Alex Strangelove – Movie Review

What’s with Netflix originals I’m watching this week being totally mediocre films? First Sierra Burgess and now this one..

Alex Strangelove is the story of Alex Truelove (Yep, that’s his last name). For some reason he reminded me of Ross from FRIENDS (watch and let me know if you felt so too?). So, Alex the nerd is a virgin and his equally nerdy girlfriend Claire wants to devirginize (is this a new word I don’t know? Gen Z, I tell you) him. Alex, however, is so prudish you would think he’ll make Alok Nath proud. Enter Elliot, a curly-haired boy who’s out and proud, and Alex begins to wonder which way he swings. From here on, the story is anyone’s guess.

Spoilers from here:

What I liked about this film: Madeline Weinstein’s presence as Alex’s girlfriend Claire. She’s so easy on the eyes, and steps up to deliver a heart-warming scene or two when required. Alex’s friends – mainly Daniel Zolghadri as Dell and Nik Dodani as Blake – are superbly cast. Zolghadri gets some of the best lines in the film and he’s spot on with his acting. I’d love to see more of him. The run-time is around 100 minutes, and giving credit where it’s due, the film doesn’t really drag.

What I disliked: This list is longer than I thought it would be. To start with, I don’t understand why we weren’t shown Alex’s journey with his sexuality right from the word go, in chronological order. I say this because, towards the end of the film when Alex declares to his girlfriend that he’s gay (only after realization dawns on him thanks to his little reverie in a swimming pool that brings back memories from childhood), I didn’t actually buy it. Agreed, coming to terms with sexuality may not happen gradually for everyone. Agreed, it may take just an encounter or two for you to realize you actually play for the other team (as well). Alex’s coming out to Claire seemed off because he says he kinda knew it always but didn’t really face it. Why then, would he, with cent percent conviction, outright deny being gay earlier in the film? If he was blatantly lying then, or even wondering about it himself then, there’s nothing on Alex’s face that shows this. When Claire asks him how he couldn’t know and why he didn’t tell her, he says, “for the fear of losing you”. Doesn’t this seem off? I don’t know. Maybe this is just me, and others might find this totally convincing. I would have loved to watch his journey with his identity from the word go (one thing Sierra Burgess got spot-on!).

Antonio Marziale’s Elliot is a pawn of sorts here. His character lacks any depth and is merely used a litmus for Alex’s sexuality. There’s hardly any chemistry between the two men, partly because their romantic angle wasn’t fleshed out well. Moving on…we don’t get enough info about Claire’s family, and her Mother’s health in particular. Alex’s parents too hardly get to do or say anything. Elliot’s best friend gets just once scene, and I wish she had more to do in the proceedings.

Overall, Alex Strangelove ends up being mediocre. I’m going with 2.5 out of 5! This film is streaming on Netflix.

All the images used are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on Netflix.

Sierra Burgess Is A Loser – Movie Review

Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is a film we’ve all seen before. Nothing radically new or fresh, it’s the story of a misfit navigating through high school, crushes, love, self-discovery and all that jazz. This is a formula that’s been working for Hollywood for years now and so, here we have another film!

This film isn’t by any means memorable. You’re likely to forget it in the midst of so many similar, infinitely better ones in the genre, but what makes this watchable is the immense acting potential of Shannon Purser. It’s not obvious, and she doesn’t really get to showcase her acting range within this mediocre film, but you know potential when you see it. After stints with Stranger Things (as Barb Holland) and Riverdale (as Ethel Muggs), this is her first full-fledged role. She does her best, but at the end of the day she has to operate within the confines of the cliched character she plays.

Speaking of cliches, this film reeks of them. There’s a black best friend (him being gay would have upped the cliche-meter by a hundred, but thankfully he’s not), a “hot jock” Sierra crushes on, that mean, white and popular super-model-ish chick in high-school..you name it. But one difference that I’ve noticed in this film is that the central character, Sierra in this film, doesn’t start out feeling like a victim. For the most part, right from the beginning, she’s shown to be confident enough in her own skin – partly because of her upbringing (she has very sane parents who taught her S-E-L-F E-S-T-E-E-M early on in life). And that’s one thing I liked. Trouble starts mid-way through the film, when Sierra does things that you wouldn’t expect of her. This also stands to show that the makers of the film have no intention of making Sierra play the good guy always. Like many teenagers her age, she too does stupid stuff thanks to momentary feelings. This actually warms you up more to this character.

