Sunday, September 13, 2009

Athadu and Pokiri, or, Mahesh Babu Double-Header!

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present to you the reason the term "adorkable" was invented:



So, um, yeah. Heard of this guy? If you've been reading Nicki's blog for any amount of time you know about him; in fact, because I was lazy and my husband was starting to get very ANNOYED with my propensity to keep Indian movies I really like for ungodly amounts of time when Netflix really probably wants them back and the person next in line for like, Netflix's sole copy of this Telugu movie is probably cursing my name... Where was I going with this? Oh, right. I didn't take screencaps because I was too busy watching Athadu over and over again. So I stole Nicki's from her post on the movie. Also MAHESH BABU!

Okay, sorry. Apparently the fangirl, she is in need of tranquilizers. "Prince" Mahesh Babu is an action hero in Telugu movies. Although his last movie came out two years ago (kyun? or, in Telugu, I think it's yeh?) he is still a huge star. And, from what I saw in Athadu (Wanted) and Pokiri (Rogue), he deserves to be. (And he has two new movies coming out next year apparently, so all is not lost.)

Athadu is loosely based on Assassins, and I mean very loosely because there are lots of plot differences and also I don't recall Antonio Banderas dancing at all but maybe that was there, just in one of the parts of that movie I kept my eyes closed for, like 9/10 of it. (Bobby Deol starred in the inferior Hindi remake Ek: The Power of One.) Nandu (Mahesh) is a paid assassin. He'll kill anyone, the right way, for the right money. I like that the film opens showing how he got started as a young orphaned teenager--whoever they got to play young Nandu was awesome, by the way. A few more years and I wouldn't be surprised to see him gunning for Mahesh Babu's parts for real. He's mentored by Rahul Dev and his getaway guy is played by Sonu Sood, who has a small role but manages to make the most of it. Plus it was just fun to see him again after Jodhaa Akbar. (Sorry, Sonu, but there is NO WAY I'm sitting through another Rajshri movie, even to see you and Ishaa.)

Anyway, Nandu seems completely cold and closed off, and that's because he kind of is. On the run from a job gone wrong, however, he has an encounter with a talkative stranger on a train. Pardhu, the stranger, reveals that he's headed home for the first time since he was a child--he's had no contact with his family in years, but he found out they were looking for him all that time. Pardhu says he's unlucky, and he proves it a few minutes later when he takes a bullet meant for Nandu. And it was at this point that I actually started caring about Nandu. Mahesh Babu does a fantastic job of portraying shock, realization, and grief in a three-second zoom shot.

Nandu heads to Pardhu's home and hides out there, assuming Pardhu's identity and learning about the joys of family life for the first time. It's especially sweet how he bonds with "his" grandfather, played by Nassar. Meanwhile a police inspector (Prakash Raj) is after him, not very competently.

Oh, yeah, Trisha Krishnan's in the movie too.

No, I'm just kidding. She does a fine job portraying Puri, a spoiled village belle who has been destined for Pardhu since birth but is shocked to find he doesn't respond to her wiles. She knows she's beautiful and he cuts her down a peg or two. The two share some good chemistry onscreen (though I still liked her better with Siddharth in Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana). And she certainly doesn't bother sparing her dignity as she gets shot down by her beloved over and over again. They have some sweet interactions--I particularly liked a moment when she flings herself at him and he stands, frozen, because he's afraid of what will happen if he touches her. Too cute!

The soundtrack is hit-and-miss. I'm not one of those girls who insists that every Indian soundtrack sound VERY INDIAN or I will not like it. However, I kind of have a problem with "Shakashakabow shakabowow no," which is lame no matter what language you put it into. And there is no way I'm not going to laugh when you put Christina Aguilera's words into a hired assassin's mouth. Still, there's the beautiful "Pillagaali Allari" and "Pilichina Raanantava" to balance it out.

