Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu (1983)

Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu VCD cover

I really should stop buying unsubtitled dollar VCDs just because of the cover. But not yet. It’s hard to reconcile the masala excesses of Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu with Khaidi and Sangharshana which were made in the same year. Chiranjeevi is truly a versatile hero! A Kodandarami Reddy directs with his usual ‘nothing succeeds like excess’ flair.

The silly story reminded me of why I have such a soft spot for Telugu films. Their commitment to delivering a comeuppance is reassuring and reliable, and something the real world sadly lacks.  The VCD quality is poor. It was like watching a movie from the back row in an antiquated cinema while sitting next to someone snacking on cellophane wrapped treats. Among many visual delights, the costume department did their utmost to make an impression with their new discovery – the ruffle.

The film opens with Kongara Jaggaiah holding a baby and running from a gang of horsemen. He leaves the infant near a priest, who manages to carry on praying oblivious to the running man and pursuing horses. With the usual filmi total lack of surprise at finding an unattended child, the kindly man raised the baby as his own son. There were two babies in the original shot and the fate of the other child is revealed in due course. The baddies catch up with their prey and he is trampled severely by the horses and left for dead.

Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu_Siva and the kidsSivudu Sivudu Sivudu_Chiru and monkey

The baby grows up to be Siva (Chiranjeevi). He is a simpleton, spending his days herding sheep, hanging out with his monkey and the village kids. Siva wears very snug fitting clothes – perhaps to show he is an overgrown child or perhaps a precursor to Chiru’s lycra era. He is easily bossed around and has little motivation to grow up or be more independent. Chiranjeevi and the monkey seem to get along well. I think Chiru permanently had a handful of snacks for his tiny co-star and the monkey noshes away happily in most of their scenes.

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Gauri (Radhika) seems to be the only other person of Siva’s age so they are clearly meant to be together. Gauri is bubbly, smart, opinionated and protective. She makes her feelings clear but Siva is a bit slow on the uptake. He eventually declares his intentions and Gauri thinks her life is set.

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The king (Gollapudi Maruthi Rao) lives in luxury and adheres to traditional excess and appalling interior design. His manager, Rao Gopal Rao, is a nasty piece of work. He and his dodgy son extort money from the peasant workers. Gauri opposes him and tries to rally the people in an uprising. They eventually kill her along with half the village, and kidnap the survivors to work as slaves. The detention facility is one of those totally secret in plain sight kind of places and I doubt the design was all that functional. Anyway.

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When Siva sees the corpses and carnage he is traumatised. He goes to the king to appeal for justice. There he sees Malli (Radhika in a dual role), the king’s class conscious spoilt brat daughter.

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Mistaking her for Gauri, Siva allows Malli to bully and torment him before he realises that this stony hearted witch is not his lost love. It doesn’t happen on screen but I think she killed his monkey. How could you think it’s OK to kill a tiny monkey in a pink dress? Siva retaliates clumsily, and is on his way to the open air jail when he manages to fall hundreds of feet to a safe landing on some rocks.

He finds his way to a guru (Kongara Jaggaiah again) and his shrine to Shiva (with affiliated vengeful dude training facility). In a Sholay-ish touch, the guru’s arms dangle uselessly by his side and he is wrapped in a shawl to hide his crippled limbs. There is a flashback explaining his relationship with the overseer and what happened back in the day. He preaches the power of concentration, meditation and preparation as a means to overcome a foe. Presumably he is also of the school of ‘one swift kick’.

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After a training montage which includes a snippet of learning to dance, Siva graduates to wearing fringed pleather and heads off to seek revenge.

Once again I found myself appreciating how Chiru totally commits to his performances. He may be wearing fluoro bike shorts and not much else but he dances with energy and forcefulness as he prepares to go epic.

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While out on a hunting trip, Malli is left to fend for herself when a tiger menaces the group. Chiru to the rescue! Calling himself Vijay, he joins Malli’s staff as a bodyguard (after a death match competency test) and the ruffled shirt department go into overdrive.

