Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oosaravelli Dir. Surrender Reddy

October is turning out to be a fabulous month for movies! As a major Jr.NTR fan, I went to see his latest movie Oosaravelli at the Wednesday night Premier show in Minneapolis. Even though it was the middle of the work week there was no way I was going to miss the first day first show! It was early enough  that there were no reviews or movie synopsis for me to rely on but I think I managed following the plot just fine.

This movie was really different than a typical NTR fact it was anything but typical. Major kudos have to go to Tarak for having the confidence and generosity to choose a story that gives such a prominant role to the heroine and shares some of the biggest .laughs with the supporting cast.

Tarak's charactor Tony is an unpredictable  street thug. He meets Niharika, played by Tamannah, when he rescues her from terrorists in Kashmir. He falls in love with her and pursues her but is thwarted when he learns she has a fiance named Rakesh. Most of the comedy in the first half is from Tony's interactions with Raghu Babu and his motley gang of rowdies. Eventually Tony meets Sarkar a low level mafia Don played by Jaya Prakash Reddy and from what I could tell without subs it seemed like he was using first Raghu Babu's gang, then Sarkar's connections to get to the real bad guys. Unfortunelty for Niharika, her fiance Rakesh was one of the really really bad guys. When Niharika realizes Rakesh is a criminal she suddenly decides she loves Tony instead. But for some reason Tony avoids all her calls, instead he kills off all the bad guys at the interval fight. All of them, or so I thought.. The second half brings in the real villain Azzu Bhai, played by Prakash Raj and in a flash back you find out what the connection is between Tony's apparent change in feelings for Naharika and what the connection is between Tony, Niharika and Azzu Bhai.

The flashback is all Tamannah's and it really shows her acting talent. The scene where she meets Tony and begs him for help is very moving. Both of them gave excellent performances and the sight of her clinging to his leg as he drags her through the mud is unforgettable. 

Tamannah's role is such a departure.  Most of the Telugu films I have seen under utilize (that's putting it mildly) the heroine. In fact it is common for the heroine to disapear completely in the second half or to only show up just before the songs come on.  The phenomona of the "disapearing heroine" is one of the quirks of Telugu films that non-Telugu people like me find most perplexing. Oosaravelli proves that having a strong female role adds so much potential and depth to the story that I hope in future film makers will use heroines for more than just titilation.

 Besides Tamannah, another female actress, Payal Ghosh had a substantial part as Niharika's friend Chitra.  She had some powerful scenes with both Tarak and Prakash Raj. The script also allowed her a chance at comedy too.

Surender Reddy and Vakkantham Vamsi should be commended for the story and script. Like I said at the beginning it was noticable that the many laughs were spread around to much of the supporting cast. Everyone from Raghu Babu, Sarkar as well as their henchman had a chance to bring the laughs and MS Narayana's brief appearance was also very funny.

Another thing that was unusual with Oosaravelli was the pacing of the songs. I have gotten used to the first song being a hero introduction song that establishes the heroic qualities of the lead. But the first song  (Brathakali) was a duet between Tarak and Tamannah. I loved the picturization and was surprised it wasn't the usual type of opening song.

 Then the second song was another duet called Nenante Naaku. I love the melody of this song and it is my favorite from the album. But surprise surprise the third song was another duet! Devi Sri Prasads music is really good but the choreography for Tarak's duets in all his movies are pretty much always the same moves.  Tarak is such a delight to watch dancing I was begining to wonder when a fullout dance number would start. Finally Dandiya India came on just before the set up for the interval bang and Yay! Tarak dancing at his best and choreography that does justice to his talent!

I loved the picturization of Sri Anjanayam even though Tarak didn't dance and Yalango Yalango was fun too. Once again Tamannah got more screen time and was the focus of the Niharika song.

The action  scenes were very well done. I loved the interval bang with Tarak chasing down the bad guys with a sledge hammer like he was holding Simhadri's axe again. The final fight with Prakash Raj was very cool. The slow motion scenes along with the exciting Oosaravelli Theme song really worked well. Infact in general the slow motion worked  well in all the action scenes it was used. Often the slow-mo messes up the sense of gravity a fight scene should have if you know what I mean.Ooosaravelli's action had people and things seem like they landed hard rather than fall too slowly like often happens.

All in all Oosaravelli was a nice departure from the usual hero centered formula. I saw an interview Tarak did after Brindavanam where he indicated he had a specific plan to move himself beyond his usual mass roles and that Brindavanam was the first step. Oosaravelli proves he is headed in the right direction!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dookudu Dir. Srinu Vaitla

      The opening credits spelled out Superstar and then added "Daring and Dashing" to his name. All true for Mahesh Babu's peformance in his latest flick Dookudu. I just love going to see all my favorite Tollywood heroes on the big screen, even without subtitles the experience in a full theater with a vocal and appreciative audience is just not to be missed. I was a little worried I wouldn't get tickets when I saw on twitter that my friends in DC and Toronto were having a hard time getting tickets, so I hedged my bets and bought them on-line about a half an hour before leaving for the theater. My friend Marcia and I went to the 7pm show on Saturday. It was't quite housefull but pretty close. We did get the usual tap on the shoulder and the trying to be helpful "did you know this is the line for the Indian film?" comment from the person behind us. They are allways so curious and delighted when they find out that yes we are in the correct line.
     I had read a few of the reviews and synopsis before we went so I could follow the plot more easily.  Prakash Raj plays  Shankar Narayan a politician and NTR admirer who is a much loved man of the masses. When he meets with a suspicious accident his family allow people to believe he is dead while he lays in a coma in a hospital in Mumbai. Meanwhile his son Ajay (Mahesh) grows up to be a cop in Mumbai who works undercover to get the mafia Don, Nayak played by Sonu Sood. Ajay goes to Turkey for an undercover job and while there meets Prasanthi played by Samantha. Unbeknownst to Ajay, Prasanthi is the daughter of his boss, played by Nasser in a rare comedic role, who Ajay had just accidently shot in the butt during an attempt to bust Sonu's gang.

 Meanwhile Shankar wakes up from his 14 year coma and the doctors tell Ajay and family that he cannot be shocked or upset in anyway. So Ajay sets up a ruse by hiring Brahmanandam as a reality show actor to help convince his father that he did follow in his footsteps and become a politician and that among other things, NTR is alive and well and still serving the people. Much of Brahmanandam's and Mahesh's comedy was verbal so I missed all of that. There was alot of slapping and the audience was in stitches so I will have to wait for the DVD to fully appreciate their scenes together. Later Mahesh brings in MS Narayana playing a wannabe hero to try and dupe Kota Srinivasa Rao and Sayaji Shinde, who played bad guys in league with Sonu. MS Narayana's comedy was much more visual so I enjoyed his scenes alot. I loved his send-ups of Yamadonga, Maghadeera, Simha and Endhiran.

All of the supporting actors did what was required of them. The only problem I had with the movie was there was too many of them so they weren't utilized to the best of their capabilities. Ajay, Subbaraju and Shafi all had miniscule parts. I think it would have been better maybe to combine their charactors and let one of them shine rather than all of them just be in the background. Wasted talent in my opinion and they are all so good at being bad.

Samantha was cute as usual, although she didn't have much to do. It's funny how the voice the actresses are dubbed in in the first movie you see them in gets imprinted. I did not like the voice they used for her as I am used to the voice that dubbed for her in Brindavaanam.

Sonu Sood was his usual badass self and looking fabulous with his all white outfits (my favorite color on him) and bad guy mustache.

But the movie definetly belonged to Mahesh. His hero introduction scene had him revealed behind shattering glass, it was a real cool effect with the music and action. He has excellent comedic timing and could hold his own with Brahmanandam. The interval bang was awesome with Mahesh running and fighting like a knife wielding locomotive. Mahesh was handosme as usual and has a wonderful way of conveying mischeviousness and emotion with just a flicker from his eyes.

