Race Gurram (2014)

Race Gurram

Race Gurram was very nearly a non-starter in Melbourne, but at the 11th hour the distributors managed to find a venue and the race was on!  Better still, there were English subtitles – even for the songs – a first for Telugu cinema here in Melbourne, but hopefully not the last.  So, with a small but luxurious cinema, subtitles and the promise of Allu Arjun for just over 2 ½ hours, was the experience worth all the effort to get the film onscreen? Definitely!  Race Gurram is a mass entertainer that doesn’t break away from standard masala fare, but still manages to leave you laughing at the end.  That’s thanks mainly to strong performances from Bunny and Brahmi, while the usual suspects who make up the rest of the cast are a bit more hit and miss.

Apart from Allu Arjun’s introduction with a herd of horses and a few brief dialogues between our hero and the main villain, I’m not entirely sure why the film is called Race Gurram.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the race track, and instead is a tale of acrimony between two brothers, Ram (Shaam) and Lakshman (Allu Arjun).

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Ram is the elder and more sensible brother. He’s an ACP and is the standard morally upright policeman that Telugu films like to use as a sacrificial lamb.  Lakshman prefers to be called Lucky, because apparently it sounds ‘cooler’, which is probably enough of a clue to his feckless and irresponsible character.  The interactions between the two brothers are one of the strengths of the film and Shaam and Bunny make their exchanges seem natural and realistic.  Their arguments are just petty and immature enough to ring true, and when the situation escalates after a few more personal jibes, Lucky’s response is also in keeping with his personality. The way their relationship develops later in the film is also well handled, even if Lucky’s revelations before the interval do seem a little forced.   The tables are turned when Lucky finds out that someone else is targeting his brother and while it’s OK for Lucky to humiliate and fight with his brother, it’s not on if someone else tries to do the same.  It’s typical boy logic, but at least it gets Lucky on to the right side in the war against goon turned politician Shiva Reddy (Ravi Kishan).

Race Gurram

Shruti Haasan appears as Spandana, Lucky’s love interest, and at first seems to have an interesting role as a devotee of yoga who only shows her emotions on the inside.  But once she hooks up with Lucky, her usefulness to the plot seems to evaporate as her ability to emote increases, and she’s relegated to mainly appearing in the songs.  At least Shruti gets to actually dance rather than just pose and gyrate like Debi Dutta in the unimpressive opening number, and she does look great even if she doesn’t get to say much in the second half.

Another disappointment is Shiva Reddy and the whole plot against Ram and Lucky.  Although there are some good moments, overall Shiva Reddy is too much of a caricature villain to be properly offensive, and his machinations to become a minister are laughably inept. Ravi Krishnan never seems to get his teeth into the role, and mostly plays it for laughs with plenty of grimacing and sneering rather than any real maliciousness.  The knock-on effect is that the fight sequences don’t work as well as they should against such an ineffectual hoodlum and even throwing Mukesh Rishi in as Shiva Reddy’s somewhat nastier father doesn’t improve the situation. However, the usual suspects including Kota Srinivasa Rao, Posani Krishna Murali, Sayaji Shinde and even Prakash Raj as Spandana’s father all add enough to the mix to keep the action moving along well.

The second half introduces Brahmi as Kill-Bill Pandey, a name which does infer the usual dire slap-stick that Brahmi often relies on for comedy.  But such is not the case – Kill-Bill Pandey has great lines and an actual proper role in the story. And he’s really funny!  Seriously! Bunny and Brahmi work well together too, as Lucky comes to realise just what he has done by releasing Kill-Bill Pandey as head of a special police force on the unsuspecting Hyderabad public.  It makes for a much better ending than expected and has to be one of the best performances I’ve seen from Brahmi in recent times.

Race Gurram

 

I was expecting great things from the songs despite the fact that the soundtrack didn’t sound too special on first listen, and overall I wasn’t disappointed.  Apart from the first number which appeared out of nowhere without any particular point and had very little actual dancing by Bunny, the dancing was excellent.  Placement was generally odd and mostly there was no effort to place the songs within the storyline, but who really cares when it’s Bunny dancing? The stylish star looked, well, stylish, and as always his dancing was superb, particularly with Shruti Hassan in the larger group routines. Bunny always looks to be having such a good time when he’s dancing and his energy is incredibly infectious, so no matter how ridiculous the sudden appearance of Spandana and Lucky in the snow-covered fjords of Norway seemed, it was impossible not to enjoy the show.

