Family Star: This reunion of Geeta Govindam team leaves the viewers with a bitter aftertaste

The subject matter of celebrating a middle class hero is laudable but Parashuram Petla’s execution leaves a lot to be desired. Vijay Devarakonda brings his usual earnestness but that is not enough to salvage the film
  • Family Star
  • Rating: 2
  • Starcast: Vijay Devarakonda, Mrunal Thakur, Vasuki, Rohini Hatangade, Jagapati Babu, Vennela Kishore etc
  • Director and writer: Parasuram Petla
  • Producers: Dil Raju and Sirish
  • Production Company: Sri Venketeswara Productions
  • Music: Gopi Sunder
  • Runtime: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • Genre: Romantic comedy/drama

Out of the eight films that Parashuram has directed Geeta Govindam remains his best. Sure in hindsight it does look like a project to alter the image of Vijay Devarakonda post the hugely polarized Arjun Reddy. Having said that Geeta Govindam was a charming romantic comedy with many enjoyable moments, in spite of Vijay Devarakonda’s recent box office failures there were certain expectations from Family Star given how Geeta Govindam had fared. The music director of that film Gopi Sundar is the composer of this one too. Leading lady Mrunal Thakur has had a terrific start to her career in Telugu with two back to back successes in author backed parts. Unfortunately Family Star is a slog for most part in spite of having a subject that can make for an entertaining commercial movie.

Vijay Devarakonda plays Govardhan who comes from a middle class background. He is single handedly keeping the joint family afloat. Govardhan is also quite a miser. For example there is an amusing scene where he makes very thin dosas of different shapes to ensure that the dough lasts longer. Ravi Prakash often seen in Krish Jagarlamudi’s films is an elder brother nursing past wounds. He is a regular drinker entangled in the web of alcohol. Vasuki is the long suffering wife who puts up with her husband’s drunkenness. Govardhan feels that his words are the reason behind the elder brother turning into an alcoholic. So he just puts up with his brother’s behavior before the dam finally bursts. Another brother is struggling to establish his own business.

At this time you have the arrival of a postgraduate student Indu (Mrunal Thakur). She integrates herself slowly into the family and soon love blossoms between her and Govardhan. However there is a twist in a tale just before the interval, a secret about Indu is revealed that severs their relationship. Govardhan feels cheated and decides to keep himself away from her. The rest of the story is about how the reconciliation happens when Govardhan is forced to work with her by circumstances.

Vijay Devarakonda and Rohini Hattangadi

The positives in Family Star can be counted on fingers and Vijay Devarakonda’s performance is one of them. In spite of the exaggerated middle class quirks Vijay pulls of a wonderful act. Vijay conveys a range of emotions from aggression, simplicity and stinginess in an admirable manner. He stands out particularly in the emotional scenes.

Vijay’s scenes with Mrunal are quite charming in the first half. Particularly the portions where Indu calls Govardhan ‘yevandi’, something flutters in Govardhan’s heart whenever she calls him that.  Mrunal Thakur’s Indu has two shades. In the first half she is a girl next door, in the later half we see Indu as a CEO who has a tough exterior with a compassionate nature. Mrunal does a good job in portraying both the shades.

Among the sprawling supporting cast veteran actress Rohini Hattangadi as the grandma is the only one who makes an impression. Her scenes with Vijay have been well written and are adorable to watch.

A major problem with Family Star is the superfluous writing. This comes out in a very glaring manner in the way the family members have been written except for Rohini Hattangadi. The discord between Vijay and Ravi Prakash’s character and why the elder brother is so neck deep in alcoholism is way too patchy and does not make any sense. What makes this scenario even more baffling is Govardhan’s self guilt about how he considers himself responsible for the elder brother’s downfall.

The redemption of Ravi Prakash’s character and the eventual reconciliation feels like more of an afterthought with extreme superficiality. The other brother played by Raja Chembolu has even less to do. His aspirations of opening own business feels like an unnecessary add on to increase the burden of Govardhan.

Family Star reminds the viewers of Geeta Govindham in more ways than one but not in a pleasant manner. For example here it is the hero who mistakes the girl’s intention and considers her to be a bad woman. There is a lot of ego tussle however unlike that film this movie has no soul. Often times Family Star feels like a lifeless imitation of that movie.

The US part in particular test the viewer’s patience. For example there is a scene where Vijay’s Govardhan is mistaken for a male prostitute. Cringe worthy would be an understatement to describe the entire scenario.

Vijay Devaraakonda calls his father Devarakonda Govarhana Rao his ‘Family Star.’

Another example of the extreme bad writing can be seen in the portions involving Ravi Babu as a loan shark who misbehaves with Vasuki’s character and asks her to sleep with him if the debt is not cleared; this happens in the first half. As excepted there is a mass sequence where Govardhan brings the entire family to Ravi Babu’s place in an auto. He breaks heads and beats men to pulp. The children look traumatized but Govardhan insists them to watch and learn from him on how to deal with bullies. What makes this sequence even worse is the final punch that Govardhan delivers to the bad guy. He threatens the villain with a rape threat involving the women of antagonist’s household.

Gopi Sundar’s music while not as good as Geeta Govindam does have its moments. A couple of songs do work “Nandanandana” and “Kalyani Vacha Vachaa”,

The idea of raising a toast to the star of every middle class family is admirable but the execution makes it yawn inducing.

