Saturday, December 25, 2010

Manmadhan Ambu Review

When it comes to Kamal Haasan, even if it’s your routine masala flick, he infuses something different into it. And when he joins hands with K.S.Ravikumar, their films are sure to create a laugh riot. Add to the mix one of my favourites Madhavan, Miss Talk-of-the-town Trisha, and some rocking music by Devi Sriprasad and the fun is sure to be unlimited. I did have some apprehension think that it was a love story between Kamal Haasan and Trisha but the way Kamal and K.S.Ravikumar have depicted a concept of how honest people are in their relationship as the basis to Manmadhan Ambu cleared it all. So h  ere we go.

Scene: Airport. Actress Nisha aka Ambujakshi [Trisha] has planned a holiday on a cruise with her recently divorced friend Deepa [Sangeetha] and her two kids. Even with the picturesque views of Europe in front of her, Ambu's mind is preoccupied with the past. Flashback to Kodaikanal. Ambu is shooting a song with actor Suriya when her fiancé business tycoon Madhanagopal [Madhavan] comes on set with his parents [Usha Uthup and Kitty]. All is fine till Madhan mistakes a conference call between Suriya, his daughter [!!] and Ambu to be the two actors canoodling over the phone in broad daylight. Not wanting to make a scene, Madhan and Ambu go for a car ride where Madhan gives her a piece of his mind and before they realise, their argument consumes them so much that they have an accident with an oncoming vehicle. The two come out of it without any major damage but the same can’t be said for their relationship. Cut back to the present and we find out Madhan will not let go of Ambu all that easily. He enlists the assistance of Indian Army Officer Major Mannar to spy on Ambu while she is on her cruise. In return Madhan will pay for the treatment for Major's friend Rajan [Ramesh Arvind] who's in hospital with cancer. Seemingly a simple task, Major proceeds as directed and finds no secret lover or any other faults for that matter, with Ambu and reports this to Madhan. But instead of coming through with his side of the deal, Madhan backtracks, creating grief for Major as Rajan needs to be operated on urgently. Stepping aside from his honest and upright nature, Major tells a lie to save his friend. But as you all know, lies never come alone. What you witness from here is how that one lie will land Major in more trouble that he bargains for and to a truth that will change his life.
I know that Kamal Haasan needs no introduction and his acting skills are undeniable. But what I love about the way Kamal plays Major Mannar is that barring his intro scene, you won’t find him being over the top at all. Yes, it’s a comical situation with some odd turns but nothing that seems completely far-fetched like the climatic chase in Avvai Shanmughi or Panchathathiram. He is simple and honest without major dramatics. Dear Madhavan, welcome back to Tamil cinema. Oh how I have missed you! I have always had a firm belief that Madhavan has a flare for comedy that he has not exposed completely. The man is simply superb as the possessive fiancé [I personally think he deserves the "Best Drunken Act" Award and tweeted it to him too]. Trisha is by no means lagging behind the two in the film. I personally love the fact she dubbed for herself in the film and think why didn't producers/directors ask her to do it for her earlier projects. In fact, the sync sound worked enormously well with the entire cast. But, back to Trisha. She beautifully executes her love, frustration and turmoil and holds her ground next to the legendary actor. However, she has strong competition in the form of Sangeetha. Man, oh man do I love this woman. She has proved time and again that she is more than capable but I love her in this comedy avatar as Deepa, the stylish, rough-around-the-edges, street smart friend of Ambu. Kunjan and Manju Pillai as Mr and Mrs Kurup are hilarious as were the two little kiddies in the film. The usual suspects of Ramesh Arvind, Urvashi, and Sreeman do their bit as expected.
I have mentioned before that comedy is a serious business. Kamal Haasan has proven his comedic timing several times but this time he has tried his hand at 5 hats, Story-Screenplay-Dialogue-Lyric Writer and Actor. His trademark of comedy with a thought behind it to think about is evident. Even though the initial promos were confusing with Man Madhan Ambu shaped differently, the two reasons for it show that this is not just a normal love story, which it clearly isn’t. I love the way he has infuses emotion into a scene with his dialogue without making a caricature out it. And supporting him in a major way is K.S.Ravikumar. Making sure that the writing doesn’t get lost on celluloid, he makes the proceedings intriguing and easy to watch. But that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have its sad moments. Watch the way he depicts the scenes between Kamal and Trisha where they talk about his wife. Manush Nandan has done a great job with his cinematography, showing Europe in spectacular form and it’s sure to boost the tourist counts. Editing by Shaan Mohammed is clean and crisp.

