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King December 29, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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The last time there was a major dent in Sreenu Vaitla’s then moderately successful career was when he made Andarivadu with Chiranjeevi. I haven’t seen that film and so cannot comment on what probably went wrong there. His latest flick King coming after three successive hits (and obviously with a lot of expectations) almost proves that a big star can be jinxed for him. I said jinxed because everything seems right here but hardly anything works.

He has a nice plot (various inspirations/lifts notwithstanding) with umpteen situations promising potential guffaws but the end result is more like a Sreenu Vaitla jokes-falling-flat carnival. It’s a twist filled mistaken identity plot so I won’t bother writing about it. Most of the plot/scene/character inspirations come from Anil Kapoor flicks like Race, Khel and Welcome. The director seems to have done his homework in creating quite an amusing screenplay but you wish he had rather spent his time in creating some real humor. The funny moments are forced mostly while the cast also doesn’t quite pull it off a considerable number of times.

Vaitla seems to have been overawed by the presence of Nagarjuna – who is made to act as if every scene was his introduction sequence. He is constantly involved in stupid fight sequences and mouthing seemingly “punch(less) dialogues” –  which I feel is not quite his forte. It’s sad because Nagarjuna has his own unique and subtle comic timing which could have worked wonders for a movie like this but seems to have been sacrificed in favor of “appealing to the masses”. He’s looking great though (especially after Don). Also Vaitla’s star vehicle Brahmanandam gets a bland role which as everything else in the movie seems promising but doesn’t quite work. Srihari is the only one who manages to get a better written role. Trisha does the same old stuff. Devisri Prasad’s music is average and most importantly unwanted.

The director seemed to have loved his film so much that he disposed off with the editor; otherwise a film like this would not have a runtime of over three hours. King is a huge disappointment primarily because a majority of people who’d venture into it are likely to have Dhee, Dubai Seenu and Ready still fresh in their minds – if you are someone who hasn’t seen any of these then maybe you won’t feel too bad but I cannot really say if you’d like it. The director’s next one on the cards is with Venkatesh…so I am in two minds whether to be excited about it. Let’s hope Vaitla spends more time on his script than about figuring out how to present his “big hero”.

Ready June 22, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Two back to back hits in a year followed by a couple of major filmmakers imitating your style. What better way to follow it up with another winner! Sreenu Vaitla does just that with his latest offering Ready.

The film begins like every other Telugu flick nowadays – hero helps heroine escape….both fall in love while on the run from the girl’s factionist family…..hero plays “mind games” to make it all work out well. The first half doesn’t really make much of an impression with the mandatory songs and action sequences overwhelming the comic parts. Sunil is the only one here who brings in the laughs in this part with his hilarious portrayal as the effeminate classical dancer. Vaitla returns with a bang in the second half once our hero’s “mind games” begin.

No prizes of guessing who steals the show from everyone again….looks like most of the audience were aware about this through the early reviews/word-of-mouth; hence the overwhelming response to Brahmanandam’s entry as “McDowell Murthy”. If you thought he was great in “Dhee” and “Krishna” lately, you’ll love him much more here. And the humor generated around him is also quite innovative rather than centering around simply being harried by the hero. His expressions in a few scenes are priceless! Another guy who stands out here is that fat kid who always gets a cameo role in all of Vaitla’s films (couldn’t figure out his name). In this film, he has a full length role and does a great job of it. Interestingly, Ready doesn’t feature the trademark Sreenu Vaitla “drunk guy bashing up his oppressors” scene….quite a sacrifice!

Ram and Genelia are fine but they get nothing new to do and are completely eclipsed by the comedians in the second half. Devisri Prasad’s tunes are good but except for the first and last songs, all the rest act as speedbreakers. The film is 3 hours long and quite a bit of the first half – especially the fights can definitely be trimmed away for good. Ready is a much more accomplished effort from Sreenu Vailta compared to his previous flicks and it shouldn’t be a surprize if it turns out be the biggest hit of this season.

Dasavathaaram June 15, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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The loonnnng wait is finally over and the reviews are out. Some have called it magnificent while others have called it disappointing. It’s actually both – magnificent being the effort and disappointing (relative to the hype and hoopla) being the outcome. And yes, Kamal Haasan is responsible for both. Dasavathaaram could have been a brilliant chase thriller set in the backdrop of the age old philosophical debate about the existence of God. However, along the way Kamal’s high ambitions come in the way of his self-indulgence and the the latter dominates most of the movie (add to that some extended uninteresting bickering scenes between Asin and Kamal) after the highly interesting first half.

