Superstar Project 4–5/174.

kathanayakudu-earthquake

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.)

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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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ragada WPIMDbLB

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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I guess I’ll have to write a short post about the coolest thing that happened last week. I’m so envious of the American and Australian Tollywood fans as they apparently get to see most of new Telugu film in theaters. Here in Finland we get only the biggest Tamil movies (some may even have two or three screenings!), and Telugu movies are much rarer. Often the Telugu movies do not even come with subtitles. (In our Eega show we had an additional video projector for the subtitles and an awesome guy who manually changed the visible line through the whole movie!)

SO-Satyamurthy WPIMDbLB

So, after a short wait (just a couple of days earlier I had heard that there was going to be a screening) I was finally able to see Trivikram’s S/O Satyamurthy (which means “Son of Satyamurthy”) on last Saturday. Furthermore, the film had subtitles and it played in a new movie theater less than a kilometer away from where I live!

The film stars Stylish Star Allu Arjun as the son of Satyamurthy (Prakash Raj). This was my fifteenth Allu Arjun movie and the second time in a theater (after Iddarammayilatho), and he’s still my favourite dancer. His acting isn’t terrible either. (But his hair is, at least in some scenes.) The heroine is played by Samantha. She is good but gets about as much screentime as in Dookudu (which means not much).

S/O Satyamurthy is a quite typical Tollywood film with almost nothing special. Now I’ve seen three movies from the director, Trivikram, and he still hasn’t really impressed me. Devi Sri Prasad’s music is OK but not his best. This is also far from the best Allu Arjun film. It was still worth watching and a rare chance to see Upendra on the big screen. He was perfect for his role and not as crazy as in his older movies that I’ve seen.

The film uses a lot of dialogue and the subtitles aren’t too readable (too long lines, sometimes they are too fast, very infrequent usage of capital letters, and impossible to read on white background) so I was somehow able to follow what happened but I don’t have very clear idea about all the details. For example, Brahmanandam can get the whole audience laughing and even with the subtitles I don’t most of the time understand what was so funny. This movie would need a rewatch with pause button. However, I can’t blame only the movie about my difficulties to follow the story as my old eyeglasses caused me a little headache when I continuously had to read the small subtitles from the back row. I’ll definitely update the glasses before Baahubali.

It remained a mystery to me how the organizers thought they could show a movie of length 2:40 with an intermission in a time slot of 2:15. Next they were playing a presumably tedious Finnish biographical film for a completely different kind of audience. I think I noticed some “high-culture lady” trying to enter the hall sometime during the climax scene, maybe thinking it was already the next movie that got postponed, but she was quickly scared off by furiously shouting Upendra.

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For a more detailed summary of the plot I recommend reading Cinema Chaat which is probably the most useful Tollywood review website on the internet.

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Movies that released in 2014

  • Best Film (Tamil): Jigarthanda
  • Best Film (Telugu): Manam
  • Second Best Film (Telugu): 1: Nenokkadine
  • Best Action Film: Action Jackson
  • Best Star Cast: Yevadu
  • Best Comedian: Brahmanandam in Race Gurram
  • Best Song: “Engae Pogudho Vaanam” by A. R. Rahman from Kochadaiiyaan
  • Funniest Joke: Bunny in Govindudu Andarivadele
  • Funniest Occasion: Best Couple Competition in Brahma
  • Best Special Effects: the elephants in Lingaa – if they really aren’t real
  • Superbest Subtitlist: Rekhs in Lingaa, particularly in the song “Mona Gasolina”
  • Best Cinema Experience: the Finnish Lingaa premiere in Helsinki on 12.12.2014
  • Most Times Watched in 2014: Kochadaiiyaan (4)
  • Worst Fail: Lotus Five Star for releasing Jigarthanda DVD without subtitles

Older movies that I watched in 2014

  • Most Entertaining Drama Film: Moondru Mudichu (1976)
  • Most Entertaining Gangster Film: Billa (2009)
  • Most Entertaining Science Fiction Film: Love Story 2050 (2008)
  • Most Entertaining Thriller Film: Anniyan (2005)
  • Most WTF Moments: Upendra (1999)
  • Strongest Hero: Jr. NTR in Baadshah (2013) for throwing four cars about 15 meters high with a single kick from 25 meters away
  • Scariest Supporting Character: Uncle Limu (Anupam Kher) from Aabra Ka Daabra (2004)
  • Cheesiest Line: “Oh my God, is that your gun? Can I hold it, please?” by Mala (Priyanka Chopra) from Zanjeer (2013)

Edit (Nov 19 & Dec 5, 2015): added more award categories for 2014 movies that I’ve seen later.

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Superstar Project 2/174.

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To begin with, here is Rajinikanth’s title screen for the Superstar Project’s title card gallery. In 2005 it’s already quite shiny.

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Chandramukhi is a Tamil superstar starrer from 2005, directed by P. Vasu. It is a remake of the 2004 Kannada movie Apthamitra (also directed by P. Vasu). Besides the superstar, the cast also includes Prabhu, Jyothika, Nyantara, Vadivelu, “and others”.

