March 27, 2009 APK
A wrap-up of last year, from last Ugadi to this. The year ended with Jalsa getting mixed reations and an uncertain BO verdict, and began with some small movies with relatively new actors or those looking for a re-entry. Then came comic capers, some made us laugh, some didn't evoke a smile. The three biggies from our youthful stars (Parugu, Kantri, Bujjigadu) were to use a phrase 'gone with the wind'. Our Big Daddies from Nagarjuna to Venkatesh and Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth and Balakrishna also failed to set the BO on fire. The small movies shot across one after another, out of which a few were likeable. There were some disappointments from that category too, notably Keka (expected?) and some average fares that were neither totally drab nor entertaining enough to actually make the effort to go and watch it (word of mouth:max impact marketting). Kochem Istam disappointed while Varun Sandesh starrer (who was once Sidhartha-lookalike) Kotha Bangaru Lokam was an entertaining teen love story. The year ended with another shower of small flicks, none of which are halfway watchable, but still-there's hope for tomorrow.
A Boring Beginning - Savaal (2.5*) answered old questions with stale answers. This Bharath and Suhani starrer directed by B Jaya didn't have anything new to offer and the best that could be said about it is it was endurable-but forgettable. Another movie with newbies in it, Kalidasu(2.5*) starring Nagarjuna's nephew Sushanth and Happy Days Happy Kid Tamanna was another formula flick that failed to set the BO on fire, not to mention that it bored the viewers into burying their heads in popcorn bags. Oh and Sushanth needs a makeover. Maybe he can take a lesson or two from the Allu scion.
Newbies can get it wrong, and comebacks always don't go off with a bang. Tarun's re-entry was marked by Vijaya Bhasker's attempt at redemption after Classmates (and losing Trivikram as his writer). Bhale Dongalu (2.75*), a remake of the hit Hindi Bunty aur Babli was a huge YAWN.
Just for Laughs - Bommanna Brothers Chandana Sisters (***) starring the inimitable Naresh and Krishna Bhagwan proved to be a fun summertime watch, albiet forgettable soon as you come out of the hall. But compared to the other releases, this was the first release of the new year that didn't make sure you grabbed a few zzzzz in the AC. Made you grin, this one did.
The same can't be said about the movie that followed, supposed to be rib-tickling. Micheal Madana Kamaraju (2.25*) had an ensemble cast of Srikanth, Prabhu Deva, Sunil, Charmme and others. Mostly we had to grin and bear it as opposed to laughing with glee.
Later in the year, Sidhu from Srikakulam starring Naresh did produce any laughs, on the contrary, some frowns and grimaces. Unbearable commitment-phoebe flick! A shade better was Dongalabandi which released at the end of the year, some theives and some laughs. Homemade pop corn and Teja TV jobless afternoon viewing category, of course. The remake of Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag a.k.a. Naa Girlfriend Baga Rich doesn't really deserve a mention, but since we embarked on this project anyway, it was made for some unknown mysterious sadistic reasons.
Youn'Guns - Make way for the deadly trio. One after another, these youthful stars had their movies release during the summer holidays, but people preferred to stay home.
Parugu seemed too personal and basically released at the wrong time. About a father whose daughter elopes, Bommarillu Bhasker's second movie didn't really have the reactions his debut got. Kantri, NTR starrer directed by Puri associate Mehr Ramesh couldn't grip viewers with its weak screenplay especially post-break. Then we had Bujjigadu starring Prabhas, and Puri's Pokiri magic wand had gone with the wind. Although entertaining in parts, this movie too had no substance post-break even though the lead actor showed some spark (he looked awake, he looked awake!).
Starry Bytes - Chintakayla Ravi had Venkatesh in a role that usually is written for Ravi Teja. The movie had a theme bound to attract overseas audiences but a direction and a second half that could have been pacier and more humorous. And by humor, we don't imply flatuence jokes alone. Ravi, needless to say, didn't rock. Could have, but did not.
