when he beat Rohit with turn and had him stumped. He took a second wicket in the over when he got Suresh Raina lobbing a catch to short midwicket with hard hands. Now that smile after wide had an added meaning. Right from his debut, Santner seemed a confident man. Yes, he has dropped a few catches and has had more than his share of misfields, but he seems a confident man. He is a calming influence on this team.

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The selection of Ish Sodhi was met with a hint of sarcasm in the social media. It kept growing as he wasn’t introduced till the ninth over. When he did come to bowl, he immediately rewarded his captain’s faith in him with a big wicket -Virat Kohli. He mixed his leg break and googly well. He troubled Pandya, Jadeja and Ashwin. Dhoni played him well and was clever enough to take singles and get to the other end.

Nathan McCullum, the other spinner, took two wickets. He manned the long on fence and saved crucial runs for his team. The catch that he took to dismiss Dhoni at long on was special. He didn’t even get to complete his quota of overs. Like the commentators predicted, the game was over by the 19th over. New Zealand won.

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Both the teams bowled 56 dot balls. The last three balls of the New Zealand innings fetched them 12 runs. The maximum India scored off an over was 9 runs. New Zealand scored 10 or more runs in an over 5 times. That, in the end, was the difference.

 

Image courtesy – espncricinfo.com

Kshanam movie review

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‘Living in a bubble’ is usually associated with people playing sports. It won’t be far-fetched to use it in association with movie stars as well. Being stuck in an image conundrum is nothing but ‘living in a bubble’. Every star has fallen prey to it. Once there’s an image made in the film industry, it’s very difficult to alter/ go against it. Ask Ravi Teja. Ask Chiranjeevi. Ask Brahmanandam – In Amma, he gets to know that his mother passed away while he is in the middle of enacting a drama for kids at a radio station. That passage is a masterclass in acting. It released in 1991. I don’t know if Brahmanandam has come close to doing such roles again.

 

In ‘Kshanam’, the director takes a few actors with established images and gives them a makeover. The actors don’t disappoint the director. Poor Ravi Varma misses out though. He gets cast in a role which we are used to seeing him in. That’s a minor blip on the radar though.

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Screenwriting by a protagonist isn’t unheard of.  A few top heroes bit the bait and suffered. Rajinikanth, Pawan Kalyan, NT Rama Rao and a few others have tried their hand at writing and suffered. Probably they had their image in mind while writing, but Sesh Adivi doesn’t suffer from such hang ups. He goes ahead and writes a script that gives prominence to every actor in the movie.

In South Indian movies, thriller genre is making a comeback. Last year there was a movie, in Kannada, Rangitharanga, which released alongside Baahubali. The movie was a huge success and had an established star (performer) to depend on.

In Kshanam, the actors have to depend on the script as their images are flipped over. And how they deliver!

***

There was a time when thriller as a genre was inseparable from horror. The horror movies probably allowed the directors a guilt trip to satiate the carnal desires. To come from such a setting to what we see now is a huge achievement. There are still some stereotypes though; Background music going from silence to huge noise when a scary scene is around the corner, a background music with rock inclination when the hero unravels the suspense.  Well, Kshanam falls prey to the latter.

The movie doesn’t come without pitfalls. It has some inconsistencies that are overlooked because of what’s good in the movie.

***

Adivi Sesh and the director do a good job of keeping the story simple. The ebb and flow in the movie is understood by one and all. But for the denouement, the background music in the movie is top notch. There is no playing to the galleries. They stick to the story and deliver a solid product. The cinematography is superb. Some of the shots in Vizag are brilliant.

The dialogues, especially in the flashback, are very good and help us in understanding the characters well.

Adah Sharma and Ravi Varma play the two characters whose roles are not etched well. Vennela Kishore and Satyam Rajesh deliver powerhouse performances. Anasuya and Satyadev also perform well.

The comic angle with Reddy is good. Not giving him a face is a masterstroke

***

Verdict : A good movie in the genre, in Telugu, after a long time. 

Image Courtesy : idlebrain.com

Krishnagaadi Veera Prema Gaadha review

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Srinu Vaitla had made a habit of making template based movies. Romance between the protagonists, one of their families being stern, an orchestrated drama taking place in that house and a song before the denouement. Hanu Raghavapudi skirts very close to that template, but has nothing to do with that sort of a template.

Srikanth Addala has this amazing ability to make his characters behave the way we see in everyday people. You can see those kind of characters abound in Seethama Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu. Rao Ramesh and Tanikella Bharani, in that movie, take the acting to another level by the way they behave in the movie. Hanu, aided by a superb actor in Nani, does the same in Krishnagaadi Veera prema gaadha. He makes Nani behave, not act.

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Nani, in an interview, had said that the movie has quite a lot to do with children and he was right. His chemistry with them in a few scenes is better than what he has with the heroine of the movie. It’s because he has more runtime with the children than the heroine. He could’ve added that if this movie turns out to be a hit, long titles would become the norm in the film industry.

While talking at the audio release function, he said, “Hanu would shock those people who attach him with Andala Rakshasi. This is a completely different movie from that.” There was a way he spoke to Mahesh Babu on the dias and that showed us a man free of pretence and false airs. Maybe, that’s the reason one gets drawn to him in the first place.

Coming back to the movie, there are more than a few scenes that he excels in. Some of them are his scenes with the children and Satyam Rajesh. What takes the cake are his ‘phone conversation’ scenes with the heroine.

Mehrene Kaur is a good discovery, but she has very little to do in the second half and credit is due to the director because he plans the absence well. The dubbing for her was also top notch. She is loud without being loud, she is bubbly without being jumpy and she has eyes that can express the emotions well.

