Mental Madhilo – Movie Review

Oh the feels a small, simple film gives you! <3

The last time I felt like this was back in the year 2016 when this gem of a film called Pellichoopulu was released. Coming from the same producers is Mental Madhilo starring the highly underrated Sreevishnu and Nivetha Pethuraj in her Telugu debut. This film shares many similarities with its national-award winning predecessor Pellichoopulu – production values, the look and feel of the film, lesser known artistes, a promising newbie music director, a wafer-thin story made memorable by some amazing writing and direction, carefully etched out characters, solid and convincing performances..the list goes on! But above all this, Mental Madhilo is just as honest and real as Pellichoopulu is.

The centerpiece of this story is Aravind Krishna (Sreevishnu) – a guy so confused and indecisive that he cannot even choose between two shirts. On some level, there’s an Aravind Krishna in all of us. Enter Swetcha (Nivetha Pethuraj), a simple, sorted girl who knows her shit. Their “pellichoopulu” leads the way to a sweet friendship that evolves into something more even as their engagement falls apart. The course their story takes when Aravind is faced with taking one final, important decision for life forms the rest of the film.

It’s very interesting to see what young writers are capable of these days. Dishing out a film of over two hours with literally a paper-thin story to go on is no easy task. But these guys seem to do it so well! The film is breezy in its first half, with a generous dose of simple, situational humor that feels like a pleasant scent from the Jandhayala’s movies. I wish there were more films like this that took leverage of situations and conversations to evoke laughs rather than the done-to-death slapstick comedy we’ve come to witness. The pacing of the film never dips through the first half. Songs are not boring affairs; they are blended into the narration effortlessly…so much so that you don’t even realize there are songs in the film (another common point with Pellichoopulu?). It’s in the second half that the film dips a bit. It seems like the film lost its course but fret not, it doesn’t. It’s a temporary dip that the director is quick to fix, and the movie is back at it again pretty quickly!

The film does an exceptional job at showing the conflicts of the heart. It holds a mirror to modern-day relationships, if you will. Very few movies are this realistic in their approach and this film is surely one of them. Sreevishnu is instantly likable. He exudes innocence in a very charming way. Simply put, his performance makes you smile. A job well done! Nivetha Pethuraj makes a confident Telugu debut, her eyes doing most of the talking. Sivaji Raja is on point!

Overall, Mental Madhilo is a super good film! I’m going with 4 out of 5!

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

Gruham – Movie Review

Siddharth’s Gruham may not be the best horror movie ever but it certainly does what it sets out to do. It does a pretty good job delivering those chills down your spine. Be it spooky silences or jump-scares, the mission is accomplished.

Jump-scares. Hmm. Now, as much as I would like a few jump-scares in my horror films, I would much rather prefer horror originating from the story and the narration itself. The thing with jump-scares is that the effect they have on you is mostly temporary. The next time you watch the film, you know exactly where to hold your breath (or look away if you’re faint-hearted 😛 ). There’s hardly any repeat value for jump-scares. Horror ingrained in the narrative, on the other hand, gets to you every time you watch the film. Take Conjuring, for instance. Fewer jump-scares (pretty good ones at that) but there’s spookiness of class written all over that film! Closer home, Gruham tries to mimic the look of such Hollywood blockbusters, what with all the posh, wooden homes and a very icy, chilly setting and basically a very polished, sophisticated feel to it. The texture is what the film gets right spot on! The content however, although brimming with potential, is under-utilized.

This is not to say that the end-product is bad. In fact, I enjoyed watching Gruham more than I thought I would. But off the top of my head, I can think of at least two ways in which the film could have been tweaked here and there to make it a better one. The film takes some time to establish characters. Siddharth is Dr. Krishnakanth, a neurosurgeon. Andrea plays his wife Lakshmi with ease. Suresh as psychiatrist Prasad is a friend of Krishna’s. All things start to go down south when a family moves into the house next to Krishna’s.

