Review: ‘Hanu-Man,’ starring Teja Sajja, Amritha Aiyer, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Samuthirakani, Vinay Rai and Vennela Kishore

February 4, 2024

by Carla Hay

Teja Sajja in “Hanu-Man” (Photo courtesy of PrimeShow Entertainment)


Directed by Prasanth Varma

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India, the sci-fi/fantasy/action film “Hanu-Man” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A petty thief becomes an unlikely superhero who battles with a supervillain over a gem that give the hero his superpowers.

Culture Audience: “Hanu-Man” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of superhero movies and don’t mind watching a movie that’s more than two-and-a-half hours long.

Vinay Rai in “Hanu-Man” (Photo courtesy of PrimeShow Entertainment)

“Hanu-Man” is an epic superhero film whose minor flaws are outshone by an engaging story and some stunning visuals. The movie has plot developments that are more unexpected than others. It’s a crowd-pleasing movie that’s obviously conceived as a franchise.

Written and directed by Prasanth Varma, “Hanu-Man” (which takes place in India) begins where most superhero movies usually don’t begin: by showing the origin story of the movie’s chief villain. The opening scene takes place in the Saurashtra region in 1998. A boy named Michael and his best fried Siri, who are both about 11 or 12 years old, are role-playing as a superhero on the roof of a building.

Michael, who is wearing a cape, jumps off of the building and injures himself. Later, when Michael is recovering from his injuries at home, his father yells at Michael for being reckless and for having an obsession with superheroes and comic books. (Michael’s bedroom wall is plastered with superhero artwork and posters.) Michael’s father punishes him with some physical abuse and forbids Michael from reading any more comic books.

Later, Michael and Siri have a private conversation where Michael mentions that all of the most famous superheroes—such as Superman, Batman and Spider-Man—have parents who died when the superheroes were children. The next scene shows Michael secretly killing his parents by setting their house on fire while the parents are trapped inside.

The movie then fast-forwards to Michael (played by Vinay Rai) in his 30s. He has become a superhero vigilante called Mega Man. Michael and Siri (who is now an accomplished scientist) are still best friends. Siri is Michael’s sidekick and does whatever Michael tells him to do. Siri knows about Michael’s secret superhero alter ego because Siri is the one who came up with the inventions that helped Michael become a superhero. Just like Batman, Michael is a human being who doesn’t have superpowers but he has a powerful superhero suit and an arsenal of high-tech gadgets and weapons that he uses for his vigilante activities.

Meanwhile, in the fictional hamlet of Anjanadri, a petty thief named Hanumanthu (played by Teja Sajja) has a best friend named Kasi (played by Getup Srinu), who is sometimes his partner in crime. Hanumanthu’s older sister Anjamma (played by Varalaxmi Sarathkumar) worries about Hanumanthu and wishes that he would turn his life around and become a respectable citizen. Anjamma is engaged to be married. Ner wedding becomes a pivotal point in the story.

Hanumanthu has a crush on an attractive and outspoken doctor named Meenakshi (played by Amritha Aiyer), who has vivid memories of a superhero being her rescuer/protector when she was a child. Meeakshi frequently clashes with Anjanadri’s leader Gajapathi (played by Raj Deepak Shetty), who rules Anjanadri like a dictator. Meeakshi wants the village to be more of a democracy.

The feud between Meeakshi and Gajapathi escalates to a point where Gajapathi sends a gang of masked thieves to rob and attack Meeakshi. Hanumanthu comes to Meeakshi’s rescue during the attack but he’s seriously wounded and falls into a sea nearby. He finds a glowing gem in the sea and is able to go back home.

During his recovery, Hanumanthu finds out that the gem has given him superpowers (such as extraordinary strength and agility), but only when he is in possession of the gem and when the gem is exposed to sunlight. It isn’t long before Hanumanthu and Gajapathi face off in a fight, where Hanumanthu’s new superpowers come in handy. Because Hanumanthu doesn’t want people to know that his superpowers come from this gem, he hides the gem in a mask that he wears in public when he’s using the superpowers.

And what about Michael? He’s been injured in a fight, so his Mega Man activities have been halted until he can fully recover. However, through a viral video that he sees on social media, Michael finds out about Hanumanthu’s exceptional strength and decides he has to find out what is the source of Hanumanthu’s strength. It doesn’t take long for Michael and Siri to arrive in Anjanadri.

“Hanu-Man” has a lot of thrilling acting scenes with mostly convincing visuals. When the visuals don’t look believable, it’s only a temporary distraction. Overall, the cinematography is very effective at immersing viewers into this world. The acting performances are adequate and not as good as the actual story.

Even though Michael is the movie’s chief villain, “Hanu-Man” has a lot to say about resisting political oppression in the conflicts with Gajapathi. Can this power-hungry tyrant be reedeemed? Michael also represents the corruption that can happen when people pursue power at any cost. It’s a tried-and-true theme for superhero stories, but “Hanu-Man” handles it with style and crowd-pleasing entertainment.

PrimeShow Entertainment released “Hanu-Man” in select U.S. cinemas on January 12, 2024, the same day the movie was released in India.

