Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Swathi Muthyam (1985) dir. K. Viswanth

I have only seen a couple of  Padmasri Kamal Hassan's Hindi movies and have so far watched none of his vast numbers of Tamil and Telugu films.  A friend recommended  Swathi Muthyam as a wonderful example of Kamal's work. Swathi Muthyam won several awards including best feature film and recognition for Kamal Hassan and Director K. Viswanth. It was also India's Oscar entry for 1986 so I thought it would be an interesting one to check out.  Swathi Muthyam probably wouldn't have made it's way onto my queue with out my friend's recommendation. So Naren, thank you, because this was a wonderful, bittersweet gem of a film that I am so glad I watched!
     The film starts with Kamal's charactor Sivayya as an old man, waiting for his sons and their families to come to visit. He seems somewhat frail and slightly confused or forgetful, not unusual for an elderly person.  When his family arrives they get him to reminisce about his deceased wife.

When the flashback starts you realise fairly quicky that the simple, slightly stubborn worldview of Sivayya has nothing to do with age. Sivayya is a young man with autism who lives with his grandmother, played by Nirmalamma. He is loved and watched out for by the people of his village.
We also find out the young widow Lalitha, played by Radhika, and her small son are turned away by her wealthy inlaws when she goes to them  to seek their assistance. She has no choice but to return to the village where she is treated as an outcast, and try to make ends meet as a music teacher.

Sivayya befriends Lalitha and her son. Being a sweet and kindly person Sivayya  is very aware of her struggles. He asks his grandmother about Lalitha in order to try and understand why she is treated so unfairly and to find a way to help her. He listens carefully and takes everything his Grandmother says literally. First he tries to get Lalitha to wash the steps of the Temple so she will be blessed. When that doesn't work he walks across fire to earn the blessings of Allah. 

When these don't work to change Lalitha's fortunes, he pesters his Grandmother again for a solution. She responds that someone nice should marry her and take care of her. Sivayya takes her literally and at a ceremony at the temple, and much to the shock of Lalitha and the villagers, he grabs the mangalsutra meant for the diety and places it around Lalitha's neck.

Now things turn ugly. The villagers are very upset that Sivayya broke a taboo by remarrying a widow. When a neighbor beats him, Lalitha moves in to protect him. She promises his grandmother she will always look after him.

They go to the city where they try to start a new life. Sivayya struggles to take on the responsibility of his new family. He gets the idea of begging to get school fees for his son, but ends up giving away what he gets. Eventually, through the help of friends he is able to find a job to support his family.
There are so many humorous and touching moments in this film as Kamal's Sivayya negotiates the situations he faces with such innocence and goodness. It is not a dialogue heavy role and Kamal uses body language and facial expressions to convey those charectoristics with subtle, sweet humor. His performance reminded me alot of Peter Seller's Chauncey Gardner from the film Being There.
  Swathi Muthyam moves along at a sweet rhythm and is filled with poignant moments. One of my favorite scenes (and one that shows the deftness of K. Viswanth's direction) is when one of Lalitha and Sivayya's friends recognizes Lalitha's loneliness and encourages her to finally consumate the relationship.

I love this screencap that I did. so photobucket, stop taking it down!
Another moment comes after Lalitha's wealthy former inlaws come back into the picture and the final 15 minutes of the film had me sobbing.

The music by Illayaraja is really nice and fits so well with the mood and tempo of the movie. Here are a couple of my favorite songs.

This one is nice because the picturization shows the developing friendship between Lalitha and Sivayya and the important role music played in their lives.

 After watching Swathi Muthyam I am bumping Kamal Hassan's films up on my "to be watched" list.

ETA: Swathi Muthyam was remade in Hindi as Eeshwar starring Anil Kapoor. As soon as I get my hands on a copy I will review it and add it to my Remakes page.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Naaga (2003) dir. D.K. Suresh

My blogging buddies over at Cinema Chaat recently did a fabulous review of my favorite film, Yamadonga. When I read their review I was reminded that Yamadonga was the film that pushed me over into major Jr. NTR fangirlyness.  So now whenever I watch a film of Tarak's I allways find something wonderfull about them, even the flops.  So we have Yama to thank for me loving the film Naaga even though it apparently flopped badly. Flopped so badly infact that all my usual go to sources for film synopsis' like Wikipedia, Telugupedia and IMDB did not include a plot summary at all. So when I put my unsubtitled dvd in to watch I was going to be flying blind. I think I understood it fairly well so any Telugu speakers who have watched it, if I have taken a wrong turn in understanding anywhere please leave a comment and let me know!
    The movie centers around a College where NTR plays a law student named Naaga.  Sunil and Venu play students at the college who I think urge Naaga into getting involved in the Student Union. His father played by Raghuvaran is a Bailiff in a courthouse who pushes his son to focus on becomming a lawyer and doesn't seem to want his son to divert his attention from studying to student politics.
 NTR's love interest is played by Sadha. She lives with her Dad and has a sister that is married to a  shady, disloyal guy who works for a politician played by Nasser. It turns out her Dad and Naaga's Dad are old friends, so there is ample opportunity for all kinds of flirty irritation. I love the first song although I am somewhat irritated it is stuck in my head right now.

Naaga's school holds a Jubilee celebration that has politician Nasser as the keynote speaker.  Naaga is clearly moved and inspired by whatever it is that Nasser says.

There is also some entertainment. My least favorite of the songs that for some reason features CGI knockoffs of Pixar animations. I don't know why.

Now comes the conflict. Supporters of Nasser and his rival clash in the streets in front of Naaga's home.  One of his sisters and his Mom and Dad get roughed up by the rowdies. NTR takes them all on and badly beats one of the leaders with a hand pump. This fight was choreographed more like a real brawl than the usual super hero fights.

There is just enough time for father and son to have an argument over Naaga's rowdy behavior before Dad has to face the humiliation of seeing his son arrested and taken to court.  His court.

But being the good law student Naaga makes a fairly long speech that impresses everybody and gets him off the hook.

See how happy Dad is now? Now Naaga has the attention of the leaders of Student Unions from other colleges. He gets appointed Union president (I think) And gets the positive attention of Nasser and the emnity of Nasser's rival.


I love the next song, very catchy and the lyrics mention Aishwarya, Kajol and Preity Zinta.

After another fight, some more student union type business and rescuing car crash victims, Naaga gets in trouble from Mom because he missed an important family event.  (I think it might have been his own engagement ceremony- Dude! that is so not done!) But you know Mom's, they don't yell, they just lay on the guilt through layers of tears. (Love that Momma drama!)
Dad? Well Dad is just plain hurt and disapointed.

But everyone else thinks Naaga is great!
Now Nasser's rival doesn't like all the positive attention Naaga is getting for Nasser, so he arranges to give the student unions and Naaga some very bad press and hopefully get them out of the way.
He uses the husband of Sadha's sister to tell Naaga (I'm just guessing here!) some reason why the student unions have to protest and shut down the trains from moving. Meanwhile some rowdies posing as students wreak havoc in the city while Naaga and his followers lay down infront of a train. After some scuffling involving the police, Naaga then  inexplicably pours petrol all over himself and threatens to emoliate himself. (Why? Why?)
His dad comes to stop him and threatens to do the same with requisite pouring of petrol.  As a horrified Naaga is carried away by the police, Sadha's Brother in Law, who had been getting ready to throw a match on Naaga, throws one on Dad instead. So now Naaga is back in jail, mourning his father as the funeral procession he cannot attend goes by.
I know what you're thinking. Pefect time for a romantic song right?

Naaga manages to give another heartfelt speech, that gets him released in time for some tears and hopefully forgiveness from Mom.
Now he's on a mission to  find out how his Dad died and presumably to end the other injustices that threaten the political system. He finds out that there are some rowdies stuffing ballot boxes  during the election that is finally being held. In the chase and fight that ensues it appears Naaga is arrested again, but this time he isn't in any of the jails his friends search for him in.
Gosh1 It wouldn't take much of an accident to get the water jugs to fall off that truck!
In the meantime, Sadha and her father find out that their relative is the one who killed Naaga's Dad. In the ensueing scuffle over a tape, Sadha's father is killed and now Sadha and her sister need rescueing.  But where is Naaga? Seems he is being beaten and tortured by Nasser's political rivals.
Thankfully Naaga spits a well aimed ice cube at one of his tormentors and manages to escape!(Yes that is really all it took.)
But during his escape he falls into a vat of paint or plaster and then runs around looking like a scary creature that keeps popping up out of nowhere, to the sound of a lions roar. How'd ya like to look up and see that staring at you!
He makes it to Sadha's, where she cleans him up. They hatch a plan to get the bad guys and have time for another song.

While Naaga and Sadha and her sister are driving around, they stop for gas, and guess who is filling up right next to them? Yep, justice is about to be served!

Next Naaga gets a phone call that somehow causes him to end up on a train. 
I don't know why he was on the train, but who cares! Now there is time for this awesome item number with Rambha, choreographed by Lawrence. Woot!
One of the rowdies makes it to the train in time to apparently plant several bombs.  Now we have not only a dance on a train, but all the great things that go on when  there is a fight on a train!
Fighting in the train.
Fighting on the train.
Falling off then running to get back on.
Koyla fans will note he is NOT on fire however.
And of course risking yourself to save others.

It all ends happily enough considering how many times Naaga got thrown in jail and of course his and Sadha's Dads were killed, and his Mom and future sister in law are widows.  Nasser sure is proud of him though!
All in all I thought Naaga was a good vehicle for what Tarak does best.  It had many opportunities for the delivery of empassioned and hopefully moving dialogs, some really great song picturizations with the usual awesome dancing from Tarak. It also had ample opportunity for heroics and action.  What more could you want in an NTR film?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bunny (2005) dir. V.V. Vinayak

There are many reasons to watch an Allu Arjun movie.  He is extremely fine to look at and he's an awesome dancer- one of the best. (I'll save the debate on whether he's better than Jr. NTR for another post) He is also very, very good looking. (it's worth mentioning twice) And since I am old enough to be his mom it would be somehow inappropriate for me to mention three times how nice he is to look at, so I'll  leave that gushing to my friend ApunBindaas.  I have seen enough of his movies now to add him to my Favorites list. Bunny is the 5th Allu Arjun movie I have seen, and so far is one of my favorites.
One thing I noticed right away is Bunny's theme song.  Whenever Bunny is coming to the rescue or is about to do something totally awesome his intro theme song plays.  I just love that! It totally builds the excitement, you know some major ass-kicking is about to take place. (I wish I had a theme song like that. It would be so cool to have the excitement and suspense build  for my students when I'm about to assign homework or at home when I tell my daughter to do the dishes. I bet they would be sooo motivated by it...oh gosh it would be FUN!)
 Here's Bunny beating up some rowdies at the beginning of the movie.  He plays a college student who gets Mahalakshmi, played by Gowri Munjal to fall in love with him.  She is the spoiled daughter of the over protective bad Dad played by Prakash Raj.  Prakash Dad will do anything to protect his daughter even have any boy who talks to her get their eyes plucked out. (Yeah he's BAD!) So Bunny would be in danger except he can bash all the goons and can outsmart them all too.
Eventually Bunny gets Prakash Dad to let him marry Mahalakshmi on the condition that all his wealth gets transfered to him. Now we find out that Bunny is really an orphan.  His father was ordered killed by the greedy Prakash Raj, who happened to be his Brother- In- law.  Bunny was given by his Aunt to one of his fathers loyal men to raise with the intention of one day having him marry Mahalakshmi and get the wealth back that Prakash Dad stole. There was some great momma drama (aka heros crying about their moms), when Bunny found out about the sacrifices his adoptive  parents made on his behalf.

In the flashback we see how Bunny's father gets betrayed. Tamil star Sarath Kumar plays Bunny's dad in the flashback.  He gets his own intro scene.  We see how he is a beloved leader of the people and how he gets betrayed by Prakash Dad.
Of course in the end, Prakash Dad has a change of heart, unfortunelty his right hand man Mysamma, played wonderfully by Mukesh Rishi, does not. The final fight sequence between Bunny and Mysamma has some wonderfull taunting. (I love all the taunting that goes on before the fights!)

Maybe he is just angry because someone spray painted a grey circle in his hair!

The last fight is great. Of course Bunny wins in the end.

Hmmm This reminds me, I need to re-watch Varudu. Hee-Hee
Allu Arjun is known for his dancing. This movie has some of my favorites.  I love all the song picturizations.  It was hard to choose my to favorites, but after multiple viewings I have decided these the best Bunny dances!
Va Va Varava
  Bunny Bunny

Did I mention he was fine?