Thursday, November 24, 2011

Because Nobody Rocks Cinema Like Telugu Heroes! - My Favourites

There are a lot of Telugu Film actors I really, really like and respect for their acting skills but there are only a few who make me scream with joy when they appear on screen and who turn me into a silly fangirl who starts to squeek at the mere sight of them. They are also the only ones who make me travel almost through the whole country to see their newest flick.

Having started watching Telugu cinema only less than a year ago, I actually still haven´t seen movies older than ten years (What can you say, I am rather wary of older movies*) so I think it´s your usual suspects: 

(*Feel free to come up with recommendations, I am more than willing to be convinced otherwise.)

1. Ram Charan Tej
"Cherry Darling"

Why? Because I loooooved Magadheera and he ROCKED that thing. He totally blew me away with his presence, his charisma, his smile, his eyes, his amazing dancing skills... You see where this is going. Although now some 30 Telugu movies older and having much more to compare his (only!) three films with, Cherry Darling is still my number one.
It is his movie that I am waiting for eagerly and am excited about like a child on christmas eve more than any other one. (Including checking the internet every other day for some news on that topic). When will it come out? What is it about? Who is the heroine?! I am so excited.
Because I just love his way and his shy manners and that he comes across like a nice, quiet and well mannered person who despite being one of the most famous stars in the Telugu film industry and being CHIRANJEEVI´S SON (poor thing), he seems to be quite down to earth.
Because it breaks my heart everytime I hear or see someone asking him if his next movie will be the second Magadheera and how it is to be Chiranjeevi´s son. Everyone has his own opinion on star children but I rather pity them, especially when they have chosen the same profession like their famous parents. Of course it is much easier in some ways but it is also SO much harder. I don´t think I would like to being constantly compared to my Mom or my Dad.
And it´s not only his father´s legacy Cherry Darling has to be concerned about. Having his second movie become such a HUGE success that early in his career is a great thing, of course, but it has also put him in a rather uncomfortable position. How can he overcome that shadow? The answer is he can´t, unless his next movie will be an even bigger hit which is almost impossible. And if it´s not a hit? Then it´s even worse. We have seen that on "Orange", his movie after Magadheera. Objectively speaking Orange wasn´t that bad a flop but because everybody has been comparing it to the movie before, it seemed like a disaster.
See, I have a soft heart for strugglers. Because even if Cherry comes from like the most prestigious family possible, he too has to fight for his right to be there.

2. Prabhas Raju Uppalapati
"Young Rebel Star" aka "Darling" aka "My Personal Hero"

It almost hurts to make Prabhas my number two but since I´m a loyal person I stick to Cherry. Nevertheless is Prabhas currently my Sweetheart, my Cutiepie, my Mr. Uberschnuffel himself. I am ridiculously in love with him. Since seeing him in Chatrapathi and having praised his performance here, I think that Prabhas is the quintessential Telugu hero. Or even better, he is actually the quintessential HERO because it really doesn´t matter which industry it is, he would be awesome and rock this thing nevertheless. I already defined My Love For Prabhas (Oh yeah, it´s a thing!) here, so I will just leave it here by saying that he is in my eyes a rockstar and I love him to bits.

3. Allu Arjun
"Bunny" or "Stylish Star" or my own nickname for him: "Honey Bunny"

What can I say about Allu Arjun that hasn´t already been said? I could discuss his AMAZING dancing skills, his sexy looks and his more than welcome willingness to show off his body or just his fun, energetic persona but I think I will go with that I like Allu Arjun for being the most experimental-friendly star of the Telugu-heroes. Only from him a movie like Arya 2 would have been possible. Or Vedam, which I still haven´t seen because it is just not available on DVD (Literally nowhere! It´s like my own personal hell! *moping angrily*) but I have heard only the best things about. I think that Bunny is the most thoughtful when it comes to the choice of his movies and by doing only one of them at the same time he is someone who gives everything into his work. (Having seen some of the dancing rehearsals of Arya 2 I can officially say that Allu Arjun is really hard-working!) I really enjoy him on screen, even if it´s only because of the dancing. But, man, this guy can DANCE!

4. Siddharth

Despite his films being rather repetitive, they are always enjoyable because Siddhu just oozes with charisma and charme. He is one of those guys you can never be angry with, at least not for long, because he will always find a way to make you smile. Interestingly, Siddhu isn´t one of the heroes I dream about having as a boyfriend. Which is weird, because as much as I am ashamed of that (but actually I am not! HA!), my liking of a particular actor is always at least in some part based on the fact that I find him attractive. Whereas my heart skips a beat when I see Cherry smile or hear Prabhas´ irresistible voice, Siddhu is someone I would love to have as a friend but whom I never dreamed of holding hands with. Of course, objectively spoken, I see that Siddhu has many qualities that make him quite the hottie but he is not someone I would go crazy about. Still I have seen almost all of his movies. Why is that? (I am asking myself). I think despite being rather not the typical southie-hero, with the fighting, the macho and the gore and blood, Siddhu has made quite the niche for himself. He stands out because he does not fight for the heroine with fists and feet, but because he is like you and me and tries to reach his goal through thought and determination, instead of just storming with his head though the wall.*

*(Which is something I can so see some Telugu-Hero do literally that! Why hasn´t that been in some movie yet? It would be so much fun!)

5. Prakash Raj
"Praju" (for me, at least)

Prakash-Dad or Prakash-Bad (Thank you, Dustdevil) he is always (ALWAAYYS!) awesome. He belongs to the Telugu movie like the Hero-Introduction-Scene. I am just disappointed if he´s not there.
Because he can be anything: Dramatic, OTT, subdued, funny, romantic, evil, cruel, it doesn´t matter because he is always so much fun to watch. If you don´t like Praju, you don´t like Telugu movies at all.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Straight Hair Does To Me - Munna (Telugu, 2007)

I think it highlights the love I have for this movie by saying that I made no less than 291 screenshots while watching it. Not even so much because it is that pretty or because the camera work is so well done that every second shot is like a beautiful painting, no, it´s for the simple fact that I love Prabhas´ hair in this movie. I know, Prabhas´ hair style in Munna has already started endless dicussions and arguments on whether the person who came up with this hairstyle should be revered as the world´s most brilliant genius or should be banned from ever watching Telugu movies again. Well, I am definitely Team Straight-Hair. I really don´t know what it is but Prabhas´ hairstyle makes me want to do bad things with him...

Oh My...
Okay, enough of that. After all, besides the hair situation, what we have here is a really good movie. For once, it has one of the most coherent plots I have ever seen in a Telugu movie. The story is well-paced, well explained, the characters all behave in very logic ways and consistent to their personalities, there are no unnecessary subplots that do nothing else than distract, the comedy subplot is reduced to a minimum, it´s really highly entertaining in a way where you don´t have to turn your brain off to enjoy it.

The story starts with a boy who is clearly running away from something and who is pretty much disturbed. His name is Munna and he grows up like 6 inches where he is once again introduced to us as Young Rebel Star, Prabhas. Prabhas plays Munna who is your average college student, just taller and better looking than everyone else and who has a friend, Tillu, who suffers from being not that tall and not that handsome. (If you ever had a friend in school who was prettier, cooler or just bettter in everything else than you, you know exactly how he feels). On his own, Tillu isn´t actually that bad a guy but since he and Munna are practically inseperable, Tillu has a hard time to score with the ladies. Munna, being the nice, selfless and considerate friend that he is, tries to help but every girl seems to prefer Munna over Tillu. Which I can totally understand, given the hair, the eyes, the hands(!) but I couldn´t help but feel sorry for Tillu. 

Poor Guy...
He doesn´t stand a chance.
This is where Ileana enters the picture, being the next girl Tillu tries to impress but - alas - she too falls for Munna who after all, who are we kidding here, is the hero and therefore irresistible. Tillu should accept that finally and move on with his life. Munna plays coy first, giving space for some awesome scenes where Ileana gets to be all flirty and seductive in an innocent, playful kind of way. I really liked the picturization of their relationship, where for once it was not the guy who was all persuasive and decisive but the girl. She knew what she wanted and she didn´t shy away from getting it but without being either the seductive, vampy type or the rather shrieky I-Will-Get-You-No-Matter-What kind of heroine.

Ileana is really cute and has some hilarious expressions in stock...
But mostly she´s just pretty.
Although she does have to wear a japanese school uniform once.
Of course, every heroine has to have a bad guy following her and being all jealous and possessive without her having ever committed to any kind of relationship. This guy who wears clothes like he´s been straight out of a 90ies bad musical show happens to be the son of Kakha, played by Prakash Raj, the local Bad Guy who not only has a habit of casually murdering people but who also doesn´t care for the environment because he has a pharmaceutical factory that pollutes the water in the area causing people to have some serious disabilities. Kakha has two serious opponents in his quest of destroying the planet: Srinivasa Rao (Kota Srinivasa Rao), a for once honest politician who tries to get Kakha´s factory closed and Atma (played by Rahul Dev who is no other than Bheema from Asoka!), who wants to take over Kakha´s Don status.

Kakha. Of whom I could make a very infantile poo-joke now but won´t. We want to keep it classy.
Kakha´s son and his clothes. He also seems to be rather unhappy about them because most of the time he runs around with a face like this:
Don´t worry, nameless-actor-of-whom-I´m-too-lazy-right-now-to-look-up-the-name! You´re not the first and last victim of a Costume Designer Gone Crazy! It happens to the best of us.
Bheema Aka Atma. Imagine that spoken with a really deep baritone voice, like "AAtmAAaaa". It´s really cool.
Srinivasa Rao
Alas I must admit that although I saw the movie just a week ago, I don´t know know anymore why exactly Munna starts to work against Kakha. Well, but he does. He becomes something like Ajay Devgan in Yuva, sort of like a student leader and unites the helpless locals and his fellow students against Kakha in order to bring him down. But don´t worry, this is not a boring and dull politics movie! Munna has some personal interest in his desire to bring Kakha down and - I promise - it´s really particularly heartbreaking to see why and how Munna´s and Kakha´s lifes are connected.

The great part about Munna is that the story is so well scripted. Except of the fights everything seems more or less realistic, like this could actually happen in The Real Life and not in some OTT-Fairy-Filmi-World of SI-Superheroes. I will not give the rest of the story away, in case someone hasn´t seen the movie yet but be prepared for some really shocking plot twists and revelations!

A huge part of this overall goodness goes to the actors who deliver pretty well. Prabhas, for some strange reason, is always believable as the strong man who stands up for the poor and helpless masses, so he does his usual thing besides walking a lot and talking through the phone. (That was a general thing with all the characters! They were constantly on the phone talking! I started to ask myself if the film was produced by some phone company or something). Prabhas often gets scolded for his dialogue delivery but I think that he was really good as Munna and his dialogues were, at least for me, totally compelling. Fighting and action is something Prabhas was born for anyway, so he delivers perfectly in this department as well.

Praju talking on the phone....
Prabhas talking on the phone...
Talking to eachother.... on the phone...
 Prabhas being so frustrated about talking on the phone the whole time that he strted to hurt himself.
Prakash Raj has a little more to do here and can show off his acting talent. I liked that Kakha was not your typical SI-Villain who are mostly one dimensional and evil just for the sake of being evil, but that he was given a backstory that showed some of his motivations to... well, being evil. The backstory does nothing to redeem him but it shows him in a more human light which I really appreciated.

Ileana is pretty and has good chemistry with Prabhas, I always like couples who look so completely different physically, Prabhas being this hunky, hairy, lanky type and she so tiny and cute like a doll. I liked it with Abhishek and Rani and I like it here, too. Otherwise she has not much to do but being in a few scenes shortly before the songs and playing bait once when Kakha kidnaps her.

Shooo shweet.
The supporting actors - who there are a plenty - are good, too, with Rahul Dev leading the way. Srinivasa Rao is not in a lot of scenes, so there´s not much to speak about and - Thank God! - there is  only one comedian, Venu Madhav, also because the comedy comes mostly from the lead actors themselves. One of the funniest scenes is when Venu (can I call him Venu? It seems so inappriorate for some strange reason) tells Kakha´s son what would happen if he´d marry Ileana for real. What follows is a little seduction scene played by Prabhas and Ileana in best OTT-Soap-Opera-Style imagined by him. 

