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Komaram Puli

Actors: Pawan Kalyan, Nikesha Patel, Manoj Bajpai
Genre: Action Drama
Rating: 2/5

Paari poPovaa? Nee karma. S J Suryah apparently also approached Bollywood actors before finalizing on Pawan Kalyan. Puli is once-in-a-decade type of a movie which has nothing good going for it, faces distinct hurdles and some shamefully late realization by the stakeholders that its not a good project to be associated with, and due to obligations, manage to bail it out before an unforgiving audience which has not spared the best. Mithun Chakraborty could have done it and raked in more moolah than Pawan Kalyan.

The plot of Komaram Puli has been penned by S J Suryah. Yes the same guy responsible for Pawan Kalyan’s career high-point Khushi. Unless you knew already, you are welcome. Puli (Pawan Kalyan), a Police Officer in AP saves the Indian Prime Minister while on a trip abroad from 8 suicide bombers, single-handedly since local intelligence doesn’t give a shit about a foreign VVIP's security (apparently). It's anyone guess that a felicitation function follows for Puli. But it's not even the Editor's guess that, tortured by Puli’s lecture on society’s problems and duties that a Police Officer must perform, the PM grants Puli his wish to head a semi-autonomous agency functioning within State Police (!) that has access to NASA-level resources to solve criminal cases. Puli confused me by doubling as a activist more than a Police officer, always lecturing on humanity, responsibilities, in the media glare perennially, much more than his leadership. Puli, who owns a palatial home overlooking the entire city of Hyderabad, uses his 'connections' with the PM to set up telephone booth-hotlines for the common man to call Puli’s team in case a problem arises that won’t be solved through slacking police officers. The 'hotline' functions with a 1 Rupee coin (or similar) only, though - make your own jokes.

Solving issues like bribery, while also lecturing police officers who procrastinate, Puli chances upon the case of a missing Police Officer Hussain, which leads him to a rich industrialist Al Saleem (Manoj Bajpai). It’s eventually revealed Al Saleem is an affiliate of a most-wanted criminal by name Nixon. There’s some flashback involving his mother (Saranya) whose husband is killed by Saleem in the past, which Puli does not know of. In the interim there’s the love angle; random TV viewer Madhu (Nikesha Patel) falls in love with him and eventually manages to marry him. While the viewer is made overwhelmed with Star Trek grade of events, some innocent people characters are killed, and it’s revealed that Nixon was a crucial member of Puli’s team right from its genesis, and some photos lead to visual proof of alliance between Nixon and Saleem. Puli’s mother and wife are held hostage by Saleem in hope that Puli would let go of this case. With a hidden cam, Puli relays his entire conversation with Saleem who cynically recaps all criminal acts he has done so far including the murder of his dad and the murder attempt on the PM. Cut to the chase, final scene, Puli rips apart the right leg of Saleem with his bare hands. 

Pawan Kalyan lapped up a script that most actors refused, possibly because it had many, many bhashanamulu, potentially trying to pave his way with the masses for an ensuing political career if Chiranjeevi’s PRP party were to see any success. Objectively speaking, action is PK’s forte and he has shined amazingly well with his stunts, except for scenes where almost became Spiderman jumping building terraces multiple yards away, running on terraces for kilometers, hanging upside down on cranes, and thwarting attacks on a car carrying the PM in Malaysia. Pawan looks fit, but a lot of contribution that Pawan brought to Puli was potentially based on the script. Pawan is known for his signature (typecast, if you will) cool-guy image with a natural flair for action and good fashion sense. His dialogue delivery is political-speech like (remindful of Sai Kumar many a time) and a total thumbs down. PK was never a great dancer anyway, but an analogy for his inability and discomfort is that of a shy audience member pulled onto stage in a jiffy to join an already-performing dance troupe. For a public image that PK carries and characters PK does well, the characterization is a total mismatch. Fundamentally, PK does not pull it off.

As happens to most female leads in Indian cinema, Saranya, who is past her prime,  plays mother to an actor she could have potentially acted opposite to. Too much hamming in Puli, her performance was much better in Nayagan (1987). Nikesha Patel’s got some skimpy clothing going on and is the lead in now-proverbial nadumu scene for a PK starrer. Manoj Bajpai as the imbalanced Al Saleem is impeccable. His freaky mood swings, neurotic behavior peppered with irritation and anger simply based on others’ mannerisms more than what they say, is simply worth noticing. Although, Manoj too also fell prey to the typecast style statement of Tollywood villains of this millennium – living abroad travelling in limos, or surrounded by calendar models on yachts, in a white suit, white hair held back by hairspray and oversized goggles which are probably picked off Sultan Bazaar in Hyderabad. The rant is endless. Ali is probably PK’s lucky charm, but a film like Puli does not deserve to be saved.

