Maheshinte Prathikaaram – Fahadh Faasil is great in this unconventional revenge story

Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Mahesh’s Revenge) is a delightful Malayalam Comedy-Drama starring Fahadh Faasil.  I think this is actually only my third Fahadh Faasil film, but I have many of his recent films in my watch list.  I loved him in Bangalore Days.  Oh, my gosh when he revealed that huge tattoo!  I hated him for most of the movie, and then he totally won me over in those emotional scenes.  I really didn’t like him in Amen, but then his character was such a nebbish!  He was true to the character, which was a character I didn’t like that much.

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Mahesh, however was such an interesting character.  As was the whole small town setting of the movie.  I loved this peak into the Indukki area of Kerala, which has very tough women.

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Like many Malayalam films, the entire first half meanders it’s way through character introductions and not a lot really happens until almost the interval.  But I didn’t mind at all.  I picked this movie to watch on a day that I had been watching news of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas.  I relished getting away from it all to this beautiful small town in Kerala.

Mahesh has a photo “shop” where he takes passport photos, “Chin up.  Shoulders down.”  He’s a fixture taking photos at every wedding and funeral in town.  He’s not very good.  He has a long distance relationship with a girl he’s had a crush on since childhood, and then she gets another marriage offer from an NRI.  Mahesh is passive.  He doesn’t pursue the girl.  He’s satisfied just taking passport photos.

And then there is an incredible cascade of arguments and spats that starts with a disagreement at a funeral and ends in a brawl.  This whole sequence of one fight leading to a bike accident, to the next argument, and on and on was one of my favorites.  It was very clever.  One person’s ill temper leads to the next situation and so on.

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And finally Mahesh gets drawn into a brawl with some rowdies from a nearby town and gets literally hit in the head — pushed into the metal bar of a rickshaw.  He is so thoroughly trounced that his elderly father has to step in to say “enough” to the rowdy.  Mahesh is humiliated and vows to go shoeless until he gets his revenge — throwing his flip flops away!

And Interval.

That’s the set up.  This passive, happy to just go along in life guy, suddenly wakes up.  And starts to make things happen.  He meets a girl.  He realizes he doesn’t really know how to take pictures, and learns to appreciate photography as art.  And he does get his revenge, eventually.

The gentle story telling makes those couple of intense fight sequences all the more visceral.  They felt very real. The final scuffle was so intense I cried out because I though someone had a broken limb and my son came out of his room to see if I was okay.  “Oh.  It’s just a movie.”  LOL

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What’s delightful is just letting this movie wash over you.  I just loved the meandering gentle story telling.  Learning about all the people in this small town, and especially the spunky girl Mahesh meets.  Young actress Aparna Balamurali was absolutely fantastic as Jimsy!  She’s blunt and speaks up for herself in a very straight forward way.  “Love me if you’re brave enough.”  Both the women in this film totally were able to make their own choices.  Even the ex-girlfriend when presented with an arranged marriage offer is given free choice by her family.

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The supporting cast was all universally great, too.  I particularly liked the performances of Alencier Ley Lopez as Baby, Mahesh’s best friend who owns the next door shop, and Soubin Shahir as Crispin, Baby’s new employee.

Maheshinte Prathikaaram won the Malayalam National Film Award and I can see why.  Director Dileesh Pothan and screenwriter Syam Pushkaran transported me to Kerala for a few blessed hours.  The cinematography and music were very nice too.  There was a flash mob scene with Aparna which I though was a brilliant way to have a big dance number in a natural feeling film like this.  It totally fit her character!

 

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Judwaa 2 – A few things should have updated in 20 years

 

I really wanted to like Judwaa 2.  I had a blast watching the first Judwaa earlier in the week, starring Salman Khan and Karishma Kapoor.  While Varun Dhawan gave 1000 percent to the double role, I just didn’t find it as funny.   Jackie Fernandez wasn’t given as much to do as Karishma.   Both she and Taapsee were treated like bimbos.

