Pournami

I’ve become quite fond of Prabhas. Not in a ‘he’s so hot‘ fangirly way. But he is likeable on screen and his presence in a film does seem to promise a commitment to entertainment.  Pournami is colourful, visually pleasing, sentimental and rather silly. Just what I have come to expect from Prabhas in fact!

The film opens in 1953 and centres on a family with a long affiliation to a local temple. Many years back there had been a drought that threatened the livelihood of all in the surrounds. One woman had the strength and stamina to dance for Lord Shiva and was rewarded with rain. From that date, her family repeated this ritual every 12 years and her female descendants were trained to dance.

So it was a bit of a surprise to me that it all came as a surprise to the girls in the 1953 family that the eldest daughter, Pournami, was going to have to perform the ritual in 10 years time. Surely it might have rated a mention during dance lessons? Continuing the journey through time, we emerge in the 60s or thereabouts. Pournami has gone missing before the ritual must be performed. Her sister Chandrakala always wanted to dance but was overlooked. Chandrakala is now played by Charmme and she is reasonably convincing in the dance sequences. She is a Cinderella type figure – persecuted by her horrible stepmother, teased by local bullies and overlooked by many.

But where is the drama? Hello evil landlord! I do not in any way approve of evil landlords intent on deflowering young ladies who should be saving their strength to dance for Shiva. However, Rahul Dev has an excellent palace, a resident orchestra and generally believes himself to be a god or at least the equal of one. It is all highly entertaining. Pournami did a runner to avoid being kidnapped by Rahul Dev and he is now intent on claiming her sister.

But where’s the hero? Hello Prabhas in eye-catching plaid pants and rock n roll rebel attitude. Adding to the fun, we learn he is an ‘English Dance’ teacher, Sivakesava. Hmm…is that a Significant Name? Sivakesava rents room with Charmme’s family and opens his dance school.

In between dance classes and dodging the local nymphomaniac, he encourages Charmme to dance, sometimes with quite amazing results. He seems to have mysterious powers over Chandrakala – little things like making her teeth glow in the dark and resisting her attack snake. But he uses his powers for good, and for fixing fuses, so we need not be alarmed on her behalf. I was amused by his gramophone – it’s just not rock n roll as I know it!

All the threads seem to be drawing together, but why? Who is Sivakesava and why is he intent on protecting the upcoming ritual? An extended flashback reveals that he met and fell in love with Pournami (played by Trisha) after she fled the village. She had joined a troupe of travelling performers, and her amazing dance talent, or perhaps her skimpy outfit, caught his eye. Pournami continues to practice her classical dance in her spare time. In a very pretty scene under the full moon, she gives ample evidence that the odds of pleasing Lord Shiva will be improved if she doesn’t dance for him.

It turns out that Sivakesava was from a family who had a blood feud with the other big family in the region. He was sworn to avenge his brother and then would no doubt be hunted down in turn. Pournami became a victim in this feud, sacrificing herself to save her husband on their wedding night. The wedding night scene may mean I never look at corn in quite the same way ever again. Yes, that was corn with a c.

His past life continues to pursue him, never giving him a clear path to his heart’s desire or letting him subside into anonymity.

Chandrakala is abducted by Rahul Dev and he shows why he needs that piano and keeps an orchestra on standby. There is nothing funny about kidnap and rape in reality, but when the villain is improvising a melody to the tempo of Charmme’s footsteps it is very entertaining and adds to the cartoonish effect, as does his balletic fighting style. Naturally Kesava comes to her rescue again, and his actions cement her feelings for him.

Thus the other crucial episode unfolds – Kesava feels compelled to tell Chandrakala about his past with Pournami and why people from his old life, particularly his fiancée Mallika (Sindhu Tolani with a terrible hairdo), are still pursuing him. Chandrakala takes up the challenge to dance at the festival, motivated by love of her sister, of her father and for Kesava.

The finale at the temple is visually stunning and yet daft in equal measures. Which really sums up the whole film so it is perfect.

Although Pournami’s name and presence infuse the film, Trisha is overshadowed by Charmme and Prabhas. This is mostly due to the structure of the film – her story is told in isolation from the present time drama and we aren’t so involved in her relationships with anyone other than Sivakesava. In a film about dancers, Prabhu Deva gave Trisha some beautiful picturisations but her dancing was not as strong as Charmme’s and that aspect didn’t convince me. She looked lovely and her acting was as convincing as the role allowed. When Pournami appears to take over during the final dance it is shown as a way for everyone, including her spirit, to find closure. Trisha uses her very expressive face to communicate her sorrow and joy at this final encounter with her loved ones.

Charmme irritated me in the first half of the film, but I think she was meant to be a troubled teenager who was a bit bratty so I suppose that was a win. Her portrayal of a growing love for Sivakesava was done well, and I could see her puzzlement and annoyance turning to appreciation of the man who supported and protected her. She was a little tougher than your average filmi heroine, and her demonstrated snake wrangling skills make her more than a match for the average thug. Although the hero had to step in and help her finish the ritual, his help would have been for nothing if she hadn’t had the fortitude to keep going and stay focussed. Finally, she saves Kesava’s life and through that act wins the right to his future as his past finally lets go. I felt a bit sad for Chandrakala at the end as once again she will be the understudy for her sister, only this time in life.

Despite the story being ostensibly about the girls, this is a Prabhas film. He is at the centre of all the action and subplots, and once he arrives in town he is on screen for most of the film. He is convincing as both the kick arse hero and the misty eyed lover, and seems to have fun in the retro dance sequences. His relationship with both the heroines was played well, and there is a marked difference in his interaction with each of them. It’s a typically fun Prabhas performance. And his costumes… They make a statement all on their own.

The supporting cast were fine, with Rahul Dev, Brahmaji and Mukesh Rushi the standouts. Sunil is sweetly funny as Pournami’s brotherly friend and Ajay is reliable as a local thug. The soundtrack by Devi Sri Prasad is enjoyable and suits the story. Of course the songs are a visual delight as I expect from a Prabhu Deva film. The sets, the costumes, the locations are all beautiful and add a fairytale quality.

The film has a happy ever after ending, with signs of the new generation ready to maintain this lovely tradition. With any luck they’ll have a new landlord before the next festival!

See Pournami if you like the stars, plaid pants, excellent set design, pretty song picturisations and a dollop of overacting. I give this 3 and ½ stars.

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