Bajrangi Bhaijaan: An Endearing Bhaijaan This One Is

Bajrangi Bhaijaan; Kabir Khan, Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Harshaali Malhotra, Sharad Saxena

Bajrangi Bhaijaan

The beauty of the film lies in the subtlety with which director Kabir Khan weaves in the inherent biases people often have about other religions – more specifically in the case of this film, the Hindus about Muslims and vice versa – into a story that deals with a theme as sensitive as the Indo-Pak relationship.  He brings those emotions to the fore but does not scratch it deep.  He just lets that moment linger enough to leave us with a thought.  There’s a scene early in the film where Dayanand (Sharad Saxena playing Kareena’s father and a devout Brahmin) questions Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi aka Bajrangi (Salman Khan) on what makes him think that the little lost girl is also a Brahmin, and he responds by saying, “She is fair, so she has to be Brahmin”.  But a few scenes later, he discovers the girl’s love for non-vegetarian food and hence thinks she cannot be a Brahmin, and is even quicker to assume that she must be a Kshatriya instead. You cannot help but chuckle at instances like these that induce a sense of familiarity.

Also, the film is quick to get to the point. The director does not spend much time dwelling into the various sub-plots. Ten minutes into the film, we find the adorable six-year-old mute Shahida/Munni (Harshaali Malhotra) separated from her mom and reaches Kurukshetra where she meets her saviour in the simpleton Bajrangi who due to circumstances is forced to take care of the little girl. We are quickly brought to speed with Pawan’s Hindu Brahmin upbringing, his love story with Rasika (Kareena Kapoor Khan) and the current state of affair with his would-be father-in-law.  Soon the family realise that the girl is a Muslim and belongs to Pakistan.  When all efforts to send the girl back home through legal means fail, the man with a golden heart decides to escort her personally to Pakistan through the illegal route. And thus begins the most enchanting and endearing journey of the film.  The adventure gains direction when the two meet Chand Nawab (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a Pakistani reporter, who helps them reach their destination.  How they do it is what makes for the second half of the film.

Crossing the territorial boundary between India and Pakistan was far simpler for Pawan than crossing his own personal boundaries.  Salman’s character starts the journey with a rigid frame of mind and shows strong religious vulnerability, but sheds his traditional beliefs for a progressive outlook by the end of it. From refusing to enter a mosque because he is a Hindu to sitting in a dargah for hours, Salman’s character takes a giant leap of faith. After all, there is no religion greater than the love for mankind.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is not intended to be a film that dwells into the depth and complexities of the relationship with the two neighbouring nations. To watch the movie with such expectations would be bordering on foolishness. Honestly, there is nothing extraordinary about the story but art lies in the way the commercial and emotional elements of the subject have been mixed to give us a delightful film.  In fact, if you go expecting a usual Salman Khan fare, you will be pleasantly surprised. “Budbak” Bajrangi is no super hero; he is a man replete with follies.  The actor lets theatrics take a back seat, so there are no punch dialogues, no trademark movements. This is Salman’s best in a long time.

Nawazuddin shows you why he is one of the best actors we have.  He effortlessly plays the role of a small time reporter chasing a big story.  Kareena barely has anything to do in the film. Despite not saying a word right till the end, the little Harshaali lets her expressions and gestures do all the talking. As the lost Shahida, she garners all the sympathies and wins many hearts.

Aseem Mishra’s cinematography captures your attention right from the time credits start rolling till the time the reunion happens.  His camera captures Kashmir as beautifully as it does the essence of old Delhi. Pritam’s music just goes by.

Interestingly, the film starts with Pakistan winning a match against India but only ends with the film winning everyone’s heart.  Watch the movie with the heart on your sleeve and to see Salman’s transformation from bhai to Bhaijaan.

Review by Mangala Ramamoorthy

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Maari: Dhanush Saves A Very Ordinary Film

Film: Maari; Balaji Mohan, Dhanush, Kajal Aggarwal, Robo Shankar, Vijay Yesudas and Kali Venkat

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Dhanush plays a local hooligan in “Maari”, mostly seen in a dhoti, smoking a cigarette and twirling his moustache. You almost lose count of the number of times he lights a cigarette, twirls his moustache and mouths the line “I’ll finish you off”. These bits mostly happen in slow motion. So, every time he lights a cigarette, the wave of smoke covers his face like a cloud. It’s quite possible the film sets a new record for featuring most scenes in slow-mo. And not to forget, he also sports John Lennon-like glasses.

It’s no surprise that Dhanush performs the role of a rowdy with such ease. He, along with his sidekicks, Robo Shankar and Vinoth, feature in the film’s best moments. Sadly, these moments are repeated too often, only to prove that the director isn’t capable of delivering a wholesome commercial entertainer with some story, some heroism and some cliches a la Dhanush’s recent blockbuster “Vella Illa Pattathari”. Except the story, we get everything else from “Maari”, and that’s the biggest concern of the movie.

