Monday, July 25, 2011

Super Supporting Stars Part 1: Subbaraju

It doesn't take watching very many Telugu movies before you realize there is a group of supporting actors and actresses that seem to show up in nearly every movie. Sometimes they are cast as the rowdies, some times the friends or brothers. The more senior actors play fathers or cops or politicians or factionists. The ladies are mothers, sisters, or aunties. Unlike the Hero, Heroine or Comedian  who must keep within the constraints of the archetype,  these actors are able to move from villain to good guy, comedy to drama in their various roles. In this recurring post I will feature one of these stars and give them some of the limelight and attention they deserve.

 Subbaraju: Hero in Waiting.
Subbaraju should be a Hero because he is hot. There. I said it. And I know there are quite a few out there who agree with me. In fact we in the interwebs are  debating how long before he gets his chance to be a hero. He has been expanding his roles from villains and fighters to less negative charactors. Most recently he was seen holding his own against the Big B himself in Bbudahh Hoga Tere Baap! I was especially thrilled to see him in BHTB. It is awesome to see him expand beyond the Telugu film industry and I hope he gets more opportunies to do so.
    According to Wikipedia he has a degree in Math and is a computor whiz too. He got his break in films  when he was noticed while fixing a computor for a filmmkaer.  He started off as a fighter and eventualy expanded to speaking roles. I first noticed him in Pokiri and untill recently my favorite role of his was in Parugu staring Allu Arjun. He plays the younger brother to Prakash Raj who beats people and manhandles his niece in order  to find Prakash Raj's missing daughter who had eloped.

But eventually you realize he is not so bad just concerned about his neice and her reputation. (So you can forgive him for beating up Sunil!)

I really liked him in that role. Recently I saw Leader. Subbaraju had a large supporting role in that film that deservedly won him critical acclaim.  He played a corrupt politician who was confident of his promotion to Chief Minister, until the recently deceased former CM's son, played by Rana Daggabuti returns from America and ruins his plans.

Subbaraju does a fabulous job of going from barely controlled rage to the hurt feelings and disapointment of a child and back to schemeing rage again.

The looks of shock and then hatred that plays across his face as he is repeatedly outmanuevered are perfectly done.

After his performance in Leader I can only hope that more roles like this come his way. For those interested in following Subbaraju's career more closely he is on Twitter @actorssubbaraju.

There has been rumours recently that he will be playing the lead hero in some upcoming movie but nothing has materialized yet as far as I know. I hope we don't have too much longer to wait for his first hero role.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nijam (2003) Dir. Teja

    Nijam starring Superstar Mahesh Babu, is another one of my favorite award winning but apparent flop movies. It is Mahesh's least layered performance interms of the number of shirts he wears (only one!! plus the occaisional undershirt) But he gives an award winning performance as he transforms himself from the geeky-cool but innocent school boy, Sitaram,  to a bad-ass killing machine, trained by his equally bad-ass Mom played by Rameshwari. It's a movie with a questionable moral message about the corruption that pervades Indian life.
    The the first half of the movie establishes Sitaram as an innocent school boy that is harrassed and teased by his amorous neighbor played by Rakshita. She shamelessly chases after him even going so far as to press her breasts up against him while he rides his bike. Sitaram howls, makes faces and closes his eyes as he indignantly avoids her advances. I love that unlike Hindi heroines, Telugu ones are frequently portrayed as having a healthy (and normal) atitiude about sex. Rakshita's portrayal of this type of heroine is one of my favorites- cute, fiesty, lusty and confident.

Sitaram lives with his Mother and Father. They are clearly a family of integrity. His Father is a fire fighter who slaps a rowdy that he caught setting a fire. Unfortunetly for him the Rowdy is the soon to be over the edge crazy Devudu played by Gopichand.  This is one of my favorite Gopichand negative roles. He plays heros now but he started off  getting villain roles. He starts off as the surly and morose just-another-member-of-the-goon-squad, but emerges the leader of the gang after killing his higher up and then performing a blood ritual. He shaves his head and ends up with a killer 'stache too.

Once Devudu comes to power he seeks revenge on Sitaram's Father. This is where all the bad stuff happens. He sends goonda's to kill his Father in the market place but instead the brother of Devudu's girlfriend Malli, played by Raasi, get's killed. Sitaram's father is imprisoned and everthing Sitaram does to try to get his father help fails because he is first always asked for a bribe. Devudu gains access to the prison and beats his Father badly.

When Sitaram see's his Father is injured he runs from official to offical to get his Father medical attention and justice but everyone is corrupt..from the police officers, jailers, lawyers, government officials, hospital workers and politicians, everyone asks for money first.

Brahmaji was superb as the corrupt cop
When his father dies Sitaram's Mother turn's into a harbinger of revenge. She trains and instructs Sitaram to be her killing machine.  Everyone that didn't do their job and asked for a bribe was going to die. That was the only way they would have justice for what was done to them.

Mahesh does a great job of portaying the transformation from fear and helplessness to anger and then ultimatley revenge. He won a Nandi Award for his peformance and I think it is well diserved.
Once they are on their revenge rampage, the police send in ACP Prakash Raj to capture the murderers. Woot! Yay! Prakash Cop!

