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Shirdi Sai (2012)
Raghavendra Rao should have stopped with Annamayya. But then, he thought that he had already mastered the art of making period films and made a couple more - Sri Ramadasu and Shirdi Sai. The former was merely watchable while the latter isn't.
The life and times of Shirdi Sai Baba of Nashik is not an easy subject to make a movie on, I will give you that. Apart from getting a solid cast & crew together, the director has to deal with the complexity of bringing the characters to life as well as depicting a credible picture of the world at that time in history. Raghavendra Rao succeeded on both counts with Annamayya, but with this one it looks like he has made an amalgamation of sub-plots & side-characters which do not piece together to make it whole.
And credibility is of utmost importance. Most of the scenes were clichéd, painfully in-the-face and lacking in conviction. Looked like the actors were merely playing a part for which they were being given a paycheck for rather than actually portraying the characters' true selves. For a long time I have admired Nagarjuna's boldness and screen presence, but over the past few years one only sees a fading star still struggling to keep his name among the movies piling on at the box- office. Sharath Babu, Srikanth and others have some rare moments that bring back memories of some of their previous roles, but again nobody succeeds in making an impression.
The original - 'Shirdi Sai Baba Mahatyam' was much more convincing and inspiring than this haphazardly put together rehash. Its my belief that when you try and depict characters like Shirdi Sai, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda (people who have inspired generations) on-screen, you have to make a supreme effort overall to merely make the film seem appealing. With all due respect to Raghavendra Rao, the effort does not show, if there ever was one in the first place. A disappointing film for all Shirdi Baba lovers.
An ordinary remake of an ordinary film
After watching the original (3 Idiots ), the only reason I watched Nanban (2012) was for the director - Shankar. A talented visionary who has a penchant for grandeur and extravaganza, both in the right dosage so as to make you feel great and at the same time take home a social message worth pondering.
Only this time, it seems he has missed his mark. First of all, 3 Idiots needs to be viewed as an 'entertainer' that is mostly show with little substance. As long as you keep it simple that way, there is no need for argument. It was a light-hearted comedy with good music and tolerable acting. The script, cinematography and dialog were created to suit the "formula" rather than the other way round. Nanban (2012) is a scene-by- scene remake and does not consist of any improvisation or most importantly, not an ounce of the director's personal interpretation. Although I was very skeptical of Shankar attempting a remake, I did expect him to create something more than just playing out the same scenes with different actors.
Having said all that, the actors have thankfully not done a horrible job (which most of them have so in the recent past). Vijay, Jeeva & Srikanth are not exactly as charming as Aamir, Madhavan and Sharman, but still deserve a pat on the back. The scope of the female lead is limited as usual, so no point discussing that. However, the biggest disappointment in the acting department is Sathyaraj, especially when you compare him with Boman Irani. A clichéd character who made me cringe for every single moment that he was on screen.
Its not often that Shankar fails, but he was attempting to remake a very ordinary script in the first place, so I am not surprised. I was actually hoping that the Vijay-Shankar combo would be reasonably successful, well, critically at least. Go watch this popcorn-special, its totally worth it if you are watching it on your TV/Computer while doing a random household chore.
Sri Rama Rajyam (2011)
Good....but please...definitely not a 'classic'..!
NT Rama Rao as Ram, Anjali Devi as Sita, Nagayya as Valmiki. Written by Samudrala Raghavacharya and music composed by Ghantasaala Venkateswara Rao. The 1963 film - Luva Kusha was a moving, dramatic and poetic rendition of the aftermath of "Rama Pattabhishekam". It was a celebration of the spirit of the Ramayana and a depiction of the life and times of one of our most loved and cherished Kings - Lord Ram. An unforgettable musical that will live in our hearts for generations to come.
Now - Sri Rama Rajyam (2011) does have some heavyweights in its credits - the Bapu/Ramana duo and Ilayaraaja. There ends the comparison. Balakrishna is no match for NTR and Nayanthara does not carry the poise and subtlety of Anjali Devi. But I will concede that both of them have put in a great deal of hardwork and have acted much better than in any of their previous films. Although Balayya is fat and old (am sorry but its the truth), his emotions are true and his majesty is commendable. Bapu has made Nayanthara "act" for once and that in itself is a great feat. Apart from the 'Jagadananda Kaaraka' song, Raaja's music does not deserve special mention. I am a huge fan of Raaja, but Sir, even your prowess cannot recreate what Ghantasaala did for us back in 1963.
I agree that it is unfair to compare the two movies, but for the fan who has watched the original (multiple times), it is inevitable. Even if I were to go with an open mind, I still find a half-dozen flaws and inadequacies. The children who play Luv and Kush in Sri Rama Rajyam completely lack the capability to emote. Yes, they are kids, but we have seen in many movies that talent defies age. Also, in many instances the language that is spoken shifts to a much more contemporary style and does not represent the actual spoken dialect of the time. One must remember that Ramayana was in the Treta Yuga and hence represents a period in time that is at least a few hundred thousand years prior to the present day. The battle scenes of the older Luva Kusha(lacking in mordern technology and graphics of course)were so detail-oriented and captivating that with the kind of imagery we have today, it is disappointing that Bapu could not do a better job with it and appallingly, has cut the movie abruptly short at the end.