When it comes to Devi Sriprasad I am always a little two minded. Don’t get me wrong, I love his work so there is always excitement when he has projects like these. But there have a few occasions when his songs seem the same, quite the opposite of his re-recording. However, my love for his work doesn’t get compromised this time around as DSP has scores majorly on both counts, with Kamal Haasan writing the lyrics for all the songs barring Oyyale which is written by Viveka. [Side note: The difference is quite evident]. Neela Vaanam, Thakida Thatham and the poem [yes it was still in the film] by Trisha and Kamal Haasan are the pick of the lot. A special must be made to the costumes of all the artists as each look amazing and natural to the character they played.

Amongst all the good stuff what can I say about the downfalls? Yes they are there. Kamal Haasan isn’t perfect as a writer as I wish he had given the actress who plays his wife and Oviya [Madhan marriageable cousin, Sunandha] a little more screen time and depth, respectively. It does get a little predictable but when the pluses outweigh the minuses, it is really easy to overlook these factors.  

At the end of it all, you will look into yourself and think how honest you are to your relationships while you tap your feet to the title track Manmadhan Ambu.

Rating: 4/5

Thanks to my twitter friend Vivek Ranjit's review, just found out that Gouthami is the mastermind behind the costumes. Cool!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Nagavalli Review

Considering its the Bean Counters Age, that is an age that intends on milking anything for all its worth, movies are turning out to be much the same. If a film does exceptionally well, there is most certain to be a sequel/another episode. Whether its Speed, Die Hard, Bad Boys or movies like Shrek, Toy Story or Madagascar. In Indian cinema, particular Telugu cinema, the fashion is not as common but it is sure to pick up as remakes have, since they were a taboo subject also. The first part 2/another episode that I witnessed from TFI was Shankar Dada Zindabad. Although I loved Chiranjeevi and Srikanth in it, the female lead Karishma Kothak was not up to par so what could have been an awesome remake of Lage Raho Munnabhai, skimmed by on the camaraderie of Chiranjeevi and Srikanth, and awesome music by Devi Sriprasad. Then came Aarya 2. I loved/love this film to bits. Beyond the story, its presentation, the soundtrack, the performances were simply superb! But wait. What does this have to do Nagavalli? Much like the two, Nagavalli was a film of interest because it is a sequel to the massively successful Chandramukhi. However, in this version, none of the original cast return to reprise roles. How do they fare? Lets jump right in to find out.

Nagavalli begins with the painting that was seen in Chandramukhi of the dancer changing location and becoming a prize for Gayathri[Kamalini Mukherjee] and her husband in a Bharatha Natyam dance competition in the presence of Gayathri's parents [Sarath Babu and Prabha]. Cut to 5 years later, we enter the household of Shankar Rao[Sarath Babu] in Thirupathi. Here he lives with his wife, 2 daughters Geetha[Shraddha Das] and Gowri[Richa Gangopadhyay] and his brother's family. Its a special day as his daughter Gowri has been approached for an alliance and is about to be engaged. But all is not well in the house that the portrait inhabits. The most obvious would be absence of their eldest daughter. Just as the formalities are to begin, the groom who was taking a look around the house, runs down the stairs scared out of his wits and out of the house, screaming "The alliance is off". On the other side of the house, Gowri's friend faints when she sees a 30 foot snake. Having seen the skin of a snake several years ago but unable to convince his family, Shankar Rao is worried but calls for a snake charmer[M.S.Narayan] to find and get rid of it. But just as mysterious as the snake itself, the snake charmer is found dead shortly after going to the top floor. With no other option, they turn to Siddhanti [priest] Ramachandra[Avinash]. Having dealt with Chandramukhi, he instantly recognizes the painting and calls for back up. But his friend Eeshwar[Rajnikanth as a photo] is away in US and cant make it. So Eeshwar sends his assistant Vijay[Venkatesh] to handle the crisis. Although true to his mentor's ways, Vijay has a positive attitude that steers clear of blind faith [mooda nammakam]. Yet, Vijay is not adverse to the supernatural and will have more than one ghost to deal with. In the closets that Shankar Rao and his wife keep hidden lies the secret behind their eldest daughter Gayathri. Mentally unstable, Siddhanti believes it is she who is possessed by Chandramukhi. But the truth is never that easy to find. So as the mysterious attacks on Vijay and Siddhanthi continue, Vijay pursues on to find out who is behind them and is Chandramukhi really back. A journey that will have him go back in the past 100 years ago when Nagavalli[Anushka] lived. When King Nagabhairava Rajasekhara [Venkatesh again] dominated a kingdom. For Vijay, the solution to the present lies in the past but with it,there also lies more than one surprise. 

