Pournami

I’ve become quite fond of Prabhas. Not in a ‘he’s so hot‘ fangirly way. But he is likeable on screen and his presence in a film does seem to promise a commitment to entertainment.  Pournami is colourful, visually pleasing, sentimental and rather silly. Just what I have come to expect from Prabhas in fact!

The film opens in 1953 and centres on a family with a long affiliation to a local temple. Many years back there had been a drought that threatened the livelihood of all in the surrounds. One woman had the strength and stamina to dance for Lord Shiva and was rewarded with rain. From that date, her family repeated this ritual every 12 years and her female descendants were trained to dance.

So it was a bit of a surprise to me that it all came as a surprise to the girls in the 1953 family that the eldest daughter, Pournami, was going to have to perform the ritual in 10 years time. Surely it might have rated a mention during dance lessons? Continuing the journey through time, we emerge in the 60s or thereabouts. Pournami has gone missing before the ritual must be performed. Her sister Chandrakala always wanted to dance but was overlooked. Chandrakala is now played by Charmme and she is reasonably convincing in the dance sequences. She is a Cinderella type figure – persecuted by her horrible stepmother, teased by local bullies and overlooked by many.

But where is the drama? Hello evil landlord! I do not in any way approve of evil landlords intent on deflowering young ladies who should be saving their strength to dance for Shiva. However, Rahul Dev has an excellent palace, a resident orchestra and generally believes himself to be a god or at least the equal of one. It is all highly entertaining. Pournami did a runner to avoid being kidnapped by Rahul Dev and he is now intent on claiming her sister.

But where’s the hero? Hello Prabhas in eye-catching plaid pants and rock n roll rebel attitude. Adding to the fun, we learn he is an ‘English Dance’ teacher, Sivakesava. Hmm…is that a Significant Name? Sivakesava rents room with Charmme’s family and opens his dance school.

In between dance classes and dodging the local nymphomaniac, he encourages Charmme to dance, sometimes with quite amazing results. He seems to have mysterious powers over Chandrakala – little things like making her teeth glow in the dark and resisting her attack snake. But he uses his powers for good, and for fixing fuses, so we need not be alarmed on her behalf. I was amused by his gramophone – it’s just not rock n roll as I know it!

All the threads seem to be drawing together, but why? Who is Sivakesava and why is he intent on protecting the upcoming ritual? An extended flashback reveals that he met and fell in love with Pournami (played by Trisha) after she fled the village. She had joined a troupe of travelling performers, and her amazing dance talent, or perhaps her skimpy outfit, caught his eye. Pournami continues to practice her classical dance in her spare time. In a very pretty scene under the full moon, she gives ample evidence that the odds of pleasing Lord Shiva will be improved if she doesn’t dance for him.

It turns out that Sivakesava was from a family who had a blood feud with the other big family in the region. He was sworn to avenge his brother and then would no doubt be hunted down in turn. Pournami became a victim in this feud, sacrificing herself to save her husband on their wedding night. The wedding night scene may mean I never look at corn in quite the same way ever again. Yes, that was corn with a c.

His past life continues to pursue him, never giving him a clear path to his heart’s desire or letting him subside into anonymity.

Chandrakala is abducted by Rahul Dev and he shows why he needs that piano and keeps an orchestra on standby. There is nothing funny about kidnap and rape in reality, but when the villain is improvising a melody to the tempo of Charmme’s footsteps it is very entertaining and adds to the cartoonish effect, as does his balletic fighting style. Naturally Kesava comes to her rescue again, and his actions cement her feelings for him.

Thus the other crucial episode unfolds – Kesava feels compelled to tell Chandrakala about his past with Pournami and why people from his old life, particularly his fiancée Mallika (Sindhu Tolani with a terrible hairdo), are still pursuing him. Chandrakala takes up the challenge to dance at the festival, motivated by love of her sister, of her father and for Kesava.

The finale at the temple is visually stunning and yet daft in equal measures. Which really sums up the whole film so it is perfect.

Although Pournami’s name and presence infuse the film, Trisha is overshadowed by Charmme and Prabhas. This is mostly due to the structure of the film – her story is told in isolation from the present time drama and we aren’t so involved in her relationships with anyone other than Sivakesava. In a film about dancers, Prabhu Deva gave Trisha some beautiful picturisations but her dancing was not as strong as Charmme’s and that aspect didn’t convince me. She looked lovely and her acting was as convincing as the role allowed. When Pournami appears to take over during the final dance it is shown as a way for everyone, including her spirit, to find closure. Trisha uses her very expressive face to communicate her sorrow and joy at this final encounter with her loved ones.

Charmme irritated me in the first half of the film, but I think she was meant to be a troubled teenager who was a bit bratty so I suppose that was a win. Her portrayal of a growing love for Sivakesava was done well, and I could see her puzzlement and annoyance turning to appreciation of the man who supported and protected her. She was a little tougher than your average filmi heroine, and her demonstrated snake wrangling skills make her more than a match for the average thug. Although the hero had to step in and help her finish the ritual, his help would have been for nothing if she hadn’t had the fortitude to keep going and stay focussed. Finally, she saves Kesava’s life and through that act wins the right to his future as his past finally lets go. I felt a bit sad for Chandrakala at the end as once again she will be the understudy for her sister, only this time in life.

Despite the story being ostensibly about the girls, this is a Prabhas film. He is at the centre of all the action and subplots, and once he arrives in town he is on screen for most of the film. He is convincing as both the kick arse hero and the misty eyed lover, and seems to have fun in the retro dance sequences. His relationship with both the heroines was played well, and there is a marked difference in his interaction with each of them. It’s a typically fun Prabhas performance. And his costumes… They make a statement all on their own.

The supporting cast were fine, with Rahul Dev, Brahmaji and Mukesh Rushi the standouts. Sunil is sweetly funny as Pournami’s brotherly friend and Ajay is reliable as a local thug. The soundtrack by Devi Sri Prasad is enjoyable and suits the story. Of course the songs are a visual delight as I expect from a Prabhu Deva film. The sets, the costumes, the locations are all beautiful and add a fairytale quality.

The film has a happy ever after ending, with signs of the new generation ready to maintain this lovely tradition. With any luck they’ll have a new landlord before the next festival!

See Pournami if you like the stars, plaid pants, excellent set design, pretty song picturisations and a dollop of overacting. I give this 3 and ½ stars.

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16 thoughts on “Pournami

  1. Oh that is quite an interesting lair! It somehow reminds me of finger-painting – mad, bold splashes of color and big streaks (the curtains).

    I am already sad for this girl and I haven’t even seen the film! Didn’t the writer know that second-fiddle types ALWAYS become first fiddles by the end of the story?!?

    Reading this post reminded me that one thing I enjoy in fillums is that the term “English” often connotes (or even denotes) something sooooo very different than it does in my head. Isn’t it delightful to think of redcoats, bowler-wearing bankers, or tea-shop grannies dancing like that!

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    • Hello Beth. I thought the lair might appeal to you. And wait til you experience it complete with orchestral stylings and henchmen in pink outfits. I found it very funny that they spoke of English Dance when clearly he was supposed to be influenced by Elvis et al :) I swear I wasn’t JUST laughing at the plaid pants.

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      • regarding to the reference of “english dance”,in india,particularly among the masses,anything western is considered “english”(b’coz of colonialism).this is also supported by the fact that the film’s plot was set around 80’s,when rural people r less educated than that of now.i haven’t watched the movie yet,partly due to the failure of the movie at the boxoffice,but have to find some time to watch it.keep on posting ur reviews.

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      • Thanks :) I think your comment bears out what Beth said – that we all see these references from our own context and sometimes that can lead to an amusing difference in perception. The film is actually set in the 60s and Prabhas is supposed to be teaching dance to vintage American rock n roll which creates another picture for me (and probably Beth) as I’m very familiar with the music and fashion of that era so couldn’t help comparing. I pay very little attention to box-office when I’m picking films – there are so many factors that can influence a film’s success that have nothing to do with the quality of the film.

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  2. I’ve had Pournami sitting on my shelf for a while now. After I bought it, I heard it was quite violent, so put off seeing it. Can you please give me an idea of its violence quotient, in comparison to say, Pokiri? I’m sorry, but I didn’t read your review, for fear of spoilers, so I apologize if I’m asking you something you’ve already covered in the review. Thanks for your help.

