Mahanati Review – Keerthy Suresh captures the magic of Savitri

I have been anticipating Mahanati for a year, since Dulquer Salmaan posted a picture of himself on twitter as Gemini Ganesan, announcing that he was debuting in his first Telugu film, a period piece.

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I didn’t know anything about the legendary actress Savitri until I posted my trailer reaction to the Mahanati teaser trailer.  I asked for people to send me links and clips, and my Youtube viewers sent me songs and scene clips, but universally, they all told me I HAD to see Maya Bazar.  Boy, am I glad I watched the 1957 classic film before I watched Mahanati.  Because the very first glimpse of Keerthy Suresh in the film is a filming of a famous scene from Maya Bazar, and I recognized it immediately.  Watching Maya Bazar meant I could judge whether Keerthy was nailing it as Savitri — and boy did she ever!

Here’s my full review of the film:

 

Nadigaiyar_Thilagam_Stills__7__0Dulquer Salmaan had to walk a fine line.  He played the actor Gemini Ganesan, who married Savitri even though he was already married, and also had a mistress (with whom he fathered Rekha!).  He has to be so charming and compelling that you believe that Savitri would fall for him, and you also don’t like him very much at many points in the film.  He did an exceptional job.

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Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha Akkineni play newspaper reporters compiling a story about the mystery of Savitri’s last days.  They have a wonderful chemistry together.  Samantha Akkineni has a career best speech in the final 15 minutes of the film.

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Hats off to director Nag Ashwin, for an incredible film, only his second full length feature film.  This film covers the 50’s through the 80’s and the period details seem to be perfect.  Many, many scenes from classic films are recreated, including actor Naga Chaitanya playing his grandfather ANR.  It’s an amazing scope for a film, and so ambitious a project.

But the key is that Keerthy Suresh really captures the charm and spirit of the legendary actress Savitri.  It’s a career best performance for her. The soundtrack is also exceptional, and I’m playing Mooga Manasulu (Muted Hearts) on repeat.

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Bharat Ane Nenu Spoiler Free Movie Review

 

It’s a solid film, and a much needed hit for star Mahesh Babu.  Director Siva likes to add a message to his dramas, and he gives us an almost too perfect political hero — but gives the fans what they want with some great action sequences.  The music by Devi Sri Prasad is a standout.  The village festival number in the second half was more incredible than I imagined it would be.  From the stills in the lyrical video, I knew it would be my favorite, and it was just gorgeous!  Really good background score too.

 

 

Mahesh Babu gives a stellar performance, especially the speeches.  There’s one particular intense speech he gives at a press conference that is one of his finest spots of acting of his career.  He always looks cool in the action and songs, but here Siva has given him some meaty drama scenes to play, and he hits it out of the park.

I wasn’t surprised at the reveals in the last half hour.  I found the plot sometimes predictable, but I still enjoyed watching it all play out.

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OK Jaanu – Adiya Roy Kapur is adorable in this decent remake of OK Kanmani

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I’ll be honest that I’ve been dreading OK Jaanu [OK Darling] because I love OK Kanmani so very much.  I went to an A. R. Rahman concert in Chicago and I heard the song Mental Manadhil for the first time, and I was completely blown away.  Rahman played this video while he sang the song, and I just had to see this movie.

OK Kanmani is a Mani Ratnam Tamil movie about two young people who are working in Mumbai, and thrilled to find another Tamil speaker.  I didn’t know at the time that Dulquer Salmaan is actually from Kerala and known for his Malayalam films.

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So Adorable!

I’ve become like all those people in South India — the Southern original is so much better!  There is an undeniable magic to the Mani Ratnam Tamil original.  The chemistry between Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen is amazing.  And it’s one of my all time favorite A. R. Rahman soundtracks.  I listen to it all the time.  O Khadal Kanmani is the movie that started me on my journey of watching Malayalam films, because I just had to see what other films Dulquer and Nithya had done, which led me to Bangalore Days and on and on.  It all started with the Tamil OK Kanmani, which I have watched multiple times.

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So, I had trepidation about OK Jaanu.  I like Aditya Roy Kapur okay, and Shraddha Kapoor.  I saw Aashiqui 2, and they do have decent chemistry together.  Then the Humma song came out, and I got excited.  The song from this scene in the original movie is cute, but one of the weakest of the Tamil soundtrack.  This is waaay sexier.

