Kodama Simham

kodama-simham

Chiru as a cowboy! Hidden treasure! Radha as a jungle warrior princess!

While I love a lot about Kodama Simham I am going to begin with a caveat. There are some horse stunts that turned my stomach.  If that would worry you, have the fast forward button at the ready. In a couple of scenes it did look like the horse that went down got up and ran past the camera so maybe I am overestimating the likely damage. But it is something that makes me wary of this genre, no matter what industry made the film. And it seems a bit rough when it is a horse that saves the hero at a critical point.

Kodama-Simham-Bharath wants justice

Bharath (Chiru) is a gunslinger – the good kind – picking up the bounty on criminal types. Bharath manages to upset the local purveyors of iniquity. His parents are killed, but not before his dad tells Bharath he was adopted and to go look for his biological parents. His father Dharmadev (Satyanarayana Kaikala) hid some treasure to keep it safe, but was forced to go into hiding while Bharath’s Ma was jailed. Bharath must retrieve the treasure, clear his parent’s name, and give the bad guys their comeuppance. Simples!

I’m not sure what time period this film is meant to be set in. There are few reliable fashion indicators.

Horses are the only form of transport although there does seem to be a lit-up fish tank and a jukebox in the saloon.  There are what look to be Native American styled natives, as well as a forest dwelling tribe of non-specific plumage. Plus the (possibly) cannibal cat-people guarding the hidden treasure.

There are hangings and shootings galore, and justice seems to be an individual pursuit. Well, Brahmi is the local police so I can’t blame anyone for deciding to go DYI. Bharath disrupts an auction where young ladies are being sold to men or brothels, sets the captives free with a cheery “All the best” and that seemed to be the end of that. Swapna is chased for the umpteenth time by men of bad intent and runs into the jungle, leaving her girlfriends for dead. Nice. She meets Dharmadev who tells his boys off for their lack of manners and again, that seems to be the end of that. There is a pleasing finality to some of these issues: “You’ve been told, now bugger off and don’t do it again”. “OK”. If only that worked in real life.

While the title cards said K Muralimohana Rao directed, at times I suspected the film was being ghost directed by the Hat Department. Telugu cowboy films always turn it on for the headgear, and this was a corker. Behold!

Chiru’s hero entrance starts, as it should, with his boots before the rest of him swaggers in to view.

Kodama-Simham-The bootsKodama-Simham-the treasure

Unfortunately it is hard to tell on a grainy VCD print, but in one scene if his boots aren’t bulletproof, they come close. He has a laconic style and an extensive collection of guns. But what makes him an unstoppable Hero is his self-belief and righteousness. There is a touch of Clint Eastwood in how Bharath is styled – he wears a poncho with panache (probably all that practice Chiru has twirling capes) but Chiranjeevi puts his own stamp on the role. Bharath is a dancer and a ladies man as well as a capable fighter and filial son. Directors must have count their lucky stars to get a hero who could dance and fling himself around in action scenes and do the horse riding scenes as well as being ladybait. The story builds up to an all-in confrontation, and Bharath does follow a fairly logical path to that conclusion, even if the steps along the way strain the elasticity of my disbelief suspenders.

Could one heroine suffice for such an exemplary hero? No.

Kodama-Simham-SonamKodama-Simham-Swapna and art

Swapna (Sonam ) is the mayor’s daughter. She has a penchant for making bad art and wearing terrible outfits.

Kodama-Simham-the tribeKodama-Simham-Chiru and Radha

Bijli (Radha) could probably be described as a tribal princess. She likes hunting, shooting and wearing bad outfits. There is some common ground for these ladies if only they could see it. It took me a while to place Sonam but then it hit me. The vacant stare, the pout, the head tilted on the side – She was in Ajooba! Maybe her career is worth investigating further…. Radha of course was an established heroine in South films at this time, and Bijli is the more substantial of the female roles. She looks like she had fun playing the kickarse leader and Bijli and Bharath were the main drivers of many of the revengey plans. Sadly for Bijli, Bharath seemed to be drawn to the girl who did enough stupid things that he would be kept fully occupied in saving her.

Kodama-Simham-Pran the villainKodama-Simham-Pran!

Pran is the dastardly Mayor. He is first seen reading a proclamation off a fancy silk scroll before ordering the hanging of an assortment of extras. I was so pleased when I recognised him but somewhat disappointed that he was in such a stereotypical role with little scope for him to really work his villainy. Still, Pran! Always fun to see worlds collide even if he did try and have Chiru’s eyes out with a red hot poker.

Kodama-Simham-MohanbabuKodama-Simham-Sudhakar

Mohanbabu is the pungent Suddigaali – everyone sniffs when he turns up and no one looks pleased with the result. He is a cartoonish villain but his spaced out reactions and bizarre logic made for some entertaining scenes. Sudhakar is the Mayor’s bumbling accomplice and does his usual shtick. Kannada  Prabhakar is a more flamboyant and sociopathic bad guy.

Kodama-Simham-I shall call him Jaws

There is also that guy, who looks like a) Jaws from the Bond films and b) he stole one of Chiru’s costumes. There is a villain for all seasons in this film.

This is one of the films where I wait eagerly for the songs. Every picturisation has its own kind of awesomeness, largely fabric based. Raj-Koti’s songs are fun and Chiranjeevi makes the most of the choreography.  I choose to believe his dancing on the ceiling was a tribute to Fred Astaire rather than Lionel Richie.

Sadly few of these songs are available on YouTube or the like due to the egregious copyright claim shenanigans. I cannot fathom why a company with no apparent interest in promoting or preserving the old films they allegedly own would object to short clips being shared online when they don’t have their own version uploaded. I’d get it if they were worried about loss of ad revenue, but often I am mystified. Unless they’re worried someone will try and buy a copy.

See this, if you can find a copy, for the full tilt tongue-in-cheek mass style transplanted to Cowboy Country and the pleasing commitment to justice and hats. Chiru is in fine fettle and Radha is an excellent foil. The more is more approach means you’ll never have long to wait for the next song, dance, fight, demonstration of how to transport a treasure chest across a gorge or costume change. 4 stars!

Mega Socks – function and fashion

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This year I asked you, dear readers, for input into the theme of one Megabirthday post. You voted for Chiranjeevi’s socks. And you probably have the cheek to think I’m strange.

The Mega Sock is a vexing area of research. Being a fashion chameleon and trend setter, Chiru rarely settled for one standard approach. He changed his socks as often as he changed his moods. I have gathered some examples to illustrate the versatility of his sock choices, a style contribution often overshadowed by the flashier go-go-boot department.

The unified thematic sock

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White trousers, white socks, white loafers. A safe choice for the Telugu film hero.

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Or matching shirt and socks, also a filmi classic.

The artistic contrast

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Sometimes the contrasting sock was more than just a fashion statement. I am reminded of Audrey Hepburn’s refusal to wear white socks in a dance scene in Funny Face, claiming it would break the line of her leg and look inelegant. But she capitulated and in the end result, the white socks actually enhanced the dancing as they allowed viewers to see her footwork against the dark background of the set. I like to picture Chiranjeevi quoting that anecdote when directors tried to challenge his footwear choices.

The statement

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Sometimes a mere bedazzled outfit and flashy shoe is Just Not Enough. Why let the whole outfit down with boring ankles?

The comedic effect sock

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Well, I hope it was meant to be funny.

The invisible sock

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I have long marvelled at Chiranjeevi’s ability to carry off the rather challenging mini-toga and go-go boot combination. And while it may seem there is little left to the imagination, I mean, you’d have to have the right socks. Think about that. The sock could be utilitarian, or a secret splash of extra sparkle designed purely for Chiru’s amusement.

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And then there is the negative sock. Cross-gartered to the knee, Chiranjeevi proves that the absence of a sock can still make a statement. Especially when paired with silver pedalpushers and a corset.

Leg warmers and gaiters

Not a sock proper, nor a boot, the legwarmer makes occasional appearances through Chiru’s career.

Chiru combines an eye-popping fashion statement with sensible thermal layering.

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Is that a legwarmer he is wearing as a glove?

I like the bedazzled gaiter effect with matching gloves. In the absence of the more traditional bedazzled boot, Chiranjeevi still seems to find a way to embellish his foot region.

The Mega Sock Style

And finally, an example of Chiru mixing it up with a Tip Top Look combining several mega sock styles. See which ones you spot (if you aren’t blinded by the gold pants).

Happy Megabirthday!

Edited to add: Totally Filmi has hand dyed the perfect sock yarn to adorn a mega stylish ankle. Go see the results!

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

Slightly Classical, Mega Awesome!

Chiru as Shiva

Happy Megabirthday!

One of the (many) things I love about Chiranjeevi is his willingness to take on any style of choreography and to perform it as best he can. I am particularly fond of his many classically influenced dances. He may not have classical technique, but he can still be compelling and entertaining as he gives it his all.  Plus there are usually excellent outfits.  Here are a few of my favourites.

This clip from Subhalekha is a nice sample of straight up attempts to master the choreography. Not all equally successful, but visually pleasing nonetheless. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d buy an Allwyn fridge if it came with a svelte Chiru draped over it!

Chiru as mild mannered dance teacher versus the determination of Jayamalini and Jyotilakshmi. Ladies, I understand your motivation if not your wardrobe choices. (Enjoy the dancing, and don’t read the comments).

Tempted from his meditation by Madhavi, Chiranjeevi transforms into a blingy dancing vision (with sparkly sandals). (From Khaidi, 1983)

Sometimes the classical moments can be a bit surprising. A glimpse of Kathak styling (at 3m 20s) in this appropriately birthday themed song from Big Boss.

And even less explicable – but this song does bear out Chiranjeevi’s fearless attitude to dance and sequins.

Chiru looks amazing as Shiva, with smouldering eyes and strong physical presence. He moves with fluid purpose and intensity in this clip from Aapathbandavudu when Shiva attacks his enemies (around 5 min). His appearance as Shiva in Sri Manjunatha was less appealing, but I blame some of that on uninspired choreography. There are clips on Youtube if you’re keen.

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And then there’s one of the sillier tandavs in terms of costume, choreography and dishooming sound effects, but I love it.  (From Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu)

And while I’m on the subject of Chiru in lycra bike shorts, I can’t help but recall this. Snake dances are classics too!

What are your favourites? Share the links, share the love :)

Raja Vikramarka

Raja_Vikramarka_poster

Chiranjeevi stars as Raja Vikramarka in this modern day mass flavoured fairytale. Written by Satyanand, the story borrows a few scenes from Coming to America, but Ravi Raja Pinisetty makes it his own with lashing of Telugu film staples (family drama, revenge, convoluted assassination plots etc). There are fabulous costumes and great songs too. Another Adventure Without Subtitles, this is a fun celebration of the Megastar mass hero in a film designed to entertain and not tax the thinking bit of your brain too much.

Raja Vikramarka wakes up in his palace. His feet are guided into his bedazzled fluffy slippers. Gorgeous handmaidens brush his teeth and generously hop into the 12 person bubble bath to scrub his back. His thoughtful servant shows him deep fried snacks but only lets him eat cucumber and carrots.

Raja-Vikramarka-princessRaja-Vikramarka-depressed

His parents (Jayanthi and Satyanarayana Kaikala) arrange a betrothal to a pretty princess with no brain. But he wants more, dammit! Raja runs away from home with his trusty friend and sidekick (Brahmanandam).

Raja-Vikramarka-public transport

I cannot express how much I love that he runs away by public bus, and in that outfit.

Once in the big city, Raja and Brahmi settle in with the common people. Raja finds lodgings in a guesthouse and swishes around majestically in his silky robes. He attracts the attention of thief Maya (Radhika) who soon parts him from his briefcase full of cash. Forced to toil as a mechanic, Raja meets the elegant Rekha (Amala Akkineni) and becomes her bodyguard. He also becomes her would be assassin as he accepts the job of hitman in order to send the attempts awry and protect her. Hijinks ensue as Chiru turns the tables and nearly kills the bad guys with multiple attempts gone wrong. But what of his kingdom? And with 2 women in determined pursuit, who gets the guy?

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This is the kind of role Chiranjeevi could do in his sleep, but he gives a funny and energised performance despite the thin material. I was a bit sad when his princely outfits made way for 90s denim, but there was an improvement in the hair so I guess that was something. Raja is a dancer, a fighter, a lover and a bit of a lightweight when it comes to drinking.

His antics gave Chiranjeevi lots of opportunity for playful comedic shtick and more intense action. I can’t say Raja struck me as a particularly interesting character but if you want a Megastar sampler, this role has a bit of everything. He had good chemistry with both his leading ladies.

Raja-Vikramarka-Amala AkkineniRaja-Vikramarka-Pouncing

Amala Akkineni is a striking looking woman, and has an air of maturity that suits independent and educated Rekha. Her character is attracted to Raja and she spends rather a lot of time fantasising about him, whether he is pouncing on her as she rests or infiltrating her dreams as a snake.

Her dance style is odd. She is very strong and flexible but not particularly musical so doesn’t always look quite right. I love the fight scene where Rekha is part prop, part weapon and part accomplice in Raja’s hands as he sees off some hired rowdies.

Raja-Vikramarka-Rekha is not impressed

She exudes confidence and is utterly not interested in, or fazed by, medium grade villain Kiriti (Sudhakar) although will happily use him when it suits. Rekha often does the sensible thing when she is in trouble and I liked that she could be the hot chick without being the dumb chick.

Raja-Vikramarka-RadhikaRaja-Vikramarka-Radhika and Chiru

Radhika is such a good actress. She is wasted in Maya’s caricature of a thief, but she rises above the worst efforts of the wig and wardrobe double team.

Why did they hate her so? While most of her scenes are broad comedy as she picks pockets and cons people, like Chiranjeevi she adds a little more quality than the film demands. She’s not much of a dancer but she performs her songs with heaps of energy and expression. Maya is a bad girl but when it counts she does the right thing. Radhika was fierce when her character confronted the really bad guys and made a fairly ridiculous scene moving and dramatic.

It is a quite amusing film, but the highlight for me was the Raj Koti soundtrack and the picturisations which are lots of fun. The costume department must have been on overtime as they had to provide glitzy royalty, modern stylish Raja and a bit of filmi song fantasy attire.

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This style is what I like to call Mughal-e-WTF.

There is some playfulness in the action too. Maya’s accomplice dances to Chiranjeevi hits as she picks pockets in the crowd, Raja has a fight with a rather sturdily built man in a ninja suit and stops to adjust his beret before taking on the next masked assailant, Rekha and Raja play Frisbee before a romantic duet, and there is a classic Masala Death Trap in the finale.

Raja-Vikramarka-Masala Death Trap

Plus an evil henchman who will not die and another one who spontaneously combusts. This film is never dull.

Unfortunately it does contain the old “marry a woman off to the man who assaulted her and everyone’s honour will be preserved” chestnut but luckily Laxmi seems to make Kiriti behave better so hopefully her life was more than being a victim of his idiocy. I know it’s only a silly old film but that gets my goat every time.

The supporting cast is full of familiar faces – Rao Gopal Rao, Allu Ramalingaiah, Kota Srinivasa Rao, Gollapudi Maruthi Rao and Narayana Rao make up the numbers.

See this for a good timepass with enjoyable songs and lots of dancing. Or just see it for Chiranjeevi in all his mass hero glory. Either way you get a bonus snake dance! 3 ½ stars, just for the sheer entertainment.

The film is available on Youtube with no subtitles if you’re keen.

Raja-Vikramarka-Raja the bodyguard