Pokiri (Rogue) is simply a fantastic Mahesh Babu action romance flick directed and written by Puri Jagannadh. I enjoyed it so much. Pokiri is from 2006 and was filmed with a very modest budget of 12 crore. The director wrote a great script and was really inventive in his shots. The editing really enhances and propels the pace of the action.
I had rented the DVD through Netflix, but the DVD crapped out on me half way through. I kept trying to make it work again because the movie is so delicious, but then realized I was watching a Telugu movie. Of course, the whole thing is on Youtube with subtitles. (Yay Chromecast!)
Among rival gangs in Hyderabad, Mahesh is the newcomer, Pandu. He’s a rogue, a free agent and his intro in the film has him running down a street with a cart of red mirchi peppers fly into the air. Loved that touch.
The action scenes are very visually inventive. There’s a cool action sequence when the lights get shot out in a dark room and then it’s all flashing flickering light with sparks waterfalling down. Mahesh kills off pretty much a whole opposing gang one by one in flashes. So many film directors rely on a few big fireball explosions and slow mo to make an action scene look cool.
The love interest is Ileana D’Cruz. She’s an aerobics instructor living with her widowed mother and her younger brother. Mahesh tries to stay away from her, but he can’t overcome his attraction to her. And his friends delight in throwing them together.
Ileana’s in dire need of a protector. Unfortunately she’s drawn the attention of a corrupt cop. Ashish Vidyarthi is just so eeeeevil. He’s not only involved in corrupt deals shaking down land developers with a local gang. He has no compunction in viewing his cop underlings as expedient kills. And then he approaches Ileana’s mother to propose she make her daughter his concubine. “And you’re not that bad looking either.”
Ileana as Shruti approaches Mahesh to ask that he be her protector. I really liked that she addressed it head on. She had no one else in her life that she could ask. But while he is drawn to protect her, he doesn’t think a rogue like him is right or deserving of her love.
My favorite scene was just right before the interval. The editing and directing in this flick were really a step above, even if it doesn’t have the production money of something like Srimanthudu. Shruti’s (Ileana’s) fallen in love with Mahesh, a rogue, and he’s trying to say don’t fall in love with me, I’m no good for you. Then they’re attacked by a gang. Mahesh is so intense, and torn. He tells her he loves her, but can she live with a criminal like him after seeing him like this?
That’s the thing. This movie is not just a great action gangster flick. There is a real conflict and threat to the love interest. The romance gets equal weight, and the dance sequences are fantastic. I really liked the music in this one. This is yet another reason I love Indian cinema. All that love he cannot express, the music lets you see what he’s feeling in his heart.
I think Mahesh really is what makes the romance work, too. He just looks tortured, but you can sense an innate goodness in him even while he’s acting like a gangster. He projects “heart of gold” better than just about anybody. He wants to leave her alone because he knows she shouldn’t be attracted to a gangster, but she really, really needs a protector. And I loved that she out and out asked for one! She didn’t just sit there and whimper, she took some action to protect her family.
Prakash Raj is the ultimate villain gang don in the film, but for once, though, I think the always fantastic Prakash Raj is upstaged by that creepy evil cop Ashish Vidyarthi. Nasser plays a key role in the denouement at the end. There’s a great twist to the end of the film. Pokiri was so successful that it was remade in several languages, including the Salman Khan Hindi film Wanted (which Margaret told me is not nearly as good as Pokiri). The comedy uncles are even almost funny with a running gag about a beggars union.
I highly recommend this all ’round Telugu entertainer. It’s going to be one I’ll love going back to rewatch. The director Puri Jagannadh really impressed me, and he also directed one of my favorite Prabhas flicks, Bujjigadu. He reteamed with Mahesh Babu for Businessman which is moving right on up on my watchlist. Four stars out of five.