First of all, the movie does start at the end of Chandramukhi and for the minute group of people that haven't seen Chandramukhi, it may be a blessing. Venkatesh has large shoes to step into and he does make an honest attempt. The accusations that he is copying Rajnikanth is rather ridiculous as there will only be so many words that you can use for the common man to understand psychology and furthermore, I have yet to meet a student that does not have any resembling characteristics in working style of their mentor. You the reader can correct if you want on this. Furthermore, there are significant [and insignificant] changes in characters that P.Vasu has introduced so in essence the Nagabhairava Rajasekhara character is of the era but different from that of Rajnikanth's portrayal. Regardless, Venkatesh is stepping out of his norm and tries his best at a supernatural theme with Nagabhairava yet retaining a cool character withVijay which I believe he does best. Coming to the leading ladies, in honesty there maybe 6[Shraddha,Richa, Anushka, Kamalini, Suja and Poonam] but the only ones that were able stand above the rest were Anushka, Kamalini, Richa and Shraddha in that order. Suja played the same role in the Kannada version Aaptha Rakshaka and it baffles me why she did it again. Poonam on the other hand, has gone back a few steps to junior artiste level, after tickiling the funny bone in RRKK and Vinayukudu. With them aside, Anushka by far leads the pack. How one wishes her crash course in Bharatha Natyam had more steps and was more believable as her acting. It may be the post I recently saw by Amaluu but it is blatantly obvious that the actress has little or no clue as what she is doing with her dancing. The actress tries to make up for it and emotes quite well but really misses out on the elegance of dancer because of this. Kamalini makes significant impact in her small but important character and deserves a mention for her more convincing dancer act. Richa is quite brave to do a character like this in her second film and shows that she's not just an NRI pretty face trying her hand at acting to pass time. Watch as the actress transforms on screen and you will know what I mean. She may have won accolades in Hindi for Lahore but Shraddha was brought to the limelight by Telugu Industry. Yet, it is only now she is able to prove her capacity that which you can see in Lahore. Brahmanandam is one of my most favourite comedians in TFI but whether he was imitating Vadivele or trying his own version of it, his comedy falls flat on its face. Even the scenes with Venkatesh could not get enough giggles and the same goes for Dharmavarupu Subrahmanyam. Avinash is somewhat arrogant and irritating in portions. Understandably he has some powers but the way in which he dismisses so many things so easily is in complete contrast to the enlightened soul he plays. The remaining cast is stricty ok.

On the technical side, the film looks good with camera work by Sam K Naidu. The sets used in the flashback sequence [Chinna] are in tune with part one without going on a complete tangent. While the general idea and certain portions keep you interested, repeating the same scenarios with small changes or lines said previously will test your patience. P. Vasu has made some classic hits like Panakkaran, Chinna Thambi, Mannan and of course, Chandramukhi, all of which were remade or dubbed into other languages. But the last time I saw such writing from him, was in the box office dud, Love Birds. Giving each member of the cast a valid stand point is hard and the struggle is evident in his writing. Where he gains brownie points in the way the story progresses forward, it is clear he hasn't given enough importance to validity of the story. Changing the name of characters and introducing new ones is fine but the film lacks the flow that Chandramukhi had. This is mostly due to the fact I've watched Chandramukhi and there was more than one occasion in which I thought Nagavalli takes away from the logics of Chandramukhi. But the film itself, refers back several times and keep in mind, this is supposed to be a continuation, not another episode. The penultimate 25 minutes that is supposed to be the heartbeat of the film, turns into a ridiculous affair with the fight sequences. More fighting, less prancing around please. Gurukiran may have scored with the Kannada versions Aaptha Mithra and Aaptha Rakshaka, but the music for this film is very situational and just about ok. A special note to the choreographers, please rethink your strategy as it could have saved this film [and us].

