Dhada

It seems to have been a very long time since the last Telugu film release here in Melbourne, so we were quite delighted to hear that Dhada was showing this weekend. Despite the negative reports, we headed in to the city for another ‘adventure without subtitles’.

The film opens with a parkour chase sequence across, over, around, through and between various buildings, bridges and major highways. It’s very well done with great cinematography and editing, and is an excellent introduction to Vishwa (Naga Chaitanya). He’s just graduating from college in some unspecified city which we think might be supposed to be in the USA, or possibly Russia. It’s hard to tell from the accents of the English speaking cast who seem to be mainly of Eastern European origin but since the cops are wearing US style cardboard badges and US flags we’re going to go with the States.

Vishwa lives with his elder brother Rajiv and Rajiv’s wife Preethi.  He fancies himself as a modern day hero, and cannot help rescuing a tearful girl running from a pack of thugs. In the course of the rescue he manages to set free another 99 girls who were rather conveniently loaded in trucks in the same car park. This doesn’t endear him to local mafia don RD (a wonderfully over the top Rahul Dev), who was just about to close a deal selling the girls (all 100 medically certified virgins) on to white slaver Kelly Dorjee (almost his equal in the over the top evil stakes).

Around the same time Vishwa has spotted, and instantly fallen in love with, Ria the daughter of a millionaire (Mukesh Rishi) who doesn’t have any time for her. She spends her days on a chaise longue in the wine cellar surrounded by bad polystyrene replicas of classical sculpture, either watching old 8mm film of herself and her mother or developing pictures she has taken of parents and their children, and generally feeling sorry for herself. The mother was played by the excellent Satya Krishnan and it was such a shame she only had a tiny role.

Vishwa has a classy idea of a date which involves taking Ria out on the back of a motorbike, stealing a bottle of wine along the way (drinking and driving and no helmets– tsk tsk!), to a a bare knuckle fight (which judging by the spectators’ apparel seems to occur some time in the early part of last century) and finally to a club based in a ship. Strangely they seem to travel back in time again when a bunch of 1930’s styled shoe shine boys arrive aboard the Titanic styled set to join in the song and dance number, the seriously catchy ‘Telugu Bengali English Marathi’. It was an odd blend, especially with the random and bored looking audience including one beaming Sikh guy. Vishwa and Ria do lots of flirting before he drops her back to her dull party, and her fiancé, two minutes before her stated deadline. Ah yes – the fly in the ointment is that Ria’s father has promised her to Amit, a local businessman with a commitment to shimmery suits, who isn’t impressed at all with Vishwa.

There are more chases and excellent fight scenes as RD’s younger brother closes in on Vishwa seeking revenge for their lost millions in the white slave trade. There is the obligatory twist in the tale as Rajiv reveals his entanglement in the mafia web. There is an excellent flashback scene to the two boys growing up, and we learn that Vishwa has always protected his big brother, sometimes in spectacular fashion.  Ria becomes a hostage and Kajal was good at being unconscious. It’s all up to Vishwa to save the day – can you ever doubt that he will? Would a man lacking self confidence wear so much pink?

The film looks fantastic and the direction is confident and visually accomplished. The styling is good and both Chaitanya and Kajal look the part. Except one of the hairdressers seems to have a grudge against Kajal and gave her an absolutely terrible fringe. In fact, we suspect we have seen that wig before, when it appeared as The Wig in Shakti. She looks much better in her emo rock-chick look, or Aishwarya Rai wannabe avatar, although losing the blue contacts would have been even better. Vishwa’s fantasy versions of Ria in one song also included Foreman Ria (in hard hat and high-vis overalls), Police Ria and Skanky Carwash Ria so her wardrobe team were kept busy. Chaitanya has a wonderful collection of slightly sparkling superhero and James Bond T-shirts which we were delighted to see he felt were entirely appropriate for day wear.

Chaitanya has developed as an actor, and it’s obvious he has worked hard and really improved his dancing. He handled the demanding action sequences well, and the multiple camera angles and slo-mo replays meant he had to deliver in those scenes or they wouldn’t have worked at all. He does look rather embarrassed by a few of his outfits, but by the time we get to the lilac satin band-leader costume he seems to have become resigned to his fate. The lurid checked lunghi in the final song doesn’t faze him at all but he seems to suffer from Thrust Reluctance.

He’s also committed to the wet look throughout the film, indulging in a number of activities guaranteed to keep him slightly soggy.

Rahul Dev is excellent as the evil RD and his execution of a rival involving a prosthetic leg was rather special. Although Kelly Dorjee doesn’t turn up quite as often he makes up for it by some inspired sneering behind his ever present sunglasses.

But that’s all the good stuff.  The story is weak and the white slave trade link pathetic. The comedy with Brahmi, Ali and various others all falls very flat and mainly involves racist and sexist jokes. It’s all unnecessary and not even remotely funny. Venu Madhav is mildly amusing but totally unnecessary as is MS Narayana. The pace of the first half is too slow as time is spent on laborious set-ups and establishing characters who lacked substance or who disappeared. There were silly errors; in the Super 8 film of baby Ria and her mother, there is someone in shot using a digital video camera. And don’t get us started on Hair Continuity – it was all over the place (literally).

Chaitanya is more amusing in some lighter moments than any of the ‘comedians’ and those scenes suited the masala action style of the film much better. Dhada is style over substance. But it’s worth a watch for the well executed fight scenes and nicely picturised songs from a reasonably appealing soundtrack. Not a great film, but not a terrible one. And if you take nothing else away from Dhada, the phrase ‘Smoking is injurious to health’ became even more ominous.

Advertisements

Badrinath

The great thing about an Adventure without Subtitles when Allu Arjun stars is knowing that no matter what, the dancing will be awesome.  But there is so much more to enjoy in Badrinath, and we had a great time.

The plot, for what it’s worth, can be summed up as follows. Prakash Raj is a guru who trains young boys to defend temples in the major holy cities of India. His school is located high in the mountains, and the scenery and the sets are nothing short of spectacular. Allu Arjun is Badri, who is assigned to protect Badrinath. Badri has a special relationship with the place, amazing sword and fighting skills, a strong faith in god and his guru, and is earmarked to take over the training camp. Tamanna is Alaknanda, a very pretty atheist who lost her faith after seeing her parents accidentally catch fire and die at a pooja. Badri and Alaknanda eventually fall in love, then the bad guys turn up to kidnap her. Will Badri desert his post, anger his guru and rescue his love? So much drama!

This is a vehicle for Bunny and, as expected, he excels in the dancing and fighting scenes. We had questioned the efficacy of an Indian Samurai when pitted against men with guns, but that question was put to rest. You need arms attached to your body to pull a trigger. Swords win! The fight scenes were cool, and it looked like someone may have been inspired by games where each set of bad guys has a particular set of weapons. So once the guys with sickles are defeated, the next batch has axes and so on. It isn’t all gore and anger though; there is room for what our friend calls Funny Bunny and he is joyful in the dances. He does an excellent wet shirt, and even wears a Chiranjeevi inspired silver cape in one song! This pleased us greatly.

Tamanna is a beautiful girl, and she can act and dance. She more or less keeps up with Bunny, and her facial expressions when she dances are great. Alaknanda is rarely more than a sketch, a pretty face on the sidelines, and sadly it seems that she discovers faith and love only after Badri slaps her. She also discovers more appropriate clothing. (And she had been spectacularly rude and stupid in the lead up to the slap). There is a fun moment when she keeps pretending to slip so she can fling herself on Badri’s manly chest and cop a feel. That seemed perfectly sensible so we decided we liked her a lot. Her subplot involving abduction by evil relatives and an attempt at forcing her to marry could have been cut back without diminishing the idea of the damsel in distress. Tamanna was very good in 100% Love, and lovely in Badrinath, so we hope more substantial roles come her way.

Alaknanda had the best imagination. Most of the songs were her dreams and she spared no effort in dressing Bunny up and giving every single backing dancer the most amazing outfits as well.

On the subject of wardrobe, this is what Badri wore as his going into town outfit so there are arguments for and against him choosing his own clothes.

Prakash Raj is excellent as the guru. He gets to do pretend martial artsy stuff, levitate, growl at people and also use his misty eyes of love. His character is the cause of Badri’s conflict as he demands the young man be sworn in as his replacement, and thus swear off marriage and women. He probably should have thought that through a bit more.  But we could rely on him to do the right thing when it counted and all was well between the master and disciple.

The Comedy Sideplot was over represented by MS Narayana, Venu Madhav , Master Bharath and Brahmi among others. Too many! And took up at least 30 minutes that could have been condensed or cut. Brahmi was fun, and the crowd went wild for him, but it was basically the same fleecing the pilgrims shtick he did in Indra. We guess that was a deliberate reference. The supporting cast was full of familiar faces, all of whom do the thing they do so well. We think the Allu family pug made an appearance too so if Ice’s agent is reading this, please confirm? But in an unsubtitled film we tend not to give the support artists their full dues as we have to concentrate on the main action. And yes, there were compelling visuals adding to the distractions. We totally appreciated the backing dancers for their enthusiasm, their dancing and the way they rocked the purple and gold glittery outfits.

We did have to notice the evil family as they showed dedication to the bulk purchase of coloured contact lenses, and the matriarch wore some excellent saris.

The evil henchmen deserve a shout out. From the Pick n Mix Assorted Terrorist Stereotype Brigade to the Ninjas in Hoodies, they gave it their best, and Peter Hein and team really made them work for their money. He knows how to make chaos look elegant.

There are massive plot holes, but they aren’t an impediment to enjoying the story. There is no pretence at realism so questions of why there are never any police around or how Badri could survive the latest incident just didn’t matter. We were far more interested in why people wore some of the crazy outfits. The soundtrack is effective and enjoyable, and the songs are well placed. How well they stand up without the supporting visuals is another question.

This is an out and out entertainer that succeeds, and the audience last night certainly enjoyed it. The balance of action and ridiculous stunts with beautiful visuals and fantastic dancing is just about right. See it on a big screen if you can!

Mr Perfect

There really is only word to describe Mr Perfect, and that is boring. That’s not just because we couldn’t understand much of the dialogue either, there was just nothing at all to keep our interest in this very predictable and slow-moving romance.

Mr Perfect starts in Sydney with Prabhas as Vicky, a computer game developer who has dreams of running his own company with his friends. Straight away there is a rather inexplicable fight in a pool with some Europeans – French? Or possibly Belgian? They certainly sounded more like Inspector Clouseau than any Australians we know. After some rather impressive ‘Man from Atlantis’ impressions by Prabhas and his jet-propelled feet the action moves on to various parts of Sydney. He and his friends spend a lot of time hanging around various landmarks but never really doing any of the work that is supposedly their dream. He goes back to India for his sister’s wedding, and meets Priya  (Kajal Aggarwal), a childhood companion. A flashback introduces the idea that Vicky needs to learn the art of compromise and explains to some extent the animosity between the two.

Over time Priya’s likeable personality wins Vicky over but he decides that he can’t possibly remove Priya from her family or her obviously happy life in India, and he won’t leave his life of aimless wandering around Sydney. Vicky keeps insisting that he will not compromise, but we don’t know what sparks these speeches as really people are only asking him to have some manners and be considerate which is hardly the end of the world. He’s such a grumpy, argumentative man who falls into fights for no reason whatsoever.  There is some attempt at comedy involving Brahmi as an uncle who is trying to get rid of Vicky, and also some funnier moments involving Master Bharath but none of it works very well. There are some good points though.  This part of the film in India was beautifully shot and there were some lovely moments with Priya and her family. The teasing and banter between Priya and Vicky is also amusing, even without understanding the dialogue, and Prabhas and Kajal have excellent chemistry.

Vicky heads back to Sydney and through the wonders of product placement meets Maggie who is his ideal partner – or so he thinks. Her family disapprove of Vicky, mainly due to his brattish and immature habit of arguing with everyone senior to him. It really made us wonder how he would ever manage to run a business successfully! There were more Europeans in Sydney – this time Dutch we think – and a stylist who really didn’t like Taapsee. This is one of the better outfits as sadly we can’t find any of the really terrible ones.

After more confrontations and more inexplicable, although very nicely choreographed fights (thanks to Peter Hein) Maggie’s father challenges Vicky in order to win his support for their marriage. At a wedding somewhere that wasn’t Sydney or India, but may possibly have been Malaysia both Maggie and Priya are present and Vicky has to decide between the two. And really that was it – most of which could have been condensed into an hour and saved us from the never-ending drama of the second half.

A word on Prabhas’ styling in the film – which was really quite terrible. But not terrible enough to be interesting. Dressed in far too many designer T’s, which looked to have come straight from the street markets of Bangkok, worn over the top of plaid shirts, this really was not the best look for him at all. He looked awkward and overdressed in the various layers especially when seen next to Kajal who looked beautiful in some lovely saris.

Overall, the whole story was predictable with far too many contrived ‘chance’ meetings and co-incidences. Prabhas character was essentially unlikable and had no convincing relationship with his family. In fact the scenes with his father (Nassar) and mother in Australia were much more reminiscent of a live-in boarder rather than an only son. At least in ‘Orange’ the hero’s decision never to compromise and to live life on his own terms blah blah blah was given a context so while you might not empathise with him, there was at least a reason. Here there was nothing – just a lot of attitude. The interactions with his friends were a little more convincing but only just. There was never any sense that he was ever going to achieve his dream of owning a company and none of them seemed to actually do anything like work.  It’s such a pity as we both like Prabhas and were so disappointed in this lacklustre venture.

Kajal was lovely as Priya but seemed to fall for Vicky just a little too quickly. Initially she seemed to be a strong character with plenty of determination and confidence but lost her backbone when she fell in love. However her character was reasonably well developed and she delivered a good performance in her role. Taapsee’s character was less interesting and suffered from some very unfortunate choices in the wardrobe department. Prakash Raj and K. Vishwanath play their usual type of role as do many of the other uncles, aunts and family members and it’s nothing we haven’t seen many times before. And that really is the problem here – there is nothing new and the story isn’t interesting enough by itself. The comedy didn’t fit and in general just wasn’t funny. The fights were technically impressive but added nothing to the drama and didn’t serve to progress the story. It felt as though they were just added because they are more or less obligatory and people would want to see Prabhas in action.The songs were much better and mainly were well picturised although the placement was rather clumsy. We tried to look for good points but even the pictures on the walls and the furniture failed to inspire!  Less a Mr Perfect and more a Mr Ordinary.