Movie Reviews by Sasikanth Paturi

Here’s a list of all the movie reviews, categorized by language 🙂

English

Hindi

Telugu

Vikram | Movie Review

Vikram

Kamal Haasan is one of India’s best actors. But lately, his movies, similar to his personal life, seem too self-focused. Does Vikram stand out?

Scripted and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj (part of his cinematic universe), Vikram starts with the murders of a couple of NCB members and an ordinary man, Karnan. Amar (Fahadh Faasil), a black-ops squad/sleeper cell commander is pulled in to investigate, and soon realises that the murders are related to missing drug containers owned by Sandhanam (Vijay Sethupathi), a local cartel leader and a ruthless man. It all comes down to who’s Karnan and how Vikram (Haasan) is connected to the all of this.

In the first half, Lokesh focuses on establishing the characters of Amar and Sandhanam, while the entire second half is about the triangular conflict between Vikram, Amar and Santhanam. While things might seem a little confusing, Lokesh holds our interest thanks to the crisp screenplay in parts. However, some episodes involving Sandhanam and his abilities after getting stoned are ridiculous and even funny. I also thought the interval bang was not well executed; c’mon, there’s one guy and 100’s of goons and police, but not a single gun? There are a quite a few illogical sequences like these in the film.

Kamal Haasan plays his age but looks sophisticated and stylish. He has a paunch in the first song, and I was like, whoa. But even with it, he delivers sleek action sequences in the second half. Fahadh Faasil carries the entire first half by himself and does a fantastic job. Vijay Sethupathi looks menacing, but I thought his character was not well scripted. Narain continues his part from Kaithi as Inspector Bejoy and is decent. Suriya impresses with his act as the antagonist (future films) in the climax. The rest of the cast is alright.

Music by Anirudh Ravichander is groovy and makes an impact on screen. The title track and the music pieces (Once upon a time & Wasted) are well used as background score. Editing by Philomin Raj is mediocre at best; films of this kind need to be sharp, but he fails miserably. The cinematography by Girish Gangadharan is top-notch. The action sequences are well choreographed.

Is it worth your time and money?:If you like action and slick films, Vikram is your cup of tea. But at the same time, the screenplay might be too much to handle at times for a regular moviegoer. Also, there are references to Kaithi/Khaidi, so it might be a little difficult for you to follow if you haven’t watched it. 

Worth mention: Kamal Haasan and Fahadh Fasil’s act.

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7/10
Technical Aspects: 8/10

Verdict: 8/10

PS: It would be great if Lokesh could combine Dilli and Vikram’s characters in the next film with Rolex as the villain, rather than making two separate sequels.

Lightyear | Movie Review

Lightyear

Toy Story series happens to be one of my favourite movie series to date, and I was excited when Lightyear was announced. But the excitement died soon once the trailer was out. Unlike the Buzz in the Toy Story series, I thought that this Buzz didn’t have the warmth and lacked the nostalgic touch you’d expect; and I felt the same even after watching the movie.

Nowhere connected to the Toy Story but for the small write-up in the titles, Lightyear tells the origin story of Buzz Lightyear and his adventures as a Space Ranger. Scripted by Matthew Aldrich, Jason Headley & Angus MacLane, and directed by MacLane (who co-directed the mediocre Finding Dory in the past), Lightyear doesn’t feel like a Pixar film. Yes, the animation and graphics are great, and the movie does follow the Pixar theme of a character venturing out into the world and learning to appreciate his friends and family. Still, the emotions and core crux of connecting with the audience were amiss in this one. At the end of the movie, all I felt was, okay, that was just another one, but that’s not what you’d expect from a Pixar film, right? (oh wait, none of their movies in the recent past have felt like that! ). The confusing timeline aspect was also too much to handle (imagine having to explain that to my 3-year-old!).

Chris Evans does his best to pour life into Buzz and make the character his own, but bottom line, he’s no Tim Allen. The rest of the voice cast is alright.

