Raju Gari Gadhi 2: When Your Movie Can’t Justify Its Title, It’s Bound To Suck

Raju Gari Gadhi 2: When Your Movie Can’t Justify Its Title, It’s Bound To Suck

Before we get to work here, I want to ask the makers of this movie two questions:

1. Who is Raju Garu in this movie?
2. Where is his Gadhi (room)?

Without answers to these two most basic of questions, director Ohmkar writes and directs a spiritual sequel to his previous hit Raju Gari Gadhi. Sure, there’s nothing in a name, but it’s not something you’d expect from any fine filmmaker.

Also, as a disclaimer to all my brothers who intend to watch this one with their lady loves hoping for scared arm-clinging, kindly leave those thoughts at the door as this movie is a rooster (avoiding the C word here) blocker.

Holding the biggest selling points (Nagarjuna and Samantha) back for the first half of the movie are its trio who supposedly put the “comedy” in horror comedy, Vennela Kishore, Shakalaka Shankar and Ashwin Babu. The men are inexplicably booted out of their houses for wanting to go into business by opening a beachside resort. They take the ass-kicking with a smile as their resort is frequented by only two sets of people – light bright supermodel types or “fat” ones who are comedy fodder. And lest you forget – neither the men nor the women have any characters written for them.

Because there are no other men to be found around these parts, a female spirit haunts them when they express their masculine urges. Be it over Skype or by watching Sunny akka’s videos or by taking pictures of a woman with her consent, none of them will be spared the wrath of this woman scorned. Terrified at the prospect of losing their customer base and their business, they approach the ‘roided out superhuman brother of Rajinikanth in Chandramukhi, Rudra (Nagarjuna).

Rudra is amongst many things, A Mentalist. A highly educated man of science, Rudra casually asks his many adoring fans (who are the Commissioner of Police and priests for some reason), and in turn, the viewers, to abandon logic and reason in his introductory scene. Sadly, I did not. To my dismay, the movie showcases Rudra’s abilities with a painfully constructed 5-minute sequence. After the audience has been assured that Rudra is the baddest-ass that ever assed, the film resumes as Rudra attempts to uncover the secrets of who is haunting the resort, why she is haunting it, and what she has to gain from doing so (these are straight from the movie).

*Sigh*

Alright, I’ve been nice to this movie enough. Simply put, watching this one is like eating at McDonald’s – it seems fine on the surface, but for the love of God, do not ask what’s in it. So if any of you is an audience member looking to kill a couple of hours at the movies by switching off the analytical left of your brain, be Ohmkar’s and Rudra’s guest, but if logic, storytelling and good cinema are what you seek, be MY guest.

Movies like this one are what I dread when walking into cinemas. They have almost every problem I see with archaic cinema pretending to be modern and socially aware. This is a film that suggests that men should never look at women “in the wrong way” while constantly and gratuitously movieing one of its major female characters going for the very thing it advocates against. Believe you me, this is no self-referential art-house movie asking complex questions of its audience by subverting genre tropes.

While that is my ding against the moviemakers and their crass, self-serving commercialization, every other issue that arises with this film is solely attached to its story. This is a movie that implies Rudra can walk into a room and literally see every event that has occurred there, but cannot solve a suicide without sleuthing around for evidence. The film’s character-writing fares no better. Samantha’s unsubtly named Amrutha is designed to gain maximum sympathy from the audience by having a dead mother and loving father, topping law colleges, dressing “appropriately” and not having friends (be it, girl or boy). This might seem nit-picky but choices like this perpetuate the myth that only a “decent” girl and her plights need to be cared for while women who don’t fit this mold are primed for objectification.

In addition to its inconsistencies in the story and the characters and their powers, the movie’s technical values are disappointing, too. Its bland look and feel affect it to such a degree that jump scares are rarely effective, and when that is combined with needlessly loud background scores and Nagarjuna and Samantha sleepwalking through their roles, the film becomes a task to get through.