Hanu Raghavapudi deserves credit for having so many threads in the movie and never for a moment does he confuse himself or the audience with the screenplay. He has taken brilliant performances from each and every actor in the movie. ’30 years Prudhvi’ would be a happy person because he didn’t have to imitate anyone or parody famous scenes from a hit movie. He generates comedy from the situation rather than the character. After a slew of the characters where he makes fun of other actors or movies, he displays his acting chops brilliantly in all his scenes with Murali Sharma and Prabhas Sreenu.

Hanu Raghavapudi also shows us what a brilliant actor we missed having in Brahmaji. His entire sequence with Sampath and the build up to it is best to be enjoyed in the theatre. He will have you in splits with his acting. Credit to the director that he builds up a scene in one manner and turns it on its head.

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In the days of hyping up a movie, Nani and the team should be credited for being honest with the movie and the audience. He has made it clear in his past interviews that he wants to be remembered as an actor rather than a star. Probably he did contend that he could be both. Well, if not already, he is close.

One of the biggest advantages of acting in a Nani movie for a co-star is the fact that you get your own moments of shining under the spotlight. In this movie itself, at various points, the kids, Mehrene, Satyam Rajesh, Sampath, Murali Sharma, Brahmaji and various other actors get their due. It, by itself, is an indicator of how secure Nani is in his space

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Verdict : Nani pronounced the verdict himself. Expect something different to what you have been seeing in the recent past .

Image courtesy – idlebrain.com

Naanaku Prematho review

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Brian Charles Lara – This man was an exceptional batsman, doing stuff that few were capable of doing. He had an ability that was second to none. To date, he remains the only person to reclaim the highest individual innings score.

Till 2011, for a period of five years, he held the record of figuring in most lost matches. 63 of them. It was eventually broken by a teammate of his – Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

Now, ala Jagapathi Babu fashion, in the movie, I will ask you to remember this.

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Sukumar’s title rolls are among the best in the industry. In this movie too, the title rolls are brilliant. But then there is a sense of deja vu to it as a similar thing was seen by me just a few weeks ago . Sukumar has had to bear the burden of being an ‘intelligent’ director. Sometimes, it seems as if he himself buys into the hype and over complicates a normal situation. Case in point, Jagapathi Babu’s introduction scene. The scene neither points to the menace of the man or to his intelligence. However, as the movie proceeds, we are provided an insight into his personality.

The scene where NTR asks Jagapathi Babu to play his own game, Jagapathi Babu, for the fear of being upstaged, asks one of his henchmen to play his game and when he realises he lost, he says the henchman lost the game. That is, at once, indicative of flaws and strengths of Sukumar at the same time. Strength because he built that scene up beautifully well (in a standalone manner). Flaw, because without setting the menace or the cantankerous nature of the man, he ran the risk of  making him a side note in the story.

Though it is difficult to maintain a count, there are as many good sequences as there are bad. One of the worst flaw in the movie is the lack of continuity or you can call it as undermining the audience too. When you yourself are pitched as an ‘intellectual’ or a ‘brilliant’ director and known for making ‘intelligent’ movies, you can’t have sequences for the sake of convenience.

There’s one sequence in the movie where NTR wanting to gift Jagapathi Babu a painting asks his associates to get the same painting from an auction. When the associates end up with a counterfeit, NTR rejects that painting because of a stroke of Cobalt Blue in the wing of the butterfly.  According to his reasoning the colour didn’t exist 2 centuries ago but when he has the original, he has no qualms in placing a camera in it.

When NTR and Jagapathi Babu meet for the first time, Jagapathi Babu plays the game that he plays with everyone else with NTR too. The beauty of the sequence is such that you too end up playing the game with NTR. Like Jagapathi Babu, Sukumar, as a director, tries to put you off the track when NTR borrows the phone from Jagapathi Babu.

The movie is such that the good in it is juxtaposed with the bad at all times.

****

Yes, what did I ask you to remember? Brian Lara. NTR is the closest we have that can be compared to him. He is one who is brilliant in each one of the ‘navarasalu of natana’. He has everything in him that can make him a reigning superstar, but he isn’t. Somehow, when it comes to him, the sum is never equal to the parts. This isn’t the first time that I am saying this.

NTR shines in the movie. The dances are effortless, as always. He blows the argument to smithereens about the best dancer in the industry with his moves in the final song. They are a treat to watch.

It’s  a little sad to see him go overboard with the promotions. ‘THE SCENE’ when it happens doesn’t quite make you cry as much as NTR said it made the people in the room cry. Yes, he performs admirably well in the scene, but it’s nowhere close to moving you to tears.

To call it his best performance would be doing injustice to his body of work. He has better performances than this. This is a different role for him.

****

There are very few movies in which actors match wits. This is pitched as one of them. Rather ‘Naanaku Prematho’ tries to be one of them, but it isn’t. The premise is set very early in the movie and you know how it’s going to end.

Jagapathi Babu could’ve done with a little more menace or some character build up or both. Though the character is sketched well, it pales in comparison with NTR’s

Rakul Preet Singh, dubbed for own character and does well in the scenes in Spain. Rajendra Prasad, Rajeev Kanakala and Srinivas Avasarala are adequate in the their roles. It is good to see Sukumar deviate from the stereotype in offering Thagubothu Ramesh a role in which he doesn’t need to drink. Sukumar plays cleverly with this point too, by making him drink a glass of juice and making him say that.

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Verdict: A disappointment considering what could’ve been. Sukumar needs to drop the monkey from his back and try to make a normal film without trying to hoodwink himself, audience or both

Image courtesy : idlebrain.com