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Genre: Romantic Drama, Action
Rating: 2.5/5

Kites is a nice watch for Hrithik’s fans, if they don’t care about other aspects of film-making, that is. Not straight up, but there are a lot of hints that Kites was made to perfectly fit the bracket of a crossover film. Any which case, the unit succeeds in crossing international boundaries. The plot by Rakesh Roshan, in a nutshell is a wild-goose-chase with two lovers on the run, eventually separated, followed by a successful revenge. The story is time-tested, but there is freshness through the lower southwestern US locales, lot of English and Spanish and no lingua franca really. Most importantly, it’s about an unexplored western culture, going few more rungs down on the ship's ladder into foreign waters, more confidently; and acutely crossing language barriers.

Some more drill-down, J (Hrithik Roshan) makes a living in Las Vegas by getting hitched to immigrants, to help them get US Permanent Residency. While focussed on a scheme to achieve financial nirvana through bigshot Bob’s (Kabir Bedi) daughter Gina (Kangana Ranaut), he crosses paths with a Mexican immigrant Natasha (Barbara Mori) who he had ‘helped’ in the past. Sparks fly, but for anything to happen, the obvious glitches are Tony (Natasha’s fiancĂ©) and Bob. The couple does the right thing anyway, they elope, with almost the entire police force of the desert states chasing them. J survives, Natasha does not, so J does not let Tony, either.

Hrithik is definitely Bollywood’s answer to the west – his looks, the fashion statement, the chiseled body, the gait, the dance, chemistry with an opposite co-star (from the west, that too), action stunts, screen presence, and finally, emoting. Majority of Hrithik’s strengths have been apparent right from his first movie, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai. His superstar status is because of a deadly and consistent combination of everything you want in an Indian film hero, forcing SRK to once confess ‘you almost brought me down with KNPH.’ What is worth mentioning about ‘J’ is his western appeal. Very urban-looking, he does hold his own against an attractive, well-performing phirang co-star with international repute. A challenge for both Hrithik and Barbara must have been about creating emotions and facial expressions in a two-language conversation and both pull it off superbly. If there’s anything Hrithik could have done better, it’s his English accent, sometimes fake, English talk-speed, R’s rolled inconsistently, etc.

Barbara Mori is an accomplished Mexican actress with few years of experience in front of the camera. This actress has matched step for step with an Indian superstar, in an Indian movie, to be predominantly watched by an Indian audience. So there, that’s a challenge in itself. A very attractive lady, gori chamdi at that, must have built quite a decent male fan base prior to the film's release. Now, a bigger fan base of female population would add to it because of her acting talents. There wasn’t any dancing (except in one scene, briefly), so the onus is on her screen presence, chemistry with Hrithik and acting out emotions. Her screen presence is very clearly due to her beauty. Very, very expressive set of eyes, a full, beautiful smile, appropriate make-up (both hair and face), good fashion sense (yes, bikinis and shorts too), a sexy voice, all make for her screen presence. Her body language in scenes with Hrithik is extremely impressionable. Bluntly, she’s had to blush, laugh, freak out or cry. But again, the best scenes (oh cho chweet ones) are conversations between the lead pair; Hrithik speaking in English and Barbara responding in Spanish. If there could be any suggestions for Barbara, it would be not to smile so much. The screenplay made such scenes look very cheesy and very 90s-Bollywood.

Nicholas Brown as Tony (Natasha's fiance and Gina’s sibling), driven by adrenaline, delivers well. With a menacing appeal, Nick is successful in changing the mood of the audience every time he shows up on screen – either looking for J & Linda, or to smack characters not able to contain the eloping couple. He scores big on being able to converse in Spanish, conveying a spoilt-brat lifestyle, and speaking twisted Hindi like that of a foreign-bred. Kangana Ranaut and Kabir Bedi were truly guest appearances and don’t add much weight to the storyline, except in a couple of scenes where the power of this rich family had to be established with the audience.

