Jersey Movie Review

 

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Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Ajay Jadeja, Mohammad Azharuddin, Sanjay Manjrekar …

Shantanu Sugwekar, Amol Muzumdar, Vanka Pratap, Jitendar Singh, Sanjay Raul …

The first set of names are of the people in the 1996 World Cup squad for India.

The second set of names are of the people who played well in the 1996/97 Ranji Trophy. Some of them, like Shantanu Sugwekar and Amol Muzumdar, didn’t even get a chance to represent India. Jersey talks about cricketers belonging to the second set of names.

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The movie opens in 2019 when a book written by an author named Ramya is making waves in New York. It is the top-seller. It’s named ‘Jersey’. The movie then jumps back to 1986 when we are introduced to Arjun, the cricketer on whom the book is based on, is shown as a talented cricketer. Then the movie jumps to 1996 where Arjun is sleeping with his family in the living room, under a leaking roof. He faces lot of the problems that the middle class faced in those days – unpaid rent, growing debts and no income.

There is nothing horrid that happened in the 10 years. It’s not the story of those 10 years. He gives up cricket because he is not selected to the national team even though his name was in the papers the day before. He takes up a job in FCI and as luck has it, he gets suspended. He is dependent on his wife for money and he gets used to the domestic life by watching cricket all day and indulging his 7-year old son.

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Arjun’s life changes when his son wants an Indian Jersey as a gift on his birthday. He moves from pillar to post to get the 500 rupees required for buying the “Jersey”. He even resorts to wanting to steal the money from his wife’s purse and gets caught in the bargain. The next few minutes after that are an indicator to the brilliance in Nani. He doesn’t talk when caught by his wife and reprimanded in front of people and his son. Shraddha Srinath excels in that scene where she brings forth her insecurities, fears and helplessness at their state. A little later, father and son have a moment with each other. It’s a challenge for you to stay unmoved after that scene. Even the stone-hearted people would shed a tear or two.

Some of the best scenes in the movie revolve around the father-son relationship. The change in Arjun in the ten years is his internalisation. Internalisation of grief, happiness, joy and helplessness. But, there is no internalisation when it comes to his son. He enjoys every moment with him, because in the entire world that surrounds him, his son is the only one that doesn’t judge him.

In a quest for the only thing that his son has ever asked him, the Jersey, Arjun falls back on the only thing he knows – cricket. While he wants to play cricket, people want him to coach. He does convince them of his abilities and finds his way to the final fifteen of the Hyderabad Ranji team. The celebration of Nani when he finds out that he has made it is special and it shows.

After that, it’s cricket matches, a stellar season and the climax.

***

Gowtam Tinnanuri, as a director, is at the top of his game in this movie. He makes everyone who watches it relate to the story in one way or another. Though you can predict the next scene, you can’t predict how brilliantly the actors performed. The actor’s performances give you a special high. None more so than Nani’s. When the movie’s title was announced, I wondered why would anyone want to name his movie, Jersey. After seeing the movie, one feels, there is no other title that could’ve been apt. His pain staking research is evident and there is one small glitch that might have been overlooked – Nike branded bats in 1996 didn’t exist. He teases us with scenes where we expect he would glorify the protagonist, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t fall for the temptation

It would be an injustice to say that this is Nani’s best. In my eyes, he is one of the best performers in the Telugu Film industry, if not the best. With every movie of his, he sets the bar higher. He has come a long way from being a director’s actor to being a director’s dream. He excels throughout the movie. There are a few scenes that stand as indicators to his greatness as a performer – the scene where he is drinking Badam milk while discussing luck with his friend, the entire birthday scene, the scene with Shraddha Srinath where he tells her that for the first time in ten years, he is getting angry with her. Check for his dialogue modulation there. What about the scene where he literally begs his wife for one final chance? And the scene preceding that ? His acting and the believability of his character is such that your eyes well up with tears regardless of his presence in the scene.

Shraddha Srinath doesn’t have as much to do as Nani and the actor who played his son. The undertone of her relationship with her husband is brilliantly conveyed in her own words to a colleague, “We are not like other couples. We fight, but we don’t shout on each other.” Look for her reactions when she catches Nani stealing from her purse.

