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, May 31, 2011

Round-up for May 2011

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (May, 2011): 10
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 5/31/11): 93
Ekangi, Athonakadde, Dil, Andarivaadu, Bobby, Seenu, Azad, Azhagiya Theeye, Hitler, Athade Oka Sainyam
Whew! 10 films this month and inching my way towards 100.  These are mostly older films (2005 or earlier), including a Kannada "art film" (?), two Chiranjeevi films, a home production, and several WTF moments. It's a lot to read, and something went wonky when I was formatting pictures, so feel free to just enjoy this screencap of a youngish, clean-shaven Prakash Cop:

Ekangi  (Kannada, 2002)
Date watched: 5/1/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The Story:   I watched this one without subtitles, but this review helped to fill in the blanks.) Raja, played by Ravichandran (who is also the film's writer, director, and producer), lives in lavish isolation in a mansion, following some sort of "it's best to be alone" philosophy passed on by his father. During an outing, he meets Shilpa (Ramya Krishnan), and ultimately invites her to his home. It turns out that Shilpa is the sister of Prakash Rai (guess who!), and his helping her brother enact some sort of revenge on Raja. The whole thing ends up with a crazy fight scene that destroys the mansion.
Thoughts on the film: Apparently, when this came out, there was a lot of hype because Ravichandran had taken a 5 year hiatus before making it, and because Raja's mansion was the most expensive set in Kannada film history. I watched this right after Nishkarsha, and I was impressed with both films that they kept fairly tightly focused on the plot, and there weren't many songs or comedic plots to distract from the main action. 
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: A pretty typical pyscho role:

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
Driving a truck.
The scene where it's revealed that he and Shilpa are siblings, he sneaks up on her in her house, and gets creepy, touchy-feely with her.


Athanokkade  (Telugu, 2005)
Date watched: 5/6/11
Role TypePrakash Dad (Cop)
The Story: This film was remade in Tamil as AathiAnjali (Sindhu Tolani) and Ram (Kalyan Ram) meet at college, cross paths in their quests for justice/revenge, and fall in love.
Thoughts on the film: I really love Aathi, because all of the twists and turns totally worked on me. While I knew what was coming in this, but it was fun to see all of the performances. This is the first time I've seen Kalyan Ram (grandson of NTR, half brother of Jr NTR) and I could see a bit of the Nandamuri charm, although I didn't like him as much as Vijay in the Tamil remake. Sindhu Tolani was great--she brought a nice seriousness to the role, and it was fun seeing Sudha and Ashish Vidyarthi in their usual roles, and Ajay playing younger and older versions of a spoiled rowdy. 
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Prakash Raj plays the hero's policeman father in the flashback scenes. What I appreciated on watching him the same role again, was seeing how the solid, decent nature of the character was established in his first scenes, when he shows his delight in playing with the children of the family, and his horrified reaction at a crime scene.

 Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: The noble father/policeman goes to talk with the corrupt politician and his rowdy son (or nephew) played by Ajay, and Prakash Raj gives them a threatening speech, complete with awesome hand gestures:


Dil  (Telugu, 2003)
Date watched: 5/7/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The Story: Seenu (Nitin Reddy) and Nandini (Neha) are college students who squabble and share the stage in the big college dance show. Neha is the daughter of mafia don, Gowri Shankar (Prakash Raj). One of his henchman who sees the dance show suspects a romance between Seenu and Neha. Gowri Shankar's men threaten Seenu, and then an actual romance starts up between the two students.  
Thoughts on the film: I watched this one without subtitles. Overall, it was pretty easy to follow, with the usual romantic high jinks and baddies waving machetes. At the end, it seemed like there was some way that Seenu either tricked or guilted Gowri Shankar into allowing the marriage, and I'm sorry I didn't understand what that was about.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: This was another standard gangster/father role.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Gowri Shankar plays chess with one of his lackeys, and then looses his temper:

Lots of good staredowns between Gowri Shankar and Seenu:

Andarivaadu  (Telugu, 2005)
Date watched: 5/8/11
Role TypePrakash Dad/Bad
The Story: Chiranjeevi plays carefree Govinda, as well as Govinda's straightlaced son, Siddhartha. Siddhartha wants to marry Shweta (Rimi Sen), the daughter of wealthy contractor Veerendra (Prakash Raj), but they don't approve of his father. Siddhartha gets his father married to Shanti (Tabu), and then Shweta and her father try to drive a wedge between father and son.
Thoughts on the film: Chiranjeevi was fun in the double-role, especially as Govinda
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Again, a pretty standard "evil prospective father-in-law" role.  I did like the scenes when he and Rimi Sen were plotting about what to do next.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Insulting Chiru-dad.

Begging forgiveness of Chiru-son

Sunil's expression cracked me up.


Bobby  (Telugu, 2002)
Date watched: 5/10/11
Role TypePrakash Dad
The Story: Bobby (Mahesh Babu) has returned from 15 years of study in the US, and meets and falls in love with Bhagyamati (Aarti Agarwal). It turns out that Bobby's father (industrialist K.R. played by Raghuvaran) and Bhagyamati's father (Yadagiri, a former union leader, now don, played by Prakash Raj) are engaged in a 20 year old feud. Bobby and Bhagyamati manage to elope but are caught up in a terrorist attack.
Thoughts on the film: An interesting re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. I thought they did a nice job of setting up the conflict between the two families, as well as the impact in the strained relationships between parents and children.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Lately, I've been obsessed with Prakash Raj's very eloquent hands, but I was happy he still got to do lots of expressive gesturing, even though his character had only one arm.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:

IBaz Luhrman used a news report to do the prologue
of  Romeo & Juliet, and I liked it again in Bobby.


Seenu  (Telugu, 1999)
Date watched: 5/15/11
Role TypePrakash Doc
The Story: Seenu (Venkatesh) comes to Hyderabad to look for work, and stays at the flat of his old friend. His flatmates make fun of his rural habits and accents, and Seenu feels self-conscious. Shweta (Twinkle Khanna) is studying classical dance, and when she meets Seenu she mistakenly thinks that he is mute. Seenu decides to continue to pretend to be mute when he is with Shweta, and he falls in love with her.  She takes him to see a doctor (Prakash Raj), who can't figure out what is wrong with Seenu. Seenu goes to great lengths to hide his charade from his friends and Shweta. At some point Seenu is videotaped talking to a friend (Brahmanandam), and he's worried that she'll will see it. In the end, she finally does see it and confronts Seenu, only to discover that he has consulted with Prakash Doc to have his voicebox removed so that he can be truly mute, and when Prakash Raj at the last minute cancels the surgery, Seenu grabs a scalpel and cuts his own tongue, or voicebox or something. The film ends with Shweta falling at Seenu's feet, overwhelmed with this expression of love for her.
Thoughts on the film: Wow. Truly a crazy, crazy plot. I watched it without subtitles, so it's possible that some of the dialogue helped explain the nutty behavior.  This was remade in Hindi as Pyaar Diwana Hota Hai with Govinda and Rani Mukherji, and the reviews of that film indicate that it had a pretty high "WTF?" quotient as well. 
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: I can't remember if I've seen Prakash Raj as a doctor yet, so this was a first. I especially enjoyed that he got to wear an old-fashioned doctor's reflector in many of the scenes.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
When Seenu takes his final, dramatic action, Prakash Doc gets splattered in the face. I really hope that they were able to do this in a few takes, and I like to imagine that I could get a job in the Telugu film industry splashing fake blood on the big stars.