The treatment of the story, and the characters themselves, is what differentiates similar chase-revenge stories from each other. Anurag Basu as the Director has done a decent job with the first half. The lead characters and their chemistry is built well, and Anurag succeeds in putting the audience on a track they thought they knew very well. Second half begins to seem digestible, but headlong, you see some melodrama which had to show up, as expected, some killing (as expected, too). Timing of the J’s revenge is sudden too, but unexpected, which leaves you with one question: why it happened the way it did. This leads to Screenplay by Anurag and Robin Bhatt, which was a very important part of this type of film. Right from the word go, the scenes go back and forth from the present to a flashback three months ago, constantly jogging the audience’s mood when they are slipping into a montone. The screenplay is highly accentuated by Hrithik and Barbara’s performances. How they make those hand gestures to explain feelings and how the other responds, is very aesthetically crafted. Melodrama fortunately, is common to Indian and Mexican film culture, and this common ground is treaded artfully, but it induced redundant dialogue increasing playtime. The editing department should have focused more on scenes related to the underlying theme (how the pair shares love, crossing culture barriers) than on unnecessary action stunt scenes, longer than needed, especially, scenes the motel, the truck-car chase, hot-air-balloon sequence, the constant running, etc. It would have saved some time to make the second half content-rich. 

Cinematography by Ayananka Bose is worth noticing. The make-up makes a star look better, but the cinematographer’s art makes the entire ensemble look good together. The Vegas casino strip, the wide open deserts of Nevada, small town New Mexico, the oceans, the barren lands by the highways, the motels, the open grasslands of Mexico, etc. The lighting has been a big part too, used appropriately, or sometimes red/blue to induce morose. Although, the action scenes have been not been canned well. Set-up, though convincing, camera angles made them seem dubious (jumping out of the car, or off a bike, etc.). Stunt direction is very middle-road. Also, the dance number ‘Fire’ could be better captured. It didn’t highlight Hrithik-Kangana’s dancing talent fully.

By Rajesh Roshan, there are no song sequences, but the songs play in the background to accompany good cinematography, where the mood of the scene had to persist longer. Zindagi, Fire and Dil Kyun are memorable. Background music by Salim-Sulaiman has drawn good inspiration from the central theme, using Spanish musical tones, operatic sometimes, but has major western influence. The Indian-ness in the background music is missing, which is new, yet refreshing.

Why 2.5/5:
Replete with good performances, technical aspects play black-sheep in Kites. 'They' poured old wine into a new bottle. The pourer was already drunk and spilled some or most of it. The new bottle is a beauty, a keeper, but there isn’t enough wine in there. The technical aspects of Kites really let it down, majorly the screenplay and the editing, making it unfathomable at times. Let’s just say Kites is successful in exploring coming together of India and Mexico, failing because of attempts to bring back the average Indian film-goer into a zone they’re trying to get out of. Watch it for, the chemistry!


Lead Actors: Rana DaggubatiRicha Gangopadhyay
Genre: Political Drama 
Rating: 3/5

The story, written by Sekhar Kammula, is set within realms of political circles of Andhra Pradesh of today, and alludes to a two-fold agenda. One, to further clearly (than media) paint a picture of internal politics that exist within a political party, comprising individuals driven by hunger for power, and two, highlight the age-old problem of corrupt politicians not doing justice to the needy, and an idealistic resolve to solution it. Dr. Arjun Prasad (Rana Daggubati) is a US-educated individual whose father and Chief Minister of AP, Sanjeevayya (Suman), is assassinated. Following which, his cousin and party member, Dhanunjay (Subbaraju) is popularly understood to be the CM-elect. A corrupt individual that Dhanunjay is, Arjun does not think of this idea as beneficial to the state. Arjun, an idealist, who has an understanding of the corruption scene within the party and in AP politics, decides to fight the situation head-on and believes himself to be the next right candidate for CMship.

In order to win the confidence of the party members, Arjun bribes the MLAs in the party who swerve with windfall and will vote in his favour. His strategy works and the bribed MLAs’ agitiation wins Arjun the CM post through election. Rising to power, Arjun agendizes to conduct raids on the powerful and use the money recovered towards funding the needy. Sure enough, Arjun soon becomes an unpopular politician, and steps down from his post. Not to let go of his resolve, and riding the popularity wave from being righteous, Arjun decides to fight for the post again, this time forming a party of honest citizens, needy who won’t need money to represent a party. The means justify the end, and Arjun is elected as the new CM.

Debutant Rana, through this project has received a great launch vehicle in terms of a good script, a meaty role, a juggernaut production house with high production values (AVM), and a director known to derive great performances. Rana has a deep voice and superb diction in Telugu – definitely his strengths for ages to come. There are no action or dance sequences, so the test of fire came down to screen presence, which Rana has excelled at. His choice of clothes is nothing over the top, geared in a buttoned shirt with sleeves folded, regular khakis, undone hair, be-spectacled face, and stubble almost the entire time. The height, the voice, the serious look (mostly) and the diction together make Rana the focus in every scene, and there are no deliberate attempts to establish a star persona for Rana, as much as exploring and bringing about his acting skills to the forefront.  Areas of improvement, Rana’s emoting is quite monotonous. His laughter was not loud, tears accompanied by silence. Although, the silent achiever attitude of Arjun Prasad blended with this flavour of acting. Confident body language of this lanky personality, with the ‘looks’ of a highly educated individual fit the bill perfectly for a game-changer. Rana is wooden sometimes, but for the most part does not give the impression of a debutant.

