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 found this Shekar teaser trailer really interesting. The look reminds me a bit of Dulquer in Charlie. We learn the character has a stutter, which I think Dulquer pulls off really well in the small amount of dialogue shown here.
The actress Dhansika who plays Rhadika in this trailer is just stunningly beautiful. Loved the little bit of their romance shown, and wondering what leads to her tears and him being beat up in the end of the trailer.
With the holiday of Onam, there is a cluster of big releases in Kerala. There are new releases from Nivin Pauly, Mohanlal and Prithviraj. Also we’ve had a few teasers now for Solo, Dulquer Salmaan’s upcoming film Solo.
Mohzin (@mohzin_azad ) reports from Kerala that the Prithviraj and Nivin Pauly films are doing well in Kerala and getting decent reviews, while the Mohanlal is average. There can be a couple of week delay until we get Malayalam films here in Chicago, but I hope I can catch some of these new films in the theater.
Here is my song reaction to Enthaavo from Nivin Pauly’s Njandukalude Naatil Oridavela. Enthaavo has been on the top of the Malayalam charts on Saavn.
There’s also been a trailer and a song from Mohanlal’s Velipadinte Pusthakam. Mohanal plays the vice principal of a school in the film.
Adam Joan is a new thriller starring Prithviraj. It seems to have been mostly filmed in Scotland.
And finally, we get another teaser trailer from Dulquer Salmaan — the character Siva from Solo. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen Dulquer play a gangster like this.
So many trailers came out last week! Here are my reactions to four of the new films that I’m looking forward to seeing.
Any new movie from Dulquer Salmaan is one I’m looking foward to seeing. After I posted this, someone commented that the film is an anthology and Dulquer will play several characters in the film. This is just the first character, Rudhra.
Bhoomi shows Sanjay Dutt as the father of his daughter Bhoomi. No subtitles but I get the basic gist that this is a revenge story. I’m looking forward to seeing Sanjay play a father role.
Simran is the “maid” picture that was filmed in the States. What I just learned is that the director Hansal Mehta is the same one who directed the fantastic Aligharh. No subs, but it looks super quirky!
Finally subtitles, although they don’t show up in my reaction. This is just a teaser for Chay Akkineini’s latest film, but it looks exciting. Chay is definitely a great action film actor, and I’m enjoying following his career.
Margaret of DontCallItBollywood and I have been friends for a couple of years, and I was the one that got her to start watching Malayalam films. There’s only one theater in Chicago that plays them, and we meet in the middle there to watch them together when we can. It’s a 45 minute drive for both us — but for Dulquer, it’s worth it! I’ve started doing regular reviews on the Bollyfools Youtube channel, and this is my first joint video review with Margaret. We filmed it quickly in the lobby of the theater, so I apologize in advance for all the background noise.
CIA didn’t blow us away, but it was an enjoyable one time watch. Margaret’s more extensive review of CIA is posted here.
I saw a Malayalam film tonight that absolutely blew me away. Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood emailed me that she’d heard great things about Angamaly Diaries — did I want to join her tonight? So, I went in knowing pretty much nothing about it, other than that @Mozhin123 raved about it to me on twitter, too. Every single face in the film is new except one cameo by the debut screenwriter, actor Chemban Vinod Jose (Charlie, Kali, and Oppam). I had director Lijo Jose Pellissery‘s film City of God recommended to me, but this is my first film of his. Oh. My. God. Pellissery is the rock star of this film! The direction and editing knocked my socks off!
From the very first moments of the opening credit sequence I could tell this was going to be a very different kind of Malayalam film. There were lots of street shots, and close ups of real people, intercut with food, glorious street food, being made. The food in this film is a whole character in itself! From the first, I got a strong sense of this place, Angalamy, that pretty much the entire movie takes place in. I looked it up when I wiki’d the movie when I got home tonight, and it’s a town of about 33,000 people. The name means batttleground, an ancient battleground, which is so fitting for the script!
