Darling

Darling

My motivation for watching Darling was less in the expectation of experiencing an enthralling story (although I always live in hope) and much more based on being a Prabhas fan – which in hindsight was the right attitude to take.  Although the underlying themes of friendship and father-son relationships are reasonably well dealt with, the romance between the two leads follows a fairly dull and predictable path despite the attempt at a twist at the interval.  However Prabhas and Kajal are both entertaining to watch in spite of the inevitability of the storyline and for a romantic comedy, what it lacks in passion it more than makes up for in the humour.  Especially since for a change, the comedy is part and parcel of the story rather than a separate unfunny and irrelevant track.  Best of all, there is not even a sniff of Ali or Brahmi anywhere in the proceedings. There is plenty of Prabhas instead and really, that’s enough right there to make this a film worth watching!

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Prabhas is Prabha (why not just stick with Prabhas I wonder?), who is the devoted son of a loving father Hanumanthu (Prabhu).  The film opens with the last day of Hanumanthu’s time at college and the pledge of all the friends to meet up every 5 or 10 years to renew their friendship.  This opening section is all shot in black and white and the lack of colour ensures this section features some of the most conservative and tasteful outfits the men wear for the entire film, despite the fact that it’s set in the eighties.

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These reunions give the various families a chance to get to know each other too, and a young Prabha is smitten by Vishwanath’s daughter, Nandini.  However before love gets a chance to bloom, Nandini and her family move to Switzerland while Prabha grows up to celebrate his own last day at college with a similarly dedicated group of friends.  Although rather than vowing to meet up every few years, Prabha’s friends seem to be permanently welded to his side since they all come along for Hanumanthu’s latest big college reunion.  They all also play in a band together and seem to share Prabha’s (lack of) fashion sense (the manband!), although perhaps there is a rule that states if you are performing in a band scarves are obligatory.  The first half involves a side trip to Switzerland where amazingly everyone seems to speak Telugu, although given Dharmavarapu Subramanyam’s pronouncements that may not be quite so surprising.

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Prabha is hopeful that a meeting with Nandini will be enough to restart their love story, but there is a minor complication in the form of Nisha (Shradha Das in a very brief cameo) who is in love with Prabha.  Her father (Mukesh Rishi) is a local don and he is determined to ensure that his daughter gets whatever she wants even if that means forcing Prabha at gunpoint to marry his daughter.  Despite his threatening persona, Mukesh Rishi mainly plays his character for laughs and it’s fun to see him in this type of role blending mayhem with merriment and revealing a surprisingly sensitive soul.

While the main feature of the film is the romance between Prabha and Nandini, the relationships between the various older men are actually more interesting and appear more genuine.  Sure they’re cheesy, over-simplified and even a little too dramatic at times, but these moments give the film some much needed warmth.

DarlingDarling Stalwarts including Aahuthi Prasad, Chandra Mohan, Dharmavarapu Subrahmanyam and M. S. Narayana all work together naturally, so that they really do all seem to be old friends catching up over a few glasses of whiskey and a cricket match.  The relationship between Prabha and his father is also nicely portrayed and both Prabhas and Prabhu bring a realistic camaraderie to their interactions.  In fact throughout Prabhas is effortlessly charming despite the succession of ridiculously baggy and shapeless t-shirts he wears.  Nothing seems to fit and he’s much too tall to look anything but scruffy in wide-necked and voluminous shirts – plus the dual layered hats, inexplicable scarves and worn-off-one-shoulder bespangled jacket.

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Prabhas seems to have been lumbered with a stylist that hates him, and in a complete reversal of normal, Kajal is the one who gets to wear much more reasonable outfits.  There are a few misses, after all this is Tollywood where apparently giving someone fairy wings means they are wearing a ‘holy dress’, but overall Kajal looks fantastic.  She also puts in a convincing performance although it would perhaps have made the story a little more interesting if there had been a difference in character between the dream Nadini of the first half, and the real Nandini in the second half.   Kajal throws herself into the dancing, and apart from one bizarre attempt at what I think was supposed to be Bharatanatyam (what were they thinking!!) the choreographer has stuck to her strengths and put her enthusiasm to good use.  There is plenty of hip shaking and arm waving but less actual dancing, so she looks more co-ordinated than usual.  The choreography is a little less successful for Prabhas, but then again I may just have been distracted by those hideous outfits.  This is a beautifully shot song that features the scenery of Switzerland morphing into Hyderabad and also some beautiful CGI scenes of snow, along with some of the better outfits worn by Prabhas.

