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Bohemian Rhapsody - Honest Movie Review

Celebrating the life of Rock's Greatest All-Time Entertainers, Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the inspiring yet involute life story of Queen's lead singer Farrokh Bulsara, professional known as Freddie Mercury. The film stars Emmy Award-winning Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek in the lead role and co-stars Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as the supporting cast with Bryan Singer as the spearheader of this prestigious project.

Verdict - "A Celebration!"

The movie commences by introducing us to Freddie's initial working days as a baggage handler at the Heathrow Airport and builds up by narrating his first taste with the band to selling out arenas throughout different cultures and countries to his emotional and distancing complications with his band, friends and loved ones. 

Nailing all the right notes essential for a typical biopic, the movie, by and large, serves more like a Greatest Hits Collection of Mercury rather than a comprehensive in-depth look of his arduous journey to preeminence and beyond. Screenwriter Anthony McCarten offers a storyline which is, on the whole, paint-by-numbers and predictable from start to finish. Contrary to that, if you contemplate this movie as a celebration rather than a detailed observation, these criticisms might surface as a nonsensical argument.

But, the positives overweighs the negatives, as the rocking Oscar-worthy performance of Rami Malek and the overall journey of Mercury is engaging enough to keep you glued to the silver screen. Coming from a conservative family in Zanzibar, Mercury inspired generations of artists and millions of fans worldwide with his talent, music, charisma and flamboyant persona. However, although moving forward on a straight line shorn of any abstract deviations, the film did a decent job unveiling the man behind-the-mask, Farrokh Bulsara. His intentions were pure, but the ignorant decisions he made from time to time labelled him as controversial or hardhearted and distanced him from his friends and family perpetually. The movie discusses every aspect of love and emotions, highs and lows, success and failure, and Malek triumphs every hurdle with ease by making his exemplary character likeable, relatable and above all the focal part of the entire movie.

Adding to the celebration aspect, similar to its awards season counterpart, 'A Star Is Born', this movie had that concert-like-feel especially the glorious, breathtaking climax which will make you clap, cheer, and absorb that unreal musical experience to the fullest. 

Overall, Bohemian Rhapsody is not perfect considering the screenwriting issues, but, it is, in fact, a virtuous display of Freddie Mercury and his extraordinary life. This is more than just a movie it's a Celebration!

Rating - 3.5/5 | Grade - B+

-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - Honest Movie Review

Verdict - "A Visual Treat!"

Being one of the most anticipated films of the year, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald pleases the followers and surprises the muggles by acting more like a channel for the development of the story rather than independently being one. With highly renowned actors in the cast, the performances are enticing to watch and the visual effects and cinematography, enchanting!

Jude Law playing Albus Dumbledore maintains the poise as well as the playfulness of the beloved character, and Johnny Depp is flawless as usual. Eddie Redmayne connects Newt to the audience much more effectively than the previous movie while Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol manage to cheer the audience between intense scenes. The most impressive and fulfilling part of the film is Ezra Miller and Zoe Kravitz who were successful in giving impeccable and acute performances which were important because of the anticipation of their characters from the books.

The story picks up right from the beginning with grand escapades and entrances but towards the climax leaves you confused much like in the later Harry Potter movies. A few expected characters like Nagini (Claudia Kim), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) are given less screen time and also Grindelwald resembles The Dark Lord a lot which is why it is hard to acknowledge his unique personality.

Enclosing I'd like to say that David Yates has done yet another spectacular job making this movie a visual treat and for JK Rowling, well, I have only one thing to say - the brightest writer of her age!

Rating - 4.5/5 | Grade - A+

-A Just Stream Editorial by Nikitha Kashyap aka WW
Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Instagram's Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Taxiwaala - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

Horror comedies seem to be the flavor of the season. After the recent stupendous success of ‘Stree’ in Hindi, director Rahul Sankrityan brings us a Telugu comedy thriller, Taxiwaala, starring Vijay Devarakonda in the lead. Just to jog your minds a bit, this genre has largely been successful in the Telugu Film Industry, though the movies have been rather sporadic. Most recently, notable movies in this genre were the 'Raju Gari Gadhi' series and 'Anando Brahma'. Taxiwaala, with a supernatural plot, falls in the same category, yet, is different in some ways.

Shiva (played by Vijay Devarakonda) moves to his uncle’s (played by Madhunandan) garage in Hyderabad, to earn a living. After dabbling at odd jobs, he buys an old Contessa car to turn into an Ola driver. Dressed in leather jackets and ganjees that flaunt his toned body, Shiva starts earning while also making a pretty doctor, Anu (played by Priyanka Jawalkar) fall for him. His life with his uncle and his English movie fanatic help, Hollywood (played by Vishnu) is turned upside down, when he experiences paranormal occurrences in his car. This leads to series of thrills, chills and a whole lot of laughter!

While I began discussing Taxiwaala in the same light as 'Anando Brahma' and 'Raju Gari Gadhi', it is similar in genre yet different in treatment. The movie has a very real, plain and quirky treatment of camera (by Sujith Sarang) and sound – reminiscent of one of the first Telugu movies in this genre, the 2005 sleeper-hit, 'Anukokunda Oka Roju'. Like 'Anukokunda Oka Roju', there are no cheap thrills or jarring background scores. Most of the thrills and laughs are induced organically, using the camera angles, lights and the performances. The movie is filled with little moments of laughter – band-aids on all their fingers for a hilariously stupid occult experiment, Shiva’s naïve ‘thanks’ to the ‘ghost’ in his car for steering it while he fell asleep or Hollywood (the boy who works for them) fidgeting with a bottle in the middle of a serious scene in the Hospital. It is such moments that bring this movie alive.

The movie also reminded me of the 2004 Hindi-disaster, 'Tarzan: The Wonder Car', where a car turns rogue with Ajay Devgn’s spirit trapped in it and seeks revenge. While the premise and the treatment are interesting, it is the execution where the movie slightly falters. The writing by Rahul Sankrityan takes time to set the base and the ride is pretty much fun after that. Well, almost. Until, there is a slight slump in the narrative in the second half, where the explanation of the paranormal activity takes centerstage. Even though it has a crisp run-time of a little over two hours, the second half seems a bit of drag, especially towards the climax, sprinkled generously with trademark Telugu masala.

Having said that, the movie is still an enjoyable ride thanks to the witty dialogues and superb performances. Vijay Devarakonda has already proven his mettle and he does not disappoint here either. While his swag, rugged look and clothes off a runway model seem a bit contrived for a cabbie, he uses his charm and wit to make the viewers overlook it. Another contrived sub-plot happens to be his love story with a doctor, which also seems highly unlikely in real life. Since this love plot is cleverly shown very little, it does not take away from the main premise. Vijay’s comic timing and acting chops are further elevated by his Babai, played by Madhunandan and Hollywood, played by Vishnu. These are not mere sidekicks, but very well woven into the plot. The camaraderie between the three is fun to watch. One of the funniest moments is the sequence where the three stealthily break into someone’s home. Like Laya in 'Amar Akbar Anthony', another actress makes a comeback this week – Kalyani. Along with another yesteryear actress, Yamuna, Kalyani gets an extended cameo and delivers whatever is expected of her. Malavika Nair is decent in her small part in the second half, when the supernatural part is explained.

While there are a few irregularities and hiccups in the second half, the movie manages to keep you entertained with its thrills and humor. If nothing else, Vijay Devarakonda’s rugged charm is enough to stay invested till the end.

Rating - 3/5 | Grade - B

-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Amar Akbar Anthony - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

Director Srinu Vaitla’s latest release, Amar Akbar Anthony, is an opportunity completely wasted. He uses his tried and tested template – a hero running the show, surrounded by a bunch of comedians and fighting against a gang of shrewd villains. Despite using all his formulaic tropes, the film is an incohesive drag, that tries every trick in the trade, yet, falls short of hitting the mark.