The only good excuse for watching this film would be that you are in movie class and have been tasked with watching It Follows, Chandramukhi, The Mentalist and Lens for some ungodly reason and are trying to save up on time. Chronicle your experiences of watching this incomprehensible exercise in moviemaking while screaming at the screen for reusing shots and asking why the almighty Rudra did not end the movie at the halfway mark to spare your intrepid soul.

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Mahanubhavudu: OCD Is Funny Only Until The Film Becomes Tone-Deaf

Mahanubhavudu: OCD Is Funny Only Until The Film Becomes Tone-Deaf

One of my favorite pastimes is trying to see how well movie titles align with the movies themselves. For example, a concise movie title would be Srimanthudu. A viewer goes in knowing that this is a story of a rich man while also gleaning that he learns valuable life lessons from the poor (because the 99% pays for your movie tickets damn it!). An example of a needlessly vague title which conveys little to nothing about the movie or its characters would be Masala. While this emotion is not an indictment of the movie itself, the title conveys precious little about the movie one is about see except for the fact that it’s a masala movie (though most aren’t sure if that’s a good or a bad thing).

In my eyes, Mahanubhavudu is in a league of its own. While not as vague a title as a Temper or a Hyper, it anoints its lead as a Mahanubhavudu from the outset itself. So let us jointly indulge in my pastime as I review my latest trip to the cinema hall while checking to see if this movie is one Mahanubhavudu’s mahakatha.

We are introduced to Sharwanand’s Anand with the movie hammering his unique condition home. Director Maruti Dasari made his mark on the collective consciousness of the public with a quirky character (who had flaws in his ability to make and hold on to memories) in his previous project Bhale Bhale Magadivoy. Dasari doubles down on his niche by bequeathing Anand with a mix of (what the movie calls) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and germophobia. That’s the backdrop on which Dasari conjures up scenarios where never-been-kissed Anand falls in love with Meghana (Mehreen Pirzada).

Unlike Nani from Bhale Bhale Magadivoy, Anand wears his condition like a metaphorical badge on his sweater-covered chest. He proudly declares that he has an OCD and that that helps him be the best programmer, driver, lover etc. After complying with Anand’s proposal and convincing her father of his worth via a fight scene, Meghana chooses to break up with him after realizing what this movie’s version of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder actually entails. The rest of the story follows Anand’s travel to Meghana’s palleturu (look at paragraph one for reasons) and his attempts at wooing her back after doing nothing wrong in the first place.

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Dasari has a clear handle on one of the two primary aspects of this story. He displays a clear command on how to set up comic scenarios and have them pay off. However, he gradually loses his understanding of his story’s primary conceit, OCD. Using his main hero’s DISORDER and heroine’s dad’s heart attacks to propel the plot, the writer/director adds the quality of malleability to debilitating health conditions and his lead actress’ character.

From a personal standpoint, the larger issue I have with this movie is its handling of a person with a genuine medically certified disorder. From insinuating that a person with disorders shouldn’t aspire for a normal life with normal people to implying that Anand’s mother, who raised him from birth mind you, feels distanced from her son by not wholly understanding his condition and does not help him procure treatment, the movie steps into one landmine after another, with each explosion opening up a whole new mushroom cloud of issues which envelop the movie.

I might be going off on a serious tangent here, but this bothers me to such a high degree because I have friends who struggle with debilitating mental disorders every day but still strive for a normal life. They have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD and so on. I, myself, came very close to contracting one of these disorders. In a country that rarely talks about mental health, movies like this that trivialize something so serious are most definitely cause for concern. As an example, the movie implies that an OCD germophobe will be cured of his condition by the power of love and being thrown in a wrestling pit full of sand. This is in line with someone convincing an asthmatic person that the power of love and inhaling smoke from a tailpipe will solve his issues instead of genuine medical treatment. To quote The Donald, “Sad”.

