Alisa Rivera, @BollywoodNewbie on Twitter, asked me to suggest a South Indian film we could both watch and discuss. She’s been watching Hindi films for the last couple of years, and has just started to watch Malayalam films. She had not seen any other Telugu films other than Baahubali, and did not know Mahesh Babu. 1: Nenokkadine was my first Mahesh film, and I’d been meaning to watch it again. I’m not sure it was the best one to recommend as Alisa’s first Mahesh film, but she left wanting to see more of his films. We also talk about the deaths of Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor as we recorded this right after their deaths.
Extraction is Netflix production starring Chris Hemsworth and Randeep Hooda (!!) with a script by Joe Russo of the Avengers films. Frankly, it felt like I was in the middle of a shooter video game for much of the film, with a staggering body count. But, the movie is at least half in Hindi and Bengali, with subtitles, and it was just cool to have actors from the Hindi industry and Hollywood together in a film.
Prithviraj and Biju Menon star opposite each other in this tense Malayalam drama from director Sachy. I caught up with this film on Amazon Prime.
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.
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.
Honorable Mention : Gaddalakonda Ganesh
5. Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya
4. Oh! Baby starring Samantha Akkineni
2. Evaru starring Adivi Sesh and Regina Cassandra.
1. JERSEY starring Nani and Shraddha Srinath
and Bigil starring Vijay:
1. Super Deluxe:
Super Deluxe was my favorite Indian film of all of 2019.
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.
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:
Dulquer 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
Aditi Rao Hyari who I last saw in Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Velliyidai, was very good as Ranveer’s wife in the film.
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.
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.
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.