April 30, 2021

"Vakeel Saab" (Telugu)


Worth the wait and an engaging comeback film for Pawan Kalyan. Not in the same intense class as the original “Pink” which was shorter by 25 mins, but well-adapted to suit the larger-than-life sensibilities of PK fans and his current political career’s work-in-progress. Director Sriram Venu drives the film in graded gears - establishing the plot of how working women land in distress and get out of it with belated but avuncular steering by Vakeel Saab Satyadev (PK), once he steps in rustic contrast, pitted against a sophisticated lawyer Nandagopal played by the mercurial Prakash Raj. Their rivalry, energy and sparring in the court, makes it the most riveting part of the film despite the strange goof-ups in cross-examination. Thaman’s melodious songs and his sonorous BGM score makes the narrative well-nuanced and memorable at times. Pawan Kalyan, undoubtedly, steals the show in the climax, aided by another famous performance by Prakash Raj, Anjali, Nivetha and a surprise cameo by Sharath Babu. Dialogues are sharp and contextually concise within the perimeter of the script. Proud memento film for producer Dil Raju to bring one of India’s most intense and meaningful film to the Telugu audiences, in reasonably entertaining and dumbed-down format about a film that redefined this generation how Indian society paints stereotypes of girls as “Pink” and boys as “Blue”. Watchable, though not with the toddlers - both for the theme and the expletives.

Rating: 3.5/5

#VakeelSaab #PawanKalyan #PinkRemake #PrakashRaj #SriramVenu #DilRaju #amazonprime #ThamanS

March 29, 2021

The Suez Canal Syndrome: A repeat of "Who Moved My Cheese?"


I have a different view of The Suez Canal ship incident. I am appalled at the indifference of the Egypt Govt. It again reflects the shoddy way in which a Canal which was the pride of British, an engineering marvel now faces lack of modernisation and efficiency. The Suez Canal became a reality with the efforts of Ferdinand de Lesseps. It became a symbol of the British Empire, it's opening - one of the 20th Century's biggest events. Then, the Suez blockage of 1969 - became a subject of the pride of British Empire. Eventually, the crisis got resolved by making Egypt the new national owner through The Suez Canal Company - through which 90% of the world's ships pass. 

But Egypt has done nothing to develop the Canal since which became one of its biggest revenue sources, fraught anyways with desert lands on one side and Pyramid tourism on the other hand. It is owned by Egypt - The Suel Canal Company with few other external shareholders representing British, French and German interests. The company collects around $150,000 per ship every day. So an average of 50 ships pass through the Canal every day. That means around $7.5 million per day. Works out to $2.7 billion per annum. With that kind of easy money just for collecting toll, Egypt could have done so much better in improving the dredging and automating the offloading practices at the Isthmus but no, the government didn't do much to improve upon their practices, still manual and ancient. The Evergreen type of incident will keep repeating unless the world finds other avenues of diverting traffic, or demands more accountability from Egypt. I call it the Suez Canal syndrome - it happens when you get lot of annuity revenue for doing nothing much new. It can happen to anybody and any entity - who cannot innovate and manure their portfolio of cash flows coming in for a good reason now, but do not know how long the good times last. Suez Canal Syndrome, I would call is that syndrome where you take your cashflows for granted without manuring the ground for earning cash flows enough. It can be Egypt today, or Saudi Arabia after 15 years etc. Reminds me of "Who moved my Cheese?" story. 

Moral of the Story: Never take your cash-flows for granted.

#SuezCanal #SuezCanalSyndrome

October 13, 2020

Scam 1992 - The Harshad Mehta Story Web Series Review



If you want to have a recap of all that happened during the unravelling of India's Greatest Financial Scam and re-live the 80s and 90s evolutionary phase of the Stock Market before it reached the heights of the Y2K boom, please watch "Scam 1992 -The Harshad Mehta Scam" on Sony Liv OTT. Ten hours of unalloyed, gripping story-telling, sincerely drawn and adapted from Sucheta Dalal and Debasis Basu's seminal book "The Scam". We cannot imagine the ease with which we trade in shares and government securities today if we watch that era when we had to endure transfer deeds and outcry times. When the Sensex base was so low that people panicked due to fall in number of points to what we now experience when we measure in percentage falls, its a long way we have come. 
Hansal Mehta has captured the essence of the scam in a riveting narrative that will not quench your thirst until you finish all the ten episodes streaming live. Handled with lot of objectivity and commentary underpinned to current happenings - it connects the transitory phase with deftness and maturity - that a three-hour Bollywood movie cannot capture. It is the best OTT output of 2020 and something that is worth all of your ten hours of time - whether you want to re-explain it to your non-savvy mother or driver, or to the Robinhood Investors who haven't yet experienced the kind of "animal spirits", hubris and nemesis that Harshad Mehta once made us experience - when there was no whatsapp and online trading and mutual funds meant only US 64 and PMS. Anshal Thakkar's piercing BGM score only enhances the seriousness of this magnificent film that will soon become a DVD classic. Pratheek Gandhi as Harshad Mehta and Shreya Dhanwantaray as Sucheta Dalal give the performance of their lives. Because it is a retelling that shook the faith in India's nascent capital markets - it deserves wide viewing and patronage - because history keeps rhyming again and again. 

