Jalsa

Jalsa-posterTrivikram’s Jalsa wanders all over the place with an uneven blend of romance and action packed drama. I had to check that it really was made in 2008 as the plot, and treatment of female characters, is very retro and not in a charming vintage way. Pawan Kalyan gives a good performance but unfortunately he can’t save the script and some glaring plotholes. Like the hero, Ileana D’Cruz rides out some stupid plot turns and inconsistencies in her character to hit the right notes in the more thought out scenes.

Jalsa-Prakash Raj

Sanjay Sahu (Pawan Kalyan) goes to ask his girlfriend’s (Kamalinee Mukerjee – don’t blink or you might miss her) father (Prakash Raj) for permission to marry Indu. He refuses and she is married off (to Kamal Kamaraju). Sanju goes back to his longest standing relationship, the one with the bottle. But then he meets Bhagi (Ileana) who falls for him on sight and eventually he returns her feelings. The story jumps forward and Bhagi finds out that Sanju had previously wanted to marry her sister. Naturally she is disturbed by the news, and flashes back to a history of getting her sisters hand-me-downs. Her dad assigns Pranav (Brahmi) to keep Bhagi safe from Sanju so you know this is serious. Unfortunately Pranav’s presence spurs Sanju on to some childish behaviour and the movie gets bogged down in comedy uncle shenanigans.

The first half sets up the romantic angle and then everything takes a sharp left turn as Sanju’s secret past as a naxalite is revealed. He is presented as the ‘good’ kind of terrorist who doesn’t want innocents to die. But still, he embraces violence so…. I think I find the rebel Sanju more interesting than the drunkard but I can’t say I wholeheartedly like either aspect of his character. The flashback also reveals his prior connection to Prakash Raj’s character as well as the villain Damodhar Reddy (Mukesh Rishi).

Bhagi is introduced as she plays an energetic game of squash at the gym, then races her friend Jo (Parvati Melton) to the car. They are confronted by a creep chases the terrified girls into the path of a very drunk saviour, none other than Sanju. I’m not convinced that moments after avoiding a threatened gang rape their thoughts would have turned to romance and bickering over who gets the guy. Bhagi starts out characterised as innocent and a bit dumb, but Ileana bounces daft lines back and forth with her friend Seenu (Sunil) as Bhagi tries to deal with her one-sided attraction to Sanju. Later as Bhagi becomes more assertive and playful Ileana has more fun as she plays off Pawan Kalyan, and also shows more range and depth. I quite liked Bhagi but I got the feeling the role was written piecemeal to suit particular scenes rather than conceived as a character in her own right.

Sanju is the guy who beats up all the guys who tease girls at college. It is nice that the hero defends people against bullies but I am tired of seeing women only allowed to be safe if the biggest bully lets them. He also goes on a rant about how aggravating it is that he can’t slap his future wife to control her for fear of the law and women’s groups. It was done for dramatic and ‘comedic’ purposes and it just doesn’t mesh with the thoughtful side of Sanju. He was a smart guy who chose to become a naxalite through tragic family circumstances but then seems to just forget all about it once he got into college. It really made no sense. And why does he always wander around with his belt undone? Despite my issues with the writing and the rape jokes, Pawan Kalyan is very funny in some of Sanju’s drunk monologues, with a deft balance of verbal and non-verbal comedy beats. The fight scenes are choreographed to his strengths, whether a precision martial arts style or a scrappy street brawl, and he gives them an elegance and energy that is totally missing from the lacklustre songs. I did like it when he punched a car and all the doors flew off. His choreo seems to be limited to ‘shuffle-shuffle-jiggle-wave your hands around’ but I suppose it helps him avoid direct comparisons with You Know Who.