Verdict - "An Incohesive Drag!"

Amar Akbar Anthony (played by Ravi Teja), much like their Hindi namesakes, are three characters from three major religions. Amar, a Hindu, is the son of a pharmaceutical baron, who is destined to marry the daughter of his father’s business partner, Aishwarya (played by Ileana). The love birds are separated in their childhood by the four suave looking antagonists, who take over his father’s business. Akbar, a Muslim, speaks Urdu-laden Telugu, and is a Robinhood in New York – cheating the cheaters. Anthony, a Christian and thankfully the last one of these wretched characters, is a congenial and smiling psychiatrist. Just like any other Srinu Vaitla movie, the protagonists go against the treacherous antagonists, while being surrounded by a bunch of comedians, headlined by Sunil and Vennela Kishore.

The problem begins in the first 20 minutes itself, when the narrative feels like two different movies. The comedy track at ‘Whole Andhra and Telangana Association (WATA)’ seems completely unrelated to the parallel track involving the conniving villains, all of who look way better than Ravi Teja in their salt-and-pepper looks. Ignoring the logics (or the lack of it), Srinu Vaitla’s movies have always been madcap comedies, which keep the audiences entertained throughout. This is where Amar Akbar Anthony fails miserably. While the comedy does evoke a few laughs, it remains underwhelming in comparison to his previous works in Ready, Dookudu, Dhee or King (actually, any movie before Aagadu)! Also, the insipid dialogues feel nauseating. Sample this – one of the antagonists says, “Not to expect badness from bad people is madness”, which is quickly translated into Telugu by his partner in crime, “Chaddavadi degara chaddatanam expect cheyakapovadam pichhitanam’! It’s almost 2019 and its high time we are spared of such nonsensical dialogues.

One of my major contentions was Ravi Teja’s mysterious demeanor and performance. For the longest time in the beginning, he makes you wonder if he is playing a blind character again, after Raja- The Great. He stares into oblivion, keeps a straight face for most part of his performance and surprisingly, barely does he emote! (If this frozen face and staring gaze is due to a medical condition in his real life, my apologies!) Even his impeccable comic timing, which is usually on point, is faltering in this movie. He comes across as an uncomfortable hero amid a chaotic narrative. Ileana, making her comeback to Telugu movies, looks healthier than before and has dubbed for herself for the first time. This is all one can say about her, because that is all that she brings to the table. I wish we saw the sparks that were there between the two in Kick, but even that ends in a disappointment here.

Giving credit where its due, the cinematography and the casting of actors for comic relief were pretty good. Venkat C Dileep captures New York in all its glory and makes the frames comes alive. The supporting cast, especially Vennela Kishore as the comedian and Abhimanyu Singh as the conniving cop, are quite good. There are moments of hilarity, especially the sequences involving a religious leader, Junior Paul. Sunil, who appears pretty late in the movie, misses his charm but manages to be decent. It was surprising to see Laya in a movie after a long time, and equally shocking to see her get a completely inconsequential and small part. Again, another opportunity wasted.  

We have seen psychological angles being used in movies like Aparichitudu and Chandramukhi, but it feels like a quick fix in this movie, without adding much to the plot or the narrative. Srinu Vaitla seems to be stuck in the early 2000s, and he needs to evolve with the changing audiences. If he doesn’t, he is not going to find many takers again.

Rating – 1.5/5 | Grade - D+

-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Thugs of Hindostan - Honest Movie Review

Directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya, YRF's latest 300 crore outing Thugs of Hindostan, continues the Bollywood's moneymaking tradition of producing grand-epic films once or maybe twice a year. Consistency doesn't seem a concerning factor here, as the audience will, by and large, feel tickled when they're affectionately served with flamboyant trailers, multiword genre, prolific star cast, extensive social media marketing and a sexy Katrina Kaif who seem to have a problem putting on extra clothes.

Verdict - "Boring! Disappointing! Frustrating!"

Set in the late 1700s, the film's storyline follows the reign of John Clive (Lloyd Owen), a generic, cold-blooded and an easily manipulated English Officer, who is slowly but conventionally, capturing Indian Territories one after the other. Soon after Clive executes and captures her turf, a young Zafira takes off with Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) and his eagle buddy before getting caught. Eleven years later, now an adolescent highly-skilled archer and a bungee jumping expert Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) plots for revenge against Clive alongside her old-grimy sword-fighting specialist (Bachchan Saab), now hailed as Azaad.

In simple words, we can contemplate Thugs of Hindostan (The Film) as a battleship, struck by lightning, dynamited by other adversary warships and submerged underwater in a sea of blood-soaked negatives. So, let's pick apart the drawbacks of the film one by one. The plot, which, as expected, is predictable for the most part and is a perfect blend between 'Point Break (1991)', 'Pirates of the Carribean' and a million other movies you've already seen before. But, that's not the worst part. Vijay Krishna Acharya as a writer/storyteller failed twice before (with 'Tashan' and 'Dhoom 3') and dropped the ball once again with TOH. Similar to Remo D'Souza, the guy can shoot a bombastic scene which is lit, choreographed and produced nicely, but, the seamless transition and the crisscrossing of the storyline between these theatrical episodes was utterly non-existent. It honestly felt like a bunch of ridiculousness knit together with the intention of making an entertaining movie.

Marketed as an Action/Adventure/Drama, this film is overbrimmed to the fullest extent with action sequences, so much to a point where you can pause every five seconds of the movie, take a screengrab and put it on a billboard, and that's a compliment! As I said earlier, the composition and choreography behind each shot, especially the battle scenes, were proficient enough to watch them on a big screen. But, unlike Tollywood's magnum opus 'Baahubali', the combat scenes had no creative thinking or artistic imagination behind them and just felt like a myriad of sword fights with distinct knife-edged metal on metal sounds.

The characters and the performances serve as another disadvantage to the film. Aamir Khan's character Firangi Mallah felt like less charismatic and a not-so-funny rip-off of Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Carribean. Amitabh Bachchan and his stunt double deserve appreciation for taking the physical risk in most cases but were thwarted by a generic heroic character. Fatima Sana Shaikh, who for the most part, designated to intense standoffs, had very little to speak and was wasted despite having an interesting story arc. Katrina Kaif, on the other hand, was treated like a sensuous ghost of the film, who only appears to provide "entertainment" with her commendable dancing skills, a glittery attire, and a total screen time of fewer than fifteen minutes. That's about it!

Overall, exaggerated with mammoth expectations, a year-long hype and TV spots on every other channel, Thugs of Hindostan is a perfect example and display of why you shouldn't hop on the 'Baahubali' bandwagon with a terrible script and a lousy storyteller like Vijay Krishna Acharya. This movie is a disappointment and will, no doubt, contend with 'Race 3' for the #1 spot, not the best but, for the worst.

Rating - 1.5/5 | Grade - D+

-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Sarkar - Honest Movie Review

To all you neutral fans and general audiences, expecting a ‘Thuppaki’ or ‘Kaththi’ from this blockbuster combo of Vijay-A.R. Murugadoss, I’m sorry to say that Sarkar might disappoint you. Pre-release problems are no alien to Vijay and his films, yet a problem occurred this time in form of an assistant director Varun Rajendran complaining against A.R.Murugadoss for plagiarism. After some sordid fights and moving to court, Murugadoss agreed for compensation and the movie had a 30-second slide thanking the assistant director.

Verdict - “A Huge Letdown!”

