Aditya 369

Aditya 369-Poster

When I heard Singeetham Srinivasa Rao’s Aditya 369 described as ‘historical science fiction’ I was immediately curious.  It is less about science or history and more about the outfits and derring-do, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The film is on Youtube without subtitles and there is a diverting but not very helpful plot summary on Wiki should you wish to swot before taking the journey. But no one in the film prepares, so please do not feel obliged.

Aditya 369-time machine

The plot goes something like this. Professor Ramdas (Tinnu Anand) is an eccentric inventor, but apparently does well enough for himself that he can support a large house and workshop and keep his daughter Hema (Mohini) in stylish polyester outfits. His life’s work is a time machine called Aditya 369. The professor takes a low key approach to security and intellectual property, allowing just about anyone to come and have a look at the machine.

Aditya 369-Amrish Puri

Raja Verma (Amrish Puri) is a crook with a particular interest in historical regalia and diamonds. He arranges to steal a golfball sized diamond from the local museum and replace it with a fake. Now, if you call one guard with obsessive rule observance a diligent approach to security, then this museum was world class. Young Kishore (Master Tarun) is accidentally locked in,  witnesses the theft and has to be rescued when he tries to outrun the thieves.

Aditya 369-Balakrishna and Master Tarun

He confides in his saviour Krishna Kumar (Balakrishna) who decides to investigate.  Kishore decides to take his fellow plucky orphans on a spin in the time machine, is rescued by Krishna,  and Krishna and Hema are sent back to the past where they rescue Silk Smitha and meet Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu (also Balakrishna) and learn about the Golfball Diamond.

You know how in lots of time travel fiction the first rule is don’t change anything and don’t use modern stuff and cause ruptures in the fabric of time? When I saw the two emergency suitcases stashed in the time machine I assumed historically appropriate costumes. Well, at least the inhabitants of 1526 got an eyeful of fine 80s fashions. And listened to a boombox.

I disliked Krishna once he had landed back in time. In the presence of poets and scholars he had only ever read about, he couldn’t help but stick his oar in and go for a bit of one-upmanship. It was really tiresome and just made no sense. The dialogue seemed to go along the lines of “As you know Jim, I have an electric shaver” “Wow! Please, unknown man who says he is from another time but based on those clothes may be a nutter, tell us what to do”.

Following that sojourn in the glorious past, the crew is catapulted into the future where they nearly die from radiation before being given their own shiny space suits. To be fair to Krishna and his lax approach to historical contamination, the future people didn’t seem to have any qualms about revealing significant details that characters would not yet have experienced. But while I could understand the future people knowing their history,  I expected a bit more curiosity from the people in that past. The final scenes bring hero, villain, professor and know-all child into conflict as things almost literally spin out of control as Krishna has to rescue his friends and save the world.

Balakrishna offers his usual high energy performance. He could never be accused of slacking off, except maybe in the dances where he often relies on a slow disco strut interspersed with vigorous flailing. Krishna doesn’t have any hidden depths so what you see is what you get. The character tried my patience and I found myself looking at the sets and backgrounds rather than caring about what was happening to the people. There were a couple of sickening stunts involving horses so that further tarnished the heroics.

Aditya 369-Mohini

Mohini is adequate as Hema given that for most of the film she is just part of Krishna’s baggage.

Aditya 369-walk like an Egyptian

Amrish Puri does his usual villain thing with flair. Raja Verma is a bit obsessed with things that are original and authentic which may explain his Faux-gyptian style robe.  The diamond was supposed to link all the times together but that part of the plot seemed like an afterthought.

There are comedy uncles but no one else gets much of a look in with Balakrishna in a double role so that is another positive for the film. Suthivelu plays a hapless policeman who gets dragged along on the time travels, and Brahmi makes a small appearance as a scientist.

Aditya 369-henchmen

I really enjoyed Raja Verma’s gang of purple shirted thugs who carried guns in violin cases, and then played violins as background music in an interrogation scene. I think that is the first time I’ve heard the violence/violins pun in an Indian film. Tinnu Anand seems to have his own personal wind machine in all his scenes, maybe to stop him overheating from overacting.  Annapurna is Krishna’s mum although she doesn’t get to do much apart from marvel at his awesomeness.

Illayaraja’s background score is lovely. The theme over the opening credits is lush and a little eery. The songs are melodic although mostly a bit random. I did like the dance off between Silk Smitha and Mohini to settle the matter of Krishna’s honour. Well, I did until of course Krishna decided he could play all the instruments AND do the dancing.

The production design has a retro charm that sometimes made me nostalgic for TV series like Lost in Space. Terminator 2 was released in the same year and the difference in technical capability is enormous.

The “ye olden days” segment was what I would expect from any Telugu film, but the futuristic episode was more remarkable for the efforts of the wardrobe department to really feature antennas and silver lame.

Apart from that, as noted earlier, the costumes were mostly 80s mainstream fashion – lots of high-waisted denim, synthetic fabrics and big hair. And the women didn’t fare much better.

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy and Telugu films are a great place to find them. See this for the curiosity value of the Telugu mass hero formula applied to a different genre and for the low tech effects that have their own appeal. 3 stars!

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7 thoughts on “Aditya 369

  1. I kinda can’t wait to pass this one on to my sister (the futuristic bits at least)–who is obsessed with bad sci-fi, and does not frown upon (A) questionable spasmodic choreography, (B) reflective space gear, or (C) robots. Personally, I’m just impressed with what people can create on a small budget 🙂

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    • Well, I think this might have been made on a fairly substantial budget but the end result is a triumph of what MemsaabStory calls The Spirit Of Making Do. Your sister might also like Trip to Moon – I was particularly taken by the space rhinoceros 🙂

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  2. This one will always hold a special place in my heart for its museum sequence, but I think I would have cherished it anyway for the Egyptian robe and the time machine, which is curiously similar in shape to the one in…I forget if it’s Action Replayyyyyy or Love Story 2050. ALL GOOD.

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  3. I like this review as most points align with what I felt. As promised on Guestbook, would try to add Telugu perspective and some tidbits.

    – Singeetam Srinivasa Rao is one of the underrated directors in Telugu, if not in India. Being present in the industry since contributing as Asst. Director to the greatest Telugu movie Mayabazaar (1957), he had directed many genres full of experimentation. I think you covered the silent movie Pushpak and the folk Bhairava Dweepam, you could also check movies like Raja Parvai (Tamil) or Amavayasya Chandrudu (Telugu) – a blind Kamal Hassan, Apurva Sahodaragal (Tamil) / Vichitra Sodarulu (Telugu) – a dwarf Kamal, Mayuri (Telugu)/Nache Mayuri (Hindi) – a film based on real life story of Sudha Chandran, a classical dancer who lost etc. You can check his IMDB/Wiki for full list.
    – There were plans made to make a sequel as Balakrishna’s 100th film, but put on hold for some unknown reasons – probably because BalaKrishna concentrating on other commercial movies and his politics – he is an elected representative in Andhra Pradesh State Legislative Assembly.
    – The time machine set was probably inspired by Aryabhata satellite, the first made by India.
    – Why for the past, the crew chose “Sri Krishna Deva Rayalu”? Because, firstly Balakrishna’s father N.T.Rama Rao (NTR) played the Rayalu role royally in two Telugu classics – Tenali Ramakrishna (1956) and Mahamantri Timmarusu (1962) – Observe that movie were not titled after “Rayalu”, though as a Star Hero, NTR agreed to play. So, Balakrishna wanted to imitate his father as he always did.

    Secondly, Ramakrishna was known as a witty poet and they could add some Comedy bits to that. Of course, it went slightly overboard, as you mentioned in your post.

    I wonder why these 2 classics were yet to be viewed/reviewed on your site. Both have stellar casting.
    – Thanks for pointing out the music by Ilayaraja. I became a fan of his for movies like this. His versatility could be seen in this movie – a slow melody with natural instruments for the times of 1500, a song of techno genre for the song from future, two typical 90’s songs, and my favorite classical duet for the dance competition that shifts into western so smoothly without any jerk.
    – Other than Story-Direction by Singeetam, Music by Ilayaraja and Production Design/Art by Peketi Ranga, the fourth and base pillar for this movie was dialogues by Jandhyala – one of the greatest Telugu writers as well as director himself. As rightly spotted with “Violence by violins” by you. He wrote with ease the different style of dialogues required for 15th century, 20th and 21st centuries.
    – I feel they did well with the CG within the budget for a regional film and technology available in early 90s in India. For CG/VFX, I always see how much imagination is put by the director compared to the sophistication of technology. Like, the way showed the newsreel of major Indian events while they were travelling to past, etc. For the same reason, I like Vithalacharya’s movies from 60-70s more than Bahubali.
    – Tarun (the kid actor) was fresh from hits like Maniratnam’s Anjali and was very popular with kids at that time – Reason to give his role more prominence in this movie – you need to attract kids for a commercial movie to be hit. Tarun later became a hero with moderate success.

    Some stills and anecdotes – http://www.telugucinema.com/25-Years-Aditya-369

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      • Sure, thanks for the kind words. Blog is definitely on cards – need to re-open my personal blog too. There’s no personal time once you become a father and a family man 🙂
        So Temple, you are the Chiranjeevi fan among this blog authors – do watch Abhilasha and Mantrigari Viyyankudu and share your reviews.

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