My Year of Prakash Raj

Some people spend a year
cooking Julia Child's recipes, or following all of the rules in the Bible, or reading books by people who spent a year doing something. My quest is to watch the 200-some films of South Indian character-actor-extraordinaire, Prakash Raj. (It'll probably take more than a year... and I'll post about some Prakash-less films here as well.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Round-up for November 2010

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (11/30/10):  5
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 11/30/10): 59*

(* I just realized that Prakash Raj has a guest appearance in Vikramarkudu, which I watched in July, so I'll have to do a bonus post on that!)




Kotha Bangaru Lokam (Telugu, 2008)
Date watched: 11/4/10
Role Type: Prakash Dad
The story: Balu (Varun Sandesh) and Swapna (Shweta Basu Prasad) are teenagers who meet at the residential college where they are both studying, and fall in love. Swapna's father is strict, while Balu's parents are kind and indulgent, especially his father (Prakash Raj.)  The story follows the trials and tribulations of young love.
Movie Rating: 3.745/5  Overall, a nice, sweet movie.  I decided to watch this based on Nicki's recommendation on her blog, Hmong Chick Who Loves Indian Cinema, and she captures most of the great things about the film in her post from October, 2010.  Like Nicki, I really enjoyed that this was a film about teenagers, and their specific trials and tribulations.  The two leads, especially Shweta, were adorable.
Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5 At some point, I'll have to do a post of my favorite "Dads" and this one will definitely be in the top 10. He has lots of nice father-son scenes with Balu, but my favorite scene is one where he is comforting his wife after a lovesick Balu has snapped at her.  I haven't seen this sort of everyday, intimate, normal scene of married life very often in SI films, so I always appreciate when they come along, and especially when they are well-acted. Check out the body language between Prakash Raj and Jaya Sudha (playing the mother), how they seek and offer comfort to each other in simple gestures, and then shift back to the business of daily life.





Singam (Tamil, 2010)
Date watched: 11/11/10
Role Type: Prakash Bad
The story: Durai Singam (Surya) is a rural policeman with a tight uniform. He rises in the ranks of the IPS while battling the mafia and kidnapping kingpin Mayil Vaaganam (Prakash Raj.)
Movie Rating: 3.5/5 This was a pretty fun, masala, action-y movie. The plot was pretty straightforward, but there were some fun, twisty ways that Durai Singam tracks down the bad guys and plays them against one another.
Prakash Raj Rating: 3.5/5 A pretty standard villain role--but other than some scenes in the beginning and end, he was more of a delegating evil-doer. At a certain point, I started to feel sorry for the character, because he a bit of a lightweight compared to the hero--I especially loved the scene when Durai Singam interrupts Mayil Vaaganam and his henchmen in the middle of a fun beach volleyball game.
This is being remade in Hindi, with Ajay Devgan in the Surya role, and Prakash Raj returning as Mayil.  I'll be interested to see if the director, Rohit Shetty, plays up the comedic aspects of both characters a bit more.
"My mustache is not as impressive as Surya's, but I do have two giant knives!!"




Saroja (Tamil, 2008)
Date watched: 11/15/10
Role Type: Prakash Dad
The story: Four friends decide to take a road trip from Chennai to see a cricket match in Hyderabad. An overturned petrol truck causes them to take a backroads shortcut, where they encounter an abandoned warehouse and the gangsters who have kidnapped the Saroja, the daughter of a wealthy businessman (Prakash Raj.)

Movie Rating: 5/5  I really, really loved this movie. I'd seen most of the actors who played the four friends (Premji, Vaibhav, Shiva, and SPB Charan) in other movies like Goa and Tamizh Padam.  The varying degrees of affection and rivalry among the four friends was portrayed well through the conversations on the road, how they reacted during the action, and in the songs. The kidnapping plot was suitably tense and the filming added to the tension. The action scenes were fast paced, and used the setting of the abandoned warehouse to good effect.  I also liked that the action scenes took into account that these were ordinary people fighting the gangsters and not movie "heroes"-- a lot of times it took all four leads to take on one of the gangsters, which was a nice reversal of the usual "hero takes on 40 baddies" theme in Southie movies. I'm going to have to write a whole post about this movie, but a few more things I loved: Saroja (Vega Tamotia), the main henchman Sampath (Sampath Raj) and his girlfriend Kalyani (Nikita Thukral), and all of the songs, especially "Aaja Meri Soniye" and "Kodaana Kodi."
Prakash Raj Rating: 5/5 This is one of the serendipitous occurrences where I unreservedly love the film, and Prakash Raj has large, interesting role.  Vishwanath, Saroja's businessman father, goes through such a wide range of emotion: disinterest in his wife and daughter, fear at the loss of his child, joy at possibly being reunited with her, frustration with the police, and guilt about his own past philandering. While most of his scenes are with Jayaram, who plays ACP Ravichandran, he also gets some nice scenes with the actresses playing his wife and daughter. I especially like the scene where he's going to the Buddha statue in the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad to deliver the ransom to the kidnappers. It's a fairly long scene, and I don't think he has more than a few lines in it, but manages to convey so much tension and despair in his expressions and body language.
This was my favorite scene, beautifully shot and acted.



