SP Parasuram

My DVD collection has grown more through whim and serendipity than any clear acquisition strategy, and I don’t always come up with gold. This is not a quality film. It probably should be something I refer to as a guilty pleasure, but I feel no guilt! I just love it for its stars, the songs, the outfits, the action, the insane plot twists and the sheer style.

The villain of the piece (played by Sharat Saxena) makes, of all things, snuff films. I really wasn’t expecting that.

We have two girls drugged and abducted (one raped, both murdered), a confrontation between police and the murderer/rapist/blue film talent (Mahesh Anand seen  here in his fluffy pink dressing gown) and a further show down between SP Parasuram (Chiranjeevi) and Mahesh Anand resulting in the criminal being rendered comatose before the onlookers send Chiru on his way with a polite round of applause and he revs them up about social justice and eliminating corruption. That takes care of the first breathless 10 minutes. And the level of happenings rarely drops for the rest of the film.

SP Ram Parasuram is the righteous cop with a wicked temper, and our hero. Sri Devi is Kumari, a petty con artist and thief. When Kumari is arrested, she spins a colourful tale to escape her cell. Luckily for us, the design team were on fire when they came up with this!

Ram lives with his father, brother and sister in a fabulously decorated mansion and seems to be the bossy one in the family. Kumari breaks in to steal from her persecutor, and perhaps to get an eyeful of this:

Her outfits are also quite eyecatching.

I love this song mostly because I get to see Chiru wearing a Koala print jumper. Maybe he was thinking about his Australian fan base or maybe it’s all the wardrobe guy could find.  The ankle boots, black socks and high baggy pants are not so pleasing, but it was the 90s…And Sri Devi didn’t fare any better.

The romance and action intersect when the blue film gang kidnap Kumari who escapes and runs into the only man she can trust. She can identify the gang so there is a lot of interest in shutting her up. A murder attempt renders her blind and temporarily safe as a blind woman is not perceived as a threat. If only they knew as much as I do about incredible filmi medicine they wouldn’t be so sanguine! What with providing security and seeing her and her orphans, Chiru falls under Sri Devi’s spell and they marry. It’s a quick process, as she is still bandaged around her head on the wedding day.

There are double crosses and betrayals all over the place, and a hefty dollop of tension as characters come so close to their doom and yet don’t quite succumb. A corrupt subordinate with a grudge (Devaraj as the sleazy Rayappa) gains advancement and Ram has to put duty ahead of personal desire. His trials don’t end there, but our hero is indomitable, using his precise manners as a weapon. Chiru almost draws blood just with the word ‘Sir’. Circumstances are manipulated to humiliate and undermine him but Parasuram never falters in his dedication although his temper is put to the test. There is some joy in his life as his marriage to Kumari is clearly happy and loving. But joy can be turned to pain and of course the baddies have another shot at eliminating the one witness that could potentially destroy them.

A poisoning attempt (spoiler – it’s unsuccessful), miraculous surgery and a the presence of a gang member in the household keep the drama dialled up to HIGH.

There is also a fabulous dishooming with a shoe when Parasuram is pushed too far. The final blood sweat and tear soaked bone-snapping showdown involves a runaway train and an impressive array of stuntmen flying through the air crying ‘Heeeaaaargh’. So much happens in this film!

I love Chiranjeevi and Sri Devi so seeing them together is just wonderful. I have no idea if they got along in real life, but they make a beautiful screen couple. The songs look fabulous and they both have such verve in their dancing. The relationship between Parasuram and Kumari is very affectionate and warm, and they are a lot of fun in some of their romantic and domestic scenes. The Paruchuri brothers dialogues strike the right note for this couple. Chiru is just the perfect hero for this kind of film and once again he gives an energised and committed performance. He plays the dramatic scenes with authority but also dives into the silliness in the dance scenes with some outrageous flirting faces. Sri Devi does much more than sit around and look pretty as she also enacts some pivotal scenes. She has great expression in her face and body language and the emotional range of Kumari’s character gives her ample opportunity to show off all her skills. Her charisma more than stands up to Chiru’s and the story feels quite balanced and the characters more fleshed out for having two strong performers at the core.