There is a drawn out ‘comedy’ sequence where Sanju tells Brahmi’s character that he plans to drug and rape Bhagi. Then says he is only joking because it is no fun to rape an unconscious woman when you could have one running around and screaming. This kind of ‘joke’ is rife in 80 and 90s films, but at least I can pass that off as The Bad Old Days. Sanju’s plan to win Bhagi back seems to be to ruin any other chance for her until she caves in. And her sister insists Bhagi accept all this as it is Sanju’s way of expressing his love, and if a boy does that it is OK and you have to let him because he is a boy. Jalsa was made in 2008 by a smart director with a hero who is by all accounts quite intelligent so I cannot find it in me to make the same excuses for how this plays out.

One of the things I do really like is Mahesh’s laconic narration. His slightly lazy drawl hits the right notes of comedy, empathy, and sarcasm as he reveals more about Sanju than is evident in the drama.

Prakash Raj gets some nice bromantic moments with Pawan Kalyan but his character makes so many poor decisions that I lost all patience with him. Mukesh Rishi plays his usual imposing villain. He thinks nothing of killing an out of town Don on the way back to jail from his rejected bail hearing. Tanikella Bharani is creepy sidekick Bulli Reddy, his fixer. There is a tedious running gag between Sunil’s Bunk Seenu and Dharmavarapu Subramanyam’s greedy psychiatrist that I would have solved with a diagnosis of One Tight Slap, three times a day until the course is finished. Brahmi does his shtick, but is never more than mildly amusing. If you are looking for miracles to attribute to the Powerstar, he does seem to detoxify Ali who gives a fairly restrained character based performance. I generally enjoy Ali’s appearances in Pawan Kalyan’s films but typically loathe him in everything else so this is a mysterious but good thing.

Telugu Movie Science has long been on the cutting edge of creativity and the laws of physics are tested in Jalsa’s action scenes. As usual the showdowns involve an orderly lineup of hairy rowdies patiently taking turns to be beaten up. But no one can deny that disputes settled the old fashioned way – a swordfight – tend to have a definite outcome.

I can see why Powerstar fans, the most passionate movie fans EVER, often enthusiastically recommend this film. Pawan Kalyan is given ample scope to show his acting depth as well as his comedic and action chops and he really does shine in some scenes. It is just a pity that the story doesn’t really hold up and the direction seems more focussed on set pieces and not enough on bringing a balance to all the disparate elements. 3 stars.

Bhoot Bungla (1965)

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Adhering to the Scooby Doo school of horror, Bhoot Bungla is fun from go to whoa with great music, dodgy disguises, lukewarm romance, dancing skeletons and a dash of suspense. This was Mehmood’s debut as a director and he pulled out every trick in the book, and I suspect a few favours from the filmi fraternity, to make it a hugely entertaining romp.

Bhoot-Bungla-Moni Chatterjee

50 years ago Kundanlal was murdered and his wife and son disappeared from the family home. In the present day his three nephews live in the mansion. Ramlal (Moni Chatterjee) gets a telegram that his daughter Rekha (Tanuja) is coming home from Abroad. He prepares to collect her from the airport but brother Shyamlal (Nazir Husain) makes an excuse that he has to go to the office. Ramlal’s car explodes, leaving Rekha an orphan and heiress. Not long after, poor unhinged Ramu (Nana Palsikar) is found dead in a murder staged to look like suicide.

Shyamlal and Rekha move into a stylish apartment in town but can they escape the curse? Or is it a more corporeal threat? Worried that she is sad and afraid, Uncle calls Rekha’s friends to come and get her out of the house. They enter her in a singing competition at The Beach Club, where her rival is none other than Mohan Kumar (Mehmood) and his Youth Club, dedicated to Doing Good. The hi-tech Applause Meter gives Mohan the cup, but the audience is the real winner! Oh yes, hijinks ensue.