Yatra2: A Treat For Fans Of YSRCP And Jagan Mohan Reddy

Mammotty is his usual charismatic self in an extended special appearance. Tamil actor Jeeva slips into the role of Jagan Mohan Reddy with no hiccups
  • Rating: 3
  • Starcast: Jiiva Mammootty, Subhalekha Sudhakar, Suzanne Bernet, Ashrita Vemuganti, Mahesh Manjrekar and others
  • Director and writer: Mahi V Raghav
  • Music: Santhosh Narayan
  • Producer: Shiva Meka
  • Production Companies: Three Autumn leaves and Vcelluloid Official
  • Published in: Primepost

Mahi V Raghav’s Yatra 2 is the latest addition to the ever-growing list of political propaganda films. The agenda is very straightforward, the viewers should sympathize with what Jagan went through after his father’s demise. In simple terms the story focuses on how Jagan not only established a new political party but also rose to become the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. The two main adversaries are Chandra Babu Naidu (Mahesh Manjerakar) and Sonia Gandhi (Suzzane Bernard). For some strange reason the Congress has been named as Progress Party.

Keeping aside the predictable nature of the story there is no denying that Mahi V Raghav has created some powerful moments. Mahi V Raghav has also penned the dialogues for the film and they are definitely impactful. For example, there is a scene where Jagan (Jeeva) says that ‘the world may not recognize who I am but remember one thing I am the son of YS Rajasekhar Reddy.’ There is another important scene where Subhalekha Sudhakar’s character says ‘if we take a cat to a jungle, it will remain a cat, on the other hand even if you keep a Tiger in a cage it will continue to be a Tiger.’ Another dialogue which deserves a mention is ‘I don’t care if history will remember me or not but if it remembers me, I should go down as a son who did not sidestep the promise given to his father.’ Expectedly all these dialogues led to cheers in the cinema hall.

More than the political aspect what works for the film is the emotional drama. The various upheavals keep the viewers invested in spite of knowing where the film is heading. A special mention must be made of the portions where Jagan has to revive himself amidst the tactics of Chandra Babu Naidu

Jeeva Nails the role of Jagan with absolute precision starting from the body language. He does a wonderful job in portraying the different facets.  Whether it is the head strongness or the fragility.  Unlike the first part Mammotty’s role is more of an extended special appearance but still the legendary actor leaves a strong imprint in all his scenes. Another actor who stands out is Ashrita as Jagan’s mom. The actress plays her part with lot of warmth. The scenes between her and Jagan are one of the major highlights of the film. However here it has to be added that there is not even a single mention of Sharmila, let alone her character and this aspect comes across as very odd.

Mahesh Manjerakar as the conniving politician is more of a caricature but still, he is fine with what he does. However, Suzzane Bernard gets a very raw deal. Appearance wise she has an uncanny resemblance to Sonia which makes her a good fit. But the heavily accented Telugu comes across as jarring coupled with the characterization. There is a scene involving Jagan and her post the demise of YSR. Jagan is seen visiting many houses and consoling families who have lost fathers and other important members. Apparently, all these had died in the shock of losing YSR. Sonia Gandhi strictly tells Jagan to stop the Yatra. The impression that we get is of Sonia Gandhi being a cold-hearted lady.

Music composer Santhosh Narayan has delivered a rousing score. The songs uplift the drama at many places. The best example of that is the song ‘Choodu Nanna.’

This Yatra is worth taking particularly if you are a supporter of YSRCP or Jagan. Even if you aren’t a fan, the movie can be watched for the dialogues and the acting performances.

Guntur Kaaram Review: A Tired Rehash Of ‘Attarintiki Daredi’ And ‘Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo’

Watch it Mahesh Babu!

Guntur Kaaram (Telugu)

  • Cast: Mahesh Babu, Sreeleela, Jagapathi Babu, Meenakshi Chaudhary, Ramya Krishnan, Jayaram, and Prakash Raj
  • Director: Trivikram Srinivas
  • Producer: S Radha Krishna
  • Music: Thaman S
  • Runtime: 2 hours 39 minutes
  • Rating: 2

There is a profound line in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (2020) where Jayaram’s character talks about how the greatest battles are fought with people closest to you.

As a filmmaker, Trivikram Srinivas seems fascinated with this concept and has constantly churned out movies along these lines — Attarantiki Daredi (2013), Agnayaathavaasi (2018) or his last blockbuster Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.

His latest outing Guntur Kaaram, too, has a similar theme and gives a déjà vu due to the presence of Jayaram.

The storyline of Guntur Kaaram has good scope for a festive family drama while also being a star vehicle. But here, Trivikram Srinivas falters in balancing the two aspects.

Mahesh Babu, as Ramana, is refreshing to watch.

Further, the film brings back the memories of his comic timing in Pokiri (2006) and Khaleja (2010).

Synopsis

Guntur Kaaram begins on an eventful night that ends with a murder. Jayarama’s royal Satyam is sent to prison. Vasundhara (Ramya Krishnan) disowns her husband (Jayaram) and son.

She gets remarried under the advice of her father Venkataswamy (Prakash Raj). Rahul Ravindran plays the hugely embarrassing role of Vasundhara’s second son, who is about to enter politics.

Vasundhara grows into an influential politician. Ramana becomes rowdy.

Venkataswamy feels “Rowdy” Ramana might become an obstacle and wants him to sign a document which would permanently erase him from her life.

However, Ramana refuses to sign the document despite never getting his mother’s love and care in his growing years.

As the story progresses, more layers reveal why Vasundhara has kept a distance from her husband and son.

Guntur Kaaram has a good beginning where the conflict is established without wasting time.

As viewers, you want to know the reasons behind her indifference. But the film soon stagnates as multiple characters are introduced whose relevance to the plot is better left unsaid.

Performances

Mahesh Babu in a still from Guntur Kaaram
Mahesh Babu in a still from ‘Guntur Kaaram’. (X)

There are a slew of actors who have been terribly wasted. Among them, the prominent ones are Jagapathi Babu, Rahul Ravindran, Rao Ramesh and Jayaram.