Debutante Richa Gangopadhyay as Archana, Arjun’s love interest is a bubbly character and has had to display a variety of emotions in few scenes she has (mostly with Rana). As a journalist/social activist, her character has not been fully explored. As the CM’s girlfriend though, Richa has been able to portray the subtle flirting, blushing, excitement and affection in a charismatic manner. Richa has a beautiful smile, and there is calculated effort in highlighting it by not focusing on heavy make-up. Richa’s character is not very intense, so there’s only so much she has been able to contribute, also because the story revolves so much around Arjun Prasad. Richa is definitely charming as an actress, and definitely has greater potential than has been explored. Known for high-adrenaline roles, Subbaraju as Dhanunjay, has channelized the same energy into this young, sly politician’s role whose only aim is power. Dhanunjay’s looks, mannerisms and image have been carefully crafted; all of it bears resemblance with Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, as drawn out by media of today. With great diction and noticeable looks, Subbaraju has delivered a strong and impressionable performance. Kota Srinivas Rao as Peddayina, an experienced politician torn between the two nephews fighting for political power clearly exudes experience. Mostly taking care of the job with low-pitched yet deep dialogues, Kota clearly steals the show in each scene he presents himself in. It would be apt to say that the story would miss a vital piece without this stalwart. 

Sekhar Kammula has wielded the microphone and his excellence in Direction as a craft is corroborated by his talent for, and contribution in penning the story, dialogues and ideating the screenplay. To make a good impression on the viewer, only two elements were key – Rana’s performance and the story. The story is very focussed on the protagonist, sometimes choking the mind with no other image. One challenge Sekhar may have faced nevertheless is to present Rana in good light. There are subtle nuances about narrating how  an unassuming individual decides and turns into a political leader in the state’s today's AP, are worth observing. The confident delivery from the actors maps directly to Sekhar’s confidence in vision of the product. It is intelligent to note how Sekhar laid the platform for Arjun’s character to jet-in and contest to be CM. Either Sekhar considers the audience to be very intelligent or the editing department could only do so much; the storyline is not fully justified in a timeframe of 205 minutes. There are theoretical errors such as 1) The bribed MLAs don’t talk to each other, and just shift support to Arjun? 2) Ali, a common man, strategizes for Arjun that that 50 MLAs will swerve with money, and calls it good 3) Archana’s ‘love-hate’ relationship with her step-father which is not apparent, etc.

The Screenplay is intelligent in that the scenes have less dialogue or powerful dialogue only. But it also fails here and there by incorporating irrelevant storyline which is more of a distraction. But the storyline has been kept practical in portraying potential problems encountered in a inexperienced political newbie’s situation 1) Politicians changing sides 2) Passing an anti-corruption bill by exempting politicos 3)Arjun’s desperate attempts to re-gain party support by trying to create more exemptions, etc. Overall, Sekhar Kammula has extracted very good performances from key actors, and has conveyed a good story by keeping it real. Cinematography by Vijay C Kumar is nothing extraordinary. The visuals were not as important as the storyline itself. But providing proper screen space to the actors, Vijay has done a good job of presenting debutants, their body language and their features sharply. Scenes at The Assembly, the party meeting, the hospital and those in the villages have been well-shot. Especially notable are Richa’s sharp facial features and her smile which has been appropriately focussed on. Rana maitained a rustic facial appearance throughout, so the camera’s potential could have been little in enhancing his appeal.

Music by Mickey J Meyer is reminiscent of tunes from Happy Days. The audio by itself is not as appealing. Used in the film as background music (with no actual song sequences in the movie), the songs add good momentum to the story. The theme music/song ‘Leader’ is a very good composition, providing the right kind of depth to scenes and to add drama.

Why 3/5:
There are many gripping scenes with good performances and good dialogues, but the story loses track a few times, and also leaves the viewer with some unanswered questions. The editing team certainly could use some big picture outlook. The music was pretty average and some facets of the movie (unnecessary add), characters, their relationships (especially) have little or no focus. The central theme may have been the guideline, but then again, editing could be better. But overall, the film as a whole certainly establishes the central idea clearly. The story is the big star of this film, and watch it for Rana’s abilities at play.

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