The film could have been paced better. There’s warmth in some scenes, and Purser makes sure she delivers in these, but it’s all too familiar to give any special attention.  Noah Centineo as Jamey is reliable as always, and has this charm that’s hard not to fall for. Looks like Netflix moved over from Radhika Apte to Centineo now (To The All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, and now this). The guy who plays Dan fits the bill. The girl who plays Veronica is good too. I’d love to see Purser in a meatier, “performance-oriented” role soon. There’s a lot of talent in her to watch out for!

The climax is a little too convenient, and could have been written better. We know it’s going to end well for all the folks in the film, but c’mon yaar, it cannot be that easy too! I would have liked some more drama towards the end, to be honest.

Overall, Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is not a loser, but isn’t a winner either. It’s your average film, and you could watch it if you don’t find anything better on Netflix. I’m going with 2.5 out of 5! The film is streaming on Netflix.

All the images used are screen-shots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube.

Manu – Movie Review

Why is this even a film? Kya majboori thi?

Here’s what I think happened (and I’m told this actually happened, more or less): Phanindra Narsetti, the writer-director-editor (of short film Madhuram fame) got an story idea for a short film. But then again, he thought why make a short film when you can pace down the 30-min content, stretch it to 3 hours and make a feature out of it? Then he called Chandini, who readily agreed.

80% of this film was shot in slow-mo for reasons best known to the crew. How can you not get bored of a door being opened for 5 f**king minutes? How can you tolerate slow-mo shot after slow-mo shot of just people’s legs while walking? Even dust in the air gets slow-mo shots. FML. I’m not exaggerating – this is supposed to be a 30-minute short film (I’m still not saying it’d be a good one, but you get the drift). Half of the dialogues in this film are just people wondering/saying/asking out loud obvious things. They’re as useless as “What’s up?”. The outcome would always be “Nothing”. The other dialogues aren’t really easy on the ears either. What was the need to be extremely extremely and needlessly poetic AND philosophical with each and every dialogue, really? It’s as if each word was written to bowl the audience over and show them what a great writer Narsetti is. I still gave it time, thinking maybe it’d get better, but after a point it just gets too much.

The film’s ridiculousness knows only one way, and it soars higher and higher until you wonder if this shit-fest can get any more stupid, and THEN IT DOES IT AGAIN! Ridiculousness may still be okay, but after a point there’s creepiness sinking in. One particular scene ups this creep-quotient to a crescendo, and I wondered why I have to put myself through this shit. For you. I watched this cringe-fest because you shouldn’t. I took one for the team, you guys.

I strongly believe directors shouldn’t edit their own films. Except maybe RGV. Clearly, Narsetti is OBSESSED with and mesmerized by his work – which is why we get to watch 2.5 hours of extra footage. The narcissism is written all over the film. Anyone who is even a but self-critical will edit out half this film, regardless of however much it means to them. At one point I actually wondered why the “crowd” funded this film.

It’s not like there’s solace to be found in anything else within the movie. You’d think the background music is good, but give it time, and it gets on your nerves. 60% of the time, the same BGM plays. It irritates the crap out of anyone. The film is drenched in dull tones, and some visuals are clean, but there are one too many RGV angles and zillions of slow-mo shots to spoil the experience for you. It’s easy for screenwriters of films in this genre to blame bad writing on non-linear screenplay, but make no mistake here: this is clumsy writing. It could have been way smoother. The performances aren’t something the audience will remember, either. The actors probably will, because honestly this could easily be their best work to-date, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Chandini has to do the heavy lifting here, and she hardly manages to do justice. Sure, she’s good in some scenes, but falls flat in most others. In films like this, inconsistency is unforgivable. Raja Goutham’s beard masks most of his expressions, if any. It could easily have been some other actor playing this role.

At 3 hours (which feel like 6), Manu is probably Narsetti the dad’s favorite kid – he nourishes her, dotes on her and is extremely and CLEARLY proud of her. She eventually ends up being a twisted, crushing bore. Next time, sir, get your kids a mom who will cut the crap out of them!

I’m going with 1 out of 5! Nope, don’t watch it.

All the images used are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube. Featured image courtesy The Hindu.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Movie Review

This Netflix film is an adaptation of Jenny Han’s 2014 YA novel by the same name. I haven’t read the novel, so no comparisons would follow, but I liked this little film. It’s one of those feel-good YA movies you’d watch to pass time on a Friday evening.

