My Year of Prakash Raj

Some people spend a year
cooking Julia Child's recipes, or following all of the rules in the Bible, or reading books by people who spent a year doing something. My quest is to watch the 200-some films of South Indian character-actor-extraordinaire, Prakash Raj. (It'll probably take more than a year... and I'll post about some Prakash-less films here as well.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Round-up for January 2010

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total (January, 2010): 2
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total (as of 1/31/10): 17
(Finally nearly done with the 2010 backlog, and then on to 2009!)

Parugu (Telugu, 2008)
Date watched: 1/4/10

Role TypePrakash Dad
The story: On the eve of her wedding, Subbalakshmi (Poonam Bajwa) elopes with her true love, Erra Babu.  Her father, Neelakanta (Prakash Raj) kidnaps a group of Erra Babu's friends, and imprisons them in in a shed, in the hopes of finding information about the couple.  Krisha (Allu Arjun), one of the friends, falls in love with a girl he glimpses in the woods during an aborted escape. He later learns that she is Meena (Sheela), Neelakanta's other daughter. Will Neelakanta find his older daughter? Will Meena and Krishna elope? These questions and more are answered in the film.

Movie Rating: 4.5/5  This is my favorite Allu Arjun movie to date, and like Kadhal Sadugudu, the second half the of the movie is all about the relationship between the hero and his prospective father-in-law (to be discussed at great length below.) The things I liked about Parugu:
*The film and the characters in the film acknowledged that there were some really ridiculous things going on. When I watched it, I remember thinking "ok, this is crazy that they have locked the friends up in a shed." So when one of the friends actually said something to the effect of "these people are crazy, they've locked us in a shed!" it was a really delightful moment.
* The comedy plot with Sunil and the rest of the goofy friends was well integrated into the main story.
There was always some interesting business happening in the background with the friends, or with Meena's male relatives.  In particular, Subburaju did some superior work in the middle distance of many of the shots, where he looms menacingly and adds emphasis to the main characters' reactions:
*The songs meshed well with the visuals of the story. Right before "Yelegelaga", Krishna's mother chains him to a tree, and then the chain visual is repeated in the song. At the beginning of "Parugulu Teeyake", it's great how they cut between Meena running up the stairs of her home, and then the rock stairs in Petra, or wherever those scenes were filmed. I'd already commented about how much I loved how they played up being locked in the shed for comedy, and I finally noticed that "Nammavemo Gani" is actually set in the shed. I love this moment when Arjun is moving his head from side to side and blocking the sunlight from the friends' eyes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o9mv88g2gw#t=2m7s.
* Although this was a typical Telugu film where the female roles were fairly small, they had some really nice moments. Jayasudha was great as Krishna's fiesty mom, and the scenes where she hosts the vengeance-seeking family in her tiny Hyderabad apartment were lots of fun. I also liked that Subbalakshmi is the one character who finally stands up to and challenges Neelakanta.
Prakash Raj Rating: 4/5 On the surface, this character is similar to the potential father-in-law of Kadhal Sadugudu (but with a much worse haircut), and there are lots of scenes where Neelakanta is yelling at Krishna, who looks like he's about to cry. However, Neelakanta is more complex. We see the love and concern for his daughters that underlies his autocratic reactions, and his realization that he can't dictate his daughters' happiness. One of the lovely small things that develops the relationship between
Neelakanta and Meena, was their shared tick of wiggling/rubbing their fingers that Neelakanta and Meena.

Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: 
*At the temple, when they encounter another eloping groom, played by Ali. Neelakanta's frustration and disgust with Ali is nicely done.

* The big chase and confrontation when they find Subbalaxshmi and Erra Babu. Prakash Raj does an amazing job of showing all of the emotions that Neelakanta goes through in this scene: desperation, anger, confusion, despair.

My favorite moment at the end of the scene is when he picks up his sandal that has come off as he was chasing the bus, an act that nicely captures the sense of defeat and sadness in the character:

*During the final wedding scenes, Neelakanta is freaking out that Krishna is going to elope with Meena, and keeps trying to corner him in conversation in order to keep this from happening.

Honorable mentions:
During a song, Neelakanta reminisces about his daughters' childhoods.
A drunken Neelakanta pours out his frustration to Krishna.
The Prakash Raj Blossoming of Bromance Gaze in the final scene.



Kanchivaram (Tamil, 2009)

Date watched: 1/16/10
Role TypePrakash Dad
The story: The full movie is officially up on youtube, with subtitles, so first off, if you haven't watched it, definitely go check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7JLSryoD8c.  The film is set in the 1930s1940s and tells the story of Vengadam (Prakash Raj), a struggling silk weaver.  Vengadam promises his newborn daughter, Thamarai, that he will see her married in silk sari, a promise that leads Vengadam to make a series of increasingly desperate choices.

Movie Rating: 5/5  This is just a beautifully done film. I'm not going to comment too much on the plot (this review in the The Hindu does a nice job of pointing out some of the strengths of the film), but what I really loved was the stillness in the story. I've only seen some of Priyadarshan's more recent Hindi comedies, which are loud and frenetic, and this was so totally different from that. I loved all of the moments in the film when the only sounds were birds, or a truck engine, or the clacking of the looms.  The still moments also allowed the actors to do some lovely work of developing the characters in their expressions, reactions, and body language.
The period setting, costumes, and feel are impeccably done. I learned a bit about the presence of communist organizers in the villages at this time. At first, I wasn't sure about the font on the subtitles (too much like the dreaded Comic Sans), but then I realized that the look of the subtitles were also of that time.
Prakash Raj Rating: 5/5: It's not for nothing that Prakash Raj received the National Award for his performance in the film. He's in nearly every scene, and conveys Vengadam's motivations so well, that you immediately feel sympathy for the character, as well as concern about how his pride and choice will come back to haunt him.  I especially appreciated the restrained, quietness of his dialogue delivery; it could have been tempting to make this character more loud and broad, so kudos to the director and actor for keeping that in check.  At one point there was a video on youtube of Prakash Raj talking about the film at the Toronto Film Festival, but it's been taken down now. This may be my holy grail of videos to track down, in the meantime, here's a nice interview and short article from the time that Prakash Raj and the film received the National Award: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/tamil-star-prakash-raj-on-winning-third-national-award/101119-8.html.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
There really are too many to pick, but two sets of scenes really stand out to me:
*the framing scenes when Vengadam is in police custody riding the bus back to his village. In these scenes, we immediately get a sense of the character's broken state, but still lively interest in the world around him, and he doesn't speak a word.

*Any of the scenes where he is talking with other characters, which do such a nice job of establishing his affection (or frustration with them), and their understanding of his character.


2 comments:

  1. Had to comment on this if only to add to the love for Parugu and for Prakash Dad in it! I love Prakash Dad in Parugu even more than I love him in NVND and KIKK. I think... Anyway, it's a very close race. :) Also a movie that explores the relationship between the over protective father and his daughters (rather than deciding a priori what is right and what is wrong) is always a hit with me!

    Now this other one has me intrigued: Kanchivaram. I normally try to steer way clear of Priyadarshan anything, but if you say this is a-typical, then it solunds like I should give it a shot. Plus a 5/5 rating for PR from you is always worthy of special attention. :) Off to track this one down. Thanks for the recco!

    And Happy New Prakash Raj Watchings in 2011! :D

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  2. Kanchivaram is totally an art-house type film, and so completely different than his comedies. I've read that Priyadarshan's early Malayalam films were more serious. I think it's definitely worth watching, and I'd love to hear your take. While I like the style, I can see that other people might really, really dislike it.

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