Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bommarillu, or, My First Telugu Movie

Bommarillu, which means "Toy House" in Telugu, was my very first (and so far only) non-Hindi Indian film. (In this case, "Toy House" has the connotation of perfection, at least according to Wikipedia's entry on the movie, which means the name has something to do with a perfect home--kind of like Ibsen's play "A Doll's House" I suppose.) It came highly recommended, and I can see why. Even though there were several plot elements that really bugged me, Genelia D'Souza as Hasini and Siddharth as Siddhu made the film worth my while. These two light up the screen and I can't wait to see more of both (speaking of which, O Aamir Khan... put out Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na on DVD before the year's out. I'm begging you. Oscars, Shmoscars).
Bommarillu bills itself as a romantic comedy, but really it's a guy's coming-of-age tale set in the framework of the romance between Siddhu and Hasini. Siddhu's a guy with everything--everything that he didn't ask for and doesn't want, but that his father (Prakash Raj) insists on providing for him anyway, right down to his hairstyle and clothes. Siddhu loves his father and knows the older man just wants what's best for him... But somehow he can't quite muster up the wherewithal to tell his dad to back off and let him do his own work (at the office, his father calls ahead to let the employees know what needs to be done so all his sons need to do is sign the work that's completed ahead of time).

In his frustration, Siddhu hangs out with his like-minded friends and gets drunk on a regular basis. Only when he's intoxicated does his frustration with life in general come spewing out in a stream of profanity directed mostly toward his father. Siddhu's been putting off joining his father's company, knowing that he'll become another shadow puppet in the workplace (just like his older brother), but his time is up. His father, without mentioning it to him, has chosen a girl for Siddhu to marry... And of course a married man has to have a job.

This aspect of the plot was hilarious, by the way. Subbulakshmi (Neha) is so much like Poonam of Vivah that it cracked me up. When they first meet, Siddhu tells her what he can about himself and asks what she'd like to find out. She just shakes her head, eyes downcast, and says a bunch of stuff prefaced by "Father says..." OMG. (I had to wonder if it was a deliberate nod to Vivah, but considering that Bommarillu released a few months ahead of the other film in 2006 it doesn't seem likely.) Siddhu reacts like most modern men would: with complete horror at being forced into an alliance with a girl who can't talk, at least not without mentioning her daddy. Spurred into action by his father's acceptance on his behalf, he goes out looking for a girl of his own.

And that's how he meets Hasini. This whimsical chatterbox who ascribes to children's superstitions and loves to ditch college classes instantly captures his attention, and, soon, his heart.

Siddharth's performance is so sweet in this portion of the film I could hardly stand it. I love when heroes fall for their girls right off the bat, and that's precisely what Siddhu does; Siddharth's expressions as he follows Genelia around are stinking adorable. Of course, it's no wonder that he falls for her; even though Hasini lives in a run-down apartment with no mother and an alcoholic father, she has the one thing Siddhu lacks: joie de vivre. She lives the way she pleases, and more often than not acts on impulse without regret. The best thing about her: she is completely genuine. What you see with Hasini is what you get; it's so completely opposite to the double life Siddhu leads that he's understandably entranced, and he finds that he acts his true self when he's with her.
The music in the film is great! I especially liked "Kaani Ippudu" and the semi-sad "Nammaka Thappani." The picturizations reminded me of Bollywood in the early 90's--lots of fields and just the two leads dancing for the most part, in the romantic songs anyway. Genelia's charisma reminds me of a young Madhuri, and even though as far as I can tell she's not nearly as good a dancer she definitely grabs her share of the spotlight just like Madz--no small feat when sharing the screen with as magnetic a personality as Siddharth.

Given that most of what I've said about the film is positive, you're probably wondering what I didn't like about it. Well, to be honest: Siddhu's family. They're snobs. Spineless snobs. Their reaction to meeting Hasini would've turned me off to them completely even if I had been all that fond of them in the first place.

And don't even get me started on Siddhu's mom (played by a grim-mouthed, joyless Jayasudha). Halfway through the film he loses patience and yells at her. Instead of talking over the situation like a rational human being, she refuses to talk to him for the next hour of the film. Dear God. I know parental emotional blackmail is alive and well, and not just in Indian families, but don't expect me to have any sort of sympathy toward someone who weilds the weapon so mercilessly. Because most of the film's conflicts stem from Siddhu's inability to grow a spine and tell his family to back the hell off, well, I ended up only liking two people out of an extremely big cast. And before he comes to his senses, even Siddhu almost made me hate him with his poor treatment of Hasini toward the latter third of the movie.

No, wait, I did like some other characters. Siddhu's friends are very cute (although I would've liked to have seen him making friends with Hasini's school chums as well). It was quite the culture shock to see all those hairy fellows after a steady run of clean-shaven or partly stubbly Hindi film heroes though!

Still, overall I can give Bommarillu a hearty recommendation, even if it's mostly for Siddharth and Genelia. They, and the soundtrack, make the film worth every penny.


  1. Wonderful Ajnabi!
    So glad you saw this cute film and enjoyed it. I'll have to link your real review into my "lite" mention of the film here:


    Spoiler alert...I remember that SIddharth's mom came around at the end leading a certain someone to someone's home at the very end. A small concelation for her other poor behavior, but she did change in the nick of time.

    The parts that I also remember is Siddu's dad (I Loved Prakesh in that part!) right before the intermission. He scared my like Amrish Puri did in DDLJ, hai na? The other part I was alarmed by was Siddu's flaring temper,of course inherited from his dad, displayed in his angry phone calls to Hasini. Plus his drunken tendencies were also a bit scary....see Hasini, being attracted to someone who may over drink, just like her dad. For such a fluffy movie, there really was a lot of substance. Loved it. Nice review!

  2. Adaab, Sita-ji! Thank you for the compliment, and the link! Yeah, Siddhu's mom does finally come around, but I don't think I ever saw her crack a smile. I missed my laughing Hindi maas! LOL

    Oh my gosh, was Prakesh freakin' scary. I would've run and hid; no wonder they were all scared of him! I agree, it does make sense that Hasini would choose a drinker to fall in love with; plus she was the only girl who saw Siddhu's true self so no wonder he wanted to keep her! You're right, there was a lot of psychological (for lack of a better term) continuity going on in such a cute little tale.

  3. Welcome to Bomarillu-love :D This movie just works so well, it transcends language.

    Honestly, I loved Sidhu's dad- that kid should have simply talked to the man- who would have respected him if he would.

    To think Harman is starring in the Hindi remake "Its my Life"- I want mah Siddharth backkkkkk [boohoo]

  4. I have heard about this movie but haven't seen it yet, I would not understand a word of the movie without subtitles in any case...let me see if I can get a hold of a dvd with subtitles ..........

  5. Hi Shweta! I think Siddhu's dad was the most sympathetic older adult from the film; still was scary though! LOL I am so totally bummed about Harman; why did Siddharth turn it down? :-(

    Reviewer: Nicki (apunbindaas)gave me this link for the film: http://www.kaddvd.com/dvd/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=0&idproduct=2259
    They're based in the USA though, and I don't know where you're from. :-)

  6. I hate it when I comment you at work and it doesn't go through.

    Well, I'm glad you like the movie! As you already know, I loved it since I already reviewed it. :)

  7. Hi Nicki! Yeah, I really like it. And thank you again for sending it. It's a great introduction to Tollywood.

  8. I am conflicted about this movie. It garners universal approval but, cute as he is I dont remember Siddharth at all from Rang De Basanti where he apparently made a big impression. And I wasnt too impressed with Genelia in Jane Tu Ya Jaane Na, where by all accounts she plays a very similar role.

    Guess I'll give it a try soon - its been years since I watched a Telugu film!

  9. Bollyviewer, do give it a try. It has some seriously sweet moments between Hasini and Siddhu that really made the movie for me. I bet most would like it. :-)

  10. This was my first Telugu movie too! I thoroughly enjoyed it -- the characters were so real, and many situations very easy to relate to.

    Genelia and Siddharth were brilliant, as they were in Jaane Tu and Rang De Basanti respectively. Speaking of the former, good luck with waiting for that DVD release, LOL.

  11. Hi Bollywood Fan! Have you seen any more Telugu films since this one? I was wondering if "Boys" would be worth looking up since others at BollyWHAT seem to love it (and Genelia in it) but it's hard to find. :-)

    And for Pete's sake, I guess I'll be lucky to see JTYJN before I turn 35. LOL

  12. Hi Ajnabi: I haven't seen any more, and certainly want to. Another movie starring Genelia sounds like a go! :)

  13. Oh, well, thanks for getting back to me, anyway. :-) If I get around to watching Boys first, I'll be sure to post about it! I finally found it at Netflix after searching backwards and forwards, so will let you know, assuming it comes with subtitles... something that's not a sure thing with Telugu films.

  14. yes, you could call the film cute. and jayasudha isn't really believable, actually. as far as i have seen, indian mothers don't stop speaking to their children for as long as you pointed out.

    boys isn't exactly a telugu film- you could say it was dubbed into telugu. i haven't seen the film so i can't really tell you anything about it. but i'd suggest another telugu film- 'happy days'. it's a kind of campus film, and enjoyable in parts because the characters aren't totally filmi.

  15. Hi, Kuffir, thanks for stopping by and for the clarification. :-) I'll definitely be looking for Happy Days; I like campus films.

  16. If you want to see another good telugu film I recommend 'Godavari'. The script was excellent, although if you are going to need sub-titles much might be lost in translation. But it is definitely worth a watch.


  17. Thanks Neha! I'll add it to my ever-growing list. ;-)

  18. Ajnabi--It was fun to write my own review on this and then come over here and read what you had to say. You always seem to bring things to my attention that I never would have noticed!!

    That comment about Genelia holding her own next to Siddarth's magnetic personality. Wow, that was sooo right on, and I don't think I gave her enough credit for that. Siddarth is like the total package, perfect comedic timing, quirky charm, cool dance moves. Most other heroines would have been lost in the mix of his charisma. But not Genelia--Boy, she really did make Hasini her own, and never had to compete for your attention when she was onscreen with Siddarth--As the viewer, my focus was right where Siddhu's was...with her.

    I totally agree about the cruel, rude initial nature of the family. But I totally forgave them all by the end. I'm telling you, I was so touched by those final scenes that I must have gulped back tears about four times.

    About the mother. Yes, I think her reaction was messed up--to give the silent treatment--but that may have been a personality thing/cultural thing rather than an immature way to handle the situation. I mean, a lot of women on my dad's side of the family (Pakistani, which I'm sure you know) choose to stay quiet rather than say what is really on their mind when they don't have too many nice things to say.

    Great review, as per usual!

  19. Hi Nida! Thanks for the compliment. :-) Yeah, Genelia is sooo charismatic. She reminds me of Juhi and/or Madhuri in that; those two were the best at lighting up the screen even with SRK, who makes it hard for heroines to grab their share of the spotlight. ;-) The final scenes did make up for a lot. Actually now that I've seen the film five times or so it's really grown on me; when I wrote this post I'd only seen it once. I still have a hard time with Siddhu's maa, though... I think I'm too American because I just want to shake her--not a good reaction! LOL


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