Sarrainodu

Sarrainodu

If all you want in a movie is plenty of gory fight scenes and a couple of good tunes then Sarrainodu is probably the film for you. But on the other hand, if you prefer a cohesive story with an actual plotline, semi-plausible romance and an attempt at more than one-dimensional stock characters, then best to steer clear. The one saving grace in Sarrainodu is Allu Arjun, who manages to entertain even while playing a violent, psychopathic stalker who nonetheless is actually the hero.

Bunny is Gana, ex-military, although ‘ex-‘ exactly what is never specified in a general vagueness that afflicts every character.  Gana spends his days bashing up offenders his lawyer uncle Sripathi (Srikanth) has failed to bring to justice in court, much to the frustration of his father (Jayaprakash) who feels he should be doing something more worthwhile with his life. The rest of the family dramatics follow Telugu Mass Movie Formula No 1, with the addition of a comedy track featuring Gana’s sister-in-law (Vidyullekha Raman), a Tamilian obsessed to the point of mania with sambar and Brahmi as a philandering brother-in-law. Neither of the two comedy tracks is funny and Brahmi’s sleazy character is particularly off with little relevance to the rest of the film but then that’s nothing unusual for this type of film.

With some nice symmetry, while Gana is belting the living daylights out of gangsters to reclaim land they appropriated, uber-villain Vairam Dhanush (Aadhi) is cheerfully slaughtering villagers to grab their land for his pipeline project. Vairam likes the sound of his own voice and witters on about ‘background’ as if the concept may have some significance to the plot later on. Perhaps it was meant to, but since the background of neither Gana nor Vairam (or anyone else for that matter) is given anything more than a brief mention, Vairam’s insistence on the concept makes little sense.

As a villain, Aadhi has a good sneer and appears appropriately nasty, but his character is so one-dimensional that Vairam himself has very little impact. He’s evil purely for the sake of being evil and naturally (adhering to TMMFNo1) he’s rich and privileged with the Chief Minister as his father and a large criminal network at his beck and call. Aadhi tries hard to give Vairam some personality but he has little to work with and his villain pales beside the spectacle of Gana’s righteous fury.

Gana falls in love with Hansitha Reddy (Catherine Tresa), oddly cast as a very unlikely MLA, and decides to follow the usual path to true love (TMMFNo1 again) by stalking the girl until she falls for his charms. This is even less viable than usual given that as an MLA Hansitha has the wherewithal to send Gana about his business, but bizarrely she declares her love for him instead. The path to true love is not smooth however and there is a complication in the form of Maha Lakshmi (Rakul Preet Singh), who falls heavily for Gana when he rescues her from Vairam’s thugs. Sadly neither of the romances works well at any point in the film and there is zero chemistry between Bunny and his two leading ladies, probably due to a lack of screen time together and therefore little opportunity for any relationships to develop.

Bunny is on top form here and single-handedly manages to hold the film together despite the many flaws and gaping holes in the barely-there plot. Whether he’s fighting or dancing he looks amazingly fit, and effortlessly switches between his devotion to Hansitha and his uncontrollable fury when he sees injustice against the helpless. As always he looks awesome in the song sequences where every dance routine features excellent footwork, amazing energy and that trademark Bunny grin. S.S. Thaman’s songs are catchy and memorable too, and the choreography is well suited to showcase the stylish star. He gets to wear some incredibly bright and colourful costumes and fares rather better in the wardrobe department than Catherine Tresca and Rakul Preet Singh, who both suffer from the curse of inappropriately skimpy Western style costumes in the songs, although both look stunning for the rest of the film. Anjali has a better time of it with her guest appearance in the item song blockbuster – which I love for many reasons, not the least of which being that one of the backing dancers is totally rocking a cool pair of specs – you go girl!

The other aspect of Sarrainodu that works well is the action, with fight sequences that are well imagined and expertly staged despite being incredibly violent and completely over the top. Where else would you have a fight scene on roller blades for example, or a wonderful stand-off by the hero beating numerous thugs while the participants in Puli Kali leap energetically around the fight? Most of the action contains a lot of slow-motion, but this highlights the choreography and showcases the small vignettes in the background – the bystanders, a horse bucking as it runs past and the portentously displaced gravel with every one of Gana’s footsteps. And it’s just as well that the action sequences are good as there are a lot of them – Gana spends most of the film fighting in increasingly violent and bloody encounters, throwing thugs around like confetti at a wedding and inflicting maximum damage on Vairam’s crime empire.

Boyapati Srinu adds almost every possible masala ingredient in this mish-mash of a film, but fails to provide a coherent plot or any rationale to his characters. I love a good mass entertainer – I don’t expect great character development or logic and realism in the plot, but there does need to be an actual plot and some sort of reason for the antagonism between the hero and the villain.Sarrainodu does not succeed by any of those criteria and yet I still enjoyed the film. The fight scenes are excellent, the dance sequences well worth watching and Allu Arjun puts in a magnificent performance that just about manages to overcome all the flaws in the film. One for the fans sure, but if you’re a fan this is Bunny at his best and that’s all that’s needed.

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Govindudu Andarivadele

Govindudu Andarivadele

Soaring melodrama, fantastically colourful sets and Prakash Raj are the stand-outs from GAV. Add in Charan, who has definitely improved on his emoting, and you have the bones of Krishna Vamshi’s family drama that mostly delivers what it promises. There are plenty of emotional scenes as Abhiram (Charan) attempts to reunite his family in England with the rest of his estranged relations in India, and of course there’s some local trouble and a romance thrown in for good measure. While most of the film seemed to live up to Krishna Vamshi’s preoccupation with family values, there are a few scenes here that seem to be a hold-over from a less pc era, and stand out as glaringly sexist and just plain wrong. However the rest of the film is entertaining enough despite a storyline so overused that the lack of subtitles was really never an issue!

The story opens with a déjà vu from K3G as Abhiram demonstrates just how well he can play rugby when the opposing team fail to follow the rules of the game and actually attempt to tackle. Real rugby players end up covered in mud and crushed under a few tons of Welsh full-back in my experience, but apparently not in Vamshi’s world. Abhiram lives in a very nice pad in London with his father Chandrasekhar (Rehman) and his little sister whose name I didn’t catch. Unfortunately Chandrasekhar misses out on an appointment to be Dean of Medicine at a London University and interprets this as karma due to an old rift from his own father.  No academic politics in Vamshi’s world either then, I presume!

Overnight Abhiram decides that he will be the one to make all right for his father, and heads off to India to do what he can to bring the families back together. Sadly though, he doesn’t take time to remove his rather odd pony-tail which I can only assume must have been an attempt to look ultra-hip and cool – London-ishtyle. Not my favourite look for Charan, but it did grow on me as the movie went on.

GAV - Charan

Things definitely look up once Abhiram makes it to India, does all the usual touristy things, and then heads off to his grandfather’s village. Following the standard family reconciliation template, Abhiram makes contact with the rest of his family anonymously by pretending to be a visiting agricultural student who wants to learn from family patriarch Balaraju (Prakash Raj). Balaraju runs his family and the village with a benevolent but very traditional hand while stopping his brother (Kota Srinivasa Rao) from clearing and developing the area. Living in the wonderfully pink and majorly over-decorated mansion is also Chandrasekhar’s wastrel brother Bangari (Srikanth): a man with an unfortunate propensity for mesh singlets and garish shirts. Oh, and he drinks, gambles and tries to kidnap and rape his potential bride, Chitra (Kamalinee Mukherjee). This is one of those scenes that really should never have made it in to a film in this day and age, and it does feel completely anachronistic with the rest of the story. Equally disturbing is Abhiram’s use of some photographs he has taken of his cousin Satya (Kajal Agarwal) dancing in Western clothes as a way to blackmail her. This is straight out bullying and sexual abuse, and I find it hard to believe this got past the censors in an otherwise ‘family-friendly’ film. Thankfully Satya does manage to effectively deal with Abhiram’s harassment, but it makes their subsequent romance initially less believable and Abhiram appear as a bit of a prat.

The rest of the film is much better, and that’s mainly due to excellent performances from Prakash Raj and Charan. Prakash Raj is perfect as Balaraju and he knows exactly how to play the strict but compassionate head of a large family. He never puts a foot wrong and wrings every possible drop of emotion out of his time on screen. He even manages to make stick fighting and motorbike riding emotional events, as he unknowingly bonds with his grandson. Jayasudha is just as good as Abhiram’s grandmother, and again she manages to take her overly emotional scenes and tame them down to something more realistic and believable.

Charan gets a chance to show that he can play more than just an action hero and he definitely rises to the challenge. His Abhiram has more shading than other characters I’ve seen Charan play, and he conveys plenty of emotion and feeling in his speeches, even though I couldn’t understand a word! Despite the initially rocky start, there is plenty of chemistry and some major sparkage in the romance between Abhiram and Satya. Charan is one of the few actors that interacts well with Kajal in this respect and their romance really does light up the screen. Charan does manage to stick close to his real love though, as seen in this song mainly set in and around Petra. I wonder if it’s written into every contract that he must get at least one scene with horses? Kajal gets rather short-changed in the choreography here, although Charan doesn’t actually get to dance much either and sadly most of the songs have more emoting than dancing.

The rest of the cast are all capable and fit well into their roles. Rao Ramesh, Posani Krishna Murali and Adarsh Balakrishna are part of Kota Srinivasa Rao’s opposing family but never feel terribly menacing. Adarsh’s character is mainly just very shouty and aggressive, and the various fight scenes, which appear to have been structured around rugby tactics, aren’t up to Peter Hein’s usual high standard. The film looks gorgeous though. The pink palace is amazing – Satya has a stunning peacock painting on her wall, and most of the other rooms are similarly adorned with fantastical artwork and gorgeous furniture. I would live there!

GAV - the pink palace

The emotional quotient does head into overload at times and the ending is particularly excessive, but that doesn’t really seem to matter since the whole point of the story is overblown sentiment. As a straightforward family drama GAV works well enough despite the cliché-ridden storyline and the strong performances help push it over the line. Well worth watching for Prakash Raj and Charan, particularly when you can marvel at the wonders of the pink palace as a bonus.

Kanaa Kanden

This was K.V. Anand’s directorial debut in 2005, and like his film Ayan it is based on a novel by Subha (D. Suresh and A.N. Balakrishnan). Since Subha were also scriptwriters for the excellent Ko, I had high hopes for Kanaa Kanden, and it doesn’t disappoint. Sure, there are a few flaws and Vivek’s comedy in particular feels forced and often inappropriate, but the performances from the leads are excellent and the story suspenseful and gripping right to the end. What starts out as a love story with the innocent and idealistic hero struggling to make his mark in the world, suddenly becomes a much darker thriller with unexpected twists and a climax that makes use of science as well as some good old-fashioned biffo.  It’s different, often surprising and even manages to make desalination sexy!

Srikanth is Bhaskar, a rather idealistic PhD student who has found a way to make pure water cheaply from sea-water using the rather improbably titled technique of Quantum Chromo Dynamics. It’s a work of love in many ways as his mother was a water carrier whose labours paid Bhaskar’s way through school and her daily struggles inspired him to find a better way to supply water. He’s also influenced by the water shortages in the city as he sees the people of his neighbourhood queue for the water trucks on a daily basis.

Indeed – what does Quark theory have to do with desalination?! However, it sets the scene for Bhaskar’s rather naïve idea to give his patented technique to the government as a way to provide cheap potable water for everyone, but despite the (eventual) stamp of support from his university he fails to get any government interest in his project. Bhaskar is an everyday guy with a big heart and even bigger ideas, but his innocence seems to work against him in his struggle to realise his dreams. Luckily he has plenty of support from both his glamorous college mentor Vasantha and his new wife Archana (Gopika). Srikanth suits the character of the slightly scruffy scientist and does a great job of blending the characteristics of a typical work obsessed engineer with those of an idealistic dreamer and a guy with a messy bedroom.

The film actually opens with Archana’s wedding, but it’s not Bhaskar who is the groom. Bhaskar has gone back to his village for the wedding of his childhood friend, and if he’s not totally happy about the fact that she is getting married to someone else, he doesn’t give anything away to the bride. But then Archana discovers that her groom is unfaithful and she calls off the wedding, finally leaving with Bhaskar to escape her brother’s anger. Although she moves to Chennai with Bhaskar as his friend, it’s not long before the friendship deepens into romance and the two get married. The romance is sweet and also very uninhibited with Archana just as happy as her husband to initiate kulfi moments (as she calls them).

Both Srikanth and Gopika have some great on-screen chemistry and their relationship is kept realistic with a mix of romance, friendship and just a little conflict. This is the second film I’ve seen with Gopika and she really has a very expressive face. Her reactions are also very natural and she is practical and down to earth opposite to Srikanth’s obsessive scientist.

Bhaskar decides that the only way to get his idea off the ground is to build a prototype factory and let his results speak for themselves. Vasantha has some land which she donates to Bhaskar for his project, but he still has to raise funds for the factory. At this point Archana meets up with an old college friend Madan (Prithviraj) and since he is a business consultant, he offers to help Bhaskar find funding for his project. In what seems to be the answer to Bhaskar and Archana’s prayers, Madan finally offers to lend Bhaskar the money himself, but in reality this is just the start their problems.

Prithviraj is outstanding in his role as the smooth talking Madan and his ultra-controlled and polished businessman provides a good contrast to the passionate Bhaskar. It’s hard to say much about his character without giving away too much of the story, so I’ll just say that you have to watch to find out why he makes such a good villain and why I ended up loathing Madan.

There are a few plot holes and in particular a decision made by Archana which doesn’t seem to fit into the rest of the story, but the rest is excellent. The only other problem I have with Kanaa Kanden is the comedy track with Vivek which was too long and too obtrusive. Vivek can be funny, and he did have a few one-liners which made me smile, but there was just too much of him in a side-plot which was totally irrelevant to the rest of the story. There are so many clever little touches in the rest of the film that it’s disappointing that K.V. Anand felt the need to include such clichéd comedy. The songs by Vidyasagar are pleasant but fairly forgettable and the item song seems totally unnecessary – particularly since there was very little actual dancing. This one is quite fun though with Bhaskar, Archana and Madan burning up the dance floor and generally looking like they are thoroughly enjoying themselves.

I really liked the theme of water which runs through the film, and the bid to raise awareness of an issue which is a problem in many major cities around the world. To emphasize this central theme, water appeared in some way in many scenes. This was often just in the background, such as the slum children bringing water to the men building the desalination plant, or the bottles of drinking water outside the bank where Bhaskar unsuccessfully applies for a loan. It’s a small touch but one that works very well and shows the amount of detail in the film.

The cinematography by S. Soundar Rajan is excellent and the shots are beautifully framed. There is a fight scene in the forest where the action is all slightly blurred which gives a sense of the confusion and disorientation Bhaskar experiences and is just one of the techniques used to add texture to the film. Worth watching for a more unusual storyline, an earthy and realistic romance and for Prithviraj’s quite detestable villain. 4 stars.