Music by Michael Giacchino is okay. Editing by Anthony J. Greenberg could have been better for even at 107 minutes, the movie seemed long.

Is it worth your time and money?: Skip this one in the theatres and wait for it on Disney+.

Worth mention: Fun episodes involving Sox.

Acting: 8/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 6/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10

Verdict: 7.5/10

Restaurant Reviews by Sasikanth Paturi

Here’s a list of all the restaurant reviews! 🙂

Saravana Bhavan – Wembley | Restaurant Review

Place: Saravana Bhavan
Location: Ealing Rd, Wembley
Cuisine: Indian
Meal: Dinner (with wifey and our lil one)

We dined at Saravana Bhavan at East Ham a few days ago and found the place affordable. A few days later, we wanted to check in at their Leicester Square branch, but to our surprise, everything was priced double or more. A North Indian Thali which cost us £8.95 at East Ham was about 19 bucks. Anywho, last week, we were at the Wembley branch, which was again affordable.

The place was packed at about 7:00 PM but we thankfully didn’t have to wait for a table and settled down next to the entrance. Without much delay, we ordered Channa Batura, a portion of Veg. Manchurian, Hakka Noodles, and Paneer Biryani.

Manchuria

In about 5 minutes, the Manchuria was served, and for a moment, I thought I was at the Saravana Bhavan in India which is known for its meagre quantity of food at exorbitant prices. For 7 quid, I’d expect more than 5 pieces of Manchuria. Thankfully, the taste was good, but I thought the sauce was too tomatoey.

Channa Batura

Tha Channa Batura or Chole Batura, whatever you wanna call it was served soon. It was disappointing to see the Batura served flat for our lil one wanted to pop the big poori. While the Chole was decent, the Batura was dripping in oil. 

Noodles

The Noodles looked good and tasted good as well. I realized that the noodles you get here in the UK are generally thick (unlike the thin noodles you get in India). The texture is something I personally need to get used to.

Biryani

The Biryani was served last and came with a portion of raita. With loads of paneer chunks and perfect amount of masala, this was the best dish of the meal. On the downside, a few vegetables in the Biryani would have been worth it.

Overall, a mediocre meal. While the Biryani was good, no dish made a real impression, and the dismal portion sizes didn’t make things better. While the service was decent, the overall ambience was passable. I’d probably try the Thali the next time around to see if they are worth multiple visits. 

Food: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Ambiance: 7/10
Meal for 3: £28.54

Verdict: 7/10

Saravanaa Bhavan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Major | Movie Review

major

I’ve heard good things about Major and was excited to watch this movie. However, I wasn’t much impressed. I believe that it is tough to make a biopic on a war hero, and while Adivi Sesh (script and screenplay) does his homework and comes up with a good film, too much cinematic liberty makes this just an average film for me. Maybe I would have better connected if it were a regular film.

Direction by Sashi Kiran Tikka is mediocre. The Taj siege sequence could have been better handled, for there was pretend and over-the-top action. I am sure there were some brave acts inside the hotel during the siege, but all the team did was make it look larger than life rather than making it real for the hostages and the soldiers. A more nuanced approach would have worked wonders! The woman being “alone” episode also doesn’t add any value to the film.

Adivi Sesh puts in all his mettle to look and be like Major and does a good job. Prakash Raj and Revathi are aptly cast and do their parts well. Revathi is brilliant in the last episode. Saiee Manjrekar and Sobhita Dhulipala are alright. Murali Sharma’s act could have been toned down.

Music and background score by Sricharan Pakala is effective. At about 2 hours, editing by Vinay Kumar Sirigineedi and Kodati Pavan Kalyan is good. The cinematography by Vamsi Patchipulusu is average

Is it worth your time and money?: Major isn’t a bad movie; if anything, it’s a good action movie. But when you add the tag of it being a biopic, it doesn’t work. I am sure Sandeep Unnikrishnan did more courageous stuff than what is showcased in the movie. But, Sesh and the director make his sacrifice for the nation look more commercial and action-oriented rather than making it real and connectable. Also, too much sentiment and cinema/drama dilute the effect. 

