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.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Prakash Pix: "Car Windows"

Now that I've amassed a ridiculous collection of screencaps of Prakash Raj in various films, the obvious next step is to do some themed picture posts. In order to accomplish this, I had to go through all of the pictures and tag them, and this turned out to be more epic than I anticipated. I am pleased to say that is DONE, and I now present the first in a serious of themed photo posts:

"Prakash Raj Looking Out of Car Windows"
Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana
Konchem Ishtam Konchem Kashtam
Kadhal Sadugudu
Edited to add: "Prakash Raj Looking Into Car Windows"

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Round-up for January 2011

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (January, 2011): 4
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 1/31/10): 66

Antahpuram, Shakti: The Power, Indraprastham, Sivakasi
I was busy catching up on the 2009 backlog, so not a lot of films. However, I did watch Prakash Raj films in four (4!) languages this past month!

Antahpuram (Telugu, 1998)
Date watched: 1/2/11
Role TypePrakash Dad/Bad
The story: (This didn't have subtitles, and I can't find anything on the internet that gives the names of the characters, so I'll just call the characters by the actors' names.) A young woman (Soundarya) and young man (Sai Kumar) live in Mauritius, fall in love, marry and have a young son.  One day, the husband sees news about a bombing in Andhra Pradesh, and rushes home with his wife and son. They are immediately embroiled in a factional war between his father (Prakash Raj) and rival gangs. When tragedy strikes, Soundarya's character tries to return home with her son, but is stopped by her father-in-law. She's assisted in her attempts to escape by a drifter/truck driver (Jagapati Babu).
Thoughts on the film: This definitely felt in line with every other Telugu movie about factionalist feuds, with lots of bloodshed, and given the context, the plot made more sense in Antahpuram than it did in Shakti (the Hindi remake.) I did like that they showed the outsider's shock and disgust at the feuding and violence, and was impressed with the filmmaker's willingness to kill off some important characters. Soundarya was awesome as always, and conveyed the mother's desperation and exhaustion. Jagapati Babu maximized his screen time as a charming rogue.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: The character came across as slightly unhinged from his first moment onscreen (in both his high and low moments.) In that regard, the threat was more clear from the beginning, whereas in Shakti there's a slower build-up. I didn't like that his character was mostly shown hanging around in the house, it would have strengthened the character to show him out and about, and more actively engaged in the war.
Prakash Raj looks a little bit like Little Orphan Annie with his henna'ed hair.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
The family captures and kills the guy who set up the death of the son-in-law, and Prakash Raj is very intense and scary as he orders the guy's execution (which is actually less graphically violent in the Telugu version than the Hindi version--a first!) and as he argues with his son (Sai Kumar) who protests the execution.

After the execution  Prakash Raj grabs his daughter (?) and drags her upstairs and wipes away her sindoor and starts the ritual for her widowhood, and goes from really fierce, to sobbing hysterically.
The scene then segues into the song "Sye Sindey", which takes the characters from this brief moment of grief into a celebration. I'm not sure what is happening in this song, whether they are celebrating their revenge, or if it's a flashback to happier times with the son-in-law. Who is the guy in the black shirt? Is he the son-in-law? 

After Soundarya's first, failed attempt at escape, Prakash Raj and his men track Soundarya down. Prakash Raj is beating her in front of the police station, and Soundarya fights back, first with her fists and with a stick.
OK, really this is my favorite Soundarya moment, but Prakash Raj is really scary at this point, too:

Prakash Raj and his machete-toting goons show up at the airport, and he tearfully explains why he wants to keep his grandson, but will let him go with his mother back to Mauritius, thus earning his big moment of redemption. (I just like to imagine a pack of machete-wielding rowdies showing up in the terminal at O'Hare or LAX and what kind of crazy armed response/shut-down would ensue.)

Shakti: The Power (Hindi, 2002)
Date watched: 1/2/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: Nandini (Karisma Kapoor) and Shekhar (Sanjay Kapoor) live in Canada, fall in love, marry and have a young son.  One day, Shekhar sees news about a bombing in Bihar, and rushes home with his wife and son.  They are immediately embroiled in a factional war between Shekhar's father Narasimha (Nana Patekar) and rival gangs. When tragedy strikes, Nandini tries to return home with her son, but is stopped by her father-in-law. She's assisted in her attempts by drifter/truck driver Jaisingh (Shahrukh Khan), but is also being stalked by a taciturn hitman (Prakash Raj.)
Thoughts on the film: This a shot-for shot remake of Antahpuram by the same director. There are a few small differences, like the settings for the opening scenes and Aish-Shahrukh item number. The violence in the Telugu original was more chaotic and primal, but the Hindi version still had lots of violence, both graphic (bad guy executed in some sort of thresher thing) and stylized (final fight between Shahrukh and Prakash Raj.)
Also guns.
Lots of guns.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film:  He may have had only one or two words of dialogue, but he really used body language and expression to create a silent, mysterious and threatening figure. At the same time, the presence of this character did draw attention from and diminish the scariness of the father (Nana Patekar) somewhat.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Eating chilis.
Playing with knives.
Beating up Shahrukh.
Getting knifed in the gut by Shahrukh.
This was on the "making of" on the extras dvd. Chillin' on set.

Indraprastham (Malayalam, 1996)
Date watched: 1/6/11
Role TypePrakash Pal/Bad
The story: Another unsubtitled film, with very little information about it online (in English, anyway.) Here's what I think happens: female character (Simran) witnesses a murder (on a video?) and maybe does or doesn't have some important papers. People try to kill her, she gets hit by a car, loses her memory, and  is rescued by two buddies, played by Mammoothy and Vikram.  More people try to kill her, Mammoothy uses 1996 state of the art face morphing software to figure out who someone is. At some point they bring in another friend, Mohan George (Prakash Raj.)  Mammoothy also does a lot of cussing at the bad guy.  Simran's actor fiance is framed, he's going to his hearing, he gets shot, kidnapped. It turns out that Mohan George was working for the bad guy, and later Mammoothy and Vikram solve the murder, and it ends with Mammoothy and Simran holding hands, so I guess there was a romance going on there.
Thoughts on the film:  I'm still pretty stymied about the story. On the plus side, it seemed like it was an interesting suspense-mystery type film, without too much romance or comedic sideplots, which is very cool. These same qualities made it very difficult to understand. It was fun to see young Vikram as the sidekick.
In this movie Vikram=Chewbacca, Mammoothy=Han Solo.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in this film: I think he was dubbed--it sort of sounds like him, but not quite. This is the first Malayalam film I've seen him in, so it might be the language, and the one comment on IMDB says that this was one of the first Malayalam films in Dolby digital, and so it goes overboard with that a bit.  This was filmed in the same time period as Minsara Kanavu, and the character seems sort of similar, jovial but distrated guy, until his double-crossing is revealed.
Favorite Prakash Raj scenes:
The Big Fight with Mammoothy.
This was the only non-blurry screencap I could make.

Sivakasi (Tamil, 2005)
Date watched: 1/30/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The story: Hema (Asin) and Sivakasi (Vijay) meet cute when he saves her from harassment at the local market where he works/hangs out. He criticizes her short skirt, she later pretends she is the modest and traditional twin of the woman he criticized, they fall in love, etc.  During a fight, Hema complains that Sivakasi has no sentiment because he's an orphan. He explains (in a detailed flashback) that his real name is Muthappa, he has a family, and that his father disowned him (when he was 12) for something his conniving brother did. At Hema's insistence, Sivakasi returns to his home village to find that his father is dead. His no-goodnik brother Udayappa (Prakash Raj) is in control of the family lands, is estranged from their younger sister, and has their mother working as a servant.  Sivakasi keeps his identity secret and starts to set things aright by having his sister (Lakshana) contend the local election against Udayappa. Nayantara makes an appearance as herself, Udayappa's gangster mother-in-law Mulli Mungalai gets involved, there are fights, and a final redemption.
Thoughts on the film: Vijay is slowly (very slowly) starting to grow on me, and this film used his talents well, particularly in the dances.  I'm a sucker for stories where someone returns incognito to help their family. Sivakasi has several interesting female supporting roles, which is still a bit of a novelty in South films. Lakshana rocks as the tough, sister, Nayantara has a fun cameo as herself at a political rally, and Udyappa's mother-in-law is intimidating and funny (which I could find the actresses name.)
Also, the film gets points for having a hero intro for the director-writer Perarasu:
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Udayappa is a fairly large role, with a lot of screentime. A lot of the "Bad" characters are evil for strategic, or situational, reasons (like many of the gangster/don characters), but this is one of those deeply twisted, egotistical, venal types. We even get to see his earliest acts of badness.
Framing his younger brother for assault, even using those sunglasses as evidence.
After assaulting a village girl,
causing his father's death.
He really shows no remorse about all of the spiteful, damaging things he does to his family, so his big moment of redemption at the end is pretty abrupt, which is unusual, since many of the PR Bad characters have a longer, more in-depth arc where they realize the error of their ways.
Favorite Prakash Raj scenes: All of the shots of Udayappa in his shiny shirt and dhoti outfits:

When Udayappa comes to the sister's house, threatens her, and beats up Sivakasi, there's a knock-down, drag out fight between Prakash Raj and Vijay:

After Sivakasi sets it up so that Udayappa is shown attacking "womanhood" (figuratively), his own  mother-in-law beats with her slipper:

And his big redemption scene, when Sivakasi/Muthappa saves Udayappa:
About to get a machete to the neck from mother-in law.
Begging forgiveness, finally.

Sivakasi also features lots of images of Udayappa:
Giant portrait in his home.
Giant election poster thing.
Election poster burned by angry villagers.
Beating up a guy with an Udayappa mask.