The action department did their best in the fighting sequences, especially the fight in the basketball field. Complete with heavy rain! (Because we all know: Wet Prabhas=movie selling like 1000 times more. No, just kidding). That was AWESOME. Prabhas, being the amazing fighter that he is, makes even the most ridiculous and unrealistic stunt sequences believable. And he´s just SO COOL! Sorry.

Ohhh...You better don´t mess around with me...
Because when I get angry... might end as a basketball.
And don´t tell me I didn´t warn you.
That´s actually from another scene but it just shows how cool Prabhas is in the movie.
Of the songs only three are notable exceptions: "Chammakkuro", which has Shriya starring as an Item Girl and Prabhas channeling his inner Clark Gable, "Koncham Koncha" with Prabhas and Ileana in a rajasthani inspired number and "Vastaava Vastaava" that is just delightfully silly and OTT.

 My favourite: "Chammakkuro". 
Prabhas as Clark Gable is MIGHTY YUMMY. I can´t even think straight when I see him in the song.

(The only bad thing about this song is that it always makes me wish that Shriya would be the heroine of Munna and that I start imagining a sideplot where Shriya falls in love with Munna and they become a couple and run away everytime I see this song. Because although having seen only one movie with them together I do think that Prabhas and Shriya have amazing chemistry and that it outdoes Prabhas´ chemistry with Ileana like a 1000 times. Oh how I wish they would make a movie again!)

Something I´ve also noticed about the movie was the cinematography and the way it depicted Hyderabad. Instead of making the viewer feel like he´s watching a video made by the tourism department of Hyderabad, the cinematography shows the city as something in the background, something that is still there but that rather serves the ongoing action in the movie than pushing itself into the limelight.

I really like Munna. I think it´s one of Prabhas´ best movies because it has a really well scripted, elaborated story and is compelling to watch even if you already know the twists. Moreover it has good acting and the action is great. My opinion about Prabhas might be blurred by my fangirly love of his hairstyle but I do think that even objectively speaking it´s one of his better performances. I also like the overall atmosphere of the film. It´s more gritty and dark with only a few light moments at the beginning and in the songs which sets it apart from most of the other telugu movies I have seen so far. So... would I recommend it? Anytime.

P.S. Prabhas´-Hands-Appreciation-Time! Because you know that you just love them! They also had a lot to do in the movie:

Ruffling his hair...
Mixing drinks...
Showing Praju that he can Talk To The Hand....
Holding the heroine...
Being so amazed by his own hands that he had to pause for a minute... or maybe he was just high...
Making a fist...
And because what better use than with the difficult task of counting!
Awww... don´t you love them just like I do?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Because Bunny In Leather Straps And Nothing Else Is Always A Good Idea - Badrinath (Telugu, 2011)

"It´s Badrinath everywhere, whether I open or close my eyes/
It´s Badrinath at dawn and when I wake up/
Badrinath fills my dreams and my thoughts/
It´s Badrinath in me/ It´s Badrinath with me/
Long live Badrinath!" 

After what seemed like years of waiting, I finally got the Badrinath DVD. I have one question: Can someone please tell me when it´s mere liking and when it turns to completely addicted obsession? Is it when you have seen the movie thrice within two days? (Not counting the innummerous times when you´ve watched only your favourite scenes). Or that the soundtrack is playing endlessly on your labtop and that you already know the lyrics by heart? (I have also managed to break several of my bones by trying some of Bunny´s normal-human-body-defying dance moves. But it was worth it!) Or that you´ve literally screencapped almost every shot of the movie? Naah, I don´t think I´m obsessed...

It´s not my fault, anyway, because Badrinath is extremely entertaining. If you have great songs which are beautifully choreographed, beautiful locations, beautiful people, beautiful action scenes, Prakash Raj literally floating, a comedy subplot that is so annoying that I fastforwarded almost all of it (as much as I love the silly comedy subplots which are almost always completely unneccessary in Telugu movies, here it was just beyond irritating), close-up shots of the villain-ki-ma´s Evil Eyes, a really messed up story and Allu Arjun going Conan on you (which I loved, after all I wasn´t one of the few people who were shedding oceans of tears when Khal Drogo died in Game Of Thrones for nothing), you know you have made something right.

If you believe it or not, that´s mostly it. The movie´s story is really nothing someone can brag about because it´s just awesomely screwed up. It literally comes down to your usual "Praju-The-Evil-Dad-Not-Wanting-Hero/Heroine-To-Marry-His/Her-Lover-Cause-Of-Abandonment-Issues" but it gets completely wasted because the conflict... is not a conflict. It simply doesn´t exist because Allu Arjun aka Badri aka The-Superhot-Temple-Guardian/Conan doesn´t want to marry anyone. In none of the almost three hours of the movie I got the feeling that Badri is in love with Tamannah´s character, Alakananda. She was in love with him, for sure, after all she was literally throwing herself at him (which I find completely comprehensible, I mean, which girl with even only a little common sense in her wouldn´t?) but Badri? This guy had no feelings for her whatsoever. I put the blame on the script which gave Alakananda a lot of chances to display her inner hormones but gave no space to Badri to explore his potential inner conflict of love vs. duty. (But I blame Bunny, too, nevertheless, who could have at least thrown in some wistful glances or something). So, sadly, the movie that had enough potential for a really epic (possibly tragic) love story, contents itself with steamy songs and leaves everything else to the viewer´s imagination.
She certainly did try.
But the real love story here - like so often - is pure, unapologetical "Guy Love":
"Aaw... You just slaughtered some men in the most brutal way possible! I am so proud!"
That not being bad enough, the ending shows that the characters have learned completely NOTHING from their supposed conflict, because what is Praju asking of Tamannah in the last line of the film? That she gives him her first son with Badri so the entire story can be repeated again! And she agrees! Major WTF!? Obviously, NO ONE bothered to read the script.

But since when was the movie plot a Telugu Movie´s most prominent draw-in? After all, the real fun lies in the visuals and Badrinath is really a feast for the eyes. From the gergeous Badrinath Temple on the feet of the Himalaya to the magical waterfall which I believe has been put in the movie only to have an excuse to get Bunny and Tamannah wet at some point, Badrinath did not save money on the location budget and it definitely shows.

Another BIG plus point: the songs. I didn´t like them much on first hearing but they definitely have grown on me since because every one of them is above all a display for two things: Tamannah´s tummy and Allu Arjun´s now infamous dancing skills. Which is always awesome. One song even has Bunny breaking the fourth wall and asking the choreographer to give him some new moves. (I would suggest the one step of "Chinnadho" in Brindavanam which looked so incredibly difficult that even Tarak, who in my world comes right after Bunny when it comes to who is The-King-Of-The-Dance, couldn´t pull off convincingly just for the simple pleasure to see if Bunny COULD do it, but apparently nobody thought of asking me... *sniff*). I mean, HOW COOL IS THAT?

I can´t decide which of the songs is my favourite because they all are so awesomely choreographed and picturised, but when put against a wall, I would say it´s "Omkareswari" because it has a sublime opening, the sets are amazing (I especially love the costumes of the background dancers and the uberhuge drums) and the Badrinath Temple is just So. Beautiful. No, really, I fell in love with that temple. It is definitely on my list of Buildings-I-Have-To-Visit-Once-I-Go-To-India.

Besides, I always say that if you´ve never seen a Telugu Dance Number before with its huge and luxuriant sets, the numerous background dancers and THE DANCING you are missing out and "Omkareswari" is the perfect example for that.

Arjun and Tamannah have very good chemistry in the songs (which makes me even more sad that their love story is... well... non-existing) and for once Bunny looks like he´s actually enjoying dancing with the heroine. Coming from that Tamannah is a pretty good dancer, that´s no surprise but nice to see nevertheless.
They also look pretty good.
Another definite plus are the action scenes. I am no great expert at fight scenes, but they for sure look really good. I also don´t mind  some body pieces flying around, after seeing all of the historical series that came up in the recent years and being a great fan of horror movies, too, I am pretty hardened when it comes to blood and gore so that was okay with me. Arjun does deliver some great sword-fighting-stunts, the movie definitely lives from his fight abilities and Praju making some weird movements that always remind me of Obi Wan Kenobi manipulating the Imperial stormtroopers in Alderaan with the Force (OMG! I just made a Star Wars reference! Coool... *Going off, to celebrate it by swinging her lightsaber*) can never be wrong.

Some villains just never learn...
...that if  you wanna mess with Allu Arjun... better run fast.
(That´s exactly my face during this scene)...
...Once and for all: NO ONE messes with The Bunny.
Have I forgotten something? Oh right, the acting! Well, it´s no wonder I almost forgot that, since as with the story there is not much to talk about. Arjun delivers pretty well, his main tasks being fighting and dancing, so he´s actually really good. Tamannah started off really promising, as a girl with an own mind and her own opinions, I already started having true-grounded hopes for her character (the way she disgarded her... wait, WHO was that? Her... aunt? (Sigh, I somehow never really get very far through the relationships of characters in Telugu movies but Mom-Dad-Friends), so let´s just say: the way she disgarded the Villain´s Mother, was pretty cool but shortly after she got slapped by Badri and falling in love with him because of that (I hate you, Telugu Movie Device of slapping the heroine) she turned into your typical Southie-Heroine who has nothing else to do but to sit around in pretty clothes and imagining songs with Allu Arjun (not that that´s a bad thing) but a little more initiative on her side would have been appreciated. Praju is always great, I think that has not even to be mentioned, even as a mix of an Indian Guru and Santa Clause, Brahmi never annoyed me as much as here and the Villain...S (they are a family) are all adequately evil, malicious and pretty silly. Oh how I wish I could play an Evil Filmi Ma once! All the things I could do...

The Villain... and her son.
Her Crazy Eyes, which were so creepy that the director thought he has to put extra attention to them.
Allu Arjun looking weirdly like Will Smith.
Tamannah looking her usual beautiful self.
The Villain´s husband. Who was a pretty old romantic with his "I-Don´t-Interfer-In-Love-Affairs-But-Killing-For-Every-Other-Reason-Is-Okay"-Morals.
I think the combination of these three things, songs, fights and visuals make Badrinath a real treat. The film had a huge budget and used everything of it shamelessly, so no matter what silliness is displaying on the screen, it sure does look good. Allu Arjun is showing once again that he should make way more movies and that Tamannah should make other movies and that Geetha Arts has a way of making addictive movies. (It happened with Magadheera, too! Someone help me!) Anyway, Badrinath was not made to make you think, it was made to entertain and - Oh My Holy Bunny - it does!

P.S. In my never-ending obsession I found this video: Not only does it satisfy a lot of your occasional Bunny-Craving but at 7:03 min Bunny shows that he is a nice and considerate Bunny who does not mind being objectified over and over again because he knows exactly what his (female) fans want: 

My favourite moment is at 7:17 when he waves his head a little and then turns away. I always imagine him thinking: "Chest bare enough? OK, then we are ready to go!" :D 
But seriously, go and see the whole Making Of, it´s pretty interesting and shows the effort that was made into this movie. And there are other awesome little Bunny-moments, too, like for example displays of his hyena-like laugh and his actually very effeminate and high voice which makes me laugh so much everytime I hear it.

P.P.S. I always wondered why Tamannah´s face is hidden during her initial entrance scene in "Omkareswari". I thought its´pretty stupid to let her leave her glasses on and a scarf around her head because what point does an entrance scene have if you cannot see the heroine´s face? And then I figured it out: This is NOT Tamannah´s entrance scene! Her REAL entrance comes after the song "Nachavuraa" when she´s fallen in love with Badri and finally behaving like a PROPER heroine, that is giving up all her beliefs and dressing like a nice, indian girl. Be Gone, Miniskirts and tummyfree tops! I am Mrs. Badri now! I never have seen a more sexistic and regressive transition of a heroine before.