Saturday, April 12, 2008

Siddharth triple-threat: Aata, Bommarillu, and Chukkallo Chandrudu

First thing's first: Siddharth is absolutely adorable, and he really works his physical attributes to their maximum effects - beautiful eyes, big smile, dorky but endearing gestures, in-character and committed dancing.* I even liked his singing in Chukkallo Chandrudu. These all add up to a veeery pleasant and sometimes squeeee-filled movie-watching experience.

[Pause to reflect on the ├╝ber-schnuffel that is Siddharth.]

But during Aata and Bommarillu, my brain kept going "Hey, what about me?" I found both of these movies to be pretty dumb (or "pretty but dumb," take your pick).** The former has characters so broad you're not sure how even one of them fit on a movie screen; both have plots driven by very filmi, Really Stupid Ideas that severely challenged my ability to suspend disbelief; and the latter doesn't work if you can't support the love of Siddharth's pampered idiot and Genelia D'Souza's squeaking, cartoon-eyed, hot mess of annoyance. Even Siddharth saving puppies from a burning building - hello, manipulation!- could not move my stony heart. Neither film worked for me on any level except the visual, thanks mostly to the afore-mentioned Siddharth effect (and, in the case of Aata, some beautiful river scenes and interesting-to-look-at songs).

For reasons I cannot explain, I loved Chukkallo Chandrudu. It's not particularly more clever or nuanced than the other two and, with its three love stories, skirts dangerously near heroine overload. Isn't it interesting that Siddharth co-wrote a movie in which he gets to love on three different stars? Uh-huh. Fortunately, one of these three, Sada's character, is a compellingly smart, sensible, strong, and sweet young woman, the type I don't see nearly enough of. Hurrah! Song-wise, this film also has a clear advantage, featuring 1) Prabhudeva cutting a rug, 2) Siddharth hip-hopping around Innsbruck (which is supposed to be...Stuttgart, was it?) with refreshingly ordinary-looking backup dancers, and 3) Sukhwinder Singh's glorious, joyful "Dolna Dolna," in which Siddharth gives the best birthday present ever to Sada. If you have not seen this song, go find it at once, because you will not be able to help grinning like an idiot as you watch it. It's fab.

What I'm curious about is: how representative of Telugu popular cinema are these movies? I've seen only four Telugu films (these three and Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana), so may sample is very small and, I suspect, very skewed. As always, I'm up for recommendations.

* In fact, a certain fan told me she thinks Siddharth's dancing is rivaled only by the skills of Hrithik and Shahid. Thoughts?
** Aata also gets a thumbs-down from me for having characters act like rape is no big deal (even though they're the villains and are held up as wrong, I couldn't swallow the topic being treated so lightly) and for having Siddharth's character tell his heroine that her sleeping with him is his right.

Aside: Siddharth's name occurs 11 other times in this post. That is officially too many. There must have been other notable people/meanings/features in these films, but apparently you'll have to look elsewhere to find out. Apparently I have drunk the Kool-aid and all else is lost.

22 comments:

Anu said...

being telugu, i'd say it's pretty representative. it's pretty much near what is usually produced. however, i've heard bomarillu is really really good.

veracious said...

It's my understanding Telugu films don't have the kind of action mania that Tamil films do, but they do have some action heroes as well. I've only seen one non-Sidd Telugu film, that was Allu Arjun's Bunny, not really my liking but Allu Arjun is also a fabulous dancer. Romantic youthful films post-NVNN have become very popular, though.

Too bad Aata & Bommarillu weren't your thing. I'm all about over-the-top so I was full of glee throughout Aata but it's in no way a perfect movie. It's very crowd-pleasing skin-showing unapologetic masala that isn't even conscious enough to be amazing. But I still adore it to pieces.

Genelia annoyed a lot of people but I adored her in Bommarillu. When you have a heroine who's bursting with personality, I am usually into the film. She reminded me of Korean drama heroines.. I could also, for once, understand why Sidd fell in love with her; logically, his life is improved by her presence.