Prakash Cop is always one step behind however, and the final showdown between Devudu and Sitaram is awesome. Gopi's performance is C-R-A-Z-Y.

In the end after all the murder, Prakash Cop decides that justice is being served, destroys evidence, shoots himself in the arm and instructs Sitaram and his Mother to lie about what happened. I guess one kind of corruption (plus extrajudicial killings) is better than another.

The music was just so-so, the playback singers didn't mesh with Mahesh. The song picturizations themselves were fun. My favorite's were the ones in the first half plus Raasi's Snake song.

I also liked this one between Mahesh and Rakshita.

I also like Rangu Rangula but I couldn't find a video of it.

All in all Nijam is good fun if the violence and moral ambiguity doesn't bother you. Mahesh is perfect and Gopichand's performance is one of the best all time villains.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bbuddha...Hoga Tera Baap! (2011) Dir. Puri Jagannadh

Popular Telugu Director Puri Jagannadh's Bollywood release starring Icon Amitabh Bachchan got me all excited when I saw this trailer for the movie:

OMG! Sonu Sood! Charmee! Subba Raju! and Prakash Raj! Squee! Some Southie style Dishoom, and  my favorite Hema Malini and then Raveena Tandon making a comeback appearance! Woo Hoo! This was looking like all kinds of fun!

 Bbuddha...Hoga Tera Baap! mostly lived up to my expectations, it was a fun masala romp.
The movie starts with Prakash Raj as the mafia don Kabir gleefully ordering and then watching the bombing of some public figures. Sonu Sood plays ACP Karan Malhotra in charge of hunting down the criminals. He is given the classic rowdy bashing slow-mo entrance of a Southie Hero. It is so cool to see him in his IPS uniform kicking some goonda butt. Infact one of the plusses of the movie is Sonu gets lots of screen time. 

Kabir gets frustrated when ACP Karan arrests two of his henchman so he demands that the best assassin be hired to take him out. Enter the Big B..stylish hired gun and angry "old" man, Viju. He gets angry anytime he is called "Bbuddha" (old man) and either verbally or physically bashes the hapless ne'er do wells that cross his path. These confrontations were done in a "toned down" Southie style which worked because you don't really expect to see Big B flipping 12 rowdies through the air with one punch but it was cool to see him take on 3. Woot! Go Big B!

I have to admit I am a noob when it comes to Mr. Bachchan's pre-2000 iconic roles (**looks around sheepishly and whispers**...I have only seen Sholay and Yaarana) so I am unfamiliar with his "angry young man" persona. But I did thoroughly enjoy this role..I am one who does not get put off by him playing a flirt either. 

Early in the first half he runs into Amrita, played by bubbly South Actress Charmee, and helps her and her friend Tanya, played by the lovely Sonal Chauhan, deal with some eve teasers.  When Amrita invites him home to thank him, her mother, played by Raveena Tandon immediately responds as if they are long lost friends. It was great fun to see Raveena back in a funny role.  Amrita's over active imagination leads her to suspect that Viju might possibly be her Father. On top of that Tanya is being romantically pursued by ACP Karan all the while that Viju is threatening and taking shots at him.

There is a nice but predictable twist at the interval, and in the second half Subba Raju shows up as one of Kabir's rowdies who is suspicious of Viju's sudden prominent position in the gang.

As a fan of Telugu movies I have to say Puri Jagannadh did an excellent job creating roles for the supporting actors that highlighted what they are so very good at without having the South Indian OTT tropes overwhelm the story. Prakash was awesome as usual in his Prakash Bad avatar and the final confrontation scenes with Big B are fabulous! A must see for Prakash Raj fans.  Charmee had a role that showed her comic and bubbly nature. Subba Raju was a bad guy with a significant speaking part and it was a thrill to watch him go toe to toe with Bachchan. (Can someone please cast him as a Hero already? Geez! Some fan girls have been waiting..) Likewise it was fun to watch Sonu get his hero entrance at last.

I do have some complaints as a fan however...Hema Malini was waisted in her role as Sonu's Mother. She just mainly worried...Her and Amitabh are so good together and have such chemistry but the role she was given didn't call for it. She didn't have much screen time (Raveena Tandon's part was bigger) and though there was ample reason for sparks to fly between her and Amitabh it just didn't happen. That was a lost opportunity in my opinion.

Also the biggest throw away scene from Jagannadh's hit Pokiri was included word for word in this movie..Why?
My other complaint is why oh why wasn't Raveena Tandon's Item number in the movie?? Without it there was only one full song picturization with dancing, the Title song combined with Go Meera Go which was fun enough.

 Haal-E-Dil only had about a minute of a montage of Big B walking on the beach.
Main Chandigarh di Star would have been a great addition to the film and there were several places I can think of that it would have fit.

While I don't expect Mr Bachchan to do anymore dancing than he did, it would have been great if Puri Jagannadh had brought some South Indian Choreographers down for the Main Chandigarh Di Star Item Promo song. It could have been choreographed alot better. Raveena could have done more than she was asked to do in that number. Also Charmee is a good dancer and could have been used as such.  This was a Masala movie so more songs would have been appropriate.  I just don't understand why Hindi film makers are pulling away from one of the most important USP's they have. Maybe Hindi audiences really don't like songs in their movies anymore. If that is the case I will either adjust or stick with Southies.