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, November 30, 2010

Round-up for November 2010

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (11/30/10):  5
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 11/30/10): 59*

(* I just realized that Prakash Raj has a guest appearance in Vikramarkudu, which I watched in July, so I'll have to do a bonus post on that!)

Kotha Bangaru Lokam (Telugu, 2008)
Date watched: 11/4/10
Role Type: Prakash Dad
The story: Balu (Varun Sandesh) and Swapna (Shweta Basu Prasad) are teenagers who meet at the residential college where they are both studying, and fall in love. Swapna's father is strict, while Balu's parents are kind and indulgent, especially his father (Prakash Raj.)  The story follows the trials and tribulations of young love.
Movie Rating: 3.745/5  Overall, a nice, sweet movie.  I decided to watch this based on Nicki's recommendation on her blog, Hmong Chick Who Loves Indian Cinema, and she captures most of the great things about the film in her post from October, 2010.  Like Nicki, I really enjoyed that this was a film about teenagers, and their specific trials and tribulations.  The two leads, especially Shweta, were adorable.
Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5 At some point, I'll have to do a post of my favorite "Dads" and this one will definitely be in the top 10. He has lots of nice father-son scenes with Balu, but my favorite scene is one where he is comforting his wife after a lovesick Balu has snapped at her.  I haven't seen this sort of everyday, intimate, normal scene of married life very often in SI films, so I always appreciate when they come along, and especially when they are well-acted. Check out the body language between Prakash Raj and Jaya Sudha (playing the mother), how they seek and offer comfort to each other in simple gestures, and then shift back to the business of daily life.

Singam (Tamil, 2010)
Date watched: 11/11/10
Role Type: Prakash Bad
The story: Durai Singam (Surya) is a rural policeman with a tight uniform. He rises in the ranks of the IPS while battling the mafia and kidnapping kingpin Mayil Vaaganam (Prakash Raj.)
Movie Rating: 3.5/5 This was a pretty fun, masala, action-y movie. The plot was pretty straightforward, but there were some fun, twisty ways that Durai Singam tracks down the bad guys and plays them against one another.
Prakash Raj Rating: 3.5/5 A pretty standard villain role--but other than some scenes in the beginning and end, he was more of a delegating evil-doer. At a certain point, I started to feel sorry for the character, because he a bit of a lightweight compared to the hero--I especially loved the scene when Durai Singam interrupts Mayil Vaaganam and his henchmen in the middle of a fun beach volleyball game.
This is being remade in Hindi, with Ajay Devgan in the Surya role, and Prakash Raj returning as Mayil.  I'll be interested to see if the director, Rohit Shetty, plays up the comedic aspects of both characters a bit more.
"My mustache is not as impressive as Surya's, but I do have two giant knives!!"

Saroja (Tamil, 2008)
Date watched: 11/15/10
Role Type: Prakash Dad
The story: Four friends decide to take a road trip from Chennai to see a cricket match in Hyderabad. An overturned petrol truck causes them to take a backroads shortcut, where they encounter an abandoned warehouse and the gangsters who have kidnapped the Saroja, the daughter of a wealthy businessman (Prakash Raj.)

Movie Rating: 5/5  I really, really loved this movie. I'd seen most of the actors who played the four friends (Premji, Vaibhav, Shiva, and SPB Charan) in other movies like Goa and Tamizh Padam.  The varying degrees of affection and rivalry among the four friends was portrayed well through the conversations on the road, how they reacted during the action, and in the songs. The kidnapping plot was suitably tense and the filming added to the tension. The action scenes were fast paced, and used the setting of the abandoned warehouse to good effect.  I also liked that the action scenes took into account that these were ordinary people fighting the gangsters and not movie "heroes"-- a lot of times it took all four leads to take on one of the gangsters, which was a nice reversal of the usual "hero takes on 40 baddies" theme in Southie movies. I'm going to have to write a whole post about this movie, but a few more things I loved: Saroja (Vega Tamotia), the main henchman Sampath (Sampath Raj) and his girlfriend Kalyani (Nikita Thukral), and all of the songs, especially "Aaja Meri Soniye" and "Kodaana Kodi."
Prakash Raj Rating: 5/5 This is one of the serendipitous occurrences where I unreservedly love the film, and Prakash Raj has large, interesting role.  Vishwanath, Saroja's businessman father, goes through such a wide range of emotion: disinterest in his wife and daughter, fear at the loss of his child, joy at possibly being reunited with her, frustration with the police, and guilt about his own past philandering. While most of his scenes are with Jayaram, who plays ACP Ravichandran, he also gets some nice scenes with the actresses playing his wife and daughter. I especially like the scene where he's going to the Buddha statue in the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad to deliver the ransom to the kidnappers. It's a fairly long scene, and I don't think he has more than a few lines in it, but manages to convey so much tension and despair in his expressions and body language.
This was my favorite scene, beautifully shot and acted.

