Agnyaathavaasi movie review

Back in the day, around the release of Khushi, when functions were being organised for the movie, the producer AM Rathnam, talking in one of those functions had compared Pawan Kalyan to Rajinikanth: actors with their fingers on the pulse of the audience. In hindsight, it can seem to be a foolish statement or a profound one, considering the boat you sail on.

Pawan Kalyan is riding on two disasters (in terms Box-office returns and the content in them). Who better than his friend and the director, Trivikram Srinivas, who gave his biggest hit till date to pull him out of the rut?

An actor-director combo is expected to repeat the magic of their previous hit when they collaborate again, but here they take it too far as the character sketch of the protagonist is similar to that of the previous movie. It seems as if Trivikram Srinivas grew too lazy and wanted you to assume that you are watching the extended version of Attarintiki Daredhi (it’s the season of sequels, you know.)

All the tropes of a Trivikram movie, bar few, are there in this movie too: dumb heroines, rich protagonist, a family figure to look up to and a villain who doesn’t seem menacing enough.

*****

Agnyaathavaasi is the story of a man hidden away from the rest of the world as a Plan B. When we go to a movie we should allow for some suspension of disbelief, but this movie stretches the limit. Did Trivikram not have the time to write it or wasn’t he allowed to write what he wanted? Forget the main theme being borrowed from a French movie, some scenes too seemed to be a rehash of previous movies.

The office comedy scenes had ‘Rowdy Alludu’ written all over them. Hate me as much as you want but Pawan Kalyan is no Chiranjeevi when it comes to comic timing. He simply doesn’t have the ability to raise the level of the movie with his acting.

The kidnapping of a few people and keeping them locked away at the same place seemed pretty similar to that of Khaleja. In that movie, Trivikram managed to weave comedy and philosophy around the situation, but here the attempts fell through.

Though he talks of a Plan B in the movie, every such attempt in taking the Plan B is rebuffed by Trivikram. Imagine the scope of the movie if the movie took the direction of Sampath Raj hounding Pawan Kalyan. That doesn’t seem the point of the movie. The point of the entire movie seemed to be playing sycophant to Pawan Kalyan.

*****

Pawan Kalyan doesn’t seem to have his mind and heart in acting anymore. Not that this is his worst effort, but the effort isn’t visible, which is a sad thing. That he didn’t bother trying is a fact that his die-hard fans should acknowledge as much as Trivikram’s laziness in trying to develop a coherent script. The eulogical dialogues just don’t seem to work as his character graph isn’t properly developed. It is as if they forgot to draw the line by mixing reel with real; the fans are supposed to imagine Pawan Kalyan in real life and bring that imagination to the restraint the character shows before its unleashed on the world. The introduction scene had all the eccentricities associated with Pawan Kalyan and it’s tough to imagine that Trivikram would’ve conceptualized it without Pawan Kalyan’s interference. Takes us back to the Jalsa days, doesn’t it?

Trivikram is one of those rare directors who have a presence in the script without being a part of it. A Trivikram movie does draw you to the turnstiles, but here he allows the very few good dialogues he writes to be lost in the mediocrity of Pawan Kalyan’s character. It is a pity that he allows himself to be carried away by his/the fans love for Pawan Kalyan. This is a throwback to Jalsa, where the entire movie doesn’t seek attention, but a few scenes do. There too, he wants us to imagine the character depth rather than showing it on screen.

Keerthi Suresh, Anu Emmanuel, Khushboo and Boman Irani, who?

Rao Ramesh is the only actor who comes away unscathed from the mess that Agnyaathavaasi is. He shines with the way he utters dialogues. He shines with the way he expresses the dialogues meaning. One of the best things to look forward to in a Trivikram movie, in the recent past, is Rao Ramesh and they don’t disappoint.

*****

Verdict: Walking into the sunset might actually be metaphorical in this movie

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Okka Kshanam movie review

Okka Kshanam

Closing out 2017’s movie viewing with Okka Kshanam was a family outing as one of my wife’s cousins featured in a blink-and-you-will-miss-it appearance in three frames of the movie. Packaged as a thriller, it managed to whip up some frenzy before its release mainly because of the previous release of the director, VI Anand – Ekkadiki Potthavvu Chinnavada.

