These movies stood out for stirring performances, the depth of the screenplay, the balance of the characters, social message, and for the rationality of the tale itself.

Best of Telugu cinema 2019 From Oh Baby to Mallesham here are our picks
Flix Tollywood Sunday, December 29, 2019 - 15:08

It has been a wonderful year for Telugu cinema. Thrillers, wacky comedies, multi-layered dramas, biopics and the minimalisation of hyperbole – the year had everything. Such was the quality of movies this year that high-profile biopics like NTR Mahanayakudu, and thrillers like 118 didn’t make the cut. Nevertheless, here is a mix of movies that stood out for multifarious reasons – some for stirring performances, some for the depth and vision of the screenplay, some for the balance of the characters, some for the social message, and some for the rationality of the tale itself. And of course, for being entertaining.

Oh! Baby

In one of the rare instances where our filmmakers got magical realism right, Oh! Baby preaches without barely making an effort to do so, while distracting you with comedy and laughter, and soul-searching moments. Samantha’s versatility is breathtaking in this wonderful movie directed by Nandini Reddy. What makes this heartfelt movie wonderful is the supporting cast including Lakshmi, Rao Ramesh, Rajendra Prasad, Teja Sajja, and others. Oh! Baby is my favourite movie of the year for two simple reasons – we can watch it, end to end several times, with the family, and secondly, it takes courage to make a movie such as this, where your protagonist is a) not male b) not alpha.

Jersey

Gautam Tinnanuri’s Jersey was an emotional rollercoaster, and that rare gem which uses sport to narrate a deeper story – that of a father’s craving for his son’s adoration. Nani effortlessly wraps himself in the skin of an over-the-hill cricketer trying to make a comeback at the age of 36, while battling a heart disease. There are many a touching moment in the movie, buoyed emotionally by Anirudh Ravichander’s brilliant OST. Ronit Kamra as young Nani is a conflation of adorability and innocence. Shraddha Srinath and Sathyaraj turned in performances that make the movie, probably, the most soulful of the year.

Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya

Naveen Polishetty of AIB fame co-wrote this with the movie’s director Swaroop RSJ, and played the protagonist – a quirky, sharp, incisive detective looking for the big break. The thriller manages to hold your attention with its multi-layered narrative, where the Sherlockian finds himself embroiled in a double game. Mired in a conspiracy that is way deeper than he anticipates, the detective uses his observations and reasoning to unravel a mafia of epic proportions. Crisp and taut, the movie keeps you on tenterhooks, thanks to a story that shows how people’s superstitions can be exploited by crime rings.

Brochevarevaru Ra

Directed and written by Vivek Athreya, this is by far the funniest movie of the year. And +5 and a doughnut for proving that comedy need not be ‘jabardasth’. It can be intelligent. It need not be crass, or sexist, or bigoted. It can be smart. Tracing three secondary school students, all backbenchers (Rahul Ramakrishna, Priyadarshi and Sree Vishnu), who go to great lengths to help their friend (wonderfully played by Nivetha Thomas), the screenplay doesn’t shy away from a social message to parents – listen to your children. It also makes a strong statement against sexual harassment by people near and dear. Satydev too chips in with his part, in a story that affords space for every actor in it, however, small or big the role, the mark of a good screenplay.

Evaru

While I have stayed away from picking bilinguals in this list, I have made a concession to pick Evaru, which is the Telugu remake of the Spanish The Invisible Guest (or the more popular Badla). Venkat Ramji’s direction is admirable for stripping the story of melodramatic exaggeration to turn this into a crisp thriller, just like its inspiration. Adivi Sesh’s poker-faced protagonist and Regina’s cold-blooded opportunistic psychopath give us a wonderfully layered story. It keeps you guessing as the protagonist peels away one lie after another to reveal the entrenched truth.

Dear Comrade

Bharath Kamma’s film didn’t do as well as it deserved to; guess it pulled the wrong audiences. Vijay Deverakonda fans would have been surprised to note that the screenplay was dominated not by him but by Rashmika Mandanna. She plays Aparna, a talented cricketer who goes through the trauma of sexual harassment. Nevertheless, credit where it is due as Vijay complements Rashmika’s wonderful performance. A romantic movie at its core, Dear Comrade’s wonderful screenplay, enhanced by Justin Prabhakaran’s music, has elements of everything – intellectual revolution, questioning norms, anger management, love, and societal pressures.

Mallesham

Raj R’s biopic of Padma Shri Award recipient Chintakindi Mallesham is not glamorous. It doesn’t use stunning cinematography or OST to give you an emotional high. It is slow-burn, as it takes you through the travails of a rather unassuming, but obsessed individual, played by Priyadarshi, well-supported by Ananya, who plays his wife. The weaver, moved by the shoulder problems faced by women in his village, innovates to develop a machine that will make the weaving process efficient, faster, and safer. Mallesham is not inspiringly breathtaking cinema. But, it must be watched for the against-all-odds story.

Gang Leader

Vikram Kumar’s Gang Leader is not cinema at its best, but it makes it to this list for two reasons – its wacky comedy, something Telugu movies aren’t known for, and it is a part-heist, part-thriller done well. Anirudh’s OST as always gives it the elevation, as Nani effortlessly pulls off a crime thriller comedy with the help of his team of five amazing women. Lakshmi once again proves why she – once a trailblazing leading lady – is one of the best character artists of this generation.

Rakshasudu

Ramesh Varma’s Rakshasudu, a remake of the Tamil Ratsasan, is probably the first Bellamkonda Srinivas starrer that makes sense. The movie revolves around a serial killer with a powerful back story – and manages to keep the intrigue until the climax. It is only in the end that the movie stumbles a bit in its handling, over-extending the tale needlessly, falling short of what could have been a reasonably good watch. Nevertheless, for the sheer attempt to bring diversity to our cinema, which is in desperate need of the same, it deserves a place on this list.

Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy

Surender Reddy’s biopic of Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy didn’t turn out to be as hair-raising as the trailer suggested. Nevertheless, the stunts were impressive and the story didn’t really torment us with nationalistic melodrama, as one may have feared. Chiranjeevi presides over a reasonably well-narrated tale, showing us why he is considered one of the greatest Telugu actors. The downside of the screenplay is the treatment meted out to characters played by Vijay Sethupathy, Amitabh Bachchan and Nayanthara. Tamannaah and Sudeep are the only other characters to be given their due in a movie that had too many people and very little investment in those characters.

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