The kid who played their son is another actor who does well. The father-son relationship plays out so bloody well. Nani and this kid, in different scenes, show us that we don’t need faces to emote. Words would’ve a similar effect. Look for the scene where he tells his father that he doesn’t need the Jersey anymore. That’s the scene where Nani also excels and tells him that the fight between his parents is not because of him.

Satyaraj, Pradeep and others perform well in the roles given to them.

Verdict: Watch the movie and watch it again.

Image courtesy : idlebrain.com

MCA movie review

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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 

 

Image courtesy: idlebrain.com

Krishnagaadi Veera Prema Gaadha review

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Srinu Vaitla had made a habit of making template based movies. Romance between the protagonists, one of their families being stern, an orchestrated drama taking place in that house and a song before the denouement. Hanu Raghavapudi skirts very close to that template, but has nothing to do with that sort of a template.

Srikanth Addala has this amazing ability to make his characters behave the way we see in everyday people. You can see those kind of characters abound in Seethama Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu. Rao Ramesh and Tanikella Bharani, in that movie, take the acting to another level by the way they behave in the movie. Hanu, aided by a superb actor in Nani, does the same in Krishnagaadi Veera prema gaadha. He makes Nani behave, not act.

****

Nani, in an interview, had said that the movie has quite a lot to do with children and he was right. His chemistry with them in a few scenes is better than what he has with the heroine of the movie. It’s because he has more runtime with the children than the heroine. He could’ve added that if this movie turns out to be a hit, long titles would become the norm in the film industry.

While talking at the audio release function, he said, “Hanu would shock those people who attach him with Andala Rakshasi. This is a completely different movie from that.” There was a way he spoke to Mahesh Babu on the dias and that showed us a man free of pretence and false airs. Maybe, that’s the reason one gets drawn to him in the first place.

Coming back to the movie, there are more than a few scenes that he excels in. Some of them are his scenes with the children and Satyam Rajesh. What takes the cake are his ‘phone conversation’ scenes with the heroine.

Mehrene Kaur is a good discovery, but she has very little to do in the second half and credit is due to the director because he plans the absence well. The dubbing for her was also top notch. She is loud without being loud, she is bubbly without being jumpy and she has eyes that can express the emotions well.

Hanu Raghavapudi deserves credit for having so many threads in the movie and never for a moment does he confuse himself or the audience with the screenplay. He has taken brilliant performances from each and every actor in the movie. ’30 years Prudhvi’ would be a happy person because he didn’t have to imitate anyone or parody famous scenes from a hit movie. He generates comedy from the situation rather than the character. After a slew of the characters where he makes fun of other actors or movies, he displays his acting chops brilliantly in all his scenes with Murali Sharma and Prabhas Sreenu.

Hanu Raghavapudi also shows us what a brilliant actor we missed having in Brahmaji. His entire sequence with Sampath and the build up to it is best to be enjoyed in the theatre. He will have you in splits with his acting. Credit to the director that he builds up a scene in one manner and turns it on its head.

****

In the days of hyping up a movie, Nani and the team should be credited for being honest with the movie and the audience. He has made it clear in his past interviews that he wants to be remembered as an actor rather than a star. Probably he did contend that he could be both. Well, if not already, he is close.

One of the biggest advantages of acting in a Nani movie for a co-star is the fact that you get your own moments of shining under the spotlight. In this movie itself, at various points, the kids, Mehrene, Satyam Rajesh, Sampath, Murali Sharma, Brahmaji and various other actors get their due. It, by itself, is an indicator of how secure Nani is in his space

****

Verdict : Nani pronounced the verdict himself. Expect something different to what you have been seeing in the recent past .

Image courtesy – idlebrain.com

Nani and the travails

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So what makes an actor a superstar? Every actor worth his salt in the industry will have a definition for what makes a superstar. Some express it and some don’t. Out of the very few that expressed what makes one a superstar, Mahesh Babu put it in a concise way when he said, ‘A Superstar is one whose flops also make money’. By that definition, is there a superstar in Telugu Film Industry?

