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!

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.

Sri Anjaneyam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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