The daughter being the mom – Piku Review


As days pass by, we’re witnessing makers not expressing any apprehensions about casting popular actors, the star-bracketed ones, in films that bear an interesting mix of commercial and art-house cinema, specifically targeting the higher middle-classes. Take for instance Gautham Menon’s delicious experiments with cliches and style, an Ayan Mukherjee dealing with quarter-life crisis, a Shakun Batra going for an open-ended narrative even in a cushy romantic film, a Zoya Akhtar making those dreamy-aired yet grounded films with A-grade stars. Shoojit Sarkar’s Piku, on those lines is nearly the best attempt in freeing itself from a conventional plot, letting the moments flow and yet not doing away with that unadulterated yet commercial humour hanging in the mid-air.

piku-1

Juhi Chaturvedi’s writing continues to be fresh, sans postered mentalities, rigid impositions. The ‘real’ here is her pickings from elements mostly considered unideal for cinematic space. Imagine constipation or sperm-donation being robbed in a central plot, say a decade ago? Just as she found ways to place her Vicky Donor female protagonist as a Bengali (which primarily is a Shoojit Sircar indulgence is my guess), she literally extends her part to bring in the place, the richly flavoured language to a story like a Habib Faisal. It’s not because of the ‘Maane’s, ‘Bolchish’s amidst their Hindi but the way, they live like Bengali’s in the heart of Delhi. The aroma feels metres away. We see the characters here, some consciously and some blissfully unaware of how rooted they are to their origins.

The uncomfortable discussions about Indian and Western toilets, the talks comparing motion and emotion, jet-sprays and buckets, between Irrfan and Amitabh evoke wonderful spontaenity, even though we’re cornered with thoughts that it’s a smart replacement of Annu Kapoor and Ayushman Khurana in a Vicky Donor, taking a different context.

piku-2

Amitabh Bacchan, playing Bhaskor Bannerjee, nearing 70, is how fathers in many households exist post retirement. They have an opinion on almost anything and everything that surrounds them, are unabashedly critical, don’t come to terms with contemporary lifestyles, over-concerned about health, sporadic about medicinal care and in real need of soul-hearing company.

A self-confessed intellectual Bhaskor here, has an interesting preference for something that’s basic and effective, homeopathy. He warns his daughter to not use a ventilator, if ever he has to be hospitalised. In a spur of the moment on his wife’s birthday, which he celebrates posthumously, he talks about the problems he had with her. “Do you need to be critical about her, even on this day ?” objects the daughter. He simply doesn’t want things to look sweet and here, he neither denies the love, he had and still has for her. He is that sort of a person, whom you realise, we’ll fight all along when he’s around and yet miss him in his absence.

Piku and Bhaskor share those moments on-screen that we otherwise, at least on paper would easily label mundane. They are not the two who embrace each other and say,’Love you papa’ or ‘Beti’ on a daily basis. They pass random statements about themselves, can’t stand each other sometimes, strong about their views and somewhere amidst all this, we see they care. She lets him booze an occasional evening, for it makes him happy despite his health troubles. She gives an after-thought about selling his mansion in Kolkata named after her grandma. He, on the other front, never pressurises her to marry and even takes a step ahead to say to people that his daughter’s no more a virgin. He overdoes everything. It’s only when Irrfan Khan, who plays the owner of a taxi service asks about how does she bear his misdoings, Deepika rather puts her love openly and says, “ After all, they’re parents. We can’t judge them.”

It’s an excellent, very Indian and even a rooted background score with use of the veena that takes us through their momentous journey. This resonates with the motif that Amitabh idolises in the film, as he tries to play the instrument in his old mansion in Kolkata. It’s not the kind of a city, we saw in a Kahaani or Byomkesh, but a better example like Parineeta. The frames are bound by a strong connect to their past. Piku ambles along with an ease like this. The ends still are well-connected. Deepika gets a better road-film than Finding Fanny and re-discovers herself. She’s beginning to master silence on-screen. We see her with purpose and an equal sense of freedom, the kind that we lastly saw in a Kangana in Queen. The men are no less, but let’s give it to the actress this time.

