Pravarakhyudu

Pravarakhyudu-poster

I’m quite fond of hero uncle Jagapathi Babu and I always find Priyamani worth watching. They definitely make this more watchable than the material warrants, although I did enjoy the relatively low key look at relationships in this romantic comedy. The comedy is the unfortunate bit.

Recently returned from the US, Sasi (Jagapathi Babu) is taken out to meet many prospective brides. He is an educated man and his funky glasses impress, but he seems to struggle when presented with a modern opinionated woman who has ideas about her own life. But one day, while driving in the country, Sasi is drawn to a woman he sees working in a field. His friend Ravi (Sunil) tells him that is because she looks like his legendary ex-girlfriend Shailaja (Priyamani).

We are hurtled into the past where Sasi wears his hair in a down do, and everyone looks years too old to be an undergraduate student. Shailu is arrogant and none too kind to her suitors, humiliating one by reading his letter out to her friends while he listens. But she has a point that she shouldn’t have to reciprocate just because a guy likes her. Sasi tells her guys don’t like her because she is good at studies and things, it’s just because she is hot. Shailu is offended as she believes her superior qualities make men fall for her. Cue shower scene (for Shailu, of course).

Sasi sees romance and sex as biologically necessary but love is just a stupid human invention. At a temple festival Shailu sees only the beautiful spiritual celebration while Sasi spots the couples taking advantage of the crowd to cop a feel. She is intensely irritated by him yet seeks him out all the time (she knows she does both things and that annoys her too), and he seems quite unruffled although it’s obvious he is attracted to her. When a fellow student threatens suicide by jumping from a water tank, Shailu challenges him to do something to break up the crowd and their encouragement of the wild behaviour – so he kisses her. He sees it as a tactic to draw the crowds’ attention and stop them encouraging the boy to jump, but Shailu starts to see all of his past actions as hints of his love for her.

Shailu tells all her friends she loves him just as he arrives to laugh it off as a bit of silliness. Shailu insists that he is lying to conceal his heart, and a rainy goodbye is on the cards. Question – why did none of the friends run for shelter? Or use the handy umbrella lying there. Or just give them some privacy? Shailaja goes to transfer out of college, but he says he will leave and does. There is a lot of Goodbye Forever in this film.

Back in the present day Shailu is the very strict principal of a ladies college and gets introduced with a jaunty chorus of “Lady Hitler!” Oh dear. But she does wear some nice sarees. And I do question that one of her perceived negative characteristics is that she gets security to beat up eve teasers outside the college. Is that really worse than eve teasing? Anyway. Her school had been looking for a Zoology lecturer and Sasi just happens to be a world famous Zoology lecturer.

Will Sasi ever overcome his intimacy issues that he says stem from not being breastfed as an infant? Will Shailu ever get off her high horse? Please. Nothing is impossible when you have an entire college stationery cupboard at your disposal.

Sasi turns into a mansplaining fauxmenist at times, usually to prove Shailu wrong. So I sometimes found myself agreeing with what he was saying even as I was itching to give him a tight slap for being such an arse. According to this film women feel empowered once a man, most likely Sasi, has told them how and when they may do so. But then he tells a girl she is at least partly responsible for a boy trying to kidnap her so you know Sasi really is a Telugu film hero, albeit one low on biffo and machetes. Jagapathi Babu manages to play off that tension between genuine good guy and insufferable know it all very well. He has a likeable screen persona and he is a good actor. He cannot dance to save his life and generally refuses to even try, preferring enigmatic walking, jazz hands and occasionally fighting with the air around him. Although with lyrics like”her booty is bigger than a Mercedes Benz. Baby baby baby, she’s my best friend”, I can understand he may not have felt inspired.

While she gets a slightly better deal out of the soundtrack, Priyamani has a challenging role in some respects. Shailu is often extreme and inflexible, although she is clearly not a bad person. But having been humiliated once by Sasi, she has a dim view of humanity and believes she needs to keep herself and her students safe from those bad boys.

