Bahubali 2: The Conclusion — Does Not Disappoint! It’s Amazing! No Spoilers

With a sequel, especially one this anticipated, there is that fear that it just cannot live up to the first movie, or the hype.  I am here to tell you, after having just spent $40 to see the very first IMAX show of the day, that it satisfies.  It completely satisfies.  Rajamouli has done it again!!  It was absolutely glorious to see it on the huge IMAX screen.  Totally worth the money to me.  Kartik from Bollyfools Youtube Channel interviewed me moments after I came out of the screening:

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Everyone has spent two long years wondering #WKKB – Why Kattappa Killed Bahubali.  The first film left us with possibly the biggest mystery cliffhanger of all time.  I’m not going to spoiler the movie for you.  You need to experience it all for yourself.

I just loved how the movie circled back to the beginning in lots of ways — thematically and visually.  You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

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I loved being in a first day crowd that was whistling and yelling for the big entrances.  Prabhas is AMAZING!  One thing I really loved about the film is that it had some wonderful moments of humor.  After I saw Bahubali the Beginning, I sought out Prabhas’s other films, and in his rom coms especially he has such a mischievous sense of humor and play in his wooing.  And Rajamouli let him show that side.  Kattappa as matchmaker is just a delight.

Rana as Bhalladeva turns SO evil.  Shockingly so in some parts.  Great performance as the villain, and the final epic battle between Shivuvu and Bhalla at the end of the film is everything you could hope for in a mano a mano fight.  Really thrilling.

Anushka Shetty really shines as the proud warrior princess.  She does have flaws — I liked that she wasn’t just a perfect doll.  Unfortunately, Tamannah is only really seen in the final battle sequence.  This movie is more about the love story of Shivuvu’s parents.

There are great battle scenes, too, but much of the movie, which almost till the end takes place in the time of Bahubali the elder, is about the family drama.  What leads to Bahubali’s death?  Why did Bhalla chain Devasena in the courtyard?  Who put that arrow in Sivagami’s back?  All the answers are very satisfying.  You can guess where the story is mostly going to go, just from the first film, but there are still some surprises along the way.  Pride goest before a fall, is all I’ll say.

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Someone asked me if I like this better than the first film, and I can’t really answer that.  Because you can’t get back that feeling of wonderment the first time you saw the imagination and visuals of Bahubali.  Now you expect Rajamouli to blow you away.  There was one love song that literally went into a flight of fantasy that had me saying “Wow” out loud.

The score is particularly effective in heightening moments of tension and drama.  I don’t know that the soundtrack songs are quite as catchy earworms that the first film songs were.  But especially the beautiful harmonies of the female voices singing together in this one are growing on me:

I saw Bahubali the Beginning four times in the theater alone.  I don’t know how many times I’ll see this one, but I know I’m taking all three of my sons to see it for Mother’s Day.  I’ve told them this is what I want for my present — for us to see it together.  That will make the second Indian film they’ve ever seen, but the first in a theater.  I loved that at my 2:30 shows there were parents who had taken their kids out of school early to see the show.  I told one little boy that someone must love him very much.

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There are scenes and tableaus from this film that will always stay with me, but one in particular is Prabhas sleeping with his head in Sivagami’s lap.  Since I don’t speak Telugu, I didn’t realize some of the songs lyrics talk about that.  This film does have a romance and brother rivalry, but at the core it’s about the relationship of a son with his mother.

This is such a great film!  I left ecstatic and wishing I could see it all again right away.  There’s revenge that’s sweet, and redemption, too.

Bravo S. S. Rajamouli!  Bravo Prabhas and the rest of the cast!  You’ve done it again!

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2016 – My Movie Year

 

Letterboxd.com is where I keep a diary of all the films I watch, including films I rewatch.  They have a very cool year in review feature.  I was inspired by this Matt Bowes post about all the media he consumed in 2016, to make this post.  I’ll just talk about the movies here, but I love how he listed all the comics, podcasts, etc., too!

So, according to Letterboxd, I saw 222 films in 2016, which includes short films and rewatches.  That averages out to over 18 a month, and over 4 a week.  Weeks like our visit to the Sundance Film Festival, where we saw 30 films (including shorts) certainly help to bump up that average, but I am an avid movie viewer no matter how you slice it.  I just started this blog in April, but I had been posting short reviews on most films to Letterboxd before that.

2016 started with The Hateful Eight (which I didn’t love) and ended with Zootopia, which I did love.  There were mostly older films, but I did watch 82 films that were released in 2016.  It won’t surprise any of my readers that fully half were films from India, 111 of them.

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Interestingly, the actor with the most films I saw was not Shahrukh Khan (who was second with 12), but Nasser with 14!  That man is in EVERYTHING!

This year I discovered Telegu cinema megastar Mahesh Babu (9 movies) and Malayalam cinema star  Prithviraj.  I’ve got a stack of more Prithviraj movies to watch — the man has made so many!  I’m amused that Prithviraj’s early film Stop Violence – which I watched without subs! – Letterboxd lists as my “most obscure movie”.

The highest rated (by people on Letterboxd) film I saw in 2016 is Moonlight, which is heading to the Oscars.  The lowest rated is Yoga Hosers.  Yeah.  Have to pretty much agree with that — but Assassin’s Creed is giving it a run for it’s money on that score. Yoga Hosers is just crazy silly (Brat Nazis!) but it was worth it to go to the midnight premiere just to see Kevin Smith.

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2016 will always be in my memory, because this was the year that a movie I helped get made premiered at Sundance.

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 How To Tell You’re A Douchebag is the movie I saw the most times this year, as I attended screenings of the film, and showed it to friends and family.  I’m so proud of writer/director Tahir Jetter’s achievement.  It was bought by BET and aired this summer.  You can watch it on iTunes, Amazon video or Google play now!

Top films from 2016 I saw in Hollywood and Indian cinema coming soon.

Pokiri – Fantastic Mahesh Babu flick by Puri Jagannadh

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Pokiri (Rogue) is simply a fantastic Mahesh Babu action romance flick directed and written by Puri Jagannadh.  I enjoyed it so much.  Pokiri is from 2006 and was filmed with a very modest budget of 12 crore.  The director wrote a great script and was really inventive in his shots.  The editing really enhances and propels the pace of the action.

I had rented the DVD through Netflix, but the DVD crapped out on me half way through.  I kept trying to make it work again because the movie is so delicious, but then realized I was watching a Telugu movie.  Of course, the whole thing is on Youtube with subtitles.  (Yay Chromecast!)

Among rival gangs in Hyderabad, Mahesh is the newcomer, Pandu.  He’s a rogue, a free agent and his intro in the film has him running down a street with a cart of red mirchi peppers fly into the air.  Loved that touch.

The action scenes are very visually inventive.  There’s a cool action sequence when the lights get shot out in a dark room and then it’s all flashing flickering light with sparks waterfalling down.  Mahesh kills off pretty much a whole opposing gang one by one in flashes.  So many film directors rely on a few big fireball explosions and slow mo to make an action scene look cool.

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The love interest is Ileana D’Cruz.  She’s an aerobics instructor living with her widowed mother and her younger brother.  Mahesh tries to stay away from her, but he can’t overcome his attraction to her.  And his friends delight in throwing them together.

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Quite literally thrown together, as in this fantastic little scene where they’re stuck in an elevator together and his friends make the elevator jerk up and down.
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Ileana’s in dire need of a protector.  Unfortunately she’s drawn the attention of a corrupt cop.  Ashish Vidyarthi is just so eeeeevil.  He’s not only involved in corrupt deals shaking down land developers with a local gang.  He has no compunction in viewing his cop underlings as expedient kills.  And then he approaches Ileana’s mother to propose she make her daughter his concubine.  “And you’re not that bad looking either.”

Ileana as Shruti approaches Mahesh to ask that he be her protector.  I really liked that she addressed it head on.  She had no one else in her life that she could ask.  But while he is drawn to protect her, he doesn’t think a rogue like him is right or deserving of her love.

My favorite scene was just right before the interval.  The editing and directing in this flick were really a step above, even if it doesn’t have the production money of something like Srimanthudu.  Shruti’s (Ileana’s) fallen in love with Mahesh, a rogue, and he’s trying to say don’t fall in love with me, I’m no good for you.  Then they’re attacked by a gang.  Mahesh is so intense, and torn.  He tells her he loves her, but can she live with a criminal like him after seeing him like this?