Worth mention: Adivi Sesh’s act as Maj. Sandeep.

Acting: 8/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 6/10
Technical Aspects: 7.5/10

Verdict: 7/10

Ante Sundaraniki | Movie Review

Ante Sundaraniki

First things first, I like Nani. He usually picks sensible subjects, but of late, it seems like he too is taking the formulaic route. Post Jersey, none of his movies made an impact, apart from maybe Shyam Singha Roy (which I thought was a decent watch). Come Ante Sundaraniki, he’s back at his favourite genre, and I was eagerly waiting to see if he still has the charm to woo the audience as he did for, say Ala Modalindi or Bhale Bhale Magadivoy

Scripted and directed by Vivek Athreya, Ante Sundaraniki tells the story of Sundar, a confused Hindu guy from an orthodox Brahmin family, and Leela, a strong girl from a Christian family. As you’d expect, they fall in love, and Sundar conceives a plan with some significant lies to convince their families for the wedding.

It’s more or less a simple story, but Vivek has handled the subject with a lot of maturity; the film is bold and addresses many unspoken topics, such as choice of pregnancy, infertility, etc., while never trying to be preachy.  Every character is very well written and makes an impact on screen. Coming from similar family background, I could relate to most of the content. I loved how Vivek (I’m guessing from his own experiences) showcased the rawness of a Telugu Brahmin household (including the cuss words ). There are some illogical sequences, but he has integrated them so seamlessly into the comedic narrative that you don’t tend to delve so much into them. Thanks to the non-linear narrative, the screenplay is compelling and keeps you engrossed all through. 

It’s a cakewalk for Nani, and he excels as Sundar. His expressions while conversing with his manager are priceless. Nazriya, a Malayalee actress famous amongst the Teluguites because of Bangalore Days, compliments Nani in every frame. She’s charming, relatable, and fits into the role with ease. Dubbing for herself added value. It’s a meaty role for veteran Naresh, and he does a fantastic job as the orthodox father (he reminded me a lot of the old Naresh from Jandhyala movies). Rohini is apt as the mother and does a commendable job in the final act. Nadhiya and Azhagam Perumal are alright as Leela’s parents. Prudhvi gets a good show after a long time as Sundar’s uncle. Harsha Vardhan is perfect as Sundar’s manager, and the cameos by Rahul Ramakrishna and Anupama Parameswaran are effective. The child artists who played young Sundar and Leela are excellent.

Music by Vivek Sagar is decent. I liked the fact that the songs are blended into the background score. The choreography for the first song with the child artist is worth mentioning.  No qualms with the cinematography by Niketh Bommi. Editing by Ravi Teja Girijala could have been crisp, for the movie seemed a little too long. Production values by Mythri Movie Makers are good.

Is it worth your time and money?: I loved the movie, and so did my better half. Ante Sundaraniki is a neat and clean romcom. However, not all might appreciate the overarching message, for I know that we still have people in our society who don’t look beyond caste, religion, superstitions, and other social issues. If you aren’t one such soul, enjoy the movie!

Worth mention: The beautiful chemistry between Nani and Nazriya (would you believe if I said there’s absolutely no intimacy between the lead pair but still it still makes an impact?), and effective storytelling.

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 8.5/10
Technical Aspects: 8/10

Verdict: 8.5/10

Are grades a good measure of success? | Thoughts & Rants

grades

I once spoke on a similar topic, “Education as a measure of success,” at a debate competition in my high school. Speaking against the case, I said that you can never judge someone based on their educational background or grades and that we have examples of successful high school dropouts. I had a good argument, spoke well with conviction, and, long story short, I won the debate.