As you can see with the number of times I've said Chandramukhi in this review, Nagavalli is one film that asks you to leave your logic brain at home to enjoy it and although, you will, please be oblivious to Bharatha Natyam and Chandramukhi as well. If you do so then Venkatesh and the lovely leading ladies will give you a treat to watch.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A New Idea with a New Attempt before New Year..

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life - Pablo Picaso

 So I'm a little dirty [no pun intended!] when it comes to Art and frequency and motivation... well you get the gist.  But as of 2011, I intend on changing that. However, I am extending a hand to you all for help. The idea is set, the desire is there and the means I will form but the what is where I stumble. 

The concept is simple. New painting on large canvas. New Years day. Easy? Hopefully.

I know that some are going to criticise but hear me out on this. All I want is suggestions. A theme, an aspect, a character. Whatever it is. Good 'clean' suggestions - parents will see this. I want you to give some to paint/draw/photograph to not just fill but add to the blank canvas. I am usually an acryllic paint person but if there is another form I should use, then I will try that.

This is a request so if you cant be bothered or dont know, that isn't a problem. Be my witness. 

Starting: Dec 9th, 2010.
Finishing: Dec 31st, 2010- I hope.. *slaps*  No, I will!! 

As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life- John Lubbock Sr.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baava Review - Pora!

Loyalty is the essence of any fan. But certain things you can't be partial to. With the constant updates direct from Siddharth on twitter, Rajendra Prasad on screen after a long time and the pics of Siddharth in a village bum role, the expectations shot high. But this is one film that doesn't make it to those standards. So without dragging it out, lets begin.

Meet Veerababu[Siddharth]. He and his gang are the town mischief makers. From dressing as a girl with his gang to tease the local girls to stopping an engagement for his friend, there is no stopping him and his gang. As the town folk try to get rid of Veera, his father Sitaram[Rajendra Prasad] steps in and stops them. Apple of his father's eye and living life aimlessly, Veera has a chance encounter of Varalakshmi [Pranitha]. After the usual song and dance to get her, Varam finally falls for him when he pulls out his trump card of their past together as Veera and her went to school together but where he was academically declining, she excelled. But love stories always have a villain and this one has 2. First is Varam's family. Although Varam is also daddy[Ahuthi Prasad]'s little angel and gets whatever she wants, her family has arranged for her marriage to be with Ramana[Samrat] her Baava. Pressure mounts on the lovers as the engagement is fixed. In a moment of haste, Veera ties the nuptial knot on Varam's neck with belief he has dad to back him. But his father is more than upset with him. Why his father, who supported him in all aspects, would go to the extent of slapping him for what he's done and what relevance does their love story have to Sitaram's past forms the rest of the story and introduces villain number 2.

Let me clarify on the outset this film is not new age cinema. Its not even classic masala ishtyle cinema. Blood, sweat and tears were put into making the film so it is bad to discourage people from seeing it but the fact remains this film could have been so much more but falls flat. The potential of the lead actors Siddharth, Pranitha and  Rajendra Prasad has been been seen before so naturally curiosity rises with their combination. Siddharth dons a village character after Aata but his look and accent differs in this complete village bum role. For someone that is supposedly the new generation urban lover boy, this is a nice change and he does well. Pranitha caught the attention of most in her debut Em Pillo Em Pillado. As Varam, she is cute and easy on the eyes but this is somewhat an extension of her previous 'bubbly first, weepy later' character so she doesn't leap very high in this. Do I need to give introduction to Rajendra Prasad? I think not. The supporting cast which includes Tanikella Bharani, Ahuthi Prasad and Sindhu Tholani, who appears in the second part, are just about ok. 

