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How Jr.NTR propelled Magadheera’s success?

April 25, 2010

Note: The following post is just a figment of my imagination. I have no facts and figures to prove this theory. However, the observation is based on a peculiar trend which I have noticed in the recent few years. You are free to agree or disagree with my views.

History repeats itself in quite an unusual fashion as far as movies are concerned. Take a bunch of all-time blockbusters in Hindi, Tamil or Telugu cinema, you can come up with your own equation. It’s a striking coincidence that atleast 2-3 of the top 10 blockbusters have something in common. Most of the time, it’s either the actor or the director who play a key role in the film’s box office success. Telugu Cinema is no different to this trend. We have always had four top heroes and then another set of budding actors who have worked hard and waited for their turn to occupy the coveted throne. Earlier it was NTR, ANR, Krishna and Shobhan Babu who churned out some of the biggest hits along with the top directors. Then in 80s, when they were past their prime, a new set of heroes emerged who went on to rule the roost for almost 20 years. Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna, Venkatesh and Nagarjuna, have in a way been the four pillars of Telugu Film Industry for more than two decades. Their films had great openings and quite a few of their films were blockbusters. And everytime they were written off by the critics or the audience, they bounced back strongly. In the early years of this decade, the four pillars had entered their 40s and the new generation of audience, especially the youth were waiting for fresh faces. This was the time when Mahesh, Pawan Kalyan, Jr.NTR, Prabhas, Allu Arjun emerged as top contenders to occupy the throne. Few years later, Chiranjeevi’s son, Ram Charan Teja, Nagarjuna’s son Naga Chaitanya, Venkatesh’s newphew RaNa made their respective debuts. However, this post isn’t about the dynasties in Telugu film industry, which I promise to write about in detail later. This is about the role of Jr.NTR in the stupendous success of Ram Charan Teja starrer, ‘Magadheera’, which is also the biggest blockbuster till date in Telugu cinema’s history.

Before we talk about Jr.NTR and Magadheera, it’s important to look at two blockbusters which made news in the earlier part of this decade. Balakrishna’s ‘Narasimha Naidu’ and Chiranjeevi’s ‘Indra’. Balakrishna pulled off a coup when he made one of the greatest ever comebacks known to Telugu cinema aficionados. In the 90s, he had several hits like ‘Bhairava Dweepam’, ‘Aditya 369’ to name a few. However, a string of flops later on had kept him out of news for quite sometime. But he was back with a bang with a film titled ‘Samarasimha Reddy’ and how! The film rewrote almost all possible records and ran for over 150 days in several cinema halls. He repeated this feat with ‘Narasimha Naidu’ in 2001 which according to some estimates raked in Rs.35 crores which was a huge amount back in 2001. On the other hand, Chiranjeevi had a neat track record since ‘Hitler’ which released in 1997. However, he required one big hit to show everyone who’s the ‘Big Boss’ of Telugu cinema. So, what happens? He stars in a movie titled ‘Indra’ in 2002, just 17 months after the release of ‘Narasimha Naidu’. Note that, both the films were directed by B.Gopal. Both the stories, were written by Chinni Krishna and both had ‘Rayalaseema’ faction as a theme…they follow similar screenplay, similar flashbacks etc. But, ‘Indra’ went on to become a bigger hit and according to a survey done by ‘India Today’ magazine (Telugu editon: dated- March 30th, 2010), ‘Indra’ raked in Rs. 40 crores! It was almost as if Balakrishna had started a trend and Chiranjeevi used the same formula added it with his style and delivered a bigger hit. Not to forget, the ego clashes between fans of both the heroes had a huge role to play in the success of both the film. In earlier case, the fans of Balakrishna celebrated and thronged the theatres, which was almost like an open challenge for the fans of Chiranjeevi. Later, when Chiranjeevi delivered what was expected out of him, his fans adored him like the rest of us.

Flash Forward. Year-2007

The new blood had already shown its power and energy. Jr.NTR’s high voltage action film ‘Simhadri’ (released in 2003) had catapulted him to the big league and there was no turning back for him. However, after consecutive flops, Jr.NTR was back with a bang in a new (slim) avatar in ‘Yamadonga’. It was the modern adaptation of a highly successful film ‘Yamagola’ starring NTR back in the 70s. Directed by S.S.Rajamouli, ‘Yamadonga’ was the costliest film made till 2007. The film was a blockbuster, raked in more than Rs.45 crores but couldn’t beat records set by Mahesh Babu’s ‘Pokiri’. There are few interesting aspects which have to be considered in ‘Yamadonga’. Rajamouli, the genius he is, banked upon Jr.NTR’s brilliance especially the latter’s energy, dancing skills and dialogue delivery which played a huge role in Yamadonga’s success. Since the most talked about part of the film is the episode set in ‘Yamaloka’, we shall curtail this discussion to that 30-40 mins of the film. Jr.NTR’s command over his diction is impeccable. His lengthy dialogues in the film were mesmerizing and he packs a punch in that flashback episode. The combo of Jr.NTR-Mohan Babu was a huge advantage for ‘Yamadonga’. Both of them delivered good performances and at one of time, the entire focus of our attention was on what they are saying and not on where the film is set. The art decoration was amazing; however the actor’s performances took the frontseat. The best part about ‘Yamadonga’ is it awakened a sleeping giant, mythology. Period! We have always been infatuated by mythology, kings, sword fights, epics, fables. And after a really long time, Rajamouli succeeded in bringing all this onto the silver screen. The success of the film opened floodgates for more films of this genre to be made in future, as the formula had been derived and put on paper. It showed the film industry that there’s a huge market for such films and also that the audience is craving for more explosive action set in bygone eras. In a way, Jr.NTR along with Rajamouli started a new trend, which would go on to become a rage in future. Note that, the fans of Jr.NTR were very very happy that their hero had delivered a massive hit and gave them enough stuff to brag about, be it the grandeur, costumes, dances.

