Adavi Donga

Adavi Donga is difficult to really capture in mere words. As I watched it, I kept wondering if Chiranjeevi was already the Megastar, because this is not the kind of film that I imagine would really enhance an actor’s reputation. This was an adventure without subtitles, but the visuals speak volumes. My  copy is a dodgy quality VCD so my images will not do it justice, but I have sourced some short clips to help bring Adavi Donga to life. No dear reader, don’t thank me yet!

Sharada, always so elegant and striking, is Vasundhara. She opposes the local bad guy, animal poacher and underpayer of vegetable growers, Rao Gopal Rao, and his idiot son.

He is slimey and not always just in the comedic manner you might expect from the wigs.

 

Look at what happened to the last person who crossed him! And consider the well appointed lair and excellent lighting effects. He also has a gang of brightly attired poachers, and Allu Ramalingaiah as a shady advisor and factotum.

Rao Gopal Rao frames Vasundhara’s husband for murder, and at the dramatic height of that incident, she stashes her recently tattooed infant son in the forest fully intending to come back when it is safe.  Unfortunately for her, the lad is discovered and adopted by an elephant and taken into the jungle.

I was delighted to find that the jungle was populated by lots of exciting animals like tigers, lion cubs, monkeys, antelope, peacocks and… fluffy white bunnies.

 

Some things made me question where the rabbits fit into the food chain. They had no protective camouflage or colouring – Stupidity or fearlessness? Were they just a convenient snack for local carnivores or something more sinister?

Sharada is left alone and angry. Vasundhara is a strong woman with a vengeful streak tempered by her principles. Her policeman brother, played by Kongara Jaggaiah, refuses to believe that her husband is innocent and doesn’t seem too fussed about the lost baby. Of course the boy grows up to become Chiranjeevi, a Tarzan character with a wardrobe comprising several loincloths and an array of matching sandals, who lives completely unnoticed in the not very distant jungle.

Radha has some strange ideas about jungle appropriate attire, although I guess pleather would be fairly hardy as fabrics go.

The poacher gang try to kidnap her, possibly in an attempt to force her to marry the idiot son. But Chiru cannot resist the piercing shriek of a maiden in distress and comes to her aid. She flees, leaving her cassette recorder behind. And that changes everything. I liked that the elephant mother seems appalled to find her human child dancing to some random disco rubbish. Sadly the damage has been done and Chiru goes in search of the pretty lady. This choice leads him into a world of floral curtains and scary reflections.

 

Radha certainly liked what she saw. The yodelling over Chiru’s arrival in this song is quite marvellous. Someone took their Tarzan tribute seriously.

Radha staged another incident to attract Chiru’s attention. She didn’t count on being chased into the jaws of a crocodile by a lethargic tiger, and of course Chiru arrives in the nick of time having been alerted by her robust screaming. I do like a good crocodile wrestling scene! He takes her to his treehouse and she seems to recover quite quickly considering her leg had been gnawed half off. But why didn’t Radha seem to notice the rabbits hopping all around her?

Chiru’s treehouse had an elephant operated elevator which at first surprised me – I mean, Tarzan needing a lift? How many city gals did he bring home? But then I realised the lift was possibly for the benefit of the bunnies who were sharing the penthouse treehouse with Chiru. Did the elephants have their own interpretation of bunny rug? What was their purpose? How on earth did the rabbits persuade so many creatures to do their bidding? Why do I care ?

Chiranjeevi’s idea of flirting with Radha is amusing rather than smouldering. He steals her bra, covers himself in a leopard skin and crawls around growling, gets his monkey to take a Polaroid of Radha while she is changing clothes and generally behaves like a hormonal teenager.

The romance between Chiru and Radha draws the attention of Rao Gopal Rao. His machinations place Chiru in danger, which allows for some excellent vine-swinging, and the elephants intervene to go find Sharada and reintroduce her to her son. Quite why it took so many years to do this is not clear, but maybe they just weren’t ready for him to leave home. It took Radha, resplendent in pleather pedal pushers, to reunite the family with a clever visual demonstration of the parent child relationship.

