Murari

One day our friend Indiequill asked for film recommendations, specifying that she wanted to see Mahesh Babu as something other than a baby faced killer. Murari was a popular pick amongst friends on Twitter, and for that reason as well as our commitment to research and possibly a bit of persuasion by The Mahesh Fan, we watched it too. And it wasn’t bad. There is nothing really out of the ordinary in the story, the jokes or the material so the film had to rely heavily on the appeal of the cast and the production design to keep us engaged.

The film opens with a bonus appearance by Prakash Raj in a wig (according to Liz he may have been channelling Jackie Shroff in this avatar) and it was obvious he was No Good. After insulting the deity at a local temple, he is promptly despatched by a green CGI monster and leaves a curse attached to family.

Goodbye and thanks for coming Prakash Raj.

The film skips forward several generations and we learn that every 48 years a member of the family dies to fulfil the requirements of the curse. Why 48 years is never explained, at least in our subtitles, and it really doesn’t seem to matter except as a device to show a few grisly deaths.  When we see Mahesh Babu leap onto the screen it is not only obvious he is the hero, but we were also sure that he is marked for death. He plays Murari, a bit of a too good to be true type who defends the defenceless and all that, but is saved from being a total prig by his good natured pranks and teasing. These were actually pretty funny and captured the adolescent nature of our hero.

This was apparently Peter Hein’s first film as a fight director, and certainly there are several heroic scuffles with bad guys thrown through the air like so much sweaty confetti. And one interesting fight scene in the water. But no baby faced killer.

Murari is from a feuding family. During one attempt to bring the two sides back together he meets his cousin Vasundhara, played by Sonali Bendre. Sparks and insults begin to fly as instant dislike signals the love story to come. Romance blossoms over pranks and practical jokes, as does some more dodgy CGI work.

In order to facilitate the growing relationship, Murari is intent on resolving the family schism as his grandmother Sabari is equally intent on removing the curse. Murari is blissfully unaware of the danger he is in, but the gods seem to like Mahesh Babu and his elephant Ganesh keeps a watchful eye on his owner. There are lots of close calls, and we know Murari is drawing closer to his death a long time before the family priest bothers to check the horoscopes.

Murari’s family approve of him marrying Vasundhara, hers are eventually persuaded and then grandmother puts the veto on this union. She is obsessed with saving Murari (who was named for her husband who was a previous victim of the curse), and keeping Vasundhara from being left a widow. In the midst of all the domestic drama, death is lurking and only an arduous and lengthy ritual can save Murari. Since the angry deity in question is Durga, the price for absolution had to be blood; and that is spilled in abundance before the film ends. Although the climax was powerful in its visual impact  the outcome was rather predictable as Sabari had always known what was needed to lift the curse. Along with all that blood of course. Why she held off on taking action until this particular generation is never adequately explained.

Mahesh Babu seems to be the actor who explains basic concepts in Telugu film, and we thank him for that. In Athadu he laid out the rules for killing and in Murari he explains the rules of obsessive filmi love. Apparently if he was thinking of Vasundhara, he needn’t worry about whether she loved him before going to politely kidnap her and bring her back to the family home. The reason he was thinking of her was that she was thinking of him. So his father told Murari there was no need for boring talking about feelings and plans and all that. She wanted him! It was all her fault! Just go grab her! Another filmi mystery solved!

It was interesting to see Mahesh Babu playing a young man who wasn’t a homicidal loner. This is also before maxi-layer Mahesh became quite so multilayered and developed his signature style. Although his favoured T-shirt and shirt combo make plenty of appearances there are quite a few scenes where only a single T-shirt was in evidence and nary a scarf in sight. We enjoyed his comedic flair in Khaaleja and he certainly milked the laughs from some of his scenes with Sonali. He did all the standard heroic stuff but this was much more character driven than action centred and relied on dialogue.  Sonali and Mahesh had some fun and flirty scenes that helped give the romance a bit more spark. Sonali is beautiful to look at and seemed to enjoy playing her more extrovert character in this.  She really excels at frustrated screams, and her performance appeared very genuine and heartfelt particularly in the latter half of the film.

Murari’s mother Gopamma was played by Lakshmi who did a great job of giving this teary filmi Ma some real character. She was very believable in her confrontational scenes when visiting her brother and family, and emanated a warm and loving personality in scenes with Mahesh Babu. The rest of the supporting cast were all OK without being exceptional. It’s often comforting seeing so many familiar faces in amongst all the cousins, uncles, aunts and servants but it does mean we tend to overlook them as they usually perform the same role over and over. The sets for the family homes were lovely and looked really lived in.

There were lots of knick-knacks and paintings scattered around to catch the eye and each house had a different feel that reflected the occupants’ tastes. The elephant fountain was fabulous and so was the actual elephant.

The music was forgettable, and so was most of the dancing although it was rather exuberant at times. See this film if you’re interested in watching one of the biggest stars in the industry before he adopted the cool calm killer persona and if you like a bit of domestic drama.

Temple says: This is an entertaining if unexceptional film. I like Mahesh Babu as an actor, and he did well in this romantic comedy hero style. It is kind of fun to see him playing such a young and flirty boy rather than the brooding loner role he has put his stamp on of late. Having seen Khaaleja recently, I am now surprised at how shocked everyone seemed to be at his ability to do comedy in that, as he had that under his belt in this film (along with snake wrangling skills). I particularly liked the teasing flirty interludes with Sonali as they each had their moments of triumph and of discomfort and the scenes flowed really well. I even tolerated the dreaded Filmi Child Actors as they were kept well under control and wore a pleasing array of stripey shirts. Speaking of costumes, Mahesh Babu in a lungi is always memorable (I’m thinking of you Jenni). It’s a shame the DVD copy is so bad as the visual design of the film is very nice, and it was a pleasure to watch – certainly these screencaps do it no justice. I don’t know that I would hurry to watch this again, but I did enjoy it for what it is – a romantic comedy with a bit of gore, a bit of divine intervention and excellent use of elephants. I give it 3 stars.

Heather Says: I liked Murari, but then it’s a romance and I’m a sucker for love stories. It also has elephants (an instant win), snakes (also a win), and the goddess revenge drama does spice up the storyline nicely. I enjoyed the way the two characters played it true to their supposed ages in the story and the little touches that were very typical of a guy trying to be macho and impress the girl. The teasing between Murari and Vasundhara appeared very natural and Mahesh showed that he has a natural flair for comedy. It was great to see him in a role where he wasn’t just a cool and competent killing machine, but had so much warmth and feeling. There seemed to have been quite a lot of thought put into the interactions between the various members of the two families as well, and I liked the way that they all had different characteristics within their roles in the family. Even the kids were ably utilised in this film, and the elephants weren’t just there for decoration.

My only complaint, apart from the terrible DVD quality, was that the ending dragged a little. The lead up to the climax was great, but then it seemed to take forever to actually get there. There were also perhaps a few too many near misses for Murari, especially since at least one appeared very contrived. However the rest of the film was fun and overall its an entertaining watch. I vote for more elephants and snakes in all movies! 3 ½ stars from me.