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Movie Roundup: 15/04/2010 April 15, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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This weekend I checked out Green Zone. If not anything else, the cold reception which greeted this film only only confirms the misgivings I had about The Hurt Locker. Green Zone brings back the awesomeness of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon once more and needless to say – their collaboration works big time yet again. The result is something which works quite well as a thinking person’s Iraq War Drama as well a purely visceral and relentless action thriller.

But then you hear cries about the film being so dated and cliched – ya right! what we really need is another groundbreaking film about noble US troops suffering in a bloody quagmire caused by ungrateful natives. The whole conspiracy angle in the movie is definitely dumbed down but that doesn’t take away a bit from what the film is trying to convey. Even if I disregard the plot, I must say I haven’t enjoyed a “war movie” (technically it can be called so) like this in a long time.

Another little gem I happened to watch was the Michael Caine starrer Harry Brown. This flick came out in the UK sometime last November but I am surprised not hearing about it in the awards circuit. The promos gave the impression that it was some kick-ass vigilante flick with Caine doing the kick-assery. Not exactly – I would have been still happy it were but Harry Brown turns out to be much more than that. It’s one of the most intense crime dramas in recent times.

I don’t know how much of the milieu portrayed in the film is accurate….the whole thing was pretty disturbing and at the end I was both angry and depressed about what I saw in the film. Comparisons to Gran Torino will justifiably be made but honestly they are two very different films. Harry Brown also has a theatrical release in the US later this month – just in case you want to watch in on the big screen. It is one of those rare films which look deceptively simple on the surface but totally blow you away eventually.

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.

Nenu Devudni (Naan Kadavul) February 9, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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Probably the only true auteur of Indian Cinema, Bala returns after a hiatus of 5 years with his latest work. It is rare for a film to be hailed as a masterpiece even before its release which only shows the effect his films have on people. If you thought Sethu or Pithamagan were bleak and depressing then Nenu Devudni/Naan Kadavul takes it to a new level altogether. For those who haven’t seen the film yet, it might seem to be an exploration about the life and practices of the Aghora cult (now popular in Telugu due to the recent success of Arundhati). But actually it only acts as a backdrop – the significance of which will only be clear towards the end of the film.

On the suggestion of an astrologer that he is a bad omen, Rudra (Arya) is abandoned as a child in Varanasi by his father. When his father goes in search of him after 15 years he finds to his astonishment that Rudra has become an Aghori – someone who considers himself to have attained to power to stop the endless cycle of rebirths by blessing the ashes of dead people who he thinks deserve that boon. On his father’s plea, Rudra’s guru allows him one final visit to his village. Once back there he shocks everyone who comes in contact with him. The main plot however is that involving the inhuman business of “begging”. If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire then be warned – the few sequences you’ve seen in that movie regarding the same issue would seem like kiddie stuff. Anyways, what happens from thereon is better seen than told.

Whether you subscribe to it or not, Bala has the ability to drag the viewer into his bleak merciless world and this film is far successful in doing that than any previous work of his. I don’t think I can get those visuals out of my mind for a long time and I bet you would have a tough time doing the same. However, as usual with Bala’s films the visceral experience comes in lieu of a coherent screenplay. What I actually found very disturbing is the seeming glorification of the protagonist and his cult. There is a huge difference between certain characters in the film revering Rudra and the film itself projecting him as a hero; and somewhere down the line the distinction seemed lost. What can seem acceptable or even justified as a sad state of affairs cannot really become an ideal. Thanks to a couple of irritating guys in the audience who were constantly whistling whenever Arya came on screen – my perspective about the film’s convictions might be a little skewed but I’d like to hear from others what they concluded about the movie.

Arya undergoes an amazing physical (rather facial) transformation for this role. He is really scary in that look but apart from a standard routine which he seems to perform in most of the film, there isn’t nothing much he is required to do. Pooja is also very good as the blind girl. The real heroes are the supporting cast comprising of real Sadhus and physically disabled people – again better seen than told. The guy who plays the main villain is also extremely formidable. The film is shot beautifully (Arthur Wilson) – right from the opening frame on the banks of the Ganges, the foreboding mood of the film is captured consistently. Ilaiyaraja’s score also enhances the film to a great level.

For all the bleakness in the movie, it must be mentioned that there isn’t any boring moment and uxexpectedly there is ample humor which goes a long way in lightening the proceedings. For all its faults, Nenu Devudni/Naan Kadavul is a testament to the power of the visual medium and Bala’s command over it – and that itself qualifies it to be a masterpiece. A word of caution – don’t venture in if you are not used to disturbing imagery and avoid taking children.

Narasimha Naidu September 3, 2006

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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This was the third film starring Balakrishna that I saw in the theatre (after Aditya 369 and Bhairava Dweepam). Though I may not be a Balakrishna fan in general, I have no prejudice against him (and I liked him in Aditya 369, especially as Krishna Deva Raya). So I watched this movie after it started breaking all records. This was the first movie based on faction wars that I saw and I’d rate it as the best of the lot.

This was complete masala fare as usual from B. Gopal but was better than a lot of his other movies. The primary credit for that should go to Chinni Krishna who provided the story and screenplay for the movie. The basic idea of one warrior from every house brought freshness to the film.

The film has the flashback formula (made famous in movies appealing to the masses like Rajnikanth’s Basha) that has now become the standard format for faction movies and even others. The formula goes thus – hero is in hiding at the start of the movie and has a love interest and fights some villains establishing his power – towards the interval you find out that he has a flashback – the second half consists mainly of the flashback where he generally has another love interest or two even and of course a conflict with the main villains – after the flashback ends the climax of the movie starts. The love track between Preeti Jhangiani and Balakrishna was passable (and definitely of a higher quality than the one with Balakrishna and Simran in Samarasimha Reddy). What really worked in the movie were the two chase sequences apart from the punch in the dialogues (Parachuri Brothers). The first chase is the one with all the Sumos and the second chase is the one where he tries to save his brothers. Also the sentiment in the second half works for the female and family audiences. This was also an improvement over most masala movies.

Mani Sarma’s background score is the best one so far for mass movies that I’ve seen. The theme piece for Balakrishna was superb. It gave me incomparable josh (the theme from Chatrapathi scored by Keeravani gave me a similar feeling). The background score definitely elevated the events unfolding on screen. Mani Sarma is probably one of the best composers for mass songs and he undoubtedly provided one of his best mass soundtracks here. The movie also had some well choreographed dance sequences. Of course, no one can forget the unbearable classical dance by Balakrishna. There was no reason to include this in the movie and it definitely made Balakrishna look terribly bad.

This is masala movie with all the spices and nobody should expect it to be logical. It is made to cater mostly to the masses and fans and above all to make money. I still can’t figure out how some people feel that Balakrishna looks stupid while delivering those earth-shattering dialogues while they find it believable when Chiranjeevi does it in Indra. Chiranjeevi can bring rain in Indra but Balakrishna shouldn’t make a train go in reverse in Palanati Brahma Naidu. Both are implausible if not impossible. However, fans seem to throw logic to the winds if it is their favorite star while focusing only on logic when it is someone else. Double Standards! This movie is for those who can enjoy masala fare without taxing their brains (the obvious prerequisite being no prejudice against Balakrishna). Those who despise mass movies and those who want sensible fare should keep away from this movie.