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Friday, September 23, 2016

Majnu - not worth the paper it's written on

2016, Telugu
directed by Virinchi Varma
Nani as Aditya
Anu Emmanuel as Kiran
Priya Shri as Suma
Vennela Kishore

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳

I am writing in Courier font today as it is the typeset of newspapers, and we are out, like hungry newspaper reporters for a story, any story, that will begin to help Majnu make sense.

The byline is a confusing one.  Aditya loves Kiran, but is chasing after Suma.  He is brought to task by Suma asking about his former love story, to which we are treated to an entire first half in which Aditya is chasing after a girl whom we know he will not win.  Flash to present, and it turns out that the girl he is now chasing after, Suma, has fallen in love with him. Meanwhile, the first girl, Kiran, returns.

Majnu is the director's movie, actually more the casting director's movie.  He has two fresh faces among Indian actresses to bring into a single story.  He has Nani, an experienced actor to urbane romantic comedies. So, the job simply is to write a story around them, sensible or realistic not the point of consideration.

Still, Majnu has some worth.  The songs are okay, the clothing and country scenes nice, and the two love interests are a far cry from the norm of the usual rom-com bunch.  

But, while it isn't boring, it certainly isn't newsworthy.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thanga Magan - The Tamizh File

Thanga Magan 
(Golden Son)
2015, Tamizh
directed by Velraj

Dhanush as Thamizh Vijayraghavan
Samantha Ruth Prabhu as Yamuna Thamizh
Amy Jackson as Hema D'Souza Arvind
K. S. Ravikumar as Vijayraghavan
Raadhika Sarathkumar as Thamizh's mother
Adith Arun as Arvind
Jayaprakash as Prakash Kumar
M. S. Bhaskar as Prakash Kumar's assistant

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳ 

Those of us who still feel lucky for being able to marry the woman we did can take heart in watching a Joe Shmoe like Dhanush with the two of the most glamorous women in the industry.

Thanga Magan is not a remake of the Rajnikanth original.  It is instead, the portrait of a young man who must suddenly jump from the passions of youth to the responsibility of manhood.

Amy Jackson fulfills the passion part, and Brother! are these two passionate.  Being partly British, her character Hema is free to kiss and cuddle Dhanush to the director's heart's content.  But, she is quickly and easily brushed aside when the comedic Dhanush must become the dramatic Dhanush.

It is the easy brushing aside which weakens the film, and it is only further exacerbated by the fact that Hema marries Dhanush's own cousin.  Needless to say, however, the storyline is necessary to once again bring in the revenge concept which is so much the obsession in Tamil film.  For Dhanush's maturity comes with a certain over the top bravado.

 Thankfully, Samantha's role as the arranged marriage wife tones things down to a believable level.  The second half witnesses a family drama, in which Yamuna becomes the faithful and truly loving wife to a man who seeks to do the right thing, despite the temptations to do otherwise, and despite the fact he must go against his own family members to do so.

I am of the opinion had the spirit of the second half remained throughout the film, rather than the sudden "jump the shark" between halves, the movie would have been a good one.  Thanga Magan leaves me feeling average, but feeling very lucky to be married.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oozham - bombs away

2016, Malayalam
directed by Jeetu Joseph

Prithviraj Sukumaran as Surya
Divya Pillai as Gayathri
Rasna Pavithran as Aishwarya

Neeraj Madhav as Ajmal
Jayaprakash as Wilfred Marcus
Balachandra Menon as Krishnamoorthy
Tony Luke as Andrew Wilfred-Marcus

Anson Paul as Mark Wilfred-Marcus

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳

Just once, I wish Indian film could figure out that justice can be an equally viable plot device as revenge.  What if the three leads in this movie were RAW agents or CBI, doing their job, rather than yet again, three overly talented novices who are out for revenge?  Would it have made the movie less watchable?

We can only wonder what gives Surya, a building demolition expert, the  skills to fend off a host of bad-guys and create exploding phones.  He could've worked for Samsung and been believed more.

But searching through for a deeper plot in Oozham is moot.  The movie is more about clever storyline than believability, and in that category it wins hands down.  The acting may be less than par, but the clever editing between flashback and present to create tension is brilliant.  The handsome Prithviraj is joined by a handsome cast of stars and this adds to our interest in the film; but, the director does not  make room for romance - a refreshing twist.

What is kept straight is a clear-cut vengeance tale, with room for gadgets and glamor.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Jo Achyutananda - brotherly loves

Jo Achyutananda
Telugu, 2016
directed by Srinivas Avasarala

Nara Rohit as Achyuth Rama Rao
Naga Shourya as Ananda Vardhan Rao
Regina Cassandra as Jyotsna
Tanikella Bharani as Jyo's Father
Pavani Gangireddy as Achyuth's Wife

Nani as Jyo's Boyfriend

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳

A charming young woman from a conservative home rents space from an equally middle class conservative family, and sparks fly.  But, not in the way you think.  For you see, both of the brothers are in love with the pretty Jyo, and they will do just about anything, including burning her passport, in the fight to see who wins her heart.

