Pardesi AMA – Ask Me Anything!

This is long, but I had many, many questions on my Pardesi Youtube channel and on Twitter.  In the video description, there is an index so you can skip ahead to questions that interest you.  I expand on my introduction video, and tell more about the story of how I fell in love with Indian cinema.  I discuss my favorite directors in the Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil cinema industries.

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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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Rajinikanth and Akshay – Making of 2.0

 

Rajinikanth’s Enthiran (Robot) was pretty mind-blowing in the imagination.  It’s also very unusual to have a Sci-fi themed Indian film.  I love this first look behind the scenes of 2.0.  We get to see the makeup sessions for Rajinikanth and Akshay (love that look!) and some of the green screen work.

This is a Tamil film I’m looking forward to.  The release date will be in January.

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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Movie Review – Dhanush’s VIP 2 with Kajol!

 

A month or so ago, I saw the teaser for the Tamil film VIP 2 with Dhanush and I was super excited that he was doing a film with Kajol.  This is her first return to Tamil films in 20 years, and it was great to see a woman in the kind of antagonist role that usually goes to a man in Indian cinema, like Sonu Sood et al.

Commenters on Youtube urged me to see the first film VIP before going to the sequel, and I’m so glad I did.

 

VIP 2, unlike many Indian sequels, does indeed carry on the story of the unemployed graduate played by Dhanush.  Pretty much all the main characters and actors from the first film are back, Dhanush still living with his father and brother, and his now wife played by Amala Paul.  I was a little annoyed that the film kind of made Amala’s character into a harpy, but the marital discord has real underpinnings in Dhanush’s characters drinking (an issue in the first film as well), and Amala’s unhappiness at giving up her job to tru live up to Dhanush’s sainted mother’s housekeeping.  At least the film showed that she regained happiness when she goes back to work when the family is in financial crisis — the title says after all that he’s an unemployed graduate!

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Something happens near the end of the film which I won’t spoil that was the perfect way to bring Dhanush and Kajol’s characters together, and to make them resolve their differences.  It was very specific to the place of the film.  Dhanush himself wrote the script and dialogues, and his sister-in-law Soundarya (daughter of Rajnikanth) directed the film.

There are a couple of great dance numbers in the first half of the film, one very modern, and the other a more traditional style.

You can see and enjoy this film without seeing the first, but I’m glad I had seen VIP first because there are many references to the first film.

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Pardesi – Launching my new YouTube Channel!

 

I have just launched my new YouTube Channel Pardesi with Kartik of Bollyfools.  He first interviewed me right after that very first IMAX showing of Baahubali 2, and we struck up a frienship.  After I did Indian Cinema reviews for the Bollyfools Youtube channel for the last few months, we’ve decided to strike out on our own with this new Pardesi Channel.  We decided on Pardesi because I’m a foreigner reviewing Indian Cinema, and Kartik is an ex-pat in America.

I’ll be doing movie reviews for the most part in the four main Indian Cinema:  Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.  I’m going to try trailer reactions and song reactions.  In fact I just did one for the first song Boom Boom from Mahesh Babu’s Spyder.  I had to take the Picture in Picture and audio out from the song because I got dinged right away.  I think I look ridiculous bobbing my head to silence but I have to know — why is there the word Hogwarts in a Spyder song??!!  It’s so strange!

 

I hope if you follow me here, you’ll subscribe to my new Youtube Channel Pardesi.

Dhanush is Excellent in VIP

In anticipation of Dhahush’s upcoming VIP 2, I took the first VIP movie with me on my recent vacation to watch.  Dhanush is such a good actor!   The title VIP is shortened from Velaiilla Pattadhari (English: Unemployed Graduate)

 

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I am really impressed with Dhanush.  I had previously only seen his Hindi film Raanjhanaa with Sonam Kapoor.  He was very good in that, but his role was kind of stalkerish.

11In VIP, Dhanush plays a young man who has a civil engineering degree, and has been looking for the right job for 4 long years.  His father is frustrated with him.  Dhanush’s younger brother has a good job.  He applies and applies and can’t catch a break.  He belongs to a Facebook group of other unemployed young graduates.  I had no idea this was such an issue in India.

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There’s an adorable romance with Amala Paul who moves in to the house next door.  She sees a lot to admire in this unemployed young man, and can’t help but be witness to all his struggles next door, and family drama.  They have great chemistry together.

Dhanush is fantastic in the couple of action scenes, and a really good dancer.  I also really loved this montage love song:

 

After a family tragedy, a coincidence leads to him getting a break, and getting a construction project.  The second half of the film deals with his struggles with an arrogant young rich developer.  He calls on his extended network of other unemployed graduates to help him out, and it was very moving.

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I’m really excited to see VIP 2 now.  I don’t know if it will be a continuation of the story, or another retelling of a similar unemployed graduate tale.  The key is that it has Kajol! Not sure if she will be his boss or nemesis or what.

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New Trailers for Allu Arjun, Dhanush and Rana!

For Bollyfools, I watched a few of the new Regional trailers, which unfortunately have no subtitles!  Super frustrating.

 

I have only seen Allu Arjun in Rudhramadevi and he was amazing in that, even though he was not the lead.  I watched both the Rom Com feeling teaser, and then the full trailer, neither of which have subs.  Anyone that speaks Telugu, help me out as to what’s going on.  Is it a double role?  The action looks cool, and even though I’m not a Pooja Hegde  (ugh, Mohenjo Daro) fan, the rom com aspect looks adorable.

 

Dhanush has VIP 2 which will also have KAJOL!!  So excited to see her in a new film.  I don’t speak Tamil, and I’ve not seen VIP 1, so I have no idea what’s going on in this trailer.  That ending flying kick looks super cool.   Any translation help would be most appreciated!

 

Kartik from Bollyfools translated Rana’s new teaser for me.  The title means I am the King and I am the Minister.  Rana will be opposite Kajal for the first time, and I’m really excited to see that.  When he’s on the scaffolding with the noose, Rana says, “I will decide when I die, and I will decide when you die!”  I love that shot with him as the prisoner about a foot taller than all the guards behind him.