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.)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Round-up for March 2015

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total: 9 (March, 2015)
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total: 223 (as of 03/31/15)
Nagavalli, Shart: The Challenge, Pandipadda, Chinna Chinna Kanile,  Tirumala Tirupathi Venkatesa, Sadduku Podam Randi, Alexander, Mommaga, Keralida Kesari
     
Before the long break I was mostly watching the films in no particular order, as the mood struck me. Now that the end is in sight, I’m trying to be methodical and watch them chronologically. I was so happy that I’d made it through the 90’s, and was done with 2000, when I decided to check up on the Prakash Raj filmography on Wikipedia. To my surprise, another 8-10 films, mostly from 1990-2003 had been added to the list! The good news is, most of the films are also available on youtube channels. So back I went to the slow, rock-up-the-hill task of checking off films, year-by-year.
   
Themes of the month:
1) This street set in Ramoji Film City.

Tirumala Tirupati Venkatesa

Shart: The Challenge
2) Prakash Raj characters burying murder victims, then frantically digging them up again.

Chinna Chinna Kanilae

Nagavali



Nagavalli (Tamil, 1989,1995, 1997?)
Date watched:
3/6/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story:
(watched w/out subtitles)
A bad guy (Prakash Raj) chases a young woman who drowns in a well, then enjoys a Silk Smitha item dance.
He marries the younger sister of his victim (Sivaranjani?) When a village girl is bit by snake, the heroine calls the other snakes, who spit anti venom on the wound, and the girl is healed.  The bad guy kills his new wife by strangling her with her mangalsutra, and buries her.
He returns only to find that she is still alive, and now with the power to bring people back to life. The bad guy brings in a shaman to fight her. The heroine and shaman turn into snakes and fight. The heroine defeats the shaman, and the bad guy falls off the roof onto a trident.
Thoughts on the film:

It’s nice to have some fun discoveries this far into the film-watching marathon. I will never tire of the surprising work of India’s snake-thespians, whether they are heroically saving a girl with their antivenom, fighting, or portraying the human actors who have taken their form.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
A stock bad guy, but he had some fun scenes to work with, especially when he realizes that his dead wife is no longer in her grave.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Any time he's surprised.
Terrified by a snake.
The end.




Shart: The Challenge (Hindi, 2004)
Date watched:
3/14/2015
Role Type:
Prakash Dad (Brother)
The Story:
Remake of the Telugu fim Badri.
Sonam (Gracy Singh) challenges Karan (Tusshar Kapoor), her intended fiance, to make a random young woman fall in love with him. He succeeds, which is frustrating to Sonam, Saryu (Amrita Arora), and Saryu’s brother (Prakash Raj)
Thoughts on the film:
(watched w/out subtitles)
Hindi remakes of South movies always feel a bit off. Tusshar Kapoor is no Pawan Kalyan, which was made even more clear when Pawan Kalyan and Amisha Patel made a guest appearance in a song, which was one of the high points of the film. I’d forgotten that this was a Puri Jagganadh film. It features a street set in Ramoji Film City that was featured in just about every Telugu film of the mid-2000s.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
This another remake where Prakash Raj could play it in his sleep, and he was fine as the irate, protective brother. It was fun to hear him speaking Hindi. There were also lots of scenes of him smoking, which made me think that he was probably smoking a lot circa 2004.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
There were a few fun scenes where Prakash Raj and Tusshar Kapoor's characters grab each other's collars.
 Lots of collar grabbing.
Lots of smoking.




Pandipadda (Malayalam, 2005)
Date watched:
3/14/2015
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story:
(subtitles-YES)
From imdb: A financially backward man,who tries out different business plans gets involved in land conflict between two powerful landlords.
Bhuvana (Dileep) goes to the countryside to see if the land he purchased will get him out of debt. He becomes friends one feuding landlord (Pandi Durai/Prakash Raj), and falls in love with the daughter of the other (Meena/Navya Nair.) When Pandi declares his intention to marry Meena, conflict and hijinks follow.
Thoughts on the film:

I really enjoyed this one, and not just because it’s one of the few subtitled films lately. The film did a great job of sending up South mass film tropes, and there several comedic set pieces that translated really well. In particular there’s a scene where Bhuvana is recruited to join a gang of machete-wielding rowdies in the back of a truck. Bhuvana carefully holds his machete as they bounce along, then cut to all of the rowdies bandaged up from small cuts.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
A good, fully-fleshed role, where we see Pandi as equal parts terrifying, hapless, and a little bit in love with Meena.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
So many great scenes!
 When Paddi is introduced.
Pandi trying to impress Meena.
Dancing his way into the wedding he's taking over.
Bromantic realization.


Chinna Chinna Kannilae (Tamil, 2000)
Date watched:
3/15/2015
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story:
(watched w/out subtitles)
Ravi (Nasser) and Sabesan (Prakash Raj) are partners in crime, who steal small fortune of diamonds. Ravi hides the diamonds, but is killed before he can reveal their location to his partner or his own wife, Rathi (Kushboo.)
Sabesan woos Rathi in order to find out the location of the diamonds, and kills various other people along the way. He ultimately find the diamonds, but meets a justly deserved end in the process
Thoughts on the film:
Other than the fun, cobra-based diamond heist, the first half dragged before we got to Sabesan trying to infiltrate Rathi’s life. I enjoyed Kushboo’s performance, and she did a good job of portraying her doubt in Sabesan, then giving in to the inevitability of his proposal.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
He had plenty of great bad guy moments, in particular his fake kindness to the kids. It impresses me how he can portray that  insincere niceness in a way that his completely different than the sincere niceness in other characters.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Lots of evil to choose from:
Playing with the kids.
 
Hiding with a hostage behind a pile of luggage.
Running a former accomplice down in a speedboat. I think he was actually driving.
The end.




Date watched:
3/19/2015
Role Type:
Prakash Item
The Story:
(watched w/out subtitles)
Three sisters get married, and are surprised and angered when they discover that their husbands are not rich and successful after all.
The husbands decide to teach their wives a lesson in humility and the importance of family.
Thoughts on the film:
(Watched w/out subtitles)
Meh. This was a gender-reversed version of Kshemanga Velli Labham Ga Randi, which came out the same year, and featured much of the same cast. It also included my favorite location in Ramoji Film City.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
I think that this may be the first Prakash Raj item song! The (poor) husbands have been kicked out of the house, and go to drink their sorrows away, when the drummer with the dancing girls starts to sing.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
The song, which you can watch on youtube, in which he sings about how money is really important... or is it?



Sadduku Podam Randi (Telugu, 2001)
Date watched:
3/20/2015
Role Type:
Prakash Uncle
The Story:
(watched w/out subtitles)
A married couple (Jagapati Babu and Soundarya) are in love, but begin to drift apart due to the strains of work, children and housework.
When the husband begins a romance with his new secretary, his wife turns to uncle (Prakash Raj) to help her plan how to repair her marriage.
Thoughts on the film:
It’s intesting to me that this sort of domestic, “woman’s picture” seems to have disappeared from the Telugu film industry almost entirely. But in the early 2000s, there were lots of films with the themes of marital strife/comedy/reconciliation. Wikipedia lists Prakash Raj in the cast of 1994’s Subhalagnam (he’s not in in.), which combines the plot structure of this film with the themes of Tiramula Tirupati Venkatesa, where an avaricious wife agrees to give up her husband to a young heiress, but then decides to fight for him.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
He only shows up in a couple of scenes, in which his main character traits seem to be “kindly smiling” and “wearing a cap.”
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
I noticed that most of his scenes were framed like this, in profile. All the better to show off the cap.



Alexander (Tamil, 1996)
Date watched:
3/20/2015
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story:
(Watched w/out subtitles)
Alexander (Vijayakanth) is a superheroic CBI officer who must stop the evil Ashok brothers and their drug smuggling plans.
Thoughts on the film:
It was very disjointed without subtitles. The opening James Bond-esque credits are great, and were some fun, crazy party scenes and action set-pieces.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
The baddest Ashok brother is played by Prakash Raj, in a delightful Dr. Evil/Ernst Blofeld suit. It’s another over-the-top, hammy bad guy, and the movie perks up when he’s on screen.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
A few early scenes where the villain's evilness is underscored by his opulent chandeliers and choice of bars, and then the final showdown where he goes from taunting the hero, to pleading for his life.






Date watched:
3/22/2015

Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story:
Ravichandra plays an upright young man who wants to help the people of his village.
His childhood friend (step-brother? brother?), played by Prakash Raj, is a bad seed, who killed their tutor and plans to take over the village by framing the hero.
Thoughts on the film:
I liked the straightforward plot, the continuity between the childhood and modern scenes, and the framing on all of the scenes in the temple. I’m fascinated by actor/auteurs like Ravichandran and Kamal Hassan, because their films have a mix of interesting social commentary and bordering on silly star vanity.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
Another fun bad guy, with an even more terrifying wig. Very Iago-like.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:

 Terrible, terrible hair.

3/4 through the film, the villain gets a haircut, but I wonder if really the just lost the wig.

Washing the Nandi (?) in the temple.

Finally defeated by the temple bells.



Keralida Kesari (Kannada, 1991)
Date watched:
3/22/2015

Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story:
The film begins with a long flashback of Prabhakar, his wife, baby, and the young boy who hangs around with them.
Tragedy befalls the wife, and we jump ahead, where the boy is now a rough-around-the-edges (Shashi Kumar.) Hero and his friends have a series of encounters with a group of rich, spoiled girls. The leader of the girls is our heroine (Shivaranjani). After several fights and pranks, the hero and heroine acknowledge their love, but are separated when the big bad guy (who is somehow mixed up with the heroine’s father) kidnaps her. The hero comes to the rescut
Thoughts on the film:
I really liked Shivaranjani’s heroine, who seems like a vision of what a fully active South film heroine could have been. She’s taken hostage a few times, but even when the hero comes to rescue her, she takes an active part in the fighting once she’s untied. She’s also styled in a “non-traditional” way, with permed hair and wearing jeans and pants when she’s out and about. She has a few “sari and loose hair” scenes, but that’s when she’s at home.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film:
According to the credits, “Prakash Rai/Raj” plays Mari Vereepan, a minor bad guy who kidnaps the hero. He’s only in one scene, and it certainly could be a young Prakash Raj. It doesn’t sound like him though, and it surprises me that he’d be dubbed in a Kannada film. If so, I’d love to know the story behind it.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Mid-movie, where Mari Veerapan kidnaps the heroine, then fights with the hero.  Watch the full scene here on youtube.


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