My Dear Donga: A breezy rom-com with a lovable thief

The USP of ‘My Dear Donga’ is how love blossoms between the robber and a young woman stuck in an unhappy relationship.
My Dear Donga (Telugu), 19-04-2024, Romantic-Comedy,1 hour 43 minutes, U/A OTT
  • Main Cast: Abhinav Gomatam, Shalini Kondepudi, Nikhil Gajula, and Divya Sripada
  • Director: BS Sarwagna Kumar
  • Producer: Maheshwar Reddy Gojala
  • Music Director: Ajay Arasada
  • Cinematography: SS Manoj
  • Rating: 3/5
  • Published in: Southfirst

Light-hearted rom-coms with some fun always make for a good stress buster. My Dear Donga, directed by BS Sarwagna Kumar, fits perfectly in this category.

The storyline of My Dear Donga is paper thin but Shalini Kondepudi, who has written the story and acted, ensures there is some good situational humour in the movie.

The subject of My Dear Donga focuses on new-age relationships and the small things, which matter in the long run.


Sujatha (Shalini Kandepudi) has been in a relationship for over two years with Vishal (Nikhil Gajula).

Vishal is a doctor who lies to his girlfriend about being in an ICU when he is actually watching a cricket match with his friends. Apart from this, he also occasionally ignores her with some excuse.

Things reach a crescendo when Sujatha learns that there is no ICU in the workplace of Vishal. She catches him red-handed handed watching a cricket match with a friend.

Naturally, Sujatha is devastated and reaches home broken mentally.

A robber named Suresh (Abhinav Gomatam) is already in her house and picks up a few valuables. Initially, she is shocked but soon, Sujatha and Suresh start conversing with each other as they have some commonalities in terms of family backgrounds, they hate their respective fathers.

Things get more complicated with the arrival of Vishal and her two friends. They visit Sujatha’s house to celebrate her birthday, and Sujatha introduces Suresh as her childhood friend.

The rest of the story is about how the birthday party goes and how she develops feelings towards Suresh.

Explores today’s relationships

Team ‘My Dear Donga’. (X)

A strong aspect of My Dear Donga is its crisp running time. At one hour and 43 minutes, the movie never feels dragged out.

Director BS Sarwagna quickly establishes the thorny relationship of Sujatha and Vishal.

Here, it has to be said that Sujatha is telling her story to a bartender who listens to her with complete attention. His reaction shots coupled with the conversations between them raise many chuckles.

How Sujatha develops feelings towards Suresh and the blossoming of love has been etched well.

A good example of this is when Suresh takes Sujatha & Co out, giving a huge surprise by celebrating her birthday with cake.

The situational humour involving Abhinav Gomatam also has some fun moments.

Special mention must be of the scenes where Divya Sripada’s character questions Abhinav Gomatam’s Suresh about where he and Sujatha met and which school they studied in.

As mentioned above, My Dear Donga focuses on the small things that matter in a relationship. Arranging surprise party poppers, washing the plates, and spending more time with the girl you love may appear trivial. But sometimes, these very same things give big happiness. This aspect has come out strongly.

Technical crafts

Ajay Arasada’s music could have been more soulful, but still, the tunes go with the movie’s flow. The title song “My Dear Donga” has been well-tuned.

There isn’t much scope for cinematography here given the setting but still, the film looks good visually.

Apart from relatively weak music, the reasons for Abhinav Gomatam’s Suresh becoming a burglar does not make much logical sense.

Also, we are never shown whether the mother comes to know about her son being a robber or not.

In the initial portion of the movie, we hear her voice. But after the family backgrounds are discussed, there is no mention of her.

Abhinav and Shalini excel

Abhinav Gomatam and Shalini Kandepudi do most of the heavy lifting.

Abhinav Gomatam’s ability to generate humour is of course well known. Here too, the actor does not disappoint. He plays the loveable thief with a lot of charm.

Apart from the comic scenes Abhinav also proves his versatility in the portions where Suresh gives wisdom.

As the story progresses, Shalini Kondepudi brings in both the required innocence and the strong-headed nature.

The rest of the actors do as required.

Final take

My Dear Donga makes for a good weekend watch in the family. Some moments in the film will definitely connect to this generation.

It is streaming on AHA.