 

They quickly adjusted to this new family dynamic and the elephants helped Sharada break Chiru out of police custody. She is a very resourceful woman.

After a bit of divine intervention and maternal coaching, Chiru becomes Kalidasu. He starts wearing suits and accessorising with scarves. He also quickly develops an amazing mastery of rhetoric. Sharada imbues him with her own strong principles and he is the perfect son.

 

She is still crusading against the poaching and other villainous goings on. I liked the villains lair, apparently accessible only via secret rail tunnel, or the truck loading bay. Despite all the secrecy, Sharada and the local ‘tribe’ seem to be able to wander in as they please.

 

Naturally the bad guys refuse to be warned off by Sharada or by Chiru. He is outraged at seeing his former jungle friends sold for skins and tusks, although he was no tree-hugging conservationist  in his previous jungle existence. An assassin is sent to kill him. This role, if not the outfit, would have been perfect for Bob Christo. Please pay particular attention to the Wolverine style claws made from apple peelers.

Other pleasing details include the abundance of  fake ‘taxidermy’ in the villain’s house. What were they thinking?

The commitment to that theme continues into a song.

The songs (music by Chakravarthy) are kind of fabulous and completely excruciating.

The final showdown takes place in the villain’s lair and poor Chiru is faced with a terrible dilemma. Rescue his recently freed father from this?

Or save his mother from this?

And how to help anyone when he is trapped? And with evil henchmen tearing his clothes off?!? Oh the humanity!

 

Director K Raghavendra Rao wraps things up neatly, if not terribly sensibly, and there is excellent utilisation of the elephants. There is so much fabulous wardrobe, a ridiculous plot that merrily disregards any inconvenient logic, and very appealing performances by Chiranjeevi and Sharada. A must see for Tarzan fans, Chiru fans, rabbit fans and anyone who ever wanted to know which sandals go best with a loincloth. While not a great film, this is So Bad It’s Really Very Good.  3 stars!

Attaku Yamudu Ammayiki Mogudu

This was the first Chiranjeevi film I watched and I still totally love it. It was a hit when it was released in 1989 and was subsequently remade as Mapillai in Tamil and Jamai Raja in Hindi, but I think the original is the best. It’s a fantastic introduction to Chiru as it has some great action scenes, good comedy and of course totally awesome dancing. The only downside is the rather poor quality of the DVD which means that the screencaps below are rather blurry – sorry!

Chiranjeevi plays Kalyan, a graduate who has come to the city to find a job. He ends up crossing paths with medical student Rekha when she points him out to the police as the man who has stolen a bride at a wedding. This opening sequence has some great action shots as Chiru fights on, around and over a motorbike. There is also some good comedy when a drunken Kalyan goes to Rekha’s hostel room to complain about her method of identifying him to the police, especially since he knows he is the good guy. The scene is so simple but Chiru is very funny and gets plenty of humour from just one  line – just brilliant!

As  Rekha’s eyes have been opened to  Kalyan’s good qualities, in true filmi style she instantly falls in love. And once again following filmi tradition she decides that the way to win his love is to stalk him until he realises that of course he loves her too. To this end she stakes out the apartment Kalyan shares with his friend Brahmam (an almost unrecognisable youthful Brahmi with a full head of hair) and finally achieves her aim of getting Kalyan to fall in love with her too despite her rather unfortunate preference for the colour pink. At which point we get this rather fabulous song which features some  excellent hat choreography too .

With his love life sorted, Kalyan then discovers that his sister Lakshmi has been brutally rejected as a wife for her son by the rich and arrogant Mrs Chamundeshwari. To give you an idea of just how rich she is, and exactly what her priorities are, this is how she is introduced. (The blurring in this case is intentional)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kalyan is furious at Mrs Chamundeshwari’s attitude and initially refuses to let his sister marry Prasad, but changes his mind when he learns that his sister is pregnant. Prasad confesses to fear of his mother but decides that with Kalyan’s support he will dare to defy her, just as long as it’s all kept very secret!

