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, January 22, 2012

Round-up for December 2011

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (December, 2011): 12
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of December 31, 2011): 145
Suswagatham, Konchem Touchlo Vunte Cheputanu, Rajasthan, Sandhippoma, Poomani, Vinodam, M. Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi, Dongala Mutha, Aravindhan, Oru Yatramozhi, Raasi, Vidukathai
I decided to try and knock out some of the 1990's movies that are out in internet-land, so December had lots of subtitle-free films. I was struck, particularly with the Telugu film, with the range of types of stories and characters vs. the current films. I watched films in which the hero didn't end up with the heroine, and movies that were a straight comedies. It could be that there are more types of Telugu films being made, but I'm just catching the big, tent-pole, hero movies where problems are solved with fists, not pratfalls, and the hero ends up with the heroine, if not two.

Suswagatham (Telugu, 1998)
Date Watched: 12/4/2011

Role type: Prakash Dad/Bad
The story: Ganesh (Pawan Kalyan) has been in love with Sandhya (Devayani) for a long time, and follows her around. She consistently rejects him, and  when he runs afoul of her policeman father (Prakash Raj), Ganesh ends up in jail. His father (Raghuvaran) bails him out, but is disappointed that Ganesh isn't focusing on his own future. Sandhya's father plans to send her to Vizag, and Ganesh follows, searching for her. Then tragedy strikes, forcing both Sandhya and Ganesh to re-evaluate their priorities.
Thoughts on the film: (No subtitles.) I enjoyed seeing a young, floppy-haired Power Star. The relationship between Ganesh and his father was sweet, and reminded me (yet again) of Raghuvaran's untimely passing. It's also interesting to see a story where responsibility wins out over romance.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: As the abusive, corrupt policeman, Prakash Raj gets to showcase all kinds of debauchery including drunkeness, lust, rage, and drunken/lustful rage.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: In his introductory scene, we watch as he purposefully rejects one of his daughter's would-be suitors:

Konchem Touchlo Vunte Cheputanu (Telugu, 2004)
Date Watched: 12/10/11

Role type: Prakash Bad
The story: (From the review.)

Kalidasu (Sivaji) is fed up with his financial situation and resorts to ending his life. But he is saved by JK (Prakash Raj) in the last moment. JK promises to give all the money Kalidasu needs without any strings attached. JK runs a secret trust that helps the victims in distress who resorts to the act of suicide. Kalidasu notices Alakananda (Veda) on a TV program and falls in love with her at the first sight. Alakananda runs a flower boutique for work satisfaction though she is a daughter of a millionaire. Kaludasu proposes to Alakananda. She tells him to befriend her for a few days so that she could know more about Kalidasu before taking a decision. As Kalidasu try to get closer to Alakananda, the things between them get worse. The rest of the film is about whether Alakananda accepts Kaludasu's proposition or not.
Thoughts on the film: (No subtitles.) I enjoyed that there was a comedic through-line with all of the characters, but I really missed the subtitles on this one. There was A LOT of comedic dialogue, and I think I would have liked it more if I could have understood what the dialogues were about.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: For the first half of the film, his character seemed fairly benevolent, and defined mostly by his hat, goatee and cane.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: When his affability gives way to his true, malevolent nature and motives. I wasn't really sure if he was supposed to actually be a devil, or if it was a metaphorical unmasking of the character. But it's nice to know that Prakash Raj could get work in the Twilight series.

Rajasthan (Telugu, 1999) Date Watched: 12/11/2011
Role type: Prakash Bad
The story: In this action movie, "Action" Vijayashanti and Sarath Kumar star as cops/intelligence officers trying to stop a terrorist attack at a wedding.
Thoughts on the film: (No subtitles.) There were a few twists and turns where subtitles would have helped, but it was great to see Vijayashanti in full-on action mode, kicking butt and taking names.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It wasn't a big part, but he was a worthy villain and foil to the heroes as a scheming terrorist. I think this must have filmed at the same time as Rajakumarudu, since it seems to be the same beard.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: When he's plotting the attack on the wedding venue, using a detailed cardboard model, it reminded me of the scene in Zoolander: "What is this? a wedding venue for ants??!! How can we take the people hostage if they can't even fit in the building??!!"

And in just about every scene, he touches his face, trying to decide if the beard will become his signature look.


Sandhippoma (Tamil, 1998)
Date Watched: 12/15/2011
Role type: Prakash Dad
The story: Surya (Surya) and Preetha (Preetha) fall in love, her mother ( or step mother?) doesn't approve, but goes along with it. Complications arise when Surya's character exhibits "fashion" photos he's taken of  Preetha, which further upsets Preetha's mother. Then it comes to light that Surya's father (Prakash Raj) had an affair, and things take a dramatic, tragic turn for the lovers.
Thoughts on the film: ( watched the Telugu dubbed version, called Viswam, without subtitles.) I think this was Surya's first film, and happily his acting has improved quite a bit since this film.The film stole the background score of several Hollywood movies, in particular the St. Elmo's Fire score, which made it seem like it was from the late 1980's, not the late 1990's.
Spoiler alert: It had one of those the crazy, tragic endings I find so fascinating in Tamil films, and I hope that in this post 9/11 world, someone would be a little more aware if the person sitting in the plane sit next to them swallowed poison.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: There were LOTS of great scenes with Prakash Raj as the physician father who encounters temptation in the form of a sexy patient,
gives in to temptation,
then grows irritated with his mistress.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: The big scene where he finally goes to his patient's home, and she seduces him with her decadent music and dancing:

Poomani (Tamil, 1996)
Date Watched: 12/17/2011
Role type: Prakash Bad
The story: Another subtitle-less film, and I couldn't find the plot online, so I think this is the plot: It's the story of two brothers, which begins when with the older brother anger at the birth of his baby brother. Later they are grown up, and the older brother (Prakash Raj) comes home for a wedding. After much drama, he bails on the wedding, and the younger brother (Murali) must marry the bride, even though he's in love with the servant (?) girl who lives in their home. The bride is unhappy and either dies or kills herself. The older brother returns, clearly even more unhinged. He kills their father, and then makes moves on the servant girl, leading to a big final showdown between the two brothers. The final fight features a well and the village's power system.
Thoughts on the film: (No subtitles.) I loved that all of the action took place in the village, and that Murali's character was just a decent, country guy, who didn't get too alpha-hero until the end. (And even then, he used electricity, not a machete to deliver justice.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It was an interesting transition as the veneer of the upright, successful, urbanized brother gave way to the patricidal, leering, crazy-pants bad guy.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: This little section, where he goes from terrorizing Devayani's character while rubbing his face with a feather, to the pre-meditated murder of his father:

Vinodam (Telugu, 1996)
Date Watched: 12/21/2011
 Role type: Prakash Pal
The story: Srikanth is a ne-er do well who hangs out with his friends. He mixes it up with Ravali and her friends, and they fall in love. Her father (Kota Srinivasa Rao) doesn't approve, there are lots of hijinks trying to convince him--they fake a video where Srikanth is the son of a Raja, they are about to get married when someone blows Srikanth's cover. Kota is going to get her married to a rich NRI (Prakash Raj), but Srikanth and his buddies intercept him at the airport and convince him that he should not marry Ravali (not sure the reason.) There are a few more escapades, ending with them tying Kota up at the wedding while they switch grooms.
Thoughts on the film: (No subtitles.) A silly, light-hearted comedy through and through.There was humor at the beginning of the romance, and up through the resolution. It was refreshing that the resolution came through trickery and not violence.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He made the most of the part, as the "sophisticated" NRI groom, and fit the manic tone of the film really well.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
When Prakash Raj comes to meet the bride, and hijinks ensue:
The crazy finale:

M. Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi (Telugu, 2004)
Date Watched: 12/21/2011
Role type: Prakash Dad
The story: The remake of the Telugu movie Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi. Kumaran (Jayam Ravi) has a wonderful relationship with his mother Mahalakshmi (Nadhiya), meets cute with a Malayalam girl, Mythli (Asin), and aspires to be a kickboxer. When tragedy strikes, Kumaran must reconcile with his father, Eshwar (Prakash Raj) and find a new path to achieve his dreams.Thoughts on the film: (I think this is the only subtitled PR movie I watched in December!) It generally follows the tone and story of the original, and seemed to flesh it out a bit more more. I enjoyed "rewatching" it, and seeing how the first half of the film is about Kumaran's relationship with is mother, and the second half, the relationship with his father. (Nice screenwriting structure there, Puri Jagganadh!) I wondered how they would update the Telugu-Tamil romantic comedy angle, although I probably missed any of the Tamil-Malayalam culture-clash jokes in this version.
I guess it made sense to move the action in the 2nd half to Malaysia, since that makes the father-son estrangement more credible, and the kickboxing action was fun. (Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi  was one of my first adventures in screencapping, so I didn't do many. This time, I went slightly overboard.)
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It's been awhile since I watched the original, but the character seemed more fleshed out. I liked that he was eager to please from the beginning, and you could see his hurt at Kumaran's rejection. His conversations with Aishwarya as the second wife seemed to have more meat, and he got lots of opportunity to cry.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Here's a selection of my favorite scenes:


Dongala Mutha (Telugu, 2011)
Date Watched: 12/22/2011
Role type: Prakash Cop
The story: Ravi Teja and Charme are driving through the countryside when their car breakdowns. They end up at a guest house with an assortment of weird characters, criminals, and corrupt policemen.
Thoughts on the film: (No subtitles.) I gave up waiting for this to come out on dvd, and found a cam-rip posted online. I have no idea if the plot or dialogue make sense, but I enjoyed watching this experiment in fast, low-budget film-making. If nothing else, I appreciate that Ram Gopal Verma took all of my favorite hams from Telugu cinema--Subbaraju, Brahmaji, Charme, Ravi Teja, Prakash Raj, and new favorite Lakshmi Manchu--had gave them the opportunity to wear silly hats and chew the scenery.

Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It was mostly swaggering around with his sunglasses askew. I love to see a bunch of actors I like being goofballs together, so it was fun watching him play off of all of the rest of the cast.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: The trailer gives a pretty good sample of all of his scenes:

Aravindhan (Tamil, 1997)
Date Watched: 12/28/2011
Role type: Prakash Bad (?)
The story: Again, I couldn't find a synopsis, but it seemed to be something about social crusader (Sarath Kumar), maybe going undercover at a mine. After he's arrested, people rally around him, protest in the streets.
Thoughts on the film: The cinematography was interesting, lots of unique camera angles.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It really strikes me that fairly early in his career Prakash Raj was cast in some of these meatier roles. He's a conflicted (maybe corrupt? maybe pragmatic?) politician who is challenged to action by the social movement. He's wearing mundu in most of the film (which reminded me to order and rewatch Dookudu on dvd--yay!) 
And there was a giant hoarding/billboard of his character, which I was able to screencap and add to my growing collection of pictures, billboards, and statues of Prakash Raj. (I really am due for a picture post!) I'm really struck by the shadow of the glasses from the picture frames on his face. I suspect that it's just from the photo, but I like to imagine that they took the photo of him without glasses, then decided the character would wear glasses, and then had to add giant specs to the billboard.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: At a political meeting, he's very expressive with his language and his hands:

Oru Yatramozhi (Malayalam, 1997)
Date Watched: 12/29/2011
Role type: Prakash Bad 
The story:  Govindankutty (Mohanlal) was abandoned by father, and  promises that someday he will kill him. A rich trader (Sivaji Ganesan) comes to the village and develops a friendship with Govindankutty, and when it is revealed that he is the long lost father, there is much conflict and drama.
Thoughts on the film: On a side note, I think Malayalam films tend to have more nighttime scenes than the other film industries. Why is this?
Again, nice to see a film set entirely in the village, and the family drama was fairly understated. Mohanlal always seems like he's mid-forties to me, even when he's not, so I , but he seems like he's 43, even when he's not,so it was hard to imagine him as the "young man." I especially liked the character of the village father figure, played by Nedumudi Venu.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It was a pretty small part as a sleazeball who's obsessed with hero's romantic interest.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: He tries to attack the girl. Mohanlal comes to her rescue and locks Prakash  Raj in room with her (I'm really not sure how that helps anyone), and he has a great dejected look as he leaves.

Raasi (Tamil, 1997)
Date Watched: 12/30/2011
Role type: Prakash Bad
The story: (No subtitles) A romance with Ajith and Rambha as a young couple who fall in love and have various challenges on the way to marriage. She's is going to be married to Prakash Raj, but she waks out o him at the wedding. After much drama and wrong messages, Rambha and Ajith rekindle their romance. Prakash Raj kidnaps her, and then Ajith comes to her rescue.
Thoughts on the film: Rambha was fabulous in this film. She was really tough--she walked out on her wedding before the hero even showed up, and was stone cold during the final kidnapping scenes.This film also had interesting cinematography, with lots of close-ups, some unusual shots, and frames. The songs were fun, in an over-the-top, with big hair and flashy costumes:
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: The hair! The shirts!

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: All of the close-ups of Rambha staring him down:
At the wedding.
When he's kidnapped her.


Vidukathai (Tamil, 1997)
Date Watched: 12/31/2011
Role type: Prakash Pal
The story: Neena (played by Neena), is an independent and sharp-witted 17 year old, who is able to hold her own against the boys her age. When her father dies, Neena begins a friendship with a retired military clerk ((Prakash Raj) who lives in their building. As the friendship turns into romance, Neena is certain of her course, but Prakash Raj has doubts.
Thoughts on the film: (No subtitles.) Someday, when I magically understand Tamil, I'm going to go back and watch this film. It reminded me a lot of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, but in this case, tragedy makes the heroine more resolved to pursue what she wants. (And, alas, there is no dancing instructor alter-ego for Prakash Raj.)
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: This was a great part, with great conflict and character growth. All of the scenes with Neena were well done, especially their reactions to one another, and their responses to how other people viewed their relationship.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
The bachelor Prakash Raj is chopping vegetables when Meena stops by:
They are at a hotel, and foreign tourist wants to take their photo:

This scene on the beach (I'm guessing it's labelled "hot" because there's a woman in the ocean in a bikini, but maybe it's because of Neena's giant red scrunchie, which was pretty hot in 1997):


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