Tanuja is excellent as Rekha, sassy and sweet by turns. I really liked that the first thing Rekha did in the new flat was unpack her books while the servants dealt with the clothes and other belongings. She is smart but also raised to be obedient and good so when suspicion falls close to home, she tends to go with the dutiful response rather than a rational one. Tanuja matches Mehmood’s energy, throwing herself into the silliness with gusto. She also delivers a convincing portrayal of Rekha as someone weighed down by fear and losing confidence in their own judgement. I can think of no other explanation for her fleeing the apartment in a frothy nighty and huge fur coat (in Mumbai? Really?). The romance is a minor part of the story, and there are no sparks between Tanuja and Mehmood, but they do have nice rapport. Since the relationship is partly due to Mohan’s Youth Club commitment to helping people, it doesn’t matter that they seem more like friends than being crazy in love. There’s enough crazy to make up for it!

Mehmood’s grand entrance is riding a motorbike up Marine Drive and howling like a police siren. At first I actually thought it was just exceptionally dodgy sound effects and had grave fears for the rest of the film! There can be too much Mehmood, but in this case he gets it just about right and Mohan is wacky but always likeable and genuine. Maybe he was too busy worrying about tricky camera angles (of which there are many) to be The Star and settled for a happy camaraderie with the ensemble. Of course, restrained by Mehmood standards still includes doing drag, slapstick, encouraging children to gogo dance their fears away, and instigating a dance off with gyrating skeletons. But I knew Mohan truly loved Rekha when he shaved his moustache off to frock up, committing himself to having to draw it back on with pencil for at least one subsequent scene. That is commitment,

The music is fabulous and the songs are a real highlight. Mohan sees a blind beggar whose violin has been broken by drunk boys – so he does a West Side Story style dance number exhorting society to wake up and care. Pyar Karta Ja moves the hearts of all youth club boys and girls who were otherwise occupied in construction work. It’s not quite the barn raising scene in Witness but pleasing nonetheless, and Witness didn’t have Manna Dey. Everyone, including the special effects team, saved their best for the Bhoot Bungla song. Watch it now, and enjoy all manner of silliness with Mehmood and RD Burman dancing with skeletons and showing the ghosts who’s boss.

The support cast has lots of excellent performers although I am struggling to put names to all the faces despite the detailed opening credits. I will take a punt that Jerry played Jerry who was an imitation Jerry Lewis. I was particularly fond of Rekha’s exuberant girlfriends (including Lata Sinha). RD Burman is a hoot as Stocky, the cowardly foodie who accompanies Mohan on his ghost busting mission. It’s always good to know that someone has afternoon tea requirements under control. The creepy family retainers – Lakiya and the mysterious and toothy gardener – are perfectly cast with their spooky appearances adding to the sense of unease. Just the thought of Lakiya’s ruffles is enough to terrify me.

Bhoot-Bungla-Dedication

Apart from the fluffy entertainment value, the story is reasonably strong. Mehmood balances the various elements well and kept the suspense and laughs coming. There are some twists and red herrings, and things move along at a fair pace. I found the dedication to Guru Dutt quite touching – Mehmood seems to have been a thinker when it came to his own films.

See this for the excellent songs, the generally well balanced suspense and comedy, and the skeleton dance-off. Sure there are some things that go bump in the plot, and a couple of loopholes big enough to drive a Youth Club bus through, but nothing that detracted from the good natured fun. 4 stars!

Did someone say Twist?

Cannot. Resist. Urge. To. Dance!

Bhoot-Bungla-the end

Pizza

Pizza-Poster

Billed as a supernatural suspense thriller, Pizza is an assured debut by director Karthik Subbaraj. At a relatively taut 2 hours or so, it certainly manages to pack in the suspense and a few twists and turns. I’m going to try and avoid spoilers and will not divulge much of the plot.

