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.

Bhaagamathie – Movie Review

In her latest outing, Anushka Shetty shows us yet again why she’s considered the Queen of TFI. In Bhaagamathie, it’s Sweety all the way. She’s practically in every frame of the film and you just cannot take your eyes off her. It’s really spectacular how she carries with grace this look in the film:

And then she does this just as convincingly:

It may not be anything unusual for an actor playing such roles. Sweety herself has done this before, but the sheer range of her acting prowess comes to the fore in this film. You may want to sit upright and take notice of a scene in the jail she has with Eswar Prasad (Jayaram). The switches she makes in a matter of seconds is really worth admiring.

Apart from the leading lady, all other actors fit their bills. Jayaram is serviceable. Unni Mukundan is really good but needs to work on the language (lip sync here, as he was clearly dubbed for) if he wishes to make a powerful presence. That said, I wish he learns the language and dubs for himself because it’s evident that he’s got the acting chops. Opportunities would be aplenty then. Asha Sharath is okay in a role she’s gotten used to so much by now (Drishyam in Malayalam followed by a string of similar roles). Dhanraj, Prabhas Seenu and Vidyullekhaa Ramann provide comic relief.

Although the writing gets just a wee bit knotty at places, it all evens out in the big picture. Overall, it’s a well written film. G. Ashok (Pilla Zamindar) directed this film and he managed to churn out a fine entertainer. Bhaagamathie isn’t really packaged as belonging to any particular mainstream genres. There are horror elements in it, there are thrilling elements as well but the film doesn’t fall into either of these categories. It’s also not a horror-comedy despite tickling a funny bone now and then. There’s also an important thread going on with political touches to it. And then we have the backstory (?) of Bhaagamathie. So what genre is it? I don’t know, and I don’t care. The film was fun, and that’s all I needed.

This review would be incomplete without a mention of what a tremendous job Thaman has done with the BGM of this film. I’ve seen too many horror/thriller films with ear-shattering BGM that’s primarily used as an alternative to genuine scary/thrilling stuff. That’s not how BGM in Bhaagamathie is. It adds to the experience rather than being the sole reason for the experience. A job well done, there!

All in all, Bhaagamathie is good fun! This one is a sure winner. I’m going with 3.5 out of 5!

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

Padmaavat – Movie Reivew

Putting the controversy, politics and its added emotions aside, after a point Padmaavat needs to be looked at purely as a film. A film which fluctuated between brilliance and being a drag quite frequently.

I walked into this film with huge expectations thanks to Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bhajirao Mastani. Every frame in that movie was a delight and treat to watch. There’s intense emotions and riveting plot coupled with great characters. Can I say the same about Padmaavat? Disappointingly No! Padmaavat has a few well written characters, but the movie struggles with the plot and its pacing. More than once, I wished the story just moved along a bit faster.

(Disclaimer: I knew the story of Rani Padmavati from a long time before the release. So nothing in the story was new to me. And so that could be one of the reasons why the story might not have appealed to me as much. But I did I look forward to the climax because I read so much about it. I wasn’t disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed that final act! Though a bit over the top dramatic, that climax does give you goosebumps with its music and emotion. But how it leads up to that final act is another story altogether that is riddled with plot holes and speed bumps)

As much as I was disappointed with the plot, I was also floored by another element: Performances in the film. Ranveer Singh as the evil Alauddin Khilji owns this! There is evil beyond reason and madness and that always makes for some good entertainment. Kudos to Ranveer to pull it off as well as he did. His performance alone is worth buying a ticket for.

But I bought the ticket for other reasons 😛 Deepika, you beauty! She was stunning in Bhajirao and she continues to be stunning here. That opening scene of her! Uff! Doesn’t the heart flutter? I can under Raja Ratansingh falling for her instantly. Who wouldn’t? 😛

But other than that plausibility, there were many plot points with no justification given. They were there just to push the plot along even if we don’t get to know the reason behind them. They looked silly in the larger scheme of things. And moreover could easily have been worked around had there been better writing. But thanks to over dramatization of each act in the movie, few scenes do end up being boring and silly. As it’s a spoiler free review, I can’t go anymore into the details.