That’s the thing.  This movie is not just a great action gangster flick.  There is a real conflict and threat to the love interest.  The romance gets equal weight, and the dance sequences are fantastic.  I really liked the music in this one.  This is yet another reason I love Indian cinema.  All that love he cannot express, the music lets you see what he’s feeling in his heart.

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I think Mahesh really is what makes the romance work, too.  He just looks tortured, but you can sense an innate goodness in him even while he’s acting like a gangster.  He projects “heart of gold” better than just about anybody.  He wants to leave her alone because he knows she shouldn’t be attracted to a gangster, but she really, really needs a protector.  And I loved that she out and out asked for one!  She didn’t just sit there and whimper, she took some action to protect her family.

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Prakash Raj is the ultimate villain gang don in the film, but for once, though, I think the always fantastic Prakash Raj is upstaged by that creepy evil cop Ashish Vidyarthi. Nasser plays a key role in the denouement at the end.  There’s a great twist to the end of the film.  Pokiri was so successful that it was remade in several languages, including the Salman Khan Hindi film Wanted (which Margaret told me is not nearly as good as Pokiri).  The comedy uncles are even almost funny with a running gag about a beggars union.

I highly recommend this all ’round Telugu entertainer.  It’s going to be one I’ll love going back to rewatch.  The director Puri Jagannadh really impressed me, and he also directed one of my favorite Prabhas flicks, Bujjigadu.  He reteamed with Mahesh Babu for Businessman which is moving right on up on my watchlist.  Four stars out of five.

I’m convincing Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood to watch some Mahesh Babu movies.  Check out her rapturous review of Pokiri!

You can watch all of Pokiri FREE on Youtube with English Subtitles:

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Kabali – There’s more depth to this Rajnikanth gangster flick than I first thought

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Kabali is my second Rajnikanth Tamil film.  I previously watched Enthiran (Robot) which I really enjoyed.  You can tell right away that Rajnikanth is a Star with a capital ‘S’.  My South Indian neighbor told me that Rajnikanth modeled himself on Clint Eastwood.  He wants that kind of “Make My Day” iconic style.  It has been two years since the last Rajnikanth film, and since 1994’s Baasha that he has played a Don role.  If you have any doubt what an event a Rajnikanth film is, they marketed Kabali by painting a plane!

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I saw Kabali twice this week.  The first time was a late night show that didn’t get out until 1:30 a.m.  I was tired going in and bleary which wasn’t good.  And I didn’t have the raucous whistling crowd that I hear is more typical for a Rajnikanth film experience.  I thought it was a decent gangster don comeback story, and appreciated Rajnikanth’s style and flair.  But I didn’t really get what the movie was trying to show me until I read Margaret Redlich’s analysis and review on Don’t Call It Bollywood.

I knew zero about the Tamil community in Malayasia, the setting for the film and their history of oppression.  What Margaret pointed out is that this film is telling you a story of an oppressed people between the lines, skirting the censors (in Malayasia they were required to add a crime doesn’t pay disclaimer.)

On the surface, this is a story like many we’ve seen before.  A gangster Don is released from prison after 25 years, and takes revenge on the rival gang that killed his pregnant wife and his mentor, and who framed him for fomenting a massacre.  The Tamil speaking policeman warns him to mend his ways when he gets out, and not to disgrace the Tamil people.

His loyal aide Ameer picks him up from prison, and shows him how Kuala Lumpur has changed and how the opposing gang 43 has taken over.  Kabali directs Ameer to take him to the secret hangout of the gang, in the back of a pet shop.  And this starts the Kabali Rajnikanth signature moves.  Kabali is always dressed well in a suit jacket.  And when he confronts one of the leaders of the rival gang he makes a point to sit in front of them in a relaxed manner with crossed legs.  It’s show of nonchalance, and that he demands respect.

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Kabali fights with swift moves and hidden pipes in his sleeves and objects he picks up around him.  He strategizes  and is a step ahead of his rivals.  The action fight scenes are fun and inventive.  Pretty bloody at times.

Ameer then shows Kabali the school that he and Kabali’s followers have created to save kids from gangs and other charitable foundations.  Kabali finds he feels connection to a young drug addict girl student named Meena.  “She’s about the age that my son or daughter would have been.”  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the dark side of youth drug use as presented like this in an Indian film before.  It’s also really interesting that Meena is shown as a redeemable character, and that our hero wants to adopt a drug addict.

