Sunday, May 21, 2006

Olu Saar Bari Olu

Olu Saar Bari Olu (????)
Featuring: Ramesh, Anu Prabhakar, Balraj, Jayanti, Mohan and others.
Directed by: Nagendra Magadi

Tipped off with Upendra’s hit number “Olu bari olu” a host of movies brought the word “Olu” into limelight. Considering the literal meaning of the word “Olu”, all the movies with this word in them are invariably a run of the mill comic features. One of the reasons I sort of hesitated to watch this movie was due to the overused and overdosed and definitely overacted patterns this word has come to inherit over the years. Even the presence of “The Ramesh Factor” could not bring me to see it since I was in no mood to watch Ramesh make a fool of him self in a sorry little affair like this one. The expression “Don’t judge a book by the cover” definitely fits like a T for this movie since I was pleasantly (and sometimes shockingly) surprised at what it had to offer.

For starters “Olu Saar Bari Olu” (OSBO) is an absolute riot from the get go. The story begins with Ramesh who works as a make-up person in a film studio and his irate and miserly landlord Bank Janardhan. Ramesh’s life has a host of issues including being able to stay on the good side of this cheap little man who wont allow even a housefly to get away with free merchandise. With a scene like this Ramesh’s younger brother Pramod arrives in the city to study medicine. Before you know it his other two friends Mohan and Balraj join him with circumstances beyond their control. Now what we have is the stage set for these four bachelors to manage a life in the city without hassles.

Of course, being single men is never easy and that includes accommodation. When Ramesh and Co. manage to manhandle the landlord and his wife in a drunken state one night it is time to move on and find greener pastures. In their pursuit they manage to hook onto an unsuspecting lady Jayanti Deshpande (Jayanti) who is told that the brothers are married and will be bringing their ‘wives’ to the city soon.

Presto and we have a rather ‘well-built’ pair of women (Balraj and Mohan in disguise) entering the house posing as the wives. A typical ‘Golmaal’ affair with a string of events making this one rib-tickling ‘Comedy of Errors’ as it were. Despite the lack of any major turn of events what keep the viewers glued are the comic sequences that are amazingly well controlled and choreographed. The two men – Balraj and Mohan- deserve a grand round of applause for playing a woman with finesse. I can honestly say they fitted the role like a glove.

Performances wise everyone chips in equal share. In their limited screen time the leading ladies for these four guys do what they can although Anu Prabhakar gets more time than the others due to the ‘star value’. Ramesh is as always his best with the right timing for the right sequence. Seasoned Jayanti does her good-mother shtick with precision. Music is pleasing to the ears although the songs have nothing to do with the narration of the story which is a popular culture anyway.

Leave your brains outside for a change and have some wholesome family fun. Not many Kannada movies out there with this sort of comic quality.


Sriram (????)
Featuring: Shivraj Kumar, Ankita, Abirami, Sreenivasa Murthy, Jai Jagadish, Avinash and others.
Directed by: M.S.Ramesh

Shivu (Shivraj) is a handyman working for a power-player/bigwig somewhere in Hubli. He has been there for a few years now and is shown to be a part of the family despite the fact that he is a stranger to them. Kshetrapal (Avinash) is a Lokayukta officer who is going around mouthing powerful lines into the trembling faces of law-breakers. Unfortunately for Avinash this is as far as his role’s range really goes. His daughter Aishwarya (Ankita) is another ditsy PYT who falls for Shivu before even meeting the man. The haste in which they ‘fall in love’ is a clear indication as to how ‘vital’ that aspect of the story was to the overall plot.

A couple of snow-capped songs, a lethal gun fire that Avinash actually comes out of and a few single-handed fights later, Shivu decides to tie the knot with Aishwarya. On their wedding day arrives one more slim and pretty tall thing – Vasundhara (Abirami). She reveals to the awe-struck crowd that Shivu is not what he says he is and is in fact – Sriram. Everyone looks at Shivu demanding an explanation for this cover-up as Sriram/Shivu locks himself into the past.

Intermission. Pop corn. Soft drink.

Post intermission revels in Shivu’s past. The script slavishly follows Valmiki’s epic Ramayana in this phase which ends up making the narration rather lackluster. A father (S.Murthy) with two wives who are shown to be uncharacteristically well-adjusted. A couple of step-brothers and this family’s power-grip on the city’s population. A Manthara-like character in the form of the second wife’s brother (whose daughter is Vasundara) et al. Her demanding Sriram leave the house to ensure more limelight to her own kids (who for some reason do not say anything at all!). There is also a local villain for the town in the form of Jai Jagadish who goes around spitting fire at Shivraj and his group of do-gooders. Everything that makes the goings on predictable and mediocre. The inevitable good wins over evil message with Sriram doing a Sri Krishna-act eventually by wedding both the girls who aspire to be his bride. How convenient, eh?