Review: ‘Michael’ (2023), starring Sundeep Kishan, Vijay Sethupathi, Divyansha Kaushik, Gautham Vasudev Menon and Varun Sandesh

February 10, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sundeep Kishan in “Michael” (Photo courtesy of Karan C Productions and Sree Venkateswara Cinemas)

“Michael” (2023)

Directed by Ranjit Jeyakodi

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in early 1990s and briefly in the 1980s, primarily in the Indian cities of Bombay and Delhi, the action film “Michael” features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: An orphan who was adopted by a crime boss grows up to be a thug innvolved the boss’ revenge schmes and murder sprees, while secrets and lies affect people’s motives. 

Culture Audience: “Michael” will appeal primarily to people who want to watch a lot of gruesome and gratituous violence in a movie that doesn’t have anything of quality to offer.

Gautham Vasudev Menon (center) in “Michael” (Photo courtesy of Karan C Productions and Sree Venkateswara Cinemas)

“Michael” is yet another mindless action flick about gangs and other people who are out for revenge. The story is a narrative mess, the fight scenes are unrealistic, and the acting is terrible. And with a total running time of 155 minutes, this flimsy story is dragged out for too long and quickly wears out its welcome with a lot of bloody and empty violence until the movie’s very predictable end.

Written and directed by Ranjit Jeyakodi, “Michael” does nothing clever or truly original, since it rips off ideas that have been in much better films. The movie (which take place in India, mostly in the early 1990s) tells a sloppily made story about an orphan who was unofficially adopted by a crime boss and has grown up to be a leading enforcer in his adoptive father’s gang. It should come as no surprise that secrets from certain characters’ past lives end up being revealed as a plot twist, although viewers who’ve seen enough of these types of unimaginative movies can easily predict this plot twist.

The title character in “Michael” is a swaggering thug (played by Sundeep Kishan), who has a mysterious past. In the early 1980s, Michael was adopted as an orphaned adolescent by a Bombay-based crime boss named Gurunath (played by Gautham Vasudev Menon), who has taught Michael everything that Michael knows about how to be a ruthless criminal. Michael has become Gurunath’s most trusted and most powerful enforcer.

However, not everyone in this crime family is a fan of Michael. Gurunath and his wife Charulatha (played by Anasuya Bharadwaj) have a biological son named Amarnath (Varun Sandesh ), who’s about the same age as Michael. Charulatha and Amarnath seem to resent Michael and treat him like an interloper in the family. Amarnath is predictably jealous of Michael because Gurunath respects Michael more than he respects Amarnath. Michael will most likely be named the successor to Gurunath’s crime operations.

Michael’s loyalty to Gurunath will be tested when Gurunath orders Michael to go to Delhi to kill two people: another crime boss named Rathan (played by Anish Kuruvilla) and Rathan’s seductive daughter Theera (played by Divyansha Kaushik), who doesn’t do much in the movie except pout, act sexy, and do some awkwardly place song-and-dance numbers. Gurunath wants Rathan and Theera to be murdered as revenge, because some of Rathan’s goons kidnapped Michael and stabbed Gurunath.

The movie never shows how, but Michael escapes from this kidnapping. (It’s an example of the movie’s awful screenwriting.) The next thing that viewers see is Michael taking a huge slab of boned meat and going into a nightclub and assaulting people with this slab of meat. He then uses weapons and his fists to assault more people. Many of the men being attacked work with gangster RK (played by R. K. Mama), who is an associate of Gurunath and who is also in the nightclub. RK warns Michael: “Michael, the day I come back will be your death day.”

Before Michael gets sent on the murder mission, Gurunath warns Michael not to be seduced by Theera. This is an example of some of the terrible dialogue in the movie: Gurunath tells Michael that female spiders kill male spiders after mating with them. “Women do the same things,” Gurunath adds. “We just don’t see it.” As soon as Gurunath makes this misogynistic statement, you just know that Michael will be seduced by Theera.

Michael starts off by stalking Theera, who ends up getting a car ride from Michael and tells him that she knows that he’s been following her. Theera asks Michael to stop the car so that she can get some ice cream from a street vendor. Then she smirks and tells Michael: “I like to slap before I kiss … You’re not the only person I’m kissing. You want to sleep with me, no? You’re not my type. I’m warning you: Don’t fall in love with me.”

Be prepared for more mind-numbing and idiotic scenes like that, because “Michael” is full of them. There’s a subplot about Michael getting protection from an unnamed operative (played by Vijay Sethupathi) and his wife (played by Varalaxmi Sarathkumar), who have clues to Michael’s murky past. Michael also has a faithful sidekick named Swami (played by Ayyappa P. Sharma), who is kind of useless and isn’t in the movie as much as people might think he should be.

“Michael” is nothing more than bombastic and ludicrous fight scenes cobbled together, with a few musical numbers thrown in to make the movie even more erratic. All of the characters don’t have any real substance and just go through the motions. The action scenes are beyond stupid and just further lower the quality of this already low-quality movie. The ending of “Michael” makes it obvious that the filmmakers would like to make a sequel to this atrocity, which should be avoided if viewers care about preserving some of their own brain cells.

Karan C Productions and Sree Venkateswara Cinemas released “Michael” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on February 3, 2023.

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