Dohchay: Fails to Rob Hearts

Dohchay; Sudheer Varma, Naga Chaitanya, Kriti Sanon, Pooja Ramachandran, Posani Krishna Murali, Brahmanandam, Saptagiri and Ravi Babu

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With a title like “Dohchay”, which means ‘to rob’, you expect a movie to do more than just entertain. Such expectations were riding high on this film right from the moment it was announced, since it was coming from the director who gave Telugu audiences a sensational movie like “Swamy Ra Ra”, which was a critical and commercial hit and opened the floodgates to a genre that was considered underrated.

Half way into “Dohchay”, a crime comedy that doesn’t do justice to both the genres, the high expectations are reduced to half, and by the end of the movie, you wish Sudheer had smartly worked on a sequel to his first film, which by the way, someone else is making.

The movie comes with the star baggage of Chaitanya, and though Sudheer has tried his best to not let it come in the way of the story, it does, and to some extent, makes the whole effort look like it was another attempt to please a star and cash in on his popularity. Maybe Sudheer wanted to use this opportunity to springboard into the big league of successful commercial directors.

The star baggage here refers to simple things like Chaitanya’s lavish bike, which he rides with the earnings as a conman, and the luxurious apartment he lives in. It also refers to the need to cast a beautiful heroine, Kriti Sanon, even if it means she has no purpose. These were the compromises Sudheer didn’t have to worry about in his first movie, but here, for having chosen to work with a star, it comes neatly wrapped with the big commercial tag.

The film opens with a bank robbery. Two guys rob a bank and escape in broad daylight. They create a diversion without much hassle to confuse the police and easily get away with the loot. One of them suggests they can easily double-cross their boss and flee with the money, but the other guy feels it’s too risky. As they begin to argue, the story shifts to another location and introduces us to Chandu (Chaitanya), who easily cheats a producer and walks away with a lump sum amount.

For the next 45 minutes to one hour, we follow Chandu’s story and learn what motivates him to con, and how good he’s at it. In “Swamy Ra Ra”, actor Nikhil and his gang of friends conned and robbed people for fun. Sudheer didn’t bother telling us about their past or why they con, and why should it bother anyone as long as the movie entertains?

In “Dohchay”, we’re explained why Chandu cons people with a sentimental flashback and there’s a trace of Shankar’s “Gentleman” in the story. Now, there’s some morality in Chandu’s actions. From his earnings as a conman, he educates his sister and hopes to free his father from prison. The film suddenly feels like a revenge drama and Chandu’s every action is justified.

Minutes before the interval, there’s an excellent stretch that unfolds in an apartment where the two robbers from the first scene are still shown arguing. This scene is more reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino film, and it is even more evident from the poster of “Pulp Fiction” in the room. On the adjacent wall, there’s a poster of Nagarjuna’s cult film “Siva”.

Sudheer likes to pay tributes to his masters, and he does that so subtly. He uses the tongue-in-cheek humour quite well, but only at instances where he was running out of ideas and didn’t have a clue how to proceed forward. Posani gets a meaty role and he plays it to a T. He plays a comic villain and succeeds in generating maximum laughter, and he’s aptly supported by Brahmanandam in a cameo. The last 20 minutes provide some great rib-tickling entertainment.

It’s tough to shake off the “Swamy Ra Ra” hangover in “Dohchay”, which unfortunately fails to rob our hearts.

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O Kadhal Kanmani: With You, Without You

O Kadhal Kanmani; Mani Ratnam,  Dulquer Salmaan, Nitya Menen, Prakash Raj and Leela Samson

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It doesn’t matter if you’re a Mani Ratnam fan or not, his latest outing, “O Kadhal Kanmani” is sure to leave you with an everlasting smile on your face. The movie, which marks the auteur’s comeback to the romance genre after a decade, is a refreshing take on contemporary romance and relationship.

The story is set in Mumbai, and the city, through lensman Sreeram’s frames has never looked so beautiful, adding much needed oomph to the romance of Aadi (Dulquer) and Tara (Nitya), two well-educated, independent and ambitious individuals. Rahman’s music, needless to say, is soul-stirring, if not as standalone soundtrack but it works so well in the movie.

