Rowdy Alludu

There are few things we like more than a Chiru movie, unless of course it’s a double role Chiru movie! Rowdy Alludu features Chiranjeevi taking on two classic characters; the smooth and suave businessman Kalyan and the strong, streetwise auto driver Johnny.  Add to this a dash of romance, intrigue, dastardly deeds and plenty of action and you have the perfect masala mix.

The movie starts with the above statement (which we took as A Sign) and there are a number of sections where there seem to be missing scenes as the action appears to skip. We really hope that there is someone in Hyderabad collecting and restoring, or at least preserving, all of these older films as quite a few we have watched recently have a similar problem.

Kalyan arrives back from the USA to take over the family hotel business from his ailing father and naive brother-in-law. With the help of his father’s trusted employee Mr Madhavayya (Raogopalrao) he discovers irregularities in the accounts and it’s not long before he has a few suspects in mind.

However, before he can investigate further, the whole family heads off to Ooty for a holiday. This seems to be an excuse for the wardrobe department to go mad buying a natty selection of sweaters for Chiru. Meanwhile, the fraudsters make efforts to cover their tracks and enlist the help of their partner in crime, the cat owning axe-murderer and construction contractor, Ranjit Kumar.

On a trip to Bombay, Venkat Raidu (Kota Srinivasa Rao) and Papi Kundalu (Allu Ramalingaiah) find Johnny, an auto driver who is the exact duplicate of Kalyan. They hatch a plot to get rid of their boss, put Johnny in his place and then take over the company.

Never one to resist a beautiful woman, Johnny dances up a storm to a bonus Bappi Lahiri song with the amazing Disco Shanti. Despite the fact that this was a film released in 1991, Disco Shanti’s outfit looks to have been stolen from Sam Fox circa the mid eighties. Luckily they are in fine form, and more than ready to take on the dubious choreography and make it their own. This may be the song that taught young Charan how to handle a fire hose.

Kalyan is in love with Madhavayya’s daughter Sita (Shobana) who has the good sense to be a lawyer. This comes in very handy later on when the hapless Kalyan is accused of murder and thrown into jail. Rekha (Divya Bharti), the daughter of Venkat Raidu, hatches a scheme to marry Kalyan. Rekha does genuinely seem to love Kalyan but her father just sees the marriage as a way to control his nephew and the company. Naturally when she throws herself at Johnny thinking he is Kalyan, Johnny is delighted while Venkat Raidu desperately tries to separate the two.

Shobana doesn’t get much screen time at all, although she does make a lovely pairing with Chiru. Most of the romance is provided by the interactions of Johnny and Rekha, relying heavily on comedy, mistaken identity and innuendo. Divya Bharti throws herself at Chiru with wild enthusiasm  and really, who can blame her.

The success of the film rests on the portrayal of the two characters by Chiru. He exudes class and style as Kalyan and is also convincingly vulnerable when his family is attacked.  Johnny is as rough and tough as they come and Chiru makes him a different character in every respect. Kalyan has a blow-waved mullet and neatly pressed trousers, Johnny has a more exuberant moustache and prefers the timeless plaid and denim combo. Johnny’s attempts to impersonate Kalyan are laughable, but since he is supposed to convince everyone that Kalyan has become crazy that works perfectly. A very youthful and bald-spot free Brahmi makes an appearance as the psychiatrist enlisted to pronounce Kalyan insane, but most of the comedy falls to Chiru as Johnny and he does an excellent job.  The two fraudulent employees also ham it up with their inept schemes and it’s left to Ranjit Kumar and his henchman to provide the real menace.

The songs are mainly featured on Chiru and Divya Bharti and are upbeat as expected from Bappi Lahiri, with some interesting choreography by Prabhu Deva among others. There is one romantic song with Shobana in Switzerland which is quite subdued choreographically, but still contains potentially scarring images of mouth to mouth grape transfer technique. Chiru and Divya have an interesting encounter with some rather obvious symbolism of melting candles, dripping wax and a lot more besides. And we would love to know what the meaning was behind poor Divya getting hit in the face with suspended fruit.  More fruit! There was a theme here, but we just don’t know why. The costume designers also seem to have gone crazy in the local DIY store for some of the outfits and must be applauded for their belief that almost anything can be used as a headdress.