Chandramukhi is a “hounted house” type of story. Sometime in history, a fatal love triangle had taken place in the mansion and as a result, one of the rooms is inhabited by a ghost of a dancer named Chandramukhi. Fortunately, we have Rajinikanth, an excellent psychiatrist, to save the day. The story is interesting and easy to sit through at least once, but it doesn’t have anything so special that I would re-watch it in the near future. (Watching the sequel two days later was already enough of the same story.)

I have nothing bad to say about the songs either, although I like the more recent Rajinikanth songs more. One funny thing was the song sequence where Rajinikanth is flying kites with his friends. The result can be seen in the following image.

chandramukhi-kites

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There are two fights in the movie. The first one is the compulsory Rajinikanth introduction fight which once again is very entertaining because of Rajinikanth’s Law of Gravity. The second one feels a bit pointless, but it’s an unwritten law of nature that whenever a character is played by Sonu Sood, he is a villain and therefore has to be defeated at some point.

Another noteworthy gravity moment is when Rajinikanth saves Prabhu’s character from drinking poisoned coffee.

Don't drink, the coffee is poisoned!


nagavalli WPIMDbLB

Chandramukhi has a 2010 Telugu sequel, Nagavalli, which is also by the director P. Vasu. It is a remake of the 2010 Kannada movie Aptharakshaka (again by the same director). In this movie, Chandramukhi returns and once again a psychiatrist’s help is needed to drive her away.

This film doesn’t feature Rajinikanth except in some flashbacks from Chandramukhi. Instead, the film stars Venkatesh as Rajinikanth’s assistant. I realized that somehow I hadn’t seen a Venkatesh film before, and he actually is quite good in this one. I also liked Anushka’s role as Chandramukhi. Rajinikanth’s authority is in danger as his assistant’s assistant is played by none other than Brahmanandam. M. S. Narayana is in a minor role and he dies almost immediately after his introduction which felt a little inappropriate when watched so shortly after the actor’s death in real life. In addition to those actors, the film also features Shraddha Das who is known for her roles in at least Arya 2 and the Malayalam horrific horror film Dracula 2012.

Though the actors’ performances are good, the movie doesn’t have much to add to the story of Chandramukhi. We get to see a little more of the history part. Also the climax scene is nice. (Now I need to add random thunderbolts to my rules of K/Tollywood drinking game.) I believe that Nagavalli can be watched without seeing Chandramukhi first, but I would still recommend Chandramukhi over this one.

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studentno1-dvd WPIMDbLB

The DVD release of S. S. Rajamouli’s debut film Student No.1 (2001) would really need the English subtitles. I had postponed watching it in a hope that someday I would be fluent enough in Telugu to understand it without subtitles. Luckily, I noticed that the movie has been dubbed into Hindi (as Aaj Ka Mujrim) and the dubbed version has subtitles, so I was finally able to watch the last remaining film that I hadn’t seen from my favourite director.

I don’t know much Hindi but I think the dubbing was mostly OK, far from the Russian dubbing style where one man just reads the whole dialogue with a monotonic voice. Watching a dubbed version was a little challenging as the familiar actors had strange voices. Sometimes it’s difficult to follow the dialogue by reading the fast-paced subtitles if you have no idea who is talking. Looks like the dubbing company didn’t ruin the whole movie like they did to Magadheera. At least this time they didn’t remove all the songs.

The movie has Jr. NTR, Gajala, and Rajiv Kanakala in the lead roles. (Rajiv Kanakala is always unintentionally so funny because “Kanakala” means a chicken-fish in Finnish.)

studentno1-ajay OMG! One of Ajay’s first supporting roles!!!

Jr. NTR’s character is of course the hero of the film. He is a new student in a law college (or was it a love college?) but it doesn’t take long when he finds out that the college has bad reputation because nobody ever graduates — the school is ruled by a violent gang which efficiently prevents all teachers and students from teaching and studying! It’s no secret that the hero is going to fix the situation but I can’t tell much more without spoiling the dramatic interval revelation.

This movie has only a couple of fighting/action sequences which is less than Rajamouli’s or Jr. NTR’s movies normally have but it doesn’t really need any more. Good fighting skills are almost a requirement for any Indian movie hero (except Siddharth) and we see enough to become convinced that also this hero can fight. This time however the hero isn’t supernaturally strong against the bad guys but he still does a couple of cool things, like jumping forth from a sea of burning fuel. (I think I’ve seen this somewhere else before!)

studentno1-ntr studentno1-comedy

This is again one of those movies that have all the three of them: Brahmanandam, Ali, and M. S. Narayana. This time Narayana is the only one who is somewhat relevant character as he plays a teacher in the college. Ali and Brahmanandam play an engineer and a doctor but they are used only in two scenes and didn’t add very much to the story. However I liked the bad joke that the doctor wants to cut a car accident victim’s leg with a handsaw to save him while the engineer would prefer to cut the car instead.

I guess the songs were nice but I’m not going to do any in-depth reviews of them as I was watching the movie in a “wrong” language.

