Podcast with Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood!

 

How we met through her masters thesis project, and how we both started watching Indian films!

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Moviemavengal no spoiler video review of Bahubali 2 – I was interviewed by Kartik of BollyFools

 

Kartik of BollyFools was seeing the IMAX showing right after mine so he asked if I would do a short video review after seeing the very first showtime of Bahubali 2 in the US.  Salim of BollyFools then edited it down to this video they posted on the BollyFools Youtube channel.  Thanks for the opportunity!

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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Just How Much Do I Love Bahubali?

A LOT!  That’s how  much I Love Bahubali.  (Is it Baahubali or Bahubali??)  It is one of my favorite films of all time, not just of Indian films.

My next door neighbor Nish two years ago asked if I’d want to go to this South Indian film her coworkers had said was really good.  Sure.  I’m in.  Then we go and the price was $20!  Twice the normal movie ticket price.  “This better be worth 20 bucks!”

Oh. My. Gosh.  It SO was.  I unabashedly fell in love with the film, and I ended up seeing it 4 times in the theater alone.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen the film since it became available on Youtube.  I own the Hindi dub on Blu-ray, but I can’t really stand to watch it without my beloved Prabhas’ own voice.  (For the love of all that is holy Rajamouli, make the Telugu available on Blu-Ray!!)

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This image was my Ipad lock screen for two years, until I replaced it with a new image from Bahubali 2.  I fell in love with Prabhas from this movie, and now own several of his films on DVD.

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I was captivated, jaw hanging open from the opening sequence with that huge waterfall and the kick-ass queen fighting two soldiers with an arrow sticking out of her back — while holding a newborn!

The visuals in this film just knocked my socks off.  I don’t know how many times I watched the Dhivara video!   I explain this film to people who don’t watch Indian film as The Lord of the Rings of Indian Cinema.  It’s mythic and grand in scale with fantastic CGI world building.  S. S. Rajamouli is quite simply a genius filmmaker.  He has a huge vision, and he’s one up on Peter Jackson because he wrote the damn story himself, instead of just adapting a series of books.

After I saw Bahubali, I sought out Rajamouli’s other films, and I was even more gobsmacked.  Who else but the master, S. S. Rajamouli would reincarnate his hero as a FLY?

Even his early film Chatrapathi with Prabhas showed crazy imagination.  Prabhas introduction scene has him fighting a SHARK!

 

Bahubali has amazingly compelling characters.  Prabhas even gets to play two!  Shivu and his father Bahubali in the flashback second half. My personal favorite is the queen Sivagami, who raises both her own son Bhalla and Bhahubali:

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This scene after she squashes a rebellion, knifes an attacker while holding a newborn (!!) and then nurses both infants after mounting the throne is my favorite!  I love her!

Rajamouli has made a film with strong women characters even though the main thrust of the narrative is Prabhas’s story, both as Shivu and Bahubali.  Yes, there is that problematic scene that some call a rape, but my first take was the same as Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood’s.  Tamannah’s warrior is living a harsh life devoid of beauty and joy, and Shivu delights in showing her beauty and love.  And that sexy nibble of her jewelry on her belly gets me every. single. time.

 

I love all the music of the original Bahubali film, and tortured my family by listening to the soundtrack non-stop for weeks and watching the videos over and over.  Especially Manohari.

 

The film does have a few flaws.  For my birthday last summer, I sat down my two younger sons and had them watch the film with me -the only Indian film they’ve ever seen.  (Mother’s Day this year will be all three of my sons going to the theater to see Bahubali 2.  I’ve warned them this is my present!)  My son Zach really liked the Avantika character, but then was upset that she just gets that hurt ankle, and as he put it, “Then, nothing!”  I’m holding out some hope she will have a strong part in the Bahubali 2, but the trailer seems to mostly emphasize the romance with Anushka from Bahuabli’s past.

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And then there’s the racism.  Really, Rajamouli?  Actual blackface on the villain Kalakeya tribe?  Ugh.

The battle scene in the second half also goes on for a very, very long time.  Yes, it’s super cool, but frankly, I’m more interested in these characters than watching Gladiator movie style battles go on and on.

Watching Bahubali set me on a journey of watching more Telugu films, starting first with the older films of Prabhas and Rajamouli.  I’ve learned about comedy uncles, and machete fight ratings, and on.  I kind of like all the violence and the machismo and larger than life Telugu star heroes.  The comedy uncles I could mostly do without, to be honest.

I even dragged Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood to her first showing of Bahubali (No, you HAVE to see this one!) and then she surpassed me by seeing it what, SEVEN times in the theater alone?

The first Bahubali movie was such a phenomenon.  All over India, and all over the world.  It’s been a long wait, but tomorrow I will finally learn #WKKB – Why Kattappa Killed Bahubali!  I have my $40 IMAX ticket purchased already to the first day, first matinee show of Bahubali 2 at my local theater.  I am beyond excited that it is releasing on IMAX!

 

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Running Shaadi -Fantastic Rom Com with some fresh faces

http-%2f%2fo-aolcdn-com%2fhss%2fstorage%2fmidas%2fbafcd286fb08688cd59882f7f9020aba%2f204779235%2fscreenshot2017-01-06at6-19-49pmMargaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood let me know that I HAD to go see Running Shaadi which I don’t remember hearing anything about before.  I went in barely glancing at the poster, and not even seeing a trailer.  I haven’t yet seen Pink, so this was my first Hindi film with Taapsee Pannu.  (Just looking her up, I forgot she was in the wonderful Telugu film Mr. Perfect with Prabhas, as that movie is all Kajal to me.)  But you can’t imagine my delight that the lead male actor in Running Shaadi is Amit Sadh.

When I saw Sultan last summer, I was really taken with Amit Sadh, who plays the MMA promoter who convinces Salman to come out of retirement.  I remember thinking to myself, Who is that?  I want to see a movie with him as the lead!  Wish granted!  Evidently, he was also in Sonakshi’s Akira, which I will be seeking out directly, and I had forgotten he was in Kai Po Che.

Running Shaadi reminded me in some ways of Vicky Donor, in that it’s an under the radar movie that deals with some serious topics in an amusing and ultimately very sweet way.

running-shaadi-com3_I was completely blown away by what happens in the very first 5 minutes or so of the movie.  I have never seen a rom com start this way, but I won’t spoil it for you.  Just know that the film begins with Amit working for Taapsee’s father in the family sari shop.  Taapsee is in pigtails and her high school uniform and goes to Amit with an impossible situation.  He is the only one she trusts to get her out of this jam.

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Taapsee gives Amit a sweet kiss on the cheek afterwards, and you can just see how dumbstruck he is.  They start dating at that point, but once she goes to college, he feels a gulf coming between them as she gains new sophisticated friends.  He constantly thinks that he is not worthy of her, as he is an orphan that her father took a chance on and gave a job long ago.  It’s a familiar filmi trope, poor orphan boy in love with the rich girl, but I love where this movie takes it.

They break up and he impulsively calls his uncle and finally agrees to the arranged marriage his uncle has wanted with a young Bihari girl.  He quits his job and has an idea to start a business helping couples run away and marry the person they want, when their families are against it.  He and his pal, played by debut actor Arsh Bajwa, start RunningShaadi.com (the .com was censored out constantly!) and they have to ask Taapsee for help as she has a credit card to secure the domain name.

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They help out all sorts of couples, inter-religious, intercaste and even a same-sex couple.  There is a wonderful undercurrent social message to this whole film, that of course love marriage is best, and the young people should be able to marry whoever they want.  The schemes to help the couples get quite elaborate and amusing, but their “disguises” are pretty ridiculous.

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Taapsee comes to Amit asking for his help for her own running shaadi.  Amit asks who, and rejects that she’s joking when she immediately answers with you.  Then she tells him she wants to marry her college classmate Shunty, and he demands that they meet.  He goes through with the plan, and while they drive all night to the rendezvous point, Amit can’t help but look longingly at the sleeping Taapsee.  She then reveals that it was all an elaborate ruse to force him to marry her.  Zing!  I loved this twist that she just takes her fate in her own hands, and forces the issue.

Her family chases after them, and the three of them are on the run.  Taapsee gets injured and Amit is driven almost mad that he might lose her.  He is so caring with her while she heals that I was ready to swoon.  She goes out to buy condoms, and my jaw was about on the floor that that scene was in the movie.  Fist bump up in the air for that touch!