Performances-wise Shivraj delivers a very controlled performance in bits and pieces. His depiction of Sriram in the second half is loud, melodramatic and repetitive. Sometimes it is hard to identify with such larger-than-life and larger-than-law characters since they seem unrealistic. Despite this he manages to pull off a decent one as always ensuring justice is done to the role. The leading ladies are strictly ok although Abirami has more emotionally challenging scenes (for what its worth) than Ankita who gets nothing much to do except bat an eye-lid here and there and gyrate to a couple of songs. Supporting actors lend apt support mouthing super-heavy and surreal lines which make this affair a completely fictional and commercially designed one.

Music is pleasing to the ears with Udit Narayan belting a few choice ones in ‘his Kannada’. Technically the movie is very well shot which also includes a well choreographed chase sequence involving a moving train. I thought despite all the over-the-top (literally!) stunts in that one it was definitely a treat to watch.

Overall Sriram manages to keep the viewer’s focus till the end despite it’s almost- predictable climax. I wish the director had experimented more with such a time-tested formula with some innovative scenes with Shivraj. But he chooses to stick to the usual commercial demand.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Accident (1985)

Accident (1985)
Featuring: Shankar Nag, Anant Nag, Ashok Mandanna, TS Nagabharana, Arundati Nag, Srinivas Prabhu and Ramesh Bhat.
Directed by: Shankar Nag

Lost in the world of drugs, sex and alcohol Deepak (Ashok Mandanna) lives with his head stuck in the clouds. What only adds to his jingoistic reverence to such a lifestyle is being the son of a powerful political player Dharmadhikari (Anant Nag). Without a soul to care about Deepak and his friend roam the empty streets of Bangalore under the influence of ganja and race strangers on the road.

This so-called classy pair one night manages to do the unthinkable. Their imported car manages to get off the road and into the stomachs and necks of innocent villagers who sleep on the footpaths of the city at night. People with no shelter, no prospect and no one to ask for. People who have traveled hundreds of miles in search for a better life. But unfortunately find a ghastly death instead.

In what is quite possibly one of the best shot action sequences in Kannada cinema, Deepak manages to drive on dozens of these poor and helpless folk that night. As his car bumps off a panicky and screaming Ramanna (TS Nagabharana) off to one side and bangs into a pole, Deepak realizes the trail of horror he has just become responsible for. In the pursuit of “getting high” he has managed to kill.

Ravi (Shankar Nag) and Inspector Rao (Ramesh Bhat) get onto the hot chase of finding out the whereabouts of this ‘mystery vehicle’ which spelt doom for the desperate. As Ramanna heals in the hospital with the accident still fresh in his mind, Ravi is leaving no stone unturned to seek the truth and bring justice. Dharmadhikari returns to the city to realize this shocking incident and is immediately on task to start moving the pawns of his political game to try and fish out his son from this mess. Caught between his ethics and the stink pool we call ‘the government’ innocence stands to be punished while crime is poised to make a quick exit.

Will justice go unnoticed? Will Karma find a way? ‘Accident’ raises more questions than provide answers. We need such movies that are mirrors to the corrupt and dog-eat-dog power tussle that our country has become notoriously famous for. Shankar Nag brings to life talking puppets that showcase images of real life events on the celluloid. All the characters in the movie deliver a hundred percent with no exception. A brisk narrative and expertly dealt editing work makes the feature all the more engrossing.

An excellent movie with a very strong social statement. Features like ‘Accident’ are proof of the quality and class Kannada cinema is capable of.

Ba Baro Rasika (2004)

Ba Baro Rasika (2004)
Featuring: Ramya Krishna, Sunil, Ashita, Ramesh Bhat and others.
Directed by: Dayal

‘Ba Baro Rasika’ is a movie with varying mood patterns. One of the main reasons I watched it was for Ramya Krishna who was impressive in ‘Rakta Kaneeru’ and Sunil who has time and again promised he has potential. That said, let us look further now.

Vishwa (Sunil) is a graduating student who is known to be the ‘life of the campus’ and a good friend to his peers. He is a guy who has, despite being some sort of ‘girl magnet’, always kept them at a safe distance because he has not yet fallen in love. Ironically it seems that he throws away his heart to the first girl – Sona (Ashita)- who walks into his arms (as an accident mind you!) and declares ‘I love you!’ making his whole ‘integrity shtick’ seem like a farce. Just when you are feeling good about the male lead being a man who is a little realistic he goes ahead and becomes cliché. Sigh. Once we get past this puppy love we are introduced to his and her family members. Ramesh Bhat is thrown into this mix as Sona’s enthusiastic and ‘love-affairs-are-ok-as-long-as-they-are-headed-for-marriage’ kind of father for a good measure and completely wasted. Regardless the two are convinced they are in love (if only it was so simple) and decide that they will “love maaDu with duet songs”.