Azad (Telugu, 2000 )
Date watched: 5/15/2011
Hot Cops!
Role TypePrakash Cop
The Story: Anjali (Soundarya) is a journalist who uncovers the misdeeds of Deva (Raghuvaran), who appears to be a noble religious/political leader, but is hiding some criminal deeds. Deva sends goons to threaten Anjali, and when the goons die in a car accident, she creates a fictional character "Azad", who killed the goons, and deals out justice to the bad guys. 

An actual guy named Chandra Sekhar Azad (Nagarjuna) comes to the city to sort out some family business (an operation for his sister, and withdrawing money from the bank?) When he happens to be in some of the locations of bomb blasts, people begin to think that he is that "Azad."  

He and Anjali have various moments when they meet, and he annoys her. He gets a job shooting a tv commercial dressed as Zorro, and saves Anjali from some goons, and they become friendly. She tells him about her creation, but he doesn't want anything to do with it, until he sees some evidence of Deva's corruption. (This is where I got sort of lost.) Azad enlists Brahmanandam's character to help him to figure out what's up with Deva. The big reveal is at a political rally, when Brahmi says "asalamalakum" to Deva, who replies "Wa aleykum us salaam", which shows that he is not a devout Hindi, but in fact a Muslim terrorist, who has a group of guys with machine guns ready to gun down the crowd.  As Prakash Cop prepares to arrest him, Deva takes poison and dies.
 Azad takes Anjali back to his hometown for his sister's wedding, where see (again) Kanaka Mahalakshmi, his maradulu/cousin (Shilpa Shetty.} She's young, sort of silly, and in love with Azad. So there's some humor and tension about her jealousy of Anjali. Then it's revealed th
at Deva didn't actually die in the attack, and is plotting his revenge. He plants a bomb in the jewelry box, which kills Azad's sister, then takes a trainload of passengers hostage. Prakash Cop confronts him, but after a big speech about how Prakash Cop is a Muslim, but an Indian first, Prakash Cop dies. Azad and the village arrive, save the train, and kill Deva. At the very end, it's Kanaka Mahalakshmi who reaches a stumbling, injured Azad first, so she gets to keep him, and Anjali looks on.
Thoughts on the film: What I really liked about this:
-Soundarya. She's so beautiful, and I loved that the first part of the film really focused on her character, who was the one who put the events in motion. There were lots of great shots of her at work as a journalist, interviewing people, writing articles, and riding around Hyderabad on her scooter.
-Raghuvaran. He switched back and forth between his noble "man of the people" and "evil terrorist" avatars, which was fun to watch. It mad me sad to think that they've both passed away at a young age.
  I did not like the ending. Azad's sister (an adult woman, about to be married) has the box with the bomb, and everyone is running around trying to find her to tell her. She acts like it's a big game of hide and seek, and I think someone even said "bomb" when they were calling her. Yet she still runs off and hides with the bomb box. Also, I've had it up to here with the Telugu two-heroine movies where the hero always chooses the simpering, simple-minded, helpless village girl over the educated, proactive, city girl with a job.  On the other hand, I did feel like Anjali's face at the end said "easy come, easy go, and I'd rather keep fighting corruption in Hyderabad than hanging out in this backwater town with his crazy family who like to play hide and seek with bombs."
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: This was another nice example of a smaller, supporting part that had some character development.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
Spinning a globe to make a point.

His big, final "I'm a Muslim AND
an Indian" speech.


Azhagiye Theeye  (Tamil, 2004)
Date watched: 5/19/11
Role Type: Prakash Pal 
The Story:  From the review: 
The story is told in a flashback about four wannabe film technicians of Kodambakkam- Chandran, Chittapa, Murthy and Puyal who bind well are desperate to make ends meet. They do the occasional odd jobs like becoming cartoon characters at amusement parks, cooks at wedding parties to chase their dreams of making it big one day.
Chandran (Prasanna) is approached by a girl Nandhini (Navya Nair) to break her proposed marriage with a software engineer Aravind (Prakash Raj) from USA. She is forced by her father who is a thug (Pyramid Natarajan) to marry this guy. Later Chandran hatches a plan by which he meets Aravind at a restaurant and tells him that Nandhini is madly in love with him.
And the big twist is that Aravind does not walk away and instead stays back to see that the ‘love birds’ get united which upsets Chandran’s plans and his life. He is forced to marry Nandhini at a registrar office and she is thrown out of her house. Aravind arranges a flat for them and leaves for US.
How the couple starts liking each other after a series of incidents forms the rest of the love story. The story is wafer-thin and there are shades of Vikraman’s Puthuvasantham in the first half about the four aspiring youngsters with big dreams. At times the story drags as there is a lot of melodrama thrown in with one of the friends dying. And what was the idea of the story being told in a flashback?
Thoughts on the film: I was looking forward to watching this film because a) it was produced by Prakash Raj, b) it was directed by Radha Mohan, c) I'd read that the Telugu film Happy was a remake of it. I loved all of the background with the friends trying to make it in the film industry, which reminded me of some of my favorite parts of Vellitherai and Kandukondain Kandukondain.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: The character does this nice transition from angry, to obsessed, to soft-hearted.
Product placment!
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
He's so pleased when he gets them married.

PR gives this big speech about love,  and
Chandra tells him he's his favorite romantic hero, after  MGR.


Hitler (Telugu, 1997)
Date watched: 5/22/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The Story: From a review at (which was super helpful, since it did not have subtitles.)
Madhava Rao (Chiru) is a loving yet strict brother of five younger sisters. Life is fine until one of his sisters, Ammo, elopes with her bava (Rajendra Prasad) because Madhava has her eldest sister marry a widower. She is banished from the house but she moves in next door. Their father (Dasari Narayana Rao) comes back to see his children, but they hate for deserting them and their mother and marrying someone else. The village goons (Rami Reddy, Prakash Raj) in order to get back at Madhava have his sisters’ dance teacher take them to a shady motel, but their father rescues them. However, he is blamed for their being in a police station. Later their father is murdered and his two daughters from his second marriage stay with Madhava. His other sisters are unhappy and go to Ammo’s house. Her husband in trying to fix everything is ambushed and attacked and blames Madhava, who after fighting the villains, decides to leave.
Thoughts on the film: I'd seen the title on the list of Prakash Raj and Chiranjeevi films, and I was curious/a bit scared about what it could be about, especially since the title character in Stalin ends up being a force for social justice. So I was very happy that "Hitler" was just a nickname, and described his autocratic, threatening behavior to his sisters' suitors. It was so much fun seeing Rajendra Prasad in this (loved him in Quick Gun Murugan.) 
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: A very standard, evil henchman, made much less interesting because he was dubbed.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:

Luring Chiru, disguised in a Rajendra Prasad wig.

Athade Oka Sainyam (Telugu, 2004)
Date watched: 5/27/11
Role TypePrakash Bad
The Story: Chanti (Jagapati Babu) hangs out with his brother (Suman), and romances an aspiring singer (Neha).  When the evil bank manager Prakash Rao (Prakash Raj) steals money from the investors, and blames it on Suman.  Chanti returns and plots his revenge with the assistance of a mimicry artist (Siva Reddy, a magician (Ali) and a computer wizard (Srinivasa Reddy.)
Thoughts on the film: It had some potential, but didn't really play out the sneakiness of the revenge as well as it could have. The side plot where the bad guys release the heroine's recording under the name of another artist is fun, and copies the last scenes of Singing in the Rain in a delightful way. (This is such a great plot for a movie set in the film industry, I can't believe I haven't seen it before.)
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: As the Idlebrain review notes, there's some major inconsistency to the character. In the first half, he's really cold, calculating, and evil, but in the second half, he's shown as comically paranoid and out of control.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:

Being especially evil, and...

putting his face on someone else's recording.

Final scene, interviewed while lying on a bomb.

Yes, he's somewhere in that explosion.

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