Kodama Simham

kodama-simham

Chiru as a cowboy! Hidden treasure! Radha as a jungle warrior princess!

While I love a lot about Kodama Simham I am going to begin with a caveat. There are some horse stunts that turned my stomach.  If that would worry you, have the fast forward button at the ready. In a couple of scenes it did look like the horse that went down got up and ran past the camera so maybe I am overestimating the likely damage. But it is something that makes me wary of this genre, no matter what industry made the film. And it seems a bit rough when it is a horse that saves the hero at a critical point.

Kodama-Simham-Bharath wants justice

Bharath (Chiru) is a gunslinger – the good kind – picking up the bounty on criminal types. Bharath manages to upset the local purveyors of iniquity. His parents are killed, but not before his dad tells Bharath he was adopted and to go look for his biological parents. His father Dharmadev (Satyanarayana Kaikala) hid some treasure to keep it safe, but was forced to go into hiding while Bharath’s Ma was jailed. Bharath must retrieve the treasure, clear his parent’s name, and give the bad guys their comeuppance. Simples!

I’m not sure what time period this film is meant to be set in. There are few reliable fashion indicators.

Horses are the only form of transport although there does seem to be a lit-up fish tank and a jukebox in the saloon.  There are what look to be Native American styled natives, as well as a forest dwelling tribe of non-specific plumage. Plus the (possibly) cannibal cat-people guarding the hidden treasure.

There are hangings and shootings galore, and justice seems to be an individual pursuit. Well, Brahmi is the local police so I can’t blame anyone for deciding to go DYI. Bharath disrupts an auction where young ladies are being sold to men or brothels, sets the captives free with a cheery “All the best” and that seemed to be the end of that. Swapna is chased for the umpteenth time by men of bad intent and runs into the jungle, leaving her girlfriends for dead. Nice. She meets Dharmadev who tells his boys off for their lack of manners and again, that seems to be the end of that. There is a pleasing finality to some of these issues: “You’ve been told, now bugger off and don’t do it again”. “OK”. If only that worked in real life.

While the title cards said K Muralimohana Rao directed, at times I suspected the film was being ghost directed by the Hat Department. Telugu cowboy films always turn it on for the headgear, and this was a corker. Behold!

Chiru’s hero entrance starts, as it should, with his boots before the rest of him swaggers in to view.

Kodama-Simham-The bootsKodama-Simham-the treasure

Unfortunately it is hard to tell on a grainy VCD print, but in one scene if his boots aren’t bulletproof, they come close. He has a laconic style and an extensive collection of guns. But what makes him an unstoppable Hero is his self-belief and righteousness. There is a touch of Clint Eastwood in how Bharath is styled – he wears a poncho with panache (probably all that practice Chiru has twirling capes) but Chiranjeevi puts his own stamp on the role. Bharath is a dancer and a ladies man as well as a capable fighter and filial son. Directors must have count their lucky stars to get a hero who could dance and fling himself around in action scenes and do the horse riding scenes as well as being ladybait. The story builds up to an all-in confrontation, and Bharath does follow a fairly logical path to that conclusion, even if the steps along the way strain the elasticity of my disbelief suspenders.

Could one heroine suffice for such an exemplary hero? No.

Kodama-Simham-SonamKodama-Simham-Swapna and art

Swapna (Sonam ) is the mayor’s daughter. She has a penchant for making bad art and wearing terrible outfits.

Kodama-Simham-the tribeKodama-Simham-Chiru and Radha

Bijli (Radha) could probably be described as a tribal princess. She likes hunting, shooting and wearing bad outfits. There is some common ground for these ladies if only they could see it. It took me a while to place Sonam but then it hit me. The vacant stare, the pout, the head tilted on the side – She was in Ajooba! Maybe her career is worth investigating further…. Radha of course was an established heroine in South films at this time, and Bijli is the more substantial of the female roles. She looks like she had fun playing the kickarse leader and Bijli and Bharath were the main drivers of many of the revengey plans. Sadly for Bijli, Bharath seemed to be drawn to the girl who did enough stupid things that he would be kept fully occupied in saving her.

