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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.

Ullasanga Utsahanga July 29, 2008

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If it weren’t for the very alluring hoardings, I wouldn’t have thought of checking this one out. Ullasanga Utsahanga comes nowhere near to justifying its title but still makes a decent watch. Karunakaran, who hasn’t really had much success after his blockbuster Toli Prema has a go at the beaten-to-death Tollywood love story – where a boy falls for a girl while the girl loves another guy and wants to unite with him. Now our hero selflessly helps her to her destination when finally the girl realizes that our hero is the right guy for her. The only difference being that in other flicks the other guy is depicted as a seedy character while here the girl’s “childhood love” is rubbished away as a passing fad…well anything goes to justify our hero getting the girl.

Before saying what works in this movie I must mention what stands out like a sore thumb simply because it is present throughout – and that distinction goes to debutant Yasho Sagar who is an absolute embarrassment. The fact that during many scenes members of the audience were commenting on his acting skills tells a lot about the impact he made. One might actually get a feeling that he’s deliberately botching it up. Sneha Ullal makes it work purely because of her cute-overload and there are hardly any lines for her character which also helps . The humor here is a mixed bag. There are a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments while the rest is passable – especially the comedy track of Sunil and Venu Madhav falls flat.

G.V Prakash Kumar delivers a nice score (this is actually his first straight Telugu Film) and like in all of Karunakaran’s movies the songs are very well shot. I’ll only wish that film is a hit if this doesn’t mean we’ll be treated to more Yasho Sagar in the future. Watch this one without any expectations and you’ll like it.

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.

Bujjigadu – Made in Chennai May 25, 2008

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In hindsight, one can figure out why Bujjigadu has turned out to be the way it is. Puri Jagannadh’s films always revolve around a hero who can talk – especially with a reckless street-smart accent. Now, among the leading men of today Prabhas is the only guy in the “top league” who has extremely poor dialogue delivery skills when compared to his contemporaries. So, what does Puri do?

Prior to watching this one, I guessed that Mohanbabu was in the movie to do the talking. I was wrong. What happens is this – In the film’s runtime of say 2hrs 40 minutes, there are not less than 2 hours of fights (the same old flying people stuff) and songs. In the remaining 40 minutes where some conversation happens, to justify the tagline “Made in Chennai” Prabhas speaks in Tamil (which he speaks exactly in the way he says his Telugu lines – so that atleast you can’t criticize him for speaking a language you don’t understand – clever move!!!). The rest of the time when he does speak Telugu, he somehow makes it work at times but is highly inconsistent as he slips back into his old mode of delivery regularly. I had to write all this stuff simply because my hands refuse to move on the keyboard to describe the plot. Anyways, that was Bujjigadu summed up.

Hmm…What else did I forget?? Oh…yes, watch out for Prabhas say “Darling” and Mohanbabu use Hindi gaalis combined with some English – if the rest of the movie didn’t make you bang your head against a wall, this definitely will! There was a exodus of people running out of the theatre whenever the songs came on….not because they were bad but to prepare themselves for an extended fight scene which would immediately follow after that. It was not like I had great expectations from Bujjigadu but I never expected it to be headache inducing. Maybe a more capable star than Prabhas would have made this one sail through.

There are some laughs which Bujjigadu delivers at times but that is not good enough justification to sit through this one….unless you are a die-hard fan of Prabhas or Puri Jagannadh.

P.S. Coming out the theatre I immediately booked a ticket for the next show of Prince Caspian (which I actually never intended to see in the first place) to neutralize the Bujjigadu effect.

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.

Parugu – In the name of Love May 1, 2008

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A film like Bommarillu is not easy to follow up. And you can’t blame the audience for having high expectations. It’s just my guess that writer-director Bhaskar seemed to have thought about this beforehand and decided that the best way to handle this situation is to make it clear to his audience right from the outset that they’ll be seeing a regular fun-filled Allu Arjun entertainer and nothing more – and that helps.

On the night of her wedding Subbalakshmi (Poonam Bajwa) elopes with her lover. Her incensed father Neelakanta (Prakash Raj) – who is a strong village henchman rounds up her lover’s friends and confines them to some kind of a dungeon until they trace the runaway couple. Krishna (Allu Arjun) is one of them and later turns out to be the guy who happened to have played an important part in the elopement. During his stay there, he ends up falling in love with Neelakanta’s other daughter Meena (Sheila). Now Krishna has to handle these twin troubles.

The first half moves at a breezy pace with the usual banter involving the hero and his gang of friends. At this point of time you are pretty much convinced that what you’ll get later is also some more of this stuff and if you still had Bommarillu in mind you’ll realize that Bhaskar isn’t interested in pulling off another one. But interestingly in the second half the film slowly and steadily changes track and has a go at the issue of runaway lovers. I then started wondering if the title Parugu actually was referring to this kind of “run”. Most of the sequences thereon are really well conceived – the one between Ali and Prakash Raj, between Arjun and a drunken Prakash Raj and the ones in the pre-climax. However, as the film nears its climax there is a lot of ambiguity and suspense as to what point of view the director is trying to convey – whether you call it clever writing or a confused mind you decide. At the end it works out pretty well though.

Allu Arjun is his usual self and nothing more is expected of him either. Watch out for his improvised “NTR’s Yamadonga step” in the song “Elagelaga”. Sheila (looks like a familiar face) is quite good in the initial portions but hasn’t got much to do after that. Prakash Raj – who is made to look like a regular villain in the first half does an about turn later in the movie into the sensitive father who loves his daughters more than anything else. This contrast in his portrayal is probably deliberate to bring about the intended effect but I still somewhat felt the inconsistency of his characterization was a sore thumb. Jayasudha does a small cameo. Mani Sharma’s music is okay – the kind of songs you’d enjoy watching just once on screen.

This film entertains quite well to merit a good “parugu” at the box office. More than anyone else Chiranjeevi would be pleased with Allu Arjun to have been part of this film.

Tailpiece: If you happen to be the “best friend” of someone who helped him/her elope then beware….this film is directed mostly at you!