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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Ramblings of the past : Manam Review


manam-3Manam, a rarity you witness in films that has bigwigs, sticks to its tale and has the guts to travel beyond its cast-adoring formalities. It respects the story as much as the smaller details that you often tend to miss in such films, as minute as the hair style to the clothe-designs to the age-old car models. Most of them are designed to be messengers of destiny and they being a representation of the circle-of-life is targeted at that. As much as it is embedded with the reincarnation motif, the director has a taste for recreating the atmosphere to bring that very necessary supernatural connect and in fact underplaying the same.

There are occasional touches of slapstick comedy where Posani, Ali and Brahmanandam do their bits well. But, for every such aberration to the purist ambitions of Vikram Kumar, there is enough subtlety in the characterisations and the relationship sketches of the lead actors. The initial awkwardness where they don’t realise the connect beyond the times is artfully used to weave humour where the lines are coventionally happy-go-lucky in nature and the hidden undertones lying within them are only elaborated later.

The focus is on building a connect and is generally in tandem with the light-hearted tone that it sustains consistently. Manam never lets the philosophical references diminish its intentions of being an entertainer or a soul-warmer. That’s the biggest achievement in the sense of it never being over-serious about its theme and is instead satisfied in letting the characters drive the narrative sans possible melodrama.

The name-play with the three characters of Nagarjuna, ANR and Naga Chaithanya as comical as they sound help us enjoy their chemistry even more. Samantha’s screen-time for a film that might have gone gaga about its male characters is one of the biggest strengths of the film too. She plays the doll-like foolish girl that most of the contemporary filmmakers restrict her to but the spontaneous depth on display from the actress lends her part an adorable touch.

Shriya’s portions are strictly basic and just when you crave for more of her appearance after the flashback, she is unbelievably sidelined. The film since then is in a hurry to end on a high. The eye for details is suddenly lost and the happy ending tag gets the bulk of the attention. Building a near-perfect foundation with the first half, the focus drops in the latter. The positivity is retained but there’s a sense of incompletion.

However, the maker doesn’t stumble in switching between the times. As it is mostly a semi-periodical, Vikram Kumar only paints the 1920s and the 80s with a few basic elements and leaves it at that. He also doesn’t spoon-feed you with all the essences and is in no mood to give it a classical topping either. The character-sketches are extremely likeable. Be it Nagarjuna’s weakness for cars or Chaitanya’s for a bottle of beer, they are only in place to establish crucial links.

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The magic in the moment where Nagarjuna and Shriya see each other in a marriage is an example of how the little things can genuinely elevate a film. Manam has aplenty of that. The wholesome, developed and nurtured core extracts a wonderful act from Naga Chaitanya, who is probably the film’s biggest find as an actor apart from Nagarjuna’s bankable performance, even if you can’t blame yourself for being surprised with the presence of Akhil in the last frame.

Anoop Rubens compositions are very much in-tune with the film’s soul too. ANR’s swansong is a humble and an unadulterated tribute in times where stories are only manufactured and aren’t felt. Go watch this, the Akkinenis have packed their lunch well with enough variety and lots of love.

A subtle tribute to a humble legend………


ANR

 

Born in an era when the nation was cringing under the British rule, from a time where inland letters were the only medium for communication for a common man to a time where a facebook status and a twitter update raises a roar, he has seen it all. He is a person who has seen, learnt ,experienced life for almost 9 decades. If an act needed a difference between dramatics and melodramatics, there would be no better person than Akkineni Nageswara Rao for an apt description. Entering the film industry with no Godfather behind him, he had uplifted his penchant for art through a career that holds no bar with any. Today we see him celebrate his 87th birthday without much fanfare or ado at his residence complementing well with his undeniable guileless lifestyle.

         image       A passenger who was earning his living through a few plays, carrying his luggage while accommodating himself in a first class compartment was traced by Ghantasala Balaramiah, a reverred filmmaker of that juncture in Telugu cinema. The former was just planning to make a film titled Seeta Rama Jananam where he was hunting for suitable candidates who could enact the roles of Ram and Laxman. The passenger was once at shock when the former gave him a casual glance and asked him to play the lead in the same. The decision meant that he had to bid adieu to stage arts at once. A direction emerged all of a sudden in a diffused path for the passenger whom by now you would have guessed it to be ANR. As we know, rest is history.

