Rachcha

Rey! 3am and we were still discussing Charan’s amazing hair, his dedication to bringing the cape back and the total masala fun of Rachcha.  Another adventure without subtitles, we saw it with an appreciative audience notable for the number of women attending. Usually we hear a high pitched squeal of fandom and look around to see a dude in a suit. But Charan seems to bring the ladies out, and we can see why. There’s plenty of action, excellent choreography and at least for Charan, some superb costumes. Charan channels Chiru in his own inimitable style and with a nod to the camera that says he knows what we’re thinking, while Tamanna holds her own in both the dancing and drama stakes.

The film starts with the opening banner of Mega Supergood Films and, since any reference at all to the word ‘mega’ had the audience screaming, ensured that we were deafened right away. After a flashback involving young Raj, a significant necklace and the extremely dramatic death of his parents, we learn that present day Raj (Ram Charan) is being brought up by comedy stalwart M.S. Narayana and his wife (Sudha). ‘Betting’ Raj spends his days, well, betting and when his adopted father needs a liver transplant it’s the ‘logical’ way for him to raise money. He accepts a wager with James (Ajmal Ameer) to make the daughter of a rich businessman fall in love with him. Raj and James have a history involving a train, 2 cars and a game of chicken, so Raj is not without some reservations, but his situation is desperate.

Chaitra (Tamanna) is that rich girl. Chaitra never seems to go anywhere without her escort of 2 motorbike outriders, 4 SUVs and various bodyguards, so it’s a real challenge for Raj to approach her at all. Luckily he has accomplices (a flock of comedy uncles) so Raj is able to attend to the serious business of flirtation. In one of the many fun tributes to Chiranjeevi sprinkled through the film Raj infiltrates her medical college to the strains of Shankar Dada MBBS and all the collar popping and swagger that goes with it. Naturally it doesn’t take long for Chaitra to appreciate the well styled hair and many charms of Raj. Or does she? Tamanna is a very capable actress, and she does get a bit more to do in Rachcha than we expected. Unfortunately she does get a few scenes where she seems more like an escaped mental patient as she marvels at waterfalls, flowers, a fence painted yellow etc.

 

As we knew from Badrinath, Tamanna has a great imagination for song costumes and accessories. Raj appears in a couple of full length capes and with a number of scarves. At one stage we thought perhaps she had been expecting a hero more famous for his multiple layers of singlets, shirts, jackets and scarves, but Charan wore it all with aplomb. The curse of the blind stylist only seems to strike at Tamanna but does strike hard and often. The constant mini skirt and short shorts outfits were not particularly flattering, and the choreography and camera angles didn’t help.

Mani Sharma’s songs aren’t brilliant musically speaking, but the picturisations are awesomely entertaining and the choreography is excellent. The costume teams go all out (poor Tamanna) and the dancing is infectiously energetic and engaging. Charan just gets better and better. He has a good musicality and a sense of the overall appearance of a song. He doesn’t fall into the trap of substituting too many tricks and gymnastics for dancing. It’s a pleasure to watch him, and his facial expressions in the songs are highly entertaining. Tamanna is his match in energy and expression.

The two actually dance together rather than just using the heroine purely for her glamour quotient and it feels like a real partnership. There isn’t any sizzling chemistry but more of a camaraderie which works well enough to make their romance acceptable, especially considering the rather dubious origins in a bet.

Chaitra’s father Bellary (Mukesh Rishi) is not impressed by Raj and when the pair escape he sends for the big guns in the form of Dev Gill in manic villain mode. You can tell he is insane because he wears a coat inspired by Noddy and Big Ears or a high school production of Pirates of Penzance. He had a pathological attachment to this coat and he never appeared without it. This diluted his menace considerably as we giggled uncontrollably every time we saw him.

The second half explains the real reason for the  bet, and sets up the climax. The flashback episode is too long but it leads up to an excellent fight. The action scenes are brilliantly choreographed, using Charan’s physical skills to great effect. Raj was a resourceful and efficient fighter, usually going for the classic ‘kick em in the nuts’ approach rather than anything too impractical. Although he used a flaming wheel and even threw a motorbike at his atttackers in one scene so he was never dull. Sampath Nandi toyed with the audience when he put Charan, Dev Gill and a helicopter in one scene, teasing with the possibility of a Magadheera replay. Rather sensibly the director chose to leave Charan on the ground and let him deal with his problems the old-fashioned way – with a very impressive axe.

There is a pointless appearance by Ali. Brahmi, Venu Madhav and Srinivasa Reddy were moderately amusing in their roles and at least the story did have a flimsy reason for their presence. Srinivasa Rao Kota, Nasser, Raghu Babu and various others turn up and do their usual thing. Satya Krishnan makes a small appearance in a fun women vs men backyard cricket match, and there are some really enjoyable little moments with minor characters. We have to give a big shout-out to the backing dancers and the rather listless ‘dance students’ for their efforts. The comedy and subplots were all more or less tied to the main story which helped keep things moving along. The audience dissolved into hysterics when a man at a roadside restaurant knocked back his drink and then picked up a chicken and sniffed it. Granted that alone was pretty funny, but we did wonder if perhaps there was a reference there that we didn’t spot?

There were plenty of references throughout the film to Chiranjeevi movies and Charan wears a number of outfits that are pure Chiru style. White trousers, black socks and white loafers made a come back, as did loud shirts and colour blocking. He has his father’s mannerisms down pat and it added another dimension to the film to see how many of these tributes we could pick up. And we think it is a smart way for him to deal with the pressure of expectation – he is always compared to his father, so why not own those references and play them with his own style. We were a little disappointed that the significant necklace (which Chaitra could only discover late in the story) meant that Charan kept to a rather modest look, but Vaana Vaana with the dancing in the rain was some compensation.

We have now seen both the original Vaana Vaana from Gang Leader and this remix on the big screen, and the Mega Men certainly know their way around a rain song!

Rachcha is Charan’s vehicle and he delivers a full mass performance that is exciting and very watchable. Tamanna got plenty of cheers from our audience for her dancing and at her speech just before the climax. The songs and fights are so well executed that they had us cheering along too. It’s a visually pleasing film, and has a sense of fun in amongst the action and drama. The story is a familiar one, very much inspired by the type of films Chiru made back in the day, but who says that’s a bad thing? Despite a plethora of comedy uncles, Sampath Nandi delivers a fun and entertaining film that we both want to watch again.

Ayan

It took me a couple of films before I started to appreciate Suriya but after Pithamagan and Vaaranam Aayirami, I began to understand why so many people raved about him. The lovely Dolce recommended this film in a comment and after watching I am indeed a complete Suriya convert! Although the film is standard masala action fare with a paper-thin storyline, what makes it stand out are excellent performances from the lead actors and good well-rounded characterisations. In particular the scene-stealing Jagan Ayan is a surprise bonus in his role as a friend to Suriya’s character Deva.

The story follows a bad guys vs. good guys format although the good guys are smugglers and not exactly on the side of law and order. Suriya is Deva, an MSc graduate in computer engineering who works as a smuggler for his deceased father’s friend Dass (Prabhu). Despite his criminal activities, Dass has principles and refuses to smuggle drugs, preferring to deal in pirate DVD’s and diamonds. Now these seem to be at opposite ends of the smuggling scale to me, and I can’t imagine anyone being involved in both, but it’s not the most glaringly hard to swallow plot point, so it’s probably best not to dwell on it.

Dass is at the top of his game and apparently ranks as the number one smuggler in Chennai, a fact which does not go down well with his rival Kamalesh (Akashdeep Saigal). Kamalesh is a fairly pathetic villain, who has plenty of ambition but not much else going for him. Rather incongruously for a wannabe tough guy, he has very long hair, which he tosses back at every available opportunity and looks more like an aspiring supermodel than gangster. As far as criminal activities go he’s inept and bungling and, since Kamalesh looks like someone who wouldn’t manage to get an extra bottle of wine through customs let alone diamonds, his attempts to be top smuggler appear to be doomed to failure.

Chitti (Jagan Ayan) turns up as a hopeful member of the gang and after he does Dass a favour, is accepted into the group. He rapidly becomes an indispensable part of the team and Deva’s best friend, and the two have some excellent chemistry together. Jagan Ayan is brilliant as Chitti and I love the way his character is well developed and detailed for a non-hero role. Chitti has many shades of grey and this, along with the fact that his motivation is simply to make more money and enjoy life, makes him a more realistic character than expected from his first appearance.

Although Chitti’s character provides most of the comedy in the film, he does have a more serious part to play in the proceedings later and is just as good in the more dramatic moments. There isn’t a separate comedy track thankfully, and all of the comedy is integrated well into the main story. Deva also gets his fair share and this song features a number of ‘disguises’ worn by Deva – many of which are actually characters from his previous films. While I think he disproves the stereotype of heroes in drag and actually makes a passable woman, the long shaggy hair here is a definite no!

The other full time member of the group is Dilli (Karunas) who has a minor, but still vital, role to play and acts mainly as a driver for the others. There are a few other gang members who come and go, but the secret of Dass’s success seems to be in keeping his operation small and well hidden behind the front of a garbage disposal company. However in spite of all his precautions, the gang is continually raided by the police and Dass begins to suspect that one of the group is selling them out to Kamalesh.

The diamonds storyline means that the action shifts to ‘The Congo’ in Africa although the filming apparently took place in Tanzania and Namibia. It does make a change from various European locations at any rate and director K. V. Anand seems to have involved quite a few locals to good effect. Although all of the film is very well shot, this section in particular features some excellent cinematography from M. S Prabhu. It also includes possibly the best chase sequence I’ve seen in a Tamil film so far. After Deva collects the diamonds via an inexplicably convoluted system of torn banknotes and secret codes, they are stolen from his hotel room. He chases after the thief who has a very large circle of friends available who keep passing the diamonds to each other and keep Deva always just one step behind. The chase has a number of parkour-inspired sequences and is cleverly directed by South African stunt co-ordinator Franz Spilhaus to look fast, slick and very convincing.

After all the action, time for some romance. Chitti has a sister, Yamuna (Tamanna) and everyone seems just as baffled as I was that they are actually siblings.

They look nothing alike, and the difference is mentioned quite a few times in Yamuna’s introduction. However Yamuna does appear to have rather good taste in men, considering that her room has a number of Shah Rukh Khan pictures on the wall (I approve!) and of course she falls in love with Deva. She’s not a shrinking violet either and is quite happy to pounce on Deva at every available opportunity. And really, who can blame her!

The love story is fairly straight forward without any major obstacles although Chitti has some of the best lines as he teases his sister and friend about their relationship. Suriya and Tamanna make a sweet and reasonably credible couple even if they fall in love rather quickly and the romance only makes fleeting appearances in the second half of the film. Tamanna looks beautiful and her character has plenty of personality which she conveys by some excellent facial expressions. I really like Tamanna as an actress and she manages to be more than just the love interest, which is always an achievement in such a very hero-centric film.

Just before the interval the traitor in the gang is revealed and once the plot twist is exposed the rest of the film loses most of the suspense and tension and becomes just another action flick. At least until near the end, where everything picks up again until the rather OTT climax fight.  The second half does tend to drag in parts and it’s not helped by the rather odd placement of the songs which mostly just disrupt the story. There is one terrible item song with Koena Mitra featuring a noticeable lack of dancing and dreadful lyrics which is used during a scene in a club and could very easily have been replaced with random dancing bodies for a more watchable effect. However a rather graphic depiction of the realities and consequences of becoming a drug mule is excellently done, and there are some great car chase sequences and explosions in the second half which almost make up for the meandering plot.

The film seems designed mainly to allow Suriya to show off his action hero persona and on that level it works well. He looks fit and capable and perfectly plays the action, romantic and comedy scenes, easily switching between the different moods and illustrating his versatility. The other characters are also well developed with both Chitti and Dass having plenty of input into the storyline and their presence also helps to define Deva’s character. Prabhas is excellent as Dass and injects a surprising amount of dignity into his role as a smuggler. The relationship between Dass and Deva is also nicely portrayed and there is genuine warmth between the characters. Renuka is good as Surya’s mother Kaveri and the other support actors all seem to fit well into their parts. Ponvannan also makes an appearance as Partiban, the harrassed Police officer in charge of customs at Chennai Airport who searches Deva on a fairly regular schedule. It’s really only Akashdeep Saigal who disappoints in both characterisation and dialogue.

Despite the unconvincing criminal Kamalesh, I really enjoy watching this film. There is plenty of action, good chemistry between Suriya and Tamanna, (although better between Suriya and Jagan) and the movie looks slick and polished. It just needs a snappier script and tighter story to make better use of the clever twists in the plot.  Still well worth a watch if you are a Suriya fan or enjoy a mass action film which keeps the action coming. 3 ½ stars for the action, story and overall film but 5 stars for Suriya!

Oosaravelli

Oosaravelli had it’s first showing on Thursday, so perhaps it wasn’t too surprising that the cinema was only a third full for the Friday night showing. We still had an appreciative audience in Melbourne with a few whistles for Tarak’s entrance and plenty of laughs at the comedy dialogue, but it was generally more subdued than we’ve become accustomed to in our regular adventures without subtitles.

Oosaravelli is basically a revenge movie. It takes a while to get to the explanation but the set up is entertaining and both Tarak and Tamanna make an impression. Tarak is Tony – he has his name helpfully tattooed on his neck just in case he ever forgets, or maybe it’s a concession to help those of us who don’t understand Telugu and are occasionally confused as to who is who by the fast paced dialogue. We start by learning the anatomy of the human body with an animation which I think is supposed to imply that Tony is a man with all the right parts to be the ultimate hero, or maybe it really was just a quick biology lesson while waiting for the hero’s entrance.

Tony is a man with a large collection of scarves and bandannas who seems to be a small time thug with big time ambition. He meets Niharika (Tamanna) in Kashmir where they have both been kidnapped by insurgents who seem determined to dispose of their hostages one by one. Tony helps Niharika escape but rather carelessly loses her as they run off into the forest. Later, back in Hyderabad, Tony has tracked Niharika down only to find that she is in love with a guy called Rakesh, who is less than impressed with Tony’s appearance.

Along the way Tony has various dealings with a gang of the usual suspects including Jayaprakash Reddy and Murli Sharma who are united in their truly dreadful fashion sense, although the pink stripped shirt with teddy bears was a favourite. This stylishness  doesn’t last though as Tony moulds them into ‘Men in Black’ after beating them up with a bag full of baseball bats – just as his father showed him. Back when he was alive that is. The gang is further intimidated when the ghost of Tony’s father turns up to join in a drinking session but after that, ghost dad is eerily silent until part of the explanation for events later on in the second half. We do get some bedazzled ninja backing dancers though as some compensation.

Tony continues his pursuit of Niharika by getting her evicted from her flat and then setting her up in his house. They decide to be ‘just friends’ although Niharika’s friend Chitra (Payal Ghosh) is sure this is a bad idea. Sure enough Tony finds out that Rakesh is a bad guy and is up-to-no-good. He’s in league with his uncle, don Azzu Bhai (Prakash Raj), and along with his father and friend is involved in some shady deals including arms and diamond smuggling. There is a brief glimpse of CinemaChaat favourite Ajay before he is sadly disposed of but otherwise every usual bad guy seems to turn up as a member of one gang or another.  For some reason one of Tony’s gang turns against him and delivers him up to Rakesh as the wannabe don who’s muscling in on their territory. Right about now is when Tony turns from a mildly affable joker to a totally psychotic killer who wipes out the entire gang in a matter of minutes with some impressive moves with a mallet. I was also suitably amazed by the hook which didn’t manage to tear through Tony’s shirt collar, but moments later was put to good use to impale one of the villains.

Just when we think – yay – crazy killer Tarak and wait for more blood to spill without really caring why, it all starts to make sense as there is a flashback revealing exactly who Niharika is and the reason for Tony’s involvement in the first place. But then it’s back to annihilation of all the bad guys although it’s not always clear if they are actually dead or not as a few people take a lot of killing. And death is not at all well diagnosed even by the medical professionals involved.

The highlight of the film is definitely Tamanna. She is excellent in all her different personas throughout the film – as the ditzy fashion designer and girlfriend, the harrowed victim and as the vengeful sister. She has real passion and belief in her character and it shows. A truly brilliant performance from her which also includes some excellent dance moves. It’s hard to compete with Tarak who is such an excellent dancer, but she manages to draw eyes away from him in a couple of songs.

Generally the soundtrack is enjoyable although Devi Sri Prasad has recycled one of his songs from the recent Dhanush starrer Venghai in Dandiya India. Tarak is good as the deranged killer Tony who has a soft spot for Niharika and seems to manage the switch between comedy and action well judging by the audience reaction. Payal Ghosh is also excellent as Niharika’s friend and it does seem as if the girls get the better dialogues and story-line this time round. A lot of the comedy centres on Tony’s gang of thugs and without understanding the dialogue I found this tended to drag. It was also slightly disappointing when ghost dad failed to make a reappearance after a promising beginning.

There are quite a few funny moments which probably aren’t supposed to be funny – such as Tony trying to hide behind a see through curtain, and where people who are dead manage come back to life to manage that one last important sentence. Or in the case of Tony’s dad, a 3 page monologue. It’s a fun film with plenty of action and blood. But even better it has a heroine who actually gets a proper story and gets to do something more than just look pretty. More of that please.