Added in to the mix is an attempted suicide by Nisha which infuriated me (completely unnecessary), a side story involving Hanumanthu’s adopted father and brother and a rival for Nandini’s affections in the form of Appala Naidu’s son Rishi (Santosh).  There are a limited number of fight scenes but with Peter Hein choreographing, they all look good and generally fit into the flow of the film.  The music by G. V. Prakash is unremarkable but Andrew’s cinematography makes the most of the settings in Switzerland – if only the costumes had matched.

Overall Darling is a film that’s not too taxing to watch and is certainly less gory and more family friendly than the recent Rebel.  Director A. Karunakaran ensures good performances from all but a sharper story would have made for a better film.  Worth it for Prabhas, Kajal and the gang of older actors who looked to be having a great time. 3 stars.

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Sri Anjaneyam

Sri Anjaneyam is one of those films that I find it hard to make up my mind about. There are a lot of things I enjoy; it has great special effects, an interesting storyline and excellent performances by Nitin and Arjun. But I really don’t like Charmy’s character in this at all, and I find the whole romance sub-plot unnecessary and irritating. Re-watching it for this review, I found that it’s perhaps growing on me and on balance there is more to like than not. But I still wish Krishna Vamshi had left the romance out.

The opening credits have some beautiful pictures which show scenes from Lord Hanuman’s part in the Ramayana.

The film starts, as many Telugu films do, with Prakash Raj. He’s a civil engineer who has come to the drought strickenvillage of Ramapuramto build a dam which should solve the area’s water woes. But he meets with opposition from a local with political aspirations who organises protests and a legal challenge to stop the project. Brahmam is annoyed that he hasn’t got control of the project himself, and thinks that the dam will allow the villagers to become wealthy and independent from him. I love the model below which comes complete with water and gates to change the flow – no wonder Prakash Raj looks happy.

Finally Brahmam sends his brother (who goes by the rather unlikely name of Tarzan), to kill the engineer and his wife. Tarzan isn’t aware that the couple have a son and as a result he is overlooked by the thugs. Alone on a rainy night, the young boy is led to the local temple by a helpful monkey, and takes refuge there. The priest and the villagers take it on themselves to look after him and he grows up devoted to Lord Anjaneya, leading to the villagers calling him Anji.

He’s very devout and grateful to the people of the village, spending his time between helping the priest in the temple, running errands for the villagers and worshiping his ‘boss’ Lord Anjaneya. The story has an almost fairy tale effect in these scenes as the colours are bright and initially Anji’s character is quite simplistic as a spiritual man who is lives to serve to his God.

Anji is a target for the local trouble makers, but he has a stalwart defender in the form of his childhood friend Pardhu. She’s not afraid of a fight and threatens anyone who tries to hurt Anji. When he saves her from a snake bite, she falls in love with him and puts a lot of effort into her campaign to ensure he marries her. Her attempts are probably why Anji looks horrified every time he sees her and runs quickly in the opposite direction. This whole side plot with Pardhu is the part that I don’t like. I think her character is supposed to be feisty and independent but she comes across as an over powering bully and her attempts to attract Anji are quite repulsive. She has a song during which she rolls around very unattractively in mud and while there are a few good moments they are few and far between. I usually like Charmy and I think she is a good actress, so I find it disappointing that her character here is so annoying and has some really terrible lines.

Meanwhile, Brahmam is still scheming and conspires with an evil magician to get rid of his political rival. He discovers a potential source of wealth underneath the local temple and immediately starts planning a way to get rid of the priest and demolish the temple.  However, he has reckoned without Anji, who has supreme confidence that Lord Anjaneya is already on the case and will once again sort out Lord Rama’s problems. His confidence is well placed as Lord Anjaneya does turn up although his aid is more to point Anji in the right direction to fulfil his fathers dream.

There are some really good special effects in this film and a few that don’t work quite so well. But they do make the appearance of Lord Anjaneya quite spectacular, and there is one particularly good sequence when he takes over a statue to fight off the local thugs.