Twenty years later, a week after I put my daughter in school, I am asking myself this question. Should I be worried about her grades? (She’s still too young, but you know)

I’ve been an above-average student for most of my life. As is with most Indian parents, mine ensured that I studied hard to excel in school and high school. And then came the first hurdle, an entrance examination that would measure which college I got into for my undergrad. You see, the higher the rank, the better the college and your life prospects. When I say that I studied day and night for this exam, you better believe me; my day started at 4:00 AM and ended at 9:00 PM, every day for one full year. Please don’t pity me, for I was not the only one doing this; almost 90% of my peers had a similar schedule. It was a fad back then when every parent wanted their child to study at an NIT or IIT (top Engineering institutes in India) and proudly announce that they have an Engin-heir in the family.

After attending all the coaching classes and taking numerous mock tests, I finally gave the 3-hour exam, which would impact my future. And it did; I ranked 45,739 amongst the approx. 200,000 kids. I was shocked, but more than me, my parents were shocked and disappointed. I remember my dad saying, “how could you do this!” For the first time in my life, I felt like a failure.

With this burden, I paid my way to get admission at one of the engineering colleges in Hyderabad (being an Indian, when I say I paid, read my parents). I now had to prove my mettle; I took it as a challenge, studied hard, really hard, and thought I did well on the first-year exams. I scored a mere 63%. I was like, what, no, this couldn’t be happening. I tried again for the first semester of the second year and failed miserably. This time around, I actually flunked in 2 subjects (it’s a different story that 54 of the 66 students from my class flunked one of the subjects). I was broke, but more importantly, I had failed my parents again. When I mentioned that 54 students from my class failed, their argument was why wasn’t I amongst the 12 who passed. I had no explanation. They didn’t care that I was exceptional in the extra circular activities at college; they just wanted good grades. I lost faith in the system, but more importantly, in myself. I just wanted to get over this, and four years later, I graduated bachelor’s with the same 63% I scored in my first year.

Weirdly though, the job placements at the end of my fourth year weren’t solely based on grades. Firms wanted the best of the best, so they would have their own competitive exams. Another 3 hours of torture for me. As expected, I did not make it to any top hiring firms. But not all hope was lost, for my ubiquitous attitude caught the attention of a small start-up recruiting for a sales role. I cleared the interviews with flying colours, and my grades didn’t seem to matter anymore. Or so I thought.

While I enjoyed this role, I wanted to study space and maybe try for the Astronaut program. No, I was serious. I lost hope in the Indian education system, so, like most of my peers, I decided to pursue the American dream. Now, that wasn’t so easy either. You’d need to give GRE, another competitive exam testing your English and Maths. As was my luck, I failed to get a good score even after studying for and attending classes beyond my work hours. Ironically, I scored the same marks on my official attempt as I did the day I first took the mock test without any preparation or effort. Long story short, I did not get into MIT or the University of Maryland I hoped for, but I got into Mississippi State University.

My parents, still disappointed that I did not get into the top universities I aimed for, sponsored my first semester and my move to the US. My first time away from home and family, I reached Mississippi and boy, I enjoyed my time there. I took the subjects I wanted, and with help from some excellent professors, I was again the above-average student (if not more). I still remember that day when I was sitting in an Orbital Mechanics class and telling myself that I’d done it, I wanted to become an Aerospace Engineer, and here I was. I did my thesis on navigation for Lunar landing, presented a paper at the AIAA conference in Florida, and was shining bright like a diamond in literal terms. I worked at the University to fund my education, and at the end of my two years at Mississippi State, I had a master’s degree with a 3.9 GPA, and my thesis was published.

But I didn’t see the future coming. President Obama had a new vision for the future of human spaceflight and NASA around the time I graduated. In this turmoiled time, I interviewed with some of the top space industry players, but nothing materialized because of my immigration status; they all wanted an American citizen because jobs in space were considered part of National Security. So, I decided to focus on the Indian Space Agency, ISRO. Now ISRO has a very bureaucratic hiring process. They advertise openings through media, and shortlisted candidates are called for in-person interviews. I applied for a few roles and was called for an interview at Thiruvananthapuram.

