Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fun With Fan Videos -How I Made Tarak Smile

    So everyone by now knows that Jr. NTR aka Tarak is my favorite Hero. This is my new favorite picture of him. Why? Because he is looking directly AT ME! No I didn't go to Hyderabad nor did he come to my Twin Cities. I made a fan video that he was shown and this is a screencap from when he saw it. Uff!  I know, I might be too old to make a fangirly video for a movie star but the opportunity presented itself and I just couldn't pass it up. Even though I am very shy by nature, I made a video and part of it aired on the Telugu gameshow Abhimani.
    The gameshow features a star and the contestants are all fans that compete to answer trivia questions about the star and his movies. Besides trivia there are a variety of other competitions all revolving around the featured star. The host is the actor Rajiv Kanakala and the first guest of the premier episode was Tarak.
      Between the contests, they showed video messages from fans. It was so fun to make a video and get the chance to send a message directly to Tarak. We fans get so much enjoyment and pleasure from our favorite Heroes and Heroines but we never get to thank them or tell them how much joy they add to our lives.  I can't tell you how thrilling it was to get that chance and make my favorite Hero smile.
Here is the video from the show. My friend Marcia and I made the videos one evening after work. We are at the beginning of this segment.

     It is only a couple of minutes but alot of work went into getting the videos for the show and I am not just talking about what I did to make those few seconds. The whole segment was Harsha from NandamurifansDB's idea. He wrote a thread about it explaining the process from start to finish. Subhash Harsha!
     Now I have a confession to make, the video I made was a  little longer than what was shown. Well actually it was almost 7 minutes long. Uff dah.  (Just because I am shy does not mean I don't talk alot once I get going.) I had a whole series of things that I wanted to be sure and say and I figured this would be my only chance to speak directly to Tarak so I did what any fan would do right? I assumed the producers of the show would edit it how ever they wanted and I wasn't sure any of it would be chosen to air anyway so I decided to go for it. 
    I had an outline in my head and then practiced saying it outloud over and over one  cold February evening while  I walked my dogs. The next day my friend Marcia came over and we made the videos in my basement, with my daughter Nyambura handling the camera.  I was advised to speak slowly so I could be understood, and I tried to tone down my Minneh-soh-dah accent, so I ended up not sounding like me at all. And then I had to put the videos together and convert and up load and all that. Man! It was a major learning curve for me just to get the videos to Harsha.
    So here are the videos, the first part is the video I made, then Marcia's, then we did a third that was Marcia and me together saying the same things. I would take the third part off the video but I don't know how, so don't feel compelled to watch the whole thing. We really do just repeat ourselves.

    I was initially a little disapointed that so little of my video aired, but then Harsha reassured me that Tarak saw a lot more of the video than what was televised. The only part I know for sure he didn't see is when I thanked him for my Twitter Birthday greeting. I was really glad to find out he saw the part where I talked about my Student's reactions to Yamadonga. I wish I could have seen his and the audience's reaction to that. I bet they all loved it. The whole experience was so fun and it really was just so thrilling to see I made him smile!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Shakti (2011) Dir. Meher Ramesh

With Shakti, reportedly the most expensive Telugu film yet made, Young Tiger Jr. NTR is officially rebranded as A1 Star. Personally I will miss all the Tiger references in his films. I love a lot of the Telugu Heros (see my list of Favorites) but Jr. NTR is definetly at the A1 spot of my favorites so the title for me is apt.

I saw Shakti First Day First show here in Minneapolis, so there wasn't any plot synopsis available for me to peek at to help me out with the lack of subtitles. So once again forgive me for any mistakes I make and please correct me in the comments. I had to watch the movie over 2 days because the theater I saw it in had some major technical difficulties. Right at the interval bang the screen went dark. So other than seeing Tarak dodge a shoulder fired rocket I missed the whole thing the first night. Apparently the Interval bang was too much for the projector to handle because it over heated and went into auto shut down. Alot. Both days. Uff! They finally moved us to a new screen the second night I saw it. See, for Tarak I can do anything, I figure with all the delays from trying to fix the problem it took me about 7 hours to watch the whole movie.

The movie starts in Egypt  labeled as 1984 but with everyone inexplicably costumed up like from the Pharoah's time. Strange, but I decided to go with it. I thought maybe they belonged to some weird,  evil, pharoah obssessed cult intent on taking over the world.

 Pooja Bedi plays the scenery chewing evil Egyptian queen, Fakhtooni.  She  has her own secret lair right in one of the Pyramids at Giza. She starts off screaming in rage when the head of her husband is returned to her and she never stopped screaming after that. She is so evil that she plucks the eyes out of the head and  puts them into a jar to transplant them later into her son, who she turns into an evil behemoth of a killing machine by plucking out his eyes as a small boy and then dipping him in a magic firey pit ala Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, to toughen him up for the revenge she so clearly is screaming for. 

Besides revenge she wants to get her hands on a magical diamond that the Home Minister, played by Prabhu is keeping under lock and key. He meets frequently with a mystical yogi played by a heavily made up Nasser where they discuss the diamond. Prabhu has a a daughter Aishwarya, played by Ileana. Aishwarya is tired of always having security guards so she sneaks out of the house and meets up with some friends and  decides to go on a cross country trip with them to enjoy her new found freedom. Unbeknownst to her she accidently ended up in possession of the magical diamond and is unaware the Egyptians and Jackie Shroff, who plays an underworld Don, are after her. Whew! All of that in the first 15 minutes! This set up the premise well as near as I could tell.
Ok so what I need now is a kick ass Hero Entrance! I think coming in riding an elephant and then leaping off it in that gravity defying Telugu super hero way was A1-ji. Tarak plays a tour guide named Shakti. The first fight has Tarak beating up some goondas that were trying to rip off Aishwarya and Ali (playing her friend) over some movie tickets. He gets the tickets but then charges them for the fight. Much to Aishwarya's chagrin, he ends up getting hired as their guide as they continue their travels around Jaipur, Kashmir and Haridwar. Every time Aishwarya gets in trouble, (usually because of some trick that backfires on her) Shakthi charges her for rescuing her.

He keeps everything in a trunk that he drags around. I really wanted to know what all was in that trunk! He seemed to have all kinds of handy things in there and the couple of glimpses we got of the inside made it more mysterious. The trunk is a key element in the twist that comes with the interval bang.

I thought the first half was great. The cinematography of  Jaipur and the desert, Kashmir and the Mountains and Haridwar were beautiful. I LOOOOVED the first song Thaliya Thaliya. The choreography was so fun to watch and it was so colorful and vibrant. Just what I needed after this long, cold, colorless winter we've had. When it was over I was disapointed I couldn't rewind and watch it again! The other songs were well done too. Prema Desam was lovely and maybe it was just Tarak's Cowboy outfit but I especially liked the choreography and picturization of Mathileka Pichiga.

 Ileana was lovely as were her hips which the choreographers focused on alot. I wish they had her do more than just those belly dance steps, but what she did she did well.  There was a glimpse in this movie of how well she can do comedy, I hope she has more opportunities to showoff  her comedy skills in the future.

Initially, the second half was very confusing to me but when I read some synopsis it made more sense on the second viewing. Apparently the Egyptians and Jackie wanted control of the Shakti Peethams, which are places of mystical power at Temples around India. Prabhu and the Yogi were caretakers of a secret one that you needed the the diamond, a trident and a little book thingy in order to enter the temple and be sure everything is working and balance in the universe is maintained. Prabhu has the diamond, Jackie has the trident and Fakhtooni has the book. So the second half is all about how all three ended up with one of the items (told in the flashback) and about Shakti's connection to them.  The movie goes into fantasy mode which somehow seems so different than the first half. There just wasn't enough of a build up between the straitforward and "real" nature of the first half and the magical second half. At least from what I could tell, maybe it was conveyed through the dialogue.

The highlight of the flashback sequence was Tarak in the Rudra charactor.  I thought Tarak looked cool in the Rudra get up. The wig wasn't that bad and it was fun watching him swinging those swords around. He kind of reminded me of Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride.  The Rudra theme music is awesome but I wish they hadn't had so many too fast edits on Tarak during it.

Sonu Sood as Fakhtooni's husband in the flashback is completely wasted. It's really a short appearance and all he does is alot of hollering. And riding back and forth between Egypt and India on horseback in a rage. Really.

The final showdown between Shakti and the Egyptians could have been done much better. There was lots of flying around and wire work that was somehow too slow. And the sword fighting he did was both too fast and in slow-mo almost simultaneously. It would have been so much better if they had spent some time and money on doing that right.

Tarak doesn't disapoint in his performance, the fights and the dancing are excellent. Mani Sharma's soundtrack is wonderful. But the editing and the story fall apart in the second half. If you can't suspend disbelief enough (like me) to find an evil Pharoah obssessed cult plausable then Shakti becomes a bit too outlandish. Really I don't know why they had to have the villains be Egyptians, unless Meher Ramesh just wanted to spend the money on the trip. It would have been better if they had the villains be raging Rajputs instead of screaming Pharoahs. It would have made a little bit more chronological and geographical sense.

I will leave you with a little glimpse of Thaliya Thaliya and Prema Desam.