Mohan's Measures:

✳ ✳ ✳ ✳ ✳ Superb
✳ ✳ ✳ ✳ Excellent
✳ ✳ ✳ Good
✳ ✳ Not Bad

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Aithe - conning the Khan-artist

(if so)
Telugu, 2017
directed by Chandra Sekhar Yeleti
Pavan Malhotra as Irfan Khan
Veerendra Chowhan as Musharraf
Mohit Chadda as Ramu
Shashank as Kumar
Janardhan as Shankar
Abhishek as Vivek
Sindhu Tolani as Aditi

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳

After hearing my views on Telugu film-noir, a good friend pointed me in the direction of Chandra Sekhar Yeleti and his neo-noir movies.  I have reviewed a couple of the director's films already, but have missed Aithe, a clever little twist to the film noir experience which brings in a touch of dark humor.

The movie tells the tale of four desperate and relative naive young men who make just the right assumptions and successfully kidnap the most wanted man in the world.  He turns out to be a villain with a warm spot for naive kidnappers, and we find ourselves entertained in the way he plays with  them throughout.  

The goal is to somehow hand the man over to the police, which takes the second half and turns it and us upside down into a deeper, far more complex story about informers, spies, and corruption.

The plot is tightly packaged around the four young men, the villain, and the sister of one of the four young ones.  Surprisingly, she is there not as love interest, but as an intelligent and rational adviser to the zany bunch of money-hungry schmoes.

The movie reminds us, in a dark but comical way, how the best of things can come from the best - albeit misplaced - intentions.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Keshava - Quippin' Tarentino

2017, Telugu
directed by Sudheer Varma
Nikhil Siddharth as Keshava
Ritu Varma as Sathyabhama
Isha Koppikar as Sharmila Mishra
Rao Ramesh as ??
Brahmaji as ??

Mohan's Measure 

Regulars to my movie page will know that I am not a big fan of Quentin Tarantino.  But, when even the Times of India gives good ratings to a Telugu movie, I'm in.  In for what remains the unanswered question.

One critic has been extremely kind to Mr. Varma for extolling Keshava to the heights of a Tarantino film.  If this is the best that Mr. Tarantino can do, however, then Brother, am I glad I'm not a fan.

Nikhil plays out his role with unemotional plasticity, as if to beg, "feel sorry for me, I'm a serial killer".  Ms. Varma (no relation to the Director) does little justice to either eye candy or serious girlfriend. But, her character is as smart as the audience in figuring out who the killer is, and she does so with little if any circumstantial evidence.  Ms. Koppikar is there as a special officer and Sushmita Sen stand-in, to offer lots of worried looks and cop-like orders.

The rest of the movie is cameos, of good actors playing bad cops whom the ever-serious Keshava kills mercilessly. His only moral compass is the haunting memories of a crazy hit and run case involving them.  Situations seem to fall magically in his favor, even in winning his innocence when caught.  While the plot could have been made interesting, the Writer/Director seems to be too impressed with himself to care.  Of course, there is the fact that Keshava is a Brahmin and that he has a heart condition, but little more than 15 seconds are offered to that.

There is very little else to the story here, even the picturesque landscapes of the Godavari region seem to be overshadowed by a dark cloud, not of evil and revenge, but of very poor movie-making.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ami Thumi -

Ami Thumi
(this way and that way)*
2017, Telugu-Telengana
directed by Mohanakrishna Indraganti

Avasarala Srinivas as Vijay
Adivi Sesh as Ananth
Eesha Rebba as Deepika
Aditi Myakal as Maya
Tanikella Bharani as Janardhan
Vennela Kishore as Sri Chilipi
Shyamala Devi as Kumari
Tanikella Bhargav as Kaashi

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳ 

Several years ago, Director Indraganti made a movie called Ashta Chamma, a screwball comedy based on Oscar Wilde's comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest.  His new movie, Ami Thumi takes Ashta Chamma and turns it into Biryani.

The script is largely in Telengana Telugu, the dialect spoken in Hyderabad, which, akin to the the City's famous dish, is a concocted and open-ended mix of Urdu, Arabic, Marathi, Bengali, Hindi, English, and unidentifiable slang all strewn over Telugu enough to make it unrecognizable to all those except the speaker and the ones to whom he/she is speaking.  It is a blast to listen to, much as New York slang is to the average American, and it makes the theme of the movie, about a Coastal Andhra schmo scammed by a group of city kids to make things go their way, all the more effective.

And, indeed, it is the bumbling and child-like Mr. Kishore, along with Tanikella Bharani as the scheming father, who turn a loosely woven story of stolen identity into a laugh-out-loud screwball comedy.  Except these two and their respective assistants, the rest of the world is on to the con, making it clear who pulls the wool over whom's eyes.

In short, "masthu gundhi, bey"!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman - men are corruptible

Wonder Woman
directed by Patty Jenkins
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Robin Wright as General Antiope
Danny Huston as Erich Ludendorff
David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Morgan
Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳ ✳

A society dominated by men has been worshiping a single male god for nearly 4000 years.  And what has it gotten us but war and suffering?  Innocent people killed in his name, prejudices based on what name he is called, a never-ending desire for power, lofty ideals struggling to explain the problems of evil, suffering and death.  

Perhaps, the world, waiting for answers, needs someone else, someone who is quick to act, empathetic, acting on instinct rather than high moral ground, loving beyond condition, whose sheer femininity is a source of both power and comfort.  Perhaps, what we the goddess.

Ms. Gadot convinces us that she is exactly what the world needs.  Indeed, she discovers she is the only one who can and must destroy Aries, the god of war. She descends to the world much like an Avatar, forsaking her perfect world and status as princess, to be the secretary, adviser, and decided leader to a rag tag group of spies sent to infiltrate the front lines.  Along the way she learns valuable lessons about being human, and how it is in man's very nature to be cruel, but also to be very kind, often at the same time.  She learns of the male's misguided sense of honor, and how this often interferes with his ability to be empathetic.  But, she also learns how he is willing to die for what he believes in.

Ms. Gadot's stunning physique is nothing before her abilities as an actress.  As many have said, she was born to play this role, offering up tremendous discipline, innocence, and tears of both of joy and pain - sometimes simultaneously - as she discovers a world which is both ugly in its cruelty and beautiful in its willingness to sacrifice for love.

Mr. Pine is the love interest, but he cannot match Ms. Gadot in acting skills.  He did a fine job playing the swashbuckling Captain Kirk and we feel like he is playing the same character as Trevor.

You will see borrowings of Bahubali in Wonder Woman, if only to remind you that what we call the Hero's Journey is just as much about her as it is about him.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

8 Thottakkal - the wrong side of the gun

8 Thottakkal
(8 bullets)
2017, Tamil
directed by Sri Ganesh

Vetri as Sathya
M. S. Bhaskar as Krishnamurthy
Nassar as Pandian
Aparna Balamurali as Meera Vasudevan
Manikandan as Jai

Mime Gopi as Gunasekaran

Mohan's Measure 

My college friends and I would have quite the laugh daydreaming about the day we would make a movie like Akira Kurusawa, the famed Japanese director of award winning film. Whether intentionally or not, our careers took us far away from that pipe-dream.  But, someone must have overheard.

Somewhere in the jumbled but unemotional mess which is 8 Thottakkal is Mr. Kurusawa's famed Stray Dog, a CSI-like crime story that set the precedent for police-noir.  To even consider it an interpretation would be stretching the limit.

A stretch is understatement for what it is for first time actor Vetri, whose blank look struggles between apathy and stage-fright.  He stands on the screen waiting for the director to tell him to do something; and when he moves, he is like a stop action cartoon character. This includes the song sequences with the heroine, to music which is as boring as he is.

Ms. Bhaskar simply appears on the screen.  While her acting is slightly better, she offers little chemistry or emotion as a reporter who is falling in love with the cop. She is not even eye-candy, her minimal makeup presenting us with a tired, sleepy character who appears to be simply stuck in this movie because her contract said so.

