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, September 6, 2011

Round-up for July 2011

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (July, 2011): 10
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of July 31, 2011): 109
Iruvar, Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap, Mahantudu, Alli Thanda Vaanam, Ko, Poi, Nagamandala, Illalu Priyuralu, Singam, Josh

In July, I watched a LOT of films, but then August was crazy with the non-Prakash Raj-film parts of m life, so I'm finally catching up. There were a few common themes in the August films:
1) characters putting the movies on the ladies,
2) characters (good and evil) crying.
Since I just learned how to make clips in VLC media player, I went a little clip happy (although I still haven't figured out how to include the subtitles in some of the clips.) Enjoy the many embedded videos! 

Iruvar (Tamil, 1997)
Date Watched: 7/1/11
Role type: Prakash Pal / Prakash Sexy
The story:
The film chronicles the friendship of actor Anandan (Mohanlal) and writer Thamizhselvan (Prakash Raj) as they meet in the film industry, achieve success in politics, and ultimately become political rivals. Woven in the story are Anandan's romances with village girl Pushpa (Aishwarya Rai), actress Ramani (Gauthami), and Kalpan, an aspiring starlet who looks just like Pushpa (Aishwarya Rai again.) Thamizhselvan, who is married, begins a "second marriage" with one of his admirers, a village schoolteacher named Senthamarai (Tabu.)
Thoughts on the film: Iruvar was a mix of so elements that I knew I would like. Santosh Sivan's camera work was beautiful and inventive. The behind-the-scenes of the film industry storyline was full of fun details and gossipy-type stuff, and I especially liked the snippets of scenes and songs from the historical films. I'm also intrigued by the rare Indian films that are based on actual historical figures, so this glimpse into the stories of  M. Karunanidhi and M. G. Ramachandran (MGR) was fascinating. What I had not expected was the frank way that it portrayed the romantic and sexual relationships, and the ambitious and pragmatic approaches of the different female characters in the film.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It's no surprise that Prakash Raj won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. He was equally convincing in the large oratorical scenes and in the intimate discussions with Mohanlal and Tabu.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:

At a political rally, when Anandan has given a rousing speech, and Tamizhselvan leans in to congratulate him:
Senthamarai arrives at Thamizhselvan's home:

Bbuddah... Hoga Terra Baap (Hindi, 2011)
Date Watched: 7/4/11
Role type: Prakash Bad
The story: Aging gangster Vijju (Amitabh Bachchan) returns from Paris to participate in the raging war between ACP Karan Malhotra (Sonu Sood) and gang kingpin Khabir Bhai (Prakash Raj.) In between the shoot-outs, Vijju tries to sort out the various romantic entanglements of Amrita (Charme), her mother (Raveena Tandon), her friend Tanya (Sonal Chauhan) and Sita (Hema Malini.)
Thoughts on the film: A fun, fast film. Amitabh was great, and it was a blast to see Telugu film favorites like Charme and Subbaraju hamming it up in a big Bollywood film. And Sonu Sood:
'Nuff Said.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He was in the film at brief intervals, and seemed to be effectively ruthless, even in the scene that was pulled directly from Pokiri. Mostly, though he seemed to spend most of the film yelling into a phone.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: In the big finale, Prakash Raj and Malkrande Deshpande (another favorite) had a fun, short double-take scene, followed by some top-notch crying. WARNING SPOILERS:

Z (Kannada, 1999)-watched the Telugu dub Mahanatudu
Date Watched: 7/5/11
Role type: Prakash Bad/Prakash Weirdo
The story: This has been on the list of "extremely hard to track down" Prakash Raj films, so I was happy when I realized that Mahanatudu was the Telugu dub of Z. I watched it without subtitles, and wasn't entirely sure of what was happening, so I was even more thrilled when I finally found an archived review from the New Indian Express. I'm going to copy it in full here, just so that the information about this film isn't completely lost if the other site goes down:
Clipping (47kbs) - The New Indian Express, 14-02-1999. By Y. Maheshwara Reddy, Parvathy Nair Cinema Review Not worth the effort
Film: Z (Kannada)
Director: Praveen NayakCast: Prakash Rai, Prema, Reetu Shivapuri, Tennis Krishna, Sampreetha
IT seems debutante director Praveen Nayak made this film with a personal grudge against another director who gives one hit after another.
Prakash (Prakash Rai) enters Gandhinagar hoping to direct a film. When everyone rejects his story and principles. Tennis Krishna comes forward to be financier-cum-hero of his film. Prakash happens to meet Prema (Prema) and asks her to act in it. With the success of the film at the box office, she becomes famous and accepts offers from other language film producers, too.
Meanwhile, Prakash is (disappointed when his next film fails at the box-office. But he bounces back with active support from PremaPrakash Rai gives a good performance in the first-half of the film, he disappoints in the second half. The sole consolation is Prema’s acting and the comedy provided by Tennis Krishna.
Five music directors worked for this film hut even that didn’t help the musical score. The only reason to watch this movie is if you have nothing else to do.

Thoughts on the film: Like Iruvar, Mozhi, and Vellitherai, this shows the behind-the-scenes in the film industry. The director used an interesting device, where scenes that at first seemed to be part of the story were later revealed to be movie scenes in the midst of filming. It threw me the first two times, but then I was able to anticipate some of them, although the finale did leave me scratching my head in a big way.Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: I'm not sure if the film created a vary consistent character of "Prakash", but it did mean that the actor Prakash got to play a wide range of emotions--ambition, love, anger, fear, as well as interesting characters in the films within the film.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
The sweet romantic song:

And the sexy song picturization in one of Prakash's films:

Alli Thandha Vaanam (Tamil, 2001 )
Date Watched: 7/6/11
Role type: Prakash Bad
The story: Millionaire Mouli disowns his ne'er-do-well son Satyam (Prabu Deva), and send him to live on the streets of Chennai to learn the value of money. Out in the world, Satyam find hijinks with a stolen suitcase, romance with various girls (I couldn't quite keep them straight), and delivers justice to the plotting villain (Prakash Raj.)
Thoughts on the film: This film didn't make much of an impression on me when I watched it, and I don't remember much at all 2 months later. There were a couple of fun songs (Prabhu Deva! Vidyasagar!): Kaasu Kaasu, Vaadi Vaadi and Thom Thom Dhithithom.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Another conniving business associate, who tries to frame Satyam in order to take over the family business.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: When Prabhu Deva and the second lead chase him down in jeeps and in him against a wall.

Ko (Tamil, 2011)
Date Watched: 7/8/11
Role type: Prakash Politician
The story: A political thriller that weaves together the stories of photographer Ashwin (Jeeva), reporter Renuka (Karthika Nair), producer Saraswathi ‘Saro’ (Piaa Bajpai), and engineer-political crusader Vasanthan Perumal (Ajmal Ameer), as they work to expose corruption and fight the threat of Naxal terrorists.
Thoughts on the film: This was a good, fairly tight thriller. It's a retelling of a Hollywood remake (I won't say which one, so as not to spoil the film), and the filmmakers did a great job of keeping the parts that worked and adding some unique Indian/South Indian twists. Jeeva, Karthika, Piaa Bajpai, and the other young actors gave strong performances.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He played one of the rival politicians (Kota Srinivasa Rao was one of the others), who had shades of gray. He was ambitious, and quick to anger, but seemed less corrupt than his rivals.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Anything with a giant photo or cutout figure.

Poi (Tamil, 2006)
Date Watched: 7/9/11
Role type: Prakash Bad?
The story: When Kamban (Uday Kiran) embarrasses his politician father, he flees to Sri Lanka. He pretends to be a poor student and starts up a romance with Shilpa (Vimala), a student of Tamil literature. The film hinges on lost passports, comedy kids, and advice from a chess-playing angel (director K.Balachander) and devil (Prakash Raj).
Thoughts on the film: Hmm, I've enjoyed other K. Balachander films, but this one really swung from comedy to tragedy to romance so sharply and quickly. Kamban was also not terribly interesting or likable, and didn't seem to grow as a character until the last 20 minutes of the film.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: I get the sense that Prakash Raj had fun putting on the hat and fake beard and hamming it up as the devil
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
When the two play chess over Kamban's fate.

Nagamandala (Kannada, 1997)
Date Watched: 7/15/11
Role type: Prakash Snake God and Prakash Neglectful Husband.
The story: The retelling of a traditional legend, based on the play by Girish Karnad. New bride Rani (Vijayalakshmi) is neglected by her husband Appanna (Prakash Raj), and cooks up a love potion. She unintentionally pours the potion on an occupied snake mound, thus attracting the attention and love of the snake king, who takes Appanna's form and visits her at night. The real Appanna becomes suspicious and seeks to identify Rani's mystery lover.
Thoughts on the film: I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I'm happy to have a copy of the play in English so that I can understand some of the dialogue a bit better. Read more of my thoughts on the film as part of the Nag Panchami Film Festival.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He did a great job of playing the suspicious husband and the smitten snake. I was especially impressed with how snake-y his body language and expressions were.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
When the snake first takes the form of Appanna and visits Rani, juxtaposed with the real Appanna returning home the next morning.Prakash Raj does a great job of showing the contrast between the two characters:

In the big finale, the special effects of the two characters fighting are surprisingly effective:

Illalu Priyuralu (Telugu, 2006)
Date Watched: 7/19/11
Role type: Prakash Bad
The story: From the movie database:
Illalu Priyurala is a family based movie in that Divya (Divya Vunni), only daughter of city Mayor, falls in love with Venu (Venu) , a lawyer. Mayor pulls out Venu from the love track by threatening Venu's mother (Jayasudha). Divya is married to Prakash Raj according to her father's wish. But Divya could not lead happy life with him and she wants to divorce. Divya's daughter approches Venu to re unite her parents. Family oriented story has so many twists.Rest of the movie is all about how Venu deals the problem whether he will get marry with Divya or not.
Thoughts on the film: I was generally able to follow the plot without subtitles, but it was hard to tell when we were in flashback mode. Venu was especially appealing as the dissolute, heart-broken lawyer.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He was particularly mean to his step-daughter, which is a less common form of Prakash Bad.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
Trying to kill his wife in a car accident.
The finale, hanging on to Venu's leg.
Singham (Hindi, 2011)
Date Watched: 7/24/11
Role type: Prakash Bad
The story: Bajirao Singham (Ajay Devgn) is a rural policeman with a tight uniform and high standards. He rises in the ranks of the IPS while battling the mafia and extortionist kingpin Jaikant Shikre (Prakash Raj.)
Thoughts on the film: Fun enough remake of the Tamil Singam (which I watched in November 2010.)
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Jaikrant Shikre seemed much more broadly comical than the Tamil version. I'm not sure that the ratio of evil actions to humorous frustration and terror was high enough to justify his termination. Prakash Raj seemed to do a good job delivering long stretches of dialogue in Hindi (not that I would particularly know.)
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Sadly, they did not replicate the beach volleyball scene from the Tamil film, but they did have a nice cutaway to Shikre hanging out on an inflatable pool lounger.
The big comedy-action finale had even more hammy crying, plus some Brahmanandam-level physical comedy (SPOILERS!):

(Telugu, 2009)
Date Watched: 7/24/11

Role type: Prakash Dad

The story: College student Satya (Naga Chaitanya) takes on political mafia leader Durga Rao (J. D. Chakravarthy) and falls in love with elementary school teacher Nithya (Karthika Nair).

Thoughts on the film: The story, especially the present-day story, seemed a little sparse for the lengtof the film. I had a hard-time keeping track of the various groups of students and ex-students. The flashbacks with Prakash Raj were nice, and the film gets 50 points for having realistic pick-up basketball scenes. I also liked the message of Nithya's story.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Prakash Raj's performance as the warm and heartbroken Principal was probably the highlight of the film. Sadly for Naga Chaitanya, Prakash Raj and JD Chakravarthy pretty much overshadowed him in every scene that they shared.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
This one, where the principal reacts to a tragedy (SPOILERS--this would also be better with subtitles...)


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