Saturday, October 20, 2018

Hello Guru Prema Kosame - Movie Review

One of Tollywood’s favorite genres in the last two decades has been breezy romances with a common template, which has a chocolate boy falling for a modestly dressed college girl, surrounded by other characters who add the drama and create the plot. Director Trinadha Rao’s ‘Hello Guru Premakosame’ is yet another movie on the same lines, with barely anything new, yet, managing to keep the audiences entertained.

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At the outset, it is projected as a regular love story and the makers keep the treatment authentic. Sanju (played by Ram Pothineni) is an engineer who moves to Hyderabad for work. He is put up at her mother’s childhood friend (played by Prakash Raj), a wise and helpful man. Expectedly, Sanju falls for his daughter, Anupama (played by Anupama Parmeshwaran), after having a fling with a colleague, Tripti (played by Pranitha Subhash). The movie takes a predictable turn from here and the monotony is broken occasionally by the witty one-liners and the amazing equation between Ram and Prakash Raj. Also, I do not understand why do Telugu writers fancy the clichéd structure of dialogues, involving a mere play of words? Just like the over-bearing dialogues of Arvinda Sameta, the writers here throw dialogues like, “Oka ammayyi no chepte edichevadini lover antaru. Ala edichevaditoh mandu taagi vadine friend antaru”. Though they were not overbearing, it is time we switch to real and conversant language, laced with humor.

Prakash Raj plays a charming and endearing father to Anupama and a confidante to Sanju. He gets to display his comic timing and his scenes with Ram, acting as his ‘friend’, are a delight to watch. The makers included a song, ‘Oi Friendu’, to cash-in on their camaraderie. Anupama Parameshwaran, playing his daughter, keeps a weirdly stoic demeanor and gives dreamy glances in most of her scenes, apart from looking extremely pretty. I wish her character was written better because her conflicts and change of heart do not come out well. Playing her other half in their love story, Ram gets the centerstage and carries the movie on his shoulders. He is charming, looks great and has a suave attitude. His comedy in the first half, especially the ones referring to engineering colleges and software programming, is top-notch and remains in the same form throughout. Despite his love story with Anupama not coming out convincingly, one does not complain much since his antics keep you entertained. The romantic track with Tollywood’s favorite second fiddle, Pranitha Subhash, should have had a better closure. It seemed insensitive and abrupt, something that contradicts the character of Sanju. The rest of the supporting actors were good in their parts, mostly adding to the comic relief.

Looking for great film-making craft and a tightly woven story in a mainstream romantic comedy would not be wise. But thankfully, Hello Guru Prema Kosame, remains majorly real and entertaining. The wafer-thin plot, usual love story and the predictive narrative are balanced by endearing performances, especially by Ram and Prakash Raj. Watch it for fun, without expecting much!

My Rating – 2.5/5

Friday, October 19, 2018

Namaste England - Movie Review

Director Vipul Shah’s second offering in the ‘Namaste’ franchise, ‘Namaste England’, is a baffling example of reputed names coming together to create an extremely insipid and nauseating fare. Writer Ritesh Shah, who has written movies like Pink, Chef and Raid, has co-written this incoherent and disjoined story of Punjab flying to London. Casting director Honey Trehan, whose previous work boasts of casting strong ensembles in movies like Kaminey, Fukrey and Talvar, casts the most disinterested bunch of actors who make Arjun Kapoor’s performance seem Oscar worthy! Even director Vipul Shah’s passable filmography highlights his not so great skills, but some of his previous movies were bearable thanks to its leading cast. Sadly, even they let him down here.

An ambitious Punjabi girl, Jasmeet (played by Parineeti Chopra), aspires to be a jewelry designer but is oppressed by her patriarchal family. She uses her bunch of friends and boyfriend, Param (played by Arjun Kapoor), to get out of her house and work. Upon finding of their daughter’s deceit, they decide to get her married to Param. Due to the ridiculous turn of events, she convinces Param to relocate to London (though she could have relocated to Delhi, Chennai or Timbuktu and it would have made no difference). Now, do not even try looking for logic here because there isn’t any. So, due to yet another ridiculous subplot, Param cannot get a visa and hence, a desperate Jasmeet leaves him and flies to London. Just when you think good riddance, the makers remind you that you are just halfway through this excruciating emotionless saga.