“Maari” is not a bad film. It isn’t a bad film because Balaji Mohan shows he isn’t, after all, a bad director. Though there are plenty of cliches, the director shows how even the most routine moments in Tamil cinema can be made enjoyable. For instance, the first time Dhanush meets Kajal, you expect him to fall for her instantly like it’s always expected to happen between the lead pair in our films. But the scene doesn’t pan out the way majority of the audience would have anticipated. All this saves us the pain of sitting through a duet, usually shot in some exotic location, but thanks to Balaji’s quirks, the romance is underplayed.

“Maari” is a badly written film with sub-plots that don’t keep us engaged even briefly. In the beginning, we’re explained about pigeon racing in which Dhanush is invincible. He also finds solace in raising pigeons, and trusts them even more than humans. When he’s with the pigeons, he’s a different man, much calm and happy. You expect the film to predominantly revolve around pigeon racing, but there’s another sub-plot about red sandalwood smuggling, and there’s one more about Dhanush turning an auto rickshaw driver.

Dhanush saves a very ordinary film, which with another actor or even a star wouldn’t have worked as slightly as it does now. Robo Shankar is a revelation. The effortlessness with which he mixes sarcasm in his lines, makes him one of the best contenders for a comic villain.

Balaji Mohan’s big leap of faith into the commercial stream with “Maari” didn’t seem to have worked in his favour.

Two and a half stars

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Baahubali – The Beginning: Extravagant Visuals, Poor Writing

Baahubali: The Beginning; S.S Rajamouli, Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Tamannah Bhatia, Nasser, Ramya Krishnan, Prabhakar, Rohini

Baahubali

“Baahubali: The Beginning” has everything Indian cinema hasn’t witnessed so far. It almost places Telugu cinema on par with Hollywood standards with its vision, extravagant visuals and the lavish scale on which it’s made. In his attempt to make a world class product, Rajamouli may not have passed in distinction but this attempt, despite its inconsistencies, can’t be forgotten easily. But all that glitters is not gold, and although Baahubali is neatly enveloped in a golden wrapper, what you find inside is not utterly satisfying.

Like most Rajamouli’s films, “Baahubali” too is a regular revenge drama. The only difference is that it’s set in an imaginary world made on a lavish scale and against the backdrop of a royal family. It’s the story of a son vying to avenge his father’s death for a kingdom. But Rajamouli is no ordinary filmmaker. Only he can make a simple tale as entertaining, engrossing and awe-inspiring as “Baahubali…”, albeit with some minor flaws.

Early on, we’re introduced to queen Sivagami (played by Ramya Krishnan), running for her life clutching a baby. She sacrifices her life for the infant, who is saved and raised by a tribe residing at the foot of a gigantic waterfall. He’s named Shivudu (Prabhas), after Shiva, and is as strong and powerful as the lord himself. Raised unaware of his lineage, Shivudu develops great rock-climbing skills. He gets inquisitive about the world beyond the giant mountain that separates his tribe from the other side. Soon, he starts climbing, in search of a world he envisions.

On the other side of the mountain is Mahishmati, the mythical kingdom ruled by Bhallala Deva (Rana), a ruler consumed by his own ego; a narcissist who turns his own people into slaves. He’s equally strong and takes a giant bison by the horns, literally. Bhalla keeps Devasena (Anushka), a former princess in his captivity, and she strongly believes her son will come and free her.

Rajamouli’s idea of two worlds separated by a mountain is impressive. He uses it to separate good from evil. If Mahishmati comprises people who kill their own for the throne, people from the tribe go out of their way to save a life.

The first half hardly has anything riveting happening to keep you hooked. As we follow Prabhas on his quest to learn about his own identity, we meet Avantika (Tamannah), a warrior, who is part of a small rebel group that has chosen her to free Devasena. Instead of speeding up the proceedings, there’s a needless romantic track between Shivudu and Avantika, who is initially portrayed as a brave, mission-focused warrior.

And just for a few minutes it was a treat to watch a leading actress perform without the trappings of an archetypal Telugu cinema heroine. Alas, it doesn’t last long and we soon see Avantika and Shivudu in a sensuous song and at the end of it, she’s resting on his chest. Suddenly, she’s reminded of her mission as though somebody had the button to the mission bell and had pressed it. She gets back into her warrior costume, leaves with a heavy heart, only to be rescued by Shivudu later. The whole point of having Tamannah play a warrior just doesn’t make sense. Going by the approach, it appears like she was merely cast to play Prabhas’s pair because his fans would like to see him romance somebody.

It’s in the second half Baahubali is truly majestic to watch. It provides the kind of visuals; entertainment and action that’ll make one fall in love with the film, at least during that brief period . The 20-30 minutes war sequence is breathtaking, as an army of thousands lock horns on a battle field. Senthil Kumar’s spectacular camerawork is another reason why every frame is beautiful and it elevates the whole experience when coupled with great sound. Sabu Cyril deserves thunderous applause for creating incredibly realistic sets.

Prabhas and Rana match each other with their solid performances. Rana as the ruthless Bhallala Deva is excellent. But the pick of the actors has to be Ramya Krishnan as Sivagami, who is effortlessly at ease in her character. Sathyaraj too shined as Kattapa.

If only Rajamouli had shown half the creativity that he used to choreograph the battle scenes in his writing, “Baahubali” would’ve been a much better film. The kind of creativity that turned a fly into a revenge-seeking character in “Eega”. It needs the kind of writing that’ll make you believe that “Baahubali” is more than just gloss.

Three stars

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Rajamouli Unplugged

In his most comprehensive interview yet, S S Rajamouli talks about the making of the Rs 250-crore flick Baahubali, the inspirations behind the film, and the sacrifices his cast and crew had to make

Baahubali

The release is just around the corner and yet you appear unusually calm and composed. Aren’t you nervous?

Looks can be deceiving (laughs). There’s a storm brewing inside me and with every passing minute, it’s getting stronger and wilder. Like everybody else associated with this project, I’m nervous too but unlike them I don’t let it be shown on my face. I’ve been nervous before the release of all my films and it’s quite normal. On the contrary, I’m eager to see how audiences across the country will receive our film.

Did you plan to make the film in other languages from the beginning or did the thought strike you midway?

Given the budget of the film, it’s impossible to recover the cost involved if we release in just one language. Right from the start, the plan was to make it as a Tamil-Telugu bilingual. Hence, we cast actors who are popular in both the industries. Following the success of Eega (Makkhi in Hindi), we had planned to release Baahubali in Hindi as well. And as we were looking for a partner to distribute the film in the Northern belt, filmmaker Karan Johar came on-board. We’ve been lucky enough to be associated with the best producers from other industries, making it possible to release our film in as many screens as possible. We’re releasing the film in a record number of 4,000 screens worldwide in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam.

Does the budget really make Baahubali the most expensive Indian film?

We’ve only shot about 30-40 percent of the second part. Roughly about another 120 days of shoot are still pending. Taking all that into consideration, the budget will be nearly Rs. 250 crore or even more. Remember, this is exclusive of the stars’ remuneration.

A second part to a film is usually made based on the success of the first. You’ve already started working on the second…

I don’t think that’s how it always works. In some cases, film-makers decide much in advance in how many parts they plan to tell their story. Though it’s common in Hollywood, I agree it’s quite new to us. But we tried compressing the entire story under three hours into one film, but realised a lot of emotional core was missing. Despite being very commercial, all my films have been high on emotions. And as much as Baahubali is a war drama, it has lot of emotional content and I think Indian audiences will enjoy it more as a two-part film. Within a gap of a year, we’ll return with part two of the film.

Baahubali is being compared with Hollywood films such as 300 and Troy. Were you inspired by these films?

My biggest inspirations were Amar Chitra Katha comics and Mahabharat. For many years, Baahubali has resided as an idea in my head. It was through the pages of these comics, I envisioned the world of Baahubali. My father had introduced me to these comics at a young age. Ever since then, I’ve been living in this world of larger-than-life characters. I love fantasy, history, folklore and mythology. I dabbled a little with these genres in my previous films. The success of those films gave us confidence to make Baahubali, which is more or less my tribute to Mahabharata. The epic war drama between the Pandavas and Kauravas has always fascinated me. There was absolutely no need to be inspired from Hollywood, but I really don’t mind the comparisons.

But it must have been draining emotionally for all these years…

I developed an emotional attachment with the characters my father had narrated. To showcase these characters in the best possible way remained my motivational factor over the last two-and-a-half years. Having said that, staying motivated throughout was not easy. We struggled towards the end, especially to complete the last 20 percent of the film as most actors by then had almost given up having shot for over a year. But I always believe the team draws its motivation from the director, so I had to push myself and others without losing my cool.

Despite the long wait, the buzz around Baahubali was always alive. It’s probably the best-marketed south Indian film ever.

A lot of planning went into all this. Over the last one year, we’ve been very active on social media platforms. We needed to create the buzz, make audiences, irrespective of the region, curious about our film. And the only way to do it was through marketing.

With so many deadlines to chase, exorbitant budget and growing expectations, it must’ve also been physically taxing…

You know, the film wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my team. For instance, my producer Shobu Yarlagadda would never let the pressure of the budget and deadlines come near me. And my line producer Srivalli single-handedly managed the mammoth scale of production. Had it not been for them, Baahubali would’ve remained as an idea in my head or on a piece of paper. Unlike a regular producer, Shobu was not someone who gave the money and asked us to make the film. He was involved with us in every discussion. He convinced us to release the film in Hindi as he believed my films have nationwide reach. The shooting part did take a toll on us but thanks to a great team, it wasn’t worse.

Your actors deserve to be commended. It’s not a joke to shoot for 400 days…

You should also include a few months of training before the shoot. The actors underwent special training in sword-fighting and horse-riding. All of them gave more than what was expected from them. This is the second time Prabhas and I have teamed up after Chatrapathi, which was a blockbuster. With three consecutive hits, he’s in great demand. Nevertheless, when I asked him to set aside one year for the shoot, he felt we’d required more and kept himself free for two years. Rana (Daggubati) on the other hand, had to gain a lot of weight and grow his hair. He was our energy-booster on the sets. Rana was instrumental in getting Karan Johar on-board. Everybody contributed to the successful completion of the film. It’d be unfair to shower all the laurels on my actors because the contribution from every single team member mattered on this project. For instance, we shot the war sequences for four months. At one point of time, we were shooting with 2,000 extras with about 600 technicians assisting them with costumes, makeup and weapons. There were hundreds of metres of chroma screens, while about 30-35 assistants’ job was to ensure the chroma mats weren’t blown away. There were always two ambulances on set, a medical camp for people and a vet on standby for the animals. Then, there’s visual effects supervisor Srinivas Mohan who dedicated the last three years of his life. Along with his team, he collaborated with over 15 VFX studios and 600 artists and spent so many sleepless nights to complete the project on time. And before I forget, I also need to include my art director Sabu Cyril, who brought the imaginary ancient kingdom to life.

Given the budget and the scale on which Baahubali is made, do you think it will match Hollywood standards?

Hollywood is much ahead of us in writing and execution. There’s no need to compare our work with theirs. I think getting 80 percent of their quality in our content with 20 percent of their budgets will be an achievement. Going by the feedback the promos have received, I think audiences are happy with the visuals. The VFX team has done a splendid job. Pete Draper of Makuta is responsible for the magnificent waterfalls and the palaces from the trailer. Firefly and EFX Hyderabad have contributed a lot of VFX shots through the course of the film, especially in the war sequences. Tau films worked on the scenes featuring the bison.

Amitabh Bachchan recently heaped praise on the film. He also wished to be part of it. Any plans of roping him in the second part?

When I was in Mumbai, I was asked would I be working with the Khans. In Chennai, I was asked if I’ll work with Rajinikanth. I’m a successful director because of the hits the stars gave me. I’d love to work with all the stars, provided I have a suitable script for them. I can’t approach them just because I want to work with them. When I write a script, and if it requires Rajini sir, I’ll definitely try and convince him. For Baahubali, I had decided long back Prabhas was my hero. I let my script choose my actor and not vice versa. It was so nice of Bachchan sir to say lovely things about our film.

Mahesh Babu had apparently postponed the release of his film Srimanthudu for Baahubali…

I was touched when I heard Mahesh and the producers of Srimanthudu postponed their film for us. He had said in an interview that a big film like ours deserves a solo release. I can’t thank him enough for that. Even in Kerala, I was amazed by the craze and anticipation for our film. This has given us lot of confidence.

Do you think Baahubali will break records, become the first South Indian film to enter the Rs 200-crore club?

I’m not motivated by money. If it does, everybody associated with it will be happy because lot of money is riding on it. Film economics is important but that’s not what drives me. It’s the creative success of a film that satisfies me as a film-maker. And if I easily get satisfied, I’d have to stop making films.

At any point while working on this project, did you feel like giving up because you couldn’t handle it?

Just before the start of the shoot, the sheer enormity of the logistics hit me. For about three to four days, I contemplated quitting. But the feeling washed over and I never looked back.

What’s next? Do you wish to work on something even bigger?

I really haven’t thought about it. But it definitely won’t be bigger than this.

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Papanasam: A Superlative Act

Papanasam; Jeethu Joseph, Kamal Haasan, Gautami, Nivetha Thomas, Esther Anil, Kalabhavan Mani, M.S Bhaskar, Ananth Mahadevan, Asha Sharath 

Papanasam New (12)

Well, I haven’t watched the Malayalam original and it is perhaps a good thing. It allows me to see this movie as an independent act, without any preconceived baggage or comparison.  To start with, one thing you know about Kamal Hassan movies – nothing is unintentional. Every place, name and element has a significance, the essence of which we realize only as the film rolls. Papanasam gets its name from the very location where the entire movie has been shot and asides the picturesque rustic scenery, the name of the town also provides the perfect allegory to this riveting tale.

Kamal’s name in the film is another example. True to his name, the cinema-loving Suyambulingam is a self-made man (he himself mentions it a couple of times throughout the film) and is respected in the town for this very reason. There is one similarity between this film and Kamal Hassan’s last release, Uttama Villain – both give us insights into the real actor. In this film, we have his real-life partner Gautami playing his wife (making a comeback after 16 years) and much like in his life he plays a father to two daughters onscreen. There are also references to his 1975-film Cinema Paithiyam, brother Charu Hassan and Kadhal Manan.