Pandurangadu starring Balakrishna in and as Panduranga with a double role playing his dad's version of Lord Vishnu directed by Raghavender Rao. Fool Proof, but there was so much sexuality even for KRR, which was too much to take for the targetted (?) family audience. Apparently grandmothers who came to watch it fainted in their seats. And teenage boys secretly rented out the dvds and watched it two times in a row. Way to go KRR. But the movie didn't impress. At least not like his previous myth movies.
Vintage Wine - Dasavatharam starring Kamal Hassan and Kamal Hassan and a couple of more Kamal Hassans was interesting...on second thoughts, it was a whiny self-indulgent fiasco.
Kathanayakudu was another major movie that, with Rajnikanth's rock-solid presence, sank as grandly as the Titanic (the ship, not the movie). The modern take on the Krishna-Sudama story with Rajnikanth playing (almost) himself and Jagapathi Babu his childhood pal down in the dumps had bad dialouge, bad direction, bad...what a waste of all that money and star power.
Up and Rising - Ready starring Ram made Ram ready for stardom...which will come in a couple of years, maybe once he turns 21. This time you saw that he had a face underneath the hair. The Devadasu boy has it in him, and the movie costarring Genelia directed by Srinu vytla flushed with D success of D was mildly entertaining. Sadly the same cannot be said about once-upon-a-time up and rising Nitin, now for some reason falling, falling and fell-with Victory (2*) you could even hear a loud 'Thud'. This land mafia movie was pure torture. He had another release later in October, Hero (0.5*). One word about Hero, summing it up entirely: HEADACHE. Then towards the end of this year came Drona. Rona-Dona, for us poor unsuspecting victims..er..audiences. Does anyone have worse cinema sense than Nitin? Oh yeah...some names come to mind...ok, moving on.
Hare Ram followed, and this was a special movie. Why? It was directed by Harshavardan who had earlier directed the unforgettable Vijayendra Verma (Balakrishna). This Kalyan Ram starrer reported no hospitalization like the director's previous extravaganza, and was full of cops and killers and twins. The masala failed to spice up the BO though.
Kotha Bangaru Lokam, starring Happy Days lead Varun Sandesh and tween actor Swetha Prasad, was a winner from the Dil Raju stable. A story on teen love with a message seems to be a theme lapped up by viewers this year.
Misc - Homam, a Teluguised version of The Departed with Jagapathi and Chakravarthy was so-so. Another of Jagapathi-Chakravarthy movies, Siddam didn't have the stark and gripping narrative of last year's Jagapathi starrer Lakshyam. This was again a remake of the Hindi Ab Tak Chappan, and seemed to stay at one level even though it wasn't a bad watch. But of course, the originals are better here.
Ditto Satyameva Jayate, a remake of Khakee starring Rajashekar. The original was better.
Dubbed, not Dubba: Surya S/O of Krishnan wasn't everyone's cuppa tea but the narrative was decent albiet slow paced.
Lost in Translation: Loud, senseless and badly dubbed Simbu starrer Maa Vaadu didn't even impress the so-called front-benchers. They've got better things to do. Message to Simbu: You are not Rajnikanth.
Posani Krishna Murali came out with Apadamokkulavadu last January and now it's Mental Krishna this January. Anyways, get down to the point. He's nuts. Keep away from him or his creativity as long you live, or want to live. He's tormental Krishna. Shall definitely rot in hell.
Mesthri: Can't they keep politics and their movies seperate at least?
Small Is The New Big, But Doesn't Always Click - Asta Chamma was like the rains that came and refreshed the summer's humid heat. A Telugu adaptation of Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest' reminded us of Jhandyala's laidback entertainers with typical characters and underplayed humor. Indraganti Mohankrishna's movie had all the warmth of our land and next-door actors making us smile with them.
Happy Days kid Nikhil's second movie, Ankit Pallavi and Friends had ameturish direction and dialouge that made it seem like it was a practice flick for a filmmaking course and not the real deal. Otherwise the idea was very much workable. Still, it wasn't meant to be so the end product lacked finnese.
Another 'small' flick, Saroja, was a kidnap drama with no big stars but the bilingual definitely showed spark and the grip and pace made it watchable. On the other hand, a similar movie (also a bilingual small flick) starring Charmme 16 Days, didn't really rock, and Charmme's hamming Tauba Tauba. Someone's taking her Nandi a tad too seriously, huh?
