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Monday, January 16, 2017

Dangal - mat-maker

Dangal
(Wrestle)
Hindi, 2017
Directed by Nitesh Tiwari
Stars
Aamir Khan as Mahavir Singh Phogat
Sakshi Tanwar as Daya Shobha Kaur
Fatima Sana Shaikh as Geeta Phogat
Zaira Wasim as young Geeta
Sanya Malhotra as Babita Phogat
Suhani Bhatnagar as young Babita

Mohan's Measure * * * *

It's not too much of a stretch to say that Dangal is one of the most technically correct films of the year.  It is so correct, it provides us with a detailed, exacting look at the rules and nuances of women's international wrestling. 

The acting is also correct, so precise and well presented we are awestruck by the two young women who play the young Phogat sisters.  Their emotions and expressions are natural and believable. And what can we say about Mr. Khan other than his acting brings us into the character.

The movie weakens with the arrival of the older girls.  We wonder at their plastic faces and their stuffy self-assuredness.

It is this very lack of emotion which weakens the movie. We can only wonder what makes two young girls in a conservative village choose virtually androgynous lives to satisfy not their own dreams, but those of their father.  What happens to their own sense of self, their need for companionship, their loves and marriage? The film suggests that it is better than the alternative of arranged marriage and life as a housewife.  Neither, however, seems to be the choice of pursuing one's own dreams.

All this is passed on, as we are presented with some of the most amazing wrestling scenes ever shown on the silver screen.  The rest is left for the audience to wrestle with.









Shatamanam Bhavati - all in the family


Shatamanam Bhavati
(100 springs) 
2017, Telugu 
Directed by Satish Vegesna
Stars
Sharwanand as Raju
Anupama  Parameswaran as Nithya
Prakash Raj as Raghavaraju
Jayasudha as Janakamma
Naresh as Kangaraju

Mohan's Measure  ✳ ✳ ✳ 

Shatamanam Bhavati feels like we are watching the sequel to Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu, with Chinnoda, Pedhoda, and their sister all grown up and living successful lives in different parts of the world.  Indeed, the reuniting of Prakash Raj and Jayasudha brings back the very same ambience as SVSC, devoid of the magic.

The magical question is - in an age where WhatsApp, Skype, and a host of other such software links people around the world, is this enough to satisfy the needs of aging parents in India? SB gives us the obvious answer of "no" and spends the next two plus hours explaining why.  Perhaps judging all of us who live in worlds where our desire to go to India is often at odds with kid's school schedules, project deadlines, and health goes a bit too far. 

There seems to be something pretentious about the whole thing. The images of a perfect village India of beautiful paddies, picturesque scenery, and eccentric but charming people is eye-catching, but not engaging enough to present us with a story. The young Anupama Parameswaran lacks the chemistry with Sharwanand and at times appears way out of her league. 

The charm of the film lies in Prakash Raj and Jayasudha, but neither can carry the show the way they did in SVSC.

The movie certainly takes us places, if only to where most of us city kids like me have not gone.







Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bommalattam - the end of an era


Bommalattam
(puppets' dance)
1968, Tamil 
Directed by Muktha Srinivasan
Jaishankar as Sukumar
Jayalalitha as Malathy
Nagesh as Durai
Manorama as Chinna Ponnu
Cho Ramaswamy as Jambajar Jakku
Sachu as Geetha
Major Sundararajan as Rathnam/Bal Raj

Mohan's Measure - immeasurable, in honor of them

Among the world of actors, there are some people whom we just feel should stay around forever, a part of the world stage for time immemorial.  Legends on and off the screen, the lady who will be forever remembered as "Amma", and the gentleman known as "Cho", were two such powerful figures whose loss I cannot fully acknowledge, nor ever will.  It is as if something has changed in the world; something is lost which we will never have back. 

In Bommalattam, the Iron Lady works with the only man whom she would bow before in a non-stop screwball comedy of errors.  The immortal Cho plays Jambajar Jakku, a street rowdy whose relationship with Manorama's  Chinna Ponnu would make him the agent in bringing about a love story between charming Jayalalitha's Malathy and Jaishankar's handsome Sukumar.  The screwball errors of love letters being misplaced, pictures being switched, and names being dropped makes for some of the funniest comedy of the era, while the bringing together of legendary stars makes this movie the perfect to watch with fellow lovers of classic film.  The addition of a international mobster storyline brings Jaishankar to the forefront as the James Bondish hero he is known for.

Long though it is, it is certainly just the right thing to relax on a cold winter's evening.  And what better way to honor the great ones who have now just passed?

I cannot help but feel that they are watching with us from Heaven.




Monday, December 5, 2016

Kahaani 2 - repeating circles


Kahaani 2
(The Story, 2)
2016, Hindi
directed by Sujoy Ghosh

Stars
Vidya Balan as Vidya Sinha/Durga Rani Singh
Arjun Rampal as Sub-inspector Inderjeet Singh
Naisha Khanna as Child Minnie Dewan
Tunisha Sharma as Young Minnie
Jugal Hansraj as Mohit Dewan

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳  

Her name is that of an old movie star, Vidya Sinha.  She lies in a coma in run-down hospital as a cop investigates her story through one of the only good pieces of evidence he can find, her diary.

