Commercial Telugu Cinema needed a new language. Not content: several new writers and directors have been trying out new and previously unseen content, with mediocre results. What it needed, was a new narrative voice. One that can push Cinema, if not the boundaries, at least the way it prevails and it's existential details. S.S. Rajamouli contributed heavily to this, yet his Cinema is mostly about the grandeur of an idea and not the richness of the world around it.
With "Rangasthalam", Sukumar brings along a movie that takes the template of popular cinema and does very interesting things with it. There's three beautiful parts to this: the content, the detail, and the visual narrative. Firstly, the content subverts so many tropes of Telugu Cinema that have become, to say the least, routine and uninspiring. It is hard to dwell deep on this without spoiling the film, but it may be adequate to say this: the film completely ignores the predictability of structures in the story, the constituent power dynamics, and good - evil tradeoffs that plague most other films. Sukumar is gutsy to have tried this.
Most anthology films invest huge faith in chance, of things happening in the same time at the same place. Most hyperlink films invest their faith in the semblances of the human condition, of different lives being strung together by a common scenario playing out in different ways. This much exploited genre has always remained inspired, intriguing, and introspective, strictly owing to the richly chaotic and diverse nature of humanity's existence. Telugu Cinema has seldom ventured here, the most recent example only being Krish's "Vedam". It's a pity the intense fabric of life in the Telugu states doesn't get any attention from writers in Telugu Cinema.
Prashant Varma's "Awe!", thankfully, takes a few strings from this fabric, albeit using outliers for dramatic effect. The different segments of this anthology film span multiple genres, from horror, thriller, everyday humor to satire. To Varma's credit, each is very carefully written, setup, and directed. Handling multiple genres that eventually blend into each other is a recipe for disaster, but Varma wisely uses all the usually ignored cinematic tricks in the book to his advantage. This is a film that adores textbook lessons of storytelling via cinematography and editing. The angles, frames, pans, cuts, and transitions that are usually placebo or even awkward in other Telugu films come together adeptly in this film, helping pace the film and its mood. This allows for a great balance of the film's main texts whilst enabling a great stage setting for its subtext to pop out. Yes, the overall writing is over-expository or preachy at times, but for a film with an unusual pretext like this to be completely subtle is impossible in the times Telugu Cinema is going through now. That subtext of the film, is usually used for dramatic abuse and never with an empathetic angle elsewhere, but that's not the case here.
Kajal Aggarwal delivers, what is possibly, her best work here. Thoroughly emphatic, it calls attention to all the directors who have failed to give her better roles over the years. The rest of the cast includes a slew of capable actors, all very good here - Nithya Menen, Regina Cassandra, Priyadarshi, Srinivas Avasarala, Eesha Rebba, Murli Sharma, Devadarshini Chetan and Kaitlyn D'Mello. Mark K. Robin's music is ample mostly, so is Karthik Gattamneni's camera work. But it is Gowtham Nerusu's editing, as aforementioned, that makes the film all the more savory.
It maybe a bit under-appreciated now, but "Awe!" will surely remain one of the more study-able works ever produced in Telugu Cinema. Out in theaters now....
Best movies from every year of my life.
So, this activity is doing the rounds on Twitter, so I figured I'd take a shot at it. Just so I could go nostalgic for all the wonderful movies that have been made over the years and for the times I discovered them. Two disclaimers though, one, this may not be an all encompassing list and only covers the flicks that I've had the pleasure of watching. The second, owing to my love for the budding genre, I've tried including as many examples of possible of world class Indian Cinema.
1990 - Internal Affairs | Goodfellas
1991 - JFK | Silence of the lambs | Terminator 2 : Judgement Day
1992 - Roja
1993 - Dazed and Confused | Schindler's List
1994 - Pulp Fiction
1995 - Leaving Las Vegas | Casino
1996 - Fargo | Trainspotting | Ninne Pelladatha
1997 - Lost Highway | L.A. Confidential
1998 - Run Lola Run | The Big Lebowski | Ronin
1999 - Eyes Wide Shut | The Matrix | The Mummy | Sarfarosh
2000 - Almost Famous | Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon | Cast Away | Requiem for a Dream
2001 - Enemy at the Gates | Monsoon Wedding | Dil Chahtha Hai
2002 - The Pianist | The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers | The 25th Hour
2003 - Lost in Translation
2004 - Finding Neverland | Ayutha Ezhuthu | Swades
2005 - Kingdom of Heaven | Munich | Sarkaar
2006 - The Departed | Casino Royale | Rang De Basanti
2007 - Into the Wild | Manorama... Six Feet Under
2008 - Slumdog Millionnaire | The Hurt Locker
2009 - Inglourious Basterds | Dev D | Kaminey
2010 - Udaan | The American
2011 - Rockstar | Drive
2012 - Skyfall | Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
2013 - Her | Lootera
2014 - Ex Machina | Birdman | Haider
2015 - Sicario | Mad Max : Fury Road | Detective Byomkesh Bakshi | Tamasha | Piku
2016 - Arrival | Pellichoopulu | Udta Punjab
2017 - Dunkirk | Baby Driver | A Ghost Story | A Death in the Gunj | Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | Angamaly Diaries
2018 - A Star is Born | First Man | Isle of Dogs | A Quiet Place | Tumbbad | C/O Kancharapalem
2019 - Jojo Rabbit | 1917 | Parasite | Midsommar | Gully Boy
Atlantic City says so much about two people in a relationship, without saying too much.
A comedy that is fun, while being just good cinema in the first place.