Chakri hasn't always been one of my favourite music directors since he has some great music but ruins his reputation with blatant lifts from other songs. However, Mila Mila and Pannidella are definitely noteworthy while Nagara is for front benchers. Camera work by Arvind Krishna is a major highlight for the film but how one wishes K.V.Krishna Reddy had used his scissors liberally in the second half. Although, one has to be open to the fact first time director Rambabu has a long way to go. Where the director scores in the initial comedy, he does terribly in the emotional scenes and entire second half. Giggles and tears are present but the emotional attachment is completely missing. Whats worse the logic factor that already has little importance in most films goes for a toss in the climax. The entire temple track really doesn't hold its ground in the film and makes one question its relevance. So while its nice watching Sid in a role he worked hard for, bad writing and lack of emotional attachement to the characters plays a major spoilsport.

Rating: 1.5/5 - half for the camera, half for Rajendra Prasad and half for the comedy.

Orange Review

When someone utter the words "I will love you for the rest of my life", I'm one of the girls that tends to go "Aww"[Although if its a random, then its more WTF?!?] But is it possible for someone to be in love and stay in love with one person for their whole life? Less of a question and more as the life of a person who thinks the answer is no, is the basis to Bommarillu Bhaskar's Orange. 

Open scene: Ram[Ram Charan] screams "Its over, we have to break up.You're a psycho! I don't love you!!", naturally we want to know who he's talking about. Next he is shown defiguring a picture of Janu [Genelia]. Cue Flashbacks as to why. Ram is Mr. Honest. When he wants to learn flying, he goes sky diving. When he wants to learn photography, he takes still pictures of wildlife. When he wants to learning painting, he does grafitti. His reasoning behind his choices is that these hold truth in them. Essentially this is what sets him a part from others. Even in love, he is not the type to say he will love you forever as his firm belief is its impossible. Everyone changes, love changes them and love itself changes. Enter Janu. Love at first sight is a common factor in all love stories so no guesses here. As girl in love with love,Janu doesn't take very long to fall for Ram. But just as she thinks she found the man she is going to spend the rest of her life with, he drops the bomb. He loves her, no doubt but he will only love her for a little while. What proceeds is how Ram makes Janu, and in turn the audience, understand his belief and what happens to Ram when Janu actually does. 

First of all, let me just say Ram Charan is definitely someone that is worth keeping an eye on. Some may expect him to be a certain way given his heritage but I feel his selection in scripts is proof that he isn't going to follow the norm. Not even a shadow of his other characters can be seen yet an uber cool confidence he's shown earlier is evident.Coming to our leading ladies, Genelia intro scene seems a little eccentric but considering I've seen [and been in] that situation and in all honesty, it is after all, LOVE. Excitement is always present. She may have done the bubbly cute character before but her transition from a confused romantic fool to a confident believer in love is definitely commendable. Shazahn Padamsee is gorgeous but how one wishes that she wasn't so awkward with the dialogue. Her fresh look just doesn't cut it for the emotional scenes. Brahmanandam is always dependable for the giggles and is adorable as Puppy. Avasarala Srinivas is hardly apart of the film which is disappointing since he was awesome in Ashta Chamma. It was only a cameo but how I sorely miss seeing Prakashraj flaunt his comedic timing from Samudram, Premaku Velayera and Mozhi. As the polic inspector, you dont know his name but he is a treat. Another cameo is made by the producer Nagbabu. While his just seems like a passerby cameo, his relevance is explained. Somebody please tell me the name of the kid that plays a young Ram. I found him so adorable with his "I love you, Teacher". 

Visually, Orange is great. D. Rajasekhar and Kiran Reddy handle the cinematography superbly. Some would say that any place looks better to an outsider and Sydney is no different. Whether its the Opera house or the wildlife park, the places that I've been to many times are shown in a different light. Although I did have a giggle to myself when I saw Yarra trains during the last fight sequence considering thats named after a river in Melbourne, but thats just minor detail. However, I'm not that partial to the fact the film is not perfect. Editing by Marthand K. Venkatesh could have been more crisp as it tends to drag and repetitive effect does arise. The music and background score by Harris Jeyaraj is great but not quite to the mark that he had set in past works and has a déjà vu effect. And now to Bhaskar. A director I am fond of as I loved the maturity he has shown on screen. Without making anyone a bad person, he creates a situation that most people can relate to. Given that it doesn't take a lot for people become hesitant, the reasoning behind Ram's ideology is passable. But I felt that more depth is needed since the incidents make it seem like one person is a relationship will always dominate while the other gives in. At the same time, this is a fictional story based on social characteristics so as long as the audience takes it as a film, there shouldn't be a problem. 