The interesting thing about Gruham is how it puts two men of science, Krishna and Prasad, in a situation where they may have to reconsider their beliefs or their lack thereof. It’s here that I hoped the neurosurgeon angle would take more prominence. But it didn’t. It’s a road worth exploring, but the movie would have been largely different had that angle been explored. Interesting nonetheless.

Newcomer Anisha Victor as Jennifer aka Jenny delivers a earnest performance. It’s too early to say anything but from the looks of it, this actress holds promise. Siddharth is his charming self for the most part. In the penultimate and ultimate scenes, he surprised me, honestly. Andrea is flawless and sleepwalks through the role. Suresh fits the bill. Atul Kulkarni, sadly, doesn’t get much scope. The Chinese actors are alright. Background music is good but louder than necessary at places. Some spooky subtlety here could have helped.

Overall, Gruham is definitely worth watching. I’m going with 3.25 out of 5!

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

Tumhari Sulu – Movie Review

Two words: Vidya Balan.

Take her out of this film and we would have had a pretty average film on the screens. This isn’t a film big on “story”. It follows the life of an impulsive and ever-ready middle class woman who has a thing for trying new things and trying to win at them, enjoying every minute of this in the process. Vidya’s Sulochana (fondly called Sulu) is not afraid of failing at things she participates in. The process, the journey – that’s what matters to Sulu. She’s genuinely happy for winning simple, small things like pressure cookers and the like at various contests both in and outside of her housing society. What happens on one such visit to a radio station to collect her winning goodies changes the course of Vidya’s life….well, at least for a while. How she handles this forms the rest of the story.

Good things first, casting Balan wasn’t ever a choice. This role SCREAMED for Balan to be cast. Honestly, I cannot think of anyone else who’d do so much justice to this role as Vidya did. She fits the role of a middle class housewife to a T, flaunting her simple saris and hardly any makeup. One look at her and you’d be convinced she’s Sulu. Looks apart, I cannot think of anyone else who’s as expressive as Balan. Sulu’s “Main kar sakti hain” attitude is infectious and thankfully for the film, never goes over-board to the point of getting annoying. Thumbs up for casting the under-utilized but exceptionally talented theater actor and director Manav Kaul as Ashok, Sulu’s husband. Manav’s portrayal of various emotions – love, anger, sadness, insecurity among others – stands as a testament to the man’s vast experience in theater. When he dances to Ban Ja Tu Meri Raani, it’s just endearing!

The first half of the film hits all the right notes. This portion of the film is a breeze, never too heavy, never too serious. It’s almost like Vidya’s character graph and the film itself are in perfect tandem here. As Sulu’s life gets complicated, so does the film and needlessly so. As Sulu’s work starts to interfere with her personal, family life and her career choices are questioned by her immediately family, even her sweet husband, the film also takes many dips in narration. There’s also a thread about Sulu’s son Pranav getting into trouble at school for messing up things like teenagers always do. And this dude runs away from home after a lot of drama. This could have been passed in favor of a more convincing plot point. So, thanks to some unnecessary digressions and a slowed-down pace, the second half of the film is not as enjoyable as the first. But good news! We have Vidya Balan lighting up the dull portions of the film as well.

Overall, Tumhari Sulu is a cute little film with Vidya towering above anything and everything else. This one’s a good watch! I’m going with 3.5 out of 5!

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

PSV Garuda Vega – Movie Review

PSV Garuda Vega is Praveen Sattaru’s most ambitious film till date. This is the first time Praveen is trying the thriller genre and he does a good job! Dr. Rajasekhar has a winner on his hands after almost a decade.

Dr. Rajasekhar plays an NIA officer who investigates an ongoing bomb blast + scam + a lot of other things, all connected. Adith Arun plays a “techie” (you may remember this guy as the hero from Genelia starrer Katha). Shraddha Das is a news-reporter/reader.

Close to 160 minutes, Garuda Vega is thrilling for the most part. The first half is especially riveting, barring the few not-so-funny scenes with Ali and that thread about divorce with Rajasekhar’s wife (Pooja Kumar). For a while you do not understand what’s going on (you know something’s happening but you cannot establish a connection between the ongoing scene and the previous one) but it all comes into place eventually as the movie goes along and you start to see the big picture. The second half loses some steam but it isn’t boring. The unnecessary item song with Sunny Leone is….well, unnecessary, and adds to the run-time. This long a film (a thriller at that) can do away with those erotic indulgences. But, apart from that item song as well, the second half does drag a bit overall, and some good editing could have made the experience better.

The biggest plus of this film is the production values. Top-notch! It’s also lavishly shot. The initial chasing scene, the dam sequence, car-chases, and the climax – there are enough really good visuals to behold here! Earnest performances from Rajasekhar and Adith Arun help the film as well. The story itself is not bad at all. BGM adds to the proceedings in a good way, so no complaints there.

Overall, Garuda Vega will be worth your time and money. A good thriller indeed! I am going with 3.25 out of 5!

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

Vunnadi Okkate Zindagi – Movie Review

Vunnadi Okkate Zindagi is a simple story of two childhood best friends, Abhi (Ram) and Vasu (Sri Vishnu). They always have each other’s back. They are like brothers. Cut to several years later, they are not talking to each other anymore. Why? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out. What led to their separation and how, if at all, they unite again forms the story of this film.

Director Kishore Tirumala, who earlier directed the hit movie Nenu Sailaja also starring Ram, plays very safe with this one too. It’s a textbook treatment and it works, just like it did with Nenu Sailaja. These are two different movies but the general vibe they have is exactly the same. Vunnadi Okkate Zindagi felt like it was cousin of Nenu Sailaja. It’s probably the director-actor-composer combo, but I couldn’t help but get a feel of Nenu Sailaja in this movie too. It’s not bad, just an observation. This film, however, is longer, and can be a little tiring at a few places for some people. I, for one, never looked at my watch during the 2hrs 35mins run time of the film and that usually means I am not bored.

The first half of the movie is enjoyable. Of course, we get to see how these two dudes start their friendship very young and how they bond with each other. Their “chaddi buddy” childhood is shown adequately for us to actually buy into the realness of their friendship. So good work there! The fact that the casting is on point with Ram and Sri Vishnu helps a lot as well. The second half dips a bit for a while but picks up soon after. Overall, the film DOES feel a tad too long, but I was invested in it all along, so it didn’t matter much.

The film talks about childhood friendships and how they last a lifetime. The whole film itself is pretty much about Ram and Sri Vishnu. Even with all the dialogues about childhood friends and their importance and how much they mean to you, it never gets preachy. For me, it was like I was eavesdropping on their conversations. Better still for the film, there were numerous deja-vu moments for me. I could totally relate, on some level, with what the movie was trying to say. At some point, at least for a minute, the film will make you want to call that childhood friend of yours who’s always been with you and talk to him/her for hours and catch up on the lost time. The concept for this film comes from a good place and credit must be given for that.

Anupama Parameswaran gets a nice role and she does justice to it. Given meatier roles, this girl can REALLY impress. She has it in her and it becomes evident in one of her confrontational scenes with Ram. It would be a shame if we don’t see her in “performance oriented” roles in the future. And of course, good job on dubbing as well! Lavanya Tripathi’s just okay. Sri Vishnu is a good actor waiting for big movies to happen to him and this one is surely that! Ram is tailor-made for this role and aces it, especially in the emotional scenes. Priyadarshi and Kireeti fit their bills.

I’m going with 3.25 out of 5!

Raja The Great – Movie Review

Raja The Great is a through and through mediocre film. Starring Ravi Teja and Mehreen Peerzada, RTG revolves around Raja, a blind guy, played by Ravi Teja, and how he comes to the rescue of Lucky (Mehreen) when she’s in trouble.

