Blood brothers in more ways than one
Here’s an epic-length, fanciful tale of India under oppressive British rule in the 1920s. At its core are two men: Komaram Bheem (superbly played by N.T. Rama Rao), protector of the Gond tribe, and ambitious police officer Alluri Raju (Ram Charan Teja deftly portrays his character’s heroism and inner anguish) who tries to use a well-earned promotion to special officer (so appropriate in these days of special master) to “give every person—Indian—a real weapon.”
The villains of the fictional script (screenplay by Rajamouli based on a story from Vijayendra Prasad) come in the brutal form of British administrator Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson, as cold and demanding as required) and his ever-sadistic wife, Catherine (an ice-in-her-veins performance by Alison Doody).
The love interest—Bheem’s—Buxton’s niece, Jenny is brought to vibrant life thanks to Olivia Morris. Love at first sight is given a fine turn.
While on a hunting visit to the Alibad forest the “Lord and Lady” Buxton take such a liking to the artistic skills of a very young girl, Malli (Twinkle Sharma, the epitome of innocence) that they opt to kidnap and cage her back home in Delhi. This inciting incident causes Bheem to begin his rescue quest of the petrified girl, initially pretending to be a Muslim (Akhtar).
From there, the narrative overflows with a covey of twists and turns (Bheem and Raju rescuing a young boy from a spectacular train wreck, instantly forging a friendship between the men on “opposite sides”; the sudden love providing Bheem an innocent entry into the Buxtons’ lair; an attack on the heavily guarded palace by a truckload of wild animals; the inevitable capture of Bheem and a subsequent lashing—ironically issued by Raju: shades of ancient Rome--that few would survive).
Even as the story’s end seems a tad contrived, never mind. Senthil Kumar’s expert cinematography (from poignant close-ups to spectacular wide shots) is worth the price of admission alone. The monumental task of editing is, likewise, pulled off with nary a hitch by A. Sreekar Prasad. The army of visual effects technicians and artists—most especially the digital blood-thirsty animals—deserve all of the honours they will accumulate.
And there’s more than a passing chance that the song “Naatu Naatu” will get a nod from Oscar.
All told, it’s a remarkable achievement. Cheers to StoRy, FiRe, and WateR. JWR
Definitely more than Black than white
Why help anyone?
Just as the Monterey, California carnage has been revealed (Asian killing Asians at a Lunar New Year celebration), Willams’ full-length treatment of her previous short (along with writer K.D. Dávila) has much to say about fraternity partying and underage drinking run amuck.
Beginning with an in-class “nigger” lesson, the two principals (RJ Cyler as perpetual party animal Sean; Donald Elise Watkins as nerd-de-jour, Princeton-bound Kunle) discover an unconscious, likely drunk, underage white woman gasping for air on the floor in their shared apartment just as the biggest party tour of spring break is about to lift off. Their other oblivious roommate, Carlos (Sebastian Chacon)—playing video games—has no idea how Emma (Maddie Nichols) ended up in their realm but does have a penchant for not locking the door.
The rest of the film is a largely “What to do about Emma”, knowing that men of colour—especially with a blown out tail light—with a distressed white girl in their “care” are more likely to end up in jail rather than on the honour roll.
It’s a well-produced, yet sad commentary on our times where race and colour too often trump doing the right thing for human decency. JWR
A dark study of racism
How appropriate to put racism under the microscope in Ancaster (an upscale university in New England) set in the present day.
The newly appointed Black master—a first (Regina Hall as the artfully named Gail Bishop) begins to realize that nothing is really what it seems—especially in room 302. Its two inhabitants (spoiled white girl Amelia—Talia Ryder; Black freshman, in more ways than one Jasmine—Zoe Renee) start off well, but soon fall out when Amelia’s beau is caught sneaking a kiss from Jasmine.
From there it’s a series of nightmares, ghosts, past hangings, maggots and deadly repercussions from a grade dispute risking tenure…
In the end, nobody wins, but isn’t that the legacy of hateful actions based on colour of skin rather than getting to know the real person beneath it? JWR