Papanasam, by the look of it, is a simple story of a father who will go to any extent to protect his family. Kamal plays the thrifty cable-TV operator whose life revolves around cinema and his family. He breathes, lives and dreams cinema, and it is this love for movies that actually comes handy later in the film. The only other constant in his life are the daily visits to the local tea shop and random conversations with its owner, played by M.S. Bhaskaran. The early part of the film focuses on the bond between the family members and gives us enough glimpses into the sweet-salty relationship between the father and the daughters (played by Nivetha Thomas and Esther Anil) through scenes that have been taken out of our homes. The romance between him and Gautami brings alive their offline chemistry. In all, it is a picture perfect family.

But then the film is also about another set of parents (Ananth Mahadevan and Asha Sharath) who leave no stone unturned for their son’s sake. And what turns this family script into a seat-clincher is how the drama unfolds between these two families. Throw in the police element and we have a potboiler in hand.

The strength of the film lies in its layering. Each time a layer is revealed, it seems like all cards have been played out. But then with time there are more layers and more surprises, taking it right up to the climax. There is also a certain openness about this film. No judgments made. No higher moral ground taken. No one is all black or white. Every character is painted grey, including Kamal himself. To think of it, Suyambu does everything that we associate with a villain in any film, and yet he comes out as a hero. All kudos to Jeethu Joseph for etching such characters.

Talking about Kamal Hassan and acting is like talking about cinema itself. Even his naysayers cannot deny him of the actor that he is – a powerhouse. Even decades later, his ability to turn himself into the character completely is remarkable. Here as the middle-aged Suyambulingam, who willingly spends on his family but fixes his own broken specs with a wire or refuses to purchase a mobile phone for himself, Kamal is right where he belongs. The character gives him all the space that the actor within him needs, along with the necessary theatrics. While Kamal gives the film the edge, what lends it the class is the performance of the entire ensemble of cast. When each performer gives you a superlative performance, the entire act goes one up. Not a single character is wasted and each do what they best can.

There are no loose ends, and no irrational scenes. By the end of it, all your questions are pretty much answered. Except one. As the famous line from Nayagan goes, “Neenga nalavara, illai ketavara?” This is something that the movie chose to steer clear of. And that is the best part about it.

By Mangala Ramamoorthy

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Papanasam: Where Actor Kamal Supersedes the Star

Papanasam; Jeethu Joseph, Kamal Haasan, Gautami, Nivetha Thomas, Kalabhavan Mani, Asha Sharrath, Ananth Mahadevan, Esther Anil

Papanasam New (12)

The Kamal Haasan we get to see in “Papanasam”, the Tamil remake of Malayalam blockbuster “Drishyam”, is the actor that made him a legend; an acting idol for many contemporary and upcoming actors.

Not the star he has grown into in recent years trying to don multiple hats – direct, write, sing, and produce – all at once. And it had become a major concern not because Kamal is bad at these things, but mostly because it made the actor we all love overpowered by the star. So when Kamal, in “Papanasam”, showcases what he can do when he concentrates on only acting, plain acting, it’s a treat to watch him on screen, even if it means for three long hours.

For those who’ve watched the original, its faithful remake “Papanasam” doesn’t come as a surprise, yet Kamal’s presence along with the flawless ensemble performance of the supporting cast makes it a riveting thriller.

Kamal plays Suyambulingam, a cable-TV operator and a cinematic fanatic, whose world revolves around his family; his wife and two daughters. If one of the joys of watching “Papanasam” is to see Kamal, for once, just act, the other is to see the ease with which he slips into the shoes of a villager. Because it’s been a long time since he has played anything close to what we see of him in this film. And it’s terrific to see Kamal play a role that doesn’t require you to brush up your basics about bombs, chemistry, world economy, terrorism, chaos theory et al.

“Papanasam” is a thriller as much as it’s a family drama. It’s about two families and how difficult it is to raise children today. For instance, when Gautami eavesdrops on a conversation in which her daughter talks about being photographed by some kid in school, her instant reaction is funny, but totally understandable. There’s also a wonderful stretch where Kamal feels bad for making his children do things they are not supposed to do and feels guilty about it, only to quickly realise anybody in his place would’ve reacted the same way.

In another beautiful scene towards the end, members of both the families meet and talk about their children. While one family admits to have not raised their child well, the other talks about how selfish they were to save theirs.

The film also focuses on so many other things like class divide, abuse of power, police brutality, and finally on the impact of cinema on our lives. In cinema, it’s tough to differentiate between a truth and a lie because everything that’s shown is mostly taken for granted. We get exactly that in “Papanasam, in which Kamal is the creator, who makes everybody around him believe the lies he shows them.

The film also has a few lovely meta references like the onscreen romance between Kamal and Gautami, who are real life partners. Like Suyambulingam, Kamal too has two daughters and is an avid film lover.