But oh noes!  Her family finds them again, and they must escape to Amit’s uncle’s, and that leads to dealing with the fact that Amit is still set to have his arranged marriage.

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They figure out quickly that his intended bride doesn’t want to marry him either, and there’s an elaborate plot to give Amit his own Running Shaadi.  When Amit and Taapsee  finally are able to show each other how they feel, it was perfectly sweet, sexy and meaningful.

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I absolutely adored this Rom Com.  It was one of the best Hindi romantic comedies I have seen in years.  I loved that it tackled some meaningful issues, and has a strong female lead who goes after who and what she wants.  Taapsee wasn’t the best actress ever, but Amit Sadh was just wonderful in this.  I cannot wait to see more films from him.  This is a debut directorial film for former cinematographer Amit Roy.  He also wrote the script which I thought was simply fantastic.  Running Shaadi may exit quickly from theaters, but if you don’t catch it there, it’s definitely one to seek out on Netflix or ErosNow.  Hindi movies with fresh actors can struggle to make a splash, but I will guess this film will gather fans over time.  There was just almost no marketing for it, and the songs weren’t anything special to give it that pre-release push either.  The film was only two hours and has just a couple of montage songs, and that was the only thing I had wished for — that it had more and better music numbers.  I will definitely be buying this film on DVD to watch again and again.

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Janatha Garage – Mohanlal and Jr. NTR are a perfect match in this action family drama

1468570544-1707Janatha Garage (I think it translates to People’s Garage) is writer/director Koratala Siva’s third feature film, and his first collaboration with Jr. NTR.  I loved Siva’s previous blockbuster films, Srimanthudu with Mahesh Babu and one of my favorite Prabhas films, the fantastic Mirchi.  Malayalam superstar Mohanlal returns to Telugu films after a cameo appearance 2 decades ago.  Janatha Garage was filmed in both Malayalam and Telugu, and released in both languages.  I find it really interesting the cross promotion, because the film also includes Malayalam star Nithya Menen as the second heroine, in her first collaboration with NTR.  Samantha Prabhu is the first love interest, a star in Telugu and Tamil Cinema.

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Expectations were extremely high with this director, and with this star studded cast.  I think having Mohanlal and Jr NTR in a movie together is brilliant.  They were fantastic together, and frankly look like they’re family.  I’ve only seen Mohanlal in Thenmavin Kombath (review soon) and NTR in the fantastic Yamadonga.  The theater five minutes from my house had the film on two screens for the premiere, and pretty full crowds.  It was fun to be there the opening night and hear the whoops and hollers for NTR’s first entrance.  (My ticket seller wasn’t used to Telugu films – “That will be $8…I mean $20”.)

The first half of the film chronicles the creation of Janatha Garage (the people’s garage).  Mohanlal not only fixes cars, but he fixes the problem of anyone who comes to him.  When his brother and his wife are killed by one of their enemies, Mohanlal gives the orphan infant to the mother’s family saying that he will have nothing to do with the boy, as they wish.  And as young Anand grows up, his family don’t even have a picture of his father in the house.  They just tell him his parents died in an accident.

Jr NTR as Anand is like a cross between Captain Planet and DJ Khaled with his flowers (“I love you.  I like that.”)  This movie has a Message with a capital “M” and that is environmentalism.  Anand is all about green spaces, planting trees, and against pollution and over development.  Srimanthudu had a similar message with Mahesh Babu riding his bicycle everywhere.  There’s one fight sequence where he lectures the goons on the forces of nature raining down earthquakes and tsunamis on them.  He’s no pacifist environmentalist — at all.  When a park is set to be demolished, he threatens the developer and the MLA – “The MLA will die, I mean, because of lack of oxygen if the trees are destroyed.”)

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Anand (NTR’s) love interest is his cousin (Samantha Prabhu) and that was a little squicky for me because it seemed like they’d been raised as sister and brother.  He meets Nithya Menen early in the film – and scolds her for things like setting off firecrackers for Diwali creating air pollution.  Nithya becomes part of the group of friends with NTR and Samantha.  One of my two favorite songs is NTR with Samantha in the Apple Beauty love song.  He’s really fantastic dancing in this one.