Kalyan also learns that his love Rekha is Mrs Chamundeshwari’s daughter, which gives him a way to exact the perfect revenge. He marries Rekha and battle lines are drawn as Kalyan and Mrs Chamundeshwari fight for control of Rekha loyalties and ultimately the fate of the rest of the family. At the same time Mrs Chamundeshwari’s crooked brother Vinayaka Rao and his sidekick Kanala have turned up to try and con whatever they can from her. Recognising a rival in Kalyan they too attempt to discredit him in Rekha’s eyes with a number of crooked schemes that ultimately all fail. Kalyan enlists his friend Brahmam’s help and along the way finds another supporter in the form of Mrs Chamundeshwari’s estranged husband.

The reason I like this film so much is the excellent interaction between Kalyan and Mrs Chamundeshwari. Vanisree is fantastic as the haughty and overbearing factory owner who believes that her wealth gives her the right to make everyone do exactly as she wants. ApparentlyVanisree was a previously retired heroine who used this role as her comeback, and it certainly was a good choice. She has a lot more to do than the usual filmi mother and she exudes arrogance and distain at every step. Chiranjeevi is charismatic and charming in his role as Kalyan and gives his character plenty of compassion to contrast with the lack of feeling from Mrs Chamundeshwari. The clashes between the two are immensely enjoyable and there is a twinkle in Chiru’s eye which makes it seem as if he really enjoyed defying his mother in law at every opportunity. Of course, it could also be because he knows that he’s about to get into this outfit.

The high mortal stance from Kaylan ensures that he is the good guy throughout and director A. Kodandarami Reddy is at pains to ensure that we know he fell in love with Rekha before he met her mother. It’s not just a marriage of revenge, but a true love match. The scene depicting the first night between Kalyan and Rekha is very sweet and the story manages to mix both the conflict between Kalyan and his mother in law and the romance between Kalyan and Rekha very well. The screenplay is well written with some excellent dialogue to keep the film interesting throughout.  And there is of course a twist at the end which includes some more great action sequences. Although Vijayshanti as Rekha doesn’t have a large part to play in the film after she finally wins Kaylan’s love, her early scenes are fun. She is the dutiful sari-wearing daughter at home, but a typical young student when she goes back to the city. She changes into Western style clothes, starts smoking, and of course goes out to stalk Kalyan – all activities her mother would certainly not approve.

The set design is also fab. I have no idea what this is supposed to be, but it looks as if there is a large animal with claws as an ornament above this curtain. Sadly this is as much of it as we ever get to see since I think it looks awesome. At first I thought it was a light but on repeated viewings I’m quite sure it has claws, paws and a tail! I also love this light sculpture and there is an abundance of wonderful furniture throughout the house. Just look at the animal print stand in the bedroom for example.

While the songs by K. Chakravarthy aren’t particularly memorable, the costumes and dancing are and  Chiru and Vijayshanti look great together.I like this song as it focuses solely on Chiru with his backing dancers, although I do question the decision to make them wear these pants – they almost manage to distract me from Chiru. But only almost.

It’s a great film with a good story and well worth watching for a masala mix of romance, action, drama and comedy. The cast is excellent, the dancing fantastic and the house decor is a standout. A trip back into the eighties and worth every minute. 4 ½ stars.

Chantabbai

I was initially reluctant to watch a film billed as a comedy even with Chiru in the lead. But then I discovered Chantabbai was based on Blake Edward’s classic ‘A Shot In The Dark’ which I like, and not only does it star Chiru but also the lovely Suhasini. Then the ever helpful KB told me Chiru frocked up for a song and I was sold. And to top it all off, my favourite ebay seller BoomBox India found me a DVD with subtitles. So I would have been reasonably happy even if this was not brilliant, but guess what? It’s great fun!

It starts with cartoon titles:

Not all of them entirely suitable for children:

And more credits are painted on roads, buildings etc.  It’s a fun way to begin.