Director Jeethu Joseph needs special mention for bringing back the Kamal we love watching onscreen and also for extracting stellar performances from other actors such as Ananth Mahadevan and Asha Sharath. Ananth’s scene with Kamal in the end is one of the reasons why the film shouldn’t be missed. Nivetha, who missed being part of the original, is terrific.

“Papanasam” is the best and the most faithful remake of the original. It shows what Kamal Haasan is capable of doing when he’s at his best.

Four stars

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Southern Cinema in 2015: Content Ruled Over Star Power in First Half

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The first six months of 2015 saw approximately 280 releases in the southern cinema, but performance-wise, it was a mixed first half. The success of films such as “Kanchana 2″, “Premam”, “Pataas” and “Kaaka Muttai” came as a surprise, but the failure of some highly-anticipated, big-budgeted and superstar-driven films was worrisome.

Of the record 107 Tamil releases, only 10 turned out to be hits by reaping profits for their producers. Only five more managed to break even.

“Compared to 2014, the first half of 2015 has witnessed an increase in hit percentage. However, most star-studded films performed poorly at box office, resulting in heavy losses for their stakeholders,” trade analyst Trinath said.

Ragava Lawrence’s horror comedy “Kanchana 2″ and National Award winning drama “Kaaka Muttai” reaped three to four times their investment.

While “Kanchana 2″ along with its Telugu dubbed version “Ganga” grossed over Rs.100 crore worldwide on an investment of Rs.18 crore, “Kaaka Muttai”, which is still running in select cinemas, has raked in over Rs.15 crore.

“These two films deserve the blockbuster tag. ‘Kaaka Muttai’ has proved that audiences are hungry for good content,” Trinath said.

Other successful ventures include “Anegan”, “Kaaki Sattai”, “I”, “O Kadhal Kanmani”, “Darling”, “36 Vayadhinile” and “Demonte Colony”.

“The success of small films such as ‘Darling’, ‘Demonte Colony’ and ‘Tamiluku En Ondrai Azhuthavum’ has given several young filmmakers the courage to experiment. More producers are willing to bet on quirky subjects,” he said.

A big disappoint was Kamal Haasan- starrer “Uttama Villain” and Suriya’s “Massu”.

In the Telugu filmdom, the first six months have not been favourable.

Om Deepak of AndhraBoxOffice, a popular box office portal, said: “As usual, commercial entertainers have dominated and raked in decent box office numbers. But when compared to the first half of 2014, there’s a dip in overall collections by minimum 20 percent due to a fewer big releases.”

The delay of big-budget movies such as “Baahubali”, “Kick 2″, “Rudhramadevi” and “Srimanthudu”, which were originally slated for summer release, has also impacted the numbers.

“Generally, summer will witness release of at least three big films. This year, the only notable big release was Allu Arjun’s ‘S/O Satyamurthy’. As a result, the box office occupancy has been lowest this summer in this decade,” Deepak said.

Kalyan Ram’s “Pataas”, with a worldwide gross of Rs.29 crore, is the most profitable film and a blockbuster in every sense. Junior NTR’s “Temper” (Rs.74 crore) and Sundeep Kishan-starrer “Beeruva” (Rs.10 crore) were hits with minor profits.

Amongst high grossing films which suffered minor losses, “S/O Satyamurthy” leads with Rs.90 crore , followed by “Gopala Gopala” (Rs. 66 crore) and “Pandaga Chesko” (Rs.29 crore).

Telugu filmdom also saw a bevy of Tamil dubbed releases. Out of them, the only profitable venture was “Ganga” (Rs.31 crore). Though the Telugu version of Shankar’s “I” grossed Rs. 44 crore, the film was a disaster.

“It was a poor first half for Telugu industry, which had approximately 54 releases. Expectations are sky-high on ‘Baahubali’ and ‘Srimanthudu’, and the success of these films is very essential for the industry, especially after the bad start,” Trinath said.

Of the four southern industries, Malayalam filmdom had a decent first half with better success rate.

The unexpected success of “Premam”, which has given its lead actor Nivin Pauly a superstar status, has given the industry the biggest hit.

“The film continues to run to packed houses in its fourth week across the country. It has already raked in over Rs.30 crore at the ticket window. It’s turning out to be the highest grossing film in the history of the Malayalam industry,” distributor Arvind Nambiar said.

Of the 67 Malayalam releases, films such as “Mili”, “Picket 43″, “Fireman”, “100 Days of Love”, “Oru Vadakkan Selfie”, “Ennum Eppozhum”, “Bhaskar the Rascal” and “Chandrettan Evideya” tasted success.

“Some of these hits are already being remade in other languages. ‘Oru Vadakkan Selfie’, for instance, which is being remade in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi and Bengali, earned nearly Rs.20 crore from theatricals alone. It’s phenomenal,” Nambiar said.

Mammootty-starrer “Bhaskar the Rascal”, whose Telugu rights have already been acquired, collected triple its overall cost.

Some highly anticipated films that bombed, include “Laila O Laila”, “Mariyam Mukku” and “Chirakodinja Kinavukal”.

The Kannada industry, which saw 55 releases in six months, suffered heavily due to the poor show of most big ticket films. Sadly, there hasn’t been a single big hit.

” ‘Mr. and Mrs. Ramachari’, which released in the last week of last year and ran through most of the first quarter of 2015, is the most successful film. It could even be called a super hit as it collected nearly Rs.50 crore during its run,” trade analyst and distributor Ramesh Gowda said.

Big films such as “Ranna”, “Vajrakaya”, “Rana Vikrama” and “Siddhartha” did decent business and recovered money.

“Both ‘Ranna’ and ‘Rana Vikrama’ raked in over Rs.10 crore in its opening weekend, but failed to sustain. This has been the case with most star-centric films across the industries,” Gowda said.

Other outings such as “Shivam”, “Kushi Kushiyali”, “Jackson” and “Raja Rajendra” managed only average business at the box office.

Director Yograj Bhat’s highly anticipated film “Vaastu Prakaara” opened to good numbers but failed to make it big.

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Yagavarayinum Naa Kaaka: Good…But The Thrills Come So Late

Yagavarayinum Naa Kaaka; Sathya Prabhas Pinisetty, Aadhi Pinisetty, Nikki Galrani, Mithun Chakraborty, Shree Karthick, Siddharth, Nasser, Pasupathy, Harish UthamanDSC_0182

Debutant Sathya Prabhas’s Yagavarayinum Naa Kaaka could’ve been a riveting thriller, provided the thrills didn’t come so late in the story. Early on, we get a glimpse of a murder. We’re not sure who the victim is. Then, we’re introduced to two characters in captivity, and going by the dialogues, they’re presumably held for doing something wrong. Next, we meet Saga (played by Aadhi) in Mumbai, and he’s there to meet Mudaliar (played by Mithun), the most dreaded don. As you start to wonder why Saga wants to meet Mudaliar, there’s a flashback and a good half hour of it is spent on things that could’ve been easily avoided.

In the backstory, we learn about Saga and his friends, Siva, Rajesh and Kishore. They’re such close friends that when we meet Saga for the first time, the camera zooms in on a tattoo (not on his face) with the initials SRK of his friends, indicating that everything else in his life is only after his friends. Saga is from a middle-class family with problems that are commonly associated with the class. Essentially, the first half is about Saga and his friends, their camaraderie and a totally needless love track featuring Nikki Galrani as Nikitha (who is terrific in her role). But there’s a lovely stretch featuring Nikki (in her introduction scene) buying alcohol from a TASMAC shop and some condoms, but using them for a different purpose. How often do we see that in a Tamil film? Maybe never. It’s these small things that keep you invested in the mostly bland first half.

Yagavarayinum… truly begins in the second half and it keeps you on the edge of your seats through most part of it. Right from the scene in which the group of friends mess with the wrong sort till the climax (which required some subtlety), what you witness is not some ordinary work of a filmmaker. Sathya Prabhas shows a lot of promise, which you wish he showed right from the beginning. Because it almost felt like watching two different films for the price of one. Ideally, the story should’ve focused on the friends and the repercussions of the problem they create for themselves. The problem, in my opinion, is to unnecessarily make Yagavarayinum… look like an out-and-out commercial, masala entertainer when it deserves and should be and presented as a thriller.

On the contrary, there’s so much to like about the film. Take that scene when Saga begs for a chance to be heard. I mean, he’s a Tamil cinema hero and it wouldn’t have surprised me had he decided to give the goons a drubbing. Though he does once, it’s only when they scurry with his girlfriend’s half-sari. Otherwise, he always seeks resolution through dialogue. The most likeable part about the film, undoubtedly, has to be the performances from its ensemble cast. While it’s no surprise Aadhi and other popular faces performed well, I’m sure nobody (including myself) would’ve expected the newcomers to floor you. Karthick, Siddharth and Shaam, who played Aadhi’s friends, were extremely good, and so was Richa, who was impressive in her cameo.

The length definitely needs some trimming. If not the scenes, at least a couple of songs need to go. Yagavarayinum… is not a bad film but it could’ve been a much, much better film.

Three stars

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Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini: Drama Takes Over Craft

Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini; R. Chandru, Sudheer Babu, Nanditha Raj, Saptagiri, M.S Narayana, Pragathi

Krishnamma-Kalipindi-Iddarini

Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini intermittently has moments that are innocent throwbacks to those born in the 90’s and are an assemblage of a material, hinted at making them sulk with the slightest reminder of their past.

The screen puts across those times where a boy draws a portrait of her girl on a chart on a Friendship Day to throw a hint of his love and writes his intention on a riverside rock, obviously on which the film’s named. Alongside these, there are time-bound reminders that are sincere in their intent, the kind that could have pushed the cause of a period teenage romance like Andhra Pori ahead too.

There are a set of bindi stickers that the mother sacrifices and her child uses the money to buy a pen for his childhood crush. The kid lies that it was for him to write and the mother has a guileless spark on her face. The boy, years later is a man earning his first salary who gifts a sari and the bindi, as a symbolic statement that we’ve moved ahead of the helpless stages.

An Autograph-like touch surfaces, when he sits across an idli-stall run by an elderly woman where he reminisces his childhood memories at once. It’s a Shree 420 moment when a teacher puts his gold medal at stake to clear his debts. Also, you’re told there’s a meta film unfolding, whose story is supposedly the epic romance between the two, as seen by a classmate of theirs.

A section of the film tries to undo these purist efforts, where everything about an urban backdrop are snapshots of pace and recklessness. There’s a fight sequence for the girl’s dignity you can’t avoid.  A nearly politically correct Posani and Saptagiri give the quintessential bar-scene of a conventional film. Otherwise, everything about the romance that unfolds on screen is an opportunity utilized to liberally dose the importance of responsibility over adrenaline rushes of love.

R Chandru, the director, you would’ve realised by now isn’t at any point selling you a series of fabricated old-school ideas. He’s rather honest in his attempt to make an 80’s styled drama, keeping aside the fact that he doesn’t totally succeed.

It isn’t an honorary coincidence to think of Veer Zaara, too. The musical score by Hari is a better reflection of his ideas, where it’s primarily, the melody that’s sprinkled along. The mood is thus ensured, but everything about the film is so flowery and goody that the pacing becomes a major worry.

Sudheer Babu and Nanditha are no Sobhan Babu and Jayaprada, but their genuine efforts to perform nearly make up for the lack of accomplished technique. There’s surely a chaste quality hidden in Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini, but you miss the craft that could’ve taken over the drama. May be, this is a hint towards Mohit Suri.

Two and a half stars

By Srivathsan Nadadhur 

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Jurassic World: Colossal but not Emotional Enough

Jurassic World; Colin Trevorrow, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy

Jurassic World

Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” hit the marquee in 1993. That was a classic. Ever since, cinema and the universe have come a long way. The sequels that followed were genetically modified versions of the same DNA that includes the “Jurassic World”.

The premise, the theme and the plot of the tale is nearly the same, nothing much has changed except for the visual presentation and a few sub-plots. The ‘Park’ has turned into a ‘World’, and even though the novelty factor of the dinosaurs has lost its charm, this film which has been obviously scaled to epic proportions to appeal to today’s audience, is sporadically entertaining.

Owned by business tycoon Simon Masrani and run by Claire Dearing, The Jurassic World – packed with a variety of real and holographic dinosaurs – is a resort cum amusement park on an island off the coast of Costa Rica. It has been successfully operating for over a decade.

The dip in profits makes Masrani crib. According to Claire, “The Park needs a new attraction to keep the place rolling.”

It is about demand and supply, “consumers want them” hence the research and development team, headed by Henry Wu, are constantly modifying the genes of the dinosaurs to churn out new species. The latest attraction to be introduced soon at the park is the “$26 million asset” – the Indominus Rex, a variant of the big Tyrannosaurus Rex, who is bred in isolation.

The management’s greed and the vested interests of various parties, which include a military involvement, is what leads to an undercurrent of tension in the plot. But the real problem occurs when the Indominus Rex escapes from its enclosure and goes on a rampage turning the theme park with its 22,000 visitors into a disaster zone.

The film is formulaic and predictable in structure. The first one-third of the film drags while establishing the setting. The narration gathers momentum when Claire’s nephews are thrown in direct danger in the Indominus Rex’s path. The tension builds up intermittently during the escape and rescue operation. The dramatic set pieces are outlandishly peculiar and amusing, but never frightening and the climax drags pointlessly.

Chris Pratt as action hero Owen Grady, the sarcastic wrangler, is charming. His spontaneous witty one-liners lend a comic relief. He along with Omer Sy as Barry his colleague and Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as Gray and Zach Mitchell, Claire’s nephew, give a humane touch to the otherwise cut and dry narration.

Irrfan Khan plays the prominent role of Simon Masrani, the owner of the park. Though he acts well he is a misfit in the role. His weak voice and his not-so-strong personality does not befit the character he is portraying. Nor, with his features, does he bring any intrigue value to the character.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, the CEO of the theme park, is perfunctory. So is Vincent D’Onofrio as Vic Hoskins, who is constantly eyeing the dinosaurs for military benefits. They, along with the rest of the cast, are the typical two-dimensional characters.

Director Colin Trevorrow has done a commendable job by delivering this colossal project which is close to the original. The visuals which include CGI images, VFX and 3D effects are astonishing and the background score accentuates the viewing experience.

Three stars

By Troy Ribeiro 

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