The storyline of Sarkar is about a wealthy CEO, Sundar Ramasamy nicknamed as ‘Corporate Monster’ returning to Chennai to cast his vote for Tamilnadu legislative assembly election, only to find that someone has already cast his vote. Disappointed by this felonious act he decides to fight back the corrupt politician Masilamani (Karuppaiah) and his political party. 

Okay, with that being the plot of the movie, I wondered why they went till High Court for such a simple and predictable story. They could have easily settled the matter among themselves. With so much pre-release hype created, I expected something different from A.R.Murugadoss but comparing  Sarkar with his previous two films starring Vijay, this is dull, dreary and an inferior piece of work.

I appreciate ARM for throwing light on a lesser know Indian Law, Section 49P in The Conduct of Elections Rules and educating the people about their Right to Vote. For me the problem was with the screenplay, I don’t know why but I couldn’t connect with the movie and the scenes, they lacked a punch and didn’t create much impact on me. I would also blame ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay for it, as he performed his role insufficiently. 

Remember the 'Kaththi' or 'Mersal' climax, where Vijay boldly criticizes the ruling government through his thought-provoking speech? That spark is long gone and he has gone back to the days of ‘Vettaikaran’. He has overdone certain scenes, with a lot of enthusiasm that it couldn’t register on the audience because of his displeasing expressions and body language. Also, the movie tried to parody the ruling government of Tamilnadu, as certain scenes could be related to some major political event that had happened. Even with that, they have failed unlike Director Anand Shankar’s ‘NOTA’ where he satirizes the Government with his well-written screenplay.

It is better to avoid a female lead right than just making them stand like a junior artist next to a hero. It was pathetic to watch Keerthy Suresh being wasted as her total screen time including a not-so-needed song was less than 10 minutes. Being a Rahmaniac, I felt A.R.Rahman’s songs and background score with Qutub-E-Kripa was mediocre. 

Without further whining, I would like to conclude by saying that ‘Thalapathy’ Vijay has started his political journey and Sarkar serves as the platform for it. Had A.R.Murugadoss worked more on the script, finely tuned it in a proper way and Vijay not overplayed his role, they could have repeated their magic.

Rating – 2.5/5 | Grade – C+

-An Honest Movie Review by Nirmal Raj aka AK (@Nirmalraj2911)
Instagram Profile - @JustMovieFreaks | Twitter Profile - @JustMovieFreaks

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Namaste England - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

Director Vipul Shah’s second offering in the ‘Namaste’ franchise, Namaste England, is a baffling example of reputed names coming together to create an extremely insipid and nauseating fare. Writer Ritesh Shah, who has written movies like 'Pink', 'Chef' and 'Raid', has co-written this incoherent and disjoined story of Punjab flying to London. Casting director Honey Trehan, whose previous work boasts of casting strong ensembles in movies like 'Kaminey', 'Fukrey' and 'Talvar', casts the most disinterested bunch of actors who make Arjun Kapoor’s performance seem Oscar worthy! Even director Vipul Shah’s passable filmography highlights his not so great skills, but some of his previous movies were bearable thanks to its leading cast. Sadly, even they let him down here.

An ambitious Punjabi girl, Jasmeet (played by Parineeti Chopra), aspires to be a jewelry designer but is oppressed by her patriarchal family. She uses her bunch of friends and boyfriend, Param (played by Arjun Kapoor), to get out of her house and work. Upon finding of their daughter’s deceit, they decide to get her married to Param. Due to the ridiculous turn of events, she convinces Param to relocate to London (though she could have relocated to Delhi, Chennai or Timbuktu and it would have made no difference). Now, do not even try looking for logic here because there isn’t any. So, due to yet another ridiculous subplot, Param cannot get a visa and hence, a desperate Jasmeet leaves him and flies to London. Just when you think good riddance, the makers remind you that you are just halfway through this excruciating emotionless saga.

Their lack of conviction or common sense is evidently visible in almost every sequence. Param and Jasmeet exchange besotted looks from Dussera to Diwali to Holi, but Param says, ’Punjab mein pyaar toh doosro ki shaadiyo mein hi hota hai’. So, out of the blue, there is a wedding. How? Don’t ask! A rich, elite, supposed seductress meets a ‘Gabru Punjabi Munda’ and decides the next minute to marry him. How? Don’t ask! A guy sharing a dingy shanty in London and shown to be living in the bathroom there, steps out in perfectly gelled hair and tuxedos, sweeping rich girls off their feet. How? Don’t even ask!! The makers seem to have answered all these with just one phrase – Who cares?! Vipul Shah repeats the same tropes from 'Namaste London' – a smart girl, a lovelorn naïve guy, a patriotic monologue in London and a sad song by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan! But, his poor directorial skills in 'Namaste London' were overshadowed by good performances by the ensemble, especially Katrina Kaif. It remains Katrina Kaif’s only memorable performance as an actor and reprising the same Jasmeet, Parineeti Chopra makes this a poor caricature. While Katrina’s Jasmeet was flawed and shrewd, she still evoked some empathy and connect. Parineeti makes a shoddy caricature of Jasmeet, with a below average performance and awful dialogue delivery in emotional scenes. It is probably her worst performance till date.

Arjun Kapoor does not have a great filmography to boast of, and he adds yet another poorly acted role to the list. Akshay Kumar had a naughty and lustful swag to his character in Namaste London. Here, Arjun repeatedly says ‘Tumhe dekhke mere dil mein aisi aisi feelings aa rahi hai ki kuch ho jaega’ and you still find it hard to believe. The love story between the leads is so poorly developed in the first 10 minutes of the movie, that the audiences do not connect with them at all. There is no sympathy evoked for his difficult journey to London, travelling through half the world. As I mentioned earlier, the rest of the cast is a bunch of novices who have no weight in their characters nor have any acting chops. Aditya Seal and Dijana Dejanovic as the lead’s partners in London look good but get poorly written characters with no scope to perform. As if the main plot was not tiring enough, there are useless subplots talking about illegal immigrants, dark side of patriarchy and over-the-top nationalism – none of them required in the central story line!

A movie that lacks a tight script, good dialogues, abled craft of filmmaking and captivating performances deserves not to be rated at all. At a time when small budget movies are pushing the boundaries with innovative content, this is a major let down. With nothing really working in the movie, except may be the clothes that the leads wear, I do not think it deserves anything on a scale of 1 to 5.

My Rating – 0/5 | Grade - B+ (A Disaster Piece!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Badhaai Ho - Honest Movie Review

[This Movie Review was first posted on Anurag's The Filmy Basti]

You know you are in for a good ride when a movie opens in a middle-class household, with a bickering mother-in-law and subtle humor over daily household chores. In ‘Badhaai Ho’, debutante director Amit Ravindernath Sharma and his writers Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor create a funny and believable canvas filled with real characters that are stuck in a supposedly embarrassing, yet hilarious situation – when the middle-aged couple of the family get pregnant!

Verdict - "A Delectable Fare!"

A young boy from a middle-class family, Nakul Kaushik (played by Ayushmann Khurrana), has a perfect life. A doting family, an understanding girlfriend and a high-flying career. His life seemingly crumbles down when he discovers his middle-aged parents (played by Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta) are expecting a child, 25 years after he was born! What ensues is hilarious ride of children feeling contempt for their parents and the society adding insult to injury. Adding to their woes is the matriarch of the family, Dadi (played by Surekha Sikri), whose taunts leave you in splits. His colleague and girlfriend, Renee (played by Sanya Malhotra) bears the brunt of this commotion and so does her elite IAS mother (played by Sheeba Chaddha).