Flash Forward: 2009

The scion of Chiranjeevi’s family Ram Charan Teja had already made his debut in Puri Jagannadh’s ‘Chirutha’ in 2007. He had established himself as a brilliant dancer and had the athleticism to dazzle in action sequences. His second film ‘Magadheera’ took almost two years to be filmed and when it finally released in July, 2009, it took our breath away. Not only did the film entertain the audience, but it also raked in moolah which left many trade pundits baffled. It’s extremely difficult to arrive at a conclusion as to why or how ‘Magadheera’ went on to become such a huge blockbuster. When I interviewed Rajamouli (which lasted for a mere 8 minutes) back in September 2009 to ask him reasons for this huge success, he reiterated the same line which he had told to the media. “Perhaps, it was because people had never seen such a thing on screen before”. He was right; however, it’s too vague a line to interpret. If you have seen the film closely, then you will realize that Ram Charan Teja’s role as ‘Kala Bhairava’ is easy to empathize with. He sacrifices his love for the sake of the kingdom, yet he expresses his love with every action and expression he portrays. His dialogue delivery as the warrior had a tinge of forced expressions, but then it was just his second film and we can’t expect him to be an NTR while delivering those huge lines. But then, Rajamouli came up with a better idea. He made sure that Ram Charan Teja’s performance especially in action sequences was highlighted more than anything else with respect to the actor. This is perhaps, one reason why we were lost in the grandeur of Udaygarh. ‘Magadheera’ (especially the flashback) is also a good example of what a cinematic experience actually means. By having less emphasis on the dialogues, the action choreography, art decoration, background score and the adrenaline of the entire setting worked as a catalyst which overwhelmed us. And is it just a coincidence that Rajamouli was once again at the helm of affairs for this film? It’s almost as if, he went a step ahead from his previous venture (Yamadonga) because he had a higher budget, better team to do the CGI, special effects and a young star who had a good fan following? If ‘Yamadonga’ was how the whole phenomena began, then ‘Magadheera’ was the end result of that experiment. It shows us that there’s a huge demand for such films and for that Jr.NTR and Rajamouli must be given a lot of credit. So, is Jr.NTR indirectly involved in the success of ‘Magadheera’. I think so.

The more interesting thing to ponder upon is what if Jr.NTR had starred in ‘Magadheera’ and Ram Charan in ‘Yamadonga’? What if Jr.NTR’s ‘Yamdonga’ had released after ‘Magadheera’? Would the number game change? Would our verdict still be the same? That’s something which perhaps will never be answered.

P.S: I am really curious to see how Rajamouli’s next film with Prabhas turns out to be. According to the initial buzz, Rajamouli has come up yet another explosive action film set in Hyderabad just before independence in the 40s.



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Sunset Boulevard : The Film Club

April 13, 2010

April 18, 2010 will be an eventful day for film enthusiasts in Hyderabad, India. Apart from hordes of latest films from different languages which release almost every week, Hyderabad will have its brand new Film Club. The Sunset Boulevard.

It is quite ironic that Hyderabad with its massive density of film enthusiasts does not have the required number of movie clubs which keep film enthusiasts engaged. We have two prominent film clubs, Hyderabad Film Club (HFC) and Moving Images which screen films almost every week. I have been to quite a few screenings organised by these two film clubs; however each of them has its share of issues. Hyderabad Film Club has great archives especially of French films, but they screen it in Sarathi Studios. I am not sure if it is the place or the kind of films screened, that place does not have the right buzz although it has great potential. Moving Images has all the resources, they screen great films and organize interesting film festivals. Yet, they have not been able to create the buzz on weekends when there isn’t a film festival. In this regard, I sincerely hope and wish, that Sunset Boulevard caters to the demand and finds the right audience.

Sunset Boulevard was started in Ahmedabad with an intention to bring the best of World and Indian Cinema to film enthusiasts in the city. And now, it is also going to start its operations in Hyderabad. The film club has an impressive list of films which will be screened over the next few weeks. The Song of Sparrows (Iranian), Chaplin (English), All About My Mother (Spanish) and Antaheen (Bengali) will be screened on consecutive Sundays starting from April 18th in Prasadz Multiplex, Hyderabad. I am sure some of us might have seen these films on TV or DVD, but then it would be a rare experience to watch them on big screen. I sincerely hope Sunset Boulevard prospers in Hyderabad and brings about the much needed new wave of film clubs culture in the city.

To know more about Sunset Boulevard and the membership details in Hyderabad, India…

Contact : Teja

Phone No: +91 97038 98844


P.S: Click on the image to enlarge it. It contains the list of the film and the contact details of Sunset Boulevard in Hyderabad.

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Telugu Cinema : To Review or not to…

April 12, 2010

Before you come to a conclusion what the post is about, allow me to clear the mystery behind that title. The post isn’t about why Telugu film criticism is unethical, it more about the current scenario especially regarding the web content and its influence. I have been writing about Telugu cinema for over a year now, which means I end up watching every random film which releases in the cinema halls in Hyderabad. Before I try to reason why I think Telugu film criticism sucks, I must add that I can talk about only my experience and issues I have noticed. Hence, there’s no generalization but you are free to draw your own conclusions.

The period between 1996 until 1999 was important for Telugu cinema. It was the time when ‘internet’ had just begun and it gave rise to few websites which started writing about Telugu films. Two of those websites, and are still ruling the roost. In fact, had emerged as the leading website for Telugu Cinema news, photos, reviews, interviews. However, few months ago, a gossip website, has overtaken in terms of the number of hits per day. For the next few years, continued to grow and became the most trusted site for Telugu cinema. In the early part of this decade, more websites like and plenty of other websites came to the limelight. With the explosion of blogs, the content generated exceeded the saturation point. No wonder, you read almost the same news and almost same pics, videos and trailers are uploaded. Some websites shamelessly plagiarize content from other websites and their major source of revenue is either the traffic generated or revenue from online advertising. Let’s examine the situation with respect to the film reviews.

There are perhaps more than 10 film critics who write for websites on a regular basis and countless other bloggers who are trying to make their presence felt. Despite the severe competition, there are only a handful of critics who wield major influence on their readers, because they write on popular websites. Among them, Jeevi (, SiraSri (, Jalapathy (, Sunitha Chowdary (, Radhika Rajmani ( are noted names. It would be unfair to comment upon their style of film criticism because each one of them has their own perspective when it comes to Telugu Cinema. This is why there is a difference in presentation, rating and the conclusions they draw.  Film Criticism is a tricky subject. It’s easy to be an unofficial film critic. Does it mean anyone can be a film critic? The answer would be both yes and a no. Yes, because after all, it’s all about articulating your opinion added with a little bit of understanding of aesthetics of cinema. And NO, because writing about regional cinema especially Telugu and Tamil come with its share of serious issues. Let me elaborate on what happens once you write a review:

Comments: Internet is filled with two kinds of people. Sensible and I-know-it-all types. Sensible people are those who offer constructive criticism and feedback. They try to reason with what exactly they thought of the film and atleast make an attempt to have a meaningful discussion. On the other hand, there are millions of others who would drop ‘glorious’ comments which makes you wonder what’s wrong with them.

Fanboys: Each ‘Hero’ has a huge fan base and these ‘fans’ would go to any length to make their voice heard. From abusing others to vehemently trying to prove that their ‘thalaivar’ is the greatest of all, these conversations are good enough to wish that ‘2012’ indeed comes true.

Ratings: Ratings are the worst thing to have happened to film reviews. I mean how do you  decide what’s an appropriate rating for any film? The situation is so bad that there are thousands of people who don’t even read a review. Just that ‘number’ is enough for them to come to a conclusion about the film. Most of the films are ‘rated’ based on the predictions on the film’s ‘Box-Office’ success. At the end of the day, what happens is, the critic tries to pre-meditate and conclude whether the film would work for the common audience or not before publishing the review. Of course, I have no clue if this is the system which most other Telugu film critics follow, but I have been told by plenty of my friends that this is what people want to read. “They don’t have time or patience to read YOUR insight on cinema…they want to know if the film is worth their money.” If only, I had this super-power, sigh! The bigger question is have we misjudged the target audience? Sometimes I wonder if someone is so intelligent, then he/she would try to understand what the critic wants to say. But then, all I see is people trying to rip apart the review/critic if they think it’s not according to their thought process. People, there’s no such thing as a ‘correct rating’. It’s just a gut feeling which the critic had based on his experience after watching the film. There obviously has to be a buffer instead of sticking to the decimal system in ratings that we follow. I mean just because an overwhelming majority of people believe that a film is bad, is it wrong if a critic tries to bring out a totally new aspect of the film? Take Arya-2 for example. It was one of the most complex films made in recent few years. I loved it because the hero was so flawed and like the characterization. What’s wrong in praising this complexity? Is it difficult to appreciate anti-heroes? Think about it…maybe you will judge the film from a totally different perspective.

Paid Reviews: I have absolutely no idea if there paid-reviews although I do hear some rumours about it. In all these days, I have never been offered any incentives for watching a film except for my free ticket! It still remains a controversial question for which I don’t have an answer.

Fear and Loathing: Apart from the constant fear of what if I misjudge a film which would end up misleading a lot of people, another fear grapples me. It’s fear of being hated. It’s quite scary to know that you are being hated for something you love to do. Critics aren’t necessarily fault finders and ideally they shouldn’t have a personal vendetta against anyone. As far as I am concerned, if I have written that a film is bad, I am just talking about the film alone…it’s not a personal attack on the actors, technicians who have made the film possible. Few days ago, a popular director had mailed me saying that he felt bad and sad after reading my review of one of his films. Although I am happy that he read my blog, I wish he hadn’t taken it so personally.

Apart from all these afore mentioned points, quite often, I have been asked this question. “If cinema is for entertainment, then why do we need reviews?”. Trust me, it’s a very logical question yet it shows how seriously people take reviews. There were around 130 films in Telugu alone which released in 2009. Does it mean that those 130 films found their audience? The answer would be a NO. If we leave aside big budget films which have big stars and names attached to it, thanks to their marketing campaigns, a review seems quite pointless. However, every year there are atleast 10-20 films which have the great potential to appeal to people, yet they fail to attract huge crowds due to various reasons. In such cases, a balanced review becomes an important tool of starting a word of mouth campaign. Last year, we had films like ‘Ananthapuram-1980’ and ‘Baanam’ which were in this category. At the end of the day, it’s a different question as to how the film reviews are received by film industry. Obviously, there are some issues worth pondering upon:

‘No one wants to make a bad film’ syndrome – If this is true, then why does Telugu Cinema have a failure rate of almost 90% every year.

‘Reviews don’t matter, people do’ – True! After all, films are made for the ‘entertainment’ of audience. Then why is it that quite a few film makers give so much importance to reviews?

‘To Review or not to review’ – There have been allegations that reviews are having a huge impact on the box-office collections of films in the first weekend itself. This is an inevitable situation especially in cities. Some multiplexes in Hyderabad have increased the ticket prices from Rs.100 to Rs.150 and on top of that there’s cola-popcorn costs to be incurred (a safe estimate). It means, to watch a film, a person will end up spending anywhere between Rs.150-250 to watch a film. Naturally, the question arises, is it worth it? I would leave this question to your judgement.

‘Movies are for entertainment only’– True again! But then, the question arises, what is entertainment? You can make money if you make a certain kind of cinema which majority of people like and be content with it. Or you can alter your perspective of cinema completely and make films which you can be proud of 10-20 years from now. You can be the one who initiated a new wave of cinema. The choice is completely with the film makers themselves. What people and critics can do is initiate this thought process atleast among budding film makers.

Movie reviews or movie criticism aren’t necessarily about telling people if the film is worth their money. It shouldn’t be, honestly! However, unless people themselves wake up to the reality that reviews are intended to give a fresh perspective of cinema, it’s highly implausible that great reviews, especially in Telugu, will ever be written. In my opinion, a great review is one which will initiate and encourage you to watch a film again and again. At the end of the day, if you are an ardent admirer of cinema in totality and  not just any particular actor, director, genre then a movie review must make you think, question your judgement, give you more ideas about a film. The question is, do we have such critics especially among those who write about Telugu cinema? The bigger issue is, does Telugu film industry make films which are so complex that it gives the critics an opportunity to give different points of view on the same film?

P.S: I have been writing about Telugu cinema for just about a year now. I am still trying to understand the various facets of Telugu Cinema and why films are made in a particular manner which are most of the times contrary to what I would have liked to see. I write Telugu movie review and if you want to read my reviews, I must warn you that my ratings are quite misleading. So, please, read the review and @#$% the ratings!

P.P.S: All images have been used for only illustrative purpose.



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The Pursuit of Happiness – filmy style!

April 8, 2010

The phrase ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ is perhaps one of the most misunderstood philosophies in our lives. If you look at superficially, it means that happiness can never be achieved. But then there can be several interpretations. The way I look at it is that happiness lies in pursuing. It’s the journey, the path that you travel which makes all the difference. I am not here to tell you a tale of how glory can be achieved if you take the road less traveled. It’s about the reason why I chose to take the road less traveled. After graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree from BITS in 2007 and an 18 month stint in Satyam, I am now a film critic. In a way, I am still in pursuit of happiness and maybe I already know that I can never achieve it or reach a destination, if there is any!

It all began in the summer of 2003. I, Hemanth Kumar C R (ID No- 2003A4PS269), was one among the 800 odd number of students who were selected to study in BITS-Pilani. The great legacy which the erstwhile students of BITS-Pilani had left behind was overwhelming. The day I reached college, my parents had a quick glance through the Gold and Silver medalists from the previous batches. I knew instantly that they had great expectations from me and I promised them that I won’t disappoint them. But then, it wasn’t too late before I realized the difference between reality and aspirations. Within a year, I knew that I can never dream of a career as a Mechanical Engineer. Not that, I have anything against Mechanical Engineering; somehow the machines scared me. Till this day, I haven’t understood even the basic principle of how a motor functions! A sense of vacuum filled my life in second year. I had no idea why I was studying in an Engineering college. I had no idea why should I learn something which I may never ever implement in my life. But then, it’s all in the game and you are expected to compete against your peers. At the end of second year, I sort of gave up on studies and almost skipped most of my classes in third year as well. Maybe the poor grades throughout my stint in BITS would reflect what I had been through.

Things started rolling smoothly. I had set my biological clock with respect to the moon. Like many others, I had become a vampire, a night owl and would sneak out of the campus in the wee hours for a ‘latcha’ session in Nutan. I would sleep after sunrise and begin my day, rather afternoon, with a film on my computer. I had no idea that I had slowly got addicted to films. Of course, almost everyone used to watch films, but when you talk, discuss, write, share information about films most of the time then you know how different it is from just watching films. Thanks to a course named ‘Critical Analysis of Literature and Cinema’, I realized how little I knew about films which began my interest in film studies. The authors of my CDC text books, names which I can’t even recollect, were replaced by names like Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Stanely Kubrick and few other film makers. Eventually I started blogging about films. What began as an occasional urge to write turned into an obsession. The length of my blogs had increased and I used to find it amazing how much I could articulate. On the flipside, I used to remain silent most of the times even during boisterous discussions. Did I go into a shell? Perhaps, yes. At times, the guilt of having neglected my studies had consumed me to astronomical proportions. After all, that was why I was in college. Some call this Quarter Life Crisis, where you no clue about what’s happening with your life and it seemed that I was lagging behind in almost every course that I was enrolled in. It was around this time that a video featuring Steve Jobs was making rounds on the internet. He was addressing a gathering of students at Stanford University. To call that fifteen minutes speech inspiring would be an understatement. Every word which Steve Jobs had said in that speech hit me like a bolt of lightening. He urged the students that if you haven’t found what you are passionate about then keep looking. Some call this exercise soul searching but that would be an exaggeration. It’s all about understanding your personality, what defines you, what makes you happy. Perhaps, that’s what interest and passion is about. When your interest and passion merge, it becomes an obsession. At the end of four years of my life in BITS, all I realized was that I was obsessed with films. No other area of study, let alone profession aroused my interest as much as films did. But then, it’s difficult for a 20 something to break free from the shackles and norms which are set by the society. As a result, I ended up working for Satyam Computers as a software engineer.