Looking at Tiger and Ekkadiki Potthavvu Chinnavada, now reaffirmed with Okka Kshanam, one can safely assume that he likes suspense thriller movies. While Tiger crammed a lot in one movie, I didn’t quite like Ekkadiki Potthavvu Chinnavada because of the way it was handled. Once the suspense element is revealed, the movies fumble on their way to the end because the denouement is poorly written.

When it comes to suspense thrillers, writing has generally been of poor standards across various languages in India. One movie that readily comes to mind is Talaash. The movie builds up the suspense element brilliantly to give it all up in the end by chickening out with an expected ending. If not for the ending, the movie would’ve set the tone for suspense thrillers in the country.

VI Anand picks up novel storylines, but fails in sustaining it in anticipation of a grand finale. The honour killings was meant only as a suspense element in Tiger, but after the suspense element was revealed, the movie went the way of a revenge drama. Okka Kshanam too suffers from similar failings.

****

The movie begins looking like a rom-com rather than a suspense thriller. While it takes some time to establish the romance, it is valid because the director wants us to remember the little details of their romance as its similar in every little aspect to that of another couple. This concept he calls as ‘parallel life.’ The way it’s explained in the movie is good and makes you sit up in anticipation.

The movie seems to develop wings of its own whenever Srinivas Avasarala is on the screen, but then thuds to the ground when it comes back to the present.

Once the suspense element is revealed and the antagonist comes into the picture, the movie loses steam because it lets go of ‘Parallel life’ in favour of ‘fighting the fight’

*****

I can’t say that Allu Sirish was better than his previous movies because I haven’t  watched them. Looking at him, one feels that there is a lot of scope for improvement in acting and dances. One thing he seems to be good at is uttering entendre. He also seems to revel in making references to his lineage and imitating his brother’s dialogues. Hell, he doesn’t even leave the single dialogue uttered in Agnyathavaasi’s teaser.

The less spoken about Surbhi the better. In fact, the director seemed to have realised the folly of his casting mid-way into the movie and set about correcting it by giving her as less presence as possible.

Srinivas Avasarala and Seerat Kapoor are the heart, soul and life of the movie. It’s around them that movie revolves and they give it their best shot. Unfortunately, they are let down by the poor screenplay.

****

Verdict: Okka Kshanam is not worth Okka Kshanam of your time

Image courtesy: idlebrain.com

MCA movie review

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In the run-up to the release MCA (Middle class Abbayi), a lot of electronic media outlets trained their guns on Nani and said he was playing monotonous roles. Ironically, the men we parade as our superstars in the present day are the flag-bearers for those roles. Let’s rewind our minds back to the 80’s when superstars of that generation acted in more than five films an year and sometimes they got by a ring in 12-16 movies as well. Imagine the social media  and fan wars then. They would have had a field day criticising the monotony of it all. Hell, we have reached a stage where theatres sporting same seat covers for two successive releases will be criticised.

The moniker ‘Natural star’ on Nani doesn’t seem forced because he is like you, me and everybody around us; just that he is heroic because of the cinematic liberties taken. In his interviews or public appearances, he comes across as a person who genuinely loves cinema, without being boisterously so. I say that because the appreciation for a role, these days, is dependant on physical transformation you have undergone for a role. There is a reason why Vikram got a national award for acting in Pithamagan rather than I.

Is MCA a unique movie for Nani then? No, it isn’t quite so, because in any given year, we would have 50 movies in the Telugu movie industry that the film does, but Nani gives his own spin on how the character is played.

*****

Venu Sriram, in a brief filmography, has come to depend on the casting for his movies rather than any substance in them. When he made ‘Oh My Friend’ in 2011, it was a casting coup of sorts because he managed to cast the then-lovebirds in his movie, but it was no Silsila.

In this movie, he blew away an excellent opportunity afforded to him by the producer by knitting up a run-of-the-mill story. That he wasted actors of the caliber of Naresh, Aamani and Sai Pallavi in making it should be held against him. If anything, in squandering opportunities, he seems to be an equal of Meher Ramesh.