We enjoyed the scene in the hospital when Kalyan’s father’s heart beats in Morse code. There doesn’t appear to be any reason for this but is one really needed? Did it say anything significant? Are there any Telugu Morse Code experts out there? Johnny is obviously a man of steel as he is able to emerge from a coma and go straight into a major fight without so much as needing a bandage change.

We know that the story doesn’t have to make sense, but the police do seem to be particularly inept On learning that Kalyan has been arrested and  subsequently escaped, Johnny promptly flies back to Hyderabad. Surely the police would have been deployed at the airport looking for the escaped felon Kalyan? And since Kalyan and Johnny were identical it seems likely that the police might just have spotted Johnny returning to the city of his crimes. Perhaps they were looking for someone escaping from Hyderabad rather than entering the city so he was able to sneak in while their backs were turned.  Or are we over-thinking this?

Chiranjeevi is in his element and much of the film’s appeal lies with him, but his co-stars all turn in excellent performances to make this very entertaining. There is so much packed into this film with plenty of twists, plots and counter plots making it chock-full of masala goodness.

Temple says: This is not my favourite Chiru film, but it is very entertaining. All the requisite elements are there – fighting, flirting, bad denim, a sobbing mother, songs and multiple double-crosses. The comedy track is well integrated into the main story, and both Allu Ramalingaiah and Kota Srinivasa Rao make the most of their characters. Brahmi’s appearance is forgettable as he really doesn’t do much apart from fulfill what seems to be a law that he must appear. Divya Bharti plays an airhead and manages to be likeable enough but between her squeals and the wardrobe excesses, I was a bit over her character in a very short time. Shobana has less screen time but makes a stronger impression for me, as she down played a lot of her scenes and gave Sita a bit of presence. She might not have gotten a big dance number, but seeing what the costume team did to Divya, that may not be something she regrets. Chiru manages the characterisations of Johnny and Kalyan very well, and aside from obvious styling changes, his facial expressions and enunciation help keep the two roles quite distinct. It’s a fun film, if not a great one, and the songs are certainly memorable! I give this 3 and 1/2 stars.

Heather says: Perhaps it was the return to Telugu Masala after a month of watching only Tamil movies, or maybe just because it’s twice as much Chiru, but I really enjoyed this film. The songs were particularly entertaining although I’m not sure if I can say that’s because of the dancing or just due to the unbridled enthusiasm of the wardrobe department! This was one of the films that made Divya Bharti a star in the south but I found her a little too loud and over-excitable. I thought Shobana’s performance was superior and it’s a shame she didn’t have more screen time. The film however belongs to Chiru and he separated his two characters very well, with differences in speech, posture and attitude clearly defining Kalyan and Johnny. I did appreciate the tasteful sweater collection used by Kalyan compared to the more garish choices often seen in Hindi films of the same period. The bumbling conspirators Venkat Raidu and Papi Kundalu are inept and amusing, while their partner in crime Ranjit Kumar seems to be an amalgamation of a number of classic James Bond baddies. Overall the story works well and the various twists and turns are satisfactorily dealt with to make this a fun watch. 4 stars from me!


Our good friend Memsaab is trying to identify a particular function room and hotel swimming pool that feature in a lot of Hindi films. So imagine my delight when I saw The Pool in this film!

But I still have no idea which hotel it was at. Do you? Surely that distinctive wall decoration (on the right of the picture) has to ring a bell with someone. Please let us know! Temple


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.

Shankar Dada MBBS and Shankar Dada Zindabad

It’s Christmas. And we’ve been very good all year. Yes, really! So Santa brought us not one, but two Chiranjeevi movies for the festive season.

Shankar Dada MBBS and Shankar Dada Zindabad are remakes of the hit Munna Bhai Hindi film series.  Having seen both versions we have to say we like the Telugu versions much more. 

In Shankar Dada MBBS Chiranjeevi takes on the lead role as Shankar, the rowdy who has been pretending to his parents that he is a doctor who runs a charitable hospital in Hyderabad.  A series of mischances during his parents’ visit leads to Shankar vowing to become a real doctor to win back his father’s respect.