Shailu’s character bears the burden of silly decisions (and a few dodgy outfits) for the sake of getting the plot to where writer-director Madan wanted it. But Priyamani brought her own presence and nuance to the piece. Both she and Jagapathi Babu added their own touches to the roles and their rapport and interactions helped me find enough to respect in both characters that I could overlook the worst. There was more of a Much Ado About Nothing vibe to the relationship than a Taming of the Shrew and I enjoyed some of the verbal sparring.

Unfortunately there are the tedious comedy tracks. Brahmi is in his element as a slimy teacher and does have the occasional good one liner. Ali is at his sleazy worst in an appalling racist, sexist, and homophobic skit set during a school trip to South Africa. Hamsa Nandini plays a glamorous married teacher with an eye for the professor, and is effectively coquettish as she irritate Shailu into fits of jealousy. Sunil is inoffensively amusing as Sasi’s mate Ravi, and does his usual bewildered shtick.

I like the leads, and am slowly working my way through as many of their films as I can track down.  Both the story and style of the film are quite engaging, and the fast forward button was made for those moments when Ali suddenly appears in tribal getup. See this if you like the idea of a slightly quirky hero with a smart and articulate woman, or just want a bit more talking and less killing in your mass fare. Plus a lion. 3 ½ stars!

 

Aa Naluguru

Aa Naluguru is a quirky little film about the rather unbelievably good Raghu Ramaiah and his rather unbelievably bad family. According to my subtitles, the four people of the title are those four people in your life that you must look after so that they will be inclined to carry your coffin after you die – quite a sensible idea really. However as the film unfolds it seems that it may also refer to the four members of Raghu Ramaiah’s family who make his life so difficult, or maybe even to his four friends and co-workers who also have a large influence on him. The film is a little slow to start and perhaps overly moralistic, but succeeds for me mainly due to fantastic performances by Rajendra Prasad and Kota Srinivasa Rao.

Raghu Ramaiah is an editor who is a great philanthropist, giving half of his earnings to his wife and children and the other half to the poor.  He is very idealistic and believes that nothing is as important as love and compassion which means that he is constantly fighting against the corruption, greed and intolerance he sees every day in his community. His best friend Subrahmanyam (Subhalekha Sudhakar) has no such problems. He pays bribes and seems content to ignore the injustices he sees around him. Raghu Ramaiah’s other friend is the miserly money-lender Kotaiah who is happy to tell everyone that his only interest is money, and is a man so mean that he rations absolutely everything at home.

We meet Raghu Ramaiah at the end of his life, when two demons pop up in his bedroom to take his soul to hell.  This was just a little unexpected – firstly because I hadn’t expected a mythological aspect to the story but secondly why take his soul to hell when he had led such an exemplary life – or then again had he? Raghu Ramaiah turns out to be a little vain at any rate as he wants to be able to watch the mourners at his funeral. He successfully pleads with the demons to be able to stay longer on Earth, but this turns out to be a mistake since no-one seems to mourn him at all. As the demons ridicule him for this lack of affection from his family and friends he shows them scenes from the last few months of his life which explain the reaction to his death.

His children are all only concerned with money as they think this is what they need to achieve their selfish wants and desires. The eldest son Shekar (Raja) wants to become an SI in the police, but although he has passed all the necessary exams he finds that he can only get the job by paying a bribe.  Chinna, the younger son, wants to bribe a University to accept him into an Engineering course since he hasn’t got good enough grades to be accepted on his own merits.  Indra and her husband want to leave and start a new life overseas as he has no job, and doesn’t seem to be particularly worried about getting one.

They all keep pressing their father for money while he insists that they should be able to get by on their own merits, and in particular not pay bribes just because everyone else does.  However Raghu Ramaiah’s ideals are not accepted by his family and finally his son-in-law decides to capitalise on his father in law’s good name and start a finance company to cheat people.  This is the last straw, and Raghu Ramaiah finally breaks down at this threat to his reputation.  He borrows money from his friends and uses this to pay his children what they feel they are owed. After he dies, his sons and his son-in-law run away to avoid having to pay back the money their father has borrowed.