The typical “high-school” elements we’ve come to read/watch in US/Canada productions are all there. If you’re reading this in India, you’d agree with the fact that we cannot really identify with “the high-school crap” that most of these young adults go through in the foreign countries; at least for me high-school wasn’t really a hell-hole. Dozens of movies and books later, “the high-school crap” is growing on me and I can now empathize with the movie’s Lara Jean, an introverted 16-year old who fantasizes about poetic love-stories but is too afraid to let herself experience the feeling. So she writes love-letters to all her crushes – five guys in total. Love letters that’ll eventually go inside a safe-box. What happens when these letters find their way out to their recipients is what the movie is about.

The setting is familiar and all the characters, cliched. What works in the film’s favor is how the director treated this simple and predictable material. The family dynamics in the Covey household make sure to tick off the family drama angle. The bonding between the Covey sisters is brought alive with much warmth. For the large part, though, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before plays around two characters – Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. As long as the film sticks to these characters and their story – which is for the most part, it works like magic. Everywhere else, it dips. We don’t get enough insight into the lives of the Conveys from before the lady of the house passes away, and how losing her mother shaped Lara (if at all) as we know her.

I also didn’t quite understand if Lara Jean really “loved” these boys, or if she was just infatuated by them. From whatever’s shown in the film, it very well might be the case. I would have loved to know the back-stories with each of the guys in detail (I don’t know if all this is in the book and was omitted before adapting it). Also, I think the mean-girl Gen is a stereotype in an already stereotypical high-school setting. Her thread, although important, is off-putting and comes off as immature.

The acting is good, but inconsistent. In a few scenes, Condor shines and yet in others, you can almost see her “acting”. Noah Centineo makes an impression. Israel Broussard appears lost for most of his screen-time.

At a crisp 100 minutes, the film’s a breeze, no doubt, but I doubt if I’ll re-watch it. You may watch it for some teen drama. It’s streaming on Netflix.

PS: All images are screenshots from the film’s trailer on Netflix. Featured image courtesy IMDB.

Ee Nagaraaniki Emaindi – Movie Review

Truth be told, I went in with crazy high expectations. For one, I am a huge fan of Tharun Bhascker. Second, I LOVED Pellichoopulu. It’s easily one of the best movies of TFI for me. And then, there’s Vivek Sagar’s music.

Disclaimer: On some level, you could say I went in with some preconceived notion that this would be a good film, if not a great one (these days I’m more convinced with the idea that you CANNOT go to a film with a neutral mind. Regardless of how much you try to, it’s just not possible. However, you can always objectively opine about the movie AFTER you’ve watched it, and I can assure you that that’s what we do here at ReelTalk. If we think a movie is shit, it’s shit regardless of whether we’re fans of the director, actor, producer, music director etc).

So, here we go with my honest review of Ee Nagaraaniki Emyndi.

I didn’t particularly LOVE this film. I loved some parts of it, I liked the others. I mean, I had a good time watching this film, definitely. But I probably wouldn’t watch it multiples times.

Based on “almost true stories”, Tharun’s film is an ode of sorts to short-film makers, short-films, the art of film-making, and to an extent, friendship. And as far as short films in Telugu are concerned, Tharun is the voice of authority. It’s no surprise that he’d choose to make a film about a group of friends who want to make a short film. But but but, don’t be carried away. It’s not that from start to finish. Actually, a very small portion of the film is actually concentrated on the short-film thingy. Most of it can be called a “buddy film” – think of it as an extension to all the buddy-comedy scenes from Pellichoopulu, but with some heart and a love story thrown in.

Buddy-comedies tend to get sexist and vulgar. ENE tries very hard to not enter that arena and for 99% part, it doesn’t. I couldn’t help but notice a thing or two here and there, but it ends at that.

As far as entertaining you is concerned, ENE does a good job for the most part. There’s some drag in the second half and the film derails momentarily, but it picks up during the concluding moments, as it should. The first half is a breeze. Nothing impactful – this movie doesn’t set out to bring about a change or anything, and in that aspect it’s self-aware – but you don’t mind the film.

Vishwaksen is so easy on the eyes, and clearly there’s a lot of untapped potential in this actor. Sai Sushanth’s character is meaty and he bites into it like you wouldn’t expect a debutante to. Abhinav Gomatam is promising. Venkatesh Kakamanu doesn’t get much to do. Anisha Ambrose, the most experienced of the lot, fits the bill. Simran Chaudhary is okay too.

