Baahubali

Baahubali-Poster

Baahubali is reminiscent of classics like Patala Bhairavi and Gulebakavali Katha, with long lost princes, secluded kingdoms, stunning visuals and swashbuckling action. Rajamouli builds steadily to the cliffhanger climax with some fun, flirting, fighting and flashbacks along the way.

A baby is saved by the sacrifice of a majestic woman. He grows up happy and ignorant in a small village, but is always drawn to the high mountains. He tries to scale the massive waterfall to reach the peaks but always fails. Until one day a vision of a beautiful woman leads him to success and he stumbles into the kingdom of Mahishmati. Grown up and frequently shirtless Shivudu (Prabhas) meets his dream love Avanthika (Tamannaah). She is a warrior on a mission to rescue Devasena (Anushka Shetty), held captive for over 25 years by ruthless king Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati). Bhalla hates Devasena because she once chose his rival, the legendary Baahubali. And Shivudu is the very image of Baahubali. Hmmmm.

The majestic woman was Sivagami, the queen mother, played by the stunning and regal Ramya Krishnan in an extended flashback.

I was so excited to see her in the cast, and even more so that she has a substantial role. Sivagami is reasonable but ruthless, her eyes blaze with power, and her word is the law. She rules the kingdom and Ramya Krishnan commands every scene she is in. Sivagami has a nice dynamic with Kattappa (Sathyaraj), her enforcer and bodyguard. Sathyaraj doesn’t need a lot of dialogue to build a strong characterisation, and as the story unfolds Kattappa becomes more complex and ambiguous. This royal family has some baggage.

There is always a point where a Telugu film hero pushes all others aside so he can do the hero-ing. I quite liked that when Shivudu tells Avanthika that her dreams are now his so he will go free Devasena for her, he actually had no skin in the game and really was doing it to help her. Sure, he had had some run ins with the kingdom guards but he didn’t know who he was or that he might have a more personal interest in the outcome. Avanthika drugged him to give herself a head start and he didn’t reproach her for that either. It was more of a partnership, with Shivudu acknowledging that she wasn’t going to give up just because she had been distracted by his flexing.

Baahubali-Tamanna

I have high hopes that by the time the second movie starts Avanthika’s ankle is healed and she will resume arse-kicking, and will be motivated by having something to fight for rather than a cause to sacrifice herself for. I also liked that Avanthika’s nihilism was displaced somewhat by an appreciation of beauty and her acceptance of love even if it is a filmi cliche.

The subtitle team gave Shivudu an unexpectedly genteel aspect as he frequently said things like ‘oh my!’ and ‘oh my goodness!” which didn’t seem all that warrior like. Prabhas is so genial and his dialogue delivery sounds a bit too modern and mumbly for a genre piece, but he totally commits to the role and does the best dance-fight-makeover I have seen. While I objected to Avanthika being forcibly partially stripped (mostly due to the inclement weather), I did appreciate that Shivudu had a steady hand with the eyeliner. And that Rajamouli had Prabhas cavorting under a waterfall as much as Tamannaah did. Prabhas and Tamannaah make a nice looking couple but I am more interested in seeing how their story ends.

Rana was very impressive, both for his ye olden days shirtless physique and his performance. Rana gave Bhallaladeva enough smirking nastiness to be delightfully hateful but also showed he was a smart and fearless warrior who legitimately had reason to expect he could be king. Bhalla might not go out of his way to remove Baahubali, but he would take advantage of a situation if fate presented. His scenes with Devasena were imbued with the weight of years of brooding and venom and he declaimed the spiteful dialogue with fiery precision. Anushka gave as good as she got so I am looking forward to their backstory being developed in the next film and seeing a bit less of her dodgy weather-beaten makeup.

Baahubali-Kalakeya

The Kalakeya are Ooga Booga natives complete with dodgy “tribal’ accoutrements, falling somewhere on the Mad Max to Lord of the Rings tribal baddies spectrum. They presumably can’t speak Telugu because they are Orc-ish, and I guess choosing another regional language would have opened up various cans of worms so the faux Bushman-esque dialogue may be a smarter workaround than it seemed.

The action scenes are awesome and the final battle is truly spectacular. While there is a heavy reliance on war machines and fancy armaments (I loved Bhalla’s Lawn Mower of Death), the stakes are still very personal. Kalakeya tries to stop Baahubali by literally throwing more people at the problem. It’s a cheesy idea played totally straight and it just about took the roof off the theatre when Baahubali emerged from under the pile of bodies.

