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Must watch it on the big screen
The social fantasy genre can be a double-edged sword. For every Ammoru or Arundhati that worked, there have been several others that have bitten the dust. Director Srinivass Redde's Dhamarukam is set in this genre with a generous dose of commercial elements. The film opens with the mythological battle between devas and asuras, resulting in the latter clan being almost wiped out. A lone asura, Andhakasura (Ravi Shankar), managed to survive and goes into hiding and penance and awaits his chance to regain control over the world. The time he has been waiting for arrives a few thousand years later. A girl with the divinity of goddess Parvati is born and sadhus sense something ominous in her horoscope charts. If the girl is wedded to the asura and offered as sacrifice, nothing can stop the asura from taking control over the five elements of nature and re-establishing the dominance of rakshasa clan.
The asura learns that a 12-year-old boy Mallikarjuna, a devout worshipper of Shiva, maybe his only hindrance. The asura wipes out the boy's parents and grandparents and assumes the boy and his sister have succumbed too. The boy survives (Nagarjuna) but develops hatred for lord Shiva whom he feels has let his family down. So far so good and you are hooked to this unbelievable flight of fantasy. Then the film shifts gears to mainstream mass masala, peppered with comedy episodes by Brahmanandam and Co. and an item number by Charmme. The girl with the ominous horoscope is Maheshwari (Anushka Shetty). Does the non-believer Mallikarjuna turn believer and fulfil his karma of saving the girl and thereby the world? Dhamarukam moves at a brisk pace initially, only to go off track for a while. The comic portions draw the required laughs but get boring after a point. And, after Andhakasura declares he will wipe out anyone who develops a soft corner for Maheshwari, we are all set for a grand tussle between the asura and Mallikarjuna. The film, though, gets to that point only after the lead pair actors have had plenty of time to dance in exotic locales. The final episode puts the focus back on the story. The visual effects and graphics, though jarring at a few places, rise up to the occasion. The fiery world of the asura and the ghats in Khasi where the aghoras reside are all stunningly depicted.
After the sober, saintly avatar as Sai Baba, Nagarjuna slips into mainstream mode like a veteran and goes with the flow of the film. Anushka Shetty fits the bill of a woman in trouble. Social fantasy is not new to her (Arundhati) and she sails through effortlessly. Her character could have been weightier and the inconsistencies in her characterisation (is she a house surgeon or a doctor? And we don't see any medical insights from her after her father meets with an accident) could have been avoided. Prakash Raj appears in a brief but impactful role as lord Shiva. But Dhamarukam's surprise package is Ravi Shankar as Andhakasura. He has the physicality of pull off the role, matched with his booming voice and menacing looks.
The premise of an evil man wanting to sacrifice a woman might remind you of films like Bhairava Deepam. The idea of building a story around the concept of an asura is laudable. But do we really have to see the asura lusting after a woman taking a dip in a temple pond? Go for this one for the visual effects and the sheer idea of an asura fighting for his supremacy.
Ye Maaya Chesave (2010)
A visual feast and a love story for everybody.
While most other Telugu films continue to be the same routine of blowing up SUV's and long winded dialogs of bravado, Gowtham Menon puts out a love story that is so simple it is ingenious. Ye Maaya Chesave is the story of a girl named Jessie a Christian and a guy named Karthik who is a Hindu. It turns out she is also older than him and her father disapproves of him. She doesn't want to disappoint her dad nor can she let go off Karthik. How the movie turns out needs to be seen on the big screen. Naga Chaitanya as an aspiring filmmaker brought out the right dosage of charm and conviction to the role. Newcomer Samantha was a perfect fit for the role of Jessie. She had a dream debut and hopefully we will see more of her. Gowtham Menon showed that there is still place in the industry for a girl who doesn't need expose nor for a guy to throw out vulgar dialogs. Krishnudu as the friend of Karthik is very apt and provides great comedic relief. 80% of the movie focuses on Karthik and Jessie that you even forget there are other characters. While some may consider the movie slow and long winded Menon took the opportunity to make the movie that focuses on it's story and nothing else, no separate comedic track or a villain or any of that. Watch out for cameo's from Puri Jagannath, Simbu and Trisha.
A huge tip of the hat to the maestro A.R. Rahman for providing some melodious music and background score that really add to the film. This is him first Indian film since his Oscar victories. One of the real stars is cinematographer Manoj Paramahamsa. The way he captured Kerala and it's surroundings as well as New York City is just a visual feast to the eyes and to be seen on the big screen. He really was able to capture why Kerala is called "God's own Country".
For me personally this is the best family movie on the Telugu screen since Bommarillu.