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Mee Sreyobhilashi January 16, 2009

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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I believe this film was a moderate success and got a lot of critical (assuming all our reviewers can be called critics) acclaim. I am compelled to write about this overrated film as it has apparently won the Nandi award for the Best Film (2007). Among other lame selections at the Nandi awards this year, this one caught my eye.

The plot revolves around a bunch of strangers making a pact to die together through a suicide that is made to look like an accident. The reasons for their decisions and the outcome of their attempt is what the film is about.

The theme was apparently inspired from a Japanese film called Ikinai and writer-director Eshwar Reddy manages to weave a social message into the plot. That is the primary reason for the accolades garnered by this film. Sure, I understand it. After having to watch essentially the same action film rehashed and released twice every month, this “offbeat” “message” film could feel like a masterpiece.

I was put off by the amateurish direction with repeated attempts (unsuccessful, in my case) at overselling the emotions through intentional hamming by the obedient actors, accompanied by the loud and annoying background score (not to mention the repeated use of the depressing song in the background). And all this from the beginning of the film when you don’t really know the characters and aren’t ready to feel sorry (or feel anything at all) for them. As the movie progresses, you get to know the characters who don’t really have compelling reasons for suicide and you are left feeling sorry for this moronic bunch for entirely different reasons.

To its credit, the film moves along well, has some moderately humorous moments and a happy ending. Watch this only if you don’t mind emotional manipulation and can tolerate the inept execution.

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Smart People November 28, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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A debut at the Sundance film festival and a likable cast drew me to this film, which takes a look at a family of extremely smart but socially inept individuals. Dennis Quaid (In Good Company, Vantage Point) plays a misanthtropic, self-immersed professor who is trying to develop a relationship with his doctor and former student, played by Sarah Jessica Parker (Failure To Launch). Meanwhile, his neglected, overachieving daughter (Ellen Page) forms a bond with his unemployed, adopted brother (Thomas Haden Church) who has come to stay with family for a while.

Written by debutant Mark Poirier, the dialogue in the film is one of its selling points. While the theme and characters are reasonably interesting, the film never manages to pull you in with its apparent charm. The “smart ones” in this film seem to be depicted as losers due to their lack of social skills mainly for amusement and without consequence. The Quaid-Parker relationship never really manages to get interesting. On the other hand, Page (Juno) and Church (Sideways) manage to have a lot more fun with a less predictable relationship.

The underlying premise of the film is that smart people are more rational and less emotional making them social misfits less likely to suceed in human relationships. Such themes have been tackled before but they have the scope to provide fodder for more attractive films. But this one amuses without impressing.

First time director Noam Murro manages to hold your attention in the initial part of the film but the script lets him down and that interest withers away slowly. If you like indie comedies in general, this isn’t hard to sit through (especially if you like the cast). The film has some amusing moments but the characters aren’t memorable and it isn’t one that you will remember after a while.

Southland Tales October 22, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Bizzare? Ludicrous? Atrocious? Insane?

I don’t know what sort of adjectives might adequately describe this film. At the very least, it was a very strange and confusing film. But that is a humongous understatement. I’d really want to call it an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions and it should easily fit into a list of the worst movie experiences of my life.

Since I can’t be sure that I even understood the film, there is no point in trying to describe the plot. It starts off looking like someone’s imagination of a distressing future. At one point I felt like the film was trying to be a statement on the current state of the world but maybe not. This long (145 minutes) film has far too many eccentric characters and undecipherable subplots. At the end, I had only questions and no answers. Is this film about terrorism? Is it about mad scientists? Or is it about the time-space continuum/4th dimension or whatever?

There is a scene in the film where an amnesiac Boxer Santaros describes the plot of the screenplay he has written along with his porn star girlfriend. You are almost certain that it is meant to be funny but it isn’t and it actually ends up being the plot of the film that you are watching and it isn’t funny anymore.

Like the aforementioned situation, there are some scenes in this film where you think that the makers are attempting to make you laugh. But you aren’t really sure if that is their intent or even that the scene in question is funny. So, you sit still and wait for a confirmation that never comes.

The most laughable piece of dialogue comes when one character tries explaining what is happening or might happen and talks about the “entire 4th dimension collapsing on itself”. I was laughing all right but I was really feeling bad for myself at the same time.

Enough about me. I wonder what the actors were directed to do and what was going through their minds. Did they understand the script when they signed the film?

The Rock has a bewildered look for the most part. Maybe his expressions were accurate representations of how he felt while acting in this film. He is better off sticking to his action films or comedies. And Sean William Scott gets to paste the same expression of gravitas through both his roles. Justin Timberlake is pretty much trying to look cool and deliver lines in that manner throughout and I couldn’t really figure out how his character featured into the script. For a film that is as befuddling, it has a sizable amount of narration by Timberlake and it doesn’t clarify anything at all.

I couldn’t find anything even remotely interesting in this film. And that makes me wonder who greenlighted this film. Even more perplexing is the fact that it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

My ire should really be directed at writer-director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) but since I don’t understand his vision, I don’t know what to say really. Southland Tales is a disaster not only due to its incomprehensibility but also due to its numerous subplots, confusing tone, its length, lack of cohesion, and more. I’d really like to forget that I ever saw this film but before I embark on that task, I would love to hear from someone who could explain at least parts of this film to me.

Chandamama August 26, 2008

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Writer-director Krishna Vamsi’s Chandamama is a family-friendly comedy. Compared to his past successes in a similar genre, Ninne Pelladatha and Murari, this is a lower budget comedy without big stars. The non-serious comic plot of this film reminds you of Jandhyala’s comedies (though the execution is typical Krishna Vamsi).