Shahid Kapoor too does a decent job. Other than playing Ratansingh, he was also given the role to pacify the Rajput community with his dialogues that are aimed at only one thing: Praise the valor, ethos and skill of the Rajputs and their swords and in the process win over some protesting audience. Does it work? I sure think it does. I for one, was flattered with the community 😛

The cinematography, as always with any Bhansali film, was top notch. It’s one of the reasons why I look forward to his movies. The color palette, the sets, costumes work hand in hand and give us beautiful frames but not as frequently as it was for Bajirao (forgive me for the comparisons). The CG looked too artificial wherever it was used and that was a sore point for me. It wasn’t too bad but it wasn’t good either.

There was not much scope for song sequences in the film and so the songs too were okay considering that. It was nothing brilliant but works for this film. The background score was where the movie tries to hit hard. It tries to make up for the lacklustre writing with its rising tempos.

In the end, the movie was one huge tribute, glorification and love letter to Rajput community in India. It is sad that they read that letter upside down and were hurt. This movie would honestly make Rajputs proud about their ancestry. Audience can’t help but go, “wow” for them. But the movie on the whole, sometimes, beats its chest out, and sometimes puffs and drags itself. It is not thoroughly entertaining save for the performances from its lead actors: Ranveer and Deepika. And oh yes, also Shaihid.

But it isn’t a bad film by any stretch. It just did not come through as well as Bhansali would have hoped for. Watch it for the performances, with less expectations on the story and you might enjoy it (might!).

 

Agnyaathavaasi – Movie Review

Trivikram has fallen prey to stardom or, I don’t even know what, really, but it’s no secret that his writing is not what it used to be. How I miss the writer in Trivikram!! Since he got into direction, his writing quality has been on the downward curve and this film is the new low. I can understand if Trivikram the director screws up a movie. How would you feel if one of your favourite writers, the writer of Nuvve Nuvve and Nuvvu Naaku Nacchav and Manmadhudu and so many such wonderful movies, brazenly rip off a French film (scene to scene, I am told. I haven’t watched Largo Winch, but I will now)? Is it because he cannot come up with a story of his own, or he doesn’t want to? Or is it as Pawan Kalyan says in the film, “Kottha idea raanappudu paatha idea ne use cheddam”?

I do not have anything against remakes. This was an unauthorized one. A freemake. And from what I read on the internet, the director of Largo Winch is going to sue the makers of Agnyaathavaasi on the grounds of copyright infringement. And he must. I expect Trivikram, of all people, to know the fact that creative plagiarism is probably the worst of the kind. It’s theft. No comment has been made by Trivikram on this so far.

Let me get back to the movie itself. So stealing aside, the movie as a standalone film is a pain in itself. There might be some good in the story and the story itself might be good, but I am not going to credit Trivikram for that. The screenplay is clunky, direction strictly average, dialogues flat in half the scenes and needlessly Trivikram-y in the rest. This is one other thing I’ve come to dislike about his dialogues. We get it, you write well. BUT BUT BUT, every line doesn’t have to be a punch line. Every line need not have an alliteration. Every set of lines doesn’t need rhyming. Every dialogue doesn’t have to be your way of rubbing it in the audience’s faces that you’re the one writing them.

The film lacks soul. I am not kidding when I say I sat straight-faced through 95% of the film. The comedy is repetitive. It’s EXACTLY the kind of comedy you can expect from Pawan-Trivikram combination. Ahalya Amaayakuraalu becomes Kodaka Koteswara Rao here. That’s all. It’s not like the heavy, emotional scenes have substance either. There’s a lot of talk about how Pawan is very close to his step-mother Khusbhoo (spoilers) but it doesn’t reflect in the poor son-mother chemistry the actors seem to put up.

The first half is the most tolerable of the two. The second half is just SO SO SO bad, I wanted to walk out of the theater. I stayed because although it’s still January, this film was starting to look like it will make into my Worst 5 Movies of 2018 list (which ReelTalk will be doing in Dec BTW). Time JUST freezes in the second half. Songs come up every now and then and although Anirudh has done a good job with music, they just make you much more impatient. I mean, here you are, waiting for this crap-fest to over ASAP but boom! there you go, a song! I can as well listen to the songs on YouTube, you know?

The comedy is consistently third-rate. Love stories (if they can be called so) do not help. Keerthy Suresh and Anu Emmanuel have very little to do. If you ever watch the film, please pay attention to the scene where the two heroines engage in a cat-fight. That whole freaking scene is just so amateur and pointless and lame that it could have easily been from a poorly made short film. Aadi Pinisetty does his best in a role that ends just as abruptly as it begins. He isn’t just another board member in Boman Irani’s company, but he’s not also the main antagonist. He’s that average guy who enjoys more attention than he deserves.

