Diary of a fan – Champions League Final & The Liverpool Way of Life

My biggest night as a Liverpool fan is here.
These are my thoughts on my journey, my emotions & the Liverpool way.

Advertisements

The biggest day of my life as a Liverpool fan is here. We face Real Madrid in the Champions League final at Kyiv. It has been pretty emotional for me since we booked the date with history on May 2nd. To give a little perspective, let us go back 11 years ago.

When You Walk Through a Storm…

I vaguely remember starting to watch football in 2007. There is a single memory of knowing that an English team, Liverpool, lost the Champions League final to AC Milan through a news channel. A few months later, watching Liverpool lose to Manchester United made me a Reds fan.

Since then, all my football buddies who support every other top club have seen major success. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea & Bayern Munich fans have all tasted domestic as well as European success. Hell, even for all the misery, Arsenal fans have a bunch of FA Cups to look at. However, Liverpool just lifted the Carling Cup back in 2012 in these 11 years. So, my wait went on.

gerro_2638837b

The pain of not competing for top prizes did hurt but it also ingrained the most important aspect of Liverpool Football Club – this is a way of life. Over the years, this club has become much more than an interest or just a football team. The club and its traditions are going to outlast me, success will keep coming and going and football will be played until the world’s end.

At The End Of The Storm…

So, all I feel are joy and privilege. A privilege to watch the beautiful game week in, week out. A privilege to feel the Liver bird in my veins. And joy to be a Liverpool supporter until the end. The club has made me a better human, its values echo mine and the various ups & downs over the years teach life itself.

Everything about Liverpool goes deeper than supporting a team because I love the game or to take a side in discussions. There has not been a single day since 2007 without a Liverpool thought, and there will not be such a day until the end.

Some were happy thoughts, some were sadder thoughts. However, this changed when a certain Jurgen Norbert Klopp entered to etch his chapter in every supporters’ life.

And The Sweet Silver Song…

5d02e8cd-2940-48c9-b049-638c2c682f96-1447-00000134de6c3be4

If there is a living embodiment of the Liverpool way, then it is Klopp. The phrase “perfect fit” does not even do justice to how well he “gets” the club. Everything he speaks and does screams passion, love and football – just like Liverpool Football Club.

The German is not just building a team but a legacy. He is hell-bent on keeping his promise of taking us back to the top and here we stand at the first major milestone of his passion & determination – UEFA Champions League Final.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

This is the biggest match personally since I started watching football. I always dreamt of such nights & finally, I get to be a part of one. We are facing the greatest team in the competition and we are underdogs as we always are. I understand the tactics, the weaknesses and the possibilities but I have no idea how this will turn out.

All I know is that this has been one helluva season with such amazing memories and everyone associated with Liverpool Football Club will give their all tonight. This is going to be the biggest night of my footballing life & I am going to feel every bit of it.

The emotions will be raw because they are real. We could win, we could lose but these two hours will stay etched forever. So, it is time to feel privileged once again adopting the Liverpool way of life. Hopefully, at the end of the night, the Big-Eared piece of silverware will shine in the Golden Sky & that is a new feeling I would love to experience.

Thank you Klopp.

YNWA

 

All content rights are reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

Avengers: Infinity War – Marvel delivers on its promise

Marvel has done it. They have spectacularly delivered the BIGGEST superhero movie in history as promised. Before we go gaga over the screenplay which enabled this epic to work, we need to take a look at how the two major flaws of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), villains and stakes, were ironed out. Traditionally, Marvel’s villains are barely memorable, except for Loki (thanks to Tom Hiddleston) and Black Panther’s Killmonger, and we all know there are barely any stakes in any film as our heroes will come through the film safely or maybe lose an eye (Thor: Ragnarok).

Enter Thanos. The madman from Titan only featured in brief cameos over the past six years and the makers of this film did the best possible thing to rectify their flaws – make him the focal point of the story. Yes, in Infinity War, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely invert the usual superhero trope by making us spend the most amount of time with the film’s motion-capture villain, played to perfection by Josh Brolin. The story revolves around his quest to retrieve the six Infinity Stones to wipe out half of the universe’s population (stakes).

screen_shot_2017_11_29_at_8-29-28_am-0

Now, this is great storytelling, because we have already spent enough time with our heroes over 18 films and Thanos needs time to be built and shown as a fully-fleshed character who thoroughly believes he is making the entire universe better with his goal. In order to do this while pulling off the biggest crossover event in the history of cinema with more than two dozen important characters explains the enormity of the challenge.

Enter the Russo brothers. The sibling directors first came into the Marvel fold with Captain America:Winter Soldier and did a mini-test of the crossover with Captain America: Civil War. Now, the duo not only executed the constantly-engaging screenplay to the dot but also stayed true to the tonality of the different universes these heroes operate in. The result is a seamless transition while the protagonists literally travel to different planets and the interactions are as fun as ever.

