2013 turned out to be another disappointing year for Telugu Cinema, in terms of the quality of films getting released. Year after year the standard seems to be going down further which has now thrown up an unexpected side-effect. If you are wondering what I am talking about then let me not make you think too much about it, I am referring to the phenomena by now where even mediocrity comes across as good or great and is celebrated. And this has now become a herd mentality phenomenon affecting a regular audience member, a big star fan and sometimes even Telugu film critics too. One needs to only throw a glance at the neighbouring states where Tamil Cinema and Malayalam Cinema despite their own set of problems is still able to deliver a few quality films year on year. And before anyone decides to attack me thinking this article is just to degrade Telugu Cinema, let me say that you’ve got it all wrong.
I love Indian Cinema and have for a long, long time been advocating the importance of Regional Cinema when I see people continuing to focus only on Bollywood, Hollywood and maybe World Cinema. In this context I have been following Telugu Cinema for ages now, for not only is it one of the biggest sub-sets of Indian Cinema, but it’s also an industry I genuinely care for and have reveled in the glory of many a successful and/or critically acclaimed film. Hence I feel all the more strongly for the way the industry’s journey has been of late. 2013 not just saw the usual situation of paucity of fresh, out of the box concepts and big stars and directors conforming to norm, but added to it has been the political unrest in Andhra Pradesh (let me refer to the state this way as the re-orientation is yet to officially get initiated). Thanks to the political instability in the State in the 2nd half of the year we saw films (both big and small) getting delayed for a long time, thus depriving theatres and audience of content for a good period of time. A big film like Yevadu which was to originally release in July/Aug is finally releasing only for this Sankranti (12th Jan).
Against this context I also wish to point out that some of the better Telugu films of 2013 were indeed the smaller ones which came out without too much of a fanfare. Films like Swamy Ra Ra, Anthaka Mundu Aa Tarvatha, Prema Katha Chitram are among the ones I am referring to now. So in a way it was but befitting that the last major Telugu films to release in 2013 were again of the same kind and not one of those template formula films. On 25th December i.e Christmas Day we saw the release of Uyyala Jampala and D for Dopidi, 2 films which had created a decent amount of buzz in their own ways and looking fresh. But otherwise the films were as different as chalk and cheese.
If Uyyala Jampala was a teenage love story against a rural background, D for Dopidi was a heist movie with a lot of humour. Oh! There was but another thing in common for both the films, both the films had the backing of good producers. While Uyyala Jampala was originally produced by P.Ram Mohan who has produced films like Ashta Chamma (2008) and Golconda High School earlier, he managed to bring on board heavyweights like Akkineni Nagarjuna and D.Suresh Babu to co-produce the film, thus lending a lot of respectability for the film. D for Dopidi sees Bollywood director duo- Krishna D.K and Raj Nidimoru turn to Telugu Cinema for the first time by producing this film and they in turn managed to bring on actor Nani on board as a co-producer. In fact Nani has also lent his voice as narrator and also featured in a promo song which appears at the end of the film.
And thus I decided to watch both these films, wanting to know whether they end up being at least better than the typical fare thrown up every Friday from the industry or not. Here’s a look at what I feel about both these films.
Suri (Raj Tarun) and Uma Devi (Avika Gor) are cousins and their families virtually live next door in a typical village. While Suri’s mother is a poor widow, Uma Devi’s parents are well to do and there is a clear contrast in their houses and the lifestyle that they follow. Both Suri and Uma Devi have a special bond right from childhood, but that is limited to a love-hate friendship of sorts as kids usually indulge in. Now that they have turned young adults how do they end up realizing that they are truly made for each other and whether they get to have a happy ending together is what the rest of the film is all about.
Debutant filmmaker Virinchi Varma’s tale is fairly straightforward and simple and you can very clearly predict the course of the film. But what’s interesting is that the film is a totally clean entertainer without the usual elements seen in most Telugu films- item numbers, dream songs in foreign locations, punch dialogues, forced comedy track etc. The film is a throwback to the days of yore when life used to be a lot simpler and without too many hang-ups. While the film in some ways does remind of you of Nuvve Kavali (2000), this is a fairly straight forward attempt at coming up with a feel good tale for the family audience.