A search in vain- Dagdumutha Dandakor Review


dmdk-2

It’s the attitude with which you approach a film as a viewer that decides the way, you narrate it to the people you know. The world is what that rests in the mind. In the case of the makers of Dagudumutha Dandakor, presented by Krish, the Tamil-original Saivam only looks an 80’s styled drama comprising a shady bunch of scenes executed in a scenic village preaching about vegetarianism with some ‘cute’ moments.

The result is as good as the previous line. It’s not a little beautiful world anymore but a forced assemblage of cardboard pieces driven by commerce where the storytelling hardly strikes a chord.

Why do remakes often seem pale, especially when not executed by original storytellers, say a first-timer like R K Malineni here? At least, the most prominent of reasons we notice happen to be the little moments, which often build the foundation to a stirring couple of hours, unscrupulously making an exit for supposedly, the need of pace.

The reasons are rather convenient when a director justifies it in the mask of reaching out to a different audience-base. However, that’s only revealing one side of the story that Dagudumutha Dandakor, primarily narrated as a family-drama, turns a shoddy offering.

For the kind of a timeless backdrop that the film re-introduces to us, or at least tries to, we should have talked about it with some fondness. We happen to see joint families with their cattle, some settled heads, lush-green farms, natives bathing in the lakes and all the behind-the-scenes drama that go into yearly jataras.

These slice-of-the-life moments, blame it on the uni-dimensional cinematography at major junctures, don’t come together organically. They’re just in place with an attitude as a possible contrast to that of a child in the film when he says, “Oh dude! It’s a village where people are just dumbheads and don’t even understand wi-fi.”

At the very start of the film, we see a Rajendra Prasad, with an unlikely plastic coating to what he utters, elaborate on how the rurals are still the grass-roots of a nation. A few scenes ahead, a lizard happens to fall on an aarti-plate and a skirt nearly catches fire . A bad omen, they realise and their fetish for superstitions are introduced.

On the other hand, the metropolitans happen to be gadget fanatics, on the mobile while bathing, discussing office-tensions, market-losses with a dose of insults on ‘undeveloped’ villages. In either of the cases, it’s not an open-minded projection of mindsets. It’s more a drubbing session, undone majorly by an old-wordly musical score.

We witness similar drama, as the film ends. The tear-fest rolls on and we’re confused to take in the apparent suggestions. The attachment for pets? Doing away with dogmas? Selective love for species or remotely, vegetarianism?

dmdk-6

It’s only inviting more trouble to a switched-off tale so departed from the times, when it has an easily-staged ‘happy-ever-after’ ending. A couple seeking a child gets its wish nearly fulfilled, the boy who was earlier fretting about being called Sunny and not Sanyasi Raju speaks otherwise, an inter-familial marriage at the teenages is approved by elders and the rest, well, forget it.

If not for a sheer cinematic-free portrayal by an assured Sarah, Dagudumutha Dandakor, for a viewer would have been an equivalent of doing a set of gunjillu like her in the film, as a form of self-punishment.

The star and his muse – Uttama Villain Review


uv-1

What is the stuff that stars, or the lead actor we have here, are made out of? Uttama Villain, in this context, on a surface-level and even beyond comes across an indulgent meta-film that sub-consciously tries to re-assert those answers.

It’s just not the film we’re talking about anymore. It’s the fascination of many gifted kids in Kamal Hassan,the actor,the singer,the lyricist,the screen-writer and the producer that has him impressioning his presence so much on a product. This could have surely been easier to digest, if it wasn’t for its complexity-craving appeal in each of its frames.

The fact of an extremely appealing yet an abstract story giving him the necessary license to do so, is a smart excuse to distract us from his over-doings. It’s about how much we can take out of a single film that’s really desirous of a magnum-opus aroma with the intentional layering,drama and the longing for the medium.

