Gudachari No. 1 (1983)

Goodachari No 1-title

 

Special agent Kumar (who has a liking for statement lamps) is sent to investigate a Top Secret thing. He is killed, takes a very long time to die (from being beaten, shot, stabbed and overacting), and his wife is shocked into a coma after hiding the secret evidence.

His bestie Vijay (Chiranjeevi), AKA Number 1, is sent to investigate and arrives in a cloud of ladies. A gang of rowdies with evil laughs and nice manners try to abduct him en route to town. Chiru is a nattily dressed beige blur as he kicks the bejesus out of them. Then they politely submit to questioning, only to be mown down by gunfire. “Oh My Goodness” says Vijay. “WTF?” said I.

The things he eventually looks in to include, but are not limited to: a deadly pickle factory, Silk Smitha, poison tipped gloves, a fake priest, golden Cybermen in fancy Ye Olden Robot outfits, and a super villain with gold teeth. “WTF?” said I.

Of course Vijay needs to have his wits and his fists of fury ever at the ready. But he also needs love. He meets Latha (Radhika) at the airport as she is in mid tantrum. She seems unimpressed so he tells her he is a professional killer and to keep her mouth shut, oh and to keep the flower he gave her. Then sits next to her on the flight and tells her he is actually an international hijacker. But it becomes evident that Vijay is a lonely character who may not know how to interact with people who are not dead, trying to kill him, or trying to shag him. He doesn’t even have a comedy sidekick of his own. He eventually declares his affection, although Latha demurs. So he says if I can throw this grape into your mouth it proves you love me. Subtitles could probably only make that scene worse. “No really, WTF?” said I.

Chiranjeevi is the obvious casting choice for a film that needs swag and a gleefully uninhibited enthusiasm for the arts of Dance and Mayhem. Vijay is formidable in everything but his romantic relationships, and Kodi Ramakrishna just kept throwing more and more crazy stuff into the mix. There is an abundance of pompous speeches, gadgetry, freecycled Bond scenes, silly disguises, and more, and Chiru takes it all in stride. Every time I thought surely they will run out of stuff, there was more stuff. And more Chiru.

That is not just a voyeuristic moment for viewers to perve at Chiranjeevi in booty shorts. No. That was A Clue that he may have yogic abilities that could come in handy if he were to be, oh let’s say, buried alive. It’s important to always be checking him out watching attentively.

Latha (Radhika) is an interesting character in some respects but Radhika could, and maybe did, play this kind of role in her sleep. Latha is largely sidelined in favour of robots and explosions, and the good old values of 1983 that insist a girl should apologise for causing a man to sexually harass her. A bit further down the track she actually enjoys the opportunity to get her mitts on Disguised Vijay even as she complains about the beastly foreigner who has taken up residence. But she is smart, she has the comedy sidekick (another punishment?) so she is ahead of the hero on that score, and she was investigating the self-proclaimed international criminal herself. She is also the villain’s niece (maybe) but she doesn’t seem to let that get in the way, and indeed uses that relationship to help smuggle Vijay in to the Pickle Plant of Pestilence.

Vijay is sent to stay in hideously disturbing room 111 at Hotel 7, and (Laila) Silk Smitha “introduces” herself. I did like his booby trapped suitcase and was kind of hoping it contained a snake. To summarise the scene, they get busy. But before she can, er, finish him off Vijay’s contact (Gollapudi Maruthi Rao) interrupts and Laila runs off to get ready for her next attempt.

But alas, Laila has but a brief moment in the limelight. Maybe it was payback for the completely unnecessary animal testing.

Govind Rao (Rao Gopal Rao) is the baddy, running his top secret chemical warfare facility in the guise of his pickle empire. The façade on the factory looks about as real as any of the trappings of his business.  But he does have serious pickle sales graphs and other business related stuff. Also – he is the father of the comedy sidekick/halfwit so the man had his very own, very real, problems.

One of his problems is a cranky boss. Supreme comes and goes standing up in a little boat, across a misty subterranean lake, rather like the Phantom of the Opera’s bookmaker. Where Govind Rao is organised and a bit unimaginative, Supreme really embraces the overly elaborate scheme, the signature look, and psychedelic lighting. And he certainly ignored key points on the Evil Overlord checklist.

The comedy is often sexist or racist, and quite distasteful but seems to occur only in short bursts. There is the way Vijay torments the woman he loves and thinks it is hilarious, the racial stereotypes, and a really bad bird related comedy interlude with a guy whose headdress contains traumatised and maybe dead budgies. It’s a relief to get back to the serious business of “which Bond film was that lifted from?” with a bit of “WTF?”

Goodachari No 1-Bambi and Thumper

Answer – It’s Bambi and Thumper! From Diamonds are Forever! And there is a coffin stunt from You Only Live Twice.

The gadgetry is quite something, and ranges from a simple dart in a wire loop made from an old coat-hanger, to full body robot costumes, and lots of coloured smoke bombs. They tried. They really really tried.

Chakravarthy’s songs are nothing outstanding but they do provide a less violent form of hijinks, and Chiranjeevi just goes for it.

You know you’re onto a winner when the DVD menu has Chiru in disguises. Goodachari No. 1 is uneven, and I’d fast forward through the alleged comedy on a rewatch, but what it lacks in sense it make up for with energy. See it for early peak Chiru and for the gleeful “that’ll do” approach to a DIY spy caper. 3 stars!

Lankeswarudu

Lankeswarudu Poster

Who could resist a film synopsis that says “Apart from crime Shankar is also a good dancer and he teaches dancing too”? Certainly not me and especially not when it stars Chiranjeevi. But Dasari Narayana Rao delivers little except for a solid performance from the Megastar and some diverting song picturisations in this lethargic stagger through a bunch of Hollywood “inspired” set pieces.

Siva and his sister Swapna are washed up on a beach. Alone in the world, the boy tries to make a living through odd jobbing and petty theft, eventually falling in with a gang. The siblings acquire a new brother, Kalyan, when his mother is killed saving the little girl. Ma put his hand in Siva’s hand and there you go. Adoption formalities completed. The kid who plays little orphan Kalyan is quite terrible at crying.

Thankfully we leap forward in time. Chiranjeevi enters casually taking his leopard for a stroll. After a recruitment process featuring Bob Christo and a pack of goondas he becomes Shankar, the right hand man of crimelord Dada (Satyanarana Kaikala). Dada already has two left hands in flashy dresser Mohan Babu and snake venom imbibing Raghuvaran.

When not preoccupied with his criminal activities, Shankar is also Siva and he is a dance god. Radha plays his love interest with a lot of “I just escaped from a high security psychiatric facility. Don’t you love ruffles?!?” She fantasises her way onto the stage by way of introduction and wears a spectacular array of fug. I think she either has a speech impediment or doesn’t speak Telugu, but all that ‘comedy’ went over my head, especially on fast forward. He signs an autograph on her arm because that’s not unhinged at all. And thus are their formalities completed and she will be his one true love whenever he gets around to it.

Kalyan has grown up to be a droopy looking guy (Kalyan Chakravarthy Nandamuri). Siva pays for him to take an exam or do something and next thing you know, Kali is a wilted figure in khaki. He’s joined the police, all funded by his brother’s secret criminal life. I just can’t warm to either the character or the actor so found my eye-rolling muscles got a workout during his scenes. Siva finally notices that his sister Swapna (Revathy) and Kalyan are quite handsy, and after a few tantrums on all sides he gets them married.

Things seem to be going well until Kali interrupts Siva’s dance class to tell him he is onto a big gang. I love how unconvinced the other guys seem by all the lycra. Then ensues some cat and mouse with the sidekicks setting Siva up and Kali trying to catch him. Siva is stuck in the middle trying to set things right by the victims and keep himself out of his brother’s way and both boys try and hide their dissent from the sister.

Kali confronts Siva with one of the best worst lines “Mr Siva you can break dance but you can’t break my sense”. Swapna and Kali move out, breaking Siva’s brotherly heart. Raghuvaran and Mohan Babu attack villagers who worship Shankar as a god, enraging him and upping the stakes.

Kali has a genius idea – get Swapna to fake her death and Siva will surely return for the funeral. Siva sees through this ruse but unfortunately for all concerned Kali is rubbish at working out drug dosage. Swapna dies just so her brother and husband can have one more big speech moment.

There are two distinct images for Chiranjeevi – the good big bro Siva and the metal studded baddie with leopard. He doesn’t have to do much more than swagger but as always Chiru just lends a little more authenticity to his dialogues than the film may demand. One thing I did see in this film that is usually glossed over was the Megasock. Admittedly they looked more like circulation stockings but it was good to see them out from the shadows of the Megaboots. And when most heroes would hit the bottle and settle for a pity party, Chiru gets his West Side Story on and manages to make it quite something.

And I have a theory about the costumes for this film. I think they drew lots and the actors took it in turns to raid the dress up box.

Chiru looks positively sedate except for the plunging necklines to indicate his Badness, Mahesh looks more like a porn star or maybe they just ran out of shirts, Mohan Babu looks like he is off to guest star in Miami Vice The Musical, and Radha seems to have stolen some of Chiru’s old dance outfits, especially in this song.

Radha’s character has very little to do in terms of the plot, but she sneaks her way into the film through the songs and her character’s robust fantasy life.

This does leave her at the mercy of the wardrobe department but she’s a trooper and doesn’t bat a false eyelash at any of the excesses. Revathy is also short changed and does little but gaze adoringly at her brother and sigh at her husband’s rhetoric.

I spotted the dragon wall decoration again, and suspect someone’s teenage daughter might be missing some kitten posters which turned up in the gang lair.

The action scenes are entertaining and explosive but most lack the manic energy they need to be more than run of the mill. Having said that, Chiru spin kicks and hee-yahs like there is no tomorrow so that was pleasing. I was also impressed by Raghuvaran’s venom based strategy, especially when he licked a horse and it dropped dead. Obviously not a good outcome for the horse, but so much more effective than the usual finicky filmi snake “could bite won’t bite” dithering. I have mild concerns for the leopard but admired her resourcefulness and loyalty. Nagendra Babu features in the build up to the climax confrontation. There are double crosses and gore galore. And the finale is very Die Hard, right down to Chiru’s white singlet.

Lankeswarudu does enough to be worth a watch, but doesn’t rate high on my list of Mega Favourites. See it for fun of spotting references to other films, the unintentional hilarity of the songs picturisations, and of course for Chiru. 3 stars!

Operation Jackpot Nalli C.I.D. 999

poster

Since I started with the last film in Dorairaj and Bhagawan’s series of James Bond inspired films, it seems fitting that the next I review should be the third in the series – Operation Jackpot Nalli CID 999. Like Operation Diamond Racket, the film stars Dr Rajkumar as the suave and sophisticated Secret Agent 999 who is called in to investigate a series of outsider wins at the Bangalore race course. Naturally there is a devious villain with a convoluted plot and in keeping with the theme, the film has many other secret agent staples including handy gadgets, a revamped car and glamorous women out to distract Agent 999 from his task. Sadly, my DVD doesn’t have subtitles which means I can only make a guess at some of the plot intricacies, but at least the main storyline is relatively easy to follow.

The film starts with the kidnap of noted scientist Professor Shekar just when he has perfected a method of vaporising objects with his highly technical plasma beam machine. The criminal gang gain Professor Shekar’s trust by telling him which horses to bet on to win at the races, which works only because gang member Mena is surreptitiously drugging the horses to ensure the winner. The gang take Professor Shekar and hold him in a secret location, but to prevent his disappearance from making headline news, they have a duplicate who can take his place. Presumably the gang want Prof Shekar to use his annihilation machine to rule the world or some such megalomaniacal plan, but before going ahead they continue to drug horses to lure other businessmen into their clutches. Or possibly not, but they don’t get moving on using the plasma beam death ray thingy straight away and Mena keeps shooting darts at horses for a little longer. Intrepid Agent 444 is on the case, but is spotted by Mena who sends henchmen No 4 and No 6 off to get rid of 444. (Bad guys apparently only get 1 number as their name). After losing one secret agent, it means that there is only one possible man who can solve the problem – Agent 999 aka Prakash!

