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Maska January 26, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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It was touted to be the biggie in this year’s Sankranti race but anybody aware of the recent track record of filmmakers M.S Raju and B Gopal would have decided to give it a miss or watch it with rather lowered expectations. I wasn’t too keen to check this out either – the same old promos didn’t do much to help. Still I took the risk and thankfully for once I wasn’t too wrong.

Maska is still the same old Tollywood action fare interlaced with some humor. Whether one ends up liking such films or not depends purely on how well the humor works and mercifully in this case it succeeds to cross the threshold. It looks like most of the film was directed by M.S Raju while only the parts involving the factionist baddies was given to B. Gopal; only late until the second half does one get to see both threads coming together. Raju seems to have learnt from his previous failures and this time he succeeds in putting in quite a few entertaining episodes without really losing track at any point of time. The leading man Ram together with Sunil (in his meatiest sidekick role till date) are really the reason why this film works.

Ram wasn’t noticed much in his most recent hit Ready but Maska gives him the perfect platform to showcase his abilities. He is very impressive in all departments and irrespective of the ultimate fate of this film this should be his ticket into the top league. As always in South Indian Cinema (read Telugu and Tamil), what starts out as a one-time novelty slowly turns into an irritating adjunct in almost every film. I am referring to the trend of every “youth” hero performing some unbelievable dance movies in a song. It was nice when atleast those steps were part of a song and weren’t given any special attention. Later we saw special music pieces being created within a song to accommodate those steps. This movie goes one step further and before showing off its hero’s skills we are shown a “Don’t try this at home” warning. I guess one has to get used to it like we’ve already done for those stupid actions sequences.

Sunil is also very good after a long time. At certain points in the movie it seemed that he would be paried off with the other girl (once Ram finally settles on who he wants to go ahead with). She might have done similar roles before but Jhansi is still hilarious with her Nellore accent. Coming to the leading ladies, Hansika seems a lot better than in her previous outing – now she can actually boast of getting her lip sync right atleast 20 percent of the time. Sheela is also ok (obviously far better than Hansika). Chakri’s songs are fast paced and don’t pop up without notice; also thanks mostly to the vibrant choreography you don’t really complain about them for once.

Maska, on the whole is a time pass entertainer which quite frankly surpassed my expectations purely because I didn’t hope much out of it. M.S Raju may finally have a reason to smile even if not a big one.

Kathanayakudu August 4, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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It was hard to screw up a film like Chandramukhi no matter how hard one tried – the plot of that flick was attractive enough to hide the filmmaker’s incompetence. And to his advantage P. Vasu had already helmed the Kannada version before. However, this time he isn’t so lucky and what you see is the merciless slaughter of another Malayalam blockbuster “Katha Parayumbol”.

Agreed – a lot of people knew beforehand that Rajnikanth wasn’t the main lead (notwithstanding the deceptive promotional campaign) but nobody would have expected his role to be restricted to a couple of monologues, a couple of songs and some fleeting glimpses. But that could have been completely forgiven if the rest of the film had something interesting to say. Nothing of that sort happens either. The original flick was supposed to be about this poor barber and his family and how his life changes after the arrival of a “superstar” in the village since this “superstar” happened to be the childhood friend of the barber. From what I’ve read it was also supposed to be a satirical take on “Star Worship”. What you get in this remake is a cringingly good barber (reminds me of those protagonists in “Super Good Films” features) and a pathetic comedy track which never seems to end. Also, the supposed satire on “Star Worship” almost turns into a justification of the whole phenomenon.

The somewhat emotional climactic reels are one of the few redeeming factors. Another one being G.V. Prakash Kumar’s score. The songs come in as a welcome relief and the “Cinema Cinema” song especially gels very nicely with the situation. If there is one thing which prevents this film from being unwatchable it is Jagapathi Babu. Despite being saddled with an overly melodramatic role he still makes you root for him with his earnest portrayal. I hope this film would revive his career again. Meena, who is back in a Telugu film after a long time does a fine job too.

