Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ala Modalaindi Review

Sometimes certain films just draw your attention. They may not be amazing in story or breathtaking in view or even have a chartbusting soundtrack. It was this kind of attention that led me to Ashta Chamma. By the time the movie finished, I not only fell in love with every aspect mentioned but also the lead actors Nani, Swathi, Avasarla Srinivas and Bhargavi. Swathi was as always a breath of fresh air and had my attention from her movie Danger but the rest were debuts that truly blew my mind. So naturally when I find out another film is being done by any of them in it, I will take a look into it. However, Ala Modalaindi which stars Nani and newcomer to Telugu Nithya Menon is a film I have been dying to see for so long after an interview I saw of Nani and director Nandini Reddy's on Mustafa Mustafa. As friends they were so adorably funny, as professionals they were dedicated to their craft. But with some people being funnier off screen than on screen, I tried to contain my excitement and watch it with a clear mind. So here's how it went.

We begin with Goutham [Nani] held captive by a Goon named John [Ashish Vidhyarthi]. After attempting to escape but getting caught again, John gets Goutham to tell him a story to pass the time so Goutham starts his flashback. To him, he thought he had everything he wanted. A good job as a creative head on a news channel, doting best friend like mother [Rohini], good friends and the love of his life, Simran [Kriti Kharbanda] within his grasp. But things turn sour fairly quickly as Goutham meets with an accident and his girl is stolen from him by Dr. Saagar, the doctor who treats him. Down in the dumps as he drown himself in his woes, life opens a door of hope at Simran and Saagar's wedding. Just as drunk and equally heartbroken as him, he bumps into Nithya [Nithya Menon], an independent street-smart girl that was in love with Saagar and is now in the same boat as Goutham. Like two peas in a pod, the two heartbroken souls instantly hit it off. After a series of bumping into each other moments and considerable time spent together, they are in inseparable as friends. Or so Goutham thinks. A change is inevitable and although he is unable to express himself, Goutham is totally head over heels in love but just as he decides he has to tell Nithya how he feels before she leaves Hyderabad for home in Bangalore fate steps in again. She introduces her boyfriend Dileep [actors name unknown] and he starts to question everything about himself and life. Scared that her son may take a harsh decision, Nani's mum steps in with a realistic yet emotional pep talk to gets him on track with life again. But fate has a funny game plan. So while Goutham understands the practicalities of life, Nithya is forced to look at what her true feelings are and it’s at this point when they meet again. Goutham now has a girlfriend, Kavya and it is now Nithya that leaves without saying a word. How does this saga culminate to the current situation of Goutham being captive? Watch the film to find.

Some stories can get away with déjà vu if you have amazing performances and a screenplay that keeps you engrossed. Ala Modalaindi is one such film. The  part that I love about Nani is never Actor Nani in any of his films. He at no point reminds you of his previous roles but his natural flare for comedy and his comfort level with the camera is abundantly apparent. He not only infuses life into Goutham but into pretty much every scene he is in. The actor has definitely improved on his emotional scenes and I hope to see him broadening his character span soon. Somebody give me Nithya Menon's whereabouts, I want to give this woman a big hug! For the first time in so long we have an actress that can not only stand her ground as a newcomer but she has also dubbed for herself. If there is one thing makes her stand amongst others, it is her confidence in her dubbing. The actress has done a triple whammy with not only acting dubbing for her but also singing. As Nithya, she is uber cool, confidant and beautiful. Sneha Ullal has been around for much longer than both Nani and Nithya and although she is beautiful and pitches in her two cents, she is still struggling with her expressions and lip syncing which draws away from the character. It’s not author backed role but integral nonetheless and still requires a level of comfort in front of the camera that Sneha lacks. Rohini is adorable as Nani's mum and is in the running for best mummy performance next to Jayasudha. Ashish Vidhyarthi is one of the few actors that are both menacing and funny at the same time. As John he evokes terror initially and is equally funny in the second half. The rest of the cast add to the entourage.

