Anukokunda Oka Roju

Sahasra  is a B.Comm student, but her passion is singing. She is a smart, confident girl who is an unwanted addition to her step-mother’s household and she tries to keep her head down.  Her friends are an unexceptional bunch of students and singers, and she is an ordinary girl. So why are people trying to kill her?

Anukokunda Oka Roju translates as Suddenly One Day and the answer lies in a missing day in Sahasra’s life. The action took some time to get going, but I always felt there was some underlying sense I just hadn’t uncovered yet. The direction by Chandrasekhar Yeleti is pacy but allows time for the story to unfold in a way that felt realistic enough and the city setting gives a slightly chaotic edge to the action. It didn’t feel like a join the dots story and there were things that seemed irrelevant initially but took on more significance later. The strength of the characterisations helped keep the suspense set to high despite some overly contrived incidents. Once the motivation behind the attacks on Sahasra was revealed I struggled to completely believe in it, but I was so interested in the characters that I eventually found the ending quite satisfying.

Charmme delivers a great performance as a girl in trouble and out of her depth. Sahasra is a talented singer in a studio chorus with ambitions of singing solos for the great film composers. Charmme shows the spark of confidence and joy that Sahasra feels when she is involved in her music, and how that evaporates when she returns home to a less hospitable environment. Her speech and expressions become younger, almost childlike as she seeks to placate her step-mother, but then regains her robust cheekiness when on the phone to her mother. It makes Sahasra’s fear and also her resilience seem real as we see her strength in everyday situations, not just in the struggle to survive.

This is my favourite of Charmme’s performances, and if you want to see a modern heroine carry a film other than a rom-com, this is a great place to start. And she sings a song sort of dedicated to Chiranjeevi so clearly she has excellent taste in film heroes!

Rajesh (Shashank) is a student who runs an unofficial taxi service on the side. He spots Sahasra and chases her demanding money for a taxi fare she doesn’t remember. She denies everything but they keep crossing paths. He rescues Sahasra from a gang of big burly men and in turn becomes a target of sorts. Shashank does an OK job, but as in Sye he doesn’t do any more than just OK. He is suited to this role, and the fight scenes are realistically scuffly and non-heroic, but despite being in a couple of highly dramatic sequences he made little impression.

SI Suresh Reddy (Jagapathi Babu) is an odd character. A corrupt and eccentric juice-swilling policeman, he is in the vicinity when Sahasra is attacked. His investigation is motivated by both judicial and personal concerns – unbeknownst to Sahasra, her father was in talks to marry the pair. He is socially awkward and falls for her like a ton of bricks.

Jagapathi Babu is brilliant at showing glimpses of the awkward guy with a crush as well as the confident bully. His eccentricities seem to stem more from boredom in his career and his life, and when he means business, he is convincing. He takes on the investigation and at first is totally unwelcome in Sahasra’s life and her friends resist him. But he gets results and as he unravels the events, he realises that other mysterious deaths may be related and Sahasra is in more trouble than she knows. His character builds over the course of the film, and I found myself first dismissing him as a corrupt nutter, but then anxiously looking for his face in the crowd as things looked grim for Sahasra.

Sahasra’s friend Shwetha (Pooja Bharti) took her to a party and Sahasra’s drink was spiked. This is the reason for the lost time, and lost memories. The drugs were let go by Suresh Reddy when he took a bribe from the dealer so his involvement takes on another dimension. The dialogue (by Ganga Raju Gunnam) was excellent, often amusing and very illuminating in terms of character insights. The girls are such different characters and I liked that they were shown as disapproving but not bitchy. There are a couple of dialogue exchanges where the girls discuss sex and it is refreshing to see friends who can tell each other they think the other is an idiot but without rancour.

The safe sex message is loud and clear and despite being linked to an unwanted pregnancy, I didn’t feel that the girl was being demonised, and she certainly wasn’t made to suffer or repent. In fact, the good girl was the one to walk out of the hospital and nearly be killed. It was an interesting detour and suited the low key modern urban setting and the cast of 20-somethings. Sahasra is a typically good girl heroine, but her friends are diverse (although very much in the background) and that makes her more relatable and real.

It was this level of detail in the characterisations that made the film so engaging for me. These people had lives I could identify with to an extent, and their motivations were believable. Sahasra’s home life was complicated by her father’s remarriage, but her step mother wasn’t a crazy evil stereotype, just a bit of a bitch. Shwetha was partially responsible for her friend’s predicament because she didn’t speak up at first, but she was still a good friend when Sahasra needed support. Rajesh had debts and aspirations, but didn’t let his own plans blind him to a person in need. Suresh could have used his authority to pressure Sahasra but he backed off and when she came to him, he helped and did it in as sensitive a manner as he could. There is a scene at the end where Suresh just says what he needs to say to the guy who he thinks might get his girl and it’s touching but realistic.

