118

Poster

K.V. Guhan moves from DOP to director in this paranormal thriller starring Kalyan Ram and Nivetha Thomas. It’s fast-paced, to the extent that at times plot points feel rushed as K.V. Guhan packs a lot of story into the 2 hour runtime. This dilutes some of the tension, as do some rather gaping plot holes, but for the most part 118 is an entertaining and even occasionally surprising tale.

The film opens with the graphic and violent beating of a woman which is quickly revealed to be a dream so shocking that it wakes up investigative reporter Guatham (Kalyan Ram). The time on the clock is 1.18am so Gautham wipes his fevered brow and goes back to sleep before heading out the next morning on a jeep safari. He doesn’t appear to think any more about the dream, until 6 months later when he has exactly the same dream again, waking at the same time in the same room at the same resort. The room is #118, the time is again 1.18am and this time Gautham takes it as ‘a sign’. It’s never explicitly mentioned that this seems to be some sort of ghostly visitation – not even when Gautham tracks down other guests who stayed in the same room, but the implication is that this is an imprint of a horrible event rather than a foretelling of one that’s yet to come.

Gautham has a helpful police officer friend, courtesy of a big political money laundering scam he helped to bust previously. This lets him track phone calls and find out confidential information that he would never manage to elicit by himself. A missing girl in the same location eventually gives him the information to identify the woman in his dream as Aadya (Nivetha Thomas) and aided by his fiancée Medha (Shalini Pandey) and friend (Prabhas Sreenu) he starts to investigate what happened in room 118.

One of the problems I have with the film is that everything happens a little too easily for Gautham. As an investigative reporter, stories just seem to fall into his lap, and there are a few too many coincidences during his inquiries that lead him to various clues. He finds the site where in his dream he saw Aadya’s car being pushed off a cliff rather too conveniently, and then, without even stopping to consider the consequences, he jumps into the water to see if there is indeed a car at the bottom. And even though the police are aware of the missing persons cases, they don’t seem to be investigating at all, giving Gautham free rein to trample all over potential evidence and alert possible suspects at every turn. The villains too are rather clichéd, resorting to the usual threats, ineffective ambushes and intimidation by road rage. Their grand plan is also nonsensical and would never have had any chance of succeeding but then to be fair that does apply to most filmi villains.

There is also some very shonky pseudo-science as Gautham consults a ‘dream-doctor’ (Nasser) who helps him experience what he calls ‘lucid dreaming’ (which is an actual phenomenon, although not quite as described here) to help get to the bottom of his dream. This involves wires attached to his head (of course) and pretty pictures of neurones firing but is really just a way for Gautham to quickly find the answer without going through some more rigorous investigative processes. Nonetheless, it’s a novel approach and works reasonably well given the paranormal theme of the film.

Kalyan Ram is good as the man trying to get to the bottom of a nightmare and at least his job gives him most of the skills he needs to be able to track down clues. However, the speed at which he discovers key points doesn’t leave much room for character development since the film moves quickly from one action scene to the next. He manages to get across the idea that Gautham is a man dedicated to discovering the truth and does a good job with displaying various emotions as the details of the case some to light. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kalyan Ram in a lead role before, and he carries the movie easily with good screen presence and enough charisma to make Gautham a likeable hero.

Although she doesn’t have much screentime, Nivetha Thomas is excellent in a flash-back sequence that explains exactly what Aadya was doing and how she ended up in room 118. She has the best developed role since she gets some back story, plus she has morals and principles which are a sure sign she is going to suffer for them. She’s an accomplished actor and has a serene presence that helps to explain why Gautham is so passionate about finding out what actually happened to Aadya. I really liked her in Chaappa Kurish and she’s even better here where she gets to take on a meatier role.

Prabhas Sreenu is fairly subdued in his role as Gautham’s friend who’s always that step of two behind, but he fits well into the role and provides a good sounding board as required. However, I couldn’t see the point of the romantic track with Shalini Pandey or why it was necessary to add some scenes with Gautham’s mother (Geetha Bhascker) since neither contributed anything to the story. Both are absolutely fine in their small roles, but they had little to do and even less relevance to the story.

While there are some issues with the film, the overall story and the performances of Kalyan Ram and Nivetha Thomas make this worth a watch in the cinema. The story moves along quickly and although there are some clichéd ideas, the investigation itself is different enough to be interesting. I enjoyed watching this, and did even jump once or twice although I did also laugh a few times at some of the more ridiculous notions. The film is well made, it generally looks slick and polished and Shekar Chandra’s soundtrack is better than average although this is mainly background music as there is only one song. At only 2 hours this one feels short and snappy too. One to watch for Nivetha Thomas , Kalyan Ram and the novel puzzle he has to solve.

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Mungaru Male 2

mungaru-male-2

Yogaraj Bhat’s 2006 Mungaru Male was a big hit so it’s not too surprising that the story has been revisited in this 2016 reboot written and directed by Shashank. However, although there is a Preetham and a Nandini, a pre-arranged marriage to disrupt and plenty of rain, Shashank doesn’t quite manage to recapture the magic of the first film. It’s a reasonable enough romance but nowhere near as engaging as the original, and with an unlikeable hero in the first half and a ridiculously over-dramatic and improbable climax it’s newcomer Neha Shetty and the beauty of Rajasthan and Karnataka that make the biggest impressions.

Preetham (Ganesh) is the immature and brattish son of multi-millionaire businessman V. Ravichandran, whose major problem in life is that he is easily bored. The film starts with some dodgy CGI of a helicopter as Preetham pulls out all the stops to impress Shreya (Aindrita Ray), the current object of his desire. However before long Preetham has had enough of his new relationship and unceremoniously dumps Shreya using incredibly juvenile dialogue, while Shreya reacts unrealistically well to being told she is too dull for the spoilt rich kid. Preetham’s childish behaviour continues (although I suspect he’s supposed to look spontaneous and hip), as he runs off on a train trip to Rajasthan. On the train he meets Nandini (Neha Shetty) and the two abandon the tour to experience the colour and vibrancy of Rajasthan by themselves as temporary girlfriend and boyfriend.

This part of the film works as a standard romance, apart from the frequently childish behaviour from Preetham. Nandini also has a tendency to be obnoxious at times, although to a lesser extent, and at least she is never as deliberately cruel as Preetham. Perhaps unthinkingly selfish is the best description as it’s Nandini who decides where to go and what to do. Thankfully Shekar Chandra makes the most of the stunning landscapes and colourful locals, so at least the film looks amazing in these scenes.

Post interval the action moves to rain-drenched Karnataka as Preetham discovers that he has fallen in love with Nandini and finally decides to try and find her. This he does, just in time to learn that she is engaged to a US based doctor who is planning to move back to India and open a charity hospital built by Nandini’s father P. Ravi Shankar. How’s that for perfect matchmaking! To add more drama, there is a family connection behind the marriage which supposedly makes it even more imperative that the marriage goes ahead, but which seemed to me to be more of a good reason why the whole thing should be called off.  Sadhu Kokila adds some humour to the proceedings while V. Ravichandran is good as Preetham’s concerned father.

Shankar tries to add a new twist to the Mungaru Male storyline here and to be fair it works reasonably well up to a point. Ganesh’s Preetham becomes more likeable once he falls in love with Nandini and the two have some better chemistry together in the second half. The songs are also more appropriately placed and generally well visualised while the stunning waterfalls and beautiful scenery in Karnataka add to the romantic atmosphere.  In fact it doesn’t go too pear-shaped until the last 20 minutes when the slow but sweet romance suddenly switches to a crazy action sequence and completely ridiculous ending. There are even matching head bandages and bloodstains for the lead pair as they career around a hospital trying to find each other. It’s so silly that it becomes hilarious, although I suspect that it’s meant to be dramatic and tense instead.

There are a few franchises where sequels have worked well, but more usually they fail to live up to the original, and such is the case here. The best parts of the film are undoubtedly the songs by Arjun Janya and the beautiful cinematography from Shekar Chandra, but that’s not enough to save the film. Ganesh tries hard, but his character is too spoilt and brattish in the first half to allow any empathy for Preetham later on. Neha Shetty is good and does well with this more modern and independent Nandini, although she loses much of her spark once she admits her love for Preetham. Just for once I’d like to see the heroine not become a wet blanket once she falls in love! Sadly Mungaru Male 2 just doesn’t live up to expectations and is probably one for the fans. Or wait to watch on DVD when you can skip forward past Preetham’s bratty behaviour and enjoy the travels through Rajasthan and Karnataka instead.