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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 Nadhiya, Boman Irani and Brahmanandam in supporting roles.
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.
Nadhiya 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.)
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.
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.
This is long, but I had many, many questions on my Pardesi Youtube channel and on Twitter. In the video description, there is an index so you can skip ahead to questions that interest you. I expand on my introduction video, and tell more about the story of how I fell in love with Indian cinema. I discuss my favorite directors in the Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil cinema industries.
I did a collaboration video with Koricon Nala where we discussed the Prabhas intro scene in the S. S. Rajamouli film Chatrapathi. Koricon had never seen the film, but it’s an old favorite of mine. There’s just something about Rajamouli and showing Prabhas intros with water.
I’m late to post this, but I made this appreciation video of all the reasons I love Prabhas for his birthday last month. And I goofed in the video saying it is his 37th birthday as it’s really 38. Darn you international date line!
If you haven’t seen Spyder, and want no spoilers before you see it, watch this spoiler free review of the film I recorded moments after seeing it.
I warned you ….. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!! (but not the whole plot)
The first thing you should know is that I am a Mahesh Babu fan. I’ve seen several of his films, and my favorites are probably Athadu (killer disarmed by love!) and Pokiri. Unfortunately, my first Mahesh Babu film in the theater was last year’s flop Brahmatsovam. It’s been a long wait for the next Mahesh film, over a year. I think he took the lessons from that flop, and hooked up with a quality director. My friend Kartik even sent me a quote from Mahesh about that flop:
So anticipation has been sky high for this film Spyder. Expectations, too. I felt it was a decent film. Not perfect, but it had some notable sequences that were unique and something fresh I had not seen before.
I walked out of the theater satisfied, and I was surprised that several young men who cared enough to come to the very first 2 p.m. show were disappointed. Maybe the hype was so high nothing would have been enough. They said the second half was not a “practical” plot. I think they wanted a more grounded story, like Pokiri or Athadu. From the trailer we could see there would be huge boulder rolling down a street crushing cars — and that sequence was certainly in the film. The last half felt almost like a disaster movie or a superhero film with buildings collapsing and villains wanting to crush people with huge boulders! So, not realistic, but it didn’t bother me one bit.
Are all those village Telugu dramas with machete fights with one hero fighting 20 men realistic either?
AR Murugadoss set up a tight cat and mouse thriller between Mahesh and our big villain. Mahesh is some sort of spy analyst. I got the sense he worked in the equivalent of the Indian FBI. He’s monitoring phone conversations ostensibly looking for terrorists and the like, but almost like Minority Report he prides himself on preventing crimes before they happen based on something he’s overheard. He saves a young girl from being robbed and dishonored by a goon who has convinced her he’s going to marry her out of town.
But then a girl he overhears being scared in an empty house is murdered savagely, along with the woman cop he dispatched to check on her. And that sends Mahesh into a crisis, and then ultimately on a solo quest to find their killer.
In the first half, we get a tiny little romance track with the adorable Rakul Preet Singh. He overhears her discussing wanting a “blind date” and I think wanting a friends with benefits situation (something that maybe didn’t translate fully in the subtitles). He stalks her a bit, and she confronts him on it. But she eventually agrees if he’s not in love with her it will be okay for them to go out. There is a hilarious scene where she tries to explain this to Mahesh’s mother — who warns Rakul Mahesh is shy, just like his father. “It took four years of marriage for my son to be born!” LOL
There are a few flight of fantasy songs that show their feelings for each other, and a bit of their relationship. The first song, Boom Boom, I liked much better in the film, than in the teaser snippets we saw. That’s the first song, and for some reason has all white girl back up dancers!
When Mahesh goes on a hunt for the killer, he uses a viral video to try to find someone who’s seen him. This film has a lot of cool use of technology, with scenes of Mahesh monitoring real time cell phone calls, searching through CCTV footage and the like. It was all very clever, and kind of scary to think how much info these agencies can gather. There’s a speech in the beginning that the analysts in Mahesh’s office are not to monitor calls for personal reasons, but obviously Mahesh breaks that by listening in and researching Rakul!
The back story of the villain was super creepy and really unique. I’ve never seen anything like it, as an origin for a sociopath serial killer. While other reviewers may quibble that this took time away from the main story and slowed down the film, I really liked this segment of the movie. That kid was a good actor — good at being super creepy and evil!!
There are actually two villains. Won’t spoiler why, but they were both good. Bharat is one, but the big bad is played by S. J. Surya. He was mostly excellent playing this sociopath killer. There was on interrogation scene where he really gets crazy and it was over the top for me, but especially this scene above with the mask he was very scary and effective. Whew! So good at being evil.
At times in the second half, it felt like he was becoming an over sized super villain like in a comic book movie, though. Maybe that’s what those young men at my screening were complaining about. That and the rolling boulder of doom.
The first half of the film was really good, but there were some logical misses in the plot of the second half. Rakul not telling Mahesh something crucial because she was in a snit with him was egregious. Really? You’re not going to help catch the murderer because you’re mad at your boyfriend? And there were times Mahesh went alone into a situation when it would have been more realistic if he’d had back up.
There was one segment where he fooled a bunch of ladies who were watching a soap into helping him find a fugitive. It went on for a long stretch and was pretty over the top, too. But I do have to acknowledge to Mr. Murugadoss that I have never seen the like!
The CGI in a couple of crucial action scenes was not seamless, but I found the roller coaster fight scene incredible anyway. Just the concept of it alone! We get a snippet in the trailer but it was really something to see. The ending has a building collapsing as Mahesh tries to save people. That was another part that felt like this was a disaster movie rather than a grounded thriller. But, still, the film didn’t end with the cliched fight sequence in an abandoned factory.
Mahesh has a preachy speech at the end about humanity and helping others without expecting rewards. A bit long, and kind of a weird note to end the film on.
There’s also some plot holes as to how Mahesh is just going rogue in his job. He doesn’t follow privacy rules AT ALL and gets all his buddies to just give him info for his solo investigation. He’s working around the police and just ignoring their efforts. He also kills one guy in front of a huge crowd, and seemingly has no repercussions at work or otherwise It was definitely a take the law into your own hands kind of movie. I was disturbed at that cold killing scene. Mahesh’s character just has his own morality compass. He’s the hero, so he’s always right. Definitely not an examination of two sides like Vikram Vedha.
The background score by Harris Jayaraj was incredible. It kept the tension taught throughout the film. I have an issue with thrillers that don’t have good enough music to set the mood (Ahem, Malayalam thrillers….), This score was a standout.
For the most part, AR Murugadoss has given us an exciting thriller with a great villain. Mahesh just looks so cool in all the action scenes. He has a couple of great fight segments. Even the Boom Boom dance number sort of had fight choreography. I liked Mahesh and Rakul’s chemistry in the songs and their sweet romance, although that isn’t the thrust of the film. It’s mainly there as some nice comic relief from the darkness in the rest of the film.
Mahesh reacts emotionally to the death of the young girl and police officer in the first part of the film, but other than that does not show the range of emotion that he has in other films. It wasn’t there in the script for him to do. The film did have more of a story than a strictly action film like Vivegam, but didn’t pack the emotional punch I usually like in Telugu films. Still, I left satisfied that I’d had a good rollercoaster ride of my own.
Another unique aspect to the film is that it was filmed in Telugu AND Tamil. Mahesh is fluent in both languages, so they filmed each scene twice! I attended the Telugu version (with subtitles, of course.)
If you’re a parent wondering if the film is too violent to bring the whole family, the only violence you really SEE is a couple of impalements. And Mahesh shooting a guy in the head from a distance. But there are descriptions of victims being chopped up.