There is plenty of scope for comedy as Shankar, whose very name is enough to strike terror into the local community, heads back to school with the assorted nerds and geeks.  But this is THE Shankar Dada who may be a thug, but still has a heart of gold and some very cool ishtyle. As a student he just has to have a stylish walk, as pointed out to him by his trusty assistant ATM (Any Time Murder – a much more graphic moniker than Circuit).

And then of course there is the dancing. An area in which Sanjay Dutt cannot compete! Only Chiru could possibly pull off some of these ridiculous moves with such panache and style.


Shankar objects to the injustice he sees in the hospital and infuriates his teachers by his stand on social justice and medical treatment for all.  It is a bit of a worry, but possibly not surprising given the usual standard of filmi medicine, that he is more effective than the other doctors at the hospital with his outlandish cures. These rely heavily on the therapeutic benefit of hugs and spreading love to all with a big Chiru grin, which quite frankly would probably cure us of any ailments as well.  There is a lot of byplay on Shankar’s use of English, while although funny to us is likely much funnier within the context of the Telugu dialogue. 

The dean, Dr Ramalingeshwara Rao, is a proponent of laughter therapy which he has to rely on heavily as term progresses and Shankar makes his presence felt in the classes. This is used to good effect and Paresh Rawal is convincing in this role. His gradual breakdown into more manic behaviour as his carefully controlled world is invaded by Shankar is very funny. The beautiful Sunitha; daughter of the dean, Shankar’s childhood friend and a doctor herself, is the romantic interest.  This also causes her father some stress, and extra giggling therapy is required.

As a goon Chiranjeevi uses his physicality to good effect when threatening local business men who are tardy with their loan payments. As well as the capable ATM (Srikanth) his gang includes comedy stalwart and permanent scapegoat Venu Madhav. For a change the alternate comedy track is kept to a minimum and is amusing enough without distracting from the main story.

One difference from the Hindi film is that the Shankar Dada role has been expanded, but the character development for the other gang members has been reduced to accommodate this. ATM is a much less realised role than Circuit and the rest of the gang never really make an impression as individuals.  The scenes with Munna Bhai and Circuit having late night conversations in the laundry troughs are almost totally cut and this removes some of the more poignant moments we recalled from the original film. However the scenes with Thomas, a terminally ill patient, work much better in this version as Chiru shows much more empathy and concern, and his ‘treatment’ is all the more amusing and touching as a result

Sonali Bendre as Sunitha has very little to do other than keep her lip gloss shiny but at least makes a more age appropriate heroine for her mature aged student hero.

Like the original Hindi version, the film suffers from a really thin and basically implausible storyline.  And the sequel, Shankar Dada Zindabad falls even shorter in this regard. 

Shankar Dada Zindabad revisits the same characters as previous, but this time Shankar is in love with RJ Jahnavi (Karishma Kotak) and there is no reference to any of the previous MBBS story. He pretends to be knowledgeable about Gandhi in order to win the prize of  meeting Jahnavi and begins to hallucinate (or ‘haloginate’ as the subtitles would have it) that the great leader appears to talk to him and give him advice.

The story starts off well, but is a standard tale about a rich man’s greed versus the common man so stays in well travelled territory.  Shankar does his best to put the world to rights with a hug and snippets of Gandhian philosophy aka Gandhigiri.  As with the earlier film, the emphasis is on Shankar achieving a good result, regardless of his initial motivation.  The story unravels as Jhanavi feels betrayed, then neatly re-knits itself into happy ever after endings for all.

Although this is a light entertainment piece, it does still include some thoughtful dialogues and ideas. There are some interesting questions raised along the way about respect for culture, obeying your conscience (which may appear to you as a small man in a dhoti), being truthful and being proud of who you are.

As with the first film, the message is about love, respect and truth. The disparate characters that Shankar has helped throughout the film all cross paths in the last scenes to hit us over the head with the message one final time. Pawan Kalyan shows up in a small but pivotal appearance to give his support to the message and prove that the men in that family have very nice eyes.

Srikanth is again present as the reliable ATM, as are the other gang members. Despite the presence of Prabhu Deva as director this film also disappoints a little in the dancing.  There is one exception: a fantastic number featuring hippies, people in animal costumes, clowns and also to our great delight a guest appearance by our favourite, Allu Arjun. The rest of the dance numbers are OK but not quite up to the standard of the first film.

