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Varudu April 5, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Do you want to know the secret of a successful marriage?
Do you want to know the secret of successful progeny?
Do you want to know the secret of a successful society?
Do you want to know the secret of a successful world?

Varudu answers it all and much more! Now, you might wonder why I’d write any further about such a groundbreaking film since it would obviously involve giving away spoilers. Well…the catch is that watching this movie comes with the risk of acute brain damage (temporary only…I hope!). I was able to confirm this condition in me because at one point in the movie I was actually cheering for the villain to sleep with the kidnapped bride and put our “Varudu” to a gruesome death. (There’s another part of me which says it’s a pretty reasonable wish and maybe my mind is alright after all – but let’s leave it at that for now).

If you’ve now decided you’d rather not watch the movie – here come the spoilers. The secret to all types of “success” mentioned above is the “Traditional Telugu 5-day Wedding Ritual”. Now, if you are really dumb to doubt something like that, Varudu even provides a scientific explanation to skeptics in one instance. Here it comes – It has been scientifically proved that putting Jeelakarra-Bellam (Cumin Seeds and Jaggery) on each other’s heads activates the “pathways of attraction” in the cerebral cortex of the people involved which results in them falling for each other instantly.

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(BTW, that was a two minute silence in memory of Science). In case you didn’t notice, with this film Gunasekhar successfully completes his trilogy of CGI-blunders (Remember Arjun and Sainikudu?). Maybe I am being a bit too harsh here. But someone loved the climax of Wolverine so much that they didn’t have any trouble composing shots of CGI Nuclear Power Plants with a CGI Kalyana Mandapam in a CGI countryside.

Varudu also boasts of the worst ever performance by a leading man. I’ve always admired Allu Arjun for his smart choice of films and the characters he plays – where his limited acting abilities fit in so perfectly; no wonder he reigns supreme over everyone else when it comes to the success rate of his films. In this film, the first thing which puts you off is his horrible diction. Also, in a lot of places he sports this obnoxious expression of smugness – which is a combination of a regular blush + “Wow…I am so stylish but see how I can still uphold and follow old traditions”. No wonder then…I was cheering for Arya!

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The Climax Cop-Outs March 8, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, Films, Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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First of all, it is so hard to come across genuinely good Telugu flicks – and when I thought I did; in comes a terrible feel-good climax to ruin what made me actually feel good about the whole movie. My grouse is mostly directed against Leader and to a small extent – Ye Maya Chesave. There aren’t any spoilers here so continue reading even if you haven’t seen any of the films.

To begin with Leader – I must say it was a really engaging political thriller but most importantly it was bang on when it came to highlighting the moral dilemma of being a good politician. There was point where the movie should have ended but Sekhar Kammula gives you a cringing idealistic conclusion which pretty much undermines the entire film. I thought the feeling of “being cheated” in the end could only be delivered by Hollywood psychological thrillers but now I have to extend that list. Go watch it and you’ll know what I am saying. In any case Rana delivers hands down the best performance by a debutante ever.

Coming to Ye Maya Chesave – honestly I wasn’t really complaining about how it should have ended. I just felt it was just a wee bit inconsistent (and somewhat feel-good) with what went before but nevertheless it was a still a sensible conclusion. Then a couple of days later I happened to read that Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya (the original Tamil version) ends differently. I then checked out the last 15 minutes of that film and was extremely pleased to find that it was exactly how I expected/wanted the film to end. I was also equally sad that Gautham Menon didn’t (or couldn’t) end the Telugu version in the same way. How can one blame him since he was forced to include a “happy” climax when he remade Kaakha Kaakha in Telugu a few years back.

I keep reading and hearing about how Telugu audiences do not like sad (or rather un-triumphant) endings and to have one clearly spells disaster. It is impossible to prove or disprove a proposition like that. But I am hard pressed to come up with at least one instance where an otherwise excellent film was rejected by the audience just because of an unhappy end. I’d be glad if anyone could point me to a few.

All said and done, don’t miss Ye Maya Chesave – as far as love stories are concerned this is as good as it gets. Naga Chaitanya fits in very well but I can’t imagine him as a “regular” hero for at least a couple of years. The one walk away with the accolades is Samantha (wonderfully voiced by Chinmayi). And then there is also A.R Rahman’s splendid score which complements the movie so well.

Yuganiki Okkadu (Aayirathil Oruvan) February 12, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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In production for almost two years, Selvaraghavan’s magnum opus is finally out. To be honest, though I had high expectations from this film I kinda figured out it might in the end turn out be that great – given the track record of modern “period fantasies” in Indian cinema. I couldn’t have been more wrong – Yuganiki Okkadu totally blew me away! It’s bold, it’s original and most importantly – absolutely engrossing till the very last frame. The latter aspect could also be attributed to the fact that almost 40 minutes of footage from the original Tamil version were chopped off for Telugu audiences.