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Race Gurram does suffer from a rather rambling screenplay, and at times the film gets bogged down with irrelevant odds and ends that taper off into nothing.  Apart from the feuding brothers, the family moments are a tad cloying and overdone, and a heavier hand with the editing wouldn’t have gone amiss.  However, Bunny and Brahmi together make for a surprisingly entertaining finale that was certainly well appreciated by the Melbourne crowd.   Well worth a watch for their combined antics

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Varudu (2010)

Varudu

It seems to be an appropriate time to celebrate all things Allu Arjun – recent wedding anniversary, 10 years in the movie business and his upcoming birthday – so I thought I’d take a look back at Varudu. Not one of his more successful films in terms of the box office, but still one of my favourites since it not only stars Bunny, but Arya (another favourite) turns up in one of the most ridiculously over dramatic roles that I’ve seen outside of eighties Bollywood. And yet, this is a good thing! The film is overly romantic and slow to get going with a ridiculous story and dreadfully pretentious dialogue, but despite all these obvious flaws there is still a lot to enjoy in Varudu.

The opening scenes have nothing much to do with the rest of the film with Nisha (Sneha Ullal) attempting a dreadful Dhoom2-style Aishwarya Rai impression while Bunny demonstrates his skills on a motorbike and then on the basketball court. At least the rain makes Bunny’s hair look great, but otherwise it’s a clichéd hero introduction that leads into a rather disappointing song.  This is after all a Bunny film, so my expectations for excellent choreography and great dance moves are high but the first song doesn’t make it in terms of either the music or the dancing.  Thankfully though, both pick up considerably later.

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VaruduVaruduThe first half of the film describes how Sandeep (Allu Arjun) wants a traditional arranged marriage even though the initial scenes show him happily helping out an elopement by his friends and complimenting his parents on their successful love marriage.  The dialogue wants us to believe that he has just never found the right woman, although women are flinging themselves at him all the time, but these first scenes make him appear as if he’s just having too good a time to settle down and commit to one person.  However moving overseas to start work is apparently the best time to decide to get married, so Sandy happily acquiesces to his family’s suggestion that he tie the knot before he goes.

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Not content with foisting the whole decision making process onto his parents, he then insists that he wants a full traditional 5 day wedding just like his grandparents, and has no desire to even see the girl is he is to marry. In fact he reminds me more of a sixteen year old girl with his declarations about love and excitement about a five day wedding rather than a mature and sensible man about to head off to start work in the US.  However this is the least ridiculous part of the story (really!) and the build up to the wedding is actually rather sweet.  Sandeep has a good relationship with his mother (Suhasini) and father (Ashish Vidyarthi) and their scenes together, and those with the rest of the family feel comfortable and generally realistic.  There is a brief appearance by Brahmi as Dilip Raja, a marriage broker, but otherwise Varudu is fairly comedy uncle free with only a brief appearance by Ali later during the wedding song.

The various wedding ceremonies, including the wonderfully colourful parade of the groom to the bride’s family, are pictured during a song.  It’s rather long, but definitely well worth a watch for an insight into the wedding preparations and rituals. Besides which there is possibly the best form of wedding transport and some great costumes in the crowd as everything gears up for the big day.

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The costumes and jewellery for the wedding scene are superb even though the scenery relies heavily on CGI.  We get to see the bride at the same time as Sandeep and although Deepthi (Bhanu Sri Mehra) doesn’t get very much screen-time (and even less dialogue), she does get some amazingly beautiful costumes. Although she is perhaps still just a little upstaged by Bunny in this song.

After all the romance and slow development of the first hour culminating in the the dream wedding, there is a sudden change of pace in the second half.   There is a disaster at the ceremony just before Sandeep ties the sacred thread and in the ensuing confusion the bride goes missing.  Within the space of 3 minutes there is classic hero-style running, a bike chase (kudos to the wardrobe department as Bunny never loses his wedding turban) and an exploding petrol truck.  It only gets more insane from here.

