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Varudu April 5, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Do you want to know the secret of a successful marriage?
Do you want to know the secret of successful progeny?
Do you want to know the secret of a successful society?
Do you want to know the secret of a successful world?

Varudu answers it all and much more! Now, you might wonder why I’d write any further about such a groundbreaking film since it would obviously involve giving away spoilers. Well…the catch is that watching this movie comes with the risk of acute brain damage (temporary only…I hope!). I was able to confirm this condition in me because at one point in the movie I was actually cheering for the villain to sleep with the kidnapped bride and put our “Varudu” to a gruesome death. (There’s another part of me which says it’s a pretty reasonable wish and maybe my mind is alright after all – but let’s leave it at that for now).

If you’ve now decided you’d rather not watch the movie – here come the spoilers. The secret to all types of “success” mentioned above is the “Traditional Telugu 5-day Wedding Ritual”. Now, if you are really dumb to doubt something like that, Varudu even provides a scientific explanation to skeptics in one instance. Here it comes – It has been scientifically proved that putting Jeelakarra-Bellam (Cumin Seeds and Jaggery) on each other’s heads activates the “pathways of attraction” in the cerebral cortex of the people involved which results in them falling for each other instantly.

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(BTW, that was a two minute silence in memory of Science). In case you didn’t notice, with this film Gunasekhar successfully completes his trilogy of CGI-blunders (Remember Arjun and Sainikudu?). Maybe I am being a bit too harsh here. But someone loved the climax of Wolverine so much that they didn’t have any trouble composing shots of CGI Nuclear Power Plants with a CGI Kalyana Mandapam in a CGI countryside.

Varudu also boasts of the worst ever performance by a leading man. I’ve always admired Allu Arjun for his smart choice of films and the characters he plays – where his limited acting abilities fit in so perfectly; no wonder he reigns supreme over everyone else when it comes to the success rate of his films. In this film, the first thing which puts you off is his horrible diction. Also, in a lot of places he sports this obnoxious expression of smugness – which is a combination of a regular blush + “Wow…I am so stylish but see how I can still uphold and follow old traditions”. No wonder then…I was cheering for Arya!

Nenu Devudni (Naan Kadavul) February 9, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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Probably the only true auteur of Indian Cinema, Bala returns after a hiatus of 5 years with his latest work. It is rare for a film to be hailed as a masterpiece even before its release which only shows the effect his films have on people. If you thought Sethu or Pithamagan were bleak and depressing then Nenu Devudni/Naan Kadavul takes it to a new level altogether. For those who haven’t seen the film yet, it might seem to be an exploration about the life and practices of the Aghora cult (now popular in Telugu due to the recent success of Arundhati). But actually it only acts as a backdrop – the significance of which will only be clear towards the end of the film.

On the suggestion of an astrologer that he is a bad omen, Rudra (Arya) is abandoned as a child in Varanasi by his father. When his father goes in search of him after 15 years he finds to his astonishment that Rudra has become an Aghori – someone who considers himself to have attained to power to stop the endless cycle of rebirths by blessing the ashes of dead people who he thinks deserve that boon. On his father’s plea, Rudra’s guru allows him one final visit to his village. Once back there he shocks everyone who comes in contact with him. The main plot however is that involving the inhuman business of “begging”. If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire then be warned – the few sequences you’ve seen in that movie regarding the same issue would seem like kiddie stuff. Anyways, what happens from thereon is better seen than told.

Whether you subscribe to it or not, Bala has the ability to drag the viewer into his bleak merciless world and this film is far successful in doing that than any previous work of his. I don’t think I can get those visuals out of my mind for a long time and I bet you would have a tough time doing the same. However, as usual with Bala’s films the visceral experience comes in lieu of a coherent screenplay. What I actually found very disturbing is the seeming glorification of the protagonist and his cult. There is a huge difference between certain characters in the film revering Rudra and the film itself projecting him as a hero; and somewhere down the line the distinction seemed lost. What can seem acceptable or even justified as a sad state of affairs cannot really become an ideal. Thanks to a couple of irritating guys in the audience who were constantly whistling whenever Arya came on screen – my perspective about the film’s convictions might be a little skewed but I’d like to hear from others what they concluded about the movie.

Arya undergoes an amazing physical (rather facial) transformation for this role. He is really scary in that look but apart from a standard routine which he seems to perform in most of the film, there isn’t nothing much he is required to do. Pooja is also very good as the blind girl. The real heroes are the supporting cast comprising of real Sadhus and physically disabled people – again better seen than told. The guy who plays the main villain is also extremely formidable. The film is shot beautifully (Arthur Wilson) – right from the opening frame on the banks of the Ganges, the foreboding mood of the film is captured consistently. Ilaiyaraja’s score also enhances the film to a great level.

For all the bleakness in the movie, it must be mentioned that there isn’t any boring moment and uxexpectedly there is ample humor which goes a long way in lightening the proceedings. For all its faults, Nenu Devudni/Naan Kadavul is a testament to the power of the visual medium and Bala’s command over it – and that itself qualifies it to be a masterpiece. A word of caution – don’t venture in if you are not used to disturbing imagery and avoid taking children.