Chattaniki Kallu Levu

Chattaniki Kallu Levu poster

Chiranjeevi and Lakshmi star as siblings out for vengeance against the three men who killed their father and older sister and tortured the rest of the family. Durga (Lakshmi) grows up to be a police inspector, while Vijay (Chiru) takes a more DIY approach to justice. It’s not a ground-breaking story but I liked that director S.A. Chandrasekhar kept the focus on social justice and how different laws apply to different people.

Chattaniki Kallu Levu-gravesChattaniki Kallu Levu-oath

After making an entrance swearing vengeance by two graves, Chiranjeevi is quite low key for much of the film as he only has one job. Vijay is pretty much on task for the revenge all through the story, and even his romance with Rekha (Madhavi) ties into that main plot thread. He is extremely self confident and never seems to question whether his is the right path. He often undermines his sister’s career and that seems to be OK with his mother. Vijay has no discernable occupation other than being the hero so I was a bit impatient with his attitude to Durga, but they are both obsessed with getting their own idea of justice.

Chattaniki Kallu Levu-LakshmiChattaniki Kallu Levu-interior design

Lakshmi is Durga, a police inspector who demands that the legal system provide justice for her. She is an interesting character as she has a lot of the same traits as Vijay – the confidence, the belief that hers is the only righteous way, and putting her priority (the law) ahead of her sibling. Lakshmi mostly has to scowl and shout, occasionally breaking the routine with a bit of shock horror or a rare smile. It’s not a complex performance but I admired the strength of her character and liked that she didn’t resort to getting shrill or calling her brother for help. She took everyone on and believed she could win.

Chattaniki Kallu Levu-family

The long suffering Ma (Pandari Bai) is often caught between her bolshie children and just seems to want a quiet life after all the death and mayhem.

Chattaniki Kallu Levu-Vijay and DurgaChattaniki Kallu Levu-the kids room

Maybe she should have given them separate bedrooms. Or less seizure-inducing décor.

Chattaniki Kallu Levu-Rekha at workChattaniki Kallu Levu-Madhavi off duty

Madhavi is the nightclub dancer Rekha, and being an adventure without subtitles I think I missed the explanation about how she ended up at the cabaret. She lived with her father or maybe uncle, and seemed to have a clear delineation between work and home life.

She certainly didn’t tolerate anyone treating her as a whore and was quick to threaten any disrespect with a chappal. Madhavi and Chiru have nice rapport and I liked that Vijay seemed to accept Rekha without the need to tell her off about her situation or blame her for being a skanky item dancer. Durga doesn’t like Rekha and clearly thinks she is no better than she ought to be. The tension between the two women mostly originates in Durga’s judgemental nature. Rekha seems quite content with her lot, and is happy to abet Vijay as he realises the man who abducted and attacked her is the man with coke bottle glasses who helped kill his father.

Chattaniki Kallu Levu-the killers

There are a few surprises in the plot, mostly in Vijay’s elaborate execution set-ups. He recognises his intended victims by some very odd idiosyncrasies, and uses their weaknesses. I am not sure exactly why John (Hemasundar) the very short sighted guy had pigeons, a dog and – horror of horrors – a scrawny kitten let loose in his apartment before being sent into traffic minus his glasses. I suppose it made a change from generic biffo. Janardhan (Ceylon Manohar) had a revolting habit of flicking cigar ash into his glass and drinking it, so he deserved to die just for that. But Vijay got him so drunk he was easily dealt with. I also liked that his obliging corpse would shuffle around in the bathtub to make sure it was in shot as required. The third killer Javed (Kannada Prabhakar) was a serial rapist and murderous villain, so again no need to feel conflicted over his imminent demise. The thing I found most intriguing was the unresolved conflict between Vijay and Durga. She was unapologetic and disapproving to the end, with no sign of the usual capitulation to the man of the family.

Vijay and Durga get almost equal screen time, but he gets most of the songs. Not saying that is a good thing, but I do like a bit of sequinned revenge disco, especially with disguises. Even with the, er, décor at this classy (?!) establishment.