In 2007, when I joined Satyam, it was one of most prosperous years for the firm. Contracts and projects were abundant. We had won IT projects from Coca Cola, Arcelor Mittal and FIFA both for 2010 and 2014. The company had recruited too many students from all over the country and allocating resources to various projects had become a major issue. A lot of us were put on ‘bench’, a sugar coated industry slang where you get paid for doing nothing. Of course, you are expected to enrich your knowledge in various IT core areas, latest programming languages and tools. My reluctance to learn these things was a blessing in disguise. After few months I discovered that God indeed exists and His name is Roger Ebert, a noted film critic in USA who writes for Chicago Sun Times. I used to read each and every film review he wrote and understand how to interpret films. I had already started blogging actively @, mainly about English and Hindi Cinema. With the help of Roger Ebert’s insight on films, I started writing more in-depth film reviews which turned out to be much better than what I had written earlier. On January 7th, 2009, Mr.Ramalinga Raju resigned from Satyam Computers and admitted that he was involved in a huge financial fraud. It came as a rude shock to a lot of us. But by then, I had realized that it was all for my own good. Now, I had the freedom to pursue a career in film criticism. I started writing about Telugu Cinema and the blog especially my Telugu movie reviews were slowly reaching out to more people. The firm sent me on a sabbatical for six months and later I resigned from the firm in December, 2009. Meanwhile, in September 2009, I got a call from a movie website to write for them and in February, 2010 I got an offer from ‘Southscope’ magazine to work for them. At present, I freelance for both the firms as a film critic for and a web editor for Southscope magazine’s website.

It’s difficult to point out what motivates me to continue in this line of work. It does sound like a glamourous job but has its share of issues which have to be dealt with carefully. When you are writing about regional cinema, Telugu and Tamil in particular, each actor commands huge fan base who take reviews too personally. Striking the right balance between being honest and politically correct is perhaps the biggest issue. Moreover, I always have this constant fear of misjudging a film. If you get carried away with your views than what’s acceptable, then the readers would ruthless shudder you to pieces, quite metaphorically. Leaving all this aside, the other big issue is convincing your parents about what’s so good about the new line of work. I find it hard to explain to them why I want to continue as a film critic. Every time I walk into that cinema hall or watch a film, I feel alive. There’s so much to learn about people, society, decisions and their consequences. It’s an experience which is difficult to convey in words. At the end of the day, if someone asks me, how much is my work worth? I don’t have an answer to that.

Sometimes, when I try to reason if I have made the right choice, it reminds me of a quote which I used to tell myself in college – ‘It’s always better to be the best in what you are good at’. I don’t think I am adept at writing about films with absolute conviction at this moment, but then there’s no other thing which I want to pursue relentlessly. Well, except maybe for travelling. It’s quite possible that my life would have been totally different had I seriously concentrated on my studies in college, continued to work in a Software Industry or maybe do an MBA like everyone else. I am sure a lot of you are in love with what you are doing. So am I! And I don’t have a reason why I should quit what I am doing. Afterall, I am happy with my life, my work and this alone gives me the strength to travel down this path. More than anything else, my biggest achievement so far has been the transformation from a 2007 BITSian grad to Hemanth Kumar C R, the guy who writes about films. It’s an honour to be recognized for the work you do rather than the brands you were a part of. I will always be grateful to BITS for what it has done to me. I value the freedom which BITS gave me to make a choice and it has transformed me from a boy with a red bag to the one who’s mad about films. Thank you for giving me the courage to ride an Ikran…I can now dream of riding the Torak someday in future.

Confessions of a Beauty Queen : Preity Uupala

March 31, 2010

She was one of the finalists of Miss Earth Australia 2009 and created a record for being the first model of Indian or Portuguese heritage to make it to the finals. Meet Preity Uupala who’s is a professional Actor, Model and Presenter based in Los Angeles, California. Originally hailing from the beautiful Bondi Beach, Sydney, Preity is a former NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts) graduate, joining the likes of Mel Gibson and Cate Blanchett. More recently, her Explosive and Magnetic performances has led her to be the recipient of a scholarship at the prestigious New York Film Academy. The former Beauty Queen and professional Model is set to make her debut in Hollywood. She is embarking on an incredible journey and here’s what she has to say..

“Destiny”- may be envisaged as pre-ordered by the Divine. Put more simply, it is a soldier’s Fatalistic image of a “Bullet with your name on it”!

My current existence is nothing short of magical! That is one word I associate with myself and my universe.

Life has certainly given me a fair share of travel and adventure. With a mixed heritage of Indian and Portuguese background, I have traveled extensively around the world and have lived in Dubai, Paris, India and Sydney. My travels over the globe has imbued me with a wide understanding over global cultures and values. I am Multi-lingual and am fluent in 5 different languages. Born and bred in Dubai, my first love for the Arts was at a very young age, with Film and painting. I was fortunate enough to travel all over the world as a child and to live in Paris, where no doubt my love for decadence and indulgence in the finer things in life comes from. Not to mention the unique  fashion sense and class style. I was always very artistic and creative as a child, Painting, Writing, playing the piano and dancing.

We moved to Beautiful Sydney, Australia, about 10 years ago. Ambitious and intellectual, I broke the record for being the Youngest person to start University in New South Wales, when I enrolled at only 16 years of age. Being the active student that I was, I was a finalist for the University Gold medal, member of the Golden key Honors society and won “Student of the Year”. I occasionally dabbled in fashion shows and modeling while I was at University. I also started Salsa dancing, an art that years later I perfected by being a professional dancer. I graduated from Degrees in IT and Marketing (Hons) when I was offered a scholarship to study for a PHD at my Alma- mater. A decision at the time was quite tough, but the universe had other plans for me and I opted to quick-start my corporate life. I  worked as an Investment banker and as a Business Consultant for International Consulting Firms in Sydney, New Zealand and the UK. A break form the corporate life led to a period of soul searching and Intense Spirituality. Destiny was never too far away and came knocking on my door bringing me back home to the world of Art and Fashion. I started competing in many National and International Beauty Pageants which brought me a lot of success. But my real passion, my childhood love for acting and film was finally revealed to me. The Universe decided to show me the path again and this time, there was no looking back.  The minute you decide to be authentic and decide to be the person you were meant to be, life truly becomes magical. My Spiritual awareness is what fortifies me and gives me inner guidance and true power.

