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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru (D16) - the devil is in the details

Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru
(16 extremes)
Tamil, 2016
directed by Karthick Naren
Rehman as Deepak
Prakash Vijayaraghavan as Gautham
Ashwin Kumar as the aspiring cop
Karthikeyan as Melvin
Praveen as Mano
Bala Hasan as Prem
Yaashima Aanand as Shruti

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳ ✳ ✳

As many readers know, I am really into film noir.  Its dark, captivating genre reminds us to be humble yet committed in life; it emphasizes its gray areas, and upholds the inevitable success of justice.  It is obvious that such film requires a certain emotional maturity to make, what to speak of write.  It requires a certain precision, a focus to details of emotion and personality.

Needless to say, to learn to Mr. Naren is just 21 years old is perhaps the most impressive thing I can say about D16.  It is profoundly classic noir, bringing an aging gentlemen together with a tough aspiring cop to discuss what it means to serve, and to recall the events of the baffling case which brought the older one to disillusionment and retirement.

But, there is more than flashback here.  The story is told from different angles; what-ifs are intermixed with facts.  The image of a psychotic killer plagues our mind, and we find ourselves just where the brilliant director wants us to be, where the cop is, outside of ourselves, confused, asking too many questions of ourselves and the film.  

Throughout it all, we are haunted with Rehman.  He is stoic, honest, unattached to the cops around him, and to the witnesses who fill him with information.  For him, it is a matter of doing the job and justice.  The risks result in a tragic accident which leaves him without a leg, and his young partner, Gautham, in a coma.  The years will pass without answers, with Divine Justice waiting in the wings, and a shocking answer is revealed, to our applause.

D16 is a like a fine wine or a good cup of coffee.  It invites you in, carefully sinks you in your seat, and sets your thoughts ablaze. 

Ghazi - up periscope

Telugu/Hindi - 2017
directed by: Sankalp Reddy
Rana Daggubati as Lt. Commander Arjun Varma
Kay Kay Menon as Captain Ranvijay Singh
Atul Kulkarni as Executive Officer Devraj
Satyadev Kancharana as Sonar Operator Rajeev
Rahul Singh as Commander Razaq Mohammed Khan
Om Puri
Tapsee Pannu as the refugee

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳ ✳ ✳

History continues to debate what exactly happened that fateful December day in 1971.  All it knows is that the PNS Ghazi, the flagship of the Pakistani Naval submarine fleet, exploded near the bottom of the Bay of Bengal.  History records, however, that it was on a planned attack of the Port City of Vishakapatnam, one of the key trading ports along India's Eastern Coast.

What happens when one takes history and makes a story out of it?  In the case of first-time Director Reddy's film Ghazi, it becomes a masterpiece.

Ghazi is like no other South Indian film ever made.  It runs under two hours, has absolutely no songs, and clothes its leading lady in navy coveralls.  It is a brazen and engaging work of art, carefully outlining a series of military maneuvers and associated protocols which would result in the sinking of the submarine by another which was in the area at the time, India's INS Vikrant.

While Mr. Daggubati takes top billing, it is really the refined Mr. Menon's method acting which steals the scene and the movie.  As Captain Singh, Menon is authoritarian, eccentric, and overtly commanding; but,he shows his true merit in the midst of stress in returning a toy to a little girl.

Rana's awestruck look is probably real, bowing to the incredible power of Mr. Menon, who could easily be compared to the late, great Marlon Brando.  

But, Mr. Daggubati holds his own in his role, which at times can be over the top. Lt. Commander is a by-the-rules Navy officer who is at first against the commanding officer. Circumstances later convince him to join the ranks of those who break protocol to go after the enemy.

Do not expect bravado here.  There are no heroes in this movie, only soldiers, and damn good ones.  Knowing that politics would do nothing for their names or their career, they put their lives at risk to save their land - our Motherland - for no other reason than it being the right thing to do. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Vijetha - use the old "kidney"

Telugu, 1985
directed by: A Kondandarami Reddy
Chiranjeevi ... Chinnababu a.k.a Madhusudana Rao
Bhanupriya ... Priyadarshini
Sarada ... Saraswathi
Satyanarayana ... Harischandra Prasad
K. Vijaya ... Sumathi
Sreelakshmi ... Radha
Samyukta ... Lakshmi
Somayajulu ... Narasimham
Allu Ramalingayya ... Anjayaneyulu
Nutan Prasad ... Narayana Rao

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳

God has made it so that not all of us turn out to be success stories. Indeed, for the majority of us "American joes", our lives are lived best in the day to day, doing our job, caring for our family, and trying to give something back to the world.

This attitude is what makes us relate to Chinnababu.  His do-good nature and his love for sports is only second to his respect and pride in being the youngest in a large, loving family.  he is not the brightest student, and he struggles to find a job.  But, when push comes to shove, it is he, over all others who proves that matters of the heart have little if anything to do with matters of money.

Vijetha is classic 80s cinema, filled with fantasy-like dream sequences of lovers in the park dancing to Michael Jackson - like disco songs.  Representing a conservative age when the Telugu world was first being introduced to the spoils of international living, the movie is as melancholic as it is melodramatic.  

The melodrama is clearly accentuated in Somayajulu's character as the father, a character trait which he was famous for.  Life in this character is far too complicated and never ever satisfying, as even his son's answer to life's problems is met with a certain defeatist sentiment.

Defeat is not what Priyadarshini will accept in winning her love.  Played by a young Bhanupriya, the character is a hint of the "eye candy" roles we see in today's cinema.  Thankfully, there is story around all the songs which keeps our interest.

Lengthy but interesting, Vijetha is a winner in the category of classic 80s family drama.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Om Namo Venkatesaya - roll of the dice

Om Namo Venkatesaya
(All belongs to Venkatesa)

2017, Telugu
directed by: K. Raghavendra Rao
Akkineni Nagarjuna as Hathiram Bhavaji
Anushka Shetty as Krishnamma
Pragya Jaiswal as Bhavani

Saurabh Raj Jain as Lord Venkateswara
Sai Kumar as Anubhavananda Swamy
Brahmanandam as Simhachalam
Rao Ramesh as Govindarajulu
Vennela Kishore

Sampath Raj as Raja Giridhara Raaya

Mohan's Measure

"Mr. DeMille, make me a star"!  Cecil B. Demille's lavish productions of Biblical stories were huge successes in the 60s and 70s.  They were formulaic in nature, offering a Bible filled with over the top bravado, larger than life sets, and an array of racy scenes geared to keep the audience engaged.

Well, move over Mr. Demille and meet Mr. Raghavendra Rao, who follows suit with his next in his set of over the top devotional movies, Om Namo Venkatesaya.   Like his other attempts at opening our heart to faith, Rao chooses Nagarjuna to play Hathiram Bhavaji, the devotee of Srinivasa who is known for having played games of chance with Him at night when His Temple was closed.  

Director Rao has certainly taken a chance, a big one.  The story of Hathiram Bhavaji forms only one short chapter of Sri Venkateswara Mahatmyam; so, extreme levels of poetic license have been used to create a sometimes romantic, sometimes melancholic, always lavishly over the top, tale of Bhavaji and how he came to settle and remain on the Sacred Seven Hills.

After watching the movie, however, one question stays in my mind - why?  Why make a movie about a character who plays such a small role in the immense history of Thirumala?  And why use a guy who looks too young to be shaving to play the Lord, the Immutable Source of the Universe?  What to speak of Pragya Jaswal, who looks like a Kindergarten student in front of the middle aged Nagarjuna? And what to say about Anushka, who plays the role of a fellow living saint and quasi-love interest?

The movie itself provides no answers, as its only faith is in itself. If you bet on anything, bet that you will be happier not seeing this film.

Singam 3 - Scraps of "tinnitus"

Singam 3
(lion 3)
Tamil, 2017
Directed by Hari
Suriya as DCP Durai Singam
Anushka Shetty as Kavya Durai Singam
Shruti Hasan as Vidhya (Agni)
Raadhika Sarathkumar as Ramakrishna's wife
Krish as V. Sreenivas
Thakur Anoop Singh as Vittal Prasad
Nithin Sathya as Murali
Soori as Veerabahu "Veeram"
Robo Shankar as Subba Rao "Subbu"
Sarath Babu as K. Sathyanarayana, Home minister of Andhra Pradesh
Vijayakumar as Ramanathan, Home minister of Tamil Nadu

Mohan's Measure

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it is that Singam 3 is Loud; from the first manly roar to the landing of airplanes, our ears are forced to feast upon every aggressive sound known to humanity at far than expected levels of exaggeration.

