Dia – A Unique Romance Film

Many viewers had recommended the 2020 Kannada film Dia to me.  It’s now streaming on Amazon Prime, and I’m so glad I watched it.  K S Ashoka has a well crafted script, about introverted Dia.  I wasn’t expecting the boy she falls for in the first half hour to NOT be the love of her life!  This film was unique and really different with a shocking ending.  If you’re looking for something completely light for quarantine viewing, this may not be for you, but if you want to see an offbeat romance, I highly recommend Dia.

HIT & Trance are on Amazon Prime

Two recent films I saw in the theater, are now streaming on Amazon Prime.

HIT is a Telugu mystery thriller starring  Vishwak Sen as a troubled detective.  This film produced by Nani is worth a watch!

 

Trance is a Malayalm film starring Fahadh Faasil as a faith healer preacher.  It’s the first film with Fahadh’s wife Nazriya since Bangalore Days.  The film is directed by Anwar Rasheed, director of Ustad Hotel.  The first have is exceptional, but I found the second half abstract and confusing.  Still worth a watch for Fahadh’s performance, and the supporting role of director Gautham Menon.

Top Five Telugu Films of 2019

 

Honorable Mention : Gaddalakonda Ganesh

 

5. Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya

 

4. Oh! Baby starring Samantha Akkineni

 

3. Brochevarevarura 

 

2. Evaru starring Adivi Sesh and Regina Cassandra.

 

1. JERSEY starring Nani and Shraddha Srinath

Top 5 Tamil Films of 2019

 

Honorable mentions:

Viswasam:

 

and Bigil starring Vijay:

 

5. Kaithi:

4. Magamuni

3. Asuran

2. Peranbu

1. Super Deluxe

Super Deluxe was my favorite Indian film of all of 2019.

Mahanati Review – Keerthy Suresh captures the magic of Savitri

I have been anticipating Mahanati for a year, since Dulquer Salmaan posted a picture of himself on twitter as Gemini Ganesan, announcing that he was debuting in his first Telugu film, a period piece.

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I didn’t know anything about the legendary actress Savitri until I posted my trailer reaction to the Mahanati teaser trailer.  I asked for people to send me links and clips, and my Youtube viewers sent me songs and scene clips, but universally, they all told me I HAD to see Maya Bazar.  Boy, am I glad I watched the 1957 classic film before I watched Mahanati.  Because the very first glimpse of Keerthy Suresh in the film is a filming of a famous scene from Maya Bazar, and I recognized it immediately.  Watching Maya Bazar meant I could judge whether Keerthy was nailing it as Savitri — and boy did she ever!

Here’s my full review of the film:

 

Nadigaiyar_Thilagam_Stills__7__0Dulquer Salmaan had to walk a fine line.  He played the actor Gemini Ganesan, who married Savitri even though he was already married, and also had a mistress (with whom he fathered Rekha!).  He has to be so charming and compelling that you believe that Savitri would fall for him, and you also don’t like him very much at many points in the film.  He did an exceptional job.

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Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha Akkineni play newspaper reporters compiling a story about the mystery of Savitri’s last days.  They have a wonderful chemistry together.  Samantha Akkineni has a career best speech in the final 15 minutes of the film.

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Hats off to director Nag Ashwin, for an incredible film, only his second full length feature film.  This film covers the 50’s through the 80’s and the period details seem to be perfect.  Many, many scenes from classic films are recreated, including actor Naga Chaitanya playing his grandfather ANR.  It’s an amazing scope for a film, and so ambitious a project.

But the key is that Keerthy Suresh really captures the charm and spirit of the legendary actress Savitri.  It’s a career best performance for her. The soundtrack is also exceptional, and I’m playing Mooga Manasulu (Muted Hearts) on repeat.

Avengers Infinity War – Review with my son Josh

I saw Avengers Infinity War with my husband and my son Josh.  I invited Josh to be my special guest and discuss the film — because Josh has lots of opinions about Marvel films.  First we did a completely spoiler free review of the film.  We both liked it, and would give it 4 stars out of 5 – but the full evaluation has to wait for the final installment next year.

 

Our “Spoilerific” discussion was more lengthy, as we really dive deeply into the ramifications of the ending of the film for other upcoming Marvel films that are scheduled to be released in the next few years.

Padmaavat – Movie Review – It finally released!

The day finally arrived! Padmaavat finally was released, despite rioting, threats against the stars and physical assault of the director. I saw it in 3D which wasn’t really needed, but was my only option. It’s not the best Bhansali film ever, but it’s Bhansali so you have to see it on the big screen at least once. And I feel compelled to probably see it again, because I’m so worked up about that school bus being attacked by rioters in India over this film.