Yes, Sai Pallavi does perform well, but the role is such that it could’ve been performed by any of the present-day actresses and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. The difference, if any, is spotted in her movements in the songs.

****

The hackneyed plot is saved by some able acting by Nani and Bhumika Chawla. Rest of the cast drift in and out of the movie at the director’s convenience. For a story not offering novelty in story or presentation, the performance by Nani is nothing short of a miracle.

How the producer, Dil Raju, with an eye for detail allowed such a star-cast to be wasted on an uninspiring movie will remain a mystery.

****

Verdict: The presence of Nani in the movie saves it from being an unmitigated disaster. Hearing him deliver the mandatory ‘Smoking and Drinking are injurious to health.’ is also a pleasant experience in a movie that seemed to be hurtling towards a disaster from the beginning of the second half 

 

Image courtesy: idlebrain.com

Mubarakan movie review

MubarakanJuly has seen two Hindi movie releases based in London –  Guest in London and now, Mubarakan – and both of them try to stick to stereotypes made prevalent by the Film Industry over the years: Punjabis, rags-to-riches-story, flashy children are just a few of them.

Producers generally invest a lot when movies are shot abroad, but with growing costs, you tend to grow suspicious if they are partaking shots from each other’s movies. Such is the similarity in the aerial shots of London in the movie.  Thankfully, the plots aren’t similar.

Karan and Charan (played by Arjun Kapoor) are twins who lose their parents in a road accident and are adopted by the siblings of their father. While Karan stays with his aunt (father’s sister, played by Ratna Pathak Shah) in London, Charan stays with his uncle (father’s brother, played by Pavan Malhotra) in Chandigarh. The twins are similar, yet different; both are meek around their foster parents. Karan is trendy, boisterous and an extrovert. Charan is submissive, shy and introverted. They have love life’s that their parents are unaware of and for the exact purpose of getting their respective parents to know, they seek the help of their uncle, Kartar Singh (Anil Kapoor).

Kartar Singh’s penchant for seeking the help of things around him (vegetables, shoes, whiskey, soda, ice etc) makes life difficult for the twins. How their issues are resolved is left for us to see over a couple of hours.

In a filmography with nine movies, Arjun Kapoor has played dual roles in a movie, twice. That should be a feather in most actors’ caps, but not Arjun Kapoor’s. The difference, he shows, in playing both characters is minimal. The attire is the only thing that helps us in differentiating the twins and that is not good news for Arjun Kapoor, the actor. He is one of the four actors in the movie who don’t redeem themselves with their performances; the others being Ileana, Athiya Shetty and Neha Sharma. It’s a pity then that these are lead actors of the movie. The one thing that’s good with him is the ability to merge the reel with real; remember the memes that came up during the pre-release tours of Half girlfriend? One can say he is playing along with it. If he showed the same zest for acting ….

Anil Kapoor, Rachana Pathak Shah and Pavan Malhotra trudge through their roles before all of them come into their own in the climax. How Anil Kapoor continues to act in Anees Bazmee’s movies despite the mediocre roles offered to him will remain a mystery. He plays a comic role in the movie but does everything except eliciting laughter.

Ileana said one of the main reasons for moving out of Telugu Film Industry was the lack of roles with substance and it looks like she accepted the movie whilst working in the Telugu Film Industry. The role neither has any importance, nor any substance.

Athiya Shetty has nothing much to do apart from wearing a frown on her face. Neha Sharma has a similar role, in length and expression. One has to wonder why Neha is said to have a guest appearance and Athiya is mentioned in the starring credits.

With ‘Nepotism’ being the word that’s being bandied about more frequently than movies in Hindi Film Industry in the recent past, it won’t be far-fetched to imagine that this movie was a collaborative effort of Sanjay Kapoor and Anil Kapoor to resurrect the flagging career of their nephew, Arjun Kapoor.

The movie has ‘dull’ slathered all over it. From the beginning scene you seem to guess what’s going to happen next. As a director, that can be a nightmare, but Anees Bazmee seems to have treated it as a minor impediment. His staunch desire to stick to stereotype pulls the movie down further. That a director can convince actors of the caliber of Ratna Pathak Shah and Pavan Malhotra to act in his movie and wastes the chance with brazen disregard for their acting capabilities is hard to fathom.