So what is the final say on Orange or 'O' Range? Time pass guru. 

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chikku Bukku Review

Sometimes you come across a film that just tickles your fancy ever so lightly and before you know it, you want to know all about it! Chikku Bukku which has Arya, Shriya Saran and Prateeka Rao in lead roles directed by first time director Manikandan is not one of them.

So here's how it goes: Arjun[Arya] is a DJ born and bred in London. His life consists of flirting with women, surfing Facebook and music. While Arjun wants nothing to do with it, his grandmother instructs him to go to back to India and save his ancestral property in Kaaraikudi. Cut to Anu[Shriya Saran]. A mischievous final year student at University, hers is thoda masti, thoda mazaak kinda character. Living it up in london, she certainly doesn't want to go back to Simmakal, Madurai but has to go home to see his ill father. With varying reasons, the two set out to make their way back to the home. All things are going to plan untill they reach India. Flights in Bangalore are cancelled as there is a strike by employees. Now this is where the Chikku Bukku reference comes from as the two have no other resort but to buy illegal[black] tickets for a train ride to Madurai as husband and wife. But the fun doesn't stop there. As two unlikely travel buddies, they also get forced to hitchhike rides from random strangers, sleep on top of an abandoned bus, steal a car and get chased by goons in said car along the way. In between the chaos, through writings of Arjun's father Shekhar's[Arya again] diary, we shift to 1985. An era when Shekhar was waiting for his police training call. An era where he fell in love. So how does Arjun and Anu's travel link with Shekhar's love story? Board the train to find out.

After knocking me flat with an emotional Parithi in Madrasapattinam and into hysterics as Bhaskar in Boss Engira Bhaskaran, Arya is back as the cool, fun loving Arjun and a matured man of loyalty and dignity as Shekhar. Although making the two characters completely different, he underplays them so that a "like father, like son" trait is visible and also keeping the two era's in mind. Shriya Saran is in a role that was announced with Genelia first and I think they should have stuck to her. As the hyperactive, talkative, know it all Anu, she tends to go overboard alot. Understandably, she's playing a crazy character and it has worked before but this time it just doesn't. The two actors seem totally out of sync for the massive amount of screen time they have with Arya's casual act and her overreacting. To fans of Amrita Rao, Prateeka is beautiful and clearly has similar traits to her sister Amrita but don't expect the same acting. She makes her presence felt in certain scenes but as a newcomer still has a long way to go. A special mention must be made to all the cameo's in the film. Usually, cameo's are an added highlight, but for this film they are the reason the film perks up with the likes of Santhanam, Vayapuri, Pandu and Jagan making their presence felt.

While Gurudev's camera keeps the ongoing pleasurable to see, Milan's sets in the flashback era lack authenticity. Dialogues by director Manikandan and Ramakrishnan are just about ok. So what can I say about one time assosciate of Jeeva, Manikandan on the writer/directoral front. The story is pretty easy to follow but there is a sense of one era has the story and the other is just an unnecessary second track. There is also a tad bit of confusion on whether this is a crazy travelogue between two contrasting characters or a tale of how two men fall in love and how they express it. Its good that on the outset characters have been identified but the bonds between them haven't been established properly so instead of feeling for them, you are left blank. The styling[V.Sai and Deepali Noor] of the main leads, especially Shriya, definitely needs work. Where Arya looks the parts, both the leading ladies are a bit all over the place. Shriya's especially was a mish mash of items put together so instead of being hip and stylish, she looks confusing to say the least barring the saris. The music by "Colonial Cousins" Leslie and Hariharan leaves a lot to be desired with Zara Zara being the pick of the lot. The background score is Pravin Mani works well with the proceedings. 

Chikku Bukku: A romantic ride with travel sickness and nice visuals.

Rating: 2/5

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