Here I was in the US, at the start of my Optional Practical Training (OPT), which would give me the right to work in America for at least a year. Do I stay or move to India to land an opportunity to land a job at ISRO? I decided to take the gamble and flew about 9000 miles to India for an interview, confident that I would get the job because of my credentials. Alas, ISRO had other plans; a story for another day. Ten months later, I was attending my third interview at Bangalore, and the clerk reviewing my documents decided (yes, decided) that I was not eligible, not just for this interview but for any interviews in the future. I was aghast; it felt like the world was crumbling around me. The reason, you ask me? Do you remember the 63% I scored in my bachelor’s?  Yup, there it is in my face. Apparently, the ISRO advertisements for the roles I was interviewing for require a minimum of 65% in bachelor’s. I somehow found words to argue with him, saying this was indicated to them all along, right from when they called me for the interview from the US, only for a lost cause. He and a few others suggested I get a PhD if I ever want to work for ISRO. I stepped out of the building and took one of the most significant decisions of my life: to drop my career in Aerospace Engineering and move back to the second-best thing that I did, people management.

Now that’s not where things ended in terms of grades for me. A year after working in another start-up, I decided to pursue an MBA (or its equivalent) to further my skills in management. My parents, as usual, were there to support my education once again. Luckily, this time around, the 4-hour GMAT was not as dreadful as my previous exams; I scored well and moved to Singapore and Dubai to get my Master of Global Business degree. I was a pretty good student (again) and was amongst the top 5 of my class at graduation. My parents attended my graduation ceremony and were super proud. I was equally happy. Good enough?

Apparently not. What followed over the next few months of graduation was the biggest lesson of my life. For those who don’t know me, I am a big Sony fanboy. So, when Sony was interviewing candidates for a job as part of campus placements, everyone in my class was rooting for me to get it. I cleared the first round in a zap and was at the final stage alongside a Russian classmate. Another long story short, he got the job even though he had a few backlogs and was amongst the bottom few of my class while I was one of the toppers. Why? Cos, while I struggled to make the Japanese interviewer understand why I switched from Aerospace Engineering to marketing, this classmate just connected with him. That day was an eye-opener for me. It took me about six months after this incident to finally get placed, and guess what? I made the least money compared to my peers. Thankfully, the job was satisfying.

So, ending my rant, I say this. What you study, where you study, and your grades don’t get you anywhere. Yes, they help you create a path, but what gets you places is your attitude and skill set. Sometimes I look at my LinkedIn feed and see some of my mates who barely passed their exams doing great for themselves and feel sad and stupid. But I soon realize that they have other skills that have helped them reach where they are. Maybe it was an easy path for them, while mine was a struggle. Who am I to judge, right?

Whatever the case, I’ve learnt life’s lessons the hard way; grades aren’t the only things matter. I am still far from achieving my life’s goal and, hopefully, won’t study any further. And even if I do, I know what matters.

Apna Adda | Restaurant Review

Place: Apna Adda
Location: Leicester Square
Cuisine: Indian
Meal: Take-away

After a fruitful day of celebrating Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we were looking for a place to quench our hunger. Felt like eating Indian (again), and decided to drop in at Saravana Bhavan at Leicester Square. There was waiting, and while we did that, I looked at their menu and realized that everything was overpriced (as we just dined at SB at East Ham a few days ago which wasn’t expensive at all). So looked for alternates in the area and found this small Indian eatery right around the corner.

Apna Adda

A couple of blocks away from Empire Cinemas (Cineworld), located right next to Bella Italia, you’d probably miss this unless you look closely. Apna Adda is a small shop with just a couple of tables. Having realized that dining in will not be possible, we decided to do a take-away, and ordered a portion of Veg. Spring Rolls, Veg. Hakka Noodles, Kaju Curry, and a couple of Naan. I was told it would take about 30 minutes for the order to be ready.

We explored the Piccadilly Circus area for a while, picked up the food, and hopped on a bus home. Our lil one was hungry, so we opened the Spring Rolls on our way. 7 small rolls were served along with some sweet chilli sauce, and they tasted alright. They probably were frozen ones you get at a supermarket, which justifies the size and more or less bland taste.

We were really excited to try the noodles and didn’t waste any time dug in the moment we reached home (without clicking any pictures). Unfortunately, they turned out bleh. With excessive soy sauce, they had a strong taste which I did not enjoy.

The Kaju Curry however was yummy. Loaded with cashew nuts (Kaju), the tomato gravy was perfect. I would have maybe preferred it a little spicier though. The Naan was decent, but the corners were a little too thick.

Overall, an okay meal. Our Indo-Chinese experience was mediocre while Indian food turned out to be good. Reasonably priced, they have quite an extensive menu. I’d definitely try this place again, hopefully soon!
Food: 7.5/10

Service: N/A
Ambiance: N/A
Meal for 3: £22.46

Verdict: 7.5/10

Flavors of India | Restuarant Review

Place: Flavors of India
Location: Craven Road, Paddington
Cuisine: Indian
Meal: Dinner (with wifey and our lil one)

We’ve been eating out in London for a while now, but this happens to be my first restaurant review (hopefully the first of many). After a fruitful day at Hyde Park, we were looking for some good Indian food and happened to find Flavors of India on Google. Located on Paddington Station Road, the restaurant is easy to locate with a Sardar figure standing guard.

We walked in at around 9:15 PM and the place, split across 2 floors, was more or less full. We walked up to the first level and settled down on a table for 4. The place, in general, was cramped for there was not a lot of room between tables. There was also a large group sitting behind us making the place loud. We were really hungry and were waiting for someone to come and take the order, but no one showed up for a long time, even after multiple attempts of calling for them.

When he finally did, we ordered a portion of Tandoori Stuffed Mushroom, Shahi Paneer, a Garlic Naan and a Plain Naan. This was around 9:30 PM. The steward did inform us that the kitchen was full of orders and it will take a while for the food to be served, but never mentioned how long. And so, the wait began.

Apparently, there was some problem with the air-conditioning on the first level, and even with the windows open, we were suffocating. Maybe it was because of the hunger as well. Anywho, we decided to come down (which was relatively cooler) and find a table for ourselves around 40 minutes after we placed the order (still no food).

Tandoori Mushroom

At about 10:15 PM, the mushrooms were finally served, and I was appalled by the portion size; 3 small button mushrooms stuffed with some cheese, served along with a couple of peppers, onion, a tomato, and some lettuce. The taste was decent, but man, 3 pieces of mushroom? 

Shahi Paneer

Naan

Over the next few minutes, the Shahi Paneer and Naan were served. While not as bad as the mushrooms, the portion size of the paneer again seemed ridiculous for a main dish (I wonder what they serve for a side!). The paneer was fresh and succulent, and the gravy was good, but a little too tomatoey for my liking. The Naan however was hard as a rock. Our lil one usually eats the bread but she didn’t even touch it for it was so kadak. The Garlic Naan was better.

When the subzi and roti were served, I asked for a portion of Vegetable Biryani. The waiter said that it might take forever again, but we didn’t want to walk out hungry.

Biryani

Surprisingly, the Biryani was served in a jiffy, and the portion size was decent. Served along with a Vegetable Korma, the biryani was very wet and spicy. I soon realized that the chef just added some pulao rice to the korma and sent it up as biryani (that confirms how it was served in a few minutes). The taste was okay, but as I said, too spicy.

Overall, a mediocre meal and experience. For the small portions which barely filled our tummies, the bill came to a whopping £31. The ambience isn’t great and the service was bad. There was absolutely no communication, and every time we asked where the food was, we were almost shushed. When we walked out, some travellers were inquiring about the place, and I told them the same thing which I now tell you, don’t go in there!

Food: 6/10
Service: 3/10
Ambiance: 6/10
Meal for 3: £30.96

Verdict: 4/10

Flavors of India - Paddington Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato