So what do you select to watch next when your eyes have just been opened to the world of Telugu cinema by MAGADHEERA? I decided to stick with the Chiranjeevi extended family and, after seeing a few clips of Allu Arjun dancing on Youtube, picked Happy as my first foray into his films. Now if you’re like me and have watched a lot of song clips and then subsequently the film you will understand why I didn’t have high hopes for Happy. Allu Arjun looks great and is an amazing dancer, so I have to confess I was fairly sure that he wouldn’t be able to act – after all, no-one is perfect. Boy was I wrong!

Happy stars Allu Arjun as Bunny, a happy-go-lucky orphan from Vizag, who comes to Hyderabad to study. He lands a job and digs at a pizza restaurant when he singlehandedly defeats a gang of students intent on causing trouble. This was early in my current Telugu film watching obsession, but I was still able to recognise Brahmi as the pizza joint manager, and was starting to realise that he has a contract to appear in every single Telugu film ever released. The restaurant also features a DJ, music system and a drum kit, making it possibly the first cross over night club/restaurant in Hyderabad. These do all come in useful however when Bunny announces that he can only fight to music. This ploy also gives us Venu Madhav in a brief comedic cameo role. (note the Chiru T-shirt!)

I think this first song was really commissioned by the Hyderabad tourist agency as it showcases the highlights of the city. It works for me and I would visit if they could assure me that I would get to see Bunny dancing at all the local sightseeing spots just like in this clip.

Bunny’s nemesis is the quiet and dedicated medical student Madhu, played by Genelia in a much less shrill role than usual. This is the film where I realised that Genelia is a very good actress when she doesn’t have to jump around squealing excitedly. I really wish directors would use this quieter and yet much more expressive side to Genelia more. Madhu’s father is a caste leader with political ambitions and holds the view that as women have no place in the workforce, there is no need for his daughter to study. Faced with this opposition, Madhu keeps her head down and tries to be as inconspicuous as possible in the hope that her father will continue to ignore both her and her marriage arrangements until she has finished her degree.

Bunny and Madhu clash from their very first meeting, and a series of misunderstandings makes sure that they each think the worst of each other.   When Madhu’s father decides that her studying is bringing her into too much contact with others outside her caste, he arranges her marriage to DCP Arvind  – Manoj Bajpay in a rather more comedic role than usual. In a dramatic meeting Madhu accuses Bunny of ruining her life, so he decides to try to prevent her marriage. Yes, it does all sound very familiar, but the twist here is that Arvind supports Bunny’s plan and the two erstwhile enemies end up married and sharing a flat together.

Despite their marriage, Bunny and Madhu are still sworn enemies and they draw a line down the middle of the apartment to demarcate each other’s territory. They continue to harass and annoy each other and Bunny delights in stepping over the line both literally and figuratively to annoy Madhu. This part of the film will be very familiar to anyone who has a younger sibling as the pranks the two play on each other are very juvenile and reminded me of living with my brother. It is also extremely funny and the two actors are excellent at keeping the sparks flying without ever becoming too ridiculous.

 Over time the inevitable happens and Bunny falls in love with Madhu. In typical filmi–style devotion he will do absolutely anything for her except to tell her his feelings. Due to his apparently amazing bike skills, Bunny gets a job as a stuntman in the movies and manages to juggle his pizza delivery with leaping over cars and through explosions in order to have money to pay for Madhu’s studies. He slowly acquires more bandages and bruises as the stunts get more and more dangerous although the bike seems to come through everything unscathed. Just when it looks as if the film is building up to a final romantic and ‘happy’ conclusion there is a real chance of pace. My theory is that the director Karunakaran realised that he has only a day left to film but plenty of money left in the fight and make-up budgets. So instead of the expected fluffiness, there is almost a full movie’s worth of drama, action and fisticuffs in the last few minutes of the film, along with buckets and buckets of blood. It was a little unexpected after all the comedy and romance of the preceding two and a half hours, but it certainly makes the end memorable.

After watching a number of his  interviews I am quite sure that a lot of this character is Bunny’s real extrovert persona. His performance seems totally natural and spontaneous throughout the film and he excels at conveying his character as much through his posture and mannerisms as through the dialogue and actions. I didn’t even find the coloured contact lenses as distracting as usual and, being an optometrist, contact lenses are often the first thing I notice. Despite the masking quality of coloured plastic, Allu Arjun can deliver every emotion using his eyes. It seems to be another family trait as the entire clan appear to have the most expressive eyes in the industry. The fight scenes are reasonably well choreographed, although they don’t have the slickness of Bunny’s more recent films. But where Allu Arjun really rules is on the dancing stage. He really is an amazing dancer and although there are only a couple of dance tracks in this film, he is totally mesmerising.   The music by Yuvan Shankar Raja is catchy and overall works well for the young characters and the happy feel of the film.

