While I took just two minutes to make a list of the five best Telugu films of 2018 (released between January 1 and December 24), I took three working days to do the same for the worst films. Doesn’t this tell you how much I suffered in the theatres and at home (hello, Amazon Prime and Zee5)?
Here’s a list of the films I hated, and a few I loved.
5 Worst Films
This VV Vinayak action film is a headache from the first scene to the last. Why do the makers even have an extra ‘t’ in Intteligent? Other than the pretentious title, there’s absolutely nothing amusing in this Sai Dharam Tej and Lavanya Tripathi starrer. Dharam Tej has consistently been choosing one bad film after another since his 2016 release Supreme. This movie has so much going against it that when the end credits showed up, I smiled. I wanted to take a cold shower soon after watching this festival of clumsiness. Vinayak has cruelly wasted the collective talent of Telugu comedians and imported villains in this stupid movie.
Literally every line in this Satish Vegesna movie is good enough to become a WhatsApp forward, and Nithiin deserves a Razzie for playing a man who follows every tradition followed by his grandmother. He must have sleep-walked through his performance, for his face remains the same during anger and happiness, success and guilt. When he breaks down in the climax to apologise to his family, trust me, you’ll find yourself in a river of tears for sitting through this torture. I honestly don’t know what Sri (Raashi Khanna) sees in a stickler like Vasu (Nithiin). He’s purely a pain in the *you-know-where*.
Naga Chaitanya has starred in the lead in two films this year – Savyasachi and Shailaja Reddy Alludu–and both of them deserve to be on this list, but, I picked Savyasachi for ruining a fantastic storyline, and, for roping in Madhavan to star in the role of a cardboard villain. Songs pop up unnecessarily and to top it all, Nidhhi Agerwal, who appears as the love interest, is a bore. The handful of tricks and twists that are supposed to keep us on the edge never work in this Chandoo Mondeti thriller. Chaitanya, like Dharam Tej, has been choosing terrible scripts. Most of the action films he’s been a part of are ridiculous. When will he come out of the cave and start picking well-rounded stories?
Nagarjuna and Varma have joined hands together to make one of the best films (Shiva) and one of the worst films (Officer) in Telugu cinema. Ah, not many actor-director duos can say that about themselves.
Ye Mantram Vesave
This thriller drama, directed by Shridhar Marri, should have released a few years ago, but it made its presence felt only earlier this year. Even if it was released in 2013, people would have certainly walked out of the theatres midway. And I’m sure Vijay Deverakonda wouldn’t have become the star he is today. Films like Pelli Choopulu, Arjun Reddy, Geetha Govindam, and Taxiwala would have been made with somebody else. Also, fans wouldn’t have rushed to the cinemas to watch a 5 AM show of an actor who starred as an obsessive gamer in a dud like Ye Mantram Vesave.
The ever-reliable Vijay looks out of place in this poorly written-and-edited movie. He comes across as a person who skipped acting classes. This is a film that’s going to remain a black mark in his career, and, for the viewers, who dared to watch this film, you’ve earned my salute.
Why is Ram Gopal Varma still making movies? Every time he announces a project, I feel like a worm has started moving in my stomach. I agree that no other filmmaker in India has dabbled in as many genres as RGV has, but there has to be a limit to botched-up experiments.
Nagarjuna and Varma have joined hands together to make one of the best films (Shiva) and one of the worst films (Officer) in Telugu cinema. Ah, not many actor-director duos can say that about themselves. If I had a time machine, I’d go back in time and burn the script of this movie. Oh, wait! Did it even have one in the first place? Officer is a film I want to forget, but, unfortunately, it’s grinning at me devilishly as I write this.
5 Best Films
Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi
A comedy drama about four college friends? Check. A romantic song where the hero is smitten by the heroine’s aura? Check. Making decisions late into the night while drunk? Check.
Tharun Bhascker’s second film, after his meet-cute rom-com Pelli Choopulu, is a scream that has four men pulling at a rubber band from different points – metaphorically, of course. I didn’t think a story about short filmmakers could be so funny till I watched this film. Tharun repeats some of the tropes from his previous movie to put his characters in Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi out of misery, and he still scores a century in the category of freshness. Even though all the leads give each other space to perform, Abhinav Gomatam, who stars as a voice actor named Kaushik, is a scene-stealer. His running commentary keeps the film engaging from start to finish.
Sukumar’s Rangasthalam had A-list cast and crew members. From the 80s setting to Chandrabose’s beautiful poetry in the form of lyrics, and, from Jagapati Babu’s evil grunts to Ram Charan’s joyous outbursts, everything was perfect. Though, the highly energetic number, ‘Jigelu Rani,’ felt like an extra item in the overall scheme of things, it’ll be remembered as one of Devi Sri Prasad’s finest songs.
And not-so-surprisingly, the climax, where Chitti Babu (Charan) patiently waits for Dakshina Murthy (Prakash Raj) to recover only to kill him later for getting his brother (Aadhi Pinisetty as Chitti Babu) murdered, was a punch at the honour killings in India. Sukumar showed us the dangers of brahminical patriarchy in just one spectacular segment. No other Telugu film has managed to do this in the recent years.
From starring in a forgettable role in Panja to headlining breath-taking thrillers, like Kshanam and Goodachari, Adivi Sesh has come a long way. His writing skills help him greatly as he pens stories for his films.
Goodachari, directed by Sashi Kiran Tikka, uses the supporting actors brilliantly. Every character in this film wears a mask and the most important twists that hold such thrillers together are well-written and executed. The movie is definitely inspired by countless Hollywood noirs, but Sesh makes sure that his kicks land in the right places. Also, Sobhita Dhulipala’s sassy portrayal of a terrorist is commendable. All the actors in this movie approach the layers in their characters with charisma.
Director Mohanakrishna Indraganti has been bringing out the best from his actors since Ashta Chamma, which was released in 2008. He knows how to turn an ordinary conversation into a full-blown comedic extravaganza. He did that last year with Ami Thumi; and, this year, with Sammohanam, he’s created a timeless tale of romance.
Vivek Sagar’s haunting music sort of reads the minds of the protagonists (Sudheer Babu as Vijay and Aditi Rao Hydari as Sameera) clearly. And when Sirivennela Seetharama Sastry’s fun words appear in “Oohalu Oorege Gaalantha,” you’ll understand where their relationship is heading towards.
Sammohanam is one of those films that can be enjoyed alone under the stars, or with a group of over a hundred people. It works both ways and that’s the stamp that Indraganti puts on it.
By the time I could watch Venkatesh Maha’s C/O Kancharapalem in Bangalore, critics from Hyderabad and Chennai were already raving about it. I couldn’t understand why it was receiving such unconditional love and support. When I finally saw the film, I shook in disbelief. This slice-of-life drama should be watched by the young and the old, by the students and the veterans of cinema, by the lovers and the peace-keepers of the twenty first century.
The defining mood of 2018 at the cinemas, for me, was getting a peeking into the lives of Gaddam, Saleema, Sunitha, Sundaram, Joseph, Bhargavi, Aditi, Raju, and Madam. This film is as important as Baahubali for Telugu cinema. It will shine on, like K. V Reddy’s Mayabazar, as a classic for centuries to come.