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Homam September 5, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Rather than simply dismissing it as “The Departed” rip-off let me give you a few reasons why you might want to watch this one. First or all, Homam is a more-or-less faithful remake and at no point the proceedings are dumbed down so as to make it appealing to a wider audience. Today, when an original “action thriller” in Telugu simply means yet another story of a guy taking a factionist head on for various reasons (love, revenge etc…) and add to that those dumb fight sequences…. I’d prefer to watch a nice remake of a Hollywood flick anyday.

Those who have seen Scorcese’s flick would no doubt be deprived of the suspense but it still worked for me. For those who haven’t seen that one the story is about a couple of guys – one who has infiltrates the police and another who infiltrates the mob under the guidance of their respective bosses. When each party knows that they have a mole inside these two guys are given the responsibility finding him out in their respective organizations. Chekravarthy – who has directed a couple of films before shows quite an improvement. The camerawork is especially noteworthy. He also seems to have incorporated a few elements from his mentor Ramgopal Varma. The picturization of the first song reminded me a lot of Ramu’s Telugu flicks from the nineties. Amar Mohile’s background score (some of the bits sound very familiar) is also effective.

Jagapathi Babu shines in a role – the kind he is best at but which seems to have eluded him for quite some time now. Chekravarthy’s role isn’t that well defined – maybe he was too busy with the directorial aspects. Mahesh Manjrekar isn’t as impressive as I might have expected though his nemesis in the movie Pradeep Rawat is very good. The two girls (Mamata Mohandas and Madhurima) look good but their respective tracks don’t gel with the film.

Towards the end of Homam, I had the feeling of watching a satisfying film but what I found rather disappointing was the teaser for the sequel called “Marana Homam”. I only hope Chekri has some good source material in hand to pull that one off! Go watch Homam if you are looking for a well-shot Tollywood action thriller.

Sarkar Raj June 7, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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“How much really can I go wrong with Sarkar Raj???” asked Ram Gopal Varma recently. Despite the statement’s overconfident tone, you would have agreed completely with it (like me) provided you’ve seen and loved Sarkar. Now that the movie is out, I want to say to Ramu “Well….you could have messed it up!”

The film begins two years after it left off with Shankar Nagre (Abhishek Bachchan) being addressed as “Sarkar” and now Shankar has established himself firmly as the trusted successor of the original Sarkar (Amitabh Bachchan). In comes Anita (Aishwarya Rai) with a proposal to set up a power plant in one of the villages of Maharashtra. Sarkar isn’t interested in it but Shankar is totally convinced about its utility for the state and presses hard to get this project sanctioned and completed. However, there is more than meets the eye with other bigwigs having vested interests in it. Like in its predecessors there are shifting loyalties, unexpected traitors et al; just like Ramu said – “It’s another series of episodes in the Nagre family”.

But then if you’ve been a fan of the first film you can’t help but notice some major flaws. First and foremost has to do with the characterization of Sarkar and Shankar. The nuances and the grey shades in both characters and the relationship between them which were wonderfully brought out in the previous flick are glaringly missing (or rather inconsistent). Here you see that the father-son duo portrayed as selfless leaders only concerned about the well being of the state and probably to justify this drastic shift there are some redemption dialogues (especially with references to Vishnu’s killing)…and these are the only moments where the “family drama” part comes in. For me, this was the biggest letdown in the movie. Also, the supporting cast of bad guys in this ones aren’t colorful and interesting like before. Only Govind Namdeo as Hasan Qazi stands out a bit. Sayaji Shinde is highly irritating. Dilip Prabhawalkar as Rao Saab is brilliant yet again in an unrecognizable get-up…I fail to recognize him in every movie until I hear his voice. Also the new guy who plays his grandson does a fine job.

If you’ve read till this point and have come to the conclusion that this is probably just an average rehash of “Sarkar” then wait….even I started thinking the same when Ramu’s creative genius pitched in at the right time and thereon the dramatic turn of events in the later portions of the movie till the climax will change your opinion. In fact, the film starts getting better only when the original “Govinda…Govinda” theme arrives. Like a lot of other aspects mentioned before, the use of the background score here pales when you start comparisons. The open-ended climax has made lot of people to speculate about another sequel…but if I had to advise Ramu after Sarkar Raj I’d only ask him to pursue that option if he is going through a bad phase and desperately needs a hit (like now).

In the final analysis, Sarkar Raj works mainly because of its gripping penultimate portions – for the rest of the time it only succeeds in reminding you what a fine film “Sarkar” was. Definitely watchable…nevertheless!

Sarkar June 6, 2008

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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In anticipation of the release of Sarkar Raj this weekend, I watched Sarkar once again.

