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Arundhati February 2, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Sometimes you just can’t explain why a film is successful. The slick poster campaign and promos might have caught everyone’s eye but is Arundhati really the blockbuster masterpiece it is made out to be? At this point of time there is no doubt that it has gone on to become a blockbuster but I really wonder how it became one. A major reason could be some of the extremely glowing reviews it got because atleast from the murmurs I heard most of the audience didn’t seem too impressed.

Arundhati is quite a misleading title in the first place. It should actually have been called something like Jejamma Mahatyam. Honestly, this movie is more like an upgrade to SFX filled semi-devotional flicks which have been helmed by Shyamprasad Reddy and Kodi Ramakrishna in the past. And before you get gung ho about “SFX filled” let me remind you that the implicit assumption here is: “more SFX” = “great SFX”.

Once upon a time there lived a great lady called Arundhati (Anushka) – who is reverred as “Jejamma”. Her brother-in-law is this sadistic sex maniac called Pasupathi (Sonu Sood) who’d rather stab and rape a woman if she’s causing trouble to him performing the act in normal circumstances. Once he’s banished by Jejamma from that place, he joins/becomes an Aghora which kinda makes him immortal. Poor Jejamma is only left with the option of burying him alive and three generations later when Arundhati is reincarnated again, buried-alive-in-grave Pasupathi wants revenge. Can Arundhati survive the onslaught? Watch the film if you really want to find out.

Supernatural tales like these more or less have a similar plot so everything depends on how you can make the ongoing events engrossing. Atleast for me an overload of crazy mindless visual effects doesn’t do the trick. To give credit where it is due, it doesn’t make you sleep either. However, all said and done I did enjoy some part of it purely because of the craziness and (un)intentional funniness. I couldn’t stop laughing whenever Sonu Sood’s character lets out an “Aaeee Bomali!”. In fact he is the best part of the film. Anuskha is fine but just because she is the main protagonist it doesn’t automatically translate to an exceptional performance. Sayaji Shinde is highly irritating along with a bunch of other characters.

It is more or less confirmed that Arundhati will be remade in Hindi – I wonder if those who are keen are buy the remake rights actually saw the film or are just going by its phenomenal success. In my opinion, Arundhati is the most overrated Telugu film in recent times – it is too illogical even if you give some consideration to the fact that it is based on a supernatural theme. Still the mindlessness provides for some fun and that might be the only reason one might want to watch this. In any case, I am sure the curiosity factor would draw you to the cinemas (if you haven’t seen it yet).

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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”.

Sarkar Raj June 7, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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“How much really can I go wrong with Sarkar Raj???” asked Ram Gopal Varma recently. Despite the statement’s overconfident tone, you would have agreed completely with it (like me) provided you’ve seen and loved Sarkar. Now that the movie is out, I want to say to Ramu “Well….you could have messed it up!”

The film begins two years after it left off with Shankar Nagre (Abhishek Bachchan) being addressed as “Sarkar” and now Shankar has established himself firmly as the trusted successor of the original Sarkar (Amitabh Bachchan). In comes Anita (Aishwarya Rai) with a proposal to set up a power plant in one of the villages of Maharashtra. Sarkar isn’t interested in it but Shankar is totally convinced about its utility for the state and presses hard to get this project sanctioned and completed. However, there is more than meets the eye with other bigwigs having vested interests in it. Like in its predecessors there are shifting loyalties, unexpected traitors et al; just like Ramu said – “It’s another series of episodes in the Nagre family”.

But then if you’ve been a fan of the first film you can’t help but notice some major flaws. First and foremost has to do with the characterization of Sarkar and Shankar. The nuances and the grey shades in both characters and the relationship between them which were wonderfully brought out in the previous flick are glaringly missing (or rather inconsistent). Here you see that the father-son duo portrayed as selfless leaders only concerned about the well being of the state and probably to justify this drastic shift there are some redemption dialogues (especially with references to Vishnu’s killing)…and these are the only moments where the “family drama” part comes in. For me, this was the biggest letdown in the movie. Also, the supporting cast of bad guys in this ones aren’t colorful and interesting like before. Only Govind Namdeo as Hasan Qazi stands out a bit. Sayaji Shinde is highly irritating. Dilip Prabhawalkar as Rao Saab is brilliant yet again in an unrecognizable get-up…I fail to recognize him in every movie until I hear his voice. Also the new guy who plays his grandson does a fine job.

If you’ve read till this point and have come to the conclusion that this is probably just an average rehash of “Sarkar” then wait….even I started thinking the same when Ramu’s creative genius pitched in at the right time and thereon the dramatic turn of events in the later portions of the movie till the climax will change your opinion. In fact, the film starts getting better only when the original “Govinda…Govinda” theme arrives. Like a lot of other aspects mentioned before, the use of the background score here pales when you start comparisons. The open-ended climax has made lot of people to speculate about another sequel…but if I had to advise Ramu after Sarkar Raj I’d only ask him to pursue that option if he is going through a bad phase and desperately needs a hit (like now).

In the final analysis, Sarkar Raj works mainly because of its gripping penultimate portions – for the rest of the time it only succeeds in reminding you what a fine film “Sarkar” was. Definitely watchable…nevertheless!

Kantri May 11, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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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.

Krishna February 11, 2008

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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You might be forgiven for thinking that V V Vinayak and Srinu Vaitla directed this film together because, while the action and mind games are typical Vinayak stuff, the comedic elements (especially the oppressed turning oppressor aspect that includes a drunken thrashing) seem straight out of Vaitla’s book. This is quite a prototypical big-hero action film that is saved by the humor, which I believe is the primary reason for its box-office success (helped further by the weak competition during the favorable Sankranthi season).

Writer-director Vinayak isn’t new to gimmicks but he repeats some of his tricks this time. Flying vehicles aren’t as interesting now even if he replaces the Sumo with another SUV or even a lorry. One has to say, though, that some of the vehicles fly quite beautifully. Nevertheless, this isn’t the best thing in the film.

Brahmanandam is.

He isn’t the star of the film but he is the one that makes you laugh most and it is hard to not remember him first. Ravi Teja is obviously one of the more entertaining stars around and he does his job without really standing out this time. Trisha gets precious little to do but she looks good and her hard-to-miss-or-forget tattoo placement is something that I expect will feature in a lot of discussion among the audience. And then there is Mukul Dev as the main antagonist. He seems to be imitating his brother but his work here is better than what I’ve seen him do in Bollywood.

The songs in the film break the momentum every single time and are a bit of a pain to endure as the tunes aren’t special and neither are the visuals. The audience let out a collective sigh when the final song commenced. Ironically, it was the best of the lot, the typical pumped-up prelude-to-the-climax number lifted shamelessly (composer Chakri could have probably been forced to so) from Vidyasagar’s Gilli number Appadi Podu (and watching Ravi Teja dance isn’t quite the same as watching Vijay dance). The lyrics are especially lame. “Taratha ettukupotha” filled with gibberish and the mixed language “Tu mera dilbar O priyathama” are cringeworthy instead of being hip or something. Lyricist Chandrabose might have written the songs keeping the masses in mind but I think he is capable of much better.

This film entertains for a considerable amount of its length, thanks to writer-director Vinayak’s adept handling of the comedy and the performances of the actors in those scenes. Watch it if you must, but only for the humor.