Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bharat Ane Nenu - Movie Review

With his last two movies being sheer disasters, Mahesh Babu desperately needs a hit. Sadly, he chose 'Bharat Ane Nenu', directed by Korata Siva to re-surge in the number game. I know it would be foolish on my part to expect logic and reality in a mainstream telugu movie starring a superstar, but Bharat Ane Nenu does not even have anything new or novel to offer. It is everything that we have already seen in a regular political drama.

Bharat Ram (played by Mahesh Babu) becomes the Chief Minister of united Andhra upon the untimely death of the incumbent Chief Minister, Raghavrao (played by Sarath Kumar), Bharat's father. As expected, the rest of the story is about how Bharat brings about a change in the system, all by himself. There are some inconsequential sub-plots, one of which involves his love story with Vasumathi (played by Kiara Advani). Not just the trailer, but the movie itself seems a lot similar to the 2010 Sekhar Kammula directorial, 'Leader'. I could also draw parallels with the 1999-Tamil hit Mudhalvan (dubbed into Telugu as Oke Okkadu), which was also the story of one man against the corrupt world. And hence, there is no novelty or an element of surprise here. You exactly know where the ship is being steered to. 

Image result for bharat ane nenu

Another major issue with Bharat Ane Nenu is that it seems neither real nor believable. The stereotypical populist measures that Mr. Justin Trudeau of Andhra Pradesh (he looks extremely good) takes in the movie look so half baked that even a novice in Politics will find them artificial. While Leader had a protagonist with grey shades and Oke Okkadu had Arjun being CM for a day, their antics seemed believable, even if contrived. Bharat Ane Nenu seems to be inspired by both these movies, with a sprinkling of dialogues that appeal only to the masses and MB fans. The writer seems to have received a brief to make a demi-god out of Mahesh Babu and create frenzy with whistle-worthy mass dialogues. Also, the poorly choreographed fight scenes are so unintentionally funny!

As the righteous man out to change the system, Mahesh Babu looks dashingly handsome - he seems to be defying age! In spite of his single expression, monotonous portrayal of the political scion awkwardly forced into Politics, Mahesh Babu does not look out of place. Wish he emoted more and not stick to his saint-like smile in every frame. Talking of emotions, Kiara Advani (who gets the debutante tag in every film of hers!) has beautifully expressive eyes but gets to play the typical two-songs-three-scenes Telugu heroine. Prakash Raj, as always, is dependable as the baddie. The satirical take on assembly proceedings and newsroom debates evoke quite a few laughs, especially the histrionics of Posani Krishna. 

I wonder what made Mahesh Babu agree for a movie on a theme already tried years ago. It gives weight to the rumors of an impending plunge by this chocolate boy into Politics. (Just saying, elections are an year away!!). Since Bharat Ane Nenu has nothing new to offer, watch it if you like movies that appeal to the masses or if you are a Mahesh Babu fan or in case you haven't seen 'Leader' already.

My Rating: 1.5/5

P.S: I have not mentioned the painful length of the movie since this seems to be common in all Telugu movies these days. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

October - Movie Review

When I first saw the trailer of this Shoojit Sircar directorial, 'October', there wasn't much that I could infer - there was a certain mystery around the plot. Starring Varun Dhawan and debutante Banita Sandhu, this movie is a beautiful play of emotions, which are gloomy yet beautiful. It is a simple wafer-thin plot narrated so poignantly that you start feeling for the characters.

Daniel 'Dan' Walia (played superbly by Varun Dhawan) is a hotel management trainee with a 5-star hotel in Delhi. He is not your regular plain Joe nor does he have his quirks - he is a below average, temperamental employee who does not have his heart in his work. Shiuli Iyer (played by Banita Sandhu) is a junior trainee at the same hotel, who is his exact opposite - a no non-sense, friendly and hard working 20-year old girl. Due to a freak accident, Banita is grievously injured with remote chances of recovery. She is not a close friend of Dan, but there is something that draws him to her, in spite of the vegetative state that she is in! 

As rightly mentioned in the trailer, it is not a love story. But the chemistry and equation that Dan and Shuili share is beautiful. There are no songs or dream sequences. Just plain and subtle nuances that show Dan developing a deep emotional bond with Shuili. Not just the lead pair, even the brilliantly written supporting characters add so much weight to the story that none of the minor sub-plots seem unnecessary.  

The poster features face of Varun Dhawan laid on the grass and the title appears at top in Hindi script.

The three stars of this movie are Shoojit Sircar, Juhi Trivedi and Varun Dhawan. In the last few movies that I reviewed, my constant complain has been that film-makers do not use alternative techniques of narratives to shorten the length of the movie. Shoojit Sircar, though makes the pace a little sluggish in the middle, uses various alternate techniques. For example, the Manali sequence is entirely shown with a background conversation between Dan and Shuili's mother, thus reducing the length. Juhi Chaturvedi delivers a simple story so beautifully through her extremely well-written screenplay and dialogues. And lastly, Varun Dhawan - this is undeniably his best performance till date. He makes you fall in love with Dan, in spite of his idiosyncrasies. He delivers a very nuanced and subdued performance and shows so much restrain in his demeanor. While he did showcase his acting prowess in his earlier films as well, especially Badlapur, October is what Highway was for Alia Bhatt! It is commendable that he played a subdued character, at a time when his contemporaries are busy flaunting their torsos in mindless action comedies. Banita is decent, but due to the limitations of her character, she does not get to show her acting skills much. Gitanjali Rao as Shuili's mother, Vidya Iyer is a great find and is brilliant. Also, a special mention to the cinematographer, Avik Mukhpadhyay for creating a gloom filled environment that looks painful, yet comforting.

There is a message of caution though: October is NOT meant for everyone. It is a slow, yet engaging movie, but if your patience levels are low and you find difficulty in comprehending emotions, then you may choose to skip this film. But if you are a sucker for great story-telling and craft, this is a Must-Watch!

My Rating - 4/5

P.S: The beautiful conversation towards the end explaining Shiuli and its meaning is one of my favorite sequences from the movie. It metaphorically explains the gist of the movie. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Blackmail - Movie Review

Dark comedy is genre which has rarely seen success in India. And when a movie comes from the director of a cult in this genre, Delhi Belly, the expectation are huge. Directed by Abhinay Deo, Blackmail has a stellar star cast headlined by Irrfan Khan and a promising concept. But it is the craft and the writing that disappointed me the most. 

As evidently shown in its trailer, Blackmail is the story of a regular middle-class Mumbaikar, Dev Kaushal (played by Irrfan) who finds his wife, Reena (played by Kriti Kulhari) in bed with another man, Ranjeet Arora (played by Arunoday Singh). Instead of confronting or attacking his wife or the man she's involved with, Dev decides to make some money by blackmailing him. To pay him off, Ranjeet extracts money from his rich alcoholic wife, Dolly (played by Divya Dutta). Soon, the movie turns into a game of charades with everyone blackmailing each other about the so-called clandestine affair.

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One of the biggest problems here is the pace of the film, while the director uses symbolism to express certain emotions or actions, the pace is extremely slow and does not keep the viewers engaged. Fortunately, this does not mean the movie is lengthy. The writers also underestimate the intelligence of the viewers and weave a heavily contrived and hurried plot in the second half. Also, the urge to make it an adult comedy make them add weird sequences, for instance, the sequence where Dev steals the photographs of his colleague's wife's to shag off to. The makers seem to have started it on a promising note, but meandered in the middle and ended it with an illogical and disappointing climax.

Coming to the performances, Irrfan as Dev delivers an earnest performance and is a delight to watch. His raw, tense demeanor is endearing, yet funny. Arunoday Singh as the dimwit hunk delivers quite a few laughs with his brawny-sans-brainy portrayal of Ranjeet. Kriti Kulhari and Divya Dutta are decent, but do not have much scope. The other two characters that make an impact are Pradhuman Singh as Dev's 'non-veg' joke lover colleague, Anand and Anuja Sathe as the shrewd blackmailer no. 3, Prabha. Omi Vaidya is wasted and an irritating addition to the movie as Dev's boss DK (yes, pun intended and in Delhi Belly Dk Bose mode). 

The trailer gives away most of the plot, and trust me, what you see in the trailer is probably the best part of the entire movie. The rest is chaotic and poorly written and crafted. Watch it only if you must.

My rating - 1.5/5

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Rangasthalam - Movie Review

It is difficult to review a film which puts me in a grey spot – I like it, but I don’t like it. Directed by Sukumar and set somewhere in the 1980s Ubhaya Godavari jillas, ‘Rangasthalam’, is a good concept at the outset. Starring Ram Charan and Samantha as the leads, the movie takes the backdrop of the atrocities committed by feudal lords in the pre-reforms era. While the makers have a good intent, sadly, the urge to include unnecessary commercial elements dampens the film.

The partially deaf protagonist, Chittibabu (played surprisingly well by Ram Charan), is the go-to guy for the village – he sets up motors to pump in water, helps people catch snakes and does odd jobs in the village of Rangasthalam. Due to the sad turn of the events, Chittibabu’s Dubai-returned brother, Kumar (played by Aadi Pinisetty) challenges the feudal lord and President of Rangasthalam Panchayat for 30 years, Phaneendra Bhoopati aka President Garu (played by Jagapathi Babu). As one may expect, the powerful incumbent tries by all his means to stop Kumar or get him killed. This is where a poorly scripted and hugely contrived climax comes in (the worst possible plot!). To provide the romantic angle, Ramalakshmi (played by Samantha) is brought in and to add a dash of sultriness, we have Rangamatta (played by Anusuya) flaunting her curves.

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The biggest problem lies in its length – at 3 hours, it seems way too long (this is sort of becoming my most common problem with Telugu movies). Adding songs unnecessarily, which do not help the narrative is another major problem. Just to add mass appeal, you have a terrible item song by Pooja Hegde, where she looks anorexic and nothing like the voluptuous girls of the yesteryears (Silk Smitha, anyone?). In my review of Padmaavat, I had talked about using different styles of narration to cut down on the run time (you can read that here). There are so many sequences and sub-plots in this movie where they could have used alternate narratives and reduced the run time. It is not a good sign if the viewers looks for a remote to fast-forward the movie! My last major issue was with the over-the-top melodrama! Emotions can be evoked even with subtlety, and I particularly did not like the funeral sequence in the movie.

Having said that, Rangasthalam definitely deserves to be watched for its ensemble cast and their performances. Standing out and carrying the film on his shoulders, Ram Charan delivers a stunning performance. From being as expressive as a log of wood, he has come a long way. I even felt glimpses of Pawan Kalyan and Chiranjeevi in his emotional scenes. Samantha has a less meaty role, but plays well with her expressions and eyes. There was potential for her character to be meatier though. (let me warn you, I am biased towards her -_- ) Jagapathi Babu, apart from a great physique and the salt-and-pepper look, is fantastic as the baddie – he has very few dialogues but leaves an impact with his performance. Aadi and Anusuya provide good support and fit their roles well. Others in the ensemble provide good support and look authentic – a special mention to the cinematographers and the costumes team for this.

While the length may bore you, the performances may still make you stay till the end.

My rating – 2.5/5