I Really Liked the Romance in Sushant Rajput Singh’s Raabta

I didn’t LOVE Raabta as much as Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood did, but it was a welcome couple hours of escape for me this weekend.  We have a family member that has just been put into hospice, and this movie took me away to beautiful Budapest for a bit.  Several shirtless scenes of Sushant also helped very much, the first in the very first minute of the film.

As Margaret said, it’s Magadheera, but totally different.  If you want an action film, go see Magadheera.  But Raabta is a timepass romance with some angst.

 

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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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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.