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Sandeep goes in search of Deepthi aided by the police force, but even with the top brass Comissioner Ahmed Khan (Nasser), Inspector Umesh Gupta (Brahmaji) and the Home Minister (Sayaji Shinde) involved they don’t appear to be making any headway.  Sandeep has more luck chasing random black cars and dodging truck drivers who seem to be on a mission to drive him off the hunt.  Finally his persistence pays off and there is a brief flashback to explain who has Deepthi and why.  Not that it makes any sense, particularly when this is the villain’s introduction.

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Arya is Diwaker, one half of the ‘Kings from Hell’ brothers, and completely immersed in his life of drama as he lives out his psychotic fantasies cheerily calling out his catchphrase ‘Evil Power’ at random moments to emphasize his craziness.  From his introduction the film careers even more off the rails as Arya hams it up for all he is worth as Diwaker and Sandeep declares his undying love for a girl he has barely met in some incredibly corny dialogue.  There are a few good moments though.  Sandeep proclaims (he doesn’t do anything as mundane as just speak by this stage) that Deepthi is his wife no matter what has happened to her during her ordeal.  It’s a more modern touch that makes Sandeep’s character more appealing, although the shocked reactions of the family are rather less attractive.  There are also some great chase sequences including some wonderful filmi medical magic and a ‘prisoner exchange’ on a bridge which allows director Gunasekhar to throw in lots of split screen moments.  The final showdown is completely over the top and utterly nonsensical, but since it involves a shirtless Bunny and Arya fighting on top of giant cooling towers I’m not complaining!

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New heroine Bhanu Sri Mehra doesn’t really get much of a chance to make an impact.  Her role is largely non-speaking and even when she does have something to say it tends to be a repetition of something Sandeep has earlier declaimed.  I do like that she made an attempt to fight back when abducted, but quite frankly I’m disappointed that in all her time locked in a room she hadn’t made any attempt to barricade the door or fashion a better weapon.  But at least she doesn’t just sit and whine and the make-up team did a good job making her look haggard after her experiences. The rest of the cast are all capable and do well in their roles, but ultimately the film is all about Bunny, and to a lesser extent Arya, so no-one else really gets much of a look in.

The music by Mani Sharma does improve after the first song and overall I like the soundtrack.  This song is my favourite, partly due to good choreography but also, who can resist random bouncing?  Plus I admire Bunny’s dedication in dancing even when he is injured, seen here with his hand in a rather excellently bedazzled cast.

Varadu is self-indulgent, unashamedly melodramatic and has massive plot holes big enough to swallow a small planetoid.  But despite that it’s heaps of fun and let’s be honest, I’m shallow enough to admit that Bunny and Arya are the major reasons why I enjoy this film.  I’d love to watch some out-takes as I’m quite sure they struggled to keep their faces straight for most of their scenes together.  I give Varudu 2 stars for the story but a full 5 stars for ensuring both Bunny and Arya spent as much time as possible without their shirts!

Neninthe

Neninthe is an enjoyable mass entertainer with a dollop of romance and a splash of action, all set in the Telugu movie making world. There are plenty of references to popular Telugu film personalities starting right from the opening titles, and lots of opportunities to guess who various characters are based on. The humour is funny and cynical, and I really like most of the performances. But despite pointing out the blurred line between reality and film fantasy almost all of the conflicts and questions are resolved in ‘only in movies’ style, and not always in tongue in cheek fashion. I don’t think it’s meant to be a realistic expose of the film industry, and that isn’t how I viewed it, but the story would have benefited from a more careful eye on how these elements were blended.

Ravi (Ravi Teja) is an aspiring director. He lives with his ailing ma (Rama Prabha), and is a driven character. Ravi navigates the ego traps and financial shenanigans of the movie industry, all with one goal – to direct his film, ‘Neninthe’. He is brutally honest at times and fiercely determined to succeed in directing his own story. Ravi Teja is a very good actor, especially when he tones down the sleazy uncle act, and this role is great as it spans drama, humour and action. Ravi observes the characters around him, often with a sarcastic muttered aside.