The Telangana dialect is used in this film, like in Pellichoopulu, and as always, it works. I’ve watched films in which dialects, Telangana included, are used to bring about a comic relief (for whatever crazy reason). Tharun’s maturity as a film-maker is evident from several things, one of which is certainly to make his movies as TRUE as possible. Hence the dialect choice. It’s refreshing and so so familiar!

That said, I think they should have done away with actors half-way uttering cuss words (not really half-way in one case, actually, and wonder why that wasn’t muted). We don’t necessarily need to rely on cuss words to make a point, and Tharun himself accomplished so much in Pellichoopulu without one single cuss word. Why here, I wondered, but it’s a relief the words didn’t come out in entirety. There’s U/A rating, but still. Maybe I’m just aging.

Vivek Sagar – Sammohanam and now this! I personally loved Aagi Aagi from ENE. The rest didn’t land as much as I had thought they would, but they didn’t sound off. Niketh Bommi, who previously handled the camera for Yuddham Sharanam (a movie only I liked, apparently), works his magic in this movie too. I think I even mentioned in my Yuddham Sharanam review that I had high hopes for this guy and boy, he delivers with this one too! Dialogues are neat throughout.

All said and done, I’d suggest you to go watch ENE at least once. Borrowing words from Jeremy Jahns, it’s a good time, no alcohol required. (The film has a lot of drinking and a lot of dialogues involving drinking, BTW)

PS: Wait for the climax. I thought it was nice. 😛 Also, the end-credits scene where the four friends talk about their favourite TV-shows during childhood. It’s a sweet throwback to our own childhoods!

PPS: All the images used in this review, including the featured image, are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube, uploaded by Suresh Productions. This review is not paid for or commissioned by anyone on the film’s team and opinions put forward in this review are solely those of the reviewer. 

Bharat Ane Nenu – Movie Review

Bharat Ane Nenu is old wine in an old bottle. I don’t get what’s so good about this movie that everyone’s going gaga over it.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but we’ve seen this story a million times before. Sekhar Kammula’s Leader and Deva Katta’s Prasthanam are still fresh in memory. Well, my memory at least. I am surprised that it didn’t cross people’s minds how similar BAN is to these movies. The basic script is more or less the same. Is the treatment different, then, you may ask? Different, in the way that this was poorly made and the previous two were not. BAN is essentially Leader and Prasthanam and a few other movies put into a mixer and diluted and diluted and garnished with some hero-worshipping elements.

While I am not surprised that this film is making the amount of money they say it is making (non-Baahubali record? What’s that? Would they later say non-Baahubali non-BAN record, and then when Naa Peru Surya releases, they’d say non-Baahubali non-BAN non-NPS record? WTF!), I am actually, genuinely surprised by the amount of thought that must have gone into writing this film. More or less two ducks might have been given while writing this film. Matlab yaar don’t play this safe also na!

Nearly every scene in this film you’ve watched play out a million times before. This is textbook approach (not in a good way) to making a film like this one. There’s absolutely no room for innovation here. At a time when the audience is looking for new scripts, serving age old stories with the same sappy, suck-y treatment doesn’t work anymore, at least as far as cinema as art is concerned. BAN plays to the tunes of expectations of a “commercial cinema”. I was hoping I would watch a good movie when during the initial 5 minutes, I saw Mahesh Babu graduating with 5 degrees/diplomas, from Oxford no less. I thought, “Okay, I’d like to see in detail how passing out from such a reputed university with stellar degrees will help Mahesh Babu’s character and how it will more or less make this film different”. Turns out, those degrees proved useless to the character or to the film. Bharat is surprised and genuinely pissed at the way people don’t give any flying duck about road safety or the ministers don’t give a rat’s ass about what they MUST be doing for the masses. But surprised and pissed even I am! And I don’t even have those fancy degrees from fancy colleges! So all that “UK se aaya, Oxford graduate” thread is pure BS.

The first half is a slog at close to 90 minutes. The second gets marginally better, but with the obvious, predictable drama. The heroine, debutante Kiara Advani, has 3.5 scenes in the first half. In the second – I was told by friends who’d already watched the film – that she had scope to perform and her character becomes integral to the goings-on in the film. Nope. Nope. Nope. Her role in the second half is a quick fix the writer opted for to conveniently bring some conflict point into the film. It’s so laughable.

