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.

 

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Judwaa 2: Why Would I Expect Better From A Remake?

Judwaa 2: Why Would I Expect Better From A Remake?
I have a confession to make. I have to admit I was wrong. Yes, the skies have turned black and the oceans have turned blood red. I sort of enjoyed Judwaa 2. TJ, the bastion of picking apart nonsensical and regressive comedies, likes bloody Judwaa 2. How is this possible? What does it all mean?
Well, I’ll use a pro-wrestling analogy to explain. In the world of wrestling, the general sentiment is that you as a performer have to connect to the crowd. Because a raucous crowd can make a bad match good, a good match great and a great match a 5-star classic for the ages. My experience with Judwaa 2 was similar to the first of these three scenarios. With a partisan crowd comprised of people who genuinely enjoyed the film and people who were there to mock the film and get their kicks cheering it ironically, a cascade of great vibes was created even as the first anti-smoking disclaimer showed up on screen.
Director David Dhawan may have known this would be the crowd response when he chose to remake his 1997 “classic” Judwaa, by casting his son (most-punchable-face magazine cover boy) Varun Dhawan. And even if you have no emotional bond with the original Judwaa and or a smidgen of fan sympathy for Salman Khan and his work, or any soft corner for Nagarjuna’s 1995 “classic” Hello Brother, you’d still likely be like the grownups around me who were more than content with letting a child under the age of 10 watch a film full of sexuality bordering on abuse, twin powers that appear and disappear as and when it’s convenient to the plot, and a nonsensical story which may have hampered the development of my brain, since it is still a film brimming with light and enjoyable performances and characters.
For those of you who don’t know, the plot revolves around newborn twins (who have special twin powers bestowed to about two in 8 million) being separated at birth. One grows up with rich parents, and the other at the cleanest slum ever known to man. Because we are 20 years removed from the original Judwaa, the film gets a production upgrade as the location changes to London. Here we follow the slapstick hijinks and romantic escapades of Raja and Prem as they are destined to inevitably meet each other and beat up a few nameless goons because “commercial” cinema.
For the full version of this review, please visit:

Judwaa 2 Review

Bhoomi: Watering Down Serious Issues, One Pathetic Film At A Time

Bhoomi: Watering Down Serious Issues, One Pathetic Film At A Time

Bollywood loves a good comeback story. Be it the fictional one of a downtrodden citizen getting even with his/her wrongdoers or the real-life tale of a man looking to re-establish himself in his field after atoning for his sins by spending a few years in prison. Sanjay Dutt who was last seen on screen in 2014’s PK ticks both the aforementioned boxes as he half-drunkenly purrs back to the silver screen with Bhoomi, a film whose look, feel, tone and enjoyability with its bad guys and their weapons are all products of the good old days of Dutt’s youth.

As Bollywood continues to recycle itself by mining the ’70s and ’80s for stories, you needn’t look too far to find a myriad of pseudo-feministic rape-revenge thrillers released in recent times. After Mom, Maatr and Kaabil, the template Bhoomi ends up following is so well and truly set that my description of its plot would be classified as a needless exercise performing which I, personally, deem to be an insult to the fine readers of our site. You ladies and gentlemen are more than capable of discerning the premise for yourselves by merely glancing at the film’s poster.

Rapists = bad and poor man = good are go-to tropes used to manipulate an audience into empathizing with characters devoid of character, but what seamlessly blends Bhoomi with its less-than-impressive predecessors is its tone-deaf, cash-hungry approach to the subject matter at hand, the unabashed and uncaring style with which the plot progresses, and its usage of words such as “virgin” and “characterless” while describing a girl which are bound to leave those socially conservative audience members righteously indignant.

While my word might not be the most prudent while discussing the horrors of sexual abuse, I put a whole host of weight behind my opinions when it comes to the horrors of derivative and boring cinema. Like most films before it, Bhoomi revels in its lack of nuance while wearing its pandering nature as a badge of honor.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Bhoomi Review

Newton: Inconspicuously Dropping A Socially Conscious Apple On Your Head

Newton: Inconspicuously Dropping A Socially Conscious Apple On Your Head

One of the lesser-known facts about me (which I am wholly proud of) is that I managed to secure a perfect 100 in Social Studies in my 10th standard exams. My affinity for the workings of the world past and present was palpable from a young age. One of the most seminal debates I had with my peers and teachers was about how democracy became ubiquitously accepted as the way of the free world. The primary hang-up in my young mind was I could not be easily convinced that dictatorships, monarchies, communism, socialism etc. fell by the wayside en route to accepting democracy as the law of the land.