With characters like the infamous director Idli Vishwanadham (Brahmanandam) and associates including producer Sayaji Shinde and production assistants Venu Madhav and MS Narayana, he has lots of material.

Ravi is pragmatic about love and expects marriage to wait on his priorities. I really liked seeing Ravi with his friends, especially his mate who is desperate to be a villain, and mother and they all had a nice rapport.

Ravi is a regular guy, albeit with heroic powers when required and can easily thrash a dozen hulking great rowdies. The trigger is more likely to be his career than a girl. Ravi is prepared to compromise over a lot of things, but not his film.

There are setbacks and sadness in his life, but he keeps going, even when it seems he must run out of energy. He represents the idealism and passion of film makers for their craft as well as being the vengeful, protective hero.

Sandhya (Siya) is an alleged dancer who has no ambition other than her next meal and not getting pimped out by her creepy brother-in-law (Krishna Bhagawan). Both the actress and the role are quite insipid and I wanted to slap her on more than one occasion. Sandhya is pursued by Yadu (Supreet), a local thug accustomed to taking what he wants. She, of course, falls for Ravi and seems to think that she can just leave every problem in her life for him to solve because her love places him under that obligation. It is quite annoying to hear her whining about how Ravi never helps her when she does bugger all to help herself. I am sure it would be hard to ditch the sadistic brother-in-law, but it’s even harder to walk away if you have no spine to speak of.  Anyway, she seems set on Ravi, and equally set on changing him.

Ravi helps her get a starring role, and her fortunes improve especially as her brother-in-law stops trying to sell her, but the couple start to drift apart. The scenes where Sandhya and Ravi discuss their relationship are well written, and Ravi Teja is believable as the man in love but not blind to practicalities. Siya has some good moments, especially when she is annoyed at Ravi, but she fades when the other stars are present. There was potential for Sandhya to be more interesting but Siya is as convincing an actress as she is a dancer and the script is lightweight.

Subbaraju is ‘Miracle Star’ Mallik. He was one of the first Telugu ‘That Guys’ that I could pick out from the pack. You know the guys – always a sidekick, policeman or henchman (not to be confused with ‘That Comedy Uncle’). I admit I may have paid particular attention because Subbaraju is rather good looking, even in the shirts they dug up for this film (see them hanging up in the screencap above). But I also noticed him as he seems to be more of a character actor than just a stock ‘type’ and can handle a range of roles. So that got me thinking about the trajectory from supporting actor to hero, and why there are so many ‘types’ and so few honest to goodness character actors in Telugu films nowadays.

Puri Jagannadh has fun with Mallik as the stereotypical hero, and Subbaraju gives it the right balance of sincerity and parody. He spouts dialogue recycled from Pokiri and then asks if it isn’t a bit over the top, and has a flock of minions fussing over him. Mallik swans about like a total diva and he proves he isn’t above using his fame when it suits. But he also voices concern about the obsession of the die-hard fans and how far they go in the name of their idols, and that forms a substantial sub-plot.

There was a mix of gratitude, ego, and resentment in Mallik’s dialogue about the fans and the effect their expectation has on movie making. If he had spoken to one particular nutter at the right time there may not have been a funeral at which to make that speech, but I suppose that would have been too sensible.

Mumaith Khan is the item girl, and her character is Malik’s girlfriend. Their scenes together are good, except for Mumaith’s occasionally stilted dialogue delivery. They serve more to comment on the obsessions of the press than to provide another romantic element in the film.

That song rhymes bus station with frustration. I just thought I’d mention it as Chakri’s music is pretty lacklustre and that’s all I ever seem to remember.

A confronting ‘movie meets real life’ moments occurs after Mumaith and Mallik break up over scurrilous rumours in the press. Mumaith overdoses, and on the way to hospital her car is hijacked by a couple of Yadu’s men who then rape her. She gets out of her hospital bed to deliver a speech (full of bleeps) to the press about their penchant for creating news with no regard for the individuals or the effect these stories have. It’s a sharp observation, but I wish it had been delivered in a different setting. Anyway, once again a valid point was made via a sensational set-up.