The film develops slowly in the first half, but the pace picks up when Lord Anjaneya (Arjun) arrives. Arjun excels in his role and walks as if he had a tail, scratches perpetually and absentmindedly, and adds in some authentic shrieks and noises as he advises Anji.  He also has the ability to pass on some of his super strength, both of body and mind, which enables Anji to fight Brahmam’s men successfully. The rapport between Anji and his mentor is the best part of the film and the two actors work together very well to bring their relationship to life. Lord Anjaneya is very mischievous and there are some lovely comedic moments amongst the more serious and spiritual advice.

Nitin looks young and innocent as Anji which fits with the character’s spiritual side very well. I could also appreciate his horrified looks every time he ran into Pardhu as I felt much the same. As his character grew in the film Nitin showed an increase in Anji’s confidence while still maintaining his simplicity and this worked very well. Anji was charming and also goofy and funny enough to be a very watchable character.

The various actors who played Brahmam, the evil magician and assorted thugs were all good in their roles. The demon summoned by the magician was one of the special effects that didn’t really work, but the magician himself was quite evil enough to compensate. Interestingly Tarzan was shown to have a conscience and told his brother that all his bad deeds were the reason behind his miserable life. I thought this was a different approach, and helped to explain the conversion of the rowdies at the end of the film.

The story is one of good versus evil both spiritually with the evil magician and his demon against Lord Anjaneya and physically with Brahmam and his thugs against the priest and Anji. But there is also a coming of age part to the story as Anji decides to take on his father’s dam project. I must admit that there seemed to be plenty of water in the village and it was really quite green so a dam didn’t seem to be terribly necessary, but perhaps they’d just had a really good rainfall that year. Other plus points to the film are the wonderful colours and cinematography which, along with the special effects, make it a beautiful film to watch. The music by Mani Sharma is based on chants and this blends in very well to the film. The more modern duets don’t work quite as well but this one is very pretty.

The film is worth watching for the excellent performance by Arjun and his interaction with Nitin. And if like me you don’t like the romance, it’s easy to fast forward past those sections. Generally an enjoyable watch, but could have been better. 3 ½ stars

Temple says: This is a muddle of a film that ends up being an unsatisfying venture. Anji (Nitin) is a holy innocent – a simple man who finds his happiness and strength in his faith, and views his life as a blessing given by god. He has a childlike naivete but also the adamant strength that an uncomplicated resolve can bestow. Pardhu (Charme) didn’t strike me as a real bully. I felt she was also quite childlike, getting by on bluster and clearly being allowed to indulge in her histrionics by people like the smitten local rowdy rather than having any real force to exert. Certainly when a bit of dishoom would have been useful she was firmly on the sidelines.

The acting style was quite cartoonish and upbeat, the visual effects were mostly aimed at younger viewers and this had a family friendly feel initially. It reminded me a little of Krishna Vamsi’s earlier ‘Murari’ but with a more overt devotional aspect.

So I am mystified by the decision to add a highly sexualised and out of place relationship (I can’t call it a romance) track. Pardhu was a bit freaked out by her reaction to Anji sucking snake venom from her chest, and he was horrified by her and her girl germs. These two childlike characters were then placed in songs where Charme had to thrust her scantily clad groin into a stream of pouring milk, roll in mud and so forth. I’m very pleased I’m not one of the parents who had to answer the question ‘Mummy what is that lady doing? And where are her pants?’. When Pardhu suddenly started obsessing about Anji, her relatives said they would help her to tie him to a tree, take his pants and leave her to rape him. This advice horrified her.  It made no sense in terms of their characters and really didn’t work in the overall tone of the film.

The costume designers worked hard for the songs and certainly put the F back in Fugly. It was disappointing again as the rest of the film was quite beautiful, and the cinematography made the most of the lovely temple and village scenery. The other major let down was Nitin. He needed more spontaneity in his expressions rather than stop-think-react-pull a face as it all felt a bit tired, and like I was watching the 17th take of some shots. The story itself needed work – the dramatic aspect of the dam scheme and the murders kept getting sidelined and then would come back then fade out again.

I agree with Heather that Arjun is very good as Sri Anjaneyam and he gave the scenes with Nitin some much needed energy. He showed his confusion at learning to act human, and brought mischief and compassion to his character. Charme did all she could with a ridiculous role.  Prakash Raj was seen all too briefly, but made a great impression with his excellent use of props and his commitment to dying a memorable death.

I can’t recommend the film as there are too many things I didn’t enjoy. You know it’s bad when I have so many things to complain about I can’t even be bothered mentioning the dreaded Comic Side Plot. 2 ½ stars.