Mirchi

Mirchi-Movie-PosterMirchi is a mass action romance revenge saga, offering few surprises in the story but with great casting and some solid performances. Writer/director Koratala Siva gets bogged down in a long flashback and loses the momentum a bit towards the second half, but generally moves along at a reasonable clip from fight to song to romance to fight and back again. Like many mass films, it starts light and fluffy but then the body count starts to rise so you do need to be a bit gore tolerant to fully enjoy Mirchi.

Jai (Prabhas) is an architect in Milan. He meets Manasa (Richa Gangopadhyay) and saves her from some thugs. They become friendly and he learns of her family – dominated by a violent assortment of men living in a big old house – and Jai decides to fix her life. Of course, Jai has an ulterior motive for wanting to reform her family, and that is revealed through a very long and detailed flashback. Jai is the son of Manasa’s family’s enemy, Deva (Sathyaraj). How can Jai reform her family, reclaim his place with his own estranged family, eliminate any enemies who refuse to comply and oh yes – what will happen to Manasa when he is reunited with his first love, Vennela (Anushka Shetty)?

mirchi_movie_prabhas dancersprabhas-mirchi

Prabhas is made for this kind of role. Jai is a nice guy, although of course he can kill evil doers with a single blow. Prabhas has such a likeable screen persona and the action scenes are well within his capability. He has nice chemistry with both leading ladies although as the story unfurls there is little ambiguity about who he would choose.  There is not a lot of complexity or nuance, but the role contains enough variety to give Prabhas a bit to work with. Jai does have to find a way that doesn’t totally rely on revenge and violence so there is a clear before and after in his character. One of the highlights is the slightly more prominent roles given to some supporting actors, and those scenes give Prabhas more scope for lighter moments. Jai’s relationship with his father is played out nicely too, showing the slightly more sympathetic side of the feud.

Favourite That Guy Subbaraju is Manasa’s brother. He is first seen pursuing some unfortunate bloke through college and delivering a serious beating. But Jai can see that apparently all he needed to give up his bullying ways was … discovering girls. Yes, Subbaraju got in touch with his sensitive side after dancing to Moves Like Jagger with the girl who fancied him. Who knew Maroon 5 was good for anything? But if that’s what it takes to get a good looking bloke to eschew dismemberment and take up flirting, well then I suppose that is not a bad thing. This dance outbreak also had the effect of making him dress better, pay his rent on time and generally improve his manners.  From then on he spends the rest of the film on the phone to the girl, very coy and giggly as he mouths what I can only assume are dialogues along the line of ‘no you hang up…no you…no you hang up first’ and the like. Silly but amusing, and nice to see him in a slightly different role.

Mirchi-Jai and Manasa

Richa has a one note character so there isn’t much she can do with Manasa, although she and Prabhas have nice rapport and that helps make the growing friendship between the characters more credible. Once the terribly long flashback starts, she is sidelined and pretty much disappears until the last couple of minutes. Anushka gets more investment from the screenplay as the feisty village belle Vennela. She sets her cap at Jai and he happily succumbs, colourful dance numbers and all. Until disaster strikes on their wedding day.

Sampath Raj has a prominent role as Manasa’s uncle, a nasty piece of work who bullies the entire household and believes he can heal his paralysed father by despatching selected enemies in front of him. Another That Guy, Adithya, plays Jai’s uncle, an old school type who believes in sorting out issues with a machete. Adithya doesn’t get the same opportunity to show off his acting range but he does get ample chance to flash a bit of leg. Supreet and Ajay make an appearance in the second half as muscle for Manasa’s family and the violence escalates towards a fairly brutal ending.

Sathyaraj and Nadhiya are good as Jai’s estranged parents and there are lots of other familiar faces. Brahmanandam does his usual thing and luckily has minimal screen time in the latter section of the film where comedy would have been misplaced. His scenes had the audience howling with laughter, but as this was another Adventure Without Subtitles that all went over my head. Satyam Rajesh, Raghu Babu and others do what they do in a film that relies on ‘types’ more than on characters.

The soundtrack is fun and the picturisations are sometimes spectacular (Darlingey and Mirchi in particular). Devi Sri Prasad seems to know his audience, and the crowd response to the songs was great. The choreographers generally concentrate on the possibilities afforded by Prabhas’ lanky frame and enormous wingspan.

