common man's common stories

My opinionated take on Cricket, Books, movies and all the other things


I have always been fascinated with the line coined by Aristotle, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’ While it seems pretty simple, it is tough to see it being executed. When we put it to work where teams are involved, this is nigh impossible. 

In a team structure, one needs to repose a lot of faith in the person drawing up the plans and adhere to what seems a cliche – Together, everyone achieves more. Well, if you didn’t notice it, that’s an acronym for Team. 

Sesh Adivi’s team seems to believe in him. Believe that he can give his best, believe that they can give their best for him and believe that their best is being used for something better. When we see the movies, we conclude that somewhere the director and the writer’s vision for the movie was the same. In an industry, where first-acts are not rare, going one up on the first-act is a rarity. Sesh Adivi has just done that. 

While Kshanam is not exactly a first-act for him, it is , a first-act, for the vision and the kind of movies being made with him at the helm. 

After a few days of the teaser launch, there were rumours floating around that the movie was a copy of Aiyyary. Well, if not entirely, I did buy into the speculation. That’s because we are not used to movies revolving around espionage in Telugu. The cynical movie-goer would scoff at such movies because that’s not how movies are made here and if such movies are made, it has to have some star value attached to it so that it can get noticed. 

One of the reasons why the movie got noticed is because of the way Kshanam was made. It wasn’t pathbreaking, but it wasn’t routine. So, there were things expected out of the follow-up movie of Sesh Adivi and he doesn’t disappoint. 

For an industry that has an insatiable appetite for ‘twists’ this movie just doesn’t whet the appetite but it serves as an aphrodisiac. As we all know from the teaser, this is a movie about a guy wanting to emulate his father. While that’s the central theme of the plot, there are many sub-plots woven around the central theme. 

The movie is a planning success, right down to the naming of the agency that the hero’s father worked in and one the hero gets into – Trinetra (meaning the third eye). Till the hero gets into the intelligence agency, the proceedings seem tepid, but picks pace rapidly after that. 

Abburi Ravi’s dialogues help the movie a lot. The word play around ‘Balam’ and ‘Balahinatha’ is superb. It nearly gives out the plot but you don’t realise it at that point. It is reiterated when we revisit that scene towards the end. The interaction between Sobhita Dhulipala and Sesh Adivi where the former suggests that many people think that attaining the goal is the end of it, but excelling at it has to be the major motive. While it does seem cliche as I write it, there could be perhaps no better dialogue for that scene. Double-meaning dialogues, at two instances, slip in as well, but that doesn’t mar the proceedings.

The plot is a sure winner when it makes you speculate about the identity of the culprit, makes you think you are right and makes a fool out of you right at the end. It means the movie kept you involved. 

Vennela Kishore, Sobhita Dhulipala, Supriya Yarlagadda, Prakash Raj play their parts well. 

Another hero of the movie is the music director, Sricharan Pakala. He adds to the gripping proceedings with the background music. Both the songs in the movie are good. Both of them are ear worms. 

Because the movie was shot before April, am sure that the makers would’ve missed the change of name of Chittagong. It’s called Chattogram now. There you go, I can dig for faults you see! 

Verdict: A movie with ‘See me’ written all over it 


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23rd December 2004

Getting out for a duck in your debut game is a disappointment. Getting run-out for a duck isn’t something a debutant visualises the night before his debut. If it was any consolation, his hero, Sachin Tendulkar, scored a duck on his debut. So did Saleem Malik. 


Dhoni Touch

5th April 2005

After scoring 22 runs in his first four games, he was promoted up the order to No.3. The first four innings he batted at 7. In a way, we could say he was playing for his career in Visakhapatnam. He played a knock that got him into the Collective consciousness of the cricket watching public. In 13 years, there has been a lot written about him. 


Inspite of the reams written about him, there is a lot unknown about MS Dhoni. Despite having a biographical movie made on his name, there is still a lot that people don’t know about him. He remains an Enigma. Bharat Sundaresan wants to unravel the conundrum. 

