My youngest son Ben is home for the summer from college. He agreed to watch an action movie with me, and of the films I described, he picked Shahrukh Khan’s Don. This was his first Shahrukh Khan film, although he has certainly walked through the room as I’ve watched, and rewatched SRK’s many films. Ben has only seen a handful of Indian films – the Babhubali films, Student of the Year and Dabangg 1 and 3.
Samantha Kannan joined me for a discussion about her new book, A New Journey, just released July 1, 2020. We also fangirl together over our love of Nivin Pauly playing Giri in one of my all time favorite films, Ohm Shanthi Oshaana.
Samantha’s book is a fictionalized account of the few months she spent teaching at a village school in Kerala, India. Samantha sent me an advance copy, and I found the book delightful. Due to COVID-19, my own trip to Kerala this fall has been delayed at least a year. This book was the closest thing to actually visiting. She vividly describes the hospitality of the people, the food and all her adventures. The principal of the school wrote the foreword for the book. Samantha has reasonably priced the book on Amazon in the US and in India.
We talked just before the book was published, and in its first days it became a best seller in travel books on Amazon!
I hope you enjoy our discussion of A New Journey and our favorite Ohm Shanthi Oshaana!
Gulabo Sitabo was one of the first Indian film releases straight to streaming services, skipping theaters due to COVID-19. With the cast of Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan, plus the behind the camera team of writer Juhi Chaturvedi & director Shoojit Sircar, my expectations were high. I was sorely disappointed in this film. The narrative was just not compelling enough to sustain for the length of the movie. Gulabo Sitabo is playing on Amazon Prime.
I really enjoyed Love Mocktail, a romantic Kannada film starring and directed by Krishna. A mocktail is a drink with a mix of juices — and this is a tale of the different loves of Krishna’s character. It’s available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. A sequel is already being discussed, which is what I said I wanted at the end of my video review.
Kandukondain Kandukondain (I Have Found It, I Have Found It) is one of my all time favorite Tamil films. This adaptation of Sense & Sensibility came out in 2000, and has an amazing cast: Ajith, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai, Mammootty and Abbas. The music by A. R. Rahman is just amazing. When I was listening to one of the songs, I thought, I just want to watch this whole movie again, and I invited Alisa to watch this film and discuss it with me. She loved it so much, that she watched it three times in one week! I also rewatched the 1995 Emma Thompson Ang Lee Sense & Sensibility so I would have that fresh in my mind for comparison. Alisa and I agreed that while the Emma Thompson film is held up as the gold standard adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, Kandukondain Kandukondain improves on it in several ways. I had such a good time discussing this wonderful film with Alisa Rivera (@BollywoodNewbie).
Ponmagal Vandhal is a new Tamil film starring Jyothika that was released directly on the OTT platform Amazon Prime Video. Rekhs provided the subtitles for this courtroom drama, but inexplicably Amazon altered them, adding random punctuation. It’s still great to have new content since movie theaters remain closed, and probably will be for some time. While Ponmagal Vandhal is flawed, Jyothika gives a wonderful performance. Definitely worth a watch!
I finally saw this classic Mohanlal film! OMG Shobana was AMAZING! She won a National Award for this film for good reason. I was intrigued to see Shobana and Suresh Gopi in a classic film after seeing their chemistry in Varane Avashyamund. The last 45 minutes of this psychological thriller were absolutely jaw dropping incredible.
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.
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.
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.