Anu is an aspiring novelist and Michael works in a pizza joint. They live in an outbuilding, relying on bribes to keep the security guards turning a blind eye.  She falls pregnant, and eventually he overcomes his fear of the responsibility enough to propose. While Anu wants a proper wedding, he says they will do that when they can afford it but for now, they should just marry for their own sakes. They dress up in their nice clothes and exchange vows in their yard. So far, so good. On a late night delivery, Michael is waiting for change when the lights go out and he hears noises upstairs in the house. He goes up and sees his customer bleeding from multiple wounds, but no sign of her attacker. Michael runs, trying frantically to find a way out of the house but there are bars on all the windows and the door has been deadlocked. Oh, and the house is full of dolls. And then he hears music from upstairs.

And to find out more about the plot you’ll need to watch the movie. If you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know what happens, may I suggest you avoid reading the painfully detailed plot synopsis on Wiki. I saw it recently when I was checking cast details and wow – way to ruin a suspense film, Wiki-dude.

Pizza-filmi heritage

Subbaraj isn’t shy about using filmi cliché to misdirect or tease the audience, and I’d guess he has watched his fair share of horror and paranormal movies. A lot of the film is set during the night time and between the deep shadows and the rapid changes of point of view and edits, there is often a sense of unease and of being watched or followed. In contrast, the domestic scenes between Michael and Anu are airy and colourful, with a gentle and usually flattering light. I found one extended sequence quite poorly constructed, as though the director was making things up as they went. That became an extremely clever approach once I watched to the point that more was revealed, but it is a risky move as you may lose people when you’re deliberately being obvious before they know why. And there are a few things that really did not work for me. Michael’s boss asks him to deliver a file to his home ahead of an audit. While there, Michael sees a girl who seems to be possessed. She has the clichéd demonic multi-tonal voice effect with the screechy violins of evil and wheezes so heavily I really wanted to pass her an asthma inhaler. It was oddly heavy handed and overdone when some other hints and clues were done deftly.

Michel and Anu have that rare thing in Indian cinema – a sexual relationship out of wedlock where no one really judges. When Anu falls pregnant Michael’s first reaction is to think of how difficult it will be to raise a child and he encourages her to have an abortion. But when he tells his friends they all say pretty much the same things – there is never a good time to have kids, and he loves Anu, so why is he hesitating to marry her. Anu’s reaction was to leave a note saying she would no longer do his laundry (as after all, she wasn’t his wife) and coolly set herself up in the yard with a book and some snacks while he ran around the house panicking in case she had left him.

Vijay Sethupathi is generally good as Michael but I felt he overacted or his timing was off in some of the spooky scenes. I do appreciate the challenge of acting with things that may not be there until post production, so it didn’t worry me unduly. But in terms of acting I thought the scenes between Michael and his colleagues or Anu were more engaging. Remya Nambeesan gives Anu a down to earth style that includes a pragmatic approach to relationships and planning for her future. They have the easy rapport of an established couple but can still spike into anxiety and insecurity when the status quo is threatened.

While I liked a lot about their relationship and thought they suited each other well, I didn’t particularly like either character. But I don’t think any of the characters in Pizza are very likeable and it doesn’t matter. They’re interesting, they all have strong connections to other people in the story, and the world of Pizza does feel real. The supporting cast is relatively small and all of the characters play a significant role in Michael’s story. His colleagues Raghavan (Karunakaran) and Srinath (Jayakumar) are also Michael’s only apparent friends, and the ones he confides in about everything going on in his life. Bobby Simha and Pooja Ramachandran are strangers to Michael but have a huge impact on the story.

This is more of an indie style film but there is a vague attempt at incorporating songs. I find the soundtrack bland and dominated by ballads. Ballads are bad enough, but in films they usually signal a boring montage (rather than the more acceptable energetic dancing) and that is what is delivered here.

I was mildly diverted by Anu and Michael cavorting in the rain under a huge plastic sheet but more because I wondered why they didn’t just stay in their perfectly dry house and pash without the risk of suffocation. But, whatever.