The production design is beautiful and this is well worth seeing in a cinema just for the gorgeous fairy tale design and for all the things. The waterfall! The CGI is sometimes clunky but it does create the right impression even if specific moments are not seamless. I am not sure what I think about the watermark that appeared on screen whenever a CGI animal was in the shot. I wasn’t fooled for a second by the bull that Rana wrestled but I admit I was paying more attention to his shoulders than the bovine opponent. A fight scene in the ice and snow is poetic and deadly like a masala-fied  Zhang Yimou, and the subsequent toboggan escape is pure Bond. There were about 20 shoemakers credited in the end titles. After some discussion Heather and I decided that it must be hard to make shoes that don’t look like shoes but that still do the trick. Bravo cobblers! Take a bow goldsmiths!

MM Keeravani’s soundtrack left minimal impression on me as I was caught up in the story and visuals. The item number Manohari was a stand-out; sensual, saucy, and a bit silly. The girls got handsy with Prabhas as as lots of drunk guys swayed past on ropes or acted as platforms for the ladies. He was more like a prop for the girls, and they used his lanky frame to excellent effect.

Rajamouli has a knack for casting. I’d never thought of Sunil as a leading man but Maryada Ramanna proved otherwise, and we all know the real star of Eega. Casting Ramya Krishnan as Sivagami is genius, and while I was slightly disappointed that Anushka had so little time on screen in this first film I am very VERY excited about seeing her character in the finale. The support cast are all pretty solid and the multitude of characters are distinct and memorable from Shivudu’s villager family to the minor royals and the forces out to liberate Devasena. Oh, and Rajamouli himself, finally venturing out of the end credits and into the main film.

SS Rajamouli has a great sense of how to translate narrative into visuals and how to build the world he needs to tell his story. Baahubali is truly grand and still totally masala, true to its Telugu roots. See it!

Heather says: Baahubali is an epic film in every sense of the word and I loved every minute! It really is sweeping fantasy adventure on a gigantic scale and I will need to watch it again (and again!) to fully appreciate all the amazing detail. From the sheer immenseness of the towering waterfall in the opening scenes and the lavish Kingdom of Mahishmati to the delicate design of the jewelry and everything in between, the film looks amazing – due no doubt to the cast of thousands mentioned in the end credits. But it’s not just a visual spectacle, as Rajamouli breathes life into a classic mix of mythology and folklore to provide an entertaining and captivating story, naturally along with a good dash of derring-do and plenty of flexing of muscles!

I’m a big fan of Prabhas and he really came into his own once he got a sword in his hand. I was quite impressed by his rock-climbing technique too, although he did seem to miss a few good cracklines that might have made his ascent somewhat easier. However it’s not all just about the muscle flexing, and Prabhas does have plenty of likeable charm throughout and adopts a suitably commanding presence on the battlefield. Rana was every bit as good and he seemed to relish the occasional ambiguity of his character even while embracing the dark side.As Temple mentions, Peter Hein’s action is excellent on every level, and the epic battle scene in the second half is simply superb. I prefer to think of Bhallaladeva’s device as the spinning scythes of doom, perhaps betraying my love of LOTR, but there is plenty of other weaponry to make my inner fantasy nerd happy.

Rajamouli is also to be congratulated for including four strong female characters who all have important roles to play in the story and who don’t fade into the background when the hero appears. Ramya Krishnan surely must have the best eyes in the business and her imperial mannerisms were perfectly delivered. I think I need to adopt her attitude for my lectures – my word is the law! Great also to see Tamannaah’s warrior role wasn’t just an excuse to let her run around in skimpy attire and wave a sword, inappropriate winter clothing aside. She did get to do some real fighting and looked appropriately fierce when required. Like Temple I was disappointed in Anushka’s make-up but I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about her character and Sathyaraj’s excellent Kattappa in the conclusion. With amazing production and excellent performances from all the cast, plus Rajamouli’s legendary story telling skills, Baahubali is not to be missed. Just make sure you see if in the cinema for the full effect. All I can add is roll on part 2!

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!

Vikramarkudu

Vikramarkudu centres on ASP Vikram Singh Rathore (Ravi Teja) and his attempts to bring rural crimelord Bavuji and his evil brother Titla (Ajay) to justice. Needing to go into hiding, Vikram schemes to have his young daughter left with unknowing duplicate Athili Sathibabu (also Ravi Teja), a conman conned into caring for the child. The now familiar theme of justice being outside of the law is at the fore as even the police cannot rely on the legal system. There is suspense as the bad guys get closer and the two lookalikes cross paths in a series of action packed episodes. SS Rajamouli knows how to get a story up on screen and make it look amazing but he doesn’t have the best material to work with here. Vikramarkudu is a bit less satisfying than it should have been.

The major problem for me is the first section which sets up a very unconvincing love at first sight romance between Sathibabu and Neeru (Anushka Shetty). She acts giggly and flirty and he is sleazy and grabby. I struggle to believe Neeru would be smitten by Sathibabu. I can believe she might fall for him over time, but on sight? It wouldn’t have taken much to come up with a better story for her, but apparently no one could be bothered. Apart from the unfortunate giggling and the attempt to be a minx, Neeru was quite likeable but then she disappears until the end of the film. While it wasn’t much of an acting challenge at first (except maybe for having to gaze lustfully at Ravi Teja) Anushka did at least look like she was having fun in the songs. She got a bit more to work with later in the film, but the heroine was not pivotal to the story.

Ravi Teja is a good actor and created two very distinct characters while playing up their similarities so that while I was never confused, I could believe that the other characters might be. He gave the policeman a serious demeanour that was almost out of place in the mass madness.

The action scenes look great and Ravi Teja is up to the challenge of the scuffling, bruising fights. But most of the story is about Sathibabu whose notion of romance is slapstick sleaze.

I have a fear of Anil Kapoor’s back hair which dates from seeing Janbaaz. Oh, the rolling in the hay scene was so disturbing even without the straw woven into Anil’s furry pelt. I had post traumatic flashbacks when I saw Ravi get his shirt off with no warning.

Brahmanandam and Sathibabu live in a house they had furnished from various stolen items. It was neatly quirky, and might have been better suited to college aged guys but the set designers had fun. Ravi Teja has an upbeat energy which is very effective in the dances and he looks like he enjoys the dreaded comedy scenes. Their conman shtick was mildly amusing and I liked some of their schemes, but the heavy handed and repetitive dialogue especially by Brahmi became annoying. And I just don’t think sleazy puns and groping equates to humour.

There was more to Sathibabu than I initially expected. He was coerced into caring for a little girl (Baby Neha) who was convinced he was her father. I liked the developing affection between Sathibabu and the little girl. It didn’t seem that he was won over because she was cutesy but because he started to appreciate she was a little human being and had her own fears and likes that he could relate to. And from that initial moment of empathy came a protective affection that was endearing. It also meant that he was more invested in helping Vikram and sorting out the villains when the time came.

The bad guys play for cartoon effect but there was an edge of darker violence to some of these scenes. Bavuji is a stock baddie who leers and shouts and does a pretty good mad eye. Ajay as Titla is more striking and not just because of his height and aura of evil. He leads a gang who were possibly involved in the trial run for Magadheera costumes, and is armed with what looks like a kind of blunderbuss and a cross bow.

Ajay has the right amount of menace and silliness and he plays it to the hilt. Munna (Amit Kumar), Bavuji’s son, is flamboyantly bad but opts for a comedic approach which masks his calculating nastiness.

Their crimes include abducting women from the village for sex and killing anyone who stands up to them. Rajamouli doesn’t soften these scenes at all and, while it does make payback more cathartic, it is dark. Mind you, they still know how to party:

The supporting cast of good guys do well with the patchy script. Inspector Mahanti (Rajeev Kanakala), paralysed when they abduct his wife Pramila, is an example of what happens when good men stand by and do nothing.  Yet again I found myself wondering about how a handful of psychos can dominate a population of hundreds. His wife and kids make a strong impression and I cheered and cheered in one of her scenes. Prakash Raj makes a very small appearance as a DCP but gets to use his misty eyed Gaze of Blossomimg Bromance to good effect.  Ruthika is a tough policewoman who is handy in a fight and that is treated as kind of unremarkable which I liked. She just does her job. It didn’t stop the writers inflicting some ‘comedy’ on her though. She is drugged by Brahmi which causes a sound effect of whinnying like a horse and the terrible side effect of fancying Sathibabu. The only good thing I can say is that this song happens:

The MM Keeravani songs are fun and they provided a battlefield between the choreographers and the costume team. There is a pleasing commitment to metallic pants and that makes me happy.

The costumes are a highlight and Ravi Teja’s trousers often make a statement. Anushka seemed to get the more experimental designer but she didn’t seem too fazed. I suppose that is a benefit of knowing you could wear a hessian sack and still look stunning.

There is some excellent Only In Films Medicine I must mention. I bet you didn’t know that a temporary cure for an aneurysm is running cold water over your head.

I struggled with Vikramarkudu at first as I couldn’t see the story going anywhere and I didn’t care less about the lead pair. Once the revenge story started to dominate, the pace picked up and I found the film much more satisfying. There was some tension and characters started to become more fleshed out once the common enemy was in play. While the content and situations are unrealistic, the impact of the dramatic and action oriented scenes was surprisingly strong. By the end, as Ravi Teja made those baddies sorry they had ever been born, I cheered and laughed and occasionally winced. As for the resolution, well I question some of the logic but you know what they say; all’s well that ends well. 3 stars!

Sye

The first half of Sye is director SS Rajamouli’s take on West Side Story – except that instead of knives two rival college gangs fight it out on the rugby field in a reasonable facsimile of Rugby Union. There is romance but no Romeo and Juliet inspired tragedy and by the second half the film has morphed into a fairly standard sports film, underdogs and inspirational speech included. Sye is Rajamouli’s third film and was another hit, proving that no matter what the subject matter he manages to tell a good story.

The film begins with a very violent over throw of local don Narayana by Bikshu Yadhav; the wonderfully evil Pradeep Rawat in totally over-the-top villain mode.  This all becomes very relevant later on, but initially seems quite disconnected from what follows. As a bonus though, there is Ajay as one of the gang.

Next we move on to the MK College of Arts and Sciences or, as the film helpfully points out, Arts vs. Sciences. The college is split into two factions; one led by the son of the headmaster, Prithvi (Nitin)and the other by Shashank (Shashank). Science students have taken on the name of Wings and are self-confessed less disciplined than the Arts students: the Claws. I thought this was a little strange as most science students in my experience tend to be the nerdy conformist types – terrible generalisation I know but I was a science student which probably explains a lot! The hero Prithvi and his rival Shashank do a lot of taunting and grimacing at each other but there is very little actual violence – everything is settled on the rugby pitch.

Genelia plays Indu, an Arts student who acts as another point of contention between Prithvi and Shashank. Her introduction starts well enough as this rather cute song where the lyrics are made up of signs and posters Prithvi and Indu see along their route.

This pleasant introduction is totally ruined by the next scene which is probably the most ridiculous and stupid in the entire film. Getting onto the wrong bus, Indu is pursued and then forcibly tattooed by the rival Wings gang. Yes, tattooed! Never mind the difficulty of tattooing someone against their will when they are struggling, or that it would take more time than the few minutes shown to actual achieve such an intricate design, but then this act of outrage is NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN!!!! This really bothered me as I just couldn’t see that something as permanent and potentially disfiguring as a tattoo wouldn’t cause more of a reaction, but it didn’t seem to bother Indu much at all.

Moving quickly on, since everyone else in the film does, the two gangs take their rivalry onto the rugby field which is where I had my next ‘what the?’ moment. Now I’m a big fan of Rugby Union. It was the sport of choice for the guys at my school in Northern Ireland and I grew up watching the game. My husband also played for many years and it’s still my favourite sport, which was one of the reasons why I wanted to watch this film. But in all my years of watching Union games, I have never seen anything like the scoring system used here. Unless there is a strange form of the game in India (which I really do doubt), I suspect Rajamouli totally made it up. The rest of the game however did seem to mainly follow the usual rules and was fun to watch.

In another plot point that is never totally resolved, the headmaster Satyam pits the two gangs against each other to develop land behind the school as a rugby field, telling them that he will name the ground for whoever finishes first. They must have both finished together as the ground seems to end up as the MK Arts and Colleges ground. Despite Satyam’s good intentions, this accomplishment doesn’t manage to unite the two sides and with Indu rapidly becoming a bone of contention between the two gang leaders, the situation deteriorates further.  I’m not entirely sure why Nitin is wearing a vest underneath a see-through shirt here, but it really doesn’t work. Especially not with the puffy sleeves and a cap.

It all culminates in a huge fight between the two sides which the police try unsuccessfully to break up. Strangely they are about to do this by firing at the limbs of people in the crowd. Really? Whatever happened to other perhaps less potentially fatal options like water cannons or tear gas? Anyway, they don’t get the chance, as Bikshu Yadav (remember him?) shows up asserting his rights to the land, in a rather skilful display of coordinated 4-wheel drive manoeuvring.

It’s never very clear exactly why Bikshu Yadav wants this land so much, but he tortures and kills the legal owner to get it. There is a very unpleasant scene where he threatens a pregnant woman, which was really quite nauseating, but thankfully threats is as far as he goes.

The appearance of an enemy finally gets the Wings and Claws start to work together. You add together wings and claws, and you get Eagles – of course!

Rather sensibly advised by Prithvi, the Eagles decide to fight their enemy by subterfuge rather than by direct opposition. They use a variety of techniques to ruin his drug and alcohol businesses, derail his political career and even manage to stop his nights of passion with his mistress.

However they are too clever for their own good and are ratted out to Bikshu Yadav  by Venu Madhav, who appears periodically throughout the film in a rather silly comedy role. This leads to a final show down rugby match which is attended by a huge crowd and is also televised. Not only that but they even have a third umpire and there’s even a hakka. I loved the drums and team mascot for the Bulls and the half-time inspirational speech by the Eagles coach. Even if it was a mish-mash from the classics, political speeches and other sporting films – but then again aren’t they all?

The film improves a lot in the second half where there are fewer totally ridiculous moments, and the story is more engaging. There are some clever ideas but overall the film is quite patchy and jumps around between the two different themes. The violence perpetrated by Bikshu Yadav is an abrupt contrast to the college story and for me this keeps disrupting the flow. Genelia really doesn’t have much to do in this film other than be the love interest and the reason for the two gangs to finally fight it out. Her character is annoyingly complacent with the antics of Prithvi and Shashank and finally is almost totally sidelined in the second half of the film. Nitin and Shashank do well as the two college kids, but are totally overshadowed by Pradeep Rawat who revels in as much violence as possible. I am a fan of Ajay and I love to see him turn up as one of the villains, since he always seems to be having such a great time being one of the bad guys. The various actors playing the students do a good job of creating a typical college atmosphere and stalwarts of Telugu cinema Tanikella Bharani and Nassar provide good support for the younger cast.  I was somewhat surprised that one of the songs Chantaina Bujjaina is a remix of the classic Hindi song Duniya Mein Logon Ko from Apna Desh but it didn’t work here quite as well as it might have.

Overall Sye is not a bad film, but it’s not a particularly good film either. Worth watching for the final rugby game which really is the high point and just bumps the film up to 3 stars for me.

Temple says:

I didn’t see any West Side story qualities in Sye, just a bunch of college boys with nothing better to do. Had there been stronger dramatic tension or real animosity between the school factions in the first half this would have been a better film. The rivalry between Arts & Sciences was childish and not terribly interesting as basically, the group members were pretty interchangeable. And to Heather’s point about the Science geeks being the quiet good kids…well, I was an Arts student and the Engineering parties at Melbourne Uni back in the day were legendary. The first half meandered from silly pranks to macho posturing and back again. It wasn’t until the rowdies became the common enemy uniting the college that there was any drama.

One of many problems I had with Indu’s character was  the supposed love triangle. It didn’t work as Shashank and Prithvi were pretty much the same so it didn’t matter which one got the girl. I actually really liked Genelia’s performance in this – Indu was energetic and engaging, not crazy bubbly. And she tried to dance which is always fun. Unfortunately her character is one of the most stupid I have ever endured. I was glad when Indu stuck to cheerleading in the second half as I was in danger of tearing an eye-rolling muscle. Prithvi constantly tricked her into inappropriate behaviour and it made me dislike the pair of them intensely (her for being so dumb and him for being an arsehole). Nitin and Shashank were, as I said, virtually the same in terms of their characters. Neither of them really stood out, apart from Nitin’s hideous song outfits. Certainly when Pradeep Rawat is in full throttle, I think you need a hero with a bit more testosterone.

And back to the dancing – a friend of ours once tried to teach a dance step with the instruction ‘sit into it lower and try and move like a really sexy duck’. I think perhaps someone said the same to Genelia in the ‘Duniya Mein’ remake but it turned out more funky chicken than sexy duck. I will never forget the look on Jag’s face when she saw the results and I think the choreographer for this may have felt a bit the same.

I have issues with a rugby try that was clearly not a try (especially when it is called a touchdown and is under the Chicago Bulls basketball team logo), as well as the bizarre scoring and some other things which were at odds with the bits they got right. I guess a proper college team played most of the games, which did make it more enjoyable and realistic, although the actors’ rugby scenes were noticeably less believable. The haka was both impressive and so very wrong.

Despite the woeful story Rajamouli has an eye for great set shots and action sequences, and really understands the tempo of a story. This was surprisingly enjoyable at times, but the good bits are few and far between. I give this 2 ½ stars.

Chatrapathi

There are three reasons that we ended up watching this film. It’s an S.S Rajamouli creation. It was name checked in the opening sequence of Desamuduru. The other was a throwaway remark by our good friend The Mahesh Fan: “Once you’ve seen Prabhas fight the CGI shark there’s not much else to it.” And she said that like it was a bad thing! We ordered the DVD immediately.

The film is a familiar ‘hero looking for lost mother’ tale intertwined with a search for social justice and a jealous half brother to flesh out the storyline.  Some time is spent setting up the back story for hero Shivaji (Prabhas). Separated from his doting step-mother and jealous step-brother after fleeing Sri Lanka, he and the other men who made it across the sea are working as bonded labourers to a local thug Baji Rao. By the time young Shivaji has grown all the way up into rather lanky Prabhas, apathy born of despair seems to be well entrenched into the refugees.  Inspired by his mother’s stories of the heroic Chatrapathi and traumatised by the brutality inflicted by the strong on the weak, Shivaji is truthful, defends the innocent and has never given up on finding his family. He also has a shell necklace given to him by his mother. This will become Very Significant.

But it’s the shark scene we were hanging out for! We applaud Rajamouli’s dedication to the CGI predators in his films. It really is fabulous, and this shark is a scene stealer. It growls!

This very silly episode gives Prabhas a highly memorable heroic entrance scene. It sets Shivaji up as resourceful, capable, tough, resilient and with exceptional lung capacity.

Life is cheap in this refugee settlement, and Katraj (Baji Rao’s man) rules the roost. The level of violence, both implied and actual and especially against women and children is very confronting. It does serve to illustrate the inhumanity of the thugs in charge, the general lack of support for the under classes and most importantly for a film of this type, it allows the hero to arise from the masses. The sight of a child lying near death as people watch on is not easy to view as a light entertainment.

The romantic interest, Neelu played by Shriya, works at a local government office and after some supposedly comic misunderstandings (she thought they thought she was a prostitute, puns on the words “repu” meaning tomorrow and “rape”) locates the necessary file but not the actual address of the missing mother.  Unknown to Shivaji, his mother and brother are alive and well and not far away. And his brother Ashok still doesn’t like him one little bit. Romance blooms. More rape jokes and sadism pranks ensue. And Bhardam, Shivaji’s oldest friend on the settlement and the voice of caution and moderation is killed.

Corruption and rowdyism are the bane of Shivaji’s people and the film takes a darker note when he becomes a popular leader and takes up the ruthless methods of the people he wants to displace.

The fight scenes are brutal and gory, leaving nothing to the imagination. The violence is cartoonish and unreal but still seriously dark. He takes to kidnapping, extortion, bombs and guns with no hesitation. The shocking end to a confrontation with his brother Ashok then propels the story into a final escalation of score-settling.

Neelu and Shivaji’s friends disappear into the background of the story, often appearing as silhouettes or blurry figures as the second half of the film is pure Prabhas revenge-o-drama. The machinations of Ashok continue to drive some truly bizarre behaviour and Shivaji is no closer to regaining the love of his mother. Baji Rao’s brother muscles in on the action to become the new face of evil and gives Shivaji another enemy to fight.  The final scenes include a travelogue of Hyderabad’s temples and a catalogue of lies, tears and betrayals before things go up in flames. Literally.

In the nick of time, Shivaji’s mother recognises the Very Significant shell necklace. Everyone who is still alive at the end of the film gets the life they deserve.

The fight scenes are beautifully choreographed and filmed, but may be too bloody for some tastes. The same care was given to the songs but Prabhas is not as comfortable dancing as he is in stunts and fights. The camera work in all the action sequences was excellent and really conveyed a sense of an epic struggle between heroic and villainous forces.

The support cast were effective although very much in support. Ajay played his usual sidekick role, and had a bit more range as his character was both a thug and a caring older brother. Kamal Kamaraju was another of Shivaji’s inner circle but mostly just had to stand around looking cross. Venu Madhav was the comic relief and supplied a few laughs especially in his “Anniyan” skit. Shriya was typically girly and shrill as the heroine but also displayed some good comic flair and had a few scenes allowing her to be a bit feistier. The mother (Bhanu Priya) was an irritatingly passive and trusting character for the most part, although conveyed the anguish over her sons very well. Ashok (Shafi) was a bit less successful in making his character seem at all real or memorable. He missed the mark on showing both the madness of twisted jealousy and the neediness of the overlooked son and just went for bug eyed, grimacing and grinning for comedic effect.

The soundtrack worked really well and suited both the drama and the performers. In particular, the Mumaith Khan item number was great fun and was tailor made for her. The backing cast and dancers all seemed to throw themselves into it with enthusiasm. The Chatrapathi chant that accompanied Shivaji added that element of mythical heroism, and suited the epic nature of the underlying themes.

Finally, a special shout out to whoever designed Prabhas’ outfits. We do want to know what they were on when they chose some of the shirts! It’s a bit cruel to put a tall lanky man in lolly pink and then make him dance like he means it.

Temple says: Chatrapathi is entertaining enough due to Rajamouli’s ability to make the most cliched story seem fresh and Prabhas’ likeable screen presence. The film is all his and it works most of the time. The story was secondary to the heroics and flexing, and the supporting characters were given little range. I am frequently bewildered by the White Queen style ability of a filmi mother to believe six impossible things before breakfast and this film continues that trend. Ashok’s character was a sketch rather than a fleshed out role and Shafi did what he could— but it felt like a missed opportunity as a bit more depth there would have added to the tension of the final scenes. I know Heather can’t stand Shriya but I think the heroine roles are generally written as irritating air-heads so I try to make allowances . On my personal scale of how annoying was Shriya? this is one of her least irritating roles (perhaps as there was no stupid meringue hair). I quite like the soundtrack and the songs were highlights as they were often a respite from the gore and gunshots.  Mumaith Khan is a favourite as she always looks like she is having such a great time and is totally in on the joke. I love that the South Indian heroes know that they can’t avoid dancing so regardless of their comfort levels, they just do it. I always giggle at the sight of Mahesh Babu in a lunghi (something about those long skinny pale legs) and now I can add Prabhas to the list of men who should stick to wearing trousers please!

This isn’t a film I will re-watch over and over, although the shark fight was on high rotation for a while. There was something endearingly Parvarish-like about the special effects in that scene, and I love that Rajamouli had his shark snarling, snapping and almost literally chewing the scenery. I give this 3 and 1/2 stars.

Heather says: Prabhas is a hero very much in the style of early Amitabh Bachchan in this film.  He is the ‘angry young man’ who is searching for his mother and will let no obstacle stand in his way.  Unlike Amitabh though, he makes a fair attempt at dancing!   In the first half of the film Shivaji is truly the hero with his drive to always do the right thing, and of course his constant search for his step-mother.  His switch from the hero of the docks to violent thug is quite abrupt and rather confronting, and he seems to be almost a  different character.  I did enjoy Ajay’s slightly more sensitive role here, and I like the way that both young Shivaji and the grown up version had the same mannerisms.  There really should have been no need for an identifying significant necklace!  This film also has one of my favourite lines, at least according to the subtitles: ‘trust your whiskers’!

Shriya is still not my preferred actress – there is just something about her that irritates, and I was quite relieved when her character was sidelined in the second half of the film. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed Shafi’s characterisation of the jealous step-brother Ashok.  Especially when he has some money and can indulge his terrible taste in clothes and become as obnoxious as he has clearly always wanted to be.  Overall I felt the story works well, providing there is some major suspension of disbelief that Shivaji couldn’t find his step-mother even though she lives close by! Plus there is that shark scene, which really is fantastic! 3 1/2 stars from me.