 This was my friend Marcia's first Mahesh movie and the next day she was commenting how much his eyes intrigued her and how handsome he is. I introduced her to the favorite Mahesh fan girl pass time of counting layers and Dookudu does not disapoint. There were several scenes whre Mahesh had only 2 layers (polo shirt and tshirt) but during many of the song picturizations he had 4 layers (t-shirt, shirt. Jacket and scarf) especially in the desert song Chulbuli. I enjoyed all the song picturizations. Mahesh isn't the best dancer but he is enthusiastic and the choreographers create dances that suit his abilities and tall frame. My favorite songs were the Kilimanjaro inspired Chulbuli and the wedding song Adara Adarakottu in the second half. I also loved the item number Puvai Poovau. Judging by the whistles from the audience it's well on its way to being considered a classic.

All in all Dookudu was a fabulous in theater experience. The audience was laughing and whistleing and really enjoying themselves. I'm going to try and see it one more time in the theater and will definetly add it to my collection when the dvd gets released. Yay! Mahesh is Back and he is Daring and Dashing!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Punnami Naagu (1980) Dir. Rajasekhar

In celebration of Naga Panchami a bunch of Indian Film bloggers are discussing their favorite snake movies. Here is a link to the blogs participating and another link to a thread on snake movies at the BollyWhat? Forum. Welcome to the Fessssstival!

I must confess, although I am a huge fan of snakes (I even own a 4 ft long cornsnake named Skittles), I had not watched any Nagin movies, other than Anaganaga O Deerudu. And with my desire to get more Chiranjeevi movies under my belt, I settled on the 1980 movie Punnami Naagu. What a wonderful treat it was too! Besides snakes and Chiranjeevi this movie had a menagerie of animal charactors that played key roles. There was an elephant, a monkey, a bull, a mongoose, and not to forget the brief but ill fated appearance of a chicken.  Plus an awesome snake dance item number.  The DVD I rented from did not have subtitles but I managed ok.
    The movie starts with a man interupting a snakecharmer that is accosting a women. The snake charmer sends a cobra to bite the man. The man dies and leaves behind a  young son who is then cared for by the village head and comforted by an Elephant. Yep the elephant even gets free reign of the house!

At the same time a the snakecharmer's sister is pregnant and about to give birth.  She is alone in the woods and her pet monkey comes to her rescue. He first hides her from prying eyes (modesty being the most important thing after all), before geting help and then fetching water.
The little girl that is born becomes a life long friend of the Monkey and likewise the boy grows into a man with his elephant always at his side. Narasimha Raju plays Raju and the girl Laxmi is played by Rati Agnihotri. They meet and fall in love and both the elephant and the monkey get very involved as match makers, passing notes and cleverly playing tricks to bring the two love birds together.

Meanwhile Chiranjeevi plays Laxmi's cousin, Naagulu and is the son of the snakecharmer.  He, his Father, his Aunt and Laxmi all live together in the village.

One day Naagulu rescues Menaka, played by Madhavi, who is being attacked by a bull. Of course they fall in love. Menaka happens to be the adopted sister of Raju.

Unbeknownst to Naagulu, his father the snake charmer has been feeding him snake venom his whole life in order to make him immune to the bite of a cobra, an occupational hazard for snake charmers no doubt.
Enter the brief and ill-fated appearance of a chicken, who wanders in and eats the poisoned food. RIP Ms. Chicken.
Now comes the night Naagulu becomes desturbed by a snake dance he hears being played in the village.  This is an awesome snake dance! I loved her sequined body suit.  I couldn't find it on Youtube so you'll just have to imagine it from this screencap.
For reasons I couldn't figure out because of the lack of subs Naagulu's father goes to the local Snake anthill where the villagers leave offerrings for the cobra that resides there and plays his flute to draw out a baby snake. And then while the Mom  cobra is watching he steps on it and kills it.  I found this scene disturbing because it looked to me like the snake charmer was really squishing a live snake with his foot..poor baby!
The cobra comes slithers into the snake charmer's home and just when it strikes at the snake charmers foot to get it's revenge, Naagulu rolls over in his sleep and get s bit instead! But he doesn't die!

