Anjaan (2014)

Anjaan

Lingusamy has delivered some good action thrillers in the past, so teaming up with Suriya for this latest venture certainly sounded like a good move.  However Anjaan trundles along a fairly predictable path interspersed with a few too many fight sequences (as excellently choreographed as they are) and oddly placed flashbacks that disrupt the narrative flow.  The film is saved to some extent by good performances from the main leads – Suriya is effortlessly charismatic and instils life into his often routine character, while Samantha is cute and bubbly despite having to dance like a maniac.  Sound acting cannot completely compensate for a plot which, while frequently formulaic, fails to present a believable chain of events in a convincing way.   I also can’t see why it was necessary to set the film in Mumbai as it didn’t seem to have any relevance to the story, and the resultant dubbing of the Hindi actors is noticeably out of sync. Anjaan isn’t terrible but in comparison with other recent commercial films, it doesn’t come anywhere near the same standard of storytelling, and really should have been much better.

AnjaanAnjaan

The film starts with Krishna (Suriya) heading to Mumbai from Chennai to try and find his missing brother, Raju (also Suriya).  He’s armed with an elbow crutch and a laptop, but doesn’t seem to have much to go on apart from a handful of names and addresses which take him, along with comedy stalwart Soori as his reluctant taxi driver, to some very dodgy places.  It doesn’t take too long for Krishna to discover that his brother was a notorious gangster who revelled in the name Raju Bhai and after a few false steps he finally tracks down one of the gang members to find out more about his brother.  Baashka (Joe Malloori) is able to fill in the blanks and the film moves to flash-back mode to tell the story of Raju and his best buddy Chandru (Vidyut Jamwal).

Anjaan

There is never any explanation of how Raju Bhai and Chandru Bhai have gained their fearsome reputation or even any detail about their criminal activities, which is part of the problem with the rest of the story.  The big revenge plot which follows doesn’t have much credibility when there isn’t any solid foundation for the story and the other characters are too one-dimensional to impact.  Vidyut Jamwal was impressive in his previous roles as a villain but he’s just not on screen enough here to make much of a mark.  His Chandru appears to be borderline ASD with many obsessive behaviours and signs that he doesn’t communicate well with others – hard for Vidyut to make much impact when most of his role involved moody silences and brooding looks.  However he is excellent at these, and I just wish there had been more for him to get his teeth into here.  Luckily for Chandru he has Raju to deal with the rest of the world for him, and although Vidyut Jamwal and Suriya make a good ‘bhai’ pairing and appear to be on the cusp of some good chemistry, it never quite manages to get going before the camera whisks away to yet another fight scene.

Anjaan

Suriya totally rocks his casual gangster style and cool spiky hair.  He’s just as comfortable as a violent gangster as he is in the more cerebral role of Krishna.  He also has some good chemistry with Samantha at the beginning of their romance although this vanishes later in the film when Samantha is relegated to the usual Tamil heroine status, only appearing in the songs or as a damsel in distress.  Her opening scenes are good and I did have hope that she would have a chance to be more than just eye candy but in the end that seems to be the only reason for her inclusion.  Sadly she’s also short-changed in the wardrobe department for many of the songs and much of her choreography seem to be of the ‘dance like no-one is watching’ variety.  As if that wasn’t bad enough there is a particularly sleazy item song in the second half and a very unnecessary and totally unfunny appearance by Brahmi.  All very seem to be added in to fulfil the standard checklist for a commercial mass masala film, and all are completely superfluous to requirements.

Amjaan

The fight scenes, although excellently choreographed and filmed are also repetitive and strangely soul-less given that the supposed motive is revenge.  Manoj Bajpai is a bit of a nonentity as the smarmy villain of the piece Imran Bhai, while Murali Sharma and Chetan Hansraj are more effective in their negative roles.  Santosh Sivan’s cinematography at least makes the film look great but there are a few too many close-ups of Samantha’s coloured contact lenses for my liking – I really don’t need to see the printed iris pattern that clearly outside of my optometry practice!

Although Linguswamy seems to have checked his Big Masala Cook Book and added all the right ingredients he seems to have forgotten the seasoning and ends up with a bland dish that veers into tasteless all too often.  Suriya makes Anjaan worth a one time watch if you’re a fan, but by the end even he seems to be resigned to the monotonous gangs he has to beat his way through every 5 minutes.  For all Anjaan’s big budget effects and slickly packaged action scenes at the end of the day nothing can cover up the lack of a story or the absence of engaging dialogue, and that really says it all.

Anjaan

Happy

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.

Komaram Puli

Once again we ventured to the cinema on an unsubtitled adventure. The session screening time had been changed a couple of times due to various delays with the film’s release. So it came as no surprise at all to still be waiting for the 9:30pm show to start at 11:00pm! We eventually staggered out of the theatre at 2:00am. Bear that, and our language issues in mind as we try and unravel Komaram Puli.

The crowd reaction was amazing. In the hour or so we were waiting, we had ample opportunity to perfect our Pawan Kalyan chants. The crowd favourite was “Twinkle twinkle little star, Pawan Kalyan Powerstar!”, and the roof almost came off before the film even started!

Not understanding Telugu wasn’t going to be an issue for this film, as there was no way we were going to be able to hear any of the star dialogues. The crowd started cheering, screaming, even crying, as soon as the credits began to roll and it didn’t stop. Some fans had carefully pre-cut strips of paper to hurl in the air at key moments, other more spontaneous types just tore up newspapers as the spirit moved them.

Now to the film.

The opening sequence is violent, shocking and full of portents. A woman goes to the police to try and find her husband or to follow up on his murder, and ends up being beaten half to death by Manoj Bajpai (who is the man who offed the husband). She escapes and through the blessings of god and the shelter of a local temple, her pregnancy comes to term. Her son learns to march on the path of righteousness while in the womb – and that is not an attempt at poetic license. Its an accurate description of the films visuals. He grows up to become:

A charismatic, dedicated and honest policeman – Komaram Puli –  who vows to take on crime and corruption. We never had a hope of getting all the detail of the very fast talking Puli’s dialoges but we believe it went something like “I swore an oath to serve my country and its people without fear or favor. Some of you are a disgrace to the uniform and could afford to shed a few kilos. Get your act together, sit up straight or I will take you down”. Or something. Anyway – he is a good cop struggling with a police force that is at best lazy, and at worst corrupt.  For all his talking he is a man of action – the opening action sequence featuring Pawan Kalyan and some excellent product placement is packed full of thrills and stunts that had the audience going wild.

Now, answer this question. You have a terrorist with a bomb strapped to his body. You can kill him by dropping him from a helicopter, shooting him or detonating the bomb. What to do? If you chose “all of the above”, you are going to love this film!

The installation of special phone booths allow people to call Puli’s team direct and report their law and order problems. On receipt of a phone call from the special “Bat Phone”, Puli and team leave their high tech HQ and seem to be able to arrive anywhere in Hyderabad within mere minutes – another tipoff that this is fiction, as we all read the endless tweets about celebs stuck in traffic in Hyderabad. They start to beat the corruption out of the force – literally.

In addition to this, Puli Force are on the trail of a terrorist master-mind called Nixon, and local crimelord Saleem, Manoj Bajpai back on the scene, this time in a distinguished grey wig and moustache.

Oh, and there is always time for romance. Especially when the girl is a crazy stalker with a theatrical streak and your mother approves of her. Puli never stood a chance once Nikesha Patel and her friends decided he was the one for her. Right down to the most bizarre marriage ceremony, he is railroaded by the women in his life, but its all for his own good.

Now that love has kindly provided a likely target for hostile forces, a romantic night at home is rudely interrupted by vampire ninjas in V for Vendetta masks. The outfits are never explained, but neither are many other things. Deal with it. We did.

The film has many heroic dialogues. Every time Pawan Kalyan brandished his index finger towards the camera, the audience went wild. We will never know what exactly his message was, but we are pretty sure no one else could hear it either.

Pawan Kalyan has an excellent enigmatic walk, which we believe is essential for all film heroes. He also excels in the high adrenalin action sequences, and looks totally convincing in these scenes. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to have inherited the dance gene that runs in his family. He does try, and in the “Powerstar” song he does come close. But perhaps we were blinded by the fabulous costume:

On the subject of costumes, we noticed on arrival at the cinema that all the boys in the ticket office were wearing the same style of red and black scarf. We did wonder, but not for long:

Now THAT is star power!

Unlike so many other filmi mothers, Saranya played an important role in the action. She was no passive victim standing on the sidelines and weeping for her boy. She delivered powerful and moving dialogues and was clearly the strength behind her son. And never, ever discount the power of a mother’s tear.

While overall we found this highly entertaining, the film does have serious flaws. The songs seem to be misplaced in the narrative and this gives the feeling that the film is disjointed. The climax is muddled by having two villains and apparently running out of a plot for one of them. The final confrontation between Puli and Saleem is very heavy on the dialogue and slows the conclusion of the film down. However, the final few frames are truly amazing and left the audience stunned (although still screaming).

This was our first taste of Powerstar Mania and it was just awesome. The screaming, cheering and applause never stopped right til the very end. Which, we will remind you, was at 2:00am. While we would give the film itself 3 and 1/2 stars, we give the audience 5 stars!