Mrugaraju

Megastar Project 1/152. (I really shouldn’t start this huge projects until I’ve finished the Superstar Project. But the Megastar Project is definitely going to happen someday so I can as well start right away.)

mrugaraju-poster WPIMDbLB

Mrugaraju is a 2001 Telugu film directed by Gunasekhar (who is also known from Varudu and Rudhramadevi) and starring Megastar Chiranjeevi as “tribal tiger,” the lion hunter Raju. The film is set in some kind of interesting hybrid of Africa and India. It is apparently based on an American adventure film The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) that is based on a true story about lion attacks in Kenya during the construction work of a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in 1898.

Simran plays the heroine, engineer Aishwarya who tries to finish the construction of a railway bridge which is located close to Raju’s tribe. The supporting cast includes Chiranjeevi’s brother Nagendra Babu and Prakash Raj who plays the tribal leader and Raju’s father. Brahmanandam and M. S. Narayana are in small and somewhat unnecessary comedy roles.

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The story is simple: A lion is frequently killing bridge construction workers and Raju from a local tribe is needed to hunt it down. In the first half, there are also evil forest officers but they don’t have that much to do with the main story as they are defeated as early as in the interval fight scene (Chiranjeevi’s boomerang blade is also worth mentioning), and the real antagonist is the lion. The storytelling follows the usual format that there is a dramatic revelation just before the intermission which is then explained in a long flashback in the second half. The rest of the story is all about killing the lion and clarifying the misunderstandings that happened in the flashback.

Mani Sharma’s songs are mostly average and unmemorable with the exception of the chai song in which Raju explains the pleasures of tea drinking to Aishwarya’s bridegroom.

The film’s background music also has a recurring melody that I think is totally copied from the castle defense fanfare of the 1999 video game Heroes of Might and Magic III.

There are some stupid moments, for example in the falling-from-the-bridge scene, and the lion scenes aren’t very convincing either, but overall the movie is surprisingly entertaining and definitely worth watching!

Mrugaraju on YouTube The movie with English subtitles has been uploaded to YouTube by iDream Movies.

Posted in Megastar Project

Tri Star Superhits Pack

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I’ve very much wanted to see Chiranjeevi’s 1993 film Mutha Mestri after I saw the fabulous video of “We Are Flowers” song. According to a research done by Cinema Chaat, the song is included only in the EVP version and the DVD by Moser Baer doesn’t have it. The EVP DVD has been somewhat difficult to track down but some time ago I noticed that it is included in EVP’s 12 DVD Tri Star Superhits Pack that Bhavani DVD sells for $47.99. The box has twelve oldish Telugu movies by “Tri Star” which means the three big stars of Telugu cinema: Chiranjeevi, Venkatesh, and Nagarjuna.

The product’s description page at Bhavani doesn’t have very detailed information about the pack so I thought that I could make a simple list and take a few photographs of the contents of the pack in case that someone is considering whether to buy it or not.

The pack includes the EVP versions of the following DVDs:

  1. Chiranjeevi: Mutha Mestri (1993, 158 min) – English subtitles
  2. Chiranjeevi: Alluda Majaka (1995, 166 min) – English subtitles
  3. Chiranjeevi: Big Boss (1995, 153 min) – English subtitles
  4. Chiranjeevi: Mogudu Kaavaali (1980, 125 min)
  5. Nagarjuna: Allari Alludu (1993, 165 min)
  6. Venkatesh: Sankranthi (2005, 160 min)
  7. Nagarjuna: Rakshana (1993, 150 min)
  8. Nagarjuna: Shiva (1989, 145 min)
  9. Venkatesh: Nirnayam (1991, 164 min) – English subtitles
  10. Chiranjeevi: Kothala Rayudu (1979, 127 min)
  11. Venkatesh: Shatruvu (1990, 140 min)
  12. Venkatesh: Intlo Illalu Vantintlo Priyuralu (1996, 153 min)

Four of the 12 DVDs, including Mutha Mestri, come with English subtitles. Unfortunately the songs in Mutha Mestri aren’t subtitled but it’s of course more important to have subtitles in the actual dialogue. (I haven’t checked the song subs of the other movies.) I knew that not all of them would come with subtitles but it’s a pity that Shiva isn’t subbed, as Shiva DVD by Shalimar has the subs. Four of 12 isn’t a very good subtitle ratio but I think it was worth it for Mutha Mestri. The pack also includes Alluda Majaka which is YouTube-famous for a miraculous tractor fight and horse-sliding under a truck.