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Is it any surprise that Malli finds him alluring and irresistible? Radhika and Chiranjeevi do have nice chemistry although this in no way approaches their performances in Aaradhana a few years later.

I like the faux flamenco prancing in that song although Chakravarty’s music and the choreography are uninspired. The bouffy mullet is not Chiru’s best hairstyle but it does set off the matching headbands nicely. And yes, dear reader, he is in stylish mega-boots.

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The overseer and his son favour shiny shirts, and Malli likes a frill or ten so there is something for everyone.

Siva/Vijay tells Malli’s servant that her husband is alive but to keep up the appearance of widowhood until the plan comes to fruition. The servant is also Malli’s real mother, something that eventually comes as a shock to the girl obsessed with her pure blueblood heritage.  Siva shows her paintings he made of his lost love Gauri, and his monkey, and Malli seems to understand his torment and apologises. I think. (Which is nice seeing as she is partly responsible for his loss.) While I am sure Siva and Malli are not siblings, I am not sure if Siva was the rightful heir to anything or was just a lost boy.

Love blooms, revenge ferments and eventually there is a showdown at the secret jail. And there the film really surprised me. I…words fail me.

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There might be some folkloric element to the basic story but I am not sure what inspired these guys.

But good will triumph and evil will be overthrown.

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And yet again, a surprise as Chiru ripped the intestines out of one villainous henchman using only his bare hands and the righteous power of Shiva. Ah filmi justice – extreme yet reassuringly final. And if you have faith, or maybe unshakable self-confidence, everything will come right in the end. Even if your arms are painted on.

This is far from being a good film but it was mightily entertaining. 2 ½ stars for quality, 4 for astonishing outfits!

 

 

Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu_those costumes again

Muta Mestri

Muta Mestri is a masala film with a message, featuring Chiru with director A Kodandarami Reddy, and dialogues by the Paruchuri brothers. Overall the blend of ideas and drama and action is balanced. The action is full throttle, the dancing energetic, the ladies outfits are frequently hideous and the message is generally one I can get on board with. What works, works well but there are some heavy handed moments and a few assumptions around values that left me cold.

Chiranjeevi is the very patriotic Subhash Chandra Bose, the ‘Labour Contractor’ at a local market. He gets an excellent introduction when Sukkamma bets Brahmi a nudie run that the porters can’t unload waiting trucks in less than 10 minutes.

Whenever Bose arrives by bike, he just lets the bike careen off into the distance. It oozes confidence and a dash of silliness which is perfect for this role. Oh and she loses the bet.

The market is a harmonious community of men, women, Hindus and Muslims all working together. There are some statements to the effect of unity equalling strength.

Allu Ramalingaiah plays a teacher who educates the children about Independence, Gandhian principles and the like and regulars Brahmi and Ali lurk in the support cast too. It’s the India that should be, according to the vision of this film. Kasim is one of the more prominent support characters and he and his son are well liked. They celebrate their Hindu friends’ festivals and the Hindus respect and understand Muslim religious practice. Indeed, knowledge of prayer times sparks a crucial plot development towards the end of the film. Diversity is shown as beneficial, not just something to be tolerated.

Atma (Sharat Saxena) is the villain of the piece. He is more of an ascetic style of villain, believing he has a relationship with god that allows him room to negotiate indulgence for bad deeds. He wants to use the land the market is on for a new development. The market folks turn to Bose for help and he stages a non-violent protest outside Atma’s house.

Bose allies with MLA Sundaraiah and the CM (Gummadi) and eventually moves into politics – a position that Atma wanted for his son Dilip. Dilip is the kind of baddie who pulls up outside a school and plays loud crappy music to drown out the pure sweet sound of innocent school children singing the national anthem. And adding insult to injury, he then dances badly in the street. Obviously Bose wil deal with him severely.

Bose brings a direct and action oriented approach to politics. There is a great sequence of Bose being wheeled from one photo op to another with the emphasis on being seen to feed orphans or plant trees rather than actually doing it. Bose reprimands his advisors and starts making his own decisions based on what he sees as right. He upsets the applecart and the CM loves him for it, as do the people. This is a major theme in the story and there are recurring examples. The film also makes a point about the quality of people in politics, and the shift from people who wanted to change the world to those who just want to profit from it. People have a responsibility to try and fix things, not just leave them for someone else to clean up. For all the idealism Bose spouts, it’s a deeply cynical film.