Genelia was a revelation to me in this. Previously I’d seen her in a couple of Hindi films and one other Telugu film, where she was generally hyperactive with piercing dialogue delivery. Here she has great chemistry with Allu Arjun in their scenes together and deliveres an excellent performance as the struggling student. She makes the most of her emotional family scenes and is believable as the daughter trying to live up to her father’s expectations while vowing to fulfil her mother’s dreams. Really a good decision by Karunakaran to allow her to be more subtle and showcase her acting talent in this way. Manoj Bajpay indulges in the most scenery chewing I have seen from him, but as always carries his role off with flair. The other support actors all do well enough and a couple of Bunny’s friends make an impression with their roles.

Happy is still one of my favourite films and I re-watch it if I need a pick me up after a bad day. It has comedy, action, drama, great dancing and fantastic performances from the leads. It doesn’t try to be anything other than a masala entertainer and as such it works very well. It would be a five-star movie if it wasn’t for that ending which is just a bit too over the top and ridiculous, even for me.  4 ½ stars.


We had a vested interest in seeing Orange, having spent a lot of quality time loitering around the shoot as it took place in Melbourne. The lure of seeing Ram Charan on the big screen, along with the ever entertaining Genelia and our hometown was just too strong to ignore.  We avoid reading previews of new release films before we see them, as there is too much PR hype and politics to get much useful information, but the arrival of Charan on Twitter certainly got our attention! The cinema was full, and with a higher number of families and kids than we usually see at the South Indian films here.

Charan plays Ram, a wildlife photographer and graffiti artist with a truly excellent selection of t-shirts. He lives with his sister and brother-in-law in a fancy apartment and drives a flash car. He has strong views on love and honesty and won’t back away from his values. After an earlier relationship with Rooba (Shazahn Padamsee), shown in flashback, we see that he learned a lot about himself and what he wants from life. He doesn’t believe that simply saying ‘I love you’ makes for a relationship, and doesn’t believe it is honest or realistic to promise a lifelong love. He is affectionate, caring, demonstrative, but he is not going to commit to a lifetime, and he will not sacrifice just to keep his loved one happy. He doesn’t want his girlfriend to sacrifice anything for him either – he has been through this unhappiness and is genuinely trying to find an honest and respectful balance.

Genelia as Janu makes a ridiculously chirpy entrance to the film, cheering as she watches a marriage proposal and being as excited for the lovers as if it was her own relationship. She does believe in the idea of soulmates and lifelong love connection and wants that from her partner. She is in love with love, and looking for Mister Right. Several potential Mister Rights form part of the comic sideplot.

So of course, these lovely looking youngsters with completely opposing views fall for each other. The film is then about Ram and Janu getting to understand each other, and the choices they make.

With Puppy (Brahmi!) aiding and abetting Janu, the relationship develops in fits and starts. Ram is persistent and Janu is interested but wary of this charismatic suitor. We knew long before Brahmi mimed Krishna playing his flute that Ram was a ladies man! When he happily admits to having had NINE girlfriends, in relationships spanning from 1 to 387 days in length, Janu decides he is just too much to handle and tries to back off but cannot deny her feelings.

Although for the most part the film is a fluffy romance, there is a serious conflict at the core. While the audience can empathise with both sides, it is clear that something major would have to change for there to be a traditional boy gets girl happy ending.  We could maintain sympathy for both the romantic Janu and the more challenging Ram so found the conclusion to be reasonably satisfying and in keeping with the characters. However we suspect that if you can’t connect with Ram’s character, the film will not hold your interest.

Charan’s performance was great. He was charming, funny, energetic, emotionally engaging and totally looked the part. He was convincing as the school leaver Ram, and especially as the urbane young man about town and his body language really suited the different confidence levels of these stages of his life. The fight scenes were typically dramatic and physical, and Charan’s dancing is, of course, brilliant . The choreography was lots of fun and Charan seemed to have a great time sending up some cheesy romantic moves. Seeing these films without subtitles and having only a minimal understanding of language, we rely on the tone and expressions of actors. Charan made us see him as Ram and we understood his character’s views and feelings so we have to say it was a successful performance.

Genelia was her usual bubbly self, perhaps too bubbly, to start with but really showed some depth to Janu over the course of the film. She conveyed the struggle between having feelings for someone and knowing that it wasn’t going to work. We could see her grow from a carefree girl to a more independent young lady as she confronted her own beliefs and tested them for herself to see what she wanted.

Nagendra Babu had a small but pivotal role as Ram’s neighbour who was living in a stormy domestic situation.  Brahmi and Prakash Raj are always a familiar delight to behold. Brahmi got more to do in Orange , and his comedy was a bit more varied and often very funny. He also had a fine collection of t-shirts, and a habit of reading Mills & Boon before bed. Prakash Raj was the Telugu cop who gave Ram the reason to narrate his life story. He had little to do, and really it need not have been a Prakash Raj role although we are always pleased to see him. We did watch some of the scenes with him and Charan being shot so we certainly enjoyed that. The rest of the support cast were fine but as we have to concentrate on the main story, we didn’t really give them enough attention to be able to comment much.

We love the soundtrack and the songs looked amazing on screen. We are somewhat disappointed that Melbourne scenes are inter-cut with Sydney to give the impression of one Australian city, as the Melbourne -Sydney rivalry is HUGE, but we will forgive it as we got the opportunity to watch this film being made. Bhaskar managed to skirt the problem of geographic displacement by blending the locations well. The places Ram and Janu were seen were appropriate for their student lifestyle and helped the film’s credibility. We are always a bit judgmental about the skankily dressed white chicks in songs but Orange is family friendly for the most.

Some special notes: We greatly enjoyed Anand Ranga’s updates via Twitter, and shared his anxiety about the weather. When he casually mentioned filming with a lion, we expected maybe a fleeting appearance in a song. Not a full blown encounter with the King of the Jungle who apparently frequents the NSW forests. We cheered a lot! But the audience went wild when the Glen Iris tram was on screen – who knew the number 6 tram was that much of a star? We also enjoyed seeing a return of the pink panda t-shirt first spotted on Charan in  Magadheera, this time being worn by one of Ram’s friends. There was plenty for the alert viewer in Orange!

Uthama Puthiran

Uthama Puthiran

Co-incidentally, on the same weekend as we decided to review Ready for the blog, I found out that the Tamil remake was releasing in the cinema.  It took a few phone calls, messages, and hanging around the cinema, but eventually the showing was confirmed and I was able to settle in to watch Uthama Puthiran.

I was a bit apprehensive about seeing this film – Ready is such a favourite of mine, and much as I love Dhanush, I wish he would tackle something other than Telugu remakes.  But I needn’t have worried. Mithran Jawahar has done a great job with Uthama Puthiran and it is a very good film in its own right.

As this was another adventure without subtitles, thankfully the film follows the basic storyline of Ready.  Gopimohan wrote the screenplay and seems to have both retold the story and given it a few new twists.  Dhanush plays Siva, (the role originally played by Ram) while Genelia reprises her role as Pooja. As we’ve just described the story in the previous review I won’t go through it again since it’s fundamentally the same.  The main differences are in the comedy subplots and in the interactions between the two feuding sides of the family. 

Uthama PuthiranUthama Puthiran

Dhanush is laid back in his role as Siva and plays it very cool. He is convincing as the carefree student, zipping around on his motorbike, with a knack for impromptu marriage planning and accountancy.  Genelia makes the character of Pooja a little more serious, but still has plenty of playfulness and charm. I was very impressed with her acting in this role, and her ability to take the same character in the same storyline and yet still make her novel and appealing.

Uthama PuthiranUthama Puthiran

Siva’s family are delightful and particularly good as they con Pooja’s family into believing they are rich Americans on the hunt for bridegrooms for their fictional daughters.  Ashish Vidyarthi and Jayaprakash seem well cast as the feuding uncles and the other supporting cast members all do a good job.  The hapless tourist who is kidnapped along the way is played by Mayilsamy, and this part of the comedy track works well, as do the scenes with the family guru. In the main comedy plot, Vivek does a fantastic job as ‘Emotional’ Ekambaram.  His bafflement at his created characters coming to life and his consternation as he spots Siva and Pooja together is hilarious . Despite not understanding a word he said I thought he was excellent in his role, and managed to convey so much with his expressions and body language.

Uthama Puthiran

The romance between the two leads works well and there is great chemistry between them.  The song sequences are lovely, although it would have been nice to see Dhanush dance more.  The songs set in Bern are beautifully pictured with some clever use of colour and excellent use of the scenery.  There is some great work by Balasubramaniyen in the cinematography here.  I much prefer this soundtrack by Vijay Antony to the Telugu version, although for some reason not all of the songs on the CD release actually appear in the film.

Uthama PuthiranUthama Puthiran

The second half is quite long, and there are a number of very dialogue heavy scenes with Pooja’s family.  I found these tended to drag as I couldn’t follow the dialogue, and the film did seem to diverge a little  from the Telugu version.  But overall the movie is very watchable, with just as much, although perhaps a little more subtle humour than Ready.  Certainly the audience was laughing throughout!

Uthama Puthiran

Again the lead pairing are what make Uthama Puthiran a cut above a standard romance, and although the supporting cast are all fine, the screen really comes alive when Dhanush and Genelia appear together.  Mithran Jawahar has to be commended on his direction as he has made the film just as enjoyable and entertaining as Ready.  I hope that the DVD will release with subtitles, although I will buy it regardless for the songs and the great performance by Dhanush and Genelia.  4 ½ stars.