Instead, whenever the moon is full he goes out searching for a female to mate with.  You know that's what he wants to do because they show two snakes intertwined writhing around. Unfortunetly the first female Naagulu seeks out is his love Menaka.
Naagulu is overcome with grief when he learns that Menaka is dead.  At the same time his Father is on his death bed because the Cobra finally got him. Now Naagulu finds out what his Father had done and he is in shock. He starts digging through his father's papers to find a remedy.
Raju becomes suspicious of Menaka's death and he and Naagulu have a series of altercations. It was a bit weird to see Raju, who does not look like a tough guy at all, beat up Megastar, but Chiru got revenge by trying to bite him! Infact I loved it best when Naagulu was in snake mode, he'd get this look in his eyes and periodically dart his tongue in and out of his mouth.  Infact I kinda wondered why the girls he killed didn't notice this unusual behavior and refuse to go off into the night with him.
Naagulu's next victim was an unsuspecting school teacher. She shows up asking for directions at a tea kiosk while Naagulu is there pondering his fate.  I just loved her big red daisy print sari.
But you would think with those big glasses that she would be able to see that there was really a snake sitting there.
With all these dead girls showing up Raju begins suspecting Naagulu more and more and well, Naagulu has other things to worry about.
There are a series of events instigated by Naagulu that put Raju and the elephant at risk. But don't worry, the monkey gets his revenge by intercepting Naagulu at his next victim, with a well timed Mongoose in a basket.

Snakes do NOT like Mongeese and Naagulu is no exception.

This was my favorite scene in the whole movie. I just want to know who had the job of repeatedly throwing a live mongoose at Chiranjeevi's head? I wonder how many takes it took to get just the right reaction?
The movie had a comedy track involving some fake snake charmers and a village girl. She had a cool song and dance number I quite enjoyed as well. I couldn't find the song but I did find this awesome trailer.

Yay! My first Snake movie and a Chiru one at that!

ETA: The ladies over at CinemaChaat found the video of the snake song and did an awesome post on this movie as well. Check it out here

Monday, July 25, 2011

Super Supporting Stars Part 1: Subbaraju

It doesn't take watching very many Telugu movies before you realize there is a group of supporting actors and actresses that seem to show up in nearly every movie. Sometimes they are cast as the rowdies, some times the friends or brothers. The more senior actors play fathers or cops or politicians or factionists. The ladies are mothers, sisters, or aunties. Unlike the Hero, Heroine or Comedian  who must keep within the constraints of the archetype,  these actors are able to move from villain to good guy, comedy to drama in their various roles. In this recurring post I will feature one of these stars and give them some of the limelight and attention they deserve.

 Subbaraju: Hero in Waiting.
Subbaraju should be a Hero because he is hot. There. I said it. And I know there are quite a few out there who agree with me. In fact we in the interwebs are  debating how long before he gets his chance to be a hero. He has been expanding his roles from villains and fighters to less negative charactors. Most recently he was seen holding his own against the Big B himself in Bbudahh Hoga Tere Baap! I was especially thrilled to see him in BHTB. It is awesome to see him expand beyond the Telugu film industry and I hope he gets more opportunies to do so.
    According to Wikipedia he has a degree in Math and is a computor whiz too. He got his break in films  when he was noticed while fixing a computor for a filmmkaer.  He started off as a fighter and eventualy expanded to speaking roles. I first noticed him in Pokiri and untill recently my favorite role of his was in Parugu staring Allu Arjun. He plays the younger brother to Prakash Raj who beats people and manhandles his niece in order  to find Prakash Raj's missing daughter who had eloped.

But eventually you realize he is not so bad just concerned about his neice and her reputation. (So you can forgive him for beating up Sunil!)

I really liked him in that role. Recently I saw Leader. Subbaraju had a large supporting role in that film that deservedly won him critical acclaim.  He played a corrupt politician who was confident of his promotion to Chief Minister, until the recently deceased former CM's son, played by Rana Daggabuti returns from America and ruins his plans.

