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!


  1. Hehe, I love that my Bunny gets to be d'Artagnan! :D

    Ya know, they keep talking about how more multi-starrers should be made in Tollywood, how perfect would it be for this to be the first one? I think we would die of fangirlness :P

  2. Excellent Post. I absolutely love it. I don't get why your sisters don't get it. Don't give up on them though. None of our heroes would. ;-)

  3. I don't know what impresses me more - your knowledge of South Indian stars or your handle on French literature!

  4. Thanks for the prema! I would love a Tollywoodized Three Musketeer multi-starrer. And don't worry cmleigh I will never give up on my sisters. If Dumas doesn't work then "A Clockwork Orange" will hee- hee. (ready's duct tape)

  5. Hey girl, I just remembered there was a very good quote in the book I was reading about Romantic heroes. It didn't fit anywhere in my post, but here it is for your enjoyment:
    "Romanticism wants everything, action, passion, character, setting, on a large scale". :D Hehe... And so does Tollywood! ;)

  6. Like I told Dolce, awesome collaboration!

  7. Great Post, Jjake. Just a small correction though.
    Mahesh's character in Pokiri was named Pandu/Krishnamurthy. In Athadu, his character was named Nandu/Pardu/Nandagopal.

  8. Great post, Jjake. I never thought of it that way but it makes complete sense.

    Just a minor correction.

    Mahesh Babu's character in Athadu is Nandu, who then is called Pardu, because he is mistaken to be Pardu when he goes to Pardu's family.

    MB's character in Pokiri is called Pandu and later in the movie, Krishnamurthy.


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