Aadi and Tara first meet at a railway station. Well, they don’t actually meet. They just glance at each other through the gaps in between the bogies of passing trains. It’s not one of your best boy-meets-girl moments, but it works. Their second meeting is at a friend’s wedding in a church where they are seated in the same row but a few seats away from each other. They introduce each other with a murmur and even exchange numbers.

The conversation then shifts to a phone call, and they talk about their friends who are about to exchange vows. They talk about the baggage that comes with marriage. It’s a funny banter, but we quickly get the picture that both Aadi and Tara (who make an adorable pair) don’t believe in the institution of matrimony. In another scene, Tara asks does one need a certificate called marriage to stay with someone.

Aadi and Tara live under the shadow of an older couple – Ganapathy (Prakash Raj) and Bhavani (Leela Samson) in their house. Ganapathy and Bhavani fell in love and got married a long time ago. She was a classical singer; he was a banker. They’ve grown old together and now Bhavani is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and she slowly starts forgetting.

Ganapathy looks after Bhavani; cooks for her and even combs her hair. He politely reminds her of the simplest thing she can’t remember like eating a meal. Bhavani, on the other hand, remembers how old she was when Ganapathy first met her. He thinks she was 20; but she quickly corrects that she was 19 when they first met. The best part about their relationship is that she hasn’t forgotten him yet and that’s what matters the most.

The way Aadi and Tara slowly get influenced by Bhavani and Ganapathy is handled subtly, yet beautifully. Ratnam needs to be applauded and suddenly you realise the film isn’t actually about the young couple; it’s about the older couple who sort of remind us that no matter what, we all need a life partner.

Towards the end, Tara says it’s impossible to find someone like Ganapathy in any other woman’s life. Aadi says it’s possible and the following question sums up everything for us.

By throwing the spotlight on modern India’s idea of romance, Ratnam has also succeeded in making us root for an older couple madly in love in “O Kadhal Kanmani”. The end feels predictable, but if you paid attention from the beginning, the intention of Ratnam was not to celebrate live-in relationships — though he does to an extent — but it was always about falling in love and happily living ever after.

Otherwise, I don’t see the need to include the love track of Prakash Raj and Leela Samson, who are extremely good in their respective roles. Never do you feel sorry for Bhavani’s medical case. In fact, Ratnam reserves some of the film’s best comical moments for her.

It’s quite possible Ratnam didn’t make Dulquer and Nitya act. He may have put a camera around them and captured everything that’ll make the audience go head over heels for the pair. Dulquer was at ease, speaking his own lines in Tamil; he looked most suitable in the role. It was Nitya who stole the show hands down. It’s impossible to not fall in love with her, even if you don’t with the movie. The fact that the story is set in Mumbai, and all the characters spoke their own lines in Tamil really worked in favour of the film.

It’s easy to say Mani Ratnam played it safe with “O Kadhal Kanmani”. Maybe he did, given the risks he has taken with his previous works, but it’s fine because it’s been a long time since his film has been so enjoyable. This is his best work in years and this magical spell won’t be forgotten easily.

Four stars

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Kanchana 2: Weakest Film in the Franchise

Kanchana 2; Director: Raghava Lawrencce, Raghava Lawrencce, Taapse Pannu, Nitya Menen, Jayaprakash and Kovai Sarla

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With the “Kanchana” franchise, which is now about eight years old, Lawrencce had opened the floodgates to several successful horror-comedies in Tamil cinema. The first two parts worked because it was the beginning of a trend and the audience dug the films, but slowly as filmmakers started milking dry this genre, something innovative was expected and that was missing in Raghava Lawrencce-directed “Kanchana 2″, the latest installment from the franchise.

The movie, which follows a very cliched and dated format of horror template, suffers heavily due to the lack of a good story. Forget great acting, which you really can’t expect from these films as their sole intention is to scare with sound and the ghost element. But we’ve had so many horror films of late; you wish these films offered better thrills! Some of these films have had great comedy, but slowly the jokes too are failing to keep us entertained. A possessed character beating some innocent characters is not funny anymore.

If it was a transgender, played so fittingly by Sarath Kumar, who swore to avenge her killers in “Kanchana”; it’s a disabled character yearning for revenge as a ghost in “Kanchana 2″. Lately, all horror stories have been mostly about revenge, and sadly they’ve all been loud, over-the-top and extremely passe, though they’ve been successful at the same time. Maybe that’s why Tamil filmmakers continue to make more horror-comedies, which makes a great combination, provided one knows how to make a genuinely entertaining film that scares and entertains equally.

Raghava plays a cameraman in a television company in “Kanchana 2″, and typically you expect the envelope to be pushed in the sequel, and it is here and how. Here’s an adult man who wears diapers, pins slippers and brooms on his bedroom wall to ward off ghosts and sleeps under layers of bed sheets with images of different gods. The makers believe that the idea of pushing the envelope is making the lead character dumber and more likeable. It looked funny when Raghava came running and jumped onto his mother’s hip at the mention of a mere ghost in the last part, but now it seriously isn’t.

The addition of Taapsee and Nitya Menen to the cast hardly makes any difference. Initially, the former impresses when she gets possessed but despite the effort Nitya has put into making her disable character called Ganga stand out, you wish the writing was better; you wish Lawrencce hired a writing partner instead of matching steps with his brother in an introduction song for the ghosts.

There are about five ghosts in “Kanchana 2″, and Lawrencce gets to play all of them. This only proves that he can play any number of characters sans adding any value to the story. The visual effects are pitiful, and the climatic fight between two ghosts is a bad rip-off of the most popular series of Hulk versus Superman fights on Youtube.

“Kanchana 3″ is hinted at the end, and let’s hope it isn’t as bad as “Kanchana 2″, which is undoubtedly a weak film in the franchise.

Two and a half stars

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Mani Ratnam Unplugged

Getting Mani Ratnam to speak is a task itself. The reticent film-maker prefers his works to do the talking. After repeated attempts, I managed to catch up with the ace director who is now gearing up for the release of O Kadhal Kanmani

Mani Ratnam

There’s lot of Alaipayuthey flavour in O Kadhal Kanmani (OKK). Many even say this looks like a sequel. Are you aware of these comparisons?

I’ve been told that people think Oh Kadhal Kanmani is Alaipayuthey 2, but it’s not a sequel. It’s an urban love story. What’s common is that it deals with the urban youth and their relationships. The romance is set against things which are typically in a metro. We were aware of these similarities and we didn’t have any problem with it. This film really deals with the way we look at life and relationships at this point in time. The story is set in Mumbai, and when you watch the film, you understand it’s about people away from home who become independent of the rules and regulations of a family. It will be a breezy, contemporary film on relationship.

OKK happens to be your comeback to the romance genre in which you’ve made some wonderful films over the years. Are you a hardcore romantic?

I don’t know if I can look at it that way. Whatever film you do, be it even with children, you do with the same amount of sincerity. It doesn’t matter which genre you’re working in, you try to find a honest relationship within that space, and say if it’s the romance genre, within that you have to find story and characters that resonate with an audience.

Nevertheless, you’ve earned the title ‘king of romance’…

(Laughs) That’s just the convenient way to put it. I think the audience takes back and retain only the romance portion from my movies. People assume I’m more comfortable with this genre. But, I think I’m uncomfortable with all the genres because each one is a struggle. I love action movies, I love drama, but I think what you like is completely different from what you want to do next. You can make a film out of different aspects you like about a genre. If you look at my last few films, they’ve completely been different from each other and it has been that way for many years.

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Has your interpretation of romance changed since you made Alaipayuthey?

I’m just reflecting what I think is happening around me. I can understand and see how people in relationships are behaving. I’m looking at it from close quarters. The change has been happening and neither you nor I can stop it. And that change, at some point, has to get reflected in some kind of art form.

Through your film, you’re introducing a fresh pair – Dulquer Salman and Nitya Menen – to the audience. Could you talk about them?

I always believe half the battle is won when you cast the right actors. With Dulquer and Nitya, it was more than half. Both of them are fantastic; they’re very natural, real and yet they perform like without making it look like performance. Dulquer, for instance, effortlessly gets into his character and the line somewhere blurs between his real and reel self. You can’t just point at a scene and say they’ve done well because they’ve flown through the entire film with the kind of ease which is remarkable. The reason I chose them is they resonated with the characters in my mind. Both of them looked close to what would help me tell the story. I hadn’t seen any previous work of Dulquer until I signed him. After that, I saw him in Bangalore Days. With Nitya, I saw parts of her work in 180 and Urumi. I liked her, but I felt I didn’t see her in a full-fledged film. In OKK, she has shouldered her role right from the beginning till the end. I usually prefer to meet the actors I like to cast and get to know them. It helps me in understanding them better.