While certain frames do look good, it isn’t uniform throughout the movie. The writer and the director don’t seem to have invested time in this movie and it shows. Anees Bazmee, going by his filmography, is a poor man’s Srinu Vaitla. He packs his movies with characters and expects that to do the trick. But, he doesn’t have a Brahmanandam to bring back his movies from the dead. He should’ve realized it with Ready , but looks like it will take time for it to sink in. He packages his movies with a star, but in the absence of a star, his movies are hollow.

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In the days to come, this movie will stand as an example for other movies. When one shoots abroad, there usually are scenes at the same place, but going for an overkill of the same place can be detrimental. Bhagam Bhag, another movie shot primarily in London does a good job of showing us the abstruse areas of London. In a wafer-thin plot, the oft-seen sights can be an eyesore.

Music in the movie is nothing to write home about. It’s as poor as the movie is. The remixed version of ‘Hawa Hawa’ has you pondering on how a good song can be destroyed. The only people to emerge from this wreckage with respect are the assistant directors. They ensure continuity and their attention to detail is the only thing that prevents this movie from being a full-blown disaster.

If they were trying to appeal to Punjabis, one wonders if it would’ve been a good movie in Punjabi. No language could’ve played host to this movie. It’s that bad.

Image courtesy: bollywoodhungama.com

An edited version of this review appeared on fullhyd.com

 

Fidaa movie review

Fidaa

Sekhar Kammula burst into public prominence with Anand (his second movie) in 2004. It was a well-made movie with a prominent role for the female protagonist. That was the debut movie for Kamalinee Mukherjee in Telugu and Telugu Film Industry didn’t exactly remember the last time they saw a debutante perform with such aplomb.

Say Pallavi is the debutante here and 13 years after Anand, we see a debutante performing like an accomplished performer.

The movie story, on the face of it, is simple: boy meets girl, both like each other and hesitate to say it to each other. It’s after this point that movies take a different route. Sekhar Kammula seeks to extend this bit to an ego clash and how they go about resolving it.

Varun (Varun Tej) and his two brothers (an older one and a younger one) live in the United States of America. While scouring through prospective profiles for the elder brother, they zero in on a family in rural Telangana. What catches the brothers’ notice is the mention of ‘no caste.’

It’s here that we are introduced to Bhanumathi (Sai Pallavi) and her sister, Renuka. While Renuka is the silent one, Bhanumathi is the gregarious, boisterous and punch-in-your-face character. So, the elder brother, Raju falls for Renuka and waits to call on Varun for a second opinion (or so he says).

With the marriage scheduled for the ensuing week, Varun and Bhanumathi get close to the each other after the initial skirmish. A misunderstanding on the part of Bhanumathi drives a wedge in the relationship. When it is time for Varun to propose, she rejects the proposal. From then on, it is a tale of one-upmanship.

This is a regular story and needed an able director to be at the helm.

Sekhar Kammula is just the man the script required. He is superb at conceiving scenes. While the story seems simple, Sekhar weaves the scenes brilliantly. There are so many scenes where he lets the dialogues create the necessary impact. There are many scenes which grab our attention. One such scene involves a phone call between Satyam Rajesh, friend of the hero, and Sai Pallavi. He mentions that women in America would stand in a queue to kiss him and why is she being so adamant in talking to him. The repartee, by Sai Pallavi, is what brings the house down. She asks him to call Guinness Book of records instead.

The cinematography is good. The way drizzle plays a part in the movie is worth mentioning. Sai Pallavi is a choreographer’s dream. She does a good job in the wedding song and the choreographer for the song deserves a good round of applause. To make a romantic movie without a hummable melody might have been a crime some years ago, but you don’t miss it in this movie

Another thing that Sekhar Kammula aced in the movie is the casting. Sai Pallavi acts so brilliantly that you would feel she was born for this role. She is a perfect fit for Bhanumathi’s role. She dances well, emotes well and to master slang in a language that’s not her mother tongue takes some doing. Years later, she can fondly look back at her performance in this movie. She is the heart and soul of the movie. One would wonder why the movie wasn’t named Bhanumathi.