Anand goes to Hyderabad to study Environmental Science, and has a run in with Mohan Lal’s son who has joined forces with the family enemy, the evil developer.  NTR hears about Janatha Garage, and Mohanlal hears about his good deeds.  Rather than confront him for the dust up with Mohanlal’s son, he asks NTR to join the Janatha Garage to carry on his work.  Mohanlal had been in an “accident” and the doctors had warned his family that he should stop and not have stress.

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Neither realize that they are nephew and uncle.  But they have a natural affinity.  They both just want to help people.  In Hebrew, we’d call it Tikkun Olam – Repairing the World, which encompasses the environment and good deeds.  It’s just that NTR knocks heads together to fix things as well as plants trees.

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One of the best fight sequences has NTR coming to the aid of a government clerk who is ready to commit suicide rather than sign off on shoddy plans for a hospital.  The builder has threatened his family, and he comes to the Janatha Garage for help.  He’d been turned away by the others at the garage after Mohanlal got out of the hospital, but NTR resurrects the true mission of the garage by helping him out — and inspiring his co-workers to view the clerk as the true hero.

Koratala Siva has set up an emotional family drama to punctuate the action.  Mohanlal has the son who rejects his way of life and joins the enemy camp.  He also has the son of his heart, NTR, who he doesn’t even know is his true long lost nephew.  And there is a very dramatic scene when Anand’s family finds him at the Garage, and forces him to choose the girl he loves or Janatha Garage.

The songs are mostly very good, and NTR’s dancing is great.  Kajal has a really fun item number in the second half — the very catchy Pakka Local (Strictly local girl).

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Jr. NTR has lots of charisma and screen presence, and his dancing and fight scenes are great.  NTR is looking much more fit than his Yamadonga days, but he’s not as playful as he was in that film.  Srimanthudu had more moments of levity than does Janatha Garage.    Mohanlal is predictably excellent as the sort of do-gooder don of Hyderabad, with tough fights in the first half, and anguish over his wayward son in the second half.  One thing that could have been better is the villain is more smarmy than scary.  The romance elements are not the focus of the film at all, and take a back seat to the male family relationships and the action.

An enjoyable flick, even if it dragged a bit in parts, and especially fun to see Mohanlal and Jr. NTR act together.  They make a perfect pair.

Three and a half stars out of five.

 

 

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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Yamadonga – S. S. Rajamouli’s Fantasy film is so much fun – my first film with Jr. NTR!

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I purchased the Telugu film Yamadonga [God of death thief or Thief Yama] on DVD months ago because it was highly recommended by a friend.  I kept picking it up, and putting it back down. Frankly, the cover image doesn’t do anything for me.  But I forgot that I bought it because it is by director S. S. Rajamouli (of Baahubali fame!)  Yamadonga came out in 2007 (between Chatrapathi (2005) and Magadheera (2009)).  Yamadonga was my first Jr. NTR film, but his third collaboration with Rajamouli.

Chatrapathi has that amazing CGI shark fight with Prabhas, and Magadheera anticipates Baahubali with its lengthy past life fantasy flashback.  And then of course, Rajamouli made the hero reincarnate as a FLY in Eega.  His imagination has no bounds, and continues to amaze me with every film.  I was blown away by Baahubali, which I saw four times in the theater alone, and cannot wait for part 2 next year.  Yamadonga is a delightful flight of fantasy as a thief insults Yama (the God of Death) and is sent to hell before his time.

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Jr. NTR is no Prabhas (my favorite Telugu actor), but he definitely has an impish charm.   I was trying to think what Hollywood actor he reminds me of.  He’s sort of like Chris Pratt – looks cool in the action sequences, but has that charm and sense of comedy silliness about him.

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Jr NTR in Janatha Garage

I know this is shallow of me, but I hated NTR’s hair in this film.  It just looked awful.  There were a few music numbers where his hair was much shorter, and he looked a thousand times better.  He has that same look in the poster for his next film Janatha Garage (with Mohanlal) coming out next month.

As children, the thief  Raja (Jr. NTR) meets Mahi.  She gives him an amulet necklace that had been blessed in a temple.  He can’t pawn it, and throws it away, but over his life, it keeps turning up.

