Murari

One day our friend Indiequill asked for film recommendations, specifying that she wanted to see Mahesh Babu as something other than a baby faced killer. Murari was a popular pick amongst friends on Twitter, and for that reason as well as our commitment to research and possibly a bit of persuasion by The Mahesh Fan, we watched it too. And it wasn’t bad. There is nothing really out of the ordinary in the story, the jokes or the material so the film had to rely heavily on the appeal of the cast and the production design to keep us engaged.

The film opens with a bonus appearance by Prakash Raj in a wig (according to Liz he may have been channelling Jackie Shroff in this avatar) and it was obvious he was No Good. After insulting the deity at a local temple, he is promptly despatched by a green CGI monster and leaves a curse attached to family.

Goodbye and thanks for coming Prakash Raj.

The film skips forward several generations and we learn that every 48 years a member of the family dies to fulfil the requirements of the curse. Why 48 years is never explained, at least in our subtitles, and it really doesn’t seem to matter except as a device to show a few grisly deaths.  When we see Mahesh Babu leap onto the screen it is not only obvious he is the hero, but we were also sure that he is marked for death. He plays Murari, a bit of a too good to be true type who defends the defenceless and all that, but is saved from being a total prig by his good natured pranks and teasing. These were actually pretty funny and captured the adolescent nature of our hero.

This was apparently Peter Hein’s first film as a fight director, and certainly there are several heroic scuffles with bad guys thrown through the air like so much sweaty confetti. And one interesting fight scene in the water. But no baby faced killer.

Murari is from a feuding family. During one attempt to bring the two sides back together he meets his cousin Vasundhara, played by Sonali Bendre. Sparks and insults begin to fly as instant dislike signals the love story to come. Romance blossoms over pranks and practical jokes, as does some more dodgy CGI work.

In order to facilitate the growing relationship, Murari is intent on resolving the family schism as his grandmother Sabari is equally intent on removing the curse. Murari is blissfully unaware of the danger he is in, but the gods seem to like Mahesh Babu and his elephant Ganesh keeps a watchful eye on his owner. There are lots of close calls, and we know Murari is drawing closer to his death a long time before the family priest bothers to check the horoscopes.

Murari’s family approve of him marrying Vasundhara, hers are eventually persuaded and then grandmother puts the veto on this union. She is obsessed with saving Murari (who was named for her husband who was a previous victim of the curse), and keeping Vasundhara from being left a widow. In the midst of all the domestic drama, death is lurking and only an arduous and lengthy ritual can save Murari. Since the angry deity in question is Durga, the price for absolution had to be blood; and that is spilled in abundance before the film ends. Although the climax was powerful in its visual impact  the outcome was rather predictable as Sabari had always known what was needed to lift the curse. Along with all that blood of course. Why she held off on taking action until this particular generation is never adequately explained.

Mahesh Babu seems to be the actor who explains basic concepts in Telugu film, and we thank him for that. In Athadu he laid out the rules for killing and in Murari he explains the rules of obsessive filmi love. Apparently if he was thinking of Vasundhara, he needn’t worry about whether she loved him before going to politely kidnap her and bring her back to the family home. The reason he was thinking of her was that she was thinking of him. So his father told Murari there was no need for boring talking about feelings and plans and all that. She wanted him! It was all her fault! Just go grab her! Another filmi mystery solved!

It was interesting to see Mahesh Babu playing a young man who wasn’t a homicidal loner. This is also before maxi-layer Mahesh became quite so multilayered and developed his signature style. Although his favoured T-shirt and shirt combo make plenty of appearances there are quite a few scenes where only a single T-shirt was in evidence and nary a scarf in sight. We enjoyed his comedic flair in Khaaleja and he certainly milked the laughs from some of his scenes with Sonali. He did all the standard heroic stuff but this was much more character driven than action centred and relied on dialogue.  Sonali and Mahesh had some fun and flirty scenes that helped give the romance a bit more spark. Sonali is beautiful to look at and seemed to enjoy playing her more extrovert character in this.  She really excels at frustrated screams, and her performance appeared very genuine and heartfelt particularly in the latter half of the film.

Murari’s mother Gopamma was played by Lakshmi who did a great job of giving this teary filmi Ma some real character. She was very believable in her confrontational scenes when visiting her brother and family, and emanated a warm and loving personality in scenes with Mahesh Babu. The rest of the supporting cast were all OK without being exceptional. It’s often comforting seeing so many familiar faces in amongst all the cousins, uncles, aunts and servants but it does mean we tend to overlook them as they usually perform the same role over and over. The sets for the family homes were lovely and looked really lived in.

