Andarivaadu

Andarivaadu Poster

Andarivaadu is another of Chiranjeevi’s dual role ventures, although this time he plays father and son who share a house so that adds a degree of difficulty for director Sreenu Vaitla.

But right from the bombastic opening credits it is clear that this is a Megastar film and all other people and events will be quite incidental. And I’m generally OK with that.

Siddharth (Chiru the Younger) decides that his widower dad Govindarajulu (Chiru the Elder) needs to be pulled into line and someone has to take on the task of looking after him. Govind must be the luckiest man alive as Siddhu forces him to marry Shanti (the stunning Tabu). Siddhu also has to settle down some day, and he becomes engaged to his wealthy girlfriend-by-insistence, Swetha (Rimi Sen). Of course things can’t run that smoothly in a Telugu film with such a big ticket star. Swetha’s dad Veerendra (Prakash Raj) has history with Govind he would rather forget, and Siddhu upsets a local crime lord. There is drama, dancing, action and moralising galore before anyone can call it a day.

Mildly surprising for a family-ish film, it opens with an item including rain, pole dancing, and finger sucking. The poor girls must have really struggled wearing their big clompy boots in the water. There is a faint attempt to weave the skanking into the plot as the water tankers have been diverted away from the colony and residents are left for days with no drinking water. Of course, only one man can sort this out. Sparks and a hitched up lunghi signal the arrival of THE HERO!

Govind is a sentimental bloke with a strong sense of family and justice. He adores his son and couldn’t stand to see him hurt in any way, and can’t even harm a slightly evil genius mouse. Chiranjeevi hedges his bets by also playing suave Siddhu, educated and apparently irresistible to all women.

Siddhu gets to wear more knitwear and his dance sequences are a riot of colour. Chiru in some ways tests the waters of being an ageing hero by playing the father, complete with last minute hair dye as he decides he needs to look a bit younger. But since Govind is still a roguish and salt of the earth man who solves all crises and defends the defenseless, he isn’t exactly turning his back on heroic hijinks.

A great benefit of two Chiranjeevi roles is a double up on the dancing and once again he has Lawrence on board as a choreographer. Chiru’s moves are not as sharp as back in the day but he seems thoroughly delighted to get down with his bad self, and his energy is undeniable.

The action relies a little more on nifty camera work than on Chiru flinging himself about but he does a lot of wire work that adds both comedic underscoring and dramatic impact to those scenes. There are some days when the skinny double worked as there are obvious changes in physique in some scenes requiring both Chirus.

Siddhu meets Swetha when she suckers him into pretending to be her boyfriend so she can save face as she has told her friends they’re together. She is introduced through a series of closeups of her butt, her waist and her chest and that is about it for character development. Rimi Sen does little but pout and swish her hair around, although even that exceeds the minimum requirements for a Telugu film heroine. Swetha reflects her father’s belief that wealth is the same as worth. Veerendra tells Govind that he will allow the marriage only because Swetha loves Siddhu and only on condition that Govind not be part of his son’s life at all. Cue noble idiocy as Govind tries to do what he always does, sacrificing his own happiness for his son. And then even more idiocy as Swetha tries to make Govind and Siddhu pay for insulting her father.

Shanti is working as a Hindi teacher and has been running her family household. For some reason she says yes, perhaps because Govind is so honest about all his flaws in an attempt to put her off marrying him. She seems fond of him but does register that he is not the sharpest tool in the shed. Tabu’s role is frustrating. Early on Shanti seems competent, a little bit judgemental as she listens to the sheer nonsense her husband is spewing out, but fond of him and his moustache.

I do love ‘the moustache song’, as I call it.

But later on she loses the scope for the fun expressions and signs of character that made Shanti so appealing. It is a waste of a good actress, but Tabu does what she can to give Shanti some more depth. I liked her rapport with Chiranjeevi and they look good in their dances. In some scenes Tabu looked like she was genuinely trying not to laugh and that actually helped me see Shanti as someone with firm views of her own, even if she didn’t always articulate them. And on a really shallow note, she wears some beautiful sarees.

