October 23rd, 2016


Movie Critique 2016 – 06/19/2016: Gundamma Katha

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.
Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: A movie filled with laughs, tunes and much needed life's lessons - yet completely entertaining.

This year Father's Day fell on June 19th. For this day I picked this movie as it is one of the movies that my dad likes most. To all the fathers in my family, a Happy Father's Day!! Hope they like my selection and review of the movie.

Gundamma Katha ( = Gundamma's Story) is a Telugu comedy-drama film released in 1962 starring Akkineni Nageswara Rao aka ANR, N. T. Rama Rao aka NTR, Savitri and Jamuna as lead actors along with other famed character artistes in supporting roles. The plot is loosely based on William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. This movie also was the first one to be a remake by Vijaya Vauhini Studios. It was a remake of the  B. Vittalacharya's Kannada film Mane Thumbida Hennu (1958). For this Father's Day posting this review.

The plot revolves around Gundamma (portrayed by Suryakantam) who has two daughters - a step-daughter Lakshmi (portrayed by Savitri) whom she ill-treats and keeps as a servant and her own daughter Saroja (portrayed by Jamuna) who is a spoilt-brat and arrogant. Gundamma also has a son Prabhakar (portrayed by Haranath). Although being step-sisters, both Lakshmi and Saroja dote on each other and love selflessly - albeit is more from Lakshmi in the beginning and eventually from Saroja later. Things change when the lead actors Anjaneya "Anji" Prasad and Raja - two brothers - come to their home in various roles, woo the daughters and eventually teach Gundamma a much needed lesson.

To add to the spice, there are a few sub-plots in the film that meld well with the plot - Prabhakar and Padma (portrayed by L. Vijayalakshmi) - distant cousin to Anji and Raja - falling in love with each other; the torments Gundamma faces at the hands of Durgamma (portrayed by Chaya Devi) - mother of Padma; the twist the brothers show the sisters; and finally the minor but yet standing out villians plotting behind Gundamma for their benefit - Ghantaiah (portrayed by Ramana Reddy), his wife (portrayed by Rushyendramani) and his son Bhoopati (portrayed by Rajanala).

The film has a plot that not only  teaches some much needed life's lessons, but also comes with beautiful melodies composed by singer-composer Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao. All the Lyrics were penned by Pingali Nagendra Rao. Ghantasala provided vocals for ANR and NTR while P. Susheela and P. Leela sang for Savitri and Jamuna respectively. Marcus Bartley's beautiful cinematography involving moonlights and shadows are mesmerizing as always. No wonder it received the Filmfare Award for Best Film - Telugu that year. With such a star cast and ale technical staff, this was no surprise.

The film shows the Indian society during the 1960s and the songs depict them as well. While Lechindi Nidra Lechindi talks about women empowerment and uprising of women in every field, Dance sequence by Padma (L. Vijayalakshmi) shows the classical heritage of the country despite moving towards fast paced music, Manishi Mara Ledu depicts the nature of humans and humanity how it changed over period of time and Aligina Velane Choodali depicts the maternal as well as romantic side of Krishna. Despite several critics - many considered that the lead actresses roles were under-played - the film went on become a commercial success and was the first Telugu film to be run for 100 days with three screenings per day in Hyderabad, India. The opening credits also used the pictures of main characters rather than their names making it unique in itself.

I believe this is one of those few movies that Savitri has such few dialogues.

Although a remake, Aluri Chakrapani - one of the script writers - made considerable changes to the second half of the film taking inspiration from Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. He also named the film as "Gundamma Katha" after being asked constantly by everyone thus - Gundamma Katha Entha varaku vachchindi? ("What is the progress in Gundamma's story?").  This movie was later remade in Tamil the same year as Manithan Maravillai which sadly was a box office failure.

The timing in the comedy situations are most part hit but there are a few misses - that one doesn’t notice at all because of the rest of the plot. Most of the talk between characters goes through eyes and facial expressions - which is so rarely seen now. The film touches many aspects of human emotions, ideals, values and one's day to day life activities - value one's family, standup to your people and above all good always wins over evil. A balanced blend of comedy and seriousness was perhaps the recipe for success of this film. The movie is now considered as a cult classic.