1524992359_chris-evans-captain-america-avengers-infinity-war

Every hero gets to shine with the big three of Captain America, Iron Man and Chris Hemsworth getting their special focus as one would expect. Only Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is underutilized while the biggest stars for the next phase, Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, and Tom Holland’s Spiderman get ample time to leave an impact. Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther contributes more as Wakanda than as the King, which is still a win.

The background score by Alan Silvestri deserves a special mention as he mixes the theme songs effortlessly, elevating the big moments, especially those involving Thanos. In the end, the trick of making this crossover work is making the little moments count, be it banter or display of new powers, and the timing is everything. The makers have ensured Thanos’ story is sandwiched with splendid action sequences and irrespective of whichever hero is your favourite, you will leave the theatre satisfied.

While that is enough for the movie to become a superhit, Marvel takes a bold decision at the end to push the ceiling and stun the fanbase. While the impact could be short-term in hindsight, it is another brilliant piece of storytelling for the same reason. There are several memorable points that will thrill fans throughout the fan and those should be saved for another article.

Finally, if you have not watched the film yet, better late than never.

Justice League Review: DC getting it right bit by bit

DISCLAIMER – This is a long review.

For a 90’s kid growing up among several heroic cartoons, Justice League was the Holy Grail. Brilliant characters with diverse backstories leading to intriguing personalities for both the heroes and villains made for compelling television. Most importantly, it elevated the core concept of superheroes -it is the heart and not the powers that maketh the hero. Now, throw in the values of teamwork, sacrifice and friendship, that Justice League could move a mountain.

However, barring a Batman trilogy, courtesy Christopher Nolan, DC Comics failed to capture the silver screen. The situation was further compounded by Marvel kick-starting a juggernaut in 2008 which is showing no signs of slowing down. Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers, in 2012 showed how to portray a superhero team on screen.

Bat

This led to DC rushing in to develop an extended universe of their own and to say there were hiccups in the past few years would be an understatement. Either way, the much-awaited Justice League is finally here and to put it in a single statement – they are getting there.

Yes, the movie does not have the elaborate build of Avengers with individual films for most of the characters, that were well-received and this could hurt the casual moviegoers a bit. Yet, the Justice League characters are hands-down more popular than any other. Thus, with a tweak in the film’s tone and improved writing, the movie comfortably escapes the problems of yore (except for critics, of course) and delivers a satisfying team-up.

Aquaman

The prime antagonist, Steppenwolf, suffers from not having an actual human face and a backstory. However, given the heroes’ situation in terms of previous films (barring Wonder Woman, which was well-received), DC can be forgiven for not fleshing out Steppenwolf and he ends up doing nothing more than being the bad guy. This expectantly leads to a low-key climax.

The film’s crispier timing of just about two hours is a big plus and the banter between the heroes (including Batman) lifts the spirits to great success. Further, the Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are shown just enough to have an idea about their origins and powers while saving the rest for the upcoming individual films. Danny Elfman provides the right background score for every character and composes a fine theme song to cap it off.

Cyborg

All doubts on whether Ezra Miller will be accepted, given Grant Gustin’s excellent portrayal on the CW Network are put to bed, as Barry Allen (The Flash) is a dork, geek and witty as one would expect. Cyborg’s ‘half-man, half-machine’ trope gets his moments but will take another film to get the audience to understand his character (and powers). To that extent, the writers Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder do well to weave him into the film’s main plot, which is a pretty straightforward one.

Jason Momoa looks and feels the part of Aquaman as he brings in more muscle, mysterious aquatic powers and a swagger of his own to the team. Ben Affleck’s Batman is now at a different place after Superman’s death and he takes the initiative to get the team together apart from getting a few cool new toys. The real show-stealer is undoubtedly Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who carries right where she left off in Wonder Woman. No wonder, she looks the most-developed character among the lot, with Gadot depicting the pain and strength within at every step.

SPOILER AHEAD!

WW

Unless you were living under a stone since Batman vs Superman, this is not much of a spoiler as Superman comes back from the dead. The movie can be considered a success in itself for FINALLY getting the Son of Krypton right. The seriousness is now intertwined with a dash of humour, which is how he is in the comics. Further, the film does a good amount of work (Bruce Wayne in particular) to re-establish the character before his rebirth, bringing in what he stands for and why he is the leader of the team (despite being a Batman fan, I got sold).

Finally, there are a couple of scenes in the midst of action in the film that show how these DC heroes can connect and impress without even uttering a word and both of them involve the Flash. For once or twice, in this case, Zack Snyder’s love for slow-motion shots enhances the scenes tenfold.

