Ramesh’s Ruthless Revenge

Meher Ramesh.

I will never be able to forget the first time I learnt this name. It was when I graduated with a B.Tech degree and was doing nothing but hanging out with friends and wasting money. During this time, I pulled along with me two very good friends who couldn’t help but abide by the rules of friendship when I tortured them to help satisfy my movie maniac soul. We covered Hollywood, Bollywood, and Tollywood, and if I could convince them, Kollywood as well. Since my other two friends weren’t as jobless as I was, the mission was usually carried out over the weekends. If we didn’t get tickets for a particular show, I would take it very personally. I would take the pain to get hold of the guy behind the counter and say, “Anna… Please Anna, _______  hero (name changed as per the film) ku periya, periya fan, Anna. Ennaku Telugu teriyada, aana padam pakkanum.” For some reason, the ticket guys were always sympathetic towards people who were non-Telugu speaking and yet fans of Telugu heros. Anyway, that weekend I decided to watch Kantri, a Jr. NTR starer.  We were at a theater on RTC X Roads and the tickets were sold out. No luck with black tickets as well. So I decided to go and enact my little play but my friends hated the idea that I get tickets claiming to be a Jr. NTR fan. I did too. But like I said, I took it too personally so I got the tickets. We were seated at the 9th row from the screen, yes, that close! Jr. NTR’s films always gave me a headache but I thought to myself, “How much worse can it get compared to his previous films?”

Three hours later, I got my answer with a headache that Saridon couldn’t cure for two days. That was the minute Meher Ramesh introduced himself to my head.

KANTRI… BILLA… SHAKTI… SHADOW…  Four mega budgets. Four mega flops.

His latest venture, Shadow, is a film that can directly be placed in the “Vijayendra Varma-Okka Magadu” category. Basically, a revenge story without substance.  It is about how a sincere journalist’s son (Venky) sets out to avenge the death of his father. Now to achieve that mission Venky has to kill at least 5 people. In the chaotic process of doing that, he acts like a memory loss retard, meets the heroine, Taapsee, manages five duets with her, meets his long-lost mother and pregnant sister, and enjoys torturing us by adorning various extremely unnecessary costumes before we are blessed with rolling credits. Phew! Trust me, I was being very brief.

People often claim that Meher Ramesh may make bad movies but they always have a sense of style in them which I believe, is bullshit. Where is the sense of style in Shadow? Shooting a film in Kuala Lampur doesn’t maketh a stylish movie, stylish people do, or at least their designers. Now if Prabhas and Anushka looked classy in Billa, it is most definitely because they are. Making everyone you cast onscreen wear a pressed business suit and expecting that the audience  think you made a rich film does not do the trick. If you have seen Raghav Lawerence’s Don and Rebel, you will know what I mean. And what have you done with poor Mr. Venky. The chimpu look, the numerous finger rings, the over sized black coat, and the ridiculously hideous motor bike. The least the hair stylist could do was take the pains to either patiently straighten Venky’s hair completely or skip using copious amounts of hair spray. About Taapsee, I am not even going to comment unless she stops shopping for clothes from the kids section.

According to me, Meher Ramesh usually copies the entire plot of his film from a previously released film. Kantri was largely taken from Bluffmaster. Billa was an obvious copy/paste from the Tamil film, Billa and I haven’t had the guts to watch Shakti. His innovative approach with Shadow is that he hasn’t picked the entire plot from one film. He has taken parts from various meaningless films and blended them together to churn out utter rubbish. And the best part is, he even plays the original clip alongside with the copied clip. What fun, no? You don’t have to stress at all wondering where you have already seen this before. For instance, you will see that he picked the MS Narayana in the swimming pool shot from Billa. The killing Nagineedu scene was directly picked up from Agnipath. Apparently, he also confessed that he wanted this film to be another Lakshmi that was directed by V.V. Vinayak.  Now, what can I say about a director who confesses to copying? Much has been said about the Gabbar Singh Antakshari scene copy, so I shall rest my case with the plagiarism here.

Moving on to the next item on the plate. Consider Indian cooking, South Indian in particular. Most South Indian dishes have what is called seasoning that is added to almost all curries at the end. Seasoning usually has a basic formula; mustard seeds, jeera, asafetida, curry leaves, red chillis, channa dal, and urad dal, as appropriate. Now you can choose to add some or all of these items to get what you can call, tasty seasoning. But if you go ahead and add toor dal, masoor dal, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, it would lead to indigestion. So does a Meher Ramesh film. The guy uses hundreds of talented artists, important people, and yet none of them add value to the film. Although the film includes Nagababu, Srikanth, Aditya Pancholi, Rahul Dev, MS Narayana, Shinde, Kaatraj, Vennala Kishore, Harshavardhan, Rao Ramesh, Nasser, Nagineedu, Subbaraju, Suman and some 10 other talented people, none of them get justified screen space. It’s like the director is in a rush. A rush to establish the reason for revenge, kill the bad guys, reunite the family, and do hundred other odd things in about 2 hours. And, if you like Subbaraju, please don’t watch the film. I thought I could only give Krishna Vasmi the credit for portraying a man who played Chatrapathi as Chakram, now Meher Ramesh has followed suit.

The music. Much cannot be said about the music since it was given by someone who is possession of countless drums, of all kinds, in all sizes. It takes your ears a while to realize that the lyrics are “Vedevado vedevado, he’ll be there where you go, you would even know he’s a shadow” and not just “dedabadooo deedabadooo deedaade dab dab dab”. Meher should probably have stuck with Mani Sharma. But what could good music have done to a stale script anyway.

I believe Meher Ramesh holds us, the audience, responsible for his first three flops and decided that this time he will not spare the audience. Shadow is a story of how Meher Ramesh takes revenge on the Telugu audience each time they cringe at Venky’s playing Chanti while chewing on a lollipop, MS’s comedy, or simply the film’s mindlessness.

I can only begin to imagine the magnanimity of his next audience targeted-revenge venture. Because Meher Ramesh is like King Vikramaditya in Vikram-Betal, chasing the success ghost and never in the mood to give up.

The Hajmola – A sour friendship

My 2nd grade in Primary School was the least favorite year of my school life, or at least, this is what I thought back then. My mom took me to Tirupathi during the summer holidays of my 1st standard to have a barber shave my head. This was done to please God in return for a favor He had bestowed upon us. So I went to PS that year wearing a pink frock and a pale yellow hat. Little did I know that I was in for some serious bullying.

Now kids don’t generally think much. They say and do things without actually meaning much harm. So most girls always forgot my real name and began calling me Gundu (the Telugu word for a bald head), girls wanted to pull my pale yellow hat off my head, while some girls wanted to use my bald head to play tabla, some others wanted to run their hands across my head and feel its prickliness. It made me angry. I used to scream, fight, and complain to the teachers, but after a while I just let go and became very quite.

Our school followed the regular norm like any other school except you could throw in prayers five times a day. We were woken up class-wise, sent downstairs to brush in the kitchen pantry, came back upstairs to sit in a queue to where ammas would give us a quick bath, sent to have our hair checked for lice (which we fondly called butchi-checking, I have always wondered why), oiled and combed neatly and then sent downstairs for breakfast followed by assembly before we went to class.

It took me very little time to understand that since I could skip a big portion of the regime, that being the hair-service, I could be the first in class. Now don’t ask me what’s the big fuss in being first. I don’t know. In a class that had anywhere between 35 – 40 girls, being first was always a big deal. I just had to be the first one to wake up, and be first in the line to brush. The rest would follow. And that is exactly what I decided to do. Soon I came first in almost everything. The teachers began to like me and my class girls, not so much. They thought I was greedy and was taking advantage of the fact that I could skip butchi checking. I had competition and I always won. Eventually, calling me Gundu became incessant and I had no friends. Absolutely.

Until she came along!