There is a salacious element in the media when discussing many actresses, and I doubt the same journalists would approve if that tone was directed at their sister or cousin. This would have been an interesting story to film post the advent of Twitter, since that is often what passes for ‘news’ these days. I like Rana Daggubati as an actor but I don’t think his recent tweet about luggage going astray warranted several paragraphs in the Times of India!

Supreet as Yadu is hilarious and utterly repulsive as he tries to woo Sandhya instead of just assaulting her as per his usual approach. Yadu’s attempts to be appealing are amusing even as my skin was crawling. It was like watching a bear trying to eat with chopsticks –unnatural and bizarre yet compelling. And his gang have some of the worst hair I’ve seen in ages. He is menacing, and doesn’t hold back on the crazy. Yadu’s obsession with Sandhya and the ensuing conflict with Ravi bring the film to a gory final confrontation.

The other supporting actors are generally fine and their characters are integral to the story. There are ambitious would-be directors, assistants to uphold the status of their boss, financiers and distributors as well as family and friends. It’s a crowded film, but the story and relationships remain clear. There are some fairly awesome song costumes too!

Puri Jagannadh doesn’t stop at movie references in the dialogue – he uses music snippets and visuals, and Ravi even uses a reel of film as a weapon. The dialogue sometimes sounds like a lecture but overall I find the subject and the characters engaging enough. It’s a very well planned and designed film. I just wish he had put as much effort into executing the story. 3 ½ stars.

Quite apart from the potshots at various industry types, I’m also convinced that Puri Jagannadh may hate a segment of his audience. Specifically, me. Why?

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

So who gets a song requiring beachside cavorting?

You’ve been warned.

Heather says: Although there are a lot of elements I do like about this film, there are also a few I don’t like, and it was those that I noticed more on re-watching Neninthe for this review. However it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen by Ravi Teja who is very watchable and charismatic here, although (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) I do think I prefer him unwaxed! I also love the back-drop of the film industry as the setting for the story and the way that Puri Jagannadh manages to get across the routine repetitiveness associated with filming rather than the glitz and glamour that most people associate with movies. However I find the story rather bitty with elements that don’t gel  together quite as well as they should. Sandhya has so much to deal with that perhaps it’s not surprising that she doesn’t seem to know where to start. Her character seems to veer between hang-wringing and ineffectual ‘woe-is-me’ to being quite strong and decisive when it comes to making sure that she gets exactly what she wants from Ravi. I found all this dithering to be annoying, and couldn’t feel very much sympathy for her character at all. In fact I think the film would have been better without the romance factor, as it could make just as much sense that Ravi helped her career because he was a nice guy who felt she deserved better. There didn’t seem to be any zing to the romance and apart from the songs, no chemistry between the two actors.

On the other hand I do like Brahmi’s bumbling director and think that the comedy is generally well integrated into the main story. Like Temple, I’m a big Subbaraju fan, and I totally loved him as the ‘miracle star’.  Watching this for the second time and about a year and many films later, I did pick up more of the nuances in his performance, and in particular the way his character interacted with the cast and crew as well as the members of his fan association. I think he’s a great actor and apart from doing justice to his role as a stereotypical ‘hero’ he really looked the part too. Mumaith Khan is another of my favourite performers and while she seemed to be basically playing herself, I appreciated the way she appeared on camera with minimal make-up and gave a fairly convincing lecture about the evils of fame. As Temple has mentioned there are many good and valid points made about the way stars are treated by fans, the press and the industry but I agree that the set-up to deliver these messages tended to overshadow the points that Puri Jagannadh was trying to make.

I did notice that the subtitles appeared better than usual – there was a  ‘shut your gob’ in there which I appreciated as a very English idiom rather than the usual more stilted direct translations and there were quite a few of these more colloquial interpretations. I also enjoyed the shots of the orchestra with real musicians playing violins properly rather than the usual half-hearted attempts that drive me crazy!

This is still an entertaining film despite the irritating heroine and lacklustre romance. I’d recommend watching at least once for some excellent performances and the general overall view of the movie industry. 3 ½ stars.

Business Man

It started with text messages late at night. Then waiting while someone had a muttered conversation with the boss. Then the secret password (my name!). Finally a minion delved into a concealed pocket, and handed over tickets for the sold out opening show of Business Man! Armed with a stash of paper strips we made our way into the packed cinema and sat in the third row among some diehard fans, ready for an up-close Big Mahesh film experience. We’d been told that US prints were subtitled and were hopeful we would also get subs – but it was not to be so we enjoyed another Adventure without Subtitles.

Business Man is a beautiful looking film directed with verve and confidence, and performed with commitment. The lighting and composition of each frame is superb. The editing, the effects the action sequences and the dialogues are zingy and zesty. The story is simple but it’s sustained and isn’t lost in the rich visuals. Mahesh Babu is a perfect fit for the pivotal role. He delivers a ruthless, brooding characterisation rounded out by some sharp humour and a bit of romance.

The basic story is easy to follow. Surya (Mahesh Babu) moves to Mumbai and proceeds to take over the criminal underworld. He is a logical and determined man who runs his gang as a business. They have defined tasks, get paid regularly and follow his orders. Surya is all about power not money, and lives quite simply. He is fair in his own way and wins grassroots support with some calculated acts designed to cement his place in the community. His motivation becomes clear as the action unfurls. And as for his methods – Guns don’t need agreements. Surya is an anti-hero in many respects, and a lot of what he does is reprehensible. He does offer some form of vigilante justice and fair treatment which contrasts with the corrupt politicians and ineffectual police.

Sayaji Shinde and Prakash Raj play politicians and power brokers with connections. Both are predictably competent without being exceptional. Sayaji Shinde is easily duped, but Prakash Raj has a history with Surya that sets up the climax of the film.

Once Mumbai is under control, Surya expands his business model nationally and is a serious threat in the political power struggle. Prakash Raj decides to nip this in the bud to assure his own position. This confrontation is just what Surya wanted, and so we rocket along to the gore splattered conclusion.

Nasser is a Police Commissioner and Kajal is his daughter Chitra. We debated whether Surya had engineered a meeting with Chitra so that their relationship started as a subterfuge but then developed into something genuine. Surya views the police as he does the politicians and the local goondas – they’re all just assets or liabilities in his business model. He seems to commit wholesale slaughter with remarkable ease. In fact the only ‘crime’ he commits that draws any police attention is fancying Chitra – that’s when the cops with guns turn out in force.

Brahmaji plays Surya’s sidekick but he merges back into the team as the story progresses. Subbaraju is wonderful as Prakash Raj’s enforcer. He is menacing and hilarious, and matches Mahesh’s intensity. There is a very funny scene where Subbaraju keeps trying to reload his gun as all hell breaks loose. It sounds like nothing much, but his fumbling shtick is hilarious and also contributes to the scene. The comedy emerges from characters and situations so it doesn’t slow the action. But WTF was going on with the dubbing for Ayesha (Chitra’s friend, played by Ayesha Shiva)? The voice, accent and dialogue delivery was terrible and too bad to even be funny. I don’t think her acting was much either, but the voice dominated her performance. Mahesh Babu is a really good comic actor and his reactions are priceless in some scenes, particularly with Dharmavarapu Subramanyam and with Kajal. We really wished for subtitles as the dialogue had the audience in stitches, athough the puns and wordplay never translate so well.

Kajal and Mahesh had good rapport and judging by the audience reaction some of his lines were quite naughty. A lot of the dialogue was bleeped so I missed an opportunity to learn some handy curses. I was perturbed by one romantic song which is set up when a driver (a cameo by Puri Jagannadh) chloroforms Chitra and delivers her to Surya. It was meant to be funny rather than a scary abduction, but so very wrong. Next thing she is unconscious on a huge bed and wearing a very sparkly saree. Kajal and Mahesh have some chemistry, especially in her few conscious intervals in that song. Many of their scenes together had a lively and spontaneous feel, and they made a nice looking couple. There is a fleeting kiss which elicited a deathly silent non-reaction from the audience. She had little to do but scream and cry, but I think this is one of her better efforts. And she didn’t get slapped around.

