Familiar and yet charming-Soggade Chinni Nayana


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Soggade Chinni Nayana is a film whose sensibilities you can unabashedly call Indian at heart. You see the smell of the humour, a delicious regional spin to it, supernatural elements surrounding temples, souls, handpicked from many tales we all grew up hearing and witnessing; the mix expectedly strikes an instant chord. And to top it, this package is firmly lead by an actor, Nagarjuna, who’s increasingly getting less-conscious of his presence and yet surer of his choices. That’s why, you see the humour, action, subtle horror blending like wildfire. All the lush green farms, the motu sarasam, the banana leaves in this rural backdrop greet you to a meal that you’re not yet ready to outgrow.

There’s a lot of ANR-inspiration that the lead actor has quoted recently for this role of Bangarraju, but his self-made panache does the trick here. You don’t find sequences where he’s trying to play beyond his belt, knowing where to go overboard, act coyish, and coming to his own to connect the emotional strings. He invariably plays true to his on-screen casanova image, his flirtatious doings with multiple actresses bearing naughtiness every now and then ensure a heartfelt grin.

On the making front, the film reiterates how strong storytelling more often than not makes up for an okayish story. Here, if you need a one-liner, it’s about a man’s soul making an earthly return to solve an issue. There comes the supernatural side of it, a socio fantasy turn, a yama, a hell-like setting, a muhurtam of a sivaratri, the film is well aware of its limits and the crowd it wants to target. There are parts you would call tentatively slow, old fashioned. But, contemporary relevance is never what debutant maker Kalyan Krishna’s aims at.The film’s twists are still preserved for the right places, some for the first hour, the intermission and the last hour too. However, Soggade relies more on the beauty of the little moments, especially in the Ramyakrishna-Nagarjuna thread, where the romance is pure, organic and chirpy.

The aftertaste of the film lies in your apetite to tolerate the toast it gives to Nagarjuna’s ‘oh-I-am-a-dream-boy’ image. Well, he is deserving of it, but the makers keep pushing it more and more. He makes the girls do a cat walk, works out a mehndi design for them and has a baggage of one-liners to make them fall for him. It’s nice to see the confidence with which a 54-year-old enacts these parts.

That’s where too, the film gets into a shell of its own, only to thankfully emerge out of it later. You’d have wished for the film to end better for all the efforts put in. Although the male lead seems to be walking away with the honours at the end of the day, Soggade shows our need to celebrate Ramyakrishna’s presence more, be it for the every ounce of glamour she showcases or that bit of intensity and sincerity in the climax. Lavanya Tripathi definitely looks more assured after Bhale Bhale, the other girls Hamsa Nandini and Anasuya too add up to the feminine charm of the movie. Brahmanandam’s part comes with a reason, but the lead actors do the humour bit better. It suddenly feels fresh to see a full-on village drama with sparkling dialogues, peppy music, bullock-carts and the rangolis. This festive trip is a timely shift from the urbane.

Rating: ***.5

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Cross-border humour – Welcome 2 Karachi Review


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The core of Welcome 2 Karachi is a solid heist thriller, delving uncannily into international conspiracies, cross-border terrorism, intelligence teams, country-specific embassies and the navy. It’s the attempt to sell it as a low-key dark-comedy that makes things interesting. However, the writing isn’t as witty from what we saw in a Tere Bin Laden. There’s a difference in using one’s resources sparingly and rather, bringing it to play almost every frame, just because they have the wile.

The narrative of the film makes us feel as if everything’s so casual and easy. Understandably, it’s staged in an escapist fashion and with two characters played by Arshad Warsi and Jacky Bhagnani, there’s an unintended accomplishment. The film too, on that front, never over-estimates its intelligence and is moderately successful in what it wants to put across.

Welcome 2 Karachi hardly ever elevates its protagonists. They consistently feel weak, are wacky in their own ways and end up doing something so outrageous that they smile at their luck for once and wince for their ill-fortune, the other instant. As two Indians caught up in Pakistan, their intentions are simple. They want to go back home. The tone of the humour in pursuit of the same is surprisingly consistent, but the makers end up being under-achievers.

