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
2. Evaru starring Adivi Sesh and Regina Cassandra.
1. JERSEY starring Nani and Shraddha Srinath
Top 5 Tamil Films of 2019
and Bigil starring Vijay:
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.
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.
Melanie on Splitscreen Podcast with Shah!
Shah Shahid invited me as his guest on his Splitscreen Podcast where we talked about Bollywood news and upcoming films. It was a wonderful conversation! We talked about the Sanju trailer, and Veere Di Wedding. I also introduced a few Regional film trailers to Shah, including Ranam Detroit Crossing, Mahanati and Naa Peru Surya.
Sanju Trailer Reaction – It’s Amazing!
I just watched the teaser trailer for Sanju, and my mouth is hanging open in amazement.
Rajkumar Hirani is the same director who made Munna Bhai MBBS and also blockbusters like PK and 3 Idiots. This trailer is simply genius, and I love how Ranbir breaks the fourth wall and talks right to the audience.
I am blown away by the makeup and how Ranbir carries himself just like Sanjay. We have 2 months to wait, until June 29th.
Here’s the trailer so you can see for yourself just how well Ranbir Kapoor pulls it off:
Bharat Ane Nenu Spoiler Free Movie Review
It’s a solid film, and a much needed hit for star Mahesh Babu. Director Siva likes to add a message to his dramas, and he gives us an almost too perfect political hero — but gives the fans what they want with some great action sequences. The music by Devi Sri Prasad is a standout. The village festival number in the second half was more incredible than I imagined it would be. From the stills in the lyrical video, I knew it would be my favorite, and it was just gorgeous! Really good background score too.
Mahesh Babu gives a stellar performance, especially the speeches. There’s one particular intense speech he gives at a press conference that is one of his finest spots of acting of his career. He always looks cool in the action and songs, but here Siva has given him some meaty drama scenes to play, and he hits it out of the park.
I wasn’t surprised at the reveals in the last half hour. I found the plot sometimes predictable, but I still enjoyed watching it all play out.
Pardesi in The Hindu newspaper!
Suchin Mehrotra contacted me as he was writing an article about Non-Desi promoters of Bollywood who live outside of India. It was published in The Hindu!
Chicago-based Melanie Greenberg looks to do just that through her YouTube channel, Pardesi, where she reviews the latest releases in Hindi, Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam cinema.
Her love was sparked three years ago when she chanced upon Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge on Netflix. She was smitten by Shah Rukh Khan and never looked back.
Her more formal induction into the world of Indian cinema was aided by bloggers Kathy Gibson of accessbollywood.net and Margaret Redlich, who runs dontcallitbollywood.com. Apart from reviewing films, accessbollywood. net maintains an up-to-date list of the Bollywood films available on Netflix and Amazon in the U.S. while dontcallitbollywood.com devotes a page to ‘Starter Kits for Indian Film’ with posts on everything from regional films to top stars and a history of the industry.
Redlich has also written a book Don’t Call It Bollywood – An Introduction to the Hindi Film Universe to tell the uninitiated that Bollywood is about more than “flashy dance sequences and unbelievable plots.”
Glad my pals Margaret of DontCallItBollywood.com and Kathy of AccessBollywood.net get shoutouts — and even pictures!
Check out the full article here.
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!
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.