1: Nenokkadine Review with Alisa the Bollywood Newbie

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.

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

 

3. Brochevarevarura 

 

2. Evaru starring Adivi Sesh and Regina Cassandra.

 

1. JERSEY starring Nani and Shraddha Srinath

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.

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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:

 

Nadigaiyar_Thilagam_Stills__7__0Dulquer 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.

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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.

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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.

Attarintiki Daredi Movie Review – My First Pawan Kalyan film

 

attarintiki BPbb-18CQAEhRba_jpg large(15)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 NadhiyaBoman Irani and Brahmanandam in supporting roles.

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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.

attarintiki emotional sceneNadhiya 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.)

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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.

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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.

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Spyder Review – AR Murugadoss scripts a fun thriller for Mahesh Babu (Some Spoilers)

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)

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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:

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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?

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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

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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!

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mahesh Babu SPYDER full trailer released!

 

Still no subtitles, but Kartik tells me Mahesh is playing the equivalent of an FBI analyst.  The romance track looks so cute!  That boulder shot down the street — THAT I was not expecting.  Hmmm.  I’ll be there first day, first show to see what it’s all about.

Arjun Reddy – An Amazing Telugu Film

Arjun-Reddy-1Many of my commenters on my Pardesi Youtube channel encouraged me to do a trailer reaction for Arjun Reddy, and then the drumbeat started, “When are you going to review Arjun Reddy?  It’s a sensation here!”

I am SO glad these people let me know about this film.  I’m not sure I would have gone to see it in the theater otherwise, and I’ve now seen it twice in one week.  It’s that amazing.

This video review is spoiler free.  I recorded it right after I came out of the screening.

 

I was gobsmacked by the film.  It is unlike any other Telugu film I’ve ever seen.  This is no Masala film.  It is raw and real, both in the story and the dialogues.  It’s a debut director Sandeep Reddy Vanga, and was made on a shoestring budget.   It’s more like an indie film in many ways, and it is a sensation.

There is an intense romance between two medical students played by Vijay Deverakonda and Shalini.  I have never seen a romance with a seduction by pulling the girl out of anatomy class to draw the muscles and bones on her hand.

arjunreddy250717_002Because they are of different castes, here family is adamantly against them.  And then the film becomes very much like a modern Devdas, but it goes places I wasn’t expecting.

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Arjun is a complete hot head, and it’s a cautionary tale on how because he cannot control his rage, he loses everything in his life.

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The actor, Vijay Deverakonda is amazing in the role.  He was willing to show himself wetting his pants during an overdose, something I can’t imagine pretty much any other Indian actor doing (well, maybe Rajkummar or Nawaz).

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The film has intense romantic kissing just as a matter of course.  The freakin’ poster is the kiss.  A politician ripped the poster off buses, and Vijay at the press conference said, “Granpa, chill.”  There’s a real attitude around the film.  It’s not trying to be a film festival art film.  It’s out there, and proud about it.

This is a five star film for me.  It’s that good. It felt realistic in the way that Malayalam films often do.  I felt like the characters were real people and I was seeing inside their lives.  I love a film like Mirchi, too, but there are no machetes or goondas or Masala elements in Arjun Reddy.  Arjun Reddy is intense about his calling as a doctor, about his romance and his friendships.

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Rahul Ramakrishna, who plays Arjun’s best friend, was my favorite secondary character of the film.  He gets some of the best comedic lines, too.  He says at one point something like “People don’t understand what it’s like to be your friend.  It’s like I’m pissing all over myself and only I can enjoy the warmth.”  Amazing!

This is a film that is going to stay with me.  I cannot recommend enough that you try to see this film in the theater with a crowd.  I know I wasn’t getting all the wordplay, but people around me were laughing a lot at the dialogues.

Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw the film together my second time, and then we had an on camera spoiler filled discussion.  ONLY if you’ve seen the film already, should you watch this video.  Seriously, watch the film first, so you experience for yourself.

 

Margaret has on her blog a spoiler free review here, and a spoiler review here.

 

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Movie Review – Rana and Kajal in Nene Raju Nene Mantri

 

After the horrible events in Charlottesville on Saturday, on the spur of the moment, I went to a packed late show of Nene Raju Nene Mantri (I am the King, I am the Minister.)  Whoo boy, it was not an escape from violent politics.

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I did like the film, but the ending, not just the very last moments, but the last ten minutes or so were very much wtf plot turns.  I left shell shocked and so did the audience.  I had to approach some women in the lobby to talk about their reaction to the ending.  I went by myself, and it was one of those kinds of films where you just have to talk to someone and say — what about that ending??  What did YOU think??  So please, if you’ve seen the film, please leave a comment and tell me what your takeaway was from that ending.

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It was just delightful to see the chemistry between Rana and Kajal.  This is a tour de force film for Rana Daggubati, but Kajal gets to show depths of acting that I have not seen in her other roles, especially in the melodramatic scenes.  Rana starts the film very sweet – he’s a money lender, but a soft hearted one who helps poor farmers, not the kind who bashes heads to demand payment.

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We don’t see the romance of Kajal and Rana, but do see a flashback of them as childhood sweethearts.  The film shows them as an established happily married couple.  Jogendra (Rana) is obsessed with keeping his Radha (Kajal) happy.  When a tragedy befalls them, then he is hell-bent on revenge.  He sees a path through politics to gain the power he needs to rain down justice.  But then the power corrupts him as he climbs up the political ladder.  Nothing and no one can stand in his way.  He says it is from the love of his wife, but she points out that that is not really true.

Frankly, Jogendra becomes a monster.  I felt like it was an abrupt change of his personality when the tragedy happens, but the descent thereafter was somewhat believable as the power corrupts him more and more.  The last 10 minutes though.  Yowza.  I’ll leave this spoiler free, but again, please comment if you saw it!!

It was a worthy film to see, and Rana gave a great performance showing a range that he wasn’t able to fully show in the Baahubali films.  The people in the packed theater were there to see him, and I’m looking forward to see where he goes next in his career.  While the director Teja, tried to give a critical look at a corrupt political system, where he took it left me rather stunned as he showed crowds sympathizing with the extremes of Jogendra’s acts.

What was also fun for me was now that I’ve seen more Telugu films that just about every character actor in the industry had at least a small part in the film.  There was a lot of “Hey, it’s that guy!” for me.

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Ninnu Kori – Wonderful Chemistry between Nani and Niveda Thomas

I went to see this Telugu film, Ninnu Kori (Wanting You) with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood, going in knowing nothing.  Margaret had heard it was a good Rom Com, so I took a chance.  It was a delightful Telugu Rom Com with great chemistry between the leads Nani and Niveda Thomas.  Go here to read Margaret’s review.

 

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It was driving me crazy where I had seen Nani before — and at the interval I asked Margaret, and she reminded me Nani was the the hero in Eega!

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The first half is fantastic and I loved the meet cute between Nani and Niveda.  Nani’s dancing is also terrific.  Character actor Murli Sharma who normally plays cops, is Niveda’s stern father, and it was great to see him in a comedy role like this.  The initial conflict in Niveda and Nani’s relationship is quite believable.

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The love triangle with Aadhi is where I started to have issues.  Maybe it’s just my American sensibilities, but the first half was SO great, that the resolution of the film was a let down.  I felt like the screen writers were forced to tell a more traditional story ending, and they didn’t sell it to me as Niveda’s HEA.

Still, I really enjoyed seeing Nani and Niveda on screen together, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more films from both of them.

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