Raarondoi Veduka Choodam review

RRV

There was a time when author-backed roles were few and far between. We have come far from those days. Every actor/actress (rather, hero/heroine) these days aspires to star in one film where they have the author-backed role.

The thing with such roles which makes people crave for the them is the fact that the entire story revolves around them. When we scratch the surface, the author-backed role always needs a role that runs parallel to theirs, but isn’t given the same level of importance; like Konkana Sen in Wake Up, Sid, like Shahid Kapoor in Jab We Met. Closer home; Raghuvaran in Suswagatham, Nagesh in Tholi Prema. This generally happens because the actors in the parallel help prop the film up when the actors in the author-backed role fall into a tedium.

Raarondoi Veduka Choodam doesn’t waste much time in establishing who has the author-backed role. It’s clear from the time titles roll.  After a little while into the movie, the grandmother drills the granddaughter about the sort of a groom she has to marry. She does, but after applying a patch to those Quixotic claims.

The obsession that Telugu Film Industry has for directors with hits running in their recent past filmography is legendary. So, it wasn’t a surprise that Nagarjuna chose Kalyan Krishna, who directed his previous blockbuster. Added to this was the fact that it was a home production venture. Probably all these added up to Nagarjuna proclaiming that the movie would be a blockbuster (one of the two blockbusters he had promised to his fans; one for each of his sons).

Rakul Preet, in the author-backed role was an extension of her Venkatadri Express self: referring to herself and her emotions in third person. Yes, she has hits, but she hasn’t quite reached a level where her acting capabilities are extraordinary. Her preparation/ her willingness to submit to director’s imagination does show as she cracks the look part of her character. Her expressions at times, seemed off-touch or a tad too late. The good thing about her portrayal is that she isn’t too far off the mark. Probably the next time she bags an author-backed role, she might want to do it in a comfort zone.

Naga Chaitanya does something that he hasn’t attempted before: a gregarious role. From what we have seen of him from his previous movies, he seems to perform well when he has to strip himself of his ego. He does the same in a scene in 100% love and does the same in a sequence here. He excels in the scene and has also carefully built his screen presence. He needs to continue doing the same: keep experimenting with different roles.

One thing the director, Kalyan Krishna, does well is to get the casting right. One thing he doesn’t: overcrowding the movie. There are so many characters in a blink-and-you-will-miss roles.

Jagapathi Babu, Sampath and a host of other actors are all good in the roles given to them.

Verdict: There’s not much you are going to miss by missing this  movie

Image Courtesy: 123telugu.com

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Baahubali 2 review

BB2

A movie with a slow first half. The second half bursts into prominence with the superbly shot war sequences. It also sets the viewer up for what should be a very good and better second part

This is how I ended when I wrote about Baahubali. Now having seen Baahubali 2, I can venture to say though the movie wasn’t bad by any measure, it did not match up to the expectation that I had set on the film. Whose fault is it? Mine or the director’s? It’s a combination of both.

While the first part started with a superb song and a sequence that makes you invest your thought process into the movie, the second part starts off as an exercise to eulogise Amarendra Baahubali.

The titles in this movie roll brilliantly: a sequestered attempt to tell the previous movie story through statues. In this movie, constrained by the need to move the story forward, Rajamouli takes his own time to whip up a frenzy. Like the first part, the first-half lags for quite a bit. If we have to describe it in the form of an anatomy of a wave, it hits a trough straight from the crest. The amplitude was ‘Baahubali’ sized one.

There are scenes that grab your attention in this drab phase too. One of them is where Rana and Nasar keep comparing Satyaraj to a dog. He reads through their scheming minds and says the loyalty of a dog is enough to do it. Another scene is where Anushka struggles to release two arrows from a bow but Prabhas teaches her to shoot three arrows at one go. That scene is also indicative of chemistry between the lead pair.

The drab phase seems drab because of the attempt on the part of Rajamouli to induce forced humour. It was needless. It is at this stage that we are drawn away from the movie. Thankfully, it doesn’t last for a long while.

Anushka’s entry into Mahishmathi and her subsequent showdown with Ramya Krishna are what wet dreams of actors are made of. They both excel. Ramya Krishna more so. She is a delight whenever she is on the screen. She has a presence that can’t be replicated.

Once Rajamouli gets the story moving forward, he doesn’t stop. He goes full-throttle. Rajamouli is let down by Background Music or lack there of. Keeravani does let him down horribly in this movie.

***

Prabhas, much like the movie, meanders along in the first-half of the movie; finding himself as a part of an irrelevant comedy thread, he stutters along before coming into life in the action sequences. The man has screen presence that justifies everything. Even when his visage changes from a commoner to a warrior in an instant, you believe it. His role as Amarendra Baahubali has got more screen time than that of Mahendra Baahubali. He comes into his own after coming back to Mahishmathi.

One of the best scenes of the movie involves his killing at the hands of Satyaraj. Though it does provide the answer to the question ‘Why Kattappa Killed Baahubali?’, Rajamouli isn’t driven by the need to answer the question. He doesn’t get swayed by the need to take cinematic liberties to answer the question.

For a certain length, the movie concentrates on the conflict between Devasena and Sivagami, played by Anushka and Ramya Krishna respectively. That’s the time when Amarendra Baahubali’s unwavering devotion to his mother comes through and Prabhas plays it superbly. Caught between wife and mother, he chooses to follow the right path as taught by his mother. The mother-son relationship is shown brilliantly though it is just an undercurrent. That comes across beautifully well because of Prabhas and Ramya Krishna.

Prabhas can only grow from here. One question though, has Telugu Film Industry lost Prabhas as an actor exclusive to its films? If it has, probably Prabhas might well be on his way to becoming the first pan-Indian superstar.

***

Rana’s role in a way reminds us of Manisha Koirala’s role in Dil Se. He doesn’t have a lot to say in the first half of the movie. His menace really sets in when he starts talking. He says  his rule’s effectiveness was known by how much he tortured Anushka and with her missing from the kingdom, it isn’t known anymore. Aided by dialogues, Rana becomes a different beast altogether. Of all the roles from the first part, his is the one that’s let down most by the director.

***

Anushka’s role in this movie is longer and better. Nobody envisaged the conflict angle between her and Ramya Krishna. Both shine in the respective roles. Her chemistry with Prabhas is worth watching. Before Magadheera, heroines were treated with a bit of contempt in Rajamouli’s movies. Anushka’s role is well-etched and is on par with Prabhas for the length of her role.

***

Ramya Krishna, to borrow from a review for another actress in another movie, has the other actors for breakfast, lunch and dinner whenever she is in the scene. She adds to the role and makes you want to thank Rajamouli for his inspired choice

***

Satyaraj and Nasar being the seasoned actors that they are live in the roles given to them. One has to feel for Subba Raju for accepting the role that he did, but it’s his death that sets the ball rolling for #WKKB. It’s in keeping with what he had said in an interview – I look for what the role does, not the length of the role.

***

Rajamouli leaves nothing untied in the movie. If one has to be critical, it can be said that he could’ve tightened the first-half in both the movies better. While he himself said that he lets the visuals do the talking, here he lets the actors also do the talking. There are good dialogues for everyone in the movie.

The war scenes in the second part don’t match up to the ones in the first part. He takes time in this movie to establish the characters in the movie and rightly so. To reveal the ending of the movie and yet make the movie-goers wait with anticipation for his movie is a feather in his cap

There are a few scenes where he takes the cinematic liberties to the limit. At that stage, one is reminded of a Shankar interview where he said that one cannot limit dreams.

***

Verdict: Though a natural progression to the first part, this movie has you craving for more in bits and parts. When the director gets his bearings right, we are in for a ride

Picture credit: idlebrain.com

What made me like Chiranjeevi


In an episode of Raghavendra Rao’s Soundaryalahiri, Ravi Teja and Harish Shankar were attending as guests. They were discussing about some mundane scenes and songs. Since both of them weren’t associated with Raghavendra Rao’s movies after they gained their name and fame, they had to resort to praising Raghavendra Rao’s movies.

At a certain point in that interview, Ravi Teja and Harish Shankar were made to talk about Rowdy Alludu.

They were shown a scene from the movie and were asked to talk about it. While the director tried to make the talk centre around himself, Ravi Teja and Harish Shankar were insistent on giving the credit to Chiranjeevi and his last minute improvisations. Raghavendra Rao had to divert the topic to stop the unending discussion on Chiranjeevi

You can watch the bit of the interview here and laugh to your heart’s content


When Chiranjeevi announced that he would be making a comeback, it brought goosebumps to a lot of people. He was away for a period of 9 years, 5 months and 15 days from the turnstiles (Time between two releases, as a hero).

So, when Khaidi no 150 released, it was a pleasure to see the man not losing much of the sheen he had before he went off on an extended sabbatical. It was a delight to see him refer to his previous hits, do the simple steps in a stylised manner and going back to tics.

Somehow, the sum was not equal to the parts in the movie. Yes, he danced well; yes, he did do comedy well; yes, he excelled in the action scenes, but there was something lacking. Was it the fact that he saw his best, many times over, before his sabbatical? Was the age showing on him? Was he trying too hard to impress us? I think it’s a combination of all of these things.

When I saw him matching steps with women aged lesser than half his age or closer to half his age, I marvelled at his agility. I thought how can a 61-year old man dance the way he did. After I came back home from the movie, I was thinking why should a man of his age need to dance the way he did. He could’ve chosen to play his age and nobody would’ve complained. He didn’t. He wanted to satiate the thirst of millions of his fans.


A lot of times, in the present-day movies, you would find the heroes making pointed references to their lineage. A few heroes from his family are also guilty of the crime. This wasn’t the case in 1980’s — the time when Chiranjeevi was rising up the stardom ladder. He had no one to lean back on. He came up the hard way; through his own efforts with no backing whatsoever.

In the hierarchy of superstars in Telugu Film Industry, he can be, at best, called a ‘third generation’ superstar. So, while growing as a star he didn’t have a lot of aggrandising dialogues in his movies. He must be one of the very stars whose moniker changed mid-way in his career — from ‘Supreme Hero’ to ‘Megastar’. The change happened in his 101st movie: Maranamrudangam.

First time Chiranjeevi had the name ‘Megastar’ prefixed was in Maranamrudangam

For a man who attained stardom in 1983 with the movie Khaidhi, he was on a roll till 1995. It was an year in which he saw failure like never before. The repercussions were there for all to see. Before making the jump into politics, 1996 remains the only year where a movie of Chiranjeevi didn’t release.

He came back with Hitler and he started playing his age, nearly, after that. Gone were the loveable rascal sort of roles and this was also the time he began buying into his image as a megastar. The fans were at crossroads as the star that they loved wasn’t portraying the roles that they wanted him to. Credit to Chiranjeevi then that he made them believe in the roles he portrayed.

The year 1996, in addition to being a barren year for Chiranjeevi fans, was also an year where he looked back on the mistakes of 1995 and sort of turned away from the roles that made him a star.

JVAS, Gang Leader, Rowdy Alludu, Gharana Mogudu, Mutta Mestri and Mechanic Alludu were followed by drab movies. The stretch of movies stands him in good stead till date. Mention the cyclone of 1990 to anyone in Krishna District, chances are that they will remember the pain they took to watch Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari than the pain the cyclone left in its wake.

So what altered? Combinations altered. Mechanic Alludu was the last movie in which Chiranjeevi and Vijayshanti shared a frame. Their first movie together was Devanthakudu. Their pairing lasted for 9 years. In those 9 years, Chiranjeevi acted in 52 movies with 19 different heroines. After Mechanic Alludu, he acted in 30 movies with 27 different heroines.

So, when he came back in Khaidhi no 150, it must have been a relief for the fans in a way to see him harking back to the pre-Hitler days than the post-Hitler days.

Satellite rights

shocking-price-for-mahesh-babu-next-movie-satellite-rights

A few years ago, I delved into the reasons that compel a movie-goer to watch a movie more than once . I was forced to think about it when I saw a couple of movies on the eve of New Year and on New Year. The movies were Khaleja and Manmadhudu

Manmadhudu released towards the fag end of 2002 and Khaleja released in 2010. I have seen these movies multiple times; so many times that I know what dialogue follows and what scenes to wait for. I saw these movies after a long period. I found myself laughing thinking about what was to come next. This after watching the movie so many times.

That these movies can be watched with the family (notwithstanding the language, in case of Khaleja) adds to the aura. Growing up, VCR/VCP was used mainly to watch the prints at home because the movies took time to release in the places we stayed in. As time wore on, movies (at least the big heroes movies) released in every nook and corner of the Telugu speaking states. With time at a premium, people started to wait for the movie to be aired on the television channels.

When the practice of airing movies on television channels started, I was flummoxed as to why people preferred to watch the same movies repeated time and over again. A movie that attained cult status despite the number of times it was aired; it was in the news recently for the amount a television channel grabbed the satellite rights for after the first channel let go of it  

There exist audience for movies on television. This was realised long back by Zee TV. They went ahead and made a movie to be exclusively aired on television in the mid-90’s. They failed miserably because the movie didn’t have too many re-runs.

These days the craze for a movie is gauged by the amount that’s shelled out as satellite rights. Sometimes a movie that doesn’t do well at the turnstiles but still does well in the drawing rooms is said to have found a ‘niche’ audience.

There are times when a channel goes overboard and airs a flop movie – at the box office and in the drawing rooms- many times over. The movie then acquires a cult following of a different kind; Sooryavamsham on Sony max is an example for this.

 

Image courtesy: cinedhol.com

Dhoni review

dhoni

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?’

******

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.

******

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

******

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.

******

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

JG

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.

******

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.

******

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.

******

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.

******

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

cellichupulu14

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

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