The contexts they pick up are fragile. There’s an occasional laugh, when Kedar, in an attempt to match up to his Urdu-speaking counterpart, references a Prithviraj Kapoor dialogue from Mughal-E-Azam. The result is alright, but we always begin wondering if another in place of a Jacky Bhagnani could have brought more fire into his eyes in such moments.

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Meanwhile, in another instance, Shammi, accidentally dresses up like a doctor and when he’s asked to perform a delivery, he blows up a vacuum cleaner. When he’s asked on how did he pull it off, he thanks Raju Hirani’s apparent stroke of genius in 3 Idiots. They later try stealing a pizza and end up at a don’s house. A country is named synonymous to violence. There’s a shootout at the embassy. If it’s an India-Pakistan conflict, we’re obviously talking cricket and this gives us the most hilarious moment of the film, where one of the two Indian-nationals, in a fit of rage, is oblivious to his living in Pakistan and shudders in a series of abuses.

Then, there’s a yawny ‘faqr’ joke coming in and pronounce it with the needed gaps, you’ll know what we are talking about. Later, when the two get names such as ‘Ittefaq’ and ‘Watdefaq’, we realise it’s a dangerous territory that the makers are stepping in. Amidst all this, there are a series of American conspiracies, nearly mirroring reality, such as the one taking the credit of killing an international terrorist. There’s a mention of Gujarat, to highlight a similar issue. However, in some moments, the makers do look at the wider picture. When the two are mistaken of crossing the border, we see Shammi uttering, ‘Borders chote hai par differences bade’ and following it up with ‘Kameene dono deshon mein hote hai.’ in a Punjabi Dhaba that they only realise later, is in Pakistan.

The problem though is the ambiguity surrounding the takeaways from this. There are loose statements and universal adages at the same time. Luckily for the film’s favour, the better messages are pumped into the climax. The best of humour is packaged here too, especially with the characters getting past the customs authorities. These would have more fluid with better actors and a director, surer of his craft. The comedy appeals at places, especially the underplaying nature of it, but it’s just on the surface-level. Some more seriousness, better dialogue and we would have stared at a laugh riot with a purpose. At least, we come out half-happy of the storyteller’s intention to put formulae aside and drive some proper thought.

‘Returns’ with a scream – Tanu Weds Manu Returns Review


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In this sequel to Tanu Weds Manu, Anand LRai glimpses into the uncertainties of a character like that of Geet in Jab We Met. It’s getting into the crux of the unexplored shades of her from the earlier version. As a result, there’s more detailing into the sub-texts and the reasons behind her peppiness, inconsistencies in decision making and the thoughtless, free-minded wordings.

Interestingly, the film takes off in a mental asylum. This now more or less resembles the personality traits of what we imagine from an on-screen Kangana Ranaut, especially after Queen, in the way she brings her body language and uses that recklessness to her advantage.

The director displays some infectious form here to accomplish wonderful control over the situational comedy, emotion and sarcasm that the purposelessness of the plot doesn’t quite haunt. He’s a conventional filmmaker in the sense of building an atmosphere. Tanu Weds Manu Returns continues from where it left in the earlier part and the tone, for starters is consistent.

In a scene after which Tanu returns to India, she hugs a rickshaw-wala, calls him a friend, barely covers herself with a towel and breaks a prospective marriage in her house. The very audacity in her part is retained.

The comedy of errors begins with the introduction of her modest look-alike Kusum, an ambitious athlete, whose roots lie in the rurals of Haryana, studying under a sports quota in the heart of Delhi.

The conflict between Tanu and Kusum pans out well in the latter half. It’s hardly a matter of a few minutes that they converse, but the message is delivered with such a chill in the throat, shattering all the ego that’s left in the otherwise urban-centric Tanu.

