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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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

Big Boss (1995)

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I felt the need to end 2012 watching something with a quick and decisive approach to justice and guaranteed consequences for the baddies. Vijaya Bapineedu’s Big Boss delivers, albeit in a fairly slapdash manner, and is boosted by the presence of Chiranjeevi, Roja and Sujatha in key roles. If you’re not a huge Chiru fan you could just watch the songs. Actually the opening titles almost tell the whole story. If you can tolerate plot holes, enjoy colourful dance numbers, or just like bad wigs and interior designs, this could be quite rewarding.

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Bavaraju Surendra, AKA Basu (Chiranjeevi), is an educated man who chooses revenge over a career. His father was murdered and his brother crippled in an incident many years ago, and Basu has not forgotten. Basu moves to the city to pursue his revenge. He ends up getting caught between opposing crime lords and is vigorously pursued by Roja who has set her cap at him.

Basu rents a room from a local widow (Madhavi) who is related to Roja (I never remember her character’s name). Living in this household allows Basu to see the injustices inflicted on residents of the area. He is the kind of guy who stands up for the defenceless and then berates them for letting one goon intimidate dozens of them. He has difficult relationships with his mother Thulasi (Sujatha) and sister Sumathi, and they don’t automatically accept he is right just because he is a bloke.

Chiru is mostly in action hero mode but the role does give him some sentimental moments with his ma, some silly mugging and slapstick with Roja and a bit of speechifying and social consciousness raising. It’s a tailor made package, right down to a running gag with Johnny (Ali) who believes Chiranjeevi is really Chiranjeevi.

Big Boss_Sujatha

Thulasi reminds Basu of her dreams for the family, and won’t accept his decision to turn vigilante. When he takes her back to the old mansion she thanks him for returning her to the Hell she had escaped. Sujatha has little dialogue but a strong presence and her reactions and expressions are really effective. I wasn’t expecting a subtle filmi Ma but she is really lovely.

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Roja has the most peculiar wardrobe. I think the outfits are meant to be ‘modern’ and also represent her mental age of 9. She is constantly reprimanded by her grandmother (Nirmalamma) for not being able to tell the difference between flower and leaf and she does indeed seem a bit dim. She is all over Basu like white on rice and he just finds her irritating if not insane. Who can blame him?

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Rarely do I agree with the filmi advice to pop on a sari and you’ll snag a husband, but it really was a relief to see the end of the fruit hat.

Despite the horrors of the costume designs, Roja is at her best in the songs when she escapes her character’s childish habit of squealing. I know this is a remake but it is lots of fun.

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Varadarajulu is a slimy nasty villain, played to the hilt by Kota Srinivasa Rao. With his effete mannerisms and terrible wig he should be comedic, but he has a sadistic streak and a psycho wife in coloured contacts. He is bad news. He killed his father and brother (Basu’s father) with the help of his wife. Ankineedu (Narra Venkateswara Rao) is more sympathetic as crooks go, but his adherence to the mafia code means he is not long for this world.

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The action scenes are many and bloody. The fights are heavily choreographed and while that makes them look less realistic, they are violent. Death takes many forms. If you’re on the wrong side it is Chiru and his trusty matches as he douses the baddies with petrol. The police are corrupt and so are the lawyers. If you can’t get your own justice, forget it.

In a recent discussion with Beth and Sujoy we agreed that none of us understand why people say there is no sex in Indian films. Sex and relationships are clearly a part of this story. Consensual sex between people who like each other is not treated harshly at all. In many films, Roja would have been marked as the bad girl based on her dress, her forwardness, her dream of climbing into bed with Basu (and then telling her grandmother all about it). Grandma seems to have been a bit wild in her youth too. When Madhavi’s blouse is deliberately torn, Ankineedu is furious at his son’s behaviour while Madhavi holds her head high. Varadarajulu’s wife uses sex to lure men into helping her, Sumathi chooses a marriage as a way of escaping what she sees as a useless family. Women behave in a range of different ways and with varying degrees of ‘niceness’, but they have clear goals and feel free to go for them. Only one of those women dies – and as a mini spoiler, it had more to do with being downright evil than expressing desire. Telugu films are hero-centric, but if you watch what is happening on the periphery, sometimes there are interesting things going on.

Mind you, I cannot be certain that generosity is deliberate. Basu’s youngest brother appears to regrow a lost leg late in the film.

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And at the time the father was killed, there were two kids and I don’t think Thulasi was pregnant so I have no explanation for Sumathi. Maybe they just forgot to kill off the bad girls. Details, boring details!

The songs are a viewing highlight, and Bappi Lahiri is quite restrained. The introductory song is Chiru as seen by his fans, and I think it was filmed at an actual Mega Birthday event. Nearly all the picturisations are from Roja’s point of view, and are her fantasies. Roja escaped a bizarre assault in which creepy cop Tanikella Bharani threw a bucket of water over her before tearing her ugly skirt off to reveal an even more hideous dress underneath. Her grandmother had to explain the significance of a rain song. So Roja launched into one of my favourite rain songs, and kindly imagined Chiru tearing his own shirt off. In her dream of crawling into Basu’s bed she tears her blouse.

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After a few double entendres, this song actually makes sense (except the chicken references). I can’t explain the little people or their outfits.

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This isn’t a film that rests on nuanced performances but apart from Chiranjeevi, Roja and Sujatha, I have to say Ali was good. He played a character rather than doing comedy, and when I saw him tied up with a time bomb stuck to his chest, I was sorry. But he IS a comedy uncle so my tears were held at bay. Allu Ramalingaiah has a small role as a deaf yet singing policeman. Tanikella Bharani overacts like his life depends on it. Despite being cartoonish there is a nasty edge to his character although he does redeem himself a little at the end. The assorted That Guys all do their thing and succeeded in being so vile I cheered as each was dispatched.

The design teams were unfettered by practical considerations or good taste. Is that a kangaroo statue I spy?

And the costume team shared the love.

The climax fight took place in a masala death trap (complete with giant gas cooker thingie) and a godown filled with rooms of things that look cool when they break. Divine intervention, Megastar powers – whatever the reason, the bad guys got their just deserts.

One for the Chiru fans. 3 ½  stars (extra for the dancing)

Khaidi

Khaidi is apparently based on the Stallone film First Blood, and while that sort of helped as I watched without subtitles, the context is completely different. Where First Blood was John Rambo dealing with post traumatic stress and using his lethal skills against the former employer that had made him a killer, A Kodandarami Reddy makes Khaidi a personal drama that charts the path of a man on his own mission of vengeance. Also – the added songs and dancing were very pleasing.

The film starts with Suryam (Chiranjeevi) being picked up by the police as he is walking towards a crossroads. He refuses to tell the police anything, not even his name. He is a mysterious and silent stranger in black, and there is a disquieting fury in his eyes. When Suryam is threatened with having his moustache shaved off, he has flashbacks to some earlier torture which sets him off and he fights his way to freedom.

He is taken in by Dr Sujatha, who patches him up and tells him he needs a lawyer but it’s obvious from his expression that he intends on sorting out his problems without involving the legal system. I’m not sure if they knew each other before she found him unconscious on the street, but there is an element of sexual tension or curiosity in some of their scenes. I did enjoy Chiru’s quick peek under the blanket to see if he was decent before he tried to storm off (silently – he hasn’t spoken a word to this point).

Sujatha passes him off to nosy neighbour girl Rosie as a relative who had been in an accident, and it seems he may have found safety. She does discover he is a wanted man, and based on something in her own past (I guess) decides to trust her own judgement about him.

Finally, Suryam speaks and his story starts to emerge, partly through this surprising interlude:

Suryam is a poor boy who is pursued by, and falls for, Madhulatha (Madhavi) and based on that clip, I’m not surprised she was a bit keen.

Her wealthy landlord father is unimpressed but she refuses to consider any other man. Madhu is used to getting what she wants, and will not back down despite the consequences to Suryam or herself. She seems to be her father’s daughter as he also refuses to compromise and in true filmi fashion he decides to ruin Suryam’s family.

Suryam has witnessed his family home taken away, his father murdered, his farm sabotaged, his sister attempted suicide and was finished off by the bad guys,  and he was implicated in her death. Any one of these things might tip someone over the edge, but all of them? He is a time bomb. He has lost everything, and without the security of family and home, there is nothing to restrain him. Pursued by police and by the landlord’s men, Suryam is in a deadly cat-and-mouse game.

This was a very successful film for Chiranjeevi and by all accounts launched him into action hero territory. He is excellent as both the ordinary boy and angry man. Chiru is adept at using his eyes to express strong emotion and he switches from sorrow to implacable rage in an instant. There are lighter moments within the story although the focus is firmly on the trajectory of Suryam towards his revenge. I was highly amused by a scene where a local Romeo was sleazing on to Suryam’s sister, offering her a sari. Chiru forces the guy to change into the sari and sends him off with a flea in his ear.

The final showdown is insane and kept me on the edge of my seat as Chiru takes on the law, a band of axe wielding ‘tribal’ folk, trees that stand in his way, thugs with evil designs on Madhu, a (fibreglass) horse and eventually the bad guys all while using a range of weapons including knives, arrows, bees and guns and having survived gunshots, being set on fire and shot out of a cannon (OK I made up that last one). Whew! And I recognised much of that action sequence from Charan’s debut film, Chirutha. So why are people talking about him starring in a remake of Khaidi when…never mind. Enjoy Chiru in action mode:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madhu was a fairly annoying character and Madhavi had little to do apart from rant and pout. She looked lovely and seems to be well suited to the more aggressive roles as she has a strong physical presence. There were some positives.  As she was going to storm off after a spat Madhu shrieks and points at two snakes, then I think Suryam says something like ‘they’re too busy shagging to bother biting you…look!’ and we have this:

Awesome. A random snake dance that has NOTHING to do with anything other than the costume designer wanting to get Chiru into a pair of silver bike shorts. Bravo! Although I did realise that there may be some connection to the Jeetendra Effect as he starred in the Hindi version of this film.

I did give Madhu some reluctant applause late in the piece when she escaped her house using the old sari-as-a-rope trick. But I took it back minutes later for a lame snake wrestling scene. The woman has played a snake quite well so I expected better from her in that department. But then I cheered again when she managed to outrun several men on horses, all while keeping her wedding sari decorously tied. I think Madhavi did the best she could with a role that was ultimately just to be both the hero’s trial and his reward.

I was more interested in Sumalata as the independent and intelligent Sujatha. She stands up to her neighbour who is a police officer, and has a strong sense of justice. She seemed to be a more complete person than the rather sketchy Madhu and I found myself wondering more about how she fit into the story and I’m sure subtitles would have helped explain that. I also liked her very glam 70s house with cuckoo clock sound doorbell.

The story is predictable, as little except the body count and method of despatch is left to guess at, but there is still some suspense largely due to the intense performance from Chiranjeevi. There’s also a hefty dose of WTFery but you know, I really liked the commitment to making it memorable. If you like your films action packed and your heroes invincible, this is well worth seeing. 3 ½ stars.

Sheshnaag

Sheshnaag is an excellent masala snakefest starring Jeetendra and Rekha, with a starry supporting cast and the added delight of Danny Denzongpa as the EVIL Aghoori. The Laxmikant Pyarelal soundtrack is mostly snake dance related, which means lots of snaky dancing! And I think director KR Reddy captured a vintage feel with Sheshnaag which doesn’t seem like a film released in 1990.

Allow Aghoori to describe his origins as a creation of the devil and show you around his cave:

My DVD has the worst picture quality but the most marvellous subtitles. Aghoori is hunting a nagin couple, Pritam and Banu, who unlock a treasure trove every lunar eclipse using amazing special effects.

They give the wealth to the needy and hold the key to immortality. Aghoori is obsessed with power and filled with venom, determined to become more powerful than the gods.

Identifying the snakes in this film is very easy as they are a) not shy and b) one of them is Jeetendra (ref The Jeetendra Effect).

While this epic battle between good and bad is being waged, there is evil afoot in the human domain. Champa (Rekha) is left to look after her mentally backward brother Bhola (Rishi Kapoor) and her horrible husband (Anupam Kher) after her father dies. Bhola is protective of all animals including snakes and he can charm any animal by playing his flute. He falls afoul of Aghoori’s henchman when he saves the female snake Banu (Madhavi), thus winning her gratitude. Champa’s husband wagers her mangalsutra and then her person in a game of cards – he is really vile. After calling on Krishna to help her escape a rape attempt, she runs away and leaps from a cliff to escape her pursuers. Just as I was bemoaning an appalling under-utilisation of Rekha, Banu uses her powers to transform into a replica of Champa and come to Bhola’s aid to repay her debt. They move into a nicely decorated mansion with excellent snaky decor and are set for the good life.

Jeetendra joins the household as a servant so he can be close to his wife and help look after Bhola. The rest of the story is then a crazy race to see if Aghoori will take over the world.

I really disliked Rishi’s acting, character and storyline in this. Bhola’s under-developed intelligence would have been challenging for any actor, but Rishi just opted for flattening his hair and mugging for the camera.

There is a romance track for him, as Kamini (Mandakini – not a snake despite those eyes and some questionable outfits) is driven into his arms by a startling bear attack. She’s a hunting, shooting type of gal from a family of animal hide dealers but clearly life had not prepared her for finding a small person in a bear suit humping her leg.

It doesn’t seem to be a good match, and Bhola’s utter stupidity doesn’t help matters. If you knew someone wanted to hunt game, would you call more of your animal friends to stand in front of the armed lunatics? Honestly. It’s a revolting episode and apart from all the fake blood pouring from animals, I think Rishi stepped on a pigeon for real. Bhola wins Kamini over with his gormless vapidity, and takes from her intended, a creepy gun toting cousin.  He swaggers around, confident that his sister will always protect him. When Jeetendra decides to make Bhola a warrior to protect everyone…well I’m sure you can imagine. Beth queried whether headbutting clay pots was a documented snake fighting technique. I suspect the technique was chosen as Bhola’s head was solid wood.

Rekha is a powerful actor and being a vengeful snake allowed her to unleash her forceful side. I question whether it was really worth jeopardising your immortality and powers just to save a backward fool. On the plus side she gets some awesome outfits. I preferred Madhavi’s dancing, but Rekha does handle the venom spitting (her venom strips paint) with aplomb and has mastered The Look.

Banu/Champa’s resolve and certainty drives much of the action and she takes responsibility for her family in both her human and snake roles. When Bhola drags her human husband back and expects Champa to accept him, she is unrelenting and cold despite the combined anger of the men.

I mentioned Bhola was annoying? Even allowing for times and morality having changed, how could anyone demand someone they love take back into their household a man who brutalised and humiliated them? It’s all wrong, and not helped by the bad acting. Rishi was lucky he had Anupam Kher in the same cast as it makes Bhola look marginally better. Anyway. Back to the snakes.

Rekha’s scenes with Jeetendra are sometimes quite touching as Banu/Champa is aware of the consequences of committing to helping the idiot human, and knows they are in danger from Aghoori too. They also get some more of those special effects. When (WHY?) she decides to sacrifice herself to save Bhola I was quite upset. WHY REKHA WHY???

Jeetendra is there. He really doesn’t have all that much to do apart from dancing, flying, biffo, biting, duelling and housework. He is not the dominant snake in the marriage and I think it’s safe to say that Madhavi/Rekha wears the lurex pants in the relationship. I swear he’d never seen a broom until this film, and he seems to torment Bhola more than he does anything else in that household. Jeetendra got some excellent snake powers including an array of coloured lighting effects and a unique fighting style.

His first fight with Aghoori is hilarious, and he also has a nice line in venom spitting (his is flammable).  His dancing…He is not good at partnering the ladies in their dancing. Luckily they seem to manage to navigate around him. He also did an interpretative vengeful Snake Dance which was memorable.

Madhavi had a much smaller presence in the film than Rekha, but her dancing is lovely and she had some fabulous snaky accessories.

She and Jeetendra employed a fighting style that involved jabbing the victim with their fingers rather than biting so I think maybe they had venomous manicures.  The outfits for all the snakes really are worth a look.

Danny Denzongpa owns the film. He is insanely evil and in cackling good form as Aghoori. I loved this performance and I cheered extra loud when Aghoori sent Bhola flying with a few well placed kicks. Not everything an evil person does is necessarily bad!

And what happens? I really can’t say. But I do give the film 3 1/2 stars!

Maro Charithra (1978)

This classic film can be briefly described as bi-lingual Romeo and Juliet set on the beaches of Vizag. From the engaging lead pair of Kamal Haasan and Saritha, the strong supporting actors, to the bold black and white cinematography, catchy soundtrack and fab 70s fashions, this K Balachander film is stunning.  But be warned – Romeo and Juliet never lived happily ever after and this film stays true to its inspiration.

I haven’t identified all the actors in the cast as the information isn’t on my DVD and online sources don’t seem to match actor with character so please let me know who I’ve missed out.

Kamal Haasan is Balu, a Tamil Brahmin lad who moves in next door to Telugu speaking Swapna played by the lovely Saritha.

They feel an instant attraction, but cannot communicate easily through speech so improvise a language of percussion, mime, light switch flicking and of course dance! I don’t know whether I was happy or disheartened to see the one and only Learn Telugu in 30 Days text book. Surely things have changed since 1977? If not in romance, then at least in school books?

Saritha is beautiful, headstrong and a minx. I’m glad this was filmed in B&W as I suspect what looks striking in monochrome might have been horrifying in colour! Swapna is a modern girl, quick to deal with unwanted attention from the creep in the bookshop and proud of her academic achievements. She and her father read (badly subtitled) Shakespeare to each other; indeed, Romeo and Juliet are mentioned. Saritha has an earthy physicality and she lights up when Swapna is happily in love. Her character keeps unfolding which is impressive in a fairly simple story.

Kamal Haasan is his usual cocky self and at times bears a distracting resemblance to Siddharth. Balu is a self centred layabout, happily sponging off his family and using his charm to keep his mother on his side. His high waisted flares are enough of a disincentive for me, not to mention the shorts, but Swapna is made of sterner stuff. Balu’s reactions are always hasty, and usually about him and what he wants.

