Search This Blog


Friday, October 21, 2016

Manamantha - Middle Class Meanderings

(all of us)
Telugu, 2016
directed by Chandra Sekhar Yeleti

Mohanlal as Sairam
Gautami as Gayathri
Viswant Duddumpudi as Abhiram
Raina Rao as Mahitha
Anisha Ambrose as Aira
Urvashi as Gayathri's neighbour
Nandamuri Taraka Ratna as Road side painter
Gollapudi Maruti Rao as Gayathri's Professor

Paruchuri Venkateswara Rao as Store Manager

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳ ✳

During my many visits to the city, there is nothing that I liked better than hob-nobbing with the middle class of Hyderabad. For among the masses, one discovers the city's charm is in the people - their pulse on the hustle and bustle of city life, and the fact that each one knows that we all gotta depend on each other if we are going to survive it all.

Manamantha, a vignette of the lives of four unique but wonderfully middle class people, is all about this side of the city and its citizens.  Good natured, it does at time go over the top, but its plot has a Madeline feel about it which actually makes you relate to the characters and feel good about it.

The closest to charming is the story of Mahitha, an idealistic tweenager who wants to help a little boy from the slums go to school.  The problem is that he somehow gets lost along the way.

The next up in order of charm is the story of Gayatri, a mother and housewife, who is suddenly given the chance to get everything she deserves.  Now if she can only decide what that is.

Next is the story of Abhiram, a dreamy-eyed young man who learns that falling in love in the big city is not what it's cracked up to be.

Lastly there is Sairam, a man who will do just about anything to move up the ladder, and will let his conscience hit him hard in the process.

There are lessons to be learned in all of this.  The most important of these is that to make things work, you have to stick together and you have to do the right thing, in spite of it all.

Stuck on this charming movie is what I find myself feeling after seeing it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Madaari - commoner's fate

Hindi, 2016
Directed by Nishikant Kumar

Irrfan Khan as Nirmal Kumar
Vishesh Bansal as Rohan Goswami
Jimmy Shergill as Nachiket Verma
Tushar Dalvi as Prashant Goswami
Uday Tikekar as Pratap Nimbalkar
Nitesh Pandey as Sanjay Jagtap
Sadhil Kapoor as Cheeku

Mohan's measure ✳ ✳ ✳

Nirmal Kumar is the ideal voter.  He is living in his own cocoon consisting of himself, his son, their apartment, and his work.  He needs nothing from others, and is least concerned about politics or the people which make it up.  Yet, every year, as with the rest of us, he puts in his vote. based solely on what the politicians make the talking heads say and the masks they wear in public.  

It takes a tragedy for truth to rear its ugly head.  In learning it, Nirmal becomes a one man vigilante out to prove a point.  And to do so, he kidnaps the home ministers son.

Madaari is not a very believable movie, but it is a good movie.  Rather than focusing on the futile investigation to catch the kidnapper, or how his actions make a nation stand up against political corruption, the movie is found in conversation - between the kidnapper and smart little boy who becomes his friend, and between the kidnapper and the politician.  The first speaks of men, and their obsessive desire to protect their families.  The second speaks of how, in protecting and nurturing family, men are capable of doing very bad things.

Young Visesh Bansal does a believable job as the precocious young man who is held hostage.  So much so, he stays on par with the brilliant acting of Irrfan Khan.  Jimmy Shergill is also good as the inexperienced but tough cop assigned by the system to investigate.  

Madaari follows the method of A Wednesday in telling of a man who single-handedly brings a system to its knees.  In that way, it is old hash.  But, it is the quiet but telling conversations of life, as it is, which engages us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Designing Woman - Knockout and knock outs

Designing Woman
Directed by Vincent Minneli
Gregory Peck as Mike Hagen
Lauren Bacall as Manilla Brown
Dolores Gray as Lori Shannon
Tom Helmer as Zachary Wilde
Mickey Shaugnessy as Maxie Stoltz 

Mohan's Measure ✳ ✳ ✳ ✳

Every man wants to be Cary Grant,  but I would settle for being Greg Peck.  Especially in his romantic roles,  the Peck persona is the everyman hero,  the rugged American man whom one's wife would love to be seen with,even if he isn't perfect

In Designing Woman,  he is picked up by Manilla Brown and is married in less than a day.  Soon,  the fun begins,  aa the two set-in-their-ways individuals wind up having to share each other's unique life and their respective cast of eccentric friends. 

Fans of old Hindi films will find there is a lot to relate to,  as chic modern meets conservative middle class and the fireworks fly. 

For thus critic, a chance to relate to one of my role models, a true American hero and one of the last true gentlemen. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Oppam - Blind Man's Bluff

2017, Malayalam
Directed by Priyadarshan

Mohanlal as Jayaraman
Anusree as Ganga, ACP
Samuthirakani as Vasudevan
Vimala Raman as Devayani
Nedumudi Venu as Justice Krishnamoorthy
Baby Meenakshi as Nandini

Mohan's measure ✳  ✳

Thriller films can usually be fit into two categories, the Alfred Hitchcock style or the Agatha Christie style.

Agatha Christie films are usually whodunits.  Consequently, they require the audience to be introduced to a whole host of characters, some comical, some serious.  The intent is to build up the audience's curiosity of whom, among the long list of suspects, is the one who did the devious crime.

The Maestro Hitchcock, however, has the reputation of not wanting to waste precious film on needless characters. In his films, who did it means nothing.  It is  why and how that matter. His stories are about the human condition, putting ordinary human beings into extraordinary situations to see how they come up with a solution.