He starts the book off with the other thing, apart from batting, that got him into discussions around the country – his hair. The author mentions that both of them would’ve roughly started growing their mane around the same time. While the captain cut his tresses short, the author continues to be loyal to his, leading to jibes from Dhoni and his wife. On a tour of West Indies, they keep telling him, Baal kaatlo yaar (Cut the hair dude)

Despite repeated requests from the author, Dhoni remains elusive and after a long time he relents. He asks him to contact Seemant Lohani aka Chittu. 

The book talks about Dhoni’s life in Ranchi. How  he benefited from being in Ranchi and how Ranchi benefited from its famous son. There is nothing new to learn in these chapters as we have already seen this in the movie. This serves as an insight into his life for those people who haven’t seen the movie. 

While his friends from Ranchi do tells us about MS Dhoni, it’s the author’s conversations with Shankar Vembu that tell us more about what we want to know about Dhoni. Bharat Sundaresan, slipping in a reference to Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson, is nice and it comes in the context of Patrick Patterson. 

Patrick Patterson is important here because after reading the first chapter in the book, I was wondering if Bharat was self-absorbed because a lot of talk in that chapter is about hair. More about his hair than Dhoni’s. With so many links in the book, he could’ve slipped in a link to his piece about Patterson. In fact, I was half expecting that he would. He didn’t as his focus was on decoding Dhoni for us. 

Shankar Vembu’s stories form the crux of the book. After reading Shankar Vembu’s stories, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if the makers of the movie, Dhoni, would be ready with works for the sequel. 

There is a chapter dedicated to Dhoni’s keeping. This is where Bharat comes into his own. Till here, he was reliant on Shankar Vembu, Chittu and Chottu Bhayya for decoding the man. Decoding the man’s art is simple for Bharat. Rather, he makes it seem simple for us. That’s the level of understanding that he commands over Dhoni’s keeping. 

Over five lines, he lucidly explains how difficult Dhoni’s way of stumping is.  He blows the reader away with the simplicity of it all. Simplicity seems to be the theme of the book as there is a liberal sprinkling of Hindi. If you can understand the language, the pause between shifting from English-Hindi-English creates the desired effect. 

There is a chapter on CSK as well. In it, he delves on what makes MSD tick. At the end when he is acknowledging the help of people, Sriram Veera’s advice stands out: You anyway are used to writing full-page stories which are around 3000 words each. Think of this as writing fifteen of those. 

All or nothing

Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing is a docuseries that has them shadowing a team. With All Blacks they follow them for the 2017 season. The series consists of six episodes and the first of them is called “The Black Jersey”

The episode begins with a press conference for announcing the All Blacks Squad, playing after a gap of nearly six months. There is bonhomie as they are assembling after an interval. This is a crucial phase for All Blacks and a third of their players have retired after the 2015 World Cup. So, with the team in transition, coach Steve Hansen has to put the team through the tough yards as they are scheduled to face the Lions ( a team put together with players from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland). They begin the season with a match against Samoa. They win it 78-0.

When the squad trains, we see footage where Hansen is admonishing the players and asking a player to do 20-pushups for the way he handled the ball. With five days to go to the Lions series, Hansen wants to induct a young player on the wing, Rieko Loane. He hands him the no 11 made popular by Jonah Lomu and bloods him in the team in place of Julian Savea, who held the jersey for 5 years. While that shows immense faith on him, it also leads to a lot of pressure on the rookie. 

Amazon PRime .jpg

The series against Lions is crucial for All Blacks because they have been dominant against them. In the 11 series they played against each other, Lions have only won once. The factor adding spite to the contest is the Lion’s coach – Warren Gatland. Being a New Zealander himself, coaching Lions is seen nothing short of treason. 

The series figures prominently on both the players and coach’s mind. Ben Smith, stand-in captain for the game against Samoa, says, “The series comes around once every 12 years and you might go through career without playing in one. Not everybody gets the opportunity.” He would obviously know better because leading up to the match against Samoa his participation was in doubt as he had concussions twice. 