Firstly, full points to the art director and costume designers for authentically setting up a typical middle-class household, replete with women of the neighborhood bonding over Tambola after a Satsang, crockery neatly stacked in a glass cupboard and the drawing room doubling up as the room for the granny in the house. The makers do not take time in setting up the theme and quickly get to the point, which reflects in the crisp runtime of the movie as well. Director Amit Sharma beautifully exploits his cinematographer, Sanu Varghese, to create frames that come alive on screen. The congested and tiny house becomes the vibrant epicenter of this hysterical entertainer, only because of the brilliant shots. These frames are further lifted by the witty writing by Akshat Ghildial, where humour is mostly understated. Some of the best examples of the brilliant writing are the hilarious scenes where an awkward Gajraj Rao breaks the news at home and the one where Dadi, played stupendously by Surekha Sikri, rebukes her daughter and elder daughter-in-law at a wedding. Also, it was good to see an organic progression of the story, sans major melodrama. The taboo surrounding an elderly couple conceiving a child, despite having a son of marriageable age, is normalized delicately without being over the top.

As is the case with any such content-driven movies, it is the actors who bring these character to life! Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta are perfectly cast as the embarrassed couple, never letting their characters slip into farcical shame. Ayushmann Khurrana, who has become a flagbearer of sorts for this kind of cinema, is in top form and uses his charm and comic timing in equal measures. Supporting him well in a relatively smaller part is Sanya Malhotra and her mother, Sheeba Chaddha, who provide ample support to the narrative. Surekha Sikri as Dadi, is hilarious and one of the most endearing characters for a granny written in Hindi cinema in recent times. Also, it was fun to watch all the characters speak in chaste western UP dialect, adding another dimension to their characters.

Over the last few years, content-driven stories from the small towns or inspired by the middle-class folks have fancied filmmakers in Bollywood. Badhaai Ho takes a similar route as ‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’ and picks a taboo topic. With a similar plot as Steve Martin’s 1995 comedy, ‘Father of the Bride 2’, Badhaai Ho uses a topic perceived as embarrassing and injects comedy in right measures, to create a delectable fare.

My Rating – 3.5/5 | Grade - B+ (A Perefect Weekend Pick!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Vada Chennai - Honest Movie Review

‘Jeikurom’o Illaiyo...Modhala Sanda Seiyanum!’ opines Anbu when he earns the enmity of other gangsters. Vada Chennai is the result when you bring together two National Award Winners for a film once again. It is intense, rugged and sticks true to its nature. Vada Chennai is the tale of two gangsters Guna (Samuthirakani) and Senthil (Kishore) who run their illegal business along the coastal line area of North Chennai and how the life of Anbu (Dhanush) interweaves with theirs in such a manner as not to be easily separated. 

Verdict - “Raw! Gritty! Authentic!

Now, the story isn’t completely about Anbu and his life with the gangsters. Instead, the character of Dhanush is entangled into the main plot and it is not a hero-centric film as the story and the other characters play a pivotal role. Vetrimaaran, who is known for his screenplay and also won a National Award had composed the film with much competence as the characters are neatly sketched and every scene was crucial in building the movie. I loved the way the story took time to construct itself onscreen, running on its own pace and most importantly there isn’t any mind-numbing ridiculous songs or clichéd romantic scenes to disrupt the flow. The narrative of the film was in such a way that if something happens on screen, like a murder, it was explained later on in the film without a plot hole. So, there is a steady search for answers for the audience as they weren’t foreseeable. 

The cast of the film was a perfect selection, be it Samuthirakani or Kishore or Daniel Balaji, Vetrimaran has roped in the ‘Best’ for the movie. Andrea Jeremiah unsurprisingly steals the show, yet another vital character and she's impressive as always. The impact she created when uttering the dialogue ‘Enna Patha Thevdiya Mari Iruka?’ is enormous. But, the stand out characters for me was Rajan played by the ace-director Ameer. His character had an emotional narrative which was very interesting to watch.

On an interesting note, I found a similarity and contrast in concept between Vada Chennai and Pa. Ranjith’s ‘Kaala’. First, let me tell you about the similarity, which was, both the films are primarily or basically is about the discrimination of downtrodden and the politicians’ aim of removing them from their own place. Kaala Seth (Rajni) from Kaala and Rajan (Ameer) from Vada Chennai voices for the people, stand against the government and fight for their rights. The contrast in concept which I mentioned is the way both characters fight for their land. What Kaala said that the people from slums are not what Vada Chennai is. Maybe, the timeline in which both movies are set in might answer the contrariness. 

Vetrimaaran seems to not compromise in anything for making the film utterly realistic. They even went for ‘Adults Only’ certification from the censor board without muting the unparliamentary words which was a bold attempt cause that made the film more native. Another pillar to the already astonishing film was Santhosh Narayanan (SaNa) and his pulsating background score. As I mentioned earlier, there weren't dance numbers or a hero introduction song which films of this genre generally tend to have. Instead, the songs blended well with the scenes. SaNa did know when to use the background score, thereby elevating the film on a tremendous level. 

A movie without a flaw? I would dare to say, Vada Chennai is undoubtedly the best movie of 2018. All the fans of ‘Pudhupettai’, who were asking for its sequel, Dhanush is back again but as Anbu. Congregated with a gripping narrative, intriguing characters, impressive performances and overall some masterful storytelling this movie is Cinematic Brilliance.

My Rating – 4.5/5 | Grade – A+ (Don’t Dare to Miss It!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Nirmal Raj aka AK (@Nirmalraj2911)
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A Star Is Born - Honest Movie Review

Directed and starring alongside Pop Megastar Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper's directorial debut A Star Is Born is a modern-day retelling of the 1937 film of the same name and co-stars notable and elite performers like Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay alongside a promising young talent Anthony Ramos.

Verdict - "A Beautiful and a Tear-Jerking Story!"

The story of the film narrates the journey of Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), a beloved superstar singer but a reckless alcoholic and a drug addict. Maine runs across Ally (Lady Gaga), a day job worker and a discouraged singer, at a drag bar where he sees her perform and fells in love with her incredible singing talent. After exchanging a conversation with her in person, Maine recruits her into his band, and eventually, Ally receives multiple offers to record her first album and experiences success across every aspect. In the midst of her glory and fame, Jackson, on the other hand, deteriorates from raging alcoholism which affects their healthy relationship romantically and professionally.

Having already been told three times before in 1937, 54 and 76, the story of this A Star Is Born is, for the most part, predictable, but Cooper along with his co-screenwriters Eric Roth and Will Fetters does a decent enough job to keep the movie fresh and captivating. But, at times, the plot tries to wane in the background, thanks to the electrifying chemistry between the two main leads. And that brings me to the primary and the most intriguing aspect of the film, the alluring scenes between Cooper and Gaga. The movie never tries to fortake anything away from both the characters as their lengthy yet very compelling moments of love, anger and affection are what makes it feel poignant and very much sentimental.

Now, making the characters relatable is a task, but Cooper takes it up a notch by making his hard to connect dipsomaniac character engaging. His role felt authentic and pitiful, everything from his deep-toned voice, messy look to his wrinkled clothes made me feel sorry for the man, and Cooper gives his career-best performance as a disgruntled dwindling rockstar. Accompanied by his stellar acting display is Lady Gaga who gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the innocent yet supremely-talented singer, caring girlfriend and overall an inspiring individual. As a real-life singer/songwriter (who might have a similar path to stardom as Ally), Gaga impresses not only with her astounding singing talent but also with her phenomenal acting ability which surprised everybody in the audience. She gives an equally valiant performance as Cooper and will no doubt be a frontrunner for the Best Actress category.