The title song is set over a montage of contrasts between the rich and poor. And a cat and (dead) rodent. I’m used to seeing lots of chickens or rabbits in Telugu films but this one is more cat centric.

Now can anyone tell me, was 1981 a big year for the zipper in Indian fashion? Madhavi is abducted by one of the baddies and he gleefully has at her multi-zippered playsuit. Chiru sports a very peculiar onesie with feature zippers that is not exactly flattering to the stockier gentleman.

And he wears many very disappointing beige outfits, often with extensive sweat marks that seem to indicate a bit too much synthetic fibre.

The fight scenes are numerous and very energetic. There is a vague martial arts flavour to some of the fight choreography and no prop survived unscathed.

The film also uses a lot of stills montages – particularly for the final courtroom scene. I guess they ran out of Chiru hours and just decided to wing it. It works well enough, and I did find the lawyers posturing highly amusing.

Probably a film for the Chiranjeevi completists, I still found a few things that were unusual or interesting enough that I’ve been thinking about the movie for a while. So many Telugu films locate justice outside of the legal system but the sibling dynamic was an interesting lens through which to view the different perspectives. Chiru, Lakshmi and Madhavi are accomplished and deliver strong characterisations and a range of emotions. It’s not a masterpiece but it’s a good example of Chiranjeevi’s vigilante style hero that became such a trademark. 3 ½ stars!

Chattaniki Kallu Levu-Chiru

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5 thoughts on “Chattaniki Kallu Levu

  1. Better then the Hindi remake (Andha Kanoon) IMHO … and actually the Tamil version was with Vijaykanth, so it was cringeworthy : )

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  2. This movie does have a pretty interesting remake history. As the previous comment mentioned, the original was in Tamil with Vijaykanth. There’s this version in Telugu with Chiru. The Hindi verion starred Rajinikanth and Hema Malini with a guest appearance by Amitabh Bachchan. And there was a Malayalam remake where Kamal had a guest appearance.

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    • Hi Barati (and AKM) – I vaguely recall seeing Andha Kanoon just for Rajinikanth but have little recollection of the film. I think they missed the point of Rajni in most of his Hindi films so I generally find them a bit disappointing. I liked Geraftaar but Hum, Gair Kanooni and a few others seemed to miscast him or not let him show his ability. Anyway. As a Chiru fan I was pretty happy with this film. It is interesting that it was remade so widely but I don’t think it was a compelling enough story that I would seek out all the other versions. I wonder what the appeal was that made it so bankable. A strong role for a hero and actress so producers could get top talent signed up? The social injustices theme popular with audiences of the time? Disco revenge disguises? Thanks for your comment. Cheers, Temple

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      • I saw the Tamil version years ago and didn’t really get the appeal though I did appreciate that it had a strong female character. And the crazy disco disguises were just a bonus. ;)

        I’m certainly not an expert but I read this article that delves into Indian (and far more specifically Tamil Nadu) politics during the 80s and why these types of films were so popular at the time. It went into a lot of detail but sort of boiled down to the fact that people were generally unhappy. There was very high unemployment and the government was seen as essentially failing in providing anything (basic necessities, law and order, etc). I suppose this genre of films spoke to the peoples’ grievances at the time and let the hero ‘fix’ things – at least on screen- in a way that the normal person would never actually be able to do.

        (If you’re interested, here is the link to that article-http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/jc52.2010/Tamil/index.html)

        The director, S.A Chandrasekhar, had a string of this type of ‘angry young man takes the law into his own hands’ movies in the 80s that were quite popular at that time. These days, I suppose he’s probably less known for his films and better known as (actor) Vijay’s father.

        In any event, thanks for letting me ramble on. I really enjoy reading your reviews! :)

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      • Hi Barati :) You’re very welcome to ramble on. I know I do! The Angry Young Man thing seemed to spark at slightly different times across the Indian film making centres. I think the South Indian films were a little more dismissive of the legal system so maybe that reflects local experience. Crazy disco disguises are always a good thing ;)

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