The quick editing is a hallmark of the film, as well as steadycam shots that took me right inside each and every scene. To get a sense, here’s a behind the scenes making of video, showing how the camera men ran along with the actors in chase scenes and got right into each fight. I felt like I was right there in the middle amongst the characters in the action.
Another key aspect of what made this film so great was the soundtrack and the Foley sounds! They added such tension and rhythm, with screeching metallic sounds in key action sequences that evoked pigs squealing — and pigs are key to the drama. I have often complained that the soundtracks of Malayalam films just aren’t scary enough when they need to be – Ezra, I’m looking at you! This soundtrack is a standout.
As I was driving home, I reflected that the story of Pepe (newcomer Antony Varghese) is not that original in the crime drama Angamaly Diaries. We have the familiar flashback to childhood, and the formation of the key male friendships that form the “team” or gang. We have the innocent teen romance, and more serious relationships as he’s older. We have a rivalry with other toughs in town. But it all still felt fresh because of the way it was filmed, and the fast paced editing. This is not the sleepy paced drama that I’m used to in Malayalam film. The bones of the crime and gang story and the set up feels familiar, but how it’s presented is new and original. It just felt so gritty, so real and visceral!
There is a dramatic turn in Pepe’s life that happens just before the interval. I was holding my hands over my mouth, stunned. I needed that few minutes of the intermission to process it. After the interval, the plot turned in some surprising ways. Sarath Kumar as Ravi and Tito Wilson as Rajan are Pepe’s rivals throughout the film. They kill Pepe’s mentor Babuji in the first half, and then have a competing pork business to Pepe’s gang. Things come to a head and fisticuffs, and then turn deadly. If this was a Telugu movie, these seeming arch villains and rivals would be killed off by the end of the film by our hero, but that’s not what happens here. Things are more complex, and I loved that, and how it surprised me.
Pepe has two main romances in the film, one with Sakhi played by Binny Rinky Benjamin, but my favorite was Lichi, above, played by newcomer Reshma Rajan, the older sister of one of Pepe’s pals. I just adored how she literally pounced on Pepe to let him know she was interested! I also loved how Pepe’s main friend in the gang, ‘Pork’ Varkey (Kichu Tellus) has troubles because he’s dating a police woman! Their wedding is one of the highlights of the film.
The climax of the film is an incredible 11 minute tracking shot with no editing cuts. We are immersed in a festival in the town and the procession, and follow the characters in and out of houses and encounters, and finally in a big fight and chase sequence. That sequence is stunning filmmaking. I was gobsmacked by it.
I was fascinated by just about everything in this film. The food. The depiction of Christianity in the town, as most characters are Christian, and the festivals. Even the pork business the gang was in was fascinating, with the open butcher stalls and all. This film reminded me in some ways of the gritty Kammatti Paadam, but that film and its Dalit characters are all viewed through the perspective of the middle class Dulquer Salmaan. This film was all about working class people and their lives in a way that I don’t really think I’ve seen in Malayalam films. Most of the films I’ve seen, the recent ones at least, have been about middle class people.
I was really impressed that all these newcomers to film acted so well, even the child actors. Antony Varghese is quite the looker, and I thought he did a great job. Reshma Rajan as Lichi had sass and spunk, and I’d love to see her in another bigger role. Going in, I kind of dreaded that I wouldn’t know a single actor in the film, but it served the story better that all the faces were fresh. It made the drama more real feeling and visceral. I am so excited that director Lijo Jose Pelissery has some older films for me to watch. I will be seeking them out pronto. Pelissery is such a talent. He is one of the greats already. This film is groundbreaking, and is garnering praise from everyone. Anurag Kushyap tweeted that this is this is his film of the year so far.
I need to see this film again. I’ll likely buy the DVD, because I have to see that ending tracking shot again, at the very least. It was amazing. I am so glad Margaret invited me to see this film! Here’s her rave review.
What spurs me to drive 40 minutes to the only theater in Chicago that shows Malayalam films? – a new Dulquer Salmaan movie! A woman stopped me as I walked out of the theater, “Do you like Malayalam films?” I told her of course and that I’m a big Dulquer fan. She was incredulous and asked me if I understand Malayalam. Not a word, I replied.