Furthermore, Bradley Cooper, who fills five different roles in the film as the actor, director, screenwriter, guitarist and singer, does a heroic job by putting together a movie with marvellous skill and perfection. Crafting subtle changes to an already told story, Cooper made it seem all seamless by making the film follow a consistent tone throughout its runtime. Moreover, the music and the songs all through were breathtaking to watch and listen as it felt like I'm sitting in a concert with Gaga and Cooper, kudos to the sound mixing department there.

Overall, A Star Is Born tells a beautiful and a tear-jerking story of a polar opposite couple in the most convincing way possible. The chemistry and the scenes between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper were the most riveting parts of the film along with their dominating performances. I teared up a couple of times watching this movie, and that doesn't happen very often.

My Rating - 3.75/5 | Grade - B+ (Highly Entertaining!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
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First Man - Honest Movie Review

Directed by the Youngest Academy Award-Winning Director Damien Chazelle, First Man stars Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy in the lead roles and chronicles the inspiring yet complex journey of the First Man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong. The storyline gets underway in the year 1961 and takes us through the eight-year journey of Neil Armstrong till the Apollo 11 mission. It delves into the personal life of Armstrong, him dealing with the loss of his young child, getting promoted from a test pilot to the Mission Commander, and his complicated relationship with his wife, friends and family.

Verdict - "A Heart-Stirring Theatre Experience!"

Damien Chazelle is without a doubt, the main star of the film. Right from the opening scene, Chazelle locks you in with his incredible ability to make you feel that you're right there sitting next to Armstrong in his hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft. The most captivating aspect that Chazelle stands by throughout the runtime is not sugar coating the film. He doesn't display the epicness of space-travel as we saw in movies like 'Apollo 13' or 'Gravity' nor does he use extravagant shots of the Moon or the Earth to make us believe that it's all happiness and joy comprised in travelling to the ether. His unique filmmaking style helps the movie to feel much raw as every scene including the spaceships felt real, brutal and visceral accompanied by some extraordinary camera work by Cinematographer Linus Sandgren who uses the shaky cam gimmick in the right away and gave the movie more of a documentary look than a space drama.

But the only drawback of the film lies within the protagonist's character which slows down the pace a bit. Neil Armstrong is a very professional, stubborn and has his separate ways of dealing with his family problems or the passing of his young daughter. That might not be relatable or engaging to the audience member as we do not see Armstrong getting disturbed emotionally with his past experiences nor having a healthy conversation with his concerned wife. However, it is what it is, and as I stated before, Chazelle doesn't try to get you sympathetically connected to his focal characters. He makes it very clear that it's not an easy journey for anyone involved and sacrifices were over it.

Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy's performances were yet another plus point for the movie. Gosling, similar to his previous outings in 'Blade Runner 2049' or 'Drive' is a silent murmuring guy, but he had a wide range of emotions to go through from anguish, aggravation and self-confidence. Foy, on the other hand, did her part exceptionally well as the stern mother of two kids and the fretful wife of Armstrong. Her character clocked up a substantial chunk of the storyline, and it never felt mundane to watch.

Overall, First Man is unlike any space movie I've ever seen before. It's harsh, emotional, gut-wrenching and the most realistic take in this genre. Everything from Chazelle's remarkable direction, breathtaking camera work, soothing background music and the performances from the lead actors worked and is most definitely a heart-stirring theatre experience.

My Rating - 4/5 | Grade - A (The Best One Around!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
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Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava - Honest Movie Review

While writing this review of director Trvikram Srinivas’s latest outing ‘Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava’ (ASVR), I chanced upon his Wikipedia page. The introduction says, “Regarded as the "wizard of words" Trivikram's craft is known for its high dose of comedy, fast-paced repartee, farcical situations, escapist themes, and comedy thriller plot lines involving action, emotion, courtship, family and marriage.” Except for the farcical situations, he lets down his audiences on every other aspect.

Set against the backdrop of two warring villages in Rayalaseema, ASVR is the story of Veera Raghava Reddy (played by Junior NTR) spearheading his clans fight against Basi Reddy (played by Jagapathi Babu). They call this ‘Aidu rupayala godava’ (5 rupees fight) and hand it over to their progeny, who find it easier to stick swords into each other than solve this dispute for once. But Veera Raghava Reddy, moved by his grandmother’s (played by Supriya Pathak) rants, decides to take on his opponents with non-violence. Now, this is a novel idea, where unlike the usual mass entertainers, the male protagonist is not shown as the macho and masculine savior. A comical version of this theme was seen in S.S Rajamouli’s 'Marayada Ramanna', where the protagonist does not fight against a bunch of goons.  Trivikram uses his trademark dialogues with rhyme and rhythm, to act as a weapon that Veera Raghava uses to win over his opponents, apart from the generous use of daggers and swords. To trigger his change and affect his conscience, a haughty, arrogant and bubbly Aravinda (played by Pooja Hegde) enters the scene. She casually drops her pearls of wisdom, which Veera Raghava picks up to pave his plan of action ahead. Again, instead of just being the arm-candy or add glamor, this role had a great potential. More recently, Anushka Sharma played a similar support and trigger to the male lead, as Mamta in ‘Sui Dhaaga’. But, again, the writing lets down the character of Aravinda. Despite being the titular role, Aravinda is reduced to just being a caricature, with no weight.

It would be a sin to look for logic in a mass entertainer and we Telugu audiences love them for the lack of it. But, Matala Mantrikudu Trivikram overburdens his audiences with heavy dialogues, filled with puns, alliteration and rhyme. There is a scene where the lead characters converse at a café and I cannot imagine any normal couple conversing in the language that they use. Like in his previous dud, 'Agnyathavaasi', Trivikram overdoes the same trademark dialogues to the extent that it becomes a painful bore! The mood of the movie is set in a very gritty and serious space like Trivikram’s blockbuster ‘Athadu’ or the more recent action drama ‘Rangasthalam’. But, ASVR is not engaging or gripping like either of them. The lack of depth in the characters, along with the over-bearing dialogues, clubbed with a run time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, seem like an extremely tiresome experience.

The only saving grace here are the performances. Almost every actor cast in the main and supporting roles, gets the Rayalaseema accent on point. While most of the supporting actors are decent in their roles, a praise-worthy performance comes from Jagapathi Babu, as the main antagonist. Playing a rugged and rustic version of his character from Rangasthalam, Jagapathi Babu uses his menacing eyes and evil face to create a gruesome villain and delivers well. Pooja Hegde, apart from looking pretty and complimenting Junior NTR well, gets some cute moments amid choppy dialogue delivery. Sunil, making a comeback as the sidekick, is utterly wasted, as he neither gets to do comedy nor drama. But, it is Junior NTR, who plays Veera Raghava with such conviction, that you try to remain invested in this otherwise insipid tale. Being able to pull off a mass character with élan is no mean feat, and he is charismatic at that. Using a calm and restrained demeanor, reminiscent of Mahesh Babu from Athadu, his hard-work and efforts are clearly visible in his performance. Unfortunately, he is let down by poor writing, screenplay and dialogues.

From ‘Nuvve Kavali’ to as recently as ‘A Aa’, Trivikram has always been known for his brilliant dialogues, with some of the finest gems in movies like ‘Nuvvu Naaku Nachavu’, ‘Manmadhudu’ and ‘Jalsa’. Watching ASVR reminded me of Srinu Vaitla’s ‘Aagadu’ – another director known for his witty one-liners, who bored his audiences to death with an overdose of bland dialogues. Not sure if it is Trivikram’s complacency or lack of vision, but ASVR looked like a tale from a tired and disinterested story-teller. Trust me, I seem as disinterested in writing this review as he seemed to be while making this movie.