Let us now look at the woman who gives even girls the inferiority complex. Ramya (Ramya Krishna) is the chief auditor for a firm and is shown to be an ‘anti-men’ individual. With a troubled past which involved a murder or two, she has grown up hating men (all kinds). She ends up interviewing Vishwa who impresses her with his statistical knowledge of the firm. Her aloofness and cold attitude is actually impressive during her initial scenes.

On a trip to Mumbai the two unearth a scam worth 22 crore rupees. Conveniently a goon threatens Ramya one rainy night and soon she is seen begging Vishwa to stay with her in the room for the night since she is ‘scared’. During one of her scary moments Vishwa and she end up in bed together. Sparks fly and before you know it Vishwa is weeping like a baby. This IS the crucial moment in the movie but is not shot with the sensitivity and maturity that it deserved. Vishwa is confused and guilt-ridden so he confesses in the church the next day about the folly. He puts it behind him and gets engaged to Sona.

All is fine and dandy until we realize Ramya ‘Men Are Evil’ Krishna is not quite over her ‘experience’ with Vishwa. The woman in her has suddenly risen and so she starts harassing our man with weird phone calls and bizarre scenarios. Her attempts at making him ‘realize’ her beauty could have used more creative ideas. Vishwa, who was smart enough to figure out statistical data and ward off goons, is shown to be so naïve that he plays right into her hands. How these situations get untangled and who does he eventually end up with forms the rest of the story.

This was a great script but is completely mismanaged by a director who does not seem to know how to handle such situations. At the end of it all it becomes another ‘run of the mill’ story like the rest of them. I was, for once, impressed with the opening shades of the lead characters but they become hollow and without definition towards the end.

Sunil holds the fort completely with his histrionics in this feature. He definitely has the components of a good actor in him and I seriously hope the man continues to get challenging roles. Ramya is adequate in her role although her post intermission ‘obsessive lover’ was nowhere near realistic. She was not persuasive. She was not even demanding which would have made sense considering her overnight ‘change of gear’. The girl cast opposite Sunil is ok although her character could have used some confrontational scenes with Ramya. Being a woman, that perspective is left unexplored. Others are just ok with their pre-defined roles and limited screen time.

Technically the movie is well shot. Song sequences are refreshing and as always are dream sequences with nothing to do with the story. Cinematography is good and crisp editing only adds to the gloss factor.

‘Ba Baro Rasika’ starts off with a lot of promise but loses its way due to the lack of a strong screenplay and direction. The director had a gritty lead cast but does not use them to their maximum potential. I look forward to more such themes being explored with a touch of reality to them.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Featuring: Shankar Nag, Bhavya, Vajramuni, Devraj, Sudhir and Ambarish.
Directed by: P Nanjundappa

SP Sangliyana is a character inspired from the real life super cop with the same name. A man with high principles and honor for the law enforcement department of the country. The movie is a fictional depiction of the man, his encounters with law and the people who break them.

Sangliyana (Shankar Nag) initially poses as Rowdy Raju and enters the city. No one suspects a thing about this seemingly small time crook including the police department there and the big time power lords Nagappa (Vajramuni) and his errant son Devraj. While they make merry with the strings on their fingers which includes everything from corruption to prostitution, players of the same fiber join this bandwagon in all sizes and shapes. The only people who seem to be concerned at all about this mess of an infrastructure is newspaper editor Mahesh (Lohitashwa) and his daughter Kanchana (Bhavya). Minister Nagappa and his son indulge in all kinds of criminal activities making a mockery of the law which includes even bludgeoning a forest officer to death in broad daylight. With the middle men in the Police department, the father-son duo make merry with the very familiar air of arrogance and foolhardiness associated with such fictional features. The forest officer’s wife and son (Tara and Manjunath respectively) end up living with Rowdy Raju through an array of convenient coincidences.

One fine day the much acclaimed Sangliyana makes his appearance in the form of ‘Rebel Star’ Ambarish. He starts his first day with a nice ‘dishum-dishum’ of overpricing auto rickshaw drivers and is soon seen getting this mess in order. Constant confrontations between the ‘bad guys’ and the ‘good guys’ keep taking place with a few blood streaks and hollow threats.

Near to the intermission part the cover is blown and we finally see the real SP Sangliyana as Shankar Nag who would have, true to his unorthodox ways of handling crime, made a rather premature visit to the city’s crime scene. As we are relieved that Shankar Nag is finally out of the rather amusing looking hairdo and sunglasess as Rowdy Raju, we also have to contend with a couple of random songs which have nothing to do with the story’s progress. Of course, this is where you can stretch your legs and maybe take a coffee break.

One thing leads to another and Sangliyana successfully starts fixing all the loopholes created by Nagappa and Co. A traditional commercial potboiler style showdown ensues bringing criminals to justice and upholding the goodness of the law.

