Bonus review for the last film of December, 2015!
As I mentioned last month, I ended up combing through Prakash Raj’s IMDB page, and found nine films that weren’t on the list before. The most exciting find of the nine was the 1993 film Tropical Heat, a US production that was probably a direct-to-video or late-night cable TV release. I think this may be Prakash Raj’s only English-language film, and it’s fascinating in so many ways, so I decided it deserved its own post.
Tropical Heat (English/USA, 1993)
The Story: SPOILERS: A maharajah is trampled to death by an elephant and his American wife (Maryam D’Abo) claims his life insurance. The insurance company sends PI (Rick Rossovich) to India to investigate. He encounters a skeptical police officer (Prakash Raj), the woman who claims her father was killed in the maharajah’s place (Asha Siewkumar), and the actual maharajah who has been in disguise as a palace servant. There are various double-crosses, and along the way the hero PI sleeps with all of the female characters. (More on that below.)
Thoughts on the film: So many thoughts!
1. This is basically a very, very soft sex film. The version I found on youtube* was 1 hr 11 minutes, but IMDB and the Amazon listing for the DVD say that the running time is 1 hr 26 minutes. Those 15 cut minutes must contain all of the sex and I could see four-five places where the film was cut at the beginning of a sex scene. IMDB/Amazon reviews mention a nude Maryam D’Abo, but I’m pretty sure that Prakash Raj was NOT in those scenes (so I don’t feel the need to track them down. And even if he is, I’m not that committed.) It’s probably for the best that sex films have evolved where they don’t have to bookend the action with a thin plot.
2. Tropical Heat is such an artifact of the early 1990s, and the era of soft porn bookended with plot, what you’d see on Red Shoe Diaries/Cinemax, in the “Hot Suspense” section of Blockbuster. The US cast is exactly what you’d expect: the male lead played one of the jerks in Top Gun, the female lead was a Bond Girl who went on to do more of this. All of the Americas are so wooden, it’s like a parody of p-rn.
3. It’s clear that they did shoot a large chunk of the film in India. The locations (Mysore, Madras?) are great and characters are speaking in Kannada. I’d love to know the story of how the film came about. The director is Indian, and per his IMDB page he did some other straight-to-video/cable US films in that era. Even if filming a super low-budget film in India was cheaper than shooting in LA, they still had to get at least four of the actors to India, so that had to increase the cost. I wonder how he found funding.
4. I find it hilarious that this film actually made it to DVD (who would pay $12 for this?) and that there is a cleaned up version available on youtube. I feel like I am the only target demographic who would want to watch a sex-free version of this film.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Prakash Raj plays the local police officer who investigated the murder. He’s skeptical of the claims of a cover-up, but is convinced to help solve the crime. He is far and away the best actor in the film. The gets the best lines: critiquing the whole enterprise of the US insurance company inserting itself into Indian police investigations, pointing out the wholes in all of the conspiracies, and delivering plot exposition in a naturalistic way. I think even a casual viewer would be able to guess that he was the only one of the listed cast who’s gone on to have a meaningful career.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
In the very first scene, he throws MASSIVE shade at the PI for his racist, colonial assumptions. Which the PI then writes off with a snarky “touche.”
When the police officer and the young Indian woman are locked up by the femmes fatales.