Chakravarthy (1987)


Charavarthy starts off with a standard storyline where there are the customary good-hearted villagers living under the tyranny of a wicked village president and his sleazy side-kick.  Chiranjeevi is the rather rough and ready villager with a heart of gold who stands up to the president and fights against the various injustices he sees in the village.  So far so good, (although rather routine and not too exciting).

But then, suddenly, there is this:

Definitely well worth the Rs35 I paid for the VCD!  Sadly the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to the expectations generated by watching Chiru dance in gold lame and black pleather, but there are still plenty of good songs, plus Chiru in a variety of dapper suits and bow ties – so I’m definitely calling it a good buy.

Chiranjeevi is Anji, a simple man who lives in the village and helps the local Swamiji (Somayajulu J.V.) look after a number of orphans.  Swamiji runs a school at his ashram where the orphans also live, but it’s under threat from the village president (Satyanarayana Kaikala) who wants the land for himself.  The president threatens and blusters, but Anji isn’t going to let anyone bully the gentle Swamiji and when the president’s thugs turn up at the school to throw the kids out (literally!), Anji makes sure that they are the ones forced to leave.


Anji is also intent on making the best match for his sister, who is back in the village after completing her studies.  The scene where Anji meets up with her again is brilliant, although I’m not sure why he should be so shy and bashful on meeting his own sister.  Maybe it’s just because his clothes are several sizes too small, but at least he’s made the effort to dress up for the occasion.


Despite the self-conscious nature of their meeting, Anji is soon trying to get Lakshmi (Ramya Krishnan) to marry his best mate, and the local police sergeant, Mohan (Mohan Babu).  Mohan Babu hams it up nicely for the camera here and does his best to be the overall good guy in the film, with mixed success.  Still it’s probably only natural that Lakshmi prefers her rich former class mate who has plenty of style, even if it is all wasted posing on the golf course.


Anji is doing his own fair share of romancing, as he chases after the feisty Rani (Bhanupriya).  Although the two seem to spend most of their time arguing or at the very least teasing each other,there are some night-time shenanigans which result in this great song.

Bhanupriya is lovely here and she just sparkles in the scenes with Chiranjeevi.  They both frequently look as if they are about to crack up laughing at each other and the camaraderie between them ensures some great chemistry as they veer between fighting and making up, usually both at the same time.


However the president has more evil plans afoot and Anji ends up losing an eye as he saves the ashram yet again, leaving him with an eye patch and a generally bad attitude.  He picks a fight with Lakshmi’s rich suitor (Sudhakar) who is later found dead, sparking a hunt for the murderer.  Since the fight with Anji was seen by everyone on the golf course, Anji is the obvious suspect, and Mohan is the man charged with bringing his friend to justice.    There is much drama and scenery chewing as Mohan and Anji head for a show-down while Rani and Swamiji try to deal with the fall-out.  The president’s servant is played by a young Brahmi, and he provides a large proportion of the comedy, along with Allu Ramalingayya as Rani’s quack doctor father.  It’s worth keeping an eye on the various support actors in the background too, as below where the servant who brings the president his drink, totally unnoticed, helps himself to a glass as well.


That brings us to the re-incarnation of Anji as Chakravarthy, the famous disco dancer, who returns to his village presumably to clear his name and sort out the village president once and for all. And if he’s lucky hook up with Rani again too.

Chakravarthy is as far removed from Anji as it is possible to be.  He is suave and sophisticated, dresses in smart suits and talks in English as he schmoozes the villagers.  Mohan suspects Chakravarthy may be Anji, possibly due to the uncanny resemblance between the two, but is thrown off when Chakravarthy demonstrates that he has full use of his left eye.  It’s a conundrum!

ChakravarthyChakravarthyChakravarthyChakravarthyI’m not sure if the two functioning eyes is ever explained, but it doesn’t really matter since there are more fights, more drama and suspicious looks exchanged before the final big showdown to grab our attention.  There are also more of K. Chakravarthy’s excellent songs.  I couldn’t decide which to add in here, but decided to go with this as Bhanupriya gets to wear much more tasteful outfits than in a few of the others.   Needless to say, Chiranjeevi looks perfectly styled in every one!