Then, something happened a week ago.  My father became very seriously ill and he has been in ICU at the hospital for this entire past week.  It’s been incredibly stressful, but he seems to have come out of the crisis.  I’ve been exhausted and spending all my time at hospital with my parents.  When I’ve had a moment to wind down, I’ve turned to Bollywood song videos as my sort of comfort food.  And tonight, I decided I deserved a break, and went with a neighbor to OK Jaanu.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  It took me away from all my cares and worries for a few hours.

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I think this is the best movie I have seen Aditya Roy Kapoor do.  He was truly adorable.  Because I know Dulquer’s performance in the original so well, I could tell when he was even trying to match Dulquer’s mannerisms, but he made it his own.  Shraddha is no sparkling Nithya but she was good enough.   Aditya was good in Aashiqui 2 and, not horrible in Fitoor (that movie had other problems), but I like him so much better quirky and cute like this than brooding and angry.  I’m also one of the few people who liked most of Daawat-e-Ishq.  (Not Aditya’s best look, but I still love this title song!)

The plot of OK Jaanu is basically identical to the original.  Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) is a young video game designer who has just arrived in Mumbai, and is staying in a room of the house of his brother’s former boss (Nasureedin Shah).  Nasureedin’s wife has Althzeimer’s.  Adi meets Tara and a torrid romance begins, but they both vow they never want to marry.  He’s determined to move to the US, and she wants to study architecture in Paris.  They convince Adi’s landlord to let them live in sin together in his room.  All comes to a head when they both have to leave to follow their careers — will they choose love or their career?  It does have a fantastic message that a girl shouldn’t have to give up her career for marriage — her career is just as important.

 

Some of what made the original special is lost in the Hindi translation.  Part of what drew Adi and Tara together was that they were two Tamil speakers alone in the big city of Mumbai.  That plot point is gone. Naseeruddin Shah is of course his excellent self, but I so adored the big hulking Prakash Raj, who so often plays the big villain, being the tender devoted husband to his ailing wife in the Tamil OK Kanmani.  The sets are certainly bigger and more expensive looking.

One thing that is a welcome addition are the new songs.  Enna Sona, sung by Arjit Singh is gorgeous, and the film turns black and white during this sequence as Adi is missing Tara while she’s away on a work trip.

My neighbor thought OK Jaanu was better than the original.  But she doesn’t really speak Tamil (her husband does) and watched it without subtitles.  She said Dulquer Salmaan’s accent was so thick she couldn’t understand him.  The original will remain one of my favorite films, and if you live in the US, I urge you to watch it on Netflix.   But, the Hindi remake is quite enjoyable.  It’s partly my frame of mind with all I’ve been going through but, this movie allowed me to forget my troubles for a few hours.   Thank God for Indian Cinema and that it is there whenever I need it.  I told my husband what a comfort it is to me in times like this.  I think I’m being more generous than some other reviewers may be, so sue me.  It’s no hardship to watch Adiya being this adorable for a couple hours!

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Bommarillu – Genelia D’Souza is delightful in this sweet Telugu romance

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The 2006 Telugu Rom Com Bommarillu starts with a father helping a toddler walk on the beach and the voiceover says — “Shouldn’t a father let go his son’s hand after 24 years?”
Siddharth looked SO young in this film!  Oh, my goodness, he barely had a little peach fuzz little goatee. 2006 was the same year as Rang De Basanti.
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Prakash Raj is the father, and  I’m enjoying so much seeing Prakash Raj in these father roles in Southern movies — rather than the villain heavy he plays so well in Hindi films.
He’s a loving — but very controlling father.  He gives all the luxuries to his kids, but picks out everything, down to the clothes he buys for them.  Siddhu (Siddharth) is smothered.  Prakash arranges a marriage for Siddhu with a girl who only parrots what her father told him.
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Then Siddhu meets Hasini (Genelia D’Souza).  Her unconventional fun loving attitude appeals to him, and he finds her calling him an idiot endearing.
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 Genelia D’Souza we all loved in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na.  For Bommarillu she won the best actress South Filmfare award.  She is very much like Geeta in Jab We Met.  Genelia in Bommarillu is a little chatterbox, naive,  and brings sunshine wherever she goes.
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Siddhu leads almost a double life.  He tries to act as the perfect obedient son at home, and his parents never suspect he drinks, gets wild with his friends, and is trying to start a business.  There’s a lot of very funny  moments in this film, and Siddharth is great at the comedy.  It wouldn’t be a Telugu film without the comedy uncle Brahmanandam – here he plays the loan officer.  Comedic character actor Sunil Varma is the family servant, who frequently gets Siddhu out of whatever jam he’s in.