Cinematography by Arjun Jena is apt but could have been better for such a film. At the same time editing by Marthand K Venkatesh is his usual crisp. The scene stealer is by far the dialogue by Lakshmi Bhupal. Half the battle of engaging the audience is won with some terrific dialogue backed by the actor great performances. But we mustn't forget the main man or should I say woman, behind Ala Modalaindi. Nandini Reddy has proven that she can weave a script that the audience may have seen before into something that they will enjoy throughout. The way she handles her comedy may seem like it is just to tickle the funny bone but watch how it all comes together at the end. Fresh and compelling, she joins the growing number of women that are proving their talent in TFI. Kalyani Malik is always dependable for good tunes and he delivers again as he introduces another singer with Nithya. Personal favourites are Ammamo but the whole soundtrack is easy on the ears.

Where does this film falter? Well some may feel the fact there are similarities to A lot Like Love starring Amanda Peet and Ashton Kutcher would be a hindrance. But personally I felt the film engaged you enough for any shortfalls like that to be unnoticed. In fact the situation in which they leave each other are more of a cliche for TFI than Hollywood. If anything, the only thing that I could call a shortfall is Sneha Ullal's role. As important as it was, there could have been a little more depth to it. 

Romantic comedies are a lot like flavoured chocolates. Some like turkish delights, some like hazelnut centres and others may like chocolate covered fudge. To me, chocolate is simply smooth and sweet and Ala Modalaindi is one particularly is tasty chocolate.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kadhalan Review

I still remember the amount of photos and pics I had of this movie during High School. It was so ridiculous that I was constantly teased about it from my friends and family. But what can I say? Prabhu Deva was my first crush. Although Kadhalan was not just a film I watched for Prabhu Deva. Nagma wasn't really a favourite but was more appealing than some of the shocking examples that came from the other states during that period. Not to mention Shankar who had a smashing debut with Gentlemen, A.R.Rahman rocking the OST and the choreography that was catalyst to the 4 years I spent learning Bharatha Natyam in attempt to find my inner Prabhu. 

If you haven't seen this film, I would like to know which rock you have been hiding under [I might find use for it in the future]. But since tradition has followed me throughout this blog, here's the gist of this cult classic. Prabhu [Prabhu Deva] is your average college goer with a heart of gold. He has his fun with his friends going to late night movies, the casual glances at girls on the bus and playfully getting into trouble with his loving father [S.P.Balusubramaniam]. All is well till the girl of his dreams that he has drawn in a sketch book enters his life as Shruthi [Nagma]. She is beautiful, intelligent and a dedicated Bharatha Natyam dancer who's also his excellency the Govenor Kakarla Sathyanarayana [Girish Karnad]'s one and only daughter. For most Shruthi may be too high out of reach but cupid's arrow has hit Prabhu hard so none of it matters. So after the usual squabbles, one helleva dance sequence and a interesting joy ride to Chidambaram, the two are head over heels. However, while the lovers have their unplanned romance, Kakarla has his own plans of terror in play with his bomb expert Malli [Raghuvaran] who plants a bomb at the temple hall in Chidambaram that Shruthi is performing at against her father's wishes.Why? All in the name of politics and money. An intervention saves them from the bomb blast but both fall prey to Kakarla's wrath and their love is tested. Prabhu is arrested under false allegations and Shruthi takes matters into her own hands in a self-inflicted jail. Only after making a public issue of it in front of Kakarla's colleagues does her father relent and ship her off to her grandparents place. But love is love without a triumph over evil so while Prabhu finds his ladylove, he will also be tested on his love for his fellow man in a race against time and a ticking bomb. 

There have been many stories about lovers being separated by family but I found Kadhalan to be honest in its commercial value and a little brutal with its screenplay. Maybe its my lack of tolerance to seeing pain but even now, 17 years after its release, the jail scenes in this film make me cringe. Prabhu Deva had been seen on screen before with his cameos in songs, and his first full length role in Indhu but I dont think anyone was prepared for this. Granted Shankar may have had a major hand in it but Prabhu delivers with his tall and lanky exterior that fits the bill perfectly. He is cheeky, lovable, and matured. I personally feel that Vikram's dubbing is exquisite and works for him big time. And dont start me on his dancing!! Rarely do you see a male doing proper Bharatha Natyam on screen and after Kamal Haasan, Prabhu is my fav. Nagma is the quintessential commercial heroine of the 90s. Glamourous as hell but she chips in a power packed performance. Only qualm I have is that her dancing scenes could have been choreographed a bit better to not make it so obvious she isn't the dancer or lacks the knowledge her character possesses. I still cant believe that its Vadivel that I am seeing on screen. After seeing him in Devar Magan, he looks completely different and his acting top notch in the city slicker/flirt role. Prabhu and his combo have been seen many times since but somehow this first time never fails to come to mind as the best. S.P.Balasubramaniam is one of the few singers that I feel is amazing on screen as well. As a doting father, he is perfect and there are no questions on how a lanky son can have such a big built father. Girish and Raghuvaran are equal yet different in the villain act, with Girish getting a sinister edge with his downplay of the Govenor. This review would not be complete with mentioning the greats Manorama and Allu Ramalingaiah. They may have had a very short cameos in the film as Nagma's grandparents but both tickle the funny bone every time. 