It was depressing to watch a scene of Varun smacking Jackie’s behind in a store.  Really?  You’re going for that same joke 20 years later?  And Taapsee gets kissed to the point she cries.  Again.  NOT FUNNY.

So much could have been done with this twin story.  It needed a better script.  One set in the 21st century.

Spyder Review – AR Murugadoss scripts a fun thriller for Mahesh Babu (Some Spoilers)

If you haven’t seen Spyder, and want no spoilers before you see it, watch this spoiler free review of the film I recorded moments after seeing it.

I warned you ….. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!!  (but not the whole plot)

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The first thing you should know is that I am a Mahesh Babu fan.  I’ve seen several of his films, and my favorites are probably Athadu (killer disarmed by love!) and Pokiri.  Unfortunately, my first Mahesh Babu film in the theater was last year’s flop Brahmatsovam.   It’s been a long wait for the next Mahesh film, over a year.  I think he took the lessons from that flop, and hooked up with a quality director.  My friend Kartik even sent me a quote from Mahesh about that flop:

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So anticipation has been sky high for this film Spyder.  Expectations, too.  I felt it was a decent film.  Not perfect, but it had some notable sequences that were unique and something fresh I had not seen before.

I walked out of the theater satisfied, and I was surprised that several young men who cared enough to come to the very first 2 p.m. show were disappointed.  Maybe the hype was so high nothing would have been enough.  They said the second half was not a “practical” plot.  I think they wanted a more grounded story, like Pokiri or Athadu.  From the trailer we could see there would be huge boulder rolling down a street crushing cars — and that sequence was certainly in the film.  The last half felt almost like a disaster movie or a superhero film with buildings collapsing and villains wanting to crush people with huge boulders!  So, not realistic, but it didn’t bother me one bit.

Are all those village Telugu dramas with machete fights with one hero fighting 20 men realistic either?

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AR Murugadoss set up a tight cat and mouse thriller between Mahesh and our big villain.  Mahesh is some sort of spy analyst.  I got the sense he worked in the equivalent of the Indian FBI.  He’s monitoring phone conversations ostensibly looking for terrorists and the like, but almost like Minority Report he prides himself on preventing crimes before they happen based on something he’s overheard.  He saves a young girl from being robbed and dishonored by a goon who has convinced her he’s going to marry her out of town.

But then a girl he overhears being scared in an empty house is murdered savagely, along with the woman cop he dispatched to check on her.  And that sends Mahesh into a crisis, and then ultimately on a solo quest to find their killer.

In the first half, we get a tiny little romance track with the adorable Rakul Preet Singh. He overhears her discussing wanting a “blind date” and I think wanting a friends with benefits situation (something that maybe didn’t translate fully in the subtitles).  He stalks her a bit, and she confronts him on it.  But she eventually agrees if he’s not in love with her it will be okay for them to go out.  There is a hilarious scene where she tries to explain this to Mahesh’s mother — who warns Rakul Mahesh is shy, just like his father.  “It took four years of marriage for my son to be born!”  LOL

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There are a few flight of fantasy songs that show their feelings for each other, and a bit of their relationship.  The first song, Boom Boom, I liked much better in the film, than in the teaser snippets we saw.   That’s the first song, and for some reason has all white girl back up dancers!

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When Mahesh goes on a hunt for the killer, he uses a viral video to try to find someone who’s seen him.  This film has a lot of cool use of technology, with scenes of Mahesh monitoring real time cell phone calls, searching through CCTV footage and the like.  It was all very clever, and kind of scary to think how much info these agencies can gather.  There’s a speech in the beginning that the analysts in Mahesh’s office are not to monitor calls for personal reasons, but obviously Mahesh breaks that by listening in and researching Rakul!

The back story of the villain was super creepy and really unique.  I’ve never seen anything like it, as an origin for a sociopath serial killer.  While other reviewers may quibble that this took time away from the main story and slowed down the film, I really liked this segment of the movie.  That kid was a good actor — good at being super creepy and evil!!

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There are actually two villains.  Won’t spoiler why, but they were both good.  Bharat is one, but the big bad is played by S. J. Surya.  He was mostly excellent playing this sociopath killer.  There was on interrogation scene where he really gets crazy and it was over the top for me, but especially this scene above with the mask he was very scary and effective.  Whew!  So good at being evil.

At times in the second half, it felt like he was becoming an over sized super villain like in a comic book movie, though.  Maybe that’s what those young men at my screening were complaining about.  That and the rolling boulder of doom.

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The first half of the film was really good, but there were some logical misses in the plot of the second half.  Rakul not telling Mahesh something crucial because she was in a snit with him was egregious.  Really?  You’re not going to help catch the murderer because you’re mad at your boyfriend?  And there were times Mahesh went alone into a situation when it would have been more realistic if he’d had back up.

There was one segment where he fooled a bunch of ladies who were watching a soap into helping him find a fugitive.  It went on for a long stretch and was pretty over the top, too.  But I do have to acknowledge to Mr. Murugadoss that I have never seen the like!

The CGI in a couple of crucial action scenes was not seamless, but I found the roller coaster fight scene incredible anyway.  Just the concept of it alone!  We get a snippet in the trailer but it was really something to see.  The ending has a building collapsing as Mahesh tries to save people.  That was another part that felt like this was a disaster movie rather than a grounded thriller.  But, still, the film didn’t end with the cliched fight sequence in an abandoned factory.

Mahesh has a preachy speech at the end about humanity and helping others without expecting rewards.  A bit long, and kind of a weird note to end the film on.

There’s also some plot holes as to how Mahesh is just going rogue in his job.  He doesn’t follow privacy rules AT ALL and gets all his buddies to just give him info for his solo investigation.  He’s working around the police and just ignoring their efforts.  He also kills one guy in front of a huge crowd, and seemingly has no repercussions at work or otherwise  It was definitely a take the law into your own hands kind of movie.  I was disturbed at that cold killing scene.  Mahesh’s character just has his own morality compass.  He’s the hero, so he’s always right.  Definitely not an examination of two sides like Vikram Vedha.

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The background score by Harris Jayaraj was incredible.  It kept the tension taught throughout the film.  I have an issue with thrillers that don’t have good enough music to set the mood (Ahem, Malayalam thrillers….),  This score was a standout.

For the most part, AR Murugadoss has given us an exciting thriller with a great villain.  Mahesh just looks so cool in all the action scenes.  He has a couple of great fight segments.  Even the Boom Boom dance number sort of had fight choreography.  I liked Mahesh and Rakul’s chemistry in the songs and their sweet romance, although that isn’t the thrust of the film.  It’s mainly there as some nice comic relief from the darkness in the rest of the film.

Mahesh reacts emotionally to the death of the young girl and police officer in the first part of the film, but other than that does not show the range of emotion that he has in other films.  It wasn’t there in the script for him to do.  The film did have more of a story than a strictly action film like Vivegam, but didn’t pack the emotional punch I usually like in Telugu films.  Still, I left satisfied that I’d had a good rollercoaster ride of my own.

Another unique aspect to the film is that it was filmed in Telugu AND Tamil.  Mahesh is fluent in both languages, so they filmed each scene twice!  I attended the Telugu version (with subtitles, of course.)

If you’re a parent wondering if the film is too violent to bring the whole family, the only violence you really SEE is a couple of impalements.  And Mahesh shooting a guy in the head from a distance.  But there are descriptions of victims being chopped up.

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Arjun Reddy – An Amazing Telugu Film

Arjun-Reddy-1Many of my commenters on my Pardesi Youtube channel encouraged me to do a trailer reaction for Arjun Reddy, and then the drumbeat started, “When are you going to review Arjun Reddy?  It’s a sensation here!”

I am SO glad these people let me know about this film.  I’m not sure I would have gone to see it in the theater otherwise, and I’ve now seen it twice in one week.  It’s that amazing.

This video review is spoiler free.  I recorded it right after I came out of the screening.

 

I was gobsmacked by the film.  It is unlike any other Telugu film I’ve ever seen.  This is no Masala film.  It is raw and real, both in the story and the dialogues.  It’s a debut director Sandeep Reddy Vanga, and was made on a shoestring budget.   It’s more like an indie film in many ways, and it is a sensation.

There is an intense romance between two medical students played by Vijay Deverakonda and Shalini.  I have never seen a romance with a seduction by pulling the girl out of anatomy class to draw the muscles and bones on her hand.

arjunreddy250717_002Because they are of different castes, here family is adamantly against them.  And then the film becomes very much like a modern Devdas, but it goes places I wasn’t expecting.

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Arjun is a complete hot head, and it’s a cautionary tale on how because he cannot control his rage, he loses everything in his life.

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The actor, Vijay Deverakonda is amazing in the role.  He was willing to show himself wetting his pants during an overdose, something I can’t imagine pretty much any other Indian actor doing (well, maybe Rajkummar or Nawaz).

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The film has intense romantic kissing just as a matter of course.  The freakin’ poster is the kiss.  A politician ripped the poster off buses, and Vijay at the press conference said, “Granpa, chill.”  There’s a real attitude around the film.  It’s not trying to be a film festival art film.  It’s out there, and proud about it.

This is a five star film for me.  It’s that good. It felt realistic in the way that Malayalam films often do.  I felt like the characters were real people and I was seeing inside their lives.  I love a film like Mirchi, too, but there are no machetes or goondas or Masala elements in Arjun Reddy.  Arjun Reddy is intense about his calling as a doctor, about his romance and his friendships.

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Rahul Ramakrishna, who plays Arjun’s best friend, was my favorite secondary character of the film.  He gets some of the best comedic lines, too.  He says at one point something like “People don’t understand what it’s like to be your friend.  It’s like I’m pissing all over myself and only I can enjoy the warmth.”  Amazing!

This is a film that is going to stay with me.  I cannot recommend enough that you try to see this film in the theater with a crowd.  I know I wasn’t getting all the wordplay, but people around me were laughing a lot at the dialogues.

Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw the film together my second time, and then we had an on camera spoiler filled discussion.  ONLY if you’ve seen the film already, should you watch this video.  Seriously, watch the film first, so you experience for yourself.

 

Margaret has on her blog a spoiler free review here, and a spoiler review here.

 

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Movie Review Shubh Mangal Saavdhan

 

ayushmann-khuranna-saavdhan-bhumi-pednekar-reunite-mangal_84baecb4-769c-11e7-83e1-68866f5cbeee (1)I enjoy the chemistry of Bhumi Padnekar and Ayushmann Khurrana together.  This is a really sweet romantic film.  I have to hand it to Ayushmann to go there.  He is the same one who tackled sperm donation in Vicky Donor, a really enjoyable film, and now stars in a comedy about erectile dysfunction.

shubha_1501590643_725x725In an Indian romantic comedy, nothing is private, and every family member has to give their two cents about the couple’s predicament.

One of my favorite scenes has Bhumi insist that Ayushmann give her the band baaja baaraat she really wants, and when he does it is a glorious moment.

67073-blkqvcljdb-1504012014Both Bhumi and Ayushmann are riding the success this summer of their last pairing, Dum Laga Ke Haisha.  I wish their films hadn’t been clustered so close together.  I’m not sure the public is ready to see so much of them all at once.  This film has a lot of charm, and it’s definitely worth a trip to the theater.

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Movie Review: Ajith in Vivegam

 

vivegam-800x450Ajith Kumar’s Vivegam is a pure action film by Siva, the same director as Vedalam. And that’s my issue with the film.  It’s trying to be something like a Bond film or a Mission Impossible type of movie.  Spies and double crosses and missing nuclear codes and so on.  But it doesn’t have heart.  It doesn’t have a story between all the great action set pieces to keep you interested in the story.

kajal-1Kajal plays Ajith’s wife in the film, and there is no romance track.  She becomes a woman in peril, as you would expect in a film like this.

There are some wild action scenes and nearly the entire movie is set in Serbia.  If you want to see Ajith doing amazing motorcycle chase sequences and fight a samurai sword wielding warrior woman with nun-chucks.   Then this is the movie for you.

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I was hoping since it was the same director, Siva, as Vedalam, that it would be a similar experience.  It was more Hollywood influenced.  Maybe that’s what the Tamil audience wants, but the NRIs I saw the film with were also disappointed.  I talked to two different groups in the lobby to see if it was just my negative reaction.  It wasn’t just me.

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But, it was a roller coaster ride of action.  I’ll give them that.  And Vivek Oberoi was a good villain.

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Movie Review : Ajith in Vedalam

In anticipation of seeing Ajith Kumar’s new Tamil film Vivegam, I watched his 2015 film Vedalam (Phantom).  I thought that it was my first Ajith film, but in looking him up I realized he was in Ashoka as SRK’s younger brother,  and most notably as the dream boat young filmmaker in Kandukondain, Kandukondain paired with Tabu.  Hubba, hubba.

 

I really enjoyed Vedalam.  It has fantastic action sequences but it really has heart at it’s center.  The romance with Shruti Hassan provides some comic relief and a few nice song sequences.  The interval point is when Ajith tells his story, and gives us the flashback that explains  how mild mannered Ganesh came to Kolkata and what happened to his sister.

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I absolutely adored Ajith’s relationship with his sister (Lakshmi Menon), and the story of how they became close.  I love the trope of a rowdy who blossoms from the love of family.

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The moment that Ajith turns was quite something and one of the most memorable sequences I’ve seen in Indian cinema.  I can see why Ajith has such a fan following.  He won over this new fan with this film!

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A Gentleman is Super fun!

A Gentleman was at first talked about as a sequel to Bang Bang.  It isn’t really, but it’s very similar in the tone and feel.  Which means that I liked it a lot.

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Siddharth Malhotra is great in the action scenes.  And I loved his dorky persona, too.  Lots of inside jokes about Desis in America.  The fight sequence in the middle of Home Depot cracked me up.

 

sidharth_malhotra_is_looking_smokin_hot_in_this_trailer_of_a_gentleman_980x457Jacqueline Fernandez is great at comedy.  I gained new respect for her from this film.  She also had a great American accent.  She doesn’t really get a big dance number, but she pole dances (!!!) in a song sequence at a karaoke bar.

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Jacqueline had great chemistry with Siddharth.  She’s got Guarav in the friendzone, and then is attracted to the exciting dangerous Rishi.

Basically if you like films like Mr. and Mrs. Smith and True Lies, you’re going to like this film.  A Gentleman is just a fun action comedy.

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We LOVED Bareilly Ki Barfi – joint review with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood

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Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I met at the Chicagoland Indian movie theater lasts night to catch the new Hindi film Bareilly Ki Barfi with Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao.  It is SO GOOD!  Cannot recommend this film highly enough.  We absolutely loved it!

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Rajkummar Rao was the main reason I was interested in seeing this film, because he looked so funny in the trailer.  He is just delightful as a nebbish and then transforms into a tough asshole type as part of Ayushmann’s scheme.  He was a RIOT!

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This film has a fantastic script based on a novel.  It’s very clever how the plot unfolds, and while I laughed my ass off so much, and then it had such an emotional ending that I teared up.  Kriti had agency in the end, and that made it even better.

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Plus,  a woman director!!  Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari in her second feature film knocks it out of the park.

Check out Margaret’s Spoiler Free review here.

 

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