Ala Modalaindi

Ala Modalaindi is a romantic comedy, full of improbable happenings and twists. There are songs, misunderstandings, mistaken identities, fights, significant jewellery and even a dog who helps change the course of the story. But there are also characters I like and can relate to with a view of relationships that seems fairly healthy and positive. I particularly enjoy the way director/writer Nandini Reddy plays with filmi conventions and delves into the bag of tricks to give a simple story some zing.

So. A young man meets a young lady at a wedding where their exes are marrying each other, and they get drunk and messy.

 

 

I really love that the next day they could talk to each other, be embarrassed, laugh it off and that was it. No judgements were made relating to alcohol or failed affairs. Gautham and Nithya cross paths again, and a warm friendship develops. His feelings deepen but he is reticent; struggling to know when to speak out and not sure what he really wants to tell her. She has her own complications that emerge over time. It is obvious that they make a good couple, but will they ever get it together? Guess away, dear reader.

Gautham is a director on a news program. He has family, good friends, failed romances and a flair for the dramatic. The story is mostly told from his perspective, so I felt that I got to know him better, and I appreciated Nithya through his eyes as he came to understand her more. Nani is an appealing guy next door kind of hero. I think it’s his dimples. Plus he seems to have a sense of the ridiculous that was very endearing in this role. But Nani doesn’t play Gautham as all happy and smiling.

I found his portrayal of Gautham’s grief really moving. I could relate to the things that triggered his tears, and sadness permeated his body language at times. When he realises what he wants to do about his feelings, he does it. His journey takes some crazy detours, but that was part of the fun, not a silly distraction. I also like Gautham’s developing self awareness through the story. He really does change in some significant ways, and learns to recognise and deal with the parts of his own nature that he doesn’t like.

Gautham’s mother Revathi (Rohini) is my new favourite filmi ma. It is so nice to see good parenting in a close mother-son relationship (maybe I’ve been watching too much 70s Nirupa Roy). Some of my affection for Gautham stems from seeing him with his mum. He has context, a background that had helped make him the guy he is. She is an intelligent, positive woman who had been widowed when her kids were in their early teens. She advises Gautham that you can either dwell on the past and be sad about your loss, or remember all the good things and take that happiness into your future. It was a clever scene as it was not just about her own past, but advice for her boy on how to move on.

Nithya is a good example of how to make a character happy and bubbly but not a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Like Gautham, Nithya has a family, friends, work and ideas about more than love and romance. She is smart and emotional, opinionated but not rude. There are issues in her life that bring some more complexity to a fundamentally sunny nature. When Nithya realises she has made a mistake, she takes the decision and deals with the consequences. She is no passive wallflower waiting for the hero. Her qualities are sometimes shown in small almost insignificant moments, sometimes in big filmi set pieces. Nithya Menon is a perfect fit for the likeable role, using her expressive face and vocal modulation to great effect. And how good is it to see someone who isn’t the stereotypical leggy model with a maximum range of two expressions? Nithya is a pocket Venus with oodles of talent, also dubbing for herself and singing on a couple of tracks.

Nithya has a close relationship with her easy-going dad (Uppalapati Narayana Rao). Her mum (Pragathi) is worried about getting Nithya married and what must people think. On the surface it seems like a difficult marriage but Nandini Reddy shows that this couple aren’t at war, they just irritate each other a bit. Nithya asks her dad if he ever considered divorce and they chat about commitment. Her mum joins them and whinges about her dramatic family, but then they all start smiling and their pleasure in being together is evident. People have to work at getting along sometimes.

It’s not that the plot is unpredictable, but the way things happen is delightfully offbeat. In one of the obligatory fight scenes, Nithya takes on the loafers and belts the bejesus out of them as Gautham watches on. Gautham and his family are movie fans and use filmi terms in conversation. Nithya makes fun of Gautham’s job, doing dramatic voiceovers of everyday events. It’s a playful style.

The film is cohesive, and is well balanced between character and incident driven scenes. The dialogue is peppered with pop references, but it doesn’t seem too try-hard. People generally look and sound the way I would expect them to. It put me in mind of Basu Chatterjee’s romantic comedies a little, just the flavour of the dialogue and the middle class settings. I have some minor issues. There is a gay joke that made me sigh just a little at Nani wearing pink and mincing about to Kajra Re.  And there were some dubious medical shenanigans, only one of which was purely for humour.

The music (by Kalyani Malik) is average, but the song picturisations are where low production values seem most evident. I just can’t help thinking that two backing dancers is less than optimum, even if they do ninja up for the occasion. The choreography is very achievable for those inclined to have a dance-along at home.

There were a few less familiar faces in the support cast. Gautham’s friends are fun and not the usual anonymous followers. They all had jobs and commitments and their own points of view. Their conversations provide most of the humour and there is no separate comedy track as everything eventually ties back into the main plot. Villainous stalwart Ashish Vidyarthi has a pivotal yet stupid role as the shady John Abraham (mercifully wearing a lot more than his namesake). I don’t for the life of me understand why Sneha Ullal still has a film career.

Her ‘sexy’ face looks more like she has acute gastric pain and she is not that good an item girl. But, leaving aside the why, even her character Kavya becomes more sympathetic as the film unfolds.

I do not subscribe to the belief that an upbeat ending is intrinsically less worthy or realistic than a tragic ending, and this is a film that provides a near perfect balance of substance and entertainment. Ala Modalaindi is a pleasant and engaging romantic comedy, with a great cast making the most of strong writing and character development. 4 stars!

Heather Says: Ala Modalaindi starts with a version of Que Sera Sera over the opening credits and since it’s one of my favourite songs from my childhood, I was smiling even before the action got underway. And my smile just got bigger and bigger. The introduction of a kidnapping right at the beginning was a novel way to start proceedings and it proved to be an excellent start to a rather different take on the romantic comedy genre.  But where the film really won me over was in its likeable main characters and a storyline that was plausible, funny and entertaining.

Nani is hapless enough to be funny as the jilted boyfriend at his ex-girlfriends wedding and he just gets better as the film unfolds. His delivery in the comedy scenes is excellent and he is just as good in the more emotional scenes. I like the way that he uses his posture and facial expressions to get the most out of his scenes and doesn’t rely solely on the dialogue. He’s believable as Gautham and he does make a very sympathetic hero, even if he’s not the one who gets involved in the fight scenes!  I knew I had seen Nithya Menen somewhere before, but it took a little time before I realised she appeared in Aidondla Aidu and that she even sang one of my favourite songs in that film. She’s even more impressive here and does a very good job with her portrayal of the feisty Nithya.

It’s rare to see a good Telugu movie where not only the heroine, but most of the female characters have very strong roles which are just as important to the storyline as that of the male hero. Nathya’s behaviour is very natural and while her character is out-spoken and vivacious she never becomes annoying. Director Nandini Reddy develops all her characters with attention to what would be likely ways for them to react and each character has a valid reason for their inclusion into the story. No superfluous comedy uncles lurking in the background for instance, which is yet another reason to like the film! I loved Rohini in particular as Gautham’s mother and wished she had a little more time on-screen. In fact the entire supporting cast were just as good as the main leads and even if Sneha Ullal was a little more glamorous than my local vet, I think she made a reasonable attempt to be more than just a pretty face.  I didn’t like her character and the item song left me cold but there were some moments where she did make me laugh. I do like Ashish Vidyarthi though and the way his character became embroiled in the final scenes made his presence in the film totally worthwhile for me, despite sometrepidationabout his character early on. It was good to see him in something a little different from his more usual bad guy persona too.

Ala Modalaindi is an intelligent and funny film, and although not all of the twists and turns work it’s generally an enjoyable watch.  4 stars from me.

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12 thoughts on “Ala Modalaindi

  1. I started to watch this film a while ago, decided to come back to it when I had time, then forgot about it. Your very positive review inspired me to watch it, which I’ve done over the past couple of days. Now that I’ve finished, I’m frankly baffled, even amazed, at your extremely positive review. I’m not saying it’s a bad film — it’s a pleasant enough diversion — but I just don’t see any of the freshness or creativity that you two did. Frankly I was bored quite a bit of the time.

    Well, that’s opinion, which can certainly differ between people. But what about facts? Where do you get the idea that Nithya had a job, or even any of Gautham’s friends? They’re the usual type of undefined “hero’s friends” without identities or personalities, mainly there to be plot devices. Similarly, it was nowhere shown that Nithya had any kind of job. She mentions being a volunteer with Make a Wish foundation for one scene, and then that line is dropped. Similarly she shows up at Red Cross flood relief camp, but she leaves at the end of the day with Gautham and then decamps (pardon the pun) when she finds out he has a girlfriend. I was left wondering what happened to the flood refugees. Were all their troubles over in one day? Highly irresponsible volunteer, this Nithya! There are many other such inaccuracies in your review, which makes me wonder if this was another adventure without subtitles. Was it? If not, I really can’t understand where you saw so many positives.

    I’m also amazed that neither of you mentioned what to me was a big negative of the film, which you would have jumped on (based on your other reviews) if the genders had been reversed. I refer to the frequency with which female characters in the film beat up the males — not for good reason, as in the scene with the goondas, but just because they’re women. Nithya beats Gautham many times to express her frustration at being teased, Gautham’s mother beats him with a stick to “rouse” him out of his depression over Nithya, and even Kavya beats poor Gautham. What the heck? Why is it OK for women to beat up men for no reason, when you’re the first to scream “misogyny” when it’s the other way around? (for example in Oh My Friend) Please don’t tell me it is “playful.” It was inappropriate behavior in the context.

    Far from coming across as a “strong woman”, Nithya struck me as highly confused, self-centered, and capricious, who doesn’t know what she wants or how to get it, and is quite inconsiderate of the people around her. And, of course, as always in these types of films, I always feel for the poor groom left at the marriage mandap. :)

    As for acting, yes Nani and Nithya acted well, but Nithya’s dialogue delivery drove me up the wall, being too slow and draggy, and with inappropriate inflection and expression of the words to convey the emotion attached with them. But I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her.

    Sorry for going on at length. Keep up the reviews!

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    • Hi mm. Well it is nice that you managed to both watch the film and read the whole review before taking me to task. Clearly, you saw the film very differently! And you and I have had wildly varying opinions on films before – Aa Naluguru springs to mind.

      The ‘facts’ that you quote in Ala Modalaindi are inferences you drew from the script and action just as I did. You’ve interpreted characters and situations according to your own views and observations, and I have done the same. We could quote chapter and verse of examples supporting our arguments to each other, but would either of us change our minds? Unlikely.

      I think you have done the same when accusing me of hypocrisy in relation to what you see as women beating men up. You’ve made a judgement as to my position on an issue, and taken your perception of the physical encounters and presented them as though they are conflicting facts. I have described the characters and relationships as I saw them in the context of the drama and action. I don’t know why you referred to ‘Oh My Friend’ as an example of me being the first to ‘scream misogyny’, as I’ve never seen that film nor have I commented on it. Now I come to think of it, I am more often accused of not caring enough about alleged misogyny in films. It’s all a matter of opinion.

      I write my thoughts, in my own words, and with reference to my own context and values. You seem to be very disappointed when you encounter views that don’t coincide exactly with yours. Maybe it is finally time to start the blog you’ve been talking about :)

      Temple

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      • Dear me, where did I accuse you of “hypocrisy”? I said I was surprised that you didn’t mention this aspect of the film which was quite blatant to me. My comment was addressed to both of you — don’t you both write reviews of most films? There is certainly a review of Oh My Friend up on in your archive. So, whichever one of you wrote that review, and mentioned the “playful” slap (which was out of place there, but was also a single instance), didn’t mention any of the many physical beatings that appeared in this film. Hence my surprise.

        At any rate, it seems you perceived my comment as an attack on you, which it wasn’t meant to be. So maybe I should stop commenting here — I haven’t had time to do so, anyway, for quite a while.

        Do you want me to start a blog so you can disagree with me there? :) But if and when I start it (and how kind of you to remember my mentioning it), it won’t deal with these kinds of films, so perhaps it won’t interest you.

        At any rate, don’t mind me, and keep up your reviews.

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      • Hi mm,
        I must admit I’m a bit confused. I wrote the review of Oh My Friend (if you look under the title or each review the author is listed) and I didn’t mention a slap at all – playful or otherwise!
        In general I don’t think I mention violence in films very much unless it’s as a warning for people who are more squeamish than me, particularly with reference to amounts of blood shed since I do know a few people who don’t like that at all. I might comment when I think the violence doesn’t fit in terms of the plot or how I feel the characters are likely to behave. But since I frequently would like to give the heroine a slap myself I don’t think I usually object if the hero does it instead :P
        I didn’t feel anyone in this film acted outside of normal behaviour for the age group they were trying to represent and actually thought it was much truer to life than most TW films.
        It’s just another film we disagree on :)
        Heather

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    • I understand that physical violence between characters might be personally distasteful to you.
      However, I am surprised that you would consider it a big negative in this movie context. In a culture with gender relations so unequal that hitting a wife/women goes without comment (ex: ‘Sasirekha parinayam’ where Genelia’s father kicks her mom in stomach in his anger – my sympathetic response went over-drive), would you say that a girl hitting a guy would have same power-relationship implications?

      There are girls hitting guys whom they feel attracted to (in addition to swirling their own hair). It is a part of establishing close relationship in immature minds. It is also a sort of indicator of establishing that the guy is a ‘nice guy’ and contrary to usual macho ‘won’t-take-a-single-insult’ hero.