The narrative in a way suggests about how a film with a star isn’t just the execution of the written-word onto the screen. Ramesh Aravind appears to be a assembler of a poster-boy tribute to the actor in the star. His position as a director seems doesn’t seem much big a name, given the credentials of his lead actor put to display here.

uv-3

The initial platform is actually flattering enough. A film star leading a mysterious life, not earning much respect or attention from his son and desperately needing re-invention with the times. He’s an entertainer for the crowds, earning the allegorical title, Manoranjan mentored by Margadarsi, the nearly autobiographical K Balachander.

The literature-rich name-play ahead grabs serious attention. The doctor is named Arpana (sacrifice). The wife, a generous Varalakshmi (the goddess of boons). The father-in-law,Poornachander (full-moon, also meaning the circle of life). We suspect any of this is connected to its eighth-century folk-lore sub-plot, but it isn’t.

The writer in Kamal is full of ambition, much like his recent attempts at intertwining genres with Manmadhan Ambu (soulful love and slapstick comedy), Vishwaroopam (docu-drama plot given a commercial coating) and Dasavatharam (science, mythology and romance). At once, we are even hinted of a minor Shivaite-Vaishnavite clash alike the latter.

The periodic setting, meanwhile isn’t integrated with the seamlessness we expect. The beautiful parallels, however make up for it. This very thread explains the liberty that art provides which life in actuality doesn’t. In this context, the idea is also to bring in a black-comedy like relief to a heart-wrenching drama, which however falls quite flat. Pooja Kumar in these portions like another frame in this phase suggests, appears a fish out of water. There’s hardly an attempt to bring in any aura or a presence.

uv-2

The hullaballo for the visuals is worthy of a note, despite its overkill. At a point, Manoranjan’s manager has to come out of darkness in a preview theatre and move towards the projector lights to read a letter. In another scene, where the relevance of a title, Uttama Villain, is probably justified, we see the use of a mirror as a fair indicator, rather the true face of an actor, a reflection of a man. This is further amplified when he removes grease-paint with water in coherence with another letter, speaking of how simple, the star, otherwise is. Then, there’s a literal ‘window’ of hope and red-blot on the face to portray his darker shades too. But, let’s leave it at that for now.

Andrea gets a dream-role for starters, but she makes a mess of it with her light-weight touches in something that needed a lot of depth. We feel Kamal’s yet again responsible for such a scenario such where he often toys with his muses in the cast and the crew. He’s nearly enroute to create something that’s so incredibly personal, stirring and soulful. But what he does? He primarily brings himself ahead of the script and next, over-trusts his resources. In the case of K Balachander, K Vishwanath, who make an excellent case of directors turning out to be such fine performers and Ghibran, the choices are right.

We hear nearly all the South-Indian languages including Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil. A Bangalorean setting is a smart one too. Theyyam, as a dance-form adds to the diversity, but wouldn’t Bharatanatyam or Kuchipudi have managed equal justice in relevance to the place? The references to immortality in films, or art in general is portrayed with a rare sincerity, especially with the Hiranya-Prahlada play to end it all.

Kamal Hassan gives it everything to the film, which he uses more as a toy to self-reference himself. Blame it on his indulgence for the essence not reaching out the way it should have, but we can’t discount that for laziness. The fact that we still see Uttama Villain as a commercial film that has space for the not-so-rosy sides in relationships, the secrets in a man’s life, as uncinematic as we can expect, speaks of its accomplishments. Some more air to breathe would’ve helped though.

Nearly catching up with the times- OK Kanmani Review


okk-a

There’s a sincere reason behind us labelling Mani Ratnam, a specific relationship expert, in spite of the maker touching upon eclectic genres over the years.

Consider films of his beyond those singular relationship threads or the specifically dramatic ones, say, Nayagan, Roja, Thiruda Thiruda or even Raavan, it’s the underplayed equations that do the trick. More than the gangsters, the darkness or the detailing surrounding it all, we shared a certain empathy for each of the flawed parts. That’s a reason we call them stories. The genre hardly matters. They were commercially enveloped works bound by crisp, universal emotions.

This very command over his preserved-trademark best is what sets O Kadhal Kanmani apart from similar comparisons like Love Aaj Kal and Salaam Namaste.

