Nene Raju Nene Mantri: Hot Damn, We Have A True Telugu Satire

Nene Raju Nene Mantri: Hot Damn, We Have A True Telugu Satire

There’s an old Quentin Tarantino interview in which he proselytised, and I’m paraphrasing here: “I’d never stick around too long as a director, as with a higher number of films to one’s name coupled with advancing age and technology, an older filmmaker is bound to lose his/her touch and edge.”

This statement rings true in many cases as only the cream of the crop in the field of directing can weather the ever-changing film industry and manage to stay relevant over the course of a few decades by reinventing themselves constantly. Telugu mainstream cinema’s indie-flavoured filmmaker Teja has clearly not been one of them. A true maverick at the commencement of his career (delivering blockbusters laced with social commentaries such as Chitram, Nuvvu Nenu, Jayam and Nijam), he slowly started to fall victim to the ravages of time. His insistence on working with fresh faces while keeping away from the bigwigs of the mainstream eventually took a toll on his career.

The man has now made an attempt to reinvent his modus operandi as a filmmaker by working with known stars and writers, and a reputed production house, with hopes of aiding an ailing career. Nene Raju Nene Mantri tells the story of a corrupt politician Radha Jogendra, tracing his meteoric rise and sickening fall as he loses his innocence and puts the sweet relationship that he shares with his doting wife in jeopardy. Jogendra is a hot-headed, short-tempered and amoral leader who is surrounded on all sides by cookie-cutter Tollywood politicians and two “attractive” women of whom one, the wife, is reliably sari-clad and the other is not. If you know the cast of the film, you know who’s who, and have a pretty clear idea about their character traits while you are at it.

While not being a broad comic satire like a Sudigadu or a Hrudaya Kaleyam, Nene Raju Nene Mantri is a belting, darkly funny satire about the state of our country, our heroes and Tollywood itself. The film cleverly masks its true intentions over a nearly opaque veil of mass cinema clichés. With loud noises, needless murders, downright silly political maneuvering, gratuitous navel, and thigh shots, and childhood romances, the film offers up a biting critique of every one of the nation’s citizens and of the industry, it is so lovingly a part of.

For the full version of this review, please visit:
Nene Raju Nene Mantri Review

Darshakudu: Horrible Characters Make For Horrible Movies

Darshakudu: Horrible Characters Make For Horrible Movies

We all have that one friend. You know, that guy/girl that thinks he/she knows better. They supposedly know more about everything and can’t stop patting themselves on the back about how much of a godsend they are. A person so toxic that being in his/her presence destroys your confidence and makes you feels horrible about the person you are. You look at that person and think to yourself, “Dude, this guy/gal can have a whole conversation with him/herself and be content as a self-serving tool because he/she has no time for external input or feedback.”

Now that you have a picture of this person materializing before your eyes and the feeling this person induces in your heart, I would kindly ask you to associate these emotions with Darsakudu. After the appalling 2016 Kannada film Eradane Sala, 2017’s Darsakudu reaches a similar level of atrociousness, at least in my book.

This film likes to reference other movies while talking about how it “sets itself apart” from the crowd. In that vein, I’ll use other films to compare and contrast as I write my review.

For the full review, please visit:

Darshakudu Review

Goutham Nanda: Well.. Um.. Gopichand Is Fun Again

Goutham Nanda: Well.. Um.. Gopichand Is Fun Again

I might be on an island with this opinion but I was quite disappointed at Gopichand’s foray into being a hero. His menacing turns in Varsham and Jayam had me salivating at the fact that Tollywood had found a captivating bad guy who would be the consummate immovable object to any good guy’s unstoppable force.

The good guys were disposable but Gopichand’s intensity and ominous screen presence were inimitable. While movies headlining him have ranged from bad to passable to the occasional good, his characters in said movies rarely, if ever, captured the imagination like his aforementioned cracks at being a villain. Could Goutham Nanda be the film that would shift my perspective and help me embrace Gopichand as a “hero”?

Turns out, not quite.

Goutham Nanda follows the stories of Goutham and Nanda – the former the sole heir to a massive fortune amassed by his oft-absentee parents and in search of an identity of his own; and the latter the sole heir to his parent’s never-ending series of issues, poverty and debts, and dreaming of living the high life while endlessly parroting The Wolf Of Wall Street’s most quoted line.

Owing to a chance meeting and a minor application of twin magic, the men exchange their ecosystems for a period of 30 days as a means to experience their deepest desires.