The case that contains the 12 DVDs is about the size of two regular DVD cases. It would solve all my storing space problems if all movies were packed like this.


The inside and the outside of the case.


The inside of the case with and without the discs. I hadn’t seen a DVD case mechanism like this before.


The diversity of different print styles on the discs is interesting…

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Aatank Hi Aatank

Superstar Project 7/174.

aatankhiaatank WPIMDbLB

Aatank Hi Aatank (which Wikipedia translates as “Terror Everywhere”) is a 1995 Hindi gangster film directed by Dilip Shankar. The star cast includes Rajinikanth, Aamir Khan, Om Puri, and Juhi Chawla.

The movie feels just like an average gangster movie. I’ve read that Aatank Hi Aatank is a remake of The Godfather (which I still haven’t seen so I have no idea how much of the film is inspired by it). The story is about a former farmer who becomes a gangster boss in Mumbai. Then some family drama happens and we learn that it’s not easy to be a gangster’s wife. The film is also a revenge drama and eventually almost everyone gets shot and dies. The story isn’t very interesting and the final 15 minutes are the longest ever. The songs too aren’t very good or catchy, except the gangster rap which is hilarious.

Rap rap rap, goonda rap!
I am bad, and I am mad!
I said I’m bad. Ma-ma-ma-mad!

The cast is good but Aamir was maybe a little too young for his role. And he looks so slimy with his hairstyle and moustache in the second half of the film! Rajinikanth performs and looks just fine.

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Some forum posts say that the (unsubtitled) Moser Baer DVD is heavily cut. That’s unfortunate, but apparently the uncut version of the film is on Eros Now and even has English subtitles! I would still like to buy the DVD (as I have it in my collection only on a crappy 3-in-1 disc) but looks like it’s sold out everywhere!

Maybe I should finally watch The Godfather, as my watchlist has at least a couple of other Indian films that are also inspired by it.

Rajinikanth’s total death count in Superstar Project so far: 1

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Thaayillamal Naan Illai (Aakhri Sangram)

Superstar Project 6/174.

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Thaayillamal Naan Illai (“I’m Nothing Without My Mother”) is a 1979 Tamil film directed by R. Thyagarajan. The movie stars Kamal Haasan and Sridevi and also has Rajinikanth in a short guest appearance.

Moser Baer’s DVD has two large disturbing watermarks (“Moser Baer” and “West Top”) and no subtitles, so I decided to watch the Hindi dubbed version Aakhri Sangram with subtitles and better picture quality from Eros Now. The Tamil version is almost 16 minutes longer than the Hindi version – some of the stageplay stuff has been cut off as well as the childhood flashback from the beginning. The missing scenes don’t seem too important although it would’ve been nice to see the childhood scene with subtitles as it seems to add some background information to the characters, like a swordfight which eventually gets repeated when the characters are grown up.

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(I’m going to use the character names from the Hindi version that I watched with subtitles. They might be slightly different in the original Tamil version.)

Raja (Kamal Haasan) is a stage actor who a local landlord’s daughter Pushpa (Sridevi) is madly fallen in love with. Pushpa has a nice pet peacock Balwanta who can be used to guard her room and steal things. For example, once he steals binoculars for her so that she could spy on Raja. She soon realizes that Raja is also spying her. “Very good. He also has a binocular.”

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When the landlord finds out that a romance between Raja and Pushpa is going on, he agrees to marry Pushpa to Raja on the condition that Raja forgets his lower-class mother (played by Sukumari). That would also make Raja the next landlord instead of greedy Mohan who had also hoped to marry Pushpa. Raja disagrees even though his mother insists him to agree to the landlord’s condition. Later, the landlord is trying to marry Pushpa to Mohan but finds out that Pushpa has eloped to live with Raja and his mother. However, until the landlord accepts Raja’s mother to his family, Raja won’t consider Pushpa as his wife.

Rajinikanth plays a righteous goon who has been sent to bring Pushpa back home. He has an awesome intro punch and he’s great in the small role that he has. He almost defeats Raja in a fight but Pushpa interferes and explains that she actually loves Raja and Raja hasn’t forced her to elope with him. The goon understands the situation and leaves the couple alone.

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The situation gets worse when the upset landlord breaks up his relationship with his misbehaving daughter. When Mohan finds out that he cannot become the new landlord by marrying Pushpa, he kills the landlord and is elected as the new landlord as everyone thinks that Raja was the killer. After Raja hears about these events, he disguises as a religious guru and gets the new landlord to invite him to his home. It is revealed that the old landlord isn’t dead after all and Mohan has kept him alive to find out where he has hidden his treasure. Eventually Mohan discovers Raja’s true identity and puts him behind bars with the old landlord. Mohan’s plans to marry Pushpa fail once again because of a phenomenal rescue operation by Balwanta the peacock. Mohan gets banished from the landlord’s lands and the landlord finally accepts Raja’s mother as Pushpa’s mother-in-law as he realizes that greatness is not in the caste but in character.

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P.S. I wonder what the VCD cover of the Hindi version has to do with the movie…

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Kathanayakudu and Kuselan

Superstar Project 4–5/174.

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kuselan-kathanayakudu WPIMDbLB (Tamil)
WPIMDbLB (Telugu)

It is finally the time to continue the Superstar Project. I finished watching P. Vasu’s Kathanayakudu (2008) already a couple of months ago but didn’t write anything about it until now. I hope I haven’t forgotten too many details. Kathanayakudu is the simultaneously shot Telugu version of the Tamil movie Kuselan that I had watched a couple of years ago. The movie is a remake of a 2007 Malayalam Mammootty film Katha Parayumpol. I haven’t seen the original version so I cannot do a remake comparison. Bollywood fans might know the story also from Shahrukh Khan’s 2009 remake Billu (which I haven’t seen either).

Ayngaran’s Kuselan DVD has slightly better picture quality than AP International’s Kathanayakudu DVD but both versions are watchable. The biggest difference between the movies (besides the language) is that the main character Balakrishna is played by a different actor (as well as his sidekick comedians). I like the Telugu version’s actor more so there must be a choice between nicer actor and better picture quality. (Kathanayakudu is also 12 minutes shorter than Kuselan but this time I didn’t check if there were any scenes missing.)

kuselan-interval kathanayakudu-interval

Balakrishna (played by Pasupathy in Kuselan and Jagapati Babu in Kathanayakudu) is a poor barber who lives in a small village. One day his childhood friend Superstar Ashok Kumar (Superstar Rajinikanth) visits the village for the shooting of his new movies Chandramukhi 2 and Annamalai 2 (with Nayantara who is playing herself!). Surprisingly, Balakrishna is afraid to meet Ashok again. Does the superstar care about him anymore now that he is significantly richer than his old friend?

kuselan-100 Looks like the children have seen Rajinikanth’s Baasha.

I’m not sure why they named Rajinikanth’s character Ashok Kumar as it’s very clear that Rajinikanth is playing none other than himself. The film is full of references to his earlier work. It’s strange especially because Nayantara is playing herself without an imaginary character name.

Officially the movie was a flop and reviews that I’ve read have been mostly negative or neutral but I don’t see why. Maybe the audience didn’t expect this kind of film from Rajinikanth, as this is definitely not a typical Rajinikanth role. There’s no fighting against mafia or corrupt politicians. Instead, it’s just a simple story about friendship with a heart-touching climax. Superstar Rajinikanth, who despite the DVD covers and opening credits, is only in a supporting role (his character is not even introduced until the halfway through the first half of the film) while Balakrishna is really the main character. (However, Jagapati Babu who plays the main character in the Telugu version Kathanayakudu was nominated for Filmfare Awards South only in the best supporting actor category…)

Jagapati Babu came up with one of the finest performances of his career. This role demands a tremendous histrionics from the actor in Jagapati Babu and he does a wonderful job. His get-up is also good. But one wonders why he has light beard though he is doing the role of barber.

kuselan-vadivelu I’ve never seen anything like this.

While I agree with Idlebrain’s Kathanayakudu review about Jagapati Babu’s superb performance, I think their reviewer hasn’t heard of the famous two barbers puzzle: If there are just two barbers in the town, the barbers must shave each other’s beards and therefore the one with the messier beard is actually the better barber of the two! And in this case the other barber is played by Sunil who is famous for his comedy roles in Telugu movies… Sadly, it seems to be the other way around in the Tamil version Kuselan – Pasupathy doesn’t have a beard while Vadivelu’s mustache is the most horrible ever! (Oops. Now that I think of the puzzle again, I think it actually applies to hair cut and not beard shaving which is easier to do alone. But right now I’m too tired to come up with anything more intelligent.)

Meena plays Balakrishna’s wife in both versions (as well as in the original Malayalam version). Her role isn’t very large but she does a good performance. I haven’t yet seen many of her other films but I can’t wait to see some of them later during the Superstar Project!

It’s also always nice to see Prabhu who has a small role in the film.

Comedy could have been slightly trimmed. I liked Telugu version’s Sunil a little more than Tamil version’s Vadivelu. There are also other usual Telugu and Tamil comedians in minor roles, like M. S. Narayana, Ali, and Santhanam, but their jokes aren’t very memorable. I didn’t even recognize Brahmanandam from Kuselan but he was easier to locate after seeing the Telugu version where he does the talking instead of his Tamil friend.

The songs are awesome in this movie! My favourite one is Rajinikanth’s introduction song “Cinema cinema” which commemorates the 75th anniversary of Tamil cinema and has several cameo appearances by celebrities of the industry. “Om Zaarare” is also very catchy. The picturizations of these two also have very epic costumes! I like the other songs too.

♪ No one has seen God for real but Cinema shows them on screen. ♪

Story 4
Star Power 4
Songs 4½
Comedy 2½
Overall 4

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A couple of nice Prabhakar interviews

I haven’t yet wrote anything about my reactions to Baahubali: The Beginning even though I loved it. I will probably write more after I’ve rewatched it again a couple of times when the DVD (or hopefully a Blu-ray) comes out. One of the highlights of the movie is Prabhakar who plays the barbarian chieftain. I happened to find a very nice video interview (with subtitles!) by iNews where Prabhakar tells about his experiences in the film industry. He discusses interesting topics like working with Rajamouli, Maryada Ramanna, Baahubali, some of his other movies, his friends’ reactions to his work, and so on. I was so delighted when I learnt that my to-watch DVD pile contains more than one movie where he has a small role!

If the video is too long, there is also a nice written interview by Idlebrain.com where he tells more or less the same things. Aww, he is so cute!

Prabhakar is also on Facebook and he just got a new fan.

Posted in Interviews Tagged with: , , , ,

Baba & Sri Ragavendra 2-in-1 DVD by Pyramid

baba-srirag-pyramid

Today’s random product review is a Pyramid DVD that contains two Superstar Rajinikanth’s Tamil movies, Baba (2002) and Sri Ragavendra (1985) (also spelled at least as Sri Ragaventhrar and probably also as some other combinations of similar letters). I have no prior experience about the quality of these cheaper 2-in-1 DVDs compared to the usual 1-in-1 DVD releases but I would guess that the quality of a movie in 2-in-1 DVD isn’t as good. Let’s do some comparison!

I have also Baba DVD by Ayngaran and Sri Ragavendra DVD by Bayshore. The most natural way to compare these is to take screenshots of the same frame in each version and check which of them looks better.

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Sri Ragavendra

I actually bought the 2-in-1 DVD because I hadn’t found Sri Ragavendra with English subtitles and it clearly says “WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES” right there in the cover. Surprise surprise, this version of Sri Ragavendra doesn’t have English subtitles. Yes, it also says “BABA WITH SUBTITLE”, but it doesn’t say “SRI RAGAVENDRA WITHOUT SUBTITLE”, so basically this can be considered cheating. It’s actually quite surprising that this movie doesn’t seem to have a subtitled release. Sri Ragavendra is known as the 100th film of Superstar Rajinikanth. (I’m not sure how that is counted as it is number 107 on my list. Maybe they don’t count the remakes of his earlier movies?) Even though it was a flop at the box office, only the fact that it’s his 100th film would be enough to get people to watch it. Maybe there just aren’t enough non-Tamil speaking Rajinikanth fans or something? Now that it doesn’t have subtitles, I too won’t probably watch it before I’ve seen most of the subtitled Rajinikanth films.

Here are the screenshots. The first one is from the Pyramid version and the second one from the Bayshore version. (Click to see them in full size!) The picture from the Bayshore version is slightly more detailed. The only thing that is worse in Bayshore DVD is that it has Bayshore’s logo on the top-right corner and an almost transparent but still visible watermark on the left side while there are none in the Pyramid version. But I would probably still watch the movie from the Bayshore version.

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Baba

Both versions of Baba have subtitles. The first thing I noticed was that Ayngaran’s version of the film is 180 minutes long while Pyramid’s version is only 174 minutes. I didn’t check if there are any missing scenes in the Pyramid version or does it just play the film faster.

Ayngaran DVD is clearly the winner of the picture quality comparison. Most notably, there are more recognizable details and the orange colour is much brighter in the screenshot from the Ayngaran’s version (the second one). Looks like Pyramid’s version is horizontally stretched and then the picture is slightly cropped. Pyramid also has a big but fortunately mostly transparent watermark at the top-right corner. If I’m going to re-watch the film some day, I will definitely watch it from the Ayngaran DVD.

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Hrudaya Kaleyam

hrudaya-kaleyam WPIMDbLB

Hrudaya Kaleyam is a 2014 Telugu comedy film directed by Steven Sankar and starring Burning Star Sampoornesh Babu. This was his first film and I hadn’t heard anything about him before but I got interested after seeing the Sampoornesh Babu version of Baahubali trailer. I couldn’t find a DVD anywhere but MAA TV has uploaded the film on YouTube with English subtitles.

Sampoornesh Babu, played by Sampoornesh Babu, is apparently the best burglar in the world. A villain called Black Mamba (whose face is painted black) and 2222 policemen are after him. What happens when he gets caught? Why is he doing all the crimes? And what is the secret of the enormous thing that looks like a heart? Watch the movie to find out!

The movie isn’t as good as I hoped after seeing its trailer but it definitely has its moments and is worth watching. I’ve read a review that suggests that the dialogues are the best part of the film but I didn’t find most of them that good as I’m not that fluent in Telugu and still have to read the sometimes very cryptic subtitles. Some things are funny but most aren’t. One of the best things is that the movie is so short – 1:55 is almost a short film in Tollywood standards. However, after the lenghty flashback sequence when we get to know why Sampoornesh has been stealing things, the last 20 minutes are terrificly epic.

hrudaya-kaleyam-stunts

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Posted in Movies Tagged with: , , , ,

A brief summary of June 2015

  • I watched Mithun Chakraborty’s 1982 Hindi film Disco Dancer. Epic songs! Guitar-phobia! Very funny. 3½
  • I was interested to see Buster Keaton’s 1923 American silent film Our Hospitality because S. S. Rajamouli’s Maryada Ramanna (2010) is a remake of it. The story is approximately the same and some scenes are very similar between the two. The original is funny but not as funny as the remake.
  • For the same reason I watched the Australian short film Cockroach (2010) because some people claim that S. S. Rajamouli’s Eega (2012) is copied from it. I honestly didn’t see that many similiraties between the two.
  • Chiranjeevi’s Shankar Dada Zindabad (2007) was not as good as Shankar Dada MBBS (2004). It was a little confusing that they didn’t explain why the girl from MBBS wasn’t around anymore even though there were other references to the first part. Now there are still two or three Allu Arjun’s special appearances that I haven’t yet seen. 2½
  • I finally saw Ram Charan’s Govindudu Andarivadele (2014). Not as good as many of his other movies but still watchable. The Bunny thing was so funny! 3
  • Jr. NTR’s Rabhasa (2014) has very complicated story. I couldn’t keep track of everything but there were lots of funny things!
  • I rewatched A (1998) and Preethse (2000) with the friend who got hooked to Upendra after seeing Upendra. I liked A more when watching for the second time. Sometimes we got lost in the hierarchy of five(?) stacked levels of flashback.
  • Happy Days is a 2007 Telugu film starring Varun Sandesh and Tamanna Bhatia. It is a college drama that follows a group of friends through their studies. I found it quite enjoyable although there wasn’t much going on in the story. The format is very different from most of other South Indian films that I’ve seen. Most notably, the hero doesn’t have supernatural fighting powers and there’s no distinct comedic side plot.
  • I also watched a lot of older Prabhas movies. I’ll post more about them later.

Bonus clip: BUNNY KISS!

I was doing random YouTube surfing and found this clip from an old Filmfare Awards South event.

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Bloodstone

Superstar Project 3/174.

Bloodstone_poster WPIMDbLB

This time I write about an American action adventure movie, but it fits into the scope of this blog because it has Rajinikanth in it. The movie is Rajinikanth’s only non-Indian movie, Bloodstone (1988), which is directed by Dwight Little.

The main characters are Sandy (Brett Stimely) and Stephanie (Anna Nicholas), a newlywed couple traveling in India. A jewel thief uses them to smuggle the Bloodstone, the biggest ruby in the world, past an irritating and comic police inspector, and so Sandy and Stephanie get involved into businesses of dangerous criminals.

Rajinikanth plays a crazy taxi driver who eventually becomes the second hero character, and he absolutely steals the show from his supporting role. There are some really awesome dialogue, a nice knife trick, and of course his traditional cigarette trick. I’ve read that the shooting of the film was challenging because the foreign director wasn’t aware of Rajinikanth’s popularity and there were huge crowds of fans everywhere when they tried to shoot his scenes.

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I recently watched Disco Dancer and didn’t recall why one of the villain’s henchmen looked so familiar, but he was of course Bob Christo who has a similar role also in Bloodstone. He is convincing in that kind of roles but the other supporting actors aren’t very memorable.

I was quite surprised to learn that a Rajini film has had an official VHS release in Finland in 1988 (Bloodstone – rubiinin kirous, “The Curse of the Ruby”), so I of course had to find and get it too. I re-typed its subtitles into my subtitling software (and made some minor corrections and improvements), and now I’m able to enjoy the better-quality DVD version of Rajinikanth with almost official Finnish subtitles!

Another funny thing that I noticed is that there also exists a Hindi-dubbed version that has some remarkably awful censorship. For example, there is a burglary scene with some sex voices coming from the adjacent bathroom. They have tried to hide the moans with very loudly splashing water, but the original audio track is still clearly audible and the result is just a horrible mess.

DVDs with the original English audio are available on Amazon and sometimes on eBay with American and Australian region codes. I got the American one and I didn’t have any problems playing it with my European laptop using VLC media player. I recommend getting the digitally re-mastered 2003 version rather than the original as it looks a lot better.

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Final verdict: Bloodstone is a mandatory watch for Rajinikanth fans. The story isn’t that original but Rajinikanth’s amazing performance makes it fun to watch. The other main role actors aren’t that unforgettable. The end credits song is too catchy!

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Upcoming movies

(Links to filmibeat.com)