Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu

CGRCameraman Gangatho Rambabu sees Puri Jagannadh teaming up again with Powerstar Pawan Kalyan for a tale about one man’s crusade against corrupt politicians with a little help from sidekick Cameraman Ganga.  I first saw CGR in the cinema without subtitles, but since the audience seemed to be appreciative of the dialogue I thought it might improve the film if I could understand what was being said.  And to some extent the DVD subtitles do help, although they also serve to highlight the silliness of the female lead character and a general condescension towards women throughout the story which is less enjoyable.  CGR is a straightforward good guy vs. bad guys story which relies on the Power Star’s presence to keep the action ticking along, but there are a few good fight scenes and some well written interactions between Pawan Kalyan and Prakash Raj in their respective roles which make it worth a watch.

CGRCGRCGRCGRRambabu (Pawan Kalyan) is a mechanic who has superhero tendencies to fight crime, a large mural of Che Guevara on his apartment wall and an idealistic view of a utopian world which he tries to make reality.  To that end he races off to beat wrongdoers into submission whenever he hears of injustice or petty crime on the news and provides assistance to widows, orphaned children and marginalised members of society whether they want it or not. Rambabu’s determination to break up a fight between two rival student groups leads him to feature on the news himself and brings him to the attention of cameraman Ganga (Tamannah).  After a brief meeting, Ganga decides that Rambabu would be perfect as a journalist and despite a conspicuous lack of any training, her station head agrees wholeheartedly giving Rambabu carte blanche to do whatever he wants as a reporter on the news channel.

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Inevitably this brings him into conflict with politician Jawahar Naidu (Kota Srinivasa Rao) who is prepared to do anything to win back the role of Chief Minister from the incumbent Chandrasekhara Reddy (Nasser).  This looks promising, but since both politicians are one-dimensional caricatures of absolute black and white they end up as rather ineffective characters.  Jawahar Naidu is evil with no redeeming features, prepared to murder, lie and cheat his way back into power while Chandrasekhara Reddy is painted as the perfect CM who is kind, compassionate and honest although at one stage he does confess to an ambition to hang onto his top spot.  Added in to the mix is Jawahar’s equally amoral son Rana (Prakash Raj) who takes over his father’s manifesto when Jawahar suffers paralysis and has to withdraw from active campaigning.  The real battle is the one that develops between Rana and Rambabu and the scenes between these two are generally the best in the film.  Prakash Raj is excellent as he sneers and schemes his way to political success and Pawan Kaylan is zealous and righteous in appropriate amounts as he counters Rana’s various plots.

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Tanikella Bharani also puts in an impressive performance as Jawahar’s brother-in-law and right hand man. He is obsequious and just a little bit creepy as he fawns over Jawahar while making sure that self-preservation is still his number one policy. I also have to mention the excellent décor in Jawahar’s house which was beautiful and made a welcome contrast to his bombastic, over-emotional and over-acted speeches.

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What don’t work as well are the interactions between Rambabu and his various work colleagues including Cameraman Ganga.  Although Ganga has equal billing on the title, in reality the character is only peripherally involved with the action of the story, and her main role is in a rather clunky romance with Rambabu.  Ganga is bratty and immature and her hearty attempts to appear as a “woman in a male dominated career” are unimpressive and implausible.  Her reaction to her rival Smitha (Gabriela Bertante) is also rather too ingenuous although I like Ganga’s accusation that Smitha is a snake.  Smitha does show a number of snaky characteristics but sadly that’s as far as any possible naga connection goes.

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 Smitha is the owner of a rival TV station who snaps Rambabu up when Jawahar forces him out of the news channel. Although I liked the overall idea of Smitha’s character and was hoping for a sharp, slightly unethical businesswoman to add another layer to the plot, the execution failed miserably and Smitha’s character was wasted as basically another love interest.

Ali appears as the head of social interest at the TV channel and there are some inane attempts at comedy which fall very flat.  Later comedy scenes with Brahmi are better, although the placement of some of these seems odd as they break into the action and slow down the film momentum just when it begins to take off in the second half.   The music by Mani Sharma is also nothing special but isn’t helped by lacklustre choreography.  Scarlett Wilson appears in a forgettable item number while the other songs are mainly pictured on Tamannah and Pawan Kalyan.  However this one featuring Gabriela is a little more interesting, since she does get to wear a large hat which seems to fit rather well with the giant mushrooms in the background and I think does help reinforce the snake connection.

The opening titles over news reels of various marches, speeches and events suggests that CGR will be a political thriller, but instead it’s a standard mass movie which doesn’t manage to break out of the usual mould.  There are some good ideas in here but the film needed better editing as it’s too long with too many irrelevant side issues which detract from the main story.  The inability of corrupt politicians Jawahar and Rana to make effective comebacks when questioned by Rambabu feels very contrived since surely politicians should be excellent wordsmiths – or at the very least have PR people who can write their speeches and stop them from speaking out of turn, while Nasser’s Chandrasekhara Reddy is improbably perfect .  The characterisation of Ganga is also irritating and Tamannah is capable of much better than this overacted and disappointing performance from her.

Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu works as a mass masala film, not as a political message movie despite Rambabu socialistic tendencies,  and as such the performances by Pawan Kalyan and Prakash Raj ensure that it’s entertaining enough for a one-time watch. It just could have been so much better. 3 stars.

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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!