Although the film is overall a fairly standard masala flick, director Ravi Raja Pinisetty has added a few touches that bring originality into the mix.  Since he later directed one of my favourite Chiru films, Yamudiki Mogudu, I was a little disappointed that he kept the flamboyance to a minimum in Chakravarthy, apart from disco dancer Chakrvarthy’s introduction number.  But the more restrained costumes and comedy suit the overall style of the film.  What I do like are the different dynamics in Anji’s relationships with his mentor, his lover and his best friend.  The sudden shift when he reappears as Chakravarthy is also well envisaged, although I really did miss the subtitles that might have explained where he got all of his sudden sophistication.  And the eye fixed up!  Chakravarthy is definitely worth a watch for the chemistry between Chiranjeevi and Bhanupriya and for the concept of a disco dancer being the only person able to save the day! 3 ½ stars.


Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu (1983)

Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu VCD cover

I really should stop buying unsubtitled dollar VCDs just because of the cover. But not yet. It’s hard to reconcile the masala excesses of Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu with Khaidi and Sangharshana which were made in the same year. Chiranjeevi is truly a versatile hero! A Kodandarami Reddy directs with his usual ‘nothing succeeds like excess’ flair.

The silly story reminded me of why I have such a soft spot for Telugu films. Their commitment to delivering a comeuppance is reassuring and reliable, and something the real world sadly lacks.  The VCD quality is poor. It was like watching a movie from the back row in an antiquated cinema while sitting next to someone snacking on cellophane wrapped treats. Among many visual delights, the costume department did their utmost to make an impression with their new discovery – the ruffle.

The film opens with Kongara Jaggaiah holding a baby and running from a gang of horsemen. He leaves the infant near a priest, who manages to carry on praying oblivious to the running man and pursuing horses. With the usual filmi total lack of surprise at finding an unattended child, the kindly man raised the baby as his own son. There were two babies in the original shot and the fate of the other child is revealed in due course. The baddies catch up with their prey and he is trampled severely by the horses and left for dead.

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The baby grows up to be Siva (Chiranjeevi). He is a simpleton, spending his days herding sheep, hanging out with his monkey and the village kids. Siva wears very snug fitting clothes – perhaps to show he is an overgrown child or perhaps a precursor to Chiru’s lycra era. He is easily bossed around and has little motivation to grow up or be more independent. Chiranjeevi and the monkey seem to get along well. I think Chiru permanently had a handful of snacks for his tiny co-star and the monkey noshes away happily in most of their scenes.

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Gauri (Radhika) seems to be the only other person of Siva’s age so they are clearly meant to be together. Gauri is bubbly, smart, opinionated and protective. She makes her feelings clear but Siva is a bit slow on the uptake. He eventually declares his intentions and Gauri thinks her life is set.

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The king (Gollapudi Maruthi Rao) lives in luxury and adheres to traditional excess and appalling interior design. His manager, Rao Gopal Rao, is a nasty piece of work. He and his dodgy son extort money from the peasant workers. Gauri opposes him and tries to rally the people in an uprising. They eventually kill her along with half the village, and kidnap the survivors to work as slaves. The detention facility is one of those totally secret in plain sight kind of places and I doubt the design was all that functional. Anyway.

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When Siva sees the corpses and carnage he is traumatised. He goes to the king to appeal for justice. There he sees Malli (Radhika in a dual role), the king’s class conscious spoilt brat daughter.

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Mistaking her for Gauri, Siva allows Malli to bully and torment him before he realises that this stony hearted witch is not his lost love. It doesn’t happen on screen but I think she killed his monkey. How could you think it’s OK to kill a tiny monkey in a pink dress? Siva retaliates clumsily, and is on his way to the open air jail when he manages to fall hundreds of feet to a safe landing on some rocks.

