Friday, November 19, 2010

It's my Birthday! and OMG I love Twitter!

    I can't resist doing a short post about my Birthday. And Twitter. And how totally awesome Twitter is especially on my Birthday! I was really feeling down yesterday. Not about getting older mind you. I turn 49 today and am proud of every grey hair and wrinkle because I (mostly) had fun earning them. And the ones I got from sad and stressfull situations have made me a very strong person so I celebrate them too.
     Also I don't feel middle aged at all. I still feel like a kid. Well my vision has gotten worse, I wear trifocals now but I've always had poor vision and have worn glasses since I was 10. So that's not a big deal. And my knees hurt sometimes because I have arthritis, but they have hurt since I injured them when I climbed Kilimanjaro so I totally BRAG about that! So that's not a big deal either.  I feel so much like a kid ( kid I mean 25-ish) that my 15 year old daughter complains about how loud I play my music and says I play around too much. I say there is no such thing! Plus embarassing her is kind of fun and rediculously  easy given her age.
    I was down mainly because it seems we miss all holidays and family celebrations because I live so far from my family. Americans are like that, we spread out! I think it is the pioneering spirit, leaving the old country knowing you won't see family again...nowadays we leave home and make our way independently. It's part of what we do. Especially midwest farmer types.  I haven't celebrated any family Birthdays, Anniversaries, Thanksgiving or Easter with my family in maybe 20 years.  I was feeling down because my daughter has always missed out on that too. (Except Christmas, we manage somehow at Christmas.) She's a sweetheart and tells me it doesn't bother her because it's normal to her, so I am the only one that probably feels bad about it.
    But  when she sees me feeling down then she feels bad, then I feel worse.  I was in the middle of feeling crappy but trying not to, so I went on Twitter and decided to spam my Favorite Tollywood stars to see if I could get one of them to wish me Happy Birthday. I focused on Jr. NTR because he is my number 1 favorite and Prakash Raj because he is Prakash Awesome! Spamming them was fun in and of itself because I tried to write something different each time.  I am especially proud of this one, a two for one spam about subtitles and my Birthday!
    And then some of my tweety pals, as Prakash Raj calls them, helped me and spammed them for a Birthday wish too. Thank you Nicki, Cynthia, Liz, Suzy and Harsha! And look! It worked!

    OMG! I was just about to go to bed when Tarak tweeted so I almost missed it! I squeee'd so loud I woke my daughter up! Poor thing! I totally scared her, she thought someone was breaking in! And he tweeted directly to me too! It was so cool and so very sweet of him! It is almost silly how happy it made me!  And then when I got up this moring I found this!

Squeeee! Prakash Raj called me dear!

    And then on top of all of that I have been getting  Happy Birthday Greetings from Tarak's and Prakash Raj's fans all day!  I can't tell you how much everyone's Brithday Greetings have meant to me. So Thank you all that have sent them!
    And then the wonderful guys over at Nandamurifans DB have been sending me wishes there as well. There are 2 threads started, here and here.

I love how the internet makes the world small. Instead of feeling disconnected from my family I feel so lucky and connected to everyone. Thank you everyone for making my Birthday so special!

My special friend Harsha from NFDB and Twitter has started a new blog about Telugu Films. It is going to be great having an actual Telugu person writing in English about Tollywood films. You can find Harshas Theory here. Welcome to the Blogging world Harsha!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Takkari Donga (2002) Dir. Jayant Paranjee

My alternate title for this post is: Move over Old Spice Man: It's Mahesh! In a Cowboy Hat! And Chaps! On a Horse! That should be sufficient information for anyone to watch this 3 hour unsubbed extravaganza of leather multiple times like I did. But if you are not into Cowboy Westerns (or should it be Cowboy Easterns?) and would need further encouragement to watch this wonderful movie, there is available on-line a subtitled version created painstakeingly by a fan, god bless them.
       I happen to love Cowboy Westerns. It is one of those things that my sisters and I bonded with our Dad over. He loved cowboy movies starring John Wayne, James Stuart, James Coburn, John Ford, and Clint Eastwood and he grew up on Roy Rogers Serials. When we were kids he loved sharing his favorite movies with us. I think our family favorite was McLintock! starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. (That movie is my dream Southie remake, Rajamouli, how'd you like to give it a try? Please!)
Clearly writer and director Jayant Paranjee is a huge fan of the genre as well because every possable Cowboy cliche and trope is irreverently put on display in Takkari Donga. Don't believe me? Just look:
We got Spurs

Cowboys galloping across scenic vistas

An exciting  train robbery!