Coach Steve Hansen spoke from the top of the tree when he said, “We used to be looked down upon by our English Brethren as they used to beat us often. When we started beating them and beating them often, it lead to a lot of animosity.” 

When the squad to face Lions was announced, Ryan Crotty was awarded for his persistence after being given the snub for World Cup. He went back to provincial rugby and earned the coach’s approval with his attitude. 

Successful teams like All Blacks crave some sort of uniformity. The bus driver over the years has been the same for them. He noticed that with experience players boarded the bus through the rear door and settled at the back. The newer player, meanwhile, sat at the front and were in charge of the music. The music they played was an indicator of the mood of the camp. The coach generally discouraged ‘boom-boom, bang-bang’ music. Sonny Bill Williams, a popular player, said that the experience of being on the bus was ‘pretty special’

Attitude is a part of All Blacks’ success: Kieran Read and Steve Hansen, though they come from different paths, stress on the same. Hansen says, “ … Part of being a coach is understanding which player needs a cuddle and which player needs a kick up the backside.” This is a pointer to players being entertained if they keep working hard at getting their games better. Kieran Read, the captain, says of the players who don’t figure in the starting Fifteen and substitutes, “… your role if you are not on the 23 is to prepare the 23 the best way you can.” 

All Blacks are more important than any individual. Everybody knows it and everybody follows it, even the parents of the players. Rieko Loane’s parents want the team to do well and their son to be playing a part in the team doing well. 

The match starts with the Haka performance, which the players feel connects them to other players in the team and to players in the past. Early into the match, Ben Smith, seems to have had a vertigo and fails the HIA (Head injury assessment). Ryan Crotty, after having worked hard has a hamstring tear. Hansen’s hunch of having Rieko Loane on the wing pays off and the All Blacks take a 1-0 lead in the 3-match series. 


Image courtesy: Amazon Prime 


Sukumar schmaltzes through his movies. The highbrowed themes in his movies don’t appeal to many. While his fans consider his movies akin to Jesus walking on water, detractors think otherwise. 

The above lines might not make sense to many people because they are like Sukumar’s films: they need to be explained to make sense to people. Probably, in his introspection, he did realise this as he changed his tack. 


When Rangasthalam’s working poster came out it was obvious that it was a period movie set in 1980’s. As time wore on, we came to know that the movie was set in one of the Godavari districts. 

The movie begins with a shot of Ram Charan furiously cycling away and being late in saving Prakash Raj from an accident. While Prakash Raj slips into a coma, Ram Charan religiously attends to his needs even though Prakash Raj’s family gives up on him. 

The movie slips into a flashback mode after that. We are introduced to a village called Rangasthalam on the banks of river Godavari. In the initial scenes, we see nothing that one would associate with a typical Sukumar movie. He is bang-on with the milieu and the actors that form the second rung: I say, actors that form the second rung because these people get no more than a couple of scenes. These actors nail the accent and the dressing. 

Ram Charan’s character is introduced to us as one with a hearing impediment. As happens with the movies with stars in it, they usually have some other power to nullify their handicaps. So, he has the power to lip read, although it comes with some effort and time. This ability is what leads us to the unfolding of the final twist. The fact that Sukumar nailed the milieu comes forth once again in the way Ram Charan’s character, Chitti Babu, introduces himself to Samantha’s character. 

Their village is ruled by a tyrant (Jagapathi Babu). He is elected to the post of president, unopposed, for 30 years. A few deaths in the village, passed off as suicides, are actually murders ordered for by the president. He has the society of his village indulging in malpractice so that he can accumulate the money given by the schemes of the government. 

Aadi, a Dubai return, playing Ram Charan’s elder brother, sees the injustice meted out to the villagers and decides to stand for them by filing nomination for the post of president. Samantha proves to be the fodder that combusts him. Anasuya plays a character that serves no purpose to the movie in general. Someone had to keep the glamour oozing when the heroine plays a deglamorised role, no? Also, she serves the purpose for being the butt of some entendre in the movie.  