It’s in-your-face evident that this film was made ONLY to make money, and make money it will. But the problem with this film is that it tries to be something more. It never delivers. Behind the reassuring political oaths, this script is a paper-thin one and on more instances than I can count, the mask slips and lays bare the film’s substance – too familiar, too little, too regular and too bland.

Mahesh Babu is alright. Pretty much the whole film was made keeping him in mind, so his character was suitably elevated (duh!). Prakash Raj is dependable as ever. Others are forgettable except Rahul Ramakrishna. DSP’s songs don’t land (most are redundant in the film anyway). The background score is good in parts and not so much otherwise.

I didn’t really like much in BAN. Come tomorrow, I’m sure to forget this film.

 

Hichki – Movie Review

I MAY have liked this film more than most people did. The reason for that is, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, ever since my third grade if I recall correctly, and this movie is the story of a teacher. A woman who spent 5 years searching for a teaching job but couldn’t land one because she has a speech defect called Tourette Syndrome. So Naina Mathur (Rani Mukerji) says “my intelligence doesn’t have Tourette” and never gives up hope. It all pays off when she finally lands a job as a math and science teacher at a renowned school in Mumbai.

Enter “basti ke bacche”, 14 students from a nearby slum who got admitted into this prestigious school. Naina has on her head the mammoth task of nudging this notorious bunch towards a better attitude, and better life. She takes it head on.

Now, there’s no twists and turns here. Everything unravels strictly by the book. Once you’re introduced to the characters, you know exactly where this movie is headed. But what the movie loses (if I may say so, at all) in terms of its unpredictability quotient, it gains and more in terms of interesting AND perceived contrast between our idea of a teacher and the reality.

The movie is a remake of the 2008 American film Front of The Class. While I haven’t watched FoTC, Hichki by itself is a very enjoyable film. It’s very heartwarming. At the center of all the drama is Rani Mukerji, shouldering the film. She never hits a false note, not once, and is a treat to watch. All the kids are flawless, with special mention for Harsh Mayar (national-award winning child actor for I Am Kalam). Harsh is going places, mark my words, y’all. The exceptional talent of Neeraj Kabi deserves a more etched-out character but within its scope, Kabi is perfect.

On the downside, I felt the the father-daughter duo and their thread deserved more attention.

Overall, I loved how I felt while watching the film and how I felt after leaving the theater. This may be a remake, but its meaningful cinema. I am going with 4/5 for Hichki!

PS: All the images are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube.

 

Karthavyam – Movie Review

Aramm went on to become a critically and commercially successful venture in Tamil when it released last November across TN. Its Telugu version, Karthavyam, released today across the Telugu speaking states and I watched it with not more than a dozen people in the theater. Honestly, not many people know that this film is releasing today, if at all they do know that it exists. And that’s a real shame, because I really liked this film and I think, so did the handful of others who watched it with me.  

I think this is one more reason why reviews and reviewers are important. If reviewers and critics could watch movies like Karthavyam and put their word out, more and more people would first know the existence of such movies, and if they are good, they will go watch them.  

Anyway, Karthavyam is led by Nayanathara’s Madhuvarshini. She’s an honest and straightforward Collector whose primary responsibility is people and their welfare and she stops at nothing to do good to the masses. When she sets foot in a remote, parched village somewhere near Sriharikota, she gets entangled in an emergency situation involving a family of four. How she deals with this crisis – or helps people deal with it – and a couple of others on the side, and emerges a people’s leader, forms the story of Karthavyam. 

Firstly, the writer-director Gopi Nainar does a brilliant job of setting the thriller in a village near Sriharikota. Without divulging much information, I would like to really appreciate the poetic touch here (you’ll know why when you watch the film).  

*minor spoilers in the next few sentences*  

This contrast between human capabilities in reaching for the stars, and reaching barely a hundred feet below the ground, is wonderfully brought out. The problem of drought in these areas also is very smartly used and it contributes to something which eventually becomes the reason why a major event in this film takes place. And the fact that this is a village so close to the sea is also used to explain some other things later in the film. So, within its scope, this is a well thought-out film.

The first half an hour of the film feels like it’s jerky, but it eventually evens out and overall, it’s pretty good and engaging. There are several light-hearted moments in the first half, thanks to the wonderful Suni Lakshmi and Ramachandran Durairaj. The second half is more emotional. As drama quotient of this film begins to spike, so does the edginess of it all. Not a moment is wasted. There is one, probably two, loose threads in the film (no closure), that could have been explained or done away with, even (given that a screen-time of 5 mins is dedicated to discussing about one of them).  

