96 Review

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If you are a lover of the romance genre, this understated Tamil movie starring Vijay and Trisha will really move you. The storyline is so simple, and yet its delivery so profound and impactful. 96 is a notch better than the usual school-age romance we are used to. Vijay does a tremendous job of delivering his character – his little nuances and personality traits. One connects with him quite instantaneously.

In a few moments of the film, I was reminded of Vinnaithandi Varuvaya — old lovers meeting after many years, and when Janu re-tells their story having changed it into a happy ending rather than the sad reality. Despite its occasional drift into a fantasy world where the characters relive their emotions for one another in the same ways they had as teenagers, 96 remains real and authentic throughout. One of the most unique and impactful decisions taken with the movie was the lack of physical contact. The chemistry and interaction between the characters were so intense in some moments when they just stood looking at each other, I nearly felt frustration at the lack of an embrace between them. But when I think again, I think that was a good call on part of the director. The fact that they never embrace or hold each other was a literal symbolism of the reality that they cannot be together. I loved one of the last scenes in the movie, where Janu, unable to hold his hand otherwise, ensures that he does by stubbornly placing her hand on the gear while he is driving.

What made the movie so enchanting and beautiful for me was also the cinematography and the music. The background scores were beautiful, the songs were deep and touching. The use of the camera was on point, and does indeed remind one of photography, especially in the earlier scenes of the movie where we are introduced to Ram the photographer.

If you haven’t yet seen this heartfelt Tamil film, make sure you do.

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Amara Kaaviyam Review

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I’ve been on a Tamil film spree lately. More and more Tamil films are available with English subtitles these days, which is fantastic. So I’ve been doing some catching up.

One of the recent films I saw is Amara Kaaviyam, a romantic drama starring Sathya and Miya, and directed and written by Jeeva Shankar.

Amara Kaaviyam actually has a simple screenplay. It’s about the love story of two youngsters and the challenges that comes with that love. The film has a lot of things going for it. First of all, it’s very intense. So if you’re the type to enjoy Aashiqui type love stories, you will enjoy this one too.

Despite working with a fairly simple idea, Jeeva Shankar has visualized his story in a very gripping and thrilling way. So much so that I did not feel bored for even a minute during this movie, which is a very rare phenomenon during any romantic drama. Every scene and dialogue had a purpose and effect in this film. It was well directed and the performances were excellent. Especially Miya is very impressive with her acting and expressions. The actors were correctly cast and suited the characters they were chosen for. The sets and cinematography was perfect and the music is fantastic, you must definitely listen to it.

The one and only criticism I have of this film is the ending. I don’t believe that every film has to have and deliver a social message or set an example for society. I think that films can fulfill different types of purposes. Some can and do deliver a message, others are just made for entertainment, and there is nothing wrong with that. What I do believe however is that even if a film doesn’t have any constructive message for its audience, it should at least not deliver a negative or harmful message, wantonly or unwantonly.

Spoiler next…

A crime of passion may be an unexpected and thrilling conclusion to a story. The issue is actually not even the fact that he stabs her at the end. The issue is that we end the film with sympathy for the male lead, who has in fact just committed a gruesome crime and murdered someone whom he claimed to love. That is the problem. The fact that murder is presented as understandable or acceptable is the problem. The fact that the girl who is stabbed is okay with that is the problem. And it’s only a problem because violence against women and crimes of passion are still very prevalent in countries like India. Violence is still seen by many as a solution to frustration and love failure. The last thing we need is films that encourage this idea. This is the only aspect of this film that I didn’t like. If it had ended differently, it might not have been as shocking and impactful, but I think it would have been the right thing to do.

Aside from this point, I do think that you may enjoy this film if you like the genre.

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Anegan Review: Watch It For The First Story

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This is a 2015 Tamil fantasy-romantic-thriller starring Dhanush and Amyra Dastur.

The film is sort of like Dangerous Ishq. There is a main theme of reincarnation and lasting love. The difference in this film is that we’re not sure whether the heroine is really recollecting her past memories or whether she just has a very inventive imagination. This uncertainty lingers throughout the film and it is never given a definite answer. I was hoping that I would know in the finale, but I was just as confused about this point at the end as I was in the beginning.

The film goes through a serious of past lives and in between we are brought back to present day. Eventually the past and present come together.