Navigating this minefield to good effect is leading man Sharwanand. The man who proved his credentials as an actor’s actor with his many memorable turns in movies like Prasthanam and Engeyum Eppothum (Journey) shines once again as Anand. While it’s not the most nuanced of performances, he singularly manages to string the audience and his co-stars along on the bumpy ride his vehicle has on offer. Mehreen Pirzada and Nassar fill out the token roles of woman in ethnic and conservative village dad whose body thinks heart attacks are adequate responses to situations happy and sad, respectively.

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In addition to nonchalantly picking off scenes form Khushi, Swades and his previous project, the movie has songs and choreography accompanying them that leave a lot to be desired in the originality department. In the spirit of staying sterile, the movie’s look is littered with multiple instances of lighting equipment dotting the background. Someone convinced moviemakers that this was a good idea, and that person needs to sleep with the fish.

To sum this up, let’s look back to paragraphs one and two. Does the movie deserve its title? In a weird way, it does. The character of Anand is hounded by irrational, uncaring and self-serving idiots in every moment of life. To me, he is a man who manages to overcome insurmountable odds and build a life for himself by dealing with a disorder and people who barely care about his condition. He is a Mahanubhavudu indeed.

Only, the movie that chronicles his story does not do justice to his unwavering will. While it’s funny and breezy, its lowbrow look at the plight of many people is disheartening, to say the least.

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Arjun Reddy: A New Wave of Cinema That Finds Comfort In Age Old Formulas

Arjun Reddy: A New Wave of Cinema That Finds Comfort In Age Old Formulas

As I leave the topic of how original or derivative this film is for better men and women to discuss, I would like to dissect my wholly personal opinion about Arjun Reddy. As with the audience at large, I was left split right down the middle when it came to the film’s message, theme, tone, story, and performances and so on. The simplest reflection of this would be seeing my unbridled jubilation at the interval card which left me clapping at the screen (which had one of the best camera moves and edits I’ve seen all year) like a drunken seal and pure disdain at that cop-out of an ending which was succinctly expressed by a groan for the ages.

As I recovered from a bout of illness, I found myself with ample time to put the dichotomy I experienced to words. With most members of the film’s target demographic embracing it as the second coming of the cinematic Christ and declaring director Sandeep Vanga as the next iteration of Mani Ratnam, Arjun Reddy is in no way lacking audience engagement but the simplest question I asked myself while trying to place this film on my scale of quality was “Is this film as groundbreaking as its supporters say or is it as poisonous to the very fabric of the society we live in as its detractors say?”

The answer to that question like the film’s overall quality itself lies somewhere in the middle.

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The film is bookended with an ethereal message (obviously aping scripture) about the importance of and the integral part a romantic relationship plays in the life of every human being. The audience is gently dropped into the world Dr. Reddy inhabits by means of a grandmother’s kind words echoing fond memories of her grandson. Seemingly opposing these words from minute one is the titular Arjun Reddy who threatens a soon-to-be-married woman into having sex with him, which she rejects owing to the presence of her fiancé, following which he drops a handful of ice into his pants which aids him in subsiding the fire in his loins.

This is a light bright approach to establishing a character for any movie, be it Telugu or otherwise. A film boldly daring an audience to connect with an almost reprehensible human being whose only redeeming quality is his excellence in his craft. This is bound to jolt a weary film viewer like me out of his seat. While this cinematic exercise and its lead character pull off these shocking antics to great effect at almost every turn, the film itself is still unapologetically a part of the industry it is trying to separate itself from and this caveat aids in undercutting the film’s overall impact at every turn.

The examples are not few and far between. Taking the aforementioned opening sequence as an example, the good doctor going through a debilitating breakup looking for a physical release of his urges never once actually ends up releasing said urges with another woman. While the film would like to anoint itself as different from its contemporaries, it also wholly believes that true love (true sex) happens with one woman and one woman alone and the lead character needs to adhere to this golden rule lest the audience grow to see him as a fresh character who truly defies the mould.

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This is but one of many such instances. From Arjun Reddy never fully paying the price for the toxic masculinity he exudes to the solutions to his problems being present with him making no compromise or experiencing any consequence; the film while presented with a heft of originality never truly elevates itself to a higher echelon of storytelling because of the many tried-and-true avenues it takes.

Be it far from my pay grade to wholly dictate what constitutes a man’s fall from grace, my true analytical skills stand with going through the many aspects of filmmaking. With that in mind, this is a gorgeously shot and scored idiosyncratic powerhouse of a film.  The erratic camerawork accompanying Vijay Devarkonda’s performance that has his character bear every destructive emotion he has on his sleeve is glorious to watch. While not being a character who slips from being unfathomably nice to being an unbearable dick, Arjun Reddy’s portrayal is one of an overbearing, uber-masculine boy in his mid-20s who was never truly advised against his nuclear ways because of the excellence he showcases in his field of study. Now there is a subtle lesson for society.

Through all the wisdom the film imparts both subtle and overt, Arjun Reddy and the problems in his life and film will never truly cease to exist. Let me use a scene from the film as an example yet again. At a juncture in the film when Arjun continues his downward spiral, a friend of his drops off a wedding invitation; Arjun realizes that his friend’s marriage was borne out of love and was not arranged by the elders of the household. Arjun berates his friend’s relationship saying it in no way compared to his because no other couple could ever share the kind of intimate connection he did with his girlfriend. To that, his friend replies that his own relationship took time, effort, patience and love to make it go the distance and end up at the upcoming nuptials. While this is meant to help the viewer understand that Arjun’s life is not one to aspire to, the film sends mixed messages by rewarding Arjun for his errant ways as the climactic scene rolls around.

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If one does not learn from his past, one is destined to repeat his mistakes in the future. I for one want to see a sequel to Arjun Reddy some 10 years down the line. Finally a point in time where filmmakers believe that audiences are ready for an ending that isn’t sugar coated and wrapped up in a neat little bow. A point in time where Arjun’s atrocities catch up to him and he has to evolve as a person

Or

what do I know, smarter people than I have said life is cyclical and maybe Arjun Reddy 2 would be another showcase of how being a whiny, self-actualizing, super intelligent, booze-soaked baby gets you everything you want after you’ve adequately damaged your brain and liver.

 

Jai Lava Kusa: Trying To Succeed Where Mani Rathnam Failed

Jai Lava Kusa: Trying To Succeed Where Mani Rathnam Failed

Let us all take a trip back to 2008 when the film King dropped. It was a time when a Kona Venkat script was moderately amusing at the very least. At a juncture in that film, the fervently typecast Narsing-anna indulges in a rather rib-tickling piece of discourse with the late Srihari. The former tells the latter about a yesteryear film he’d watched where after a night of “mast daawat”, the triplets of a wealthy couple were separated as nature itself considered triplets an abomination. One of the young scamps lodged himself at the residence of a decent man while the other two ended up with a street-hustling poor man and a janata-terrorising bad man respectively. The crux of Narsing-anna’s story followed the three brothers as they tried to rekindle the bond between them.

Director K S Ravindra seems to be an ardent fan of brother Narsing’s narration of that tale as the former attempts to wring the life out of this excessively fermented wine with his latest venture Jai Lava Kusa.

While the throwaway gag from the decade-old film did quite an admirable job at concisely explaining the skeleton of this film, I’ll add the requisite flesh and blood. A lisping yet talented Jai is marginalized by his drama enthusiast brothers and uncle. Jai’s quivering rage is fanned by the bane of societies everywhere – the dear old grandmother. The old lady’s quoting of the scriptures acts as the herald to Jai’s shift to the dark side.

One botched murder attempt later, the trio are split and grow up in different environments. And when Jai/Raavan’s political and romantic ambitions come to the fore, he enlists the help of his estranged brothers (in his own way) to aid his campaign in more ways than one.

This synopsis happens between the first few minutes of the film and the second half. The opening hour is a mishmash of plotlines comprising two terminally uninteresting brothers, a critically brain-dead Pradeep Rawat (he accepts a 5,000 rupee note, for f***’s sake) and a whole host of sub-plots which are literally kicked to the curb as Sai Kumar enters the fray to jumpstart the story proper. Why did we need that first hour? Do we care about the plight of those passive pairs of twins? No – and neither does the film because NTR quoting NTR is what draws the crowds.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Jai Lava Kusa Review

Meda Meeda Abbayi: No One Catfishes Allari Naresh and Gets Away With It

Meda Meeda Abbayi: No One Catfishes Allari Naresh and Gets Away With It

Allari Naresh films are a happy place. Many have a soft spot for the man as he never fails to entertain, be it in dramatic or comedic capacity. From that awkward lanky lad in Allari to the lovable goon in Gamyam to the amalgamation of Tollywood clichés in Sudigadu, the man has flaunted his range time and time again in an effort to prove himself to be more than a one-trick pony. Naresh has a very appreciable tendency of letting his co-stars, the story and the vision of his filmmakers take center stage in most of his projects, which drastically increases the overall quality of the films he is a part of. With mostly low investments and regular good to high returns, he has also mostly delivered at the BO.

Tollywood’s beloved Sudden Star now cleans himself up by giving himself a sharp new look while starring in a remake of a Malayalam movie in Meda Meeda Abbayi. The film has three distinct parts to its blatantly excessive plot out of which we find our hero on the meda for a very limited period of time (making it a curiously titled film). We follow the life of Srinu, an engineering student (who fails all 24 subjects in his pursuit of a B. Tech. degree) with aspirations of becoming a film director and working with Rajamouli. An overused cliché helps him cross paths with and fall in love with Sruthi (Nikhila Vimal).

As it dawns on him that staying in and whiling away time at his small town will get him no closer to his dreams of being a filmmaker, he packs his bags and moves to Hyderabad. Congruous with this development, Sruthi leaves the town as well. Through a series of juvenile actions by one of Srinu’s many friends, he is wrongly accused of eloping with said young lady and is employed to bring her back home to her parents, a task Srinu reluctantly agrees to. He returns to Hyderabad in search of the woman, with friend Bandla Babji (Hyper Aadi) in tow.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Meda Meeda Abbayi Review

Yuddham Sharanam: How Does A Film So Technically Poor Get Made?

Yuddham Sharanam: How Does A Film So Technically Poor Get Made?

One of the most welcome changes Tollywood has adopted is reducing the runtime of its films. Over the course of the last decade, films have slowly wound down from being 3-hour extravaganzas to events which border the 2-hour-15-minute mark. While these new norms are violated on certain occasions (recent release Arjun Reddy being a good example), most films impose this constraint on themselves.

The reasons for this change are two-fold. One, a 2-hour film can be screened for a higher number of times over the course of a day, which makes perfect business sense. Two, a 2-hour film works in keeping audiences coming back to the theatres. A good film will leave them wanting more and in turn have them coming back for more, and a not-so-good one will not be too much of an arduous task to get through.

In this spirit, Naga Chaitanya (who has been bestowed the alias Chay Akkineni) stars in a film that falls by the wayside as a wholly forgettable experience but whose which stays a step away from being grating thanks to its manageable runtime.

While the film is hell-bent on spoiling its plot within the first five minutes, I’ll try to be slightly more considerate. Arjun (Naga Chaitanya), who is clearly not as compelling as his recent namesake from another film, and his perfectly happy family who are busy dealing with sick people from rural areas and non-issues such as how to celebrate their parents’ 30th anniversary are dragged into a web of intrigue, deception and action when a plan made by a banal politician and a mafia figurehead (Srikanth doing his best Jagapathi Babu impression) to divert the attention of the masses from a political scandal goes awry. Arjun and his family find themselves in the villains’ crosshairs as some of them are witnesses to these crimes. I wouldn’t dare ask any of the readers to fill in the blanks I’ve purposely left while describing the plot as I’m sure most of you already have.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Yuddham Sharanam Review

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