Mrugaraju

Gunasekhar’s film is a remake of the Ghost and the Darkness – but with Mega Heroics instead of Val Kilmer grimacing. Having seen both (not very good) films, this is actually my pick of the bunch. It makes no sense, the sound team may have been drunk, and everyone forgets about the lion far more than they should. But Simran and Chiranjeevi are good, the songs are fun, and it just never lets anything (particularly geography) get in the way.

Aishwarya (Simran) volunteers to take over a bridge building project that has come to a standstill following a number of lion attacks. Raju (Chiranjeevi) is the legendary forest guide and sharpshooter hired to keep the workers safe. Eventually we find out that Raju and Aishwarya had been married and that sparks a long lion-free flashback to explain their back story. Aishwarya thinks he deserted her knowing she was knocked up and he can’t believe he has a kid (in a happy way). So he sings a sad little song that has the effect of luring his daughter out into the night and towards almost certain death. Will they get back together? Will the lion kill again? Will anyone ever finish that bridge?

I liked that Aishwarya started out as a practical professional woman. Her character is on the receiving end of a lot of unfortunate comedy uncle buffoonery and sexist remarks from Raju. Simran plays Aishwarya as pleasant but firm, and she wasn’t afraid of confrontation. She realised her fiancé Vicky was an arse and at her own engagement ceremony, strode down the aisle and asked Raju to marry her. Good move! But because you can’t have The Heroine on an equal footing with The Hero, many of her skills failed to manifest at crucial times. And her lion catching plan is in MS Paint. I don’t think anyone on the crew consulted an engineer about what good construction looked like (surely half the crew WERE engineers?). I’m not sure about Aishwarya wearing beaded chiffon sarees around camp either, but each to their own. She has nice chemistry with Chiranjeevi and does her best with the stupid screenplay.

Raju is a fairly straightforward good guy character but Chiru’s acting chops drew out the emotional tension in some of his scenes with Simran. Of course he could beat up packs of drug dealers with one hand behind his back, poachers better beware, and he always knows best. But for a renowned hunter he was frankly hopeless. They come up with a plan to have Rajanna up on a platform, with a baboon tied to a tree nearby as bait. Aishwarya startled an eagle which knocked Raju to the ground, just as the lion shows up. I really wish they’d watched a proper wildlife doco or two. He was too chatty and smoked incessantly so ensured the lions knew exactly where he was, he dropped his gun ALL THE TIME (a strap? Did anyone think of a strap?), seemed constantly surprised by animal behaviour, and his clever plans resulted in several unnecessary deaths. He apparently had a no-kill policy which is laudable, but then he wore so many animal teeth I had to wonder. The action scenes range from standard fights to more complex stunts and Chiru throws himself into it all with vim and vigour (and a bit of overacting).

Chiru really shines in the songs, which is hardly a surprise, and they are highlights of this inconsistent adaptation. It was odd but not unpleasant hearing Udit Narayan sing for him in Aley Ley Aley Ley as I tend to associate his voice with SRK. And yes, Chiru provided the vocals for Chai Chai in a spirited Sprechgesang.

Nagendra Babu is a tribal man supervising the villagers work. He and Raju have a lion claw type gesture in place of a bro fist. At one moment that was supposed to be emotional I was shouting “He’s gonna do the hands” and he did and I laughed and then I felt bad but hey…It’s like lots of things in this film, under thought and over used. But I always like seeing Naga Babu as a good guy sidekick. I just wish he didn’t have to die so often.

Prakash Raj and Kovai Sarala are Raju’s befeathered parents. They love their boy and have faith in their tribe’s way of life. And they ham it up at every opportunity. Anyone who can overact when their character is dead really needs to take look at themselves. But they’re not alone. Brahmi is a Hindi speaking doofus who adds nothing. MS Narayana dressed up as a bear to scare Aishwarya, only to have a real (man in a suit) bear drag him away with, er, romantic intent…Jeez. I understand the traditional requirement of a comedy track but it doesn’t sit well against what could have been a suspenseful action oriented story.

Where this bridge is located is debatable. While all the people speak Telugu, the government departments seem to be Indian, and the place names are Indian there is a sizeable population of giraffes, along with a few rhinos and those pesky lions. The “tribal” people don’t help with narrowing down the continent either. The cultural appropriation extended to Australia as Raju also wielded a very sharp edged boomerang. There is so much geographic inconsistency – are they in a jungle or grassy plains, where did those mountains come from and why are they so easy for a toddler to climb up and back down again…

The lions were very diverting. Due to shonky CGI and changing perspectives they sometimes appeared to be hippo sized, then sometimes like a small terrier. Seeing what looked like a tiny lion speeding by with galloping pony sound effects – hilarious. I also liked the lion strolling along a log made to look like it was climbing a tree. Very 1960’s Batman. There were some stuffed lions too. I think I paid more attention to the lions than most people in the film. Aishwarya spends a lot of time wandering around the long grass looking picturesque and edible, and Raju spends more time singing motivational songs than actually being on task.

I was also reunited with an old friend – the jungle bunny. Aishwarya nearly shoots a fluffy white rabbit thinking it is a lion, but it fakes death until revived by Chiru breathing on it. And then in what may be an act of rabbit revenge, local glamour girl Sivangi (Sanghavi) chases a fluffy white bunny that leads her into the lions’ den; a cave filled with skulls and bones. I reckon either the rabbits are in cahoots with the lions or they are the real evil masterminds.

Mruga Raju is not a very good film, Gunasehar lacked focus and the execution is clumsy. But Chiru is very appealing (once Raju eases off the sexist BS), and Simran is a good partner. It plays a lot better with judicious use of the FF button, but the songs are worth a watch. 3 stars!

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What Would Chiru Do?

Sometimes when things becomes challenging and I am running low on inspiration, I turn to Chiranjeevi for Mega Life Advice. For example:

 

When mornings get off to a bad start. What would Chiru do?

He’d kick its arse!

When people keep drawing arbitrary lines in the sand that serve no purpose other than to be annoying. What would Chiru do?

He’d kick their arse!

When people are being offensive and discriminatory, have terrible hair styles, and are preventing the big dance finale. What would Chiru do?

He’d kick their arse!

When someone mistakenly attacks after a misunderstanding due to poor communication. What would Chiru do?

He’d engage them in robust debate, kick their arse just a bit, then extend the hand of friendship so we can all move forward without rancour.

And if anyone is unwise enough to instigate a danceoff, what would Chiru do?

Kick all their arses!

Happy birthday Chiranjeevi! May you have many more kick-arse years to come!

Megastar, mega interspecies communication

Chiru and horse

Happy Birthday Chiranjeevi!

You all may know that each year in Megabirthday month I undertake an arduous research project into the Mega oeuvre and stardom. From a tiny pink-frock wearing monkey companion in Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu, to the excellent horse and dog super hero support team in Kondaveeti Donga, The Megastar has long demonstrated an affinity with the animal kingdom.

Sometimes the wildlife function only as patient observers as Chiranjeevi strutted his stuff, perhaps in mimickry of a (less bedraggled) peacock.

Sometimes the danger was more likely that they would end up sunstruck, or even starstruck.

And there was the ever present danger that someone could catch a chill or lose a finger to a sharp beaked and cranky co-star.

When someone in the costume department has a sense of humour and someone in the dance department is just plain mean, you get faux animals.

Seriously – you didn’t think I’d give up a chance to hit you all with this again? And yet, despite all the everything in this clip, it’s really Chiru’s outfits that make the strongest statement.

And the path to true love apparently requires a slide, a giant egg, and a bunch of randoms in plushie chicken suits. Maybe this is where I’ve been going wrong…

But sometimes Chiru just had to do it himself, and become the spirit animal of his music. Or something.

[I am excluding songs in which Chiranjeevi emerged from a shell, as I do not really believe the mollusc is either appealing or necessary in an actor’s repertoire.]

Clothes maketh the lepidotera (among other things)

And

And you know, snakes. I will never stop loving that snake dance from Khaidi.

 

And of course, Chiru clearly felt that his own charisma was sufficient protection against the effects of working with kids and animals.

Sometimes the relationship was more…adversarial. But hey. Saving a cute baby elephant, killing a lion with your bare hands. All in a day’s work for Chiru

And finally, innovative use of an avian accessory for the well dressed ladies man appearing in a bedizened song fantasy. “For you will know by the gleaming band upon his brow and the dove upon his shoulder that He Means Business.” He certainly seems to be quite good at aiming a pigeon. Which small mercy Roja might be grateful for at 2m 06s. Just saying.

So what are your favourites? Add them in the comments and I will add them to this playlist.