Kodama-Simham-Pran the villainKodama-Simham-Pran!

Pran is the dastardly Mayor. He is first seen reading a proclamation off a fancy silk scroll before ordering the hanging of an assortment of extras. I was so pleased when I recognised him but somewhat disappointed that he was in such a stereotypical role with little scope for him to really work his villainy. Still, Pran! Always fun to see worlds collide even if he did try and have Chiru’s eyes out with a red hot poker.

Kodama-Simham-MohanbabuKodama-Simham-Sudhakar

Mohanbabu is the pungent Suddigaali – everyone sniffs when he turns up and no one looks pleased with the result. He is a cartoonish villain but his spaced out reactions and bizarre logic made for some entertaining scenes. Sudhakar is the Mayor’s bumbling accomplice and does his usual shtick. Kannada  Prabhakar is a more flamboyant and sociopathic bad guy.

Kodama-Simham-I shall call him Jaws

There is also that guy, who looks like a) Jaws from the Bond films and b) he stole one of Chiru’s costumes. There is a villain for all seasons in this film.

This is one of the films where I wait eagerly for the songs. Every picturisation has its own kind of awesomeness, largely fabric based. Raj-Koti’s songs are fun and Chiranjeevi makes the most of the choreography.  I choose to believe his dancing on the ceiling was a tribute to Fred Astaire rather than Lionel Richie.

Sadly few of these songs are available on YouTube or the like due to the egregious copyright claim shenanigans. I cannot fathom why a company with no apparent interest in promoting or preserving the old films they allegedly own would object to short clips being shared online when they don’t have their own version uploaded. I’d get it if they were worried about loss of ad revenue, but often I am mystified. Unless they’re worried someone will try and buy a copy.

See this, if you can find a copy, for the full tilt tongue-in-cheek mass style transplanted to Cowboy Country and the pleasing commitment to justice and hats. Chiru is in fine fettle and Radha is an excellent foil. The more is more approach means you’ll never have long to wait for the next song, dance, fight, demonstration of how to transport a treasure chest across a gorge or costume change. 4 stars!

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Ajooba (1991)

Ajooba is always near the top of my list of favourite So Bad It’s Good films. Before we get started, I must share with you the very enticing blurb from the back of my DVD (click on it to enlarge the image):

Irresistible!

What better way to start some Christmas entertainment than with a mysterious star in the East?

And some wise men.

And a baby boy.

Surely this outfit just screams ‘Christmas Bauble’ (or according to Beth, ‘Mughal beach ball’).

Ajooba is a masala film masquerading as a magical sword and sandal romp. It is replete with a masked hero, a devil worshipping usurper, a good magician and his feisty daughter, sea monsters and so much more, made with enthusiasm rather than skill. While it may not be the story of Christmas, it is a miracle that Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor agreed to grace this film by Shashi Kapoor. I think it shows how much they loved him. Ajooba was quite a venture; expensive and a Russian co-production, so it seems like something Shashi felt strongly about making.

Once upon a time in Baharistan, the Sultan (Shammi Kapoor) and his wife (Ariadna Shengelaya) had everything they could want … except a son. Finally, after some magical intervention to protect the unborn child, an heir was born. Hurrah! The people rejoiced with a fun Laxmikant-Pyarelal number. There’s lots of colour and movement including a display of dazzling (ahem) magic, and a dance-off between a kind of skanky snakey dance and some Kathak-ish guys.

Amir Khan (Saeed Jaffrey) is a good magician. I use ‘good’ in the sense of not using his powers for evil, not as an endorsement of his skills.

The most impressive thing about his elephant trick is that the elephant looks like it is wearing dark glasses (perhaps it knew this film was not a great career move and was in disguise).

The evil Vizier (Amrish Puri) attacks the toy boat of the Sultan and Malika. The royal family is scattered, each believing they are alone in the world. Malika is blind, the Sultan loses his memory, and their baby is presumed drowned.