Majority of plastic awards for Puli must go to  S J Suryah, first for spawning a lousy script; then for being a screenwriter and effectively negating the meaning of screenplay; and most of all, for underperforming his most important duty, that of a Director. The biggest loser though, is the plot which cascades into a bad screenplay. Lot of untimed events, irrelevant sequences, superfluous dialogue, and overacting characters seal the coffin perfectly. Unintentionally funny scenes will keep you entertained till no end. It’s hard to perceive that a profoundly conceptualized film like Khushi and a dud like Puli have been pulled together by the same person.

Cinematography by Binod Pradhan is better in non-action sequences. Action sequences are well-crafted in the second half of the movie. VFX, right in the first scene (an action scene) are rib-tickling if not gripping, and Balayya-esque to be precise. Editing by V T Vijayan cannot be faulted with, simply given his repertoire. I would have wanted to be in the same room as Vijayan when he took first look at this defective piece of work. One scene where I would expect justice is when Madhu is lying down on a living-room table at home with blood oozing from her cut-throat and everyone’s sitting around her. Puli does not inquire if medical help was sought, instead falls for the dubious act, and ties the mangalsootram around her neck to call her Mrs. Puli. Very sad. Music by A R Rahman is alright, as usual very different from his other compositions, but not exceptional. Music rating – 3/5.

Why 2/5:
There are only negatives to talk about, right from background support to acting. Pawan Kalyan’s performance is inconsistent, but the second half is better, more watchable and more remindful of masala cinema of the recent past. Could go lower on the rating, but there are some commendable elements – which are lost in the magnanimity of flaws above. 

Verdict: If you have reached this point, then one, either you really like reading my reviews, or two, you really are expecting a lot from this movie irrespective of word on the street. If former, I heart you. If latter, God cannot save you, too. 


Rating: 2.5/5
Genre: Bollywood Masala (Action Comedy)

Before anything, Dabangg in Hindi means fearless. When you live in an Indian city, your might lies in your brain, unless of course you work for a bhai. Villages are a different ball game altogether (no pun intended). Or so they are made to be in desi cinema, where you fight for your rights, take revenge, or whatever overpowering you do, you do quite literally as is purported. The 80s and 90s Bollywood produced a lot of action themes, and in the new millennium urban cinema mostly resonated with romance. Today, not many movies are based in Indian villages, and those that are, have undertones of politics and drama, spiced with action, mass murdering and what have you.

The plot of Dabangg written by Abhinav Kashyap, is set in Lalgunj, UP, where a reckless police officer Chulbul ‘Robinhood’ Pandey (Salman Khan) leads a life dancing to cellphone ringtones of goons while not sacking their loot. Chulbul is the only person that calls himself ‘Robinhood’ in the entire movie, so mind that. Before you stretch your imagination, his Robinhood-giri is limited to medical treatment of people he shoots with a gun for asking questions. Eg. . A constable under him who requests a promotion. Chulbul lives with a dimwit step-brother Makkhi (Arbaaz Khan), a mother who eventually dies and a step-father who has a dukhiyari face from time immemorial. Chulbul’s dislike for his step-father and step-brother leads the story after his mother’s death in the middle of the movie. A local uprising politican Chedi Singh (Sonu Sood) manipulates the hatred situation by executing a cold-blodded murder of their mother, lighting up Makkhi - Sr. Pandey’s godown and by turning airhead Makkhi against his brother by pointing a finger. A little melodrama and anachronistic revelations later, the brothers unite and kick Chedi’s butt. At an unassuming juncture somewhere prior, Chulbul falls in love with a local pot maker Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) who reciprocates because I think she loved Chulbul’s dance in this song and his goggles. Chulbul and Rajjo are married, spend honeymoon in the Mid East, if you care.