The only novelty in this otherwise mundane, predictable film is that the hero’s character is blind. Other than that, there’s nothing particular that can be appreciated in this film. It’s not bad either. This films falls in the category of films we now-a-days call “time pass” movies. The first half of the film is long, the second half is longer. This could mean the editing was bad, or it could simply mean that I was too bored to enjoy a predictable film. The film stretches, a lot. Long drawn out sequences with Ravi Teja talking in his high-octane voice do not help. Mehreen on the other hand remains silent for the most part. When she does have to emote, it falls short. Honestly, her act is like that of a school kid doing a stage-show. It’s as if she is waiting for the word “action” to display whatever she’s learnt ASAP and be done with it (this can be seen very clearly in one particular scene). The hallmark of a good actor is his/her ability to own the role they are doing, no matter how small it is. Mehreen has a long way to go on that front.

The second half is equally predictable and familiar. It’s longer, though. Songs do not come as speedbreakers, as there is no speed here (lol). They are misplaced and quite frankly, a waste of run-time. There are hardly any catchy songs in the album. The writing is inconsistent. Sometimes you don’t understand why a certain thing happens but it just does, to no real use. Doesn’t make sense, really.

Radhika Sarathkumar plays mother to Raviteja and she’s alright. Tanikella Bharani sleepwalks through a simple role. The antagonist Vivan Bhatena has the looks and expressions, but needs to work on lip-syncing big time.

Srinivas Reddy fits the bill of Raviteja’s wingman. Raviteja’s comedy is what makes this film bearable if not likable. If Raviteja’s comedy doesn’t go down well with you, there’s literally nothing you will like about this film; you will most likely regret wasting your time over this soul-less film.

I’m going with 2.5 out of 5!

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

Nene Raju Nene Mantri – Movie Review

Nene Raaju Nene Mantri is Teja’s comeback movie after a string of flops. Popular for romantic movies, Teja tries to attempt a political drama this time around and both fortunately and unfortunately, it’s the romantic thread in the film that walks away a winner, towering over everything else in the film.

The film plays out with Kajal being the centerpiece of all the drama. Almost everything in the film will be rendered meaningless without her character Radha. A bundle of warmth and love and compassion, Radha is the apple of her husband Jogendra’s (Rana) eye. Childhood sweethearts become husband and wife and their world seems lovely, with Jogendra running a money-lending business and Radha being a loving housewife. However, things turn ugly pretty quickly and their life together starts to fall apart due to an unholy nexus of power, ambition and lust, even as Jogendra’s political career witnesses an upward curve. What happens to this couple in this mess forms the rest of the film.

The film starts off almost immediately, establishing the lead characters pretty quickly and giving us a gist of their everyday life. The first half seems long, but the chemistry between Jogendra and Radha is a treat that keeps us watching. The second half gets more serious but also loses its way, and never fully recovers. The pre-climax and climax portions are the fatal blows. But, for some, these might actually be the most entertaining portions of the film. They didn’t go down well for me because of one important reason – Radha Jogendra (as he likes to call himself out of love for his wife) is shown as a hero of sorts, people praising him and chanting his name and doing all kinds of dharnas (against his arrest, at one point in the film) for him. This treatment should have been avoided as, honestly, Jogendra’s connect with and love for these people was long gone already, at best it was intermittent – it was only Radha who remained true to her character all along. Jogendra wasn’t half as lovable anymore as those scenes project. Anyway, enough with this rant!! :’)

Despite the heavy dose of political drama this film offers, its best moments are the romantic ones. The chemistry between Jogendra and Radha is enviable. It’s their love story that stays with you. Rana is earnest. His eyes and smile don several roles as they emote love, anger, sadness and a variety of other emotions as needed. Navdeep is alright as the wingman but he deserved more screen presence. Sivajiraja is a constant beside Jogendra and he fits the bill. Catherine was just okay but deserves a pat on the back for the efforts she put into dubbing for herself. The show-stealer, however, is Radha. She is the soul of the film and lends the character, and the film itself, a sort of class and dignity. NaChaKi once told me that all of us evolve as movie-goers. We “graduate”. The same is true for artists as well. She might have more to offer, but with this film, Kajal has really graduated. This is one film she should be proud of. She shines in her career-best performance! Half a century on a great note! 😉

The songs are speed-breakers. With some better editing, this film could have been much more than what it is now. Teja’s attempt works overall, but the memorable portions of the film are those that have always been his forte.

