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.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tarak's Sweet 16

    There is a plethora of movies coming out in the next few weeks. I am so excited that finally, I will see some more of my favorite Tollywood Heroes in the theater on the big screen. As I mentioned on my South Indian movies watched page, I have only been watching Southies for about a year and have only really gotten into them since March 2010, so while I have seen Prabhas and Bunny in the theater, I have yet to see Mahesh, Siddharth and my favorite of favorites Tarak on the big screen.
      Infact, I am so new to appreciating the awesomeness that is Tarak that I had an opportunity in January to see Adhurs in the theater and I missed it! It was a weekend I had nothing to do and I saw Adhurs was playing but didn't know if it would be worth seeing without subtitles and I didn't know much about Tarak, hadn't seen any of his movies yet, so I passed on it. Ayoo! My shins are still black and blue from kicking myself!
    Tarak's next film, Brindavaanam had its audio release today so now the promotions for the film are kicking into high gear. Here is the first trailer

     Looks great doesn't it? But the big question for me is what will the songs be like and what awesome dancing will the choreographers come up with for Tarak to do? I was excited when Tarak tweeted a couple of weeks ago that choreographer Prem Rakshit was killing him with a tough step. Yay! Tarak is known to not need to rehearse and apparently  gets his dance steps down in one take so anything difficult for him to do should be mindblowing for us to watch.
     I recently achieved Tarak Completeness by locating and watching the last two films of his I had yet to watch. I thought it would be fun to try and pick only one song as a favorite from each film. This task was easy for some films and very, very difficult for others. It is not a "best of"  list,  just my favorites for a variety of reasons.  Some of the songs I chose because I like the music, some it is the way the choreographers had them picturised, some I chose because I just liked the way Tarak looks, but usually, of course, it is because of his amazing dancing.  So here is Tarak's Sweet 16, compiled and chosen by me.

Ninnu Choodalani  (2001) 
I am thwarted already in my list, by the lack of Ninnu Choodalani songs on YouTube.  (That's ok  though because I know I won't be able to only chose one song from Yamadonga). This and Subbu were the last two Tarak movies I had to watch. I couldn't find dvd's of them so ended up watching on torrents sites. This was Tarak's first film and apparently it was a horendous flop.  I remember thinking when I watched it that the Director was evidently completely unaware that Tarak could dance, the song picturisations were uninteresting and unimaginative so it's just as well I couldn't find any links.

Student #1  (2001)
Kuchipudi Kaina - It's catchy and begins to show what Tarak can do. Plus there is a little Kuchipudi fight at the end!

Subbu (2001)
Hari Hara - It starts on a train! That and the sing along chorus makes up for the gori dancers.

Aadi (2002)
Sunnunda Teesuko - Love the set! What's not to love about giant buckets of laddoos!

Allari Ramudu (2002)
Shalibanda Golkanda - I love this one! Tarak and Aarti Agarwal do a great job with this dance and the song makes me want to sing along.

Naaga (2003)
Nayudori Pilla- There are lots of great songs in this movie. I love this item with Rambha. Lawrence shows up at the end so I am assuming he is the choreographer.  I am a total sucker for songs on trains thanks to Chaiya Chaiya.

Simhadri (2003)
Chimma Chimma - Hard to pick one from Simhadri too. Tarak's dancing is amazing.

Andhrawalla (2004)
Nairey Nairey- Another one by Lawrence. Doesn't get any better than this. This song was the first Tarak video I saw. I didn't know who it was but played it obssesively.

Samba (2004)
Luxemborg Lux Sundari -Bhoomika and Tarak totally own this song.

Naa Alludu (2005)
Sayya Sayya - I like this one because "the mom" gets to dance!

Narasimhudu (2005)
Yeluko Nayaka - Maybe it's the song, maybe it's the choreography or maybe its the Tarak and Sameera combination, but this is the first duet that I felt Tarak would actually know what to do if he "got the girl"

Ashok (2006)
Gola Gola - another movie where it was hard to pick. Sameera Reddy is so cute and does a great job of keeping up with Tarak.

Rakhi (2006)
Rangu Rabba Rabba - I love this Holi song. I'ts so creatively done, it's one of my all time favorite Holi songs.

Yamadonga (2007)
Nachorey Nachorey - My favorite of Tarak's dances from this movie. He just looks like he is floating and the back-up dancers are working so hard to keep up. I heard Tarak say in an interview that this song was the first time he rehearsed for a song before filming.

Olammi Tikka Regindha- I love that Tarak and Mamta sing this. It's a remake of a Legend NTR song. It looks like it was very fun to do.

Kantri (2008)
I Go Crazy - LOVE the kuchipudi dancing in this! Please Tarak ask your choreographers to have you do more! Another one choreographed by Prem Rakshit.

Adhurs (2010)
Assalam Vallikum - Tarak dances with himself! So Cool!

I wish I knew who all the choreographers were to these songs. I can't read the credits and IMDB and Wikipedia list the choreographers but don't indicate which chorographer does each song.  I know Tarak would be the first to say he couldn't have done it without them.  If anyone wants to fill me in in the comments section on who the Choreographers are I would really appreciate it.  I hope this list of Tarak's Sweet 16 tides you over untill Brindavaanam releases.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Alexandre Dumas seen Lurking at Golconda Fort!

I share many, many loves with my 2 sisters. Since we were kids we’ve always liked the same kind of music (Beatles! Springsteen!), movies (Rom-Com’s, Musicals, Adventures) and Books ( Austen, Greek and Roman Mythology and Dumas). We love the slapstick of Abbott and Costello and the absurdity of Monty Python. We even were attracted to the same types of men. (tall, dark and handsome, swarthy piratey types) But much to my chagrin I have never been able to convince them of the awesomeness that is Indian Cinema. Just looking at the above characteristics you’d think they would be ripe for SI film induction, but I am very sad to say that I have failed miserably in my attempts to win them over so far. This is my last best attempt. If mine and Dolce and Namak’s posts on Tollywood and the Romantic hero can’t crack them, then nothing will. (Well I may still try my duct tape and Youtube videos idea) So Karen and Gale, this post is dedicated to you.

I have loved the books of Alexandre Dumas since I was a kid. I remember writing a poem about the Three Musketeers for an English class in Jr. High (I can’t find it,  I remember it being very cheesy, but hey it rhymed!) Recently I found this picture I sketched in college.  

My favorite books for the longest time were the Three Musketeers and its sequels, plus I loved The Count of Monte Cristo, the best revenge book ever.    It says something for these stories that were mass produced for 19th century French audiences that they have remained so popular. Many of the things I love about these books are reflected in the things I love about Tollywood Masala.
                                               At the end of her post 2 degrees of Separation: The Romantic Hero in Tollywood, Dolce and Namak imagines a conversation between the ghost of Alexandre Dumas and the “first Telugu dishoom” writer.
ADG: Monsieur, my stories are too French at heart to be adapted. How can you presume to do so?
FTDS: Rreyy, I dare you to find one element that we cannot translate into a South Indian movie.

ADG: I have evil dukes, jealous queens and mistresses, and cardinals who are up to no good.

FTDS: And we have evil goondas and underworld lords, jealous aunties, and all kinds of corrupt Ministers and Chief Ministers just waiting to chew some hero meat.

ADG: Hm… I also have family rivalries and backstabbing.

FTDS: That’s ok, we have factionists!

ADG: And what about the damsel in distress whose greatest asset is not her wit but her beauty and her virginity.

FTDS: Ah, for that we have Kajal!

ADG: I also have lyrical speeches and heart tugging emotional love scenes.

FTDS: Heh… Our script writers are not very good with that, but we’ll make do with plenty of songs, dances and sensual poses instead.

The Ghost of Alexandre Dumas has no choice but to slap his forehead and return to the darkness whence he came.

I don’t think of Dumas as the ghostly predecessor to Tollywood’s mass films. I am convinced that he has been reincarnated in the script writers and directors of my beloved Tollywood Masala. When I began preparing for this post I dug out the well worn Bantam paperback edition of The Count of Monte Cristo I got from my parents as a Christmas present in 1982. 
On the first page there is a short bio of Alexandre Dumas (pere). Two quotes from there stood out as proof that Dumas has been reincarnated as the Writers and Directors of Tollywood.
About Dumas: “L’action and L’amour were the two essential things in his life and his fiction” That’s it in a nutshell isn’t it? Action and Love that’s what we the mass audience want and what gets delivered over and over again in Tollywood movies.

And this quote: “His work ignored historical accuracy, psychology and analysis, but its thrilling adventure and exuberant inventiveness continues to delight readers.” I mean come on! If that doesn’t prove Dumas is alive and well and hanging out at Ramoji Film City, I don’t know what does! (I hope the next time fans of Indian cinema complain about mass films, and wish  there would be more class films coming out of Hyderabad, that they first think on whether they would also criticize the works of Dumas.)

How's this for some "exuberant inventiveness"

    So if the writers and directors are Dumas incarnate, what about his characters? One of the reasons I love the Heroes in SI movies is because they remind me so much of the  moustachioed macho lover boys of Alexandre Dumas’ novels. In fact I suspect that Tarak, Mahesh, Prabhas, Bunny and Siddharth are all reincarnations of Dumas’ swashbuckling heroes. 
Here’s what I think: 
The Three Musketeers
Athos: I picture Mahesh as Athos. He’s supposed to be the wisest, bravest and most secretive. A lot of his most popular characters were very secretive like Nandu in Athadu and Pandu in Pokiri. He just needs a proper 'stache. Can't you picture him looking out from under the brim of a Musketeer hat?

 He’s kind of an enigma in real life too.
Athos is supposed to be older than the other Musketeers and looked at as a Father figure by D’Artagnan. It doesn’t bother me that Mahesh isn’t old enough for that, but if you need a real Father figure for Athos look no further than MegaStar Chirenjeevi. Beside who doesn’t look up to him in Tollywood? And he has a righteous moustache. 

Porthos: He can only be Tarak. Porthos was honest, fierce and has an appetite for food, women and song. Besides that he has a sword named Balizarde. Lots of Tarak’s movies fit here but his character in Simhadri works best. Simhadri in his goodness refuses to explain his relationship with Bhoomika. He doesn’t have a sword but he has a kick-ass axe.
Besides the awesome dancing the movie also implies he ends up with both heroines. (gasp!)

Aramis: The lover of the Three Muskateers, I think of Siddharth. He is more of a lover than a fighter but he can dishoom with the rest of them when called upon. Here he gets thrashed at a wedding until he is sure of Sada’s love, then his Tollywood super powers come into play.

d’Artagnan: I think of Bunny as d’Artagnan. d'Artagnan is young and hot headed and easily smitten by pretty ladies. His interest in Milady gets him into all kinds of trouble. He is a loyal friend and has major bromances going with his Musketeer pals. I just watched Arya 2 so I can’t help thinking of Bunny playing d’Aragnan after that…only less crazy…LOTS less crazy.

                       The Count of Monte Cristo

Edmond Dantes: Has to be the one and only Prabhas. Just watch Munna and you will see Dumas type revenge played out Tollywood style.  Edmond Dantes had so many alter egos as he exacted his revenge. Prabhas can play down and dirty tough as well as cool and classy a la Billa.

The Man in the Iron Mask:

Sometimes I want to put Ravi Teja in the mask but he looks too macho and tough to have been imprisoned for so long so I think Pawan Kalyan would make an excellent Philippe. He could play royalty with class (after all he is Chiranjeevi’s brother) and he is built in a way that makes him look wiry and tough like I imagine Philippe to be. Plus he rocks the 'stache, must be in the genes.

     I could go on, I love to imagine who would be Cardinal Richelieu (Sonu Sood!) Milady (Sameera Reddy) or the Comte de Rochefort (Rahul Dev) and Constance Bonacieux (has to be Charmi).

     Yep even though it's Hyderabad India, they are all there, 19th century French heroes created by Dumas for a mass audience that hasn’t changed its love for L’action and L’amour no matter what century or continent they are from.
      Now when I watch a fight scene of my Tollywood Super Heroes at Golconda Fort or in the Vikarabad Forest, I imagine the camera panning around and we see Athos, Porthos, Aramis, d’Artagnan, Edmond Dantes, Phillipe and Dumas cheering them on.

Vive la Mass! Jai Masala!