Lakshyam is a highly entertaining mishmash of romance, comedy, action, politics and family drama. It succeeds largely because of the casting – Jagapathi Babu, Gopichand and Anushka in particular do a fine job – and some skilful writing and direction that balance all the elements.

The film opens with a girl running away from her own wedding. She looks so pretty and pristine as she scoots off across town, eventually making a rendezvous with a bloody and battered man. I was intrigued by the look of happy pride on her face when he efficiently blew up a car, shot a policeman and then hopped on the back of her moped. I wondered how they got to this point, and what was going to happen next. With a bit of time travel, we get to the chronological start of the story. The film is very well constructed, and the flashback and current day sequences flow well. There are some pleasingly playful references to filmi clichés and the cast seem to enjoy the improbable shenanigans.

Anushka is Indu, a modern uppity type of college girl. She has a very specific list of demands for a prospective husband and seems to think it is perfectly reasonable to share this with a young child on the train. Pinky immediately decides to set Indu up with her uncle, Chandu. He has his own, very different, list of required qualities and even the kid knows it’s not likely to work.

Anushka is one of my favourite current day actresses (yes, actress not ‘heroine’), and she is quite good in this role. Her character has some silly and selfish moments, but underneath it she is a likeable young woman. At the very least she knows when to apologise for her mistakes, so she is not too bratty. Indu is a Telugu heroine so of course if anything goes wrong she is reliant on any and every man within 20 metres of her for help and a solution. But the helpless female act is balanced with Indu cheekily pretending to be a gangleader’s sister and using his name to get her own way. This leads her into conflict with the cool dude on campus, Chandu. So she calls her little train friend’s uncle to sort him out. Yes – Chandu again. So there is a romantic comedy of errors as Chandu takes on Chandu and tries to bluff his way through. The silliness is increased with Brahmi and Venu Madhav battling each other for control of the student canteen.

My reason for picking this film a while ago was that I hadn’t seen Gopichand in a lead role and I was curious. He does well and seems to be a good generalist in terms of Hero Skills. He can act a bit, dance a bit, fight a bit, and has an engaging onscreen presence. His introduction scene is vintage hero stuff – he is chained and dangling upside down in a police lockup. But with a single bound he frees himself and escapes to wreak havoc. The college romance scenes don’t work quite so well as the later more energetic action sequences but he and Anushka do have chemistry and he gets right into hamming it up. And let me applaud a song with a backup dancing Spiderman.There is not enough of it around.

Chandu and Indu eventually fall in love and actually tell each other so they then just have to deal with all the usual obstacles – telling his family, her disapproving dad, and of course a crazed psychopath who happens to be a mad inventor. Chandu also gets caught in the fallout of his brother’s activities. He is a man of action, and takes a direct approach to solving problems. Although I did like that he sometimes cowed his opponent just with a graphic description of what he would do, so had no need of the actual biffo. You can have your cake and eat it too – a non-violent solution that incorporates a violent fantasy sequence. Gopichand is well able to match the changing tone of the film from the fluffy  romance to the revenge driven action and drama.

Chandu’s brother is Inspector Bose – Jagapathi Babu. He is an honest, crusading policeman and of course is wildly unpopular with the underworld. Newly transferred to Hyderabad, Bose takes on Section Shankar, Indu’s ‘brother’, a thug protected by senior police. I like Jagapathi Babu and this role is a good fit for him. Bose is a cop but also a family man and has a competitive relationship with his brother and his journalist father (Kota Srinivasa Rao) so there is lots of scope for his offbeat style.

The brothers have different approaches but are not forced into a separation or battle for whose philosophy should win, and I really liked seeing that more natural sibling rivalry. They were great mates as well as brothers, and the family scenes were fun. Bose and his wife (Kalyani) have a very affectionate relationship, and it is a nice domestic environment. But Bose also has a kickarse side and Jagapathi Babu gets his own action sequences, including some excellent use of coconuts as both defense and offense. He is also the victim of one of the most elaborate assassination attempts I can recall seeing. I was muttering “What? He’s not dead – yet? What!” as the drama kept unfurling.

It’s interesting that once again the law is shown as helpless in the face of crime and they rely on people like Chandu to get things done. Dharmavarapu Subramanyam is cast as an honest cop, and his comedic skills are used to help the story as a bumbling but good guy. Even Ashish Vidyarthi as the DIG makes it clear that the police need to rely on subterfuge to even compete let alone succeed, so there is an oddly defeatist note to the brother’s battle with Section Shankar and his corrupt cop associate (Devaraj).

I was moderately alarmed when I read the long list of ‘comedy uncles’ in the cast, but Srivas and writers Gopimohan and M Rathnam do an excellent job of balancing the story elements and allowing a lot of the humour to emerge in a more natural style. Kota Srinivasa Rao is in good form as the newsman father who believes he might possibly be in charge of his household. Venu Madhav and Brahmi have a running battle which keeps them from bogging down the rest of the story, and when they do interact with the rest of the characters it is usually fun. And there are some amusing touches – a fixer for Section Shankar has gunfire as his ringtone, one rowdy knocks himself out in a fight, and there are lots of little reactions and one-liners that liven things up.

The song picturisations are nothing out of the ordinary and neither is Mani Sharma’s music, but they are executed and placed well. Anushka is not much of a dancer although she does give her dance performances some energy and excellent facial expressions. I would say Gopichand’s natural genre might be ‘uncle dance’ and he does it pretty well. He certainly looked like he had fun dancing, and it added another degree of contrast to his vengeful brother aspect. And he seemed quite unperturbed by some of the shirts bestowed upon him.

Lakshyam does strain the credibility muscles more than a few times, but it is such an entertaining and well paced effort that I just go with the flow. The cast are good and are given characters with a little bit more depth than I expected. There are convoluted schemes, a deathtrap, peculiar decision making – all the trappings of a good potboiler. The writing is clever and kept me smiling if not laughing out loud. And the baddies got their various comeuppances in suitable style. It was all quite satisfying.

Give it a go! 3 ½ stars.

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.