The controversy over the film even reached national news here in the US.  I heard a five minute segment on the movie’s release, and the violence surrounding it on NPR this afternoon.

 

The above is an over 16 minute video review of the film, but I try not to give any spoilers (but we all know how it ends anyway.)

As Bhansali films go — it is average. It’s not my favorite, and besides the Ghoomar song, the music is not as memorable as Bajirao Mastani. But I’m there for the costumes, the colors and the sets, and they are GORGEOUS on the big screen. My local theater only has the film in 3D so you get to see those saris swirl out at you, gold threads shining. Shahid’s abs I could write an entire sonnet about — he has never looked better on screen!

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The costumes were just even more stunning on a big screen.  The attention to detail in the jewelry, the saris, and the outfits that Shahid wore (and Ranveer) is just stunning.

Here’s a video about the design of the jewelry!

 

It was worth the cost of the ticket just to see the whole spectacle of the film, but it’s slow paced.  The run time is 2 hours 45 minutes, and believe me, at least a half hour could be easily cut.  The film feels flat and staid.  Anupama Chopra said the film lacked heart in her video review.  I also didn’t feel tension in the final moments.  We know what’s going to happen, but I’ve seen other films (like Neerja) where even though I know what’s going to happen I’m on the edge of my seat.  I just didn’t feel that.

Speaking of Neerja, the great Jim Sarbh has a much bigger role as Ranveer’s slave in the film than I had imagined.  He actually has an entire song he sings to Ranveer!  I don’t like that his whole role is to prove that Alueddin is obviously evil because he’s bisexual, but Sarbh gives his role his all.  It was just a pleasant surprise how much screen time he had.

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Aditi Rao Hyari who I last saw in Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Velliyidai, was very good as Ranveer’s wife in the film.

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Ranveer is the stand out performance of the film.  He really chews the scenery as the Muslim conquerer villain. I hated though, that Bhansali had him almost always with a dirty face, and black clothing.

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In contrast, Shahid was shown in white and pale colors, often in a pure linen shirt ( that did blessedly still show his abs through the loose weave — I love you costume designer!!)

Shahid did well as the proud arrogant Rajput king.  Deepika was absolutely luminous as Padmavati.  I absolutely loved her introduction scene, hunting with a bow and arrow like Katniss Everdeen in the forest.  How she meets Shahid the king was awesome.  She is shown to be smarter than Shahid’s king, like a chess player that can see three moves ahead, so kudos to Bhansali for that.

The film just didn’t live up to my very heightened expectations.  I just have greater expectations for the over the top films that Bhansali makes.  The music wasn’t as notable as other films, besides the Ghoomar number which is amazing! – and I can’t help but wonder if he held back on story elements or cut certain things from the script that would have made a livelier film, but restrained himself due to the controversy.  Even though there was a disclaimer before the film saying they don’t endorse sati — the way Bhansali filmed the last moments rather did do just that, and I don’t like that message.

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I’m so worked up about the school bus being attacked in a riot about this film, that even though it’s average, I will see it multiple times just as my own personal protest.  It’s overlong and slow, but it’s Bhansali. You have to see it on the big screen at least once.

Attarintiki Daredi Movie Review – My First Pawan Kalyan film

 

attarintiki BPbb-18CQAEhRba_jpg large(15)In anticipation of Agnyathavasi, I watched Attarintiki Daredi (Which Path Leads to My Aunt’s House?) (2013), which teams Pawan Kalyan with the same director,  Trivikram Srinivas.  This was a decent family drama pairing Pawan with two heroines,  Samantha Akkineni and Pranitha Subhash and with NadhiyaBoman Irani and Brahmanandam in supporting roles.

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It was super fun to see Boman Irani in a Telugu film, even with his voice dubbed.  I assume he doesn’t speak Telugu well enough.  He plays the family patriarch, and Pawan’s grandfather.  Pawan is tasked to bring home his estranged aunt as his grandfather is critically ill, and wants to reunite with her while he still can.

attarintiki emotional sceneNadhiya plays the estranged aunt. and she was fantastic!  She was the best part of the whole movie for me.  She and Pawan share some very emotional scenes.  I looked her up afterwards as it was making me crazy where I’d seen her before.  She was Prabhas’s mother in Mirchi.

Pawan’s character is super wealthy but he enters his aunt’s household as a driver (sort of like Dharmendra in Chupke Chupke, but not as funny.)

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Pawan has some cool action scenes.  (Evidently he’s a martial arts expert in real life).  Of the two heriones, Samantha is given nominally a bit more to do.  It’s not her best role ever — she’s improved considerably in the years since this film was released.