Director Ram Gopal Varma’s tribute to The Godfather isn’t his first film inspired from that source. He earlier made Gaayam (co-written by Mani Ratnam) in Telugu (and even his debut film, Shiva had some traces of inspiration) where many commercial constraints were adhered to but the film was good in its own way and was a success at the box office too. He reuses some parts of that film here but makes a more intense and largely superior film.

Though the content might have been inspired by The Godfather (and Bal Thackeray), this is a completely different and much more taut film. A few scenes and some themes may be similar but this isn’t a faithful remake. And anyone who wishes to judge this film by comparing it to The Godfather or its various inspirations should strictly sit out.

The screenplay of the film is credited to Manish Gupta but Varma, no doubt, had considerable inputs here. But it isn’t so much the script as it is the direction that defines this film. Ram Gopal Varma’s genius is visible in every frame that is so meticulously shot and his style is what makes this film remarkable. And he is greatly helped by his technicians (cinematographer Amit Roy and editors Amit Parman and Nipun Gupta).

The most striking aspect of this film is the brilliant use of extreme close-ups. A large part of the film doesn’t have any dialogue. Varma uses the expressions of the actors captured so minutely through these close-ups to convey the emotions as well as the subtext. The film depends on it completely. And when the characters do speak, they deliver some zingers.

The accompanying background score by Amar Mohile, tries to elevate every important moment and succeeds (some might not care for such dominance by the music but I do). It is interesting that the Govinda chant that has become quite synonymous with this film was originally composed for Varma’s telugu film Govinda Govinda, which belonged to a completely different genre.

With such close scrutiny of the actors in close-ups, acting becomes an extremely important part of the film and each actor needs to deliver. RGV extracts the required performances from Amitabh to Kay Kay to Katrina Kaif and Tanishaa. Amitabh Bachchan, in the titular role, brings out the required intensity with the right expressions and tone. You can almost feel the same reverence towards his character as his supporters in the film show. On the other hand, he makes the vulnerable side of his character thoroughly identifiable in the scenes in the hospital and home after the attack on him. The way Abhishek is portrayed as an obedient son who does not speak out of turn when the family is discussing business matters in the first half and his transformation when he takes the responsibility upon himself to fill in for his father and take over (note the black shirt that Abhishek wears when the transformation is complete towards the end) is superb. And Bachchan Jr is spot on in his portrayal of Shankar. Kay Kay is possibly the best actor on display in this film and he brings out the vices of Vishnu, the bad son, to perfection.

The supporting cast is great too. Despite many supporting players and limited scope, everybody gets noticed. Supriya Pathak is the best choice for the role of Sarkar’s loving, caring and reticent wife. The little known Rukhsar is very likable in a role where she has almost no dialogue. Even Katrina Kaif and Tanisha who, at the time (or even now) had not delivered any noteworthy performances slip nicely into their roles. Zakir Hussain makes a capable antagonist. Kota Srinivasa Rao, who brings out the sliminess of Silver Mani (or is it Selva Mani?), also serves as the comic relief in the film’s most loquacious character. Ravi Kale, who plays Sarkar’s right hand man also impresses but the same can’t be said about Jeeva’s performance as the wigged over-the-top Swami.

Another interesting aspect is the love triangle. The same triangle was also part of Gaayam as also another film inspired by The Godfather, the Kamal Haasan penned Thevar Magan (Kshatriya Puthrudu in Telugu, remade in Hindi as Virasat with Anil Kapoor). All three films have similar characters involved in a similar conflict (the situation is somewhat different from The Godfather) but each gets its own treatment in keeping with the setting, regional and commercial aspects as well as the focus of the respective films.

This is probably the closest RGV has come to making a family drama. The overachieving father who wonders, like any normal father would, what sins he might have committed to have borne a kid that has taken the wrong path. The bad son, whose need to come out of his father’s shadow ultimately drives him down a path that leaves no redemption. The good son, whose respect and trust in his father bears more importance to him than anything else and his willingness to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family’s responsibility. The obedient and caring mother, who easily melts over her son’s apparent repentance, like any average mother, and asks her husband to let her son back into the house. The daughter-in-law who has become such an integral part of the family that she prefers to stay with her in-laws instead of her wayward husband. There is so much here that makes this as much a tale about a family as it is about politics (or politricks as Silver Mani would say). Varma clearly conveys to the audience that this is a family like most others. I especially loved the use of the kid (playing in the background, asking for an ice cream) to bring in the aspect of normalcy. A similar effect is achieved through the game of Carroms, the dinner table conversations, the discussion in front of the television and more.

Different individuals might find different flaws in this film. Some might even hate the very things that I’ve loved. Nevertheless, this is definitely a film that is worth watching multiple times to observe the minutiae. It is the detail that makes this film special. It is the interpretation, focus and execution that makes this film different from the others based on similar material. Watch this once if you haven’t yet. If you have, watch it again to observe the detail that you missed out the first time.