Inji Iddupazhagi

Inji Iddupazhagi-title

Ever since she was a little girl Sweety has been collecting fortune cards from a machine, all of them telling her that happy is beautiful, and goodness and a genuine smile will win the day.

Grown up Sweety (Anushka Shetty) still collects these fortunes, and believes that her value is more than the size of her thighs. Her mother Rajeshwari (Urvashi) wants to see her married off, and blames Sweety’s size for her single status. While Sweety remains resilient under family pressure, and rejects many an unwanted match, she does tire of all the BS. Sweety meets fitness freak Abhi (Arya) and while the pair turn down the proposed match, a friendship develops. Sweety realises she actually has feelings for him, but clueless Abhi chooses skinny model looking do-gooder Simran (Sonal Chauhan) as his girlfriend. Sweety knows she missed her chance, and starts to believe that if she slims down, cute boys will like her. When her friend Jyothi (Pavani Gangireddy) becomes seriously ill from treatment at the dodgy Size Zero clinic, Sweety takes on Satyanand (Prakash Raj), the clinic owner and nominal villain.

Sweety is a fantastic character and I am so happy Anushka took the risk and did this film. I also love that she didn’t go the fat suit route, and probably had to eat like a non-celebrity for months and months to get Sweety’s physique.

All too often the fat chick in films is socially inept, asexual, and a charity case – but Sweety is sexy, funny and confident.  She isn’t desperate to get married and will not pretend to be someone she isn’t just to please some bloke and his mother. She has some good friends, enjoys her work, loves food, and has an eye for a hot guy. She also has a rich fantasy life, a temper, she makes mistakes, and makes amends. I loved that family pressure all about looking better for boys did little to budge Sweety, but when she found her own motivation she was sensible and healthy in the changes in her lifestyle. And she never became a stick insect. I also love that this is a South Indian film that revolves around a woman and there is no revenge or rapeyness in the plot. It’s a really simple, engaging, character driven story and Prakash Kovelamudi and Kanika Dhillon give their great cast the material to bring it to life.

Arya is a bit of a weak link. He is very personable and looks good but I never got any emotional development from Abhi, and Anushka’s more nuanced performance overshadowed him. And also – Abhi is a bit of an idiot. Sonal Chauhan is a good pair for him as she is also adequate without being interesting as Simran.

Abhi did engineer the right of reply for Sweety to give her version of a foxy item, the direct retort to Size Zero Clinic’s skanky advertisement. I wish Anushka was a better dancer, but again I am so happy they just went for it. It isn’t all that long ago that Jayamalini and Jyothilaxmi were shaking it for all it was worth, but the trend towards downsizing female bodies makes Sweety’s sassy dance seem quite startling.

Prakash Raj is more of a sleazy used car salesman than true villain. He makes the most of his big speeches and I did like his dedication to himself as the brand and the brand as himself. Adivi Sesh is suitably puppy-eyed as smitten Shekhar, the nice rich man who falls for Sweety as she is. There are comedy uncles, but they actually more or less serve a purpose. And Master Bharath plays a decidedly not size zero young lad. Rao Ramesh makes a short appearance as Sweety’s dad who died while she was still a child. Impish Mouli Thatha (Gollapudi Maruti Rao) loves his granddaughter and is more likely to feed her a jalebi than make her run a lap of the park. Urvashi is note perfect as Sweety’s grumpy but loving and ultimately supportive mother. You can really see where Sweety gets her backbone from, and understand why they clash.

The film is quite fanciful but stays within my tolerance for whimsy – more like Chungking Express (which gets a name check) than Amelie levels of whimsy. It’s beautifully filmed and has a fairytale air in some scenes. The camera freezes some moments, and then explores the scene layer by layer. There’s a device of cheesy but sincere fortune cookie messages that Sweety writes, a nice extension of her fondness for the positive messages she collected for herself. And there was a nice pay it forward demonstrated with said fortune cookie. If I am being picky I have an issue with the choice of wafer as a stand-in for the fortune cookies as they are what one friend calls “povo wafers” – the cheap ones you get in rubbishy gift hampers. I am not as strongly opposed to the cylindrical wafer as she is, while I agree they’re a bit sad. But I digress.

In lieu of any of the traditional action elements, the film loads up on star cameos and a massive spin class with special effects. The film community gets their lycra on to support Sweety’s campaign against Size Zero. Rana is hilariously Hulk like, flexing as as his avatar goes all Bhallaladeva on his animated foes. Tamannah has her game face on and looks like she is set for days. Other familiar faces included Jiiva, Nagarjuna, Revathy and Kajal Aggarwal. All of this is juxtaposed with dodgy animation and effects and some excellent Prakash Raj scenery chewing. So that replaced the usual car explosions and dismemberings quite nicely.

I missed out on seeing Size Zero on its two (yes two!) shows in Melbourne, but luckily the Tamil version, Inji Iddupazhagi, is easily available online and with English subs. (Thanks SakhiSpeaks for the HeroTalkies tip! And you can read her review here.) I love this movie and hope it reaches a wide and appreciative audience. 4 1/2  stars!

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Pandaga Chesko (2015)

Pandaga Chesko

This is the first film from ‘Energetic Star’ Ram that I’ve seen in the cinema, a fact that seemed surprising until I realised that Ram’s last film release was in 2013. I’m always wary with films billed as comedy, and Pandaga Chesko isn’t an exception to the rule that they should be approached with caution. However, surprisingly it isn’t Brahmi’s stale sleazy comedy that’s the biggest issue here, or the usual surfeit of comedy uncles with no real role in the story. Rather, the plot itself is tired, repetitive and well past it’s use by date. The story follows a young NRI’s return to India to attempt to reunite two families – sound familiar? Attarintiki Daredi, Govindudu Andarivadele and a whole host of other films have told this story before, and told it better. However Ram is personable and definitely energetic, although his performance and the best efforts of the support cast aren’t quite enough to save the film from being anything more than a one time watch for me.

Ram is Karthik, an NRI living in Portugal and a successful businessman running his own business. His success is enough to make him a candidate for marriage with Anushka (Sonal Chauhan) who is also a successful businesswoman although from her behaviour it seems barely conceivable that she could organise a two-ticket raffle let alone a business empire. But as her ability to play rugby to win a sports club presumably shows, she is a woman of hidden talents and a rather surprisingly slutty wardrobe for a business tycoon.

After Karthik and Anushka meet and decide that a merger would give them both the best chance to succeed in their respective businesses, Karthik learns of a complaint against his factory in India and heads off to fix the problem a month before his wedding. He’s also found out about a feud in his mother’s family, and despite not having shown any family feelings up until now, decides that while he is back in India he might as well sort out that little problem too.

However it’s not going to be as easy as Karthik thinks. For a start, no sooner does Karthik see Green Army founder and activist Divya (Rakul Preet Singh) than he falls in love with her. And the family feud proves to be tricky too, particularly when Karthik confuses the issue by including various other people pretending to be someone else. And muddying the waters further is Weekend Venkat Rao (Brahmi) sent to bring Karthik home for his wedding with Anushka but who spends his time indulging in cheap and nasty comedy instead.

Most of the comedy is in the dialogue so I didn’t find the film as funny as the rest of the audience, and since the physical humour mainly comes courtesy of Brahmi it’s generally crass and not particularly amusing. M S Narayana does have a small role but is generally not well used, while Abhimanyu Singh is reasonably funny in his role as a bumbling goonda in love with Divya. Divya and Karthik get some of the better comedy scenes too, although I don’t think all of it was actually supposed to be funny! They do make a likeable couple though and their scenes together are the most enjoyable part of the film.

The best performances come from the veterans in the cast including Jayaprakash, Sai Kumar, Raghu Babu and Pavitra Lokesh to name just a few of the large support crew. The feud between Karthik’s uncle and his erstwhile best friend is fairly standard fare but the actors give it their all and this part of the film works well. Rakul Preet Singh is good and has plenty of chemistry with Ram that serves their romance well, but Sonal Chauhan is a disaster in a role that doesn’t suit her and is badly written to boot. Ram doesn’t get much chance to show off his acting skills here either but he does well with what he is given – and if nothing else he does have good wardrobe choices and an energetic dance style. However even the choreography isn’t novel and although the songs from S Thaman are fine and generally well placed they don’t stand out as anything special.

Overall Pandaga Chesko does raise a few laughs but is let down by the disappointingly derivative and formulaic story. It’s frustrating since the film is well made with a great cast and generally good performances which do at least go some way towards making up for the tired plot. It’s not a terrible film, and it mainly works as a comedy, but it just needs a newer angle on a familiar tale and perhaps a few less comedy uncles. Worth watching for Ram and his energetic dance sequences, the romance scenes between Karthik and Divya and Arthur Wilson’s excellent cinematography.

Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap

This is it! This is what I’ve been waiting for in Hindi cinema. Finally, a film that resembles the Bollywood masala movies I love from yesteryear. Sure it lacks a few songs and the story isn’t all it could be, but the action is right back where the angry young man started in a fun film that delivers plenty of masala goodness.

The story revolves around Vijju, a retired hit man who has come back from Paris ostensibly for one last job. The contract is to kill ACP Karan (Sonu Sood) who has vowed to eliminate the gangsters in his area of Mumbai. This has severely put a crimp in the daily dealings of Kabir Bhai (Prakash Raj)  who is determined to eliminate Karan before Karan eliminates him. Added in is a romance between Karan and his old school friend Tanya, whose best friend Amrita just happens to be the daughter of one of Vijju’s old flames. We also get Hema Malini as Vijju’s estranged wife and a great performance from Subbaraju as one of Kabir Bhai’s henchmen.

Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap is a tribute to Amitabh, by Amitabh. He is very much the hero, complete with swaggering walk and hero dismount from a motorbike. The only thing missing is the patented Southern Style Hero Run, and we can cut him a bit of slack on that. There are some great fight scenes, and while Amitabh does look a little stiff, Vijay has done a good job in making the fight sequences look credible. The ‘angry young man’ attitude is there in spades and the whole film hinges on Amitabh’s ability to command our attention. This he does with ease, even when sharing the screen with Sonu Sood in a very tight police uniform! And it’s not just because of his stylish scarves, nifty jackets and very cool specs and shades (although I must admit these don’t really say Paris to me – much more Hyderabad filmi style), Amitabh still has the commanding presence that made him a star in the seventies. These are my favourite of his many pairs of glasses – very cool!

Sonu Sood is more understated than usual in his role as the police officer, but he comes into his own in the action scenes and when he is interrogating his prisoners. I really do prefer him in negative roles and every time he slips into a more ‘bad’ persona he is much better. His romance with Tanya isn’t very convincing at all, although this may be because Sonal Chauhan is very wooden in her role. She does improve in the second half, but by that stage it’s really too late for me to have any interest in her character. Charmy though is excellent as Amrita and has some great comedy. She makes the most of her role and is impressive in her scenes with Amitabh. Another very good performance from Charmy, and I really hope we get to see her in some meatier heroine roles as she is such a good actress.  Although Hema Malini only has a small role in the film she makes an impact and is as good as ever. It would have been nice to have a little more of her Sita Malhotra and a little less of Kamini and her histrionics but you can’t have everything.

Perhaps now that Prakash Raj seems to have a contract to appear in every single Telugu and Tamil film made, he’s now reaching out to include Bollywood in that list – this can only be a good thing. He is in fine form here as the chief gangster and brilliant in the final scenes. It’s also great to see Makarand Despande and his wild head of hair make another effective appearance as one of the gangsters.

It’s not a totally great film though and there are some flaws. The pacing is uneven in the first half and there are times when the set-up begins to drag. Raveena Tandon overplays her role as Kamini and although there are some funny moments, it’s all too cringe-worthy to make her the femme fatale she tries to be. It’s a shame as it is great to see her back on screen again. There is also a lack of songs and very little dancing. However, the one song we do get is a fun remix of old Amitabh hits and features a cast of backpacker back-up dancers. Go Meera Go!

Puri Jagannath is probably most well known for his brilliant film Pokiri with Mahesh Babu, but he has made many other hit Telugu films and his style of film making is very clear here.  Given that I’m mainly watching Telugu and Tamil films these days I think that plays a large part in my enjoyment of Bbuddha Hoga Terra Baap. The fight scenes and the final shoot-out are also very southern in style but work well within the story and are very well done. The writing does include a number of references back to old Amitabh films but I although I recognised some of this I wasn’t always sure exactly which film it referenced. It does pull the focus of the film back to Amitabh and the film works best when considered as a tribute to his films of the seventies. One for Amitabh fans and anyone who enjoys their movies with more masala than logic.

The angry young man is back – just make sure that you don’t call him old!

Temple says: I don’t think this is anywhere close to being a great masala movie. It plays as a great tribute to Amitabh, and I did enjoy a lot of it on that level. But. If you aren’t familiar with the Big B in his heyday, I don’t know that a lot of the dialogues and visuals will work as well, or the one big musical number Go Meera Go which is a pallid remix of old hits. There is really no story for the first half, it is Amitabh reprising some of his best known moments. It’s all filmed beautifully, and with the flair and pace I expect from Puri Jagganadh, but there is a clear separation of the plot happening for supporting characters, and Viju being a showcase role with little connection. This changes in the second half when all of a sudden Viju has a past and an emotional life and it’s all supposed to be terribly sympathetic. By then it was too late to change Mr Bachchan into the aging hit man with family concerns so it fell flat for me. I also had flashbacks to the hideous emotional manipulation and melodrama of Baghban as soon as I saw Hema Malini.  Occasionally Amitabh also seemed to be channelling sleazy Sam from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna so that didn’t help either.

I cannot imagine better casting (apart from the obvious) to play Son of the B than Sonu Sood. He plays it pretty straight but seemed a bit too uptight in some scenes. It may have been the very snug fit of his uniform that caused this effect! Raveena Tandon was terrible. Her orgasmic whimpering every time she spoke to or about  Viju and hammy acting were among the few false notes in the supporting ensemble work. I cheered (all by myself, in a near silent cinema) for Prakash Raj and Subbaraju as I knew they ‘got’ the style and would add the level of commitment to badness I love in Telugu films. I didn’t like the girls’ roles at all, and I seem to have managed to almost forget them already. They were just fodder for (often sleazy) jokes, and made too many stupid decisions. I like Charmme but this role was a disappointment for me.

See it just to see Amitabh Bachchan strut his stuff, even though he does get some hideous denim in which to strut. And he did a lovely job singing the beautifully simple and melodious Hal e Dil. I think the Go Meera Go song sums it all up for me though. Once I saw that I just wanted to go back to the originals, not the lightweight remake.