Y'all, I'm not even going to lie. There are some SuperFantastic Tollywood Moments. A lot, in fact, even if we disregard the fact that Nandu is able to kill hordes of men using his bare hands without assistance. The picturizations are crrrrrazy, involving pirate ships, freeze frames, holey shirts, and even drawing hearts on the screen. There's also a Comic Side Plot, or CSP as veracious calls it. I read in her comments section that a lot of these plots are dependent on wordplay, so it makes sense that I wouldn't get it. I guess I shouldn't call it moronic, in that case, but I will say that IT DOES NOT TRANSLATE. At all. I don't care; I love this movie, right down to the insane final fight sequence which I think is a tribute to a John Woo movie but I don't know which one.

Pokiri came out a year after Athadu, in 2006. This is the one that's been remade as Wanted with Salman Khan and Ayesha Takia. I think most people prefer the former to the latter, but I have to say I like Athadu more, probably because I prefer Trisha to Ileana. Not that there's anything wrong with Ileana besides being an indifferent actress. It's inspired by Infernal Affairs, apparently, but I never saw that movie so I couldn't tell you.

Pokiri is about Pandu (Mahesh, of course), a guy who'll do just about anything for money. He seems to specialize in thrashing other guys, though. (Can I just say I love how we flash from him beating someone bloody to dancing with a troupe of fifteen? I appreciate how Southie films find no dissonance between the two concepts with a great big grin on my face.) He gets involved with a gang run by Ali Bhai (ubiquitous Prakash Raj), a don who's staying in Dubai and making Al Qaeda connections. He's so bad that when he moves one leg to cross it over the other it whooshes!

(Isn't the long-haired guy one of the three Siddharth beats up in KIKK?) One day, Pandu runs into Shruti (Ileana), an aerobics instructor who supports her mother and young brother with her earnings. Sure hope that job pays better in Hyderabad than it does in the U.S., girlfriend!

Shruti has plenty of problems: a senior inspector in the police department is after her in a totally evil way, her annoying neighbor (Brahmanandam Kanneganti) won't stop pursuing her even though he's twenty years older than she, and she doesn't have a dad so she's basically molested all day long. Pandu wants to keep her safe, but while he's falling in love with her he's simultaneously being pulled deeper and deeper into Ali Bhai's nefarious schemes. I liked how the film portrayed the opposing forces in his life: for every scene of him thrashing yet another thug, we had a following scene of him getting to know Shruti better:

(Also some product placement for Upma. Apparently I could survive on nothing but Upma. But do they provide the pretty blue lunchbox too?) However, there's only so much Mahesh Babu can do with Ileana's lack of skill onscreen, and some scenes that are cute could've been way better in a more capable actress' hands.

Alas, there is another CSP that I clearly have no appreciation for, involving Brahmanandam Kanneganti again. He offends the president of the beggar's union (okay, that's actually funny--the idea of a beggar's union I mean) and pays for it mightily. (I have to admit I did find the scenes of him being chased around town by scores of beggars shaking their bowls amusing.)

The soundtrack is great, from the drum-heavy "Samarane" (Mahesh Babu dances with a broom!) to the Latin-influenced "Deva Deva Deva," (Mahesh Babu rumples his hair and melts my heart!) and the peppy dance track "Chuddadantunna" (Mahesh Babu and Ileana wear traditional outfits!). Then there's probably the best modern item number I've ever seen, featuring Mumait Khan.

She makes me want to get a tongue piercing. (Don't worry, Mom, I won't.) Seriously, though, "Ippatikinka" is everything an item number should be and often isn't. See for yourself:

Awesome, right? (If you disagree, we are no longer friends. Just sayin'.)

I also have to give a shout-out to the choreographer of the film. Every song is unique and very creative in its dance moves. Does anyone know who did the choreography? (The one drawback of Telugu films: often, they only have end credits in Telugu script, which I don't know the name of or how to read.)

I think my main problem with the film, besides the mediocre Ileana, is that there's no resolution with their romance. We have a grand final fight scene and: end credits! For that reason alone, I prefer Athadu, but Pokiri is still good.

Final disclaimer: if you are sensitive to violence, these are not the films for you. I've been desensitized since birth, being American, but I still spent a large amount of time peeping through my fingers, whimpering, and instructing my husband to "tell me when this is over" while he cackled with glee beside me on the couch. Gross sound effects, increasingly creative demises, and blood. Lots of blood. Some gore on the side, too. Don't plan on eating, is what I'm saying. If that doesn't bug you, then I can highly recommend both of these films.


  1. It seems like I wouldn't like Pokiri, but Athadu seems very good! I'm not a big fan of violence, but I might be able to stomach it? I don't know. =/

    But thanks for the lovely reviews! Now I can blame another addition to my list on you! xD

  2. Thanks for the reviews! Glad for the violence disclaimer. I think I'll stick to silly romance.

  3. Woww I have no idea what any of these are lolz...I only watch Bollywood movies from India. By the way, Ajnabi there's a distorted image contest on my blog right now, and I would love it if you checked it out and guessed who it is :)

  4. Loved your reviews. Isn't Mahesh just wonderful? Oh i love both Athadu & Pokiri equally....though am a little bit more biased towards Athadu because i'm a fan of the director Trivikram. Loved his last movie 'Jalsa' & can't wait for his next movie with Mahesh babu again!
    Lol @ the upma segment in Pokiri. Its not a product placement. Its a fairly typical no fuss kind of breakfast item made with granulated wheat in india.
    I agree that the comedy doesnot translate because it is heavily dependent on word play & one has to know the language to get it. Sill, the movies & your reviews are great fun.

  5. Two more to add to the growing list of Telugu films to watch...!! I don't know why it took me this long to find them!

  6. Imdb says that the choreographer of Pokiri is Raju Sundaram.

  7. Other way around on Wanted -- it's a remake of Pokiri. :-)

    I guess I'm just more desensitized to violence than I thought, because everyone always goes on about how gory Mahesh Babu's movies are and I have to stop and think, "Wow, was it that bad? I can't even remember!" But maybe I'm just blinded by his goofy grin...

  8. I have to agree with Emily on violence. It doesn't bother me one bit because its so filmi. On the other hand, i got traumatized watching the 'eye scene' in Slumdog Millionaire. Compared to that the violence in Telugu movies is a piece of cake.

  9. I like Athadu slightly more than Pokiri too but dang, love the music from Pokiri more. Trisha is a bit more tolerable than Ileana, but honestly, I like them both the same. Glad you saw them :)

  10. Watch Trisha Krishnan and Prakash Raj in their recent tamil movie " Abhi yum na noom" which translates as "Abhi and I". It is a very good movie about a father- daughter relationship. This movie was also remade in telugu as "Aksaham Anta". The surprise package in the movie is the hero.

  11. BTW, I have only seen one movie of Mahesh Babu with Bhumika Chawla - a very violent movie - can't remember the name.

    Mahesh Babu is handsome and a good actor but the violence in his movies puts me off - i haven't seen these movies

  12. Lovely reviews, Ajnabi. You make the movies sound like so much fun. But cute as Mahesh Babu is, I dont think I can stand large doses of (even very filmi) violence.

    And lastly, I do hope we can still be friends, because your favorite item number sounds like a Bhajan (Hindi prayer song) sung to pop beats, to me!

  13. Whoa, Mahesh Babu inspires the lurkers! Thank you all very much for visiting and commenting. :-) BTW, if anyone wants to check out the songs from the movie (none of them have violence) I did a playlist:

    rhilex: For me, the storyline with Trisha made the violence bearable. Plus, it's not like it's Saving Private Ryan style--the blood etc is very clearly telegraphed beforehand so you can have a ready hand on the remote and skip it.

    M'Ellen: That's cool with me, as long as you'll watch it with me. :-)

    Bollywood Rocks: I love Hindi films too but Telugu are also special. :-) I stopped in on your blog--did I guess right?

    Anon1: I didn't know he was directing the next Mahesh Babu film! Yay! LOL about upma. That's so funny--I was confused because in the subtitles it was capitalized so I thought it must be a product. And thank you for the compliment; I'm glad you enjoyed reading.

    Filmi Girl: I feel the same way--I really enjoyed all the Telugu films I've seen so far. I hope you post about them when you get a chance!

    Anon2: Thanks for that! So can IMDB be trusted when it comes to Telugu movies? I know with Hindi films a lot of times the info is just plain wrong or incomplete at best, so I hadn't bothered checking.

    Emily: Hey, I gave credit where it's due! :-) Re-read the sentence and you'll see. I know what you mean about the violence being filmi but I can only see so many blades protruding from people's voiceboxes before getting squicked out. In any case, the goofy grin=SO CUTE.

    Anon3: I can't stomach the Slumdog-style owies; that's Danny Boyle for you though. I can find filmi style slightly more tolerable.

    Nicki: I never would have thought to watch them without your posts--thank you soooo much!

    Anon4: I would love to see that! Thanks for the recommendation!

    Anon5: He is awfully handsome; I guess that plus and his acting outweigh the negative of the violence for me. :-)

    Bollyviewer: I totally understand. And of course we can still be friends! I was just joking. I wouldn't be surprised if it is a Bhajan, because in the lyrics she instructs her lover to offer her daily pooja with dollar bills. LOL

  14. Oops, I should clarify; none of the songs have violence except the first one, but it's minimal, no gore. I've been desensitized--help! LOL

  15. I meant that Wanted is a remake of Pokiri, not of Athadu.

  16. Oh yeah! You're right! Sorry 'bout that--I'll fix it but the comments'll tell the whole story. LOL

  17. Thank you for these reviews! So let's see, a quick inventory of non-Bollywood Indian movies I have in my list include: Ghajini, Pokiri, Boys, and Athadu.

    Looking forward to Salman's 'Wanted' more after reading this. It truly seems to fit in well with what he is really good at, and at this point, I'll just wait to see it first.

    Haven't seen enough from outside Bollywood to know if this is true, but my friends who see South Indian films tell me they tend to be a lot more violent than Hindi films, which works well :) Not to say it's good either way, LOL.

    Cheers. And yes, that 'item number' with Mumaith 8) is nicely choreographed and well shot!

  18. I love Mahesh Babu! I can't watch Pokiri without fast-forwarding the most violent parts, but I still love it. I didn't think the violence in Athadu was as bad, mostly because I don't mind shooting as much as stabbing. I really enjoyed your reviews of both films -- I pretty much agree with everything you said about both movies.

    You might already know this, but the movie with Bhumika that was referenced above is Okkadu. I watched it a few months ago, and I thought it was really cute and sweet. Another Mahesh Babu movie I really like is Arjun. Of course, I love Mahesh Babu, and I've yet to see a film of his that I didn't like. So, take it for what it's worth.

  19. tBF: We'll see how Salman does, shall we? If he's playing someone kind of like Imaan in Saawariya I might go for it. He definitely shouldn't go for the "young thug" angle of Pokiri though. Two more days and you'll find out, right?

    The Telugu films I've seen do tend to be more violent. Even Kandukondain opened with quite a bloody scene, though the rest was pretty mild.

    Mumaith is freakin' awesome. I hope I see more items with her, stat.

    Cindy: I agree, bullets aren't nearly as bad as blades, although the exit wounds of both are still pretty gruesome in closeup. LOL I'm glad you enjoyed the reviews! By now, I love Mahesh Babu too, so I will definitely look up Okkadu. Thanks for the rec!

  20. He definitely shouldn't go for the "young thug" angle of Pokiri though.

    Maybe a middle-aged one would work? =) Trust Salman with a masala action flick (and hope to not have to eat my words), but again, since I haven't seen the original(s), the perspective will be very different.

    Two more days and you'll find out, right?

    Yay! I'll be seeing it next week, though, but that's only because of friends and Eid.

