Ravana’s predicament

Margi Madhu Chakyar enacted the role of Ravana with finesse in ‘Asokavanikankam’, an act from ‘Ascharyachoodamani’

Saravanan Irukka Bhayamaen: Comedy of horrors

Udayanidhi Stalin’s latest outing Saravanan Irukka Bhayamaen has all the elements of a mass entertainer — comedy, love, horror and action. But none of it works. The comedy is crass, the horror makes you squirm, love is non-existent and the action is terrible.

The story is wafer thin. Like most Tamil film heroes, Saravanan (Udayanidhi) is a jobless youth who roams around on a two-wheeler with his bunch of friends. Kalyanam (Soori), his uncle, aspires for a political career but due to an error committed by a drunk photographer, Saravanan ends up as the local head of a national party and this upsets his uncle.

Kalyanam is left with no option but to leave the country to take up a petty job in Dubai.

His other uncle’s daughter Thaenmozhi (Regina Cassandra) returns to town after many years and quite naturally, Saravanan is besotted with her.

In the meantime, Kalyanam returns and awaits an opportunity to teach a lesson or two to Saravanan. Whether Saravanan succeeds in his love and whether Kalyanam manages to put Saravanan in his place, is narrated in the most boring fashion.

Saravanan Irukka … has roped in almost all comedians in the industry — Madhumitha, Robot Shankar, Madan Bob, Yogi Babu, Manobala, Chaams — and should have resulted in a laugh riot.

But the film falls flat. It’s like watching various randomly chosen episodes from the popular live comedy TV show, Kalakka Povadhu Yaaru.

Uday, who gave a neat performance in his earlier film, Manithan, fails to impress. His fans who were howling and hooting initially, walked out of the theatre silently. Soori has to change his style of comedy and reinvent himself to get to the next level.

Director Ezhil’s strength is comedy. But even that doesn’t work here at all.

Baahubali 2: a befitting conclusion


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Reviews

Baahubali – The Conclusion is a game changer. Years from now, filmmakers who dream big but shy away from taking that leap of faith will probably draw strength from the work of this team. With part one, this team broke the barriers of what otherwise gets boxed into a ‘regional film’ and took it to a pan-Indian audience, ending with a cliff hanger and the raging question ‘why Kattappa killed Baahubali’ #wkkb.

There were awe-inspiring sequences and characters about whom we wanted to know more. There were also niggles, like the track between Mahendra Baahubali (Prabhas) and the guerilla warrior Avantika (Tamannaah). With The Conclusion, the team makes The Beginning seem like child’s play. They raise the bar to give us a visually breathtaking film that also makes up for a few aspects that were found wanting in part one.

Baahubali – The Conclusion

  • Cast: Prabhas, Anushka Shetty, Rana Daggubati and Ramya Krishna
  • Director: S S Rajamouli
  • Music: M M Keeravani

The Rajamouli that ardent Telugu moviegoers know is an excellent storyteller. Here, he gives us well-defined back-stories (story by Vijayendra Prasad) with the necessary emotional heft. The magnificent Mahishmati is celebrating its victory over the Kalakeyas, and its king-to be, Amarendra Baahubali (Prabhas). Beneath the celebratory layer, something sinister is brewing. The larger than life palace appears eerie, as though it awaits the impending fall from grace.

Amarendra, oblivious to the viciousness of Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati), gives his all to be the dutiful foster son and the prospective king his people would be proud of. The film is a whole lot more than #wkkb. It’s a conflict of characters, caught in the whirl of palace politicking and deceit. The face-offs take place between Mahendra Baahubali and Bhallaladeva, between the loyal Kattappa (Sathyaraj) and the conniving Bijjaladeva (Nasser) and more interestingly, between Sivagami (Ramya Krishna) and Devasena (Anushka Shetty).

As each of these characters reveal to what extent they can go for their convictions, the actors’ real names seem like a blur. You’d rather give in to their screen names and parts. Prabhas, Anushka and Rana get their career best roles. As the two Baahubalis, Prabhas is still lifting boulders, trees and whatever mighty is in front of him to protect people who matter. He is regal and assured as Amarendra and thirsty for revenge as Mahendra, learning war tactics along the way. Rana is on a beast mode as the dark, ominous Bhallaladeva.

