Gundello Godari

Gundello Godari

Gundello Godari is a step away from mass masala, going back to basics with a simple love story that evolves in quite a different way from the usual fare.  This is director Kumar Nagendra’s debut film and it’s loosely based on a novel by BVS Rama Rao, set around the real-life devastating floods in 1986.  Initially, newlyweds Malli and Chitra know nothing about each other, but as they battle through the Godavari floodwaters, they gradually learn about their respective troubled pasts.  The screenplay is a little patchy in places and the flood is frequently overly melodramatic, but good performances and beautiful music by Ilaiyaraaja make this a better than average watch.

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The story opens with the marriage of Malli (Aadhi) and Chitra (Lakshmi Manchu), although they barely acknowledge each other throughout the ceremony.  The first spark of interest occurs when the beautiful Sarala (Taapsee Pannu) gifts the groom with a golden ring, obviously with the intention of making his new bride jealous.  At that point, the sleazy Dhorababu (Ravi Babu) arrives and also has a present for the happy couple, this time a gold chain for the bride.  Lost in their thoughts, Chitra and Malli linger too long and get caught up in the flood waters as the rest of the village evacuates.  However, they end up cast adrift on a thatched roof together, just managing to stay afloat, and in the likelihood that they won’t survive, decide to discuss their past lives and exactly how Sarala and Dhorababu fit into the picture.

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The initial flood scenes are well integrated between the sets and some good CGI.  There are one or two moments of soggy model villages eroding with a trickle of water, but these are brief, and after all, who doesn’t like to see the traditional model village make an appearance.  The cinematography by M.R.Palanikumaar is excellent, with beautiful shots of the river, wildlife and surrounding countryside particularly during the flashback scenes.  These contrast with the fury of the river in full flood, and also highlight the difference between Malli and Chitra’s earlier lives and their current turmoil.  Predictable perhaps, but when the parallels are drawn this well with good imagery it’s hard to object.

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The first flashback deals with Malli and his undoing at the hands of his boss’s daughter.  Malli is a hard-working fisherman who has a good circle of friends, looks after his mother like all good boys should, and is saving up to buy his own boat.  He also tends to favour a string vest, but we shouldn’t hold that against him.

Kumar Nagendra captures the hopes and aspirations of a village fisherman perfectly and Aadhi is excellent in the role.  A boat race at a local fair epitomises Malli’s drive and determination to achieve what he wants, although the same fair brings him inadvertently to the attention of Sarala.  Despite her impending marriage, Sarala has no compunction in going after what she wants, and in this case what she wants is Malli!  Although she initially appears child-like as she threatens and cajoles Malli into taking her to the movies on her birthday, events become more sinister as Malli arrested by the local police on a spurious charge of brewing illicit alcohol.  Whether it’s Sarala or her father who is responsible, Malli ends up taking his frustration out on Sarala and gives her exactly what she wants in the process.  Sarala is an interesting and atypical character with her overt sexuality and brazen attempts to drag Malli into her bed.  Taapsee is good in the role, but her expression rarely varies, and although her knowing smirk is suitable a little more variation would have given her character more appeal.  Aadhi on the other hand does a fantastic job of capturing frustration, anger and even some lust in his dealings with Sarala and despite the nature of their relationship, there is plenty of emotion and sparkage between the two characters.

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After Malli’s story, Chitra’s explanation of past events is not as well written and her story tends to wander off track.  Chitra was adopted by Suri’s (Sundeep Kishan) parents as a child, but it’s not a happy family. Suri’s father Somaiah is a drunkard and his mother Rathamma works as a prostitute to keep the wolf from the door.  Chitra is in love with the adult Suri, but he’s a man more interested in his chickens, in particular fighting cocks, than in Chitra.  He also pays a little too much attention to the bangle seller Bangari (Suja Varunee) and all together there seems very little reason for Chitra to want to marry Suri.

It’s actually a little creepy since they were brought up together as brother and sister, but since there is minimal chemistry between the two actors this isn’t a major issue.  Sundeep Kishan is restrained but adequate in his role as Suri, and the character doesn’t have a lot of depth for Sundeep to work with.  The explanation for Dhorababu turning up at the wedding is also less convincing, but Lakshmi Manchu is good as the beleaguered Chitra, and her spirited defiance against the various calamities that befall her is heartening.