My Rating – 2/5 | Grade - C (Meh! Probably a Rental!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Venom - Honest Movie Review

In a nutshell, Sony Pictures is similar to that 'stubborn boyfriend who doesn't seem to have gotten over his ex-girlfriend' and keeps recurring despite multiple missteps. Soon after the 'Amazing Spider-Man' franchise debacle, MCU rescued the much-beloved teenage superhero character with 'Spider-Man: Homecoming', that left both critics and audience spellbound. Sony, on the other hand, still hungry for creating their own money minting superhero franchise, somehow managed to rush out a 'Non-MCU, Spider-Man Universe (Without Spider-Man)', and the first blunder is Venom, which is indeed 'A Turd in the Wind' (no pun intended).

Verdict - "Worse Than a Turd!"

Eddie Brock [Tom Hardy] (who alternates as the junkie cousin of Lois Lane) is a rockstar reporter in town, has a caring girlfriend (Michelle Williams), a simple life and cruises through the streets of San Francisco with a Ducati Scrambler. Soon after his disruptive interview/encounter with billionaire businessman, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), Eddie loses his job, apartment and regrets his frozen food-eating lifestyle until he comes across his monster looking, liver eating, always hungry parasite (brother), Venom.

Loomed with predictability, Venom primarily suffers from its premature writing and storyline issues. The plot jumps from one scene to another, without any throughline, and at a certain point, I found myself deep down in a sh*t hole and stopped paying attention to what's happening on screen. It is a mess ponging with bad dialogue, glaring plot holes and unbelievably dumb scenes which cracked me up a little because of its stupidity. 

The characters do things which will make you go "Wait! Why didn't that happen?" say things which will make you go "That's so dumb!" and take decisions which will make you go "Well! I'm not surprised!" Maybe, I'll be in a situation to accept these stereotypical clichés if you wipe out the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Nolan Batman Trilogy where storytelling and character development were given utmost importance. We live in 2018, in a planet half-wiped out by a Purple God, and bad storytelling is just not tolerable anymore.

Let's talk about the characters, Golden Globe winner and a four-time Oscar-nominated actress, Michelle Williams, did next to nothing in the film as her character only required her to show up at different instances, spit out some terribly-written dialogue and then disappear for the next thirty-five minutes. Riz Ahmed, who is a crowdpleaser in 'Nightcrawler', could've felt guilty playing this bland, mundane antagonist character which we've already seen a million times before. With absolutely zero character work, his character felt like he's planted in the film only to experiment and do evil work and fight the protagonist in the climax in a Last Man Standing match. The other characters were equally worthless in the film as they do and say incoherent things which makes no sense.

However, if you put aside everything negative with the film, the only aspect I can appreciate is the weird bromance between Eddie Brock and Venom. The back-and-forth between them was the only entertaining part of the film, and Tom Hardy is capable enough to make his junkie character likeable. Honestly, I'd much rather see a film of Venom and Eddie hangin' out in the streets of San Francisco instead of the flying sh*t box that we've got.

On the whole, Venom is an atrocity when it comes to writing, and at some point during the film, I stopped concentrating and giving a sh*t. So, if you're one of them who don't care about storytelling and character moments, go watch Venom. Similar to the 'Amazing Spider-Man 2', this film is a gigantic mess, and I still smell the stink whenever I'm thinking about it.

My Rating - 1.5/5 | Grade - D+ (A Hangover!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
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Andhadhun - Honest Movie Review

[This review was first posted on Anurag's 'The Filmy Basti' Blog]

One of the least touched genres in Indian cinema has been dark comedy. With the evolving tastes of the audience, over the last few years there have been some experiments in this genre, starting with 'Delhi Belly' in 2011. Seven years later, there seems to be a worthy successor in Sriram Raghavan’s dark comedy, Andhadhun.

To sum it up without any spoilers, Andhadhun captures the intertwined lives of a struggling blind pianist, Akash (played by Ayushmann khurrana) and the wife of an aging superstar, Simi Sinha (played by Tabu). A series of unforeseen events unfold, comprising of a couple of murders, deceit and hilarious double-crossing of each other! The narrative is further enhanced by the vibrant supporting cast -  highlighted by a super-cop, Inspector Mahendra (played by Manav Vij), investigating the murders with his own ulterior motives. A bright and young restauranteur, Sofie (played by Radhika Apte), who not only hosts Akash’s gigs at her restaurant but also develops a liking for him. Then there are other quirky members of the cast who stand out in their small roles – a self-obsessed aging superstar, Pramod Sinha (played by Anil Dhawan), the super-cop’s wife who takes pride in her husband eating ’16 ande’, an over-smart kid who keeps a suspicious eye on Akash, a lottery-ticket seller Maushi and her auto-rickshaw driver brother, Murali. Giving away any other link would mean – SPOILERS!

Director Sriram Raghavan, along with his bunch of writers, creates a music filled narrative, that is not dark and gloomy – a trope used frequently in stereotypical dark comedies. I was reminded of last month’s Tamil comic thriller, Kolamavu Kokila (KoKo), which had a similar layering of comedy with the right amounts of thrills. Much like Koko, Andhadhun works for its brilliant dialogues by Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas, Pooja Ladha Surti and Yogesh Chanderkar. The characters get real lines, filled with wry and subtle humor. Unquestionably, Tabu gets some of the best dialogues and scenes, as the multi-layered star-wife Simi, who is trying to find her own way to stardom. In a recent interview, Tabu spoke about her 10 best-performances till date and this one is easily the eleventh one on the list. She gets to display a variety of emotions from a manipulative wife to a heart-broken victim of her circumstances. The writers do not let her layers come off easily, making her the fire-cracking mystery throughout the movie. Every time you think you have figured her out, she does something whacky in the next scene. Oh boy, only an actor of Tabu’s caliber can pull this role off. She is brilliant!

Matching her strong performance is Ayushmann Khurrana, as a blind pianist present at the wrong place at the wrong time. He keeps his ‘blind-act’ understated and displays the vulnerabilities of a visually challenged man with aplomb. His scenes with Simi are pure fun, especially the one where Simi visits him at his home. Also, whether he is blind or not (which is evidently questioned in the trailer as well), is a device the writers cleverly use multiple times to take the story forward and add humor to it. Manav Vij as Inspector Mahendra is funny as the super cop scared of his overbearing wife, played by Ashwini Kalshekar in a small, yet hilarious role. Radhika Apte gets a less meaty role, but thankfully gets rid of her meme-worthy worried and forlorn look. She is chirpy and adds to the chaos. The casting director deserves due credits for picking up the rest of the actors who fit the bill perfectly in their respective characters. Also, Amit Trivedi’s music is praiseworthy for adding to the drama and thrills. He extensively uses chords and piano, sometimes become a bit too long, but delivers musical pieces according to the mood of the scene. After Manmarziyaan, another well composed soundtrack by him.

The movie is not completely without flaws. While it keeps you invested, the pace could have been a bit faster. The choice of using long shots and a few long-drawn sequences could have resulted in the movie seem a little taxing, especially in the first half. Thankfully, the second half sees a much faster and twists-filled narrative, that pulls you back into the game.

Like most movies of its genre, Andhadhun may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But the dry humor, engaging screenplay, superlative performances and a delightful Tabu deserve your two hours this weekend!

My Rating – 3.5/5 | Grade - B+ (A Perefect Weekend Pick!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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NOTA - Honest Movie Review

‘Well done you f*cking politicians’, Vijay Deverakonda, the Southern Sensation of Tollywood, begins his journey in Tamil Cinema Industry in an exceptional way. He gets a dream debut with packed theatres and his fans whistling and cheering during his introduction scene.

Verdict - “Competently Made Political Satire!