We go expecting something that’s emotionally drenching and there we peep into the world of a maker that’s reserved in its observances about the current crop. It’s a feather-light answer not pestering towards a conflict point, maybe as a statement to its major target audience, for whom excessive drama may not be the best of ways to portray slice-of-life moments.

For a while,we reminisce of a resurgent Gautham Menon in the frames, the latest and the best on the list to subscribe to Ratnam’s sensibilities, making up for the absence of the maker in the late 2000’s with the re-introduction of the metro-sexual male, the lady dressed in starched saris, ambitious about their careers but wanting an arm to embrace on the personal front. Here too, the couple is never in a hurry to give a name to their relationship. It might be ‘love’ for the public. They don’t want to define it. They want to live together. Why the heck should they be bothered if it’s a ‘live-in’ or any other cozy label ?

okk-b

It’s the higher-middle class sect that we’re dealing with. They don’t struggle for a living. Nearly clear about their academic/professional ambitions, we see the couple travelling in the local trains, double-decker buses,bikes and sharing intimate conversations in a coffee shop. The setting in Mumbai explains it with the British-styled architecture, the gaming arena and the pace of the lives. There’s a contrast to this proceedings in another of its subplots too. A little house away from the rush, a couple nearing their end but being full of commitment to keep their equation ticking despite the conflict.

Even if there’s an implicit connection to Alaipayuthey in terms of the mindsets of a confused couple, the film’s moments point more towards the Siddharth-Trisha thread in Aayutha Ezuthu besides the uncanny resemblances to Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal with the commitment ados. O Kadhal Kanmani’s speciality lies in the silences amidst the vibrance. We get enough space to digest what’s happening around us without being spoon-fed, neither with annoying voice-overs nor with the visuals.

After the two know each other enough in the Parandhu Sellava number, we’re symbollicaly shown they’re birds ready to fly. In accordance with the classical setting on display, we get to hear conversations about Bombay Sisters with a stirring background score by A R Rahman that packages enough of Endaro Mahanubhavulu, Bhavamulona and the Malargal Ketten track on the lines of M S Subbalaxmi’s Maitreem Bhajata.

Wait, there was something about Alzheimers that reminds us about Ajay Devgn’s U Me Aur Hum too. There’s so minimal detailing here unlike the former. It feels the disease is normal enough, something that can be done away with a stroke of love. We only get to hear ‘Stage 1’ and ‘Stage 2’ sans any bombardment of medical terminologies.

In spite of a proficiently dealt track of a career in the gaming arena, Mani Ratnam’s desperations to be a man of 2015 is all over-stuffed in a single film. He packages the narrative with the selfie-moments, the surprise parties with enough eyes on the gadget-addicted generation.

The re-assuring fact of the prominent filmmakers knowing that we needn’t elevate a gender nor even downplay either of them helps O Kadhal Kanmani. But still, we walk away with our eyes on Nithya Menen and even Leela Samson who literally master the little instances. The performances, even of Dulquer Salman, the stereotyped confused boy and Prakash Raj, the ever-ready character artiste are fresh, devoid of any baggage. Don’t burden yourself with the names here and expect a classic. We’re sure for a wonderful evening stroll in the park with maturity, energy and most importantly love.

Just there, almost- Dohchay Review


Dohchay-Stills-1-620x264

The actual test for a successful first-time director happens to be his second attempt. While they preserve their best inputs for the first, the next one has them close to developing a craft in their methods. This is where you try to see if they’re beyond a one-time wonder.

Sudheer Verma, the director of Dohchay, you are tempted to utter, is in a hangover with Swamy Ra Ra, but there’s none denying his ability to fine tune his style with content. It’s a crime comedy again in quest for a larger scale, with the budget and the actor at least. This combination with the content isn’t the best, but, you get a decent bargain.

There’s a wave of tributes as you tread past this. You occasionally hear a Kill-Bill themed ringtone. The film takes off with a Siva reference in a robber’s apartment. The RGV-worship gets more sincere in a matter of time. A mini rewind to Paresh Rawal in Kshana Kshanam strikes.