Yuganiki Okkadu begins as a rescue mission to an unknown place find the whereabouts about an archaeologist who had gone missing in search of a lost Chola Kingdom. I cannot give away anymore of the plot without major spoilers. Selvaraghavan (who also wrote the film) beautifully blends adventure, historical fiction and the supernatural – and it is precisely this expert plotting that mostly earns the film its brownie points. It is also very humorous in some of the most unexpected places. This is also a film where the elaborate set-pieces and VFX seem so much a part of the film – rather that stand out as the lone USPs in plotless blockbusters. But then this isn’t a film for a casual viewer or someone whose idea of a film is a “family entertainer”. There is uninhibited blood, gore and raw sexuality which is sure to alienate a considerable number of people.

The casting is again spot on. Karthi (his second film after three years), Reemma Sen and Andrea are the naughtiest trio you’ll see on screen for a very long time – especially the risque moments between them are a hoot. Parthiban excels in a major supporting role. G.V Prakash again comes up with a great score. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a Telugu movie so much in recent years and I can be pretty sure no one is going to bring out a movie like this in the future unless Selvaraghavan tries being even more awesome.

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.

Prayanam June 1, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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You fall in love with a girl you see at an airport and make up your mind to make her fall in love with you before she catches a plane to go and get married to her fiance. Would such a thing work in real life? Well, in all probability not but the bigger question – Does Chandrasekhar Yeleti’s Prayanam work? Hmm…intermittently.

After trying his hand not so successfully at making a regular Tollywood actioner, Yeleti does a U-turn to make a full fledged comic romance with quite an interesting premise. But apart from the basic plot there is hardly anything in the screenplay that holds your attention. The onus here is more on the individual performers to get their act right and this is where the film scores much better. Manoj has always been considered a fine actor despite not having a single hit till date; and here he succeeds once again in a completely different role from his previous ventures. He is quite charming as the smitten loverboy especially because this is a part you generally do not expect a regular hero to play (with the exception of Siddharth I think – but even his films manage to slip in a fight scene or two).

The female lead Harika is absolutely bland bearing a single facial expression throughout. No matter what the situation, her reaction (which is complete non-reaction) is always the same. The pick of the lot is Kalpika who arguably steals every scene she is featured in. To quote Anupam Kher from a forgettable film – She is just “too qweet”. Going by the scenes in the first half, I was actually expecting a parallel romantic thread to brew between her and Tamim (another great find), but nothing exciting like that happens and disappointingly both their screen times are largely reduced in the second half. Janardhan also shines especially in the “Ugra Naram – man with muscle” story narration episode with Brahmanandam. The latter has ample footage but isn’t given a well etched role like the others.

So, should you take this Prayanam? My answer would be a resounding yes if I have to compare this with some other recent “blockbusters”. However, as a film coming from Chandrasekhar Yeleti this isn’t quite up to the mark but then again everday I encounter life size hoardings of upcoming potential blockbusters like Pista, Ride, Current, Aa Okkadu, Naa Style Veru and what not – which makes me feel I was extremely lucky to watch Prayanam.

Kick May 13, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Not quite sure if many folks are being too generous to this film or quite likely my tolerance levels have hit rock bottom. Well, I absolutely hated this film but more importantly I dread hearing that word “Kick” which seemed more painful to me than being at the receiving end of a real one.

Ravi Teja plays a character whose every action (and I mean every single action) in life is solely determined by whether he “gets a kick out of doing it”. So that you do not mistake him for just an adventurous person who likes to takes risks, he takes the pains to remind you in every other scene that whatever he did in the previous scene was only because he “got a kick out of doing it”. Technically, that means atleast for half of the film’s runtime Ravi Teja or someone else is constanly telling you this profound truth in our hero’s life lest you forget. The humor and action constantly compete with each other to disappoint you the most – the former wins for most part until the latter delivers a final blow towards the climax where a seemingly impossible heist is pulled off casually just to remind you that bad action sequences aren’t going away from Tollywood anytime soon.

Ravi Teja, Ileana and director Surender Reddy may have finally have a hit (going by the intial reviews and collections). BTW, this film also marks the Telugu film debut of Shaam who is just about the only likeable thing in this movie. Though I didn’t feel too upbeat about last week’s Veedokkade; in hindsight that seems like a masterpiece now, so rather check that one out if you want to see a flick in a similar genre.