Goutham Nanda Review

Patel SIR: I Never Knew I Could Be So Nice To Bad Movies

Patel SIR: I Never Knew I Could Be So Nice To Bad Movies

Jagapathi Babu’s reinvention has always fascinated me. During my time as a young whipper-snapper, I lived in a house with aunts who swooned over his film roles and personality a la those women in the opening montage of Desamuduru. No one, however, can stay a heartthrob forever, and I was keen to see what the next chapter in his career would be. Would he turn an aging actor clinging on to the image of his prime or would he choose to metamorphose into a character actor who added gravitas to the films he chose to appear in? And how would he manage to pull off whatever choice he made?

The man himself surprised us all after a brief hiatus from major motion pictures. He went home, reimagined his persona and came roaring back with a salt and pepper hair-beard combo. The move from the oft-unrewarding leading man roles to memorable villain/character actor roles has delivered, and how. His popularity has shot into the stratosphere as he has become the talk of Tollywood while rubbing shoulders with A-list talent, old and new.

The trailer for his newest venture Patel SIR, with a lone man sitting amidst a hoard of human carnage accompanied only by a little girl, brought back shades of one of 2017’s better films, Logan. Jagapathi Babu as Logan? Hmm, many Telugu film aficionados would pay good money to see that. Patel SIR, while not Logan, has a good enough theme – that of an “aravai yella, aaru adugula musaladu” exacting revenge on a bunch of men who took something very essential away from him and his trusty sidekick, the little girl.

Thus, we are back at it again with one of cinema’s most overused narratives, Vigilante Justice. This form of storytelling is compelling when the proverbial unstoppable force meets the also proverbial immovable object. A good mix of action, character, motivations, plot and (essentially) redemptive violence drive these stories. However, Patel SIR drops the ball on many of these fronts. As a quick example, when the only event that threatens to stop the hero is a stroke and not any of the bad guy’s evil schemes, the film has an irreparable problem, as it cannot create possibly an ounce of tension.

For the full version of this review please visit:

Patel SIR Review

Ninnu Kori: Mature, Juvenile and Likable. Maybe Not In That Exact Order

Ninnu Kori: Mature, Juvenile and Likable. Maybe Not In That Exact Order

If I were to take a poll of the film’s quality from the audience seated in my cinema hall, this review would be done with one primal yell of uproarious approval. But I have to play the devil’s advocate here because of who I am and before anyone tails me with pitchforks and flaming torches, there a whole lot to like about this film.

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It always strikes as a rare phenomenon when a mainstream Telugu movie has a likable leading man performing a moderately unlikable character. I was taken back to more innocent days when a Bollywood film titled Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna came to theaters. Yes, the public and critical reaction to that film were lukewarm at best but there was a caveat to that. Most of them could agree that this was a story rarely told by Indian cinema and to and such effect. Simply speaking, most audiences do not like to think about the feelings of adulterers or care about what causes adultery or empathize with dissension in a marriage, at the very least, unless the film is titled Murder and it has a ridiculous amount of semi-nudity and an easily digestible theme which amounts up to SEX SELLS.

So when Ninnu Kori came to theaters and I heard positive buzz surrounding it, I was intrigued to see what the hoopla was all about. I’m always wary of Telugu films and the circle of hype they create. I live outside Andra Pradesh or Telangana but the sheer noise of approval coming out of the epicenter of Tollywood was audible to the whole of South India. So I kept my expectations in check and all I hoped for was that I did not end up hating the film while making myself public enemy #1 in the process.

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The film opens with a married woman seeking out her ex-boyfriend on the date of her first wedding anniversary. Alright movie, you have my attention. The minimal amount, but attention nonetheless. The film then slides back into the basic tropes of Telugu romantic comedies as it takes us through a first half filled with comedic lines, tepid romantic scenes, a father figure whose moral code is widely used and is genuinely valid and as I mentioned earlier, a break-up.

So, after an hour of setup (which was equal parts tedious and charming), we move into the meat of the story. The ex (played by an always-welcome Nani) lives with the now-married couple (played by Niveda Thomas and a monotone Aadi Pinnisetty) in an attempt to show his ex-girlfriend that she is in fact not as happy as she claims to be with her new husband.

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This intrigued me as I wanted to see where the script would go with this premise. Would it take the overt cliché route, making the husband out to be a heartless dick while making our leading man a person of infallible character or would the film have a fresh and mature approach to the matter? The answer to that would a cheat Yes and an actual Yes, respectively.