Bhamakalapam 2: A Delicious Sequel With An ‘In-Form’ Priya Mani

Director Abhimanyu Tadimeti keeps the viewers thoroughly intrigued. The characterisation of Priya Mani’s Anupama continues to be a big highlight.
Bhamakalapam 2 (Telugu); Crime Thriller, 2 hours 8 minutes U/A
  • Main Cast: Priya Mani, Shranya Pradeep, Bramhaji, and Seerat Kapoor
  • Director: Abhimanyu Tadimeti
  • Producer: Sudheer Edara and Bhogavalli Bapineedu
  • Music Director: Prashanth V Vihari
  • Cinematography: Deepak Yaragera
  • Rating: 3.5
  • Published in: Southfirst

Bhamakalapam (2022), directed by Abhimanyu Tadimeti, was an engrossing thriller with elements of crime, greed, and religion.

The pivot of the first part was about an extremely valuable egg that is worth ₹200 crore. This egg is stolen by someone and gets lost again.

Priya Mani’s Anupama was a homemaker-cum-YouTuber who kept a sharp eye on the neighbourhood. In a way, she was the Sherlock Homes of her apartment.

Abhimanyu Tadimeti did a good job of building the mystery around the egg along with making a strong statement about finding god within you.

The first part was released in 2022 and now, you have the sequel after a gap of two years.

The second part begins with Anupama and her family shifting to a new place.


Priya Mani and Sharanya Pradeep in ‘Bhamakalapam 2’, a thriller. (X)

Anupama’s husband Mohan (Pradeep Rudra) asks her to not meddle in other people’s issues. Meanwhile, Anupama launches a restaurant with the revenue generated from YouTube.

She makes Shilpa (Sharanya Pradeep) her business partner.

Just when everything seems to be going well, the life of Anupama takes a drastic turn.

She unintentionally helps the police in catching a criminal while practising driving with the instructor next to her.

Bramhaji plays the teacher. He uses this incident to increase the popularity of his driving school.

The person gets out on bail and starts threatening Anupama. To get out of this mess, Anupama and Shilpa approach Sadanand (Anish Gurwara), who used to work as the head of Narcotics Control. However, this only results in the situation becoming messier.

A situation comes when Anupama has to steal an illustration of an adult male chicken worth a lot of money. She has no other option.

Additionally, Anupama and Shilpa are selected to participate in a major cooking competition. Adding to this mix are the new characters like Jubeda (Seerat Kapoor).

Playing to the strengths

A big strength of Bhamakalapam 2 is the jugulbandi between Priya Mani and Sharanya.

The actors take off effortlessly from where they left off in the first part. Their scenes together leave the viewers in splits.

Abhimanyu Tadimeti also does a good job of developing the new characters.

For example, the viewers are initially supposed to sympathise with the character of Sadanand, an outcast officer. But soon, that changes with his behaviour towards Anupama. His plans of stealing the valuable item and how he goes about it keep the viewers on the hooks.

Similarly, the track of Seerat Kapoor, a former TV actor, has also been well-written. The character comes with grey shades that go beyond just her glamorous looks.

The portions of the heist mixed with the cooking competition are another highlight of the film.

A few minutes after the cooking competition begins, Anupama deliberately cuts her finger as it is time to execute the heist plan.

While doing Sadanand’s job, she also gives cooking instructions to Shilpa through the second earphone.

A far-fetched heist

A still from the film ‘Bhamakalapam 2’. (X)

The heist scenes are far-fetched in nature, but what makes them work is the handling of Abhimanyu Tadimeti.

Pre-climax also has a good twist regarding the illustration of the adult male chicken, but the subsequent sequence is not entirely satisfactory.

Almost every character has a gun in their hands, and the shooting scenes don’t add much to the narrative.

Also, the eventual fate of this adult male chicken goes out of the window. The director should have clarified this.

However, Abhimanyu Tadimeti does deserve credit for setting up a good base for part 3.

Priya Mani is once again spot-on in the title role. She portrays the mental strength of Anupama with absolute finesse.

Priya Mani is seen doing some action, and the actor excels in that, too.

Sharanya Pradeep raises many chuckles, particularly in the scenes where Shilpa has to cook solo.

Bramhaji, as the driving instructor, has a brief presence, but he is an absolute riot.

The rest of the actors are fine in their respective parts.