Despite what you may think based on that selection of images, Prabhas largely escaped the worst efforts of the blind costume designer, apart from one inexplicable t-shirt with braces attached. And there is an unwavering commitment to ugly acid wash denim throughout. But I do have to ask – the Keytar? Really design team? What were you thinking.

Mirchi is a good formulaic timepass. It has a good cast delivering the minimal requirements of the script, along with well structured action and song sequences. If you’re a fan of Prabhas or the mass action genre, it’s well worth a watch.  Plus  if you like medical moments only possible in Indian films, then this is for you.

Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum

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Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum is complex, controlled, visually beautiful and highly entertaining. Taking themes ranging from corruption, environmental vandalism and the disenfranchisement of the poor to Telugu film standards of revenge and justice, director Krish keeps it all in hand, gathering momentum to the dramatic showdown.

B Tech Babu (Rana) is an actor in his grandfather’s traditional Surabhi theatre troupe, performing devotional plays as well as ones based on old films and stories. (I was delighted to recognise bits of Patala Bhairavi)  He is planning to leave the theatre and go work in the US. But Subramanyam (Kota Srinivasa Rao) dies and Babu feels compelled to ensure his final play is staged at a fair in Bellary. Devika (Nayantara) is in the region filming an expose of land grabs and illegal mining practices. She interviews workers and tracks down rural folks displaced from their lands. Boy meets girl, he is smitten, she is annoyed, but they both keep on with their work and their romantic relationship is a minor facet of the story. Their connection grows as they are thrown together under an external threat. Redappa (Milind Gunaji) is the villain of the piece. His goons threaten the theatre company and he is out to prevent any interference in his mining business so has his sights on Devika. He has a deeper tie to Babu than is initially apparent and his relationship to all the various players is gradually revealed.

It is a little complicated but I felt I followed most of the plot despite this being another Adventure Without Subtitles. I had to really concentrate on who was who, and was completely taken in by one of the plot twists until the truth was revealed. I saw this with two friends – one who dislikes seeing unsubtitled films and the other had only seen one other Telugu film – and they both found it hard going. The audience were whistling, cheering and laughing at a lot of the dialogue, real belly laughs at that, so I am looking forward to seeing this with subtitles. Hopefully the DVD doesn’t take as long to release as Vedam did.

KVJ backstage Babu

I think this is easily Rana’s best performance to date. When Babu’s grandfather died, there was no weeping and chest beating but a definite sadness and quiet loss. There are lighter moments and some glimpses of vulnerability as well as the heroics. Rana’s dialogue delivery and the costumes for the plays within the movie were lots of fun.

KVJ Babu takes a break

He switched between young lad about town and theatrical mode with ease. I got a sense of the character’s struggle with tradition and his fundamental sense of fair play. The fight scenes were excellent and Krish knew how to use his hero to best effect. All Rana did in one sequence was stand suddenly and the audience cheered madly as the bad guy’s knee and hip joints popped and crunched. Plus Rana has Toes of Death.

Despite his ability to carry off a choreographed fight Rana cannot do the same for the other kind of choreography. He can execute dance steps but has no timing at all. The editing was very kind, and it largely worked in Ranga Marthanda, but his shortcomings were all too evident. I wonder if now Charan and Bunny are married, they don’t have time to coach their mate. Poor Rana. But he has an excellent heroic run and he is very tall. My rowing coach used to say to me whenever I had had a disastrous training session ‘you can learn technique but you can’t learn height’.

KVJ Devika at work

Nayantara is glammed up with false lashes and shiny perfect hair, but Devika is primarily focussed on her film and the cause she hopes to help. She has some contact with the CBI and I am not sure whether they were using her to get evidence or she was informing to them. There is a tough side to her and she doesn’t just sit back and wait for the men to sort things out.

Nayantara and Rana

There is no chemistry between Babu and Devika at first as the interest is on his side and he got her offside by acting like an idiot, but it does develop. Devika described Babu to her mother on the phone but that was based on him just being in front of her and looking good so I think she was giving her mum a wishlist rather than declaring an interest. Regardless, the romance is not necessary to make the story development make sense as the characters have other motives for their actions. Nayantara conveyed a sense of purpose and resilience often lacking in filmi heroines.

KVJ Venkatesh Sameera and Rana

The music sounded too familiar at times so I wondered if Mani Sharma had recycled some of his other work. The songs pop up all over the place but they provide a timeout from the action or explain important theories like ‘media is a circus’. If you have ever wondered what Rana would look like as a dwarf, on stilts, or wearing a lilac sequinned cowboy hat ‘Spicy Spicy Girl’ will provide answers. And they solved his dancing issues by getting him to flex to the beat. Venkatesh made a guest appearance in a fun item number with Sameera Reddy and the audience went nuts. The second item was not strictly necessary (are they ever?) but Hazel Keech was just dire. Oh for the love of Helen –  hire a girl who can dance!

KVJ Theatre Company

This is such a beautiful production. Backstage glimpses of the theatre company are dominated by jewel tones, gilding and rich fabrics in honeyed light while the town scenes are sun bleached with harsh shadows. The fairground lights and shapes were used effectively without being overwhelming. The contrast between the forest and the mines could not be more pointed.  People were dressed appropriate to their characters and apart from the songs, the costume team only got away with one lurid shirt – Redappa’s main enforcer wore a fetching mauve satin with shiny spots. A special shout out to whoever designed the theatre costumes for Rana – his Narasimha look was quite something.

KVJ Rana as Narasimha

A lot of the violence was directed at mouths – people had their tongues cut out, their lips pulled at, were forced to swallow boiling water. It was disturbing at times but seemed to be a literal representation of power silencing the poor and unrepresented. The action scenes use a lot of wire work and different film techniques to heighten the drama. The climax fight merges the symbolism of Narasimha with the film hero style in extravagant and memorable fashion.

The support cast includes Brahmi in a pointless gig as a rival actor, Satyam Rajesh and Raghu Babu as members of Subramanyam’s troupe, Murali Krishna Posani as a comedy taxi driver, Adithya as Babu’s murdered father, Murli Sharma in a pivotal role and many others. I liked seeing Krish’s attention to detail in the background scenes. The Surabhi company members were often seen repairing costumes or organising props and makeup and it felt like a working theatre group.

I found Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum immensely satisfying and never dull. Krish balances dialogue driven and action scenes, and draws out the themes to make a cohesive and substantial narrative. Rana excels as the modern hero with traditional inspirations and Nayantara was appealing as a heroine with a brain. This is one of my favourite films in 2012.  I’m crossing my fingers the DVD doesn’t take as long to release as Vedam did.

Billa (2009)

Billa is a remake of Billa (Tamil) which is a remake of an earlier Rajnikanth film of the same name which is a remake of the Amitabh Bachchan classic Don (Salim-Javed are credited for the original story). I’ve seen all of them, plus the more recent Hindi Don starring Shah Rukh, so I didn’t expect the unexpected and largely this is faithful to those predecessors. Meher Ramesh adheres to Telugu film conventions requiring happy endings and righteous heroes so there are a few changes. I enjoyed the total disregard of inconvenient logic and budgetary challenges. It is a modern, slick film with a dash of B movie and the spirit of making do for the sake of entertainment.

Prabhas plays the title role of Billa – a gangster with a puzzling penchant for black satin and three piece suits. In the tropics. No wonder he was always so irritable. The chafing must have been a nightmare.

Billa works for ‘Devil’ and seems to be a model employee. He is out to eliminate the competition and stay ahead of the law while selling arms, drugs and who knows what else to villains all over South-East Asia. He lives a luxurious lifestyle on his private island where he continues to overdress for the beach.

He is a cranky intolerant man, and Prabhas does well to be so unlikeable and dour. I did like Billa’s catchphrase ‘Trust no one. Kill anyone. Be only one”. It was a bit reminiscent of Highlander.

The English dialogues were often very funny though I am not sure the level of cliché was intended.  The subtitle team made their mark too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prabhas also plays Ranga – a naive thief and layabout who has a heart of gold. Ranga is Billa’s duplicate and when Billa is out of circulation, the police use Ranga to infiltrate the gang. This role is a better fit for Prabhas as his likeable goofy side is given more rein and he is more expressive.

Ranga is sympathetic without being overly complex. Prabhas gets an opportunity to play up the confusion as Ranga impersonates Billa but his characterisations are so broad that there is no ambiguity at all.

Ranga has a far more colourful inner life than Billa, so that allowed for some variation in the song treatments.

Subbaraju makes an all too short appearance as Vikram, the gang member who tries to leave Billa for love.

Once I realised he was marked for death I was a bit sad. But I cheered up when Hansika (his love interest) was hit by a truck. Seriously – casting Hansika for the role requiring a seductive dance? What were they thinking? Her costumes don’t help; a floor length evening dress (for clubbing, of course) is replaced with cut-off denim shorts and an oversized jumper. It was all quite daft and compared to Helen … well. Say no more.

Vikram’s sister Maya (Anushka) goes undercover to avenge her brother and his flattened fiancée.

Anushka is not exactly wasted in this role but despite being a strong personality, Maya is not all that integral to the action. The swimming pool has a more important role as it is the means of getting the heroines into their skimpiest outfits. Maya vies with Lisa (Namitha) for Billa’s attention and there is more chemistry, albeit toxic, between the ladies than there is with the hero.

I liked that Lisa was allowed to fight to get rid of her competition, and surprised to see that her repertoire included a fencing bout.

The action scenes by Stun Siva (what a great name!) are a blend of impressive fight choreography and some quite lame stunts. I could see the inspiration for a few scenes was directly lifted from Farhan Akhtar’s Don (2006) but it felt as though they got to the location, realised they didn’t have the budget or know-how and just went for it anyway. Prabhas seemed much more at home in the high adrenalin action scenes than with the dialogues he was given as Billa. The action scenes are sometimes quite creative.

Every good hero/anti-hero needs a good villain and Kelly Dorjee’s character Rashid is flamboyant and slightly unhinged. Krishnamraju (Prabhas’ uncle) is the dedicated policeman after Billa, and gives a nicely balanced performance. Adithya is a cop under suspicion of collaborating with the baddies and is effective and understated. Rehman is Dharmendra, the Interpol agent in charge of hunting down Billa. The supporting gang members are a mixed bag, including Supreet as Ranjith, Billa’s 2IC. Ali has a significant role that is not a comedy distraction. He is a good character actor so I wish he would do more roles that contribute to the story instead of distracting from it.

The music by Mani Sharma is disappointing despite being closely linked to the drama. It was all quite uninspired and only the performers and costumes made any of the picturisations very memorable. Anushka isn’t a very enthusiastic or accomplished dancer so I found the work-arounds in this clip quite amusing.

The costume designers had a fine time and the look developed for Billa and gang was quite consistent and fitted the overall visual flavour.

Namitha and Anushka seemed to have clothes designed by a 20 year old boy with raging hormones but they wore it all well. I have to say that if I am to be afflicted with half naked skanks swanning around, it is nice to see more curvy and natural shapes than a stick insect with implants. But was it necessary? What do you think. To be fair, there was a lot of shirtless Prabhas on display so there was almost equal opportunity for eye candy regardless of your interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite apart from the endless parade of shiny suits, I lost count of the montages of sour-faced Billa flexing and/or staring enigmatically.

I found Billa very entertaining. I pretty much knew where the story was going, but I liked the spirited and fast paced dash through all the shenanigans. Prabhas is in good form, the support cast do well with their material and the film looks great. It was a fun timepass and watching it again recently, I enjoyed it all over again. 3 ½ stars!

Heather says: Faran Aktar’s  Don is one of my favourite Hindi films which may be one of the reasons why I couldn’t appreciate this Telugu version. The opening scenes where Billa does his stuff as the king-pin of the drug organisation were painful to watch as the actors indulged in some of the most stilted acting and dialogue delivery that I’ve ever seen. Billa’s English phrases, in particular his ‘Can, can’ were dreadful and made him sound like a total idiot, while it was hard to watch Prabhas impersonate a chunk of wood when he’s normally a much better actor. It wasn’t just the terrible direction in this section that didn’t work for me, since the stunts and effects were just as bad. It appeared as if Meher Ramesh thought that a film about gangsters needed plenty of fast cars, helicopters and motorbikes, which I agree is not a bad idea, but then couldn’t work out how to use them in the story. So we ended up with completely implausible situations which seemed contrived just so that another over the top stunt could be stuck into the screenplay. And for goodness sake, if Billa was trying to escape in a Ferrari there is no way that anyone would have been able to keep up!  Plus it’s not exactly the best car for an unobtrusive getaway, but I guess that really wasn’t the point. Thank heavens for Subbaraju who did help me get through the first few scenes, along with Hansika as a comedy side-plot, since I couldn’t do anything but laugh at her character.

The film picked up immensely once Prabhas was allowed to exert his natural charm as Ranga, and despite the continuing forays into pointless special effects it was much more entertaining. I enjoyed Ali’s role for a change, and Anuskha and the other supporting actors were all good enough to keep their characters interesting. I just wish Billa had been less of an escapee from a Goth fashion parade (clichéd model personality included) and more of a vicious but possibly more interesting killer. 2 ½ stars.

Eega

A friend asked me what the movie I was going to see was about. “A man is killed. He reincarnates as a fly. He seeks revenge”. They seemed unconvinced but Eega really is wonderful. Despite word of subtitled prints, we knew wouldn’t get them in Melbourne. Luckily fly is a universal language, and we are always up for an adventure without subtitles!

Nani (Nani) is in love with Bindu (Samantha). Sudeep (Sudeep), a local tycoon and possessive psycho, decides he must have her so he kills Nani. Fate intervenes and Nani is reborn as a fly, eventually recovering memories of his past life. He sets out for revenge and to protect Bindu. This may sound silly, but it is a tribute to writer/director SS Rajamouli and his cast that I absolutely went with it and was caught up in the drama, the action and the hi-jinks. I had reservations about the post-reincarnation relationship as clearly Bindu had not moved on and it was never going to work despite the fact that she could see his inner beauty – he’s a fly, she’s a human…Yes I became emotionally invested in the love life of a CGI insect.

Nani is good in his role. Because the basic plot was well publicised, I did feel like I was waiting for him to die. I really like Nani (the actor), but his role in the story limited my interest in his character.

While human Nani showed charm and some skills, the fly was simply amazing. He knew engineering, physics, ballistics and who knows what else. He also retained his penmanship, using Bindu’s fallen tears to write a message (presumably ‘Hey it is me! Nani!’) He was the real hero with all the trappings. Eega-Nani had a training montage as he built his strength up in a gym made of household objects, he had a victory dance, and he had right on his side. The fly’s character developed over time as he became tougher, more lethal, and better at turning a disadvantage to an advantage. I like the decision not to give him a voice so all his communications were via gesture or charades. The animators did a superb job of making him very expressive but still a housefly. I suspect Eega-Nani and Bindu had some written exchanges off camera as I am not sure mime would have conveyed the more complex elements of their scheme. He wrote a very clear death threat to Sudeep as well so he had good communication skills.

Samantha is lovely as Bindu. Her flirtation with human Nani was mostly carried out through facial expressions and she was really good, with excellent comic timing. She was also quite convincing in sadder scenes. Considering most of her scenes were with a CGI fly, she does very well to make it ring true. While Bindu’s back story seemed flimsy at best, she seemed nice and actively tried to do good through the NGO she ran. Her hobby of micro-art came in very handy when Nani needed teeny tiny equipment and weapons. The partnership also kept their fledgling romance alive which was sweet and yet all wrong (with him being a fly and all).

Speaking of creepy – Sudeep. From suavely unpleasant kingpin, through a spiral of aggravation and irrational behaviour to outright craziness, Sudeep was hilarious and scary. He had a gun wall in his home so that was an early sign. As Eega-Nani pestered him, Sudeep became less and less stable. Sudeep’s reactions to the fly were increasingly frantic and extreme but he melded it with gradual deterioration in his mental stability and health that made it good acting and not just slapstick. I imagine the direction went something like “ear, ear, nose, other ear! nose! gone..where did it go…gone, relax, EAR!!!!” His security team swapped guns for fly swats, his house became a fortress against bugs, his attire was more and more peculiar. The blend of comedy and threat is brilliant. There is nothing likeable about Sudeep’s character and yet I looked forward to his scenes. For the faint-hearted there is a scene requiring pixilation as Sudeep attacks the Eega with the only handy weapon – the pink towel he was wearing. It’s a wildly uninhibited scene and I laughed so hard I almost cried.

Adithya (as Sudeep’s sidekick) did get the rough end of the pineapple in the hair department, having both the wavy mullet and the manband in play. His reaction to his employer’s insanity (and then proof of Eega-Nani’s unnatural abilities) was very funny. But the psycho villain’s sidekick has a precarious, and rarely a long, life. The supporting actors are not prominent, which is wise considering most scenes combine multiple points of view and there are some complex interactions.

The camera follows Eega-Nani through all manner of mayhem and danger, and the choreography and planning of those scenes is meticulous.I really loved a moment when fragments of shattered glass reflect a fighter plane formation of flies surrounding Nani.  It’s as dramatic as if a human film hero was in a fight for his life, and gets the adrenalin pumping. But it’s not all action and there are scenes that are just pretty or sweet. There are some very dark moments, but the message that killing a bad man to do the right thing is entrenched in Telugu film so I guess it wouldn’t have surprised the kids in the audience.

What made Eega work so well was the well plotted story and the restraint in using effects. The CGI served to further the story, and there was never a dull moment. SS Rajamouli has an impressive ability to get a story on screen and make it engaging. There are nods to other films and stars, and the Telugu heroic tropes all get a workout too. I have some quibbles, but they are insignificant on balance. The timing, the pace, the effects, the cast are all pitch perfect. Loved it!

(Pssst – Make sure you stay for the end credits)

Edited to add:

ReleaseDay is streaming Eega with subtitles so now you have no excuse not to see it! You will need to create a login to the site and it’s a festival print which I am told is around 20 min shorter than the theatrical release. You can also check  out http://blog.releaseday.com/ for articles and news on Telugu films. 

Heather says: Loved it, loved it loved it! I’d read very little about this film and I’d only seen the trailer once, but when I saw a needle lightly indenting a cornea I knew this was going to be an excellent film for me. Plus it’s Rajamouli so of course it was always going to be a good story, and it didn’t disapoint.

I do really like Nani, and I liked his rather self-sacrificing character here too. His one dance routine was fun and his obvious adoration of Bindu was quite sweetly portrayed. Nani did show some early signs of his engineering know-how by quickly constructing a parabolic light reflector from a satellite dish and an old chip packet, but his intellect certainly blossomed when he returned as Eega! Some of the ideas here were simply ingenious and Rajamouli totally captured just how irritating a fly can be, let alone one that’s out for vengeance. The CGI was of a very high standard and I was amazed at how easily different emotions and attitudes were conveyed by Eega-Nani. The fly charades where Eega-Nani made his requirements known to Bindu were hilarious and I have to say that she is much better at this game than I could ever be.  In fact Samanatha was very impressive here as Bindu to the point that I didn’t realise who the actress playing Bindu was at first! I’ve never thought too much of Samantha as an actress in her previous films so it was a real revelation to see her put in such a fantastic performance here. I have a theory that similar to Shriya, her hairstyles have a lot to do with it. The longer and more curly Samantha’s hair is, the worse her acting and since here Bindu has lovely straight hair Samantha really shines in the role.  This got me through the rather bizarre romantic scenes between Bindu and Eega-Nani since my reaction was more of a: ‘Samantha can emote – who knew!’ rather than concentrating too much on the fact that their relationship was never going to end well! Samantha also got some beautiful costumes to wear, and I loved her fringed tops which suited both her and her character very well.

But despite Samantha’s amazing performance and even with the antics of Eega-Nani to contend with, the real star of the film was without a doubt Sudeep. He was brilliant in every scene and as Temple has described perfectly, the change as his initial evil and sinister businessman became very disturbed and unstable was superbly done. The scene with the towel was one of the best in the film (I’m laughing now even thinking about it) and his more and more frantic attempts to escape Eega were totally hilarious. Considering that Sudeep was in general having to react to a nonexistent opponent during filming, I think he did a fabulous job and his reactions were totally believable. I can’t think of anything in this film that I didn’t enjoy and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s easy to understand without subtitles and the many references to other films just add to the whole experience. Go! Watch! Enjoy!