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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.

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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.

Bommarillu – Love makes life beautiful September 11, 2006

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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There was so much hype around this movie after it released. The audience was mesmerized. The critics raved. All the NRI students talked about the praise from Jeevi (the very famous online film critic for Idlebrain.com). Discussion boards were filled with comments comparing the movie to films like Ninne Pelladatha, Nuvve Kavali, Arya, Nuvvosthanante Nenoddantana and even films of Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar. So the expectations were humongous to say the least. However, I tried to keep my expectations low and watched the film. The verdict? When I left the theatre I felt that this was a beautiful film. As I continued to mull over the screenplay, I realised that comparisons to some of those movies is not really uncalled for.

Recently, when I wrote about Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, I mentioned that there were few movies that aptly depicted a conflict arising due to love between two people. This movie depicts such a conflict realistically. In that movie there was a very relevant social issue like race that provided the conflict. In this movie it is a more simple issue yet very relevant to the Indian community as such. I mentioned earlier in the discussion about Good Will Hunting that Indian parents tend to decide most things for their kids (or at least have a great influence on the decisions) from their career path to their life partner. The issue here is about parents who believe that they are doing the best they can for their children without realising that what is best in their minds is not really what the child needs or wants. This is the crux of the film. Some of the families that came to this movie enjoyed it as much as I did but little did they realise that they themselves are doing some of the things that the father does in the film. In fact some of my friends probably don’t realise enough that we would probably commit some of the same mistakes that the previous generations have been committing. Kids who are like Subbalakshmi (Neha) may not find an issue while kids like Sidhu (Siddharth) will suffocate.

Some of my friends ask me if I mean to say that our parents are committing mistakes when they in fact have our best interests in their mind. Having best interests and doing the suitable thing are two different issues. Every individual has a justification for every action however wrong it may be. We do not act until we satisfy ourselves that it is fine to act that way. Mistakes are a part of every individual’s life and just like us, our parents are no exception no matter how much we love them. I have many friends whose descriptions fit Sidhu, Haasini and Subbulakshmi in the film as far as the relationships with a parent goes (and this relationship might differ between the two parents too). Some have more freedom while some do not have as much breathing space to let their feelings out while others get used to a dependent life and cannot even take a simple decision without enough support. I am generalizing but you should get the picture. I was really moved in the final confrontation between the father and son when I realized that there is so much love, affection and commitment from both parents and children and yet it still creates a confused and unsatisfied child (some people may say that it was the child’s fault because he did not open up earlier but it is the upbringing that makes the child what he is and that is the reason that the child cannot open up to his father). Simple understanding of what a child wants would have gone a long way in creating a happier child, not to mention a more satisfied parent.

Coming back to the movie (written and directed by Bhaskar), this is a magnificent screenplay first of all. We have had a writer-director like Chandrasekhar Yeleti (Aithe, Anukokunda Oka Roju) who has given us tight screenplays without loopholes or the inclusion of irrelevant matter. If Yeleti brought class to the thriller genre, Bhaskar brings the same class to the family entertainers. The brilliance of Bhaskar lies in the fact that the taut script is character driven more than anything else. At many places in the movie, you feel like he might compromise the characters but he stays true to them (especially when Genelia speaks up after the “week” is over). The characters and dialogues are close to reality and reminded me of many people throughout. Of course, the script may not feel perfect to some but better ones are rare in Telugu cinema of recent times. The director rarely tries to manipulate you and the drama nevers gets melodramatic. The movie is abundant in humor as is the current trend for family cinema. There is some really neat stuff here (check out what happens as the titles roll). As a director too Bhaskar is good and there is a lot of attention to detail. Bhaskar seems to be a perfectionist and he definitely has a strong will to succeed. I think he is a superb find though a couple more movies would be needed to decide how good he really is.

Siddharth does an excellent job as the son whose thoughts/ideas/decisions are nipped in the bud. His character is key to the movie and his casting is a good decision. His telugu diction is not really perfect but it is pardonable considering his effort to learn the language. His dances are passable. Genelia’s Haasini character is very believable to me because I have closely known a few people who are childlike in their behavior and are always happy and bubbly. Their enthusiasm rubs over to you. Sidhu’s character falling in love with Haasini’s is very believable because of the fact that she is able to do what he cannot (though love at first sight may seem a bit of a stretch). Haasini’s characterization reminded me of Rekha’s in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Khoobsoorat (one of his great comedies which is not as famous as his others). If you did not like Siddharth in Nuvvosthanante Nenoddantana or Salman Khan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or Kajol in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, you will not like Genelia here but believe me such people do exist. I really did not believe that Genelia could act before this one but the director gets her to emote well (though she overdoes it here and there). Some of the mannerisms are definitely based on the director’s observations. She dances horribly (she actually jumps instead of dancing) but doesn’t do much of it anyway. Savita Reddy’s dubbing has really gotten monotonous over time.

Prakash Raj is perfectly suited for the role of the father (you are also reminded of another excellent portrayal of a father by him in Trivikram’s Nuvve Nuvve). Jayasudha does not have much to do overall but her expressions from time to time add to the movie, justifying her presence. From among the rest of the cast, Sunil is as always excellent (he is one of the few comedians that shows an appreciable variation in the way he portrays different roles). Satya Krishnan (who had a great role in Sekhar Kammula’s Anand) does not have much to do here. Neha (who acted in V.V.Vinayak’s Dil) gets a cameo and does well.

The music by Devi Sri Prasad is very good and so is his background score (compared to the composers from this generation like R.P.Patnaik and Chakri, Devi Sri is the only one that does a decent background score). He comes back to form with this one. If I had to pick a couple of songs, I would pick Appudo Ippudo (sung pretty well by Siddharth with Devi Sri chipping in the background to great effect) and Bommani Geesthe (reminds you of an Ilayaraaja number from Chinna Rayudu but is definitely not a lift) apart from the music bit. The lyrics of Bommani Geesthe are quite good (Bhaskarabhatla).

Coming to the comparisons with various movies. Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge which ran for over 500 weeks (and is probably still running in Maratha Mandir) had many good things about it but it still manipulated your emotions. The plot wasn’t as character driven as this one and the conflict isn’t as identifiable. Karan Johar’s flicks are all about manipulating your emotions (though they have great humor) as are many flicks from the Chopra/Johar camp. Krishna Vamsi’s Ninne Pelladatha had little manipulation and great identification factor except for the conflict (which to some was not as believable). Vijaya Bhaskar’s Nuvve Kavali, scripted by Trivikram had the best humor of the time when it released but it never had the brilliant characterization of this one though the conflict was believable. Prabhu Deva’s Nuvvosthanante Nenoddantana lacked in originality being a mish mash (an excellent one though) of so many bollywood flicks ranging from Maine Pyar Kiya to Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya to Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (M.S.Raju’s script is to blame). Sukumar’s Arya was never really that realistic though the Arya character is what drives that movie. I could go on but comparisons with what are favorite movies for many is probably unnecessary. My point here is that the character driven screenplay, the identification factor and lack of manipulation of your emotions are the key strengths of the movie.

Don’t expect too much from this movie (you may not like it as much as you should if you expect too much). This is a great family entertainer even if you don’t really care about story, screenplay or direction. Watch it even if you do not want to think. Watch it if you enjoy cinema.