Bottomline: It is a good effort from a once-great artist and director, but it a'int a 'classic' or a fitting 'homage'/'remake'.
Mayakkam Enna (2011)
Marginally better than Selva's previous - Aayarathil Oruvan
Its a Dhanush-Selvaraghavan combo...in the past they have produced some interesting stuff..and they are back again with another "woman behind a man's success" theme....
In Kadhal Kondein, 7G Rainbow Colony and Aaduvari Maatalakku Ardhaale Veru Le (2007 Telugu movie remade in Tamil as Yaaradi Nee Mohini) Selvaraghanvan showed us how a woman can change the lives of ordinary men who have hidden talents and are bogged down by personal issues. All 3 movies were very refreshing and the first two even had a realistic although tragic ending.
Here, a depressed but brilliant photographer's life falls into the hands of a pretty understanding woman who cares for him and wants him to succeed and puts up with all his mood-swings and debilitating habits. She sacrifices many of her aspirations and wants the marriage to work out.
Although a repetitive theme from the director it does carry some intense acting and dialogue. Much of the first half is stupid and suggestive (typical Selvaraghavan style)...but the latter half shows us what the director is capable of. Richa Gangopadhyay deserves special mention for holding her thing together alongside the ever-improving Dhanush. Aayarathil Oruvan was a great concept/storyline that was made in a ridiculous way and lacked complete development. But Mayakkam Enna is the same old story with some minor differences in flow here and there. The former was a disaster and the latter seems to have drawn some appreciation.
Apart from certain scenes, there is nothing awesome about the film. Its watchable, nothing special. We all know that Selvaraghavan can make better movies...he is got the talent, but right now his choice and execution are under question.
The Dirty Picture (2011)
Whats with the 'rave reviews' and 'unanimous praise' directed at this movie and its lead actress ? Well....its bullshit...that's what it is.
I am from the south and Silk Smitha is a legend in her own right. Another misunderstood and misrepresented vamp actress(with talent mind you) who met a 'oh so familiar' end (both in career and in life). Nevertheless, great material to make a bio pic.
And here is where my problem is - when you make a biopic or try making one, you show us the "person", not play out 'rumored tales' about the person's life (in the case of Silk its already public knowledge). Evidently no research has gone into her real life or personality. When discussing biopics, movies like Patton, The Aviator, Malcolm X and all those great ones come to mind. Although Silk Smitha's life is not as celebrated as Howard Hughes or George Patton, you do expect the director do some digging and show us the real personality rather than the screen persona.
Vidya Balan is a good actress, only, with a stronger screenplay and content (not to mention a more capable director), she could have made this portrayal a career best. Instead, you have the usual clichéd "masala scenes" and "dance numbers" which totally miss the point. If you guys think this is a great movie, so be it. I understand your limitation and pity the many more crappy Indian movies to come. BTW, the nakku mukka background score was not only funny, but also annoying...
Deiva Thirumagal (2011)
Vikram is back
Deiva Thirumagal (2011) is Vikram's show from Scene One. After the depressing Raavanan (2010), here he is, playing the role of a lifetime. The audience will be engulfed in the character's web of emotions that are on simultaneous display. Krishna (Vikram) is a mix of joy, perplexity, hope, helplessness and disappointment, all at once. He turns on the required emotion at will and makes the scene his own.
However, I cannot say the same about the director, Vijay. He had the script of I am Sam (2001) in hand and decided to stick to it completely rather than correct the mistakes and improve the aesthetics. You cannot help but think that a more capable director with the same cast and story-line could have turned it into pure magnificence.
Whatever said and done, this film is still worth applauding. Even Anushka has done her role to perfection. Nasser has always been a powerhouse and in this movie as Mr Bashyam - he brings class and maturity once again. Its been quite a while since courtroom scenes occupied such prominence in Indian movies and they have been shot well. The climax is heart-rending but very real and sensible. Nila & Krishna will not not be forgotten by tamil audiences anytime soon.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)
No Farhan Akhtar movie has disappointed me - whether he stars in it or directs it. I am not claiming that he makes great movies - I am merely agreeing that his films are funny, intelligent and definitely entertaining.
The Hrithik-Farhan-Abhay trio have done a fabulous job. Incidentally, Katrina too is associated with a movie that makes more sense than all her prior films put-together. There are many instances in the movie where it appears that the actors are being themselves rather than actually acting - which is also the underlying theme of the movie. Be yourself and follow your heart, wherever you go, whatever you do.
Credit should be given to director Zoya Akhtar. This movie proves that her previous, Luck By Chance (2009) was not just luck. Cinematography and art direction have also been handled well. It was very refreshing to see Indian actors in casual street clothes holidaying in Spain. However, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are getting way too repetitive with their tunes, many songs give us a feeling that we have heard them before.
This is a summer movie that will give you what you seek - humor and entertainment. Wouldn't it be really fun if we could go on a nice little vacation and figure out what we want to do in life ? Wish life could be that simple.
Chillar Party (2011)
Innocent and Admirable
No pretensions, no melodrama, no gimmicks but just plain honest movie making. Fresh artists, relatively new filmmakers and a simple script. If all those 'big Bollywood movies' refrain from complicating their sub-avg story-lines, some of the craziest films could actually become watchable.
Delhi Belly & Chillar Party - 2 decent movies releasing within a span of two weeks. That has got to be a record of sorts for the Hindi Industry. Among the hundreds of movies they throw at us every year, only a handful are worth our money & time, and I can assure you - Chillar Party (2011) is one of them.
What makes me wonder is - how a bunch of school kids can emote so well and deliver their lines with such conviction. There are many other movies other than Chillar Party where children have done a splendid job. Mainstream actors who call themselves "professionals" and "adults" who bomb on a regular basis should watch and learn. Comedy is top-notch and the screenplay fits the script like a glove. Most of the scenes will evoke a smile or a laugh and you wont mind a tiny bit when the movie sometimes teeters on the edge of childishness. I mean, for Gods' sake, the lead actors are kids, how else can you expect it to play out ?
It will remind us of our own childhood and bring back fond memories. But, importantly, the aim of the movie is not to move us emotionally or make us nostalgic, but to tell us in a subtle way that honesty & simplicity are the most cherished qualities a human being can have. Those are qualities we all had back when we were at school, but now our adulthood and the society we live in, has changed our sense or perception.
Delhi Belly (2011)
A genre shift....
Many Indian comedies have their own success stories to tell. Some are goofy, some satirical, some slapstick, and then some raunchy as well. Now this raunchy part has not exactly been comprehensively explored. Most Indian raunchy comedies have a tendency to go drastically overboard and miss their mark completely.
When i watched the trailer of Delhi Belly, i did not expect it to hit the bull's eye either. The name that made me watch the movie is - "Aamir Khan Productions". And after watching, i admit that the name has lived up to its reputation once again - though it has come in for criticism for its heavy dose of vulgarity and adult content. That is so typically Indian ! We can brush aside the clichéd Indian reaction to adult themes and abusive dialog and talk about the movie instead. Its a known fact that in the sub-continent any suggestiveness on-screen or "out there" is 'vulgar' but living the same kinda life behind close doors at home, is 'privacy' !!
The cast is outstanding, and so is the acting for the most part. The script may not be entirely original but the treatment definitely is. The dialog writer has done a great job although the music director could have done his somewhat better. But then, in some scenes the use of classical, old Hindi film music more than complements the scene being played out. A fun ride that is worth our money and time. Thus far, this has got to be the Hindi movie of the year...oh, wait when was the last time a Hindi film was worth our buck ??
Avan Ivan (2011)
Bala's first failure
The National Award for Best Direction for the year 2009 was won by Bala, and as you may all know, he won it for Naan Kadavul, a morbid portrayal of some of the lesser known characters of our dirty world. It was a spellbinding drama with loads of black comedy and sarcasm and i personally regard it as one of the greatest Indian movies ever made. No kidding.
And after making a rock solid movie such as Naan Kadavul, Bala announced that he was gonna change gears and direct a full blown comedy - Avan Ivan (2011). I wasn't skeptical at all. The kind of talent this man has shown has drawn enough respect to make the audience trust the director's intentions, and i am sure most of you will agree with me here. But alas ! Avan Ivan is so contrived and haphazard that it makes you doubt if it was Bala who was behind the lens. This is by far his worst movie till date and as far as critical success is concerned, his first failure.
Most of the comedy is lame or poorly timed. The script lacks development and the movie wanders aimlessly into a gargantuan mess. The music department has not done its job well either. Yuvan Shankar Raja's discography can do better without the addition of Avan Ivan. A villain pops up from thin air, a college girl falls in love with Arya (just like that!) and the Police never show up when we need them the most, not even at a murder site in full public view ! Vishal's character is the only shining light in the film and the actor manages to save many scenes with his honest expressions. Arya has little to do and comes across as loud and boorish, a stark difference from his fiery role in Naan Kadavul. The female leads do not help the film in any way, though Ambika has some wonderful one-liners to deliver. Applause should also be directed at Highness (GM Kumar), the zamindar who befriends the half-brothers. Only recently, in Aadukalam (2011) this old fella had rendered a wonderful performance.
But largely, Avan Ivan is completely devoid of any real content. There are many moments where the acting is grossly overdone, including Vishal's. The blame rests on Bala, and i will say Bala alone. When you don't know what or where your script is, the actors can't do much. My expectations fizzled out within the first 30 minutes itself and i found myself staring at another Tamil dampener. Bala, of all people has let us down. I wish him better days ahead. For now, its Go Vishal !