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.)

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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.

Superstar Project 7/174.

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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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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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Superstar Project 4–5/174.

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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.)

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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. ♪

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zwVdzXJFCI&t=9s

Story 4
Star Power 4
Songs 4½
Comedy 2½
Overall 4

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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.

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Superstar Project 3/174.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luMuw5mjEOg

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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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Thanks to Review Raja, today I discovered a very interesting upcoming Tamil movie, Puli, which I somehow hadn’t heard about before. The main role is played by Vijay who I really don’t know as well as I should, but the supporting cast includes some very big names (at least big for me, if not officially big names), like Sridevi, Sudeep (!), Prabhu, Shruti Haasan, and Hansika Motwani. The teaser trailer released just today.

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Ragada is a 2010 Telugu film directed by Veeru Potla. It stars “King” Nagarjuna in the hero role, and the movie indeed repeatedly reminds the audience about who the king is. I actually started to watch the movie a couple of years ago but had to pause after 30 minutes and never remembered to continue. The plot has so many twists and turns that it would be hopeless to explain it all here, but basically it’s about the hero who likes money and doesn’t like the rich bad mafia guys who are threatening his mother and sister.

Previously I had seen two Veeru Potla’s films, Varsham (2004) and Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana (2005), which are both nice but in my opinion just around average level movies. Perhaps expectedly, so is Ragada. I haven’t seen too many of King Nagarjuna’s films but I’ve seen him quite a lot in Meelo Evaru Koteeswarudu, the Telugu version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (Which is very helpful in learning Telugu as the questions are shown in both Telugu and English. Also, many questions and special guests are related to Telugu cinema.) Ragada isn’t as good as some other Nagarjuna’s films, like Manam. But Nagarjuna still manages to show that he’s the King, at least in Ragada’s universe. I don’t really think he’s doing anything that other Tollywood heroes wouldn’t be capable to do.

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The female lead roles are played by Anushka Shetty and Priyamani, “bullet” and “chocolate”. Both of them have important roles in the story but are unfortunately forgotten a little before the end of the film. Ragada also nicely counts towards my goal to watch all movies by Anushka. I see her as one of the strongest of the current Tollywood heroines as she somehow has managed to successfully act in main role multiple times without a male hero in such a male-centric film industry. I believe I’ve now seen 9 of 36, or 25%.

Pradeep Rawat is the typical Tollywood villain. He shouts much and kicks furniture around. He does exactly what is expected and required from a Tollywood villain. One of the minor villains is played by Dev Gill and he’s of course good at it. He actually was my main reason to watch Ragada when I first tried to watch it some years ago, as I had seen him in Magadheera and he has acted in surprisingly small number of movies.

There are present also some of the compulsory but entertaining Tollywood things, such as Naga Chaitanya’s (Nagarjuna’s son) Ye Maaya Chesave movie poster at the background and a street fight that gathers a huge audience and when the baddies eventually run away, the spectators just leave the scene silently precisely at the same time.

Brahmanandam’s comedy is above his average, or at least easier to understand through subtitles than his usually dialogue-heavy jokes. His introduction scene is one of the funniest I’ve seen from him so far. I don’t think the character is too important for the storyline but he has a lot of screentime as his main purpose is flirting with Anushka.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiNgEBTkuCY

The clip above doesn’t have subtitles but the dialogue at the end goes like: “You’ll be out tomorrow, unnecessarily tried to escape today.” – “Tomorrow? I didn’t know that.” – “Don’t tell anyone about this, may get suspended for getting scared of a soap.” – “You must do one thing to keep that secret. Get me a new bar of soap, I need to take a bath.”

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Story 2½
Star Power 3½
Songs 2
Fights 2½
Comedy 3½
Overall 3
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Mithran Jawahar’s Kutty (also spelled as Kutti) (2010) is the Tamil remake of Sukumar’s Arya (Telugu, 2004). It stars Dhanush, Shriya Saran, and Sameer Dattani in the main roles.

Kutty turned out to be not as good as the wonderful original version. It is almost a scene-by-scene remake but the original Arya’s charm is missing. Dhanush has a very limited range of facial expressions compared to Allu Arjun and some of the jokes aren’t performed as well as in the original. (The remaking is still done much better than in the Bengali remake of Magadheera.)

Devi Sri Prasad, the music director of Arya, composed the music also for the remake. While some songs are familiar from the original Arya, some other great songs are replaced with new and not-so-great songs. “You Rock My World” has been entirely cut off.

Overall, Kutty might be an OK movie but it’s not possible to not to compare it to the original Arya and it just doesn’t have anything new to offer. I would recommend this only if you like the actors or are a curious Arya fan. Otherwise it would probably be better to watch Arya instead.

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