Rudranetra is silly masala fun that starts from the assumption that more is more. Drawing on Gunmaster G9 more than Bond, it gallops along in dazzling and hilarious style.
Chiranjeevi stars as Agent Netra who saves the world from evil, but does nothing to rid us of lycra and lurex. There are multiple villains and heroines, silly catchphrases, overcomplicated schemes, foreign locations, strange gadgets, horrific outfits and memorable design. This was another Adventure Without Subtitles but who needs words when this visual assault is coming at you?
Agent Netra (Chiru) investigates a shady businessman (Rao Gopal Rao) whose real business is in creating some kind of drug. Netra is killed in a confrontation with the next crimelord up the foodchain, Mr Kyun (Raghuvan). Agent Prathima (Vijayashanti) takes over and vows to solve the case for her lost love. She visits some associated bad guy (Nutan Prasad), and finds Yadgiri, a Netra lookalike, working in his home. She persuades Yadgiri to pretend to be Netra. Despite wearing a stealthy red and gold ensemble she is captured and taken to an underwater drug manufacturing plant guarded by men in Michael Jackson Thriller suits. I’m not sure but I think Netra was never really dead and was pretending to be Yadgiri who pretends to be Netra. It really doesn’t matter, as Chiru rescues Prathima very stylishly.
They try get to Rao Gopal Rao through his eldest daughter Rekha. Unfortunately, some pictures get swapped and Chiru acidentally sets his sights on the younger daughter – Hansalekha (Radha), who had obviously incurred the wrath of the costume designer. He decides to sweep her off her feet, and frankly who can blame her for giving in quick smart. Well, I have some doubts about a man who shoots you with a suction-capped arrow and love letter that looks like it was written by an 8 year old with her ‘My Little Pony’ crayons.
Which is the perfect style for Lekha. There is no respite from her horrible outfits until she mistakenly thinks she is pregnant (to Netra) and starts wearing sarees. Netra breaks up with Lekha and pursues Rekha but to no avail. It turned out poor Rekha was not the villain’s real daughter and he was just using her as a human guinea pig for his drug testing. He really is bad! And who but an evil man would order a child fired out of a circus cannon? (OK I admit, that idea does have some appeal, but I wouldn’t actually do it.) A daring trapeze rescue and fight by Netra ensues. What with one thing and another Netra finds his way to the top villain, Mr Kyun’s dad – Black Eagle!
Will Netra save the world? Will someone save Radha from the vengeful costume designer?
Well, you can’t have everything.
Any film with Chiru playing a triple role will get my attention. Especially when his idea of secret agent work attire is this:
Poor poor Radha. I shall let the pictures tell that story.
Vijayashanti gets a slightly better everyday wardrobe but doesn’t get away without a few feathers and sequins. Generally Prathima is the smarter more resourceful female, and can hold her own in a carefully choreographed fight.
The villains have truckloads of style.
Rao Gopal Rao firmly believes in world domination and colour matched lurex shoes for all his ensembles. His lair is more functional than iconic, in keeping with his pragmatic and cold blooded style. He even kills his not-really daughter Rekha once she is of no use.
Then there is Mr Kyun whose catchphrase is ‘Mr Kyun is always a question to yoooooooou’. He is a bit disappointing visually, but makes up for it with cheesy English dialogue and being pure evil.
Black Eagle is confused. Why else would he be in a dragon themed lair? Accessorising with snakes?
Perhaps this outfit is intended to make him more Eagle-y, despite the boa as boa.
His catchphrase varies from ‘Black Eagles loves you’ to ‘Black Eagle hates this’. You know you’re on a winner when the villain talks about himself in the third person. His minions look like Lego men and are about as handy in a fight.
It also makes for excellent espion-tertainment when the gadgets are abundant. Black Eagle has a ‘death bell’, which has a disco floor, and two dragons that bong the ‘bell’, which kills the prisoner (unless the prisoner is Netra). Black Eagle and Mr Kyun have built a rocket to launch their killer bees or lethal gas or drugs (there is evidence pointing to all as a possibility) but neglected to acquire the “destruction gadget lock” so that created a delay. There are fake planes, underwater lairs, exploding guns and lots of cool stuff along the way before we get to the top secret
circus tent rocket control centre.
The interiors are all quite special and no wall is left unadorned. This dragon appears in several other vintage Telugu films, and turns up both in a lair and Netra’s own house. Was it the height of style? Or just recycling? There is also a pleasing commitment to chandeliers throughout, including a song in a lighting showroom.
There is a comedy track. Brahmanandam is not it, despite being a bumbling sidekick to Rao Gopal Rao. The comedy happens in Malaysia and Singapore and involves some very unfortunate ethnic stereotypes, an annoying child and a comedy uncle in garish shirts. The only good thing about the comedy is that they get someone to take Lekha’s pulse and determine that she isn’t really pregnant. There is a fun scene where hotel staff (who look like actual hotel staff roped in for the day) chase Rao Gopal Rao through the complex shouting ‘Look Madman!’ and ‘Stop Madman stop!’
This is not Illayaraja’s finest work but the songs are pleasant enough if you watch them with your eyes closed. There is a puzzling lack of orchestral support in the climax scenes. It sounds like they forgot to write anything, the band had gone home, and in a panic they asked a bunch of blokes in the studio to vocalise heroically. This is the result – and you’ll get to see Chiru in excellent fighting form, plus the death bell! I don’t think I was supposed to be laughing so hard I cried.
Rudranetra is a whirlwind of colour and movement. See it for the cheese, stay for the Chiru! At best, 2 stars for quality but a full 5 for entertainment and effort.
Happy New Year!
Heather says: This is such a totally fab film that it’s hard to believe it was made in 1989, at least that is until you get to the satin frocks with mutton sleeves and excessive amounts of frills and flounces. Otherwise it’s very much 70’s style Bond, although mainly without the actual style. The plot is ridiculous and I kept getting the various women confused until Temple pointed out that Radha always had the most garish outfit in any particular scene. Every time I thought the costumes couldn’t possibly get any worse, the costume department managed to go that really bit further, add in a little more bright canary yellow and dig out the worst hair ornaments I think I have ever seen. Bravo! I do have a lot of admiration though for anyone who can carry out top-secret surveillance in shiny satin which really is quite an achievement.
It was also a real plus to see the whole of the dragon creature that appears so briefly (and only its feet) in Attaku Yamudu Ammayiki Mogudu, not to mention the number of dragons that are everywhere in Black Eagle’s lair – so why not Black Dragon then – hmm? The whole film looks so amazing that it’s hard to keep track of the story and not get distracted by the visuals. Thankfully though, even without subtitles, it all makes sense in the end, or at least as much sense as I think it was ever meant to, and the climax is really excellent. Overall a really fun watch, although probably best watched with another Chiru fan for best effect. 3 1/2 stars.