The writing is clunky in the initial portions, likely intentionally, but is exceptionally good for the rest of the film. Apparently, Nayanathara had asked the director not to let her star-status and fan-following come in the way of the script. Well done, there! And it clearly shows. The film is devoid of star-worship. Even the leading lady’s character itself is not worshipped – on more than 2 occasions, her actions are questioned. But at the end of the day, this is a woman who’s hell bent on being a good human first. Nayanathara’s portrayal lends her character respect. She’s on point and totally in her elements here. Mr. Durairaj fits the bill as the father. It’s Sunu Lakshmi as Sumathi however, who is my personal favourite here. Lakshmi’s portrayal of an understanding, loving mother is just too good to turn the other way, and she’s equally terrific in the emotional scenes. This is a talent to watch out for! The kids, too, do their parts well.  

A quick Wikipedia reading told me that the director did not assign a gender to the role of the Collector until Nayanathara showed interest in the project and agreed to be a part of it. It worked really well this way, because the character’s maternal instinct can possibly explain her resolve in the later portions of the film (although this is not explicitly stated/shown).  

Overall, Karthavyam is a fine film with a relevant message. But that’s not the best of its achievements. The film raises several important questions very subtly and leaves the audience to ponder over them. Nicely done! 

I’m going with 3.75 out of 5!  

PS: All the images are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube.

Awe! – Movie Review

I’m still in the hangover of this movie and I really thought about whether or not I should review this movie immediately or give it some time, because it often so happens with good movies that if you like them too much, you become blind to their flaws for a while after the film’s over. And that’s never good for someone who reviews films because then the reviews won’t really give you a true picture. It’s been a while since I came out of the theater, so I think I can be unbiased here. Whatever it is, I assure you that I’m going to tell you just what the movie made me feel and nothing about the movie’s story – as that would mean giving spoilers and this is one film you should walk into without knowing a thing about it.

First things first, let me heap praises on both the director Prashanth Verma for coming up with Awe! and Nani for backing this project. Films can always go wrong, some kind of films more frequently than others. Awe! is that kind of a film. But oh my my, what a film this one is! I’ve been harsh towards Nani’s film choices as a hero lately but his bet as a producer is in the right place. Directed by debutante film-director Prashanth Varma (who earlier directed A Silent Melody, a short film produced by Sundeep Kishan), Awe! is a true genre-bender. If I have to really put it into a pocket, I’d choose psychological thriller. I wouldn’t say this movie is “inspired” by some Hollywood movies, as I am sure many reviews will soon call out, but it does have flavors that those movies had. I don’t want to insult the writing department by calling this movie “inspired” by other Hollywood films (I’m not going to say which ones because that would make the big reveal) because the last time I checked, different movies can be made with the same theme, and you can call it a rip-off or an inspiration when the plot itself is the same. We have no such issues here.

Awe! has an ensemble cast of Kajal Agarwal, Nitya Menon, Regina Cassandra, Eesha Rebba, Srinivas Avasarala, Priyadarshi Pulikonda, Murali Sharma, Divyadarsini, Rohini and Nani and Ravi Teja voicing a fish and a bonsai tree respectively. Every single one of them does their bit just as needed; there’s not one false note in any of their performances. They all have their separate threads carved out, and the director cuts between these different plot threads with very noticeably, and perhaps intentionally so. Each of these stories is engaging, some more so for me than the others, but they’ll all leave you wanting to know what happened after, and then the director cuts to the next thread. It’s a rather clever way of keeping the audience engaged, I must say, by leaving the business in the middle of something in one story and switching to another. Even with these jerks, the film seems to flow in the first half.

The second half feels longer than the first, but is also more rewarding. As different pieces start to come together to form the final picture, you’re already appreciating the cast and crew for making this film possible. There’s just one song here – the theme song, which is haunting to say the least. It’s a cleverly written song (more about it in the spoiler review, if I ever write one, or maybe Jishan could do it when he watches the film 😛 ). Even the titles at the start of the film are cleverly made. I have this bad habit of trying to figure out the film’s story from the animations in the titles and this time I didn’t make much sense of the titles but after having watched the movie, in hindsight, they make so much sense. A job well done!