Since then I have studied at NIDA, were many great Australian Actors have walked the path and at the Actors centre, when Hugh Jackman was a graduate. I have also had the privilege of studying Method Acting from great Russian Acting coach, Natela Dzulliashvilli. I have appeared in numerous Commercials, Short and Feature films, even including 2 Bollywood films! But my vision has always been to be a Global Actor, and Hollywood beckoned.  Ah Destiny, that word again! just when I was wondering how this is all going to happen for me, I was invited to audition for a scholarship to study at the Prestigious New york film academy. I was on a 2 Month soul searching adventure in South east asia, when I heard that I had won it! this just goes to show that if your intention is clear and strong, the Universe will take care of the details. Viola! I am now based in LA.

I am also an experienced Commercial Model who has worked for various fashion shows and brands for both Australian and International designers. I have also competed in and won different National and International pageants. In 2009, I was the Winner of the “Best International Model” National pageant held in the Gold Coast, Australia. More recently, I was the National Finalist for the Miss Earth Australia 2009 Beauty Pageant, the third most Prestigious Pageant in the world. I made history of being the first candidate of Indian or Portuguese origin to ever be a finalist in the competition since it started. I was awarded the “Best Talent” Award on the night for my Sizzling, Sexy Salsa performance. I am also the current National finalist for The Miss India Australia Beauty Pageant 2010.

A lover of the richer things in life, I am a passionate, adventurous free spirit who lives life to the fullest. Other interests include:  Yoga, Meditation, Personal development and Spirituality. I am the authentic Global Citizen of the world and continues to travel to far away lands for pleasure as well as spiritual pilgrimages.

I am a rare young woman who is in her own power and takes pride in knowing my authentic self. My desire is that my audiences are glued to my performances and energy created by my very expressive eyes and voice. I am embarking on a incredible journey which is now being penned down in a exciting Memoir, showcasing both my glorious road to Fame and Success alongside a path to Spiritual Liberation.

You can keep in touch with Preity Uupala through her website;

Ye Maaya Chesave: Love, Pain and Magic

March 18, 2010

Dear Gautham Vasudev Menon,

I saw your film ‘Ye Maya Chesave’ on February 26th and I must say that it has deeply disturbed me ever since! But before you conclude that this is yet another review, allow me to put forth my case.

On February 26th, 2010 I ran to the preview screening of ‘Ye Maya Chesave’ in a dazed state with less than 3 hours of sleep. And after those 160 minutes, something hit me so hard that I couldn’t come back to my senses for almost a week. As I look back and try to understand what had happened, I find more questions than answers. At the end of the day, the only question I ask myself again and again is, ‘How could Gautham make such a film which is so disturbing and haunting at the same time?’

It’s been almost 19 days since I first saw the film. Although, I watched the film again few days ago, I must confess that the first viewing blew me away. The second viewing cemented the fact that I realized that it’s a flawless film. As a film critic by profession, I wrote this review @123telugu, yet I knew that I couldn’t articulate what I had seen on screen. In fact, I would go a step further and say, no review can ever come close to the sheer magic that you created in ‘Ye Maya Chesave’. I know that you have been appreciated almost universally and the three page letter from K.Balachander is perhaps the most endearing appreciation a film maker of your stature could ever ask for. But then, allow me to add few more feathers to your cap, if at all my words hold any value!

After a long time, I was so immersed in a film that I didn’t see Naga Chaitanya or Samantha on screen. I followed the lives of Karthik and Jessie. My primary focus was on how would, a 22 year old (Karthik), behave in such circumstances! The characterization that you wrote for Karthik was perhaps the first of many reasons why I was completely smitten by the film. A mechanical engineering graduate, who wants to be a film maker, is ridiculed by his neighbours over his choice of profession. When I saw that, I wanted to scream, ‘That’s Me’! Although, I don’t want to make films (yet), I know that it’s perhaps the next leap for me. Naga Chaitanya as Karthik was incredible. I have been blamed of sucking up to the star kid and trying to please all the fans by a certain individual on Twitter, just because I described Naga Chaitanya’s performance as ‘incredible’. Despite all the criticism I have and will endure for my views, I will stick to my perspective. I liked Naga Chaitanya because he’s so vulnerable. People may call him as a terrible actor because he isn’t flamboyant, dance, deliver punch lines or have a great screen presence like other heroes in Telugu Cinema. Yet, he was incredible in the film and perhaps that’s exactly how a 22 year old would behave. He’s smitten by the girl, gets excited when she smiles at him, and goes bonkers when she confesses her love and nuts when she breaks off! I don’t see a reason why I can find fault with him. That’s perhaps how a lot of 22 year olds are these days.

On the other hand, thank you for introducing Samantha to Telugu film industry. I was so smitten that I must have talked about her incessantly for over a week. What made her so interesting was how slowly Jessie reveals her feelings towards Karthik. Her mood swings were well written and Samantha enacts them really well. The conversations in Alleppey, the coffee shop, cinema hall, the duo’s house in Hyderabad, over the phone and a park in US were genuine. So genuine that I could finally make sense of what do couples talk about incessantly for hours together! Some of them have found a mysterious way to speak in decibel levels which only dogs can decipher. Pun intended! Samantha was gorgeous and Chinmayi’s voice was divine. AR Rahman’s music haunts me till this day and perhaps will for some more time. My favourite song in the film is ‘Vintunnava’, it really has some beautiful prose and poetry. Manoj Paramahamsa’s cinematography was beautiful. Also, I must point out that Nalini Sriram (Costume Designer) has done a fabulous job. After a long time, a very long time, I came across a character who was well-dressed. The costumes were so good that they added more life to Jessie (especially the ‘Orange’ saree, Jessie wears in the first half). It’s hard to believe that a 24 year old would wear sarees these days to office, but then it’s your film. You are the king!

I must confess that I have never come across an exact replica of ‘Jessie’ in my life, but yes, there have been close encounters. ‘Ye Maya Chesave’ instantly transported to an autumn evening in 2003, when I was smitten by a girl in college. I had no idea if I was in love with her, yet my heart would skip a beat every time I see her. After sometime, nothing happened. Few years later, on a spring day, I was smitten again. I had no idea if I was in love with this girl, yet I knew that something had happened to me. One fine day, I came across a quote that ‘Love is transient’ and I totally believed that. After all these years, ‘Ye Maya Chesave’ made me to think over those incidents of my past. Did I do something wrong? Why didn’t I do something more? Could things be any different if I had tried a bit harder? Oh boy…now you know why I was so smitten by the film.

The biggest strength of your film was that it blurred the thin line between real and reel life. I have hardly come across instances where I could identify myself with a character in films these days and your film did that trick for me. It’s hard for me to be objective about the film and no matter what people are going to say about the film, it will remain as one of the best romantic films I have seen. Every love story has a beginning and (perhaps) an ending. Mine has neither. Yet, I find myself hopelessly in love with…I don’t even know whom. I wonder if such a state is even possible where you have no idea whom you are in love with. Yet, everything about life, your surroundings, people you know seems wonderful. If this ain’t love then what is? Ohh…Gautham Menon, what have you done to me! I had no idea that your film would disturb me so much!

I have no idea what or how women think. I have been struggling to understand this for years now. Thank you for trying to portray a woman’s thoughts on screen for dumbos (!) like me. It reiterates the fact that ‘Love has got nothing to do with Fate or Destiny’. It’s just ‘Pure Coincidence’, a theory which I learnt after watching ‘500 Days of Summer’. Now, I have aligned my ideology that ‘Love is transient and purely coincidental’. Yet, I can’t help but hating you for making me feel so miserable about not being in love at the moment. Wait…but I think I have always been in love. No, that’s not the case…ahh, what am I saying? What the F&#*ing logic is this? This is F&#*ing unbelievable and unfair!

After the second time of watching ‘Ye Maya Chesave’, I promised myself that I would never watch the film again. The film sucked me to a world which I had left behind. I felt like Alice in Wonderland. As I sit back and brood upon all those incidents, I reckon that these so called coincidences are bound to repeat. After all, I think I have been smitten too many times in the past few years. And I believe it will continue to happen in future.

That’s all I have I to say, now you know why you film has disturbed me so much! Contrary to what I have promised myself, I think I will watch it over and over again. And feel miserable for being alone. As you say, sometimes, ‘A one way ticket to heart-break city and the pain associated with it’ is a magical experience that I want to endure all over again.



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Freaky Chakra and Karmic Konfessions!

February 22, 2010

Before you click on this link, expecting ‘yet another’ movie review, I am sorry to say it’s going to disappoint you. I have chosen the title for this post which bears resemblance to some films, but then it’s too relevant in the context of what I am about to write. Now that I have made my point clear, allow me to elaborate more on this Freaky Chakra and Karmic Konfessions.

Today, the 22nd of February, 2010 is my 24th Birthday. It means, I have almost lived one third of my life (considering that the life expectancy is 70) and I think it’s really a big deal considering that our average life expectancy is going down year after year. As I look back to what has happened in the past 24 years, I realize that the actual life where you finally begin to realize the various facets of life sort of begins when you are 21. More or less, that’s the age when you graduate from college and the world is such that it expects you to be “someone” almost immediately. I guess, I need not elaborate on what you go through immediately after graduating from college. However, I shall restrict myself to what happened in the past 1 year of my life since Feb 22nd, 2009.

February, 2009 was one of the scariest months of 2009 for me. It was then, that I slowly began to wake up to reality that loomed large right infront of my eyes after Mr.Raju’s bomb exploded in Satyam earlier that year in January. The freaking out of January was replaced with a much larger question, “ Now that your life is fucked, what are you going to do about it?”. To be honest, I frankly had no clue about what I was going to do. And when you get a million advices from far and near (even from people/relatives whom you have never met in your life), it all boils down to one thing “You are responsible for landing in this shit.” Well, they won’t say it but you can read between the lines when you get the “Advice”, if you know what I mean. If it wasn’t for few of my closest friends, I am pretty sure I would have landed in  a rehab!

After 18 months of my stint in Satyam, on 18th June, 2009 I was one  among the 10,000 odd people in Satyam to be placed in a so called ‘Virtual Pool’, a sugar coated corporate slang for ‘Slaughter House’. Even by the wildest estimation I think I would have had a negative (sub-zero) chances of being called back to render my services to the firm. Of course, I shouldn’t say that I felt like I was being ‘choked’ while working for Satyam. It was a blessing in disguise for me. Which other company would take the risk of keeping an employee on bench for 2 full years? Being a ghost, it gave me the opportunity to work on things that did interest me. FILMS.  (I will come back to this later in this article). As I tried to connect the dots, I realized what Mr.Ramalinga Raju did was exactly what I would have liked at that point of time. Satyam gave me the freedom to mould my personality and I didn’t disappoint myself and the company. I happily accepted the ‘Virtual Pool’ offer and looked ahead for treading across the storm ahead.

There is a reason why your (and mine, especially) parents are worried about you all the time. I believe it comes from the inherent need to lead a comfortable life all the time and it’s gauged by how much you earn and what position you command at your work place. Now that, I had neither of them, freaking out was inevitable. And they did freak out! My mother was (and still is), concerned about where my life was heading to. She would argue, counter-argue, vehemently deny, encourage, give me options, share her grief, joy, almost everything, so that I could learn something from her incessant pleas to lead a comfortable life and get back to work in some other software company. Leaving aside, what she said was right or wrong, I couldn’t find fault with her. She had a point. The root of all this cajoling and counseling sessions lies in what the ‘neighbours’ would say when they hear about my status quo. If I may add this unreasonable concern in ‘Lives of Others’ (often unnecessary) is unwarranted and adds as a catalyst to more mayhem. In my opinion, it has given rise to a whole new level of hierarchy in Caste System and Apartheid.

1. Caste System: It’s not about where you were born and who your parents were, now the Caste System is decided by which “industry” you work for. If you are an Engineer or a Doctor, nobody even dares to question your decisions and judgment. Further, if you live abroad and earn good money, you earn extra-brownie points in the eyes of your elder generation.

2. Apartheid: It’s not about the colour of your skin anymore. The new age apartheid is based on how ‘Successful Vs Unsuccessful’ or ‘Well-Settled Vs @#%^&*’ you are considered. Whatever you do, if you earn more than what the person next door earns, then there’s no problem with you!

Before, you come to a conclusion that I have gone mad, I must tell you that I have sort of gone through ‘madness’ and the countless hours of discussions I have been a part of on this subject is a proof of my conclusions. Two things happened in 2009 which have sort of changed me and I consider these two things are the turning point of my life so far.

1.Travel: Now, I don’t call myself an avid traveler, but a 10 day trip to Singapore and Malaysia in July, 2009 taught me a lot. The three days that I spent in Singapore along with some of my closest friends were awesome and that was the closest I have been through what is called as ‘fun’ in our slang. However, a learning experience came in a little later when I backpacked for a week on the western-coast of Malaysia. I went to Ipoh where I happened to have a random conversation with Mr.Ramu, who works for Anand Bhawan Restaurant. I went to Penang, where I met Mr.Joe, a German who now lives in Thailand and runs his own dog-school and then I met Mr.John, who’s a captain in a ship. I met an artist from Netherlands, who’s based in Indonesia now, I met a teacher who teaches in Indonesia, I met another student who’s from Canada and two more students from UK. However, the single most cherished event of those 7 days of backpacking in Malaysia was a conversation with a Travel Guide. Mr.Omar Dee, in Langkawi. The loneliness of being in an island without a plan was replaced with an awesome 2 hour conversation with a total stranger. And after those 2 hours, I know that I will recommend him to every single friend of mine who’s planning to go to Langkawi.

What I have realized is Travel and conversations sort of go hand in hand. It’s also important to know more about yourself and your country when you talk to others because that’s when you can share a lot and in turn the conversation is much more meaningful. Travelling to new places gives you a glimpse of life and you sort of learn to appreciate the differences and accept them whole-heartedly. This, frankly, makes you a better person. Thank You, Singapore and Malaysia for all the wonderful people, breathtaking landscapes and all the Yum(!) food. I would love to come again some day in future.

2. Films:  We all watch films for a reason. You watch it for your  ‘weekend entertainment’. I watch it because I love them. I love stories and great films are always good stories which are narrated with great panache. My love for films goes back to my college days and I will be eternally grateful to BITS-Pilani for letting me choose my interest. No one forced me to take up films as a passion; it was more about the freedom which the college offered me. I am also grateful to couple of my professors, Sangeetha Sharma (learnt a lot about Media, Advertising in her classes) and Geetha B (learnt a lot from her with respect to films and literature). If you find me blogging today, it’s because of these two professors and a “Good” remark for an answer (related to the analysis of Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Nostalghia’) in the final exam of ‘Critical Analysis of Literature and Cinema. I have  never been overwhelmed in those 4 years of my life and that single ‘Good’ remark sort of gave a meaning to what I had been learning. Perhaps that was the beginning of things to come and I had decided that one fine day I would be a film critic. Slowly I started writing about cinema in my own amateurish way and over a period of time, I learnt the art of articulating my thoughts on paper when it came to films.

I began writing about Telugu Cinema on my blog ‘Waking Life in 24 frames by Hemanthology’ in March, 2009 and it sort of let the ball rolling. After 6 months of this beginning, I got my first opportunity to be the “official” film critic. On September 16, 2009, I began writing for and ‘Baanam’ (directed by Chaitanya Dantuluri) was my first film review on that website. I have written over 100 film reviews till date (Venkatesh’s “Namo Venkatesa” was my 100th review) and quite frankly I wouldn’t say I am proud of all those 100 reviews. I think at this point of time, I can do a much better job than what I used to two  years ago. It sort of became a necessity to express my views openly on quite a few public forums especially Facebook and Twitter apart from this blog because I was full of hope that my voice would be heard. I couldn’t be happier about the way life was going because that’s what I wanted, watch films, write about them, talk about them and interact with other film buffs. Probably, that’s one of the reasons why I landed in my second job. Now, I also work for one of the leading entertainment magazines in South India, Southscope.

Life has gone through a full circle, more of a freaky chakra if I recount all the details and events which have occurred in the past one year. A year ago, I was going through, what is commonly called as, Quarter-Life crisis, where you end up feeling fucked and hopeless all the time. The fear of rejection and failing is no longer a part of my life; I have been through a great deal over the past 3 years. After all, there’s a limit to which you can get screwed.  Now, as I look ahead, all I see is people to interact with, places to explore, films to be watched and reviewed and a life to live. I hope I will continue to grow as a person and I wish I have the strength to never say ‘Ohh…I regret’! Maybe all roads lead to Rome, but the point is I don’t want to go to Rome. As they say, the destination doesn’t matter, it’s the journey that counts and I really really want to make it count.

P.S: This post is dedicated to all of you who know me in person or virtually. Thank you for your support and I hope I continue to hear more from you.

Yours Truly,

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