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Lyricist Vairamuthu recently said your films don’t fail and that they’re only misunderstood. Do you agree with his view?

He’s a poet and he has the license to say such things. But the fact is that films fail. You have to accept it and get on with it. There are two things to what he actually meant – whether a film is commercially successful or not because the economics of it is very important and whether you’re able to achieve the kind of film you try to achieve. It’s an abstract form that you have in mind when you start a film. How much ever you write a script and how much ever you work on the pre-production, it’s still in abstract form. Irrespective of the result, whether you’re able to make the film you had set out to make reads as whether you’re satisfied with your work or not. Even if you feel you didn’t handle one aspect well in a movie, it gets revealed only in the result. And then you realize maybe this which I had initially in mind, I was not able to get it across to the audience completely. It may not be the thought or structure. It may be just that I’ve not communicated it effectively enough. You learn from such experience and you see that you don’t leave too much of a gap in communication.

Do you think there was a communication gap in the case of Kadal, which didn’t do well?

There was a gap in Kadal, but there are bits and pieces of the movie I’m very proud of. On the whole, I think something went missing and it’s my mistake I let that gap happen. It’s only after a point; you’re able to see the gap you left that you assumed will be filled in the mind of the audience. Unfortunately, it didn’t work in the favour of Kadal.

Every single time you’re film’s music comes out, the instant reaction from the audience is that Rahman reserves the best for you. He, on the other hand, says you give him the platform to experiment. What’s the secret behind this successful combo?

There’s no secret to it other than the fact that both of our intentions are kind of similar in the sense it’s not just that we want to make hit songs. Of course, we want to produce chartbusters, but the objective is that the kind of film defines the kind of music. When I tell him something, he thinks of ways to musically represent it. It’s not just that I need six great songs. We look for songs that’ll help the story to transcend. When we collaborate, we start with a definite direction in which we want to travel and within that we try and experiment. And we’re also aware of what will be liked and what won’t. We do have our differences and arguments but that’s the whole point of working as a team. If he does what exactly I want and vice versa, we don’t need each other. The fun of working together is that I should be able to nudge him into a direction in which I want and he should be able to convince me to take a different direction. In the process, the main objective shouldn’t be compromised. It has always been a collaborative effort and that’s what has kept it exciting.

You’ve reunited with P.C Sreeram after a decade in OKK. Did the long gap have any effect on your working relationship?

It’s always been fun. I honestly didn’t feel this was a long gap. It just looked like we’ve always been working. Nothing has changed between us and we have the same kind of connection, same kind of working style and continue to push each other for excellence. I think we’ve known each other so long that we know our likes and dislikes and this has always helped our relationship. It was fantastic working with him again. He’s more than just a cinematographer; he’s like family, someone very close to us. It’s with him I share my ideas and tell him this is how I want to shoot it or even when I decide to drop a scene and coming up with a new one.

The industry is plagued by the number business. Everybody’s talking about box-office records and the 100 crore club. Do you still continue to walk a tightrope between art and commerce or has your view changed?

Just because everybody around me talks about 100 crore business, it doesn’t change the way I look at cinema. I’ve come here to make films in the mainstream, but within that I feel you can make sensible films. Within the mainstream, it’s possible to tell a story with characters and emotions which are real, genuine and which need not be over the top. It’s just that the growth in the society converts everything into numbers and the fact that we’ve got this mechanism by which these numbers have started coming out. For a filmmaker, whether the film is liked, understood or appreciated counts as much as the moolah. I believe the intrinsic value of a film too matters to its creator.

At a recent press meet, your wife Suhasini said only ‘qualified’ people should review movies and not anybody who knew to move a mouse on the computer screen. Her comments have been slammed by everyone and it’s gone viral.

I think it shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted the way she said it. Maybe she didn’t say it right. I know she was talking about professional criticism and had requested everybody at the event to continue supporting our films like they have always. But no matter what anybody says, including Suhasini, you can’t stop people from sharing their opinion. If you make a film, I’ll have my opinion and it doesn’t matter if you like it or not. Cinema is public art and people have the right to express what they feel about it. Today, there’s a platform for sharing opinions and it can get multiplied tremendously. We can only take the feedback and use it for giving a better product the next time. There will always be criticism but how somebody puts it across makes a whole lot of difference. I watch cricket on television and say what kind of shot a batsman is playing. But what do I really know to comment but I still do. Likewise, every film-goer will have something to say about a film. But criticism shouldn’t provoke a reaction and that kind of culture is prevalent online. If it’s genuine criticism, it should be welcomed. There was criticism in Kadal, and I didn’t have any issue with it. I just took it in my stride.

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S/O Satyamurthy: Predictable and Sloppy

S/O Satyamurthy; Trivikram, Allu Arjun, Prakash Raj, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Nitya Menen, Adah Sharma, Rao Ramesh, Rajendra Prasad, Upendra, Sampath Raj, M.S. Narayana, Brahmanadam

So Satyamurthy

Nothing about Trivikram’s “S/O Satyamurthy” stays with you the minute you walk out of the cinema hall as everything about it is predictable.

Akin to the title, the film, over two-and-a-half-hours long, explores the bond between a father and son; just like how Trivikram’s last outing “Attarintiki Daaredhi” was about the strained relationship between the hero and his aunt.

While all the quintessential Trivikram trademark moments can be found in “S/O Satyamurthy”, what you miss is the magic he created in his career’s best film “Athadu”.

Arjun plays Viraj Anand, who is introduced to us as the son of Satyamurthy (Prakash Raj), and not by his name. Satyamurthy is the perfect embodiment of goodness, and he always swore by it, even till his last breath. He’s so good that he lets people cheat him and when asked why by his son, he shares a lovely anecdote.

Trivikram has this habit of drawing inferences from life, history and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharat, and such references are aplenty here. There’s a wonderful stretch in the villain’s house where all the characters dine with a dead body. These are some of the best moments in the film, which is otherwise boring.

Trivikram, as usual, impresses with his dialogues, which continue to be his strength. After all, here’s a filmmaker who started his career as a dialogue writer. His lines rhyme and are easy to remember and are equally powerful, especially when delivered by, say an actor with a baritone like Amitabh Bachchan.

But these lines fail to create the intended impact when delivered by Arjun, even though they sound good. Most suitable for playing a lover boy, Arjun fails miserably as the son who desperately tries to keep his father’s legacy alive. It’s impossible to accept him as Viraj Anand, despite all the effort Trivikram has put into adding weight to his character.

There are so many actors and yet their performances are not worthy of a discussion. For instance, Kannada actor Upendra plays the villain and with the kind of powerful introduction he’s given, you expect chills to be sent down your spine, but what we get to see is disappointing.

The only saving grace is Brahmanandam’s comedy, which unfortunately comes quite late in the film.

“S/O Satyamurthy” is a predictable and sloppy family drama with a few high and mostly low moments.

Two stars

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Nannbenda: Where are the Jokes?

Nannbenda; Jagadeesh, Udhayanidhi Stalin, Santhanam, Nayantara, Rajendran, Sherin, Karunakaran and Pooja Ramachandran

Udhay

In the opening scene of “Nannbenda”, we see Sathya (Udhay) breaking out of a prison, and we’re explained why in the flashback. There’s a sense of curiosity and some element of suspense as you wonder what the hero of a romantic comedy could’ve possibly done to end up here.

You wonder maybe this is a suspense comedy, going by all the jokes in the trailer, and patiently hope for the story to take you by surprise. And as we get to know about Sathya’s past, everything that was built initially falls flat, forcing you to quickly come to the conclusion that the suspense angle doesn’t quite work in this comedy.

In the flashback, you sit back and wait for the jokes. After all, this is the movie featuring the hit combination of Santhanam and Udhay, who earlier starred in the extremely funny “Oru Kal Oru Kannadi” (Ok Ok). You wait for the jokes more so because the makers promoted “Nannbenda” as the sequel to “Ok Ok”, and that, I think, was their biggest mistake. The jokes never come and the few funny lines you may come across aren’t funny enough.