Salman Khan is in your face. Wait, he never left the screen. If he stayed on one more minute, you’d be in a position to guess if it were time for Chulbul to do the do. Chulbul’s character required Salman to be immature, reckless, charming, sentimental, romantic, angry, all normal emotions but as a hyperbole to create a larger than life Chulbul. For a small-town cop, his mannerisms seem native, not coming across as overboard at all. Salman did not wear his trademark jaali-wali-banian and his signature bracelet, which could easily pass too. His dialogue delivery in UP tongue is appreciable and his Ganesh-Visarjan dance moves are apt. Salman was never a great comic anyway and as usual, has used his body and space to evoke laughs and at best, some toilet humour which do make you laugh. His face shows his age (44 trying 30) , but his physique is commendable. Flying high on success of ‘Wanted’, Salman’s absolute best though are in the action sequences.

Sonakshi Sinha as Rajjo was probably meant to be an eye candy in Desi attire. There wasn’t particularly much she could do in this movie, except say few sugar-coated dialogues and some stating-the-obviousShe’s had limited to say, but much more with the eyes which seems to be her strength – great expressions and great use of eyes to convey feelings. For a debutante, Sonakshi uses 3D space very well and delivers confidently in Salman’s presence. There wasn’t any naach-gaana for her, and no melodrama to show off her crying skills either. Although, in a limited timeframe she makes a good impression on the viewer and does not summarize as a victim of Salman's debutante jinx (Bhagyashree, Sneha Ullal, Katrina lookalike in Yuvraaj, etc). While most folks play challenging roles with time, Arbaaz seems to be following a downward spiral doing the same old routine, playing a character that lacks substance and originality. Arbaaz Khan as Makkhi has played a a pretty mediocre role requiring vague expressions, foolhardy behaviour, insipid dialogue and stiff body language – really not worth any evaluation. He makes you want to hit him, and no, it’s not his acting talent. May be because there are (have been) no Arbaaz-isms to begin (or end) with. Oh, well. 

Sonu Sood as Chadi Singh mightily locks horns with Salman, both with a great body and a great performance. As a village bumpkin speaking rustic UP Hindi, Sonu fits the bill perfectly of a young and sly politician plotting his moves in a power struggle (which was not highlighted enough). He holds good command right in presence of stalwarts too. No negatives for Sonu, really. Debilitated presence of other stars, names worth calling out – Vinod Khanna, Dimple Kapadia, Anupam Kher, Om Puri, Mahesh Manjrekar, Tinu Anand.

Director Abhinav Kashyap put together all elements of a Masala flick in equal portions and used Salman’s mass appeal to collage everything together. The plot has been done to death in the past in dozens of movies. For a formula film like this, there is little to do with Direction. In fact, the loose and incoherent flow of the story can be attributed to a mediocre, overarching script. Although, what is worth noticing is the treatment of the story, which brings us to Screenplay, also by Abhinav Kashyap. The dialogues in somewhat colourful and coarse Hindi add good flavour to scenes. Most of the scenes have Salman, and he does his bit well in adding some of him to every single of them. His off-screen persona/public image possibly comes across greatly through Chulbul Pandey. The momentum in the movie is not varying, it’s monotonous for a viewer who relates to a formula film. But if the inequation Salman > cinema, resonates with you, there is something for you in every 5 minute interval.

Cinematography by Mahesh Limaye takes the cake. For viewers familiar with Tollywood cinema of second half of this decade, the Cinamatography may seem straight out of a Puri Jangannath flick. But for Bollywood, which has been devoid of over-the-top stunts for a while, the camera angles, the flaring colour tones, the gory murders, Salman’s Matrixesque moves, people flying when Salman punched them (200 in number), the small-town Bazaars, the village outdoors, are all welcome freshness. Most visuals are compelling and shot in adequate detail. If anything, Dabangg may score an award for its Cinematography. Background Music by Sandeep Shirodkar does not fully complement the visuals; and is curbed by use of soundtrack and a borrowed Zorro-ish theme. There could have been music to complement Sonakshi’s scenes, while the action sequences have received their due. Music by Sajid-Wajid is average, with only two songs to call out – Tere mast mast do nain and Munni Badnaam.

Why 2.5/5:
The good: Salman Khan. Cinematography. 
The bad: Humdrum plot, stretched too much. Mediocre Direction. Wasted performances from accomplished actors including Vinod Khanna. Salman is everywhere, even in situations when story had a good potential to take an amazing drift without him. Sonakshi’s screen time and role-importance. Bad background music. Malaika Arora looks 40, already.  It’s not a must-watch, even for Sallu’s fans. Dabangg is average, at best.

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