Atma realises that the only way to hurt Bose is to attack his loved ones and discredit him. Bose realises that he can’t sort out Atma while he is part of the government. It is a similar idea to the cop/vigilante issue raised in other films. Justice is located outside of the legal system and good men can do illegal things as long as they are doing them for the ‘right’ reasons.

The action scenes are energetic and impressive, and Chiru is in excellent form. The fights are fast and athletic, and suit his character’s style. Actually, Bose has multiple fight styles and uses them to entertain people watching him belting the daylights out of the baddies. I liked Bose’s interactions with the other guys at the market and Chiru has a gleam in his eye when he gets into the rousing speeches. His dancing is excellent, and especially when he has the opportunity to go for it.  A lot of the comedy is Bose bumbling his way through the intricacies of political life, and the hassles of being a chick magnet so it isn’t too intrusive even if it is very silly. Chiranjeevi looks great in simple working attire, although he does veer into acid wash denim territory which is less pleasing. The song costumes are an outlet for the frustrated wardrobe team. I keep saying this, but Chiranjeevi is such an accomplished actor. He finds opportunities to give his character more depth and complexity than a mass film may require, making the overall result more engaging and credible.

There are some things I took issue with. Bose’s sister Jhansi gets home late from college and because he sees the neighbours watching, Bose slaps her. There is a tearful repentance that follows, and the upshot is that avoiding reputational damage is the responsibility of women. That scene will come back to haunt Bose in a major way but it left a bad taste in my mouth, especially when Jhansi basically apologised for making him feel the need to hit her. Grrrr. At the same time, Bujamma (Meena) is very forward in chasing Bose and there is no penalty for that. So his sister has to be perfect and virginal but he will marry who he chooses and think no less of her for trying to get her hands on him before the wedding. Sigh.

All of the females in the film are given short shrift. Bujamma is, as Bose repeatedly tells her, loud, crass and stinks of fried food from her snack stall. She keeps trying to transform herself to be more like what he wants but cannot change her nature. Some of it is quite funny, as in a challenge to stay silent for 24 hours, but some of the dialogues are just plain mean. Meena is pretty and lively enough as Bujamma although her performance is a bit grating. Kalpana (Roja) is Bose’s secretary, and as Bujamma sees her the main rival for Bose. Roja doesn’t get much to do apart from stand around and look decorative although she is afflicted with ‘comedy’. Brahmi decides to help Bujamma keep Bose and Kalpana apart by telling Kalpana that after six…she’d better watch out.

Despite that excellent piece of advice, it’s a stupid and unnecessary diversion as Kalpana keeps fantasising about Bose’s possible sexual advances and fainting all over the place.  Although it did lead to this song:

She seems to think that was a nightmare. Ahem. (Note – if you want the film on DVD, the Moser Baer DVD doesn’t include that song but the EVP one does.) Koti’s music is not particularly memorable but the picturisations and costumes made an impression. If that isn’t enough costume WTFery for you, please be my guest:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite an escape plan that uses a detailed model, Bose catches up and Atma and Dilip are dealt with in excellent and elaborate style.

If ‘cross-country arse-kicking’ was an Olympic event, Bose would have taken gold (and possibly also silver and bronze). Justice is done, at least for some.

It’s an entertaining enough film, but not quite enough to make me want to watch it too often. There is some substance lurking under the cheese, but I have issues with the treatment of Jhansi in a film that was otherwise very positive about equality and community. See it for Chiru’s dancing, the outfits and the come-uppances. 3 ½ stars.

Kondaveeti Donga

One of the indicators of an excellent masala film is when I could pick holes in it but just don’t want to. Kondaveeti Donga sees Chiranjeevi teaming up again with director A Kodandarami Reddy in a story by Yandamoori Veerendranath and the result is glorious. It’s so good I want to share every little detail and yet give nothing away so you can enjoy it as it happens. The first 15 minutes is pure breathless insanity and then the film really takes off.

Raja (Chiranjeevi) is a graduate returning to his village home. That might explain why the subtitles say ‘coz. He’s so modern and citified. Raja is an orphan, adopted by village strongman Satyanarayana Kaikala. The local people funded his education, and he is back to repay them by working to make their lives better. He finds a mysterious tiger reservation has annexed the prime farming land, and the villagers are all in debt to bigwig Rao Gopal Rao and his creepy son Narasimham (Mohan Babu). Raja tries to fight for their rights in the courts but fails. He so disappoints the villagers that one of them drops dead in the court room, adding to the guilt trip. Raja decides he must deliver justice since the law won’t, even though the illiterate villagers were clearly swindled. Inspired by an old story his adoptive father used to tell, Raja becomes the Kondaveeti Donga!

Raja declaims some cracking dialogues and bowls the ladies and bad guys over at every turn. It is a brilliant role for Chiru as it needs his swagger and charisma to make the larger than life Kondaveeti Donga come to life and he makes the most of the less action driven scenes. He wears a nice sheer face mask which fails to disguise him at all, charging around the countryside on his white horse and accompanied by his trusty dog.

There are excellent fight scenes, one including tree dwelling ninjas, tigermen and a man with very long metal arms, and a great sequence on a speeding train.

There is romance, dancing and eccentric wardrobe as the ladies live out their fantasies in songs with the obliging Raja. He is a decent bloke who genuinely cares about his adoptive family and friends. Even as he surrendered to the police, he took time to give his dog and horse a little goodbye cuddle. Awwwww.  And they deserve a hug.

The dog is particularly useful as he not only disguises himself as the Kondaveeti Donga on horseback, he also saves his friend the horse from near certain death. There is only one horse stunt that made me cover my eyes so extra points for that too.

In case Chiru as Zorro isn’t enough to tempt you (what are you – nuts?!?) there is so much more.

Amrish Puri as an evil mystic with an excellent lair. The symbolism is quite eclectic. The beak on that peacock drawbridge must have been heavily reinforced as it hits the ground with a satisfying thunk. The lair is one of those that can only be reached by water, a long arduous trek or ride, or maybe a brisk walk from the office. There are some geographical inconsistencies that put me in mind of Howl’s Moving Castle. Gadra also has a crocodile pit AND cage full of bloodthirsty cheetahs, and still finds time for his day job.

Sharada as a vengeful woman with exacting standards in machete purchasing. I love Sharada’s intensity and she has an elegance that shines through.  Like Chiru, she can inject a bit of quality into the drama and shenanigans in even the silliest script. Sambhavi is strong, resourceful and driven by a thirst for revenge. She has an iron will that even Gadra cannot overcome and she does an excellent ‘death stare’ that is almost on par with Amrish Puri.

Vijayashanti plays an undercover policewoman who poses as a snake charmer to uncover illegal activities. Srilekha is tough, has tunnel vision when it comes to the law, and is not afraid of conflict. Vijayashanti is great in this kind of role, being pretty and feisty and often very funny. Srilekha doesn’t quite join the dots and see that she is out to arrest Raja, perhaps being too distracted by his charm and laid back dance moves. Srilekha changes, most noticeably when she swaps her snug police uniform for pretty sarees. Ah, the influence of True Love!

Radha  is lovely as her sister Srikanya. Now Srikanya is a gynaecologist according to the subtitles, but she seems to perform general bullet removal surgery as well as tracking down the reason for so many villagers dying of anaemia (hint – they were literally paying a debt with their own blood). In many respects she is the opposite of her sister; reserved, soft-hearted and girly. But Srikanya is intelligent and independent in her career, so she isn’t just a piece of fluff. She falls instantly and hard for the thief, seeing him as a saviour.

Thanks to a bindi with extra stickum, she works out Raja is the mysterious Kondaveeti Donga. She keeps his secret even from her family as she believes in his cause, and despite being the softer of the sisters she holds her ground under threat. When medical fakery is needed, Srikanya is cool in a crisis.