Pizza is a film that is better on looking back than it was on first view, but it doesn’t stand up well to repeated watching due to the reliance on suspense. See it if you are interested in an urban Indian supernatural story or just like pacey thrillers with enough to keep you guessing. The cast definitely add to the charm of the everyday scenes and Karthik Subbaraj knows how to play his audience. 4 stars!

Hyderabad Blues (1998)

Hyderabad-Blues-title

Hyderabad Blues opens with a montage of Hyderabad landmarks and the usual sights of men pissing and spitting, cows wandering the streets – the stuff any first time visitor to India would notice. Varun narrates, his American accented English sounding slightly Zoolander-ish; ‘As scared as anyone would be in a foreign land – but wait a minute, this is my home’. He has to be coached on meeting relatives, what to say to a servant, who everyone is, and he feels caught betwixt and between.

Varun (Nagesh Kukunoor) is health conscious and snooty – his mum is determined to feed him up but he can’t stand the high fat high carb meals. He droops around the house looking disgruntled and superior. His mates rib him about his bad attitude and encourage him to remember how things are in India. Harish (Anoop Ratnaker Rao) is married and Sanjeev (Vikram Inamdar) will be soon. Most of his time with friends consists of happy reminiscing over the past but when they talk of current times the differences are apparent and there is lots of “Fuck you man!” Kukunoor produced, wrote, and directed the film on a shoestring, and cast himself in the lead. He sounds like he is just reading the script with little modulation in his voice. His performance is among the weakest and the character is self-centred and often obnoxious, so the sympathy I had for Varun evaporated quite quickly. (I thought that about his appearance in Dor as well.)

Sanjeev says arranged marriage makes him the king as he can chose whoever he wants and since Varun views his marriage as solely his choice I don’t think they are really so different. Varun fancies a friend of Sanjeev’s selected bride Seema (the ebullient Elahe Hiptoola), and asks for an introduction.

Ashwini (Rajshri Nair) is a doctor. Despite his progressive foreign ideas Varun is both surprised at a woman being a doctor and dismissive of her ability since she got in on a seat reserved for women. They celebrate Holi with friends and Ashwini takes bhang to be rebellious. While she is off her nut, Varun takes advantage to ask the most important question in his life – why doesn’t she like him as much as she should? She calls him out on his contempt for Indians and his put on foreign airs and stupid accent, calling him a pseud. She believes he expects all dates to end in sex, and she is not interested in being a notch on his belt. But they make a date to see Hum Apke Hain Kaun (13 songs! He must fancy her!). Rajshri Nair is generally quite good and her girl next door look suits Ashwini. There are abrupt shifts in tone required by the dialogue and she is shrill and over the top in some of the more explosive moments. She is much more effective in the scenes when Ashwini is joking around with her friend Seema or in the conversational interludes between arguments with Varun.

I liked the setting for the story. People are ordinary middle class, and live normal relatable lives. They play out the large and small rituals of life; weddings, funerals, cleaning, preparing food, and conversations that sound like duets of well rehearsed lines. I liked the mix of languages as people would start a conversation in Telugu, wander into Hindi and end with English. It’s a familiar sound to me and also helped define the characters as on more serious topics people reverted to their preferred language and cadence. Some of the one-liners are quite witty and the family rivalries and bragging about whose son was better added some levity. There are nice touches as Varun starts to soften or reconnect with his culture, like when he deigns to offer money at a shrine and then dashes back to make sure he left an odd amount just like his mother told him. I liked seeing the little bit of playfulness as Seema and Sanjeev completed their wedding formalities and the way these details added depth to the characters and relationships. The clash of generations and of different cultural influences is interesting and I know so many of my friends have gone through similar experiences so I expected to love the film. But between some dodgy plot development, Varun’s endless whining, and Kukunoor’s suboptimal acting, too many things tried my patience.

