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!)

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Neram – I was disappointed in this early Nivin Pauly film

neram-tamil-movie-poster-1The Malayalam film Neram was disappointing for me.  Watching comedy in Indian movies can be very hard for a non-Desi like me.

For the first movie I picked to watch from the big MyIndiaShopping order from Kerala I gifted myself for my birthday, I picked Nivin Pauly’s Neram (Time).  It’s an action-drama-comedy from 2013, and Nazriya Nazim (from Bangalore Days) is his love interest in the film.

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Neram was disappointing and just not very good.  The romance between Nivin and Nazriya is pre-existing, and frankly they had more of a best friends chemistry than romantic.
Nivin borrows money from a loan shark because he’s lost his job and has to pay for his sister’s wedding.  He can’t find a job to pay the loan shark back and on the day payment is due, the packet of money a friend gives him to pay it off gets snatched out of his hand by a mugger.  He has to pay back the loan shark by 5 p.m., thus the Time (Neram) of the title.
So it has bursts of action, and is sort of a farce with all sorts of misunderstandings and close shaves and farcical elements of different robbers scamming each other.  But it just didn’t hold together.
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It’s set in Chennai, so there’s some people speaking Tamil, mainly the bad guys.  There are many misunderstandings and mispronouncing between the Tamil and Malayalam which I guess was meant to be funny.
But since I don’t speak either all that went completely over my head, and the subtitles didn’t help.  (Some films like Happy New Year clue you in to the word play)
Nivin Pauly was just okay, and this is the first movie of his I would say that about him.  It’s from 2013, early in his career, but I did love him in his earlier 2012 film Thattathin Marayathu.  Nazriya is not given a lot to do, and mid-way she gets kidnapped and stuffed in the trunk of a car for the rest of the film.
The editing needed to be snappier and quicker, but the camera work was at least more interesting than most.  It was just meh.  And from Malayalam cinema I’m used to expecting much better than meh.
About half way through, I told my husband it wasn’t that good, and he asked me why I kept watching?  How to explain that the second halves of Indian films can be dramatically different.  The second half did improve, but not enough.
Two and a half stars out of five.