I only hope Priyadarshan’s remake Billoo Barber with Irrfan and Shahrukh would do justice to the Malayalam original. Watch Kathanayakudu if you have to only for Jagapathi Babu. As for Rajni fans, I’d suggest that they wait for Shankar’s Robot next year.

Ready June 22, 2008

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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.

Kantri May 11, 2008

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Despite impressing everyone last year with Yamadonga, NTR had people talking about his drastic weight loss and that it was a bit too much – he’s lost his charm etc. Now that one has gotten used to him in that avatar, his newest offering Kantri actually is the first film of his which you can watch without wondering if he is too fat or too thin. Kantri is a regular formula film – albeit shot better than others in this genre with a nice plot twist (inspired from a movie of course!) to make you think that you’ve seen something different from the ordinary.

Kranti aka Kantri (NTR) is a vagabond who joins a gang of baddies headed by PR (Prakash Raj). Now the movie begins with a young PR cheating and killing some folks for money, so you can guess there has to be some link between Kranti and PR. There are quite a bunch of baddies here (Ashish Vidhyarthi, Murli Sharma, Sayaji Shinde) who exist just to give a reason for the fight sequences. In between there are some nice comic moments – Krishna Bhagwan’s thread was the best of them all. Ali and Sunil are also good in a few scenes. Raghubabu as usual gets the same role as the villain’s comic sidekick and he is good too.

This film seems to have been made as a conscious attempt increase NTR’s audience base. If you go in expecting a regular NTR flick you’ll come out impressed as this is quite a stylized upgrade to the stuff he’s been doing until now. There are also some lines which explicitly speak about “class”ifying him to put across the point. Since this film is about NTR he does everything expected of him in style. The lengthy dialogues (with references to taathaiyya of course!), the fights and most importantly the dances. This time the moves which leave you wonderstruck are in the songs “Vayassunami” (reused from Vijay’s Pokkiri) and “I go crazy”. The only thing good about Hansika and Tanisha are that they aren’t hanging around for too long. Mani Sharma’s tunes are good and all the songs are nicely picturized. Owing to the “class”ification the fights also seem a bit restrained (in terms of flying people) when compared to other flicks. Meher Ramesh (quite a popular Kannada film director) makes a neat debut.

Finally, if you are a fan of NTR, Kantri is the summer-special treat you’ve been waiting for….if you aren’t then atleast you won’t crib about him for once.

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.

Mr. Medhavi February 21, 2008

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Though not a huge hit, this is definitely the first genuinely good Telugu film of the year. His previous two films weren’t successful but one can say Neelakanta is back in form with this one.

Mr. Medhavi – translated as Mr. Intellectual is about Vishwaksen (Raja) who since childhood believes that people’s emotions/thoughts can be “calculated” and hence easily be manipulated for anything. He is quite successful in life with his formula but trouble starts when he tries the same to manipulate his childhood sweetheart (Genelia) to fall in love with him. His tricks actually backfire and he ends up in the uncomfortable situation of having to act as a matchmaker between her and the guy (Sonu Sood) she confesses being in love with.

Despite the predictability of the twists the movie entertains throughout. A lot of people have complained about the pacing but I found it just right. Ironically, the only issue I actually found with this movie is the overuse of the words Medhavi/Medhassu in every episode. I think the audience who watches such films doesn’t need to be reminded constantly that they are watching a clever film. A little bit of subtlety would still drive the point home more gracefully.

The casting seems to be perfect here. Raja most of the time has to sport a smug look on his face without talking much but carries out his part well. Genelia gets a meaty role and does complete justice to it…she looks gorgeous too. Sonu Sood seems to have made a permanent place and both Hindi and Telugu cinema by playing parts which are too important to be left to lesser actors and not big enough to warrant a star. He has a changed appearance from the last time I saw him and deilvers yet another controlled performance.

The best and the most entertaining part of the movie are the scenes featuring Dharmavarapu Subramanyam and M.S Narayana…..As the bickering managers in the office they generate the maximum laughs both in the first half as well as the nicely crafted “HR seminar” sequence in the second. The good thing about Chakri’s music is that there isn’t much of it to disturb the flow. I liked the background score though. One man show – Neelakanta deilvers a clear winner this time.