There were lots of knick-knacks and paintings scattered around to catch the eye and each house had a different feel that reflected the occupants’ tastes. The elephant fountain was fabulous and so was the actual elephant.

The music was forgettable, and so was most of the dancing although it was rather exuberant at times. See this film if you’re interested in watching one of the biggest stars in the industry before he adopted the cool calm killer persona and if you like a bit of domestic drama.

Temple says: This is an entertaining if unexceptional film. I like Mahesh Babu as an actor, and he did well in this romantic comedy hero style. It is kind of fun to see him playing such a young and flirty boy rather than the brooding loner role he has put his stamp on of late. Having seen Khaaleja recently, I am now surprised at how shocked everyone seemed to be at his ability to do comedy in that, as he had that under his belt in this film (along with snake wrangling skills). I particularly liked the teasing flirty interludes with Sonali as they each had their moments of triumph and of discomfort and the scenes flowed really well. I even tolerated the dreaded Filmi Child Actors as they were kept well under control and wore a pleasing array of stripey shirts. Speaking of costumes, Mahesh Babu in a lungi is always memorable (I’m thinking of you Jenni). It’s a shame the DVD copy is so bad as the visual design of the film is very nice, and it was a pleasure to watch – certainly these screencaps do it no justice. I don’t know that I would hurry to watch this again, but I did enjoy it for what it is – a romantic comedy with a bit of gore, a bit of divine intervention and excellent use of elephants. I give it 3 stars.

Heather Says: I liked Murari, but then it’s a romance and I’m a sucker for love stories. It also has elephants (an instant win), snakes (also a win), and the goddess revenge drama does spice up the storyline nicely. I enjoyed the way the two characters played it true to their supposed ages in the story and the little touches that were very typical of a guy trying to be macho and impress the girl. The teasing between Murari and Vasundhara appeared very natural and Mahesh showed that he has a natural flair for comedy. It was great to see him in a role where he wasn’t just a cool and competent killing machine, but had so much warmth and feeling. There seemed to have been quite a lot of thought put into the interactions between the various members of the two families as well, and I liked the way that they all had different characteristics within their roles in the family. Even the kids were ably utilised in this film, and the elephants weren’t just there for decoration.

My only complaint, apart from the terrible DVD quality, was that the ending dragged a little. The lead up to the climax was great, but then it seemed to take forever to actually get there. There were also perhaps a few too many near misses for Murari, especially since at least one appeared very contrived. However the rest of the film was fun and overall its an entertaining watch. I vote for more elephants and snakes in all movies! 3 ½ stars from me.

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17 thoughts on “Murari

  1. Excellent review. I’ve only watched this in full once (over a year ago), but it’s nice to know that the three things that stuck with me (elephant, snake, and CGI Sonali rising out of the road) also made an impression on both of you.

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    • Thanks Liz 🙂 I also liked the chicks that had been dyed pink & green, and the whole “I’m feeling tempted” shtick. But I would hate to inadvertently encourage people to dye their domestic fowl so I did not use that example. Because that’s why people read this blog. Temple 😉

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      • Temple ji.. here in India we find chick in various colors.. I dont think they dyed those chickc for the movie.. pink and green colored chicks are commonly found in pet stores 😀

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      • I hate to be the one to break it to you, but someone coloured those chicks 🙂
        Yes they used to do it here too for pet shops and for the agricultural shows. It’s a simple enough process, you just drill a small hole in the egg and inject a suitable dye, then seal the hole up again. One of my friends used to do that as a holiday job when he was a kid (his parents are farmers). Temple

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      • 🙂 I’m impressed that Temple knows that and think we’re offering a valuable service here regarding the various practices involved in fowl management.
        Must admit it’s not something my family has ever done – they’re farmers back in Ireland though where we don’t seem to go in for brightly coloured chickens!
        Heather

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  2. Oops then i admit i am a total illiterate in farming. Lol. Since i am a veggy i got no idea about chickens and all these days i thought they were born that way.