There is a comedy sideplot, but mercifully it is carried mostly by the very likeable Harsha Vardhan as a hapless school teacher and neighbour, and to an extent by Rajesh in his taxi. The comedic incidents do all in some way feed back into the main story, and involve relevant characters. Harsha Vardhan wins my special gold star for most excellent insults delivered in delightfully plummy English.

And there was a fight in a music shop which I enjoyed a lot as it was funny and still menacing – and Charmme acquitted herself pretty well before her rescuer turned up.

The M.M.Keeravani soundtrack is effective and all the songs have their place either illustrating characters or incidents, so there were no breaks in the dramatic tension just because people burst into song. The cinematography adds to the mood, using changing angles and distances to show the pursuit, but balancing that with character focussed shots that reveal people’s inner thoughts and hopes.

It’s a really enjoyable thriller and I highly recommend it. I have to make a minor deduction for an over the top although rarely seen bad guy, and his motivation. But the conclusion for the three main characters is satisfying and a little less predictable than it might have been. 4 stars!

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Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap

This is it! This is what I’ve been waiting for in Hindi cinema. Finally, a film that resembles the Bollywood masala movies I love from yesteryear. Sure it lacks a few songs and the story isn’t all it could be, but the action is right back where the angry young man started in a fun film that delivers plenty of masala goodness.

The story revolves around Vijju, a retired hit man who has come back from Paris ostensibly for one last job. The contract is to kill ACP Karan (Sonu Sood) who has vowed to eliminate the gangsters in his area of Mumbai. This has severely put a crimp in the daily dealings of Kabir Bhai (Prakash Raj)  who is determined to eliminate Karan before Karan eliminates him. Added in is a romance between Karan and his old school friend Tanya, whose best friend Amrita just happens to be the daughter of one of Vijju’s old flames. We also get Hema Malini as Vijju’s estranged wife and a great performance from Subbaraju as one of Kabir Bhai’s henchmen.

Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap is a tribute to Amitabh, by Amitabh. He is very much the hero, complete with swaggering walk and hero dismount from a motorbike. The only thing missing is the patented Southern Style Hero Run, and we can cut him a bit of slack on that. There are some great fight scenes, and while Amitabh does look a little stiff, Vijay has done a good job in making the fight sequences look credible. The ‘angry young man’ attitude is there in spades and the whole film hinges on Amitabh’s ability to command our attention. This he does with ease, even when sharing the screen with Sonu Sood in a very tight police uniform! And it’s not just because of his stylish scarves, nifty jackets and very cool specs and shades (although I must admit these don’t really say Paris to me – much more Hyderabad filmi style), Amitabh still has the commanding presence that made him a star in the seventies. These are my favourite of his many pairs of glasses – very cool!

Sonu Sood is more understated than usual in his role as the police officer, but he comes into his own in the action scenes and when he is interrogating his prisoners. I really do prefer him in negative roles and every time he slips into a more ‘bad’ persona he is much better. His romance with Tanya isn’t very convincing at all, although this may be because Sonal Chauhan is very wooden in her role. She does improve in the second half, but by that stage it’s really too late for me to have any interest in her character. Charmy though is excellent as Amrita and has some great comedy. She makes the most of her role and is impressive in her scenes with Amitabh. Another very good performance from Charmy, and I really hope we get to see her in some meatier heroine roles as she is such a good actress.  Although Hema Malini only has a small role in the film she makes an impact and is as good as ever. It would have been nice to have a little more of her Sita Malhotra and a little less of Kamini and her histrionics but you can’t have everything.

Perhaps now that Prakash Raj seems to have a contract to appear in every single Telugu and Tamil film made, he’s now reaching out to include Bollywood in that list – this can only be a good thing. He is in fine form here as the chief gangster and brilliant in the final scenes. It’s also great to see Makarand Despande and his wild head of hair make another effective appearance as one of the gangsters.

It’s not a totally great film though and there are some flaws. The pacing is uneven in the first half and there are times when the set-up begins to drag. Raveena Tandon overplays her role as Kamini and although there are some funny moments, it’s all too cringe-worthy to make her the femme fatale she tries to be. It’s a shame as it is great to see her back on screen again. There is also a lack of songs and very little dancing. However, the one song we do get is a fun remix of old Amitabh hits and features a cast of backpacker back-up dancers. Go Meera Go!

