Mungaru Male 2

mungaru-male-2

Yogaraj Bhat’s 2006 Mungaru Male was a big hit so it’s not too surprising that the story has been revisited in this 2016 reboot written and directed by Shashank. However, although there is a Preetham and a Nandini, a pre-arranged marriage to disrupt and plenty of rain, Shashank doesn’t quite manage to recapture the magic of the first film. It’s a reasonable enough romance but nowhere near as engaging as the original, and with an unlikeable hero in the first half and a ridiculously over-dramatic and improbable climax it’s newcomer Neha Shetty and the beauty of Rajasthan and Karnataka that make the biggest impressions.

Preetham (Ganesh) is the immature and brattish son of multi-millionaire businessman V. Ravichandran, whose major problem in life is that he is easily bored. The film starts with some dodgy CGI of a helicopter as Preetham pulls out all the stops to impress Shreya (Aindrita Ray), the current object of his desire. However before long Preetham has had enough of his new relationship and unceremoniously dumps Shreya using incredibly juvenile dialogue, while Shreya reacts unrealistically well to being told she is too dull for the spoilt rich kid. Preetham’s childish behaviour continues (although I suspect he’s supposed to look spontaneous and hip), as he runs off on a train trip to Rajasthan. On the train he meets Nandini (Neha Shetty) and the two abandon the tour to experience the colour and vibrancy of Rajasthan by themselves as temporary girlfriend and boyfriend.

This part of the film works as a standard romance, apart from the frequently childish behaviour from Preetham. Nandini also has a tendency to be obnoxious at times, although to a lesser extent, and at least she is never as deliberately cruel as Preetham. Perhaps unthinkingly selfish is the best description as it’s Nandini who decides where to go and what to do. Thankfully Shekar Chandra makes the most of the stunning landscapes and colourful locals, so at least the film looks amazing in these scenes.

Post interval the action moves to rain-drenched Karnataka as Preetham discovers that he has fallen in love with Nandini and finally decides to try and find her. This he does, just in time to learn that she is engaged to a US based doctor who is planning to move back to India and open a charity hospital built by Nandini’s father P. Ravi Shankar. How’s that for perfect matchmaking! To add more drama, there is a family connection behind the marriage which supposedly makes it even more imperative that the marriage goes ahead, but which seemed to me to be more of a good reason why the whole thing should be called off.  Sadhu Kokila adds some humour to the proceedings while V. Ravichandran is good as Preetham’s concerned father.

Shankar tries to add a new twist to the Mungaru Male storyline here and to be fair it works reasonably well up to a point. Ganesh’s Preetham becomes more likeable once he falls in love with Nandini and the two have some better chemistry together in the second half. The songs are also more appropriately placed and generally well visualised while the stunning waterfalls and beautiful scenery in Karnataka add to the romantic atmosphere.  In fact it doesn’t go too pear-shaped until the last 20 minutes when the slow but sweet romance suddenly switches to a crazy action sequence and completely ridiculous ending. There are even matching head bandages and bloodstains for the lead pair as they career around a hospital trying to find each other. It’s so silly that it becomes hilarious, although I suspect that it’s meant to be dramatic and tense instead.

There are a few franchises where sequels have worked well, but more usually they fail to live up to the original, and such is the case here. The best parts of the film are undoubtedly the songs by Arjun Janya and the beautiful cinematography from Shekar Chandra, but that’s not enough to save the film. Ganesh tries hard, but his character is too spoilt and brattish in the first half to allow any empathy for Preetham later on. Neha Shetty is good and does well with this more modern and independent Nandini, although she loses much of her spark once she admits her love for Preetham. Just for once I’d like to see the heroine not become a wet blanket once she falls in love! Sadly Mungaru Male 2 just doesn’t live up to expectations and is probably one for the fans. Or wait to watch on DVD when you can skip forward past Preetham’s bratty behaviour and enjoy the travels through Rajasthan and Karnataka instead.

Advertisements

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa

A number of people recommended this film to me, and I really should have listened to them and watched it sooner!  VTV (to save on space!) released earlier this year and was an instant hit.  Much of its success must lie with the performances from the two leads – Silambarasan (Simbhu) and Trisha as much as from the excellent direction, beautiful music by A R Rahman and a very realistic story.  The title, which is translated to ‘Will you reach for me across the sky’ is actually a lyric from Minsara Kanavu, a film by Rajiv Menon, and this is credited in the opening titles – a very nice touch.

The film is the story of a relationship between Karthik and Jessie.  Karthik sees Jessie walking along his street shortly after his family has moved in, and falls instantly in love with her.  One of the few typical filmi devices used in the film.

 

 

 

 

Jessie is his neighbour, and as Karthik sees her every day he tries various ways to get her attention.  After exchanging meaningful glances and brief conversations he eventually blurts out that he loves her, and she instantly tries to dissuade him.  She is Malayali Christian while Karthik is Tamil Hindu and Jessie knows that her family will never consent to the match. Despite this and her initial reluctance Karthik pursues Jessie, but we never feel that this is creepy filmi stalker love.

He is very open in his admiration and Jessie appears to reciprocate – she obviously has feelings for Karthik, but her upbringing and the fact that she is trying very hard to stay true to her family’s values means that she holds him at arm’s length.

This indecision is wonderfully depicted in a scene in the train back to Chennai.  Karthik has followed Jessie to her family’s home in Kerala and after managing to meet her, he catches the same train home.  We can see Jessie’s developing feeling for Karthik warring with her loyalty to her family.  She is attracted to Karthik, perhaps even excited by his obvious adoration of her, and while she wants to kiss him, and take things further, she is reluctant to take those steps.

This realism is what makes the story so compelling.  Karthik’s frustration is very evident – both with Jessie when she blows hot and cold, and with the whole situation.  He clearly just wants her to be with him, and has no real thought to her family and the consequences to her if she marries him since his family does not seem to have the same reservations.

Whereas Jessie has seen the problems caused when her sister fell for a man her father did not approve of, and doesn’t want the same pain for herself.  Almost in spite of herself we see her fall in love with Karthik and then struggle with how to reconcile her family and her love.

The couple is often pictured with the gate, or some other barrier between them very poignantly illustrating their troubled relationship.  In fact, they are often not shot together, and the camera switches between them.

But when they are together they look fantastic and the chemistry between them zings!  Karthik is an aspiring film director, and this is cleverly worked into the film.  However it’s another source of their separation as Jessie doesn’t watch films, and Karthik ends up going to Goa for a shoot.  Yet another divide is the age difference – Karthik is a year younger than Jessie.  Despite all of this, and in spite of Jessie’s family’s opposition, their romance flourishes.

The end comes as somewhat of a surprise for such a romantic story, but is absolutely brilliant and just works!  The Telugu version, shot simultaneously with Naga Chaitanya and Samantha, has a different ending which for me diluted the film’s impact, making it less powerful and memorable.

Both leads in this film are fantastic in their roles, and have great chemistry together.  They convey their growing attraction to each other in such subtle but very natural ways adding to the realism of the film.  Since the whole story revolves around them, their performance has to be perfect to capture the audience’s attention, and they succeed admirably.  I haven’t seen Simbhu before, and while I’ve read that this isn’t his typical type of role, I will definitely keep an eye out for more of his films.  Gautham deserves much praise for the restrained way in which he handles the screenplay.  The soundtrack is beautiful and the songs by Rahman add to the whole romantic feel of the film.  Even the more upbeat numbers contribute to the overall feel of the film.  As always for his music, I was left singing the songs, (or rather humming along since I don’t speak Tamil), for weeks afterwards.

The supporting actors are really just there to provide reactions to the main couple, but all do a good job in their much less realised roles.  Ganesh is very good as Karthik’s friend, while Kitty as Karthik’s father and Babu Anthony as Jessie’s make the most of their small roles.   The conflict between Jessie’s father and brother and Karthik is very well played, and their interactions with Jessie are also well depicted.  A clever touch is that the Telugu leads play the roles of Jessie and Karthik in his film within the film, and vice versa in the Telugu version.

The other standout of the film is the scenery, captured so well on camera by Manoj Paramahamsa.  The locations, particularly in Malta for the songs and in Kerala, are stunningly beautiful.  And what a way to arrive for your wedding!Perhaps the only flaw to this film is that it is paced quite slowly.  There is only 1 fight scene and not a machete in sight!  However this approach worked for me considering the subject matter, and I was never bored.  In fact I absolutely loved this film!  The story is simply and well told and the actors are amazing.  5 stars. Heather