The love music numbers were pretty darn adorable.

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To convince his father that she is the girl for him, Siddhu asks if Hasini can stay in the family home for a week.  Siddhu’s sisters and mother won’t even speak to her at first, but her irrepressible charm slowly wins everyone over.
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But then Siddhu tries to repress her and make her quiet to please his father.  She innocently reveals all that Siddhu has hidden from his entire family, but especially his father.  There is a big final confrontation with the father.  The film has a nice message advocating love marriage, and even the meek girl fiancee gets her own little feminist moment at the end.
Genelia was just a bubbly delight in this movie — she so much reminded me of Kareena’s performance as Geeta in Jab We Met.  I think I’d only seen Siddharth in dramas like Rang De Basanti and Enakkul Oruvan and it was really fun to see him in a lighter Rom Com.
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Rudhramadevi – Great story with horrible CGI

rudramadevi-759Rudhramadevi is currently on Netflix streaming in the US, unfortunately the original Telugu dubbed in Hindi.  Anushka Shetty of Bahubali fame, plays queen Rudhramadevi.  The coolest thing about this historical epic is that the main characters in this film are all based on real people.  Rudhramadevi ruled in what is now Telegana, dying in 1295, and was one of the first reigning queens in India.

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Gona Gannareddy (Allu Arjun) truly was a Robin Hood like figure supporting Radhrumadevi’s rule.  [I read Mahesh Babu turned down the role.]

For some bizarre reason, the filmmakers frame the film by having Marco Polo narrate the story  — to show how women ruling is a good thing, I guess.  But the CGI of those opening scenes and the sailing ship, is just horrendous.  At other points they use very cool animation drawings and I wish they’d just used those throughout, or drawings of maps.

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The film Rudhramadevi supposes that when she was born the King’s chief adviser (Prakash Raj) suggests the birth of a son be announced to the kingdom, so the unruly populous and the feuding relatives angling to take over the throne will be assured there is a male heir.  The young prince is raised in the forest and trained in warfare and sword fighting.  The young actress who played the young Rudhramedeva was really good.  She comes to court as a young teen for the first time, and meets two princes –  Gona Gannareddy and Chalukya Veerabhadra.  They escape the palace together, and she sees a statue of a woman, and realizes with shock that that’s what she looks like.  She runs home, and in a stunning scene for an Indian film, finds her pants soaked with blood down to her ankles.  She runs to her mother who tells her the truth.  She is given the choice to become the princess, but chooses to continue to live as the prince heir of the kingdom.

As a now young man, she’s expected to marry, and Nithya Menon plays the young princess she marries.  (Which totally made me think of Yentl, but she tells the princess she must remain celibate.)  Rudhramadevi has strong feelings for her best friend Chalukya Veerabhadra (Rana Daggubati).  He catches a glimpse of her outside the palace dressed as a woman, and becomes obsessed.  He’s derelict in his war duties he’s so smitten, and she appears again to him as a woman, which gives us this fantastic love duet, one of the highlights of the film for me:

What I loved about the story is that Anushka Shetty as Rudhramadevi is a kick ass warrior queen, and she’s not going to run off to marry her lover when she has duties as queen.   The whole story is so awesomely feminist and woman positive, and Anushka’s performance, especially in the fighting  and battle scenes makes me even more excited for Bahubali 2.

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The story is great, but the CGI is so bad that it takes you out of the film at times.  I don’t understand why they had to use digital outdoor backdrops for several scenes.  It seemed completely unnecessary.  This film wanted to be what Bahubali achieved, but they didn’t have the same money to execute it.