Kaahani 2 has the same dark, complex setting of Kolkatta for its story, but it is not a sequel. Instead, it is the story of yet another strong woman who makes a tryst with destiny to gain justice.  Vidya Balan is truly brilliant in her role as Vidya Sinha, who turns out to be Durga Rani Singh, ex-wife to the investigating officer, SI Singh.  Through her words, we learn of her strength, her dark secret, and her obsession to heal old wounds, no doubt vicariously, by saving the life of a young girl; a child with her own dark secret eulogized on paper as repetitive circles.

We have to read past the story and the sometimes exaggerated plot twists to see a message here, a powerful message about yet another tabooed discussion in India's propriety-driven society.  For as Ms. Singh tells us, child abusers are normal people to everyone else, educated, cultured, part and parcel of mainstream society.  What is hidden behind their four walls is something only the child really knows and suffers through, over and over again, like the circles in Minnie's drawings.

Over the top top though it may be, much like the original, to end suffering and cruelty, a goddess needs to awaken.  This time, from a coma to save a child.








Monday, November 28, 2016

Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada - keep you in high spirits



Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada
(where are you going to go, young man?)
Telugu, 2016
Directed by Vi Anand
Stars
Nikhil Siddharth as Arjun
Hebah Patel as Amala/Nithya
Nandita Swetha as Amala/Parvathi
Avika Gor as Ayesha/Amala

Vennela Kishore - Kishore

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳ 

Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada works because it doesn't spare on the scary part nor the humor.

Nikhil plays Arjun, a bridegroom abandoned on the altar, now giving up on the idea of ever meeting the right woman.   He is forced to take his friend to see a witch doctor in Kerala where he meets someone named Amala, and instantly finds himself head over heels in love with her.

The trick - Amala died four years before, and the girl who claims to be her now says she isn't her!

Vennela Kishore and Nikhil are the key to the story's success playing off everything from Chandramukhi, Brindavanam, even Kabali, to bring a humorous overtone to this frightening love tale.

While the two actresses in question are not the best of actors, they are charming enough to draw our attention, creating a love triangle, where Amala competes with herself for a man's love.

Have you confused? The movie will too, and will also bring a lot of chuckles.  Worth the watch.


Dear Zindagi - psyched!



Dear Zindagi 
(Dear Life)
2016, Hindi
Directed by Gauri Shinde
Stars
Alia Bhatt as Kaira
Shah Rukh Khan as Dr. Jehangir Khan
Ira Dubey as Fatty
Yashaswini Dayama as Jackie
Rohit Saraf as Kido

Kunal Kapoor as Raghuvendra

Mohan's Measure 

Alia Bhatt can't seem to keep hers in the same bed in Dear Zindagi, an irritatingly long style-over substance movie which continues in the ever-growing line of millennial movies gone overboard.

Alia is Kaira, aka Koko, a young woman who is going through more boyfriends than her friends or family can stand.  She decides to do something so she meets up with strong, silent Dr. Khan, whose less than standard method of psycho-therapy leads her to to find herself and happiness, all in six easy lessons.  He instantly reassures her that boyfriends are like chairs; you've got to try out several until you find the right fit - the amoral solution being the best one for millennials. 

If real-world psychotherapy were this glamorous and this easy, perhaps more Indians would take advantage of it.  Certainly we find ourselves questioning our own sanity when discovering the simple reason that Kaira doesn't trust commitment. 

I should be committed for agreeing to see this movie.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo - me and my RE

Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo
(Live life adventurously)
2016, Telugu
Directed by Gautham Menon
Stars:
Naga Chaitanya
Manjima Mohan as Leela
Baba Sehgal as Kamath
Sathish Krishnan as Mahesh
Krrish as Atul

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳ 

To respect the movie, I have chosen not to give away the name of Naga Chaitanya's character.  It is not pivotal, but it serves as interesting added tension to this noir-thriller/road picture.

The road, and particularly the vehicle he travels in, is clearly emphasized as the hero's first love.  It is a Royal Enfield motorcycle, the product of a once British manufacturer of classic-style motorcycles which now finds home in Chennai.  Impressive, but not impressive enough to be the leading love of this movie.

Newcomer Manjima Mohan, however, is that, and more.  There is something compelling about this young actress which draws us to her.  She is not size zero, does not wear skimpy clothing, but actually acts and expresses feelings to the words she lip synchs to.  There is allure in her girl-next-door image, which I hope - for her sake and ours - she will never be asked to change.

What is a change is the story-line, the mobster element serves only as Mcguffin to a story about travel, India, and the values of the middle class.  We are whisked away to exotic locations, but also to the simple, unkempt roads of Tamil Nadu's villages, where homespun people offer unconditional affection to weary travelers.

Affection, however, is not what the villains offer, and they are the usual suspects - politicians, corrupt cops, and their goons who are ought to kill our two lovers for the usual reasons.  But, to fight them back, even our vagabond hero has to have a name.