Flash

Justice League is finally a step in the right direction for DC as it rectifies the plaguing issues while showcasing the immense potential. The second end-credit scene is the perfect proof of the same (wait for it!) while the first end-credit scene is for comic geeks and looks like a Joss Whedon touch.

THE LEAGUE HAS UNITED!

All content rights are reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi Review: An Ode to Friendship!

Telugu Film Industry (TFI) has been nothing short of spectacular this year. The entire year has seen a wide variety of films thrilling the audience with different content, irrespective of the budget. Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi adds itself to the list with the focus being firmly on friendship.

Every once in a while, a film based on friendships is made that tugs viewers’ hearts. Be it Happy Days or Arya 2  or several other films in this genre, the friendships between the lead characters act as a base for the story. Now, Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi is a slightly different film in the sense that the story IS about friendship.

Every other character, including the female leads, are present to either enhance or test the bond between Abhi (Ram) and Vasu (Sree Vishnu), thereby demonstrating the ethos of friendship. Director Kishore Tirumala who doubled up as a writer for the film pens a satisfying drama without a single shade of negativity. While it can seem implausible to meet such characters in real life, it is definitely not impossible.

hero-ram-15-movie-unnadi-okkate-zindagee-official-posters-with-heroines-anupama-and-meghaa

Thus, the movie does not feature any antagonists and given the nature of the film, it is a wise decision. The first half flows like a breeze and the conflict points are interesting to watch. However, Kishore is a writer first and his need to weave the narrative slows down the film before the climax recovers with a proper closure for the story.

Ram looks smashing in the entirety of the film and his new look will definitely draw attention. However, it does not take away his performance credits as he begins to show maturity as an actor. Sree Vishnu gets ample screen time to deliver and he does a commendable job as the introvert in the friendship. The remaining friends are fleshed out just enough to justify their presence apart from providing entertainment, which is bound to evoke loud laughs from the audience.

Out of the female leads, Anupama Parameswaran of Premam fame gets a good role as a regular girl with dreams and she looks the part. Lavanya Tripathi’s character does not have the same depth but like the rest of the actors, she has a meaningful role.

As one would expect, Devi Sri Prasad delivers a peppy soundtrack for the film with the theme music certain to stay with the audience even after the film. The production values are top notch with a classy touch to every frame. Editing by A.Sreekar Prasad is good for most parts, except for the second-half which could have used some trimming.

Nevertheless, Vunnadhi Okate Zindagi is a must-watch for every individual who either has those childhood friends to cherish or wants to understand the essence of friendship, a relation that is taken for granted more than any other.

Trend-u maarina Friend-u maaradey,
End kaani Bond peru FRIENDSHIP ey!
Trend-u maarina Friend-u maaradey,
Gundeloni Sound peru FRIENDSHIP ey!

The song may not be AR Rehman’s “Mustafa Mustafa”, but it has the necessary impact.

Finally, a special mention to all my friends for the wonderful ride since more than a decade. You are genuine strength – miss you all!

All content rights are reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

 

Jai Lava Kusa Review – ‘Actor’ Worship for a Change

Hero worship of established stars is commonplace in our country. A mashup of various iconic roles, dialogues and moments are repackaged into a breezy film for fans to savour. While they might prove entertaining at times, more often than not they end up being caricatures of the actor’s different characters.

However, what if one celebrates the actor instead of the hero for a change? After all, it is the innumerable characters played by the actor that movie buffs fell in love with in the first place. Jai Lava Kusa is exactly that. Jr. NTR, an actor in peak form thrills and charms with his immense talent while testing new boundaries himself.

Jr. NTR as Lava Kumar
Image source – Hindustan Times

As the movie title suggests, Jr. NTR essays not two but three different roles, implying there is barely any room for other actors to make a significant impact. Normally, this leads to a lack of any sort of coherent story as the onus is on the multiple roles played by the lead actor. Jai Lava Kusa avoids this major pitfall by making the story around the titular characters and everything else serves as a backdrop. Credit for this goes to writers Kona Venkat, K.Chakravarthy along with K.S.Ravindra (Bobby) who donned the director’s hat as well.

Jr. NTR as Kusa
Image source – The Indian Express

Thus, Jr. NTR ends up providing the emotional weight, entertainment, and villainy for the film, with three distinct characters who chew up the entire canvas without becoming overbearing at any point. Except for the obvious visual similarity, the multi-talented actor brings variations in expressions and body language to every character, including dancing styles and possibly cementing his place as the best actor in the industry at the moment.

Jr. NTR as Jai
Image source – Andhrawishesh

A special mention goes to the character of Jai, who will remain a landmark character for Tarak. The intensity, strength and “Raavan”-like personality he brought to the character while making the audience feel every emotion of Jai till the end is an absolute joy to watch. It also helps that the background score by Devi Sri Prasad which supports the film well goes up by a couple of notches every time Jai is on-screen and lingers long after the movie is done.

Jai Lava Kusa is a commercial entertainer with a storyline that suits the intended purpose of bringing the actor inside Jr. NTR out instead of being the other way round. Director Bobby has done a great job of giving the film emotional depth despite Tarak’s triple role and instead, makes it the backbone of the film. The screenplay remains engaging and whenever it starts to lag, the bankable lead actor hooks the audience.

In essence, the movie serves as an ode to everything Tarak can do as an actor. However, by being an ode to the actor and not the hero, the movie swerves from the usual and is set to become Jr. NTR’s fourth hit on the trot. As Tarak embraces the actor in him this way, the sky is the limit for him and as an avid admirer of his acting ability, I am looking forward to more.

For now, Raavana Jai Jai Jai!

 

All content rights reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

Spiderman: Homecoming Review – The Spider Kid earns his Marvel stripes

First of all, I would like to clear right away that I am not a Spiderman fan. Neither the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire trilogy nor the Marc Webb-Andrew Garfield made me connect for whatever reasons with the friendly neighbourhood superhero. The only media I enjoyed him was cartoons and comics. With Marvel acquiring him, there was the golden opportunity and Captain America: Civil War gave a brilliant teaser of what was to come. On a personal level, I finally fell in love with the web slinger after this film.

Spiderman always needed a colourful, charming tone and Marvel exactly fits the bill. The music for Marvel Studios along with the animation right at the beginning shows what is to follow. Homecoming maintains a long-distance relationship with the larger MCU. Even the much-hyped partnership with Iron Man is surprisingly maintained at a very minimal level. Robert Downey Jr. never steals anything significant from his son-like protege and the story allows for the most famous Marvel superhero to blossom.

Tom Holland as Spiderman

Tom Holland does a tremendous job in the role as he deals with his alter-ego’s responsibilities of a teenager. Another key aspect of Spiderman is the fun aspect and in typical Marvel fashion, the movie delivers in spades. There are scenes that would even make Joss Whedon proud when it comes to witty humour, be it about his powers, problems and in action sequences.

Michael Keaton does a commendable job as a villain and is one of the better Marvel villains till date. In recent films, there has been a visible effort to make the MCU global and Homecoming has a strong Asian presence including Peter’s best friend. There are a couple of surprising cameos and Jon Favreau gets good screen time as the likeable Happy Hogan.

Michael Keaton

The action sequences are fun and the stakes at all times are smaller than saving the world. However, they involve human risk and suits well with Peter Parker’s arc in the film. While all emotional moments do not resonate to the extent one would expect, Spiderman as a do-gooder with grit, righteousness and bravado stand out amidst the fun.

Jon Watts does a great job in bringing the character into the MCU and the screenplay is one of the biggest assets of the film. The movie races ahead at all times as both Peter Parker and Spiderman deal with their respective issues. This dual focus is well-written and there is never more of extra focus on either of the alter-egos, which is a good thing. One can understand the stakes for both the kid and the superhero at every point and the brisk pace helps the film massively.

Spiderman Ferry scene

Finally, almost every movie in any franchise that does not have a need to set-up something next always tend to do well. Doctor Strange and Ant-Man are the best recent examples in the MCU. Spiderman:Homecoming is the perfect homecoming for Spiderman into the MCU with a vulnerable Peter Parker who is not bogged down by his responsibilties for a change. Instead, he is just a young teen trying to make a change.

Overall, it is not a perfect film by any means but offers a whole lot of entertainment while bringing Marvel’s most beloved character into the MCU. After all, Marvel’s focus and success has always been entertainment. Then, who better to deliver it than your friendly neighbourhood hero with a befitting background score.

Note – Wait out for the end-credits scene. It is totally worth it and shows why Marvel still has the audience eating out of their hands!

All images are reproduced from Google.

All content rights reserved to me i.e. Saketh Ayyagari!

Les just not be only Friendz – Brief Review

Romance novels are currently a rage in India and Vikash Sharma enters into the market with his first book, “Les Just Not Be Only Friends”. The first part of a trilogy, Sharma builds a love story between two regular people. While that is the USP as per the book cover, the real strength of the novel lies in the grounded attention to detail. The author definitely is well-verse with the areas the story is set-in and the fallible characters are relatable.
The usage of Hindi lines in between may not be liked by everyone and there are occasional grammatical errors that needs to be corrected in following books. While the characters failed to make me care for them, the story did manage to make me turn the pages. The drawback of the book is that while it is not bad, it ain’t good enough either to stay once it is done. Yet, it did want me to read the second part when it’s out. For a first book, it is a decent start and the second book will show how much Sharma has improved.
Book cover – 3/5
Language – 2.5/5
Overall – 3/5

All rights reserved over the content.

Featured Image source – Amazon