I am perfectly fine with Govind and Satti Pahlwan (Pradeep Rawat) kicking the living suitcases out of each other, but casual domestic violence is harder to take as entertainment. Govind slaps Shanti (even though he knew she had done nothing wrong) and Shanti dissolves into tearful joy at his acknowledgement that he had slapped her for no reason at all. Grrrrrr! Swetha gets slapped around a bit towards the end of the film but she and Sunil (as an annoying comedy cousin) were just so horrible and scheming that I can almost empathise. Lots of people slap Brahmi but, to be completely honest, nowhere near enough for my liking. I’m a little conflicted.

The climax of the film is not really concerned with the emotional coming of age of two men. There is still the matter of revenge to be thwarted, wrongs to be righted, and the greatest love of all: Will Govind and Ganesh the rat, finally acknowledge their friendship?

Chiranjeevi is showing his age but he also shows why his career has legs. See this for a silly and generally good-hearted action packed family romantic comedy. 3 ½ stars!

Andarivaadu-Ganesh

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Indra

Indra is a really entertaining vehicle for Chiranjeevi, combining action, melodrama and music in a visual feast. I say entertaining despite a huge bodycount and an impressive gore budget. The violence is so over the top and cartoonishly bloody, the baddies are so one dimensionally bad, that I couldn’t take it seriously.I also had to laugh at this little moment in the opening credits. Really Paruchuri Brothers, you call yourselves ‘writters’?

This is a film of many incidents and little introspection so I won’t delve into the plot too much or there will be too many spoilers. The action kicks off in 1975 with scenes of murder and betrayal. Young Indrasena Reddy assumes the leadership of his clan after God knows how many of his male relatives are killed. The boy shows signs of some kind of power:

Then we land in Varanasi in 2002. Sankaranarayana (Chiranjeevi) is a taxi driver, classical vocalist, philanthropist and deliverer-of-justice. His family mean everything to him, and Sankar does all he can to support their education and happiness. When his niece Nandhini says she needs inspiration to sing, he comes up with this little beauty:

What a guy! Isn’t Varanasi beautiful too? And I loved him ‘singing’ in front of SPB in another scene. [Edited to note: It seems Eros only want us to see the Hindi dubbed versions of the songs and I can’t find Telugu clips online anymore so apologies for that but the picturisations are really lovely.]

It’s clear there is a connection between the two episodes, but the first part of the film is all about the peaceful family man. Well–he is a man of peace, until he isn’t. Chiranjeevi is all hero and there is no doubt this is his film. The action scenes are action packed, the dancing is high energy and the speeches are compelling. This is not a film that demands subtlety but Chiru adds a bit more emotion and credibility than I expected. And he does it in plaid, in sequins or in a lunghi. So versatile! I don’t understand why people keep asking me why I love him – surely it’s obvious.

Sonali Bendre is the smitten Pallavi who pursues Sankar and schemes her way into his household (and incidentally, out of an unwanted marriage). Her machinations are highly amusing as is Sankar’s discomfort at her flirting and they have good comic chemistry. Sonali’s overacting is excellent, and her fake filmi gestures are spot on for this role. She also gets the full support of the wardrobe team, although I have my doubts about the footwear. Is she wearing yellow fluffy slippers?

I wish I could say the Comedy Side Plot was funny but it wears thin very quickly and Brahmi and gang overstay their welcome. Sunil does a more successful spot as a hapless brother-in-law and is on screen just enough.

The drama takes place on an intimate scale as well as in an epic feud saga.  Pradeep (Sankar’s nephew) is in love with Mumtaz, a Muslim, and their relationship is discovered. Later in the film Nandhini has her own troubles. I was perplexed by the suicidal tendencies of these young women but luckily they were not alone. Sankar never turns his back on his family and goes to bat for them, making a few message statements along the way.

He also impresses Mumtaz’s father, the rich and powerful Shaukat Ali Khan (Puneet Issar). This comes in very handy when Chiru finds himself in need of a helicopter.

Prakash Raj comes to destroy the man he believes has ruined his daughter Pallavi, only to recognise Sankaranarayana as Indrasena. If you like your Prakash Dad frothing at the mouth screaming ‘shoot them all’ then this is for you. If you like your Prakash Raj and his Gaze of Blossoming Bromance, this is for you.

Sankar makes Nandhini’s wedding a condition before he is free to marry Pallavi (when Prakash feels the love, he really feels the love and his decision making process is as rushed as when he is feeling the hate) so plans proceed quick smart.

The wedding draws all the players out into the open. As soon as Mukesh Rishi dipped his toes in the Ganges, I knew bad things would happen. Tanikella Bharani is loyal Valmiki, apparently mute and certainly devoted to Indrasena. When things get ugly, he is the means of laying out the shared history of the characters. We also get an excellent montage of Chiru and heavy machinery as he displays his instant engineering skills.

Snehalatha Reddy (Aarti Agarwal) is the other heroine, and she is not averse to throwing her weight around. While I found her unpleasantly abrasive in some scenes I enjoyed her performance immensely. She was filmed as many heroes are –the first shot a chunky shoe emerging from one of a convoy of cars, the framing of her walk, how she sits–and she has her own irritating and ominous theme music. Snehalatha has her own priorities and her interactions with the men are on the same level.

Snehalatha has set her sights on Indra. But given her family history of betrayal her motives are suspect. Or are they? Her character is more developed than Pallavi and she certainly makes the stronger impression despite arriving later in the story. The chronology of the film doesn’t hold up too well under scrutiny, but there is an excellent 90s style dance number. It’s perfectly vintage right down to the costumes and locations (I choose to believe the dated look is an intentional statement).

A hero as upright, generous and moral as Indra requires a weak, nasty and unlikable baddie as an opposing force. Veer Shankar Reddy (Mukesh Rishi) is that man. His villainy is more about excessive violence, obsession with supposed family honour coupled with total disregard for his wife and child, and finger pointing with a lot of “Rrrrrrrrrrey!” Mukesh Rishi has an excellent range of furious and outraged expressions, as does Chiru, and their confrontations are memorable.

There is a big spoiler after this picture so scroll past the next paragraph quickly if you wish and rejoin me after the following set of pictures.

There is a nasty incident in which Veer Shankar Reddy murders his young son rather than be indebted to Indra. This is ridiculous rather than real violence against a child but it shows how low the writers felt they had to go to make him bad enough. He is a liar and cheat, and sees no need to keep his word. This does put him at some advantage against his honour bound adversary but the final result is never in any doubt. Even the land he claimed seems to be against him at the end.

Indra is kind of predictable but still kept me glued to the screen, so Chinni Krishna and B. Gopal should be congratulated on getting the basics right. All the ingredients work, and the visuals in Varanasi are beautiful. The songs by Mani Sharma are great and flow well in the story, and Lawrence and the other choreographers work to their stars’ strengths so the picturisations are just brilliant. There is an inconclusive ending with the two women vying for Indra, but we can all make up our own resolution to that. And I think Pallavi gave a pretty clear clue as to what she might propose.

Chiru is awesome as the great hero, and Indra really is for the people! Well, for my kind of people anyway. I give Indra 4 stars (points off for unfunny funnymen and poor spelling).

Heather says: Indra is a film for the megastar made on a mega-scale with a mega storyline! There really is a lot happening in this film and it seems as if the writers were determined to embody every trait of the divine Indra in the character of Indrasena Reddy. The basic story of warring families is expanded to include a number of romances, star-crossed lovers, vengeful wives, the building of a reservoir ( the ‘bringing of water’ ), street cons in Varanasi and even some politics! I do like young Indra with his self-important declarations, and the fact that throughout the story many of the women are very strong and decisive characters. Everybody has at least one impressive declarative sentence in this film.  Initially I was concerned that Indrasena’s family are so very, very good while Veer Shankar Reddy’s family are so very, very bad, but then Indra starts hacking and slashing with the rest of them and it all becomes a bit too cartoon-like to be taken seriously. The whole side plot of Puneet Issar as Shaukhat Ali Khan, although I’m sure designed to show Indra’s compassion, courage and forgiveness, really seems to be just so that Chriu would have a helicopter to borrow – and that is absolutely fine with me!

Chiranjeevi is as fantastic as always and is the reason the film works so well. His dancing is amazing and Lawrence’s choreography is immediately recognisable. I was very impressed by Chiru’s moves as the dancing is very fast and physical and he pulls it off with nary a stumble.

I also really like Aarti Agarwal as Snehalatha Reddy, the sister who fell in love with the enemy. I think her portrayal is well done considering her limited screen time and she comes across as a very strong character. Sonali Bendre on the other hand, although adequate in her role, doesn’t impress me as much, although a lot of that could be that I don’t really believe in her character. I can understand that she would fall in love with Indra (after all – who wouldn’t!) but her subsequent actions seem out of place, and I would have thought that the daughter of a politician should be a little more aware of the consequences of her actions. Indra’s treatment of her is also a problem for me. On one hand he is very avuncular and treats her  appropriately as  his niece’s friend as he resists her advances, but then later on he involves her in his deception back in the village which I was  more uncomfortable with.

I missed a lot of the final fight scene between Chiru and the brothers as John and I were trying to decide which climbing area it was filmed at. We’re pretty sure it’s just south of Bengaluru (Bangalore) but perhaps someone could let me know exactly where? I did get a bit distracted by the lines on some of those great granite boulders!

Overall a very entertaining film as long as you don’t think too closely about some elements of the plot. I don’t think it would have worked at all without the star power of Chiru, but I still give it 4 stars – 3 ½ of those for Chiranjeevi and ½ for inspiring my husband to come back to India with me on my next trip to track down those climbing areas!

Style

Style is a story about overcoming adversity and keeping yourself nice no matter what the temptation.  From the opening titles sequence showing disabled kids dancing, the message is there – Dance is joyous and belongs to all. It is a traditional aspirational tale of a boy from the disadvantaged side of society achieving his dream, of a man who overcomes tragedy to find triumph and the power of love in all its forms.  Written and directed by Lawrence, who also stars and choreographs, Style is a dance extravaganza with something for everyone’s tastes.

Prabhu Deva is Ganesh, a star of the dance competition circuit. He has won high profile dance competitions and his future seems assured. We will tell you now – we love Prabhu Deva. He is a lanky, unlikely looking hero who is transformed when he dances.

His main rival in these competitions is Anthony, and we first see Ganesh beating Anthony to a place in the regional finals.

Anthony (he is evil – we know this because he has a spiral perm and sneers a lot so we will call him Evil Anthony from now on) and his crazy brother (with terrible cornrow braids) put paid to their rival’s dancing days in a rigged accident which causes Ganesh to lose both his legs. Anthony will be recognisable as that backing dancer with the long permed hair from many Hindi films.


Of course Ganesh’s sponsors desert him as he can no longer dance, and to add insult to injury, Evil Anthony becomes the new regional champion by default.

Meanwhile, Lawrence plays Raghava;  a young man with big dreams but without the means to make them reality. He is in search of his long lost mother, and passes his days working as a cleaner in a local dance school. There is a somewhat troubling bit of back story to Ragahava’s character but it doesn’t crop up until late in the film and seemed quite unnecessary. He is of course a phenomenally talented dancer but due to his lowly status, is never given a chance to fulfil the promise he made to his mother that he would become  famous. He lives with his friends, all of whom have menial jobs and share the dream of dancing professionally and running a dance school. Despite a few breaks, nothing is helping them make the leap and indeed there are many setbacks. We enjoyed this song for many reasons, not least because it was very educational as to place names and foods. And they look a bit like The Wiggles:

Raghava, rather endearingly and totally understandably, is obsessed with Chiranjeevi. The presence of Megastar Chiru, real or imagined, sparks some of the best and funniest scenes in the film, including a fight sequence worthy of Jackie Chan.

Lawrence has a likeable screen presence and is certainly suited to the physicality of the role. We believe that the best dancers also excel in the fight scenes as they draw on their  gymnastic abilities and timing rather than just relying on muscle. And he is such an amazing dancer that some of the more incredible plot points don’t matter so much.

Ganesh is depressed and frightened of what his life will be without dance and of being dependant on his younger sister for support.   Raghava is oppressed by lack of opportunity but determined to keep trying to fulfil his dreams of a mother and a career.  After a pep talk by his sister, Ganesh determines that he will find new dancers to take on Evil Anthony and his nasty looking backing dancers. After some depressing but very funny auditions (think Agadoo), Ganesh finds Raghava and crew performing a tribute to his last dance routine on a TV dance show. Destiny has got its act together at last!

There is also some romance in the air. Shruthi, played by Charmi, is a student at the Western Dance School where Raghava cleans. He should have known she was the wrong girl after seeing her audition to Britney’s “Oops I Did It Again” complete with wardrobe malfunction. Raghava went to her rescue and was instantly smitten. We see his heart break as Charmi reveals she has been using him to make her college friend Raja jealous enough to express his feelings. Oblivious to the damage she has done to Raghava, she offers him the first wedding card for her upcoming marriage.

Raghava and the boys move in with their guru, and undertake an exhausting training montage. Ganesh’s sister Priya, played by the lovely Kamalini Mukherjee, develops feelings for Raghava as she sees how he treats her beloved brother, and his amazing dance style. Raghava remains oblivious to Priya, who is a classical dancer, for much of the film despite her well-mannered flirting and her romantic daydreams.

Hitting the big time means big money, and to compete the guys need sponsors – the sponsors that had deserted Ganesh.  A quick trip to the local discotheque with a dance off to show their Style, and they manage to gain the support they need. Success is beckoning and spirits are high!

But this is a film and things cannot run so smoothly for our clean living heroes. Tragedy strikes, and darkness looms in the guise of spiral-permed Evil Anthony who is determined to win at any cost.

Again.

Before the big competition Raghava’s friends are kidnapped by Evil Anthony’s even more evil brother.  The only person more evil than these two guys is their hairdresser.

Raghava tells Ganesh they have gone to the temple as he has been told to keep their whereabouts a secret if he wants to ever see them again.  The competition has started, the boys are needed to dance, Ganesh and the sponsors are frantic. Time for one of the big guns – Nagarjuna! Somehow (we never know how) within minutes Nagarjuna finds the factory where the boys are being held hostage, rescues our heroes and gets them to the dance competition in time to compete. There is a minor detail of star performer Raghava having gunshot wounds to his legs, but that cannot stop him. It was a very nice touch by the makeup team to make the bloodstains on his costume get bigger the more he danced, and also to provide a small pool of blood at his feet as the competition progressed!  They are not out of peril yet. A further attempt to remove them from the competition is thwarted by CHIRU!

The time for the final dance-off is nigh and of course it comes down to the good guys of team Ganesh versus the black pleather clad Anthony. We were quite concerned by the flimsy dancefloor that seemed to buckle under the impact of Lawrence and his flying feet but after surviving heartbreak, thugs and guns we knew it would take more than that to stop him. Who will win? Do you need to ask? Dance is the winner!

Heather says: I love the idea behind this film; that you can overcome all of your difficulties if you can face them with courage.  The dancing children at the beginning were such a testament to the power of music to inspire everyone to dance no matter who you are or your situation in life.  And as this has always been our philosophy that dance will cure a myriad of ills, it really is a favourite film.  This is everything a movie about dance should be.  It focuses on the love of dance and how this can touch on every aspect of life.  Ganesh and Raghava both live to dance, and it shows in the joyous nature of their performances.  Every dance style is there, from classical to hip hop, and everything in between!  High points of this film for me are a hero who worships Chiranjeevi, a song dedicated to Chiranjeevi and a guest appearance by the man himself! And of course the number and quality of the songs.

The dancing in this film is almost a character by itself and the double of Prabhu Deva and Lawrence makes for some great performances.  The other dancers do really well to keep up, and the children are just great.  Although I love the dancing in this film and think the performances are fantastic, I am deducting points for the slightly silly plot.  4 stars from me.

Temple says: Style is such a fun film to watch. It has great songs and dancing, and a real sense of joy about dance. It’s a cliched story, but it works, and has me cheering for the good guys every time. There are many little tributes throughout the film – Michael Jackson’s influence is apparent, but there are nods to MC Hammer, Fred Astaire and of course South Indian film heroes.  I love watching Prabhu Deva. He is a genius and his joy in dancing is contagious and uplifting. I am a big Fred Astaire fan, having grown up watching his films with my grandparents, and there is a similarity in that both men are plain and unprepossessing until they dance – and then they transform into charismatic, amazing, radiant stars. I was curious to see if Lawrence could carry a film. It’s a big leap from being a featured dancer or choreographer to holding an audiences attention as a hero, and I think he tailored this film to really show his strengths. The supporting cast is good, and the humour is well embedded into the plot so there isn’t a clunky comedy track to bog the film down. I will never object to a film that wants to feature Chiranjeevi, especially when his appearance is an affectionate and humorous send-up of his own legend.  Style is a simple story, told fairly well, and boosted by some fantastic performers. I give it 4 stars.