The trailer for Jomonte Suvisheshangal [Jomon’s Gospels], as with many Malayalam films, doesn’t tell you much about the film.
Like me, they probably assume that viewers don’t need to know much more than Dulquer looks good in a film very different in tone from Kaliand Kammatti Paadaam. Jomonte Suvisheshangal, a film you can safely bring the entire family to see, was also probably a refreshing change of pace for Dulquer from the intense acting in 2016’s Kali and Kammatti Paadaam.
With bad news coming at us in America like a fire hose, it was just what I needed to go see a sweet family film starring Dulquer. He’s getting a bit old to play the spoiled young man, it felt like a bit in the first half. Just in looks though. He acted it perfectly. Dulquer was very much a mazik in the first half. That’s a Yiddish word for someone mischievous, especially a young person. He constantly got into trouble, but would just kiss his father after being scolded, “You still love me!”
A perfect example is in the clip below. He badgers his father, Mukesh, for a motorcycle, “Petrol is so expensive!” and his father relents saying that he won’t give him cash, just have the shop send him the bill. Then he rolls up in the most expensive bike possible, costing 18 lakh.
No one in the family feel they can count on the irresponsible spoiled Jomon. He misses his sister’s wedding, can’t seem to pass his MBA exam, and spends his days running errands for the family. His father tries to get Dulquer involved in one family business after another, the most hilarious his stint supervising their bus fleet, enjoying all the female attention he gets.
Not much happens in the first half except a flirtatious romance with a rich girl, played by Anupama Parameswaran of the Premam films fame. That gives us the one non-montage song sequence in the film. The machinations of Dulquer’s family to get him attached to this rich girl I found quite amusing. Innocent plays Dulquer’s uncle who relishes matchmaking to try to unite with this wealthy family.
(On a petty note, I don’t think that super skinny jeans style is flattering on Dulquer!)
And then, right before the interval, everything in the family comes crashing down. Mukesh has taken a bet on a business expansion, putting even the family home and cars in a money lender’s name. While the rest of the family just heaps scorn on the family patriarch, Mukesh, Dulquer is the one to take him in the middle of the night away from it all to safety.
I have not yet seen what Margaret told me is Nivin’s very similar son-coming-of-age film, Jacobinte Swargarajyam. This film is very much a story of the relationship of a son and his father. I don’t think I’ve seen the actor Mukesh in another film yet, and I really thought he was fantastic. He has some very emotional moments as he goes from powerful businessman, to a crushed man who tries to help his son by making him a tiffin lunch. Both Dulquer and Mukesh are terrific actors, and were very believable as loving father and son, each hiding painful truths from the other. In the second half, Dulquer has to really grow up and become the man of the family. He is betrayed by a close friend and learns how to succeed through hard work and moxie.
Unlike the superficial romance in the first half, he gradually comes to get to know a prickly young Tamil woman, Aishwarya Rajesh, from his job selling textiles. She doesn’t have time for his slick ways, but he gradually wins her over, daring her to smile. “God wants us to smile at least once a day.” This is one of his many pronouncements. Her boss puts her in a tight spot keeping a rich French client happy, and she turns to Dulquer in desperation. Like Dulquer, she lives alone with her father. I wish their romance had been fleshed out a bit more, but what was there was very nice to watch. I wasn’t completely happy with the ending to their story, which involved a prank on Dulquer’s father, Mukesh.
Does Dulquer learn the value of hard work and create a company out of nothing with his friends and win the big client? Does he reunite his father with the rest of the family after proving just how responsible he can be? What do you think? While the story can be predictable, I found the journey a welcome time pass, especially with the warm father-son relationship portrayed by Dulquer and Mukesh. I was also fascinated at an inside look at the textile industry in India!
Margaret and I saw this film together, and her review has a very interesting take on Dulquer’s character’s expressions of love contrasting with the rest of the family’s obsession with commerce and money.
I’ll be honest that I’ve been dreading OK Jaanu [OK Darling] because I love OK Kanmani so very much. I went to an A. R. Rahman concert in Chicago and I heard the song Mental Manadhil for the first time, and I was completely blown away. Rahman played this video while he sang the song, and I just had to see this movie.