The comic punches definitely raise some chuckles.

Mahesh Babu’s comedic exchanges with Vennela Kishore are fun to watch. Their chemistry is reminiscent of Sarkaru Vaari Paata (2022).

Mahesh Babu also gets dialect well, and there is a certain carefree nature, which is refreshing to watch after his Bharat Ane Nenu (2018) and Maharshi (2019).

Prakash Raj makes the biggest impact in the supporting cast. His confrontation scenes with Mahesh Babu are good to watch.

Ramya Krishnan also delivers a commendable performance as Vasundhara but the film needed more scenes between her and Mahesh Babu.

Apart from the multiple characters, another big issue with Guntur Kaaram is the insipid love story between Ramana and Sreeleela’s Ammu.

Sreeleela entertains with her dance moves. Apart from that, there is nothing much for the actor to do. This is sad because Sreeleela showed good potential in Bhagavanth Kesari (2023).

There is also Meenakshi Chowdhary of Hit 2 (2022) fame. She is supposed to be the second female lead, but her only job is to offer Mahesh Babu a plate of omelette or a bottle of soda when he consumes alcohol.

The action sequences are formulaic in nature, with the standard hero elevations that get tiring after a point. These action sequences have some trademark Trivikram Srinivas humour. But these are not enough to salvage the slow narration.

Thaman’s music is suitably massy, but most songs come across as speed bumps in an already tired narrative.

Final take

Guntur Kaaram is a massive downfall for a man who delivered commercial films that can be watched on repeat mode!

Salaar Part 1: Prashanth Neel Delivers The Perfect Mass Comeback For Prabhas

The film can be described as Kannada’s Game of Thrones with the ambience of KGF films. Prithviraj Sukumaran makes his presence amply felt as the parallel hero

  • Rating 3 out of 5
  • Starcast: Prabhas, Prithviraj Sukumran, Sreya Reddy, Jagapati Babu, Shruti Hassan and others
  • Director and writer: Prashant Neel
  • Dialogues: Sandeep Reddy Bandala, Hanumaan Choudary, Dr. Suri and others
  • Producer: Vijay Kiragandur
  • Production Company: Homabale Films
  • Based on: Ugram ( Kannada movie) by Prashant Neel
  • Genre: Action drama
  • Running time: 2 hours and 58 minutes
  • Published in: Primepost

Not much was expected from Prashanth Neel when the first KGF released but the action drama surprised one and all with its box office numbers. Originally made in Kannada, the film also released in Hindi clashing with Anand L Rai’s Zero and completely outsold the SRK starrer. The raw action and Yash’s swag coupled with the backdrop of Kolar Gold Fields made it a huge success.

The second part of KGF went on to do even bigger business. The buzz around Salaar has been huge since its inception, this in spite of Prabhas’s lackluster form in the recent past. A lot of hopes were pinned on Salaar and thankfully the director has given the perfect mass treat that rewinds memories of Chatrapathi. However Salaar isn’t for those who despise macho heroes and are not huge fans of the KGF films.

Shruti Haasan, Prashanth Neel and Prabhas

Salaar begins with establishing the ultra strong friendship of Deva (Prabhas) and Vardha (Prithviraj Sukumran). They have each other’s back in both good and bad times. The very first scene of Salaar has Deva fighting a seasoned wrestler just to get Vardha’s nathooni back (a particular nose ring that the clan wears). Later on we see Vardha saving Deva and his mother (Easwari Rao) from his father’s men. In this process Vardha also sacrifices a major part of the territory his clan owns. That night Deva and his mother vanish. But before going Deva takes a promise from Vardha that he should not hesitate in reaching out for his help in times of distress.

From here the story goes into a flash forward where Deva and his mother are living in Assam. Through some vague hints we understand that Deva has sworn to his mother to never touch a weapon again. The mother in fact is so touchy even when she sees a plastic knife. All this changes with the entry of Aadhya Krishnakanth (Shruti Hassan with a heavy American accent); her life is in danger for reasons that will become more clear in the second part. Things take a turn when Deva’s mother frees Deva from his promise, in order to save Aadhya. This results in Deva smashing a lot of people to pulp.

Shriya Reddy makes a solid impression

The second half is entirely devoted to a dystopian city of Khansar that has several tribes with distinct characteristics. The politics and the character dynamics of this dystopian city are similar to the popular web show Game of Thrones.

Not surprisingly the biggest strength of Salaar is the strong brotherhood showcased between its two main leads. Deva’s intense affection for his friend is reminiscent of Ranbir Kapoor’s character in Animal. There is also a Mahabharata touch in how they are shown to be fierce warriors.

Easwari Rao plays Prabhas’ mother

Prabhas shares most sparks with Prithviraj and that is clearly visible on more than one occasion. For example there is a scene where both of them take on some drug infested zombies. It is a sequence that enthralls the masses. The two actors are also seen indulging in banter amidst the fight and have some hilarious punch lines.

The world building of Khansar has also been done well. Bhuvan Gowda’s cinematography is top notch. He effectively captures the tumultuous atmosphere of this fictional city. Some of the themes explored in the second half are right to leadership and loyalty among others. Prashanth Neel has done a good job in exploring these themes.  Ravi Basur’s soundtrack goes well with the mood of the film. Thankfully there is no forced romantic subplot between Prabhas and Shruti.

Shruti Haasan’s American accent is irritating

Shruti Hassan’s put on American accent is irritating to say the least. In fact most of the women characters in Salaar are relegated to the background (of late most big action movies are doing the same). The only actress who makes a solid impression is Sriya Reddy. She plays the firebrand daughter of Jagapathi Babu’s Raja Mannar.

