Naayak

Naayak Poster

Naayak is an updated masala potboiler, action packed with colourful dance numbers and an improbable but entertaining enough story. The audience last night was mostly young couples and families. I did wonder yet again at the ability of children to sleep through anything. At the end of the film the dads left with a kid slung over one shoulder, dead to the world.

To summarise the story, with mild spoilers:

Naayak opens with four men being pursued through the streets and lanes of Kolkata, and eventually tied to a pillar in the forecourt of an ornate manor. Surrounded by approximately 4962 taxis with their headlights on, the men look doomed. But a mysterious figures glides through the darkness, and rescues them in a bloody fight involving lots of pointy objects and ornate axes. Who was he and why were they in trouble? That comes later. Charan is Charan AKA Cherry, a Hyderabadi IT dude. Through some Brahmi induced comedy complications, he meets the gangster Babji (Rahul Dev) and his pretty sister Madhu (Kajal). In the background, Cherry appears to be on a killing spree from Kolkata to Hyderabad. Babji sees Cherry shoot a senior police officer and starts asking questions about who Cherry really is. At the same time the police, led by Ashish Vidyarthi, are closing in. A trip to Haridwar and a chance encounter with a lookalike prompts a long flashback introducing Siddharth (Charan). Siddharth is on a mission of revenge following Pradeep Rawat’s criminal (and insane) treatment of workers in his chemical factory (and others). Siddharth has his own love interest in Amala Paul, and a tragic back story. To quote nearly every Telugu film reviewer ever, ‘how the hero triumphs over the villain forms the rest of the story’.

charan nayak

Charan has matured as an actor and his dialogue delivery has more authority. Perhaps that is because he seems really comfortable in the mass entertainer roles, and he certainly gets the style. Naayak is an updated version of the kind of films Chiranjeevi is known for. Action, dancing, flamboyant costumes, a dash of romance and a social message all add up to a good showcase for the young star. The fights are very stylised and rely on not always seamless wirework and effects. Sometimes the clunky visuals took away from the drama. Charan seems comfortable with the physicality of the fight scenes so he doesn’t let his characterisation lapse and that does help. There were few differences apparent between Cherry and Siddharth – Siddharth’s hair was a bit higher and his necklines a tad lower. But as the story turns on their similarity, that all worked nicely.

Charan’s dancing was such a highlight, especially in the very Chiru-ish Laaila O Laaila which I wanted to be replayed again right away, and Naayak which is just so pretty and colourful.

Naayak Kajal in gold pants

Kajal was very likeable. Madhu is more ‘girl next door in glamourous dress-ups’ than total glamour doll, and she often had a cheeky glint in her eye. The costume designers were reasonably kind to her, with only a brief foray into shiny metallic pants. She cannot dance to save her life, so the choreographers wisely decided to go for stunning locations plus giving Charan all the actual steps and telling Kajal to either shake her butt or heave her chest.

Naayak Charan and Kajal dance

I tell a lie – in one song she had to point one hand skywards and walk, which must have been challenging.

Naayak Kajal and Charan dance

But she looks like she has fun, and she and Charan goofed around flirting rather than worrying so much about the steps.

Amala Paul made little impression apart from looking very pretty. Her role is small but she does get a couple of visually spectacular songs. Unfortunately the costume designers never really considered the implications of dancing with your hair down and wearing a chiffon sari on undulating terrain in Iceland in a stiff breeze so she didn’t always looks graceful.

Charan and Amala dance

Naayak Amala and her shoes

Particularly not as she wore brown Ugg boots  with a green sari and black shoes with bright blue laces with her diaphanous black sari during one song. Kajal wore leggings under her short shorts but apart from being greyish and a bit baggy around the knees, they weren’t as peculiar. I’m all for actresses dressing appropriately for the climate, and for workplace safety, but it was odd.

