Dhoni review

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Indian cricket team, till date, has had 32 Test captains. The team has played 501 Tests, to date. Dhoni captained the Indian cricket team in 60 of them.  He retired, from Tests, more than 20 months ago and continues to captain the ODI and T20 teams. So with him still relevant, it is debatable if the biographical movie is all encompassing (in terms of his cricketing career).

That lingering doubt left my mind when a scene in the movie shows a news reader telling the audience that India has bowed out of the 1999 World Cup. As we are shown a teenaged Dhoni taping his bat, the newsreader says that Ajay Jadeja top scored in the game that India lost to New Zealand. The kid said sitting in the next row to me says to his dad, ‘Who’s Ajay Jadeja? Isn’t it Ravindra Jadeja?’

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It was in ICC Knock out (present day Champions Trophy) tournament that Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh made their debuts. They shone against Australia and their success, especially Zaheer’s, put the focus on players from hinterlands.

In the same season, Dhoni in his second season of first class cricket, made his first century against Bengal. With the number of teams playing Ranji Trophy, players tend to get lost. With the narrative in the movie,  you would be led to think that Dhoni was a force of nature that came good.  That is, in part, insulting to the efforts made by Dhoni in the domestic circuit. He was shuffled in the order frequently and the team he represented never made it to the knock-out stages of the Ranji Trophy.  He didn’t shift his loyalties.

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Coming back to the movie itself, it has Dhoni’s approval and also funded by the management group of Dhoni’s manager. Credit is due to Sushant Singh for incorporating most of the tics of Dhoni. That part of it he cracked. He also cracked the way Dhoni plays – batting and keeping. While the movie starts with a young Dhoni keeping, the proceedings slowly move away from the keeping and drift towards batting. It’s not a surprise then that the quick hands Dhoni possesses has been showcased in one scene and that too in a blink-and-you-will-miss-it montage of tennis-ball cricket tournament. But for a couple of scenes, the movie doesn’t let Sushant Singh Rajput display his acting chops.

How does the movie work then? Dhoni, is the answer. The movie, predictably, rides on his shoulder and for a lot of people, it’s a glance back into the past. Movie begins with 2011 WC final and ends there.

The special effects, in this day, are shoddy, at best. The fact that the face of the protagonist has been superimposed on Dhoni’s in the actual footage of a lot of matches takes the sheen off the proceedings. I mean if you have shown an actor portraying Yuvraj Singh in some parts of the movie, why would you want to show the actual Yuvraj Singh in match footages? They could’ve done the same with Dhoni too

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The breakout tour for him was the trip to Africa. There he opened with Gambhir in a few innings. Delving a little bit into the rapport with him might have been good. The movie does show the high regard for Yuvraj. Probably, the makers thought it would unnecessarily lengthen the movie and also they would need to bring in a plethora of actors.

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Verdict: While the movie, by itself, is nothing to write home about, the fact that we are reliving Dhoni’s life – a successful part- is enough to give the goosebumps 

image courtesy : santabanta.com

Janata Garage review

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It was during the audio release function of ‘Temper’  that Jr. NTR goaded his fans into watching Temper. The movie also marked the beginning of a purple patch for him. Before the release of Temper many had dubbed him as a waning force, but he proved the naysayers wrong on two counts after the release.

First is obviously to those people who doubted that if Jr.NTR was still the box office draw that he used to be. Second was an answer to those people that sniggered at him for their perception of him. They thought he only chased directors who had a super hit as their last release. With Temper, he gave a hit and also proved that he doesn’t chase directors with super hits in their resume.

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Saikumar’s character while speaking of Jr.NTR’s says, ‘very balanced, more dangerous.’ With a little change, Jr.NTR can also be spoken of as an actor – very balanced, more effective.

When Oopiri released in March this year, people came to know that Jr. NTR was the driving force behind the film and had to refuse Karthi’s role in the movie because he was with the look for Nannaku Prematho. When I saw the film, I felt that Jr.NTR couldn’t have handled the subtle scenes and it was better for the film that he made way for Karthi.

Janata Garage has a couple of scenes which are a slap to my thinking. The entire episode involving Rajeev Kanakala has Jr.NTR elevating his acting to another level without actually raising his voice. Similarly, the scene with Samantha, her parents and Mohanlal is one which will make you reconsider the preconceived notions about his acting. He acts brilliantly in the scene. It’s also ironic that Mohanlal moves away from the frame so that Jr.NTR can take centerstage.

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Jr.NTR is the best dancer in the country. Period. He sets the screen ablaze whenever he gets a chance to shake his leg. Jr. NTR has tremendous acting chops. He could deliver on intense roles by getting loud. But can he be subtle and yet deliver? The answer from Janata Garage is a resounding yes. The fight where he explains nature’s fury and a few more sequences are indicators to that. He can also shift gears easily as he does after getting slapped. He stays silent for a little while and demonstrates his fury. All of this happens in a matter of seconds.

What can be said of Mohanlal that is left unsaid? He is so brilliant in the scenes even where he doesn’t have a dialogue to utter.  He spends most of the second half sitting in an arm chair, yet he conveys the anguish, joy and pride with his eyes. The man is an acting masterclass.

What exactly were Samantha and Nitya Menon doing in the movie? They have a combined total, probably, of ten scenes in the movie. Neither are the roles are well etched nor do they require extraordinary talent. Nitya Menon seems to suffer from the same affliction as Jr.NTR: not being able to judge the scripts properly.

There are a host of character actors that have very little to do in the movie. Yes, they appear in the movie but having nothing worthwhile to talk about their performances.

And yes, Kajal! It takes a lot to be in the frame as Jr.NTR in a song and yet steal the thunder from him. Kajal does the same in the song that appears in.

The camerawork in the movie is top notch. The visuals in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kerala are captured brilliantly. Every single time we feel that the movie is dragging or becoming predictable, Devi Sri Prasad redeems it with his background music.

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Koratala Siva, the director of the movie, sets Mohanlal’s character well. After a few minutes into the movie, the characters of Mohanlal and Jr.NTR run parallely:  Jr. NTR as an environment lover and Mohanlal as a man who can’t see people in distress. Koratala Siva builds the story up superbly until the intermission point. He could’ve taken the story along in various angles. Yet, he chose to proceed with the most feeble of the options .

Though he can build the story well, write the dialogues superbly and get the actors to perform well, he fails in the climax scenes in every movie directed by him. He seems to be at a loss of aforementioned abilities while writing the climax. This movie too, like Srimanthudu, ends abruptly and, sort of, leaves a bittersweet taste. He was lucky that he chose the main protagonists well.

The movie is presented well. I don’t know if it’s a conscious choice or an aberration, but Koratala Siva hasn’t shot a scene or a song abroad in his last two movies. In the present age, that’s a miracle.

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Verdict : Watching this movie is pretty much feeling like Australia cricketers in the iconic Johannesburg match. They did everything right, but failed to finish well. Same is the case with Janata Garage too

Image courtesy : idlebrain.com

#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-foot 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

*Changed six six feet tables to six six-foot tables on 14th September

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!

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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.

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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