OK Kanmani is a Mani Ratnam Tamil movie about two young people who are working in Mumbai, and thrilled to find another Tamil speaker. I didn’t know at the time that Dulquer Salmaan is actually from Kerala and known for his Malayalam films.
I’ve become like all those people in South India — the Southern original is so much better! There is an undeniable magic to the Mani Ratnam Tamil original. The chemistry between Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen is amazing. And it’s one of my all time favorite A. R. Rahman soundtracks. I listen to it all the time. O Khadal Kanmani is the movie that started me on my journey of watching Malayalam films, because I just had to see what other films Dulquer and Nithya had done, which led me to Bangalore Days and on and on. It all started with the Tamil OK Kanmani, which I have watched multiple times.
So, I had trepidation about OK Jaanu. I like Aditya Roy Kapur okay, and Shraddha Kapoor. I saw Aashiqui 2, and they do have decent chemistry together. Then the Humma song came out, and I got excited. The song from this scene in the original movie is cute, but one of the weakest of the Tamil soundtrack. This is waaay sexier.
Then, something happened a week ago. My father became very seriously ill and he has been in ICU at the hospital for this entire past week. It’s been incredibly stressful, but he seems to have come out of the crisis. I’ve been exhausted and spending all my time at hospital with my parents. When I’ve had a moment to wind down, I’ve turned to Bollywood song videos as my sort of comfort food. And tonight, I decided I deserved a break, and went with a neighbor to OK Jaanu. It was just what the doctor ordered. It took me away from all my cares and worries for a few hours.
I think this is the best movie I have seen Aditya Roy Kapoor do. He was truly adorable. Because I know Dulquer’s performance in the original so well, I could tell when he was even trying to match Dulquer’s mannerisms, but he made it his own. Shraddha is no sparkling Nithya but she was good enough. Aditya was good in Aashiqui 2 and, not horrible in Fitoor (that movie had other problems), but I like him so much better quirky and cute like this than brooding and angry. I’m also one of the few people who liked most of Daawat-e-Ishq. (Not Aditya’s best look, but I still love this title song!)
The plot of OK Jaanu is basically identical to the original. Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) is a young video game designer who has just arrived in Mumbai, and is staying in a room of the house of his brother’s former boss (Nasureedin Shah). Nasureedin’s wife has Althzeimer’s. Adi meets Tara and a torrid romance begins, but they both vow they never want to marry. He’s determined to move to the US, and she wants to study architecture in Paris. They convince Adi’s landlord to let them live in sin together in his room. All comes to a head when they both have to leave to follow their careers — will they choose love or their career? It does have a fantastic message that a girl shouldn’t have to give up her career for marriage — her career is just as important.
Some of what made the original special is lost in the Hindi translation. Part of what drew Adi and Tara together was that they were two Tamil speakers alone in the big city of Mumbai. That plot point is gone. Naseeruddin Shah is of course his excellent self, but I so adored the big hulking Prakash Raj, who so often plays the big villain, being the tender devoted husband to his ailing wife in the Tamil OK Kanmani. The sets are certainly bigger and more expensive looking.
One thing that is a welcome addition are the new songs. Enna Sona, sung by Arjit Singh is gorgeous, and the film turns black and white during this sequence as Adi is missing Tara while she’s away on a work trip.
My neighbor thought OK Jaanu was better than the original. But she doesn’t really speak Tamil (her husband does) and watched it without subtitles. She said Dulquer Salmaan’s accent was so thick she couldn’t understand him. The original will remain one of my favorite films, and if you live in the US, I urge you to watch it on Netflix. But, the Hindi remake is quite enjoyable. It’s partly my frame of mind with all I’ve been going through but, this movie allowed me to forget my troubles for a few hours. Thank God for Indian Cinema and that it is there whenever I need it. I told my husband what a comfort it is to me in times like this. I think I’m being more generous than some other reviewers may be, so sue me. It’s no hardship to watch Adiya being this adorable for a couple hours!