Earlier, we have seen movies in which the main lead accidentally land in the Chief Minister’s position. Be it Shankar’s ‘Mudhalvan’ or Koratala Siva’s ‘Bharat Ane Nenu’, those movies are about how the protagonist takes forward the unexpected power he's given, and how he reforms the State. NOTA begs to be different. In spite of getting into the shoes of a Chief Minister, Varun (Vijay Deverakonda) is reluctant and acts as only rubber stamp before certain events change him. 

NOTA is not a full-fledged political film, the movie deviates to focus on the sub-plots, which cause an issue to the intensity of the film. It parodies every single important event in the political timeline of Tamil Nadu. Director Anand Shankar fearlessly satirizes the Government with his well-written screenplay and sharp dialogues. 

Vijay Deverakonda has already become a household name in Tamil Nadu, and the audience didn’t feel alien with him. They're elated, powerfully applauded and supported him. Devarakonda shined well as the accidental Chief Minister and performed his role proficiently. Yet, the movie doesn’t completely rely on him, as the supporting cast, Nasser, Sathyaraj and M. S. Bhaskar had significant characters to perform. Even though the subplots slow down the pace of the film, it didn’t have any unwanted duets to cause any mayhem or disruption.

Finally, NOTA will sure be well received by the Tamil audience and for the Telugu fans of Vijay Deverakonda, I am sorry as you guys would not be able to connect with this film and the scenes unless you had followed the Tamil Nadu politics from 2015. The film is a fearless attempt and a successful debut to The Deverakonda.

Welcome, Vijay Deverakonda!

My Rating – 3/5 | Grade – B (Worth a Watch!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Nirmal Raj aka AK (@Nirmalraj2911)
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96 - Honest Movie Review

When was the last time you cried during a movie? I cried while watching 'Saamy Square' because my 165 rupees got wasted. Jokes apart! When did you actually cry because of the movies content and the acting performances from the lead cast? If not, '96 will make you cry.

Verdict - “An Unadulterated Love Story!

Starring Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha Krishnan in lead roles, 96 is a soulful story of two lost souls, Ram and Jaanu who studied together in school, part away without a goodbye due to unforeseen circumstances. What happens when they reunite after 22 years for their school reunion party forms the story. 

Director Prem Kumar deserves appreciation for such a beautiful story which didn’t rush and took time to settle. Certain scenes are long enough to create an impact as the director Kumar gives ample time for us to dissolve into it. 

Vijay Sethupathi is very natural with his acting skills and has given a subtle yet powerful performance. He expresses love, shyness, and sorrow through his body language, mannerism, and proves that he is the best actor in the business. Trisha Krishnan is sure to impress everyone with her eyes and expressions and has given a very strong, deep, and unforgettable performance. Forget Jessie, Jaanu will be remembered for a very long time. 

Aadithya Baaskar and Gouri G Kishan, who appear as Younger Ram and Jaanu respectively, were perfectly cast, excellent with their performances and did justice to their roles in a magnificent way. 

Cinematography and music were the other two intriguing aspects of this film. Shanmuga Sundaram’s frames were not conventional and have managed to capture the details and emotions in depth. Govind Menon had created magic with his music, which was the backbone for the movie. He has helped create a much-needed impact which the director would have wanted through his poignant music, evoking strong emotions.

Finally, I would dare to say that '96 is a movie without a flaw, right from the introduction till the very end. The film is sure to take you on a trip down memory lane, a journey of a lifetime, sure to stir your soul and make a lasting impression. Don’t miss this gem!

 My Rating – 4.5/5 | Grade – A+ (Don’t Dare to Miss It!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Nirmal Raj aka AK (@Nirmalraj2911)
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Chekka Chivantha Vaanam / Nawab – Honest Movie Review

Verdict - “The Resurgence of Mani Ratnam!

The feeling when a master story-teller coming back with a bang is pretty unmatchable. Mani Ratnam, who is always a class apart, has proved why he is the best in the industry once again with this multi-starrer. Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is the kind of movie we all were looking forward from Mani Ratnam and he has finally delivered a quality commercial film.

The movie revolves around three brothers Varadhan, Thyagu and Ethi, fighting against each other to ascend the throne after their father, Senapathy (Prakash Raj), a business tycoon cum gangster. 

So there a lot of fan theories and write-ups online explaining the story or where it is adapted from and I don’t want to do the same and let me keep it straight and simple. Mani Ratnam has the ability to present a simple story in an extraordinary way with his unique filmmaking skills. The most intriguing aspect of this movie is the way the characters are sketched and the way the actors justified the writings with their immense acting skills.
 

Arvind Swami as Varadhan, the eldest son of Senapathy, takes care of the business and other dealings in Chennai along with his father. The character is tempered as well as vulnerable. He wants to be the boss but couldn’t make the correct decisions and he is letdown by betrayal. Arun Vijay as Thyagu, the second son, takes care of the business in Dubai along with his wife Renu (Aishwarya Rajesh). The character has the shades of Victor from Yennai Arindhal, a role which Arun Vijay is known for, but Thyagu is much classier and does the role with ease and attitude. 

Simbu aka STR as Ethi, the last son, the mischief one, does illegal business in Serbia with his girlfriend Chaya (Dayana Erappa). This is definitely a great comeback for Simbu after being criticised for his lacklustre performance in AAA. His mannerism, screen presence, and his capableness to allure the audience with personality are very much enjoyable. Vijay Sethupathi as Rasool plays the role of a suspended cop and dear friend of Varadhan. This is Vijay Sethupathi’s third release this year and he was funny with his wit and dialogue delivery. As usual, he uses his strength and gives his best.

 

The film didn’t have a solid female character which every Mani Ratnam film has, except for Jyothika as Varadhan’s wife. The roles of Aditi Rao Hydari, Dayana Erappa, Aishwarya Rajesh or Jaya Sudha didn’t make a mark. A.R.Rahman always saves his best for Mani Ratnam. In that way, he elevates the film with his scintillating background score and the adequate uses of songs without being fully shot and the use of ‘Sevandhu Pochu Nenje’ as a song as well as background score is gratifying. 

Finally, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is a well-crafted multi-starrer, high on action and emotions, backed by the star’s acting, Rahman’s music and Santhosh Sivan’s magic with the camera. Though the film lacked depth and had predictable twists, the movie as a whole is very much enjoyable and satisfying. 

My Rating – 3.25/5 | Grade – B (Entertaining! With Few Noticeable Flaws!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Nirmal Raj aka AK (@Nirmalraj2911)
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Sui Dhaaga - Honest Movie Review

Verdict - "A Heartening Story!"

Starring Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma as a relatable proletariat couple, Sui Dhaaga directed by Sharat Katariya ('Dum Laga Ke Haisha' fame) is an encouraging journey of a small-town couple Mauji, an honest and an innocent hard worker played by Varun Dhawan and Mamta, a serene yet clear-sighted housewife played by the super-talented Anushka Sharma. The storyline explores the ups and downs of the couple's trembling career, family life, and their wholesome relationship as they together go through conflicts and hurdles with the intent to achieve their ultimate goal.

Despite having a few storyline issues, writer-director Sharat Katariya makes sure that this film's heart and emotion are at the right place. His depiction of a simple small-town family, their affections, fights and the treatment that they receive from the upper-class society were all illustrated beautifully through effective heart-wrenching scenes and admirable brief character moments which are delightfully sprinkled all across the film. Also, the overarching theme of the entire movie to work with honesty, determination and love, to follow your heart and chase your dreams was conventional but was portrayed decently on-screen by Katariya as it added that extra layer to the film without it being plain and simple.