The best part of this film is a fantastic first story which is a period story that takes place in Burma. I am in love with this story in the film. The story itself is great, the costumes, the sets, the history, everything is very nice. Only Dhanush’s hair is terrible in this story. But if I were to give a single reason why you should watch this film, it is for this initial romantic story. I love the song “Aathadi Aathadi” in this story.

I think what touched me about it is that the love portrayed in it is so pure and naive. I guess its something about their age. They’re at an age where they can love selflessly and daringly. As we grow older, our ego grows too and it always gets in the way. The love that’s portrayed in the first story in Anegan and in the song Aathadi Aathadi, is probably something that only young people can experience. It’s simple, uncomplicated and whole-hearted. And that’s why it’s beautiful.

The film in general has a very upbeat rhythm and I was not bored at any point. I did however feel that there were too many past lives and things got a little confusing for me in the second half. They tried to tie everything back together at the end. I can’t say that I was very impressed with the ending.

Dhanush, as always, did a great job with his roles. Amyra is a very impressive actress and Amyra and Dhanush make a good on-screen pair. Dhanush always looks best with fair ladies I think. I really liked this pairing in this film.

I do suggest that you don’t raise your expectations too high and just enjoy the first part of the film. I think it is worth the watch.

Also read Raghuvaran B. Tech (Velaiyilla Pattathari) Review and Shamitabh Review: Interesting But Lacks Chemistry

Short Reviews: Recently Watched in Hindi, Telugu & Tamil

Hi everyone! I continue to watch Indian films as usual but I don’t get as much time as before to review them. So I have prepared short reviews for all recent films I’ve seen since my last review, NH10, in one post. I’ll try to do these on a regular basis.

Hindi

Khamoshiyan

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All I probably need to say about this 2015 film is that it’s a supernatural horror made by Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt and you probably know exactly what kind of film it is. The Bhatts love using very basic human instincts to attract cinemagoers. Everyone knows that a Bhatt film will have some horror, some thrill and some erotica. This film also has these elements but as it often happens, it runs a little short on story, performance and logic.

The film is about a writer who ends up in a strange isolated guesthouse while looking for inspiration. The biggest issue with this film is that it’s supposed to be a horror film but it’s not scary at all.

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Rahasya is a very good 2015 murder mystery starring the superb actor, Kay Kay Menon. If you like the mystery- thriller genre, then you will definitely enjoy this. The film is about how Sunil from CBI investigates and solves a murder case of a young girl. The story is very well written, gripping and effective. Kay Kay Menon did such a great job that at one point I was wondering why he was not offered the role of a modern Indian Sherlock Holmes.

Bombay Velvet

I didn’t not see Bombay Velvet entirely but I’ve seen much of it. The thing is that this film
Bombay Velvet poster.jpg was so hyped in the beginning and it was delayed so much that the excitement and anticipation reduced greatly by the time it released. It’s also a very ambitious project so some disappointment seems inevitable. The most impressive aspects were definitely the sets, costumes, hair, makeup, etc. But in all honesty, the film did not seem like it took place in Bombay in the 1960s and the characters didn’t seem like Indians. It’s like a strange fusion of various Al Pacino films. And you know something is not right when the best thing about a film is the presence and performance of Karan Johar. Raveena Tandon got the short-stick with that mere glimpse in the beginning of the film. I’ve actually heard people say that they will watch this film to see Raveena, so that was a very poor decision on the part of Anurag Kashyap. Ranbir and Anushka looked great individually but lacked the passion or chemistry together which the story demanded. I should probably see the film properly before commenting further however.

Telugu

Maryada Ramanna

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This is actually a 2010 film, a modern version of a Romeo and Juliet story starring Sunil. I have watched Sunil in many films as a comedy actor so I was not sure whether he could pull of the role of hero. I didn’t know if he could do serious acting and deliver romantic dialogues but he was in fact, very, very good in the film. He is such a good actor and was particularly impressive in the emotional scenes. The film overall is a complete family entertainer. I really enjoyed myself watching this film. If you missed it when the film released, please do watch it now.

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Govindudu Andarivadele

I’m not a big fan of Ram Charan so I started watching this 2014 film with little expectation. It’s true that there is nothing unique or different about the story of Govindudu Andarivadele. We’ve seen this storyline in Telugu films many times before. A son or daughter separates on bad terms from family and many years later the son returns to the family home to get to know them and bring everyone together. Even though the storyline is quite routine, the film is nice and entertaining. I liked Ram’s performance. I also liked his character’s equation with the character of Prakash Raj who was the grandfather. This is a family entertainer that’s good for a stress-free weekend evening.Current Theega poster.jpg

 Current Theega

This 2014 film was a pain to watch. If you ask me the story, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you. I think I fast-forwarded several times while watching. The scenarios and comedy were ridiculous and the hero, Manchu Vishnu, overacts. Even Sunny Leone couldn’t save this film and I mean that literally because she was in the film too.

Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu

This is a 2012 Gautham Menon film starring Nani and Samantha. It’s a romantic film about how the love story of this couple develops over many years. Vinnaithandi YVM Wallpaper.jpgVaruvaya by Gautham Menon is one of my favorite films and I had been looking forward to watching this particular film since some time now. Unfortunately, the film was not as good as I expected. It’s extremely slow paced and the story is rather uneventful. I was mostly bored during the movie and even though I think that Nani and Samantha are both good actors, I wasn’t particularly impressed by their performances either. So kind of disappointed with this one and if you haven’t seen it, you really haven’t missed anything.

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Doosukeltha

This is another film which I avoided seeing when it released for no particular reason. It released in 2013 and stars Manchu Vishnu. The first half was kind of silly and boring. The second half was better, more entertaining. Again, there is nothing unique about the story. It seems that Telugu heroes have an unspoken promise that they must always unite families and they must do it by sneaking into their house under some false pretense and make everyone love them. My reactions to the film basically go like this: *yawn* *yawn* *make disgusted face at stupidity of the events and jokes* *yawn* *oh wait, it might get better * *it’s a little better* *laugh* *intrigued* *laugh* *yawn* *oh good it’s over.*

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This 2014 film got very poor reviews and rightly so. The story is not very well written or directed. I saw it regardless because the film stars Naga Shourya who debuted in the hit film Oohalu Gusagusalade. That film was very good and entertaining. I actually feel sorry for Naga because he is a very good actor. Lakshmi Raave Ma Intiki is only his second film but he acts very well, he’s natural at it and doesn’t overact. He has good dialogue delivery, good expressions, good timing and has comedy timing too. If I’ve learned anything about film and acting over the years as a viewer, I think that if Naga signs good projects with good stories and direction, he will go far in the industry.

Aside from the long, patchy storyline, the other issue in the film was the actress Avika Gor. She performed well in some scenes, just okay in others. The bigger problem is her un-groomed eyebrows. I’m not one to judge people by their looks but since visuals are a big part of acting and films, it is important that an actor’s appearance should not be so unpleasant or distracting that it takes away from how the viewer experiences that scene and that performance. In this case, her eyebrows were a constant distraction throughout the movie.

 Tamil

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Lingaa

Ah, that much awaited Rajnikanth movie opposite Anushka Shetty and Sonakshi Sinha. It was nice. I liked the past-day part of the film much more than the modern-day story. In fact, having both stories — life of the grandfather and the life of the grandson– in the same film was not a good idea. The way that it was done, it made the story too long and elaborate. I liked seeing Rajnikanth’s character in the British occupied era. His clothes, his looks, the sets and the action was very entertaining. I also liked Sonakshi’s role and performance in the film. Aside from this one criticism that they probably should have just focused on the past-day part of the story and removed most of the present-day part, the film fulfilled expectations.

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Yennai Arindhaal

A Gautam Menon film with Trisha and Anuskha? Yes, please.

I’m not too familiar with Ajith Kumar films but I know that he has a considerable fan following and he is popular for his action. I personally had been following the updates and promotions of this film since many months and couldn’t wait to see it, and I was not disappointed. The story, direction and performances are really top-notch. I can see how Ajith Kumar got his fan following as he is quite good with action and brings a charismatic performance. It’s always a pleasure to see Anushka on screen. But for me, the main reason I saw the film and the best part of it was definitely Trisha. She is amazingly beautiful in it and has a very significant role opposite Ajith. Her character was endearing and really established the backbone of the entire story. Although it probably is not right to compare them in this context, I think Trisha overshadowed Anushka in the film. I have been watching Trisha films for a decade now and one would think that an actress would age like we all do within such a time frame. But Trisha seems to just get more and more beautiful every time I see her on screen. She’s rubbish at classical dancing though.