           Acting, as legends say is more about reacting to the situation rather than enacting the character. The spontaneity neither can be trained nor taught. ANR is someone who believes that one must imprint his/her uniqueness in a role to ensure an emotional connect with the spectator. Becoming a darling of the masses through the adaptation of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel in Devadasu alongside Savithri, he built a career that forged in multiple genres as years progressed.  The actor’s acid test began when NTR stormed the scene with all the charisma surrounding him. He still stood firm to his ground and in fact understood his limitations and began picking roles that wouldn’t give a reason for an unbiased film lover to compare between the two. In fact both created parallel paths for themselves such that both needn’t had to overlap with each other in their own domain. However it remains a fact that no industry has ever seen a combination of  two contemporary stars act together such as these two. They had paired up in 15 films in diverse arenas which till date is a record for any industry.

          If it was the 1950’s dominated by mythology and folk lore tales such as Mayabazar, Missamma, Appu Chesi Pappu Koodu that enabled him a solid foundation, it’s definitely the 60’s that bound him with the family audiences more than ever. He invested all his fruits in setting up Annapurna Studios that was a principal move in making some of the most memorable films ever crafted in Telugu cinema. Films imagehowever commercial have a small token of responsibility in ensuring a social message. His films such as Sudigundalu, Maro Prapancham despite bombing at the box office earned him commendable respect from the audiences and the critics alike. The 1960’s marvelled him to deliver exquisite performances in works  such as Mooga Manasulu, Gundamma Katha, Doctor Chakravarthy and the classical Krishnarjuna Yuddham. Surviving the storms from many quarters, he had completed a magnificent couple of decades that he could be proud about.

        1970’s was a period of change. While Hindi films saw Amitabh Bachchan making his footsteps in the industry in that period, the Telugu industry witnessed the same phase through Sobhan Babu, Krishna and Chandramohan. So, it turned out to be a critical chapter in the careers of NTR and ANR. Both of them had developed their own fan bases with their films but they needed to prove their versatility yet again. ANR assessed his strengths smartly and proceeded with films that were populist yet socialistic in their narration. Dasara Bullodu, Prem Nagar, Andala Ramudu and Secretary were the ones that helped him polish his coveted status in his home industry. The consistency in his projects definitely wasn’t the same during this juncture as the actor had to consume a lot of time in experimenting with his choices leaving him with less commercial success on hand. The 1980’s began with a bang for the star with the likes of Premabhishekam turning out to be a massive commercial success. Megha Sandesam which narrated the melancholic life of a writer bagged 4 national awards ringing a note to the wagging tongues which had questioned ANR’s adaptability with the changing times. One must however confess, this was indeed the time where his feasibility as a solo star took a heavy beating. However, the actor tuned himself accordingly being a part of soul clinching efforts such as Sitharamaih Gari Manavaralu and Suthradharulu. On the whole he has acted with actresses such as Savitri, Krishnakumari,  Jayasudha, Sridevi, Anjali Devi, Bhanumathi, Jamuna, Shavukaru Janaki and acheived equal acclaim when paired with each of these powerhouse performers. From an L.V.Prasad to Bapu, A Dasari to K. Vishwanath, he’s worked with astute directors giving his career a diverse dimension in every phase. His next project will see him portray the role of Valmiki in Bapu’s magnum opus with Balakrishna and Nayanatara, Sri Rama Rajyam.

 image                  Besides his film journey, the actor can be considered lucky to have survived this long. In the early 70’s, the actor had to undergo an open heart surgery which left him only a few years to live. A medical miracle has seen him live with the same exuberance till date. It’s still a mystery to many laudable doctors to witness such an event. Probably life borrowed a thing or two from his ventures and injected them into actuality. The actor labels his wife as his living inspiration. He’s seen and conquered many pitfalls in a swinging career spanning 6 decades in the film industry alone. He’s seen his son, grandson continue his famous legacy with élan. He hasn’t allowed their life to suffer under a shadow of a super star. Nagarjuna had to climb an RTC bus each day to reach his college everyday. Not a day went by , where he had skipped this routine. He attributes difficulties as his best teacher in his 87 years spent on the earth. He wanted his off springs to learn from the same. What more does one require from a life that has seen every emotion with such intricate depth? One needn’t be a film lover to appreciate ANR, one just can be a human to be inspired.

 

(Picture Courtesy: www.telugucinemastills.com)