There are a couple of scenes that must have given the director the emotional high. It doesn’t quite have the effect because the movie seems unnecessarily prolonged. So, though these scenes give you the emotional high, it leaves you with the feeling of, ‘One swallow doesn’t a summer make’ 

The two scenes as I mentioned give emotional high because of the situations surrounding it. The first happens to be the scene where a person saved by Ram Charan asks him how did he know he was going to commit suicide even though he couldn’t hear what was told? Ram Charan says that though he can’t hear him, he could see the tears in his eyes that told him something was wrong. That scene told us that while Ram Charan was deaf to the sufferings of the people, he wasn’t blind to their sufferings. Another scene was where he rips into one of the henchmen of President while there is a Harikatha going on in the background. The fact that it doesn’t stop when Ram Charan is laying it into him was nice and allows us to understand. 

Instead Sukumar delves on how people don’t know the name of the president and shows up it as a twist when the brothers call the president by name. 

I don’t know the shooting sequence of the songs or the scenes, but I would like to believe that Ram Charan began by trusting the director and as the movie went on , he also bought into his character as the director wanted him to. I say so because in some of the scenes we have Ram Charan appearing with Sandals et al and as the movie wears on, we see him without the sandals in many scenes. You hear that this is a career best performance by Ram Charan. That, I feel is a disservice to him. If anything, one can call it as a career defining performance. The word ‘career best’ is bandied about too often these days and is suffering in the same way as ‘good and great’ in sports. 

Ram Charan acted in a movie called Orange. I felt that the movie could’ve done without the final 15 minutes. In the same way, I feel that this movie could’ve done without the issue that’s revealed in the twist. It gives raise to feeling of an incomplete movie rather than one closes all the threads. That thread is touched upon in one of the early conversations that Samantha has with Ram Charan when she asks him, “Meeru Evitlu” (What are you?)

I felt the best performance in the movie was by Samantha. She zeroes in on her expressions bit and may go a long way in undoing her expressions from SVSC. She’s a character that deserved a lot more screen time considering the length of the movie. 

Aadhi, Anasuya, Rohini, Jagapathi Babu, Prakash Raj and Brahmaji do what’s expected of them. 

DSP has a tough job on the music front, because his BGM is racy when the movie is not and yet, he makes it look apt. More than the songs, he deserves a pat on the back for the Background music. 

The cinematography is good and does a good job of showing the surroundings of the village. 

There is a fight in the bushes which serves as an indicator of how the movie could’ve been. When Ram Charan is brutalising the people that come to murder his brother, I never felt anywhere near the same feeling as the one when Karthi is brutalising the villains in Naa Peru Surya. There is gore in both the scenes, but only in one of the movies does it come across as gore. It’s an indicator of emotional investment. I couldn’t do it. Hope others can. 


Verdict: Not a path-breaking or career-turning movie as some would have you believe. It’s going to be on Amazon Prime. You can take breaks while watching it as well


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Back in the day, around the release of Khushi, when functions were being organised for the movie, the producer AM Rathnam, talking in one of those functions had compared Pawan Kalyan to Rajinikanth: actors with their fingers on the pulse of the audience. In hindsight, it can seem to be a foolish statement or a profound one, considering the boat you sail on.

Pawan Kalyan is riding on two disasters (in terms Box-office returns and the content in them). Who better than his friend and the director, Trivikram Srinivas, who gave his biggest hit till date to pull him out of the rut?

An actor-director combo is expected to repeat the magic of their previous hit when they collaborate again, but here they take it too far as the character sketch of the protagonist is similar to that of the previous movie. It seems as if Trivikram Srinivas grew too lazy and wanted you to assume that you are watching the extended version of Attarintiki Daredhi (it’s the season of sequels, you know.)

All the tropes of a Trivikram movie, bar few, are there in this movie too: dumb heroines, rich protagonist, a family figure to look up to and a villain who doesn’t seem menacing enough.


