Band of brothers

Peddodu (Venkatesh) and Chinnodu (Mahesh Babu) of the Relangi family hardly speak to each other. Their staccato, mono-syllable conversations could be mistaken for cold vibes between siblings, speaking in conventional sense. Yet, director Sreekanth Addala makes these moments the cornerstone of the bonding between the brothers. Seethamma Vaakitlo Sirimalle Chettu came with the huge advantage of having two of the biggest stars. Their soberness contrasted by the talkative Seetha (a powerful performance by Anjali) and Prakash Raj’s heart-warming mantra on facing life with a smile tilted the tables in favour of this film. The only sore point of the otherwise beautiful film was the constant throwing of barbs on young women through Mahesh Babu’s character.

Romance got real

When was the last time you saw a mainstream Telugu movie that didn’t make you squirm at the portrayal of its leading women? Indraganti Mohanakrishna’s Anthaku Mundu Aa Tharuvatha is a rare, sensible film about youngsters who don’t want to look at romance through rose-tinted glasses. They get real and see if they can cook, clean, run errands, tolerate mood swings (the film also discusses PMS). Sumanth Ashwin and Eesha were terrific and there was an able supporting cast through which the director discussed regressive television soaps and game shows and stereotyped notion of responsibility of women among other issues. A must watch if you already haven’t.

Good Lord!

A palm-size golden idol of Ganesha stolen from the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple, Kerala, changes many hands before it lands in the hands of a pick-pocket gang (played by Nikhil, Pooja Ramachandran and Sathya). The idol is the bone of contention for multiple groups and in between all this, there’s the love story of Nikhil and Swathi built on multiple lies. An interesting premise, fantastic screenplay, well-etched characters, good editing, music and some wry humour made Swamy Ra Ra the surprise of the year; thoroughly entertaining. We’d like to see more of director Sudheer Varma’s work.

Simple and uncomplicated

Uyyala Jampala is a small gem to sign off the year on a happy note. We don’t often get to see a coming-of-age love story set in a rural background. Debut director Virinchi Varma has written this story of two youngsters with so much candour that he makes the audience believe what’s unfolding on screen. It’s tough to hold the attention of the audience with a simple, feel-good story that can become pretentious at some point. But the director does that well, with the help of credible performances from debutant Tarun Raj and Avika Gor. Good music, cinematography, editing and dialogues add to the warmth of the film.

99 and on the edge

It’s a simple story about a father who keeps tabs on the mistakes his family members commit and threatens to oust anyone who reaches the 100 mark. Sundeep Kishan is on 99 and moves heaven and earth to be a part of the family. Oh wait. This isn’t cerebral stuff. What’s it doing among the best films of the year? Venkatadri Express deserves a pat on the back for weaving in good, clean humour into the storyline, a welcome change from films that have an assembly of gags with no connection to the plot. Each character in this family drama has a quirk and director Merlapaka Gandhi uses it well for the story. Board this express for an entertaining ride.

A haunted suicidal mission

Four youngsters head to a farmhouse in the outskirts of the city wanting to end their lives. The one-way journey to the house gets eerie when they learn the house is haunted. A spirit waiting to avenge the injustice done to a woman is an old story. Prabhakara Reddy’s Prema Katha Chithram works largely because of the way he narrates a shallow story with a fine sense of humour. Sudheer, Nandita, Praveen and Sapthagiri are promising actors who make your viewing time worthwhile.

National treasure

An ATM guard who listens to Godmen and embarks on a journey to Pakistan to find a hidden treasure might sound like an unbelievable, childhood fantasy story. When such a story is told with conviction by a director like Chandrasekhar Yeleti, it becomes engrossing. The large canvas, Gopichand’s performance, the landscapes of Ladakh, exemplary art direction and a nail-biting finish to the treasure hunt made Sahasam a pretty good watch.

By the river

The Godavari is in spate and a newly-wed couple struggles for survival, battling nature’s fury and their respective uncomfortable pasts. Aadi and Lakshmi Manchu, strangers thrown together by fate, unravel their past perched on top of a floating house. The 80s setting of Gundello Godari is not glossed over. It’s raw, some times gawdy and very earthy. In an extremely conservative setting of a fishing village, there’s Tapsee Pannu asserting her sexuality without remorse, and the film doesn’t judge her actions. Ilayaraja’s music, convincing performances and a good screenplay made us overlook a few pitfalls (the story of Lakshmi Manchu and Sundeep Kishan was a tad contrived) of director Kumar Nagendra’s debut venture.

Box office winners

Attarintiki Daaredi

Anthaka Mundu Aa Tharuvatha

Baadshah

Balupu

Doosukeltha

Gunde Jaari Gallanthayinde

Mirchi

Nayak

Prema Katha Chitram

Sahasam

Seethamma Vaakitlo Sirimalle Chettu

Swamy Ra Ra

Thadaka

Venkatadri Express

Uyyala Jampala