Brahmi occupies an unnecessary comedy sideplot but doesn’t take up too much time that could be better spent. The supporting cast do the needful, and Devaraj was certainly successful in being sleazy and hateful. Allu Ramalingaiah has a small role as a comedy policeman, and makes an impression in a fun scene with Sri Devi. I’ve seen more of Mahesh Anand than I wanted to (you only got the screencap WITH the dressing gown) but he was very effective as a bad bad man.

The MM Keeravani soundtrack suits the mood and stands up to the onslaught of visual delights. The production values are all up there on screen in stars, sequins and stunts.

This is a film that requires you to strap yourself in and just go with it. I love it and give it 4 and ½ stars!

Aidondla Aidu

Aidu Onda Aidu (Five times one is five) is a Kannada film by the director V K Prakash. Known mainly for his Malayalam films this is his first venture into the Kannada language and is being shown in Australia and New Zealand  as part of the Indian Film Festival . The film is based on extracts from 18 Natakangal, a collection of plays by award winning Malayalam author and playwright Jayaprakash Kuloor. There are four short stories in the narrative linked together by the fifth tale of a director trying to make the stories into a film. While the individual stories are all very well told and beautifully shot, the linking narrative is less compelling and as a result the film doesn’t quite make a complete whole.

The film starts with the story of Kantha who is trying to make the film of his dreams.  He takes a year’s unpaid leave of absence from his job and seems to be relying on his unrestrained enthusiasm and the support of his wife.  I think that the actor playing the role of his boss is actually Jayaprakash Kuloor himself, but I’m not familiar with most of these actors so please excuse me if I’m wrong here. As Kantha tries to sell his story he runs into every possible difficulty with the various producers he meets.  People like his story, but it needs more action, more gimmicks, more everything and of course this starts to take a toll on his enthusiasm.  In the course of his struggles we see the four stories he is trying to film. 

All the tales revolve around the relationships between a husband and wife and although each explores different facets of the marital relationship, at their core they involve communication and the consequences of misconception. 

The first story is a charming tale of a new bride and groom which has plenty of humour.  This is told with a very light touch and the two actors appear fresh and natural in their roles.  This song is one of my favourites in the film as Gowri is making yet more payasa for her husband Lokesh.

The next story is a simple tale about the effect of a mirror on a poor couple who have never seen their reflections before. While it’s perhaps hard to believe in their naivety, the story is more of a parable about the effects of jealousy on a relationship. Again the story is told with plenty of light comedy and the song by the pedlar who gives them the mirror is excellent.

The third story is quite different, although it still has at its core the relationship of a husband and wife. This time the tale is much more realistic with less humour and as a result breaks into the almost magical atmosphere created by the other two. The final story goes back into more of a fairy tale like tone and focuses on the rekindling of a relationship during the rainy season. This allows the film to end on an optimistic note, albeit a somewhat soggy one.

These four stories within the main narrative succeed in different ways and the use of a number of directors of photography and editors helps to give each a distinctive feel. The songs in particular are nicely integrated into each and work very well. There is a lot of comedy in the stories although this is very gentle and grows out of the various relationships depicted. I have to admit I don’t know many of the actors here but I was impressed with the performances and thought they all fit their resprective roles well.

The linking story is kept brief and somewhat pedestrian which is perhaps why it doesn’t grab my attention in the same way as the other four tales. There is little exploration of why the director feels compelled to tell these stories and there seems to be a few wasted opportunities to further explore his own relationship with his wife. This is frustrating, particularly when compared to the other short stories which are beautifully complete in themselves and yet allow for a wider interpretation of the relationships portrayed. Kantha is shown as having an early love of cinema and is childishly enthusiastic, but that doesn’t explain why he goes about his film in the way he does. His wife has the potential to be an interesting character as she is prepared to stand by her husband and help him realise his dream despite the hardships incurred, but her motivation is never really fully explored. More development of both these characters would have made their story much more compelling and provided a firmer foundation for the other four tales.

While overall the film is funny and charming, the different stories are quite disparate giving a slightly disjointed feel. A more detailed linking narrative would have made this a much more cohesive film as there is so much else which is excellent. The short stories themselves all are rather fanciful and this is another factor which separates them from the main theme which is very much set in the real world. Its still a film I would recommend watching for the music, good song picturisation and impressive performances from the large cast. This film was a good start to the festival for me . 3 1/2 stars.