Mahalakshmi is the daughter of village elder Ranga Rao. Her marriage is fixed with Dora Babu. However, she is not entirely happy with it as she is separated from her boyfriend due to a misunderstanding. When he enters the picture and the misunderstanding is cleared, the chaos begins. The youngsters try to settle matters without hurting their elders, which results in lies, manipulation, confusion and a lot of funny moments.

There is nothing novel in terms of the plot or the characterization or even the way in which KV directs this film. But he does succeed in using certain things like the village environment and the joint family. Yes, we have seen this before and he has done it before but we don’t get to see it very often and it is quite a relief from the flying goons and blood spattering.

KV also makes sure that the casting provides freshness. He doesn’t use actors like Chalapati Rao or Chandra Mohan who have been used time and again in such family films. And it works. Ahuti Prasad gets the best role and he pulls it off with aplomb. KV also extracts decent performances from the youngsters. Kajal Agarwal (Lakshmi Kalyanam, Pourudu) and Navdeep (Modati Cinema, Premante Inthe) deliver improved performances. I liked Sindhu Menon (the most experienced of the lot) in the role of the bubbly girl (which, some will undoubtedly hate). Siva Balaji (Arya) completes the quartet and he is likable as the kind-hearted village boy. Radha Kumari always makes a nice grandmother. K M Radhakrishnan’s soundtrack doesn’t match his best work or Krishna Vamsi’s earlier films but it isn’t bad and his background score is good.

Though KV may or may not have intended it, the film serves as a good example of a situation where a person feels the need to lie due to societal restrictions, pressures and/or similar considerations. A rational individual might say that there is no need to lie at all as the truth might actually make things simpler but a lot of people would still prefer to lie.

There is a certain energy in the film and it breezes along without its faults bothering you too much. This isn’t a great movie but if you’ve liked Krishna Vamsi’s previous films in this genre, you wouldn’t mind watching this one. I certainly didn’t.

P.S. If anyone knows why this one was titled Chandamama, please let me know.

Lakshmi Kalyanam May 22, 2008

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Most of Teja’s films are quite simple (despite the fact that he thinks he is extremely creative). Rich boy falls in love with poor girl or vice versa. If his last film is set in a village, the next one will be set in a city. Sometimes there is a strong villain. Generally, the hero is pretty weak. It worked (at the box office) with Nuvvu Nenu and Jayam and then people got bored of watching the same thing over and over.

As it stands, Chitram (or maybe Family Circus) remains his most novel effort (by virtue of everything that followed).

So, I don’t even know why I saw this film but then my endurance levels are high. And I actually had hope when an initial sequence showed an astrologer predicting conflicting futures for the main characters. It felt like a giant step for Teja. Then, slowly but surely, the film migrated into expected territory and there was really no incentive to finish it except to see how he has rehashed the same elements once again.

Lets briefly look at what we’ve got in this movie.

Setting: Village
Hero: Kalyan Ram (improved but still has a long way to go). Weak: Surprisingly not!
Heroine: Kajal Agarwal. Debutant: Check. Half-sarees: Very welcome.
Villain: Ajay (the most watchable member of the cast). Modeled on: Gopichand’s character from Jayam
Comedians: Harsha Vardhan (wasted), Raghu Babu (the same character that he plays in most films, the sidekick of the villain who makes satirical remarks without any repercussions)
Music: RP Patnaik (way past his prime)
Plot: Bava Maradallu in love. The villain eyes the girl. Weird village feuds fuel the plot. A race to win the girl (I kid you not). All odds against the hero. I won’t tell you if he makes it or not.
Advice: Don’t watch it.

Parting shot: I found myself laughing uncontrollably (inexplicably) to one song in the film called Labjanaka (the Teja style item song). See if you find it as funny.

Mozhi May 17, 2008

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Tamil.
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In the beginning of this film, Prakash Raj makes a joke about ‘the daughters of rich landlords falling in love with beggars’ being a common scenario in recent Tamil cinema. I expected then that this film would not fall into the trap of creating an unexpected love story without plausible reasons. But it definitely does and that disappointed me a little.

The love here is between a handsome young keyboard player and a beautiful deaf and dumb girl. The boy proposes but the girl disposes. Will the situation improve? Will they get together in the end? It is as simple as it seems with the physical disability being the reason for its existence.

The movie does have some nice material but the problem for me was that director Radhamohan could have decided to make it a bit more subtle. A lot more subtle, actually. That, of course, means that this movie is made for the mainstream audience (despite its purported critical acclaim) and that is not necessarily a bad thing (as substantiated by its box office success).

The first half of this film breezes through quite quickly but it gets a bit turgid towards the conclusion when it moves into the romantic comedy conflict zone. One interesting aspect is that you don’t feel for the dumb girl with a high self esteem and short temper. The film makes her seem normal enough to be unlikable, which is quite unexpected in a commercial film, but it focuses too much on her disability to treat her as a normal person. A movie that could successfully achieve this would be worth a watch but this isn’t it.

I wouldn’t rave about Jyothika’s work too much but Prithviraj and Prakash Raj make an impression fas does Swarnamalya. It was surprising to see Brahmanandam in a major comic part in a Tamil film but it is the sort of role that he gets in every second film. The tunes composed by Vidyasagar are quite beautiful (that was what pulled me to this movie in the first place) and the lyrics (Vairamuthu) seemed good too (the subtitles were definitely much better that what I’ve seen earlier with DVDs of south Indian movies).

Overall, this is a reasonably entertaining film that isn’t a bad watch. Just don’t expect it to be a realistic portrayal of an uncommon love story.

Parting Shot: In a movie that projects itself to be sensitive, making fun of an obese kid is clearly a major faux pas.