He finds his way to a guru (Kongara Jaggaiah again) and his shrine to Shiva (with affiliated vengeful dude training facility). In a Sholay-ish touch, the guru’s arms dangle uselessly by his side and he is wrapped in a shawl to hide his crippled limbs. There is a flashback explaining his relationship with the overseer and what happened back in the day. He preaches the power of concentration, meditation and preparation as a means to overcome a foe. Presumably he is also of the school of ‘one swift kick’.

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After a training montage which includes a snippet of learning to dance, Siva graduates to wearing fringed pleather and heads off to seek revenge.

Once again I found myself appreciating how Chiru totally commits to his performances. He may be wearing fluoro bike shorts and not much else but he dances with energy and forcefulness as he prepares to go epic.

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While out on a hunting trip, Malli is left to fend for herself when a tiger menaces the group. Chiru to the rescue! Calling himself Vijay, he joins Malli’s staff as a bodyguard (after a death match competency test) and the ruffled shirt department go into overdrive.

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Is it any surprise that Malli finds him alluring and irresistible? Radhika and Chiranjeevi do have nice chemistry although this in no way approaches their performances in Aaradhana a few years later.

I like the faux flamenco prancing in that song although Chakravarty’s music and the choreography are uninspired. The bouffy mullet is not Chiru’s best hairstyle but it does set off the matching headbands nicely. And yes, dear reader, he is in stylish mega-boots.

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The overseer and his son favour shiny shirts, and Malli likes a frill or ten so there is something for everyone.

Siva/Vijay tells Malli’s servant that her husband is alive but to keep up the appearance of widowhood until the plan comes to fruition. The servant is also Malli’s real mother, something that eventually comes as a shock to the girl obsessed with her pure blueblood heritage.  Siva shows her paintings he made of his lost love Gauri, and his monkey, and Malli seems to understand his torment and apologises. I think. (Which is nice seeing as she is partly responsible for his loss.) While I am sure Siva and Malli are not siblings, I am not sure if Siva was the rightful heir to anything or was just a lost boy.

Love blooms, revenge ferments and eventually there is a showdown at the secret jail. And there the film really surprised me. I…words fail me.

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There might be some folkloric element to the basic story but I am not sure what inspired these guys.

But good will triumph and evil will be overthrown.

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And yet again, a surprise as Chiru ripped the intestines out of one villainous henchman using only his bare hands and the righteous power of Shiva. Ah filmi justice – extreme yet reassuringly final. And if you have faith, or maybe unshakable self-confidence, everything will come right in the end. Even if your arms are painted on.

This is far from being a good film but it was mightily entertaining. 2 ½ stars for quality, 4 for astonishing outfits!



Sivudu Sivudu Sivudu_those costumes again

Sangarshana (1983)

I like a good socialist masala film. Sangarshana has surprisingly long interludes of sensible decision making and logical plot progression, plus loads of dancing and a very good cast. It’s highly entertaining and while the plot is fairly basic, it’s more rounded out than I expected. Lest that all sound a bit too straightforward, there are mysterious mute women, children separated at birth, a comic sideplot that hinges on romantic sabotage, family dramas, medical emergencies, flying somersaults, fight scenes and a bit of conflict resolution through disco.

Dilip (Chiranjeevi) returns from America to live with his wealthy industrialist dad (Satyanarayana Kaikala). He is a nice enough guy but used to the easy life, and can’t really understand the struggle of workers in his family factory. He believes his dad is a good guy and that the workers should trust him and remember their station in life. Eventually Dilip comes to realise that his father is more interested in money than in the means by which he obtains it. To make matters worse, the local site manager (Rao Gopal Rao) reneges on offers of compensation for injured employees and overacts wildly.

My post grad studies were in Industrial Relations and I can confidently state that I never encountered that reaction to a workplace accident in any of the cases I studied.

Dilip renews his relationship with his childhood friends Shivam (Sivakrishna) and Radha (Vijayashanti) and their father, the supervisor Mr Krishnamurthy (Gummadi).

When he isn’t prancing about reminiscing with Radha, lifelong snappy dresser Dilip is prancing about romancing Rekha (Nalini) the daughter of his dad’s local business manager. Life is all twirling around on hilltops and dancing around trees. But then other issues start to take over. Shivam starts a union and tries to get fairer conditions for the other workers. Some of his demands seemed a bit out there (workers compensations is fine, but three months bonus?), and fights the good fight. Unionisation is not ideal for the owners as regulation and systems may bring their smuggling sideline to light, and they certainly don’t want to reduce their profits.

Once Dilip realises the extent of the illegal activities and his father’s role in the shady doings, things start to get nasty. He is thrown out of home, his relationship with Rekha is threatened as her father coerces her to give up Dilip, and there is much drinking and crying.

When Dilip is framed for Shivam’s murder, Chiru dials up the heroics as he becomes a furious young man and makes his enemies sorry they ever crossed that line.

Chiranjeevi is very good as the showy Dilip who brings back expensive gifts and spouts some terrible English dialogues. He manages to be vain and likeable and the transition from easy confidence to anger and hurt betrayal is excellent. He is deliberately cheesy in some romantic scenes, adding a comic spark,  but brings genuine warmth and pathos when it is needed.

Oh those outfits make me weep, especially the poor backing dancers. But look at Chiru go! He dances up a storm and is handy in a fight. No wonder the ladies are lining up!

Sivakrishna has one expression for 80% of the film but since he plays an angry young man that works well enough. Allu Ramalingaiah is Varahamurthy, the comedy religious advisor who abets Rao Gopal Rao in his schemes. Varahamurthy has his own ideas about marrying his son Chalpai off to rich and lovely Rekha, while Chalpai has the hots for a voluptuous local girl. Those shenanigans constitute the comedy side plot and aren’t quite as painful as they might have been, although I did forward through most of it on a re-watch. Annapurna plays the mysterious mute woman who holds the key to a tangled family saga. Her revelations relieve Dilip of his sense of familial loyalty, and make him determined to bring his father and cohorts to justice.

Vijayashanti is beautiful as simple village girl Radha. She loves Dilip and has a fair number of song induced fantasies about their love. But she is a sensible and nice girl who doesn’t let romantic notions carry her away. Radha is committed to her family and to doing the right thing, and doesn’t hesitate to call Dilip on his weakness when he is wallowing in drunkenness. When she sees that rich Rekha is more Dilip’s type Radha has a talk to herself and decides she has to move on. See? Sensible.

Nalini gets less emotional range but more hideous fashionable outfits as Rekha. Rekha is pretty, a bit spoilt, but once she decides Dilip is The One, she doesn’t back away without putting up a fight. Literally – check her out in this clip.

Nalini is good but didn’t make as strong an impression as Vijayashanti despite the biffo.

K Chakravarthy provided a range of songs that suited the mood and the characters. Radha and Dilip have more traditional duets while Rekha gets a more Westernised treatment. The choreography is energetic and certainly suits Chiru who gives it his all.

I love watching that song. It comes at a high point in the story and what I really enjoy is the slightly ragged energy that makes it look like people were having fun dancing and not just thinking about it as a scene.   

The interior sets are quite fabulous. Someone on the team decided that more is more in some cases, and I enjoyed playing ‘name that knick knack’ or ‘spot the repo old master’. The dedication to clashing patterns is also quite noticeable.

The western costumes are very 80s while the rowdies dress like a blind costume designer’s hippie fantasy.

One of my few quibbles with the film is that, as a result of what I assume is slacking off by the footwear team, Dilip often wore a pair of quite drab brown ankle boots that just didn’t go with his outfits.

The plot is quite cohesive and the lead characters are engaging.  Occupational health and safety, security for families of workers, a fair go and collective bargaining are things I have an interest in, so while this is very filmi it does throw some ideas around. Issues are explored in conversations, but nothing too heavy. The actors deliver good performances with the right balance of craziness and heart. Director K Murali Mohana Rao keeps things moving along and the story plays to Chiranjeevi’s strengths. 4 stars!