Also, the cordial everyday characters were yet another stalwart positives of the film. The mistreated, assiduous, upright character of Mauji is the focal highlight remarkably characterized by Varun Dhawan who I appreciate very much for taking a chance with different roles, unlike his male counterparts. Anushka Sharma, who for the first time in her successful career playing a de-glamorous role (very different from her previous horror outing in 'Pari') impresses once again with her charm, likeable screen-presence and the purity that she brought to her character. But, Raghubir Yadav who is very well known for his impeccable performance in 'Peepli [Live]' and 'Piku' is the MVP of the entire film as an easily frustrated father and a difficult-to-impress old chap.  His quick wits and dialogue delivery brought the much needed comic relief to the film along with his wife (whose name I couldn't find on Wikipedia or IMDb).

However, they're more than a few problems with the film, especially the stakes were not that high and the clinching moments were in my opinion over-dramatized for obvious reasons. Even though not bothersome to any extent the plot was considerably predictable, and the customary climax didn't end the movie on a high note but succeeded by making the audience member leave the theater with a smile.

Overall, similar to Sharat Katariya's previous film 'Dum Laga Ke Haisha', Sui Dhaaga maintains the charming innocent vibe but tells a heartening story with the right amount of emotions and sentiment. Irrespective of several storyline issues, this film impresses and is indeed worth a watch.

My Rating - 3/5 | Grade - B (Worth a Watch!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Surya Komal aka KM (@SuryaKomal)
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Devadas - Honest Movie Review

[This review was first posted on Anurag's 'The Filmy Basti' Blog]

Verdict - "A Let Down by a Weak Script and Poorly-Etched Characters!"

Telugu films starring major stars always capitalize on their stardom, often making their characters in the movies larger than life. Nagarjuna himself has been a part of mainstream hits such as Sreenu Vaitla’s ‘King’, which was a fun, no-brainer mad capper and breezy romcoms like Vijay Bhaskar’s ‘Manmadhudu’. Nagarjuna – Nani’s latest outing, ‘DevaDas’ treads a path in between the two – tries to be a simple movie, unfortunately, with unrealistic subplots and glaring loopholes!

A flamboyant don, Deva (played by Nagarjuna), meets an upright, simpleton ‘M.B.B.S, M.S, Gold Medalist’ Dr. Das (played by Nani). This doctor-patient relationship grows from an overbearing goon arm-twisting a young and naïve doctor, to a strong friendship between a doctor and his lone friend, a robinhood-like don. The rest, as I said, is a botchy, loophole-filled narrative, which neither keeps you stay invested, nor adds any value to any of its characters.

Director Sriram Adittya, who has also written this movie, uses his actors as mere stereotypes, by making all his characters one dimensional with no layer giving them a flat character arc. Agreed that we as Telugu audiences love and adore our larger-than-life ‘heroes’ in the movies, but, if a character is not given enough weight, it falls flat. Barring Dr. Das (to a certain extent), none of the other characters evoke any emotion or connect with the audiences. His screenplay in the first half is uneven especially in the first 30 minutes, when the narrative cuts across the lives of Deva and Das without a smooth transition. At 2-hours-and-44-minutes, it is way too long, and the makers seem to waste a lot of time in setting up the theme and over indulge in the second half trying to glorify both the male leads.

A mention of the catchy music by Mani Sharma, as a couple of songs are quite hummable. Though some songs like the over-indulgent ‘Lakumikara’, mixing holi with dahi-handi and Ganesh Chaturthi, was a drag and seem to be in the movie just to let Nagarjuna flaunt his perfectly shaped abs! Among the characters, the one that has some layers is Dr. Das and Nani plays it with complete conviction. Even though his scenes as a medical practitioner seem contrived, his honesty and endearing nature makes the viewers overlook these flaws. He, along with Vennela Kishore, deserve to be praised for their impeccable comic timing, and sharing better chemistry than Nani shares with Rashmika Mandanna.


Speaking of the girls, both Rashmika Mandanna and Aakanksha Singh get a raw deal, where both their characters have good potential but are relegated to the background. Nagarjuna uses his charm and wit to his advantage and plays a one-tone larger-than-life don, but it is such a poorly written character, with no justification whatsoever for his Robinhood-like compassion or an explanation for Das and Jahnavi’s (played by Aakanksha Singh) empathy towards a criminal. Honestly, I waited till the end for Deva’s story to be revealed to explain the gaps that were left in the narrative all along, but they remained as glaring loopholes. Even a charming Kunal Kapoor makes a majorly disappointing Telugu debut as the villain and practically gets nothing to do.

Two of the most adored romantic heroes unite for the first time but are let down by a weak script and poorly-etched characters. Imagine how insipid Devdas will be, without his Paro or Chandramukhi. Nagarjuna-Nani starrer DevaDas is equally bland without his Paro (script) and Chandramukhi (characters).

My Rating – 2/5 | Grade - B+ (Meh! Probably a Rental!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Anurag Rao (@The Filmy Basti!)

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Saamy Square - Honest Movie Review

Verdict - “A Sequel No One Asked For!

Have you ever been to a movie, where you felt suffocated because of the miserable scenes, headache causing songs, and background score and you just wanted to run away from the theatre? That’s how I felt while watching Chiyaan Vikram’s latest; Saamy Square.

One year since the disappearance of Perumal Pichai (Kota Sreenivasan Rao), his three sons, Raavana Pichai (Bobby Simhaa), Mahendra Pichai (O. A. K. Sundar) and Devendra Pichai (John Vijay) come in search of him from Sri Lanka and find out that he was shot dead and burned by Aarusamy (Vikram). They vent out their anger by killing everyone who was the reason behind their father’s death including Aarusamy. 

They rise to power in Tirunelveli by establishing an illegal money laundering network, gaining the friendship of wealthy business people and politicians. 28 years later, Raavana Pichai cross path with Ramasamy (Vikram) who is the son of Aarusamy. Exciting, isn’t it?
 

Now, I need not explain the rest of the plot as it is understandable. It turns out to be another cat and mouse brawl, Sons of Perumal Pichai versus Son of Aarusamy. This is what director Hari came up with? Fifteen years after the release of the prequel. I mean why should he ruin something which has a cult status? Saamy 1 is considered as one of the best cop movies, a major break-through in Vikram’s career, the songs of the movie are still fresh to listen, Vivekh had talked about social injustice through his comedy, and punch dialogues are still enjoyed.  

Director Hari has overturned it and made a complete mess out of it. The movie adds up nothing new or intriguing or at least makes sense and the plot descends into complete mayhem. Adding to the misery is the role of Keerthy Suresh as Ramsaamy’s love interest and Soori’s comedy. I just couldn’t withstand his dull, dreary, stupid, lifeless comedy but I witnessed half of the audiences laughing for it. Do they lack a sense of humour or are their lives so miserable that they find solace in his pathetic jokes? 

‘Rockstar’ Devi Sri Prasad, as he is fondly called by his Tollywood fans creates a ruckus with his songs and background score. The movie was already in a tragic state and this man, genuinely trying to cheer up the audience with his music, ends up adding pain to them.

The film lacked everything, right from a solid story, gripping screenplay, enjoyable action sequences, refreshing romance scenes, listenable songs or at least quick comical relief. But, no, the director offers us an outdated story, predictable and boring scenes cringe romances which were very awful. 

Finally, Saamy Square comes down to nothing but damaging and destroying the reputations of its prequel. I still couldn’t understand why Vikram agreed to do something like this and degrade a character which was highly appreciated and made him a Star.  This will rightfully feature in my “Top 5 Worst Kollywood movies of 2018”.  Do yourself a favour and avoid it!

My Rating – 1/5 | Grade – D (Absolutely Awful!)
-An Honest Movie Review by Nirmal Raj aka AK (@Nirmalraj2911)
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