Final take

Bhamakalapam 2 makes the viewers eager for the third part.

It is streaming on Aha Video.

Modern Love Hyderbad: An Anthology That Leaves You With A Warm And Fuzzy Feeling

Anthologies have fast become a trend that everyone wants to make. It is not surprising given that you don’t need big budgets and a huge star cast. Many of the anthologies have had mixed results. The stories in these anthologies have generally tilted towards dark ones. For example the Tamil anthology Pava Kadhaigal had four stories of extremely dark nature.

Hyderabad basks in Modern Love
Actors with Charminar in the background

In that respect Modern Love Hyderabad is of a different type, and in a good way. For those who are not aware the source material of Modern Love Hyderabad is Modern Love. There is also another anthology called Modern Love Mumbai based on Modern Love.

Coming back to Modern Love Hyderabad, this anthology looks at the universal feeling of love through different set of age groups. For example you have a mother and daughter trying to reconnect in the pandemic. There is a couple who have understanding issues etc. Out of the six three have been directed by Nagesh Kukunoor. Venketash Maha of K for Kancharapalam has also directed one of the episodes.

Let’s look at the six stories one by one, along with a brief analysis.

  1. 1. My Unlikely Pandemic Dream Partner– This episode is set during the COVID lockdown. Mehrunissa (Revathy) is stuck with her daughter Noori (Nithya Menon). There are some unresolved issues which need to be sorted. There is a quiet resentment that both of them have towards each other.

Director Nagesh Kukunoor uses food as a character in itself. The delicious Biryani, Haleem etc are used as a device for the characters to unpack their baggage.

It is a simple plot but what makes it click is the treatment of the director. Both Revathy and Nithya Menon convey the required emotions with ease. The analogy of food has also been smartly integrated.

Modern Love Hyderabad's Nagesh Kukunoor: 'One language isn't better than  other' | Web Series - Hindustan Times
Director Nagesh Kukunoor uses food as a character
  •  Fuzzy, Purple and Full of Thorns– As the title suggests this one is about a thorny relationship between Uday (Aadhi Pineshetty) and Renuka (Ritu Varma). Both of them fall in love after a chance meet up but a pair of purple slippers creates a havoc in their love life.

The best thing about this segment is the character of Ritu Varma. Ritu Varma is delightful as the imperfect protagonist. She has her own insecurities but you don’t dislike her completely. Her fixation with the slippers raises many chuckles.

This segment also looks at the modern day life through a live-in-relationship. Aadhi Pinishetty and Ritu Varma share a wonderful chemistry.

Modern Love: Hyderabad Review: Suhasini Maniratnam, Revathy & Nithya ...
Suhasini Maniratnam tugs at your heartstrings
  •  Why Did She Leave Me- Why Did She Leave Me begins on a slow note. This episode starts with a CEO giving a speech to booster his colleagues. The CEO is Ramulu (Naresh Agastya). This episode is mostly about the relation between Ramulu and his grandmother Rangamma (Suhasini). Rangamma left Ramulu in an orphanage at a young age due to certain circumstances and never came back.

The flashback portions between Rangamma and the young Ramulu is the best thing about this segment, Suhansini tugs at your heartstrings as a grandmother raising her two grandchildren alone. Advitej Reddy plays the younger version of Ramulu with ease.

Partly mediocre, partly predictable—Modern love Hyderabad is pleasing, but  fails the city
Revathy and Nitya Menon in an emotional scene
  •  What Clown Wrote the Script- What Clown Wrote The Script is an interesting satire on the ridiculous nature of the serials. This story is about a television producer (Abhijeet Duddla) who collaborates with a standup comedian to create something different.

Malavika Nair plays the standup comedian here. It is a simplistic story but still there is a lot to enjoy here. Both Malavika and Abhijeet deliver earnest performances, the references to the legendary Jandhyala brings a smile to the face of the audience.

  •  About the rustle in Bushes- This segment reminds you of Prakash Raj’s Akashamanta. Much like that one here too Naresh plays an overprotective father.
Modern Love Hyderabad series review: Flashes of charm in an anthology  series set in Charminar City
Aadhi Pineshetty and Ritu Varma share a wonderful chemistry

Sneha (Ulka Gupte) is looking for love and finds it when she least expects it, along the way she meets a host of different people. Keeping a secret watch on her is Naresh.