Aside from Trisha, the actual story of Yennai Arindhaal is truly worthwhile. The story is a little complex and it is told retroactively. Despite these shifts in time frames within the story, it was edited well and confusion never arose. The film is basically about police officer Sathyadev, played  by Ajith. There are different aspects to his character, that of a police officer, that of a lover to Trisha, a protector to Trisha’s daughter in the film as well as the character played by Anushka, and also his struggle against his enemies who have old vendettas with him. I liked the film and I think I will be watching it again.

Raghuvaran B. Tech (Velaiyilla Pattathari) Review

Dhanush is such a wonderful actor. I suppose he fills the void left by Rajnikanth with his natural portrayal of the common man. He’s one of the few truly mass entertainers who can relate to the common people and their life. Like I said, he’s filling the void in South cinema and I suspect he will have lived up to the aspiration in the next few decades with his impressive film biography.

Raghuvaran B. Tech, released in Tamil (Velaiyilla Pattathari) and Telugu, is about the perils of an unemployed engineer who is desperate to make an identity for himself and more at home than anywhere else. His character is one that many of us can relate to, not only unemployed engineers but anyone who hasn’t been on the receiving end of the world economy. Raghuvaran is intent on doing only what he went to school for, he won’t settle for anything else and his honest nature doesn’t make him very popular with potential employers. So he spends his time at home, ridiculed by his father as being a “good for nothing,” watching soap operas and doing housework by day, and comforted by his secret stash of cigarettes and alcohol by night.

Unfortunately, the story takes a sudden shift in the second half and dives into what could have been the story of another film. The first half is very individualistic, a very personal account. The second half has a larger topic, it’s about a power struggle of the wealthy, privileged class and the poorer, middle class. It was this change in the story that made it a bit disappointing. The natural expected outcome of the first half was that the character should have gained employment by struggle but by his own merit. It would have been a liberating outcome for us, the audience, who cried and laughed with him and sympathized with him throughout the beginning of the film. But instead, he gains employment by chance, by mere coincidence and the identity which he desperately yearned for in the beginning is literally handed to him in a moment. Where is the celebration in that?

And although I think that Dhanush is fit as a Rajnikanth replacement in South cinema, I do have issue with the excessive smoking shown in the film. Times have changed, smoking isn’t something to be admired and mimicked any longer and I do hope Dhanush is more careful about this point in his future films, even if smoking on screen makes him appear similar to his dear father in law.

Raghuvaran B. Tech, despite the less than satisfying second half, is worth watching. The first half is enough to move you.

Raja Rani Review

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Raja Rani is a Tamil romantic drama starring Nayantara, Nazriya Nazim, Arya and Jai. The film is about John (Arya) and Regina (Nayantara) who get married unwillingly to please their parents. Their married life is miserable and they don’t even talk to each other. Every day, John comes home late and completely drunk. He creates a ruckus in the apartment and resumes watching TV with increasing volume to fade out the noise of Regina who cries every night next to him in bed. One night, Regina starts having a seizure next to John. John is drunk but eventually realizes that she is ill and calls an ambulance. In the hospital, John asks Regina if this has happened before. Regina says yes and starts telling him the story of her and Surya.

We then proceed into a series of flashbacks and current events. The first half of the film show us the love failure of Regina. The second half shows the love failure of John. Having gone through similar things, will Regina and John learn to move on and love each other?

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I loved the first half of Raja Rani. The film starts out with the lines “There is life after love failure. There is love after love failure.” I loved one of the earliest scenes in the film, when John and Regina are about to marry in the church. First the father asks John who first looks back at his friend and then hesitantly agrees to take Regina as his wife. When it’s Regina’s turn, she too turns back to her father first and then accidentally says “Surya” instead of John. She realizes her mistake, pauses. John suddenly smiles assuming that the wedding will now be off. Regina returns a few moments later and takes him as her husband, much to the surprise of John.

Raja Rani brought together two of the most talented actresses in the South today. Both Nayantara and Nazriya are great actresses and very beautiful and charming. It’s unfortunate that the actors in the cast did not match their caliber. I have not seen any other films of Arya and Jai but of what I have seen of them in Raja Rani, they’re only average in the acting department. They did okay but Nayantara and Nazirya definitely took the spotlight throughout the film. Both actresses were wonderful. Next to Nayantara, Arya fell a little short in emoting. As for Jai, I could not get past his awful voice which sounded like someone was grinding stones. I wish they had someone dub for him because I did not mind his performance otherwise. It’s a whole different story how they made his character cry at the drop of a hat though. I hadn’t seen a man cry so much in a film before.

As entertaining as Raja Rani was in the first half, the film seemed to drag on in the second half. The friction between John and Regina went on for too long and the ending was unsatisfying. I was expecting a more emotional and thorough ending. I was also a little annoyed with a repetitive dialogue in the film. It was something along the lines of “If our loved ones leave our world, it’s not the end of the world. Someday, according to our wishes, our life will change.” It was nice in the beginning. I really liked it when I first heard it but then it got repeated again and again by different characters. It was just overdone. Aside from this, the dialogues in the film were impressive and entertaining. There were lots of great comedy punches and very emotional romantic lines.

I was also very impressed with the cinematography and post-production work in a few scenes. There are a few bathroom scenes in the film where John and Regina are getting ready in front of the mirror. In reality, they are doing one thing, but in their mind, they are doing something else which is shown in the mirror. So basically, they took two scenes and placed one into bathroom mirror. It was very nicely done.

I recommend the film for the interesting story line, great comedy especially by the most talented Santhanam and the wonderful performances of two South queens. If you’ve had love failure (who hasn’t?!), you’ll definitely enjoy this film. The film aims to teach a different way of thinking for people who have had love failure to continue their lives in a happy and constructive way.

I’ll leave you with my favorite dialogue from the film, delivered by Santhanam to Arya: “John, if you think there is no life after losing your love… no one would be alive after 25 years.”

“If you think there is no life after losing your love… no one would be alive after 25 years.”

Jilla Review: A Treat For Fans

Jilla is a Tamil action drama starring Mohanlal, Vijay and Kajal Aggarwal.

The film is about a goon, Shivan (Mohanlal) and a boy, Shakti (Vijay). Shakti’s father was Shivan’s driver and was killed by a police officer who was attempting to kill Shivan. Shakti helped save Shivan’s wife who was pregnant. In one incident after Shakti was orphaned, he protected Shivan. Shivan became impressed by the courage and loyalty of Shakti and raised him as his own son. Shakti became the strength of Shivan, now his father, and helped him with everything as he grew up. Circumstances arose in which policemen started giving trouble to Shivan. In order to control police, Shivan asks Shakti to become a police officer. Shakti hates policemen but cannot say no to his father. However, soon after becoming a policeman, Shakti starts seeing the consequences of his father’s activities. He decides to be a real police officer and opposes his father. The rest of the story is about the struggle between father and son. Will Shakti manage to change his father? Will the father and son ever come together again?

It’s not every day that we see two immensely popular and charismatic actors on screen. Their chemistry is so beautiful in this film that despite the few mishaps in the story line and direction, we are left in awe of their on-screen presence. I wasn’t sure if the performance of either Mohanlal or Vijay would over-shadow the other’s, but that did not happen. They have great compatibility in Jilla and it is obvious throughout the film that there is a warm, affectionate relationship between these two individuals.

I was not too impressed with some of the scenes in the first half of the film. In the first half, it does appear as though there is a promotion of rowdyism and violence because the leading actors are goons after all. There was also a scene with Vijay and Kajal in which they basically physically harass one another. I found that scene terribly distasteful. In a country where sexual harassment is already a problem, I hardly think people need to see their favorite actor doing it on screen. I wish they had edited that scene out.

Thankfully, the abrupt change in the direction of the second hour and the beautiful relationship between father and son made up for these few distasteful moments in the film. In the second half, we see Vijay and Mohanlal in avatars we want to see them in — standing up for justice and eliminating evil. This doesn’t take away from the fact that both actors, and especially Mohanlal, gave full justice to their goon avatars. Kajal also had a satisfactory performance.

Overall, Jilla is an entertaining film that keeps the viewer engaged throughout and weaves action and drama with family sentiments and ideals in good balance.

I’ve read that Chiranjeevi will remake this film in Telugu. He will play Mohanlal’s role and his son Ram Charan will play Vijay’s role. I think that’s a great idea. Jilla could have done better at the box office but I’m sure that this story line will do very well in the Telugu industry. And if Chiranjeevi and Cherry are taking on these roles, it would surely be a super-hit.

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Also read review of Mohanlal movies Drishyam ReviewMr. Fraud ReviewGeethanjali ReviewFilmy Talks: Clearing Doubts About Manichitrathazhu.