SS Thaman hasn’t done anything amazing with the soundtrack, but the brassy theme underscoring some of the action is great. The choreography was less delightful. The choreo in Sir Osthara was strange, mostly synchronised hand waving and a little bit of prancing so basic even Kajal could keep up.

Pilla Chao is fun, but reminiscent of the Ministry of Silly Walks with festive Santa backing dancers. The Mahesh Fan had a theory about the costumes. She thinks Puri Jagannadh said ‘If my wardrobe dude can have his way with you in the song picturisations, you can wear your own clothes and normal haircut for the rest of the film’. And I think she might be right.

Mahesh does look slightly taken aback by the ice cream colour themed outfits and blue suede shoes but he generally wears plain dark shirts and jeans. It’s an unfussy yet multi-layered look for a man who means business but doesn’t mind flaunting a bit of elbow and the merest hint of chest hair.

The censorship was really odd. Lots of dialogue was bleeped or muted, but I could easily substitute likely profanities. And the dancers – especially the skanky white chicks – were occasionally blurred out. In most scenes they were unobscured so the costumes and choreography were obvious and we couldn’t discern a substantial difference between the clear shots and those that had been censored.

Some angles were obviously a bit more ‘down the choli’ but most seemed to be similar. The Telugu film industry hires many female performers solely for their looks and physique, so it seems strangely prudish to censor some of the flesh some of the time. Who are they kidding?

Yes it defies logic, gravity and many other laws but Business Man never pretends to be a gritty realistic story. It’s a kickarse action film made with great style, a cracking pace and a star who can switch from baby faced killer to baby faced hero with a killer sense of humour. Highly recommended and a resounding 5 stars from me!

Heather says: Opening night of any Mahesh film is always worthwhile, no matter how good or bad the film, since the cinema is packed and there are plenty of enthusiastic and noisy fans – which includes The Mahesh Fan and us.  And to our delight, this turned out to be a very Mahesh-centric film. He was in almost every shot and the story very firmly revolved around Surya and his business model version of rowdyism. This had the slightly  unfortunate side effect that no-one else got very much to do, which was somewhat disappointing because the other actors were all so very good. Chitra’s friend the very glaring exception. Brahmaji as Surya’s friend started out well with some presumably funny lines, but was quickly sidelined and hardly appeared for the rest of the film. And although Nasser, Sayaji Shinde and Prakash Raj popped up now and again to provide more motivation for one of Surya’s awesome action scenes there didn’t seem to be much explanation of exactly why they acted the way they did. Although that could of course just be the lack of understanding the dialogues on my part. I totally agree with Temple that Subbaraju has some of the best moments in the entire film and I enjoyed many of the other support gangsters who had excellent expressions during some of the fight scenes.

Mahesh does do ‘angry’ very well, and he seemed to be alternating between simmering and boiling for most of the film which did get a little wearing towards the end.  There was quite a lot of comedy in there too judging by the audience reaction, but this was mostly in the dialogue so I missed most of it. However the interplay between Surya and Chitra did have some very funny moments which came through loud and clear. I really liked Kajol here and thought she was in her element when she was angry and snapped back at Surya – it felt very authentic! She was animated and likeable throughout although does lose points for having an incredibly irritating and annoying friend. I really couldn’t understand why Chitra stayed with Surya since she obviously abhorred his gangster life style and the chloroform incident was just plain creepy. But otherwise I enjoyed the romance aspect of the film and I think it will be even better when I can understand the dialogue.

The Businessman is a very slick and well made film which looked fabulous and played to Mahesh’s strengths. Less bizarre and quite frankly pointless censoring, better choreography and a little more of the support actors and it would have been totally perfect.

Oosaravelli

Oosaravelli had it’s first showing on Thursday, so perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that the cinema was only a third full for the Friday night showing. We still had an appreciative audience in Melbourne with a few whistles for Tarak’s entrance and plenty of laughs at the comedy dialogue, but it was generally more subdued than we’ve become accustomed to in our regular adventures without subtitles.