Sleepiness is offered as self-victimization by Mr. Bhaskar. He is fine, however, when it comes to his making us feel sorry for him.  He is a poor lonely widower, after all, having troubles with his kids.  So, who's to blame him for going on a killing spree around the city, his victims including little children? His long soliloquys justifying his actions make the movie all the worse.  The cop stands there, listening to him, totally lost to the fact that this man committed multiple murders.

This movie choked all the excitement out of film noir, turning it into film bland.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam - beyond the extraordinary...lies the ordinary

Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam
(Come, Let's Watch the Fun)
2017, Telugu
directed by Kalyan Krishna Kurasala

Naga Chaitanya as Siva
Rakul Preet Singh as Bhramarambha
Jagapathi Babu as Krishna
Sampath Raj as Adinarayana
Vennela Kishore as Kishore
Posani Krishna Murali
Pruthviraj as Dorababu
Chalapathi Rao as Adinarayana's father
Raghu Babu
Benerjee as Benerjee

Mohan's Measure 

So, it has been nearly five weeks.  Five weeks of flaunting South India, of dreaming of men climbing onto elephants, of humming to the magical Devasena song playing in my head. Murphy's Law demands a reality check.

Rarandoi Veduka Chuddam hits me like a ton of bricks.  Touted as a romantic comedy of sorts, the movie plot finds home in a light-hearted wedding filled with the best comedians and one-liners Tollywood can provide.

But, all weddings must come to an end and the director is now forced to tie up loose ends.  At one end, you have the story of two men who were once best friends but now hate each other.  At the other end, you have a young couple who meet at the wedding and exchange phone numbers. How do you tie the two together? Could the new couple, discovering their dads are the two estranged friends do something to bring them back together?  I can almost see the screenwriter about to put something down when he realizes - ah! This is supposed to be romance.  So, the tug of war winds up favoring the latter plot and virtually throwing out the former.

So, the love story plays out with two charming actors playing a young couple trying to find meaning and - magic tagline - "romance" - behind their playfully close friendship - where we have seen this before?  All else to imaginative plot comes to a screeching halt in an attempt to make the story "just a little different".  The difference is in taking the charming young girl and turning her into a heartless sad sack of a robot, who cannot sense or even hear when told that the guy is madly in love with her.

What's a poor director to do?....wait, an idea! She falls in love with him after her marriage is arranged to someone else - that's it!

Brilliant, Sir.  It's been done only 10,000 times or so in Telugu film-making.  

Did someone mention something about a Bahubali 3?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jomonte Suviseshangal - just your average Jomon

Jomonte Suviseshangal
(The Gospel according to Jomon)
Malayalam, 2017
directed by Sathyan Anthikad

Dulquer Salmaan as Jomon
Mukesh as Vincent, Jomon's Father
Aishwarya Rajesh as Vaidehi
Anupama Parameswaran as Catherine
Manobala as Perumal

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳

Jomonte Suviseshangal is wonderfully reminiscent of Jacobinte Swargarajyam, although it leaves room for a love story, in fact, two love stories.

The first is between Jomonte and Catherine, who is played in a charming and believable way by Ms. Parameswaran.  In every way, we hope a romance works out between these two, whom God brought together in His Church.  But, somehow, we can only speculate budgetary constraints, Catherine leaves the movie less than halfway through.  

Enter a new world for Jomonte, and a decidedly Hindu girl named Vaidehi as love story number two.  There is something discomforting in this, that a man would switch gears to a new love that fast.  But, the plot, being oriented towards a happy ending, wants to waste no time in exploring it.

What is explored is the bond between father and son, which like all male friendships, lies conflicted between camaraderie and rivalry.  Nothing is is presented as soliloquy or needless emotional drama; the facial expressions shared between the two men makes it clear who they are and what they feel, and this is truly commendable.

What we feel is a chipper feeling of good in the world in seeing this predictable but lovable tale.  Jomonte Suviseshangal is proof again of Mollywood's talent for making film in a way that is uniquely subtle but convincing.