By trying to piggyback on the popularity of “Ok Ok”, and by setting high expectations, the makers have dug their own grave in which you can ask them to bury their unfunny jokes. In a film like “Nannbenda”, which follows the same template used by hit comedies such as “Boss Engira Bhaskaran” and “Theeya Vella Seiyyanum Kumaru”, ideally, one shouldn’t expect any story, but one needs something to get entertained, especially when the darn movie runs for nearly two and half hours.

Sathya, jobless, stays with his parents in Thanjavur. On the first day of every month, he travels to another city to meet his chuddy-buddy Sivkozhunthu (Santhanam). The chuddy reference is too literal here, for they have grown up, as Sathya proudly announces in celebration of their friendship, wearing each other’s undies. Yikes!

On one such trip to meet his friend, Sathya ends up falling for Ramya, at first sight, because his mom once said if he accidentally meets a girl thrice in a day, she’s his life and wife. Sathya stays back with the objective to make or force Ramya to fall for him. And she does, quite naturally, like most heroines in Tamil films. But before the happy ending, so much goes on and sadly most of it is outright boring.

Ramya, for instance, has a past in which she has done jail time. Apparently, she had to spend 10 days behind bars for killing her ex-boss’s dog. She hasn’t shared this secret (which is an insult to the word itself) with anyone but Sathya, who makes a mockery of it, only to upset her more.

If you thought this was annoyingly silly, there’s a sub-plot about Santhanam’s romance with Sherin, whose character is desperate to go on a honeymoon. There are two villains who lock horns quite a few times but we don’t understand why. Rajendran plays one of the villains, and he tries his best to be funny, but it’s in a comedy that’s hardly funny.

Udhay is much better than he was in “Ok Ok”. He dances well, looks comfortable in most scenes and successfully pulls off a decent action sequence. But he chooses the wrong film to showcase he’s more than an actor, who usually relies on Santhanam and his jokes.

Not sure if Santhanam is funny anymore but “Nannbenda”, which completely rests on his shoulders, is a romantic comedy in which the romance consists largely of unromantic characters that are annoying and the comedy consists of jokes…. well, where the hell are they?

Two stars

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CSK: Good Thriller That Needed More Thrills

CSK; Sathiyamoorthy, Sharran, Vimal, Narayan, Mishal, Jai Quehaeni

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CSK is the kind of thriller that attempts something offbeat but doesn’t quite succeed in keeping us on the edge of our seats. The opening moments are impressive and instantly thrill-inducing – a woman with her mouth and hands tapped is surrounded by three men. She’s lying at their feet and as one of them swings a wooden log at her head, the story goes back a few hours in time.

In CSK, which stands for Charles, Shafiq and Karthiga; the girl is wanted by four men. It’s nice how the entire story rests on the shoulders of Karthiga, played here by Jai Quehaeni, who was last seen in Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s “Aarohanam”. The only other recent Tamil film where the heroine had a similar role to essay was Balaji Kumar’s “Vidiyum Munn”, in which all the characters are after Pooja Kumar, who played a hooker. Interestingly, both these stories unfold in a single night. But that’s where the similarities end.

Karthiga is an independent working woman who singlehandedly takes care of her family, which includes her paralyzed father and mother. Her close friend is Charles, a passionate cricketer with the ultimate dream of playing for Chennai Super Kings. Charles likes Karthiga, and he literally follows her everywhere. But this isn’t stalking because she likes his presence and in one scene, she’s concerned why he doesn’t come to see her off at the bus depot. But like a curse on all good relationships in our movies, Charles’s mother doesn’t like the idea of welcoming a Hindu daughter-in-law. And the scene where she conveys the message loud and clear to Karthiga, takes places outside a church. It’s a nice touch by the director.

Shafiq belongs to a struggling Muslim family. And to get his sisters married, he agrees to get his hands dirty by doing a transaction of smuggled diamonds. When his plan goes awry, he entrusts the diamonds with Karthiga, who is a witness to the murder of a colleague and the killers are after her. Charles and Karthiga have a misunderstanding and he wants to right the wrong.

With an interesting premise set against the backdrop of a single night, CSK is yet another small film wonder that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Most of the second half takes place inside a shopping mall, where Karthiga is being hunted by the killers. She escapes from the clutches of her killers far too many times too easily, but you still don’t mind because here’s a heroine who doesn’t wait for her boyfriend to come to her rescue. And finally, when her boyfriend does arrive, there’s a feeling that too much time was spent on building the premise and the film feels overdrawn.

Until one point, the multiple stories in the film run parallely but once Karthiga gets trapped, we lose interest in Shafiq’s plot because very little time is spent on it. Also, Karthiga’s boyfriend realizes quite late into the film that she could be in danger. Had the director not prolonged the story, the thrills would’ve worked better. But with the long drawn narrative and just a few thrills, you feel let down after being impressed initially.

The appreciating factor of the film is the strong female protagonist. Rarely do you see a courageous heroine in Tamil cinema, and it’s a treat to see how Karthiga deals with her relationship, a box of smuggled diamonds that she mysteriously finds in her handbag, the murder of her colleague and finally protect herself from her killers. And all this during the course of a single night. Brilliant!

CSK has some problems, especially with its narrative but kudos to the team for daring to experiment.

Three stars

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Jil: More Style, Less Substance

Jil; Radha Krishna Kumar, Gopichand, Raashi Khanna, Kabir Singh, Posani Krishna Murali, Chalapathi Rao, Urvashi, Brahmaji, Srinivas Avasarla 

Gopichand in a still from Jil

The film, according to its director, was titled “Jil” because it’s supposed to have a few hair-raising moments. There are, literally, when you scratch your head and wonder why most Telugu filmmakers spend more money and time on making their lead actors look stylish than investing half of it in writing better stories. Or how an impeccably dressed fireman can afford to ride a Harley Davidson? If you’re thinking of a career switch, you might want to become a fireman, for you’ll get to do all that Gopichand as Jai does in the movie.

All that “Jil” achieves is giving Gopichand a stylish makeover. And contrary to the roles he’s essayed so far in his career, you might like him as Jai for the simple fact that he hasn’t looked so good before and that in itself is an achievement for the actor as well as the film, which otherwise focuses on the story of a fireman taking a dreaded don head on.

We’re not explained why Jai is a fireman, including a few members of his family too. Maybe the director decided to make his hero a fireman so that he could write better punch lines for him. For instance, there’s a scene where Jai tells the villain that death doesn’t come searching for him but instead he goes in search of it every day while working in fire. In another scene, Jai says he prefers having everything cold because he has developed strong aversion for hot stuff. He likes to wait for his tea to get cold and then necks it. And in the climax, Jai literally sets a building on fire and walks in to fight the villain and save his girlfriend. Aren’t firemen supposed to douse fire? Here’s another hair-raising moment (read scratching head and wondering). And suddenly the title makes sense. “Jil” here represents the attitude of Jai, who is cold (Jil) on the outside and hot on the inside.

“Jil” celebrates hero-worshipping with great panache. It has a few genuinely good moments, like the last fifteen minutes, where some of the film’s best scenes unfold. In a wonderful scene the villains go knocking on Raashi’s door, only to realize she’s gone. But she’s tracked down later after they go after her best friend. But these little moments come too late and don’t quite make up for the lack of an engaging story. And besides the been-there-and-done-that kind of story, “Jil” is an action-drama filled with its share of gore. It’s a blood-fest and some action set pieces will make you squirm. And at the same time, thanks to stunt director Anl Arasu and cinematographer Sakthi Saravanan, the film is visually appealing and the stunts extremely well-choreographed.

Raashi Khanna, who started her career with a delightful film like “Oohalu Gusagusalade”, tries her best to salvage a dumb role. With her endearing looks, you wish our filmmakers give her little more than just fancy outfits, say a decent role to perform. Her songs are shot in Spain, and she must’ve had a ball shooting for the same. The villain, Kabir, looks menacing and his acting is tolerable but with no scope for performance, he too falls flat. There’s no explanation to why Brahmaji is on the run with so much money when he could’ve easily fled the country.

Forget generating any hair-raising moments, “Jil” doesn’t even qualify to be a great entertainer. It entertains in parts and that’s disappointing.

Two stars

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Rey: Rest in Peace, Sanity

Rey; YVS Chaudary, Sai Dharam Tej, Saiyami Kher, Shraddha Das

Actor Sai Dharam Tej in Rey Telugu Movie Stills

Given the kind of film that Rey tries to be, there’s no point ripping it apart. There’s a disclaimer that reads of foreigners speaking in Telugu for your cultural convenience in the beginning. Had they spoken in their own mother-tongues, you know the film wouldn’t have been half fun as this.

Cut to the first frame where Sai Dharam Tej is introduced, you see West Indies. The very country that you would have seen between the advertisements of the cricket matches played there. There’s a reason for the reference of the game. But for the male lead’s name, which is Rocket a.k.a Rock for his apparent physique, the names you get to hear are Gayle, Walsh, Brian Lara and even Ponting (spare them for one wrong reference). The film, if looked in another dimension can be a sequel to Hrudaya Kaleyam, just for the fact that this is an unintentional satire on the levels that the industry has stooped down to.

The film does a lot to update your knowledge-base. A dialogue about the definition of love in the film says about “you feeling someone’s presence in their absence.” YVS Chowdary in the process isn’t even remotely aware of the film he’s trying to make.

That, for a fact is a dangerous sign for the viewer. He isn’t sure if he’s elevating or even downgrading his leads scene after scene. At a point, the lead character is reduced to a sex-maniac. It only seems an irony that he was the very maker who had made films like Devadasu and Lahiri Lahiri Lahiri Lo in the past.

He plays cheap tricks to cash in on the popularity of Pawan Kalyan, Mahesh Babu and Jr NTR too. It’s a sad fact that the film has its title credits rolling in the end with a frame of Sr NTR. That is a reflection of how powerful the medium was in the past and now with Rey, how abusive can it be. It’s a work where you’ll start sympathising with the actors involved in it and not to say the least, a reviewer too. Sai Dharam Tej should have partied with joy for debuting with Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitam and not Rey.

Review by Srivathsan N.

No rating

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Filed under Drama, Musical, Telugu

Jil: Neither Thrills Nor Chills

Jil; Radha Krishna Kumar, Gopichand, Raashi Khanna, Kabir Singh, Posani Krishna Murali, Harish Uthaman, Brahmaji, Chalapathi Rao, Urvashi

Gopichand in a still from Jil

He’s a fire officer. He messes up with life and death on a daily basis.  These were the only lines that one gets to hear with any little innovation that Jil boasts of. Gopichand here belongs to a breed of Shahrukh Khan in Jab Tak Hai Jaan as the bomb defusing expert, who was equally toying with his survival.The stale interior is marketed with some confidence and style here.

Gopichand screams with a charisma like a man on a mission and Rashi Khanna complements him on the style quotient ably. But that’s only what you get. It’s a result with staggering production values, costume-designs to make a Manish Malhotra proud, surreal cinematography to elevate the mediocrity in the content.

With commercial films and especially actors like Gopichand, you know that there’s only a limited space for the game to be played. Goons with outgrown salt-and-pepper beards, a man with a position, a vulnerable family and you know where to fill the spaces. There’s help coming from Posani who wears a conventional dhoti like each of his recent appearances alongside Prabhas Raju, playing his mocking sidekick.

The problem with a film like Jil is the genre on the whole. By the time there’s some intelligence, there are the formality pelvic thrusts in the rain and fire too (thanks to his profession here) besides slapstick humour (read heroines who in cinematic terms are bubbly and nothing more than that) and families, whose immediate job is to get the male protagonist married. These indulgences are best handled when you’re a Vinayak or a Vaitla who can make the commercial compulsions seem less forced.

Radha Krishna Kumar, you realise is lost in a wrong film, nearly like Karthik Ghattamneni in Surya Vs Surya or even an Amit Sharma in Tevar. He has a great taste for the visuals but the undoing material could’ve done away that extra focus. On the other front, Ghibran’s songs bring in the best to the film both in terms of the modern scores and the energy with which they’re shot. Swing Swing Swing, a line from a number reads and the one which actually gets you grooving, but otherwise, for the most of proceedings, Jil is a long yawn.

More than the content, Jil needed a maker with a better attitude to approach masala films. Pizzas and Panipuris at once make a bad combo

Review by Srivathsan N.

Two stars

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