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    • Hi mm. Please don’t read that post – it is chock full of spoilers! The violence is not at all extreme in my opinion, particularly not if we use something like Pokiri as a comparison. The majority of fights are punch-ups and are designed to show the hero as Hero rather than splatter blood around and they are quite gore-free for the most part. Any guns used are single shot rifles or a revolver so it isn’t a case of having a hail of automatic weapon fire, and people being shredded by bullets. Most of the violence takes place at a distance from the camera, so it isn’t in your face. There is liberal blood shed in one scene, but it isn’t a result of violence as such. The balance of the film is tipped more towards the romance, comedy and suspense of what will happen next. If you do watch it, please let me know what you think! Temple

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      • Oh, thanks, Temple! You relieve my mind a good deal. What I really hate are impalings, graphic dismemberments, and yes, gore for the sake of — I don’t know what. I don’t mind gunshots since usually that just means a lot of noise and people falling over. I think now I can safely see this film, as I’ve read a lot of Prabhas drooling, and he’s the nephew of an actor I really like (I’ll even confess that my interest in Prabhas only started when I heard of his relationship).

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      • You’re talking about Krishnam Raju? I just looked at his filmography and I’ve only seen him in Billa (with Prabhas) which is a remake of a Tamil remake of Shah Rukh’s remake of Don. And it’s a fairly average film so I won’t judge solely by that. What films of Krishnam Raju would you recommend?

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      • Oh, dear. I don’t know what films of Krishnam Raju I could recommend, because I haven’t seen that many, as I’ve lived outside of India for most of my life; and then, most of his films were from the 60’s & 70’s, so I’m not sure they’d even be available on dvd, forget subtitles. I have a soft spot for him because I happened to be in India when his debut film released, and it also happened to be the first Telugu film I had seen in a number of years (due to having been abroad). So that created a sentimentality about it, but then, I thought he was quite good looking and acted really well, too. Off the top of my head, the one film of his I can recall and recommend is Bhakta Kannappa, but, as it’s a devotional film (based on the legends about the title character), I don’t know if it would have the same resonance for you. That said, it’s a film that will stand alone very well on its own, I think, even for someone without any idea about the background. Plus, it’s directed by Bapu, which in itself makes it interesting. Krshnam Raju also produced it himself, I believe, so it gives ample scope for him to display his acting talents. Once you get to the 1990’s and 2000’s, he’s pretty much playing the standard father roles, so it’s not much of a demonstration of his appeal. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Bhakta Kannappa listed in the online dvd stores, but I’m not sure if it has subtitles or not.

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      • OK, I just checked his filmography at IMDB, and, as I thought, I’m not familiar with most of those films. In the meantime I remembered another good film of his (though he plays a supporting part) — Jeevana Tarangalu. It’s based on a popular novel of the time by a very prolific writer. I have just started watching another film called “Manavoori Pandavulu”, which is considered a very “significant” film of its time. It is again directed by Bapu (who also directed its Hindi remake, “Hum Paanch”), and also stars a very young Chiranjeevi, if you need more inducement. :) From the filmography, you might want to try “Bangaru Talli”, which was the Telugu remake of Mother India (I haven’t seen this), where he plays the character that Sunil Dutt did in the Hindi version. I think I also recall reading good reviews or other acclaim for his acting in Tandra Paparayudu, which is a historical film (again I haven’t seen this myself). I hope those are enough for you to start your quest.

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      • Thanks so much mm :) I will add them to my never-ending list and keep an eye out for them. I understand what you mean by having a sentimental attachment to films because of when or where you first saw them. There are a couple of films I have an unreasonable love for, despite them being quite average, just because of those associations with a place or time. I’m not going to admit which ones!

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  3. Lovely review. This is still my favorite Prabhas film, and although I am a “he’s so hot fangirl”, I think I love it because of the female characters. I like that both Pournami and Chadrakala have a purpose and mission to fulfill, with inherent challenges and dangers. There aren’t a lot of Telugu films where the heroe’s big final act is to help the heroine complete her task. (Kesava’s backstory is almost incidental to the plot, although I did love the high drama of the whole “shirt-turning yellow business”.) I enjoyed all of the crazy Prabhu Deva touches in the first half (the animated scarf, the gleaming teeth, and I suspect the instrument fight), but I thought he did a good job with the crazy, melodramatic final scene, too.

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    • Thanks Liz. I really did enjoy this film, it is just so lovely to look at. I don’t think I found the female characters as strong as you did, but their story was given more prominence than the heroic back story, as you note, and that kept things very well balanced. And I LOVED the instrument fight, especially when the orchestra got involved and started piling on the drama! The final scene at the temple is brilliant – so over the top yet it was quite gripping at the same time. Temple

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