Obligatory fight on the train
And under the train!

Wanted Posters

A Bank Robbery!

Woo Hoo! Mahesh in chaps!

Western town with Hotel, Bar, Bank and Jail

What's for dinner?

Did ya think it would be chicken Tikka?

If that's not enough for you wait 'til you hear about the plot. The film starts with Bad guys on horses dressed in black, lead by Rahul Dev chaseing down some men. They kill one and chase the other off a cliff in pursuit of information about a secret diamond mine.
Fast forward 18 years and you have the survivor of the fall waiting for Raja, played by Mahesh to come and rob a train. Raja shows up in time to singlehandedly rob the train. Next are a sequence of roberies and shootouts and daring escapes as the price on Raja's head climbs higher. He runs into two con-artists played by the lovely Bipasha Basu and Tanikella Bharani (I think he is in every movie ya?) They steal his money, but he manages to get it back after some more fights, shoot'em ups and daring escapes.
The conartist and gambler

A poker game

During one of his escapes Raja runs into Bhuvana played by Lisa Ray. She is seeking a fortunetellers advice about finding her true love. Raja overhears and immediatly begins teasing Bhuvana. Of course she takes an immediate dislike to him. Next Raja is hired by Bhuvana's Father to take her away from the town because the Bad Guy Shaka is after him and he fears for his daughters safety. Now Raja has to travel with an uncooperative female (shades of True Grit) while being chased by Shaka and his men, the Marshalls that are after him for the robberies, and Bips and Tanikella.
More fights shoot'em ups and several daring rescues of a fluffy dog. (Awww!)

During all this Bhuvana tries to get Raja's pants off. Several times. Now I watched this without subs the first few times and I was allways curious what she was doing. I mean I know why most of us ladies would want to get Mahesh's pants off but Tollywood films usually aren't that risque. She never does manage to get his pants off. She should take some lessons from Raja.
After all the fights, escapes and general riding around. (They always seem to end up back at the same town) Raja tells Bhuvana about his past and it turns out that the bad guy Shaka was the one that killed his father and sister. We also find out that Bhuvana has the map to the diamond mine hidden in her locket.
But Shaka catches Raja just as the map is burned up. He takes Bhuvana and leaves Raja on a horse with a noose around his neck! How many Cowboy movies have we seen that happen!  And you know there is gonna be snakes, rattlers maybe that will scare the horse into galloping away!
Well not rattlers exactly...COBRAS!

Now there is another daring escape,  a hazardous travers of a waterfall and a harrowing climb down a cliff. Finally Shaka and Raja fight it out in the diamond mine. And Rahul Dev meets another spectacular demise at the business end of a stalagtite.

Besides all of these fabulous Cowboy western tropes, Takkari Donga has not forgotten it's Tollywood sensabilities either.  There are  the usual song picturizations. I have to say the music didn't stand out to me in this film, but the picturizations were great because they had Mahesh in all kinds of shiny fringed outfits and tight jeans.

Ah Mahesh! I am waiting for your next Western. In a cowboy hat! And Chaps! On a Horse!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Brindaavanam (2010) dir. Vamsi Paidapally

I won't be able to explain exactly how excited I was to finally see my favorite Tollywood hero on the big screen,  let me just say that for me personally, Endhiran and Khaleja were fabulous opening acts for what has turned out to be a superfantastic (yes that is one word) October.
I saw Brindaavanam in a very packed theater (the most I've seen in the theater and lining up for the later show since Om Shanti Om). Since I was going to be seeing a movie without subtitles, I did my usual peeking at reviews so I can get an idea of the basic story going in, so I knew that the first 15 minutes would have a fight and a song. I had my friend Marcia with me who is a newbie to Tollywood and had become a huge Jr. NTR fan after only one viewing of Yamadonga and some dance videos. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the Hero Introduction and it was so cool to see the theater erupt and Marcia almost fall out of her chair. (I of course remained quite composed, I am from Minnesota after all) Ha-Ha! Such fun!

Jr. NTR plays Krish, a millionaire's son, who has a girlfriend Indhu, played by Samantha. She tells him about her friend Bhoomi, played by Kajal who needs help getting  out of an arranged marriage. Prakash Raj plays Bhoomi's Dad. He is wonderfull as the stern Father. He has lots of stoney stares and glares. I wasn't able to figure out why the heck he would push Bhoomi into an arranged marriage with the evil looking goonda played by Ajay, I mean couldn't he tell by looking at him he was bad news? Anyway Indhu convinces Krish to pretend to be Bhoomi's boyfriend in order to help her get out of her predicament. While traveling with her to her rural home (named Brindaavanam)she fills him in on her family which seems to be a very miserable and dysfunctional bunch. Once Krish arrives he is able to win them all over and resolve some of their problems. The supporting cast is excellent and features what seems like almost all the main supporting stars of Telugu films.

Kota Srinavasa Rao plays Bhoomi's grandfather, he tells Krish about his other son played by Srihari. It seems Prakash Raj and Srihari are step brothers who have been feuding for a long time. Someone in the theater was kind enough to tell me the feud was over a lack of respect exhibited at a wedding, not sure whose, maybe Srihari's. When the grandpa leaves to visit his other son Krish goes along.
     Srihari was great! Seemed like all his dialogs started with "Rey!" and were said in an echo chamber. (I just love the Tollywood sound effects during fights and speeches and funny moments. Such a wonderfull part of the ride, puts a smile right on my face!) Krish manages to bring the two Brothers together and Prakash Raj is happy now to let Bhoomi marry Krish. A bit of a problem because Indhu is really Krish's girlfriend. Not only that but it turns out Indhu is Srihari's daughter. Indhu comes up with another plan to play along with the engagement by bringing in  Brahmanandam in as a pretend Father for Krish. At the same time Srihari finds out Indhu has a boyfriend and  brings Krish's real parents to Brindaavanam.
       The rest of the film is a series of comical escapades as they try to keep the charade going. The audience was in stitches during the scenes between Tarak and Venu Madhav and Tarak and Brahmi. Brahmi's entrance caused almost as many cheers and whistles as Tarak's entrance. I enjoyed Venu more I think primarily because his comedy scenes were much more physical and so the lack of subs didn't deminish my enjoyment of him.
    Samantha and Kajal did fine with their respective roles. I liked Samantha's charactor better maybe because I think she is a better actress. It's not an easy task to keep up with Tarak, and I have to confess I was mostly watching him, but I thought they both did an excellent job in the dances.

The movie's climax had Krish confessing to Srihari and Prakash about his deceit. That doesn't go over very well, but then Bhoomi needs rescueing so when Krish saves her all are happy again. In the end Krish has to decide who to marry and like in Simhadri it is implied he ends up with both. 

Brindaavanam can really be summed up in one word: Tarakariffic! (Hee-hee I made that one up!) Tarak was his usual awesome self. The audience cheered during his dialogs, especially the Racha Racha speech (not me though I *ahem* remained quiet and ladylike throughout) The fights were great! I loved some of the funny details like when he wrapped his fist in the towel and helped all the rowdies he pounded land on the ground quietly so he could sneak up on more of them. I loved the tree breaking apart and cutting the other tree in half during the climax fight. The variety of looks on his face when he was in Brindaavanam trying to keep his charade going were priceless. His dialog delivery was fun to watch. I can't wait for the dvd to get the full benefit of the comedy and the emotional scenes. 

The music by S.S. Thaman is very good and Tarak's dancing proved once again that he is the best. There aren't video clips sufficiently long enough to post the songs, so that will have to wait for the review with screencaps I'll probably do whenever the dvd with subs comes out.   I loved Yuvakula, the first song picturisation right after the Hero Intro scenes. What a great way to start the movie! I also loved the the picturizations for Eyi Raja and Chinnadho. In all the songs I was really glad they weren't over edited. I hate it when there are too many cuts like in Adhurs. It takes away from the enjoyment of just watching the man move.
All in all Brindaavanam had everything I love about Tollywood movies. It was definetly worth seeing in the theater even without subtitles. But for me I think the hero made it Tarakariffic!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Khaleja (2010) Dir. Trivikram Srinivas

At long last I have had the chance to see one of my most favorite Heroes on the big screen! Mahesh Babu is one of my first Tollywood crushes. There is so much to love about Mahesh. He is dorky-cool and so tall and handsome. I just love his smile and the way he delivers his lines. My favorite movies of his  are Athadu, Arjun, Murari and I love Takkari Donga too.  I haven't had to wait as long as other Mahesh fans for his long awaited release Khaleja. It's been three years since Athidhi released, but only 4 months since I watched my most recent Mahesh movie.  It was Vamsi and before you all feel sorry for me I have to say that movie falls into the so bad it's good category. What's not to love about sliding across a CGI alligator's back?
       I saw Khaleja first day first show with a very enthusiastic, full theater.
What a treat to finally see Mahesh on the big screen! Seriously it was thrilling. The writer and director of Khaleja is Trivikram Srinivas, he also teamed with Mahesh on Athadu and was the writer and director for Pawan Kalyan's hit Jalsa. Khaleja is Mahesh's first turn in an out and out comedic role. Judging by the crowd reaction in the theater I would say he succeeded greatly. The audience was in splits for 3/4's of the film. As a non Telugu speaker I missed out on much of the comedy, but was able to follow the plot and enjoy Mahesh completely. Apologies ahead of time if I am way off base in what happens, please set me right in the comments section.

        The film begins in a village in Rajasthan where people are mysteriously dying. The village elder sends a holy man of sorts, played wonderfully by Shafi, to search for a savior for the village. Then comes the Hero Introduction which is a slo-mo fight sequence of Mahesh fighting to get water in the Rajasthan desert. My favorite part is when he runs on top of a wall and you think he is going to jump on to a horse and ride away a la Takarri Donga, (seriously my heart was a flutter over that!) and instead he uncovers a motorbike and speeds off. It was a very funny bait and switch.
        While he is in  Rajasthan he runs into Sunil who is a reporter of sorts. I assume he is explaining to Sunil how he happened to be there and begins a flashback of him as a Taxi driver in Hyderabad. Here we find out how he meets Anoushka.
Anoushka creates havoc for Mahesh when ever she runs into him. I think 3 taxis get destroyed altogether and Mahesh ends up in the hospital after one encounter. Mahesh has excellent comedic timing and his dialog delivery is similar to Athadu and Pokiri but in a much more open and friendly way, if that makes sense. He still mutters and mumbles but with a happier smiley persona than the other films. After recounting all his bad luck brought to him by Anoushka, Sunil and Mahesh coincidently run into her in the Rajasthan desert. She had been brought to Rajasthan by helocoptor on a date and fearing for her honor, had run away from the guy. (These are the kind of plot points I have learned to just smile and enjoy and not question in Telugu movies, I am after all just along for the ride!) Now there are more hilarious  mishaps as Anoushka, Mahesh and Sunil travel throught the desert. 

     The interval fight is really cool. I loved how it is choreographed, Mahesh is attacked and injured but manages to fight back in that over the top Tollywood super hero way. It's pretty bloody and awesome! The injured Mahesh is found by the holy man Shafi and he is taken to the stricken village and nursed backed to health.  Now he is mistaken for a god by the villagers who beg him for help. He tries to convince them he is not a god but every time he tries to talk them out of it something happens that makes him seem like he is performing miracles. Now we find out too that Evil Business man Prakash Raj is behind the poisonings in the village and the rest of the movie has Mahesh and Prakash Bad locking horns.  Prakash really isn't in the movie enough and the final confrontation between him and Mahesh makes you wish he had more to do. He is awesome as usual.
   The music by Mani Sharma is just ok, he has had better soundtracks in my opinion.  I didn't like the first song Taxi Taxi at all. But the song Sada Siva  is unforgettable.  I just love that song. It's picturised mostly on Shafi and he does a great job with it.   Here is the song promo, full songs not available yet.  

I also enjoyed the picturizations of  Bhoom Shakanaka and Makathika. I think Makathika is my favorite. Mahesh looks fabulous and it is fun to watch him dance. I think Makathika is choreographed by Prem Rakshit if I'm not mistaken.

All in all I enjoyed my first Mahesh experience in the theater.  Because much of the comedy was dialog based I missed lots of the humor. I was envious of the rest of the audience throwing their heads back in laughter but now I feel like I have a whole new movie to experience and look forward to when the dvd comes out. I am also hoping for the day when subtitles are as routine for Tollywood movies as they are for Bollywood.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kadhalan (1994) Tamil dir. Shankar

    October 1st is fast approaching and the much awaited , much hyped Shankar film, Endhiran, starring the Tamil Super Star Rajinikanth and Bollywood siren Aishwarya Bachchan will hit theaters world wide. Here in Minneapolis we will get all three versions of the movie, the Tamil Endhiran, Telugu dubbed Robo and the Hindi dubbed and subbed Robot. As much fun as it would be to see the original Tamil version in a packed Rajinikanth worshipping theater, I will be going to the Hindi version as it is for some reason much cheaper ($10.00 vs.$25.00) and it has subtitles.
    I am looking forward to it because Shankar's movies are known to have high production values and he has experimented with CGI effects in all his movies. Endhiran is supposed to have had the biggest budget of any Indian film to date and judging by the trailers I can see why. Oh Yeah, It's gonna be a spectacle alright! Take a look at this!

  Now I have only seen one other Shankar movie (Boys 2003), so I thought it would be a good idea to watch another one of his movies to get me in the right frame of mind while I wait for Endhiran's release. I thought Kadhalan, starring Prabhu Deva, would be a great movie to start with. It was only Shankar's second film but the movie and the music by A. R. Rahman was a huge hit.

Prabhu Deva plays Prabhu, the son of a police officer who is the student leader at the college he attends.  His friend, played by comic actor Vadivelu, teases him about why he shows no interest in girls. But Prabhu is convinced that the girl of his dreams is out there and he will recognize her immediately upon seeing her.
When Prabhu goes to ask a powerfull Politician to give a speech at his college, he literally runs into his daughter Shruti played by Nagma. Of course she is the girl he has seen in his dreams, so he begins his quest to get her attention.

Now that is one way to get a girls attention!
 Unfortunetly all of his attempts to woo her fail. His friends insist he is way out of his league and he ends up insulting her when and he and  Vadivelu join her Bharathanatiyam dance class. Heart broken he confides in his Father, who I would like to nominate as the best most understanding filmy Dad ever. He even digs through garbage to find a dress hook his son had saved and cherished!

 His Father encourages him to learn Bharathanatiyam dance in order to impress her. He works hard and in a very short time he has mastered it. He sneeks into her house and dances for her then proclaims his love. She of course then  begins to notice him (what girl wouldn't?) and soon finds herself falling in love too.

Now we come to find out that Shruti's father is behind a series of bombings. He hires an assassin played by Raghuvaran (he is rocking the 90's mullet) to bomb a temple. It happens to be the very temple his daughter is supposed to do a dance performance at. He forbids her to go but she runs away with Prabhu so she can perform in the dance. Her Dad sends in the Army to get her and has Prabhu arrested and tries to get him framed for the bombings.
Now lets take a moment and reflect on the two Dads in this film.
We have the World's Best Dad.

                                                 And the World's Worst Dad Ever!
Shruti's Father has Prabhu tortured in prison. And even tricks his father into beating him.

Shruti locks herself in a rundown building and refuses to eat until Prabhu is released. It is her embarassing behavior at a party that finally convinces her Dad to let Prabhu go.

Now that Prabhu is free all he has to do is stop Raghuvaran, unveil Shruti's Dad as the real villain, find Shruti, who has been sent to her Grandparents and find the bomb, all without getting killed first.
Well, he is the Hero after-all so you know he is going to manage it all just fine. Raguvaran and the evil Dad meet a fitting end. And he finds Shruti with the help of her Grandparents. And of course the bomb is disposed of properly.

A.R Rahman's soundtrack established him as a force to be reckoned with and of course Prabhu Deva's dancing was groundbreaking. I love the two most well known songs, Urvasi Urvasi and Mukkala (love the Good the Bad and the Ugly homage in that one)

I also like Ennavale Ennavale because it shows the Special effects you expect in a Shankar film.

I also like this fun number.
Eerani Kuradhani Gopala

I thought Kadhalan was great fun. I have really enjoyed the two Shankar films I ahve seen so far. After Endhiran I think I'll move Jeans up my queue and try that one next!

As an Addendum to this post, I decided that since Prakash Raj is in about every third movie I watch it is only fitting he be mentioned in about every third of my blog posts. He's overdue for a mention here so I thought it would be a great opportunity to tell you all about my friend DustDevil Liz's awesome new blog: My year with Prakash Raj Be sure to check it out for all the Prakash Awesome you crave.