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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.

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Gamyam April 5, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Thanks to the lack of a proper blockbuster in Tollywood lately, the only movies which create some buzz are the “surprise hits” like Mantra, Anasuya etc. Gamyam is the latest one to join the party. These films can rightfully claim to be different however the not-so-good part of this story is that they fail to go beyond “being different”.

Gamyam is a well-intentioned film – it tries to hammer home the point that real life is lived in the midst of people sharing their joys and sorrows and an isolated materialistic existence isn’t the way to be. But when every sequence is conceived in a way where at the end someone gets to preach a few lines about the same, you can’t help but feel the overdose. Agreed – there is some good dialogue here and there and some well-crafted scenes but on the whole Gamyam isn’t that great a film some people have made it out to be. Yet there are quite a few things which work for this flick – the road movie format…something you don’t get to see often, the short runtime…just over 2 hours, the lighthearted feel for most of the portions and competent performances from the lead protagonists.

This film seems to have breathed back life into Allari Naresh’s career and everyone is raving about his character “Gaali Seenu” – the boisterous supporting character is always the audience’s favorite. But for me it was Sharwanand who made a big impression. This is the first time I’ve seen him on screen and he does really well. There are some raw edges actingwise but he has a great screen presence to pull off a lead role. He surely has big things in store for him. Kamalini actually has something of an extended guest appearance and her role seems to have been put in place by gathering pieces left out at the editing desk of Sekhar Kammula’s previous flicks. Director Radhakrishna (who likes to be known as Krish and conveys that in both the start and end credits) makes an okay debut.

Watchable – without high expecations. Actually let me confess – while watching this movie I was more excited about catching Jalsa today and that may also be the reason I didn’t find Gamyam too appealing.

Happy Days November 11, 2007

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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It has turned out to be his biggest box office success till date but I consider Sekhar Kammula’s “Happy Days” to be his least accomplished work….which does not mean that it’s a bad film. It just didn’t strike a chord with me unlike his previous films.

Supposed to be a nostalgic look at the director’s own happy days at his alma mater CBIT, the plot is about a group of friends and the time they spend together during their 4 years of college. More specifically, one half the film deals with their first year and the interaction with their seniors while the other is about their heartaches and strained relationships. It is the first half which I found quite disappointing and that’s what gave me a less favorable impression of the movie as a whole. The complete handling of the juniors vs seniors thread (except for the senior guy falling for the junior girl angle) is very juvenile. All you have in it is a guy (the character Tyson) who concocts unbelievable stuff in his lab to trouble his seniors. This part really put me off. It was seriously unfunny and unrealistic to say the least…and especially coming from a director of Kammula’s stature. However, he is is in familiar territory when it comes to handling the interactions with his lead pairs. It does remind you of his previous films Anand and Godavari but nevertheless pleasant to watch.

What works most for this film is the fresh cast and the musical score. Sandesh and Tamanna stand out among the cast and the way they emote is excellent. I however had a hard time listening to Rahul (who plays Tyson) speak (but I must admit that in real life I have come across people who speak like that). Mickey J Meyer’s score is brilliant. It is an understatement to say that this film would have felt half as good without it.

One of the main reasons I could not appreciate this film as much as others have is because personally there was hardly anything I found here which I could relate to my own college life. I am sure others would have different perspectives and that’s probably why it is still running to packed houses even weeks after its release. On the whole, this is a film which has its moments and is definitely watchable but it would do good not to go and see this with high expectations.

Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu (Raghavan) March 28, 2007

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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After I fell in love with the music of this film, I was waiting for its telugu version which was rumored to be titled ‘Magadheera’ or ‘Ventaadi Vetaadu’. Since that one doesn’t seem to releasing anytime soon, I caught the tamil version.

Gautham Menon claims that this is “Another episode in the life of a policeman”. That seems to suggest that this a follow up to Kaakha Kaakha in his series of cop films. However, this is a disappointing follow up to Kaakha Kaakha. The film is superficially very similar to that one in many ways and after watching this, I think Gautham Menon shouldn’t do any more “episodes” as he doesn’t seem to have anything fresh to offer.

The film starts off with a stupid action episode where Kamal Haasan beats up tens of goons singlehandedly. You can’t help but notice that Kamal Haasan seems a tad too old and a bit too fat to portray an invincible action hero. This is followed by the Karka Karka song which is imaginatively shot but due to the preceding sequence, it loses its impact. What happens next seems promising. Prakash Raj’s daughter is brutally murdered and Kamal is called to investigate. Though he finds her body, the killer is still on the loose. Few months later, Prakash Raj and his wife are killed in USA leading to suspicion about a serial killer. Kamal now moves to the US to track the killers with the help of the NYPD and thats exactly when things start going wrong with the film.

As far as I am aware, Kamal Haasan doesn’t have an action image that Gautham felt the need to oblige. Hence, the decision to portray him as one is perplexing. The easily noticeable logic-defying moments, some over-the-top dialogue and the overdone background score put me off to a great extent. Coming from Gautham Menon, one expected better.

Gautham does a few weird things in trying to show that Raghavan is very intelligent and can solve things which the NYPD doesn’t manage to. Setting the film partly in America adds to the problems of credibility and logic. Also the film manages the be unintentionally funny quite a few times and features some particularly pathetic dialogue. My favorite is undoubtedly the time when Kamal Haasan mouths “Back home, they call it the Raghavan Instinct”. Is it just me or did a lot of people crack up on that one?

The romance which worked very well in Kaakha Kaakha fails here. Neither the story of Raghavan’s first wife nor his current romance manages to strike a chord. Though the love story doesn’t succeed, some of the dialogue brings back memories of Kaakha Kaakha.

If Gautham does succeed at something, it is at the portrayal of the serial killers. Their psycopathic nature will manage to scare members of the audience. Saleem Baig (Kaakha Kaakha), who portrays Ilamaran and Daniel Balaji (Kaakha Kaakha), who portrays Amudhan do a superb job. The gritty portrayal of some of the incidents also adds to the impact. This part of the plot does work despite flaws and that is what holds the audience appeal.

Apart from the these two actors, the others don’t have much scope to perform. The role of the cop doesn’t make much use of Kamal’s histrionic capabilities. An easy outing for Kamal. Jyothika gets another typical role while Kamalinee Mukherjee doesn’t get much to do.

Harris Jayaraj’s soundtrack is outstanding while his background score leaves a lot to be desired. Manjal Veyil and Uyirile had caught on so much that I know the words to both these songs by heart (and I don’t understand much more than conversational Tamil). His background score, on the other hand goes completely wrong. It is pumped up at the weirdest of places like Kamal boarding the plane to New York. Other technical areas like cinematography (Ravi Varman) are strong.

Gautham’s picturization of the songs was a total disappointment for me, not to mention that they seem to be repetitive. Manjal Veyil, which I had great hopes for, features Kamal and Jyothika walking around in New York with some glimpses of some African-Americans ‘breaking’ in between and some extras including Gautham singing the chorus part (the young boys singing in the back reminds you of a similar bit featuring girls in Jyothika’s introduction song in Kaakha Kaakha). The initial parts of Paartha Mudhal remind you of Ennai Konjam and the later parts bring back memories of Ondra Renda from Kaakha Kaakha (the bike sequence is dreadfully done). There is also an item song as was the case with Kaakha Kaakha. Uyirile is quite a standard duet picturized abroad. Karka Karka has some stylish sequences in it but following the ludicrous fight sequence, it seems laughable at times.

Wikipedia tells me that this is the biggest grosser among tamil films in 2006 and is the biggest hit in Kamal’s career. I am not sure if that is true, considering that it wasn’t dubbed into telugu. If you have seen a few serial killer films from Hollywood in the past, this might not hold your interest. If you aren’t too familiar with the genre this might appeal to an extent despite its shortcomings. Those who’ve seen Kaakha Kaakha and liked Gautham’s work very much might want to stay away from this one.