Prakash (Dr Rajkumar) lives in luxury with a bevy of beautiful women in his pad which features a circular bed and automated chairs, tables and a truly awesome telephone answering machine. However all of this is easily left behind when Prakash hears he’s needed to avenge 444’s death and find out exactly what is the Jackpot scheme at Bangalore race course. He takes with him Agent 888, aka Baby (Narasimharaju) who provides most of the comedy in the film. Sadly, without subtitles most of this doesn’t work particularly well and the scenes between Baby and his love interest Bunny are really terrible. However, as a Secret Agent side-kick Agent 888 is fine and Narasimharaju is funniest when he is simply reacting to whichever difficult situation Prakash has left him to deal with next.

Prakash has little trouble identifying Mena and persuading her to spill the beans on her employer. However the Boss knows about Mena’s betrayal and sends his hitmen to the hotel where Prakash and Mena are indulging in a song while frolicking in the pool – as you do. Prakash stops to dispose of one of the henchmen in the middle of the song, picking back up mid-tune without ever missing a beat, but sadly Mena is less successful at dodging the bad guys. This is a perfect scene where Mena’s body is found in her hotel room with ‘Jackpot’ written on the light so that with every swing the word moves back and forth across her body. Chilling, and very effective.

The Boss then switches to Girl No 2 – Mona. Mona is played by a very young Rekha and she makes an excellent ‘Bond’ girl as she attempts to distract Agent 999 from his investigation. Rekha gets to wear some very snazzy outfits, say ‘Yes, Boss’ frequently and even has a chance to torture Agent 999 when he is captured by the bad guys. Of course Prakash manages to escape and takes Mona along with him which prompts her to thank him rather profusely in song. Particularly enjoyable is the way she tells Prakash to proceed while blocking his driving view totally by sitting on the bonnet and dancing!

There are numerous fights, plenty of car chases, frequent audacious escapes and even appropriate use of an ejector seat as Agent 999 discovers what has happened to Professor Shekar and infiltrates the gang’s hidden lair. Adding to the mystery, the Boss is hidden behind a screen or seen from behind in a chair so that his identity is not revealed until the very end. The angled lighting too helps to increase the tension, with clever use of shadows and well thought out decor. It’s all very stylish and noir with added touches such as the ropes tying up Prof Shekar aligning perfectly with the lines painted on the wall and the wonderfully atmospheric arches in the lair.

Rajkumar makes an excellent James Bond, managing to look cool and unaffected by his capture and still charming the ladies even when tied up and threatened. No matter what happens, Agent 999 is in control. I think the character works so well because Rajkumar has plays Prakash with a mix of charm and competent action but also isn’t afraid to dress up and play a part when necessary. His bewigged guitar player disguise is wonderfully OTT and made just that little better by having a giant guitar for his dancing partner to use as a stage.

This is another excellent adventure with plenty of action and great performances from the main leads. B. Dorairaj’s cinematography ensures the film looks stylish and G.K. Venkatesh adds music that suits the mood of the film well. The Dorai – Bhagawan team build suspense and anticipation throughout the movie and although there are still plenty of fight scenes, here they are sharper and less intrusive than in the follow-up Operation Diamond Racket. There is plenty for everyone to enjoy in Operation Jackpot Nalli C.I.D. 999 and while Dr Rajkumar is the absolute star of the show, Rekha also shines and provides a good partner for Agent 999. Definitely one to see if you like James Bond, noir cinema or just a rollicking good story! 4 stars