Nerukku Ner (Tamil, 1997)
Date watched: 11/23/10
Role Type: Prakash Cop
The story: A husband (Raghuvaran) admits to his wife (Shanti Krishna) that he had an affair. She leaves him,  and sends their daughter to live with relatives. This leads to all sorts of enmity between his brother (Vijay) and her brother (Surya, in his debut), and conflicts over motorbikes, girls, and the custody of the young daughter. There's also a side plot with a corrupt politician (?) who is tries to get Raghuvaran's character to issue him a false passport.

Movie Rating: 2.5/5  Mostly this is fun to watch because Surya and Vijay are so young in it. The conflict with the brothers and their romances were the main part of the story, but the story of the estranged husband and wife was more interesting.  Raghuvaran and Shanti Krishna both did a nice job of conveying their sadness at the situation, but not necessarily anger towards the other, so that when the resolution comes, it didn't feel implausible.
Prakash Raj Rating: 3/5 This was a very, very small role (and I suspect I'm going to see even more of these bit parts as I go further back into the pre-2000 filmography.) I think he only had 3 short scenes, and one of those was just a cutaway. Prakash Raj plays the police office who is tracking down the corrupt politician.  He does have one fun scene where he threatens the bad guy in his own bathroom, and another nice "justice prevails" moment when he finally captures the bad guy at the bottom of an airport escalator.

Charminar (Telugu, 2003)
Date watched: 11/28/10
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: Nandu (Venkat) is an orphan raised by corrupt policeman Surendra Babu.  Nandu becomes a leading gangster, then pretends to be a college student to romance Keerthi (Abhiraami).  A bunch of stuff happens that puts Nandu at odds with his former mentor.
Movie Rating: 2/5  I was inspired to check out this film because Nicki was asking about one of the songs that features a dancing Prakash, and Githa helpfully identified the film. I watched an online version without subs--mostly it was easy to follow, but I think there was a key relationship between Surendra Reddy and a woman (his wife? his mistress?) that was central to the plot, but I couldn't quite follow. Also, I think a key plot point was that Nandu was the don of the area in Hyderabad around the Charminar, and it was disappointing that there weren't more interesting scenes showing that area.
Prakash Raj Rating: 2/5 This was another inexcusable instance where they dubbed Prakash Raj's voice (why??!!!)  I'm giving it a slightly higher rating, for the two following reasons:
1) the big final fight, which includes some nice action-y moves, enhanced by expressive reactions to the dishoom:

2) the song mentioned above, in which Prakash cuts loose in a sparkly orange shirt, leopard print scarf, and a nicely creased pair of Dockers (or the Indian equivalent.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Round-up for May 2010

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (May 2010): 3
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 5/31/10): 25

May was a good month-- only three films with Prakash Raj, but two of them were pretty good movies, with some pretty meaty Prakash Raj performances.

Ashok (Telugu, 2006)
Date watched: 5/1/10
Role TypePrakash Dad
The story: Mechanic Ashok (Jr. NTR) has a strained relationship with his father (Prakash Raj) because of his violent ways.  When gangster KK (Sonu Sood) decides to pursue Ashok's girlfriend Anjali (Sameera Reddy), more violence follows.

Movie Rating: 4/5  This was a seriously violent movie (from beginning to end).  While this isn't my absolute favorite Tarak role, he did a good job of showing Ashok's sadness at being separated from his family.  Sonu Sood was delightfully evil (and on a totally shallow note, he has never looked better than in this film, even drenched in blood.Vadivukkarasi was really fantastic as KK's evil mother--I'm going to have to do a post on the best evil ladies of Telugu films.
Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5 Prakash Raj and Tarak have such great chemistry on screen, they are so very believable as father and son. 
 It really was refreshing to see a character in a Telugu film who says "All of this casual violence is unacceptable to me", although he does change his tune at the end.  This character has a nice arc, and Prakash Raj gets some nice interaction with the other characters/actors. 
My favorite scene is one where Ashok's father and girlfriend are watching the recently returned Ashok and his friends being served dinner by his mother and sister. The father tells the girlfriend "if you want what's best for Ashok, you should break up with him."  It's a well-done, dramatic, but not overdone scene.

Jalsa (Telugu, 2008)
Date watched: 5/6/10
Role TypePrakash Dad/ Prakash Cop
The story: Sanjay Sahu (Pawan Kalyan) is a former Naxalite with a drinking problem, who romances Indu (Kamalinee) and Bhagyamathi (Ileana), the daughters of a Police Inspector (Prakash Raj.) 

Movie Rating: 4/5  When I first started watching this, I wasn't quite sure what was going on.  The hero was drunk, I couldn't quite keep track of which girl was supposed to be the heroine, and the time kept skipping around.  By the interval, I was enjoying the off-kilter characters and plot.  Going back to watch it again, I really, really got into the groove of this movie.  I loved that the main character was so much of an anti-hero, and Pawan Kalyan's physical comedy grew on me the second time around.
Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5 As far as I can tell, this character doesn't have a name, but his scenes are central to the movie, and provide a great comedic foil to Pawan Kalyan's character.  In the repeated scene where Sanjay comes to the country club to ask permission to marry each of Prakash's two daughters, a tennis-suited Prakash delivers some nice verbal smackdowns. 
The extended flashback that reveals the past history of Sanjay (a naxalite) and the father (part of the anti-naxalite police task force) has lots of ridiculous physical comedy and doubletakes.  
My favorite scene is near the climax, the big bad guy (Mukesh Rishi) is forcing Ileana to marry his son, and Prakash is forced to seek Sanjay's help to prevent the wedding.  When a messenger arrives at the wedding to call Mukesh and his crew away, I love the way that Prakash cackles and grabs his daughter to delightedly escape from the forced wedding.

Tagore (Telugu, 2003)
Date watched: 5/26/10
Role TypePrakash Cop
The story: Tagore (Chiranjeevi) heads up a secret, vigilante anti-corruption force. Suryam (Prakash Raj) is one of the police officers trying to track down the mysterious Tagore.
Movie Rating: 2/5*  *This is a conditional rating, because the library copy of this film didn't have subtitles.  This was the first Chiranjeevi movie I watched. The corruption plot was pretty earnest, there was a pretty high ratio of dialogues to action, and the romantic storyline with Chiru and Shriya weirded me out a little bit. I ended up fast-forwarding through big chunks of this (the good news is that I did watch other, more exciting Chiru movies later on.) 
Prakash Raj Rating: 2/5 Prakash Raj plays a mid-level police officer who is smart enough to unravel Tagore's secret identity (I think, anyway.) He also has some nice scenes where he's trying to convince his superiors of his conclusions, and as he realizes the impact of the corrupt system he's got up in (again, that's what I'm assuming is happening.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Round-up for June 2010

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (6/30/10):  5
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 6/30/10): 30

Nuvve Nuvve (Telugu, 2002)
I think I'll need to do a picspam post of
Prakash Raj characters drinking whisky.

Date watched: 6/6/10
Role TypePrakash Dad
The story: Rich girl Anjali (Shriya) falls in love with poorer boy Rishi (Tarun). Her indulgent father Vishwanath (Prakash Raj) opposes their romance, and tries to bribe Rishi to end things.

Movie Rating: 2/5  I saw this and Thiruvilaiyaadal Aarambam back-to-back, and they sort of bleed together in my mind. I went back to watch some clips, and it didn't jog my memory a lot.  So not really memorable as either good or bad.
Prakash Raj Rating: 2.5/5 This was another variation on the tycoon father character that Prakash Raj has played in NVND and Premaku Velayara. Dhanush was kind of squirrelly, so I can see why the father didn't think he was the best match for his daughter. In going back to refresh my memory, I found some fun hand gesture-acting:
"Angry"                                              "Distraught"                                      "Irritated"

Thiruvilaiyaadal Aarambam (Tamil, 2006)
Date watched: 6/7/2010
Role TypePrakash Dad*
The storyRich girl Priya (Shriya) falls in love with poorer boy Thiru (Dhanush). Her indulgent older brother Guru (Prakash Raj) opposes their romance, and tries to end it.

Movie Rating: 3/5  I liked this one best of the two Shriya-Prakash movies I saw back to back. It seemed to have a little bit more humor in the battles between the Thiru and Guru,  Dhanush was a little more lively than Tarun.
Prakash Raj Rating: 3/5 *Even though he's playing Priya's brother, it's definitely a paternal role. So, it's the tycoon dad type, but more on the humorous side.  The most memorable thing about this film was the brief appearance of a dancer wearing a Prakash Raj mask in the song "Theriyama."  
(Definitely watch the whole song, it's a pretty fun mash-up of Chinese costumes, assassins and random other things.) Also, there's a cute scene where Guru/Prakash Raj is cooking breakfast for the family:

Nuvvu Naaku Nachav (Telugu, 2001)
Date watched: 6/19/10
Role TypePrakash Dad
The storyVenakteswarlu (Venkatesh) comes to the house of his father's friend Murthy (Prakash Raj) to help with the wedding of Murthy's daughter Nandini (Aarti Agarwal.)  Nandu and Venky fight, then fall in love.
Movie Rating: 3.5/5  This is one of the more fun wedding-based movies I've seen--lots of opportunities for songs, and cute drama as everyone is stuck in the same house. Venky's charm goes a long way in this movie,  Aarti is good as the spoiled bride-to-be, and Sunil has some fun comedy scenes as Venky's buddy. OH, and I totally forgot about Suhasini who shows up as Nandini's awesome aunt who knocks some sense into the young lovers and the upset father--yay Suhasini!!!
Prakash Raj Rating: 3/5 Another solid portrayal of a father getting his daughter married to the wrong guy. He has some cute comedic dialogues with Sudha, who plays his wife:
In the last act he gets all Amrish Puri in DDLJ and starts slapping women when he finds out about the romance (blech.) At least that's followed by a nice speech by Suhasini, and a climax at the railway station when he stops a machete-wielding Venky from forcing the greedy groom and his father to go through with the wedding.
"I am sad that this is not Lagavulin."

Pokkiri (Tamil, 2007)
Date watched: 6/21/2010
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: The Tamil version of Pokiri. Tamil (Vijay) is a street tough who ends up working for and then against mafia don, Ali Bhai (Prakash Raj.) There's also a romance with Shruti (Asin) and a big twist at the end (unless you've seen Pokiri or Wanted.)

Movie Rating: 4/5  Since I'm a huge fan of Pokiri, I expected not to like the remake so much, but I actually liked this version almost as much as the Telugu original. The songs were slightly better in Pokkiri (except I still like Mumaith Khan's item number in the Telugu version more), Asin was a bit more spunky as the heroine, and Vijay does the best at conveying emotion. Prabhu Deva had some nice whimsical and stylistic touches to this without going as overboard as he did in Wanted.
Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5 Ali Bhai is pretty much the same menacing character as in Pokiri (with slightly better fashion sense.) He gets some great,  evil-comedic dialogues (for me, they detracted from the tension of the final showdown a little bit):

I need to get a better quality dvd with subtitles.
Mozhi (Tamil, 2007)
Date watched: 6/30/10
Role TypePrakash Pal
The storyKarthik (Prithviraj) and Viji (Prakash Raj) are playback musicians in the Tamil film industry. Karthik falls in love with Archana (Jyothika) who is deaf, while Viji falls in love with her best friend Sheila (Swarnamalya). Karthik learns to accept Archana as the person she is, not just the person he wants her to be, while Archana struggles to overcome her fears and to embrace the love that Karthik is offering.
Movie Rating: 5/5  I love this film--even if Prakash Raj wasn't in this film, I'd still love it.  I'll do a much longer post to talk about all of the great things in Mozhi. Nearly every character in this film is a fully developed, from the main characters to the supporting and comedic characters. Every scene is used effectively to further the action and to develop the characters. Music is integrated so well as an actual part of the story, and the comedic scenes help to build characterization and move the plot along. Deaf people and deaf culture are portrayed with complexity and nuance. If you haven't seen this film, please, please track it down and watch it right now!!
Prakash Raj Rating: 4.5/5 Although Prithviraj's Karthik was technically the lead male character in this film, Prakash Raj's Viji was a huge part, and is was in nearly as many scenes. He has lots of great straight-up comedic scenes--like this one, when Brahmandaman walks in on Viji who is dancing in a towel:

I especially love how humor and joking around is such a central part of the Viji-Karthik friendship:
Possibly the greatest bromance in all of South Indian film.
Likewise, Viji and Sheila's romantic storyline is sweet and filled with humor.

Adorable moment when Viji realizes he's in love with Sheila.