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Oy! July 6, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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The first frame of Oy! opens with the director stating his admiration for and admitting his inspiration from Erich Segal’s “Love Story“. In a further (rather too honest) admission, the second frame features a bigger list of about 10 movies or so which inspired him. That second frame is visible on the screen for less than a second – maybe we were really not meant to see it. I think it’s because after watching Oy! some of the audience members would try to figure out where exactly those “inspirations” were and hardly find any.

In essence, Oy! is supposedly a “terminal illness” flick which tries hard at every moment not to appear like one. Probably a good idea if you don’t want to alienate viewers who “cannot accept a heroine dying in the end”. Debutante Anand Ranga seriously needs to get a few basic concepts right. First of all trying to make a tragic story into happy one doesn’t translate to inserting insipid “comedy” tracks whose only connection to the movie is that the actors in them share a scene or two with lead pair. More disturbing is his conception of an “ideal woman” in Shamili’s character – whose simplicity is linked with ease to her dumb religiosity and superstitions.

Shamili is a undoubtedly a fine actress and one has to give her credit for pulling off such a badly written role. Siddharth is a livewire as usual in yet again a role tailor-made for him. Unfortunately, he seems to have been caught like many others in the alternate movie jinx – on the brighter side we can hope that his next much talked about big-budget venture might be a good one. Apart from the lead pair, Yuvan Shankar Raja’s score is the only good thing about this movie. The best numbers show up when the movie still hasn’t begun its downhill ride. My pick is the title track (extremely well rendered by Siddharth) which is still playing in my head.

Oy! doesn’t make you cry when it tries to be tragic nor does it make you laugh when it tries to be funny. I feel some of the reviews of this film have been too generous; however given the involvement of Siddharth with this venture – the outcome is indeed disappointing. Worth only a watch in fast-forward mode when the DVD comes out.

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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.

Ghajini January 4, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Nobody needs a review to decide whether to watch the biggest blockbuster of the year or not. But for those who haven’t yet seen this yet, it would do good to set your expectations right especially you have seen the original. If you haven’t seen the original then still please don’t go in expecting in some masterpiece like what it is made out to be.

Ghajini is more like a Bollywood viewer’s initiation into the world of South Indian action cinema. Thanks to the hype around this flick, everyone by now should atleast be aware of the plot – an anterograde amnesiac on a revenge mission – to be precise. Right from the title sequence, Ghajini for most part is a faithful scene-to-scene, dialogue-to-dialogue reproduction of the original. In fact for the portions not featuring Aamir Khan and Jiah Khan, they could actually have reused footage from the Tamil version and still no one would have noticed. What seemed to have worked well especially here are the action sequences. One section of the audience (presumably the exclusive Bollywood viewers) kept getting visibly excited whenever Aamir screams ala Sunny Deol and bashes up multiple guys at once. Those who didn’t seem too excited (including me) were (probably) thinking – ok…now we have to start getting used to this in Hindi too!!!

Aamir Khan – playing an action hero after a long time is great as long as he is bashing up people. When compared to Surya, he goes over the top sometimes – especially when he screams in anger. Surya was a lot more consistent in maintaining that bewildered and confused look throughout. But I couldn’t come to grips with loverboy Aamir (especially in comparison with Surya). Maybe he’s too old for this now and most importantly his styling for this part is hard to digest. He is supposed to be the CEO of a huge firm and he is dressed like a cross between a waiter, a bouncer and a bodyguard. It looks all the more ridiculous in those scenes when he is surrounded by his assistants all dressed in dapper suits. Asin again successfully reprises the part which really made her career down south. It’s one of those extremely crowd pleasing roles which still hold appeal on repeat viewing. Jiah Khan and Pradeep Rawat are alright.

In what is probably his most prolific year, A.R Rahman comes up with another successful score – though this would be of lesser significance when you compare it with his other soundtracks earlier in the year. Not sure if he actually did the background score because during the climactic sequences the theme which you get to hear sounds very familiar. The picturization of the songs is excellent nevertheless. There was also this huge thing about Aamir Khan rewriting the climax of the original for this one. If you go in expecting some drastic change/twist you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s just been simplified to do away with the villain playing a dual role here.

Honestly, I was bored for most part as there is absolutely nothing in it to hold the interest of those who have the Telugu/Tamil version still fresh in their minds. For first timers planning to watch this, Aamir Khan playing the tough-as-nails 8-pack action hero should be good enough reason not to miss it.

Homam September 5, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Rather than simply dismissing it as “The Departed” rip-off let me give you a few reasons why you might want to watch this one. First or all, Homam is a more-or-less faithful remake and at no point the proceedings are dumbed down so as to make it appealing to a wider audience. Today, when an original “action thriller” in Telugu simply means yet another story of a guy taking a factionist head on for various reasons (love, revenge etc…) and add to that those dumb fight sequences…. I’d prefer to watch a nice remake of a Hollywood flick anyday.

Those who have seen Scorcese’s flick would no doubt be deprived of the suspense but it still worked for me. For those who haven’t seen that one the story is about a couple of guys – one who has infiltrates the police and another who infiltrates the mob under the guidance of their respective bosses. When each party knows that they have a mole inside these two guys are given the responsibility finding him out in their respective organizations. Chekravarthy – who has directed a couple of films before shows quite an improvement. The camerawork is especially noteworthy. He also seems to have incorporated a few elements from his mentor Ramgopal Varma. The picturization of the first song reminded me a lot of Ramu’s Telugu flicks from the nineties. Amar Mohile’s background score (some of the bits sound very familiar) is also effective.

Jagapathi Babu shines in a role – the kind he is best at but which seems to have eluded him for quite some time now. Chekravarthy’s role isn’t that well defined – maybe he was too busy with the directorial aspects. Mahesh Manjrekar isn’t as impressive as I might have expected though his nemesis in the movie Pradeep Rawat is very good. The two girls (Mamata Mohandas and Madhurima) look good but their respective tracks don’t gel with the film.

Towards the end of Homam, I had the feeling of watching a satisfying film but what I found rather disappointing was the teaser for the sequel called “Marana Homam”. I only hope Chekri has some good source material in hand to pull that one off! Go watch Homam if you are looking for a well-shot Tollywood action thriller.