Despite being an unashamedly masala potboiler, there is some nice depth to the ‘good’ characters. Some key supporting characters find forgiveness and a kind of peace. There is a love triangle between Raja, Srilekha and Srikanya. Most of the romancing is confined to the songs which are usually a depiction of the girls’ fantasies.  The drama develops between the two ladies, with one oblivious and one heartbroken and all too aware, the romance adding another tension to their already opposing views.  Their close sibling bond and strong personalities informed their behaviour not just the love for an irresistible hero.

Nagendra Babu plays an enigmatic loner who wanders the wood in search of unseen justice (that’s what he says). Brahmanandam has a small role and Allu Ramalingaiah plays the crooked subordinate to the bad guys. Most of the humour comes from Chiru and Vijayashanti and the naff rapey jokes are left to Mohan Babu and the bad guys. There are lots of small details and symbols scattered through the film and I really enjoyed that extra dimension.

And there were some subtitles that kept me thinking. Often thinking WTF? but thinking nonetheless.

Ilayaraja’s soundtrack is excellent. There is a heroic ‘look out evil-doers’ anthem, some romantic duets and a couple of upbeat sparkly costumed numbers. Something for all occasions!

 

This film has everything I want in masala entertainment. The casting is perfect with Chiru at his mass best, the story rattles along, the action is crazy, and the songs are highly entertaining. 5 stars!

Kirathakudu (1986)

If Kirathakudu didn’t have Chiru and Suhasini in the leads I am not sure I would have persisted. The first hour or so is very trying indeed. But then I would have missed out on an unexpected reworking of John Carpenter’s 1981 classic, “Escape From New York”. If I see Chiru plus subtitles, the DVD is an automatic purchase so I didn’t read anything about the film before I watched it. There is a voiceover about criminals and the government, but the concept wasn’t well translated in the subtitles. Imagine my delighted confusion when it started to seem somewhat familiar.

Chiranjeevi is Charan, a poor rich boy who just wants his father (Kongara Jaggaiah) to show him some affection. Charan spends his time winning every possible sporting and aeronautical trophy, beating people up, carousing and brooding in his room.

I enjoyed this sporting montage greatly, although it has prompted me to make a statement critical of Chiranjeevi.

His swimming style is splashy and inefficient and he would not have won a race against the under 9s in my swimming club. There – I’ve said it.

Maybe it’s not about winning the race, but about looking stylish on a lilo.

And making bad art.

He is a renaissance man, albeit one with questionable taste, a very bad temper and poor impulse control. He drinks heavily, and I think I was supposed to find this appearance a warning – but he looks so good!

Charan sees a quite unimpressive statue in a local emporium and runs afoul of Swetha (Suhasini) who has purchased the one of a kind piece. His reaction to finding out he can’t have it is extreme.

Swetha is a psychology student, and daughter of the local police chief. She is smart, self assured and is not intimidated by Charan. She is also a raging narcissist from the looks of her house – pictures of her adorn almost every wall.

It is interesting that Swetha is given career aspirations and a brain, and yet the dialogues are often very disparaging of women. Suhasini is such a graceful and intelligent actress that I was pleased to see her in a reasonably involved role. She is drawn to Charan both as an interesting psychological study and because he is Chiru – those eyes!

Charan goes off the rails due to the influence of vampy Hamsa (Silk Smitha). Only Chiru could make Charan watchable as he broods, rants and sooks over why his daddy doesn’t love him and then commits crimes as a cry for attention.  Showing that she is smarter than most people in the film, Swetha finds Charan’s hideout and dobs him in to the police. He kidnaps her in a dramatic getaway and their forced proximity accelerates the already budding love.

Having been ruined by a tramp, he feels that the love of a good woman will let him live like a decent person. Yes. Surely it would be unreasonable to expect him to take responsibility or just grow up. She then takes on the burden of reforming Charan and settles in for a lifetime of prison visits. I found their song fantasies quite amusing – Swetha was all flowers and pretty colours, while Charan was much more, um, hands on. One thing they did have in common was their terrible taste in art.

Silk Smitha is Hamsa.

Well, Silk’s arse does most of the work thanks to the constant upskirting camera, but she sneaks the rest of herself into shot occasionally. Hamsa is a Bad Girl who entraps Charan and forces him to turn smuggler (bad) and wear pleather (not so bad). Again, I had to growl a bit at Charan crawling out of her bed the morning after and treating Hamsa like dirt for giving him what he wanted.

Mothers in the film are sacred but women who have sex are evil  – so I wondered briefly about how these idiots thought babies were made. I am not exactly sure why sleeping with Hamsa would be enough to place Charan under Snake’s control, especially given his cavalier attitude to the law and society, but it seems he was besmirched and that was it. The bad girl is usually a thankless role, but Silk gets a few pithy lines and an excellent confrontational cheerleading dance.

The second half of the film took a sharp turn towards awesome. Maybe because Chiru changed into this outfit?

The police need Charan’s help to take on Snake and rescue his dad (and the Top Secret papers) as they could not get into the badlands themselves. When Charan stole a car ferry and chuffed off about 10 seconds ahead of the cops, he managed to hide the ferry within walking distance of a sari shop and judging by the number of Swetha’s outfit changes, remain undetected for days. The man is a genius and I can see why the police appealed to him.

Armed with an array of gadgets and with deadly time release microcapsules implanted in his neck, Charan sets off to save the day. He lands a glider on top of a skyscraper in the crime quadrant, on a mission to rescue his father and protect Indian national security. He had to take a glider as there was no way in by land. In a puzzling development, Swetha and Baby (the cab driver played by Nutan Prasad) decide they have to follow him, and drive in through the front gate in a taxi, sedately avoiding the bombs planted along the route. While the residents look like a left over mob from a B grade post apocalypse horror movie, Swetha is able to glide around in her pristine sari without being spotted. The scenes in this second half are more closely aligned to the original film and the mood is both darker and more absurd.

Snake (Kannada Prabhakar) is the kingpin in the sealed off criminal zone. While John Carpenter recreated Manhattan as his prison colony, Snake has to make do with a warehouse complex a few minutes from the downtown area. He has possibly the best DIY lair and henchmen I’ve seen to date, and I enjoyed deciphering the very random graffiti.

Snake is also a psycho killer on a very short fuse.

This guy is quite fascinating.

He plays his role of chief henchman with a blend of odd chicken inspired noises and statue postures, and walks with what I can only describe as a slow-mo mince. While wearing a dress (maybe toga).Who is he?

And the guy who would have been played by Bob Christo in a Hindi version of this is back! Last seen in Adavi Donga (the apple peeler Wolverine claws guy) here he is sporting a fake scar and some hideous trousers.

How does it end? Is there any doubt?

It’s a film by A Kodandarami Reddy so I expected crazy, and the second half delivers. I did have to chant the ‘it was made in 1985’ mantra a few times, but even allowing for that I was irritated by some of the dialogue relating to women and their evil powers. Grow up guys! Yandamoori Veerendranath gets a writing credit, but this is a reasonably faithful remake with the addition of loads of sentiment and a message about good family values.

Chiru and Suhasini inject a bit of class into their scenes, and the WTFery dial is set to 11. I’m totally biased due to Chiranjeevi but I’d give this a cautious 3 stars, for the curiosity value of the remake and for the dystopian second half.

Here is a snippet of Silk’s big song number – it is interspersed with the final action sequence so I won’t give away all the surprises!

Marana Mrudangam

Marana Mrudangam is Chiranjeevi in his mass hero avatar – meting out justice, charming the ladies, fighting evil-doers and dancing up a storm. I never cease to be amazed by A Kodandarami Reddy’s imagination and Marana Mrudangam is full of crazy details, wild schemes, stunts and an array of dodgy looking props. Plus – Ranjeet!

Johny (Chiru) and Billu (Nagendra Babu, Chiranjeevi’s brother) run a small restaurant/bar.

One day Johny stops to help Utpala (Suhasini) and Anusha (Radha) when their car has broken down. Utpala is a nurse, and Radha is a high powered manager of a hotel that also seems to trade in import export.

Two girls, two guys – it’s a love triangle waiting to happen. Utpala falls for Johny who has fallen for Anusha while Billu seems to fancy Utpala a little.

I don’t mind rom-coms when Chiru is doing both rom and com, but I was hoping for a bit more masala inspired action. Imagine my delight when Billu cracked an egg to make an omelette and found it was full of COCAINE!

No I don’t know how Johny knew how to identify cocaine. But he also knew how to track the drug back to its origin and so the thrills and spills began!

Salim (Ranjeet) is a very bad man, and not just because he wears an excessive amount of very tight denim. He is a cold eyed killer and rapist and the enforcer in Vasantdada’s (Suresh Oberoi) gang.

He has no impulse control and his character could be summed up as ‘Rapey’. Ranjeet also has a thing for staking people out to die. It’s neither fast nor efficient but he does persist.

Salim impersonates a policeman and lures Anusha out of her home, intending to assault her, but Johny intervenes. Utpala needs help too. Her brother fell into the clutches of Vasantdada and before dying managed to write a letter that will bring the gang down. Johny and Billu rise to the occasion and decide to eliminate the gang and get revenge for Vasantdada’s past crimes. Vasantdada’s henchmen all wear matching outfits in different styles and colours each time they appear which was a nice detail (and helped me remember which fight was which).

Suhasini is one of my favourite actresses and while this is a fairly small role she made an impression as the good natured and straight forward Utpala. She suffers terrible loss but is determined to do the right thing. Utpala isn’t confident to act on her own and relies on Johny and Billu for advice and to do what is needed. She has a comedy scene or two, and Suhasini is not a woman I expect to see rolling drunk on screen.  But she still looked lovely.

Anusha is a haughty heroine who doesn’t lack self-confidence at all. She is independent and determined but still needs Johny to save her on numerous occasions when having a sharp tongue isn’t enough.

And I haven’t mentioned the costumes. I think in this song the wardrobe guys were so horrified by this outfit

that they gave up on clothes for a while:

Chiru tends towards the high pants with the low belt, often doubling up on the fabric for both shirt and pants, and nicely accessorised with an eye catching array of gloves.

He opts for pleather for the big occasions, but as demonstrated in that song, costumes are not necessary for Johny to make a splash.

Chiru has better chemistry with Suhasini than with Radha, though perhaps that’s just my bias. It’s clear that the saucy Anusha is Johny’s type.

But really the focus of his performance is the heroics and that he does with his customary verve.

Nagendra Babu is sweet as Billu. Compared to Johny he is quiet and shy but he is handy in a fight. He favoured denim overalls and flowery shirts which added to the slightly comedic nice guy image. He is quite tall so the effect when he was flinging little bad guys around with abandon was very funny. It’s not surprising that he and Chiru have great rapport on screen and I liked seeing them bounce dialogue off each other in their scenes.

The story is based on a popular novel. The author Yandamoori Veerendranath adapted the screenplay himself and the pace and plotting is a strength of the film. There are obviously some scenes designed purely for maximum Mega presence, but Chiranjeevi manages to incorporate them all into the character of Johny so it flowed quite well.

The climax of the film is fantastic but I did have a horribly sick feeling in a couple of minutes of footage involving horse stunts. I am certain not all of the horses were unharmed and suspect a couple didn’t survive. If this worries you please don’t watch from around 2hrs 5 min to 2 hrs 8 min. Before that I was delighted by one of the most ridiculous fake aircraft I think I have ever seen and there were some nifty come-uppances for the baddies.

The Illaiyaraja soundtrack is nice enough but I struggle to recall the songs without the visuals. Chiranjeevi and Radha don’t have the greatest choreography to work with but give it all loads of energy and flair. Visually the film is very striking with lots of crazy camera angles, stylised compositions and reminds me a little of some vintage 60s spy shows, albeit with acid wash denim.

Marana Mrudangam is a pacey masala entertainment, and if you are prepared to perhaps skip the horse scene, this is very good fun. And really, it was worth seeing just for the surprise of the naked Chiru chicken dance. 4 stars!