The locations are genuine and you definitely do enjoy the rural atmosphere. At the same time the film is contemporary as the youngsters are shown to be internet savvy and using smart phones etc which anyways is the phenomenon that’s spreading all over. The music by Sunny M.R is good and the songs are pleasing to the ears, which go with the flow of the film. At a run time of just around 125 minutes, the film is of perfect length and Marthand K.Venkatesh’s editing ensures that the pace is uniform. The cinematography (Vishwa D.B) and art direction (S.Ravinder) are praiseworthy as well.
Both Raj Tarun and Avika Gor fit their characters pretty well. Suri is a slightly brash guy but with a golden heart. He is street smart and is good at handling tight situations. Raj Tarun seems to carry of these traits fairly well, making his portrayal look convincing. Avika Gor is a household name by name across India thanks to Balika Vadhu and she is basically the most popular draw among the actors in the film. As Uma Devi she gets to portray a sprightly lass who has a love-hate relationship with her bava and is cute and silly of sorts at the same time. This is a role that is right up her alley and she more than does justice to the same. The supporting cast also does well and eventually aid in making the film a treat to watch.
Its indeed good to see 2 top production houses (Annapoorna Studios and Suresh Productions) teaming up with independent producer P.Ram Mohan to come up with this simple feel good rural love story. Apparently made in a tight budget of just around 75 lakhs, this is a good example of smart movie making and it would be good to see such collaborations more frequently which would only aid the industry.
D for Dopidi
4 friends, Vicky (Varun Sandesh), Raju (Sundeep Kishan), Harish (Naveen) and Bannu (Rakesh Rachakonda) have all hit the cross roads as they need to make quick money to get out of their precarious situations. So they decide to get lucky once and for all by deciding to rob a bank and set off to execute their plan aimed with all the paraphernalia. But follows is total pandemonium as these youngsters encounter not just bank staff and customers but also another group which also breaks in to loot the bank. With the police and media rounding up the bank, there is further chaos and what happens from there on and what happens to these friends eventually is what the film is all about.
Writer-director Siraj Kalla who makes his debut with this film makes it clear right from the start that this is not a serious film at all. While it is a heist film, it is more of how the four friends end up bungling their way through the process and how they manage to save their skin. Making a comedy is a serious business and a comedy with the backdrop of a heist is tougher. Considering all this Siraj has indeed done a fairly good job in his very first film. There are some genuinely funny moments in the film both inside the bank and outside. It’s nice to see a satirical view of the way media reacts to sensational news and that’s been captured well.
Thankfully the film isn’t slowed down by songs and the only 2 songs in the film are promotional songs which come in back to back at the end of the film. Mahesh Shankar has done a creditable job with the 2 songs and the background score. Lukasz Pruchnik who handled the cinematography recently for Krishna D.K and Raj Nidimoru’s Go Goa Gone has done a good job here too as most of the film is shot indoors and the camera has to move around within a limited space and focus on the characters around. The best aspect of the film is the run time which at about 105 minutes is just perfect.
Talking of performances, all the 4 main leads are effective and it is finally a relief to see Varun Sandesh feature in an engrossing film. Sundeep Kishan had interestingly also featured in the Hindi film Shor in the City made by Krishna D.K and Raj Nidimoru and the bank heist situation from that film is what apparently prompted the filmmaker duo to think of expanding that angle into a separate film by itself. But of course one cannot deny the fact that the film bears resemblances to films like Dog Day Afternoon. Naveen who was seen in Life is Beautiful gets a totally different role here and does well. And Rakesh Rachakonda makes a good debut. His scenes with the drunk screenwriter Cheluvapilli (Rishi Muvva) are totally hilarious. Among the rest of the cast Tanikella Bharani has nothing much to do, while director Deva Katta impresses as the top cop.
D for Dopidi isn’t a perfect heist film, far from it in fact. But it does have its moments and a length that’s just about right for you to give it a chance. While the low budget does appear visible in certain places in the film, overall it’s still interesting to see Krishna D.K and Raj Nidimoru teaming up with actor Nani to back a film like this. Here is hoping that more such collaborative work happens in the industry.
To sum up I’d say that with Uyyala Jampala and D for Dopidi 2013 ended on a promising note for Telugu Cinema. Let us see how 2014 turns out for the industry.