Puri Jagannath is probably most well known for his brilliant film Pokiri with Mahesh Babu, but he has made many other hit Telugu films and his style of film making is very clear here.  Given that I’m mainly watching Telugu and Tamil films these days I think that plays a large part in my enjoyment of Bbuddha Hoga Terra Baap. The fight scenes and the final shoot-out are also very southern in style but work well within the story and are very well done. The writing does include a number of references back to old Amitabh films but I although I recognised some of this I wasn’t always sure exactly which film it referenced. It does pull the focus of the film back to Amitabh and the film works best when considered as a tribute to his films of the seventies. One for Amitabh fans and anyone who enjoys their movies with more masala than logic.

The angry young man is back – just make sure that you don’t call him old!

Temple says: I don’t think this is anywhere close to being a great masala movie. It plays as a great tribute to Amitabh, and I did enjoy a lot of it on that level. But. If you aren’t familiar with the Big B in his heyday, I don’t know that a lot of the dialogues and visuals will work as well, or the one big musical number Go Meera Go which is a pallid remix of old hits. There is really no story for the first half, it is Amitabh reprising some of his best known moments. It’s all filmed beautifully, and with the flair and pace I expect from Puri Jagganadh, but there is a clear separation of the plot happening for supporting characters, and Viju being a showcase role with little connection. This changes in the second half when all of a sudden Viju has a past and an emotional life and it’s all supposed to be terribly sympathetic. By then it was too late to change Mr Bachchan into the aging hit man with family concerns so it fell flat for me. I also had flashbacks to the hideous emotional manipulation and melodrama of Baghban as soon as I saw Hema Malini.  Occasionally Amitabh also seemed to be channelling sleazy Sam from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna so that didn’t help either.

I cannot imagine better casting (apart from the obvious) to play Son of the B than Sonu Sood. He plays it pretty straight but seemed a bit too uptight in some scenes. It may have been the very snug fit of his uniform that caused this effect! Raveena Tandon was terrible. Her orgasmic whimpering every time she spoke to or about  Viju and hammy acting were among the few false notes in the supporting ensemble work. I cheered (all by myself, in a near silent cinema) for Prakash Raj and Subbaraju as I knew they ‘got’ the style and would add the level of commitment to badness I love in Telugu films. I didn’t like the girls’ roles at all, and I seem to have managed to almost forget them already. They were just fodder for (often sleazy) jokes, and made too many stupid decisions. I like Charmme but this role was a disappointment for me.

See it just to see Amitabh Bachchan strut his stuff, even though he does get some hideous denim in which to strut. And he did a lovely job singing the beautifully simple and melodious Hal e Dil. I think the Go Meera Go song sums it all up for me though. Once I saw that I just wanted to go back to the originals, not the lightweight remake.

Pournami

I’ve become quite fond of Prabhas. Not in a ‘he’s so hot‘ fangirly way. But he is likeable on screen and his presence in a film does seem to promise a commitment to entertainment.  Pournami is colourful, visually pleasing, sentimental and rather silly. Just what I have come to expect from Prabhas in fact!

The film opens in 1953 and centres on a family with a long affiliation to a local temple. Many years back there had been a drought that threatened the livelihood of all in the surrounds. One woman had the strength and stamina to dance for Lord Shiva and was rewarded with rain. From that date, her family repeated this ritual every 12 years and her female descendants were trained to dance.

So it was a bit of a surprise to me that it all came as a surprise to the girls in the 1953 family that the eldest daughter, Pournami, was going to have to perform the ritual in 10 years time. Surely it might have rated a mention during dance lessons? Continuing the journey through time, we emerge in the 60s or thereabouts. Pournami has gone missing before the ritual must be performed. Her sister Chandrakala always wanted to dance but was overlooked. Chandrakala is now played by Charmme and she is reasonably convincing in the dance sequences. She is a Cinderella type figure – persecuted by her horrible stepmother, teased by local bullies and overlooked by many.

But where is the drama? Hello evil landlord! I do not in any way approve of evil landlords intent on deflowering young ladies who should be saving their strength to dance for Shiva. However, Rahul Dev has an excellent palace, a resident orchestra and generally believes himself to be a god or at least the equal of one. It is all highly entertaining. Pournami did a runner to avoid being kidnapped by Rahul Dev and he is now intent on claiming her sister.

But where’s the hero? Hello Prabhas in eye-catching plaid pants and rock n roll rebel attitude. Adding to the fun, we learn he is an ‘English Dance’ teacher, Sivakesava. Hmm…is that a Significant Name? Sivakesava rents room with Charmme’s family and opens his dance school.

In between dance classes and dodging the local nymphomaniac, he encourages Charmme to dance, sometimes with quite amazing results. He seems to have mysterious powers over Chandrakala – little things like making her teeth glow in the dark and resisting her attack snake. But he uses his powers for good, and for fixing fuses, so we need not be alarmed on her behalf. I was amused by his gramophone – it’s just not rock n roll as I know it!

All the threads seem to be drawing together, but why? Who is Sivakesava and why is he intent on protecting the upcoming ritual? An extended flashback reveals that he met and fell in love with Pournami (played by Trisha) after she fled the village. She had joined a troupe of travelling performers, and her amazing dance talent, or perhaps her skimpy outfit, caught his eye. Pournami continues to practice her classical dance in her spare time. In a very pretty scene under the full moon, she gives ample evidence that the odds of pleasing Lord Shiva will be improved if she doesn’t dance for him.

It turns out that Sivakesava was from a family who had a blood feud with the other big family in the region. He was sworn to avenge his brother and then would no doubt be hunted down in turn. Pournami became a victim in this feud, sacrificing herself to save her husband on their wedding night. The wedding night scene may mean I never look at corn in quite the same way ever again. Yes, that was corn with a c.

His past life continues to pursue him, never giving him a clear path to his heart’s desire or letting him subside into anonymity.

Chandrakala is abducted by Rahul Dev and he shows why he needs that piano and keeps an orchestra on standby. There is nothing funny about kidnap and rape in reality, but when the villain is improvising a melody to the tempo of Charmme’s footsteps it is very entertaining and adds to the cartoonish effect, as does his balletic fighting style. Naturally Kesava comes to her rescue again, and his actions cement her feelings for him.

Thus the other crucial episode unfolds – Kesava feels compelled to tell Chandrakala about his past with Pournami and why people from his old life, particularly his fiancée Mallika (Sindhu Tolani with a terrible hairdo), are still pursuing him. Chandrakala takes up the challenge to dance at the festival, motivated by love of her sister, of her father and for Kesava.

The finale at the temple is visually stunning and yet daft in equal measures. Which really sums up the whole film so it is perfect.

Although Pournami’s name and presence infuse the film, Trisha is overshadowed by Charmme and Prabhas. This is mostly due to the structure of the film – her story is told in isolation from the present time drama and we aren’t so involved in her relationships with anyone other than Sivakesava. In a film about dancers, Prabhu Deva gave Trisha some beautiful picturisations but her dancing was not as strong as Charmme’s and that aspect didn’t convince me. She looked lovely and her acting was as convincing as the role allowed. When Pournami appears to take over during the final dance it is shown as a way for everyone, including her spirit, to find closure. Trisha uses her very expressive face to communicate her sorrow and joy at this final encounter with her loved ones.

Charmme irritated me in the first half of the film, but I think she was meant to be a troubled teenager who was a bit bratty so I suppose that was a win. Her portrayal of a growing love for Sivakesava was done well, and I could see her puzzlement and annoyance turning to appreciation of the man who supported and protected her. She was a little tougher than your average filmi heroine, and her demonstrated snake wrangling skills make her more than a match for the average thug. Although the hero had to step in and help her finish the ritual, his help would have been for nothing if she hadn’t had the fortitude to keep going and stay focussed. Finally, she saves Kesava’s life and through that act wins the right to his future as his past finally lets go. I felt a bit sad for Chandrakala at the end as once again she will be the understudy for her sister, only this time in life.

Despite the story being ostensibly about the girls, this is a Prabhas film. He is at the centre of all the action and subplots, and once he arrives in town he is on screen for most of the film. He is convincing as both the kick arse hero and the misty eyed lover, and seems to have fun in the retro dance sequences. His relationship with both the heroines was played well, and there is a marked difference in his interaction with each of them. It’s a typically fun Prabhas performance. And his costumes… They make a statement all on their own.

The supporting cast were fine, with Rahul Dev, Brahmaji and Mukesh Rushi the standouts. Sunil is sweetly funny as Pournami’s brotherly friend and Ajay is reliable as a local thug. The soundtrack by Devi Sri Prasad is enjoyable and suits the story. Of course the songs are a visual delight as I expect from a Prabhu Deva film. The sets, the costumes, the locations are all beautiful and add a fairytale quality.

The film has a happy ever after ending, with signs of the new generation ready to maintain this lovely tradition. With any luck they’ll have a new landlord before the next festival!

See Pournami if you like the stars, plaid pants, excellent set design, pretty song picturisations and a dollop of overacting. I give this 3 and ½ stars.