The film in this phase surprisingly makes time for some progressive preachings. Rajesh Sharma, playing an uncle of Kusum, in a terrific emotional outburst, talks about the differences between the rural and the urban of the country, the freedom ought to be given to a woman in terms of career, home, marriage and the need for shedding caste, religion barriers and at last, female foeticide too.

Another character in the film goes for a test-tube baby under immense pressure from her family, while not opening up on the fact that her husband is impotent. This is done in an appreciable low-key fashion and there’s no hullabaloo.

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Tanu Weds Manu Returns has sparkling writing going in its favour. But, the flavour isn’t bound together as a film with finesse. The plot hardly settles down, meanders everywhere and comes down to a old-worldly ending. Make no mistake though, there are excellent individual doings such as the ‘Dekho Kabutar’, the tenant advocate flirting with Tanu and threatening a case with false charges besides the skirmishes of an in-form Jimmy Shergill.

The film only moves around a vicious circle of characters, mostly the ones retained from the previous part and some new. The fact that aroma still remains fresh and equally colourful is an achievement in itself. Deepak Dobriyal and Zeeshan turn out to be wonderful complements to Kangana’s energy.

With Madhavan, he is here to compensate for the underplaying-needs of the story, considering the flickering intentions of the other diverse characters. The film’s first hour is a breeze, whereas it’s the second one that struggles with character transformations. With the Kangana look-alikes, it’s suggestive of what Ashutosh Gowariker tried to tell in a What’s Your Raashee? you try to identify your beloved from the people you see.

There’s humour but a lot of drama to script an ending. This particularly gets tougher to digest despite an energetic and a situational background score, especially after seeing the spirit of Tanu’s character sketch till then. Even then Tanu Weds Manu Returns, for all its promise is one of the better sequels, we may see for a long time.

A pale shadow of his past – 365 Days Review


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It’s apparent that Ramgopal Verma is continuing to make films as a resource for easy money and not by any stretch, for creative satisfaction. His latest offering 365 Days is expectedly another stint with his favourite muse, sex. The premise of love-turning-sour-after-marriage is imposed on a viewer.

The maker, in a 110 minute narrative, revokes the same message in varying forms, reinstating the existence of marriage as a societal trap and convincing it as a means to satisfy sexual desire. He indulges in a lot of personal commentary enroute to the same, with his voice over and a  background score that hints of a mystery thriller on the cards than a drama.

The mundane side of it being a pain is the major part of the essence, he wants us to take back; ranging from basic family chores to handling the suspicion and the lack of excitement post rosy romances.

The wife in a situation catches her husband watching porn. The man doesn’t remember her birthday at once. The prospect of watching each other everyday hurts. While he’s staring at a window when the two are in a restaurant, she asks if watching a traffic jam is more interesting than her presence.

It’s not as if these aren’t pertinent issues but Verma is way too lazy to explore any of it to good detail. The snapshot-like-plot, to add, shot like an adult television soap has an unlikely happy ending, more for the U/A tag it has managed to elicit from the certifying authorities, when they were probably were caught up having a nap.

There’s a certain recklessness with which the film is shot. It lacks focus and adds sub-plots only for a namesake necessity. The boss is clear-headed of marriage being a ‘moju’. The friend suggests that they need to adjust. The couple feels they’re too strong-headed to stay together and compromise for long. All of it is just reversed with a convenient climax.

On another day, when the maker hits form, the plot may well not be a bad idea to get back to, given the fetish with which he has explored dark relationships in the past. But for the rock-bottom scale he has stooped down to, now, this better be avoided. No, thanks.

Only deceives your expectations – Mosagallaku Mosagadu Review


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These are times when actors apparently consider the needs of the movie-watching audience more seriously than needed. It’s a near telepathy they practice, but one that hardly works. This is a surprising situation, considering actors such as Sudheer Babu, barely five-film old, who are yet to really find their homeground and trying to be such potential-star materials. What’s the hurry here? At a time, when there’s no burden of carrying an image across and pleasing audiences in terms of categories, why can’t it be an advantage to dabble in something that’s non-generic? Even if Nelluri Bose’s Mosagallaku Mosagadu isn’t a cringing experience overall, there are too many liberties taken to tap the star in him, restlessly screaming for screen-space.

The film initially gives you enough hints that it’s the makers of Swamy Ra Ra trying their hand at a similar product placed in a different context. There’s a 12th-century heavenly idol of great worth and a bunch of goons targeting it. On the other hand, some light is thrown on the yesteryear film with the same name too. The lead character’s name here is Krishna. When he masquerades as a cop in his introductory sequence and says ‘Poliiiiis’ with an apparent tone, he suggests that’s an influence of his ‘Baava’ (suggesting Mahesh Babu), when asked by a friend.

The problem with the film is the scale at which it tries to mount its intentions. It almost makes a self-mockery of the happenings in an attempt to induce slapstick comedy, which otherwise could have been a smart-con drama, at least on the lines of Dongaata that released the other week.

But soon, you realise Bose is better at inducing the ‘masala’ doings into the script than the wit of a caper. He brings in a series of enjoyable instances, especially the ones involving JP and his assistant as the former doesn’t overdo his accent this time around. Saptagiri, trying to be a poor-man’s Santhanam here provides a good bit of laughter too. For manufacturing more laughs, there’s gay-comedy as well and for once, its target-audience wasn’t quite understandable.

There’s an uninspired romantic track with actors who even struggle to blush themselves. The issue here again is the wannabe-star. A dream-sequence awaits him just when the film starts taking the right turns. It feels an opportunity being killed. Sadly for all the conning that happens, the film tries to paint a picture that it’s done for a bigger social purpose, something that Ravi Teja’s Kick too desperately tried to sell. The actor wants a show-reel, the director wants to package a bit of everything and the result is equally ambiguous. Maybe, the special appearance didn’t seem a bad trick at all. That felt being conned for once.

Not a cop, but a brand – Yentha Vaadu Gaani/Yennai Arindhaal Review


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In the midst of an argument Ajith has with one of the antagonists in Yentha Vaadu Gaani, the latter says, you’re a gentleman. It’s tough to disagree what most leading men in a Gautham Menon film are. They are brand ambassadors of dignity, purpose, passion, commitment and here, also of an ideal cop. Sathyadev is a much proclaimed extension to what we saw Venkatesh playing in a Gharshana, Kamal Hassan in a Raghavan. At heart, the film’s more an elaboration of the longing that he has with his beloved than his musings as an honest IPS officer.

It’s refreshing to see how the maker pushes the bar each time he’s dealing with a genre often plotted with stereotypes. Yentha Vaadu Gaani’s mainstream storyline isn’t its greatest strength. The character sketches lend the weight, the plot compromises on. But, the familiar template is its choice to reach out to the crowds. The larger good lies in its doses of realism it goes on to poster with A-listed actors, who in another film could’ve lost themselves in the star trappings.

Likewise, a father doesn’t tell his son, what career he needs to choose. He wants him to understand life on a deeper level, indulge in travel, meet newer people and work hard on his present. Later, his son nearly sets an example by readying himself to marry a  divorcee, a dancer, who has a child. He takes it a little further with his promise that he doesn’t want  kids with her anymore. He completes the arc as he passes these lessons to a daughter, with whom he grows old.

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For a change, the men in the film accept their age with grace. The women in the film are a wonderful blend of composure, class, the ones like Anushka Shetty inviting her male counterpart for a cup of coffee to bond over. Trisha is a Bharatanatyam dancer, who does so more to please herself, spread the art than earn a living. She’s a teacher who practices what she preaches. Her romance is aesthetic yes, but more importantly pure. When the man of her dreams in fact touches her for the first time, he confesses his intention to marry. This is idealistic more than real, but Gautham Menon firmly believes in this setting. His conviction in the little things like these, gives an autobiographical touch to the proceedings.

With this unintentional preaching, there’s still space for style, thanks to the lifelike yet the higher-class costume styling, the cinematography opening up on the under-explored territories of northern India and the modern Harris Jayraj score. Arun Vijay’s off-the-track casting as a baddie, more stylised than the lead actor lends a gentle reminder of the maker’s earlier negative characters known to deliver abuses with an aura surrounding themselves .

The fun in getting past this is a tad shortlived, with the formality-like, okayish dubbing. There’s a universality to the theme we appreciate, but with the sync-in-place lyrics and one-liners, the flow isn’t the best. The film stretches the very basic sub-plots more than necessity. The track with organ donation, female trafficking is a just a caricature, as the focus here is on the underplayed revenge and the good-versus-evil clash.

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On the whole, the film is a hits-package of Gautham Menon’s trademarks but the performances of Ajith and the child actress are the icing. They share the most organic moments that unfold on screen. The temptation to see what Sathyadev does next sustains in the end. This opens the door for a sequel. An aged lead character, a grown up daughter and a family, not bound by blood but love. Sounds good, isn’t it?

The fizzling amidst the topping – Bombay Velvet Review


For a director like Anurag Kashyap, so conscious of sustaining the dark-brooding-truth revealing kind of cinema, a wider canvas isn’t always the best of scenarios to accomplish his ideals. It’s a gentle reminder of how something like Satya can work for an RGV in spite of a low-scale mounting and why his lavish Daud, a high-budgeted dream with surreal foreign locations, the very-marketable Sanjay Dutt, Urmila and AR Rahman’s music can come a cropper too.

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In the aesthetically delicious Bombay Velvet, such an excuse of a film, there’s blissful scale and finesse in terms of the casting, where, on the visual and the aural fronts, you’re treated with such intricate cushioning of the period settings to the Jaata-Kahan-Hai Deewane backgrounds in the jazzy air of a Bombay Club.

At a point when a character expresses her singing interests to a cop, he asks to choose between a Asha and a Lata Mangeshkar, but she gives an expected Geeta Dutt as the answer. The experience feels an opera for a majority, where you look around to appreciate the architectural styling of the auditorium than what you actually get to see on the stage.

The film is narrated through the eyes of Johnny Balraj, played by Ranbir Kapoor, an apparent nobody, who lands in Mumbai with a motherly figure in his early years. Most of the characters here, as you expect in a film of this nature, are clouded by their personal mysteries. Everything’s actually in place for the film to explode.

There are fragile friendships, egos, betrayals, domestic troubles, drugs and brothels. On one front, you see the well-suited up higher class, whereas the under-nourished plot majorly explores the underbelly of a rather tender Bombay, still eyeing development and awaiting its uncrowned king. But, the craft here is so hidden,surface-y and given the sluggish pace at which it unfolds, the film never really wakes up from its self-inflicted shell.

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While Detective Byomkesh Bakshy fantasised about a solid Calcutta tourism deal, Bombay Velvet falls nothing short of a tribute to its home-city either and the occasional Portuguese influences in the pre-1971 Goa. Both the films nearly pitch themselves as thrillers with added nostalgia, but the results are hardly anywhere. They’re technically so very proficient and the content, just doesn’t match up to the aura, they create with the background scores, the indulgent cinematography and the actors they have, Sushant Singh Rajput, Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma.

The character-sketches are so Kashyp-ian in nature, but the plot isn’t distracting enough to label him an auteur. Khambata is villanous as he’s ready to set his wife up for a night with an officer, who’s interfering in his ways. A cabaret dancer, Rosie Noronha is torn between loyalty and love. She discusses about a dream-life and death with her partner. The name is more or less a contrast to what her future holds, not-so-rosy. The journalist smokes with a pipe, spending his nights at clubs, women and otherwise, with a typewriter. There are rich industrialists, some fair and some not-so. Most of them lack any possible personality.

Karan Johar’s part has hardly anything to it beyond the lines. The lead character in a confused Ranbir Kapoor is painfully selfish and inconsistent. The film has a tragic culmination where there’s no hope. For a major part, the viewer feels the same too.