The trope of the overprotective parent isn’t a new one by any means, but what makes this segment tick is the casting. Ulka as Sneha in particular delivers a wonderful performance. Through her character the director talks about how guilt manifests in irrational ways, particularly when it comes to love and family.

  •  Finding Your Penguin- Finding your Penguin is a hilarious tale about a young woman in Hyderabad. Indu (Komalle Prasad) tries a different approach to dating by comparing her dates with the way animals mate.

Indu’s interactions with her friends are laugh out loud. They have an authentic feel to them. This segment ends the anthology on a high.

Modern Love Hyderabad is not for those looking for depth, however if you are in the mood for some warmth and fuzziness then this one is for you. 

Bloody Mary: An Engrossing Thriller With A Formidable Performance From Its Leading Lady

Narratives weaved around the characters of visually impaired isn’t something really new. For example you have had Nayanathara’s Netrikaraan. Director Chandoo Mondeti’s Bloody Mary is an intense thriller with a social cause integrated into it.

Mary (Nivetha Pethuraj) is a nurse in a hospital. She is also an orphan who lives in a small apartment along with her childhood friends Basha and Raju (Kriti Damaraju and Rajkumar Kasireddy). Basha aspires to become an actor although he cannot speak. One day a hospital doctor tries to misbehave with Mary, Mary accidentally kills him.

Parallel to this you have her friend Basha seeing a murder committed by the area circle inspector (Played by Ajay). The rest of the plot is about how Mary will handle the situation? Who is Mary? What is her actual Identity? Among others. Revealing anything more wouldn’t be appropriate given that it is a thriller.

Chandoo Mondeti doesn’t waste any time in setting up the plot. There are no unnecessary diversions here; as a result you are hooked to the narrative. He is also well aided by the technical team. Kala Bhairava’s background music is very much apt for the film’s genre. The photography by Karthik Ghattamaneni is also in perfect sync. The framing and the set up aid immensely in building up the perfect atmospherics.

The runtime is another huge plus for Bloody Mary. It is very much slick.

A major reason why Bloody Mary works is because of the way the title character has been developed. We initially see her as this subdued person but more and more layers are revealed as we go along. The director is successful in making you root for her.

Nivitha Pethuraj gives an arresting performance as a lady with big dreams in life. Her screen presence along with the performance brings depth to the key episodes. She also gets some nice masala moments which are usually reserved for heroes.

The scenes between Nivetha and Ajay are also good to watch. The cat and the mouse between Mary and the cop keeps you engaged. Ajay gets a good amount of screen time and he does his aggressive cop act perfectly.

 The bond that Mary shares with Basha and Raju is also well presented.

Bloody Mary does suffer a bit from impossibility issues. Some of the twists will put you off but these are minor grouses as the film is mostly satisfying.

Bhamakalapam: An Engaging Thriller

Abhimanyu Tadimeti’s Bhamakalapam is an interesting mix of ingredients such as crime, greed and religion. The director pivots his plot on a Faberge egg that is worth 200 cores. This valuable egg has been stolen and later on gets lost again. Apart from making an engrossing thriller the director also makes a statement on how to find god within. The underlying message here is that not to be misled by anyone who uses religion as a weapon. The film also benefits from Priyamani’s spot on performance.

Bhamakalapam begins with an incident that is eerily similar to 2018’s Andhadhun. Instead of the Rabbit you have a lamb that crosses the path and the car meets with an accident. This of course leads to many things. However the similarities with Andhadhun end here. Anupama Mohan (Priyamani) is a homemaker and also a well known Youtuber. She is famous for her videos on cooking.

But Anupama is more than just a YouTuber, she also keeps an eye on what is happening in neighborhood. You can say that Anupama is her ‘apartments Sherlock Homes’. We get evidence of this early on when she tries to expose the extramarital affair of her neighbour. Her detective work backfires and she is thoroughly embarrassed by her apartment people. She also promises her husband that she wouldn’t peek out of the window again; however fate has different plans for her.

Other important members of the apartment include a pastor who is waiting for divine events to happen. There is also a woman called Saira who is a survivor of domestic abuse. Sharanya of Fida fame plays the domestic help of Anupama called Shilpa.