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    • 😀 well, finally we have contributed something to your general knowledge, instead of you always helping us! And the colour only lasts a few weeks after hatching so that explains the lack of enormous full grown bright pink and green chickens. Temple 🙂

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      • Wow, I had never realized that you could do that to chicks. I’m sort of sad that they don’t remain bright pink or green. I guess if you fed chickens a diet of krill, they’d be pink, like flamingos.

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  3. Vah vah (or whatever one says in Telugu)! This is one of my favorite of your reviews yet! I am particularly enamored of the phrase “sweaty confetti” and plan to steal it as soon as I watch a movie in which it is applicable. And your keen observation of the film doing so much service to explain Telugu cinema generally! I hope you will put together a collection of such instructional pieces! If you can find out what is up with the camera shaking, I will be eternally grateful. You’ve inspired me to go looking for such instruction within Hindi films, especially the ones that are NOT meta pieces about the film industry or feature characters who are actors or wannabe actors. Seriously. This is fascinating! And such reinforcement of our sense of how in films love is so often expressed via stalking.

    I also love the idea of a rangoli turning 3-D (if I understood that picture correctly).

    I will duck for cover as I say that I do not understand the extreme love for Mahesh Babu that some people have (and yes I have already talked this over with Amrita) – I have only seen Athadu but found him perfectly serviceable but unnoteworthy except in his Maxi Layeredness and his baby face that reminds me so much of his dad, whom I also find utterly unnoteworthy.

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    • Beth if you watch a film in which ‘sweaty confetti’ applies, I will be delighted. I think the camera shaking has two purposes. One is that the hero literally rocks the scene and shakes people up with his aura and the camera reflects his impact – ‘shattering’ crops up a lot in subtitles and seems to be used like ‘rocking’ in Hindi films, only more so. The second is it often gets used in dance sequences and in addition to the heroic awesomeness of whoever is the hero, I suspect is a nifty way to disguise an edit in an extended section of choreography.
      The rangoli turned 3D and then turned into Sonali Bendre. It was pretty yet still looked dodgy. 🙂 Temple

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  4. Firstly, I would like to wholeheartedly endorse coloured chickens. I’m sure if you use vegetable dyes they couldn’t be that toxic(??), and the resulting chicken are just so fluffy and pretty how can it be all bad? Surely there could be some research into the humane colouring of chickens. And some more research in to cultivating grown up chickens in all the colours of the rainbow. It would somehow make the world a happier place.

    Next, I have to step away from my alleged endorsement of this film. I, like the two of you, think it’s Ok but not one of Mahesh’s best – apart from the aforementioned snakes, chickens, elephants and being tempted routine and of course the presence of Mahesh, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to non Mahesh fans. (And of course his lunghi wearing which I find equally memorable but in a completely different way to you Temple.) For baby faced non killer roles I am much more partial to the brotherly love in the temples of Madurai in Arjun and the excellent trashy cowboy extravaganza Takkari Donga (though there may be a little bit of killing here) or even the shy dorky boy in Nijam (but there does end up being a lot of killing there once he eventually finds and releases his inner baby faced killer).

    Beth Beth Beth. Perfectly serviceable? Is that really the best you can muster?

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  5. I’m not sure what the subtitles read – but Sabari never knew. The ritual at the end is kind of last try on her part, she is not sure if that works (you can’t make a deal with gods, right?) and the blood-spill is meant figuratively though finally Durga seemed to be ok with literal drops and a sacrifice (suicide…not) from Sabari.

    The Music was forgettable? Come on! our tastes couldn’t be more different. My favourite Mahesh movie after Okkadu.

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    • Hi GodardFan – I love the soundtrack from Okkadu but find the film OK without being great. I tend to blame that on Bhumika Chawla though as I find her very underwhelming. I prefer Mahesh as baby faced killer, or at least in action mode, and Khaleja, Athadu and Pokiri are among my favourites. I cannot recall any of the songs from Murari despite having seen it twice so I’ll stick with my description of forgettable 🙂
      The subs did give the impression that Sabari and the family priest had arrived at the conclusion that the ritual was the solution. It makes slighty more sense that it was a guess, or a last hope.
      Cheers, Temple

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  6. I came across the review in imdb and I would like give some background on the story. This is one of my favorites since it follows the story of lord Krishna (also called murari) in contemporary setup. According to the mythology, lord Krishna had a similar curse on him from goddess Parvathi. Even as powerful as lord Krishna had to go through a tough time and fight Jambavantha to lift the curse. And all the credit goes to director for such natural expressions by the cast. Over all a very good movie to watch.

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