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There are two really great strong women characters in this film.  As Kabali addresses the graduating class of the school, we flashback to his backstory with his wife, played by Radhika Apte, who I had only previously seen in Badlapur.  I absolutely loved their relationship of equals.  They meet as field workers, and she encourages him as he rises from labor organizer to the protege of the TamilNesan leader played by Nasser.  And then, there’s Kabali’s daughter:

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Dhansika was all kinds of kick-ass awesome as the assassin for hire Yogi.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work.

I enjoyed the personal journey of Kabali, as he tries to find his lost family more than the action gangster portions.

The reason I went to see the movie again was because I really didn’t get the underlying political message that the filmmaker was showing us, trying to slide it past the censors.  After I read Margaret’s great analysis of the film, I went back to see it again and all the song lyrics about oppression and slavery lept out at me.  I saw that the Tamil cop who had warned Kabali to be good in the jail collaborated with Kabali to bring down the Chinese gangster Tony Lee, but after that plotted Kabali’s downfall.  It seems if you rise too high, you will be chopped down again.

Kabali’s wife has a key speech where she tells him he needs to always dress well to garner respect.  She gives up her family to marry our lower caste hero.  He always dresses in a suit coat.  And his lounging cross-legged before each villain in his suit is a political message in itself.  I belong to sit here with you.  I am not your supplicant and my caste shouldn’t matter.

There’s also a message in how Kabali’s wife is a domestic servant who is shuttled from family to family and country to country with no say in where she can live.  And that Kabali returns to Chennai, the first in his family since his grandfather left for Malayalsia.   The villain is Tony Lee, and the fact that he is of Chinese heritage has a meaning. too.  I read that Prakash Raj was originally supposed to be the villain and that would have given a completely different meaning.

I think the recent Malayalam film Kammattipaadam did a better job conveying the injustice done to an oppressed people (the Dalit) through a gangster narrative.  Until I read Margaret’s piece, I didn’t fully understand what the director was trying to convey.  But then, Pa. Ranjith was working at trying to convey a message past the censors in Malaysia.    Kudos to Rajnikanth for making this film for his fans in Malaysia.  It’s enjoyable just for the surface action story alone, but look deeper.  There’s more there than first meets the eye.

Three and a half stars out of five.  (Kabali was released in Tamil and Telugu.  I saw the Tamil version.)

I wasn’t a huge fan of the rock/rap thrumming electric guitar songs that make up most of the soundtrack, but I did really like this love song:

Aagadu – The silly Telugu movie I needed with all the bad news lately

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Aagadu (He Will Not Halt) is a 2014 action comedy starring Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu as a super cop, the Indian superhero genre.  On Friday night I was glued to news of the military coup in Turkey, but I just couldn’t take all the bad news with that chaos on top of the massacre in Nice.  It was too much, and I needed something crazy to get my mind off it all.  Telugu films are great for that, and this one was particularly crazy.  Aagadu is not the greatest movie in the world, and it’s certainly not the best Mahesh Babu film, but it made me laugh.  Evidently it was not his most successful film, but it was an enjoyable watch.  The director, Srinu Vaitla, had previously made the hit film Dookudu with Mahesh Babu (which I really liked.)  And, I’ll admit it, I just like Mahesh Babu in a cop uniform.

Aagadu mixes the comedy with some more serious drama of an orphan boy adopted by a policeman, who takes the blame for a fatal accident for his adopted older brother.  He’s sent to reform school, but his only goal is to become a cop like his estranged adopted father.  Telugu action films I expect to be over the top in their violent action scenes, but the director and Mahesh seemed to delight in taking it even more over the top, for the amusement value.  Mahesh even references many of his past films, and there’s a running gag of him conning the crooks that they’re just like his long lost brother, who…..insert plot of Dookudu, Okkadu, etc.  I was glad I’d seen a number of Mahesh Babu films so I was in on the joke, but the subtitles also pointed out which movie he was referencing.

I recently watched the Malayalam film Neram, and the language play comedy in the film went right over my head.  This film veered towards slapstick comedy, but it made me laugh out loud.

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Sonu Sood is the mustache twirling villain.  I took a picture of this scene where he’s intimidating a local and explaining that Sonu’s power plant project cannot be stopped.  His examples of what ELSE couldn’t be stopped cracked me up!  “I didn’t like Abishek Bachan [sic] marrying Aishwarya Rai.  Could we stop it?”  LOL

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Tamannaah is the love interest.  Mahesh thinks she’s sweet and innocent when he sees her handing out sweets to children, but comes to find out she’s a strident sweets shop owner.  She’s about to marry an NRI just to be able to open new sweet shops in the US.  Mahesh cons her, and her family, too, in a very amusing way, to stop the engagement to the NRI.  Tamannaah catches on, but enjoys the manipulation of Mahesh — she sees she’s met her match in scheming.

The songs are completely over the top and crazy, too.  For no apparent reason this one is filled with what look like Thai dancers.  This song compares Tamannaah to Bhel Puri, the spicy street food – and all sorts of other foods.  I’m sure I’ve never, ever heard a girl compared to tomato soup.

Eat me like a Dhoodh peda (Milk sweet)
There is Sweetness in your words, cuteness in your deeds, Lassi (Butter milk) in your smile, there is coconut water too in it!

(Thanks to Bollymeaning lyric translation.)

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Aagudu was welcome escapist fair.  Mahesh seems to delight in mocking his past film personas, but at the same time, acts super cool in the action sequences.  After a huge one at an oil refinery (big explosions!  crooks covered with oil!) he strides off and says  — “My bladder is full with useless discussions with fools.  Where’s the toilet?”  And interval.  Bwhahaha!

The romantic plot is not the main thrust of the film.  It’s mostly Mahesh the cop, tricking and catching each crook in turn, as he works his way up the criminal empire to Sonu Sood at the top.  And of course avenging his adopted family, and making his adoptive father proud.   Sonu Sood is reliably great as the villain, even if most of his dialogue is obviously dubbed.  Nasser plays a bumbling corrupt cop, none too pleased to have Mahesh as his new boss.  Shruti Hasaan has a nice item number, too.

Aagudu is not my favorite Mahesh Babu film, but it was an enjoyable timepass.  I’m sure there were tons more Telugu movie line references I missed, but it was still funny to this non-Desi.  It took me away from the darkness around us for a few hours.  I’m glad I own it, in case I need something silly again.

Three stars out of five.  Aagudu is available for rental on Amazon video or iTunes, but it’s free with subtitles on Youtube!  (Love that about Telugu films!)

Athadu – Killer disarmed by love and affection, my total catnip

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After the searing Malayalam gangster film Kammati Paadam, I wanted something lighter to watch.  Someone had recommended to me Athadu as their favorite Mahesh Babu film and it’s free on Youtube with subtitles.  (Love you Telugu Cinema industry for doing that!).  Athadu evidently means simply “He”.

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It starts super violent.  A young street kid murders someone, and then joins a gang.  And then we see the now grown up Mahesh and there is more violence.  I despaired at first as it was all this violence and blood — I’d had plenty of that with Kammati Paadam.   Mahesh is Nandu, a killer – a stone cold hitman, and Sonu Sood is his getaway driver.  He’s hired to stage an almost assassination of a politician, and is double crossed and chased for the murder.  During his escape on a train, an innocent person is killed.  And he takes on that victim’s identity, as the victim Pardhu was on his way to reunite with long lost family who hadn’t seen him in over a decade.  Pardhu had been orphaned and his grandfather and family had been searching for him.

Mahesh arrives in the village, and is welcomed as the prodigal son returned.  No one had seen Pardhu since he was a child, so they just say, “My you’ve grown tall!” and the like.  Nasser plays the grandfather, and Trisha Krishnan is Poori, Pardhu’s cousin.  Mahesh lays low and stays at the rural family compound for over a month.  You can tell he’s never had a normal family life and that this is all new to him.  And that’s when I realized, that this was going to totally be my catnip trope — killer disarmed by love and family!!   With a heaping helping of taking on an identity and trying to blend into a family.

It’s like Witness crossed with The Professional crossed with Sommersby!  (In a good way.)

Poori is infatuated with Pardhu/Mahesh.  She is fairly immature and has obviously been very sheltered and pampered.  She tells Mahesh that she is staying away from her sister meeting her potential bridegroom because she doesn’t want to overshadow her sister with her beauty.  Mahesh tells her she is not beautiful — her family’s just been telling her she is.

Thus begins the teasing and mock fighting between the two which escalates to an accidental brushing of lips.  (Swoon! — that’s both me AND the two characters swooning.  Poori actually sinks to the floor in a heap from the emotional impact of it.)

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Mahesh/Pradhu then fantasizes that he’s playfully nipping at Poori’s ear, and jolts back to reality in another favorite scene of mine.  There’s some very nice song sequences as they each fall for each other.

Mahesh/Pradhu also comes to his grandfather’s aid in a land dispute with an evil neighbor.  Cue the machete fight sequence!  (It’s nearly a requirement in a Telugu film.)  Mahesh finds out that the real Pradhu had played a mean trick as a kid, and gives money to the family anonymously so that their daughter can get an operation.

This film is filled with some of my favorite Telugu character actors.  Nasser, as I mentioned, plays Pradhu’s grandfather.  Prakash Raj, polyglot character actor of Hindi and many regional cinemas, plays the CBI officer on Nandu (Mahesh)’s trail.  And Sunil, my favorite comedic Telugu character actor, plays the childhood friend of Pradhu.  Mahesh confides in him that he’s not really Pradhu.  The two comedy Uncles are in it, too, but not so annoying.  Brahmanandam dares Mahesh to punch him in the stomach which he does so Brahmanandam actually made me laugh for once!

After one fight, Mahesh/Pradhu is fussed over by Pradhu’s aunt.  She tends to his cuts on his hands, and then feeds him with her own hands as she’s afraid the spicy food will sting his cuts.  This kindness affects Mahesh so much that he has to wipe the tears from his eyes.  He’s been trying to quietly resist the family, because of course he’s not really Pradhu, their long lost nephew or grandson.  He doesn’t think he’s worthy of any of their love and kindness.  I was almost wiping the tears from my own eyes at this scene because you can see the loneliness of the life he had led up to this moment.

Poori was more than a little irritating in how immature her character was.  She’s trying to be coquettish, but she really doesn’t know how.  She pouts that Mahesh/Pradhu hasn’t told her she’s beautiful, and then came one of the best declarations of love I’ve seen in an Indian film.  (I’ve posted the video starting at the scene below:)

 

He asks who said she wasn’t beautiful?  “You did!  You told me I wasn’t beautiful!”

Then he tells her that it was true.  “Then I didn’t know you were so beautiful.”

“But I’m the same even now!”, she replies.
“I’m not.  We see a moonbeam everyday.  Only sometimes do we think it is beautiful.  But it’s the same every day.  The change is not there.  It’s here!”, as he touches his heart.  “I fought Buji…How else did you want me to express my love?  I’m not like the others.  I don’t know how to live.  Only now I’m learning to live.”

I had to rewind and rewatch that scene a few times.  So great.

One of Mahesh/Pradhu’s acts of generosity leads to Prakash Raj finding him, and his true identity being revealed.  There is a fantastic scene that Mahesh has then with Nasser, the grandfather, that I won’t spoiler, but I really loved.

Then we’re back to action, as Mahesh goes back to the city to find out who the real killer was who framed him.  There’s an amazing final fight scene, and great comeuppance for the villains.  This is what Indian cinema does so well.  Great action paired with emotional drama and romance.  The plot is really nothing like Witness, but that is the film that I thought of immediately.  Hardened man used to violence is forced to adapt to a rural family life.  Total fish out of water, Nandu is not a cop — he’s who should be the villain, but we see through his actions that he has a marshmallow center.

athudu 3This film goes right up there as one of my favorite Mahesh movies now.  Really enjoyed it, and there were a few scenes that were truly magical.

Four stars out of five.

1: Nenokkadine – My first Mahesh Babu Telugu film

Prior to 1: Nenokkadine, my Telugu film watching has pretty much been limited to everything  starring Prabhas I could get my hands on (post Baahubali!) and anything by S. S. Rajamouli (Eega, Maghadeera, etc.) I could get my hands on.

1:  Nenokkadine (1:  Alone) opens with a young boy running through a forest being chased and shot at by gun-toting goons.  (I learned later the young boy is lead actor Mahesh Babu’s son.) He runs into a road and into the arms of the police but someone explains it away –  “Oh, he has mental problems.  He imagines his parents were killed and he’s being chased by the killers.”  This is the first of many psych outs in this thriller.

1:  Nenokkadine is my first Mahesh Babu film, and from the opening number, I could tell Mahesh is a STAR.   He plays Gautham, a rock star.

Mahesh has charisma.  He has screen presence.  Not the most notable dance talent, at least from what I saw in this movie, but he makes up for that by looking exceptionally cool in all the action scenes.  And this movie has a LOT of action scenes.

After the Who Are You rock number above, Gautham thinks he sees one of the killers from his dreams/visions in the audience and runs after him.  He believes he ends an elaborate motorcycle chase and fist fight by killing the man.  But then – PSYCH – Sameera ( Kriti Sanon, in her debut) has videoed the whole thing, and there wasn’t anyone else there at all!  There is no body because he was fighting air.

WTF?  From this point, you realize nothing you see can you rely on to be real.  Because our hero has mental issues.  Is he schizophrenic and seeing hallucinations?  My subtitles didn’t tell me, but he has missing brain cells or something on a scan, as a doctor tries to explain to the journalist Sameera in the hospital after the imaginary fight.  Why is the doctor telling all this to a journalist?  (I really don’t understand health privacy laws in India, I’m just saying.)

Gautham decides to go to Goa for some R&R, but who appears on his yacht but that dogged journalist, Sameera.  She then proceeds to Gaslight poor Gautham by approaching him multiple times in the same situations so that he isn’t sure what is real and what is not in their relationship.  I read later that this was Kriti’s first film, and I’m sorry, but it shows.  Yes, she’s pretty enough, but I was not buying the instant love between the characters.  And I really couldn’t get past the plot point that she was milking his mental illness for her own ends.  How did Gautham get past that so quickly?  Don’t question, it’s luuuurve.  I didn’t find her funny, and this was the comic relief segment of the movie.  I just didn’t think she had good chemistry with Manesh.  Manesh was also not really that charismatic in the rom com portion.  I reserve judgement if he can pull that off and will try some other movies of his, hopefully where he is paired with a better co-star actress with some sparkle to her.

(Loved Mahesh in the glasses look, though)

So, at this point, the plot becomes very convoluted.  We’re not sure if killers are after Gautham or after Sameera, or both.  Gautham is convinced Sameera is in danger, and unfortunately beats up a bunch of her friends who were planning a surprise birthday party.

The action moves to London, and there are some fantastic action set pieces.  One really intense scene has Gautham killing someone in a public bathroom because he thinks it’s a hallucination that he just wants to go away.  But it was real.  There are so many twists and turns, and because of Gautham’s condition, and his loss of childhood memories, we as the audience never know what to believe.  I’m not sure the logic of the whole movie really works out if you analyze it afterwards, but it’s an exhilarating roller coaster ride of a movie. I was watching most of it on a plane on my iPad with headphones on, and I probably amused my seatmate by gasping out loud at several points.  The ending scenes when Gautham regains his childhood memories were really emotionally touching.

I really liked the catchy soundtrack, too.  Just try to get the London Babu item song out of your head.  I wish I could find this with subs as the lyrics were pretty funny:

I watched this movie becauses it was recommended over and over on my Quora post about why I love Indian cinema as a Telugu movie to try.  Prabhas is still my first love Telugu star, but I will definitely be checking out more Mahesh Babu movies.  This guy just oozes cool, like a much taller Jason Statham kind of action guy.

Four stars out of 5.  Worth a rentMal!  (I rented it on Google Play which had English subs, of a fashion at least.)

Margaret loved this movie!  Check out her review on Don’t Call It Bollywood.  She can thank me for turning her on to Mahesh Babu.

Watch the trailer below with no subs, but it’s mainly action sequences anyway:

Irudhi Suttru/Salaa Khadoos – I loved Maddhavan in this female boxing movie

Irudhi-Suttru

I watched Madhavan’s recent boxing movie, Irudhi Suttru (The Snob) in Tamil.  It was released and filmed at the same time as the Hindi Salaa Khadoos.  I watched it in the original Tamil because that was the version available on Google Play, and I wanted to download it to watch on a flight.

Irudhi Suttru had a woman writer/director, Sudha Kongara, which I don’t think I knew going in.  I learned from Wikipedia that she was an assistant director to Mani Ratman for 7 years.  Maddy was really good, and it’s so great for him to come back with a dramatic role like this.  The newcomer Ritika Singh, the young woman boxer was also great.  It got a bit trite in the dialogue in the second half, but was still quite good.