It’s Anushka who’s a revelation. Not even in Rudhramadevi did she shine as she does as Devasena. Thrown into an unenviable situation, she stands her ground and questions the basic tenets of the kingdom. Her portions with Sivagami (Ramya Krishna, once again aces the part) drive a chunk of the drama.

Broadly speaking, Baahubali – The Conclusion is a tale of good vs. evil. Ever since we saw Devasena in part one gathering twigs for a funeral pyre we knew what’s in store. But within that framework are sequences that warrant a suspension of disbelief and an intriguing match of wits. The film has several of those, particularly the events that unfold during the crowning of Mahishmati’s king. A hat tip to the team that made it possible, from cinematographer Senthil Kumar to production department captained by Sabu Cyril and the visual effects team.

The downer in this fantastically-mounted spectacle is the climactic portion — let’s just say Marvel superheroes would be put to shame.

For the most part, The Conclusion doesn’t let us take our eyes off the screen. It’s designed to be a cinematic celebration, one that deserves to be watched on the largest screen possible.

Smurfs to the rescue

The funniest thing about Smurfs: The Lost Village is Gargamel’s cat, Azrael, which is way smarter than the evil wizard.

Based on Belgian artist, Peyo’s, 1958 creation, The Lost Village is a computer animated reboot and not sequel to the 2011 and 2013 movies. Directed by Raja Gosnell, the earlier films were a combination of live action and animation and starred Hank Azaria as Gargamel.

The film opens with introductions to the Smurfs as they go about their business in their pretty village. There is Vanity, Jokey, Farmer, Nosey, Brainy, Clumsy, and Hefty Smurf. There is wise and a tad over-protective Papa Smurf and Smurfette, the only girl Smurf. Gargamel is up to his usual tricks to capture the Smurfs and use their essence to become the smartest wizard in the whole world — he does need help. When he finds a map to a hidden village of Smurfs, Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy, and Hefty plan to get there first to warn the villagers of Gargamel’s nefarious plans.

At a time when young adult fiction glories in bleak, dystopian worlds filled with horrific cruelty, the vanilla world of the Smurfs is a relief. The 90-minute running time with colourful adventures where things never get too scary is perfect for its very young target audience and doesn’t test the patience of the accompanying adults too much.

Julia Roberts gives voice to Smurf Willow, Papa Smurfs’ opposite number in Smurfy Grove, the lost village, while Michelle Rodriguez continues her street-smart Letty avatar from the Fast and Furious movies to play Smurf Storm. Gordon Ramsay takes a break from making contestants cry to play Baker (naturally) Smurf.

The Lost Village keeps things moving; but also gives you time to marvel at the comic books to come out of Belgium — remember Hergé and Tintin?

Blind couple’s love in its pristine form

Over the years, the Kannada audience has seen films featuring many persons with special needs. Most of them sent across the message that the visually challenged are better than those with vision in terms of seeing and enjoying the “real” world. Raaga by P.C. Shekar, known for his technically superior film-making and unique subjects, is another touching visual narrative of a blind couple’s love in its pristine form. It is a sincere effort at a retro-romance.

However, though film moves like poetry through arresting visuals, soothing music and occasional comic scenes till the interval, it starts crumbling in the second half because of clichéd treatment. It is difficult to digest why films about disabilities, especially those dealing with visual impairment, tend to end as tragedy. Shekar intentionally brings class status to create a rift in the relation between the lead characters, but fails to make a realistic portrayal of both the high and middle class.

When Shekar claimed during the making of Raaga that he took 14 years in scripting the film and kept Tamil actor Vikram in mind, filmgoers expected much from Raaga. But the film has nothing new to offer, except the brilliant performance of Mitra and Bhama.

Mitra and Bhama occupy most part of screen time and both deliver their best. Mitra entertains with dialogues which strike the right chord besides offering a philosophical touch. In parts, he reminds the audience of Chaplin in City Lights. Bhama’s performance is better as a visually challenged than as a “normal” person. Both try their best to communicate through music and emotions. Ramesh Bhat as Appaji is appealing with his matured performance. Songs, including Aalisu Baa by Jayanth Kaikini and Manasina, offer lyrical quality to the narration. S. Vaidi steals the show with his colourful images.