May 1, 2020

Covid Lessons From "Sankarabharanam" Movie

Just watched "Sankarabharanam" for the umpteenth time on Gemini TV (A week's fest of K Viswanath's films starts today every day). An eternal classic, the film always gives you a message for every season. This time, as my parents, my wife and I were in a trance watching each scene with rapt attention, I noticed a message for the Covid times in "Sankarabharanam". In the pre-climax, as an impoverished Sankara Sastry (JV Somayajulu) walks past the house of his once-upon-a-time percussionist Gopalam (Sakshi Ranga Rao), the former notices the latter trying to tune his Mridangam. Sankara Sastry mildly remarks to Gopalam that his Mridangam is missing a beat. Gopalam then bares out his heart that he has long missed the beat when he deserted the Great Sankara Sastry when he walked out of his "kacheri" in a hasty move - only to regret for the last 12 years. Sastry then consoles Gopalam that it is not Gopalam's fault nor his flaw but the times are such that the crowds can't hear great Indian Classical music. But times won't be so desolate for long, and very soon, good times will roll on and the public will usher in a golden era of good melodious music. Sastry had undying optimism more than the despondent Gopalam about the bad times that will soon be enveloped by sunshine days. And he also gives part of his borrowed surplus to Gopalam to tide over the tough times, even if he himself is struggling to have two square meals a day. Thats the spirit of Optimism and large-heartedness which is needed for Covid times. Be generous in giving to those who are less fortunate than you and never doubt whether good times will come back. 
And in the climax, Madhava Rao (Allu Ramalingayya) re-introduces to the audience who have come to hear Sankara Sastry's public recital for the first time in 12 years (which ironically turns out to be his last hurrah). And he says, even in stark poverty and darkest times, Sastry continued to practice his classical music as a maestro will and didn't mind the absence of audience. Instead, Madhava Rao adds, Sastry actually confined himself to the four walls of his house and made all the unseen parasites and viruses and invisible insects and pests his target audience for rehearsing and practicing his performance. Well, that's how Maestros and professionals adapt to tough times. Like the four seasons, the Covid times will be gone before you realize but we must do what we are good at, and take the tidal wave of Covid Scarcity and negativity with a pinch of salt and overcome with optimism. It will then arm us for a better tomorrow - which is just round the corner. Even after forty years, "Sankarabharanam" has a message to be hopeful, optimistic about the future and never waste a good crisis brooding with inaction. Make it count - in ways you become stronger, better and brighter.