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Mahi (Priyamani) grows up and is an orphan treated as a servant in her family’s household.  She’s sort of a Cinderella waiting for her prince.  (Isn’t it handy NTR is named Raja?)  NTR rescues her  but then tries to ransom her to her family when he sees a TV report that she is a wealthy heiress (which she doesn’t know.)

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For the first time, Mahi who had been treated as a servant, is waited on like a princess by Raja.  Raja has cursed Yama (the God of Death) to the heavens, and Yama vows revenge on this human.  Raja is killed before his time by goons sent by Mahi’s family and then half the movie is set in the fantasty realm of hell.  Raja is a thief by nature, and tricks Yama and steals his rope of death, becoming the ruler of hell himself.

The modern day parts of Yamadonga aren’t that different in plot than any other Telugu action romantic film, although the action scenes are great.  But the film takes off in the fantasy hell sequence and in a scene in heaven with all the gods.  The sets are glorious.  Mohan Babu is fantastic as the insulted god Yama.  The comedy uncle of pretty much every Telugu film, Brahmanandam, is Yama’s sort of clerk Chatragupta keeping track of the book of deeds of the human sinners.

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Raja proposes an election to have the demons of hell pick their new ruler between Yama and Raja.  Yama brings three goddesses to dance, but then NTR as Raja dances with them and brings out the spirit of his grandfather.  Jr. NTR is the grandson of the famous actor and (then politician) NTR.  Rajamouli uses CGI to have Jr. NTR and NTR talk and dance together onscreen (like Dhoom Taana in Om Shanti Om).  This Young Yama song reminded me of the song Manohari in Baahubali with NTR dancing with the three women.

 

NTR is a great dancer (he’s accomplished in Kuchipudi dance), and this sequence was one of my favorites in the film.

Raja returns to earth, but if he sins again, he will be returned to hell.  He’s about to marry Mahi, when Yama decides to trick Raja into sinning.  Yama takes the form of a woman to tempt Raja – Raja’s former partner in crime and money lender.

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Mamta Mohandas as Dhanalakshmi

Mamta Mohandas is Dhanalakshmi (Yama in disguise), and I loved her portrayal.  She’s seductive, but she has the air of Yama’s arrogance and swagger at the same time.

That’s the thing about this film.  Not only is NTR great, but so many of the supporting actors are simply fantastic.  Priyamani‘s performance is just okay as the innocent naive Mahi.  She has some great dance numbers with NTR, but her acting was not on the same level with the others.

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I had so much fun watching this movie.  Rajamouli never disappoints, and NTR provides a lot of comedy, great dancing and cool action scenes.  I have never seen a Ramayana TV serial, and I’m sure the hell scenes reference some of those, or Ram-Leela pageant plays.  But you don’t need that background, or even an understanding of the Indian gods to enjoy this film.

Highly recommend this Rajamouli fantasy film.  Four stars out of five.  (It’s available on Youtube with English subtitles here.)

Now I can’t wait to see NTR in Janatha Garage next month.  NTR has a real screen presence, and I look forward to catching up with his other films.

 

Srimanthudu [Wealthy Man] -Mahesh Babu takes a village – and adopts the whole town.

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Srimanthudu [Wealthy Man] is one of the better Telugu Mahesh Babu movies I have seen.  I downloaded it from Google Play and watched it on a flight (and finished up at the hotel.)   It’s about a wealthy young man who goes to his ancestral village and saves the town from the evil goons running the place, as well as donating his millions to rebuild the village.   It reminded me very much of Mirchi, one of my favorite Prabhas movies, and there’s a reason why.  When I looked up Srimanthudu, I discovered that Mirchi and Srimanthudu have the same writer/director:  Koratala Siva.   Mirchi, amazingly, was Siva’s debut directorial feature film.  Srimanthudu was also a major hit, and with good reason.

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Mahesh Babu is Harsha, son of a super wealthy business tycoon played by Jagapathi Babu, who was absolutely fantastic in the role (he won a best supporting actor award for the role.)  Mahesh Babu won the Filmfare South best actor award for his leading role in Srimanthudu.  Mahesh’s love interest in the film is Charuseela – Shruti Haasan, master actor Kamal Haasan’s daughter.  I was much more impressed with her here than in the Hindi film Gabbar Is Back.