I really liked that the relationship is not plain sailing and Varun has to work to win Ashwini over. His parents object as Ashwini is a different caste and they had several someone elses in mind. Ashwini and Varun meet daily at the hospital and she says they will be the subject of gossip and that she does worry to an extent as she needs to live her life once he has returned to the US. She also tells him he is probably just another NRI coming to find a maid/slave/wife. He says he is different but he is confused about what he wants and where they would make their home. Ashwini scolds him for assuming she would want to marry him (and that he hasn’t asked) and for also assuming she would just leave everything she has in India and follow him. It’s fair enough that he doesn’t want to throw away 12 years of hard work, but he doesn’t extend the same courtesy to her.

But while Ashwini opens up about her fears and hopes and how she thinks the cultural gap is just too big to bridge, Varun strikes a more adolescent note. He and Sanjeev have a lame running gag about wanking and they constantly leer at Shashi Aunty and her precariously draped pallu. Varun has a track record that inspires scorn and envy from his mates. But then Varun likens Sanjeev’s wedding night to a drunken one nighter as he has only just met his partner, and Sanju is (understandably) pissed off. Harish and Sanju don’t seem to think sex outside of marriage is an option and caution Varun about treating Ashwini lightly. When she pushes Varun away mid-kiss he cracks it as that must be a sign of backwards values, not her preference or a reflection on his kissing. It was interesting that Varun could be disparaging of custom and society, but when Ashwini’s criticism of culture was directed at her father, Varun came to his defence saying you couldn’t ignore 5000 years of tradition and that her dad did his best. Hmmm. Sounds like a typical manchild to me!

The resolution to the on again off again romance is totally filmi and not really in a good way. I was disappointed after the relatively realistic build up that too many people acted in a way that was inconsistent with their previous behaviour. I appreciate the challenge of making an indie film, especially in an industry that is geared towards formulaic blockbusters, so Nagesh Kukunoor deserves credit for getting his film out there (even if I don’t think he deserves any for his acting). But for me there are some substantial negatives in the acting and the story that are detrimental to the overall quality. The movie is on YouTube with subs. 3 stars.

Anji

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Anji is an unashamed tilt at a commercial blockbuster with an obviously huge budget and everything including the kitchen sink by way of recommended masala ingredients. Kodi Ramakrishna directed Devi, Ammoru, and the more recent Arundhati, all of which had big special effects and equally big performances. I think those films are more effective than Anji overall as the stories were less obviously ‘inspired’ by Hollywood. Also I suspect that casting such a big name hero skewed the story towards him, leaving mostly comic relief and buffoonery for the other performers. But the visuals are pretty good and Chiranjeevi brings his own style and verve to the adventure.

Back in 1932 a nasty man with blue contacts and huge teeth (Bhupinder Singh) tried to steal a sacred relic, the Aatmalingam. The Aatmalingam catches the waters of the Akasa Ganga every 72 years, and drinking that water grants immortality. Luckily for us and not so luckily for him, he triggers the defences around the Aatmalingam. Bhatia barely escapes, losing an arm to a sentient flying sword.

Anji-fingernails

I must just question the wisdom of sending a man with those fingernails to do a delicate job of thievery.

In 2004, when the heavenly miracle is due to occur again, Bhatia (now overacted by Tinnu Anand with odd prosthetic earlobes) once again has a crack at gaining supreme power. A diary containing the pertinent lore was sent to Swapna (Namrata Shirodkar), a student in the USA, to keep it safe. She returns to India and thanks to fate and public transport, meets Anji (Chiranjeevi) and is pursued by idiots (MS Narayana and gang). After hiring Anji to escort her to her destination, the two realise they have to protect the Aatmalingam (and all the people) and defeat the bad guy. They join forces in an adventure with epic overtones and rush towards the final confrontation.

There are numerous scenes lifted directly from other films – the Crocodile Dundee knife scene, references to the Indiana Jones series and Romancing The Stone among others – but with a Telugu mass and Megastar spin.