Sangliyana was one of Shankar Nag’s laudable features as the upright police officer. The movie brought back fond memories of lazy Saturday afternoons spent on the couch with the family watching these entertainers back in Bangalore. Shankar does complete justice to his role and is flawless as a performer. No amount of regret will ever be able to fill the void this brilliant man left in our land. Bhavya does her stereotypical actress bit efficiently too although she is loud and tends to get on the nerves at times. The performers from the ‘Bad Guys Camp’ – the late Vajramuni, the late Sudhir and Devraj are tailor made for their roles. It was a pleasant experience watching the legend Vajramuni perform with the ease of an experienced artiste. ‘Rebel Star’ Ambarish puts on a valiant performance as well in his guest appearance. One can tell that the emotion is heartfelt when he embraces Shankar which is a representation of the off screen friendships these people shared.

Music is definitely one of the high points of the movie. Made as a slick and crisp cop adventure the movie boasts of some good songs including the popular ‘Bandalo Bandalo Kanchana…”. Editing is well done and keeps the narration interesting and entertaining.

Overall, Sangliyana is a complete family entertainer with all the elements in the right doses. If you look past a couple of needless songs Sangliyana is a pleasant piece from memory we all can proudly acknowledge.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Stumble (2003)

Featuring: Anant Nag, Suhasini, MD Pallavi, Mukhyamantrui Chandru, Ashok Mandanna and others.
Directed by: Prakash Belawadi.

Finally a movie that talks about the technology our land seems to be so proud of. The land of Karnataka and especially Bangalore have been put on the international map thanks to this newfound miracle drug our economy has been administered with. I had always found it ironic that despite being home to so many global corporations et al, our film makers had never ventured into one socially relevant feature that showed us the in and outs of the industry. That irony is laid to rest for a little while at least with Prakash Belavadi’s feature - Stumble.

Anand Rao(Anant) – a retired bank official and Nandini (Suhasini) are leading a simple yet self-sufficient upper middle class life in the suburbs of Bangalore. Their son Uday lives and works in the United States while daughter Madhu (MD Pallavi) is a software engineer working for a supposedly well-to-do firm. This firm is run by a hen-pecked yet scheming white collar Dinesh Khosla. Things start going haywire when Madhu is fired randomly without proper reasoning. While Madhu seems to surrender to the event without a fight, she also has to put up with the blameful eyes her father has for her. Caught between a swindling finance corporation where he is destined to lose all his savings and his daughter’s failing prospects with a career, Anand Rao has nowhere to turn. He pines his hopes on his son Uday who returns one day with a pink slip in his pocket. Of course the family realizes this fact much later thanks to the one thing education has successfully taught all of us – destructive egoism.

Sitting close to this set of events is MLA Divakar (Chandru) and his political ambitions. In collaboration with Khosla and an American he manages to convince hard working and earnest bank employees to join hands into a new merger. Khosla’s technology oriented firm that once seemed to have great value in the global economy is now a sitting duck to collapse. The post-IT and dotcom booms are teased out of their hiding with Khosla deciding to convert his otherwise tech-based center into a call center. Armed with outsourced projects, Indians with fake accents and Americans with ideas of their own, Khosla and co. decide to hit it big. While a desperate Madhu is helped out by some of her loyal peers from work, others choose to join the bandwagon without caring where it is headed next.

These two scenarios collide giving us a rare glimpse of the dubious natures with which these organizations work. Everything from overnight Technology training centers to the cliché of the dog-eat-dog genre this field has created is well captured on celluloid. Prakash Belavadi does a good job at showing a very Indian perspective of the economic shadows that have been around for over a decade in Karnataka. A closer look at this seemingly rosy picture is taken through the eyes of the helpless middle class who only wanted a secure lifestyle and a good landscape for their future generations. The abuse young professionals have to go through at the hands of greedy and one-dimensional bosses are well portrayed.

Performances category is dominated by Anant, Suhasini and Chandru without a close second. These seasoned players perform brilliantly in this English-heavy feature. One of the beautiful touches the director gives is the appropriate injection of Kannada in certain important scenes which sparkles like a hidden water stream in a rocky and dense rainforest. Pallavi, Ashok and the rest of the cast chip in as appropriate in their tailor-made roles. The new faces onscreen adapt well to the goings on and deliver a pretty convincing performance.

Technically the movie is crisp and well shot. Editing is well done although camera work could have been more personal at times. A slight lack of this falls short of adding the genuine touch and life to some vital characters. Music is used sparingly considering the focus of the feature. Jobs are lost but a family is found hence increasing the realism in the movie.

Overall, ‘Stumble’ is another socially-relevant feature made at the right time. The call center business is shown as an infant in the movie but we all know the Herculean young man it is today. ‘Stumble’ is definitely worth a dekko.