Nerukku Ner (Tamil, 1997)
Date watched: 11/23/10
Role Type: Prakash Cop
The story: A husband (Raghuvaran) admits to his wife (Shanti Krishna) that he had an affair. She leaves him,  and sends their daughter to live with relatives. This leads to all sorts of enmity between his brother (Vijay) and her brother (Surya, in his debut), and conflicts over motorbikes, girls, and the custody of the young daughter. There's also a side plot with a corrupt politician (?) who is tries to get Raghuvaran's character to issue him a false passport.

Movie Rating: 2.5/5  Mostly this is fun to watch because Surya and Vijay are so young in it. The conflict with the brothers and their romances were the main part of the story, but the story of the estranged husband and wife was more interesting.  Raghuvaran and Shanti Krishna both did a nice job of conveying their sadness at the situation, but not necessarily anger towards the other, so that when the resolution comes, it didn't feel implausible.
Prakash Raj Rating: 3/5 This was a very, very small role (and I suspect I'm going to see even more of these bit parts as I go further back into the pre-2000 filmography.) I think he only had 3 short scenes, and one of those was just a cutaway. Prakash Raj plays the police office who is tracking down the corrupt politician.  He does have one fun scene where he threatens the bad guy in his own bathroom, and another nice "justice prevails" moment when he finally captures the bad guy at the bottom of an airport escalator.




Charminar (Telugu, 2003)
Date watched: 11/28/10
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: Nandu (Venkat) is an orphan raised by corrupt policeman Surendra Babu.  Nandu becomes a leading gangster, then pretends to be a college student to romance Keerthi (Abhiraami).  A bunch of stuff happens that puts Nandu at odds with his former mentor.
Movie Rating: 2/5  I was inspired to check out this film because Nicki was asking about one of the songs that features a dancing Prakash, and Githa helpfully identified the film. I watched an online version without subs--mostly it was easy to follow, but I think there was a key relationship between Surendra Reddy and a woman (his wife? his mistress?) that was central to the plot, but I couldn't quite follow. Also, I think a key plot point was that Nandu was the don of the area in Hyderabad around the Charminar, and it was disappointing that there weren't more interesting scenes showing that area.
Prakash Raj Rating: 2/5 This was another inexcusable instance where they dubbed Prakash Raj's voice (why??!!!)  I'm giving it a slightly higher rating, for the two following reasons:
1) the big final fight, which includes some nice action-y moves, enhanced by expressive reactions to the dishoom:

2) the song mentioned above, in which Prakash cuts loose in a sparkly orange shirt, leopard print scarf, and a nicely creased pair of Dockers (or the Indian equivalent.)

3 comments:

  1. I am enjoying your mini posts and your Prakash ratings :D

    Am really curious to see Saroja now!! Thanks for exploring Prakash and sharing it with us :D

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  2. Hi Liz. I don't love Saroja anywhere near as much as you do, but I do like it. My biggest problem was the annoying and stupid character of Ganesh. I kept hoping that if one of the guys had to sacrifice himself to save the others, it would be Ganesh to go. There were also far too many gimmicky visual effects in some scenes, and they didn't always enhance the drama. The other performances were very good and the story was really strong so apart from a few "How the hell could they not hear you guys bitching at the top of your lungs as you scramble around in the dark?" moments, it was a very satisfying film. The character of Saroja wasn't shown as being completely pathetic either - she took her chances when they presented. It was nice to see Prakash Raj in a more substantial role too. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  3. I can see how Premji Amaren is an acquired taste. I really loved him in Goa, which I saw first, but he wasn't used as well in Saroja.

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