Review: ‘Hi Nanna,’ starring Nani, Mrunal Thakur and Kiara Khanna

December 31, 2023

by Carla Hay

Kiara Khanna and Nani in “Hi Nanna” (Photo courtesy of Vyra Entertainments)

“Hi Nanna”

Directed by Shouryuv

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Indian cities of Mumbai and Coonoor, the dramatic film “Hi Nanan” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A single father tells his 6-year-old daughter the story of what happened to her mother, after the daughter’s life is saved by a woman who insists that he tell the story.

Culture Audience: “Hi Nanna” will appeal primarily to people who are fans the movie’s headliners and are interested in watching intriguing movies about how family members cope with separations.

Mrunal Thakur and Shilpa Tulaskar in “Hi Nanna” (Photo courtesy of Vyra Entertainments)

“Hi Nanna” requires some suspension of disbelief in this frequently melodramatic story about the mystery of a mother separated from her family. However, at the center of the film is what makes it shine: a sweet and compelling tale of long-lasting love. It’s by no means a groundbreaking film but it’s an enjoyable movie for viewers who like movies about people who could be reunited with family members.

“Hi Nanna” (which means “Hi Dad” in Telugu) is the feature-film debut of director Shouryuv, who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Bhanu Dheeraj Rayudu, Vasanth Sameer and Pinnamaraju. In the city of Mumbai, India, a successful fashion photographer named Viraj (played by Nani) is a single father who has a very close bond with his intelligent and adorable 6-year-old daughter Mahi (played by Kiara Khanna), who says that Viraj is her best friend. Viraj is a kind and patient parent, but there’s one thing that gets him upset: when Mahi asks him to tell her the story about what happened to her mother.

For as a long as possible, Viraj has been postponed telling Mahi (who has cystic fibrosis) the story of what happened to her mother. But now that Mahi is 6, she is old enough to keep asking questions and wanting answers. At school, she is the subject of gossip because of her absentee mother. Viraj promised Mahi that he would tell her the entire story if her grades at school are good enough for Mahi to be at the top of her class in academics.

Mahi achieves that goal, but when she tells Viraj and shows him her academic grades, he once again delays telling her the whole story, by saying that he’s too tired and will tell her later. Mahi and Viraj have an argument. The next morning, Viraj sees that Mahi is missing with their Golden Retriever dog Pluto. Viraj correctly assumes that Mahi has run away from home, so he frantically goes looking for her.

That morning, Mahi is walking with Pluto on a street. The dog breaks free of its leash and runs into traffic. Mahi runs after the dog and is nearly hit by a truck. But just at that moment, a woman in her late 20s or early 30s saves Mahi’s life. The dog has avoided getting hit and also safe.

The woman introduces herself as Varsha (played by Mrunal Thakur), who asks Mai where her parents are. Mahi tells Varsha why she ran away from home. Varsha is sympathetic but says that Mahi’s father has to be contacted to take Mahi home. Mahi gives Varsha the name and phone number of Viraj. Varsha takes Mahi to a nearby restaurant while they wait for him.

When Viraj shows up, he is relieved to see Mahi but seems a little caught off-guard and annoyed when he sees Varsha and finds out that Mahi has told Varsha about their family issues. Varsha insists that Mahi cannot leave with Viraj until Viraj tells Mahi the entire story of Mahi’s mother. Mahi thinks this woman is being very annoying and intrusive, but he complies with her demand because he doesn’t want to upset Mahi any more.

The rest of “Hi Nanna” alternates between showing flashbacks of Viraj’s volatile romance with Mahi’s mother and the present day. Varsha and Mahi have an instant connection, so tey start to become friends. The more time that Varsha spends with Mahi and Viraj, the more she starts to love them and they begin to feel like a family.

Viraj finds himself falling in love with Varsha, but there’s a big problem: She’s already engaged to marry a physician named Dr. Aravind (played by Angad Bedi), with the wedding happening in the near future. Varsha’s overbearing parents (played by Shilpa Tulaskar and Jayaram) approve of this arranged marriage. They think Dr. Avarind would make a more suitable husband for Varsha than Viraj.

The mystery of who and where Mahi’s mother is becomes very easy to solve when this mother is seen in flashbacks. However, the answers to why she is not in Mahi’s life happen much later in the film. It’s enough to say that there’s a very soap-opera-like explanation that is very far-fetched but not beyond the realm of possibility to happen in real life.

The cast members in “Hi Nanna” give very good (but not outstanding) performances. Khanna is a talented actress who can convey convincing emotions without the forced phoniness that makes many child performances very irritating. “Hi Nanna” also has admirable portrayals of a single father taking care of an underage daughter that aren’t often seen in most family-oriented movies. “Hi Nanna” has some heartbreak, but it’s overshadowed by the movie’s heartwarming qualities.

Vyra Entertainments released “Hi Nanna” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on December 7, 2023. Netflix will premiere the movie on January 4, 2023.

Review: ‘Ravanasura,’ starring Ravi Teja

April 13, 2023

by Carla Hay

Faria Abdullah, Ravi Teja and Hyper Aadi in “Ravanasura” (Photo courtesy of Abhishek Pictures)


Directed by Sudheer Varma

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Hyderabad, India, the action film “Ravanasura” features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A defense attorney agrees to a wealthy woman’s request to represent her father who has been accused of murder, but all is not what it seems to be in this twist-filled story. 

Culture Audience: “Ravanasura” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Ravi Teja and don’t mind watching idiotic action films that drag on for far too long.

