Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, or, Joint Review Time Again!

Alpha Hero.

Beta Hero.

Delta. /nerdjoke

Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana
(If You Ask Me To Come, Will I Refuse?) is so incredibly sweet that it requires two reviewers at once to do it justice. That's why Alex, otherwise known as rhilex of Bolly Addict, has agreed to undertake a joint review with me!

The 2005 Telugu film opens in an unusual fashion: a prison guard catches an inmate up late and goes into the cell to talk to him. The inmate, Sivaramakrishna (Srihari), is choosing names to be given to his sister's children upon his release the next day. When the guard asks why his sister would not have chosen names during the other man's 5-year incarceration, we get a flashback.

Sivaramakrishna, his mother, and his sister Siri were kicked out of his rich father's house when Siri was just an infant. His mother died (of grief, which is a common Indian film name for "pre-existing heart condition") later the same day, and poor Sivaramakrishna had to make it on his own with his mother's ancestral farm--with some help from the local stationmaster. We see how he brought up Siri with nothing but love, including sending her to school, where she meets her best friend Lalitha (played as an adult by Veda).

Grown-up Siri (Trisha) leaves her home for the first time for Lalitha's wedding. And here, Prabhu Deva (the director) does something very interesting. Up until this point, the film has been pretty realistic, with understated-for-filmi performances, sweeping gorgeous vistas, and gritty hard work in the forefront of the action (well, except for one mostly-gratuitous fight scene). Suddenly, enter Santhosh (Siddharth), and the action goes cartoonish, overblown and stereotypical. He's overblown, ridiculously immature and hyperactive, and partying on a yacht to a 1999 Moby track when we first meet him. His father, Prakash Dad (as veracious has deemed him), is one of those ubiquitous filmi industrialist billionaires. His mom's a big snob, whose first question upon hearing of her niece's engagement is, "What caste is the bridegroom?" I HATE HER.

Santhosh continues to be as annoying as annoying can be for a good half-hour. He bounces around like a golden retriever on speed and drives poor Siri up the wall. Think Salman's character from HDDCS taken to 11 on a scale of one to ten. I couldn't understand this, the first time I watched the film. Even the only song I didn't like in the movie, big-band-style "Something Something," was in this portion. Where was the movie the lovely opening sequence promised me? Why was there Britney Spears (also 1999) and Baja Men (2000) instead?

But then, Siri and Santhosh fall in love... and everything becomes beautiful and realistic once more. And I realized, this is all being told from Sivaramakrishna's point of view. The workings of wealthy Lalitha and Santhosh's family and lifestyle are all a mystery to him, presented in his tale as the usual colorful filmi stereotypes because those are his only points of reference. Watching Santhosh woo Siri to the gorgeous "Niluvaddam Ninne" made me realize that I was going to love this movie.


I can't say too many good things about the performances of all the principles. People may talk about Siddharth in Bommarillu, and I still really like him in it, but this is the first role I've seen him in that I couldn't look away for a moment. Santhosh's transition from hyperactive manchild to responsible, hardworking adult in the second half is portrayed in an utterly believable fashion. Of course, he wouldn't have as much to work with if he weren't opposite adorable Trisha. She's more concerned with turning in a good performance than making sure her face is perfect in every frame, and I love her for it. In repose, she's a beauty queen. When she speaks or acts, her face is animated and accessible. She's wonderful.

Then there's Srihari, who plays the real hero of the movie. From start to finish, he makes every action on Sivaramakrishna's part completely sympathetic and believable. I adored him.

The supporting cast is hit-and-miss. I love the actors who portray village life, especially the girl who played Gauri, the servant girl. Prakash Dad turns in his usual good work, and Sunil is hilarious as Santhosh's best friend. Deva does great as Lalitha too. However, the villains for the most part are completely overblown, and I was so annoyed with the father of Siri's rival that I could barely stand to look at him. He was like desi Jabba-the-Hutt.

The music is gorgeous, with creative picturizations. I've put together a playlist, but unfortunately only one of the uploaded videos on YouTube have subtitles (sorry!):


Finally, I have to make mention of the fantastic use to which Prabhu Deva puts the countryside of Andhra Pradesh.

It's so incredibly gorgeous I would re-watch the second half just for the scenery. If you haven't seen Nuvostanante Nenoddantana, be sure to pick it up at your earliest opportunity. It's worth every penny. Now go read Alex's take on it, if you didn't arrive here from her blog.

(And, lest you think I've gone over to the South Side forever, let me assure you that I have lots of Hindi movies in my queue to be reviewed!)

15 comments:

  1. Lovely review that perfectly captures a lovely movie! You've said everything I forgot to say, so I don't feel the need to go edit. :p

    Awesome job (and I kinda have gone Southie for a bit, too! xD)!!

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  2. Thanks for the write up. I'm going to have to see this film, it sounds great. Don't worry about going South, it happens to the best of us. ;)

    All the best!
    Sita-ji

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  3. I see nothing wrong with going to southside. I prefer the hindi movies of 70's and before to the current (which are now a pale imitation of the past).
    I loved both your review and the movie equally. Sid and trisha make a wonderful couple. Srihari's character almost dominated Prakash raj, which is a rarity given PR's stature. Loved the brother! With NVNV, Bommarillu, and KIKK, Sid & Prakash raj completed a trilogy of family movies with them as dad & son.
    Prabhu deva made fabulous debut as a director with this movie. And here is the good news. Prabhu deva and Siddharth are going to start filming a new telugu movie in december. Yaay!!

    Kiran.

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  4. Yah! You FINALLY saw this film. I absolutely love it. If you liked it, you may like Sallu-Kajol movie, Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya where a lot of references are taken from, which I did note on my NVNV review :)

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  5. Siri's brother is wonderful!!! I loved him so much!

    This really is a fantastic film - of the standard that Bollywood doesn't really make anymore, sadly.

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  6. Have to join Nicki in recommending 'Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya'. At the time, it was my favorite Kajol film. :)

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  7. rhilex: I loved your review too--glad you mentioned the part about the rice-eating.

    Sita-ji: I hope you post too when you see it! I think it's wonderful but I guess you can tell. :-) And I think Southies are a great regular stop to make.

    Hi Kiran! I don't see anything wrong with it either, I promise--just I try to focus mainly on Hindi movies, and if I keep reviewing Southern films I might have to start another blog to do so! (Which might be fun... Hmmm...) Thank you for the compliment. I think Sid and Prakash Raj make a great duo; of the three films I like Prakash Raj's character best in KIKK since it had some depth to it. And I would really love to see Trisha and Siddharth together on screen again, because they were *so* awesome here.

    I didn't know this was Prabhu Deva's debut as a director! It's truly amazing work when that's taken into account. And that is great news about Siddharth and he doing another film together. I can't wait!

    Nicki: I don't think I would have seen it but for your recommendation! You're my key to all things South side, so I have to send lots of gratitude your way. :-D

    Filmi Girl: I was trying to think of another pastoral recent film to rebut what you said (because I want Bollywood to be making these movies!), and couldn't. :-( The closest I could come was Billu and then you have the superstar element still. Hm.

    The Bollywood Fan: I am definitely going to look up Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya. It sounds great!

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  8. I put it to number 1 in my netflix queue, so I'll report back.
    All the best!
    Sita-ji

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  9. Yay, Sita-ji! Can't wait to read your take on it. :-)

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  10. Namaste ajnabi!
    I saw the film last night and enjoyed it a lot. I've see Trisha (Varsham) Siddharth (Rang de Basanti, Bommarillu) and Prakash Raj in several films, but this is the first time I've seen Srihari. I want to see him in more films now. I loved his freak out when he went to the wedding and took back his sister. HOT! I also adored the outlandish start to the film with the mother being thrown out when her husband tired of her. That was deliciously evil. You were correct about the gorgeous scenery, oh so lovely. Glad you wrote this post and alerted me to it. I'm off later to see a subtitle-free (not by choice but by circumstance) Telugu film at my local dive theater because of this post: http://p-pcc.blogspot.com/2009/08/magadheera-2009.html
    So I'm having a Telugu weekend. :) Thanks again for the tip.
    All the best,
    Sita-ji

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  11. My first Telugu movie IIRC and the one I fell for Siddharth in, so always holds a special place in my heart. The songs are so amazing; it's like the whole movie is a continuous dance, the way Sidd plays the character of Santosh is weirdly (and beautifully) choreographic (is that a word? it is now!).

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  12. Yay for beautiful scenery! I want to see this one now, even with the half-time total suspension of reality. :)

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  13. Sita-ji! So glad you saw it and enjoyed it--I agree that Srihari is the true hero of the film, and I really want to see him in more roles.

    veracious--Santhosh's character arc is so clearly described across the movie that it is a work of art in and of itself.

    Anonymous--See it and report back! :-D

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  14. Greetings, Ajnabi-ji! This is the first time I post on your blog, but believe me it has provided me with much enjoyment over the past year,being the 27 year old Bollywood newcomer previously oblivious to everything Bolly/Tolly/Kolly that I was!
    Before I watched NVNV I thought it had all the perfect ingredients for a movie I'd love: (1)Siddharth!! (2)Trisha (though she's dubbed in Telugu and that seriously hinders my enjoyment of a movie)..(3)Siddharth again... (4)Prakash Raj/Dad..(5)a solid DDLJ-wali love story and (6)the scenery..
    But no it didn't work for me: I think it has to do with the fact that unknowingly i'd previously watched a Punjabi remake called Teri Meri Ki Rishta with Jimmy Shergill in it (his evil mom in the movie was the Ms.Briganza dudette and his dad was... you know it:Anupam Kher, Prakash Dad's North Indian counterpart!). The pind-kudi-bhangra mishmash was just plain boring although it was really cool to hear some real Punjabi instead of the adulterated YRF brand.
    I did have a rocking time with Siddharth's OTT antics in the first half and the crap he went through for Siri in the second half,
    But I guess the real reason NVNV didn't work out was the ending.Not to get spoilery or anything but I was shocked at the light treatment of umm.. certain events in the last few minutes. Wondering why u didn't shed some light on that, Ajnabi.. or maybe cos u didn't want to do spoilers?
    I'm your regular suckerette for love stories like NVNV but no: the ending was too weird for me..

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  15. Pardesi, pardesi, jaana nahin... Hi Pardesi, and thank you so much for your kind words! I have to confess, I had no idea that there was a Punjabi remake, but I'm always up for more Jimmy so I might have to check it out.

    MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM YET:

    I'm not sure whether you're referring to Santhosh's practically-terrorist mom or the killing of the rival for Trisha's hand? Personally, I'm so used to blood and gore in Southie films that I didn't think much of the latter. There's definitely an ethos in Telugu films that says "authorities are not to be trusted, and an everyday man is justified in acting with violence if it's to protect the weak." I'm not saying I agree with it, just that it's there and so I don't think much of it. And the brother did spend five years in jail for the crime.

    As far as the terrorist mom thing goes, well, I hate her but there's no way this would have had an Indian film happy ending if the mom hadn't been 1) alive and 2) on board. She was an awful snob, yes, and also condoned violence to protect her son from a scheming wench, but honoring one's parents is so ridiculously important in these films! I think she should've died of a guilt-induced heart-attack but that would have broken Santhosh's heart so I guess not. Whatever. I'm sorry it didn't work for you though!

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