This review would be incomplete without heaping praises on the technical department of the film. What a job! Take a bow, you guys! Karthik Ghattamneni’s camerawork is top-notch. Background music perfectly compliments the goings-on and editing is good as well.

Right after I came out of the theater, I made a mental note to myself that I would address this particular aspect of the film in my review. Awe! pushes boundaries – not just in the technical department, but also in terms of writing and developing scripts. Scriptsville must be credited generously for developing a script like this and the produces deserve a pat on the back for bankrolling this experimental film. And it’s not just that. Watch the first scene of the film involving Eesha Rebba and Nitya Menen and you’ll know what I’m talking about. That’s the first time I saw an in-your-face, unmasked portrayal of _____________ in the Telugu Film Industry, and Nitya and Eesha deserve a worthy mention for doing their part in sensitizing people to _____________ in India. Thumbs up for the director and writers as well, for they have not only decided to make this thread mainstream with this film, but also managed to give it the necessary dignity it deserves. The audience’s reaction to this scene, however, tells me that we have a long way to go as a matured society. More films like this will probably play their part in helping us get there.

Apart from the ____________ topic addressed in appreciable detail (with some good dialogues) in the scene I referred to above, the film also throws light on some other social problems like ______________.

Overall, I really liked the film. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I’m going with 4 out of 5!

PS: All the images are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube.

Padman – Movie Review

Padman is the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a metalworker from Coimbatore who made history by making low cost sanitary pads for women. What began as a way to make life better for his beloved wife, who had been using dirty cloth during menstrual cycle like so many other women in his village, not only gave way to a huge revolution which brought down social stigma surrounding menstruation but also made menstrual hygiene accessible to thousands of women in rural India at very cheap rates (almost a third of what the multinational-brands cost). What’s more applaud-worthy is that Mr. Arunachalam refused many multinationals’ offers to buy his brainchild, because then the cost per pad would only increase, thereby defeating the whole purpose.

This is one truly amazing story. If I had not read Twinkle Khanna’s The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, of which the story of Mr. Arunachalam is a part, I would not have believed this was a true story. Also, some trivia: this is not the first time this story was adapted to the silver screen. Phullu (2017, Hindi) is the first film to show Mr. Arunachalam’s life. While I haven’t watched Phullu, Padman comes from a popular director, starring popular actors and basically, with a big scale and a vast reach. It’s good for the film and the cause as well.

The film has a thoroughly entertaining first half. Or should I rather say, “engaging”? Not a moment is wasted. The director, R Balki (known for the wonderful Paa and the highly hypocritical Ki & Ka) establishes the characters neatly and presents the issue at hand without much ado. The leading man’s obsession with jugaadu (if I may use the word) is established without doubt when he makes a simple onion-cutter so his wife doesn’t have tears in her eyes while chopping the onions. This is not a man who gives up.

The second half is mostly enjoyable too but its dullest moments come in the form of the love angle between Akshay and Sonam. Sonam is okay, but her character isn’t really developed to mature, hence lacks the depth needed. If I were the writer/director, this is where I would have taken the cinematic liberty to change the story a bit and not give as much importance to the romantic angle here. It took away, although briefly, the feel of the film in the second half. But, all’s well that ends well, they say, and it’s true of Padman too. I found myself clapping in the final moments of the film (and at two or three other places too, actually).

Akshay powers Padman to the place where it stands. I’ve read reviews that said Padman fell prey to the stardom of Akshay and this is evidently seen in how the film falls flat because of it, but I honestly do not subscribe to this argument. In fact, I think the film has benefited a lot from Akshay doing it and not, say, Salman or Shahrukh. This is not to take anything away from Akshay’s stardom or his performance, but I just couldn’t imagine any other “star” of the Hindi film industry doing squats after wearing a sanitary pad himself, checking his posterior now and then to see if his brainchild worked. Radhika Apte is magical, as always. Sonam has the least to do here and does exactly what she can.

On the downside, however, it’s really mention-worthy that Padman comes with its own share of contradictions. Amidst the talk about women empowerment and all that, we also get dialogues like, “A person who cannot protect women isn’t a man after all”. Sexist much? I am not saying Mr. Arunachalam wouldn’t have thought this way. It’s quite possible. But you can at least choose to edit these things out when making a film like this. Subjects like these deserve perfection.

So in the end, I definitely liked Padman. I personally think most reviews out there are harsher than necessary but hey, to each his own! I’m going with 3.75 out of 5!

PS: All the pictures are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube.