Jebu Donga (1987)

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While Jebu Donga may not be the most deep and meaningful film of 1987 (or indeed any other year), it does have a slightly different approach to the Mass Hero as well as sufficient quantity and variety of dances and explosions to keep me amused.

Chiranjeevi is Chitti the pickpocket, happily fleecing the rich, helping some of the deserving poor and indulging his love of disguises. Bhanupriya is his rival in petty thieving, and has an equally strong commitment to the dress-ups and convoluted schemes. Satyanarayana Kaikala and Maruthirao Gollapudi are the not as bumbling as they seem CBI officers who need to get a spy into Raghuvaran’s gang. And Radha is a woman of mystery. The police decide to use the unwitting Chiru as a distraction, feeding the crooks a fake top secret file that names him as Special Agent Chakrapani. While he goes about his daily crimes, the crooks are after him and the cops are watching the shenanigans. But eventually things come to a proper masala conclusion, albeit one with a couple of surprises.

While Telugu mass films are all about the hero, one of the things I enjoy most about Jebu Donga is that Chiru’s character is not as much in control as he thinks he is. He reacts to the confusing succession of attacks and rescues but has no idea why some things are happening. He tries to beat Bhanupriya’s character to a heist but ends up losing his trousers – don’t panic, it is all quite family friendly. Radha appears as a woman from Chakrapani’s past and Chitti is unable to say no to her. And the police manipulate him so easily. He does have to do his bit to save everyone at the end of the film, but he is not the usual know-it-all lone hero.

Chiranjeevi makes the most of his role, adding a dash of levity to the fight scenes as well as flirting up a storm. I looked over my notes from watching the film and at one point I have just written “Jeep! Whips! Leaping!”  Chitti is a good person apart from being a thief, and he helps out where he can. One of his robberies even helped a reluctant bride escape an unwanted marriage. He has what might be a sister and younger brother (Shanmukha Srinivas) as well as his mother to provide for, and pretends to them that he is a labourer doing honest work. The songs are a real highlight, and not always just for the outfits. I love Rajaloo Rajalakshmi where Chiru steals Bhanupriya’s clothes while she is bathing.

His dancing is uninhibited and cheeky (even including a bit of snake style), and once she finds something to wear she dishes it up in equal measure.

I’m not so sure about his wardrobe choices. The double denim and highpants are a symptom of the late 80s but I really do not get the sleeveless skivvy.

Bhanupriya’s character is a bit ditzy although she exhibits competence in her chosen field of cons and theft.  While Chiru is relatively plainly dressed, she wears some outrageous outfits and more than holds her own in the dances. I’m not sure how she is related to Chitti but when she falls for him it feels more as though they have been meant for each other for a while but are only now admitting there is an attraction. And where many a filmi heroine has to be rescued, she does her share of saving him too. She knows she is smart and sees no reason to let the slightly dim but charming Chitti overrule her.

Radha’s character is the real secret agent. I think she tells Chitti that he is a perfect lookalike for the deceased Chakrapani and he cannot resist her helpless female act. He should have been alerted when her dream sequence song turned up looking like this! She is smart, runs her own operation although her dad is one of the CBI officers using Chiru, and she has firm views on what needs to be done. Like Bhanupriya, she will accept help but she doesn’t always wait around for it to materialise.

All good heroes need a bad villain. Raghuavaran is the sleazy Peter, the main man who runs operations  for the completely insane Kannada Prabhakar. I always like a bit of megalomaniacal set design and sadly that is where Jebu Donga fails me. Peter lives in a respectably glossy mansion decorated with portraits of himself and masses of horrible modern sculptures while the bad guy HQ is a simple rustic camp. Not quite up to the Mogambo gold standard despite the impressive commitment to training shown by the minions. Most of the thugs wear that pale blue or mauve, but there are special colour coded sets as well as some plain clothes goons. Satyanarayana and Gollapudi are actually lots of fun as the police masterminds. They amble around, two portly middle aged gents who giggle like school girls as they watch the drama ebb and flow around their hapless helper. They also have some odd little flashbacks to what I think are Gollapudi’s terrible ideas for going undercover.

Chakravarthy’s soundtrack  borrows from Mr India, Michael Jackson and who knows what else. It’s all great fun, largely due to the enthusiasm of Chiranjeevi and Bhanupriya. And for once, the ladies get the sequins and lycra while Chiru dresses relatively conservatively.

I always have reasonable expectations of a Chiranjeevi/A Kodandarami Reddy film. There will be heroics, fights, dances, romance, eyeball melting colour and movement and almost no traces of logic. Jebu Donga delivers and shows Chiru in a more comedic, blundering hero role. Chitti may be a bit thick but Chiru knows exactly what he is doing and how to wring maximum entertainment from his material. The movie is available on YouTube. If you’re wondering, I deliberately chose the upload with the most offensive watermarks. Dear Reader, if you know anyone at that poxy company, please gently slap some sense, or at least some shame at defacing a film, into them.  Well worth seeing for the excellent cast and the frothy material. 3 ½ stars!

I will leave you with a Megabirthday Masala Multiple Choice Quiz. Please examine the following image.

Jebu-Donga-Quiz

Which of the following happens next?

  1. Evil Overlord makes crippled dance-obsessed Shanmukha Srinivas dance (a bit like Basanti in Sholay)
  2. Chiru, tied up and dangling in mid-air, escapes by breaking the trees from which he is dangling
  3. A Ma is terrorised by being given an unwanted haircut
  4. Radha kicks the bejesus out of about 47 bad guys
  5. Someone is so determined to detonate a bomb that he sets himself on fire and rolls across a clearing to ignite the fuse
  6. What do you mean which of the following? That’s a rookie question. All of the above, of course!

Megabirthday 2014

 

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Another year, another Megabirthday just around the corner! We’ll be celebrating things Chiru related during August and of course you’re invited.

Pop over to the Facebook page *points at link on righthand side of page* and vote for one of the topics I’ll be writing about, or leave your ideas in the comments. Current suggestions (courtesy of Liz and Katherine) are:

  • Chiranjeevi’s cowboy years
  • The many hues of Chiru – a study in colour (but how to pick just one colour?)
  • Chiranjeevi the Serious Actor

Join in by posting on your own blog, let me know, and I’ll collate and publish the links. Or just watch for the #megabirthday2014 hashtag on Twitter and have a chat about all things Chiru. Like this.

If your eyes still work after the 2m 44s mark, check out those boots! And those moves.

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!

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 :)

Megabirthday 2013!

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How time flies. Chiranjeevi’s birthday is just around the corner. I’m planning  and dithering and rewatching DVDs for, um, research purposes. My mind is in a spin!

We’ll be celebrating with Chirucentric stuff during August and you’re all invited. Vote in the poll and help decide on one of the topics I’ll be writing about (currently Chiru’s socks are in the lead). Join in by posting on your own blog, let me know, and I’ll collate and publish the links. Or just watch for the #megabirthday2013 hashtag on Twitter and have a chat about all things Chiruriffic.

I’ll leave you with a song that inspired The Mahesh Fan to describe Chiru as “The Sexy Lobster”.

News just in: Katherine at Totally Filmi is planning something colourful too!