Madhavan’s character Prabhu had been a talented boxer, but his temper and lack of finesse with the politics of the boxing federation has left him sent to the backwater of Chennai to train women boxers.  Our introduction to Prabhu has him kicking out a married woman he’s having a sexual affair with out of his bed.  We learn that his wife has left him, and he has had a string of these affairs.

After he arrives in Chennai, he watches and assesses the talent of the young women being trained by the local coach (played by Nasser), when he spots the sister of one of the boxers attacking and punching to the ground the boxing judges she feels didn’t give her sister a fair shake.

Prabhu tracks down Madhi at the fish market because he is much more interested in training her, than the sister Luxmi who has been already been training for years.  He offeres her money to come train every day with him, to replace the family income she would lose by giving up her day job.

This causes jealousy with the older sister Luxmi, and at one point Luxmi does something that injures Madhi before an important fight.  We’ve seen the journey, setbacks and comeback fights in boxing movies before, but here we have a young female boxer who gets a huge crush on her coach, who she calls, “Master.”  He shuts that down immediately, not in an unkind way, but a matter of fact, “it happens” kind of way.

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The setup first half of the film was very good, but the dialogue in the second half got a bit predictable and trite.  The songs were okay, but not outstanding.  My favorite was probably this one with the two sisters celebrating having some spending money for once:

 

I don’t know what to think about the ending.  The writer/director left it ambiguous as when the young woman wins her final bout, she runs to her coach and flings herself at him and wraps her arms and legs around him.  Is this still just a coach/student relationship?  You can view it both ways.

When Prabhu gives up his position in the boxing federation so that she can fight, Madhi says to Prabhu, “Is that not love?”

And then when she jumps in his arms at the end, but he doesn’t initially put his arms around her.  I think he awkwardly sort of hugs her back, but it could be left for either interpretation.  If you want to think, since she had gone back to always calling him, “Master” that it was just a student/coach relationship, you can think that.  If you want to think it had gone beyond, you could read that in, too.

And I don’t know what I want it to be.  I guess I lean towards the coach/ student bond.

The one scene that bothered me, was when he thought she threw the national finals fight (when her sister broke her hand) and he throws her to the ground, and then kicks her.  I know Prabhu’s supposed to be this volatile character, but the kick really bothered me.  The yelling I could deal with, even though he was really harsh.  He’s supposed to lose it.  A friend told me she viewed it that it showed how he viewed the girl just as he would have a male boxer, and treated her just the same.

I loved that the actress playing Madhi was so athletic.  I learned later that she is a MMA star in India, and had never even acted before.  I think that was smart of the filmmaker to choose someone so believable in the training and fight sequences.  I can’t believe she didn’t know Tamil and learned all those lines phonectically!  She was great!  Now I’m sort of wondering if she was more natural in the Hindi version of the film.   I haven’t seen Mary Kom yet, so I can’t compare this film to Priyanka’s performance.

But Maddy!  Oh my gosh, it was great to see Madhavan be a bad ass bad boy at the beginning especially.  And then I loved how he was this great coach, and just dealt with her crush — hey, it happens, don’t worry about it, now go put on your track suit and let’s get to work.  He is a flawed character.  I contrast it to SRK in Chak De! who seemed more saintly than this.

And he looked AMAZING!  I wasn’t sure about that whole longish hair and beard when I first saw the trailer, but man, did I love it.  He was so big and buff!!

With a plot like this, you can’t help but think a lot about the Clint Eastwood film Million Dollar Baby.  Now obviously, Clint Eastwood is a million years old in that film.  But it’s also a boxing coach relationship with a young woman, and how intimate and close it is, even if it’s not sexual at all.  Maddy wasn’t QUITE old enough to be fatherly.  At least not in an Indian film world.  (And thank god he didn’t have to kill her in the end!)

I give three and a half stars out of five.  Definitely worth a watch.

On a complete side note I feel like I have been seeing the actor Nasser EVERYWHERE recently.  He was the Dad in Jeans which I recently watched.

And then he was a supporting coach in Irudhi Suttru
Then he was the villain in the Telugu movie I just watched!
In looking up his name, I discovered he was in Baahubali!!  Mind BLOWN.