A Lucky Star without Tantrums - Rishi Kapoor

Rishi Kapoor. One of the most happy-go-lucky actorss in Bollywood. Always cherubic and bubbly. A lucky mascot. For everyone who worked with him. For his father who was reeling under huge losses from "Mere Naam Joker", he became a money-spinning "Bobby". For heroines who got launched with him like Padmini Kolhapuri and Dimple. For co-stars and superstars. And for many producers and directors who found in him the mettle to rub shoulders with multi-starrer giants. He became the proverbial David who charmed many Goliath-like giants with his non-threatening effervescence and ego-less pranks. Most of the films starring Rishi Kapoor became box-office bonanzas for producers though he never got full or deserving credit for his performances that pulled in the crowds.
The only girl he ever got linked with early in career was Dimple who eloped with Rajesh Khanna, even after wearing a ring given by Rishi when they were dating during "Bobby". Of course, he married Neetu Singh finally - and thats one heck of a love-story for a free-wheeling 80s couple who did 13 films together with dazzling chemistry.
Raj Kapoor always thought Rishi would make the most successful director (he did direct "Aa Ab Last Chale" which didn't click). But he became the most successful lover in the history of Bollywood: always walks away with the girl, whoever else in the triangle may be - Vinod Chopra, Kamal Hasan or Vinod Mehra. He became Amitabh Bachchan's most famous Tillu Bhai in many memorable hits of the 80s and happy to play second fiddle to the reigning Superstar. As a nice guy, he has so far given the best shot amongst the Raj Kapoor's sons sustaining himself in a career spanning four decades since he first appeared. Before he came in as "Bobby", Bollywood films used to be all about men and women, as a critic remarked. After "Bobby", it was about boys and girls.
Rishi Kapoor went on to belt out the most iconic dancing hits and Qawali numbers of an entire generation many of which became titles of blockbusters in 2000s. Before the likes of Govind and Mithun, it was always Rishi who was rated the best dancer for a long time. It was quite an achievement for Rishi- to serenade a heroine, and synchronize dancing steps with her without an effort. The disco lights, the revolving dance floors and the psychedelic lighting bulbs of the 80s would have all looked out of place were it not for the elegance of Rishi Kapoor's cadence and ease. He would break into a song and dance and everybody out there would fall in sync - swirling and crooning without an apology.
There are actors down South who followed the same model of Rishi Kapoor in experimenting with new heroines and playing second fiddle in multi-starters as long as they could hold your own - Chandra Mohan in Tollywood and Siva Kumar in Kollywood, they became known as the Rishi Kapoors of their respective Film Industries. Of course, it could be argued the other way too - why not Rishi Kapoor be called the Chandra Mohan of Bollywood? But that's a different topic!
Rishi Kapoor, later transformed into playing played mature characters after his gait and genetic code no longer made him look younger because of the famous Dal Makhni Kapoor staple diet. In the last decade, he became Bollywood's severest conscience keeper raising holy hell every time the Industry stalwarts floundered in responding to the 'crying need of the hour' be it #Metoo or a war-like situation. He also brook no nonsense with his recently released autobiography "Khullam Khulla" (in which he nailed stars like Rajesh Khanna or Amitabh Bachchan with no-holds barred revelations).
Of course, his fine acting continued with the likes of Irrfan Khan and Amitabh Bachchan ("102 not out") and he would have easily given another shot at third innings at a time when his son Ranbir Kapoor is earning solid spurs as the next Superstar of Bollywood. That speaks a lot of about the original first family of Bollywood - the Kapoor Clan whose gene pool keeps gifting Superstars and Divas who became endearing icons of Indian Cinema. Rishi has travelled as far, if not farther than all his great uncles but perhaps will have the last laugh once his son conquers Bollywood one day, if not already. It is quite ironic that the Star who gave India's first song on self-quarantining ("Hum Tum Ek Kamre Me Bandh Ho...") should pass out during India's self-quarantine period. And in his passing, the whole nation says "Om Shanti Om" to the man who sang the most famous anthem of the 80s with the same words. Truly, Rishida will be missed by the 80s generation and one hopes that his legacy will be carried on by son Ranbir Kapoor to the next level. 
My favorite films of Rishi Kapoor:
1. Karz
2. Amar Akbar Anthony
3. Chandini
4. Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai
5. Sagar

April 29, 2020

Life of an Infinite Actor - Irrfan Khan

Irrfan Khan. Undoubtedly, the best actor of this generation who gave a stunning range of films that will keep resonating as long as we go. Whether it's a blink-and-a-miss role in "Spiderman" or a brief role in "Slumdog Millionaire" or any of the stylish performances in "Piku", "Talwar", "Pan Singh Tomar", "Life of Pi", "Maqbool", you cannot take your eyes off screen when Irrfan Khan is emoting. It doesn't matter what he is wearing or how he's shaved for the film, you have to be at your best hearing sense to grasp all the text and subtext in his acting with his murmuring accent and a swagger that doesn't look seem like a swagger.

In "Piku" you can see the sweat and blood of Deepika Padukone and a herculean effort by Amitabh Bachchan to compete for the attention of the audience whereas Irrfan Khan made it look so effortless on screen. Likewise whether he is explaining a Siska bulb benefits or a Vodafone recharge ad or doing a jig with Shah Rukh Khan at a film festival whether art films are as good as mainstream films. In spite of the irony of the 2000s where a lead actor's remuneration become as big an overhead as a budget of a film, Khan's swashbuckle and finesse in acting became a toast of every film he got associated with. Hollywood also cast him in many films but when it comes to Irrfan's lines, there was something always ethereal, magical and evocative than the other actor's lines. Yes, and the subtlety he brought to screen didn't threaten the other actors sharing space with him unlike say, a Shatrughan Sinha but enhanced the "repeat watchability quotient" of the film without an elaborate overlay or an over-assertive baritone like that of Nana Patekar.

While we never noticed who really took the baton from the arty films caravan of actors like Naseruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan created his own inimitable and enduring shelf-space in a world dominated by the three Khans until a few years ago. And unlike Naseruddin Shah, Irrfan took the torch of towering performance from film after film and passed the baton to actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui and many other stage actors and superstars in mainstream plots and commercial films. Thank God, Tollywood also cast him in a forgettable role as a comic villain in "Sainikudu" with Mahesh Babu and Trisha. But Thank God, Tollywood didn't checkmate his fledgling career with fat cheques that would have merely created another Prakash Raj or Shaji Shinde in South Cinema.

In the finite gallery of films that Irrfan Khan got associated with including the many international collaborations that put him limelight as a draw for Asian audiences, it will remain a nonpareil feat for any other actor to beat in this generation. Most actors of his calibre would have wasted their raw talent with more commercial themes or silly gaffes or sundry makeups of a granny or a transgender or a bandit and so on. Not so in the books of Mr Khan. When he dons a role, the role becomes a reprise in the interpretation of the irrepressible Khan himself - no need for any bells and whistles of the character or any set property. It therefore becomes important that the legacy of Irrfan Khan is a fascinating history of how a late-bloomer annexed chartered and uncharted territories across the globe and built a space that even time cannot erase forever. There will be many more odes to Khan as the world wakes up to cold fact that he is no more. One of them will be how Irrfan Khan's latest film "Angrezi Medium" got released on the OTT platform amidst the Covid blackout of theaters world over. This may well be the future of all small and medium budget films and to get associated with the debut on an OTT platform also goes to the credit of Irrfan Khan. As he passes out in the holy month of Ramzan, I pray that Irrfan Khan finds peace wherever he goes next and strength to his young family who survives him. You were quite a draw, Irrfan whether we saw you first on TV, Silver screen or OTT.

Here are my top picks of Irrfan Khan's filmology:

1. LunchBox
2. Talwar
3. Piku
4. The Namesake
4. Maqbool
5. Life of Pi
6. Life in a Metro
7. Pan Singh Tomar
8. Hindi Medium
9. Qarib Qarib Single
10. Carvan

#IrrfanKhan #IrrfanKhanFilms #LegendsOfIndianCinema #WorldCinemaLegends #Bollywood

January 16, 2020

Sankranti Movie Ratings (Telugu) "Darbar"/ "Sari Leru Neekevvaru"/ "Ala Vaikuntapuram lo"/ "Entha Manchi Vaadavura"

Sankranti films are always special. And I have seldom missed in the last twenty years. Didn't have the time to review in detail, though because reviews hardly matter for Sankranti releases. You will somehow watch with your gang of birds flocked together in urban or rustic settings. But I will give my strong opinions (as strong as ever) if it still counts:

1. "Darbar" (starring Thalaivaa Rajnikanth)...Telugu

Average film with below-par story and straight narration by AR Murgadoss. We expect nothing but mediocrity from Rajni and yet fall for his swagger and mechanical drills but are more harsh in our expectations when it comes to other Tamil Superstars like Kamal Hassan, Suriyaa or Vikram. It seems to get incurable and hopeless with each passing year for Rajni except last year when "Betta" had electrifying Rajni effects.

Rating: 2.5/5

2. "Sarileru Neekevvaru" (starring Superstar Mahesh Babu)...Telugu

A routine story with high dose of entertainment and commensurate performances by actors alongside Superstar. Notable are Prakash Raj, Rajendra Prasad, Rao Ramesh and Vijay Shanti. Rashmika is cute but over-the-top in the movie with her ibby-jibbies. Highlight of the film is Mahesh Babu's out-of-comfort-zone acting and body language that reminds you of films like "Khaleja" and "Dookudu". His characterization is also refreshing as to how a soldier would mend civilians losing their civic sense and sense of civilization. If only he allowed more space for etching out Vijay Shanti's character, the film would have gone to another level. But the soldier's take on society is both pleasant and rapturous thanks to Anil Ravipudi's directing. Despite the film moving on predictable lines post-interval, his clarity and grip on what he wants the audience to take away from the film is complete. Tamannah Bhatia gets the most flattering item song for any item girl in the industry so far. Length could have been shorter by 25 minutes. If there is anything for Mahesh Babu to consolidate his position, he should reduce focus on his good looks and screen time and invest in better and more interesting stories. Yet, 169 minutes is mostly watchable once.

Rating: 3/5

3. "Ala Vaikuntapuramlo" (starring Stylish Star Allu Arjun)...Telugu

Trivikram created an entertaining narrative of 165 minutes about a theme stealth-borrowed from an old Telugu film classic starring NTR and R Nageshwar Rao "Inti Guttu". He re-interpreted the film for the new-age audience well but there are fatal flaws in the film which are not discernible to the audience. Yes, you can ignore baby-swapping as a doable crime 20 years back. But Trivikram who defends middle-class moralities and lectures on their upkeep has created a story which has faultiness on middle-class morality. Firstly, no middle-class father foregoes his baby boy to enter a billionaire family so he may get ahead in life and riches. Secondly, no adopted son disowns his past upbringing to crave for a billionaire's mansion at the very moment the secret unfolds. Thirdly, it is irresponsible on Trivikram's part to paint the picture as rosy as a "Lion King" destiny in picturing Allu Arjun's moment of destiny just like in Walt Disney tale where a baby Simbha learns that his blood is leonine and hence cut out for bigger things like ruling the kingdom. Yes, blood is thicker than water but in reality your upbringing and environment makes all the difference in how you shape your daily moments and destiny. In characterizing the contrasting roles played by Sushant and Allu Arjun, director shows as if none of the inputs or parental guidance provided by either set of parents has any bearing on the way their personalities are shaped. This is ridiculous and self-perpetuating myth which only leads to inequalities in society. The most famous case is the "Nobel Prize Winner Sperm Bank Experiment" where someone thought it is best to impregnate as many women with the sperm bank of Nobel Prize winners so that mankind will get more geniuses like Nobel winners. Trivikram's thesis in the movie is that outrageous and preposterous. I am appalled that along with many other flaws as pointed earlier, it is middle class audiences who are raving about the film as a cult classic. Nonsense. Despite that, the film is carried entirely by Allu Arjun with a never-before performance that stands out in all departments. Thaman's BGM and musical score are also a stand-out; his transformation from copying fast-track western albums to creating new sounds with refreshing mix of traditional and western instrumentation is the story of the last three years as to who is ruling the sound waves in TFI. Stunts are always creative in Trivikram's films but when you are surrounded by so many bashers, how does anybody get so creative to wield a woman's dupatta or a car windshield to polish off the villains beats me! Entertainment quotient is high though comedy content is low. What disappointed me is lack of clarity in Trivikram's taking in the film right from points mentioned above to Murali Sharma's unrepentant characterization. At least a minute out of the 165 minutes could have been taken to round off Murali Sharma's litany of crimes. Watchable once.

Rating: 3/5

4. "Entha Manchi Vaadavuraa" (Starring Kalyan Ram)...Telugu

Vegesna Satish comes with interesting concepts that hold some message for the new generation drifting apart from the world we grew up in the 60s and 70s. This time he comes with a theme of filling the void left by growing generation gap in our society. Like buying bottled water and twiggy-ordered food, he builds a beautiful plot around hero Kalyan Ram and his fiancé Mehreen. Kalyan sees every family has an emotional bond missing with the loss of a dear one be it a grand-father, son, sister, daughter or an aunt and so he sets up a company which "leases" the missing kin until the emotional needs are fulfilled. It is a slow narrative of 144 minutes with only three songs but content is unique and layered with good performances by hero and heroine besides a galaxy of vintage actors like Annapurna, Suhasini, Sarath Babu and Giri Babu. Like "Shatamaanam Bhavati", Satish has a knack of presenting relevant messages to keep our social structure intact in the wake of increasing nuclearisation of families and isolation of the elderly generation with the dawn of new technologies and general apathies. It is tough to expect jazzed up entertainment in this kind of narrative but if you are patient for the first thirty minutes, you will get some moments of epiphany in the film. Music by Gopi Sundar is outstanding. Watchable once with the elders.

Rating: 2.75/5

#Darbar #SarileruNeekevvaru #AlaVaikuntapuramlo #EnthaManchiVaadavuRaa" #SankrantiReleases #SankrantiMovies

"Vakeel Saab" (Telugu)

  Worth the wait and an engaging comeback film for Pawan Kalyan. Not in the same intense class as the original “Pink” which was shorter by ...