I’m going with 3.25 out of 5!

PS: All the images are YouTube screenshots from the film’s official trailer. Also, the film is available on Amazon Primevideo.

Raju Gaari Gadi 2 – Movie Review

RGG-2 is a crushing bore.

To start with, there’s no Raju gaaru here. Nitpicking about the movie’s name aside, the film itself is bland. It’s supposed to be a horror comedy. It ends up being very less horror (read: very very very very very less) and some tasteless comedy sprinkled over a paper-thin plot. Three friends – two tharki dudes and a “decent guy”, as the other two call him, start a resort thingy. There’s a ghost in the resort. Nagarjuna is a mentalist they consult to solve this ghost problem. You know the drill from here. The movie plays out EXACTLY as you think it would. Sam’s there, so she must be the ghost. And voila! she is. No surprises there. And this isn’t even a spoiler honestly. I bet EVERYONE knows this/guessed this already. The trailer itself made it clear, despite trying in vain to shift the focus to Seerat being the ghost. Trailer cut fails.

They really should stop showing such a big moon. That’s not how we see it. -_-

The movie itself fails too. The first half is dead boring. 30 minutes into the film and NOTHING happens. I knew I wasted money on this in the first 30 minutes of the film. If you have seen enough bad films, you know one when you watch one for a good half an hour. And it just gets worse after the first thirty minutes. Several innuendos follow. The comedy is so bland that I sat straight-faced through most of it. But I could find a few people in the theater ROFLing, so either the movie sucks or I do. Post intermission, things get even predictable. The film STAUNCHLY follows the set blueprint of movies of such kind. So, obviously, we have a flashback. Rao Ramesh features in it and he’s one of the few good things about his film. His was a brief role but when did a role’s length stop this actor from delivering his best? He’s effortless. Apart from him, however, the second half doesn’t better the whole experience either. Sure, it’s marginally better than the first half, I’ll give it that, but that’s it.

Firstly, I have a problem with how conveniently the character of a mentalist is introduced in the form of Nagarjuna. There is a scene demonstrating his mentalist abilities and even this seems so dull. I probably would have liked it more had I not been watching The Mentalist (starring “Smiley” Simon Baker), a series with a man with these abilities as its protagonist. I usually don’t compare, but the whole mentalist thing here seems faded in comparison. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the series inspired the character. Nothing wrong with it, absolutely. I’m just saying.

Samantha tries to do her best but cannot better the overall impact. The music is unnecessary and direction is second-rate at best. BGM “underlines” every “horror” scene, which are few and far between to start with, and that’s never the mark of a good horror film.

I’m going with 2 out of 5!

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

Spyder – Movie Review

I searched a lot but I couldn’t find – and didn’t stay back for the end-credits as well. So here’s a request: Someone please let me know the name of the kid who played the young Bhairavudu!

Because that kid will go places.

Mahesh is a CBI officer (his only duty being tapping “suspicious” calls) and he gets mixed up in some really messed up shit! How he saves his family, and everyone else, from a lunatic is what the movie is about.

The first half is rather short, at 1 hr..and isn’t boring. It’s not amazing either. Just fine. Pre-interval portions are really good. Post the intermission, the film is a mix of highs and lows. While a lot of stuff actually happens in the second half, it feels kinda lame at more than one place. In these lame portions of the film, cinematography and BGM save the day. The VFX are a letdown but buildings do come crashing down and a giant boulder reduces automobiles, people and roads to dust. So ya, there’s enough to keep you in the seat. But so much logic is lost in the mess that is the second half, that it does get laughable and unbelievable after a point. Writing inadequacies are aplenty. If you watch closely, there will be many unanswered questions with you.

Mahesh is alright but this film will remain in my memory for one important reason: SJ Surya. WHAT A PERFORMANCE! So he’s the baddie in this film, who derives happiness out of others’ miseries. A sadist, basically. 100% sadist (the film puts the sadism at 14%, but whatever). Clearly, the character has flavors of Joker but SJ Surya inhabits Bhairavudu completely and makes the character his own. There is also a long, elaborate chunk of the movie where we see Bhairavudu’s childhood and how he became who he is – and it is CREEPY. I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just CREEPY. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because this part of the film actually prepares us for what to expect from the adult Bhairavudu. And that’s good.

And the songs. Oh, the songs! Why does this film even have songs? Regardless of how funny and ridiculous the lyrics are, Pucchakay song is going to be on my playlist for a while from now. Editing could have been so much better! Also, PLEASE PLEASE write good roles for Priyadarshi. This role of his disappoints too!

So is Spyder worth watching? Depends, really. If watching a super sadist villain do really evil things is not your cup of tea, you might cringe at some places and you may not like half of the film. My mother didn’t, for instance. If you can appreciate the beauty in the crafting of the creepy and some really really good acting (courtesy SJ Surya), Spyder makes for a decent watch!

I’m going with 2.75 out of 5, and an extra 0.25 for not showing smoking and/or drinking in the film. Well done on that front! 🙂

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

 

Jai Lava Kusa – Movie Review

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Jr. NTR is one of the finest actors we have today in TFI. Probably the best product of “nepotism” in TFI. And this man makes Jai Lava Kusa watchable despite its blunders. Honestly, NO ONE could have saved this film as Tarak did.

Let me not beat around the bush here.

Bobby just couldn’t create material that demands Tarak’s full potential. I mean, just look at that man perform with whatever he’s given! Despite a story that could have translated into a decent film, Bobby fails to let the characters explore themselves without boundaries. Especially with Lava and Kusa, there’s a lot of “holding back” that happens, probably because Ravana was supposed to be the character of concentration here but I don’t know, I would have loved to see more solid Lava and Kusa as well. The writing is uniformly amateurish. The first half has its own share of plain stupid elements, logic-less scenes and attempts at a “love” story between Tarak and Rashi. This is another problem I had with the film. Tarak and Rashi’s love story never really feel genuine. It is paper-thin, TBH. And at more than one place, just plain boring.

What I would have LOVED to see, on the other hand, is the Nivetha-Tarak thread. Given the acting capabilities of Nivetha and also the situation her character Simran is in, her equation with the different Taraks would have meant some amazing scenes between the duo (trio?). But sadly, no such thing ever happens. Nivetha has, like, 3 and a half scenes in a the film and two songs (or was it one? I don’t remember). It could have very well been another actress in her place because honestly, there’s nothing she/her character brought to the table here.

The story of the three brothers, of course, had to be the central theme and it did remain that for the most part. But more insight into their early lives would have made digesting Jai’s feelings for his brothers more easier. Also, Posani, who plays their uncle, had a major part to play in their lives, especially as far as shaping Jai’s character is concerned. Sadly, there’s hardly anything for him to do later. I wish things were different for Posani’s character as well.

Tarak is in literally every frame of the film, sometimes there are two of him and sometimes there are three but he never disappoints. The others are just alright. I failed to understand this – why Ronit Roy? As I said to NaChaKi a while earlier, there will be a dozen struggling actors in the streets of Krishna Nagar who will play the part just as well for a tenth of that paycheck. It’s not like Ronit Roy has a “market” in the TFI like a Prakash Raj does. What else!? Oh the background music is heavy at times and it is really irking. Music by DSP is disappointing overall.

At over two and a half hours, JLK does get tedious but Tarak doesn’t let it sink without a trace. I’m going with 2.5 out of 5!

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