Once his temper cools he is quite rational, but he never seems to learn this about himself and so his character development is not particularly strong. He totally loses himself in the classical dance sequences which reflect the inner turmoil of his character, and they are beautiful to watch as well as adding some emotional depth to Balu.

Nothing can remain secret for long, and Balu and Swapna don’t try very hard to be discreet, as the rocks and trees covered in their graffiti shows. She is pursued by the sleazy bookshop guy who happens to have a penchant for secret photography. He shows some very candid photos to Swapna’s parents with predictable results. As befits Romeo and Juliet, their families disapprove and seek to pressure the youngsters into marrying within their caste. The young lovers undertake to separate for a year to prove that they aren’t just infatuated. Once they are forced apart, the film becomes a lot more interesting as the story expands beyond the fresh faced puppy love and the supporting characters show some surprising qualities.

Swapna alternates between plaintive and defiant but never loses her resolve. Her behaviour at times frightens her parents who can’t understand her obsession let alone her bizarre actions. She drinks the ashes of a photo of Balu mixed in her coffee, she scrawls his name thousands of times on the walls. Her parents try to entice her away from Balu by dragging rich cousin Pattabhi into the household, but she plays him for a sucker and never wavers.

Balu is sent to Hyderabad to work for Hari Babu. Hari Babu takes Balu to a party at Reddy’s, a dissolute character with a band of freeloading friends which includes Balu’s neighbour in the lodging house, Papa. Her first scene includes a fairly detailed conversation about the effects of caffeine on the digestive tract and a flash of belly so it’s obvious from the get go she isn’t a shy girl. She wears trousers, goes to Reddy’s boozy parties and smokes. Papa pursues Balu and falls in love with him. When she realises that he is lost to her, she initially begs for him to sleep with her just once and after being rejected again, schemes for revenge. Considering all this, her character is surprisingly sympathetic and is even admired (with reservations) by her drinking buddies.

Also in the background of Reddy’s set is his sister Sandhya (Madhavi). A widow and an accomplished dancer, not quite a Mrs Robinson figure, she is a sympathetic presence for Balu. She helps him learn proper Telugu and to channel his energy, hormones and emotions into some beautiful dance sequences. She is drawn to his sadness and passion, and their common interests make a closer relationship seem inevitable.

After a misunderstanding over Swapna’s relationship with Pattabhi, Balu turns to Sandhya. Their affair is shown as a very matter of fact thing – they weren’t a couple and now they are, and a wedding is on the cards. No one seems terribly shocked by this relationship, except Papa who wants Balu for herself. Sandhya is shown as a resourceful woman who got on with life after her husband died, and isn’t needy or pathetic.

Sandhya discovers Balu’s unsent letters to Swapna, and takes herself to Vizag. She sees immediately that Swapna had never betrayed Balu and was waiting for him to return.  Instead of just  going home and getting on with her own wedding, she reassures Swapna that Balu has been faithful and will come back to her.  Sandhya’s anger in the scene where she sends Balu away with a flea in his ear and a ticket for the train is so moving. I felt that she identified with the girl who was going to lose her love, and partly hated Balu for cheating her on an emotional level. Contrast that with Balu’s immediate descent into self pity and woe, and I really had to cheer for the strong female characters that dominate the action.

Papa, Sandhya and Pattabhi are all swept aside by Balu and Swapna’s True Love. It’s a raw deal for Sandhya who seems a decent person, and sure to make her life that bit more difficult in the aftermath. There is a level of arrogance to the argument that love means never having to deal with the consequences for anyone other than your soulmate.

After giving signs of a happy future finally, the universe then aligns every possible obstacle and circumstance to prevent the marriage. As expected in a Romeo and Juliet inspired tale, the lovers come to a brutal, senseless, tragic end. The sleazy bookshop guy seizes his chance, and Swapna is brutalised in a sickening yet brilliantly edited sequence at the same time that Balu is attacked by paid rowdies. I really was on the edge of my seat through the final twenty minutes or so, hoping that the youngsters might make it even while knowing that a happy ending was never on the cards.

The film opens with disembodied voices talking over scenes of the places Balu and Swapna spent time together, almost like ghosts who couldn’t let go of their lives. It’s a scene that haunted me after the end titles had run. I have to give this 4 and 1/2 stars – for the stunning visuals, the charismatic lovers and the sheer skill of a film maker who could keep me watching even when I knew I didn’t want to.

Here’s a bonus clip for you – The dancing starts about 1 minute in: