Several commenters on my reaction to the trailer of Allu Arjun’s new film DJ told me I should watch Arya 2 and Arya.
The love music numbers were pretty darn adorable.
I purchased the Telugu film Yamadonga [God of death thief or Thief Yama] on DVD months ago because it was highly recommended by a friend. I kept picking it up, and putting it back down. Frankly, the cover image doesn’t do anything for me. But I forgot that I bought it because it is by director S. S. Rajamouli (of Baahubali fame!) Yamadonga came out in 2007 (between Chatrapathi (2005) and Magadheera (2009)). Yamadonga was my first Jr. NTR film, but his third collaboration with Rajamouli.
Chatrapathi has that amazing CGI shark fight with Prabhas, and Magadheera anticipates Baahubali with its lengthy past life fantasy flashback. And then of course, Rajamouli made the hero reincarnate as a FLY in Eega. His imagination has no bounds, and continues to amaze me with every film. I was blown away by Baahubali, which I saw four times in the theater alone, and cannot wait for part 2 next year. Yamadonga is a delightful flight of fantasy as a thief insults Yama (the God of Death) and is sent to hell before his time.
Jr. NTR is no Prabhas (my favorite Telugu actor), but he definitely has an impish charm. I was trying to think what Hollywood actor he reminds me of. He’s sort of like Chris Pratt – looks cool in the action sequences, but has that charm and sense of comedy silliness about him.
I know this is shallow of me, but I hated NTR’s hair in this film. It just looked awful. There were a few music numbers where his hair was much shorter, and he looked a thousand times better. He has that same look in the poster for his next film Janatha Garage (with Mohanlal) coming out next month.
As children, the thief Raja (Jr. NTR) meets Mahi. She gives him an amulet necklace that had been blessed in a temple. He can’t pawn it, and throws it away, but over his life, it keeps turning up.
Mahi (Priyamani) grows up and is an orphan treated as a servant in her family’s household. She’s sort of a Cinderella waiting for her prince. (Isn’t it handy NTR is named Raja?) NTR rescues her but then tries to ransom her to her family when he sees a TV report that she is a wealthy heiress (which she doesn’t know.)
For the first time, Mahi who had been treated as a servant, is waited on like a princess by Raja. Raja has cursed Yama (the God of Death) to the heavens, and Yama vows revenge on this human. Raja is killed before his time by goons sent by Mahi’s family and then half the movie is set in the fantasty realm of hell. Raja is a thief by nature, and tricks Yama and steals his rope of death, becoming the ruler of hell himself.
The modern day parts of Yamadonga aren’t that different in plot than any other Telugu action romantic film, although the action scenes are great. But the film takes off in the fantasy hell sequence and in a scene in heaven with all the gods. The sets are glorious. Mohan Babu is fantastic as the insulted god Yama. The comedy uncle of pretty much every Telugu film, Brahmanandam, is Yama’s sort of clerk Chatragupta keeping track of the book of deeds of the human sinners.
Raja proposes an election to have the demons of hell pick their new ruler between Yama and Raja. Yama brings three goddesses to dance, but then NTR as Raja dances with them and brings out the spirit of his grandfather. Jr. NTR is the grandson of the famous actor and (then politician) NTR. Rajamouli uses CGI to have Jr. NTR and NTR talk and dance together onscreen (like Dhoom Taana in Om Shanti Om). This Young Yama song reminded me of the song Manohari in Baahubali with NTR dancing with the three women.
NTR is a great dancer (he’s accomplished in Kuchipudi dance), and this sequence was one of my favorites in the film.
Raja returns to earth, but if he sins again, he will be returned to hell. He’s about to marry Mahi, when Yama decides to trick Raja into sinning. Yama takes the form of a woman to tempt Raja – Raja’s former partner in crime and money lender.
Mamta Mohandas is Dhanalakshmi (Yama in disguise), and I loved her portrayal. She’s seductive, but she has the air of Yama’s arrogance and swagger at the same time.
That’s the thing about this film. Not only is NTR great, but so many of the supporting actors are simply fantastic. Priyamani‘s performance is just okay as the innocent naive Mahi. She has some great dance numbers with NTR, but her acting was not on the same level with the others.
I had so much fun watching this movie. Rajamouli never disappoints, and NTR provides a lot of comedy, great dancing and cool action scenes. I have never seen a Ramayana TV serial, and I’m sure the hell scenes reference some of those, or Ram-Leela pageant plays. But you don’t need that background, or even an understanding of the Indian gods to enjoy this film.
Highly recommend this Rajamouli fantasy film. Four stars out of five. (It’s available on Youtube with English subtitles here.)
Now I can’t wait to see NTR in Janatha Garage next month. NTR has a real screen presence, and I look forward to catching up with his other films.
After the searing Malayalam gangster film Kammati Paadam, I wanted something lighter to watch. Someone had recommended to me Athadu as their favorite Mahesh Babu film and it’s free on Youtube with subtitles. (Love you Telugu Cinema industry for doing that!). Athadu evidently means simply “He”.
It starts super violent. A young street kid murders someone, and then joins a gang. And then we see the now grown up Mahesh and there is more violence. I despaired at first as it was all this violence and blood — I’d had plenty of that with Kammati Paadam. Mahesh is Nandu, a killer – a stone cold hitman, and Sonu Sood is his getaway driver. He’s hired to stage an almost assassination of a politician, and is double crossed and chased for the murder. During his escape on a train, an innocent person is killed. And he takes on that victim’s identity, as the victim Pardhu was on his way to reunite with long lost family who hadn’t seen him in over a decade. Pardhu had been orphaned and his grandfather and family had been searching for him.
Mahesh arrives in the village, and is welcomed as the prodigal son returned. No one had seen Pardhu since he was a child, so they just say, “My you’ve grown tall!” and the like. Nasser plays the grandfather, and Trisha Krishnan is Poori, Pardhu’s cousin. Mahesh lays low and stays at the rural family compound for over a month. You can tell he’s never had a normal family life and that this is all new to him. And that’s when I realized, that this was going to totally be my catnip trope — killer disarmed by love and family!! With a heaping helping of taking on an identity and trying to blend into a family.
It’s like Witness crossed with The Professional crossed with Sommersby! (In a good way.)
Poori is infatuated with Pardhu/Mahesh. She is fairly immature and has obviously been very sheltered and pampered. She tells Mahesh that she is staying away from her sister meeting her potential bridegroom because she doesn’t want to overshadow her sister with her beauty. Mahesh tells her she is not beautiful — her family’s just been telling her she is.
Thus begins the teasing and mock fighting between the two which escalates to an accidental brushing of lips. (Swoon! — that’s both me AND the two characters swooning. Poori actually sinks to the floor in a heap from the emotional impact of it.)
Mahesh/Pradhu then fantasizes that he’s playfully nipping at Poori’s ear, and jolts back to reality in another favorite scene of mine. There’s some very nice song sequences as they each fall for each other.
Mahesh/Pradhu also comes to his grandfather’s aid in a land dispute with an evil neighbor. Cue the machete fight sequence! (It’s nearly a requirement in a Telugu film.) Mahesh finds out that the real Pradhu had played a mean trick as a kid, and gives money to the family anonymously so that their daughter can get an operation.
This film is filled with some of my favorite Telugu character actors. Nasser, as I mentioned, plays Pradhu’s grandfather. Prakash Raj, polyglot character actor of Hindi and many regional cinemas, plays the CBI officer on Nandu (Mahesh)’s trail. And Sunil, my favorite comedic Telugu character actor, plays the childhood friend of Pradhu. Mahesh confides in him that he’s not really Pradhu. The two comedy Uncles are in it, too, but not so annoying. Brahmanandam dares Mahesh to punch him in the stomach which he does so Brahmanandam actually made me laugh for once!
After one fight, Mahesh/Pradhu is fussed over by Pradhu’s aunt. She tends to his cuts on his hands, and then feeds him with her own hands as she’s afraid the spicy food will sting his cuts. This kindness affects Mahesh so much that he has to wipe the tears from his eyes. He’s been trying to quietly resist the family, because of course he’s not really Pradhu, their long lost nephew or grandson. He doesn’t think he’s worthy of any of their love and kindness. I was almost wiping the tears from my own eyes at this scene because you can see the loneliness of the life he had led up to this moment.
Poori was more than a little irritating in how immature her character was. She’s trying to be coquettish, but she really doesn’t know how. She pouts that Mahesh/Pradhu hasn’t told her she’s beautiful, and then came one of the best declarations of love I’ve seen in an Indian film. (I’ve posted the video starting at the scene below:)
He asks who said she wasn’t beautiful? “You did! You told me I wasn’t beautiful!”
Then he tells her that it was true. “Then I didn’t know you were so beautiful.”
“But I’m the same even now!”, she replies.
“I’m not. We see a moonbeam everyday. Only sometimes do we think it is beautiful. But it’s the same every day. The change is not there. It’s here!”, as he touches his heart. “I fought Buji…How else did you want me to express my love? I’m not like the others. I don’t know how to live. Only now I’m learning to live.”
I had to rewind and rewatch that scene a few times. So great.
One of Mahesh/Pradhu’s acts of generosity leads to Prakash Raj finding him, and his true identity being revealed. There is a fantastic scene that Mahesh has then with Nasser, the grandfather, that I won’t spoiler, but I really loved.
Then we’re back to action, as Mahesh goes back to the city to find out who the real killer was who framed him. There’s an amazing final fight scene, and great comeuppance for the villains. This is what Indian cinema does so well. Great action paired with emotional drama and romance. The plot is really nothing like Witness, but that is the film that I thought of immediately. Hardened man used to violence is forced to adapt to a rural family life. Total fish out of water, Nandu is not a cop — he’s who should be the villain, but we see through his actions that he has a marshmallow center.
This film goes right up there as one of my favorite Mahesh movies now. Really enjoyed it, and there were a few scenes that were truly magical.
Four stars out of five.
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!