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.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Round-up for March 2011

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (March, 2011): 7
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 3/31/11): 79
Any month when I watch more than five Prakash Raj films is a big month. I'm that much closer to my goal of watching 250 (and counting ) films. However, it takes me much longer to write it all up for the blog. 
Arinthum Ariyamalum, Aasai, The Prince, Ghilli, Ponniyin Selvan, Chirutha, Anwar

Arinthum Ariyamalum (Tamil, 2005)
Date watched: 3/3/11
Role Type: Prakash Dad
The storySatya (Navdeep) is an innocent country boy who comes to Chennai to study engineering. His roommate Krishna (Krishna) provides comic relief while Satya feuds and flirts with fellow student Sandhya (Samiksha). Satya also has several run ins with Kutty (Arya), the rowdy son of local don Adhi Narayanan (Prakash Raj.) When Sandhya is wounded in a shootout between Kutty and a rival gang, Satya is set to identify him to ACP Thiagararajan (Adithya). In the course of plotting a hit on Satya, Adhi Narayanan learns that Satya is actually his own, long-lost son.  Adhi and Kutty suddenly change course and try to welcome Satya into their family, with comic results.
Thoughts on the film: The first half was fairly standard "separated family" fare, and it seemed like it was headed for some big, dramatic, tragic finish. I was surprised and delighted when the film veered off into comedy, with the father and brother's obsessive attempts to win Satya's love. I watched this right after I rewatched Arya 2, and they struck me as having a similar, slightly twisted sensibility (and Navdeep was more enjoyable in this film!)
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: This was a Prakash Raj "A" role, where there was a interestig character arc, and an opportunity for the character to react and act in a variety of ways. He did a nice job of showing the changing relationships with each of his sons over the course of the film--I'd love to see him doing more work opposite Arya. It was fun to see him as the stern mafia boss and doting and anguished father.
(look at those guns!)
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Adhi and Kutty pull up in the car next to Sandhya and Satya on a a scooter, and they get all excited and proud because their new-found son has has a girlfriend:

Aasai (Tamil, 1995)
Date watched: 3/6/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The storyYamuna (Suvalakshmi) meets Jeeva (Ajith), and they fall in love. Her sister comes to visit and her brother-in law Madhavan (Prakash Raj) becomes obsessed with Yamuna. Madhavan kills his wife, and Yamuna and her father come to live with him in Delhi, in order to take care of the the sister's baby.  Jeeva tracks Yamuna down in Delhi, and declares his love.  Madhavan has been plotting that he will marry Yamuna, so he tries to discredit Jeeva by making him seem unstable. When that doesn't work, he attempts to kill Jeeva and Yamuna. 
Thoughts on the film: An enjoyable thriller. The scenes where Madhavan was trying to discredit Jeeva as being irrational and violent were particularly well done.
These guys seemed to be pulled from a Wes Anderson film.
They came to threaten Yamuna's father by breaking things in the house with a basketball.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: Usually the Prakash Bad characters are more straight-up mafia don types, but this was a full-on psycho role. He got lots of nice scenes where he was plotting and implementing his crazy schemes to marry Yamuna, however, it didn't rea, yet, as someone on the BollyWHAT forum noted, sort of sexy.  They didn't really show his transition to psycho-ness very well. He seems to start out as fairly stable and in a pretty normal (for a film) relationship with his wife.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
He steals Jeeva's wallet before the fancy hotel dinner, tosses it in the air, and pockets it.
Jeeva gives Yamuna a puppy to show his love. Madhavan has other ideas.
(SPOILER: this is the second film in which I've seen Prakash Raj kill this breed of dog
Madhavan creepily watches Yamuna while she's in the shower.
As someone on Bolly-WHAT noted, Prakash is very creepy, yet kind of sexy in this role.
At least we get to see him in the shower, too.

