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I never really thought very highly of Sukumar as a director. To me, he was just a messed up faker. And that’s probably because when he came out with his first Telugu film, Aarya, I was in a deep state of some sort of a one sided crush with this really cute guy who was in turn behind another girl. I concretely believed that this girl was prettier than me and my crush would never look back to find me following him around on campus.

That was precisely when I watched Aarya. Sukumar threw a new perception towards one-side lovers. He made it seem like the one who didn’t have the girl he loved can continue to be happy with simply the satisfaction of being in love from a great distance without ever having the person to yourself. And that according to me, is bullshit. I think it is stupid to be in love with someone who is already with somebody else. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it, I’m just saying it is plain stupid. One side love hurts. More than Sukumar could have ever imagined. But of course, Aarya was a huge commercial success followed by a similar result with Aarya 2. Now Aarya 2 was when I noticed that Sukumar has an inclination to men with psychological disorders. Because the guy who plays Aarya beats up the goons and then stitches up their wounds.

I had three reasons not to watch his latest venture 1: Nenokkadine.

One, it is basically something Sukumar would spit out for the class audience with a mass heart. Item songs, unnecessary fights, illogical story-line, great music, tall heroines, and not to forget, nutcase heroes.

Two, the promos were absolutely boring. Watching a film trailer is like a mother overseeing her teenage daughter. You can always tell the fate of the film. Just like a mother knows when her daughter has had her first love, and first heart break. No, you don’t have to say a single word, your mother can just look into your eyes and know it all.

Three, the regressive poster controversy. Being an outright feminist, I completely supported Samantha’s tweet on the movie poster, the one that had the hero walking on the beach with the heroine crawling behind him like his watchdog or slave or something. It was out rightly demeaning. And I was starting to get a little bored with Mahesh, the hero, having the women in all his films running behind him because of his good looks. It is getting too cliche.

Fourth. Yeah, I know I said I had only three reasons, but the fourth one came up much later. The movie ticket was sold at a gouging price of $18. Come one, I paid $7 for Dhoom 3 last week and was cribbing that the trashy film wasn’t worth my seven bucks. 

But I found myself in the nearest theater to watch 1 last night. The magnetism of Mahesh Babu was something my mind had unconsciously succumbed to.

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Nenokkadine is a very different film. Although Tollywood has churned out only a few psychological thrillers in the past 20-30 years, Nenokkadine is definitely a differently gripping film. Something that stands out. The film revolves around Gautham, a Rockstar musician, who has a grey yet very blurry past. He is in search for his true identity and therefore is looking for his parents’ murderers. Circumstances confuse him all the more and he is consumed in a vortex that makes it impossible for him to tell the difference between what is real and imaginary. The lead lady, Sameera, who is a journalist, makes the situation only worse by playing with his disability until Gautham falls in love with her. The film then spins into a chilling pre-interval sequence

The second half of the film is about Gautham realizing that his parents’ killers are not imaginary and are actually his Harry Potter Pensieve-type of memories and he goes out to get both, his revenge, and also what is really important to him, Who is he. The second half starts great, drags on for a while and concludes with a 20 minute emotional climax.

Sukumar has completely surprised me with this film. He doesn’t waste any time to get into the story. Within the first 5 minutes after the introduction song, you realize you have to pay attention to understand the rest of the film. The director seems to be very clear on what his film is about. If you weren’t paying attention for a minute or took popcorn breaks, you sure are going to be confused. He has truly brought meaning to the genre, Telugu-Psychological Thrillers.  He did not feel the need to put irrelevant or cheap comedy side-tracks. Of course, he could have avoided the current length of the film, and that would’ve reduced the drag created by the Goa scenes in the first half. Although the story offers many interesting twists and turns, the editing takes care of not missing out on even tiny yet detailed aspects of the plot. The flow in which one scene led to another and wove the story into a neatly crocheted warm rug is worth a mention. I completely liked how Sukumar penned some one liners that make you giggle for a second or two. Now that is a thriller. You shouldn’t laugh for more than a second. If you have watched Jagadam and liked R.Rathnavelu’s cinematography, you will completely fall in love with his work when you watch this film. It is simply outstanding. This dude is a precious charm for Tollywood.

Mahesh-Babu

Given some obvious loopholes in what seems like a confusing story line, Mahesh has delivered brilliant performance. Be it the action packed scenes, the confused yet confident and disabled Rockstar, or the emotional lover boy digging into his dark past and searching for his parents. The entire film has conveniently been placed in his tattooed arms and he carries it with exceptional ease. I’m glad he chose to do a film that not only has him do his banal stuff like running, fighting, having the heroine run to him, hug him and express her love, dancing for the item number, but also gave him the opportunity to show his emotional acting side. His acting when he questions the actual antagonist who his parents are and is torn between keeping him alive to learn the truth and killing him because he is evil is probably the best act in his career so far. When you see in hug his childhood photo album and cry like a child, you almost want to go and wipe his tears and tell him that it will be okay. Like during his confrontation scene when he kneels down in front of Nasser in Athadu after the wedding. Psst. For all the girls, and guys who are not insecure about their looks: Mahesh looked hot! Be it while he was running, or wearing those thick black rimmed glasses, or dancing in maroon colored cargo pants.

Kirti Sanon was predominantly there because our films require a heroine. You could have gotten away with just having a male friend play her role as well. But she looked good and unlike other top hero films, she shares good screen space. Although her role wasn’t entirely written to be performance oriented, she did well. The scene where she pretends to talk to an imaginary Gautham since he refuses to take her with him to London was particularly cute. All the other artists performed mediocre to good but they were all just sprinkled around here and there. I also have trouble understanding why directors choose to have Kelly Dorji play antagonist roles. He doesn’t look like a powerful one to begin with, and for gods-sake, the 10 Telugu-film old guy still mouths dialogues in Hindi that you can clearly tell if you are a lip reader. Gautham Krishna playing the role of the Rockstar as a kid is just about average, given perhaps, the fact that it is his first film.  But that sadly makes me think that this is the beginning of yet another Star Hero son’s career in Tollywood and frankly, I hate the trend (including Mahesh) that an actor’s son automatically gets his right to become an actor with so little struggle. That is a completely different topic altogether, but sincerely, the little boy from Tulasi would have done a better job though. DSP’s songs not so great but what saves the film is his vividly engrossing background score. The background is bound to linger in your head for at least an hour or two after you walk out of the theater. It’s like DSP knows when exactly to hit the suspense cord, the thrill cord and the emotional cord. You probably may come back home and listen to a song or two but that’s about the songs. Oops! I also thought that the ‘Johnny Johnny’ song had pretty funny lyrics.

Like I said, Nenokkadine is a different film. Now if you are a regular Telugu film watcher without taste, the one who feels the need to leave your brains outside the theater and laughs at silly slapstick comedy or enjoys lame scenes by Brahmi or Venu Madhav, or thinks highly of films that have Tata Sumos flying in the air while heroes clad in crisp white lungis are walking with sickles in their mouths, or like films that have two heroines running around the hero with at least 6-7 songs where aerobics are being performed, this film is not for you. Also, if you are a Hollywood absorbent who thinks Telugu films are dumb and that directors and actors will never change their commercial elements (and blah!) and got dragged along with a friend to watch this film, this one is not for you either. Both of you will not enjoy it.

Now if you are someone who is nonchalant about the commercial success of films and the crores it garners, watches Telugu/Hindi/English films and never makes it a point to compare Tollywood to Hollywood and pin point the stupidity in Telugu films, and enjoys a film for what it is, this film is for you. You will like it. This film is not going to do well at the box office, no doubt about that, but this film is what will encourage directors to come up with experimental films, push actors and convince them to accept such roles, and therefore, will be a treat to people who love and care about good Telugu cinema. Also, this film is not about changing the commercial formula of Telugu films but it is merely the introduction of a new genre into Tollywood. A genre that gives the Telugu audience something non-cliche to watch.