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.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Supporting Stars of Lagaan (One Degree of Prakash Raj)

I've been enjoying reading thebollywoodfan's tweets and blog posts for the annual celebration of "Lagaan week." It occurred to me that not only was Lagaan my first Bollywood film, and the film that started my interest in Indian film, but it also was the source of my fandom/obsession with filmi character actors. I watched Lagaan sometime in early 2002 (it was on two VHS tapes, from the local blockbuster.) The story, the visuals, and the music all sucked me in, but I was especially impressed by the actors playing the team members. I also had a "Hey! It's That Guy!" moment in Lagaan.

The (discontinued) pop-culture website Fametracker had an ongoing feature about the supporting players you'd see a lot in Hollywood films:
So how do you become a Hey! It's That Guy!? Well, it's pretty simple. Number one, you have to be in a lot of movies. Number two, it helps if you usually play exactly the same kind of role. Number three, you can't have a high name-recognition factor among the general public.
The "That Guy" of Lagaan was Kulbhushan Kharbanda, who played the local landlord, Raja Puran Singh:
His was a familiar face, because earlier that winter I'd seen the not-quite-Bollywood Monsoon Wedding, in which he played one of the bride's uncles.
Many, many films later, I still have a little thrill of pleasure when Kharbanda shows up in a film.

Another character who made a strong impression in Lagaan, was Guran, played by Rajesh Vivek.
I watched a few Hindi films here and there in the years after I saw Lagaan, but about 2 years ago, I fell down the rabbit hole of watching several films a week (thanks to Netflix and my local library.) One of the first films I watched was Jodhaa Akbar, and I was happy to see two old friends:
A few months later, I was working my way through various Shahrukh Khan films, and there was Rajesh Vivek, playing the postmaster in Swades:
When I had the idea for this post, I was looking up the cast members, and to my delight discovered that Pradeep Rawat played Deva, the Sikh sepoy:
Fun wikipedia fact: SI film stalwart Mukesh Rishi was the first choice for this part!
As I've watched more and more (and more) South Indian films, Pradeep Rawat has shown up quite a bit. Usually he plays a mustachioed villain (see the Tamil and Hindi versions of Ghajini), and most recently, I saw him going head to head with Prakash Raj in the Telugu film Bhadra:
It's nice to know that the work of interesting supporting Indian film actors circles back from my current film fixation to the first Bollywood film I ever saw!


  1. I had a "Hey, It's That Guy!" moment with Kulbhushan Kharbanda as well--first saw and loved him in Monsoon Wedding, and then had my "HITG" moment with Joshilay. Love KK!

  2. The thing with Lagaan is, there are so many great actors in here, and the more we get accustomed to identifying them, the more we seem to see of them in other films. I've had some good 'Hey, it's that guy!?" moments from this cast, and a few in Aamir's 1990s films, too! (And Gowariker's, as you note.) Great, thank you for your entry! :)

  3. My "Hey, It's That Guy!" moment for Kulbhushan Kharbanda is when I finally realized he was the bald master villain in Shaan.

  4. My 'hey, that guy' moment was way later stage. After a month of watching Ghajini.. I came to know that he's the same, Deva !

  5. Lagaan came to inspire a lot of film and television, especially that little known TV show called 'Jhansi Ki Rani' on Zee TV. Something about the British taking over India or something - don't ask me! (my grandma watches it you see...)

    Check out my blog guys, and especially this post, where I pay particular attention (insert poke fun) towards the British general from JKR...

  6. @Bombay Talkies: KK is the best, isn't he!

    @thebollywoodfan: thanks for organizing this, it was nice to revisit Lagaan after all these years.

    @myrna nora: I love seeing KK in his younger days, with dark (or no) hair.

    @dunkdaft: I've been watching way too many South Indian movies where Pradeep Rawat does unspeakably evil things, and it's nice to know that he's played at least one not-evil character.

    @The Bolly Hood, I've seen other films that seemed inspired a bit by Lagaan, but that's interesting that there were knock-off serials, too. I'll check out your blog, as well!