Put the two styles together, and you have no other go but the botched up mess called Oppam.  

In it, Mohanlal plays Jayaraman, a blind man with so many talents, people wonder if he is blind at all.  The otherwise stupendous acting fails miserably, primarily because there is little to convince the we the audience he is blind either.

He is brought into the first half of the movie like an amateur detective, helping his friend, a former judge, to find out about an old enemy who is after him.  By the end of the first half, he is accused, arrested and tortured so many times, we wonder why he isn't thrown in a jail cell; blame, perhaps, his super-human talent of being able to perform martial arts, just by listening for the presence of the enemy.  Interesting talent, but not worth a dime if you want to make a whodunit.

The whodunit is done for by the end of the first half, when we discover who the killer is.  Suddenly we are whisked away into a dark, dingy, Catholic boarding school where just four characters, including a little girl named Nandini, are being chased around by a psychopathic killer.  The only link to the first half, the killer is the same guy who was after Mohanlal's friend. We are now in Hitchcock's world, replete with Catholic iconography, rooftop chases, and the blind victim.

From Agatha to Hitchcock, we are blinded by confusion.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Kutrame Thandanai - the end justifies...nothing

Kutrame Thandanai
(The Crime is the Punishment)
2016, Tamil
directed by M. Manikandan

Vidharth as Ravichandran
Aishwarya Rajesh as Swetha
Pooja Devariya as Anu
Rahman as Vijay Prakash
Guru Somasundaram as Balan
G. Marimuthu as Arun

Mohan's Measure ✳  ✳  ✳  ✳  ✳

Kutrame Thandanai is a rarity of film.  It is a rich, meaningful story told in a tight and engaging way.  It is a gripping film which, at just over 90 minutes, feels like you've seen enough even if you want to see more.

Seeing is believing to Ravi, a man suffering with tunnel vision and desperately needing an eye transplant.  A voyeur by hobby, he spends much of his free time staring into the life of a beautiful young woman in the apartment across the way.  One night he spies a man racing in and out of the woman's apartment.  Curious, he confronts the man, and bribes begin.

Carefully interweaving through the suspects, Ravi is offered money to stay quiet, and the higher bidder wins out.  Soon, he has more than enough money to quit his job and be ready for a transplant.  Critical suspects are brought to the attention of the police, and the case moves forward.  All the key suspects are included - save one - the witness, Ravi himself.

Kutrame Thandanai has spared little in doing homage to the Maestro, Alfred Hitchcock..  The tightly packed apartments which face each other features a montage of characters, reminiscent of the Rear Window.  The victim herself is alluring but mysterious, much like Vertigo.  And there is an overarching Shadow of a Doubt about what actually is going on, even though nothing is really told.

Certainly, a highly recommended piece of art film which will serve to bring a...Good all lovers of Film Noir.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Hyper - turn your back on it

Telugu, 2016
Directed by Santosh Srinivas 

Ram Pothineni as Surya
Raashi Khanna as Bhanumathi
Sathyaraj as Narayana Murthy
Rao Ramesh as the Minister

Mohan's Measure Zero

The honest Joe, you know the kind. Straight and narrow, honest as the day is long, family man, unsung hero. You'd want to watch his back, because he watches yours. 

Meanwhile, our hero is watching the backsides of every young woman in Hyderabad, looking for the one he fell in love with.  If you think that's strange, wait till you find out what our man feels about his Dad. 

Before we get too carried away by the Freudian overtones,  the movie turns into the usual about dirty politicians and how they want to destroy  Dear Old Dad's honest career.  Here is where what little dignity this movie has is preserved,  with two experienced actors presenting us with their sophisticated acting. Of course, only the hero as a one man army can save the day.

An army of skilled editors,  however, could not save this movie. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Bichagadu - Beg your pardon?

(The Beggar)
2016, Telugu
directed by Sasi
Vijay Antony as Arul
Satna Titus as Magizhini (Mahini)
Bagavathi Perumal as Rajesh
Muthuraman as Arul's uncle
Dheepa Ramanujam as Bhuvaneshwari

Mohan's Measure ✳ 

Bichagadu, the Telugu dubbing of Pichaikkaran, seems to have a lot to say, but it just doesn't know what that is.

It is a message picture without a message, which keeps it at a placid level guaranteed to turn away the interest of the average movie-goer. 

Vijay Antony is certainly as confounding as ever, offering little more than blank expression for everything from tragedy to humor.  If there are tears, they are crocodile ones, if there is love it is seen as being something he obviously deserves because of his great penance for...his mother.

For you see, Arul is a billionaire who is engaged in a penance to save his mother, who is currently in a coma.  His penance is to live the life of a beggar on the city streets for 48 days, the number of days being picked over 40 just to be different.  

His life among the beggars seems to be little more than eating less and not having a cell phone.  It appears that the beggars the director wants us to empathize consider their plight as an 8:00 - 5:00 job, the rest of the time is spent squandering the little earnings they have on things from cell phones to designer shirts.  The shirts, come in handy, as the convoluted story  brings in a love story.

And because of this, we are interwoven between a story about a rich man living a beggar's life, to a love story between a poor man and a pizza delivery girl.  Nothing of either story has much to tell us that we don't already seem to know, nor does it seem to care we know anything.  The movie expects us to watch  and we do, with little but impatient desire to see how it ends.