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This is an example of some of the worst effects.  To show either Allu or Rana riding a horse, they were head on to the camera with their head horribly photoshopped on a repeating GIF of a body moving up and down on a fake horse head.  Over and over and over.  It looked SO bad.  And they made it a poster!  Ugh!

If I had a young daughter, this is a fantastic story of a warrior queen, but I’m not sure older more sophisticated kids could get past the bad special effects.

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Still, a mostly enjoyable watch, with very cool characters, great action battles, and some nice song numbers.  Kudos to Rana Daggubati for playing the Chris Pine to Anushka Shetty’s Wonder Woman.

Three stars out of five.

Check out Margaret’s take on Rudhramadevi on her blog Don’t Call It Bollywood.  She delves much deeper into the gender politics the film.

 

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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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.

Okkadu – Now My Favorite Mahesh Babu Movie so far

Over the last two days I watched Okkadu, my third Mahesh Babu movie.  It’s on Google Play.  But in looking for a clip I just discovered the whole thing with subtitles is on Youtube.

 

I got about 20 minutes in and I realized I was watching the Southern film that Arjun Kapoor’s Hindi Tevar was based on!  Kabaddi and all.  Okkadu has a better title, because it means “The One” which has several meanings.  The girl is the one for the villain (Prakash Raj again!) and Mahesh is the one who can save her and win her heart.

Normally I don’t notice the background score very much in Indian movies, but this one started by riffing off the opening music of West Side Story.  I kid you not.  It was the Jets and the Sharks all the way complete with snapping fingers and jazzy music.  Not a direct copy of the music, but definitely inspired.  Totally inspired by, and it made me smile.  Watch the first few minutes and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

It’s fascinating to me what they kept the same, and what they changed for the Hindi version.  I was one of the few people who actually liked Tevar (because Arjun!) but Okkadu is so much better.

Okkadu was a megahit in 2003 for Mahesh.  It was remade in Tamil, and Bengali (both megahits) and then twelve years later as the Hindi Tevar — not so much a hit.

In Okkadu, the young woman Mahesh saves is played by Bhumika Chawla who the same year had almost the same sort of role with Salman in the Hindi film Tere Naam.  Swapna (Bhumika) is being forced into marriage with a goon  (Prakash Raj) who has killed her brother.  Ajay (Mahesh) sees the goon dragging Swapna towards a car as she’s crying.  He punches the goon and rescues the girl, not realizing he has just punched the crime boss of the town.

The negative to Bhumika’s role vs Sonakshi Sinha in Tevar, is that Bhumika starts the film very passive, and Sonakshi gets to reject the goon villain with some tevar of her own at first.  Bhumika as Swapna is mousy and terrified (but with good reason) and only when she’s kidnapped at the end to be forcefully wed to Prakash does she get some gumption.  She tells him, go ahead and force yourself on me but I’ll only have my one, my true husband before my eyes, Ajay (Mahesh).  (Much more effective and satisfying than the parallel scene in Tevar).

Prakash Raj as the villiain is way creepier than Manoj Bajpayee because Manoj falls in love with Sonakshi just from seeing her dance one time.  Prakash has been waiting for Bhumika to “mature” for it sounds like years so he can marry her against her will.   She has reason to be terrified from the get go.

In Okkadu, Mahesh is mid-20’s and still has that boy to man thing going on.  The film is really about him becoming a man.  In the beginning his boy gang is fighting another boy gang.  His whole life is just winning the kabaddi championship.  Tevar is the same, but the first fight (also in defense of a harrassed girl), but Arjun fights an adult man.  In Okkadu, his fight with the adult goon Prakash feels like his first step to taking on the responsibility of manhood.

(adorable!)

Tevar uses the Taj Mahal as the backdrop, and Arjun’s house in Agra has this whole roof top terrace with a view of the monument.  It’s similar in Okkadu, but instead the movie is in Hyderabad and Mahesh’s family rooftop terrace overlooks the Charminar mosque, but it’s much more woven into the plot.  At one point he hides Swapna inside one of the minarets, and they escape by running through the crowds coming to afternoon prayer.  (In Tevar it’s Holi.)