Big special effects are one thing but the actors still have to deliver. Anji rights wrongs, protects the defenceless and keep an eye on the guru (Nagendra Babu in some terrible wrinkle makeup). One thing I consistently enjoy about Chiru’s films is that even in the most familiar material he doesn’t seem to be phoning it in. I liked that Anji was a little bit whiny and ‘why me?’ in some scenes but his morals were sound. Chiru had good rapport with his brother Nagendra Babu and with the other filmi family members. The action scenes (by Peter Hein) are fast and often played for laughs as well as adrenalin, and Chiru highkicks and leaps like there is no tomorrow. Anji is ambushed in the jungle, beaten and pushed over a cliff but Heroes bounce when they hit rock bottom (literally and figuratively it seems). The dances are energetic and lots of fun. Anji is often the object of female fantasy in the songs so I quite enjoyed pondering why someone would imagine that particular outfit or that dance move when their thoughts turned to love (or lust). Chik Buk Pori is beautifully shot and features Chiru and his backing dudes, Ramya Krishnan as a flirty con artist, singing orphans and a random white chick. Who could ask for more?

Namrata Shirodkar is perhaps best known as the woman who persuaded Mahesh Babu he could wear t-shirts, AND wear them one at a time. Oh, and she is a former Miss India. Swapna seems like a smart modern girl while in the US – she flies a plane, drives a fast fancy car – all of which is promising in an adventure. So I was confused when she came to India and walking and talking simultaneously seemed to be rather challenging. Her acting mostly ranges from jiggle and giggle to SCREAM and grimace. And the Telugu dubbing gives her a breathy little girl voice which is just annoying. She doesn’t have great chemistry with Chiru, but romance is a fair way down the ranks of subplots which was refreshing. I was expecting more substance in this role based on Ammoru and Devi which had fierce female leads. Namrata’s performance holds up reasonably well as she wasn’t challenged to deliver much more than be a foil for The Hero. Although Swapna did remember some of her foreign skills and I was pleased to see her steal and hotwire a bus to save the obligatory orphans.

The songs are well integrated into the action so they don’t halt the momentum. I wouldn’t care anyway because Chiru! Dancing! Lawrence is credited as a choreographer and he works so well with Chiranjeevi. Swapna throws some bark on the fire and ends up stoned. He knows what it is but he inhales anyway (eventually, after helpfully explaining what was happening). All of which leads Abbo Nee Amma. Om Shanti Om is stylistically a little weird but Namrata’s outfits add some entertainment value even if her dancing doesn’t. Reema Sen makes an appearance in Mirapakaya Bajji that has excellent use of Chiru.

There are some cool effects but there are also polyester stick on beards and an unconvincing roasted lizard on a stick. And a baby crocodile that squeaks like a rubber mouse. But I was pleased to see that when Anji’s dog attacked to save a family member it was clearly a stuffed toy and not a real dog being shaken around. And the horse stunts were not too scary. Where the adventure intersects more with history and religion, the quality and scale of the effects improves although the gore levels were consistent throughout. The religious elements are woven into the action very well and give the story more substance. In one scene Anji accidentally does the right things in the right order and is protected from the giant snake and flying sword. Because I understood what he should do I found the sequence gripping, where sometimes I wonder ‘who made this nonsensical ritual up?’. Some of the magical effects when the Aatmalingam is discovered are very pretty, and there are some excellent locations and sets. Maybe Kodi Ramakrishna is a thrifty director and spends his budget where it will have the most impact. The final confrontation takes place in the Himalayas and Heaven, under the eye of Shiva. It’s all quite grand and otherworldly.

Anji is entertaining from start to finish. My DVD ends quite abruptly following the showdown between Bhatia and Anji but I am quite happy as Swapna was doing something useful for a change, and I suspect if there is a missing scene it probably has singing orphans. Chiru owns his role and his energy is evident in every scene. If you like fantasy or supernatural adventures or have a soft spot for Indiana Jones and Chiranjeevi then I highly recommend Anji. 4 stars!