Note the prominent placement of Mother Theresa’s picture seen here over Raghu Ramaiah’s shoulder.

There is a great moment when medics come to collect Raghu Ramaiah’s eyes which he has donated, although this also brings to light the true circumstances of his death. But a story that involves eye donation is always a plus for me.

The rest of the film deals with the funeral and I have to say that no matter how many times I watch this film, the final scenes always make me cry. The simple outpouring of emotion at the funeral is very well done, and the grief in the loss of a man seen as a great humanitarian is very heartfelt.

There are a few problems with the story, written by Madan and the director Chandra Sidhartha. Raghu Ramaiah seems to be a very idealistic representation of a compassionate man and the story initially is very simplistic and moves slowly. It’s understandable that his family is frustrated with his overly charitable nature, although their demands for money and general lack of respect also seem unrealistic. Perhaps the director found this necessary to get his point across, but I think the same points could have been made more subtly. I don’t believe that anyone could be so overly benevolent to the detriment of their own family or adhere so rigidly to such morals. However while these flaws could have made Raghu Ramaiah very one-dimensional, Rajendra Prasad rounds out his character with a really fantastic performance. The interactions with his family are very well portrayed with a mixture of frustration, love and anger giving a more naturally human feel to the character despite the rather stilted language. Of course that could be the fault of the subtitles. Still, without the presence of Rajendra Prasad I don’t feel that this film would have had the same impact at all. Kota Srinivasa Rao is excellent as the miserly Kotaiah and the interaction between these two characters is the best part of the film. Aamani was good in her portrayal of the wife stuck in the middle, trying to keep everyone happy and failing, and it was interesting to see Raja in a more negative role.

While there aren’t very many songs in this film, the slow and sad version of the title song is used frequently as a background theme. But this fast version at Indra’s wedding does have some dancing at least.

Despite the problems I have with the story and the somewhat idealistic characterisations, the performances more than make up for these shortcomings for me. This is a film I’ve watched a number of times and still love the ending.  A film made by the performances and emotional final scenes and as such gets 3 1/2 stars from me.

Temple says:

I hate this film. I can’t decide if it is an amateurish attempt or a deliberately manipulative effort that insults the intelligence of the audience. I do need to discuss the plot as it is the supposed ‘twist’ that particularly annoys me, along with some poor writing.

I will leave a gap.

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Now if you want to avoid the spoiler, keep scrolling until you see the next puppy.

Raghu Ramaiah committed suicide. He did this with no real sense of crisis apart from his customary self pity, and just after borrowing loads of money from various friends and associates. His death effectively dropped his family and friends in a hole as the loans were a bit shady and his wife had no means of repaying them. The grown up children were presented as selfish caricatures, constantly shocked by their father’s decisions (they were also slow learners – I mean, he NEVER didn’t put charity first). Surely he wouldn’t have expected them to look after his widow properly. He abandoned his philosophy and his vows to his wife in what was portrayed as a fit of pique. Now, this is a shocking action for a holier-than-thou too-good-to-be-true philanthropist so I was expecting some unfolding of his character or past that would illuminate his choice. None was forthcoming. He sat on his cloud, hoping to see how much he was missed and trying to hide the truth from his demon companions. This vanity and selfishness might also have made for interesting character development but was brushed aside. Chandra Sidhartha decided to make this man a role model and have everyone awash with tears at his funeral. So is the take out from this, kill yourself if people disagree with you and then they’ll all be sorry? None of it held together for me as there was insufficient motivation for him to drink poison and no satisfactory exploration of the repercussions, followed by a glorification of a very flawed and slightly unpleasant character. The sickly sentimental ‘boo-hoo we’re not worthy of such a great man’ ending was infuriating.

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OK so now I have that rant out of my system. Rajendra Prasad did give a good performance. I was really hoping that a movie featuring the actors who are usually in supporting roles would be good as it is lovely to see them take the spotlight for a change. The scenes between Rajendra Prasad and Kota Srinivasa Rao are effective, and Rohit and Aamani were good in their supporting roles. I give this 1 star, only because some of the actors tried really hard.