One thing Tevar is missing is that in Okkadu Prakash Raj (and his politician brother) have this goonda cigar smoking mother who was a RIOT.  Her intro scene:

One thing that Tevar did better was the relationship of Arjun’s character and his policeman father.  In Okkadu, the father arrests Ajay (Makesh) but it doesn’t feel like it was for his own protection as in Tevar.  I didn’t like the father of Ajay, although there were a few funny family scenes.  But I loved Arjun’s father in Tevar — you saw where Pintu (Arjun) got his tevar from.  Exasperated with him, but ultimately respecting Pintu.

There was one thing I hated about Okkadu – one scene that just infuriated me.  Mostly Mahesh was adorable and steadfast.  At one point, Swapna (Bhumika) is reluctant to get to the airport and asks to stop for a snack on the way.  Ajay turns around and she’s vanished.  He finds her and slaps her in a “What were you THINKING?” kind of way, and then she reveals she had just bought him a gift — “Knee caps” (knee pads) for his Kabaddi championship game.

Other than that one off note, I adored the movie.  I’m just going to pretend that moment didn’t happen — like I ignore the undressing scene in Baahubali.  Ajay does feel major remorse later looking at those knee caps — knee pads.  But he doesn’t grovel or apologize.

And while the action scenes are just as gravity defying, somehow they are a little less ridiculous than Arjun being stabbed and slashed by a sword and still getting up to wallop Manoj.  Gunasekhar, the writer/director of Okkadu just keeps a fantastic pace to Okkadu, and the action scenes are really well done and inventive.  It’s just filmed better and edited better than Boney Kapoor’s Tevar.  The songs feel organic to the narrative.  There is no shoe-horned item song as in Tevar.  I do like the music in Tevar and listen to Superman all the time, but the music numbers in Okkadu have better placement and flow for the most part.

The scene that is absolutely better in Okkadu is their parting at the airport, because Swapna (Bhumika) runs back and proposes to Ajay.  “I don’t want to leave.  I want YOU.”  It’s a fantastic moment.

This is just going to be one of those movies for me, one of my favorites I will rewatch.  I mean, West Side Story music!!  But mostly Mahesh is awesome.

Some recommended films from around India

For my Hindi pick, Paheli is certainly not one of SRK’s biggest films but I love it.  Fantasy films seem to be unusual in Hindi cinema, and in this film Shahrukh Khan plays a number counting merchant husband, and a Ghost or spirit (sort of a genie, really) who takes his place.  Rani Mukerji is the bride who captivates the Ghost, with Amitabh as a wise shepherd in a cameo.  It’s a fable that is also about women’s empowerment, and the scene where SRK tells Rani he’s a ghost is one of my all-time favorites.

And the soundtrack!!

   

My Tamil pick is Mani Ratman’s 2015 film OK Kanmani, with music by A. R. Rahman.  A young couple (the charming Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menon) wants to live together because they are cynical about marriage.  They learn about true love from an older married couple.  Prakash Raj (who we’re used to see as a villain in Hindi films) plays a devoted husband to his wife with Alzheimer’s.  If you live in the US, it is on Netflix streaming, and I highly recommend this wonderful film.  I sought out this film after hearing the song Mental Manadhil at an A. R. Rahman concert.  So glad I did!

Dulquer Salmaan from OK Kanmani is usually in Malayalam films, and that’s what brought me to watch the Malayalam film Bangalore Days.  This is my number one pick of Malayalam films I’ve seen so far.  It’s a wonderful coming of age tale about three cousins and has a great ensemble of young Malayalam actors in it.  Ohm Shanti Oshana is also a great woman centered film (with the same lead actress above), but Bangalore Days, Bangalore Days, Bangalore Days!

For Telugu films, there can be only one — Baahubali!  I was so blown away by this film, I watched it four times in the theater!  This film is available dubbed in Hindi, but you can readily rent the Telugu version on Youtube.  Prabhas plays a dual role, Shivuvu and Baahubali.  It is EPIC.  It’s a fantasy with stunning visuals.  S. S. Rajamouli cannot be matched for his imagination in film (have you seen Eega where the hero is a FLY?)   The battle scenes rival films like Gladiator, and there are several kick-ass women characters.  Mirchi is my second favorite Telugu film I’ve seen so far, also starring Prabhas with Sathyaraj (Kattappa in Baahubali).  It’s so long to wait till 2017 for part 2 of Baahubali!!