Khaidi No 150

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I thought the original film (Kaththi) was mediocre so I had low expectations. And I was honestly happy at seeing Big Chiru on screen, my first ever Megastar FDFS, and the bonus of subtitles. The audience went nuts when Chiru’s foot first appeared. Apparently I am not the only one who takes a keen interest in Mega Footwear. And the screaming and paper throwing erupted at the start of every song and every fight. It felt so good to be among my people.

The story goes like this. Escaped convict Seenu (Chiranjeevi) witnesses an attempted hit on a stranger, Sankar (Chiranjeevi). He takes Sankar to hospital but swaps over their ID so he can remain free, assuming that the police will let the other man go once they realise the error. Seenu then impersonates Sankar, and acquires a nursing home full of old men from the village of Neeru. As he understand their story, and gets to watch a handy documentary on Sankar’s crusade against the evil corporates, Seenu takes up the fight as his own.

In many ways this is a perfect comeback vehicle for Chiranjeevi. The dual role and the breadth of the action means no matter what his fans want from him, they’re likely to get it. He delivers action, big speeches, garish outfits, and some of his trademark dance moves (the veena step!), all with minor modification to suit a gentleman of a certain age. And most of that is done in the initial prologue section. The dual role means he can play both mass and class aspects of the standard hero, and even asks Lakshmi (Kajal) which she prefers before telling her his name. Sankar wears brainy glasses (HOT. Just saying) where Seenu has a more flamboyant style. There are references both in the script and the background music to his previous films, some of them drawing roars of appreciation from a very vocal crowd. He has a sidekick (Ali), an enemy (Tarun Arora), a frenemy (Brahmanandam as Doberman), and many comedy uncles and familiar actors as supports, dependants, and thugs. He also has an irrelevant love interest. See? Everything!

I was wondering how they would deal with the age gap between Chiru and Kajal and the answer is that Seenu thinks Lakshmi is a childhood sweetheart, but then realises they just look alike. So I decided that young at heart Seenu always thinks of himself as that twenty-something dude about town rather than thinking we’d believe they were actually the same age. I really should be on the payroll to find far-fetched solutions to ill-conceived plot devices…And the fight scenes are grand and full of energy, even though Chiru has long since left his limber acrobatic years behind. The songs also work to cover over the years because they are more a platform for people to worship the Megastar not a display of romance. The lyrics are mostly about how great he is, the choreo is very peacock-esque as he and the backing dudes strut their stuff, and the ladies just wiggle when in shot.

“Ammadu lets do Kummudu” is probably the worst song I will hear this year but as soon as it was over I would have hit replay if I could have. It has all the visuals I could ask for – prancing, colourful outfits, bedazzled Mega-shoes, and a guest appearance by Charan. Father and son look so chuffed to be dancing together. The backing dancer costumes are a wonder throughout. From drapey chiffon to see through plastic jackets, you name it, they had to wear it.

Kajal’s character is irrelevant, and she can hardly dance, so I really paid little attention to her. However. In every song picturisation she wears extremely sensible walking shoes regardless of her dress. So I was mildly diverted and wondered if it was due to her height compared to Chiru, perhaps she had an injury and couldn’t wear the usual ugly strappy sandals, was it some kind of statement. I don’t know. I doubt that this is what she wants to be remembered for but it really is the most interesting thing about Lakshmi.

Farmer suicide is a real issue given pretty superficial treatment by V.V Vinayak, although I appreciate he tried to show the effects of the ever shortening media cycle on long running issues. But the main components of the story felt off kilter. Farming life was overly romanticised, described as a necessary fate, and condemned as too harsh, often in the same grand speech. The speech that got a really big response was one about people being forced out of their villages and having to take crappy jobs in the big cities to earn some money. But the film seemed adamant that people should stay on the land, which I think is a bit simplistic as country kids may want or need to pursue other careers and they should have those opportunities. Sankar was supposed to be a man of principle but didn’t hesitate for a nanosecond when offered a deal to let some thugs kill Seenu if they got him out of jail. It was OK to throw in a tasteless joke that Doberman (Brahmi) had raped 100 women. And Ali in drag is never necessary to any movie ever. And the Megastar presence really dominates so that the reliable and accomplished guys like Nasser had little opportunity to make much of their roles. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention to anyone but Chiru!

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There are also some genuinely funny moments. I think my favourite was  when Posani Krishna Murali’s men all pretended to pick up phone calls as he was blustering and wandered off looking busy rather than face Seenu. Or maybe when Brahmi lost his religion during a huge fight scene. I also liked the thinking behind one fight scene that progressed through corporate thugs, oiled up baldy muscle men who looked like an angry pack of Maltesers, and finally the bad hair gang.

Lest you think I am completely superficial and only looked at the shoes, there was an interesting moment regarding justice in this film world. The judge (played by Naga Babu) says that if a single person kills that is murder, but if society kills it’s a revolution. It’s a problematic statement once you get thinking about the mob and riots but it did mean someone notionally good avoided jail time, and the person they killed was bad news anyway. No biggie.