We had the December and early January every year dedicated to Sports Practice. This meant that we participated in various dances or drills and performed on January 11th, the Sports Day. Sports time was always fun. We were baked under the sun for several hours and treated to Rasna, we had no classes for more than a month, could wake up late, and just hang around in the dorm playing Charlie Chaplin, Categories, will you please, The queen of the palace, and other odd games. But before we got into serious sports practice, we would have one last Parents Meeting at the beginning of December after which we could only see our parents on Sports Day. My mom had come to see me and I had persistently bothered her to get me a Hajmola bottle. I loved the Hajmola tablets, most kids did. You didn’t necessarily need to have digestion issues to take it, it served more like tasty candy, it was sweet and sour and tangy, all at the same time. They were 130 tablets of pure joy in a dark bottle. Since we were never allowed to take outside food into the school, I was worried as to how I could fool the teachers standing at the blue grill entrance and take it inside.

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Just as I was thinking of a plan, my parents bumped into hers. Apparently, they knew each other and were acquainted for a long time. They introduced us to each other and I realized that she was my senior. We didn’t really talk much since you never really could be friends with your juniors or seniors. Anyway, she figured out that I was planning to take the Hajmola bottle inside and decided to help me smuggle it inside. We both held the bottle in our tiny palms, and acted like we were holing hands, bid goodbye to our parents, and marched into the lobby with confidence. I must admit that there wasn’t much checking going on either as it was the last parents meeting for the year and there were just too many people.

As soon as we went upstairs to the dorm, we had a good laugh. I took a look at her and decided that I liked her instantly. She was nice. She suggested that we hide the bottle away in my shelf, between my clothes lest anyone finds out that I had it. I did so but before that I decided that we both deserve a treat. From then on we became the best of friends. We always hung out together. It was sports time and so not many people would notice that a junior and senior were hanging out that much. She yelled at people who called me Gundu, and always saved a seat for me next to her in the dining hall, and gave me her glass of Rasna as she didn’t like it. And I, shared one Hajmola candy with her after every meal.

The word that I had the Hajmola candy was spreading fast. Soon my class girls began to approach me for them, and I gave two to people I liked, and one to people whom I didn’t. I always had to give the candy cause they could go and complain to a teacher that I had smuggled goods if I didn’t. Apart from the daily after meals dose, I began to give her one candy each time I had my class girls ask me for it, since she was almost always with me. She also suggested that I hide the bottle in different places in my shelf each day. That way nobody could steal the candy. This went on for at least about 10 days. I was on the verge of forgetting the fact I had been bullied and friend-less for a major part of that year, and was happy. Happy for having finally found a friend.

One afternoon, we were sitting in the dorm ready to go out for the drill practice when she came up to me and suggested that we both go to my shelf and pop the candy. I wasn’t in the mood but I couldn’t say no to her, so I told her she could go help herself since she knew the hiding spot for the day. That was probably the very first time she was going to have the candy on her own.

She came back a few minutes later, and whispered into my ear, “The candy is gone. Someone stole it. All of it, except two.” I was shocked. We both ran to my shelf and I turned it upside down and looked for it everywhere. “Where could they have gone? Who would steal them”, she asked. I couldn’t imagine. And why would someone leave just two of them and take away more than 70. Very sympathetic, eh!?! I took the remaining two in my hand and was about to pop them into my mouth but stopped myself. I took one of them and offered it to her and she thanked me profusely. And we marched out for drill practice.

That evening, she didn’t give me her glass of Rasna and later that night, she didn’t save me a seat next to her in the dining hall. I tired to go and talk to her a couple of times but she was always busy with her classmates and pretended like she didn’t hear me.

I didn’t have to be a genius to figure out that she was the only one who knew where I hid the bottle, and that it was the first time she went alone to my shelf to take the candy, and that she stole all of them.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the candy. As a 7 year old kid, I was heart broken at the treachery. She was in the same school for 10 years after this incident but I never spoke a word to her. I knew that in life I was going to be through friendships that maybe be more sour than this. But this one was my first, and it taught me what kind of a friend I should never be.