Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pokiri: An introduction to telugu films

Like most people north of Mumbai, I remain hugely ignorant of the subtle nuances of the different South Indian filmi ecosystems. So many thanks to Meena, who came armed with two movies last weekend, and introduced me to Telugu films.

Mahesh Babu PokiriEarly on in the film we picked - Pokiri - there is a scene in which a bunch of gang members decide to beat up hero Pandu. As a show of strength, they decide to chase him down in his own neighborhood.

Soon a bunch of bloodthirsty ruffians are chasing Pandu, whose face we can't see just yet, through some gulley-nukkads. Some genius hasti tries to use a sabji-ki-lahri to nail Pandu - who incredibly enough senses it and while still running jumps over it. Thus we are introduced to Mahesh Babu - while he's still flying in the air in slow-mo with bright red chillies and polished green capsicums swirling around him along with other vegetables of lesser personality.

Mahesh Babu Pokiri Ileana DCruzAt that point I told myself: Boss, any movie that can open thusly has got to be fun to watch.

Pokiri is a rather typical masala movie - its got action, romance, comedy and social commentary. It has a very urban design - almost everyone in the movie looks like a mall rat from Mumbai and talks in Teluhinglish. Pokiri is also ridiculously entertaining.

In this movie there are two kinds of people - those that are part of the Land Mafia (gangs that use their muscle to pry money out of Hyderabad's booming infrastructure businesses) and those that are not. Sure there are policemen but they also belong to one of these two groups.

Mahesh Babu Pokiri IleanaPandu is a free agent fast building a reputation as a ruthless goonda. As a consequence he is offered a position as Chief Muscle in a gang run by a Dubai honcho called Alibhai. Pandu gets to work - twisting arms and cracking bones and quickly becomes the mainstay of the Alibhai gang.

At one point he runs into Sruthi played by Ileana D'Cruz who looks like Amrita Rao with the addition of about eight inches in height and a ton of extra hotness. For reasons which are revealed later, she is always either coming from or going to an aerobics class. For reasons that are not revealed later, she has a savage fondness for upma.

Pandu and Sruthi meet cute - which in Pokiri consists of two scenes: Pandu ogles at Sruthi doing aerobics, cut and Pandu sees Sruthi at train station, grabs her and reads her T-shirt, cut. Probably not representative of Hyderabad boys and gals. But importantly both stars managed to give me enough insights into why they might have fallen for each other - a huge plus in any movie.

Pokiri Ileana DCruzPokiri is full of elaborately orchestrated, stylistic and bloody fight sequences - its not for the faint of heart. The action is replete with a lot of hard stunts (no CGI that I could detect). Some of them work, some of them don't. Most of them are very derivative, but they are all fun to watch particularly one in which Sruthi comes face to face with the violence in Pandu's life as he brutalizes ten henchmen with Jet Li-like moves.

There is a significant quantity of violence directed towards women. A mock rape is staged. The media is taken apart, so is the police force. Cell phone porn makes an appearance. There is a rather cleverly conceived if tepidly executed comedy sequence about a union of beggars.

All through this, Mahesh Babu does a stellar job of holding the movie together. Mahesh is a gora-chitta, Shahid Kapur types with a strangely morphing hairstyle that kept my curiosity company through the slower scenes in the film. He is quite convincing as a goonda who is a loose canon. And he brings a deft alpha-male caginess to his scenes with D'Cruz that allow a taut chemistry to develop between the two.

Finally, watching an Indian film with subtitles is a strangely out of body experience for me. Since the movie looked and felt like a Bollywood film, I felt somewhat culturally cheated. After all, I'm used to watching Tamil songs where the leads cavort with each other in some outdoor setting, thus allowing me to make astute regional observations like "Boy, they sure have a lot of hay in Tamil Nadu".

I now have part appreciation of how much Beth has to try to get into the spirit of the movies she watches. But I hope to watch much more Tollywood and someday even get to Malayalam films and Mammootty.

Wish me luck!

Also:

35 comments:

Saritha said...

evadu review rasthe,dimma thirigi,cinema chudalanipisthundo vaade,Aspi.

PS:I had use vaadu for the effect :)

Aspi said...

Saritha, don't leave me hanging man. You'll have to translate.

VC said...

Isnt this being remade in Hindi by (surprise surprise) Boney Kapoor with Salman Khan and Ayesha Takia...

sidekick said...

awesome review, aspi! i'm almost tempted to watch the film for the mahesh with veggies intro scene alone! u absolutely must watch more regional cinema to give us yr unique take on it.

poor mahesh babu - shahid type, gora chitta - damned with faint praise! mahesh is gora by southern standards but less boyish and chocolate box-like than shahid i think.

its interesting that u mention the difficulty of relying on subtitles - coz i had a nasty brush with that. as part of a move to introduce indian cinema to some non-desi freinds, i dipped into my DVD collection for a tamil film. it was an adaptation of sense and sensibility and stars ash and tabu - both whom my friends were familiar with fm our viewing of bride and prejudice and namesake. figured it was a solid choice given the context . however had no idea the subtitles would let me down so much - never having needed/tested them. apart fm the english being atrocious, they didn't coordinate timing-wise with the dialog being spoken and whole exercise was a disaster! regional cinema is only as good as the subtitles, although masala films like pokkiri are possibly less subject to that edict.

Saritha said...

"A guy who's review is (always) mindblowing and makes us want to watch the flick,that guy is Aspi"-Literal Translation.You find similar dialogue in the movie.It says 'Pandu'

Sidekick,yaar,Mahesh is gora by Indian standards.Besides he's got oodles of personality.What seem to work for him is his 'cool dude' attitude,something Nagarjuna sported when he was in prime.Shahid on the other hand is no longer the chocolatey types.And I seriously took notice of him only after his superb performance in 'Jab we met'.

Speaking of subtitles,I once watched Khakha Khakha in Tamil minus the subtitles.It worked for me,may be b'coz it was an action movie and Surya & Jyothika looked awesome together.I refrained from watching the Telugu remake of the same,for some reason the remakes never match up to the original.

indiequill said...

Ahem! Now I'm going to hound you until you watch Nayakan. It's the one Indian movie I always recommend. Oh and you can watch Mammooty in Kandukondein Kandukondein and have the bonus pleasure of watching Aishwarya Rai act! With Tabu! And not get eaten alive! Then you too will put exclamation marks at the end of sentences!

Aspi said...

Saritha, what a great compliment in true filmi style. Dishoom, I thank you.

Sidekick I know what you mean: I'm constantly correcting subtitles for my sons when they watch Bollywood. And in Pokiri the subtitles have Pandu telling Sruthi: first I'll eat this and then I'll eat you. Didn't come out right I think.

Amrita, Mammooty is that film! I've heard about it of course in Aishwarya's context. But now I'm so there. Rajnikanth can wait.

Beth said...

Don't get me started on subtitles. Or on how much I luuuuurve Kandukondein Kandukondein. Or on how much I enjoyed giant cutouts of Mammooty while traveling in Kerala. To my mind, it's a little unfortunate that he has the same role as the incomparable and dreamy-voiced Alan Rickman in SS/KK, but other than not being Alan Rickman, I liked him very much. That movie is so gorgeous...and the music! Sigh. Swoon.

Beth said...

Oh yes, and as for this movie, I too am curious based on the vegetables alone. Sign me up.

anu g said...

Ok, Saritha, I confess....I know u must have been expecting me to send my comments, being part of the 'I luv Hyderabad' brigade.But I have been keeping silent cos...sorry....I havent seen the movie.Oops!That dishoom was bad!!OK, now that Aspi has come up with such a lovely review, and u have come up with that mindblowing dialogue, I promise to watch it.

girlie girl said...

Aspi, like sidekick said, I'm going to have to watch it just for the vegetable scene! You cnat beat flying capsicum and red chillie peppers! I agree about the sub-titles as well. I watched NVNV with sub-titles and I had the same issue.

I would love to see you do a write-up on a Gujju film! Those are hysterical. They are nearly not as sophisticated as Bolly/Tollywood films...although, i havent seen one in years! Speaking of which, I saw a commercial for SRGMP for Zee-Gujju channel. Now that's what I call entertainment!

meena said...

Kandukondain Kandukondain was the movie that motivated me to watch a tamil movie with subtitles. after that I saw Mani Ratnam's Ilaipayuthe (original of 'Saathiya') and I've got to say that both are such magnificent movies that I did not feel that the unsatisfactory subtitles took away any of the experience. I may feel differently with lesser movies.

when I do watch other language films though, I like to keep the volume up just to get the lilt, cadence and the flow of a different language.

And Aspi, if you want to plumb the depths of a true tollywood fan, you have got to watch Chiranjeevi in action.

Aspi said...

Giant cutouts of Mammooty - why don't we have something like that in Vadodara and Delhi!

girlie girl - I indeed should get to a gujju movie but none of the stores here seem to carry them. I have to satisfy myself watching Kanodia in a jhabla prancing around for 3 min or less on TV.

Aspi said...

Meena, and thanks to your generosity in letting me borrow the second DVD - those depths shall be plumbed!

girlie girl said...

Aspi, you definitely have to do a write up of the gujju SRGMP! We get to see the bhaio ane behno competing with eachother singing a gujarati garbo!! Cant wait!!

Mind Rush said...

And may I make a plug for Oriya cinema and Bhojpuri too? Please, pretty please?

Aspi said...

Oriya cinema? Mind Rush if you had been talking I would have assumed you were just clearing your throat before saying cinema.

Just pulling your chain. ButI'm not sure where to look.

Recently read a Shreya Ghoshal interview (linked on this site) where she said the only time she had been embarassed at something she sang was when she saw the Bhojpuri picturization.

Spruha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sidekick said...

wow! when i carefully skirted around the difficult title while describing my disaster with subtitling, little did i realize the love there was for kandukonden kandukonden. may be i just had a bad copy (it is legit/legal!)- with the non synced dialogs and subtitles. beth i loved rahman's score in it too....

aspi, i'll second amrita's recco of nayakan which is my fave mani rathnam movie of all time. can't imagine watching it with bad subtitling though!

saritha, ok i'll grant that mahesh is a gora chitta by pan indian standards and i think much more fun to watch than shahid. btw contrary to popular preferences, i like shahid's performance in JWM better than kareena's (whose high decibel sikhni of the first half seemed like her same old over the top stuff). again not a popular choice, but my pick for best performance of the year amongst actresses - ash in guru. saritha, kaakha kaakha is worth it for the uber cute surya-jyothika jodi alone, but i can see how that film works sans subtitles. it reminded me of a bunch of stylish music videos strung together with lots of dishoom dishoom and minimal dialogs :)

aspi, i know u have a mile long list of regional requests, but if u ever get around to the rajini moment, i recommend sivaji. rajini only looks like he's a 100 years old, but that ridiculous "rajini style" is so completely over the top that u can only enjoy it. it has the same masala elements as pokiri, only super sized. plus a populist rahman score - how bad can that be?

girlie girl said...

I found this, this morning regarding Salman doing the remake of Pokiri.

http://in.movies.yahoo.com/news-detail/18943/Salman-imposes-self-discipline.html

He refuses to have a stunt-double. although we dont expect any less from the macho-man himself!

Saritha said...

There are fewer times when I find the remake/adaptation better than the original.I felt 'Kandukondein Kandukondein'(dubbed in Telugu) was much more entertaining than 'Sense and Sensibility'.It also helped me to rate it awesome as I watched it at the time I was Ash ki deewani.

Sidekick,tell me,Is Gautam Menon the director for both 'Kandu.... and 'Khakha....

sidekick said...

saritha, rajiv menon who did kandukondain (also minsara kanavu/sapnay) and gautam menon only happen to share a last name. gautam menon did go onto do another entertaining cop movie post KK - Vetaiyadu Vilayadu- which was a huge blockbuster too. word has it that surya and gautam menon are returning with another movie this year.

Saritha said...

I assume Jo bid good bye to acting after marriage.That's a shame,b'coz I thought Surya and Jo looked fab together.

Last name menon is confusing.Madhavan,Reema sen's 'Cheli'(Zara Zara.....) is from Gautam,I believe.

Aspi said...

Spruha, any idea when the gujji srgmp is on?

Sidekick, VV is one movie I'm don't think I can watch. I read Jai's review a long time ago and I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to violence directed towards children and general gore-horror stuff.

Also thanks for the Rajni reco - I wanted the definitive movie to watch for him.

indiequill said...

Sidekick - I havent watched Sivaji but is it better than Muthu? Say it aint so!

Aspi - I recommend Dalapathi. This is because I'm basically Mani Ratnam's bitch but also because I think this sort of balances the Rajni-ness of it all with the thing that most people forget about him - he's a good actor. This too has Mammooty. And Shobana and Arvind Swamy. Whatever happened to Arvind Swamy?

Beth - I remember going for Omkara with my Bollywood-untried gringo friends and we all loved it until the Beedi Jalaile song came on and the subtitles asked us to "Light a fag from my bosom". Hee hee hee.

--Amrita.

Aspi said...

Dalapathi has both?! I am getting overloaded with movies here - hopefully by next year :)

Hey how about those subtitles that translate "khaike paan" into "Eat a leaf with betel nuts and masala". The ones that attempt to explain the word are the best.

sidekick said...

Aspi, I wouldn't recommend VV to anyone without lots of caveats. its a gripping film but extremely gruesome and macabre with it. for large chunks i watched thru the cracks of the fingers covering my eyes!

LOL, on the beedi and khaike paan subtitling! That is just precious. i'm glad i watched omkara at home without the distraction or the unintended humor

Amrita, Muthu is a cunning pick - also a rahman score so they cancel out on that. in muthu rajini is more than 10 years younger so there is some cred to the action hero. sivaji has him looking a little like the dirty old man ogling at shriya who is more than 30 years his junior. that said sivaji is much more opulent in look and feel and some of the naach gaana sequences would trigger envy in SLB for their lavish scale and opulence. plus i watched sivaji in a multiplex in india where the crowds went wild. much whistling, clapping and dancing in the aisles ensued and i'd forgotten how much fun that was :). so i would still favor sivaji.

would not recco dalapathi as an intro to rajini --- not coz it is not a good movie but coz it is! it is a classic mani rathnam (and i'm with u on MR love, amrita) blend of masala and realistic cinema with a gorgeous score fm illayaraja and lots of nice supporting performances.

there are plenty of actors who've turned in competent performances, but how many toss their sunglasses in the air and do other such bizarro tricks with panache and a sense of fun? naah, to get the true rajini magic, got to go with one of his true blue masala flicks.

in dalapathi's favor, it also featured a young and yummy arvind swamy. since u asked amrita, apparently he is now a successful entrepreneur (runs BPOs) but looks nothing like the guy fm dalapathi and roja. u're probably better off not looking at this, but if u want to see how the pretty have fallen here is the current version of him.

http://www.lazygeek.net/archives/2005/09/maniratna_nayagan.html

Aspi said...

Hey that guy looks like me after a year at an all you can eat buffet. But in my defense I was never yummy to begin with.

Sidekick, your admission of watching movies from the cracks of your fingers covering your eyes has given me enough courage to come out of the darpok closet myself. I do that constantly. Its extremely comforting!

Another technique I use is to mute the sound. Many fascinating horror film scenes have been negotiated in this way by me. (After muting I also often cover my eyes)

Saritha said...

That link shd come with a warning."Female fans of Aravind Swamy,click at your own risk." Ayyo...
Well,atlest he seem to be doing well in his life,thats good.

Agree with Sidekick,if you've never seen Rajini before,watch him in a masala flick like Shivaji.After that I highly recommend 'Dalapathi'.

Don't worry abt the subtitles,there's no way you can catch up with his dialogue delivery and also watch what he's doing on the screen at the same time.Ignore what's written,just watch his charisma.

indiequill said...

OMG, i'm soooo sorry i asked about Arvind swamy :(

sidekick - fair point on the masala rajni vs. dalapathi goodness. i'll obviously have to rent sivaji now!

--Amrita.

Cinderella said...

Pokiri review? wow!
It's one of my fav movies!:)

And speaking of malayalam movies,i was surprised no one even made a mention of Mohanlal![the police officer in Ram Gopal Varma's 'Company']
i personally find him more versatile and entertaining than Mammooty,who i feel, gets stuck to similar kind of roles most of the time.

I recommend u watch the orginal version of 'bhool bulaiyaa'...the one in malayalam with Mohanlal and Shobana in the lead.it's not the comedy types like the hindi version or 'horor' as in tamil and telugu.it had just the normal elements of an average masala movie but artistically brilliant!

i love the original one soo much that i was thoroughly dissapointed when i saw the Hindi remake!

sidekick said...

aspi, to this point i only thought of the drift memsaab as a kindred soul (from the rare tidbits you've shared with us). but on the negotiation of scary scenes in movies clearly you and I are siblings of the heart! the muting of volume is my second line of defense.... i try hard to watch scary stuff with the spine chilling music and eyes all but covered, but when my cowardice gets the better of me muting follows. the BH beleives that love is --- watching horror movies on mute ;)

saritha, amrita --> i feel yr pain on arvind swamy. my positive spin: it gives regular folks like me hope. we never have to worry abt such fall fm grace!

Aspi said...

Like I always say: being darpok is the new bravery.

Its amazing how much music and sound adds to everything. Although even on mute The Grudge scared the living daylights out of me. But then so did Woh Kaun Thi.

anu g said...

Sidekick and Aspi, what a relief...I thought I was the only adult darpok! But I am also a coward cos I dont let it be known esp since my son is like me, and I dont want him to be, So its only eyes tightly closed.My son and I had horrors watching Bhool Bhulaiya.When its on tv, its a quick change of channels. btw,aspi, waiting to read what u have to say about the bhoot round in srgmp this week.

waseem said...

I am fond of telegu films,i enjoyed this post thanks.......