Will Khaidi No 150 make a fan of anyone who isn’t? Probably not. Does any of that matter if you are a fan? No way!

Pssst  – Make sure you stay for the end credits for some glimpses of the famous visitors on set, and Lawrence closely monitoring a dance and giving someone the stinkeye.

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Badrinath

The great thing about an Adventure without Subtitles when Allu Arjun stars is knowing that no matter what, the dancing will be awesome.  But there is so much more to enjoy in Badrinath, and we had a great time.

The plot, for what it’s worth, can be summed up as follows. Prakash Raj is a guru who trains young boys to defend temples in the major holy cities of India. His school is located high in the mountains, and the scenery and the sets are nothing short of spectacular. Allu Arjun is Badri, who is assigned to protect Badrinath. Badri has a special relationship with the place, amazing sword and fighting skills, a strong faith in god and his guru, and is earmarked to take over the training camp. Tamanna is Alaknanda, a very pretty atheist who lost her faith after seeing her parents accidentally catch fire and die at a pooja. Badri and Alaknanda eventually fall in love, then the bad guys turn up to kidnap her. Will Badri desert his post, anger his guru and rescue his love? So much drama!

This is a vehicle for Bunny and, as expected, he excels in the dancing and fighting scenes. We had questioned the efficacy of an Indian Samurai when pitted against men with guns, but that question was put to rest. You need arms attached to your body to pull a trigger. Swords win! The fight scenes were cool, and it looked like someone may have been inspired by games where each set of bad guys has a particular set of weapons. So once the guys with sickles are defeated, the next batch has axes and so on. It isn’t all gore and anger though; there is room for what our friend calls Funny Bunny and he is joyful in the dances. He does an excellent wet shirt, and even wears a Chiranjeevi inspired silver cape in one song! This pleased us greatly.

Tamanna is a beautiful girl, and she can act and dance. She more or less keeps up with Bunny, and her facial expressions when she dances are great. Alaknanda is rarely more than a sketch, a pretty face on the sidelines, and sadly it seems that she discovers faith and love only after Badri slaps her. She also discovers more appropriate clothing. (And she had been spectacularly rude and stupid in the lead up to the slap). There is a fun moment when she keeps pretending to slip so she can fling herself on Badri’s manly chest and cop a feel. That seemed perfectly sensible so we decided we liked her a lot. Her subplot involving abduction by evil relatives and an attempt at forcing her to marry could have been cut back without diminishing the idea of the damsel in distress. Tamanna was very good in 100% Love, and lovely in Badrinath, so we hope more substantial roles come her way.

Alaknanda had the best imagination. Most of the songs were her dreams and she spared no effort in dressing Bunny up and giving every single backing dancer the most amazing outfits as well.

On the subject of wardrobe, this is what Badri wore as his going into town outfit so there are arguments for and against him choosing his own clothes.

Prakash Raj is excellent as the guru. He gets to do pretend martial artsy stuff, levitate, growl at people and also use his misty eyes of love. His character is the cause of Badri’s conflict as he demands the young man be sworn in as his replacement, and thus swear off marriage and women. He probably should have thought that through a bit more.  But we could rely on him to do the right thing when it counted and all was well between the master and disciple.

The Comedy Sideplot was over represented by MS Narayana, Venu Madhav , Master Bharath and Brahmi among others. Too many! And took up at least 30 minutes that could have been condensed or cut. Brahmi was fun, and the crowd went wild for him, but it was basically the same fleecing the pilgrims shtick he did in Indra. We guess that was a deliberate reference. The supporting cast was full of familiar faces, all of whom do the thing they do so well. We think the Allu family pug made an appearance too so if Ice’s agent is reading this, please confirm? But in an unsubtitled film we tend not to give the support artists their full dues as we have to concentrate on the main action. And yes, there were compelling visuals adding to the distractions. We totally appreciated the backing dancers for their enthusiasm, their dancing and the way they rocked the purple and gold glittery outfits.

We did have to notice the evil family as they showed dedication to the bulk purchase of coloured contact lenses, and the matriarch wore some excellent saris.

The evil henchmen deserve a shout out. From the Pick n Mix Assorted Terrorist Stereotype Brigade to the Ninjas in Hoodies, they gave it their best, and Peter Hein and team really made them work for their money. He knows how to make chaos look elegant.

There are massive plot holes, but they aren’t an impediment to enjoying the story. There is no pretence at realism so questions of why there are never any police around or how Badri could survive the latest incident just didn’t matter. We were far more interested in why people wore some of the crazy outfits. The soundtrack is effective and enjoyable, and the songs are well placed. How well they stand up without the supporting visuals is another question.

This is an out and out entertainer that succeeds, and the audience last night certainly enjoyed it. The balance of action and ridiculous stunts with beautiful visuals and fantastic dancing is just about right. See it on a big screen if you can!