Varun Tej acts well, but he needs to work on his diction especially when the actor opposite him is ripping into her role with ease. He also should take care in maintaining the continuity in body form unless the role demands for the opposite. In the movie, he frequents between lean and bulky pretty often.

Apart from Sai Pallavi, it is Sekhar Kammula who will walk away with his head held high. His casting of Satyam Rajesh is a masterstroke. In a recent interview to a daily, he said that he wanted to name the movie as Musuru (drizzle) but thought Fidaa would be better. Though Musuru would’ve been apt considering the constant drizzle in the movie and the character sketch of Sai Pallavi, Fidaa is a name that’s more appealing. The undertone of Agriculture and father-daughter relationship is as subtle as possible, without being overbearing on the plot. If I have to be pathological and criticize for the sake of criticizing then Sekhar Kammula should’ve shown the time difference between India and USA a little more realistically (Mind you this thing is only for a scene)

Before I wrap it all up, it should be mentioned that Sai Pallavi’s character, Bhanumathi is a fan of Pawan Kalyan and there are references to his movies, songs and dialogues. Nobody can afford to say #cheppanubrother, can they?

Usually an agrarian family is shown to be based in the coastal districts. By basing it in Telangana, Sekhar doesn’t tread the usual path and it is a relief. It’s the subtlety and finesse with which he weaves the scenes that makes the movie a must-watch.

Image courtesy: idlebrain.com

An edited version of the review appeared on fullhyd.com

Guest iin London

guest_in_london10_1c

 

Matrudevobhava, Pitrudevobhava, Acharyadevobhava, Athithidevobhava

 

When you working towards an image, it is advised to act in as many different roles as possible. Once you have the image, the advice is juxtaposed and you are asked to act in as similar roles as possible in an effort to maintain the image.

 

Paresh Rawal has acted in several brilliant movies. He delivered in each of those movies. He grew as an actor in each of these movies. His oeuvre consists of various roles, but after Hera Pheri, the performer has been overtaken by the entertainer.

 

Guest iin London is what happens when you attempt a sequel packaged as franchise. Of course, Paresh Rawal is a much better choice for a role in a franchise -series than the two actors we have gotten  used to seeing over the years (Dhoom, anyone?)

 

The movie starts off with the antics of Paresh Rawal in a long flight. The montage does seem funny at the beginning but the effect wears off as you see more of it. That’s pretty much the case with the movie too.

 

The plot is simple. Paresh Rawal and Tanvi Azmi, as guests, land up at Karthik Aaryan’s house unaanounced and unwanted. How they go about setting up his life and gradually, creating a few problems in his life is what the movie is all about. Probably they chose Karthik Aaryan because he has no one to call upon as his own and wants to settle down in UK; the reason why approaches Kriti Kharbanda to marry him and leave him after a while, for a price of course – cue for some sexual innuendo. There is a lot of talk about sex in the movie: Viagra, sexual harassment, the farts of your lover smelling like a rose (Yes, that is a line in an extended paean about farts)

The bit about farts by Paresh Rawal is so overdone that you are saying sorry to yourself, the same way in which Paresh Rawal says sorry to Karthik’s boss, for putting yourself through it. The only time it seems genuinely funny is when Karthik and Kriti dream of them as Al-Qaeeda operatives and even while shooting them, Paresh Rawal farts and Tanvi Azmi says ‘kya hain na, inko pet ka problem hain’ like always.

The way Paresh Rawal goes about makes you feel that he wants to strip himself of all the acting credentials. A man who has given so many brilliant performances seems a shadow of himself here and is reduced to rabble-rousing. He falls to ground zero (metaphorical, geographical and literal) before redeeming himself. His conversations with Sanjay Mishra’s Pakistani character are what wet dreams of his political critics made of. They are below the belt, unwanted and frequent. That this movie will go unnoticed by many will be a blessing for the actor as well as the politician.