Well, audiences have a much simpler gauge for a superstar. The actor who can impress them with a full-length comic role is the one that they consider good enough for superstardom. That’s where versatility kicks in. Unless an actor plays a comic role, he would find it tough to pave his way to superstardom.

There are exceptions to every rule in Telugu Film Industry. So, there are actors who made it big without actually having starred in a full-length comedy role. The names that come off the top of my head are Krishna, Krishnam Raju, Sobhan Babu, Balakrishna and Pawan Kalyan. Now these are actors who entertained the audience in their own ways.

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Nani is an actor with the right ‘lineage’ for movie industry. It isn’t tough to guess what’s meant by ‘lineage’ here. Yes, it’s the caste that he belongs to. That sect dominates the Telugu Film Industry. He didn’t have it easy. Never. He slogged it out. He made it on his own; a beacon of hope for the present generation actors.

He started out as a clap director for ‘Radha Kalyanam’, assisted the directors in movies like Dhee, Asthram and Allari Bullodu. He hosted a show on the now defunct World space radio.

He made his debut in the movie ‘Ashta Chemma’. His was a good presence, although Swati Reddy, Srinivas Avasarala walked away with the honours from the movie. With time, he gathered hits and flops. Flops more than hits.

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2011 was an year to remember for Nani. He got his first big hit and was noticed for his acting chops. Ala Modhalaindhi was a movie helmed by Nandini Reddy, a friend of his. The movie was a breezy entertainer; a hit and a fillip for most of the people involved with the movie. Nithya Menen stunned people with a brilliant performance and she sang a couple of songs in the movie. Nithya Menen was a seasoned performer though it was her first movie in Telugu. Nani held his own in front of her and the combination sizzled.

Later in the year, he came up with his best performance in Pilla Zamindar. It would be exaggerating to say that he portrayed a character with various shades, but it won’t be wrong to say that his character travels through various shades in the movie. His acting stands out in many sequences. Be it the time he has to behave rudely as a rich Zamindar inherent to the scene where he acts as a servant to a rich zamindar inherent in a drama. In the latter scene, he shifts gears effortlessly from comical apathy to misery.

******

In an interview post Eega, Rajamouli while talking about heroes, likened Nani to a Ravi Teja with method. Explained better, it meant that Nani was someone with a lot of spontaneity. That spontaneity, according to Rajamouli, came with the understanding of the character, thinking about the character. While Ravi Teja is the character (however repetitive his roles may get), Nani gets under the skin of the character. It’s no surprise then that Nani’s favourite actor is Kamal Hassan

In 2015, he dubbed his voice for Dulquer Salman in OK Bangaram. At the audio function of the movie, he expressed his desire to work with Mani Ratnam. He wouldn’t have expected the dream to turn into reality before the year ended. There is some spark in his acting. A spark that attracts you towards him. It doesn’t matter if you are among the audience or a director.

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In 2012, he was a part of his biggest hit till date, Eega. The movie featured him in a 29 minute role – he appears in the seventh minute and gets bumped off in the 35th minute. To his credit, he manages to make an impression. Sometimes you need to listen from someone else about what you already feel. A colleague recalled that it’s one of the best cameos he has ever come across. He is a Tamilian and a die-hard Kamal Hassan fan. That would probably gladden Nani.

Eega was a huge success. Did Nani contribute to the success? Yes. Did he get to benefit from the success? No, not exactly. While it would’ve got him more offers than before, it could’ve been self-destructive had the movie flopped. Everybody associated with the film, in starring roles, went a step ahead. It was only Nani who remained he was.

He also starred in Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu in the same year. Another of those movies that got him critical acclaim but not the box-office success that he was looking for.

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2013 was an year from hell for Nani. His movie ‘Paisa’ was ready for release but got postponed innumerable times. As a result, he had a sabbatical, that, as of now, seems to have done him good things than bad. It was also in this year that he found out he would be starring in the first movie produced by Yash Raj. Though it was made in Tamil, it was also dubbed in Telugu.