For the convenience, the film is set in the ‘80s when mobile phones were not available in Bengaluru, and the art director succeeds in providing a near-authentic vintage touch. Attempts to capture every minute detail about the life of a visually challenged person — from reading Braille to body language and expressing emotions — have been done well by the director and the art director.

Nagarvalam: Vexed in the city

Markx’s debut film, Nagarvalam, keeps us guessing for a while: is it a gangster film or a crime thriller? Turns out, it’s a love story in the end.

Kumar (Balaji), a shabby-looking water tanker driver falls for Janani (Deekshitha), a girl who is just out of school and is set to take up an engineering course. Every trip for supplying water becomes an excuse to flirt. When he realises she is the sister of a powerful gangster, Kumar goes all chicken. Janani, however holds herself steady and refuses to undo their relationship. Whether the lovers unite against all the odds forms the rest of the story.

Nagarvalam

  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Markx
  • Cast: Balaji, Deekshitha, Bala Saravanan, Yogi Babu
  • Storyline: How a water-tanker driver and his girlfriend defend their love

Nagarvalam has brought together Yogi Babu and Bala Saravanan for the first time — both deliver splendid comic performances. What does not work though is the lean-and-lanky Balaji’s performance as the rugged lorry driver. Deekshitha, it looks like, has followed only the director’s instructions to a T; nothing more, nothing less.

Weaved into the narrative are social issues such as honour killing, casteism and violence against women. But the disjointed screenplay and lack of empathy for the lead pair undoes the efforts of other departments.

The film is mildly reminiscent of Balaji Sakthivel’s Kaadhal (2004) that handled similar themes with more finesse and vision. Nagarvalam, though, ends up being such an over-long bus journey — you would rather hop off the bus and take an autorickshaw than sit through all its stops.

Lanka: Blame it on telepathy


Telugu cinema


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In a normal scenario, we throw around terms like telepathy and intuition to explain happy coincidences. It could be a call from a dear one who seems to have read our mind and has the precise answers. An intuition can make us sense something amiss and avert a situation or maybe be prepared to tackle it better. Telepathy and intuition are deeper studies in psychology.

Sri Muni’s Lanka uses a few aspects of telepathy, albeit in an eerie situation. Swati (Ena Saha) plays a Malayalam actress shooting in Hyderabad and clearly in distress. She’s so afraid to be alone that she gets morbid dreams while left on her own in a hotel room. Then, she meets someone who reads her mind and helps her overcome her fear, drawing strength from principles of telepathy.

Swati, along with a crew of a short film, spends a few days at Rebecca’s (Raasi) abandoned house. An unlikely bond develops between Swati and Rebecca, the latter urging her to trust telepathy.

Sri Muni’s storytelling throws in a fair amount of chills and thrills to keep the horror element alive. A troubled past, a woman who is happy to believe that her children are still alive and a girl running away from an impending mess all make you sit up and think some thought has gone into weaving this story. The intrigue factor makes you look past the somewhat bawdy jokes that come in through Shakalaka Shankar.

Ena Saaha befits the part of a vulnerable girl and Sai Ronak portrays the mix of amateurishness and passion for cinema in an aspiring filmmaker. The narrative also comments on how anyone and everyone sets out to make short films with the hope of making it to the large screen someday.

The plot gets murky and interesting when Swati goes missing. But soon enough, the narrative gets tedious with needless twists and turns. Also, when quite a bit of screen time is devoted to a cooked up story intended to mislead an investigation, it also misleads the audience and ends up looking preposterous.

Lanka is the work of a fairly good technical team, helped by Ravi Kumar’s cinematography and Sricharan Pakala’s music. Raasi makes an impression in the central role in spite of mostly talking in riddles. Initially, it adds to the eerie atmosphere warranted of a horror film but eventually gets tiresome.

Lanka

Cast: Raasi, Ena Saha, Sai Ronak

Direction: Sri Muni

Music: Sricharan Pakala