Firstly, when you expect to see him don ten different roles you also rightfully expect each of them to be memorable. But half of the avatars (or maybe more) are totally redundant to the movie – a couple of them border on ridiculous…in the last category especially being the Sardar pop singer and the unusually tall Pathan – which in large part can also be attributed to the awful dubbing by S.P Balasubramanyam in the Telugu version. Also, his English lines for the scientist avatar (the main hero) are equally bad. In the beginning of the movie, I had to scratch my head for a while to figure out that “Khayaas theory” was actually “Chaos theory” when he explains the butterfly effect. I am sure Tamil viewers wouldn’t have to complain about this aspect of the movie because when you see how brilliantly Kamal dubs for “George W. Bush” and “Chris Fletcher” you cannot but assume that he’s done a similar job for the rest of the characters too.

Incidentally, Dubya and Fletcher are two of the most memorable characters in the film. I never expected that Kamal would actually incorporate Bushisms too….Nice job at that! The ex-CIA assassin Fletcher avatar has been wonderfully conceived and special care has also been given not just to his appearance but also his lines. However, these two characters make an impact only if you understand the language and the context (in the case of Bush). What everyone ultimately will remember from this movie is the bumbling Tamil cop Balaram Nader…in the Tamil version it’s supposed to be a Telugu cop called Naidu. After a couple of scenes simply his appearance on the screen makes you crack up. Kamal has played memorable oddball comic characters in the past and now he can prouldy add this one to his list. I strongly felt there should have been more screen-time devoted to this character. The rest of the avatars don’t strike a chord at all.

Apart from this one-man show, the VFX team needs to be given a standing ovation. Now don’t come to the conclusion that this film is devoid of the tacky SFX so prevalent in South Indian films. The thing is they get it right most of the time and when they don’t; the tackiness still gels with the tone of the film without descending into ridiculousness. The thing which they’ve achieved to perfection (and which you might not take notice of) is the seamless amalgamation of the scenes featuring multiple Kamal Haasans. There are lots of them in the movie and mind you…these are not scenes where one character is simply talking to the other with his back facing the audience or just two characters coming face to face with each other in the left and right frames. Only on watching this can one realize why this one took so long in the making – even a simple scene can become extremely complex because of the presence of multiple avatars. Also, the camerawork (Ravi Varman) is splendid…especially use of zoom-in and zoom-out shots. Himesh Reshammiya can get away with his forgettable tunes only because songs aren’t an integral part of this film. Devisri’s background score is really good – notwithstanding the fact that the main theme is lifted from the first theatrical teaser of Spider-Man 3.

Dasavathaaram fails to be the masterpiece it was intended to be be only because the not-so-interesting avatars eat into the interesting premise in the second half of the movie, but I strongly feel this one be given a fair chance purely for the efforts of Kamal Haasan and director K.S. Ravikumar.

Jalsa April 5, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Imagine this – Srinu Vytla has just finished scripting a film with Ravi Teja in the lead. He goes through it once and thinks “Hey, this thing is just like my previous flicks…hmm…the humor looks pretty ok. I am not great at conceiving well rounded plots but this one seems even worse than the ones I’ve done before. Maybe I need to take a break and start again”. He then throws this script into the dustbin.

Somehow (don’t ask how) this thing ends up in Trivikram’s hand. He goes through it too and thinks “nothing great in this one but still a pity it’s ended up in someone’s dustbin. Wait a second…I am quite free now, maybe I can use this one…just need to spruce it up a bit with some of my dialogues. Oh…most importantly, who should I make this with? I’ve already worked with Mahesh last. Who else is there in the same league??? Pawan!!! but why would he do a script like this one? On second thoughts – why wouldn’t he! He hasn’t had a hit for seven long years and this one can atleast be the minimum guarantee film he might be looking for. Let’s call him then”. That was for you the untold story behind the making of Jalsa – remember…you read it here first.

Now let’s come to the actual film itself. I absolutely had no clue the kind of frenzy this film had generated until I came across the crazy advance booking lines a few days back. Touted to be the biggest South Indian release ever (in terms of the number of theatres/prints etc..) Jalsa had a lot of hopes pinned on it. The obvious question – does it live up to the hype? A screeching nooooooooo!

Is it then a really bad film? Not exactly. Like I mentioned before, if a certain person would have had second thoughts about throwing the script away, the same movie would have opened to extremely positive reviews. Anyways, there’s no use of talking what this film could have been. I don’t know what else is there to write about this film. You’ve seen all this before umpteen times – the same actors doing the same things all over again. Of course, since this a Trivikram film you’ll have some of those cheeky dialogues and funny sequences but they can’t bear the burden of a sloppy film like this. Even the familiar Devisri Prasad tunes, which sound quite catchy (especially the chart-topping title track) completely lose their sheen on screen.

Pawan Kalyan’s only consolation might be that this one won’t bomb at the box office and at best clear his post-Khushi track record. For me the best thing about Jalsa were it’s nicely done hoardings put up all over the place. So, finally – should you go and watch Jalsa? I would say yes – but after 2-3 weeks when the hype finally comes to terms with the film’s content.