Ninnu Kori is a troublesome film but is likable in mostly the right ways. I once heard that Telugu actors chose roles that had no shades of negativity to them as said parts could ruin their squeaky clean images. Nani is not one such actor. He is given a character that he and his acting expertise can sink their teeth into. He doles lines confidently, he handles a few ex-machinas in the film like it’s nobody’s business and is relatable throughout the film.

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Niveda Thomas’ female lead opens up post-interval (pre-interval characterization is just dull) as she is no longer the object men are trying to attain which grants her the gift of character. She makes logical choices; she handles tough decisions with requisite thought, she controls the flow of the story (as shades of likability come through) even if most of her lines feel oddly expository. The fact that she is not showing her navel and is not being objectified (for the most part) for having said navel was a win enough for me.

Aadi Pinisetty might have one of the most recognizable voices in South Indian cinema but that vocal prowess can’t carry a bland character through the course of an hour. I struggled to find much to like about him other than fact that he holds his first gift to his wife with the highest of regard and has a scene that reeks of manufactured tension. Sorry dude but you do nothing more than serving the purpose.

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Now that the obligatory talk about the faces we associate the film with is done, let’s talk about this film’s story and themes. There are two trains of thought when push comes to shove and I subscribe to both because I am a complex human being too guys, GAH. I appreciate the fact that the ultimate theme of the film revolves around maturity. The film acts as a coming of age story where general Telugu film sensibilities are pushed aside and a new lease on life is afforded to the main character.

However, the subplots surrounding the lead character are gratingly hackneyed. Everything from underwritten divorce dramas to perpetuating the sentiment that people who live in foreign countries indulge in multiple marriages sent conflicting messages to me. I wouldn’t say this would be a problem to most but it is a point of contention for me. I rarely if appreciate such stereotypical moments in films and especially in a film that is lauded for “breaking the mold”.

I have a lot to go into while talking about the human dynamics of this film but I’d like to wind this off abruptly, like this film does, by saying that the film succeeds with what it is going for in parts but sacrificing the initial courtship ritual with clever character building for the eventual couple would have helped this film stand out to a higher degree. As it stands, it is a middling film that has an admittedly interesting idea and a fair chunk of lost potential.

 

 

Baahubali – The Conclusion: Not What It’s About But How It’s About It

Baahubali – The Conclusion: Not What It’s About But How It’s About It

Baahubali – The Conclusion is a 2017 fantasy epic directed by S.S. Rajamouli, written by S.S. Rajamouli and K.V. Vijeyendra Prasad and stars Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Nasser, Anushka Shetty, Tammanah Bhatia, Ramya Krishnan and Satyaraj. The film concludes the stories of both Amarendra and Mahendra Baahubali whilst revealing the motivations behind one of the biggest cliffhangers in Indian cinema’s lore.

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I want to use a long winded wrestling analogy to explain my feelings towards this film. There are two types of great matches in pro-wrestling. On the one end, we have the slick, smooth, beautifully told matches between wrestlers like AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan.  They are immaculately constructed, rivetingly emotional and executed excellently.

The other end which deals with spectacle. The Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg-Esque matches. Watching a match with two men who are larger than life itself takes me back to a time when I was a kid. When just watching something on a titanic scale made me giddy with happiness. Yes, the technical finesse isn’t there and the match plays to the crowds but I love it because that was my gateway into loving pro-wrestling. Because it showed me the world of immense possibility.

That is exactly what Baahubali is to Indian cinema.

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In all honesty, I have had things to love and things to dislike about the movie. I’ll get the unsavory elements away first as I want to finish up on a positive note. Tammanah (I’m sure she’s great as a person) is just miscast. For all her worldly wisdom Sivagami is played for a fool with a bit of hearsay. Amarendra Baahubali, for all his regal qualities, lacks the subtle touches required to rule a kingdom. The film goes full “Telugu Movie” at the end (and all that it implies). The CGI in the climactic battle sequence begs for something better. The good but overly loud score and the hefty amount of bloat and logical inconsistencies on it.

Screw all that because I went in for the spectacle and in that department, the film delivers in spades. I mean, GOOD GOD man. The visual artistry coalesced with the rich tapestry of larger than life characters make for a wholly engaging viewing experience. The sets look beautiful, the actors (except for Tammanah) look their part, their arcs and motivations are well thought out even if the execution could have been more seamless, the visual style is relentlessly good and when it matters the most, the film goes all out with pulse-pounding sequences of compelling character drama.

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A big shout out to the visual storytelling and soon to be iconic shots, the film has on offer. It amazes me that a film with such a high degree of scope and scale can have the smallest of moments feel more important than the battle scenes themselves. The shots bathed in lighting, fire, blood, sweat and most important of all honor and regality are eye candy in the best possible way. The film plays out as a melodramatic Ten Commandments-Esque story of familial dissension but never once does it feel overwrought or boring. There is something happening on screen, be it drama, action, subtle touches in the background, etc.

My final win of the film goes to its characters. Character names and characters who match the stature their names give them, make for compelling stories. This film boasts of excellence in both departments. Amarendra Baahubali, Bhallala Deva, Sivagami, Devasena, Katappa are most definitely going to stand the test of time when all is said and done. The larger than life aspect each of them carries whilst being relatable to the most common of folk make them enormously enjoyable. My special mention goes to the most well thought out and deftly written character of all Bhallala Deva. I savored watching his every action and motivation behind it.

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The argument of technical quality and storytelling finesse vs. cinematic spectacle is one anyone can have till the cows come home but for what it means to Indian cinema at large, for the amount of vision and creativity on display, for its scale and scope, for 5 years of unyielding, painstaking work and for the pre-intermission scene which made the hair on my neck stand and had me applauding (because it’s that damn good), I highly recommend watching this film.

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Rambling About Khaidi No. 150 (2017)

Rambling About Khaidi No. 150 (2017)

Nutshell Ramble

Megastar Chiranjeevi makes his much-awaited comeback with a film which lost the audience in the cinema hall within the first hour.

OVERALL SCORE – 2/5

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Full Ramble

Khaidi No. 150 is a 2017 Telugu action drama film directed by V.V. Vinayak, written by Parachuri Brothers and V.V. Vinayak based on the film Kaththi by A.R. Murugadoss and stars Chiranjeevi, Kajal Agarwal, Ali, Brahmanandam and Tarun Arora. The film tells the story of a career criminal who finds himself in the midst of a social movement after his escape from prison.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have not watched the original Tamil film and I am a fan of Chiranjeevi’s earlier work as well.

In the simplest of terms, Khaidi No. 150 is a plodding film whose reach far exceeds its grasp. Most audience members are bound to go into the film with Chiranjeevi and V.V. Vinayak’s previous outing, Tagore, in mind. That was quite the entertaining affair with a social message which resonated amongst all classes of the audience. This film does not match the aforementioned one in almost any aspect. There is a distinct lack of attempt made to tell a coherent story as the film falls into providing fan service. The issue with doing that is Chiranjeevi’s previous blockbusters always focused on telling a story first and the fans connected to whatever they wanted to. The distinct lack of noise in the cinema hall after the first shot of the Megastar notwithstanding is proof that the film did not get the fan service right.

The best parts of the film are the man himself, Chiranjeevi and the main theme the film is trying to get across to the audience. There a handful of clever moments and ideas expressed in the film but they are drowned out by a lot of unnecessary subplots and undercooked characters. Chiranjeevi remains fun to watch on screen. His mannerisms, dialogue delivery, diction, inflections all add to making him a compelling lead actor. The comedic actors play their parts quite well and are worthy of a lot of chuckles and a few loud laughs. The main point the film is trying to get across is quite the novel one. It is something the public at large needs to think about and work towards bettering. For that, the film gets my respect.

On the flip side, the film suffers a lot from being just mediocre. Mediocre scenes, mediocre dialogue, mediocre characters, mediocre emotions, mediocre songs, mediocrity reigns supreme. I can empathize with the film for going this route. The film was the Megastar’s comeback after 9 long years. The film had to appeal to all audience while also being a social message, in itself. But as it goes for being a 4-quadrant film, it loses an identity of its own. It falls into the category of films which the public will effortlessly dismiss after a few months of time.

The film does all the Telugu action film tropes to a tee as well. The ridiculous fight sequences, the extremely underwritten female lead (she does not even have 20 lines throughout the film, its a bloody disgrace), the unconvincing villain, the unnecessary subplots in an attempt to create humor, the near useless henchmen and so forth. All this add to the film losing a lot as it translates from the silver screen to a viewer’s eye. The fact this film or most films don’t understand how the corporate world works or how the construction industry works just helps the film in losing believability as time progresses. Conveniences are always going to be taken while one tells a story on screen but those conveniences need not be gaping plot holes.

There are a lot more specifics I can go into if I put my mind to it but as a long time Telugu film viewer, I knew what I was getting into when I walked into the cinema hall. I wanted to be entertained and that was the bottom line. The cold fact was that I just wasn’t entertained and the packed house who watched the film with me fell to a silent hush as the end credits rolled. The viewing experience counts for a lot when one watches a “mass” film and this one fails the audience it targets left and right.

OVERALL SCORE – 2/5

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