During one of these debates, one of my teachers once uttered a statement that punctuated her argument to a tee and has rung true with me since. It went: “Democracy is the only system of governing that remained after all other options were deemed futile by the citizens being governed.” Such an apt argument that was when truly deconstructed. While I can’t go into her justifications in detail, the deftness of her words made me question my socio-political beliefs to their minutia, which is something I do to the present day.

So when I saw Nutan Kumar (Rajkummar Rao) being slyly admonished by his teacher for his strict adherence to the government’s principles, I was in equal parts amused and intrigued. Nutan Kumar (who retitles himself Newton Kumar) is a simple servant of India’s government, lost in the massive expanse of Chattisgarh, trying to perform his duty to perfection without ever paying heed to the social implications, or lack of thereof, of his line of work.

Kumar is assigned the task of procuring votes for the Lok Sabha election from the citizens of two remote villages tucked away in the Maoist/Communist insurgent jungles of Chattisgarh. The magic number of voters Newton, his team and the CRPF protecting them are after is 76 – a number of people whose opinions would not qualify to be even a blip on the radar of the world’s largest democracy. However, with undeterred resolve and bolstered by a police chief with an ulterior motive (of being interviewed by a foreign journalist), Kumar traverses the harsh bullet-studded landscapes, sets up a polling booth in a dilapidated school, and patiently waits till 3 in the PM for the registered voters of the community as CRPF officer Aatma (Pankaj Tripathi) and his battalion subtly advise them against it with unflappable fervour.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Newton Review

Kingsman – The Golden Circle: Eggsy and The Gang Struggle To Cure Their Film of Sequelitis

Kingsman – The Golden Circle: Eggsy and The Gang Struggle To Cure Their Film of Sequelitis

If I were to be playing word associations, the one term I’d closely associate with Kingsman: The Secret Service would be “joy”. The sense of elation you feel through its generous 129-minute runtime is second to none as the send-ups to spy movies past and present, the dialogue bordering on pastiche, the slick production values and the genuinely likeable duo of mentor Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and mentee Eggsy (Taron Egerton) make for a movie whose quality no one could have foreseen but all need to bow their heads down to with respect. Because, simply put, Manners Maketh Man, and when one man, director Matthew Vaughn, showcases his skills at their absolute zenith, it is but you showing your manners when you acknowledge his work.

So breaking the cycle of not directing sequels to the awesome popcorn action movies he makes – look at the sequels to X Men: First Class and Kick-Ass not matching up to their predecessors – Matthew Vaughn returns to helm Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Will it match the unabashed and unrelenting rollicking ride the first one was or will it suffer the disease of Sequelitis?

To adequately answer that question, we must start at the beginning. Eggsy and Merlin spring into action with the base of Kingsman destroyed and every agent on their books terminated. While the two of them survive due to a twist of fate, the realization dawns on them that they are in no way capable of stopping the evil, ’50s loving, drug kingpin Poppy Adams. But unbeknown to them, the elders at that adorable tailor shop left breadcrumbs (whiskey bottles, in this case) to follow in time of such peril. By drinking those drops of elixir and following the trail they leave behind, Eggsy and Merlin meet the secret service across the pond, The Statesman, and quickly form an alliance to eliminate a deadly virus permeating narcotic drugs across the world and the woman masterminding said global catastrophe.

While the plot itself is adequately James Bond to warrant a fun romp, Kingsman: The Golden Circle ties itself in knots with its admittedly cool electric lasso while trying to do both what a sequel and a universe-building cinematic exercise should. The movie doubles down on the novel aspects of its original by overdoing the crass humour, and having multiple iterations of fight scenes reminiscent of that one sequence from The Pseudo Westboro Baptist Church and a slew of overpowered gadgets that skirt the line of silliness, but the cruel thing about novelty is that, like the element of surprise the original carried with it, it only works once.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review

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