Agnyaathavaasi is the story of a man hidden away from the rest of the world as a Plan B. When we go to a movie we should allow for some suspension of disbelief, but this movie stretches the limit. Did Trivikram not have the time to write it or wasn’t he allowed to write what he wanted? Forget the main theme being borrowed from a French movie, some scenes too seemed to be a rehash of previous movies.

The office comedy scenes had ‘Rowdy Alludu’ written all over them. Hate me as much as you want but Pawan Kalyan is no Chiranjeevi when it comes to comic timing. He simply doesn’t have the ability to raise the level of the movie with his acting.

The kidnapping of a few people and keeping them locked away at the same place seemed pretty similar to that of Khaleja. In that movie, Trivikram managed to weave comedy and philosophy around the situation, but here the attempts fell through.

Though he talks of a Plan B in the movie, every such attempt in taking the Plan B is rebuffed by Trivikram. Imagine the scope of the movie if the movie took the direction of Sampath Raj hounding Pawan Kalyan. That doesn’t seem the point of the movie. The point of the entire movie seemed to be playing sycophant to Pawan Kalyan.


Pawan Kalyan doesn’t seem to have his mind and heart in acting anymore. Not that this is his worst effort, but the effort isn’t visible, which is a sad thing. That he didn’t bother trying is a fact that his die-hard fans should acknowledge as much as Trivikram’s laziness in trying to develop a coherent script. The eulogical dialogues just don’t seem to work as his character graph isn’t properly developed. It is as if they forgot to draw the line by mixing reel with real; the fans are supposed to imagine Pawan Kalyan in real life and bring that imagination to the restraint the character shows before its unleashed on the world. The introduction scene had all the eccentricities associated with Pawan Kalyan and it’s tough to imagine that Trivikram would’ve conceptualized it without Pawan Kalyan’s interference. Takes us back to the Jalsa days, doesn’t it?

Trivikram is one of those rare directors who have a presence in the script without being a part of it. A Trivikram movie does draw you to the turnstiles, but here he allows the very few good dialogues he writes to be lost in the mediocrity of Pawan Kalyan’s character. It is a pity that he allows himself to be carried away by his/the fans love for Pawan Kalyan. This is a throwback to Jalsa, where the entire movie doesn’t seek attention, but a few scenes do. There too, he wants us to imagine the character depth rather than showing it on screen.

Keerthi Suresh, Anu Emmanuel, Khushboo and Boman Irani, who?

Rao Ramesh is the only actor who comes away unscathed from the mess that Agnyaathavaasi is. He shines with the way he utters dialogues. He shines with the way he expresses the dialogues meaning. One of the best things to look forward to in a Trivikram movie, in the recent past, is Rao Ramesh and they don’t disappoint.


Verdict: Walking into the sunset might actually be metaphorical in this movie

Okka Kshanam

Closing out 2017’s movie viewing with Okka Kshanam was a family outing as one of my wife’s cousins featured in a blink-and-you-will-miss-it appearance in three frames of the movie. Packaged as a thriller, it managed to whip up some frenzy before its release mainly because of the previous release of the director, VI Anand – Ekkadiki Potthavvu Chinnavada.

Looking at Tiger and Ekkadiki Potthavvu Chinnavada, now reaffirmed with Okka Kshanam, one can safely assume that he likes suspense thriller movies. While Tiger crammed a lot in one movie, I didn’t quite like Ekkadiki Potthavvu Chinnavada because of the way it was handled. Once the suspense element is revealed, the movies fumble on their way to the end because the denouement is poorly written.

When it comes to suspense thrillers, writing has generally been of poor standards across various languages in India. One movie that readily comes to mind is Talaash. The movie builds up the suspense element brilliantly to give it all up in the end by chickening out with an expected ending. If not for the ending, the movie would’ve set the tone for suspense thrillers in the country.