Karishma Kotak stands around looking pretty while waiting for Shankar to save the day, and does well enough at this. There are some sweet moments with the group of elderly men who make their home with her, and this part of the story does work reasonably well. The gang run around doing their thing but the plot here is so worn and predictable that it’s hard to pay any attention to their antics. There is the obligatory comedy side plot involving Brahmi as an astrologer and the various supporting actors all do their best to keep the story, such as it is, moving along.

Both these films rely heavily on the performance and star power of the hero and really entertain best when Chiru is on screen. Chiranjeevi switches effortlessly between the hardened gang leader and the affable humanist. In this he does a much better job than Sanjay Dutt who excelled as the don, but his smile never quite reached his eyes so he lacked the warmth and humanity of Shankar. The comedy is funny the first time round but doesn’t stand up to repeated viewings and we are bombarded so much with the ‘love is all you need’ message that it totally loses all effectiveness.  ATM suffers in comparison with the Hindi character of Circuit but Srikanth does as best he can with his reduced role.   However, the films still entertain more than the Munna Bhai versions, thanks mainly to Chiranjeevi, the soundtrack and dances, and the ability of most of the cast to look as if they are enjoying themselves.

Heather says: Both these films are enjoyable to watch because of Chiranjeevi and his great screen presence. I have to confess that I did originally get Shankar Dada Zindabad for the Jagadeka Veerudiki song, and the first film was just a bonus, However MBBS is the better of the two films and having enjoyed the original Hindi version I was a little surprised at how much better this version is. While I thought that Sanjay Dutt was excellent as the gangster, when he smiled at the children he really did look more like a tiger eyeing its prey rather than a cheery doctor. Chiru on the other hand while excellent as the rowdy, was much less scary in these later scenes and his genuine and real-life humanitarianism shone through. Although I did miss Boman Irani’s terrible bald wig, that was more than made up for by the supporting actors who were all very capable. I did prefer Arshad Warsi to Srikanth, but this was also partly due to the difference in the characters of Circuit and ATM.  The story is thin and rather tired, but Chiru manages to instil enough life to make it a fun watch. This one gets 3 ½ stars from me.

Shankar Dada Zindabad is just an excuse to watch more Chiranjeevi, and a little Allu Arjun. The cast all do their best, but the film really never excites, not even when they are on the Gold Coast in Australia for a song. I do really like the appearance of Prabhu Deva, Ravi Teja and Allu Arjun in Jagadeka Veerudiki and it was also a nice surprise to see Pawan Kalyan pop up at the end. The idea behind the story was interesting but there were too many clichés in the delivery to make it hold my attention. This film gets 3 stars from me which is just because of a couple of the songs that I really do love and the brief appearance of Allu Arjun – worth ½ a star alone.

Temple says: I’m not a fan of the Munna Bhai films, primarily because I don’t really like Sanjay Dutt, so found them a bit of a chore to sit through despite Arshad Warsi doing his best. So it was a pleasant surprise to find myself  enjoying the films in Telugu, and only partly because of Chiru. Although, I do think that if you don’t appreciate Chiranjeevi there isn’t a whole lot else going on.  I think both films are a little better written and better paced than their Hindi counterparts so make for better story-telling. The hero centric style does mean the peripheral performances are diminished but not reduced to the point of not mattering. The casting is pretty good in both – Paresh Rawal and Sonali Bendre were very good in MBBS, and it was fun to see the majority of the ensemble back for Zindabad.

One point of interest for me was looking at these films in light of Chiranjeevi’s political career. There are resoundingly clear messages around respect for culture and history, respect for people despite caste barriers, truth and love. So in my ignorance of AP politics, I was pondering what this said about the politician as well as the character in the film, and did this role have some synergy with his political persona. I’m sure I will be enlightened in due course. My DVD of MBBS also had a very interesting little addition at intermission:  a plea from Chiranjeevi to the audience to consider donating their eyes after death and encouraging people to talk about it with their families, which I think was a great use of celebrity and sort of appropriate to the film.

Like Heather, I found Zindabad less engaging than MBBS, but will always be grateful to our fabulous DVD guy Sunil for finding me subtitled copies at a bargain price! Both films get 3 stars from me – they’re a good timepass and the songs are really fun.