Gunde Jhallumannadi was another comeback for Uday Kiran, but made the audiences shout Go Back. Not really his fault, the movie itself was so flawed that the mushiness nauseated many. Not happening.
Raksha, an RGV flick directed by debutant Vamsi Krishna Akella was a movie on blackmagic that engaged the viewers to a certain extent. The conclusion was open-ended, endorsing no opinion as such, and the execution and performances were decent. Not a bad watch, and the small flick clicked.
Keka had an all new cast, a speciality of it's director Teja. And was completely tortorous. Another speciality. An extremist, isn't he? People ran out of the theatre, witnesses say.
Kochem Kottaga had Tupil Joshi and Venkat in a thriller about two strangers getting stuck in a home and stuck in an unexpected adventure. Different but not great, the small movie was literally short; it definitely is a relatively unexplored genre here.
Ullasamga Uttsahamga was the Surprise Hit and unexpectedly entertaining till the end, even if a bit cliched. It was the fun flick of the year, with debutant-what's his name? Dunno. But the movie was time-pass.
Avakai Biryani, directed by Kammula associate Anish Kurivella, wasn't readily digested by audiences. The interreligious love story set in a small town was a cute idea, except the movie was at least 20 minutes too long.
Vinayakudu (2.5*) was amongst the steps in the right direction, but the fat boy-slim girl story didn't really make magic. An okay watch, if you've got nothing else to do in life and were recently kicked out of your job.
Chedugudu was another story about a young daughter eloping, this time with debutants that failed to impress. Needless to say, people eloped from the halls.
Nachchavule has Ravi Babu abondoning his previous experiments, and well, moving on to a more message-oriented one. This tale told from a teen perspective, another one after Kotha Bangaru Lokam, recieved much appreciation from audiences.
A movie about the displacement of villagers directed by debutant Sunil Kumar had a profound message and honest narrative but somehow went unnoticed.
City Life from the RK ('mama' from Angrez) camp is nauseating to say the least. Malli Malli or Deja vu didn't really engage audiences.
Disappointments - Shashirekha Parinayam has two good songs. Genelia as the runaway bride hams her way through. Krishna Vamsi made some good movies, this one is not amongst them.
Konchem Istam Konchem Kastam was a lot of kastam to endure. BORING, all capitals. Sidhartha and Tamanna failed to set the screen on fire and even though the idea-reuniting parents for the sake of the girl's father-is too slow and too long.
Maska was nothing new, but an okay festive watch. What the story about again? People decided to fly kites though. Pretty forgettable.
Sauryam was another one of those sibling sentiment stories infused with a terrorizing Don. A police story with Gopichand worked last year, cannot always happen. Old school and below average.
Baladoor (2.75*) starring Krishna and Ravi Teja was again the same old same old that no one was really interested in. Much later, Neninthe had Ravi Teja playing a struggler in the industry and the Puri Jagannath movie on the movies failed to capture the essence of the this insanely addicting world of cinema even though it had it's moments.
Last WordOn the whole, it has been a little more than a dismal year. The good news is that small is back and small movies have dominated this year, with one or two hitting bulls-eye. The writer is in the reckoning again. Direction-wise, many of the biggies failed to recreate their erstwhile magic. The STARS, old and young, failed to draw crowds to the theatres with their star power. On the other hand, small flicks with no stars managed to get appreciated and made it clear that the audiences basically want to be entertained and are less starstruck than ever. There's no Number 1 now and fans of the various stars can fight it out amongst themselves-which is a good thing, as it might allow some experimentation. It's been a big boring year for Telugu cinema, with nothing new or notable on offer. 5 out of around 50 movies released were actually worth a watch. Similar statistics hold anywhere, so don't despair.
Kotha Bangaru Lokam, Asta Chamma, Ullasamga Uttsahamga, Saroja, Surya S/O Krishnan, Raksha, Ready are the frontrunners here (Reminder: This is not a trade-verdict). Not much of a choice, is there?