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2014 was the first time that Nani’s releases were not well spaced and it was one of the reasons why the movies, both of them, failed to do well. Both the releases were in February and both bombed! In a repeat of 2013, one of his movies, Jenda pai kapi raju, was delayed. While the Tamil version released in March 2014, the Telugu version failed to see the light of the day in 2014. What followed was a span of more than an year of no releases. Nani endured a lean 2013 and 2014. He was not in danger of being reduced to anonymity, but he was getting forgotten. In two years, a lot of people had their careers moving ahead and a few others had their careers careen downwards. Nani didn’t belong to these extremes, but with Eega his career started to veer between the extremes.

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In 2015, through Nani, filmgoers learnt how the movie-making business had changed over the years. On March 21, 2015, two of his movies released; Yevade Subramanyam and Jenda pai Kapi Raju (phew!).

While 30 years ago it was a measure of superstardom to have couple of your movies releasing on the same day, it showed a lack of planning and a hint of foolishness to have your movies release on the same day. It was out of Nani’s hand and Jenda pai Kapi Raju might not have released for a long time if it didn’t on March 21. With the other movie- Yevade Subramanyam- Nani did something different. He went out of his way to promote it. He needed the movie as much as the movie needed him. He was the lone known face in the cast, apart from Krishnam Raju. The movie provided him with a much needed breather. It was also a movie in which we saw his acting flower. He pretty much did everything in the movie. In hindsight, Yevade Subramanyam is Nani’s Khaleja. Regardless of the box-office performance, it showed people what Nani was capable of. It remains as one of the reasons why his next movie was a blockbuster. Back then this was what I wrote of Nani in Yevade Subramanyam

It takes a lot of courage to accept a movie like this when you are having an extended period of trough and not had a release for more than an year. It’s heartening to see Nani accepting the role because he is among the very few actors in the industry who could’ve done justice to this role. Hope he gets to ride the wave and reach the crest.

Nani is brilliant in the movie. He conveys every single emotion brilliantly in the movie. Ruthless person, an opportunist who is willing to wait for his work to be done, a persistent nag, changed person and a good human being- Nani puts across all these traits and convinces everybody watching the movie that he embodied all these traits well

Bhale Bhale Magadivoy was a movie that led to a lot of cynicism among the movie goers. Why would an upcoming hero accept a project with a director renowned for double entendré. Nani maintained from the first day of the shooting that it won’t be a typical Maruti movie. Yet, a few people were cynical about the content of the movie. How their hopes were belied! The movie ticked a lot of boxes for Nani.

A full-length comic role, a blockbuster, recognition and a lot of hope on himself. If he can land a hit with his next movie, superstardom won’t be far away. Something that Ravi Teja ( a person he was compared to by Rajamouli) also found himself in. He threw it away by appearing in similar roles. You can bet your last penny that Nani won’t.

Yevade Subramaniam review

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One of the biggest cliché in Indian movies is the ‘coming of age’ story. It probably began with Dil Chahta Hai and continues unabated till today. They normally come in the form of a journey to some place, an experience or a death of someone the protagonist likes or loves. Yevade Subramaniam has all of this and tries its best to not be seen as one of those cliched movies. It works for me, because of a lot of reasons. Primary among them is Nani. He is a gift to Telugu Film Industry. A few years ago while talking about Nani, Rajamouli said that though he comes across as an instinctive actor, there goes a lot of thought behind that. Towards the end of the movie, Nani’s character says that people can realise what they want from life. For him it took a journey to Doodh Kashi to understand, whereas there are a lot of people who realise that by staying where they are. Nani is a lucky actor that he got to enact that scene. It’s not a first for him. He got to do the same in Pilla Zamindar too. When we sit down and think about it we can call it as luck, but to enact two similar kind of scenes and making the audience sway emotionally during both the scenes takes some doing. Nani cracks that.

***

All through the promotion for the movie, they spoke about how difficult it was for them to shoot in Himalayas. The 40 odd days shoot for the movie was a trip of self realisation for them, they said. Coming from movie actors, you have a chuckle to yourself, because you always feel that they tend to live their life in a bubble. On one of those promotional shows, Nani pleads people to watch the movie on a big screen because of the shoot that was done in the Himalayas. He was right. The place looks brilliant on the screen and full marks to the director and cinematographer for the same.

It is said that the director is the captain of the ship and how the actors perform is a thing entirely upto him. Case in point is Krishnam Raju. We have seen the man in movies like Billa and Rebel in the recent times and feel that the man is making a joke of himself in those movies. Watch him in this movie; He has two scenes, at best, and gives a performance that will be remembered for a long time to come. That he comes across looking so brilliant is because of the director and the dialogue writer.

Vijay Devarakonda, the guy who played the role of Rishi and Malavika Nair, as Anandi, shine in the movie. They look their part and in no sequence does it look like the actors went overboard. Everything in the movie was balanced and a reason for why it’s there. For example, in the first half, there is a sequence where Anandi wants to see the transformation of a caterpillar into a Butterfly and is told that it’s a rare occurrence. She is told by the lepidopterist in question that he himself hasn’t been a witness to one. Towards the end of the movie, Nani sees the transformation and shouts for Anandi. You half-predict that it is to show her the same, but nothing of that sort happens. Pemba, the guy who tries to guide the people on a trip to Doodh Kashi is hilarious and has a bit song for himself in the movie. The way he keeps asking for 100$ a day as his charge is comical. His role is given a proper ending too. Here too, the credit goes to the director because he doesn’t leave any loose ends in the movie.

Regardless of the box office fate of the movie, the director, Nag Ashwin is a huge find for the film industry. Bar Nani and some of the supporting cast, a lot of the faces are unknown people. When you see and sit down to think about the movie, the first thing that strikes you is the amount of thought the director has put in the movie. It’s not natural for me to see a screen filled to the last seat. That it was full for this movie was surprising for me as I have seen quite a few movies of stars going half empty. What must be more gladdening for the makers is the fact a lot of them were glued to the seats till ‘The End’ was flashed on the screen. That definitely was a first for me and talks for the director. It tells us that he had the people watching the movie engrossed.

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The dialogue writer for the movie is another person who has to go far. In the age of Trivikram Srinivas, it’s difficult for some other person to make a mark. I hope this man does make a mark. Presence of actor is a different thing and a smashing presence of the same actor is a different thing. It is entirely due to the dialogue writer that we would remember the role played by Krishnam Raju in the movie. In one of the scenes, Krishnam Raju says, “Nenu dabbu sampadhinchatanaki pani cheyatledhu, nenu chessthunna pani ki dabbulu sampadhisthunannu”

When translated it means

I am not working to earn money. I am working and able to make money out of it.

When Nani meets Malavika over an extended period of time, he has a conversation with her.

Nani: Nuvvu edhi padthe adhi chesthavva? ( Do you do anything you want?)

Malavika: Edhi padthe adhi kadhu, edhi cheyyalanipisthe adhi chesthannu (not anything, but I do whatever I want to)

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It takes a lot of courage to accept a movie like this when you are having an extended period of trough and not had a release for more than an year. It’s heartening to see Nani accepting the role because he is among the very few actors in the industry who could’ve done justice to this role. Hope he gets to ride the wave and reach the crest.

Nani is brilliant in the movie. He conveys every single emotion brilliantly in the movie. Ruthless person, an opportunist who is willing to wait for his work to be done, a persistent nag, changed person and a good human being- Nani puts across all these traits and convinces everybody watching the movie that he embodied all these traits well

***

Swapna Dutt needs to be equally commended as the producer of the movie for investing on the movie. If, as I think, she is the daughter of Ashwini Dutt, then it has to be said that the movies produced by his daughters, Priyanka Dutt being the other one, are always shot brilliantly. Baanam, Om Shanti and Sarocharu were their previous productions. This movie can be added to the list easily

Verdict: A good movie that has the capability to take everyone involved with the movie to the next level

Image courtesy: idlebrain.com