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Brahmanandam has a lengthy cameo.  I can only take him in small doses, and it was TOO much.  However, at one point there is a Gladiator reference that is hilarious.  I didn’t need the half hour preceding it, however.

So, Attarintiki Daredi is an average family drama, elevated by Nadhiya’s performance.  I know Pawan Kalyan is supposed to be a Telugu cinema superstar, but he really doesn’t do much for me.  His signature is his dialogue delivery, and it just doesn’t come through to me, watching with subtitles.

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 Maheshinte Prathikaaram – Fahadh Faasil is great in this unconventional revenge story

Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Mahesh’s Revenge) is a delightful Malayalam Comedy-Drama starring Fahadh Faasil.  I think this is actually only my third Fahadh Faasil film, but I have many of his recent films in my watch list.  I loved him in Bangalore Days.  Oh, my gosh when he revealed that huge tattoo!  I hated him for most of the movie, and then he totally won me over in those emotional scenes.  I really didn’t like him in Amen, but then his character was such a nebbish!  He was true to the character, which was a character I didn’t like that much.

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Mahesh, however was such an interesting character.  As was the whole small town setting of the movie.  I loved this peak into the Indukki area of Kerala, which has very tough women.

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Like many Malayalam films, the entire first half meanders it’s way through character introductions and not a lot really happens until almost the interval.  But I didn’t mind at all.  I picked this movie to watch on a day that I had been watching news of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas.  I relished getting away from it all to this beautiful small town in Kerala.

Mahesh has a photo “shop” where he takes passport photos, “Chin up.  Shoulders down.”  He’s a fixture taking photos at every wedding and funeral in town.  He’s not very good.  He has a long distance relationship with a girl he’s had a crush on since childhood, and then she gets another marriage offer from an NRI.  Mahesh is passive.  He doesn’t pursue the girl.  He’s satisfied just taking passport photos.

And then there is an incredible cascade of arguments and spats that starts with a disagreement at a funeral and ends in a brawl.  This whole sequence of one fight leading to a bike accident, to the next argument, and on and on was one of my favorites.  It was very clever.  One person’s ill temper leads to the next situation and so on.

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And finally Mahesh gets drawn into a brawl with some rowdies from a nearby town and gets literally hit in the head — pushed into the metal bar of a rickshaw.  He is so thoroughly trounced that his elderly father has to step in to say “enough” to the rowdy.  Mahesh is humiliated and vows to go shoeless until he gets his revenge — throwing his flip flops away!

And Interval.

That’s the set up.  This passive, happy to just go along in life guy, suddenly wakes up.  And starts to make things happen.  He meets a girl.  He realizes he doesn’t really know how to take pictures, and learns to appreciate photography as art.  And he does get his revenge, eventually.

The gentle story telling makes those couple of intense fight sequences all the more visceral.  They felt very real. The final scuffle was so intense I cried out because I though someone had a broken limb and my son came out of his room to see if I was okay.  “Oh.  It’s just a movie.”  LOL

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What’s delightful is just letting this movie wash over you.  I just loved the meandering gentle story telling.  Learning about all the people in this small town, and especially the spunky girl Mahesh meets.  Young actress Aparna Balamurali was absolutely fantastic as Jimsy!  She’s blunt and speaks up for herself in a very straight forward way.  “Love me if you’re brave enough.”  Both the women in this film totally were able to make their own choices.  Even the ex-girlfriend when presented with an arranged marriage offer is given free choice by her family.

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The supporting cast was all universally great, too.  I particularly liked the performances of Alencier Ley Lopez as Baby, Mahesh’s best friend who owns the next door shop, and Soubin Shahir as Crispin, Baby’s new employee.

Maheshinte Prathikaaram won the Malayalam National Film Award and I can see why.  Director Dileesh Pothan and screenwriter Syam Pushkaran transported me to Kerala for a few blessed hours.  The cinematography and music were very nice too.  There was a flash mob scene with Aparna which I though was a brilliant way to have a big dance number in a natural feeling film like this.  It totally fit her character!

 

Judwaa 2 – A few things should have updated in 20 years

 

I really wanted to like Judwaa 2.  I had a blast watching the first Judwaa earlier in the week, starring Salman Khan and Karishma Kapoor.  While Varun Dhawan gave 1000 percent to the double role, I just didn’t find it as funny.   Jackie Fernandez wasn’t given as much to do as Karishma.   Both she and Taapsee were treated like bimbos.

It was depressing to watch a scene of Varun smacking Jackie’s behind in a store.  Really?  You’re going for that same joke 20 years later?  And Taapsee gets kissed to the point she cries.  Again.  NOT FUNNY.

So much could have been done with this twin story.  It needed a better script.  One set in the 21st century.