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, August 11, 2015

Round-up for June-July, 2015

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total: 10 (June-July, 2015)
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total: 244 (as of 07/31/15)
Thaila Nagaram, Viyabari, Aadivaram Adavallaku Selavu, Devudu Chesina Manushulu, Katha, Golimaar, Damarukam, Arai En 305-il Kadavul. Balapu, Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam

I didn’t watch any films in June, but got back into the swing of things in July. There must be something about summer that screams “binge-watch South Indian Films.”

The theme for the month is divine characters, since I watched films in which Prakash Raj portrayed:

Thaila Nagaram (Tamil, 2006)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Cop
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) A gangster/hitman (Sundar C) tries to go straight and live a normal life with the heroine (Jyotimirthi.) Outside forces including a corrupt cop (Prakash Raj), keeping pulling him back.
(More at the sify review.)
Thoughts on the film: Unlike the Indian reviewers, I thought Sundar C did a fine job switching from comedy to drama. There were a few interesting twists and turns, and I appreciated that it had a classically bleak Tamil-film ending.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It seemed like the character started out as deceptively decent, then turned evil (but I watched without subtitles, so who knows.)
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Sideways shots and nice death scene.

Vyabari (Tamil, 2007)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Pal
The Story: Suryaprakash (S. J. Suryah) is an ambitious, aspiring businessman. He works with a scientist (Nasser) to create a robotic double to fulfill his family obligations while he ruthlessly pursues fortune.
Over time, the robot begins to take over all aspects of Suryaprakash’s life, in an effort to jog his conscience.
Thoughts on the film: It was kind of a fun conceit, a mash-up of the “Return of Martin Guerre” and “Enthiran” (which came 3 years later.) It was hard to see why Tammanah’s character wanted to marry the “hero” in the first place, and there were a few times when I wish the lead and his robot double were more clearly differentiated.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He’s a hugely successful businessman that the lead idolizes, and when we first see him he’s giving “win at all costs” speech. At the end of the film, we learn that behind his facade of ruthless business is a sentimental and kind business man.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Both extremes: , and then the sweet grandfather on the Swings, making biryani!
the Gordon Gekko speech

Sweet Grandfather making biryani
and riding on the swings

Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Lawyer
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles.) This is a another in the genre of “bickering couples in an apartment complex” Telugu comedy. (See Intlo Srimati Veedhilo Kumari.) After various arguments and misunderstandings, the couples end up in divorce court, 
where a lawyer (Prakash Raj) convinces the wives and husbands of the errors of their ways and urges them to reconcile.
Thoughts on the film: These films are a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it’s a LOT of Brahmanadam and Venu Madhav. On the other hand, there’s nearly equal screentime for several comedy actresses who I enjoy, and don’t see as much.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He looks sharp in the lawyer’s robes, and has some fun cross-examination of Brahmi and Venu Madhav.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:  The coutroom

Devudu Chesina Manushulu (Telugu, 2012)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: Vishnu (Brahmanandam) and Lakshmi Devi (Kovai Sarala) set in motion a chain of events that brings Ravi Teja (Ravi Teja) to Bangkok. In the first version of the story, Ravi Teja travels to Thailand to make amends with Don Prakash Raj (Prakash Raj) 
after one of his goons is killed. While there, Ravi Teja meets taxi driver Ileana (Ileana), they fall in love, have adventures, then fight. Lakshmi Devi restarts the story again, and it ends with a happy ending for all involved.
Thoughts on the film: Fun, light, action all the way. I’m always going to be a sucker for the combination of Ravi Teja and Puri Jagganadh. The divine characters and their actions fit perfectly with the comedy. The only downside was Ileana’s bizarre wig (which may have been an intentional joke.) I watched the Hindi dub, and oddly all of the songs were edited out, which was another reminder of how much the songs carry the romantic track in Telugu films.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: The gangster don character was a fun comedic role. He had weird mental disorder where he forgot everything, then remembered it, briefly. He was a very ineffective crime lord, but for the efforts of his exasperated girlfriend (who was played by the actress who played the bad guys girlfriend in Pokiri, and it was fun to see her getting some comedic time.)
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: All of the terrible shirts were great.

Katha (Telugu, 2009)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Cop/Bad
The Story: Chitra (Genelia) arrives in a small town, begins her job as a teacher, settles in a large, empty house, and meets cute with Krishna (Arun), an aspiring director. Chitra witnesses the murder of a young girl, but the police find no evidence of the crime. Chitra experiences more frightening events, but Krishna and her friends think that she may be imagining things, based on her own past trauma.

Thoughts on the film: A quick-moving, light thriller. Genelia did a great job with transitioning from friendly newcomer, to terrified survivor, to the badass heroine in the final scene.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He plays the local police chief, who at first seems helpful. But his scepticism of Chitra’s concerns reveals darker motives and secrets.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:

Golimaar (Telugu, 2010)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Cop
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) Gangaram (Gopichand) is an orphan who becomes a police officer, and achieves success fighting the mafia. He falls in love with Pavitra (Priyamani), even though her mother opposes it. When Gangaram is
framed as a having mafia connections, he goes undercover and travels to Malaysia to bring down his enemies and clear his name.
Thoughts on the film: Another Hindi dub of a Telugu film, but this one did have the songs. (This is also a Puri Jagannadh film.) It was fine. I like Gopichand, but I feel like he still hasn’t developed the right persona to carry a film. He plays an encounter cop (who basically goes in to kill the criminals, and stages things to justify the killing), which I’m having an even harder time viewing as “heroic” in light of all of the recent police shootings in the US.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He shows up in a small scene at the end, as the police official who has set all of Gangaram’s actions in motion.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: They got the most of the camera angle for his one scene.

Damarukam (Telugu, 2012)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash God
The Story: On a drive home, young Malli (Nagarjuna), and his family are attacked by the demon Andhakasura (Ravi Shankar). Malli and his sister survive, but the rest of the family is killed. As an adult Malli cares for his paralyzed sister, and falls in love with Dr, Maheshwari (Anushka Shetty.)
The demon targets Maheshwari as his sacrifice to gain power, and Lord Shiva (Prakash Raj) takes on human form to assist the non-believer Malli in defeating the demon.
Thoughts on the film: I remember that this film had good reviews when it came out, and I can see why. Nagarjuna was perfect as the jaded but good-hearted Malli, and his relationship with Saambayya/Shiva was well-developed. The film did a good job of making the “real-world” demon attacks just realistic enough to be frightening, so that the big CGI final seemed like a natural extension of the action.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He did a nice job of portraying the regal, divine character and his human form, so that they seemed like the same character, but different.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:

Arai En 305-il Kadavul (Tamil, 2007)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash God
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) Three down-on-their luck friends curse god, when he appears on their rooftop and promises to live with them to see if he deserves their blame. God gets to know and care for the  other residents of the apartment building,
 but the three friends steal his “galaxy box” and use it to improve their lives.
Thoughts on the film: The film managed to blend the comedic aspects of the friends’ ambitions with the good-natured, slice-of-life story of god living among humans. All of the supporting actors in the apartment building were great.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: I really liked all of the day-to-day interactions with the other residents, which was an interesting contrast to Damarukam, where the divine character mostly interacted with Nagarjuna’s character.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Nice song while driving a bus:

Balupu (Telugu, 2013)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Dad
The Story: Ravi (Ravi Teja) lives a normal life with his friends and father Mohan Rao (Prakash Raj). When his friend is swindled by Shruti (Shruti Hassaan) and her uncle Crazy Mohan (Brahmanandam), Ravi decides to teach her a lesson by posing as a target. The scam leads to real love, and Shruti’s father (Nasser) supports the match.At the wedding, Shruti is kidnapped by her ex-fiance’s family, and Mohan Rao is gravely injured. A flashback reveals that Ravi and Mohan were rival gangsters in Vizag. Ravi fell in love with Anjali (Anjali), Mohan’s daughter. She is tragically killed, and on her deathbed makes her father and lover promise to care for each other. Back in the present, Ravi goes to rescue Shruti, with comedy, fights and a happy ending.
Thoughts on the film: Another satisfying Telugu action flick. The flashback was good, if little short, and I liked how it explained the complete switch of Mohan Rao’s character. Plus lots of enjoyable character actors playing baddies getting their paycheck for two days’ work.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: There was nice contrast of the devoted “father” in the first half to the angry gangster in the flashback, but there was enough of a thread that you could see how the gangster transformed.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Sweet Dad:
Tough Gangster:

Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash God
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) The descriptions all call this “a story without a story,” so I’m going to cite IMDB user PipingHotViews who has written the most cogent summary:
"In order to develop a script for his first film, Tamizh calls upon his friends for a discussion. The group he assembles consists of a cinematographer, a director-wannabe with 40 years of industry experience and three young Assistant directors. Tamizh's struggles to ready his script while balancing all his personal struggles is the core of "Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam".
Thoughts on the film: There are apparently lots of references to scenes in famous Tamil films, and I caught a few things, mostly as general film tropes than as references to specific films.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He had a very, very brief scene in the beginning as a four-part deity who sends human babies to earth. 
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Nice split screen work.

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