Oosaravelli is basically a revenge movie. It takes a while to get to the explanation but the set up is entertaining and both Tarak and Tamanna make an impression. Tarak is Tony – he has his name helpfully tattooed on his neck just in case he ever forgets, or maybe it’s a concession to help those of us who don’t understand Telugu and are occasionally confused as to who is who by the fast paced dialogue. We start by learning the anatomy of the human body with an animation which I think is supposed to imply that Tony is a man with all the right parts to be the ultimate hero, or maybe it really was just a quick biology lesson while waiting for the hero’s entrance.

Tony is a man with a large collection of scarves and bandannas who seems to be a small time thug with big time ambition. He meets Niharika (Tamanna) in Kashmir where they have both been kidnapped by insurgents who seem determined to dispose of their hostages one by one. Tony helps Niharika escape but rather carelessly loses her as they run off into the forest. Later, back in Hyderabad, Tony has tracked Niharika down only to find that she is in love with a guy called Rakesh, who is less than impressed with Tony’s appearance.

Along the way Tony has various dealings with a gang of the usual suspects including Jayaprakash Reddy and Murli Sharma who are united in their truly dreadful fashion sense, although the pink stripped shirt with teddy bears was a favourite. This stylishness  doesn’t last though as Tony moulds them into ‘Men in Black’ after beating them up with a bag full of baseball bats – just as his father showed him. Back when he was alive that is. The gang is further intimidated when the ghost of Tony’s father turns up to join in a drinking session but after that, ghost dad is eerily silent until part of the explanation for events later on in the second half. We do get some bedazzled ninja backing dancers though as some compensation.

Tony continues his pursuit of Niharika by getting her evicted from her flat and then setting her up in his house. They decide to be ‘just friends’ although Niharika’s friend Chitra (Payal Ghosh) is sure this is a bad idea. Sure enough Tony finds out that Rakesh is a bad guy and is up-to-no-good. He’s in league with his uncle, don Azzu Bhai (Prakash Raj), and along with his father and friend is involved in some shady deals including arms and diamond smuggling. There is a brief glimpse of CinemaChaat favourite Ajay before he is sadly disposed of but otherwise every usual bad guy seems to turn up as a member of one gang or another.  For some reason one of Tony’s gang turns against him and delivers him up to Rakesh as the wannabe don who’s muscling in on their territory. Right about now is when Tony turns from a mildly affable joker to a totally psychotic killer who wipes out the entire gang in a matter of minutes with some impressive moves with a mallet. I was also suitably amazed by the hook which didn’t manage to tear through Tony’s shirt collar, but moments later was put to good use to impale one of the villains.

Just when we think – yay – crazy killer Tarak and wait for more blood to spill without really caring why, it all starts to make sense as there is a flashback revealing exactly who Niharika is and the reason for Tony’s involvement in the first place. But then it’s back to annihilation of all the bad guys although it’s not always clear if they are actually dead or not as a few people take a lot of killing. And death is not at all well diagnosed even by the medical professionals involved.

The highlight of the film is definitely Tamanna. She is excellent in all her different personas throughout the film – as the ditzy fashion designer and girlfriend, the harrowed victim and as the vengeful sister. She has real passion and belief in her character and it shows. A truly brilliant performance from her which also includes some excellent dance moves. It’s hard to compete with Tarak who is such an excellent dancer, but she manages to draw eyes away from him in a couple of songs.

Generally the soundtrack is enjoyable although Devi Sri Prasad has recycled one of his songs from the recent Dhanush starrer Venghai in Dandiya India. Tarak is good as the deranged killer Tony who has a soft spot for Niharika and seems to manage the switch between comedy and action well judging by the audience reaction. Payal Ghosh is also excellent as Niharika’s friend and it does seem as if the girls get the better dialogues and story-line this time round. A lot of the comedy centres on Tony’s gang of thugs and without understanding the dialogue I found this tended to drag. It was also slightly disappointing when ghost dad failed to make a reappearance after a promising beginning.

There are quite a few funny moments which probably aren’t supposed to be funny – such as Tony trying to hide behind a see through curtain, and where people who are dead manage come back to life to manage that one last important sentence. Or in the case of Tony’s dad, a 3 page monologue. It’s a fun film with plenty of action and blood. But even better it has a heroine who actually gets a proper story and gets to do something more than just look pretty. More of that please.