VI Anand picks up novel storylines, but fails in sustaining it in anticipation of a grand finale. The honour killings was meant only as a suspense element in Tiger, but after the suspense element was revealed, the movie went the way of a revenge drama. Okka Kshanam too suffers from similar failings.


The movie begins looking like a rom-com rather than a suspense thriller. While it takes some time to establish the romance, it is valid because the director wants us to remember the little details of their romance as its similar in every little aspect to that of another couple. This concept he calls as ‘parallel life.’ The way it’s explained in the movie is good and makes you sit up in anticipation.

The movie seems to develop wings of its own whenever Srinivas Avasarala is on the screen, but then thuds to the ground when it comes back to the present.

Once the suspense element is revealed and the antagonist comes into the picture, the movie loses steam because it lets go of ‘Parallel life’ in favour of ‘fighting the fight’


I can’t say that Allu Sirish was better than his previous movies because I haven’t  watched them. Looking at him, one feels that there is a lot of scope for improvement in acting and dances. One thing he seems to be good at is uttering entendre. He also seems to revel in making references to his lineage and imitating his brother’s dialogues. Hell, he doesn’t even leave the single dialogue uttered in Agnyathavaasi’s teaser.

The less spoken about Surbhi the better. In fact, the director seemed to have realised the folly of his casting mid-way into the movie and set about correcting it by giving her as less presence as possible.

Srinivas Avasarala and Seerat Kapoor are the heart, soul and life of the movie. It’s around them that movie revolves and they give it their best shot. Unfortunately, they are let down by the poor screenplay.


Verdict: Okka Kshanam is not worth Okka Kshanam of your time

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In the run-up to the release MCA (Middle class Abbayi), a lot of electronic media outlets trained their guns on Nani and said he was playing monotonous roles. Ironically, the men we parade as our superstars in the present day are the flag-bearers for those roles. Let’s rewind our minds back to the 80’s when superstars of that generation acted in more than five films an year and sometimes they got by a ring in 12-16 movies as well. Imagine the social media  and fan wars then. They would have had a field day criticising the monotony of it all. Hell, we have reached a stage where theatres sporting same seat covers for two successive releases will be criticised.

The moniker ‘Natural star’ on Nani doesn’t seem forced because he is like you, me and everybody around us; just that he is heroic because of the cinematic liberties taken. In his interviews or public appearances, he comes across as a person who genuinely loves cinema, without being boisterously so. I say that because the appreciation for a role, these days, is dependant on physical transformation you have undergone for a role. There is a reason why Vikram got a national award for acting in Pithamagan rather than I.

Is MCA a unique movie for Nani then? No, it isn’t quite so, because in any given year, we would have 50 movies in the Telugu movie industry that the film does, but Nani gives his own spin on how the character is played.


Venu Sriram, in a brief filmography, has come to depend on the casting for his movies rather than any substance in them. When he made ‘Oh My Friend’ in 2011, it was a casting coup of sorts because he managed to cast the then-lovebirds in his movie, but it was no Silsila.

In this movie, he blew away an excellent opportunity afforded to him by the producer by knitting up a run-of-the-mill story. That he wasted actors of the caliber of Naresh, Aamani and Sai Pallavi in making it should be held against him. If anything, in squandering opportunities, he seems to be an equal of Meher Ramesh.

Yes, Sai Pallavi does perform well, but the role is such that it could’ve been performed by any of the present-day actresses and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. The difference, if any, is spotted in her movements in the songs.


The hackneyed plot is saved by some able acting by Nani and Bhumika Chawla. Rest of the cast drift in and out of the movie at the director’s convenience. For a story not offering novelty in story or presentation, the performance by Nani is nothing short of a miracle.

How the producer, Dil Raju, with an eye for detail allowed such a star-cast to be wasted on an uninspiring movie will remain a mystery.


Verdict: The presence of Nani in the movie saves it from being an unmitigated disaster. Hearing him deliver the mandatory ‘Smoking and Drinking are injurious to health.’ is also a pleasant experience in a movie that seemed to be hurtling towards a disaster from the beginning of the second half 


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