The Prince (Malayalam, 1996)
Date watched: 3/12/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: Jeeva (Mohanlal) is the son of a mafia don, he falls in love with Swarna (Prema). She agrees to marry him, but doesn't know about the family business. She realizes what's up when he is kidnapped by a rival mafioso (Prakash Raj).
Thoughts on the film: The Prince didn't have subtitles, but I'm happy to find any of the '90's films that I can. It was pretty easy to follow--there was a lot of English dialogue and the crazy outfits really communicated a lot. I wasn't as impressed with Mohanlal in this film, he seemed to be phoning it in.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: Miami Vice, complete with a giant dangling earring. Prakash Raj did a great job of playing the sadistic gangster, who wore lots of awful, awful fashions.
He has a gun held to his head....
...and he also holds a gun to the heroine's head.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: There's a great showdown between Mohanlal and Prakash Raj's characters in a hotel room where they shout at each other in English: 
Prakash: "You shut your bloody mouth!!"
Mohanlal "You shut YOUR bloody mouth!!"
Prakash "You shut your bloody mouth!!"
And so on.

Ghilli (Tamil, 2004)
Date watched: 3/13/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: Remake of OkkaduVelu (Vijay) is the ne'er-do-well son of a police inspector (Ashish Vidyarthi). Velu travels to a kabbadi tournament in Madhurai and saves Dhanalaksmhmi (Trisha), who is fleeing from a marriage to Muthupandi (Prakash Raj), a gangster who killed both of her brothers. Velu and Dhanalakshmi flee through the forest and make their way to Chennai, where things end with a showdown at a kabbadi match.
Thoughts on the film: I liked the dances better in this version, no doubt because of Vijay's superior dancing skills (sorry Mahesh.) The ending was a little bit different, with more action over Trisha's release at the kabbadi match. The big final fight scene was more drawn out and epic in this one. It was funny to me that in the Tamil version, everyone agrees to have an organized fight over the heroine in the kabbadi court, whereas in the Telugu version, the fight happened more organically in the chaos after the match.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: Sadly, he did not spend as much time covered in mud in this version.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: The final fight in this version was longer and more epic:
"Don't make me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry."
I'm coming to think of this type of kick as Prakash Raj's signature
"action" move. I've seen him do it in several films.

Ponniyin Selvan (Tamil, 2005)
Date watched: 3/26/11
Role TypePrakash Pal
The storyFrom the Popcorn OneIndia synopsis:
Ponniyin Chelvan movie is about a youth struck with an inferiority complex. Venu (Ravi Krishna), a youth who lives with his mother Ponni (Revathy). working in a factory and gets his sister (Devadarshini) married off. He has his mentor Guru (Prakash Raj). He also has the company of girl next-door Kani (Gopika).
His left cheek gets burnt in a fire accident which leaves in him an inferiority complex. He obsessed by money and loses people and their affection.
Thoughts on the film: On the plus side, since this is a Radha Mohan film, so all of the secondary characters are fleshed out, have lovely interactions, and contribute greatly to the story. 
Gopika has a lovely moment of happiness at
her planned wedding to Venu
Kumaravel has a small but important role as
a coworker who gives Venu important advice.
There's also a lovely scene where Venu (in disguise) fantasizes about a romance with idealized love interest, the girl who works at the pizza place. As his dream fades, the bouncy castle behind him symbolically deflates--nice touch!
But my overall problem with the film was that Venu's facial disfiguration didn't seem all that horrific. It was presented as this painful characteristic that completely dominated others' impressions of him, and his own self-image, and his aspirations for reconstructive surgery drove the plot. I, however, couldn't really tell the scars were there half the time, and they didn't look much worse than acne scars.
Right "good" side
Left "bad" side
Venu was not always the most sympathetic character, but it was hard to empathize with this huge burden he was bearing, when I was wondering if the actor's vanity had undermined the ability to show that burden.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: Guru is Venu's friend, neighbor and coworker who offers him support and advice throughout the film. Hewas a nice, everyday, working-class character, who had his own sets of virtues and vices. This is one of those times when I really wish I understood the language, because I was curious if the dialogue and accent really fit the social context of the character.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
Venu is feeling depressed and lovelorn about his idealized girl (while totally ignoring the awesome girl next door, Kani.) Guru decides that the best way to cheer Venu up is to take him to Guru's favorite brothel. This place has the best dancing courtesans/prostitutes ever!
The video clip below does not have the subtitles,
it's worth getting the film to read the crazy suggestive lyrics.

Chirutha (Telugu, 2007)
Date watched: 3/28/11
Role TypePrakash Dad
The story: From the Idlebrain synopsis:
Charan (Ram Charan Teja) has a bad childhood as his father was murdered in front of his eyes. And he had to own somebody else’s mistake and go to jail to save his mother. When he returns back, he realizes that his mother is dead. Then he is employed as a tour guide in Bangkok. Sanjana (Neha Sharma) - the daughter of a rich man - is on vacation to Bangkok along with her friends. The rest of the story is how they fall in love and how Charan takes revenge on the people who are responsible for the murder of his father.
Thoughts on the film: Ram Charan's hair gave an excellent debut performance, especially during the dances. I was about 15 minutes into the section where they are trapped on the island (Charan taunts and abuses Sanjana until she loves him) before I realized that this had a familiar vibe (Kaho Naa...Pyaar Hai.) I guess I have a high threshold for remakes, since I seem to forget plots quickly. It has some impressive action sequences, and Ashish Vidyarthi is fun as the big baddie with tangerine-colored hair.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: Prakash Raj plays Sanjana's father, who is desperate to find her, and dismissive of the ex-con who has her on the island. I'm not going to say outright that he phoned in this role, but the evidence is on film:

In addition to his cell phone, he also had a helicopter:

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
A big rooftop showdown, when Charan returns Sanjana to her father, in exchange for Charan's long lost mother. We get a nice example of the patented "Prakash Raj blossoming of bromance" gaze as he realizes that Charan a) loves his mommy, and will make a good husband, and b) is a pretty good fighter.

Anwar (Malayalam, 2010)
Date watched: 3/29/11
Role TypePrakash Cop
The story: A very twisty plot, and Indiaglitz did a nice job of summarizing it without too many spoilers:
The movie opens with the visuals of Coimbatore bomb blast and the introduction of a special team under Stalin Manimaran (Prakash Raj) who arrests Babu Sait [Lal], a local community leader as a suspect in the bomb blast case. Meanwhile, Anwar [Prithviraj] a Muslim youth is arrested while passing on with some Hawala money and is sent to jail with Babu Sait and his team. Babu Sait helps Anwar in getting a bail and lures him to his activities. Soon he becomes the most trusted and obedient right hand of Babu Sait. Anwar succeeds in planting a bomb in the police headquarters and is soon introduced to Basheer Bhai [Sampath], who selects him to spearhead another big, but dangerous project of chain blasts. Though Anwar goes on with their plans, he has a haunting flashback which makes him to act differently from the already laid out designs.
Thoughts on the film: Really tight plot, pacing and dialogue, and Prithviraj and Mamta Mohandas had really nice chemistry. My favorite thing about the film were all of the great location shots (of Trivandrum? Kochi?)
I was also impressed with how integrated the songs were, they never took me out of the tense, emotional story. With one egregious exception.  The movie ends with this image and statement:

And immediately goes to the Nijan, the credits song. On the plus side, Mamta sings. On the downside, oh just watch for yourself:

Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: This is the type of smart, competent character with shades of gray that Prakash Raj does really well. The wheels in the character's head are always turning, and he does a nice job of showing that with subtle changes in expression, tone, and body language. I'm curious if the character is supposed to be from another region, since at one point he asks "how do you say that in Malayalam?" And Stalin Manimaran likes his coffee.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: The many interrogation scenes:


  1. Excellent work! I love your blog SO much. :-)

  2. All really good films. I've been watching it's my show on You Tube. It has made his fan, all the more.

  3. @Amaluu I'm so glad you're enjoying it!

    @Mohan I've watched a few episodes of "It's My Show", but I think I'll have more Telugu than the few words I understand to truly appreciate it.

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