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Their lack of conviction or common sense is evidently visible in almost every sequence. Param and Jasmeet exchange besotted looks from Dussera to Diwali to Holi, but Param says, ’Punjab mein pyaar toh doosro ki shaadiyo mein hi hota hai’. So, out of the blue, there is a wedding. How? Don’t ask! A rich, elite, supposed seductress meets a ‘Gabru Punjabi Munda’ and decides the next minute to marry him. How? Don’t ask! A guy sharing a dingy shanty in London and shown to be living in the bathroom there, steps out in perfectly gelled hair and tuxedos, sweeping rich girls off their feet. How? Don’t even ask!! The makers seem to have answered all these with just one phrase – Who cares?! Vipul Shah repeats the same tropes from Namaste London – a smart girl, a lovelorn naïve guy, a patriotic monologue in London and a sad song by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan! But, his poor directorial skills in Namaste London were overshadowed by good performances by the ensemble, especially Katrina Kaif. It remains Katrina Kaif’s only memorable performance as an actor and reprising the same Jasmeet, Parineeti Chopra makes this a poor caricature. While Katrina’s Jasmeet was flawed and shrewd, she still evoked some empathy and connect. Parineeti makes a shoddy caricature of Jasmeet, with a below average performance and awful dialogue delivery in emotional scenes. It is probably her worst performance till date.

Arjun Kapoor does not have a great filmography to boast of, and he adds yet another poorly acted role to the list. Akshay Kumar had a naughty and lustful swag to his character in Namaste London. Here, Arjun repeatedly says ‘Tumhe dekhke mere dil mein aisi aisi feelings aa rahi hai ki kuch ho jaega’ and you still find it hard to believe. The love story between the leads is so poorly developed in the first 10 minutes of the movie, that the audiences do not connect with them at all. There is no sympathy evoked for his difficult journey to London, travelling through half the world. As I mentioned earlier, the rest of the cast is a bunch of novices who have no weight in their characters nor have any acting chops. Aditya Seal and Dijana Dejanovic as the lead’s partners in London look good but get poorly written characters with no scope to perform. As if the main plot was not tiring enough, there are useless subplots talking about illegal immigrants, dark side of patriarchy and over-the-top nationalism – none of them required in the central story line!

A movie that lacks a tight script, good dialogues, abled craft of filmmaking and captivating performances deserves not to be rated at all. At a time when small budget movies are pushing the boundaries with innovative content, this is a major let down. With nothing really working in the movie, except may be the clothes that the leads wear, I do not think it deserves anything on a scale of 1 to 5.

My Rating – 0/5

Badhaai Ho - Movie Review

You know you are in for a good ride when a movie opens in a middle-class household, with a bickering mother-in-law and subtle humor over daily household chores. In ‘Badhai Ho’, debutante director Amit Ravindernath Sharma and his writers Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor create a funny and believable canvas filled with real characters that are stuck in a supposedly embarrassing, yet hilarious situation – when the middle-aged couple of the family get pregnant!

A young boy from a middle-class family, Nakul Kaushik (played by Ayushmann Khurrana), has a perfect life. A doting family, an understanding girlfriend and a high-flying career. His life seemingly crumbles down when he discovers his middle-aged parents (played by Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta) are expecting a child, 25 years after he was born! What ensues is hilarious ride of children feeling contempt for their parents and the society adding insult to injury. Adding to their woes is the matriarch of the family, Dadi (played by Surekha Sikri), whose taunts leave you in splits. His colleague and girlfriend, Renee (played by Sanya Malhotra) bears the brunt of this commotion and so does her elite IAS mother (played by Sheeba Chaddha).

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Firstly, full points to the art director and costume designers for authentically setting up a typical middle-class household, replete with women of the neighborhood bonding over Tambola after a Satsang, crockery neatly stacked in a glass cupboard and the drawing room doubling up as the room for the granny in the house. The makers do not take time in setting up the theme and quickly get to the point, which reflects in the crisp runtime of the movie as well. Director Amit Sharma beautifully exploits his cinematographer, Sanu Varghese, to create frames that come alive on screen. The congested and tiny house becomes the vibrant epicenter of this hysterical entertainer, only because of the brilliant shots. These frames are further lifted by the witty writing by Akshat Ghildial, where humour is mostly understated. Some of the best examples of the brilliant writing are the hilarious scenes where an awkward Gajraj Rao breaks the news at home and the one where Dadi, played stupendously by Surekha Sikri, rebukes her daughter and elder daughter-in-law at a wedding. Also, it was good to see an organic progression of the story, sans major melodrama. The taboo surrounding an elderly couple conceiving a child, despite having a son of marriageable age, is normalized delicately without being over the top.

As is the case with any such content-driven movies, it is the actors who bring these character to life! Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta are perfectly cast as the embarrassed couple, never letting their characters slip into farcical shame. Ayushmann Khurrana, who has become a flagbearer of sorts for this kind of cinema, is in top form and uses his charm and comic timing in equal measures. Supporting him well in a relatively smaller part is Sanya Malhotra and her mother, Sheeba Chaddha, who provide ample support to the narrative. Surekha Sikri as Dadi, is hilarious and one of the most endearing characters for a granny written in Hindi cinema in recent times. Also, it was fun to watch all the characters speak in chaste western UP dialect, adding another dimension to their characters.

Over the last few years, content-driven stories from the small towns or inspired by the middle-class folks have fancied filmmakers in Bollywood. Badhaai Ho takes a similar route as ‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’ and picks a taboo topic.  With a similar plot as Steve Martin’s 1995 comedy, ‘Father of the Bride 2’, Badhaai Ho uses a topic perceived as embarrassing and injects comedy in right measures, to create a delectable fare.

My Rating – 3.5/5

Friday, October 12, 2018

Tumbbad - Movie Review

Horror seems to be Bollywood’s new vanilla, which is being blended seamlessly with different genres of cinema acting as other flavors. Recently, horror was blended with comedy in Rajkummar Rao’s, Stree and this week, Sohum Shah Starrer, Tumbad, does this with fantasy. Helmed by three directors - Rahi Anil Barve, Anand Gandhi and Adesh Prasad, Tumbad is an off-beat blend of mythology, with a gory and dark narrative.

The three-part narrative opens with a mythological premise of a Goddess, who created Earth and held her evil child, Hastar, in her womb to save the world from his malevolence. In pre-Independence India, in a quaint Tumbbad, a lady with two sons, nurtures an ailing old lady by the day and serves as the mistress to a feudal lord, Sarkar by the night. A folklore says Sarkar’s home has a hidden treasure, which remains unraveled with the sudden demise of Sarkar. Years later, the lady’s elder son, now a young man, Vinayak Rao (played by Sohum Shah), returns to Tumbbad to look for the hidden treasure. His insatiable greed makes him frequently return to Tumbbad, for the prized gold coins hidden in the wada. His greed sees no end and he ends up pulling his teenage son, Raja (Actor’s Name) into this dark, gory and sinful mess.

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The cinematography by Pankaj Kumar is painstakingly beautifully and sets the gruesome tone of the movie. The tones are all greys and blacks, interrupted only by the glows of the fire. From crooked trees to the close-up shots of ghastly, decaying bodies, the camerawork is brilliantly used to create a disturbing, yet, consuming narrative. The make-up and prosthetics artists also deserve an applause, for creating the cadaverous characters, like Hastar, who are not inserted in the movie for cheap-thrills, but are regular characters forming the cast. Complementing the dark frames is the gritty background score by Ajay-Atul and Jesper Kyd, that is subtle and never overshadowing the narrative. The movie, though crisp, seems to lose some steam during the second part, but quickly picks up pace in the final part, reaching an intriguing climax. Also, I must admit, it is a rare kind of fantasy thriller seldom seen in Indian cinema.

While the credit for crafting this movie majorly goes to the technicians and its directors, they are blessed with equally good actors. Sohum Shah, as Vinayak, brings in a variety of emotions effortlessly. His love-making scene with his mistress, shows him change rapidly from a lustful man to a man angry at his friend’s betrayal. He is supported amply by Deepak Damle, who plays his teenage son and displays the same greed and lust that his father has, albeit knowing when to control it. The rest of the cast support the narrative well and the lack of any unnecessary subplot is a major plus point.

Tumbbad may not appeal the faint-hearted. But it is a fantasy horror that certainly deserves a chance, for making huge strides in the right direction as far as Indian cinema is concerned.

My Rating – 3.5/5

Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava - Movie Review

While writing this review of director Trvikram Srinivas’s latest outing ‘Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava’ (ASVR), I chanced upon his Wikipedia page. The introduction says, “Regarded as the "wizard of words" Trivikram's craft is known for its high dose of comedy, fast-paced repartee, farcical situations, escapist themes, and comedy thriller plot lines involving action, emotion, courtship, family and marriage.” Except for the farcical situations, he lets down his audiences on every other aspect.

Set against the backdrop of two warring villages in Rayalaseema, ASVR is the story of Veera Raghava Reddy (played by Junior NTR) spearheading his clans fight against Basi Reddy (played by Jagapathi Babu). They call this ‘Aidu rupayala godava’ (5 rupees fight) and hand it over to their progeny, who find it easier to stick swords into each other than solve this dispute for once. But Veera Raghava Reddy, moved by his grandmother’s (played by Supriya Pathak) rants, decides to take on his opponents with non-violence. Now, this is a novel idea, where unlike the usual mass entertainers, the male protagonist is not shown as the macho and masculine savior. A comical version of this theme was seen in S.S Rajamouli’s Marayada Ramanna, where the protagonist does not fight against a bunch of goons.  Trivikram uses his trademark dialogues with rhyme and rhythm, to act as a weapon that Veera Raghava uses to win over his opponents, apart from the generous use of daggers and swords. To trigger his change and affect his conscience, a haughty, arrogant and bubbly Aravinda (played by Pooja Hegde) enters the scene. She casually drops her pearls of wisdom, which Veera Raghava picks up to pave his plan of action ahead. Again, instead of just being the arm-candy or add glamor, this role had a great potential. More recently, Anushka Sharma played a similar support and trigger to the male lead, as Mamta in ‘Sui Dhaaga’. But, again, the writing lets down the character of Aravinda. Despite being the titular role, Aravinda is reduced to just being a caricature, with no weight.

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It would be a sin to look for logic in a mass entertainer and we Telugu audiences love them for the lack of it. But, Matala Mantrikudu Trivikram overburdens his audiences with heavy dialogues, filled with puns, alliteration and rhyme. There is a scene where the lead characters converse at a café and I cannot imagine any normal couple conversing in the language that they use. Like in his previous dud, Agnyathavasi, Trivikram overdoes the same trademark dialogues to the extent that it becomes a painful bore! The mood of the movie is set in a very gritty and serious space like Trivikram’s blockbuster ‘Athadu’ or the more recent action drama ‘Rangasthalam’. But, ASVR is not engaging or gripping like either of them. The lack of depth in the characters, along with the over-bearing dialogues, clubbed with a run time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, seem like an extremely tiresome experience.

The only saving grace here are the performances. Almost every actor cast in the main and supporting roles, gets the Rayalaseema accent on point. While most of the supporting actors are decent in their roles, a praise-worthy performance comes from Jagapathi Babu, as the main antagonist. Playing a rugged and rustic version of his character from Rangasthalam, Jagapathi Babu uses his menacing eyes and evil face to create a gruesome villain and delivers well. Pooja Hegde, apart from looking pretty and complimenting Junior NTR well, gets some cute moments amid choppy dialogue delivery. Sunil, making a comeback as the sidekick, is utterly wasted, as he neither gets to do comedy nor drama. But, it is Junior NTR, who plays Veera Raghava with such conviction, that you try to remain invested in this otherwise insipid tale. Being able to pull off a mass character with élan is no mean feat, and he is charismatic at that. Using a calm and restrained demeanor, reminiscent of Mahesh Babu from Athadu, his hard-work and efforts are clearly visible in his performance. Unfortunately, he is let down by poor writing, screenplay and dialogues.

From ‘Nuvve Kavali’ to as recently as ‘A Aa’, Trivikram has always been known for his brilliant dialogues, with some of the finest gems in movies like ‘Nuvvu Naaku Nachavu’, ‘Manmadhudu’ and ‘Jalsa’. Watching ASVR reminded me of Srinu Vaitla’s ‘Aagadu’ – another director known for his witty one-liners, who bored his audiences to death with an overdose of bland dialogues. Not sure if it is Trivikram’s complacency or lack of vision, but ASVR looked like a tale from a tired and disinterested story-teller. Trust me, I seem as disinterested in writing this review as he seemed to be while making this movie.

My Rating – 2/5