Jayaram and Pujita Ponnada in “Ravanasura” (Photo courtesy of Abhishek Pictures)

In a world filled with terrible movies, “Ravanasura” has some of the most moronic plot twists you could ever see. The acting performances are horrendous. And this 140-minute action flick is too long for a movie this vapid. Perhaps the only real creative thought that was put into “Ravanasura” was for the choreography and staging of the occasional musical numbers, but the song lyrics in these musical scenes are utterly witless and generic.

Directed by Sudheer Varma (who co-wrote the atrocious screenplay with Srikanth Vissa), “Ravanasura” has a major plot twist that’s revealed about halfway through the movie and changes the entire trajectory of the story. It’s enough to say that this plot twist is so stupid, it wants viewers to forget that DNA testing exists. The plot twist also doesn’t take into account that certain characters have different body sizes and different heights. Other plot twists in the movie are much more predictable, but the big “shocker” in “Ravanasura” will just have viewers rolling their eyes in disgust at how bad this idea is.

In the beginning of “Ravanasura” (which takes place in Hyderabad, India), criminal defense attorney Ravindra, nicknamed Ravi (played by Ravi Teja), works as a junior lawyer with his ex-girlfriend Kanaka Mahalakshmi (played by Faria Abdullah), who is Ravi’s boss at the small law firm owned by Kanaka. Ravi and Kanaka briefly dated when they were college students, but she never had strong romantic feelings for him. Kanaka is now happily married to a man named Sekhar Mahalakshmi (played by Sriram, aslo known as Srikanth), who is openly affectionate with her, much to Ravi’s disdain.

Ravi keeps half-jokingly telling Kanaka that she is eventually going to marry Ravi, who constantly asks her out on dates that she firmly rejects. Ravi says insulting things about Kanaka’s marriage and about Sekhar. Ravi also makes other inappropriate, sexist comments to Kanaka while they’re on the job. It’s blatant sexual harassment.

And to make matters worse, Ravi isn’t very good at his job, since he does things such as show up late for courtroom appearances. An early scene in the movie shows that Ravi ruined a case by showing up too late with a crucial witness for a courtroom trial. The case was then dismissed by the trial judge.

All of this nonsense is shown early enough in the movie that viewers will immediately be wondering why Kanaka (who obviously dislikes Ravi) hasn’t fired Ravi already. Because “Ravanasura” is such a cesspool of idiocy, there is no explanation. The marriage of Kanaka and Sekhar is used for one of the movie’s many poorly conceived subplots and twists.

Ravi gives the impression that he’s a socially awkward jokester who can be very irresponsible, but he has some heartache in his life: His father lives in a hospital and appears to have dementia. The only thing that his father seems capable of saying is the name of a woman named Shanti. Ravi tells people that Shanti is the name of a nurse who used to take care of his father, and he grew very attached to this nurse.

Ravi has a goofy sidekick friend/attorney co-worker named Babji (played by Hyper Aadi), whose only purpose in the movie is going along with whatever Ravi says. One day, Ravi and Babji are at a library when they are approached by an attractive young woman named Harika Talwar (played by Megha Akash), who asks Ravi to be her father’s attorney. Harika’s father is a wealthy pharmaceutical mogul named Vijay Talwar (played by Sampath Raj), who has been accused of brutal murdering a man.

This murder, which took place in a restaurant, is shown as the opening scene of “Ravanasura.” The murder happened in front of several witnesses, who all identified Vijay as the killer. However, Vijay insists he’s been wrongfully accused and he wasn’t even near the restaurant when the murder happened. The problem for Vijay is that his alibi can’t be verified. Harika works as the head of research and development for her father’s company, which is called Syncox Pharma.

Kanaka doesn’t want her law firm to take the case, but Ravi uses blackmail to force the firm to take the case and to let Ravi be Vijay’s attorney. What Ravi does for the blackmail is to catch Kanaka off-guard by asking to take a selfie photo with her, and right when the picture is taken, he planted a romantic kiss on her cheek. Ravi tells Kanaka that he will show the photo to Kanaka’s husband Sekhar and tell him that Kanaka and Ravi are having an affair, unless she agrees to let Ravi be Vijay’s attorney. Yes, the movie really is this ridiculous.

The police officers who are the most involved in investigating the case are a deputy inspector general of police named Narasimha Murthy (played by Murli Sharma); an assistant commissioner of police named Hanumanth Rao (played by Jayaram), who takes the lead in the investigation and is very persistent; and police inspector named Ruhana (played by Pujita Ponnada), who Hunmanth’s subordinate and is often more perceptive than Hunmanth. And somewhere along the way, a home minister named Mudi Reddy (played by Rao Ramesh) is revealed to have a connection to this case. Other characters who have pivotal roles in the story include a makeup artist named Saketh (played by Sushanth); Saketh’s girlfriend Jaanu (played by Daksha Nagarkar); and a woman named Keerthana (played by Anu Emmanuel), who has a romantic interest in Ravi.

The last half of “Ravanasura” gets more and more tangled up in ludicrous revelations, until nothing in this movie is believable at all. It’s just a brainless story, bombastically told to make the action a not-very-convincing distraction from all the bad filmmaking on display. Most of the cast members over-act in the worst ways. Scenes that are supposed to be comedic look too forced and fake.

“Ravanasura” star Teja is one of the movie’s producers, so he’s partly to blame for how horrendous this movie is. However, “Ravanasura” director/co-writer Varma ultimately made a lot of the dreadful decisions that resulted in this movie being such a garbage dump. “Ravanasura” could have been a brain-teasing thriller. But instead, this noisy, overly long and aggressively foolish abomination is more likely to give viewers a headache.

Abhishek Pictures released “Ravanasura” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on April 7, 2023.

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