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, March 29, 2011

Deol Dhamaka: Two Degrees of Prakash Raj

I've been very inspired by all of the Deol Dhamaka in Bolly-blog-land this month, and decided I should try and contribute in some small way. I knew that it needed to be something that allowed me to talk about at least one Deol AND Prakash Raj. I dug around the filmographies of everyone involved, but didn't find inspiration until Ness of "Shahrukh Is Love" and Katherine of "Totally Filmi" suggested Ek: The Power of One.

Ek: The Power of One is a remake of the Telugu Athadu, with Bobby Deol taking over the role originated by Mahesh Babu. I've watched a few Hindi and Tamil remakes of Mahesh movies, and as I've noted here, I do like me my Mahesh Babu. Surprisingly, I liked Bobby in the mumbly, sarcastic, and stoic Mahesh role. He did get sucked back into the family drama a bit quicker than in the original.  Although I generally like Shriya, she wasn't as bubbly as Trisha, the romantic scenes in the Hindi version seemed much more truncated, and the romance suffered for it. The transition from a South Indian village to the Punjab and Kulbhushan Kharbanda as the grandfather worked well.
Bobby Deol channels his inner Justin Beiber.

But my focus here (as always) is on the supporting characters. For at least the second time (the first is the crazy factionalist father in Antahpuram>Shakti: The Power) Nana Patekar takes over role played by Prakash Raj. The role is of the police inspector pursuing the hitman-on-the-run hero. Prakash Raj's inspector is presented as a bit bumbling (dropping files, giving up a crucial piece of evidence), but surprisingly wily. Nana Patekar's version is corrupt, obsessed with the ladies, and doesn't seem to make as many mistakes.
A few visual comparisons:

Chess-Observing Attire
Prakash Cop is nerdy chic with the glasses
and wide collars.
Nana's goatee, toque, and shades are sexy,
but put together=trying too hard.

After Hours Activities
Prakash hangs out with the team,
reviewing digital files.
Nana hangs out with prostitutes,
and wears another hat.

Firearms Safety
Prakash's grip seems a little loose.
Again with the hats?

Verdict: Nana Patekar had the larger, more humorous, scene-stealing role, but Prakash Raj's cop was better integrated into the story, especially at the end.

"Oh, thank goodness!"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Many Happy Returns to Prakash Raj!

To celebrate, here's a picture of a classic Prakash Bad from Sivamani enjoying birthday cake:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Prakash Pix: "With Little Kids and Babies"

I'm always impressed with the naturalistic interactions that Prakash Raj pulls off when he's in a scene with little kids and babies. A few favorite moments:
Kotha Bangaru Lokam
Sri Anjaneyam
Kannathil Muthamittal
Abhiyum Naanum

Even the bad guys have good chemistry with kids:

Sneham Kosam

Friday, March 4, 2011

Round-up for February 2011

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (February, 2011): 6
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 2/28/11): 72
A couple of remakes, a couple of unsubtitled films.
Santosh Subramaniam, Rishi, Vasool Raja MBBS, Idiot, Kanna, Gaganam


Santosh Subramaniam (Tamil, 2008 )
Date watched: 2/6/11
Role TypePrakash Dad
The Story: Tamil remake of Bommarillu. Santosh (Jayam Ravi) is the pampered and protected son of businessman Subramaniam (Prakash Raj). Subramaniam controls all aspects of Santosh's life, from clothes to work. After Subramaniam arranges his son's engagement to a wealthy girl, Santoshsh meets and falls in love with Hasini (Genelia D'Souza). Santosh convinces his family to let Hasini live with them for a week, certain that they will come to love her as much as he does.
Thoughts on the film: I wasn't the biggest fan of Bommarillu, and since this was a scene for scene remake, it didn't dramatically improve my opinion. Jayam Ravi lacked Siddharth's charm and seemed too old for the part, so the character's unwillingness to stand up to his father was even more grating. On the plus side, a lot of  the interesting character actresses that I liked in the Telugu version repeated their roles here.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Still didn't like the character, and he had a much worse hairstyle than the Telugu version of the character.But I was impressed that Prakash Raj gave a repeat of the same nuanced performance.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: I liked the first scene when the dad is picking shirts for his son in this version, especially since the father seemed even more style-challenged.


Rishi (Tamil, 2001 )
Date watched: 2/6/11
Role TypePrakash Cop
The Story: Rishi (Sarathkumar) is a professional thief and the right-hand man of underworld kingpin Sathya (Arun Pandian.) His look-alike, Velu (Sarathkumar) is a happy-go-lucky guy working odd jobs. In the process of a robbery, Rishi witnesses a politician murdering a television reporter. The dying reporter gives Rishi a disc with the information that exposes the politician's corruption. When one of Rishi's jobs goes awry, a singer Nandini (Sanghavi) is blinded. Rishi ends up taking care of and falling in love with her. Meanwhile, Velu is harassed by the goons pursuing Rishi for the disc, and romances salesgirl Indu (Meena.) After many more cases of mistaken identity, Velu and Rishi join forces and are aided by a policeman (Prakash Raj) in their efforts to stop the assassination of the (chief?) minister.
Thoughts on the film: I enjoyed Sarath Kumar in both roles, and it was a good "thriller." It's funny to me how film plots that hinge on the latest technology (the information is on a floppy disc!) make me feel nostalgic in a way that the clothes, hairstyles and music don't.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Prakash Raj does a nice job as a straightshooting (literally!) cop who is willing to risk his career to help Rishi and Velu.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
The chase scene where Prakash busts out his Jason Bourne moves as he chases Rishi across rooftops.
Prakash demonstrates his tech skills to the double Sarath Kumars.
A John Woo-inspired sequence where the police chase Rishi through a hospital, with lots of flowing, white curtains.