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While the flashback sequences provide some explanation of previous events, they do provoke more questions that are never answered.  There is no explanation of what happened to Malli after his interaction with Sarala, and more importantly no mention of whether or not he is working as a fisherman and able to support a wife given his previous dismissal by his erstwhile boss.  The arrangement of the wedding is never discussed and there is no reason given for these two strangers deciding to marry each other. Still, the developing relationship between the two is well handled, even though it is almost swamped at times by the drama of the flood, and both Aadhi and Laksmi Manchu are both very good in their respective roles.

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Ilaiyaraaja’s music is evocative of the time, although there are two rather oddly placed item numbers which don’t fit as well and don’t have any real place in the narrative.  Mumaith Khan features in one of these, while Suja Varunee does the honours in the second, but both feel as if they are just added in to try and appeal to a more mass audience and aren’t particularly well choreographed.  However, apart from the first song, these are the only two numbers which feature any dancing, since the rest are used to showcase the various relationships of the main characters.

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Gundello Godari is a brave attempt to take a different look at relationships and approach a love story in a more unusual way.  For the most part it works, although the second half could be tighter condensed to allow for a more detailed development of the relationship between the two main leads.  Worth watching for evocative imagery, good performances from Aadhi and Lakshmi Manchu and a bold characterisation from Taapsee.  3½ stars.

Gundello Godari


Someone needs to take all of Ram Gopal Varma’s gadgets, lock them in the toy box and hide the key. A potentially interesting thriller, Department was swamped by RGV’s ‘rogue’ methodology. My guess is ROGUE stands for Ridiculously Overindulgent Gimmickry Undermines Everything. The nauseating (literally) camerawork and a dearth of story and character development made this a disappointing experience. But there were a few positives including an excellent effort by the wardrobe department and a handful of quite good performances.

Had the gimmick of cameras mounted on actors and props been used with restraint it could have been really striking.  For example, a chase around the Crawford market area – it looked great as the camerawork enhanced the sense of speed and confusion of the pursuit. But it is hard to appreciate someone’s acting when the camera crawls up one nostril and emerges from their ear, or is spinning around the bottom of a tea cup. The background score is what I’ve come to expect from RGV – loud, intrusive and annoying so combine that with the dizzying visuals and it is unpleasant.

The story is a standard of the cop genre: a young, slightly idealistic officer is teamed up with a shady older legend on the force. Sanjay Dutt and Rana Daggubati had a good dynamic between their characters and they played off each other well. Sanjay has a brooding reserve that suited Mahadev’s moral ambiguity, and he was world weary and cynical to the core. Mahadev has his own agenda, which is revealed all too slowly. Shivnarayan was no young ratbag to be easily distracted or lead astray– he was focussed on his career and working towards his goals. But he is realising there are many more shades of grey than he expected. Rana is a competent actor, and he certainly looks right for this role. He seemed more at ease in the second half when the action ramps up.

Mind you some of the dialogue is so stilted no one could make it work. There are great insights along the lines of “A mistake done intentionally is not a mistake”. If only I had been in charge of the Cliche Department, I would have found a much more inspirational desk calendar to pinch quotes from. A subtitle that spelled gangrene ‘gang-grin’ was another highlight.

The underworld aspect is less successful. Sawatya (wildly overacted by Vijay Raaz), and his opposition – a mysterious voice on the phone – are at war. But they didn’t provide adequate tension for the machinations of the plot to make sense or be interesting. Sawatya’s deputy DK (Abhimanyu Singh) is ridiculous, stupid, and not at all convincing. People keep banging on about Abhimanyu Singh’s intensity but I think he is just a really bad actor. Even as a corpse, he hams it up.

Amitabh as Sarjay Rao spent the first half chewing the scenery and the second being enigmatic. It wasn’t the performance I was hoping for although he was an interesting character. Excessive exposition drained the potential drama and made the characters less interesting as they did little thinking for themselves. The police would get news of their target’s whereabouts apparently out of thin air. There is no consistent internal logic, too many contradictions, and the story just doesn’t hold up. RGV seems to think he has discovered the concept of moral ambiguity and the idea is pounded home. It’s clumsy and tedious.

Lakshmi Manchu was quite good as Mahadev’s wife. Satya was from a police family so she had already worked through any moral issues she may have had about her husband’s activities. Shivnarayan’s fiancée, Doctor Bharti (Anjana Sukhani) made less sense. She seemed to have few concerns about her intended being an ‘encounter king’, and no thought about what it might mean to be married to someone who was pissing off gangsters at a rate of knots. Madhu Shalini as Naseer had a potentially interesting role – a female gangster who was as tough as nails. But her motivations weren’t clear or consistent, the relationship with DK was not believable and her acting ranged from terrible to mediocre. However I don’t think anyone would have fared well in the scene where she basically fellated a kulfi as she and DK fantasised about taking over and killing everyone. It was gross.

Nathalia Kaur got a lot of (RGV generated) publicity for her debut. Her assets are obvious and just in case you missed anything that camera gets right in there (the gold undies were unexpected and I am so glad she was wearing them). But for an item girl she lacks sensuality and relies on making what I can only describe as ‘porno face’.  Even with the minimal demands of the choreo, her ‘dancing’ was terrible. I don’t usually have a problem with the skanky item, and appearances by the likes of Mumaith Khan, Malaika Arora Khan, Rambha and others are often a highlight. This made me uncomfortable as between Nathalia’s performance and the dirty old man camera gaze creeping all over her body, it is just nasty.

Luckily someone in wardrobe realised the movie was off the rails and took a bold step that almost saved the day. Nasia and DK form their own gang – we dubbed them the Fashion Gang.


They dress really badly, over accessorise and spend too long fussing over their clothes when they should be running away from Rana. Meanwhile Shivnarayan has had an epiphany. He had temporarily lost his mojo once he was out of uniform and in civvies. There was some unfortunate double (acid wash) denim, and a regrettable lurex bandanna incident. But by the second half he had developed a signature style and was teaming jeans and a simple (very snug across the shoulders) linen shirt or a (so tight it looked painted on) polo shirt with minimal accessories – watch, shoes, belt and gun.


Classic and classy. He became the Fashion Police! He pursues and kills members of DK’s Fashion Gang – the guy in the green and purple stripy shirt, the guy in the gingham bandanna, the bedraggled beardy man, finally the leaders themselves. So when Sanjay Dutt turned up wearing double acid wash….well. It was riveting. Not enough to make this a film worth seeing, but it did keep me entertained just when I was giving up.

I feel bad for the actors in Department, especially Sanjay Dutt, Rana, Deepak Tijori and Lakshmi Manchu who I think gave solid performances. It’s a shame they have been undermined by RGV’s self indulgent antics and the lack of quality story and dialogue. Honestly I can’t recommend this is worth seeing. Unless you enjoy seeing those Crimes  of Fashion soundly punished!

Anaganaga O Dheerudu

There has been so much hype about this film; the Disney involvement, the special effects, the budget. Warning: there are lots of spoilers ahead, but this IS a Disney film so you should know what to expect.

The story is simple – an evil queen lays waste to an idyllic kingdom and the only hope for survival lies in the hands of a child mystic and her blind bodyguard.

The film opens with very Disney style animated credits, and then we immediately see a warrior pursued through a spooky forest before being made into a sort of zombie, his mind controlled by Irendri the evil queen with the Medusa hair. So there was already a question of whether this was aimed at being a kids film or a high fantasy epic. And that is the problem – this film doesn’t know what it is and as a result, is a bit unsatisfying in either genre.

The screenplay relies heavily on flashbacks. There’s a flashback about Moksha (the mystic child played by Baby Harshita). Shortly after we meet Yodha (Sid) he pauses for a flashback about his lost love (Priya, played by Shruti Haasan). Then when he and Moksha leave on their journey, Yodha stops for a really long flashback that explains his history, more about his lost love and how he became blind. Then towards the end of the film we get more long flashbacks explaining Irendri. It halted the momentum of the story and these could have been condensed or the information conveyed by other means.

While on the subject of how Yodha was blinded. If your eyes are poked out with a metallic pointy thing, they do not grow back changing their iris colour to blue. They would be white sightless orbs covered in scar tissue, or all the fluid drains out and they shrivel up like raisins. It does have to be said that Sid was good at playing blind but the contact lenses were a bit distracting, as were the constant close ups of his ears.

Some scenes were shot on location and the natural light was particularly unforgiving on the set constructions at the beach camp. Things looked too new and perfect; there was no wear and tear or mends on the snail shaped structures, the lighting was too obvious and modern. It sometimes looked cheap and fake, and more suitable to a kids tv show than a high fantasy epic. The wonky papier mache buildings at the village looked like they should be inhabited by Munchkins. When scenes shifted to interiors, things worked much better as the diffuse lighting was kinder to all the painted polystyrene and fibreglass props. The peacock theme, started as a beautiful costume worn by Shruti was well worked into the colour and decor of her room. Irendri’s palace fortress looked great – there was a commitment to the snake theme and it looked substantial and daunting. The scenes in the spooky forest with the bird demons were quite effective and  helped build some tension. Moksha’s special gift was shown by her ability to create magical butterflies. Oh so many butterflies. We were grateful she wasn’t obsessed with My Little Pony or unicorns.

The costumes would have looked great as sketches but some of them didn’t work as something an actor had to be able to move freely in. Poor Lakshmi Manchu must have developed thighs of steel as she had to power up the steps to Irendri’s throne dragging metres of fabric that we could see was catching or getting stuck.  Some of her outfits were just insane, particularly the shoulder details which were of epic proportions.

Sid’s outfits seemed to be a cross between leftovers from Mu Lan, a bit of D’Artagnan and a dash of Joseph’s Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. And while some costumes were really beautiful, some of the outfits Sid and Shruti had to wear were just plain fugly. There were too many fabrics cobbled together, too many ruffles and frills, and again the feeling the costume was wearing them.

The final confrontation between good and evil occurs during a lunar eclipse and culminates in a fight between Yodha and Irendri – who morphs into a giant medusa squid. Well actually she seems to be multiple snakes joined together but the effect is squid like. Sid performs some amazing stunts and acrobatics, the lighting is moody and effective, and then we have to wait for ages as the CGI team show off their monster before the fight starts up again. It was strangely boring despite Sid clearly giving it his all. We both thought of the scene in Magadheera where Bhairava has to kill 100 men – We knew already how his character would die, we knew it was riddled with special effects (not all of them great) and we knew it was just plain impossible and yet that was edge of the seat stuff because of the editing, the music and the implacable pace. In contrast, this was unexpectedly pedestrian and didn’t get any emotional response from us. We did have ample time to notice that the medusa squid was frequently shot from what can only described as an upskirting angle (albeit there was no skirt).

So what were the successes?

Good performances by a charismatic cast (although we don’t really get all the fuss about Baby Harshita) who did all they could with a script that was lacking. Sid was charming and easily handled the comedy skits, the romance and the action sequences. Lakshmi Manchu made Irendri evil and despicable – a proper cartoon villain and a near relative of the evil queen in Snow White. Shruti was decorative and enigmatic, and had great chemistry with Sid.

The hair snake. Irendri would occasionally take a (fully clothed) bath in blood or venom or something and consult an entity called Sarpini who happened to manifest as a snake made of Irendri’s hair. This magical snake also created its own tiara and other accessories as it spouted prophecies of doom. It worked well as a piece of animation and suited the medusa theme. Irendri’s designers really used the snake imagery well, and added lots of serpentine detail to her lair and her costumes.

Ali in drag. Who knew? Well he did a very good Carmen Miranda fruit bowl hat, and fetching nipple enhancing propellers that picked up speed when he was near Sid (you can catch a glimpse in the theatrical trailer). We liked his mermaid ensemble a lot.

The soundtrack worked well as a soundtrack, and the few songs are not really outstanding. Yodha has his own heroic theme, and that generally works although the 80s power guitar version was a bit incongruous.

Fabric. This film is one for the textile fanciers. And there is lots of sparkle.

With a lot more editing of the screenplay, a little restructuring of some scenes, and a decision as to whether they are aiming at kids or adults, this could be great. As it is, it’s a bit too dark to be a kids film, not substantial enough to be a grown up epic and just ends up being a bit wishy washy. The audience jeered at the songs, laughed at some of the dialogues, and as always Brahmi got the biggest cheer.