Seemingly a simple plot, but with many intricacies weaved within, it forms a very complex yet beautiful tapestry to watch time and again. A classic that becomes unforgettable once seen. Enjoy it again if you get a chance to watch again, or simply enjoy it if you are watching it the first time.
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Book Critique 2016 – 06/20/2016: Blue Dahlia (In The Garden Trilogy #1)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: If you love ghosts and gardens, this is a definite pick.

June 20th marks Summer Solstice this year. And to mark the onset of Summer I picked the In The Garden Trilogy by Nora Roberts.  I was intending to post this day's post on the day it was destined to but I am way behind in my posts, sadly. Summer is on the corner at this time for the date of this post and this trilogy is a perfect complement for that wait of warm sun and happy breezes.

Blue Dahlia is the first book in In The Garden Trilogy by Nora Roberts and published in November of 2004. This is one of the series that Nora Roberts had written pretty close to vintage Nora type and that had no yet touched the flair that she shows in recent books. I liked this series in particular for the portrayal of three strong women who come from different background and life-style but find what they need in one place along with three strong men who stand by them and love them.

The book opens with a prologue describing the life of one Amelia Ellen Conner in 1892 - mistress to Reginald Harper - and how she faces the biggest disappointment and betrayal in her life. Then the plot fast forwards to 2001 into the life of Stella Rothchild who had moved from Southfield, MI to Harper House in Southern Tennessee. She had been fighting her own demons after losing her husband, Kevin, to a freak flight accident with two growing sons - Gavin and Luke. Now as the Manager to the In The Garden Nursery, she found new challenge to her life, a new path giving her the lost hope and trying to fill a little of the void left behind from the loss of the life she had envisioned with Kevin.

As the new manager Stella faces ups and downs but her biggest hurdle comes with the name Logan Kitridge. Despite her efforts to make the nursery a success and give a new face lift, butt heading with Logan may cause to have her budding relationship with Roz threatened. Stella was determined to stay in her hometown and be part of In The Garden nursery. Now she just have to keep butting her head and Logan has to learn to take a step back. Will Logan do that? Will Stella find herself again?

Logan comes with his own past that sometimes clouds his present. Where does this buttheading with the cute redhead lead to for Logan? Despite the initial confrontation that she faces, Stella gives into Logan's charm and her attraction towards him. And they both start acting on it. So why is the resident ghost being antagonistic towards them. As far as Roz's knowledge goes nothing ever of such kind has the ghost done in past years.

Why is she targeting Stella and Logan? Who is she? What is the reason for her to still haunt the Harper House? To know her and understand her, the Harper House residents gather to look at the Harper history books, journals, births and records to identify her. Roz hires Dr. Mitch to do a genealogy on her family and identify the ghost. Will they be able to identify who she was? And why she has been haunting for so many decades? In all this hoopla, Hayley gives birth to a baby girl and names her Lily Rose Star. Will the ghost harm or protect Lily Rose?

The plot in this series introduces most of the main characters that we will be seeing as the series proceeds - Stella Rothchild (Manager of In The Garden Nursery), Rosalind "Roz" Harper (owner of The In The Garden Mystery and the famed Harper House), David Wentworth (lives in Harper House, friend of Roz and takes care of the house), Logan Kitridge (works with Roz and leads the landscaping side of her business), Harper Ashby (Roz's oldest son), Hayley Phillips (in a long-winding way cousin to Roz, works for Roz and is very pregnant), Gavin and Luke (Stella's kids from her first husband), Dr. Mitchell Carnegie (a writer and professor, expert on genealogy) and the resident ghost Harper Bride - yet to be discovered as to who and why she has been haunting Harper House for decades.

Although the book had passed from 1892 to2001 in one chapter, the story moved slow since then until mid-way through the book when the drama with love, legends and mystery unfolded. It carried more interest there after making me not wanting to put the book down. There is heavy usage of garden terminology and life relating to gardening is depicted by Nora that it bordered on being a Home and Garden book. However, the resident ghost took away that feel and brought back Nora's flair into it. All the characters are portrayed strong and able. And not to forget the comic book references that Logan and Stella's kids keep making - oh that took me back to so many lanes in my memory book. :P However I got ticked off at Hayley's character. Often times she comes off as impatient, ungrateful and bitchy when all the residents of Harper House have gone above and beyond to help her and make her comfortable. She is sweet and smart most times, but there are pockets of her nature that don’t gel well with a reader's mind.

Another book with Nora's stamp in her theme and plotting of characters with an added element of supernatural in it. Very interesting read that definitely keeps you awake a little in the night. :) I hope you all will enjoy it as much as I did when I read it.

Spoiler Alerts:
1. Harper, oldest son of Roz, faces love at first sight the minute he sees Hayley. But Hayley is pregnant, 6 months far. It would be curious to see how their story unfolds.
2. Roz's second husband and a very much ex- gets introduced in this plot. We have to wait and see what will Bryce Clerk bring in to Roz and characters.
3. Stella's kids play Wiffle Ball - a game I heard for the first time. Googling on it, it looked similar to baseball.
4. There is distinct attraction towards Roz for Dr. Mitch. Curious to see which couple does Nora pick up for the second book in the trilogy.

Book Critique 2016 – 06/21/2016: Black Rose (In The Garden Trilogy #2)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of all books in this series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: If you love ghosts and gardens, this is a definite pick.

Black Rose is the second installment in the In The Garden Trilogy by Nora Roberts and was published in June of 2005. This is the story of Rosalind "Roz" Harper and Dr. Mitchell "Mitch" Carnegie. Ofcourse it involves quite a few sub-plots. As always Nora has melded them well.

Just as the first book, this one also opens with a sub-plot that is set in December of 1892 in Memphis, Tennessee. This continues from the previous book as well - the life of Amelia, after she faces her biggest fear, the time with Reginald Harper and when she finally faces the betrayer. The story then fast forwards to Harper House in present Memphis in the year 2004 where everyone is geared up to celebrate Christmas in Harper House.

Stella Rothchild is engaged to Logan Kitridge  now and are preparing for their upcoming nuptials. She will be soon moving into Logan's home once it is finished for a family of four. We get introduced to Roz's remaining two sons - Gavin and Mason - when they come to visit for the holidays. A nice cozy family is Roz's. However Hayley and Stella tie in very well into it. Now how does or rather will Mitch fit in there?

Roz hires Mitch to do her family genealogy  so they can identify who the resident ghost is. We already know her name is Amelia since she writes it on the glass at the closing of the first book. Mitch sets up his office in Roz's library for working on the genealogy when he is onsite. Of course, he has the added benefit of watching Roz in close contact - towards whom he is attracted. However, Mitch has his own share of baggage that he had worked hard to get it loose. His baggage comes with a son - Josh - an excellent basketball player and well educated. Will Mitch act on his feelings towards Roz? Will Roz reciprocate even after what she had faced with her second husband Bryce Clerk?

Speaking of Bryce, he is back in town and had managed to finagle an invitation to Roz's party at Harper House - albeit as a guest to a recent widow of much much younger age for him. Although Roz gave him the boot again from the party, will Bryce sit quiet and let go of what he had considered a cozy nest egg in Roz? How will Roz fight back Bryce again without causing damage to her pride and dignity?

And the resident ghost, Amelia. She has come back full force now, resorting to physical attack at Mitch when Roz starts seeing Mitch on a more personal basis. Why is Amelia doing this? Who is she angry at? Will she cause more harm to Roz despite the efforts she is putting in to identify her? Well one has to read and see to know what happens.

Another lovely sequel written by Nora Roberts. However, like I mentioned in my previous one. There is heavy dosage of gardening, garden terms and plants. Yet, she has made it interesting with the addition of the paranormal aspect and a whole lot of romance. Usually I feel the second book always has a low rating compared to the first or the third and thereafter. However in this series, this second book also has been not only gripping but also intriguing enough for the reader to not want to put the book down until finishing it. If you come across this book, I would hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Spoiler Alerts:
1) The love that Harper Ashby - Roz's oldest son - has towards Hayley Phillips continues and progresses. We have to wait and see how it turns out in the third book. Obviously they are the pair for Nora's third book. ;)
2) Mitch talks about the film Fargo. I had heard about it but never seen it. Another one added to my list for a future blog post. :)