Inspired by Seethammo Vakitlo Sirimalle Chattu, the heart and its callings are the object of this sensitive story. Jyo is a take care of herself, mature young woman, who finds both gentlemen interesting and inviting of a good friendship.  But, boys will be boys, and each has different intentions with Jyo.  The movie takes us on a mature study of what happens and how the two boys finally become men.

Indeed, the need for men to grow up has become a world-wide problem, more so in conservative India where the fine line between friendship and romance become blurred through its very own movie industry.  

The film slightly edges over the fine line to exaggeration, but the raw emotion and deep set sentiment of bringing two brotherly boys together as men makes Jo Achyutananda far from a sleeper.   

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Iru Mugan - beat, spray, love

Iru Mugan
(Two Faced)
2016, Tamil
Directed by Anand Shankar

Vikram as Akilan/Love
Nayantara as Meera/Rosy
Nitya Menen as Aayushi
Thambi Ramiah as Muthiah
Nassar as Mallik

Mohan's Measure ✳

For the first time in Indian movie history, Love has nothing to do with women.  For you see, Vikram has fallen in love with himself, and to prove it, plays opposite himself as a transgender, leaving the two most popular actresses in South Indian cinema waiting in the wings.

Now, please believe me, as a card-carrying Democrat, I wouldn't have a problem with alternate lifestyle.  But, it is the way it is presented, flashy, over the top, something to be laughed at, which I have problems with.  Homosexual characters have been part of American cinema since its inception, and some have become immortalized.  But, in Indian cinema, these characters are offered with homophobic overtones, giving a sort of macabre comedy to the story, rather than a believable role.

Vikram is clearly presenting us this comedy, as his over-inflated ego puts his feminine side against the muscle bound secret agent who is ought for - yes, yet again - revenge.  Everything else, story, plot, even songs, are put second to this, and for this reason the movie fails to impress.

I would suggest Vikram tone down the self-Love. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Nadu Iravil - one little, two little, three little...

Nadu Iravil
(In the middle of the night)
1970, Tamil
Directed by S. Balachander

Major Sundarrajan as Dhayanandam
Pandari Bai as Ponni (Dhayanandam's wife)
S. Balachander as Dr. Saravanan
Sowcar Janaki as Ragini
Cho Ramaswamy as Sarvar Mose

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳  ✳  

In a palatial home on a desert island, a lonely old man finds out he has 30 days to live.  He is concerned about who will take care of his estate and his mentally ailing wife.  His doctor steps in to help, arranging a week for his estranged relatives to meet on the island.  Among them, is one person who is deserving of being heir.  The stage is set, for murder, as one after another is carefully, meticulously, killed 

If the story reminds you of something, it should.  It is based on Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, which has been made into stage plays and movies a number of times.  What makes this movie unique is that it is in an Indian setting, filled with the melodrama and romance of the style and substance of the era.

Dhayanandam finds out he has 30 days to live.  His friend Dr. Saravanan agrees to help him find an heir to care for his estate and his mentally ailing wife.  Ten estranged relatives are brought to his mansion on a lonely island, and the rest is set for murder and whodunit.

Readers of the book, or those who know Christie's novels will be quick to short-list the obvious suspects. But, it is the look and feel of the film, the way the characters are interwoven with complex conversation, that lends an air of noir, a darkness far darker than Christie could have imagined it.

Sadly, this forgotten classic has not been kept well; the YouTube version is filled with crackles in sound and picture, along with tinny, sometimes indiscernible conversation. But, this only adds to the ambiance, making Nadu Iravil a perfect film for a stormy autumn evening.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Anthapuram - meet the family

Telugu, 1998
Directed by Krishna Vamsi

Soundarya as Bhanu
Sai Kumar as Shekar
Prakash Raj as Narasimha
Jagapathi Babu as Dubai Pandiyan
Sharada as Narasimha's wife

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳  ✳

Digging into the forgotten classics, out pops Anthapuram, one of the weirdest films you will ever like.

The first to deal with Rayalseema factionalism, Anthapuram sets the stage for others in the genre of village violence.  Indeed you see a lot of later characters in the inimitable style of Prakash Raj, who plays the headman with a Hillbilly-like eccentricity.  He looks like he hasn't bathed in a month, and has dirty hair to prove it.  

His own heir, played by Sai Kumar, runs away from the family to get away from the violence only to return to face an untimely end.  Mr. Kumar's acting could use a few tips, however, as he stands like a stiff board through most of his characterization, including in what is supposed to be on screen chemistry with Ms. Soundarya.

It is in this late, great actress, who was taken away from us far too soon, that the movie finds its center, drawing upon her talents both as a charming young woman and as a versatile dramatist to bring meaning and insight into the madness which is Southern Andhra village life.

Life and death are played out in Jagapathi Babu, an innocent bystander and good Samaritan who winds up the Christ-like figure in this odd tragedy, which ends with as little meaning, but just as much creepiness, as its beginning.