Tanvi Azmi of Guest iin London is unrecognizable from the Tanvi Azmi of Akele Hum Akele Tum, Yeh Jawaani hain Deewani. Once you have seen the movie, come back home and watch the scene from Akele Hum Akele Tum where she pleads Manisha Koirala to come back into Aamir Khan’s life. That is what the lady is capable of and she is wasted in this movie. That, according to me is criminal. She says ‘Kya hain na inka pet kharab hain’ in the movie more than anything else.

 

Karthik Aaryan, the man who apocryphally delivered the monologue in Pyaar Ka Punchnama in a single shot, does well, but like Kriti Kharbanda, he has big shoes to fill. It’s essentially his tale, but it seems anything but his tale. Kriti Kharbanda stars in the movie and that’s pretty much it.

 

The movie is shot indoors for most part but when it goes outdoors, the poor camerawork shows. Even indoors, the lighting seems poor for most part. When you see the work of the actors and technicians, it seems to be a movie made in a hurry.

 

Verdict: You can go to sleep and come back once the movie finishes 

Image Courtesy: indiaglitz.com

An edited version of this post appeared in fullhyd.com

DJ Duvvada Jagannatham review

DJ

A few years ago, after delivering a stupendous hit with Magadheera, Ram Charan acted in a dud called Orange. In my opinion, it wasn’t a bad movie. It was spoiled by a bad climax. One of the things with Orange was the fact that the storyline would have been similar if it was shot in Sydney or Amalapuram. That it was shot in Sydney made no difference to the movie, like shooting in New York did to Ye Maaya Chesaave.

Similarly Duvvada Jagannatham would’ve been the same if it was Pinnamaneni Sarath or Dandu Ashok or Palivela Suman Shetty in the title.  That the titular role was a Brahmin made no difference to the movie. If at all, it served as a vehicle to show the conversion of the protagonist from timidity to ferociousness.

Yes, Allu Arjun recites Purusha Suktam and Gayatri Mantram with ease in the movie, but was it all required ?

 

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In the late 80’s, Chiranjeevi acted in a lot of run-of-the-mill movies, but he always redeemed them; be it with his dances, be it with comic timing or be it with his fights. That was the reason he grew up to be a megastar in the industry. There are a few subtle references to him in the movie.

The film has nothing going for it in terms of a story. Helpless police takes the help of a person who can’t see (hear) crimes committed in front of him. To weave a story around this point might be tough; not if you are Harish Shankar.

Harish Shankar seeks the help of entendre, caricaturisation, exposing the heroine and exploits the stardom of Allu Arjun to weave the story, however feeble it may be. For a man so good with writing, you wonder what was the need for him to seek refuge in entendre. For a man talking about ‘dignity of labour’, it sure does stink when he talks about the usage of condoms.

He has definitely travelled southwards in terms of his directorial capabilities since Mirpakay. With more intent in satiating the fans desires, he has lost touch with good filmmaking. I would want to see Harish Shankar make a movie the way Harish Shankar wants it, not the way the fans of the hero want to see it.

Allu Arjun, much like Chiranjeevi of the yore, tries to redeem this movie; with his dances, fights and comic timing. He succeeds to an extent and fails in large part due to the director. He remains one of the few heroes whose films make for watchable fare. From Sarrainoddu on, there seems to be some sort of narcissism creeping in the way he goes about the things. He would certainly be better off without it.

Pooja Hegde’s best moments come when she is asked to sing a line or two from a song during the audio release or the publicity for the movie. She has nothing to do in the movie apart from appearing like a made-up doll and exposing the mid-riff as and when necessitated by the director.

Around the same time last year, Rao Ramesh was part of a disastrous movie called Brahmotsavam. He shone like nobody else in that movie. There is something special that he gets to every role of his, in every movie, regardless of the duration. Every role has his signature, much like the way Allu Arjun wants to do it while dancing. Except that, Rao Ramesh doesn’t exactly need to sign. To borrow from a line in the movie and re-phrase it , ‘He makes us see the character, not the man playing it.’ Even in this movie, he shines the best. His idiosyncrasies in the movie are superb to watch

Subba Raju does well in his role and it could’ve been better

Verdict: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Similarly, DJ by any other name wouldn’t have made a difference. 

Image courtesy: idlebrain.com