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, January 18, 2011

Round-up for November 2009

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (November, 2009):  5
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 11/30/09): 13


Okkadu, Aarya, Sainikudu, Anniyan, and Chakram.
Lots of photos in this one!
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Okkadu (Telugu, 2003)
Date watched: 11/2/09
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: Ajay (Mahesh) is the ne'er-do-well son of a Hyderabad police inspector (Mukesh Rishi). Ajay travels to a kabbadi tournament in Kurnol and saves Swapna (Bhumika Chawla), who is fleeing from a marriage to Obul Reddy (Prakash Raj), a gangster who killed both of her brothers. Ajay and Swapna flee through the forest and make their way to Hyderabad, where things end with a showdown at a kabbadi match.

Movie Rating: 4/5 The film takes a little while to get started, but once the main "chase" gets going, the film is a lot of fun. All of the different pieces--the crazy bad guys, the bratty younger sister, the judgmental father, the kabbadi--come together seamlessly  in the second half.  The old city of Hyderabad becomes a secondary character, and it was fun seeing the Charminar used as a central location. In one of my favorite lines, Ajay says s "this isn't Kurnol, it's the old City", and I loved the contrast between the urban street kids and the rural rowdies. (Oh yes, and Mahesh is surprisingly believable as a normal kid, and has great chemistry with his little sister. Sigh, Mahesh.)
I knew that this film would be a winner when the opening sequence started off as an homage to "Stay Cool" from West Side Story.
Okkadu version:
Original West Side Story:
"Stay Cool, Bret" from Flight of the Conchords:


Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5  This is a deliciously crazy version of Prakash Bad. A few early murders and a lot of creepy behavior with Swapna cement his evilness, and then and then it kicks into high gear as  Obul Reddy vows not to bathe until he marries Swapna.  The character also has lots of small craziness, which makes the big craziness seem plausible. I'm looking forward to watching Ghilli, the Tamil remake, since remakes are often an opportunity to kick up the craziness a notch.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
*All of the scenes where Obul Reddy is covered in mud, plotting his revenge and bemoaning his lost love.

*Obul Reddy has recaptured Swapna and marriage preparations are underway.  She tells him that he might marry her, but she'll be thinking of Ajay the whole time they are together.
I find it hilarious that his whole song is actually Obul Reddy's fantasy (albeit a fearful one) about Swapna and Ajay's love:


Words to live by.


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Aarya (Tamil, 2003)
 Date watched: 11/3/09
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: Gangster Kasi (Prakash Raj) uses violence and threats to get his sister Deepika (Bhavana) admitted to medical school. Deepika becomes obsessed with fellow student Aarya (Madhavan). Deepika and Kasi torment Aarya until he agrees to marry Deepika.
Movie Rating: 3/5  My main problem with this film is that both of the lead characters are so unlikeable (which is quite a feat, since I like Madhavan and Bhuvana a lot in other things.) Deepika is so scary and cruel to others, that I actively disliked her for the first 3/4 of the film. When she puts on her engagement sari, she has a sudden personality change: she asks others for forgiveness, is all girly, and develops complete amnesia and moral aversion to what her brother does for a living. Aarya seems to take a lot of glee in publicly humiliating and insulting Deepika (and later Kasi), so he wasn't all that much of a catch either. Usually the violence and cruelty of the bad guys doesn't bother me, because I know that the good character will win out in the end. The lack of good characters made the violence in the film much harder to tolerate. I did enjoy the stretch of film where the bad guys are trying to get Aarya to turn to violence, and there is an extended chase scene where he picks up weapons (pipes, machetes, etc), ponders using them, then sets them down and continues running.


Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5  A brutal scene early in the film establishes that Kasi is is cold-blooded murderer and villain, but then, in the middle of the film, things get sort of comedic as Kasi and his dim-witted but eager goondas try to entice, threaten, and trap Aarya into marrying Deepika. 
The sequence where Aarya keeps the gang chasing him from restaurant to cafe to movie theaters all over Chennai was especially fun, There are plentiful scenes where Prakash Raj gets to fume, rant, and express his growing exasperation with his gang and 
Aarya. This is yet another film where the "father" gets a better developed character arc and relationship with the hero than the heroine does. Kasi's transformation at the end is much more realistic and emotionally satisfying than anything that happens with the hero and heroine. 

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
*The sequences when Kasi and his gang are plotting how to get Aarya to accept a proposal for Deepika. 

*The finale, when Kasi decides to go to jail so that Aarya will marry Deepika. 

Also, lots of nice shadowy shots of Prakash


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Sainikudu (Telugu, 2006)
Date watched: 11/4/09
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: A band of college students led by Siddharth (Mahesh Babu) do good by saving flood victims and challenging corrupt politicians. They decide to challenge gangster Pappu Yadav (Irrfan Khan) in the local elections, so Pappu and his brother-in-law Mondi Nani (Prakash Raj) conspire to have Siddharth framed for attempted murder. In retaliation, Siddharth kidnaps Pappu's fiancee, Vara Lakshmi (Trisha). Romance, justice via television, and some crazy scaffold fights follow. 
Movie Rating: 3.75/5  The leads do their usual best: Mahesh scowls and fights, Trisha is a naive chatterbox. The plot of kidnapping leading to romance is bit weird, and I noticed on the rewatch that  it's a bit like Raavan/an, with the scenes of running through the forest and fighting on rope bridges. They did a good job of finding a dubbing artiste for Irfan who has the same tone and timbre of voice. As a tale of college youth battling a corrupt government, I like it more than Rang de Basanti. (Also: Mahesh, sigh, Mahesh.)
Prakash Raj Rating: 3.75/5  It's a lot of fun to see Prakash Raj play the sidekick to the main bad guy, and there's lots of fawning and plotting over Pappu Yadav. The character disappears during the middle of the film (he's serving time in jail for Pappu Yadav), but he has a nice return for the finale.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
*The scene when Siddharth beats up Mondi Nani, which has some excellent close-up shots of Prakash Raj's "getting beat up" faces:


*In the hospital, when Siddharth and his friends set it up so that Mondi Nani sees Pappu Yadav killing a patient he assumes to be Mondi Nani:
I'm outraged, you hear me, outraged!

Also, very good advice.
(On a side note, this is the key movie if I ever need to play "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" starting at Prakash Raj. Prakash Raj was in Sainikudu with Irrfan Khan, who was in New York, I Love You with Natalie Portman, who was in Closer with Julia Roberts, who was in Flatliners with Kevin Bacon!)


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Anniyan (Tamil, 2005)
Date watched: 11/11/09
Role TypePrakash Cop
The story: "Ambi" Ramanujam Iyengar (Vikram) is an upright and honest lawyer who is dedicated to the letter of the law. Ambi's frustration with the general lawlessness around him leads to the emergence of one of his multiple personalities, "Anniyan", who kills wrongdoers according the text of the Garudu Puranam. Another personality (Rampwalk Remo!) romances Ambi's neighbor Nandhini (Sadha). DCP Prabhakar (Prakash Raj) and his assistant Chary (Vivek) are hot on the trail of Anniyan.
Movie Rating: 4/5  This is definitely a crazy movie--it was the first Shankar film that I ever saw, and the mix of weirdness, humor, and social commentary was a bit confusing at first. On the rewatch, I appreciated it, especially the ambiguous ending. Vikram does a stellar job in all of the iterations of Ambi's personalities, while Nasser has a nice cameo as the worst psychiatrist ever.  

OK, I'll change my blogger template, already.
Prakash Raj Rating: 4.5 DCP Prabhakar is one of my favorite roles "the cop who is much smarter than he appears to be", also seen in Athadu and Nijam.
Throughout the film, Prabhahakar and Chary appear in a variety of undercover disguises as they pursue the killer. Each disguise provides an opportunity for Prakash Raj and Vivek to overact with delightful abandon, but there's also a great moment in these scenes when they step inside a house, behind a tree, or through a door and immediately drop the character and are down to business as police detectives. The chemistry between Vivek and Prakash Raj is really fun, and they have some great detective-y moments of finding and deciphering the clues to Anniyan's identity.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
*All of the disguises:

*In the final scene, Prabhakar has Ambi in custody, and decides to torture him. It's an interesting moment, because up to this point, the audience has had sympathy with both characters, so it's disorienting trying to decide who to sympathize with in the scene.


Stay tuned for a photo essay on Prakash Raj in bandages...

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Chakram (Telugu, 2005)
Date watched: 11/18/09
Role TypePrakash Dad
The story: Chakram (Prabhas) abandons his fiancee Lakshmi (Asin) on their wedding day, and relocates to a neighborhood in Hyderabad. He befriends and helps the people in neighborhood, and local girl Lakshmi (Charmee) dislikes then falls in love with Chakram. Chakram's father,name-unknown, (Prakash Raj) and his goondas pursue Chakram to Hyderabad. Ultimately we get the story of why Chakram ran away from his wedding and his true love.
Movie Rating: 3.75/5 Overall, a pretty solid film, with a pretty focused, unified story, that never fell back on having a clear villain or big violent showdown. In retrospect, I think this was one of the first "two-heroine" Telugu films that I saw, and I wasn't sure what to make of it. The Prabhas-Charmee relationship sets up the interfering neighbor-bratty girl dynamic that was more fully realized in Pournami. I particularly liked that we entered into the Prabhas-Asin relationship in media res, without an epic explanation of when or how they fell in love. Prabhas was really delightfully goofy in this film, with lots of physical comedy. 
I wasn't as keen on how things played out with Asin--the deception seemed unnecessary and increasingly cruel.
I love this scene where the gang meets Asin in a posh
Hyderabad hotel with their guns and machetes.


Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5  This role was a fun fake-out. At first, the father seems like a typical rural-factionalist leader, who has Sumo-loads of rowdies at his disposal to send after the runaway groom.  But then the film brings the father and son together, both in the present and in flashbacks, and it turns into an epic love fest. 


You get to see Prakash Raj in a great array of costumes--a nice wedding outfit, casual vest and lungi, polo shirts, a suit--and I think this is one of his better film mustaches.
(I think I may have a photo of my dad in this outfit, circa 1974.)

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Everyone remembers the Dramatic Chipmunk,
but did you know that "Dramatic Prakash Raj" came first?



The flashback scene when Chakram arrives home from Europe, and you get all kinds of adorable PDA between father and son, followed by sword-fighting with kitchen utensils. (This doesn't have subtitles, but they aren't really needed.)



The big cry-fest when Chakram reveals why he ran out on his wedding day.
(I love the part where Prakash dad collapses a little. I can't decide exactly what I think of the sobbing, but I totally got teared up watching this the first time and when I was screencapping it.)


And a few more: Scary Prakash Dad:

Loveable Prakash Dad:

2 comments:

  1. Oh Lordy, this post made me realize how behind I am with my Prakash Raj movie watching :( But one of the few I did see, Okkadu, I have to admit, really lays the awesome on thick! :) There was so much blood and evilness in that one that I almost drowned in it :) But cute chemistry between the leads. And we learned an interesting game :D No time is ever wasted on Tollywood movies!

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  2. I love Prakash Raj in Okkadu - he just kept finding ways to dial up the INSANE. And when he was trying to be, um, romantic - it was so creepy yet very funny!

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