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.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Round-up for October 2015

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total:  9 (October, 2015)
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total: 292 (as of 10/31/15)
Ranna, Theeratha Vilaiyatu Pillai, Dhool, Bhaag Milkha Baag, Dhoni, Rudramadevi, Bheema, Puttakana Highway, Kadhalagi

The end is in sight. After years of having lots of movies to pick from, and anything to suit my mood, it’s odd to reach a point where I only have a few movies to choose from. Still, it’s the usual mix of remakes and some new releases. Theme of the month: sleeveless suit coats.

Ranna (Kannada, 2015)
Date watched:

Role Type:
Prakash Dad
The Story: (watched /out subtitles) The Kannada remake of of Attarinki Daredi. Bhargava (Sudeep) promises his grandfather that he will reunite him with his estranged daughter. Bhargava goes undercover as a driver at his aunt’s house, and along the way fights bad guys, romances the his aunt’s daughter, and saves the family business.
Thoughts on the film: Overall, a good remake. Sudeep is a great fit for Pawan Kalyan-type roles.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Genial, wealthy grandfather-type role, with some delightful giant old-man glasses.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: When he miraculous stands up; the shots at the long table, framed by water bottles.

Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) In this loose remake of Chukkallo Chandradu. Playboy Karthik (Vishal Krishna) decides to get married, and courts three different girls at the same time. Jyothi (Tanushree Dutta) has been hurt in love, Priya (Sarah-Jane Dias) is a traditional girl, and Tejaswini (Neetu Chandra) is a spoiled rich girl. When Tejaswini discovers his deception, she reveals it to the other girls, and Jyothi’s gangster brother,  Anbalazhagan (Prakash Raj) comes after Karthik.
Thoughts on the film: It’s been a long time since I watched Chukkallo Chandrudu, so I can’t remember if the weird resolution where Karthik pretends to have amnesia in order to reconcile with Priya was part of the original plot. Since Priya was the end-game, it felt like the scenes with Jyothi and her brother took up too much of the film.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: This was mostly comedic, especially his over-the-top reactions to the love story, until Karthik betrays Jyothi, and then he turns into violent gangster mode and delivers and impressive beating to Karthik on the beach.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Fight and showing off the prospective in-law to his crew.

Dhool (Kannada, 2011)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Dad (Bad)
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) The Kannada remake of Thiruvilaiyaadal Aarambam. Guru (Yogesh) falls in love with Priya (Aindrita), and tries to woo her over the objections of her protective, tycoon brother Nanda (Prakash Raj.) Guru ultimately makes his fortune and triumphs.
Thoughts on the film: This was a tricky remake, because I haven’t seen much of Yogesh, and I did remember the Tamil original, where Dhanush made a strong impression. It also made me wonder about which film plots from 10+ years ago seem dated in just a few years. In this case, I imagine that the gender dynamics haven’t changed, but the perception of economic mobility might have.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It must be odd to play the same role six or seven years later, and what if you look at the role and think “this was really underdeveloped”, but you’ve been hired for a straight remake, so you can’t change it?
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
His awesome sleeveless coats.
 The song where the hero and brother fight and dance.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (Hindi, 2013)
Date watched:

Role Type:
Prakash Pal
The Story: A bio-pic of Sikh soldier Milkha Singh who competed in the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Olympics. The film follows Singh’s enlistment in the Army, and his journey to become a world-class runner, with flashbacks to his childhood trauma during Partition and his lost first love.
Thoughts on the film: The film was beautiful and had excellent performances, but I felt that it lacked dramatic tension. The opening scene showed Singh’s loss in an Olympic sprint, but never circled back to connect that to the rest of the narrative. There was also a weird romantic sideline with a anachronistic Australian girl. I did like that they finessed the storyline to make the climactic race a different one that he did win.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He plays Singh’s original drill sergeant, who has little patience for the hero’s attitude. As Milkha matures and becomes more focused, his sergeant warms up to him, and ultimately celebrates his victories.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: An excellent celebratory song and dance.

Dhoni (Tamil, 2012)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Dad
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) Subramaniam  (Prakash Raj), the widowed father of two children, works hard to make sure that his children will succeed. His son, Karthik (Akash Jagganath) only wants to play cricket, but his father wants him to study. When the two argue, Subramanian hits Karthik, causing a serious injury. Subramanian regrets his actions and fights to pay for his son’s surgery.
Thoughts on the film: There were lots of small sweet interactions with the children and the adults, and I appreciated that the moment of parental violence was framed as terrible and terrifying. I liked that Subramanian was able to get past his judgement of their neighbor Nalini (Radhika Apte), who works as a prostitute, and that the film didn’t try to “redeem” her. She was presented as a good person AND a sex worker.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: This was a lead role, and he carried the film. The portrayal of Subramanian was fully-realized, and the comedic and dramatic scenes weren’t too extreme.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: The fight, scenes with daughter, arguing with officials, triumphant cricket match.

Rudramadevi (Telugu, 2015)
Date watched:

Role Type:
Prakash Advisor
The Story: A retelling of the origins of the 13th century queen of the Kakatiya dynasty, who was raised as a boy. The film follows Rudramadevi’s childhood friendship with neighboring princes Chalukya Veerbhadra (Rana Daggubati) and Gona Ganna Reddy (Allu Arjun), her adolescent decision to continue to rule as a man, her marriage to Muktamba (Nithya Menon), and her defence of her kingdom against an alliance of her uncles and the neighboring (evil) king.
Thoughts on the film: Another epic film, in the vein of Baahubali, but with key differences. Several reviews I’ve read have noted that the plot and action lag, which I agree with. What I really loved about this film, was that with every storytelling choice around Rudramadevi’s hidden gender, the filmmaker almost always made the more interesting, complex choice. Rudramadevi makes the choice to continue her hidden identity. She enjoys her romance with Veerabhadra, but is willing to give it up to continue her rule. When other key characters learn her identity, they understand the stakes, and make choices accordingly.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:  Prakash Raj plays the chief advisor Shiva Deviah, who helps his king with the initial deception, but then consistently warns the king, queen, and young Rudramadevi of the possible flaws in their plan (like marriage.) He serves as the voice of reason and is loyal to the end.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
When Rudramadevi’s gender is revealed, he gives a stirring speech arguing that girls and women are valuable and can be equal leaders. Later he fakes his own heart attack in order to escape, and then sings a song to inspire Rudramadevi to fight for her kingdom

Bheema (Tamil, 2008)
Date watched:

Role Type:
Prakash Dad(ish)
The Story: Sekar (Vikram) grows up idolizing local gangleader, Chinna (Prakash Raj), who defends the down-trodden against other gangs. Sekar joins Chinna’s gang, and becomes his right-hand man has they battle for control against Periyavar (Raghuvaran) and his gang. Sekar and Chinna become like brothers, and when Sekar ultimately gives in to the romantic advances of Shalini (Trisha), Chinna encourages him to move away and leave the criminal life. The interventions of a new police official (Ashish Vidyarthi) lead to tragedy for everyone.
Thoughts on the film: As I mentioned on twitter, this movie is “peak Vikram.” He looks great, and does such a great job of playing the tough, gruff gangster who will do anything for his boyhood hero. I liked the twist that the heroine stalked and pestered the hero until he gave in, and the chemistry between Trisha and Vikram was fantastic.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Chinna was another complex role, where you could see the constant battle between his pragmatic, violent ways and desire for justice and a calmer life. Prakash Raj did a nice job of showing Chinna’s reactions to Sekar, the way that he saw himself reflected in the younger man, and his fears that Sekar lacked his own  restraint and cunning.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Another fantastic song at his wedding, and just looking cool, in general.

Puttakana Highway (Kannada, 2011)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Pal
The Story: Puttaka (Shruti) lives a hard, but happy life in a small village with her  and daughter. Tragedy strikes the family, and then the construction of a major highway brings upheaval to their village. Puttaka sets out on a journey to confront far-off government officials.
Thoughts on the film: It was nice to see a film that addresses some current Indian issues. The presentation of the issues was a little heavy-handed, but the characters kept the story rooted in their believable reactions, hopes and fears. The performances by Shruti and the other actresses playing her friends and relatives were especially strong.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Prakash Raj played Shani Krishna, the village goofball who initially supports the highway project and tries to convince Puttaka to marry him. It’s a nicely rounded character, with equal parts self-interest, kindness, and confusion at the changes that come to the village, and serves as a nice complement to Puttaka’s driven focus on stopping the highway.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Interacting with Puttaka and the other villagers.


Kadhalagi (Tamil, 2010)
Date watched:
Role Type:
Prakash Cop
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) Poor college student (Krishnakumar) falls in love with his rich classmate (Shrishtri Thange.) When her powerful and violent brother (Vijay Gopal) opposes the match, the two conspire with their friends to stage a tragic accident so that they can elope. Their plan is mostly successful, except for the affable and wily cop on their tail (Prakash Raj.)
Thoughts on the film: It was a little bit of a different take on the star-crossed lovers story, and I liked that many of the friends had interestly defined roles. Parts of the con strained credibility. I’m still pondering the heroine’s willingness to frame/kill her brother, which was sort of refreshing for a South Indian film.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He plays the jovial traveler who joins the young couple and their friends on the train, and asks them to tell their story, only to reveal that he’s the police officer investigating their case. A comedic/avuncular role that works well, but nothing new or noteworthy.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: When he first gets on the train and convinces them to tell the story.

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