The biggest reason why Bhamakalapam works is due to the intrigue that the director is able to maintain. He builds up the mystery around the egg really well. Another major highlight of the film is the scenes between Priyamani and Sharanya. Their scenes are filled with comedy and also tension. The duo is particularly good when the characters become unwilling partners in crime.

The religious aspect is also brought out well by Abhimanyu. The theme of certain men misleading people by using religion isn’t really particularly new but the message is still an important one.

The cinematography by Viplav Nyshadam and music by Justin Prabhakaran also add to the comic thriller mood. For example there is a scene where Anupama finds herself dragged into a situation wishing that she had never taken that step. The sound of the violin has been very well used.

Priyamani as I earlier said is spot on with her performance. She gets the nuances of the character spot on starting from Anupama’s inquisitiveness. Saranya as Shilpa is another ace in the story. The actress is good in both the comic bits and also the ones where she needs to show tension. The rest of the cast are appropriate in their respective roles.

Bhamakalapam is an interesting experiment that deserves to be seen.

Narappa: An Unnecessary Remake

Vetrimaran’s Asuran was a powerful take on the caste system and made you root for the central character’s quest of protecting his family. Narappa on the other hand is not just an unnecessary remake but also doesn’t work as a standalone film. Director Srikant Addala misses the target by miles. It would have been best if Asuran was dubbed in Telugu instead of being remaked.

The film would have probably worked more in theatres for those who couldn’t  see Asuran. But given that it has released on OTT where you have many other options there are very less chances of Narappa being liked.

The plotline of Narappa is the same as Asuran with no changes at all, just the actors change. Venketash replaces Dhanush as the father who has left his violent past behind and is now living a quiet life with his wife and three children. He is satisfied with farming a small part of land and has no major expectations from life. The only thing he wants to see is his eldest son Munikanna getting married. Munikanna is a hot headed youngster who feels that his father is a coward and isn’t happy with the passive attitude of his father. Since Munikanna is  more aggressive he often gets into fights with an upper class family. During one of these conflicts the situation takes an ugly turn and Narappa and his family are forced to run away. While he is on the run Narappa is pushed to revisit his past which he had left many years ago. This is the basic plot for those who haven’t seen Asuran.

The most glaring thing about Narappa is the shifting of the story to Rayalaseema region. By placing the story in that particular region Srikant Addala adds to the streyotypes that have been associated with that place thanks to dozens of Telugu movies.

Narappa could have been easily placed somewhere else too but the director could only think of Rayalaseema of all the places.

It also doesn’t help that the accents of almost all the actors are inconsistent. Only Rao Ramesh gets the slang right, his scenes are the only ones which make some sort of impression even though they are copy pasted.

Coming to the obvious comparisions Venketash is no Dhanush and the reasons for that are very clear from the first frame. Venketash tries his level best but the performance comes across as laboured. He is no way able to bring the rustic presence of Dhanush. It is not just about histrionics but it is also about the physicality. Dhanush physicality also worked well for the original but here Venketesh’s one comes across as a misfit.

To make matters worse the flashback portions are not even half as impactful as Asuran.  The flashback portions in Asuran were important as it made you understand the reasons behind the lead character’s quietness and why he is the way he is. However here it comes across as not so natural. Venketesh is made to look younger in these scenes but it is hard for the audience to buy it.

GV Prakash’s music was a key element in Asuran but here the songs don’t add much to the plot. The background score is impactful but again it is not something new for those who have seen Asuran.

Technically the film is all right as Shyam K Naidu is able to capture the rusticness of the place and the surroundings.

Narappa just like Asuran gives a message which is very important for the society regarding how education can help you in overcoming the caste barrier. Wonder why they could not take an original story from Andhra Telangana regions.

Cinema Bandi: A Feel Good Film

A good way to describe Cinema Bandi would be as an ode to cinema. It is an endearing story about a group of people who don’t know much about filmmaking but they give it their all to make a film. Set in a remote village the films protagonist is an auto rickshaw driver Veera played by Vikas Vasistha. His life is pretty mudane as nothing much happens in his life. The conversations are mostly about the lack of rains and the bad roads in the village and also the big divide between rural and urban. Although Veera doesn’t make much money he is an optimist who sincerely believes that things will change for better. He often argues that if everyone migrates to the city who will make things better for the village.

