Alisa Rivera, @BollywoodNewbie on Twitter, asked me to suggest a South Indian film we could both watch and discuss. She’s been watching Hindi films for the last couple of years, and has just started to watch Malayalam films. She had not seen any other Telugu films other than Baahubali, and did not know Mahesh Babu. 1: Nenokkadine was my first Mahesh film, and I’d been meaning to watch it again. I’m not sure it was the best one to recommend as Alisa’s first Mahesh film, but she left wanting to see more of his films. We also talk about the deaths of Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor as we recorded this right after their deaths.
Several commenters on my reaction to the trailer of Allu Arjun’s new film DJ told me I should watch Arya 2 and Arya.
Yesterday, I decided I was totally in the mood for another Mahesh Babu movie. Dookudu had been recommended to me as one of his best, and I tried to find a good copy online. I ended up running to my local library which had a DVD copy. (I love living in an area with a sizeable South Asian community!) My library may not have many Telugu titles, but they have Dookudu!
This poster really shows you what Mahesh in Dookudu is all about. Dookudu was translated as aggression, but also as daring. And you can see Mahesh’s cop character is all about attitude. Mahesh just oozes cool and bravado. He has amazing presence on film, and looks great in all those slow motion action striding towards danger kind of scenes.
But after watching 1: Nenokkadine, I was hoping with another heroine, I’d get a better romantic subplot, and maybe a sweeter side to Mahesh, too. And Dookudu gave that to me in spades. Puppy dog eyed Mahesh!
He’s no Prabhas, who is still my favorite Telugu actor, but he does have that same ability to go from super cool action, to sweetness and comedy.
Dookudu is just a super entertaining mass entertainment movie. The best Telugu films I find really excel at melding together great action, great villains, sweet romance, and comedy all rolled into one. And while 1: Nenokkadine felt like theses different parts of the film did not fit together well, here with Dookudu one flows into the other and the comedy gives you a respite from some pretty intense action and drama.
Dookudu at its heart is a revenge flick. Prakash Raj plays the near saintly politician father of Mahesh (Ajay). After our short intro to Prakash, we see him struck in a horrific car crash leaving young Ajay alone. Cut to present day with adult Ajay, now a cop in Mumbai, with a cool introduction fight scene.
Ajay is on the hunt of Don Nayak played with supreme evilness by Sonu Sood. He’s wearing an ascot for most of the movie, so you know he’s really evil! One nice thing is that with Sonu Sood being 6’2″, Mahesh is also 6’1″ so their final battle truly feels like a fight of equals.
On a quest to find a weak link to Nayak’s empire, Ajay and his team follow Nayak’s brother to Istanbul. There one of Ajay’s team tells him his fortune telling grandma says Ajay is about to meet the love of his life. Ajay mistakes Prashanthi (the adorable Samantha Prabhu) for Nayak’s brother’s girlfriend, so from the beginning we have a hate-to-love romantic subplot. Which is one of my favorite romantic tropes.
Ajay and his team capture Nayak’s brother which leads to the scene on the rooftops of Istanbul on the poster. With Ajay’s foot on the gangster’s throat, gun pointed at his head while negotiating on the phone with Nayak.
After some great Turkey scenery (so pretty!) and adorable romantic scenes with Prashanthi where Ajay continually puts his foot in his mouth, Ajay returns to India. He then gets shocking news. His father is waking up from a 14 year coma! His father did NOT die! Now, here is the part where the film evidently liberally borrows from the German film Goodbye Lenin (which I have not seen). The doctors tell Ajay that his father should be protected from any bad news or distress so that he doesn’t go back into a coma.
So, Ajay has to get back the family home. This is where the comedy uncles come in. Telugu films seem to have a requirement that this guy, Brahmanandam Padma Sri, appear in every single film to provide comic relief. He’s even shoe-horned into Magadheera for absolutely no reason at all. (Thank God Rajamouli didn’t have to include him in Baahubali!)
Usually, I find the comedy uncle bits of Telugu films very annoying and totally unfunny. In films like Darling, you can see Prabhas struggling to not crack up at his antics, and I just don’t get it.
But here, he’s woven into the plot as the current owner of the family mansion, that he rents out as a film set. Ajay convinces him that they want to film a reality show with hidden cameras. It’s all an elaborate ruse so that Ajay’s father (Prakash) will think nothing has changed, and that Ajay has taken his MLA seat and followed in his father’s footsteps. Ajay and his team even produce fake television news shows and newspapers, which is from Goodbye Lenin. A Telugu is now the prime minister of India, etc.! Mahesh is great in all these comedy pieces, posing as a film producer, and a participant in a reality show. His engagement to Prashanthi becomes part of the plan to keep his father happy.
Can you guess who caused his father’s car accident all those years ago? Yeah, like I said, it’s a revenge flick. The ways that Ajay crafts revenge on each person who harmed his father are actually quite clever, while keeping his father in the dark that he is now a cop.
I give Dookudu a solid four stars out of five. Great action, great romance, and great fun. Mahesh is absolutely fantastic in Dookudu, and Samantha Prabhu is great, too. They have wonderful chemistry together. The songs are not exceptional, but pretty good. This one where the lyrics say “My heart is sacrificed on the altar of love”. It’s kind of crazy with the faux Aztek costumes or whatever they are, but so colorful!
Yep. I think I’ve convinced myself writing this up, that I’m going to need to own this one on DVD. Because Mahesh in many colors of wedding finery!
Prior to 1: Nenokkadine, my Telugu film watching has pretty much been limited to everything starring Prabhas I could get my hands on (post Baahubali!) and anything by S. S. Rajamouli (Eega, Maghadeera, etc.) I could get my hands on.
1: Nenokkadine (1: Alone) opens with a young boy running through a forest being chased and shot at by gun-toting goons. (I learned later the young boy is lead actor Mahesh Babu’s son.) He runs into a road and into the arms of the police but someone explains it away – “Oh, he has mental problems. He imagines his parents were killed and he’s being chased by the killers.” This is the first of many psych outs in this thriller.
1: Nenokkadine is my first Mahesh Babu film, and from the opening number, I could tell Mahesh is a STAR. He plays Gautham, a rock star.
Mahesh has charisma. He has screen presence. Not the most notable dance talent, at least from what I saw in this movie, but he makes up for that by looking exceptionally cool in all the action scenes. And this movie has a LOT of action scenes.
After the Who Are You rock number above, Gautham thinks he sees one of the killers from his dreams/visions in the audience and runs after him. He believes he ends an elaborate motorcycle chase and fist fight by killing the man. But then – PSYCH – Sameera ( Kriti Sanon, in her debut) has videoed the whole thing, and there wasn’t anyone else there at all! There is no body because he was fighting air.
WTF? From this point, you realize nothing you see can you rely on to be real. Because our hero has mental issues. Is he schizophrenic and seeing hallucinations? My subtitles didn’t tell me, but he has missing brain cells or something on a scan, as a doctor tries to explain to the journalist Sameera in the hospital after the imaginary fight. Why is the doctor telling all this to a journalist? (I really don’t understand health privacy laws in India, I’m just saying.)
Gautham decides to go to Goa for some R&R, but who appears on his yacht but that dogged journalist, Sameera. She then proceeds to Gaslight poor Gautham by approaching him multiple times in the same situations so that he isn’t sure what is real and what is not in their relationship. I read later that this was Kriti’s first film, and I’m sorry, but it shows. Yes, she’s pretty enough, but I was not buying the instant love between the characters. And I really couldn’t get past the plot point that she was milking his mental illness for her own ends. How did Gautham get past that so quickly? Don’t question, it’s luuuurve. I didn’t find her funny, and this was the comic relief segment of the movie. I just didn’t think she had good chemistry with Manesh. Manesh was also not really that charismatic in the rom com portion. I reserve judgement if he can pull that off and will try some other movies of his, hopefully where he is paired with a better co-star actress with some sparkle to her.
(Loved Mahesh in the glasses look, though)
So, at this point, the plot becomes very convoluted. We’re not sure if killers are after Gautham or after Sameera, or both. Gautham is convinced Sameera is in danger, and unfortunately beats up a bunch of her friends who were planning a surprise birthday party.
The action moves to London, and there are some fantastic action set pieces. One really intense scene has Gautham killing someone in a public bathroom because he thinks it’s a hallucination that he just wants to go away. But it was real. There are so many twists and turns, and because of Gautham’s condition, and his loss of childhood memories, we as the audience never know what to believe. I’m not sure the logic of the whole movie really works out if you analyze it afterwards, but it’s an exhilarating roller coaster ride of a movie. I was watching most of it on a plane on my iPad with headphones on, and I probably amused my seatmate by gasping out loud at several points. The ending scenes when Gautham regains his childhood memories were really emotionally touching.
I really liked the catchy soundtrack, too. Just try to get the London Babu item song out of your head. I wish I could find this with subs as the lyrics were pretty funny:
I watched this movie becauses it was recommended over and over on my Quora post about why I love Indian cinema as a Telugu movie to try. Prabhas is still my first love Telugu star, but I will definitely be checking out more Mahesh Babu movies. This guy just oozes cool, like a much taller Jason Statham kind of action guy.
Four stars out of 5. Worth a rentMal! (I rented it on Google Play which had English subs, of a fashion at least.)
Watch the trailer below with no subs, but it’s mainly action sequences anyway: