All good things come to those who wait but honestly that’s not why we delayed the review of this film. I guess it took us some time to wrap our heads around the fact that a hero (not an actor/protagonist) from one of the blue bloods of TFI actually pulled off the role of a regular guy with regular problems.
Sai Dharam Tej is Vijay. A down-on-his-luck engineer with an idea he believes will change the world. He has no qualms moonlighting at a TV repair store while he works on his idea and waits for its inevitable success. Michael (Sunil) is a TV evangelist and is meandering through life since his singing/music career is pretty much bust. The two meet at a shady watering hole and strike up a weird friendship that barely works.
Vijay is in a breezy relationship with Lahari (Kalyani Priyadarshan), and how they meet is pretty much a minor plot point. I am however impressed by the non-problematic nature (by TFI standards) of the relationship and how it starts. Good job, writers!
Vijay sits plum in the midst of all these relationships that seem to feed him positivity and keep him going despite him facing multiple rejections in the pursuit of his pet project. However, things don’t stay comfortable for too long.
Enter Swetcha (Nivetha Pethuraj), a hard-nosed executive who takes a personal interest in his project. You can see a distinct change in the energy of the film at this point. Swetcha is a cynic and has zero patience for Vijay. She does not hesitate for a second to drop the project when she sees Vijay’s attitude. At the same time, she is friends with Lahari, raising uncomfortable questions about her relationship with Vijay. Her presence shows us how lax Vijay has become, and she succeeds in pulling him out of his comfort zone.
In all these ups and downs with Lahari and his career, the one thing that keeps Vijay grounded is his father Narayana (Posani). Narayana is a supportive figure who does not succumb to the usual tropes we are subject to in most films. There is the heightened sensitivity and quiet pride in the child, that is rather typical of a single parent. He realises that Vijay is an independent adult who needs a friend rather than an authority figure in his life. I’d rate this father son portrayal up there with ‘Aduvari Maatalaku ..’. Every scene between them holds your attention. Posani delivers an excellent performance that is thankfully devoid of his signature “Rajaa!”.
Lahari is depicted as an impressionable airhead, and her self-awareness of this is amusing. This is not a bad thing. We see such people around us devoid of independent thought that go with whatever is on top of their minds. Lahari flip-flops constantly based on who she is talking to, and is effective in keeping Vijay on edge. I am glad to see that the love interest has been developed as a genuine individual who isn’t just there to brighten up the screen. Kalyani is unfortunately not a very talented actress, and we are lucky the script keeps our expectations of her low. I was personally rather disappointed when they got back together at the end of the film.
It is poignant then that Swetcha, as revealed by Vijay, is the inspiration for his project. She inspired him to start it, and in her own way motivated him to complete it. A major cliche TFI favours at this point is building a romantic angle where unnecessary. The writers, however, score, and we are spared this! In Swetcha’s own words, “Vaadiki antha scene ledhu…kaani manchodu”. Over time, Vijay, as he spends more time with Swetcha and begins to understand her motivations, cracks her shell and we get a glimpse of the person under the cynic. He is able to soften her stance and temper her views on life experiences.
Vijay gets completely broken down before our eyes, and we see him rebuilt. It is a process he must go through to be in a state where he can achieve his dream.
The movie is not without its share of problems though. The storyline begins to falter in the second half, and culminates in a thoroughly unnecessary courtroom scene. The project Vijay creates (emergency alert system in case of an accident) need not have hit human trials at all, and could’ve been tested with a rolled-up mattress in the driver’s seat. I’d personally test it on Lahari, but that is just the romantic in me.
Sunil and Vennela Kishore put in good performances but are largely forgettable. And that is absolutely ok because Sai Dharam Tej carries the movie so well! He has hit just the right notes and holds himself with a certain dignity despite all that he is going through. I am so glad he decided to sign this film and at the same time hope he does not get into a vortex of the same roles.
The ‘tech’ part of the film is non cringey and it is obvious there has been some genuine research put into the jargon being used.
Our writers are on a steady path to maturity and I am willing to wait for them to deliver more and better while I settle with a glass of aged perfection. See what I did there?
The biggest measure of how scared an audience – at least for me – is how much people in the theatre titter and giggle even at the minutest of jokes. And if that yardstick is true, Bhaagmathie (I hope I got that numerological spelling right) was truly scary. People around me in Prasads were laughing out loud for the smallest of jokes or even things that were perceived as slightly funny. They kept screaming at Anushka to not go that way. And clapped their mouths in horror whenever she did something inexplicable. For the crowds that haven’t seen the ITs and the Conjurings of the world, Bhaagmathie provides decent enough scares.
Bhaagmathie is about Chanchala, I.A.S (Anushka), a sincere official who serves as a Personal Secretary to an equally sincere minister Eashwar Prasad (Jayaram). The government is out to trap him in some scam or the other and to this end, they target Chanchala, who is awaiting trial on a murder case. They shift her from jail to a remote bungalow in the middle of a forest so they can investigate her without a third person knowing about it. Chanchala proves a tough nut to crack and keeps the investigating officers frustrated. As the evenings approach though, she gets possessed by the spirit of Bhagamati, a queen who used to rule her kingdom from that very bungalow. Who is Bhagamati? Why does she choose to possess Chanchala? Did Chanchala really commit the murder she is accused of? Does the government manage to blot Eashwar Prasad’s spotless career? Bhaagmathie answers these questions in a barely there first half and an engrossing second half.
First things first, Bhaagmathie is Anushka all the way. She is absolutely spot on as the IAS officer who finds herself in a different situation. As Chanchala and as Bhagamati, she is absolutely terrific. She’s been there done that, but you will still come out awed about her every single time and that is her strength. Jayaram as the sincere minister, Unni Mukundan as the activist and lover boy, Mural Sharma as an ACP, Asha Sharath as a CBI officer and Dhanraj and Prabhas Sreenu as constables do justice to their roles.
The film’s strength is its technical department. The set laid out for the Bhagamati bungalow is brilliantly done, the background music is absolutely spot on and the photography is suitably claustrophobic and scare inducing. The film begins well, falls into the repetitive scare trap and has a bang on interval that will leave you spellbound. The second half has an interesting tempo for the most part, but once the story is revealed, you might feel slightly underwhelmed with the denoument. One dialogue from Anushka towards the end made it all worthwhile for me though – when someone asks her why she didn’t trust anyone, she says ‘Ee rojullo manushulani evaru nammutaaru… devullani, deyyaalani nammutaaru gaani’. How true and how sad a reflection on our times!
We don’t talk about it enough today, but Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai was a national phenomenon. Continue reading
When the song teaser of Agnyaatavasi came out, my first thought was that I liked the shot of the chair revolving and Pawan Kalyan standing tall next to it. When the teaser came out, I liked the shots of PK walking in front of people with all colored faces and aghoris and a fight sequence where the hero slits someone’s wrists in a green background. When the trailer came out, I totally loved the dialogue that Pawan uttered about the chair – about how there is a war behind every convenience we seek.
Imagine my dismay then when I find that all the aforementioned shots are done within the first 15 minutes of the movie. That the revolving chair and the dialogue about it have no preamble or powerful sequence to back them up, they are simply the first dialogs that the hero utters. That the shots of PK walking in front of people with colored faces and aghoris are all montage shots that are duly dispensed with over the course of a song during the title sequence. That the fight sequence is the hero’s intro sequence where he slits the wrists and cuts throats of a few Khal-Drogoesque people for what is clearly sport and no personal enmity whatsoever! Continue reading
There is something about Vikram Kumar that makes his narrative style as soothing as a lullaby for a baby. He weaves magic into his movies. He takes you along carefully on a journey through his imagination without ever letting you go. It is a beautiful feeling to see the story of characters playing out in front of you when you are emotionally invested in them and want them to fulfill their desires. Continue reading
While the hoopla around Padmavathi was going on, nobody noticed that in another part of the country, there was a film being released with more blasphemous content such as:
- Supreme Hero SDT Sai Dharam Tej as an RSS member
- RSS members dancing (they’ve ditched the shorts for pants)
- An RSS member having a (gasp!) girlfriend
Other than several other things, of course. In this film “Supreme Hero SDT Sai Dharam Tej” plays Jai, a goody-two-shoes kind of guy who is aspiring for a job in DRDO, our very own Iron Man Lab. Since he’s an RSS member, he’s also super patriotic.
He almost clears the DRDO tests and interviews, but doesn’t quite land the job. However, after he single-handedly fights an international bunch of terrorists who try to steal India’s top-secret missile (we will come to this shortly), the top guns at DRDO decide to give him the job. What job is this? Apparently, to “protect” Octopus (the top-secret missile I just mentioned). What does this mean? Nobody knows.
When I recall Ghajini, the first thing that comes to my mind is not the tattoos or the mental condition, but the romance between Surya and Asin. The entire track was so well written and had so many genuine laugh out loud moments that when the tragedy happens, you feel it in your gut. That the same Murugadoss could write such a terrible love story, have songs in all the wrong places and basically bore you with the heroine is surprising to say the least.
For me, Puri Jagannath’s ability to show loathsome violence crossed its peak in Loafer where the villain and his sons sit around drinking and when the villain’s wife says something against him, one of the sons kills her right in the house. That movie got a U/A certificate. In Paisa Vasool, he shows a ten year old being stabbed – at least a couple times – and even this one got away with a U/A. I wonder what all will he show if he continues making movies.
And that is a big if! It should be clear by now that the man is beyond rational thinking. The police department and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) should sue the man first for their portrayal in the movie. Sample these –
Kyra Dutt plays an item girl who dances in a bar and offers a hot oil massage and a foam bath to the hero for 20k. A couple scenes later, she pulls out a gun and claims to be an ACP. She takes him to the police station and asks him to kill an international don – ‘Department emi peekaleka ninnu adugutunnaa’ – is the line she uses. When the heroine (Musskan Sethi) approaches her for help, she tells her – ‘I will help you, but he will help you more. Vaadi tho koncham chanuvuga undu’. Wonder which police officer will give such advise to a young girl.
She also has the phone number of the head of RAW saved on her phone as Chief – when did police officers start reporting to RAW chiefs is a question Puri can answer. The RAW chief gets into his car inside the RAW compound when a man just runs up to his car, opens the door on the other side and pumps a couple bullets into him. Imagine the fate of a country where the head of the premier intelligence agency can be shot in such a pedestrian manner.
Added to that, there is a full scene of Balayya being interviewed for the position of a RAW agent. Aspiring RAW agents please note – some of the questions you are asked during such interviews are –
1. What are the most powerful gangs in the world?
2. How would you end terrorism?
3. How would you like to see India?
4. Why did the USSR disintegrate?
5. What is the biggest mistake done by Hitler?
Puri also seems to have another agenda while making his films now, promoting talent signed up by his agency – Puri Connects. Most of the actors in the movie are from his agency. The heroine, Musskan Sethi, hardly registers – you see her in one scene and when she appears in the next, you struggle to place her. The villain, Vikramjeet Singh, seems more like a henchman. Only the background score – which goes Bhai, Bhai, Bhai, Bhai – allows you to recognise that he’s the main antagonist. I really didn’t know Shriya was this desperate for work and Ali makes an appearance which is as pointless as a condemnation message after a terror attack.
For all the respect NBK has for his father and for all the times he keeps talking about how he only listens to his father’s songs, the remix of Konte Navvu Cheptondi in this movie comes as quite a rude shock. The song is picturised in a terrible manner and NBK’s dance almost appears like a parody of his father’s. If it was meant to be a tribute, it is a terrible one.
All in all, it almost seems like Puri is telling us, ‘I’ve made fools of the biggest heroes in the industry, tu kyaa re howle!’
It is difficult to understand –
When you fear your hero might pull out a bottle of acid,
Cos listen to you is not something that the heroine did.
When the girl says she’s someone with self-respect,
But runs back to the hero after being trampled all over,
It is difficult for a mere mortal like me,
To understand this dimension of love.
When the boy upsets the girl by screaming at her,
Not in private, but in front of his entire squadron,
And she runs back into his arms when sings a song for her,
It looks cute, it feels right,
But in the next act, when he takes him back to the same squadron,
and tells them that they are losers for being single and
Shows off the girl like she’s some trophy for the win
It is difficult for a mere mortal like me,
To understand this dimension of love.
When Aditi Rao Hydari looks like a dream,
And Ravi Varman’s visuals are sheer poetry,
And Rahman’s background score rouses you,
And Karthi does his best to hold those never-ending close-ups
And yet Cheliyaa feels like a drag,
It is difficult for a mere mortal like me,
To understand where the legendary Mani sir went wrong this time!