The second half has an overdose of violence which will be off putting for a section of audiences. The film’s runtime is almost three hours; some portions of the film could have been trimmed or chopped.

Prabhas plays a mostly brooding character who does not even break into a smile. The actor has not got many dialogues but he is successful in portraying the raw aggression. Prabhas particularly shines in the scenes with Prithviraj.

Prithviraj Sukumaran as a parallel lead more than makes his presence felt

Prithviraj Sukumaran as a parallel lead more than makes his presence felt. The actor does a solid job in portraying both the vulnerability and the determination of a future successor caught in the power struggle. The actor’s own dubbing of Telugu does take some time in getting used to but it is not a major hindrance.

Salaar part 1 ends on a cliffhanger that sets a good base for the second part, there are indications that this brotherhood may turn into enmity.

Hi Nanna: A Heart Touching Tale Of A Father’s Love For His Daughter

Hi Nanna works a perfect balm for those who had a tough time with the violent father and son dynamics in Animal. Nani pulls of his role with the expected panache but it is Mrunal Thakur who steals the show

Rating 3.5 out of 5
Starcast: Nani, Mrunal Thakur, Baby Kiara, Priyadarshini, Jayaram, Angad Bedi and others
Story, direction and screenplay: Shouryuv
Additional screenplay: Bhanu Deeraj, Rayudu, Vasanth Sameer and Pinnamaraju
Dialogues: Vamshi Bommena and Nagendra Kasi
Producers: Mohan Cherukuri, Murthy K.S and others
Production Company: Vyra Entertainments
Genre: Romantic drama
Running time: 2 hours and 35 minutes

There has been a heavy dose of father oriented stories this year. Whether it is Shah Rukh Khan’s double act of a father and son in Jawan , or Pankaj Tripati’s turn in OMG 2 as a disgruntled parent who slowly becomes a revoluntary for his son. Even Vijay Thalapathy who is generally known for his mass characters delivered an affecting performance in Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Leo as a family man with a dark past.

Baby Kiara and Nanni in a song sequence

Hi Nanna directed by debutant director Shouryuv is an emotional rollercoaster that makes the viewers feel many things. Sure the pacing is slow and the story does take a little time to get going however the end results are mostly satisfying. But it has to be said that the movie isn’t for fans of high octane entertainers.

Viraj (Nani) is a professional photographer and a single father. Mahi (Baby Kiara) is the 6 year old daughter. Viraj has always kept the story of Mahi’s mother in the dark. Whenever she asks about where her mother is Viraj simply skips the matter. Things take a turn when Viraj promises Mahi that he would tell about her mother provided she scores first rank. Mahi does score first rank but Viraj doesn’t adhere to his promise. Expectedly Mahi gets very angry and leaves the home. She almost faces an accident but is saved in the nick of time by Yashna (Mrunal Thakur). The rest of the story is about what had happened between Viraj and his wife along with how Yashna changes the lives of Viraj and Mahi.

Nani and Mrunal Thakur

As mentioned above the pacing of Hi Nanna is slow. Director Shouryuv takes his own sweet time in setting up the plot. The initial minutes are devoted to the bond of Viraj and Mahi. The story gathers momentum with the entry of Yashna. Viraj narrates his past in a fairy tale format. In these flashback portions Mahi imagines Yashna as her mother. Viraj’s love at first sight is slightly clichéd but it doesn’t get too bothersome thanks to the chemistry between Nani and Mrunal Thakur. The characters of Viraj and the wife are contrastingly different from each other. Viraj is someone who is eternally hopeful irrespective of what the situation is. The wife on the other hand has anxiety issues that primarily stem from growing up in a broken home.

She is someone who is very clear about not getting into the complications of a marriage having seen her parents constantly argue with each other. However she does end up marrying Viraj much to the annoyance of her mother. There is a lovely scene between Viraj and his prospective mother- in- law where the economical differences are highlighted. What makes this scene special is how he deals with the situation in the most empathetic way. The viewers instantly root for Viraj. Viraj initially says that they need not have children but that changes later on. There is a huge argument between Viraj and the wife followed by a heartwarming moment. This scene is a major highlight of the film and a perfect example of the sizzling chemistry between Nani and Mrunal.

Angad Bedi makes his debut with Hi Nanna

Towards the end of the first half director Shouryuv gives a major twist to the character of Yashna. The second half is heavier. In spite of some predictable scenarios the viewers are still invested in how the tale will end. This is majorly because of the strong emotional cord. A drunken banter between Nani and Mrunal Thakur does come across as a respite from the otherwise heavy drama.

What doesn’t work though is a party song featuring Shruti Haasan. It looks completely out of sync with the overall tone of the film. The extended special appearance of Sruthi Haasan could have been easily scrapped. Angad Bedi plays a character modeled on Salman Khan’s Amar in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. He is pretty good but lacks the charm of what Salman Khan brought to the table as the third wheel.

Priyadarshi plays the friend cum colleague part with his usual effervescence. His comic timing is spot on as always and his camaraderie with Nani is fun to watch. Another member who stands out in the supporting cast is Jayaram. The actor delivers a nuanced performance as Mahi’s grandfather. He particularly shines in an emotionally charged sequence at a critical juncture.

Debutant director Shouryuv makes the viewers feel many things

Apart from Nani and Mrunal’s sizzling chemistry another strong point of Hi Nanna are the father and daughter scenes between Nani and Baby Kiara. They simply melt your heart on many occasions. Baby Kiara performs like an absolute pro with the right amount of innocence and vulnerability.

Hesham Abdul Wahab’s music and background score another big strength of Hi Nanna. Except for the Sruthi Haasan number the rest are a delight to watch and listen. My favorite numbers are Gaaju Bomma, Ammaadi and Samayama.

Priyadarshi’s comic timing is spot on as always and his camaraderie with Nani is fun to watch.

The cinematography of Sanu John Varghese is a visual delight particularly the flashback portions in Connor.

For Nani the role of Viraj is a cake in the park but nevertheless the actor is a delight to watch. He does a splendid job in portraying the different shades of Viraj whether it is the boyishness of a young lover or as a father later on who will do anything for his daughter. However it is Mrunal Thakur who steals the show with an outstanding performance. She plays a complicated character with ease. Mrunal conveys the various feelings with just her expressive eyes showing once again the bundle of talent she is. It is a performance that is a step ahead of last year’s Sita Ramam in many ways. Chinmayi’s dubbing adds to the impact.

Hi Nanna is a heartwarming story of a father and daughter along with a mother battling her own inner demons, a definite breadth of fresh air which needs to be seen.

Bhagavanth Kesari: A Fan Pleasing Entertainer With A Strong Dose Of Feminism

Anil Ravipudi moves away from his regular style of filmmaking and delivers a moving emotional drama. At certain points the film reminds you of Dangal.

Bhagavanth Kesari (Telugu)          

Starcast: Nandamuri Balakrishna, Sreeleela, Arjun Rampal, Kajal Aggarwal and others

Director and writer: Anil Ravipudi

Producers: Sahu Garapati and Harish Peddi

Production Company: Shine Screens

Music: Thaman S

Running time: 2 hours and 37 minutes

Genre: Action drama

Anil Ravipudi is a director who has been successful in making commercial potboilers that are high on entertainment. The director is known for creating characters that come with specific mannerisms resulting in slapstick humour.

However in Bhagavanth Kesari the director opts for a different route. Anil Ravipudi’s brand of humour is absent for most part except for a few scenes involving Kajal Aggarwal. Here he has written and directed a story that has elements which will both satisfy Balakrishna fans and also give a social message through the character of Sreeleela.

Bhagavanth Kesari (Nandamuri Balakrishna) an ex police officer is the foster father of Vijji (Sreeleela). After her biological father C I Srikanth (R. Sarathkumar) dies in an accident he takes on her responsibilities. As a young child Vijji meets Bhagavanth when he was a prisoner in a jail where her father worked. Bhagavanth feels an emotional connection with her right from the beginning.

Vijji’s mother wanted to join the army but she had sacrificed her dreams. Srikanth feels guilty about coming in the way of his wife’s dreams. His biggest wish was to see Vijji joining the army. Here Anil Ravipudi doesn’t use the army angle to evoke patriotic feelings: it is more for Vijji to overcome her anxiety attacks and become a resilient young woman.

Rahul Sanghvi (a Dashing Arjun Rampal) is a power hungry tycoon who firmly goes by the philosophy of Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest. Rahul and Bhagavanth have a bitter past that resurfaces – the usual template between a hero and villain. In a nutshell the story is about how Vijji emerges as a strong woman both physically and mentally and how Bhagavanth helps her to achieve it.

The biggest USP of Bhagavanth Kesari is easily the emotional drama between Bhagavanth and Vijji. Bhagavanth is someone who firmly believes that girls need to be raised like lions and this clearly shows in how he pushes her to do certain things. Vijji’s interests lie more in marrying the love of her life. In these portions Bhagavanth’s attitude reminds the viewers of Aamir Khan’s Mahavir Singh Phogat.

There is a scene where VIjji’s boyfriend comes with his father for the marriage proposal. The prospective father-in-law has a very dismissive attitude of Bhagavanth’s aspirations regarding Vijji. He says that it’s enough that Vijji becomes a good housewife and mother. Bhagavanth gets angry and kicks him, a typical Balakrishna gesture. Naturally Vijji gets annoyed and starts treating Bhagavanth as a stranger. As viewers we empathize with both these characters.

Anil Ravipudi also makes some important points about good touch and bad touch through a rousing monologue by Balakrishna. Here again the emphasis is on how girls should be raised courageous like lions.

Arjun Rampal exudes the right amount of swag and ruthlessness

Bhagavanth Kesari benefits immensely from the performances of Balakrishna and Sreeleela. Balakrishna delivers a mature performance without going overboard in the emotional scenes. The actor’s Telangana diction is also commendable. Of course he satisfies his fans in the flashback portions where he plays to the gallery. There is an important passage in the film’s pre climax when Bhagavanth lets Vijji do all the fighting for a particular reason. Both Anil Ravipudi and Balakrishna need to be given credit for how they let Sreeleela take the center stage.

Known for her glamour roles Sreeleela springs a very pleasant surprise with her performance. The actress does a wonderful job in showcasing the transition of Vijji. She also proves to be a good action heroine convincingly taking on the baddies. Arjun Rampal as the antagonist exudes the right amount of swag and ruthlessness. It is a not a very innovative character but Arjun makes it work.

Anil Ravipudi, the director known for creating characters that come with specific mannerisms resulting in slapstick humour

One of the threads that don’t quite work is the one featuring Kajal, his love interest. She plays a supposed psychiatrist. Her track doesn’t quite jell with the narrative. Another mild issue with the film is the flashback of Bhagavanth Kesari that glorifies his brutal methods.

Bhagavanth Kesari is a welcome break from Balakrishna’s hyper masculine Akhanda and Veera Simha Reddy; A welcome sign of his transition from macho hero to father hero.

Miss. Shetty Mr. Polishetty: A Warm And Fuzzy Film That Leaves A Smile On Your Face

This Mahesh Babu P’s directorial is a romantic comedy/drama that reflects the modern day concerns of men and women.

Starcast: Naveen Polishetty, Anuskha Shetty, Jayasudha, Murali Sharma, Tulasi and others

Director and writer: Mahesh Babu Pachigolla

Producers: V. Vamsi Krishna Reddy and Pramod Uppalapati

Production Company: UV Creations

Music: Radhan

Running time: 2 hours and 27 minutes

Genre: Romantic comedy/drama

Miss. Shetty Mr. Polishetty is refreshingly different from what we generally see in Telugu Cinema. Director Mahesh Babu P uses the genre of a feel good Rom-Com to tell a story that is filled with many layers. On one hand it is about an older woman who wants a child but not through marriage. There is also a coming of age story exploring the art of standup comedy through the male protagonist character. The film has also got a distinct Ayushmann Khurrana hangover for those who have seen the likes of Vicky Donor.

Anushka Shetty with Naveen Polishetty

Anvitha Shetty (Anuskha Shetty) is a top chef in London. Her mother (Jayasudha in an extended cameo) wants Anvitha to get married but Anvitha is someone who has no belief in either love or marriage. She doesn’t want to get into the complications of married life. The mother soon dies because of an ailment. After a while Anvitha decides to have a child outside marriage through IVF. In her search for a sperm donor she comes across Siddhu Polishetty (Naveen Polishetty).

Siddhu works in software but his real passion lies in doing standup comedy. He does his shows without the knowledge of his parents. Anvitha is vastly impressed with his standup humour and feels that his sperm would be best for her child. In order to know more about him she gets into a friendship which Siddhu mistakes for love. The rest of the story is about the complications that happen when Siddhu comes to know about Anvitha’s real intentions.

Naveen Polishetty

Mahesh Babu P takes his own sweet time to establish the plot. The initial portions are dedicated to establishing Anvitha’s personality. The film actually gets going when Anvitha starts her search for a sperm donor. Naveen Polishetty’s entry as a standup comedian perks up the proceedings. The dynamics between Anvitha and Siddhu is not what we usually see in Telugu films and this gives a refreshing touch.

As mentioned in the beginning the film has a distinct Ayushmann Khurrana hangover in terms of the sperm donor angle; having said that it is still refreshing to watch because of Mahesh Babu P’s treatment.

The director also deserves credit for how he sketched his two protagonists. Anvitha is someone who comes across as this very stubborn woman who is very clear about not wanting a partner. There is a big inner trauma within her. This stubbornness may have come across as cold hearted but the viewers understand why she is the way she is. Even when Anvitha realises her feelings for Siddhu she doesn’t want to accept it and prefers going away from his life.

Anushka Shetty

Naveen Polishetty’s Siddhu on the other hand comes from a typical middle class family with an upbringing that is vastly different from Anvitha. As said earlier he does a software job just to please his parents but his passion is only standup comedy. Mahesh Babu P does a good job in exploring the art and intricacies of standup comedy. The reaction of Siddhu when Anvitha reveals what she wants feels very natural. The characters of Murali Sharma and Tulasi have an authentic middle class milieu. However the transformation of these characters particularly the father’s character when he takes his son’s autograph after a show feels quite rushed. Also the likes of Nassar could have been better used.

Jayasudha

As the title suggests the film majorly hinges on Anuskha and Naveen Polishetty and both the actors do not disappoint. Anuskha Shetty plays a character which goes with her age. She fits the part of an older woman who is scared of getting into relationships. Anuskha carries the cold heartedness and the aggressive nature well.

Naveen Polishetty’s real life experience of doing standup comedy comes in very handy during the comic portions. The actor is an absolute live wire.  He also does a swell job in the more dramatic portions.

Jayasudha’s cheerfulness brings a smile to the viewers face. Her fan act of Balakrishna in particular does raise some chuckles.

Music composed by Radhan goes well with the flow of the film. Lady luck in particular is an upbeat number. I am sure many young people would connect with the theme of the film.

Khushi: Love, God And Marriage

The film takes some time to get going but director Shiva Nirvana eventually finds his footing particularly in the second half

Khushi (Telugu)           

Starcast: Vijay Devarakonda, Samantha, Murali Sharma, Sachin Khedekar, Saranya, Vennela Kishore and others

Director and writer: Shiva Nirvana

Producers: Naveen Yemeni and Yalamanchili Ravi Shankar

Production Company: Mythri Movie Makers

Music: Hesham Abdul Wahab

Production Company: Mythri Movie makers

Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Genre: Romantic comedy/drama

Shiva Nirvana’s Khushi doesn’t particularly boast of a novel plot. There are certain similarities that the viewers will find with Mani Ratnam’s Sakhi. However,  there are some interesting things also that the director does. Chief among them is the background of his two protagonists. The hero’s father is a renowned atheist with an absolute distaste for god and astrology. On the other hand the heroine’s father is a staunch believer in god who is also known for his religious lectures. This adds a lot to the story, more so when the drama part kicks in. These two characters are played by Sachin Khedekar and Murali Sharma respectively. 

Samantha and Vijay Devarakonda

In brief it is a usual love story with a happy ending via many twists and turns. The conflict point in this movie is faith versus non faith. Viplav Devarakonda’s (Vijay Devarakonda) family represents non faith while Samantha’s family represents faith. Vijay’s father is Lenin Sathyam (Sachin Khedekar) and Samantha’s father is Chadarangam Srinivasa Rao (Murali Sharma). Previously a huge debate on TV had happened between them. Understandably both Chadarangam and Lenin aren’t too happy with their children’s choices. Yet they agree to meet to discuss their marriage. But Chadarangam declares that Viplav will have to do a homam along with his father before marriage; otherwise Aradhya cannot become a mother. Lenin Sathyam is enraged and tells his son to forget about Aradhya. But the two rebellious lovers decide to follow their hearts. In Sakhi style they make their own home. The rest of the story is about the issues that crop up given the two vastly different family backgrounds and how they resolve them.  

For any romantic film to work two aspects are of prime importance. One is having a likeable lead pair and the other is having hit music. Khushi scores in both these departments. Vijay Devarakonda and Samantha are in fine form both individually and together. They share a good chemistry.

Vijay devarakonda, Sumantha and Shiv Nirvana

It is refreshing to see Vijay Devarakonda shed his mass avatar and do an urban character. Vijay does a terrific job in portraying the various shades of Viplav; whether it is his lover boy act in Kashmir or the dramatic portions of the second half. Vijay’s comic timing also leaves viewers in splits. In the Kashmir portions Viplav speaks in broken Hindi and this leads to many amusing moments. Maybe a revenge on SRK’s broken Tamil in Chennai Express.

Vijay also takes a jibe at his own hugely successful yet hugely controversial Arjun Reddy in an interesting scene. There is a bit where a lady maid gets scared on seeing Viplav. He assures her that people have unnecessarily created a bad image of him in the market but he is actually a feminist. This leads to many laughs in the theatre.

Samantha is also in fine form complementing Vijay well. She is particularly effective in the more intense scenes.

Sachin Khadekar

The music of Hesham Abdul Wahab is another major winner. My favorite songs in the album are Na Roja Nuvve and Aradhya. Except for one number the rest of them are rich in melody.

The second half of Khushi is more engaging as it deals with the marital problems that the couple faces. For example there is an episode of Aradhya’s miscarriage. Aradhya believes that the miscarriage happened because of Viplav not doing the homam leading to some arguments. There is certain realisticness to the way Shiva Nirvana has staged these scenes.

 Murali Sharma and Sachin Khedekar shine the brightest among the supporting cast as two men who firmly believe in their respective ideologies. There is a touching scene in the pre- climax where both the fathers have an emotional moment.

Murali Sharma

What doesn’t work for Khushi is the stretched first half. The Kashmir portions needed to be trimmed down. Aradhya’s façade of being a Pakistani Muslim comes across as stretching things too far just to prove viplav’s broadmindedness.

Also there are some characters which could have been better developed like the ones of Rohini and Jayaram. Rahul Ramakrishna as Vijay’s buddy is underutilized as always but Vennela Kishore does raise some laughs in the first half.

Overall Khushi is an enjoyable romantic drama as the title suggests. The message of love triumphing over everything is something that all of us could imbibe given the politically troubled times we are living in.

Vimanam: A Turbulent Ride Worth Taking

The spine of “Vimanam”, Samuthirikani’s character and the warmth that the father-son duo share hold the film together.

The one-line story of Siva Prasad Yanala’s Vimanam is about how far a parent can go in fulfilling the wish of their offspring. In this case, it is about a single father and his young son.

The film primarily banks on the emotional bond that the two characters share.

A major portion of the story of Vimanam takes place in the vicinity of the old Begumpet airport of Hyderabad in early 2008. This is the period before the present Shamshabad airport was set up. This setting isn’t merely functional but also works as a character in itself.

Synopsis

Veerayya (Samuthirakani) lives in a colony near Begumpet airport and looks after a “Sulabh Shauchalaya” (public toilets complex).  He is someone who always looks at the brighter side of things.

Though physically disabled, Veerayya is a self-sufficient man who rides a tricycle. He cleans and manages the facility of a community toilet.

His son Raju (Master Dhruvan) is obsessed with both aeroplanes and flying. Raju’s biggest dream is to get on an aeroplane and fly high in the sky. He constantly keeps talking about it.

On many occasions, he keeps running to the airport compound and tries to peep through the crevices.

The life of Veerayya and Raju revolves around these things and some neighbours also play an important part. These include cobbler Koti (Rahul Ramakrishna), auto driver Daniel (Dhanraj), and sex worker Sumati (Anasuya Bharadwaj).

Vimanam takes a happy turn when Veerayya is informed of his son clearing the Sainik School entrance test. Clearing this test is a big thing for Raju.

When everything seems to be going well a tragedy strikes. Raju suddenly faints and is rushed to a hospital.

The doctor reveals devastating news to Veerayya about his son’s health. The rest of the story is about what happens to Raju and whether Veerayya fulfils his son’s dream of flying.

Brilliant characterisation

The spine of Vimanam is how Siva Prasad Yanala has written the character of Samuthirikani.

As earlier said, Veerayya is someone who always looks at the brighter side of things. This aspect has been brought out well by the director.

There are some nice touches that the debut director brings to this familiar tale. Chief among them is how he treats the disability of the protagonist.

His fighting spirit makes him endearing to the audience. There are some wonderful moments which show the warmth that the father and son share, particularly in the first half. The bond between them is the glue that holds the film together.

Shiva Prasad Yanala also deserves credit for how he has written the character of Anasuya Bharadwaj’s Sumati.

Sumati is unapologetic about what she does. She has an innate distrust towards men and treats them only as customers. There is also an important dialogue where Veerayya says that Sumati is not earning money by cheating anyone.

Emotional moments

The director has also created some solid emotional moments that linger in the viewers’ minds for a long time. Yes, some of it is manipulative. But still, it is difficult not to be moved by the situations that Veerayya goes through.

The subplot between Koti and Sumati starts in a lighter vein but there are some nice touches to this subplot as well.

The reason behind Sumati becoming a sex worker is a familiar one. But Anasuya Bharadwaj makes it work with her wonderful performance. She particularly shines in the scene where she bursts out and pours her feelings towards Rahul Ramakrishna’s character.

Weak points

The landing of Vimanam’s first half is quite smooth, but the cracks begin to appear in the second half.

There are some scenes which could have been easily chopped down on the editing table.

One of them is when Veerayya is suspected of stealing and beaten mercilessly by a cop. This scene is meant to make you more sympathetic towards Veerayya.

However, given his physical condition and the circumstances it comes across as more emotional manipulation.

Similarly, there is a scene involving a bunch of rich guys in the most clichéd manner. It is high time that filmmakers stop stereotyping the offspring of rich parents.

Climax

Vimanam‘s climax is also hugely problematic. The viewers are well aware that the son isn’t going to survive for long.

As expected, he does die in the flight but there is a double tragedy in the form of Veerayya also dying.

Two deaths coming one after another becomes difficult to digest for the audience. The ideal ending would have been Veerayya working with and taking care of other children.

Performances

Both Samuthirakani and Master Dhruvan are terrific in their respective parts.

So far, Samuthirakani has mostly featured as a villain in big-budget Telugu movies like Bheemla Nayak (2022), Sarkaru Vari Paata (2022), etc.

But here, the actor plays a character that is vastly different from his previous outings. He does a fantastic job of portraying different shades of Veerayya.

Master Dhruvan also delivers a nuanced performance and makes you root for Raju.

Technical crafts

There is also a certain authenticity to the way the slum has been presented in Vimanam. It has that required rustic feel starting from the body language of the dwellers.

Cinematographer Vivek Kalepu deserves appreciation for how he captures the slum through his lens. The music by Charan Arjun goes well with the flow of the film.

Final take

Despite some contrived melodrama, Vimanam is a welcome break from the usual high masala cinema.

(Views expressed are personal.)

Malli Pelli: An Autobiographical Movie Worth Watching For Its Theme And Performances

After two directorial debacles, MS Raju delivers a much better film. The film is one-dimensional but still, there is a lot to ponder.

Malli Pelli (Telugu)
  • Cast: VK Naresh, Pavitra Lokesh, Vijaykumar, Jayasudha, and late Sarath Babu
  • Director: MS Raju
  • Music composers: Suresh Bobbili and Aruldev
  • Runtime: 2 hours and 10 minutes

MS Raju, as we all know, has produced many blockbusters, including Varsham, Okkadu and Deviputrudu.

In 2008, MS Raju made his directorial debut with the film Vaana; however, true to its title, the film was a washout.

But that didn’t stop the producer from directing films. He made his next film Tuneega, starring his son Sumanth Ashwin. But the result was the same.

Back with Malli Pelli

After staying away from the big screen for some time, Raju is now back with his third big-screen directorial Malli Pelli.

The film has created quite a buzz, thanks mostly to the real-life couple VK Naresh and Pavitra Lokesh. Their real-life relationship has been making headlines for a long time.

A film starring a real-life couple has a different charm about it. Not surprisingly, the biggest strength of Malli Pelli is the chemistry that the lead actors share and the solid emotional moments that the director created.

Narendra (Naresh) is a prominent Telugu actor with a vast amount of wealth and respect. However, his personal life is going through huge turbulence because of a broken marriage.

Soumya Sethupati (Vanitha Vijaykumar) plays Narendra’s psychotic third wife.

One day he meets a Kannada actress Parvathy (Pavitra Lokesh) and develops feelings for her. He communicates the same to her despite knowing fully well that she is a married woman.

Story of two people with broken marriages

Parvathy’s marriage is also on the rocks although she presents a picture of a happily married woman. Parvathy also has feelings for Narendra but she is apprehensive about how society would react, particularly the media.

The rest of the story deals with the complexities of their relationship and how it develops in the end.

First and foremost, the story is designed in such a way that the viewers completely empathise with the couple.

The respective spouses of Narendra and Parvathy are portrayed as one-dimensional, with no redeeming quality. This does get bothersome after a while, particularly in the second half.

But still, the emotional quotient is strong. As a result, you are willing to overlook the soft spots.

The story has been narrated in six chapters, a technique that is well used by MS Raju. This format enhances the drama.

Mix of light and dramatic moments

Malli Pelli has a good mix of light and dramatic moments. The scenes of Narendra flirting with Parvathy do bring a smile to your face. Their romance is treated maturely with no vulgarity.

The concept of an older couple finding solace in each other has been dealt with with the right amount of sensitivity.

Stories like this are always a welcome break given that this genre is mostly associated with younger actors.

Raju is also successful in portraying the moral dilemmas that Narendra and Parvathy go through before they decide the direction in which they should take their relationship.

The flashback portion of Parvathy, though abrupt, has its moments. There is a caste angle that the director added to the spouse of Parvathy.

Performance of the actors

Jayasudha plays a character modelled on Vijay Nirmala, Naresh’s real mother.

Even though her scenes with Naresh are few, there is a lot of warmth in those scenes.

The same applies to the ones featuring Sarath Babu as Superstar Krishna. Watching Sarath Babu on screen evokes a lot of nostalgia given that he passed away recently.

However, it is VK Naresh and Pavitra Lokesh who shoulder the film majorly. He does a swell job of bringing his real-life persona to the character. The senior actor is having a splendid second innings and this is another worthy addition.

Pavitra Lokesh also lends wonderful support. She does a good job of portraying the character’s transition.

Coming to the flaws Vanitha Vijaykumar comes across as very irritating both character-wise and acting-wise. A more nuanced characterisation would have made it more real.

The same applies to the portrayal of the media. It is not only caricaturish but also highly offensive.

A middle-aged romance and Naresh’s performance are the best things about this film.