The lead actor’s birthday is up and a Swati Mutyapu Jhallulalo plays on a radio set. More than the cardboard-like plot in place, Dohchay is more interesting with many more little stretches such as these.

And to top it all, a Brahmanandam is on board for a saviour act. The Kill Bill Pandey in Race Gurram then becomes Tempting Star here. He’s aided by Saptagiri soon. They’re the ones bringing the formulaic touches.

Naga Chaitanya showcases more command over his demeanours than the inconsistent Oka Laila Kosam days. As you expect, the difference is a director, who’s more in control of his purpose. The narrative besides the occasional sparkles apart has a fluffy, cozy exterior.

Kriti Sanon, unlike her rather subtle beginnings, is a talkative do-nothing. She looks a fashion designer’s dream in terms of appearance and well, about the performance, you really know better. The industry, meanwhile, is heading towards an interesting phase of anti-stereotyping. The girl is the one to lit up a cigarette and it’s her man doing the chiding.

The reason that, you can consider Dohchay above a rather decent Bandipotu, is the consistent madness that the latter sorely missed. On the other front, isn’t it more comfortable seeing Chaitanya out-smarting the baddies than say, a more friendly appearing Allari Naresh? The music is trendier and the technique nearly helps accomplish the maker’s modest aims.

If the first hour is for the mortals chasing technique, filmmaking nostalgia, the other is for the ones high-five’ing at staple diets. The director’s show reel is the former and the latter is dedicated to the star, Naga Chaitanya. The viewer gets a good mix of both. If it’s a magnum-opus that you expect though, you’re at the wrong screen. Sudheer Verma, more of the auteur, has arrived into the scene.

A great son, A mediocre film- S/O Satyamurthy Review


Son-of-Satyamurthy-Stills-41-620x264

How do we look at Trivikram? A director who predominantly writes well or someone, who gradually is losing track of his true identity ? Prompted by Attarintiki Daredi’s success, Son Of Satyamurthy attempts to give the broken-family-ties template, a newer spin,a commercial toasting and not totally compromising on its star-vehicle aspirations either.

It’s a predictable result we have, celebrating its often epic-driven dialogue over the plot, the kind of lines coming from well-read, super-smart characters in films. Partly entertaining, partly purposeful, mostly straying, it’s best viewed as a better Allu Arjun-film than a weaker Trivikram-work.

With the title sounding enough like the Suriya-Gautham Menon film, Surya S/O Krishnan, the father of a protagonist too is a realtime hero here, whom the son totally respects and idolises. But unlike the former, this is no nostalgic tribute.

Given the fact it tries to please a larger league, Son Of Satyamurthy is more an idea of sustaining his legacies. In fact, we don’t mind connecting the doting figure to a Ramayya in an Yevade Subramanyam, the large-hearted owner of a firm, run more by humanly values despite debts regularly giving an evil glimpse.

Even if it’s a heartfelt premise that it rides on, the film lacks any direction. One moment, it’s the Brahmanandam slap-fest and the digs at Rajendra Prasad, the next, we see some muscles being flexed and in quick time, we are to supposedly warm up to the longing of Viraj Anand for his family.

The Tamil-speaking areas, that we’re shown gets it closer to the Chennai Express-scheme of things. Sathyaraj, the father is replaced by Upendra, the brother in his traditional dhoti with obvious violent strides in the part. The Super-Machi number comes just when we expect it to, alongside the baggage of tracks that Devi Sri Prasad would have composed when he was half-awake.

The dejavu of an Arjun fitting into the shoes of a Pawan Kalyan strikes consistently. Some retracting towards Attarintiki Daredi, he lets a girl elope. CHECK. He saves a family from disrepute. CHECK. He goes to an alien town to fight a bunch of goons. CHECK. The grandfather then is the father now. The patterns are all what we apparently have. May be, with a maker or a writer with lesser credentials, these references would have passed without much cribbing.

Occasionally, the better sides of the film have us looking at women in a nicer light. The female lead is a diabetic patient and the guy makes little fuss about it. An evil-Devaraj desperately denies to showcase his animalistic darker shades to his better-half, probably, the most appropriately cast Sneha .

All the drama has a near supernatural end. The Satan is perished with the help of nature. The stocks of Viraj are at an all-time high. He gets his girl with complete approval. There are handshakes, lengthy lines and the expected sorry’s. It rains and the son looks at the skies. And, Satyamurthy, what a son you have. But Trivikram, what film do we have ?

Ramblings of the past : 1 Nenokkadine Review


1-Nenokkadine

Aptly titled, 1: Nenokkadine is all about a single character who is in the quest of his identity. In a precarious situation where he asks a character, ‘Who am I?’, you understand the desperation of Gautham (Mahesh Babu) to find some necessary answers to questions that have been haunting him throughout his life.

Yes, though surprising, the Sukumar directed 1: Nenokkadine is loaded with a lot of emotion, in the guise of being a psychological thriller with relievably small doses of the usual commercial put-ons expected of a festive treat. With the producer’s trust on the story visible in each and every frame, the film turns out to be an extraordinary visual experience where traditional elements of a thriller aren’t compromised upon and logic does not take a backseat.

The storyteller uses the magic cube as a hidden metaphor to suggest his puzzle is waiting to be unlocked. The energy that captivates into the story within the first minutes also throws light on the electric atmosphere which is almost sustained on an entirety. When Gautham, the rockstar, takes the centrestage and shouts ‘Who are you?’ at his concert, you infectiously submit yourself to the surroundings.

Only when a mockery is made on his psyche by an over-curious stereotyped journalist in the form of Sameera (Kriti Sanon), in fact, a futile attempt to ease the intensity, 1: Nenokkadine rather seems a farce. The first half is dedicated to explore his mental crisis in elaborate detail, brought out to the fore with an matchless screen-presence of Mahesh Babu, who especially shines in the interval portions where he battles between imagination and reality, which surely isn’t the easiest of aspects to be depicted cinematically.

Considering that Sukumar has tried to strike a balance between his narration and ‘mass-pleasing’ moments here, the grip on the screenplay goes amiss for certain junctures. However, the alluring cinematography becomes another element where you crave for more of the water-scooter fights with the cheer and buzz of the Goan surroundings in addition to the gorgeously dressed characters creating an appeal to the senses like never before.

The achievement here is that, the story still remains the focus and the add-ons, the bonuses. Another aspect unlike his other outing has got to be the director’s return with a bang in the post-intermission phase where the incomplete details opened up in the earlier half begin to power the narrative.

There’s obviously the journey where the lead pair toys with the available clues. The twists start becoming more frequent. Though the entry and the typicality of Posani’s character is a distraction, the goof-up episode involving the trio to fool the police is a brilliantly conceived one though you need to admit that only the larger than life brilliance of characters could have made such an occurrence possible.

We get to see more of Mahesh Babu’s shades witnessed in an Athadu and a Businessman here. In a work that demands crisp dialogues at intense situations where character histrionics turn more significant than rhyming one-liners, he invests his career-best performance into this one. When he explains the dialogue of life not being a bed of roses to a mother-less child in a graveyard, his genuineness is uplifting.

Similarly, the incompleteness yet the commitment in his eyes to unveil his personal mysteries do a lot of good in making even foolish instances look believable. He runs, fights and argues, all with a firm purpose. And at last, when he accomplishes his aim too, there’s an element of fulfillment.However, one would have wished appropriate music tracks and their placement to supplement the stirring background score of Devi Sri Prasad.

It is an unconventional offering from a maker like Sukumar who thrived earlier on creating wacky characterisations, but yet manages to undermine those aspects here to extract the best out of his resources to make a neat thriller that doesn’t complicate itself too much.

Kriti Sanon has a decent start in a film that has enough importance for her, even if it doesn’t turn out to be an exact dream debut. Nasser, Posani and Kelly Dorjee are the only ones who get worthy screen-space excepting the leads and they shine. An appreciable effort to make a thriller, 1: Nenokkadine is a winner that manages to score even without buffoons and parodies. A welcome change!