I just do not know what to write anymore. I cannot wait to get back to Netflix or Primevideo and watch some quality content.

I’m going with 1 out of 5 for this dud.

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

Okka Kshanam – Movie Review

First things first, full marks for Vi Anand for taking up a concept like parallel life and using it in this film. At a time when it’s convenient to churn out horror-comedies and make quick bucks, it does take real passion for storytelling to find concepts like these and use them in films. Move over after-life! In this latest Allu Sirish and Surabhi starrer, we are audiences to a story that unfolds as parallel life as its central theme.

So parallel life is what it’s called when incidents (good or bad) in your life bear a striking resemblance with incidents in another person’s life, maybe even years and years apart. Take Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy for instance (you may want to Google this one). So basically, all hell breaks lose when the lovers Jeeva and Jyotsna (Sirish and Surabhi respectively) find a rather disturbing coincidence between their lives and those of a unhappily married couple (Srinivas Avasarala and Seerat Kapoor) living in the same apartment complex. Shit that’s happening to the other couple will happen to Sirish and Surabhi too, basically. So how these sweethearts deal with this mess and emerge victorious (alive?) IF they do, forms the rest of the film.

Okka Kshanam is entertaining, for the lack of a better word. There’s something about movies that go beyond the usual masala formula crap that deserve your love. This is not to say this film is devoid of commercial elements. I understand such elements make money, and making money is important. But exploring new shores is always exciting for both filmmakers and moviegoers and very rarely do the former do what Vi Anand has done here. Take this film. My best guess, half the audience didn’t know what the concept of parallel life meant. Unfamiliarity. Keeps you hooked.

Secondly, the execution also matters. This film, save for slightly loose and dragged second half, is mostly entertaining. Sirish is hardly a star right now (but to give credit where it’s due, I can see or at least hope this guy takes the same growing curve his brother took) and same is the case with everyone else in this film. No name in the cast list is a crowd-puller. The theme, oh yeah! There’s also a bit of comedy thrown in (and it’s okay-ish) if you don’t like to be on edge all the time. But to its credit, the film doesn’t sway from the central theme for the most part.

Camerawork is a huge plus here. Background music compliments the film. And as for the comedy part, it’s okay-ish as I said before, but I did imagine more than once how the film would have turned out had it stuck to “edge of the seat” stuff through and through. It could have been better, I think. Surabhi and Sirish fit their bills. Seerat Kapoor is really good in one particular scene shot at a hospital. I would really like to watch her do more performance oriented roles. Rohini deserves a special mention. Her mini-monologue with Sirish is one of my favorite scenes from the film, and also kind of really important for the film in its crucial, concluding moments, as it really sums up the final takeaway from the film: you just need a strong resolve and will to fight life, destiny and the like. That no matter how bad the odds are, there’s always a chance at life and love and if we wish strongly for it, we will make it.

Overall, I’d say this film promises a good time if you can sit through the slightly tedious second half. I’m going with 3.5 out of 5! 🙂

PS: The images are screenshots from the movie’s official trailer on YouTube.

 

Hello! – Movie Review

Hello! is a cute little film.

The film is a simple love story of Seenu – a street kid adopted by the lovely duo Ramya Krishnan and Jagapathi Babu – and a girl Junnu from a wealthy family. These unlikely childhood sweethearts must stand the test of time and distance until destiny plays its part to make them meet again, years and years later.

First things first, camerawork in this film is just so good. PS Vinod (whose notable earlier works in Telugu include Manam and Soggade Chinninayana) teams up as the man behind the lens for yet another Akkineni venture to recreate the magic from his earlier works. Each frame overflows with beauty. Hello! is a story, for the most part, set in the world of the rich. While there are no direct references to this fact, it’s obvious from the lavish houses to BMWs and Mercedes and grand weddings and PS Vinod makes sure he captures them in beautiful light and angles. Even in the darker settings, not a detail is missed. It’s just a treat to the eyes. The costumes department does an excellent job as well. Add to this a few ridiculously good-looking actors and we have a film that LOOKS too beautiful to be true.

The first half of the film is quite engaging. I don’t remember looking at my phone, and that’s basically saying I enjoyed the first part thoroughly. The second half is no trouble per se, but it does stretch a little bit. But rest assured, the film’s back on track within no time. At a run-time of a little over 2 hrs, Hello! is simple and entertaining.

Hello! isn’t as complex as Vikram K Kumar’s earlier ventures 24 and Manam. This is a much simpler film, but the director’s marks are aplenty. Be it a cross-roads that’s of importance to the story, or something as simple as a mobile phone that plays its part in the happenings, there are some elements that have rubbed off from Manam and 24, and it’s quite alright because Vikram is telling a different story here and these are just instruments.

Akhil Akkineni gets to do an awful lot of stuff in this film. Thanks to his younger self’s tree-climbing, he goes on to become some sort of a parkour expert (we’re never told how he gets to learn these amazing stunts). This basically means there’s a lot of running, chasing, jumping over the rooftops. A lot of action in the initial portions of the film. It also looks like Akhil’s on his way to be labelled as the best dancer in the Akkineni family. He gets to show his moves and boy, is he good! On the acting front, while there’s a lot more to do and this is only the beginning, he is decent if not exceptional. His best scenes are the casual ones, where he gets to be this rich guy doing normal stuff. That said, there’s potential to tap into here.

Kalyani Priyadarshan (d/o director Priyadarshan) seems confident overall but struggles in some scenes. I wondered how an established good performer would have suited for this role. Ramya Krishnan and Jaggu put on a good show – a sleepwalk for actors of their caliber. Anup Rubens gives some really nice tunes in his 50th film as a music director.

Overall, Hello! is a really good one-time watch. You may want to watch it at the theaters this weekend! I’m going with 3.5 out of 5! 🙂

 

MCA (Middle Class Abbayi) – Movie Review

I cannot put into words just how much this film BORED me. Even Nani couldn’t save this snooze-fest.

2.5 hrs after the movie started, it breaks into a song. Now, I never had a problem with lengthy run-times as long as the movie is engaging and it doesn’t make you feel like you’ve wasted your time and money. But this film wasn’t even a decent fare to start with and just prolonging the run-time by stretching the film to fatigue is not going to help your cause. MCA, directed Venu Sreeram (director of Oh My Friend starring Siddharth and Shruthi Hassan), is a mostly a crushing bore from start to finish, barring the very occasional funny scenes.

MCA revolves around the story of Nani (Nani), a “middle class abbayi”, of course, whose relationship with his Vadina (Bhumika Chawla) goes from strained to “she’s like a mother to me” after one “emotional” scene involving actor Naresh, a few bad things conjured up by the villain Shiva (Vijay Verma) and 2 hrs of other boring stuff.

The first half is the lesser of the two evils. It’s less punishing. Probably the only non-boring parts of the first half, and even the whole film for that matter, are the scenes involving Nani and Sai Pallavi. Priyadarshi’s role is a disappointment as the actors get very less to work with and in a film as bland as this, Priyadarshi-Nani combo could have been utilized to turn things for the better. Bhumika Chawla as the Vadina is okay-ish, but is mostly limited to being the quiet, respected woman. She barely speaks two full sentences at one go and this may be justified as her character trait but honestly, this even limits the character. Bhumika is serviceable but in this day and age with wonderful actors showing up from nowhere and setting the screen on fire, serviceable is not okay. For a character that’s being projected to have a steady moral compass, she offers money to an MNC in exchange for a job for Nani. I wish there were more meat to her character and more weight in her acting to lend the role respectability than sarees and a simple makeup.

The second half nosedives to a point from where there’s just no recovery. The writing turns COMPLETELY unimaginative save for the pre-climax portion. But this twist to the events comes too late, by which point all you can think about is what you’re going to eat after the film. The second half stretches too much, so much so that it becomes a mini-film in itself. For a film as predictable as this one, writing needs to be at least decent. Here; even that falters. Nani’s character is Nani’s character in almost every film these days. This is not to say that he’s not doing different kinds of movies (he is) but his characters all seems like cousins, each rubbing off their traits to the next or in some cases even being very similar to one another, and Nani is lending all these roles a very generic performance that at one point, it seems like you’ve seen it all, that you’ve seen him do a similar role, in a similar way. He’s not bad. I don’t think Nani can ever be a bad actor, but it’s just that I am tired of Nani being Nani in literally every movie. It might be working in favor of these films (it did here as well) but how many more movies until we find him breaking out of the groove and surprising us?

DSP’s music is catchy but nice songs are the last thing this film needs. I’m going with a generous 2 out of 5!

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