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.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Round-up for August 2015

Monthly Prakash Raj Movie Total: 23 (August, 2015)
Overall Prakash Raj Movie Total: 267 (as of 08/31/15)

Thillu Millu, Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu, Gouravam, Santhosam, Thulli Vilayadu, Heropanti, Rainbow, Anukoolakkobba Ganda, Khakee, Pandhyam, Saravana, Govindudu Andarivadele, Collector Gaari Bharya, Naam, Raghavan (Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu), Lee, Saguni, Hoo, Pillaiyar Theru Kadaisi Veedu, Mumbai Mirror, Zanjeer, Rajjo, Singh Saab the Great
Wow, I think 23 films is definitely my record for most Prakash Raj films watched in a month. I think in the past I was probably sprinkling more non-PR Indian films in the mix, and I wasn’t watching as many K-Dramas this month, so that may explain the current binge.

Themes of the month: Remakes of Telugu blockbusters and the full range of noble cops, corrupt cops, diagnosing doctors, villainous politicians, and gaudily-dressed gangsters.


Thillu Mullu (Tamil, 2013)
Date watched:
8/1/15
Role Type:
Prakash Dad
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) Pasupathy (Shiva) is a layabout, who gets a job in Sivagurunathan’s (Prakash Raj) company by pretending to be religious and straightlaced. After Sivagurunathan sees Pasupathy drinking at an IPL match, Pasupathy claims it was his karate-instructor twin brother “Ganguly.”
Sivagurunathan hires “Ganguly” to teach karate to his daughter Janani (Isha Talwar.) Janani and Ganguly/Pasupathy fall in love, and the false identities lead to more comedy and crises.
Thoughts on the film: Really fun. Kovai Sarala was fantastic as the crazy friend who pretends to be a strict religious follower to help the hero, and is romanced by the father. It was also great to see contemporary references like IPL and a trip to Dubai integrated into the film.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Good comedic role, reminded me of his the upright, religious father in Race Gurram.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Any of the times when he does karate, and the scenes where he's wooing Kovai Soirala's character.







Date watched:
8/5/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: Rambabu (Pawan Kalyan) is an upright but hot-tempered mechanic. He catches the eye of journalist Ganga (Tammanah) who hires him as a cameraman. Rambabu and Ganga take on the corrupt former minister Jawahar Naidu (Kota Srinivasa Rao) and his gangster son Rana Babu (Prakash Raj.) The father and son try to frame Rambabu, who leads a populist revolt to end corruption.

Thoughts on the film: Pawan Kalyan is noted for his stance on social issues, and so I was interested in the issues that the chose to address in the film. Even though the film released three years before I watched it, the theme of politicians stirring up hatred against people from neighboring states resonates with plenty of things that are happening in 2015 around the world. I appreciated this review by Hemanth on his blog, which gave more background on how Pawan Kalyan’s real-life politics intersect with the film’s storyline.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: The usual bad guy, and I appreciated the ongoing machinations and arguing of Rana Babu and his father Naidu.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: So many quotable lines, and a nicely framed death.










Gouravam (Tamil/Telugu, 2013)
Date watched:
8/5/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad Dad
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles) Arjun (Allu Sirish) comes to a village to find out what happened to his missing college friend. He learns that the friend eloped with the daughter of local landlord. With the help of his college friends and local laywer Yazhini (Yami Gautum), he uncovers that the couple was murdered in an honor killing, and brings the landlord and his son to justice.

Thoughts on the film: Gouravam was filmed in Tamil and Telugu, and the two versions have different endings. The Telugu version has a longer flashback, and ends with redemption for the landlord (who only learned about the killing after the fact) and death for his son. The Tamil version is more straightforward in storytelling, ends with death for the father (who was involved in the killing), and jail for son. It was also interesting where they placed a big final fight in both sequences. This was a good debut role for Sirish, since the character mostly had to react to the awful things happening around him.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Another tyrannical, but loving, father role. I only watched a small part of the Tamil version, but I’d be curious if the portrayal in the early scenes was different, since the character was redeemed in the  version.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Confrontations with Arjun, and later his wife:
 
Liked the angles when he talks to the press:





Santhosam (Tamil, 1997)
Date watched:
8/5/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) Indran (Saravanan) has trouble finding a job, goes through several false starts. A stroke of luck allows him to keep a job, and settle down with Bhavani (Suvalakshmi), but married life still has many misunderstandings, trials and tribulations.

Thoughts on the film: I haven’t seen many Tamil domestic dramas, so it was a new-ish genre. The second half was driven by the dialogue between the wife and husband, so it was difficult to follow without subtitles. This was on my “can’t get list” for a long time, so when it popped up online, I was happy to find it.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He had a very, very brief appearance as a politician and potential employer, with a fantastic mustache.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: The one.




Thulli Vilayadu (Tamil, 2013)
Date watched:
8/7/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles.) Three friends steal a fortune from local politician, travel to Rajasthan, meet a girl (also on the run), and are pursued by a gangster (Prakash Raj.)

Thoughts on the film: It took too long to set-up and bring all of the characters together. On the plus side: there was a funny scene when the friends get the goons to push start their car and pretty settings in Rajasthan.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Usual gangster, who is frustrated by his incompetent henchmen while wearing many shiny shirt-lungi combinations
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Wearing lots of shiny shirts, partying, and making calls.








Heropanti (Hindi, 2014)
Date watched:
8/8/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: (A Hindi remake of Parugu.) Chowdary (Prakash Raj) is the head of a strict Jat family, with two daughters Renu (Sandeepa Daur) and Dimpy (Kriti Sanon.) When Renu elopes with Rakesh, Chowdary kidnaps his college friends, led by Bablu (Tiger Shroff), and holds them hostage in a barn. Bablu and Dimpy fall in love, Bablu helps Rakesh and Renu, and comes to understand Chowdary’s fears.

Thoughts on the film: I love Parugu. Tiger Shroff didn’t come close to Allu Arjun’s charisma, but he wasn’t so horrible. I prefered the sheltered, country-girl-with-bigger-aspirations heroine in the Telugu version. I’m not sure if the more urbane heroine in the Hindi version was because of the actress or the writing. It was interesting to see story switched to a Punjabi Jat setting. I was taken aback when by the near honor killing of the eloping couple in the middle of the city street. I had to go back and see if that was in the Telugu original (it was not.)
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: It hit all of the same notes as the original. I wonder if some of these repeat roles are like doing theater, where an actor shows up to play Hamlet or Willy Loman for the 100th time. I also realized that Tiger Shroff was best in his scenes with Prakash Raj, which I'm going to credit to the veteran actor.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: A few scenes with his daughters, and the ones with Bablu.




Rainbow  (Telugu, 2008)
Date watched:
8/8/15
Role Type:
Prakash Doctor
The Story: Shyam (Raahul) is a humble guy who paints movie posters. He falls in love with an aspiring actress Swapna and works to support her dreams. He is injured in a fall and can’t see colors, just as Swapna’s career takes off. Meanwhile he comes to realize that Kamala (Siddhu Menon), a neighbor girl who is mute, is in love with him.

Thoughts on the film: The behind-the-scenes of the film industry was interesting, with some fun cameos by Rajamouli and other directors. The ending was bittersweet, since I’m not sure if Shyam really loved Kamala or just settled.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He was in a few scenes as the doctor who diagnoses Shyam’s injury. He was annoyingly optimistic and minimizing of his patient’s suffering
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: All of the "cheer up" speeches to his patients. Bonus, non-PR, Rajamouli cameo.



Anukoolakkobba Ganda (Kannada, 1990)
Date watched:
8/10/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad/sidekick
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles) A rich girl and poor boy fall in love. Her family objects and has henchmen try to split them up. They elope and latter have a baby. She decides to go home to visit, but has someone else pretend to be her husband. The real husband arrives, there are hijinks, the henchmen try to kidnap the baby, and everyone is reconciled.

Thoughts on the film: There are still surprises! I’ve never seen this on any lists of Prakash Raj films, but when I was checking wikipedia for another film, there it was AND it was available online. It was a very fun film of it’s era. The plot reminded me of a lighthearted version of Raja Hindustani.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He plays one of the comedic/evil sidekicks, which ends up being very substantial role. Since this isn’t role he plays much now, it’s fun to see him groveling, plotting, and running around dressed as woman as part of the plot.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Comedic grovelling:
 Watching the love song from a tree:
 Kidnapping babies:
Going undercover in drag:


Bonus: I think this is the *the* film waterfall of choice.


Khakee (Hindi, 2004)
Date watched:
8/11/15
Role Type:
Prakash Cop
The Story: Retiring police officer (Amitabh Bachchan) agrees to one last assignment from his boss (Prakash Raj), escorting an accused terrorist. Also with him is a corrupt cop (Akshay Kumar), a rookie (Tusshar Kapoor) and the school teacher witness (Aishwarya Rai). 
They are attacked on the trip by the big bad guy (Ajay Devgan), and various plot twists and turns follow.
Thoughts on the film: The action pieces weren’t as exciting, but the two big plot twists worked well. Akshay and Aishwarya were fun in their roles.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He only had a couple of brief scenes, but they did contribute to the overall plot.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Lots of serious conversations. and I enjoyed the scene when Amitabh's character needed to use an inhaler after a running chase.



Saravana (Tamil, 2006)
Date watched:
8/13/15
Role Type:
Prakash Dad
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles, remake of Bhadra.) A young man brings a girl home, but his family is upset. When she’s chased by bad guys, the backstory reveals that the hero had fallen in love with her, and followed the heroine to her home, where they were caught up in the fight between her brother and the neighborhood baddies.

Thoughts on the film: Simbu doesn’t do much for me, so it didn’t have the spark of Ravi Teja’s version. Jyothika is loads of fun to watch in her role, and I liked that Brahmaji and Subbaruju also played their roles in this version
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Another repeat performance, he hits the same notes well.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: When they are hanging out, drinking together and the scenes with Brahmaji.

Pandhyam (Tamil, 2008)
Date watched:
8/14/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles.) Masanam (Prakash Raj) is a local crime lord who rises up to be minister. Shakthivel (Nithin Sathya) is a guy who opposes him, falls in love with Thulasi (Sindhu Tolani) who is Masanam’s sister.

Thoughts on the film: This character really is terrible; early on it’s made clear that he rapes a woman and forces her to marry him. That his wife is ultimately the one who gets revenge is ultimately is satisfying, and she was the most interesting character
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He’s played a lot of bad guys, many motivated by financial gain or political power. Some are stylish in their bad deeds, but this was the most truly evil character I think I’ve seen him play.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Transformation from rowdy to politician:
 Vijay's cameo:
 Amazing interval card:
general violence and dissolution:


Final confrontation with his wife:




Govindudu Andarivadele (Telugu, 2014)
Date watched:
8/15/15
Role Type:
Prakash Dad
The Story: Abhiram (Ram Charan) was raised in London, but comes to India to reconcile with his father and grandfather. He allows his grandfather (Prakash Raj) to think he’s someone else, and comes to live with his extended family. Ram falls in love with his aunt’s daughter (Kajal Agarwal), and becomes part of the conflict with the extended family. In the end, Ram brings the family back together.

Thoughts on the film: I really, really liked this movie. Ram Charan and Kajal worked well as sweet, playful members of the family, who spar and spark. The joint family included lots of familiar Telugu actors and actresses, and everyone got a some sentimental and humorous scenes. The bad guys were just the right level of bad to provide conflict, but not distract from the main, father-son conflict. The side plot with Srikanth as Ram’s dissolute uncle, and Kamalinee Mukerjee as the girl who loves him was my favorite thing in the film.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Prakash Raj was great as the stern, but loving grandfather. I enjoyed that he had scenes interacting with nearly all of the family members, and you got to see different facets of the character in each of those interactions.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: Some great speeches, a nice scene where's chided by his wife, some dancing, and the wind farm that is the backdrop for many Telugu action set-pieces.





Collector Gaari Bharya (Telugu, 2010)
Date watched:
8/15/15
Role Type:
Prakash Husband
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles.) Indu (Bhumika) has career dreams, but when she marries collector Goutham (Prakash Raj), she must sublimate her dreams to the demands of husband, children and in-laws. After several years, Indu decides to lead a movement for women’s independence. Her husband opposes, then comes to support her
Thoughts on the film: It had an intriguing premise, but they didn’t do enough plot or character development to justify the length. The ending scene where the husband "mansplains" to everyone what his wife has been fighting for was disappointing.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: The character really seemed to swing between love and cruelty towards his wife, so I wasn’t as convinced about his redemption at the end of the film.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:  Lots of nice domestic moments, that you don't see too often.

Naam (Tamil, 2003)
Date watched:
8/16/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles.) A terrorist (Prakash Raj) blackmails/hires a group of youths to hijack a plane and stage a kidnapping to hide his own escape out of the country. Instead, the young people kidnap him before he gets on the plane, and hold him for ransom in a forest hideout.

Thoughts on the film: This turned out to be a cool premise and it was good to see a bunch of lesser-known actors in the main group. The conflict and growth with the younger characters was dialogue-driven, so I missed a lot, but I enjoyed the knock-down, drag-out fights each time Prakash Raj’s character tried to escape. Enjoyed the fights
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: The character had fun swings in mood,  from plotting, to frustrated, to desperate and threatening.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:  When he dons his escape-disguise of glasses and fake teeth, when they drug him and wheel him off the plane, all the attempted escapes from the forest.






Date watched:
8/17/15
Role Type:
Prakash Cop
The Story: When a police chief’s daughter is kidnapped and killed, his protege Raghavan (Kamal Hassan) promises to find the culprits. The chief and his wife move to New York, but are killed. Raghavan goes to the US to investigate where he meets Aradhana (Jyothika) and teams up with an American policeman.
He tracks down the killers, who are medical students in the US, then follows them back to India for a final showdown.
Thoughts on the film: With the international locales and long setup, I expected the bad guys to be  sophisticated/diabolical, but they were very cartoonish. The high point was was the romance with Jyothika, as a woman with a child, who was leaving an abusive relationship.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: The usual father/policeman role, with some good scenes of resignation then grief.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: This character was not in a lot of scenes, but they did a terrible job with the continuity of his hair color. He had very gray hair in a flashback, then dark hair in the last scene we see him alive.




Lee (Tamil, 2007)
Date watched:
8/19/15
Role Type:
Prakash Coach
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles.) A group of young men run around the city and try to assassinate a government minister. The girlfriend of the leader sees the assassination attempt, confronts them, and learns the backstory.
The group were up-and-coming soccer players, and when their upright coach (Prakash Raj) refuses to throw a match, the government minister kills him. They go on to avenge the coach’s death.
Thoughts on the film: The soccer / college sports scenes were more interesting than the revenge/action scenes. There wasn’t a really good transition between how these young athletes became criminal masterminds. It reinforces the stereotype that every South Indian man is just one straw away from becoming a vengeful monster.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: A slightly different variation on the father/mentor character. I like that the costuming call was probably “hey show up in whatever you usually wear to go jogging on a Saturday morning.”
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:  Some sports-appropriate sweat during practice, and the big violent showdown in the rain, where its important for the corrupt cop to keep dry.

Saguni (Tamil, 2012)
Date watched:
8/20/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles.) A young man named Kammala Kannan (Karthi) comes to Chennai to prevent the construction of a road that will destroy his village. He its up
against corrupt politician Bhoopathi (Prakash Raj), so Karthi supports the rival politician Ramani (Raadhika Sarathkumar) then and ultimately rises to power himself.
Thoughts on the film: I would love to see this with subtitles, since there’s some interesting political intrigue and probably some political commentary. I really liked the female politician, and how she played the game of politics with her rivals and supporters, and I wondered if this was always going to be a female character or if they decided to cast Raadhika Sarathkumar later in the process. She was my favorite part of the film.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: A pretty standard politician bad guy.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: A lot of the media/news scenes, a model overpass, and some recreational lawn-watering.




Hoo (Kannada, 2010)
Date watched:
8/21/15
Role Type:
Prakash Rival
The Story: (Watched w/out subtitles.) A young man (Ravichandran) and young woman (Meera Jasmine) are best friends growing up. He falls in love with another girl (Namitha), they marry and decide to focus on finding a husband for his childhood friend.
When it turns out she’s fallen in love with his chess rival (Prakash Raj), the hero decides to forfeit the match so that his childhood friend can be happy.
Thoughts on the film: This is a remake of the Tamil film Priyamani Thozhi (2003) in which Madhavan and Vinneeth played the rival soccer players. I appreciated that they acknowledged that Ravichandran and Prakash of 2010 would not make believable soccer players and switched it to chess. But the main plot of childhood friends finding first loves and being manipulated by their ambitious parents didn’t work as well with actors in their 40s. There were also some interesting conversations between the female leads that I would have enjoyed more with subtitles or if I understood Tamil.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He worked really well as the arrogant, high ranking chess player who falls in love with the girl. The scenes where he’s manipulated by his scheming father were less convincing.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:  Chess and birthday (or wedding?) candles.


Date watched:
8/22/15
Role Type:
Prakash Doctor
The Story: (Watched without subtitles.) The hero falls in love with a visiting girl, but his family wants him to marry a different girl. He finds out that first girl is sick, so marries her, and they try to live together happily and reconcile with his family.
The big twist at the end reveals that it’s actually the hero who has the fatal illness,
Thoughts on the film: The family dynamics were interesting, I liked that he was torn between the main love and doing right by his family’s choice. I’m not entirely sure about the twist at the end, since it was hard to follow what were flashbacks and what was happening in the present. This is a great example of how Tamil movies can take a sudden, tragic turn in the last 12 minutes.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: He plays the doctor who gives the (fake?) diagnosis of the heroine’s illness to the hero, but then is shown giving her the real diagnosis. That seems like a clear violation of medical ethics, so maybe he really is a bad guy?
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: diagnosing left and right

Mumbai Mirror (Hindi, 2013)
Date watched:
8/24/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story:  Corrupt cop Abhijeet Patil (Sachin Joshi) builds an alliance with a Mumbai gangster/bar owner Shetty (Prakash Raj.) Ultimately Patil decides to try and bring Patil down.

Thoughts on the film: The plot was a pretty standard “bad cop finds his conscience” story. I was not impressed that Abhijeet Patil’s “redeeming” character trait is that he hates violence against women, especially when he then hits women several times, and the final showdown in the courtroom undermined all of the gritty realism of the first half, even if it was fun to watch. On the plus side, I loved that there were so many new-to-me, excellent actors in the cast.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: Another great example of costume defining the character. I loved all of the shiny shirts and lungis, which amplified the sleazy evil of the character.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: I liked all of the jewel-toned kurtas and the giant portrait in his lair characters.




Zanjeer/Toofan (Hindi/Telugu, 2013)
Date watched:
8/26/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story:  Honest cop Vijay Khanna (Ram Charan) is brought in to investigate the murder of an honest collector. Khanna must protect the main witness, NRI Mala (Priyanka Chopra) from gangster Teja (Prakash Raj) and his gang, with the help of journalist Jaydev (Atul Kulkarni) and car-fencer Sher Khan (Sanjay Dutt.)

Thoughts on the film: I thought they did a great job of maintaining the over-the-top campiness of the original, especially in the performances of Prakash Raj, Sanjay Dutt and Mahie Gill as Mona. They had a harder time translating the character of Mala, but for whatever reason, Priyanka Chopra’s clear contempt at playing such a weirdly ditzy character actually saved it a little bit. The emotional through-line of Vijay’s loss of his parents didn’t have much impact, which may be the writing or Ram Charan’s performance.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: This was a delightful, mustache-twirling baddie role. I loved all of the classic “villain-lair” decor, and all of the scenes with Teja and Mona were fantastic, especially their annoyance at the henchman who always interrupted them mid-kiss.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
Fantastic outfits:
Great comedic chemistry with Mahie Gill:

First class villain lair
Anything with the henchman that interrupts their makeout sessions:


Rajjo (Hindi, 2013)
Date watched:
8/26/15
Role Type
Prakash Bad
The Story: (watched w/out subtitles) A student/aspiring cricket player (Paras Aurora) falls in love with a nautch girl (Kangana Ranaut.) They elope and try to remake their
lives in a rural village, only to be pursued by the evil landlord (Prakash Raj) who coveted the heroine back in Mumbai.
Thoughts on the film: I think there was a kernel of an interesting story of how the “old” world of the Mumbai brothels is intersecting with the modern world, but they didn’t follow through on it. As a result, the main romantic story felt weirdly out of date, and might have worked better if they’d just set the whole thing 40 years ago. I did enjoy that the big victory over the bad guy was through interpretive dance by the kids in the village and Rajjo (Kangana.)
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: A pretty predictable, straightforward bad guy, it’s fun to hear him speak Hindi, but this character wasn’t as interesting as other bad guys this month.
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes: So many expressive hand gestures, and the big dance showdown finale.

Singh Saab the Great (Hindi , 2013)
Date watched:
8/28/15
Role Type:
Prakash Bad
The Story: Suranjeet Talwar (Sunny Deol) moves to a new job as a collector and refuses to be corrupted by the local gangster, Bhoodev(Prakash Raj). After Bhoodev murders Talwar’s wife and frames him for corruption,
Talwar sets out on a quest to fight injustice and bring down Bhoodev with the help of a journalist (Amrita Rao.)
Thoughts on the film: I’m used to this sort of epic revenge plot in South Indian films, but I usually don’t watch this genre in Hindi films, so it was interesting to see what issues and tropes the film dealt with. The opening scene, where Singh Saab tells a would be acid thrower that he should try and get the girl by romantic means probably made sense to the intended audience, but left me shaking my head.
Thoughts on Prakash Raj in the film: The north Indian setting made for some fun new variations on the usual bad guy character. In addition to some excellent scheming and ranting, the character got to dance AND show emotion over his daughter
Favorite Prakash Raj Scenes:
swimming in the rain, then sending his daughter to school
another fantastic villain lair:
 epic dance scene:



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