Technology may have advanced so the invisible man dancing effects may seem very average but for its time, Kadhalan had amazing visuals [the late Jeeva], great VFX [Venky] and crisp editing[B.Lenin and V.T.Vijayan] but what I loved most about the film was the dialogue. Balamurugan infuses so much life and keeps the proceedings as real as possible which is a major plus for a grand film. The innovation of how natural the words flow makes it relatable even in extreme circumstance but Kadhalan doesn't always escape. My personal favourite scenes include SPB trying to find out the girl that Prabhu is in love with and Nagma little rampage in front of the VIPs at her house. Moving on to Shankar, after Gentleman, he was quick to change paths and proved his deft handling of the megaphone in Kadhalan. KT Kunjumon trusted the director blindly so to speak with Gentleman but the director proved he is not a one hit wonder. As co writer, he must be commended for the language of ladies that surely must have created a craze at the time, if anything, alongwith the others styles that have surely been influenced by this film. But there is one person that overshadows all of these people which is also my favourite aspect of the film, the music by A.R.Rahman. After Roja and Gentleman, this film got him the Tamil Nadu state award and Filmfare, making that 3 consecutives win. What can you say about the master that emerged and took everyone by storm. From classic "mass" style song to a rap to a melody, Kadhalan's OST has all that you need and is the kind of music that pioneered much of what runs on the radio nowadays. More than anything, the film's music has been dubbed into three different languages and while there are some similarities, most will say they cater varying audiences. To bowl all of them over and garner the same if not more intense success is something that doesn't come easy and compliments are a must for the entire team. 

Most reviews have a few lines about the downside of the films I watch but we are talking about a cult classic. Logics were bent and twisted so badly through this era that it was a norm for our hero to jump almost a full body and a half of the floor to get to his girl flying away in a chopper. Or police jeeps crisscrossing each other as they to fly to depths of doom while motorcycles will "trip" over pumpkins with heads drawn on them as a normal walking person would. But I dont write this to mock. These things were as acceptable as our hero penetrating through the state Govenor's to perform for [read: impress] his girl. But where Shankar and his team succeed is you not only overlook this but stay in tune with the story and root for the lovers to unite. 

Kadhalan: A timeless classic that crossed boundaries and won more than one girl's heart. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Its that time of the year where I either get asked or ask myself if I’m a little wiser. Most years I say no since repeat mistakes, still have regret and make a complete ass of myself at times where I know I can do better. The frustration mounts more when I expect loved ones to show minimum courtesy on this day. Friends are excused since my hold on them is limited to when I see them but family have little excuse in this world of Twitter/Facebook/Smses. High maintanence-ish as it sounds; it takes very little for me to bring a smile to my face on this day. So when I don’t get that call, I put on a cynical face to the world and cry a little inside. Not because I think they don’t love me or don’t have time for me. More at the realisation that I am slowly losing touch with someone that shares my blood. After all family is family.

Yet there are those years that I feel I have learnt something. Life in that one year has taught me something. I have let go of a habit. I have buried a grudge that I held. Or at a minimum I learn I will never try cooking like my mum at high speed because it means my kitchen looks a WW2 battle ground. But jokes aside, this year I have learnt some things. I have learnt that even the deepest pain will diminish. I have learnt some people will always be malicious. And the best part, I have learnt I need to give my dreams a fair chance before throwing them out. While I am still waiting for some bonds to reform, new ones bring joy, share fun and delight to a tattered soul. I thank you for all the love, support, guidance and compassion you have shown me. This means more than I can ever say or show.

So as I shared my new year with you and celebrated it with my painting called Time, I now share with you my birthday. All I ask is that on this day that I was born, you say a prayer to those that need hope on this day, bid farewell to those that pass on this day and give a warm welcome to the new arrivals.
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