White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time

Murali Sharma

Telugu Movie Review: Mahesh earns his paycheck in the otherwise underwhelming Guntur Kaaram

Mahesh Babu stars in "Guntur Kaaram," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

Moviegoers who buy a ticket to Guntur Kaaram chiefly because they are fans of Mahesh Babu will get what they paid for, if not much more. The star is effortlessly charismatic in the lead role of Veera Venkata Ramana, the long-disowned son of a political dynasty whose childhood trauma turned him into a delightful smartass of an adult. The film chiefly focuses on Ramana’s (ex-)family’s attempt to get him to sign a contract formally disassociating from them, which is tied to shifty political maneuvering by his grandfather Venkata Swamy (Prakash Raj) as his mother Vasundhara (Ramya Krishnan), who walked out on Ramana as a child, is appointed as an MP. With a different lead actor, this story could have quickly descended into a cut-rate Shakespearean soap opera, but Mahesh approaches his character with such a light touch that his antics in resisting the contract are always fun and often very funny. Especially in the first half, it’s a pleasure to watch Ramana evade the signing process, even though it gets repetitive.

Not only is Mahesh charming and funny in the role, he’s also more than capable as both a dancer and an action hero, even though the film overall comes up a bit short in both departments. The fact that Guntur Kaaram marks Mahesh’s reunion with writer/director Trivikram Srinivas – their third collaboration together, coming 13 years after their last (Khaleja) – is certainly being hyped up by the press and the film’s publicity campaign. But it would be hard to argue that Trivikram provides his film nearly the same amount of juice that Mahesh does. Not only is the movie’s story itself something of a disappointment – we’ll get into that in just a moment – but the filmmaking feels pretty lazy. The action set-pieces are only memorable because of Mahesh’s swagger as the fun-but-still-menacing-enough Ramana, not because of any editing or staging choices, all of which feel very dated. The same goes for the musical numbers, which would be total snoozes if not for the raw energy of Mahesh and romantic co-star Sreeleela, who can seemingly thrust her hips faster than any other living human.

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Telugu Movie Review: Miss. Shetty Mr. Polishetty feeds off its endearing leading man

Naveen Polishetty and Anushka Shetty star in the Telugu romantic comedy "Miss. Shetty Mr. Polishetty," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

For the first half-hour or so of Miss. Shetty Mr. Polishetty, I thought I was in for a rough ride, with the movie seemingly better suited for the Hallmark Channel than theatrical screens. With a cloying mother-daughter relationship, feminist politics that struck me as painfully outdated compared to those of other recent Telugu films I’ve seen, and an intentionally prickly lead performance by Anushka Shetty, I was fearing the worst as a viewer. But every so often, an engaging movie simply makes a bad first impression, which thankfully turned out to be the case here.

The premise is as contrived as they come, even for a romantic comedy. Shetty’s protagonist, Anvitha, is a renowned chef currently working at a prestigious hotel in London. She’s on top of the world professionally, but her personal life is nonexistent beyond her special relationship with her mother (played by Jayasudha). Even this bond is threatened, however, when Mom’s health begins to deteriorate. Mom asks Anvitha to take her back home to spend her final days in Hyderabad, where Anvitha remains after she passes. Feeling more alone than ever with only her friend Kavya (Sonia Deepti) to lean on, Anvitha hatches a somewhat desperate plan to fill the void. She’ll get pregnant with a child of her own, with the help of… a sperm donor. After all, she doesn’t have the time, patience, or trust required to let an actual partner into her life.

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Telugu Movie Review: Kushi begins as a lightweight entertainment, ends as a nonsensical drag

White Guy Watches Bollywood reviews "Kushi," the new Telugu romantic comedy starring Vijay Deverakonda and Samantha Ruth Prabhu.

The first act of Kushi, while exceedingly absurd even by the standards of a Telugu comedy, is a pretty fun time at the movies. Protagonist Viplav (Vijay Devarakonda) is a complete dork who hasn’t exactly taken after his intellectual father (Sachin Khedekar), a noted professor and public figure widely known for his atheist views. Viplav, a young and hungry telecommunications worker, forgoes a local work assignment that would keep him in his cushy family digs in Hyderabad for a less desirable job near the tumultuous Pakistani border in Kashmir. Naively, he believes this will be a peaceful and idyllic setting to take in the mountain views and pretend he’s the star of a Mani Ratnam movie, with his repeated references to Roja generating several chuckles. When he gets caught up in warzone gunfire immediately upon arrival, it only momentarily kills Viplav’s wide-eyed buzz.

This is all played for exaggerated laughs, of course, as are Viplav’s first interactions with Aaradhya (Samantha Ruth Prabhu), who he initially assumes to be a Muslim woman from Pakistan. On the contrary, she’s a Hindu wearing a headscarf in the Islamic section of Kashmir as she travels to visit the Mamaleshwar Temple… but why would she ever let the instantly smitten puppy-dog Viplav know that she’s a potentially qualified match for him? Alas, Aaradhya’s attempts to tell white lies to ward off Viplav – namely, that she’s in town to find her orphaned younger brother Feroz – backfire when she underestimates him. A few days and an entertainingly ludicrous bike chase later, he’s brought her every boy named Feroz within a fifty-mile radius. The tone is not unlike that of the recent rom-coms McG has produced for Netflix.

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