Rescued by a dolphin, raised by a kindly blacksmith, unaware of his real parentage, Ali (Amitabh Bachchan) undergoes years and years and years of training to become the hero who can free his people. Well, those people who are still left after 30 odd years of brutal oppression. Maybe it was the costume that held him up, especially creating a cunning disguise for both Ajooba and horse.

Why something as silly as a tin mask will be so detailed and finished with little flourishes when so much else is left half-baked is part of the charm. It doesn’t save the idea from being daft, but it is fun to look at. There is a serious design flaw. Did you spot it?

With the Vizier in power, life is tough for the simple folk of Baharistan. They still have their picturesque outfits but Amrish Puri and his brother-in-law Shah Rukh (Dalip Tahil) pillage and plunder as the mood seizes them.

With all of his evil deeds to draw on I expected the Vizier to have better material for his catch phrase, but he sticks to ‘Shaitan Zindabad!’. It is clear that he is bad and so are all his associates.

The evil shtick gets a little monotonous despite Amrish Puri’s eyeballs giving it their all.

When Amir Khan is imprisoned, he sends messages back to his family in Hind by talking to birds. Luckily his daughter Rukhsana (Dimple Kapadia) can communicate with animals so she sets off on a rescue mission, leaving her mother (Sushma Seth) behind. Rukhsana works as a puppeteer in the bazaar and I liked that she had a plan to both support herself and give a cover story as she was searching for her dad.

Baharistan is not the place for a single lady, and it doesn’t take long before she needs rescuing. Repeated rescuing. Ajooba becomes somewhat tired of this damsel in distress, but she sees through his flimsy disguise (amazing!) and of course that means true love.

Rishi Kapoor is Hassan, the local Romeo who falls for the Princess Henna (Sonam). That’s about as much character development as you get. I liked Rishi and Amitabh together, and they have a fun song as the romantic Hassan tries to get repressed Ali to talk about love.

But I lost interest as Rishi detours into drag and sleazy antics and Sonam does little more than this:

The romances play out as you would expect, and Dimple and Amitabh make the more interesting couple (though that is not saying much). Ali does wrestle a tiger to rescue Rukhsana and Amir Khan from the dungeons so that added a level of commitment.

Of course in a fairytale there are trials and tribulations before good can triumph and that means special effects! If only someone had told Shashi Kapoor. The visual effects are quite poor and while it is part of the cheesy fun, I do wish they had done a little better. Beth did ask why a flying gondola was employed in one scene and I think it is because the maximum passenger load for a flying carpet would have been exceeded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there are some odd lapses and inconsistencies. When Ali’s sister needs to give him an urgent message, she wends her way through dim corridors and finally  a concealed passage which opens into Ali’s secret training ground. It’s an open field next door that anyone could see. And when Ali and Hassan are chained up with Malika and the blacksmith awaiting Certain Death they are rescued by a sea monster…or are they? Four people in chains, three sets of chains are cut. What about your foster dad Ali????

I recognised so many faces in the background. Memsaab as usual provides a more rigorous acknowledgement of the supporting artists so you should go read her post. But just think – Dara Singh, Sushma Seth, Rajendranath, Narendranath, Tej Sapru, Bob Christo just to name a few!  The locations and sets are delightful, and enhance the fantasy and poetic flavour. The art direction is batty at times, but this is a pleasure to watch.

The streets of Baharistan are always full of colourful locals ready for a backflip or bellydance. The fight scenes are OK without being amazing, flying carpets or no. But there is a brilliant episode in a temple with Amitabh swinging from bell to bell to dishoom Bob Christo and rescue Shammi – it is epic and silly and I love it. The final battle gets everyone to Baharistan and there are reunions and expositions all over the place.

I absolutely love that in the climax fight, once people realise Ajooba is Ali is the long lost prince, everything pauses briefly so the onlookers can have a chat amongst themselves about how he is related to everyone and what his title is. Never mind the big glowing sword, or the evil sorcerer – is he your cousin? And is he married?

Ajooba’s heart is pure masala gold and I have enormous affection for it. 4 stars for entertainment alone!

Merry Christmas!