I have to go now but if I have any more thoughts I'll return to this. :D

Beth said...

Anu - I'd heard that about Bommarillu too, so I was sad that I didn't like it more. I really did not get its appeal. But that's not the first time I've just shrugged after watching a very popular movie.

Thanks for your vote re: representativeness!

veracious - I'll certainly keep watching Telugu films here and there, so maybe Bunny will go on my list. Your point about masala is well taken, but I'd have to say that, at least for me, the ingredients were mostly duds, so putting a bunch of them together didn't help matters any. Makes me wonder how I'd define my favorite flavor of filmi "over the top," because surely there must be different kinds! I also take your point re: Genelia's character improving things for the hero. I guess all I can say is, "Too bad her presence didn't improve things for me." Me, me, me! :)

veracious said...

Bunny is ..well, honestly I wouldn't recommend it beyond watching the songs on youtube (as I said, nice moves). I don't think Allu Arjun is very charming but then again, I've read this isn't his best role (Happy is one I wish I could see!). I believe Pokkiri and Pournami are two pretty popular movies, though they're more of the action masala genre.

About Bommarillu, a lot of people were disappointed but I went in not expecting all that much and got a pleasant experience in return. I think every time a romance makes sense considering attributes of characters, I'm into it - that happens so rarely in Indian cinema, though. Like why does he love her? Because of factors X and Y, instead of just "oh because they fell in love at first sight, no further explanation necessary" (though this can work, too!).

Still, glad you were able to enjoy CC and ..NVNN, I guess?

Vijaya said...

Hi Beth,

Love your blog. I guess bommarillu is representative of the romantic movie , no violence type film category. which is what siddhart has acted in so far in telugu.

other recent movies from different genres would be
pokiri (action) , yamadonga ( action, mythology) , anukokunda oka roju ( thriller), Happy days(college movie), Anand, godavari (romantic)

I guess the appeal of bommarilu was in the depiction of the over protective parent who is doing everything "for your own good" which struck a chord.

Indianoguy said...

Wow, Interesting analysis and comments!
Regarding Bommarillu, I think you missed the father-son tension part. For me and lot of people I know, Bommarillu is as much a father-son story as is a love story. I have seen people sobbing during the father and son argument scene. South India has world's highest rate of suicides among young people and the parent-child tension depicted in this movie is one of the reasons(if not the main reason) for such high suicide rate.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I have to find Ata and CC- still hard to get southie movies here, but I aint giving up yet.

Never Mind!! said...

I am with you on Bommarillu. People gave me such a hard time when I said I found Genelia irritating in it. I have never met a single person who actually behaves like that in real life and if I did, I would find them irritating. And yeah Siddharth rocks!! According to me, his best performance till date was in Rang De Basanti.

Beth said...

v - I did enjoy NVNN! I'd need to see it again to say anything much about it, but I sure do remember loving the cows!

Vijaya - Ooh thanks for the recommendations! I'll add them to my list. And your last point ties in nicely too...

Indianoguy - I didn't know any of that! You're right, I totally missed it. That does help me appreciate its appeal more :)

Shweta - CC rocks! :)

Never Mind! - She is sooooo irritating. I agree with you - if I met that person in real life, I'd run far away.

Aspi said...

I think besides Siddarth, Bommarillu's very appeal is its mellowness. And because its structured so, there is no real effort to get serious about explaining character motivation or whipping up any serious drama. There are hints of them all - and you are expected to catch them or if you miss them, not a problem it seems. Its almost as if the director wants you to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I found this to be a hugely interesting aspect of the movie. You can't do it too many times of course. But in this case, it worked for me.

bird's eye view said...

I've been meaning to watch some of these, so it was nice to see your review. For Telugu movies - try and see if you can get a hold of some of the older ones with Kamalahaasan and Jaya prada or sridevi. There's one which has a drunk Kamalahaasan dancing around the rim of a well. There's a wonderful old film called Shankarabharanam - one of my favourites. The original of Hindi film Sadma was in Tamil and Telugu, with Kh and Sridevi and was awesome.

janani said...

Beth: Great blog you have here. Oh telegu movies ..Although I'm Tamizh:), there are a few superlative Telegu ones in my opinion : Sankarabharanam (the immortal classic) Swathymuthyam (Kamala Hasan as a Forrest Gumpish character remade in Tamil as well as Hindi..but Telugu is the best), Sagara Sangamam (same phenom of KH remade in tamil.. the tragic intensity of his character is almost unbearable..has to be seen in Telegu. Not tamil. ) Rudra Veena (Chiranjeevi's probably one and only movie that I loved..such dignity. Kamal messed it up when it was remade as the Tamil Unnal mudiyum thambi), Seetha Ramayya Gari Manavarallu (again beautiful little movie..quite tragic too if my memory serves right)

Beth said...

janani - Sorry for my horribly late reply! Thank you for this list! I don't know of any of them, and it's great to have some more suggestions! I'll keep my eye out, though to be honest my current pile of unwatched movies is pretty overwhelming at the moment :)

rhilex said...

(I might randomly go through your blog tonight and attack it with comments like I did to Ajnabi's a while ago-- you have been warned)

That said, I'm trying to break into South Indian films, starting with Anand and Bommarillu. But now that you've mentioned Chukkallo Chandrudu, I think I'll have to check that out, as well! I promised myself not to read the entire Wikipedia plot (as I am prone to do at times), and it sounds very interesting. Plus, it has Siddharth, who I've only seen in Rang de Basanti, but enjoyed very much.

Beth said...

Attack away! :) I really do not get the big deal about Bommarillu other than the Siddharth squee factor.

I think I've only seen one Tamil film, but it was full-on glorious and wonderful: Kandoukondain Kandoukondain (or some variant spelling thereof) (also called I Have Found It), starring Tabu, Aishwarya, Mamooty, and Ajith (whom I might like even more than Siddharth). It's a contemporary setting of Sense and Sensibility and has a Rahman soundtrack. WIN!

pKrishna said...

are yall familiar with Telugu dialogue, or these films have subtitle?

I heard/think Godavari is good. So was one called ashta-chamma. Being a generation-and-a-half above these movie genre, I don't watch much current crop of Tollywood.

pKrishna said...

janani made some recommendations on Telugu versions of movies also made in tamizh.

Coming from a tamizh girl, that is high praise! I will see Seetaaraamayyagaari granddaughter, after your rec. I heard that it was pretty good, with an ageing (sp?) Nageswara Rao as the grandpa.

Did ANR skip over being a father straightaway to grand-pa-dom? Both he and NTR kept forever playing youthful parts, assisted by jet black wig pieces.

Beth said...

pKrishna - To my knowledge, none of the gori bloggers who write about Telugu films know more than a handful of Telugu words. I know none. We are very reliant on subtitles. My impression is that Telugu and Tamil films that screen in cinemas in the US, Australia, etc., are very rarely subtitled, but the DVDs often are.

pKrishna said...

Beth - How in the hell do gori bloggers develop a taste for Telugu films? It takes some effort! Probably the fact that quit a bit of the dialogue nowadays tends to be in English helps.

I'm not complaining!!!!

Watch ashta-chamma (shades of importance of being earnest)

Beth said...

Ha! I don't know, really. There seem to be more and more non-Indian bloggers getting into Southern Indian films, quite a few of them listed on my links on the right.

VERY intrigued by a film that has shades of Importance of Being Earnest!

pKrishna said...

Beth - happened to look up Waheeda on Wikipedia (for another discussion), and it says in her filmography that she played the hero's grandmother in "chukkallO chandruDu". You didn't mention that here. Can you recall that part and see the resemblance?

She is 74 and probably not as easily recognizable as in some of her famous movies.

Beth said...

Definitely remember her being in that! Not sure why I didn't think to include it in the writeup. Actually, when I saw CC I may have seen her more often as an older woman (Water, Rang De Basanti) than in her heyday - I was still slowly getting into older films at that point.