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If we didn’t catch from the get go that this princely son of a business king wants to live as a common man, his opening number is Rama Rama.  His father won’t deign to celebrate at the festival with the company employees, but Harsha (Mahesh) makes a point of making an appearance and dancing along.  He also gives money to a long time employee struggling to get his daughter married, and admonishes his father for not doing it himself.  His father despairs for him ever taking the reins of the business empire.  Harsha has no interest and mostly rejects his father’s Rolls Royce lifestyle by traveling by his eco-friendly bicycle.

One of the strong points of the movie is the first half romance between Mahesh and Shruti.  He first spots her painting a Rangoli in her courtyard as he is driving his mother, aunt and sister to a temple early in the morning in the dark.  He keeps driving around the block to catch more glimpses of her until his aunt complains that they’ll never make it on time.  He then meets her at his friend’s birthday party, and sees that she is a kindred spirit because she takes the cake being delivered and gives it to some street children.  What really intrigues him is that Charu is in a Rural Development course following her MBA.  He’s never heard of such a thing, but it appeals to him immediately.

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This is where Mahesh Babu’s inherent sweetness in romantic scenes shines through.  He can really pull off going from sweet shy young guy around the girl he really likes, to a tough action fighter and commanding presence against bad guys all in the same movie with ease.  Their falling in love song sequence I absolutely adored as it shows how they slowly hung around together more and more at school and it’s just adorable from start to finish as their romance deepens naturally and organically.

But the twist is that Harsha has never told her exactly who he is.  Her roommates show her an article that reveals he is actually a super wealthy son of a tycoon, and she then rejects him utterly when he proposes.  His father is from her same village, the one that she is studying how to save and develop.  And with all Harsha’s father’s millions, Harsha’s family has done nothing.  “Do you even know your village?  You have no roots.”

Harsha just tells his family he will be traveling, but he goes straight to his ancestral village – by bike and bus.  His traveling montage song is the title track Srimanthuda, and it is my second favorite song in the movie.  The music in this film is really catchy and great.

Conditions in the village are horrible when he arrives.  He doesn’t let anyone in the village know who he is, either, including the village leader, Charuseela’s father.  But when he sees that they need a new school, he offers to donate the money needed.  And then he sees more and more projects that need doing.  He puts to use all he has learned in the rural development course.

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As you can imagine, this does not sit well with the corrupt politician and his evil brother the enforcer who have run this town into the ground.  Stealing even the water needed by the farmers for their liquor factory.  There are some great action sequences as Harsha takes on all the bad guys single handedly.

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Just like in Mirchi, when you go up against the rural village goons, be ready for a machete fight.  Unlike most regional films, our hero actually gets injured enough to have to be hospitalized.  Good thing he built that new hospital!  But it’s a plot point to get his father back to the village, and for Charu to admit she still loves him.

Does he make his father proud?  Does he get the girl?  Does he save the village and vanquish the bad guys?  I told you this was a Telugu film at the beginning, so you know the answers, but it sure is fun to watch it all unfold.  And as an added bonus.  Mahesh in a lungi!  Hubba hubba.

Srimanthudu is a thoroughly enjoyable all around entertainer.  Great family drama, truly evil substantial bad guys to fight, exciting action fight sequences and a terrific romance.  It’s a four star out of five, and I’ve already rewatched it.  It has a leg up on Mirchi in one way in that I really liked that there was only one romance, rather than the fake out first one we had in Mirchi.

My husband was walking through and he noted one of the irritating things about the film.  I expect lots of slow-mo in my regional films, but this had tracking shots so many times when characters were speaking.  “The camera is always moving!”, my husband noticed.  It got distracting, especially on the rewatch.  And the subtitle translations are just not the best sometimes for these Telugu films.  I have a feeling what is being literally translated to English sounds very cool and slang in Telugu, but the subtitles end up ridiculous.  “Return the money you stole or you will end up obese.”  Wha???  Lost in translation there a bit.

I was intrigued to read in the wikipedia article the impact this movie had — people started adopting rural villages after seeing the film, including several celebrities and Mahesh himself.  I really liked the message of the film, that it is the responsibility of the wealthy to give back, and to bring development to these backwater rural villages.

I’m now really looking forward to the director, Koratala Siva’s next film with Mohanlal and NTR, Janatha Garage, due out mid-August.