    And does Mumaith act at all, or is she more like the Malaika Arora-Khan or Mallika Sherawat of the industry? (Although those two have done films in which they've 'acted' one's buying it :)


  21. Yeah, in this case, not having seen the original might work in your favor by not giving expectations one way or the other. :-) I bet at least it'll be way less graphic. I hope you post about it next week if you have time!

    Mumaith played the heroine in this 2007 Telugu film I've never heard of (not that that means anything) called Bhookailas, and played a cop (!) in Evadaithe Nakenti, but those are the only two I can find. A couple more, like Munnabhai M.B.B.S., at least give her character a name, but I don't think they really qualify as acting per se.

  22. Okay, first of all, great great great review. I've yet to venture out of the Hindi arena, but at least I can live vicarioulsy through your blog!

    Second of all, I totally hear you on the netflix thing. We have up here and I currently have 4 movies sitting at my house that I am sloooowly making my way through. Geez, why can't I somehow manage to make movie watching my full time career?

  23. Wow, that's right, she was in MBBS! Totally missed making the connection, but thinking of "Seekh le!" :D Thanks for the other info as well, cop sounds arresting. ;)

  24. shell: I think that after about ten more Hindi films, you'll be inured enough to the WTF-factor to enjoy Telugu films. Someone at BollyWHAT say they make Hindi films look like margarine on white bread. I'm not sure I'd go that far but they are certainly way more attuned to their core audience, IM(not educated)O.

    tBF: It actually sounds like the set-up for a REALLY BAD movie. "I'm here to... put you in handcuffs." Gah. I'm scared to look it up.

  25. I have to agree with you ajnabi, the southern film industries make movies for the local audience, where as during the last decade bollywood has started catering more & more to overseas audience almost to the exclusion of local audience. And that's one reason why i admire ManiRatnam so much(he has never shot even a single song abroad!) It shows his confidence that movies that are based and shot India can do well.
    Oh btw, i just found out that one of Mumaith Khan's first films is Lucky(Salman, Sneha Ullal). She looks so young & I think she appeared only in this song:

  26. Anonymous: I admire Mani Ratnam greatly also... I didn't know that about him shooting exclusively in India but it makes me like him all the more. :-) And, ooooohhhh my goodness! Mumaith looks like such a baby in that clip you posted. Well, a very *pierced* baby, anyway.

  27. Mumait is pretty mesmerizing isn't she? I think it's because she finds a way to own whatever they throw at her. It's a pretty rare ability imo, esp when you're performing as a sex object surrounded by a few dozen leches.

    Mahesh Babu - I'm not a fan of the pretty boys but he's sweet.

  28. Amrita: I agree, there's a difference between exposing because you don't think you're worth better and flaunting what you've got because those around you aren't worthy of it. ;-) As far as Mahesh Babu goes, is he pretty? LOL I guess he's not my type lookswise but I do agree he's sweet--love the grin.

  29. Hey bro, love your work! I've added you on my blogroll Looking forward to being a regular member :)

  30. Hi Praz! Thanks for adding me. I'll be sure to drop in on your blog. :-)

  31. And I have a great weakness for Mahesh Babu and enjoyed POKIRI quiet a bit (and WANTED for that matter). Incidentially my fave Mahesh film is OKKADU!

  32. Ooh, I LOVE "Ippatikinka" - Mumait is HOT! I love her attitude and confidence. Plus the dance moves and the song itself rock! I did come up with a rather unfortunate joke based on one of her costumes - something about the 'Golden Globes'. I really want to see these movies - off to find them.

  33. Akshay: I've seen Okkadu and I adore Mahesh in it--his relationship with his sister is too sweet--but I couldn't care about his heroine at all. :-/

    Anonymous: Golden Globes! Ha! Hope you enjoy the movies.

  34. Great reviews. My favorite Mahi movies, along with Murari. Have you seen that one yet?

    Okkadu is nice too but I am kinda meh on Bhumika Chawla also.

  35. Shweta: I haven't seen Murari yet, in fact I hadn't heard of it till your comment. I'm excited to look it up. :-)


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