Rahul Dev is Babji, and he plays a more sympathetic gangster than his usual psycho villain. Indeed, there is quite a sweet bromance developing between him and Cherry until things start to get crazy. Raghu Babu and Jayaprakash Reddy are on comedy duty in his gang and, judging by the audience reaction, knocked it out of the park. MS Narayana is a drunk lip reading expert and his timing and droll expressions are really quite amusing. (As was the misspelled ‘Drinking is injurious to your HEATLH’ warning.) Brahmi has an actual character to play. When he can be dissuaded from just repeating his usual shtick he is so much more bearable. I actually laughed out loud at a couple of his scenes when normally I would be sighing so either I’ve had a head injury or he was good. Dev Gill made an appearance as a psycho baddie with impressive (that’s not the right word but they are very in your face) moobs.

Naayak Charan and Amala

SS Thaman’s music is OK but sounds like every other film. You know, there’s the upbeat hero song, the item (featuring Charmme), the duet, the other duet, the remake of a better song. Nothing wrong with it, but I sit here now and I can picture the sets and the fancy costumes, but can’t recall the music as clearly. One thing I loved in Charmme’s item was Siddharth imaging joining in. His cheesy expressions and Chiru-esque mannerisms were really amusing. That was all his own character’s vision so I liked that glimpse of his inner life.

Despite this being an adventure without subtitles the only thing I feel I really missed was the comedy dialogue. People around me were weeping with laughter and a couple of guys said it is one of the funniest films they’d seen in ages. I’ll be buying the DVD regardless, and am interested to see how well that laugh riot translates. I liked spotting the Pawan Kalyan and Chiranjeevi references in the visuals and dialogues and was pleased to see Shah Rukh smirking from the back of a Significant Magazine.

See it if you like films with clearly defined heroes and villains, action, drama, colour and movement. You’ll need some tolerance for dismemberments, gore and a lot of comedy uncles but it pays off with an explosive climax.

Advertisements

Business Man

It started with text messages late at night. Then waiting while someone had a muttered conversation with the boss. Then the secret password (my name!). Finally a minion delved into a concealed pocket, and handed over tickets for the sold out opening show of Business Man! Armed with a stash of paper strips we made our way into the packed cinema and sat in the third row among some diehard fans, ready for an up-close Big Mahesh film experience. We’d been told that US prints were subtitled and were hopeful we would also get subs – but it was not to be so we enjoyed another Adventure without Subtitles.

Business Man is a beautiful looking film directed with verve and confidence, and performed with commitment. The lighting and composition of each frame is superb. The editing, the effects the action sequences and the dialogues are zingy and zesty. The story is simple but it’s sustained and isn’t lost in the rich visuals. Mahesh Babu is a perfect fit for the pivotal role. He delivers a ruthless, brooding characterisation rounded out by some sharp humour and a bit of romance.

The basic story is easy to follow. Surya (Mahesh Babu) moves to Mumbai and proceeds to take over the criminal underworld. He is a logical and determined man who runs his gang as a business. They have defined tasks, get paid regularly and follow his orders. Surya is all about power not money, and lives quite simply. He is fair in his own way and wins grassroots support with some calculated acts designed to cement his place in the community. His motivation becomes clear as the action unfurls. And as for his methods – Guns don’t need agreements. Surya is an anti-hero in many respects, and a lot of what he does is reprehensible. He does offer some form of vigilante justice and fair treatment which contrasts with the corrupt politicians and ineffectual police.

Sayaji Shinde and Prakash Raj play politicians and power brokers with connections. Both are predictably competent without being exceptional. Sayaji Shinde is easily duped, but Prakash Raj has a history with Surya that sets up the climax of the film.

Once Mumbai is under control, Surya expands his business model nationally and is a serious threat in the political power struggle. Prakash Raj decides to nip this in the bud to assure his own position. This confrontation is just what Surya wanted, and so we rocket along to the gore splattered conclusion.

Nasser is a Police Commissioner and Kajal is his daughter Chitra. We debated whether Surya had engineered a meeting with Chitra so that their relationship started as a subterfuge but then developed into something genuine. Surya views the police as he does the politicians and the local goondas – they’re all just assets or liabilities in his business model. He seems to commit wholesale slaughter with remarkable ease. In fact the only ‘crime’ he commits that draws any police attention is fancying Chitra – that’s when the cops with guns turn out in force.

Brahmaji plays Surya’s sidekick but he merges back into the team as the story progresses. Subbaraju is wonderful as Prakash Raj’s enforcer. He is menacing and hilarious, and matches Mahesh’s intensity. There is a very funny scene where Subbaraju keeps trying to reload his gun as all hell breaks loose. It sounds like nothing much, but his fumbling shtick is hilarious and also contributes to the scene. The comedy emerges from characters and situations so it doesn’t slow the action. But WTF was going on with the dubbing for Ayesha (Chitra’s friend, played by Ayesha Shiva)? The voice, accent and dialogue delivery was terrible and too bad to even be funny. I don’t think her acting was much either, but the voice dominated her performance. Mahesh Babu is a really good comic actor and his reactions are priceless in some scenes, particularly with Dharmavarapu Subramanyam and with Kajal. We really wished for subtitles as the dialogue had the audience in stitches, athough the puns and wordplay never translate so well.

Kajal and Mahesh had good rapport and judging by the audience reaction some of his lines were quite naughty. A lot of the dialogue was bleeped so I missed an opportunity to learn some handy curses. I was perturbed by one romantic song which is set up when a driver (a cameo by Puri Jagannadh) chloroforms Chitra and delivers her to Surya. It was meant to be funny rather than a scary abduction, but so very wrong. Next thing she is unconscious on a huge bed and wearing a very sparkly saree. Kajal and Mahesh have some chemistry, especially in her few conscious intervals in that song. Many of their scenes together had a lively and spontaneous feel, and they made a nice looking couple. There is a fleeting kiss which elicited a deathly silent non-reaction from the audience. She had little to do but scream and cry, but I think this is one of her better efforts. And she didn’t get slapped around.

SS Thaman hasn’t done anything amazing with the soundtrack, but the brassy theme underscoring some of the action is great. The choreography was less delightful. The choreo in Sir Osthara was strange, mostly synchronised hand waving and a little bit of prancing so basic even Kajal could keep up.

Pilla Chao is fun, but reminiscent of the Ministry of Silly Walks with festive Santa backing dancers. The Mahesh Fan had a theory about the costumes. She thinks Puri Jagannadh said ‘If my wardrobe dude can have his way with you in the song picturisations, you can wear your own clothes and normal haircut for the rest of the film’. And I think she might be right.

Mahesh does look slightly taken aback by the ice cream colour themed outfits and blue suede shoes but he generally wears plain dark shirts and jeans. It’s an unfussy yet multi-layered look for a man who means business but doesn’t mind flaunting a bit of elbow and the merest hint of chest hair.

The censorship was really odd. Lots of dialogue was bleeped or muted, but I could easily substitute likely profanities. And the dancers – especially the skanky white chicks – were occasionally blurred out. In most scenes they were unobscured so the costumes and choreography were obvious and we couldn’t discern a substantial difference between the clear shots and those that had been censored.

Some angles were obviously a bit more ‘down the choli’ but most seemed to be similar. The Telugu film industry hires many female performers solely for their looks and physique, so it seems strangely prudish to censor some of the flesh some of the time. Who are they kidding?

Yes it defies logic, gravity and many other laws but Business Man never pretends to be a gritty realistic story. It’s a kickarse action film made with great style, a cracking pace and a star who can switch from baby faced killer to baby faced hero with a killer sense of humour. Highly recommended and a resounding 5 stars from me!

Heather says: Opening night of any Mahesh film is always worthwhile, no matter how good or bad the film, since the cinema is packed and there are plenty of enthusiastic and noisy fans – which includes The Mahesh Fan and us.  And to our delight, this turned out to be a very Mahesh-centric film. He was in almost every shot and the story very firmly revolved around Surya and his business model version of rowdyism. This had the slightly  unfortunate side effect that no-one else got very much to do, which was somewhat disappointing because the other actors were all so very good. Chitra’s friend the very glaring exception. Brahmaji as Surya’s friend started out well with some presumably funny lines, but was quickly sidelined and hardly appeared for the rest of the film. And although Nasser, Sayaji Shinde and Prakash Raj popped up now and again to provide more motivation for one of Surya’s awesome action scenes there didn’t seem to be much explanation of exactly why they acted the way they did. Although that could of course just be the lack of understanding the dialogues on my part. I totally agree with Temple that Subbaraju has some of the best moments in the entire film and I enjoyed many of the other support gangsters who had excellent expressions during some of the fight scenes.

Mahesh does do ‘angry’ very well, and he seemed to be alternating between simmering and boiling for most of the film which did get a little wearing towards the end.  There was quite a lot of comedy in there too judging by the audience reaction, but this was mostly in the dialogue so I missed most of it. However the interplay between Surya and Chitra did have some very funny moments which came through loud and clear. I really liked Kajol here and thought she was in her element when she was angry and snapped back at Surya – it felt very authentic! She was animated and likeable throughout although does lose points for having an incredibly irritating and annoying friend. I really couldn’t understand why Chitra stayed with Surya since she obviously abhorred his gangster life style and the chloroform incident was just plain creepy. But otherwise I enjoyed the romance aspect of the film and I think it will be even better when I can understand the dialogue.

The Businessman is a very slick and well made film which looked fabulous and played to Mahesh’s strengths. Less bizarre and quite frankly pointless censoring, better choreography and a little more of the support actors and it would have been totally perfect.

Dookudu

Another Adventure Without Subtitles! Dookudu is the much awaited release for ‘Prince’ Mahesh Babu and we knew it would be huge. We arrived early for the 8.30pm show, which gave us the opportunity to watch the staff deal with the problem of getting the first show crowd out through the 700 or so people crowding into the small foyer. Once people emerged, the waiting audience clapped and cheered them like they were rockstars, and it was a very festive atmosphere. As one lady said  – why come to the cinema unless you’re going to have a good time?

It was about 10pm before the film finally started, not that anyone was complaining. There was plenty of cheering, accompanied by the sounds of tearing newspaper, as everyone got ready for Mahesh’s appearance.  There was discussion about whether there might be the odd flash of elbow (Yes there was, and even a glimpse of princely tummy) and just how many shirts can Mahesh Babu wear and still manage to fight? (There is apparently no limit to what Mahesh can do, or how many shirts he can wear.)

The film starts with politician Shankar Narayan (Prakash Raj) who is so well loved by the people that we know he’s heading for a gruesome end. Sure enough he’s attacked and left for dead by his rivals who include Kota Srinivasa Rao, Sayaji Shinde and various other Telugu film baddies. Somehow Shankar survives, in a coma and hidden in a secret location, and he finally comes round some years later to a changed world. His son Ajay (Mahesh) is a policeman rather than a politician as his father had planned, a number of his friends and colleagues are dead and the family have moved out of their old house. However the doctor instructs Ajay not to shock or distress his father in any way, for example by telling him the truth, as this will be bad.

Mahesh is introduced in full throttle action hero style, complete with title song. He takes on a room full of bad guys with nothing but his comic timing, guns and a whole lot of biffo.  Ajay is a super cop – invincible and fearless. He is also quite prepared to play outside the legal system if that is what it takes. After one such scene we did have a quick discussion about the omnipresent singlet under all the layers of shirts, and whether it was actually bulletproof. Whatever the reason, the bad guys consistently fail in their efforts to eliminate our hero, while he has no such issues dealing with them. Mahesh can convincingly portray a furious rage in a very low key acting style, and he is also more than capable of bantering dialogue with the comedy uncles. It’s a role tailor made for him, and while he wears his police uniform a little on the baggy side the character is a perfect fit.

Ajay does a deal with Brahmi who’s taken over their house and in the process convinces him that he’s taking part in a reality TV show which forms a large part of the comedy in the film. Ajay pretends to be a politician and keeps his life as a policeman secret from his father, while all the time plotting revenge on his fathers attackers. It’s no wonder Ajay is always on a short fuse – he must be exhausted from all the pretending. And the killing.

Ajay finds out through another investigation that mafia boss Nayak (Sonu Sood) was involved in the assault on Shankar. It looks at first as if Sonu is about to reprise his role in Ek Niranjan as the stylish and psychotic villain, but sadly his wardrobe fails to deliver. Despite the nice cravats and the random and occasional application of grey to his hair and moustache, Nayak is a subdued and fully clothed villain who just loves his little brother a bit too much.  We enjoyed the Sheila ki Jawani dance break and we think Sonu did too, but it was shortlived. Most of the posturing is left to his faithful sidekicks played by Ajay and Subbaraju. That’s fine with us since they’re both Cinema Chaat favourites and we did enjoy watching the satin shirted Subbaraju try to mime to his boss that Mahesh was really an undercover policeman. Oh for a pen when you need one…

Along the way, Ajay takes his gang of trusty colleagues to Turkey, apparently just so he can say ‘Operation Istanbul’ as there is no other discernible reason for the location. He meets Prashanthi (Samantha), a fashion designer and, unknown to him, daughter of his clownish boss (Nasser). While Ajay and Prashanthi have the usual confusions before falling in love there is no substance to Samantha’s role and she’s soon side lined. There is little chemistry between Samantha and Mahesh, maybe because they spend hardly any time together on screen. Samantha looks beautiful, and wears whatever the costume department have dreamed up. That seems to be her sole purpose in the film as she doesn’t actually do anything.

There was more comedy with M S Narayana and one very funny skit where he took off a number of films including Magadheera and Robot. A little comedy can go a long way, but here it was integrated into the main story and with Mahesh adding to the comedy dialogue there were parts that were very funny, even to us non-Telugu speakers. The rest of the audience were roaring with laughter throughout the speeches. Master Bharath put in an appearance too. Was he necessary? Probably not. And yes there were some unfortunate stereotypes masquerading as comedy, but for the most it was entertaining.

The supporting cast was very strong, if largely underutilised. Shafi, Tanikella Bharani and Sudha had little to do, and Satya Krishnan was given maybe one line of dialogue. It’s a big budget film when you can hire some of the best and then not do anything with them!

The action sequences are excellent, and it’s hard to go wrong with a good impaling. Sreenu Vaitla has come up with several ways of illustrating the ‘eye for an eye’ concept, all of them extremely gory. The camera work and special effects were great and added impact on top of the already impressive stunts. We enjoyed the flashes of lightning when Ajay was beating Nayak to a pulp, and the changes of tempo in the film speed that underpinned the dramatic tension.

The song picturisations were less successful, and the songs by S.S Thaman are not so memorable on their own. Mahesh can dance reasonably well so it was disappointing not to see more use being made of his skills, and we wondered who decided it was a good idea to give him Abhishek Bachchan’s choreography. Chulbuli Chulbuli was spectacular with plenty of feathers and some enthusiastic backing dancers, although clearly ‘inspired’ by Kilimanjaro. The nightclub song lacked a good item girl but made very good use of the male backing dancers, grinning madly in satin pants and ruffles,  and had a giant guitar shaped light-up floor so that was pleasing. We must also congratulate the set designer for the impressive selection of chandeliers and lamps, especially the chandelier in the hospital ward.

Dookudu has a charismatic hero in a strong if silly storyline, and it is a technically excellent film in the mass entertainment style. It might not be the greatest film ever made, but it was  really fun to watch, especially with the awesome Melbourne audience.