      In some ways, I think even this is misogyny because, part of showing this hitting is to establish that it is benign since the girls can’t be strong enough to really physically hurt the guy anyways. But the guy is benevolent enough to overlook these immature transgressions.

      I won’t go into parent-child relationships, but ‘spare the stick-spoil the child’ is so well-entrenched that again it reads as ‘humorous’ as his mom is asking him not be childish. (Nani says ‘Revathi – hey now this is really hurting – stop it’ and ‘Do you really need to do it at this age?’). Also, fathers physically controlling grown-up sons goes without comment (Chitram?, Happy Days?, Tholi Prema? Thammudu?). In this case, his mom had to take up the father’s role.

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  2. Yay! Both of you guys loved this movie.

    I loved it. Finally something with realistic characters and not totally brain-dead.
    The thing I liked best about Nithya is her not being Genelia. Genelia was bordering on too much craziness in ‘Bommarillu’. Here Nithya managed to be kooky without being crazy. I thought that was an achievement. Her character stops and thinks and feels guilt upon discovering her mistakes.

    Nani was the highlight of the movie. He did the sensitive guy covered up in ‘take-it-easy’ guy. Particularly his reaction to his friends when Nithya first meets his group. She makes a comment about needing someone to drive her around the city and he shows by expression that it is ‘yours truly’. That play-off between a guy and gal who are sort of attracted but don’t actually proceed ahead in the next instant is how real love stories between 20-somethings develop. He is also a believable nice guy. He is protective when required, appears to not feel much, but deeply caring.

    I am with Temple on favourite filmi ma. This is also a credit to the movie showing how strong moms make caring sons. Their whole relationship made more believable due to Rohini and Nani.

    Re Sneha Ullal -lol @ ‘acute gastric pain’. I didn’t understand her either. The sexy-tamil-vet are too many adjectives which didn’t really fit her in anyway. But this was thankfully minor and only a plot-device.

    Mostly I like this movie because they were very relatable characters. This doesn’t make them good or bad, but more like real living people I know would behave (and surprisingly regardless of the ethnicity of the people involved). There is a good mix of kind and warm heart, selfishness, thoughtless behaviour, confidence, insecurity about body image and enough humility to admit one’s mistakes.

    Re AstaChemma – I liked it because, (*SPOILER* – it is exactly a Telugu remake of this http://youtu.be/nMbIu8lRlWw ). I liked the old English original and so it was no surprise that I found the whole movie very very funny. The director did a good job of converting the original close to nativity.

    I finally watch ‘Pilla Zamindar’ and found Nani to be still good. However, it doesn’t measure up to the other two in terms of entertainment.

    Phew-sorry for the long comment.

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    • Hi Violet. Another fan – yay!

      Yes I completely agree about the Bommarillu type of heroine. I try not to blame Genelia herself for the proliferation of ‘escaped mental patient’ heroines but it’s hard. Nithya was more of a young woman than the childish heroine I usually see, and she certainly had a bit to say for herself. I agree with you about how relatable the characters are, and that made me far more interested in how things might resolve. It is refreshing to see characters who are ordinary – not an extreme of goodness or otherwise. Just people. I care more when I can believe in the romantic leads as real people who have some kind of life or context apart from their One True Love, and Ala Modalaindi gave me that. I don’t often tear up in films, but I did a little when Nani had come home from the hospital and was rattling around the house alone. And yes, the timing of the relationship developing was really well done – it is far from insta-love that must steamroll all in its path.

      I wasn’t quite so taken with Ashta Chamma, mostly because of the the other bloke whose name I forget now. Maybe it’s because I didn’t like his performance that I found the dialogue got a bit stilted – I missed the Wilde zing and bounce although otherwise it is a very neat transposing of the story. But Nani is very appealing and I’ll keep an eye out for his work.

      Cheers, Temple

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    • Hi Violet,

      It’s a great film :) The characters are very true to life and it’s a good story too.
      I didn’t have too much of an issue with Sneha Ullal despite her dreadful item song because I felt that she was actually ‘trying’ to act – even if she wasn’t doing a great job!
      At least she was putting a bit of effort in, which may explain the ‘acute gastric pain’ expression :P
      But everyone else was fantastic and both Nani and Nithya really fitted their characters perfectly.
      I quite enjoyed Ashta Chamma too but found that it dragged a little for me in the second half. Still a good film though and certainly an interesting version of the original :O
      I have Pilla Jamindar and Snehituda in the pile to watch as I’m really impressed with Nani!

      Cheers
      Heather

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