How Films Influence Our Notions of Death and the After-world

I think it was in 1993 or 1994 that I had a birthday party screening the one and only 1988 cult classic “Beetlejuice.” (A 7 year old’s birthday party with Beetlejuice, and that too in Turkey, weird family I know…). As an adult, I still love this film, and not only because of its unique premise, but also how the usually ghastly topic of death is portrayed in such a humorous way. Until then in cinema, we had not considered that the dead could be a sweet couple from the suburbs, or that the after-world could be a waiting room not too different than a dentist’s. There are very few films that have actually tackled death in this satirical way, and maybe this is also why the film obtained such cult status over the years.

Bhoot World Mein Teen Cheezo ki Kami HaiThe 2008 Hindi film Boothnath starring Amitabh Bachchan followed a similar path, albeit with less humor. It was successful in normalizing death and the dead however, just as Beetlejuice had done. In Boothnaath, the dead was a grouchy but good-hearted old man (based on Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost in fact), and the after-world was basically an Indian government office.

There have been a few other Indian films that have helped disseminate some of the stigma attached to death, for example the 2013 Telugu horror comedy Prema Katha Chitram and the 2012 Bengali film Hemlock Society. Rather than using satire to display a fantasized and ironically ‘normal’ death, these films mocked suicide by suggesting suicide, thereby bringing attention to high suicide rates among youth in India.

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It’s rather sad that this humorous and satirical take on death and what await us afterward, cannot become more mainstream in cinema. There is a plethora of films and TV shows releasing daily that remind us of the horror that we normally associate with death– serial killers, revengeful murders, painful accidents, and after it’s over, zombies, vampires, ghosts and demons to haunt us and give us sleepless nights. If you notice, death is the main thread in all horror products. I don’t think we even realize the extent to which the big screen influences how we think of death. If only more cinema could take death as lightly as it often does life, and remove some of the stigmas and subconscious fears usually associated with it.

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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.*

Lakshmi Raave Ma Intiki

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.

Lovely Review

Awaiting some exciting Bollywood films this year like Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (April), Bombay Velvet (May), Shaandaar (September) and Tamasha (December), and upcoming big Telugu releases like Rudramadevi (March) and Baahubali (April), I caught this Telugu film from 2012 with two fairly unknown leads.

Although Lovely began with “doting father” and “father against daughter’s love” cliches, the story was surprisingly very entertaining. There is a lot of twists and turns all throughout the movie and especially in the last half hour that kept me intrigued and engrossed with the movie. And Lovely is possibly the best music album in recent years. It appears to be these lower cost films like Lovely and Prema Katha Chitram that put out the best music. When I say low cost, I don’t mean that there is anything lacking in the cinematography. In fact, some of the songs were shot abroad in Turkey. They could have actually shot all the songs in India to lower cost. The foreign locations for the songs weren’t really necessary.

Aadi and Shanvi performed just fine, but it was really the story of the film that came out as the winner. I also loved Vennela and Chinmayi’s portrayal. They were a wonderful addition to the cast and story and performed great comedy.

Lovely is one of those unexpected hits that do excellent at the box office without big names and very big budgets. As long as the story and direction is good, audience recognizes entertaining films. We see so many big name–big budget films with boring or illogical storylines that don’t work. So it’s a good idea not to ignore these less showy films, because we could be missing nice films hiding among the hundreds of releases every year.

Ongole Githa Review

Ongole Githa is a 2013 Telugu masala film starring Ram, Kriti Kharbanda, Prakash Raj and Prabhu. It’s about Dhorababu (Ram) who starts working at a vegetable and later chili market at a young age and becomes successful thanks to his business sense. The market is run by Chairman Adikeshavulu (Prakash Raj) and Dhorababu plans to take over the market.

Ongole Githa is a bloody awful film. It runs for a dreadful two and a half hours. The film obviously wanted to follow the popular revenge-twist screenplay utilized by many Telugu films these days. In this type of revenge film, the writer basically first shows us one image of the hero and his identity. And half-way through the film, he introduces a new image and back-story where we realize that nothing is as it seems and the hero is actually after revenge. Although this type of screenplay has been over-utilized recently by films like Mirchi, Oosaravelli and Ramayya Vasthavaya, it can be very effective. Quite a few films have done well at the box office following this formula. However, poor execution and strange character quirks in Ongole Githa completely ruin it.

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The story just runs on and on and on. Many scenes do not make sense and some are even repulsive. Prakash Raj has at least three or four scenes in the film where he is completely naked. They tried to hide his private parts but those scenes were still very inappropriate for a family masala entertainer. I would feel awkward watching it with family. I have no idea how Prakash Raj accepted those scenes.

Although Ram is generally a good performer, even his acting couldn’t save this film and story. The twist in the second half lacked that ‘shock’ element that’s so essential to excite the audience in this kind of storyline. Dialogues and music were average. I did enjoy the performance of Kriti Kharbanda but ridiculous scenes in the second half also ruined the romance equation of the leads. It was only the comedy scenes of Prabhu and Raghu Babu that were worth watching.

I recommend that you avoid Ongole Githa. Save your two and a half hours for a much better film.

Oosaravelli Review

Dear BollyReview readers, the website url of this blog is now indianfilmseveryday.wordpress.com 

I felt that it is a more suitable url for the blog. Please change your bookmarks. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Oosaravelli

Oosaravelli is a 2011 Telugu action film starring Jr. NTR and Tamannah. The film is a revenge story based on a Chinese-French thriller film called “Vengeance.” It is about Tony (Jr. NTR), a goon, who falls in love with Niharika (Tamannah) and has to play games in order to win her over.

Honestly, I did not expect this film to be very good. But Oosaravelli turned out to be a nice surprise, possibly thanks to being a remake of a very successful Asian thriller. The script of the film is interesting. There is a very unexpected plot twist half way through. I cannot tell you too much of the story so as not to spoil the plot twist. But I can assure you that it is very unexpected and adds a whole new insight into the story.

The biggest downside to Oosaravelli is Jr. NTR. I have to admit that Jr. NTR looks quite awful in this film. His uncontrollable curly hair, chubby face and dirty beard didn’t work for this role at all. He is looking better and better though. I found his looks much nicer in his 2013 film Ramayya Vasthavayya for example. But in Oosaravelli, Jr. NTR is not looking his best and that has an unfortunate negative effect on the film. He is just unconvincing as a hero appearance-wise, despite performing his role very well.

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Tamannah, on the other hand, was fantastic in this film. Her character is very pivotal to the plot and ties all the threads of the story together from beginning to end. When she’s given the scope to perform, Tamannah truly outdoes herself. She was given a great opportunity in this film and she did not disappoint.

I would also like to mention the excellent cinematography in Oosaravelli. I especially enjoyed the cinematography in the song “Brathakali.” There is a great color play in that song. The background overall is dull and gray and the costumes of Jr. NTR and Tamannah have red accents creating a nice contrast and visual impact. The scenes where Tamannah is shown with a long red dress is breathtaking.

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Although Jr. NTR may be a distraction with his awful hair and dress sense, Oosaravelli is worth watching for the gripping story and superb performance by Tamannah. I recommend giving this film a chance. I found myself taken into the story in the first few scenes and my attention did not drift at all throughout.

Heart Attack Review

Heart Attack is a 2014 romance-action entertainer starring Nithin and Adah Sharma. The film also features Brahmanandam, Ali and Prakash Raj in a small role.

It’s not that Heart Attack isn’t entertaining. I was fairly entertained throughout the film. I enjoyed Nithin and Adah’s performance. It’s just that Heart Attack has taken unrealism in Telugu films to another level.

Get this, Varun, a guy that has no money and sleeps on the streets can afford flights to different European countries and a flight to India. Everyone in Spain speaks Telugu. Everyone in Romania speaks Telugu. And everyone in Goa speaks Telugu. You can find a job on Craigslist in mere minutes. In fact, you can find someone to do your dirty jobs and someone to find your abducted daughter on Craigslist in mere minutes. If you need a job all you have to post on Craigslist is “My name is…. I need a job” and someone will respond soon.

A supporting actor develops paralysis from a few blows to the spinal cord whereas the hero takes many blows to the same areas without anything happening. We used to think that Russian women were often the victims of human trafficiking, that they were abducted and sold to other countries from Russia. It turns out that women in Goa are abducted by human traffickers and sent to Russia instead. And when such women are abducted and drugged in captivity until they are sent to other places, it is important to decorate the place they are staying with many candles to create a romantic ambiance. And if you want to find out more about these criminals, you can use your friend’s girlfriend as bait by sending her on a beach in a bikini and wait for her to be abducted. Oh wait, let’s not forget the biggest one of all, it is apparently possible to kiss non-stop for one hour and forty-three minutes. Although I must say that it was a very creative way to do that kissing scene without the actors actually kissing.

The strange part is that despite all these fairly ridiculous things happening in the film, it just makes everything funnier and more entertaining. Initially, the film had reminded me a little of Iddarammayilatho due to European locales and how the story began. But Heart Attack is better than Iddarammayilatho. And since I have mentioned an Allu Arjun film, can someone tell me, am I right in thinking that Nithin and Allu Arjun perform very similarly? Their dialogue delivery is very, very similar, almost the same. This is actually only the third film of Nithin I have seen. I had seen Sye way back when and was very impressed with Nithin at that time. And then I didn’t get a chance to see his films for a while. I saw Gunde Jaari Gallanthayyinde recently and now Heart Attack. Meanwhile, I have basically seen every Allu Arjun film and I’m not sure if these two are inspired from one another or who is mimicking who.

In conclusion, Heart Attack is worth a watch if you leave your brain at home and just enjoy. I also like the song “Nuvvante Naaku,” very catchy.