Exaggeration is what Si3 (for the Tamil letter சி) is all about. But, it is regurgitated, a virtual repeat of Singam 2 with a new one-sided love interest, played with supercilious apathy by Ms. Hasan.  If there is something to make it worse, it is the fact that everyone other than the leonine hero has a bit part.  Ms. Shetty is on the screen for only about 15 minutes, Ms. Hasan slightly longer than that.   

It would seem that Mr. Suriya has joined the Kamal Hassan self-love club, preferring that his muscle bound body and handle-bar mustache take precedence over everything and everyone, including any script that would carry the story.

The plot is interesting, the usual set of bad guys apathetically selling land fills in India for medi-waste and e-waste to Australia. But, it plays little role in CGI images of a jumping lion and loads and loads of bullets flying around.

If there is waste in this movie, it is the time and money we spent watching it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Eedo Rakam Aado Rakam - Twin Sons of Different Fathers

Eedo Rakkam Aado Rakkam
(This guy is one type, the other guy is another type)
2016, Telugu
Directed by Sampath Gundarapu
Manchu Vishnu as Arjun
Raj Tarun as Ashwin
Sonarika Bhadoria as Neelaveni
Hebah Patel as Supriya
Rajendra Prasad as Advocate Narayana

Posani Krishna Murali as Inspector M.Koteshwar Rao
Ravi Babu as Aadi Narayana
Satya Krishnan as Satya

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳

Eedo Rakkam Aado Rakkam is a classic screwball comedy which is filled with one-liners, double entendres, and lots and lots of confusion.

Manchu Vishnu makes the movie move at top speed, as the youngest son in a very successful family who uses his talent for little white lies to win the girl of his dreams.  Although he seems a little out of place with the whole thing, Raj Tarun rides on his coattails as the best friend and sidekick who weaves his own yarn to win his own dream girl.

Rajendra Prasad and Posani Krishna Murali take on the roles of very confused straight men to this rip-roaring good time of a movie, which hints of Tamil's Kaadhala Kaadhala.

The problem is the bad guys, who don't seem to fit in well into a a screwball comedy.. This is especially true of Abhimanyu Singh, whose poor lip sync and acting method really do not line up with a movie where everyone is making fun of themselves and each other.

You will have fun, though, putting aside your brain and speeding through this fast paced comedy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bogan - the old "switcheroo"

2017, Tamil
Directed by Lakshman
Jayam Ravi as ACP Vikram IPS
Arvind Swamy as Adithya Maravarman
Hansika Motwani as Mahalakshmi
Nassar as Chezhiyan
Ponvannan as Rajkumar
Naren as Vikram's father
Nagendra Prasad as Prasad
Varun as Sathya
Akshara Gowda as Akshara

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳

Countless centuries ago, legend says, a siddhar named Bogar constructed the murthy of Palani's Dhandayudhapani out of nine poisons, which together, work as a healing agent.  It is also said he mastered 64 different special powers, the 52nd of which brings a fun twist to the otherwise predictable movie Bogan.

Bogan is not a serious film, nor is it a horror film; and this is what makes it fun. It's an entertaining twist to the tough cop, evil villain story which some critics have dubbed a "popcorn thriller".

The thrill to the story is just how amazing Arvind Swamy's acting is. The refined actor brings a certain gentlemanly charm to his nefarious character, and in that way, we find ourselves liking the guy.

Jayam Ravi is a likable guy, but we can easily see the weight on his shoulders associated with his playing opposite his experienced antagonist.  But, his style is Academy Award worthy compared to Ms. Motwani, who just cannot seem to find anything but "eye candy" roles to play in current South Indian cinema.

Sometimes confusing, not too funny, but often times fun, Bogan feels like a carnival ride which can be enjoyed by the family, as long as one doesn't look too closely.