Subbaraju does a fabulous job of going from barely controlled rage to the hurt feelings and disapointment of a child and back to schemeing rage again.

The looks of shock and then hatred that plays across his face as he is repeatedly outmanuevered are perfectly done.

After his performance in Leader I can only hope that more roles like this come his way. For those interested in following Subbaraju's career more closely he is on Twitter @actorssubbaraju.

There has been rumours recently that he will be playing the lead hero in some upcoming movie but nothing has materialized yet as far as I know. I hope we don't have too much longer to wait for his first hero role.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nijam (2003) Dir. Teja

    Nijam starring Superstar Mahesh Babu, is another one of my favorite award winning but apparent flop movies. It is Mahesh's least layered performance interms of the number of shirts he wears (only one!! plus the occaisional undershirt) But he gives an award winning performance as he transforms himself from the geeky-cool but innocent school boy, Sitaram,  to a bad-ass killing machine, trained by his equally bad-ass Mom played by Rameshwari. It's a movie with a questionable moral message about the corruption that pervades Indian life.
    The the first half of the movie establishes Sitaram as an innocent school boy that is harrassed and teased by his amorous neighbor played by Rakshita. She shamelessly chases after him even going so far as to press her breasts up against him while he rides his bike. Sitaram howls, makes faces and closes his eyes as he indignantly avoids her advances. I love that unlike Hindi heroines, Telugu ones are frequently portrayed as having a healthy (and normal) atitiude about sex. Rakshita's portrayal of this type of heroine is one of my favorites- cute, fiesty, lusty and confident.

Sitaram lives with his Mother and Father. They are clearly a family of integrity. His Father is a fire fighter who slaps a rowdy that he caught setting a fire. Unfortunetly for him the Rowdy is the soon to be over the edge crazy Devudu played by Gopichand.  This is one of my favorite Gopichand negative roles. He plays heros now but he started off  getting villain roles. He starts off as the surly and morose just-another-member-of-the-goon-squad, but emerges the leader of the gang after killing his higher up and then performing a blood ritual. He shaves his head and ends up with a killer 'stache too.

Once Devudu comes to power he seeks revenge on Sitaram's Father. This is where all the bad stuff happens. He sends goonda's to kill his Father in the market place but instead the brother of Devudu's girlfriend Malli, played by Raasi, get's killed. Sitaram's father is imprisoned and everthing Sitaram does to try to get his father help fails because he is first always asked for a bribe. Devudu gains access to the prison and beats his Father badly.

When Sitaram see's his Father is injured he runs from official to offical to get his Father medical attention and justice but everyone is corrupt..from the police officers, jailers, lawyers, government officials, hospital workers and politicians, everyone asks for money first.

Brahmaji was superb as the corrupt cop
When his father dies Sitaram's Mother turn's into a harbinger of revenge. She trains and instructs Sitaram to be her killing machine.  Everyone that didn't do their job and asked for a bribe was going to die. That was the only way they would have justice for what was done to them.

Mahesh does a great job of portaying the transformation from fear and helplessness to anger and then ultimatley revenge. He won a Nandi Award for his peformance and I think it is well diserved.
Once they are on their revenge rampage, the police send in ACP Prakash Raj to capture the murderers. Woot! Yay! Prakash Cop!

Prakash Cop is always one step behind however, and the final showdown between Devudu and Sitaram is awesome. Gopi's performance is C-R-A-Z-Y.

In the end after all the murder, Prakash Cop decides that justice is being served, destroys evidence, shoots himself in the arm and instructs Sitaram and his Mother to lie about what happened. I guess one kind of corruption (plus extrajudicial killings) is better than another.

The music was just so-so, the playback singers didn't mesh with Mahesh. The song picturizations themselves were fun. My favorite's were the ones in the first half plus Raasi's Snake song.

I also liked this one between Mahesh and Rakshita.

I also like Rangu Rangula but I couldn't find a video of it.

All in all Nijam is good fun if the violence and moral ambiguity doesn't bother you. Mahesh is perfect and Gopichand's performance is one of the best all time villains.