I always liked the slightly mad glitter in Peter Sellers’ eye when he played Clouseau and while that edge is missing in Jandhyala’s film there is a likeable eccentricity about the characters. Chiru’s portrayal of K Panduranga Rao a.k.a Pond…James Pond is sweet rather than insane. The subtitle team seemed to miss the mark, but perhaps they were just trying to add their own comic contribution to the often convoluted dialogue. What Chiranjeevi says is “Call me Pond…James Pond”:

Pandu is quite endearing and where Clouseau was a loner, Pandu is more of a people person. He has associates, including the omnipresent photographer sidekick Ganpathi (Suthi Velu),  he likes a girl, and of course he has his loyal servant. I always loved the scenes where Burt Kwouk as Kato would attack Clouseau and I cannot believe someone persuaded Allu Aravind to take up that role (IMDB insist it is indeed him) – and he is fantastic! I always think of him as the serious looking producer, but clearly he inherited the family comedy gene.

Suhasini is Jwala, a telephone hygienist and the object of Pandu’s affections…if she would ever shut up long enough for him to tell her.

She lives with her father (Allu Ramalingaiah) and seems to like her life and have good friends. She’s a happy girl with a bright smile and wonderfully expressive face.

Jwala is implicated in a murder and diamond theft, and PI Pandu takes her case.  The solution is arrived at via many sophisticated methods.

Chiru and Suhasini make such a nice screen couple and I greatly enjoyed seeing them in this lively romp. And you know, it leads to this lovely song which features Chiru in a pair of shoes recently discussed on this blog:

Chiru is lots of fun as the clumsy and sweet natured Pandu , obsessed with James Bond and determined to be a success.  I like his office and home decorations.

People are driven mad by James Pond and his schemes and theories that all seem to work out somehow.  They still help when he needs them, and the police do what he asks which may be a reflection on them rather than on Pond now I think of it. Bheema Raju as the police inspector looks as though he can barely keep a straight face in some scenes, and it adds to the jolly feel of the comedy. Chiru has a really nice rapport with the kids in his scenes with them, and Pandu is clearly regarded with great affection. This lacks the slightly manic edge of an Inspector Clouseau film – it’s just so nice. I mean, this is his idea of a stinging retort when he is being stood up:

Which requires a comedy song with Chiru as Chaplin! More shoes! And a tongue in cheek tribute to some of his earlier films including Khaidi.

While solving the murder, Pandu is also hired to find Jwala’s friend Dr. Nischilla’s long lost brother from her father Kongara Jaggaiah’s first relationship. There is a nice Egyptian theme to the artwork in Nischilla’s home and many people claim to be the lost Chantabbai, possibly because of the decor.

You may already have guessed who that brother turns out to be.

The discovery allows for a serious scene by Chiru as Pandu reveals how traumatised he was by being orphaned at a young age. There is a clear message about the need for people to support and help those in need and while it suited the theme of the story, the energy was suddenly a lot heavier. I found this scene surprising for the anger he expressed (briefly) in what is otherwise an amusing and lightweight film. There is also a subplot about a failed relationship of Nischilla’s which was also quite serious in tone although depicted in a stylised way. So maybe this is intended as the grown-up component of the family entertainment.

Even in a comedy film, there is apparently room for a comedy sideplot or two.  Sri Laxmi is wonderful as a would be poet who forces the newspaper editor to publish her work and try out her bizarre cooking experiments.  There is also a comedy kidnapping which is memorable for the kidnappers excellent sense of occasion:

Underneath the comedy there’s actually a well structured story that kept my attention from start to finish. The cast do a great job and are very entertaining, especially Suhasini and Chiranjeevi. Everyone looks like they had fun playing out their antics and really got into the spirit of the film. K. Chakravarthy’s soundtrack is pleasant and the songs were well placed, although they were a bit light on for dancing. If you want a slightly offbeat slapstick comedy with loads of charm I think this is a good choice. 3 1/2 stars!