Things take a huge turn for Veera when someone leaves behind a bag and in that one you have a high-end camera. During that night he sees a news channel report on how Telugu films with smaller budgets can also become super hits. From here on begins a fun ride mixed with different emotions.

Veera firmly believes that the film will change the fortunes of not just his life but also that of the village. Apart from Veera other important characters include the wedding photographer turned cinematographer Ganesh (Sandeep Varanasi) and the hairdresser turned hero Maridayya (Rag Mayur). Maridayya puts his screen name as Maridesh Babu!

The biggest strength of Cinema Bandi is how the director Praveen explores the psyche of the characters. It takes a lot for the villagers who are mostly dependent on their daily wages to be part of a film. One of the best scenes in the film is when Manga played by Uma shuts up a man who questions her on why she is acting. She responds by saying how those involved in the film have gone the extra mile in their daily life in order to make the film happen.

Another interesting thing about the film is its varied mix of female characters. On one hand you have a heroine who has her own plans of love and marriage. On the other hand there is another woman who doesn’t want to be a damsel in distress. She wants to take things into her own control.

The track between Veera and his wife has also been done well. The ups and downs of their relationship after Veera decides to direct has been shown in an authentic manner.

The cinematography by Apoorva Shaligram and Sagar is suitably rustic and adds in a huge way to the film’s credibility.

Apart from the main characters the smaller characters have also been well written. For example there is a boy who keeps a constant watch on the continuity required for the scenes. There is also a grandfather and we are told that he is the writer for the story on which the film is based. However, for most part he sits without uttering a word.

The performances of the main cast work perfectly in sync with the setting of the story. Vikas Vasistha in particular is very good as the optimistic Veera.

In totality Cinema Bandi is a nice imagination on how a common man would direct a film if he ever gets a camera to shoot (don’t we all have that dream!).

Miss India: Tea Served Cold

It is not an easy task to make a good female centric film, the reason being you need a lot more than just a strong protagonist. When done well it gives good results like Keerthy Suresh’s ‘Mahanati’ which was a satisfying cinematic experience, or other films like ‘Kahaani,’ ‘Fashion,’ ‘Dear Zindagi’ and others. However when not directed well the results are like Miss India starring the national award winner Keerthy Suresh. 

Miss India narrates the story of Samyuktha who is convinced that she is born to do business and this is established very clearly early on. The problem is that her mother and brother are horrified with her decision. They tell her in no uncertain terms good girls only need education in order to get a good groom while only bad girls step out. The rest of the journey is about how Samyuktha achieves her dreams by going against her mother and brother. Nadia plays the mother and Naresh plays the father. The father is pretty inconsequential in the scheme of the things as he has Alzheimer’s. Rajendra Prasad plays the grandfather who dies very early on in the film. 

The biggest problem with Miss India is its treatment. All achiever stories have a predictable arc but as a director you can make it interesting with the treatment. But here the director squanders the opportunity in spite of having a national award winning actress and also Nadia and Naresh who were very successful together in ‘Drishyam’ and AA. The silliness of the film can be seen in every frame. For example Samakyukta gets an MBA degree from a San Francisco college without attending any class. The way she wants to spread the benefits of Indian Chai is very comical to say the least. 

It also doesn’t help that her encounters with men aren’t executed with much flair. If done well they could have been interesting but the flair and wit are completely missing. Also the male characters are too one-dimensional, whether that is Naveen Chandra in the beginning or Sumanth Shailendra in the later portions. 

A strong antagonist is a very important thing in a film like this but here again the director Narendra Nath misses the mark in spite of having Jagapati Babu who has built a strong reputation for himself with negative characters in ‘Legend’ and ‘Aravinda Sametha.’ It is a track which starts decently but soon dissolves into something which is utterly stupid. 

The schemes of Jagapati Babu are hair brained to say the least and each plan is sillier than the other. His redemption at the end is also done for the sake of it more than anything else. The movie was released on Wednesday on Netflix.

While it wouldn’t be entirely right to blame Keerthy Suresh she also doesn’t help her cause with her rather dull acting. Honestly none of the acting performances register which tells a lot given that even bad films have at least one redeeming quality. 

In totality Miss India has a decent storyline where it wants to show a strong woman but it misses the mark by miles. Best avoided even if you like Keerthy Suresh’s acting in Mahanati.