Story 3
Star Power 2
Fights 2½
Comedy 1½
Overall 2½

Student No.1 obviously isn’t among the most entertaining Rajamouli movies but I still liked it very much.

Kantri on YouTube The subtitled Hindi version can be found on YouTube, uploaded by Goldmines Telefilms.

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Tonight I watched Kantri which is a 2008 Telugu film directed by Meher Ramesh and starring Jr. NTR, Hansika Motwani, Tanisha Mukherjee, and Prakash Raj.

I didn’t have very high expectations and Kantri indeed turned out to be just like an average masala movie. The story has a couple of nice twists but nothing revolutionary. Jr. NTR was as good as always but this time he had only about average dancing and fighting choreographies. Prakash Raj gave a solid performance as the villain which was expected because he has acted in a similar role for uncountable times. Hansika and Tanisha were used only for the romantic subplot which was ridiculous (but funny) and unnecessary. Tanisha’s role was much smaller than many of the supporting actors’ roles.

The first kiss

The movie has the complete set of the three most frequent Telugu comedians: Brahmanandam, Ali, and M. S. Narayana. This time they are also accompanied by not-so-frequent but funnier Sunil which is funnier also this time. The comedy scenes, which often are long and boring in South Indian movies (because of too fast paced subtitles and sometimes incomprehensible cultural references), are kept short enough in this movie, and most of the jokes are easy to get with a fairly brief amount of prerequisite information of the South Indian cinema. It’s not often that comedy is actually the strongest part of a masala film.

Ali comedy
Sunil comedy

The songs were not very memorable. I already forgot all of them with maybe the exception of “One, Two, Three, Nenoka Kantri”, and one song might have had some lyrics about mangoes…

Story 2
Star Power 3
Songs 1
Fights 2½
Comedy 3½
Overall 2½

Overall, Kantri is not a must-watch movie but pretty watchable for one time if you enjoy watching Jr. NTR. If you’re not yet familiar with Jr. NTR, watch Yamadonga (2007) instead. If the director Meher Ramesh is new to you, I would rather recommend his next film, Billa (2009), except if you like Rajinikanth. Be sure to watch at least Sivaji (2007) before this one or you’ll miss some awesome Sunil comedy!

Kantri on YouTube Sri Balaji Movies has uploaded the movie to YouTube with English subtitles.

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November 27 was the fifth anniversary of the release date of Arya 2, so (actually quite coincidentally) it was a great day for an epic, over 5 hours long Arya marathon! Both films, Arya and Arya 2, are directed by Sukumar and starred by Allu Arjun as the main character Arya.

First time is saw Arya 2 sometime during the winter 2010–2011. After Magadheera, it was the second Telugu film that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve loved the Telugu film industry ever since I saw the opening credits absurdly announcing Allu Arjun as the “Stylish Star”.

The movie marathon was also the perfect reason to finally rewatch the original Arya. It was better than I remembered but still not as good as Arya 2. The songs are actually quite good and it was fun to notice that Allu Arjun does some dance moves that were familiar to me from Arya 2. Arya is quite creepy in this movie and I’m not entirely sure why Geetha (Anuradha Mehta) ends up loving him. In fact, she eventually tells that she has loved him throughout the whole movie, which by the way wasn’t very obvious. (But I think that unrealistic loving is a problem with many other movies as well.) Also, Ajay (Siva Balaji) and Subbu (Subbaraju) are quite one-dimensional unlike the corresponding characters in the sequel. However, I think overall Arya is a very nice movie and I will probably watch it again some day. I might also try to find the remake versions in Tamil and Bengali.

arya

Arya 2 is probably one of my favorite movies as the crazy, endless plot twists cause such an indescribable amount of strong emotions (well, mostly anger). Now that I’ve seen the movie about seven times, I think I’m finally able to watch it without losing track of the storyline too much (even during the complicated hostage triangle sequence).

While Arya is quite creepy already in Arya, in Arya 2 his creepiness level grows much higher than any other character’s in any other movie that I have ever seen. I’m not sure when exactly Geetha (Kajal Agarwal) falls in love with him in Arya 2, but she clearly doesn’t love him straight from the beginning like in Arya. I think Arya really doesn’t deserve to be loved by her – in my opinion, Shanti (Shraddha Das) would have been the perfect match for him. It’s sad that the movie doesn’t reveal what happens to Shanti afterwards. I hope she can find another Mr. Perfect who understands her feelings better than Arya.

In Arya, the other main role character, Ajay, is just like an ordinary bad guy, but in Arya 2, now played by Navdeep, he is much more complicated. He may not be the nicest guy in the world, but should I still feel bad for him because Arya ruins his life?

Dasavatharam is more tolerable than Brahmanandam’s characters on average, which is good because his role in this movie is longer than the average Brahmi role. The movie also has one of my favourite supporting role actors, Ajay, as Subbi. This particular role might be the reason why I like him more than most of the other regular supporting actors in Telugu cinema.


An almost relevant footnote: My friend thinks that Siddharth is hotter than Allu Arjun. I made a little online poll to find out which one of us is right.

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