Vasool Raja MBBS (Tamil, 2004)
Date watched: 2/11/11
Role TypePrakash Bad (?)
The Story: (From OneIndia Popcorn)
Vasool Raja MBBS is the remake version of Munnabhai MBBS. Rajaraman aka Vasool Raja (Kamal Hassan) who is a toughie who ekes his living as a debt collector along with friend Vaddi (Prabhu) and Amit (Karunas) for company. Once a year these guys act as good boys when Vasool Raja’s parents (Nagesh and Rohini Hattangadi) come to visit them.
 On one such visit Nagesh meets old friend Dr. Vishvanath Dean (Prakash Raj) of a medical college. In the college Dr. Vishvanath is trying out laugh therapy to cure patients with high BP. When Nagesh proposes a marriage of his son with Janaki (Sneha) who is the daughter of Dr. Vishvanath the truth comes out.
To console his father, Vasool Raja and his cronies manipulate the entrance exam and get admission to the same college of Dr. Vishvanath. From here starts the fun when Vasool Raja in the new role of a student sees a different view of life. 
Thoughts on the film: I enjoyed it almost as much as the Hindi version. On the plus side, I liked Sneha a lot as the romantic lead.  Prabhu was good, but it's hard to beat Arshad Warsi as Circuit (and Mumaith Khan in the item number.)
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It seems very fitting that Prakash Raj is playing the role originated by Boman Irani, since I do tend to think of them as filling the same filmi niches. (I'm sort of surprised that this the first time I've seen them play the same role.) This character is a bit problematic for me in both films, although I think he was slightly more sympathetic in the Hindi version.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
A sequence where the doctor is cooking in the kitchen, and takes out his frustrations towards Vasool Raja on a hapless apple (or it might be a squash):

Idiot (Telugu, 2002)
Date watched: 2/13/11
Role TypePrakash Cop/Bad/Dad
The Story: Chanti (Ravi Teja) is the ne'er do well son of a police constable (Kota Srinivasa Rao). He runs around town with his friends, getting into scrapes. When Suchitra (Rakshita) rescues him after a fight, he falls in love with her and begins to stalk her. When her father, the city police commissioner Vipra Narayana (Prakash Raj), learns of this, he arrests and beats up Chanti. Suchitra realizes she loves Chanti, she gets hit by car, they both end up in the hospital, there's a big showdown with the police, and ultimately things end up happily.
Thoughts on the film: I watched this one without subtitles, and was mostly able to follow the plot, with the exception of the big final scene, where there was a lot of dialogue. The volume of the police custody beatings was a little bit much for me.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It was hard to figure out the character's motivations without the aid of dialogue. He seemed like a pretty principled guy in the first few scenes, but it was hard to figure out why he hated Chanti so virulently. 
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
When we first see Prakash Raj, he's working undercover to bust an illegal liquor sales racket.
The many, many times the character expresses frustration by closing his eyes and sighing dramatically.

Kanna (Tamil, 2007)
Date watched: 2/14/11
Role TypePrakash Dad
The Story: High School student Annapoorani  (Sheela) goes on a class trip to Ooty, where she meets a florist/tour guide, Kanna (Raja). They fight and then become friends. After she returns home, Annapoorani  becomes obsessed with whether they are in love, and ultimately borrows a classmate's scooter to go back to Ooty to find him. Things begin to go wrong after the scooter breaks down, and she spends a scary night in Ooty, while her parents (Prakash Raj and Seetha) are wracked with worry and try to find her.
Thoughts on the film: Another one that I watched without subtitles, which was only a problem for the final snippet of dialogue from Kanna that resolves things. (Get on that, Tamil film industry!) It's sort of an"After Hours" cautionary tale. The intercutting of Annapoorani wandering around alone at night with her father driving around looking for her was done well. A few months back I bought the Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, and I found this film reminiscent of some of the stories of young girls who take the wrong path. (Although this ended much more happily than many of the pulp stories.) 
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Prakash Raj excels at this paternal blend of tenderness, fun, and worry. He could probably do this role in his sleep, but it's nice to see all of the details in the performance.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
There are several adorable songs that give a sense of the happy family life, with everyone dancing in the kitchen and in the rain. There are few snippets in the film trailer:

The parents are worried about their daughter's change in personality, and are sitting outside her bedroom door. 
The father reaches the end of his rope after driving around all day and night looking for his daughter.
SPOILER: The tearful reunion

Gaganam (Telugu, 2011)
Date watched: 2/14/11
Role Type: A variation on Prakash Cop
The Story: A plane from Chennai to Delhi is hijacked, and forced to make an emergency landing in Tirupati. The story shows the parallel actions of the passengers and hijackers on the plane, and the government officials (including Prakash Raj) and anti-terrorism commandos (Nagarjuna) in the airport.
Thoughts on the film: I saw it without subtitles. I love what Radha Mohan does with all of the supporting characters and it was fun to see lots of familiar faces in the film. His films also rely on dialogue, so I know that I missed out on a lot, and I'm looking forward to seeing it on dvd with subs. I loved the fast-moving plot, the hijack starts just about 15 minutes into the film. I had a few quibbles with the hijacking, for example, the hijackers were all standing in the aisles near the cockpit before they took over the plane (seems like post 9/11 that would be an obvious high risk thing to watch for) and the hijackers let the passengers keep their cell phones. Nagarjuna was believable and interesting as the commando, although I could have done without his laughing and high-fiving everyone at the end, I just think he'd still be in high adrenaline, military mode.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: I'm going to wait to comment until I see it with subtitles, since his character spends most of the film in a conference room, on the phone with the terrorists, government ministers, military leaders, etc. 
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Again, I'll wait until I've seen it with subs, but I'll just post this picture as a placeholder: