Kathanayakudu and Kuselan
Superstar Project 4–5/174.
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.)
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?
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.
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. ♪