Monday, August 23, 2010

"Stalin" - Not the Comrade, the Telugu Movie

I got to Chiranjeevi backwards it seems. First I fell (hard!) for the nephew, Allu Arjun, who is such an immense joy to watch whether he’s dancing, acting, emoting, making faces or just… doing nothing (though that hardly ever happens). Then I started watching the son, Ram Charan Teja, who I think has a lot to work on in the acting department, but his prettiness and excellent dancing skills will keep me watching his movies. Then came another hopeless crush: the youngest nephew, Allu Sirish: smart, funny and adorable – seriously, what is there not to love about him? Last but not least, The Man himself with some badass guest appearances in Magadheera and Style. And finally, my first full feature: Stalin. W00t! The good thing about this twisted road is that I already knew I would love the guy, it was only a matter of getting proof for it.

And sure enough I did. I get it, I really do get it now why he’s The Man. Actually, wait… no, I don’t! Because there is no rational reason for it since he’s no looker at all, at first glance: pudgy face, big dog eyes, an annoyingly shapeless moustache and hairstyle, body rounded on all possible corners, no, definitely not my idea of a charmer.

On top of that, since this is a newer movie, his dancing ain’t all that either. Coming from the peak of Allu Arjun fandom, I’m not easily impressed anymore, even though I know I’m being unfair to the man: he is in his 50s after all (and I am more than willing to have my mind blown and eat my words on this one).

Even so, I have to admit there is definitely something something there…

If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say the most notable feature that distinguishes The Man from the other Tolly and Kolly Boys is that when he’s being badass, it’s no joke. He’s not hot and badass like Prabhas, or cool and badass like Mahesh, or cute and badass like Arjun, or even virile and badass like Vikram. No, he’s just seriously Badass. So when he comes into the frame punching someone’s dentures all the way to Teeth-heaven, you buy it. No choice, no distractions. And did I mention he wears the coolest footwear too?

Back to the movie: this is Tollywood, so the plot is not much different than the usual fare, though better than most: superhero of the hood, righter of wrongs and chief of the swoon-inducing brigade, we are introduced to Stalin (who was named thus because his father was a hardcore fan of communism, which, coming from an ex-communist country myself I found absolutely hysterical) and his hardcore mother through the innocent eyes of a village girl who comes looking for a job. What job, we never get to find out, but we get distracted soon enough by the heroine, played by Trisha who does an excellent “job” dancing in fantasy songs with Chiru every 20 minutes or so, which is definitely something that I would pay her for.

Namak: Isn’t it a bit creepy that he’s in his 50s and Trisha is a 20 something?
Dolce: You know, I know I should find it creepy, but for some reason, I don’t. He seems sort of ageless to me. Doesn’t look young, for sure, but he doesn’t look that old either…
Namak: Ahem… You really scare me sometimes…

The rest of the plot revolves around some personal vendetta lead by the chief bad guy played by Prakash Raj with a ridiculously delightful wig, as well as a remake of sorts of the movie Pay It Forward (same concept anyway, though I'm sure director Murugadoss will deny it).

Prakash Raj in one of his funniest (unintentionally) avatars

Stalin is hardly a rowdy like most heroes these days. In fact he has made a mission out of helping people who cannot help themselves, so he writes exams for two girls: one is blind, one lost both her arms in an accident. And while this situation could easily get either filmi or grotesque, it really doesn’t. Probably because the two girls do an excellent job in coming across as real people. The scene where one of them has to go in the street and beg passers-by to help her write her exam (because Stalin was writing the other girl’s at the same time) is extremely emotional. As is the scene showing the consequences of people’s failure to help her.

And how easy would it be to fall into the trap of overindulging in melodrama after these two moments? Well, again, to my great surprise they don’t. The highlight of the movie for me is the subsequent scene where a group of crippled boys are racing in a school event and one of them falls down during the race. I refuse to ruin the scene for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, but it is very touching.

Dolce: I don’t see how you would fail to be touched by such a moment. In any movie.
Namak: Actually, I usually have a very hard time reacting the way I am supposed to when a movie shows handicapped people. For example in Taare Zameen Par during the title song I was cringing the whole time. I knew I was expected to become emotional, but something felt fake about it, like those children were put on display to sensitise me, they were used to manipulate my emotions. And that doesn’t fare well with me.
Dolce: Blasphemy! You did not just say that about an Aamir Khan movie!
Namak: I did, as a matter of fact. I love TZP just as much as the next person, but that song had no business being there except, as I said, to manipulate the viewer. And if you’re going to manipulate me, you have to be a bit more subtle than that.
Dolce: I’m not sure I want to know you anymore, that’s a heartless thing to say.
Namak: Well, too bad, you’re stuck with me at least until the end of this post.

Back to our scene from Stalin, what sets it apart from other similar situations is that we are not shown this race to feel sorry for these kids. Quite the contrary, we are expected to cheer for them and learn from them, and that I can empathise with.

On the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, my movie experience was enhanced (and to a certain extent ruined at the same time) by another scene towards the end where a crowd of some thousands of people is shouting the hero’s name. Had his name been another, it would have been a very touching scene. But because the writers decided to baptize him after the best known Communist leader, the above situation felt so quintessentially wrong that it made me laugh hysterically, while also transporting me 20 something years back to my childhood. So you could say I enjoyed this scene… for all the wrong reasons.

And speaking of scenes I enjoyed, Chiru's entrance is as always, worth a mention. If there's one thing Tollywood kicks everyone else's butt in, it's OTT character intros. Pure adrenaline rush! I have yet to find one that doesn't get me to cheer on my couch!

Funnily enough I realize I have managed to name less than a third of the reasons that make this movie well worth a watch, but for the sake of concision, I'll just end this saying: take my word for it!

On the whole, Stalin was like a platter of assorted gourmet cheeses: a lot of different tastes, that don't necessarily all belong together, but each one delights you in its own way. You'll definitely remember quite a few of them at the end of the tasting.


Nicki said...

Wonderful review, especially since Chiru's birthday was just the other day :)

I never seen Stalin but from what you have written...I must!

You are so right about falling in love with the whole family! They are just too adorable! I went backwards too so no worries!

It's no secret that my Telugu crush was and still and the man himself, Allu Arjun :D

I laugh at Dolce and Namak's thoughts all the time. Seriously, when I first read your blog, I really thought it was ran by two different people :D

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey Nicki!

I know!! I wrote the review on the plane and then when I got home to an Internet connection I found out about Chiru's birthday. This post was meant to be :D

I guess the only one left from the family is Pawan Kalyan, I will probably give him a shot too sometime, might as well, but unlike Chiru, I'm not so convinced I will love him right away... We'll see...

And I'm very happy to hear that my schizophrenia is working for you in the form of Dolce and Namak :D They're both quite noisy and opinionated, as anyone who's seen a movie with me can attest. :P

Anonymous said...

You must give a try "Gang Leader" or "Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari" . They are much better than this for your liking i guess.

Dolce and Namak said...

Sweet! Thank you! I was actually saying the other day that I don't even know where to start (or continue for that matter: I'm looking for my fourth Chiru movie right now), so people's recommendations are very welcome! :) I'm especially looking for oldies, I want to see him at his finest :D Thanks again!

Temple said...

I do second that recommendation for JVAS - it is beautiful (and we managed to sneak in a birthday review too- Yay!). Also love Yamudiki Mogudu which I found easily enough with subs. I see on BWhat you've alreay discovered State Rowdy :) Have been told Kodama Simham is v good. Great review, thanks!

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for recommendations on Chiranjeevi's movies, here are a few.

For great acting and good story: Subhalekha (director, K. Viswanath), Rudra Veena (winner of many awards). Both I believe were flops at the box office.

For big box office hits: too many to list, really, but I second the recommendation for Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari and Ammayiki Mogudu Atthaku Yamudu, as well as Bavagaru Bagunnara?. I will also suggest Chattaniki Kallu Levu, which was my first film of his.

For comedy: Chantabbayi

For action/drama: Tagore

Sorry, I haven't seen anything else, as I generally don't like action movies.

Anonymous said...

And one more good flop movie :

Aaradhana :

With Chiru and Suhasini

watch this video , it has a all time great song:

Anonymous said...

Some simple best dances moves from Chiru,in good old days with his equally talented dance partner Radha whom I like immensely

Umm .... Good Old Sweet Days
(Watch Whole video)

Dolce and Namak said...

@ Temple: Thank you for the visit, fellow Bollywhater :) And do tell me where this JVAS review is to be found, it's always nice to read a non-spoilery review before watching, not that I need to build up any more excitement since it's such a popular recommendation :D

@ Anonymous: Hey, that's a wonderful coincidence, I just bought Aarandhana, good to know my money was well spent :)

And thank you all for the other recommendations! I do have Tagore, but after reading the description for it (on top of discovering that it has no subtitles) I decided to leave that one to the bottom of the pile. Not a big fan of the Pokiri style of solving goonda issues. But will look into the other ones, especially the great acting + good story + flop combinations because that is usually a winner with me! :)

MinaiMinai said...

Oh I was so excited to read your review on this one! I've been avoiding these communist-named movies like the plague (there's also one called Hitler). I found the threads on BollyWhat about differences in perception of communist leaders in India versus the West helpful in understanding why there was seeming admiration for these folks- I think one was called "Hitler- Rani's Idol" or something- it sort of turned into a scary thread-of-deadlock but it had some good stuff in it regarding differences in cultural perceptions of history. Okay, enough on that!!

So fun to read your thoughts on "The Man." I'm about where you are- I haven't watched Chiru in much and don't know what his "good" movies are. But I agree with you on his charisma and kickassness. I love that intro video you posted- those are some heavy duty soles on those boots! haha

I'm happy to read these Chiru rec's here- I've been wanting to watch JVAS for its songs. Rudraveena seems to have lots of carnatic singing and a little of shobana dancing, but the print quality isn't great.

Alrighty, peace out! ~Minai

Dolce and Namak said...

LOL Minai, I bought Hitler at the same time as Stalin, unlike you, I was dying to see them and figure out what the deal is with these titles. :D In Stalin they had the common sense to explain it, and the explanation makes sense, so I was very grateful for that.
I know what you're saying about cultural differences and sensitivities regarding names, but I'm pretty open to anything that has a reasonable explanation (as is the case of this particular movie). I know a lot of people aren't, and I respect that. To each their own.

Haha! Glad you liked the intro, isn't it so fun? But the funnier part is, since I came to this backwards, guess what it reminded me of when I saw it? AA crashing the wedding in "Bunny"! ROFL

One thing is for sure, the man has charm and talent by the truckload! Sort of makes me feel bad for Charan. I didn't think much of his acting before, but now I will probably never even give him a fair chance anymore...

Temple said...

I am going to confess I do think Charan can act, but it is early days for his career. And that family has some seriously good genes going on :) Here is the link to our review (there are 2 of us which saved me the effort of unearthing any of my other personalities).

Dolce and Namak said...

Thank you, Temple, I got happily lost on your blog last night. :) Funny how your two separate personalities get along so much better than my two halves :D

Very nice review of JVAS but the news that it's only available on VCD depressed me a bit. :( Oh well, if that's the only way, then that's the only way...

I do agree about the genes in that family (the dancing gene in particular), and Charan looks so much like young Chiru it's scary! I'm always amazed when I think that Bunny doesn't actually share any genes with his famous uncle...

red42 said...

I third the recommendation for JVAS - a great film even with no subtitles. And yes, I can see where Charan and Bunny get it from - Chiru is seriously attractive! Temple and I tend to watch the same movies, so have the same recommendations - but Ammayiki Mogudu Atthaku Yamudu has been recommended to me many times. Although I haven't managed to get past the song menu it does look to be worth a watch. Thanks for stopping by to visit our blog (cinemachaat) I can vouch for the fact that we do indeed get on very well!

Dolce and Namak said...

Heyya red! I just put in an order for a bunch more movies (coincidentally I also got the other one you recommended because it had subs... or at least said it did), this hobby is going to ruin me, I'm almost grateful now that some of these movies are not available :P If Vedam comes out next week, I will have to just shoot myself (and curse all of you people :P) LOL

And speaking of cursing, whoever gave me that link for "Are Emaindi", curses, it's been playing in my head day and night for two days! I'm so addicted to it! :) Such a good song!

Anonymous said...

Pavan kalyan people like for different reasons.One among them is he is a through gentleman. He failed in college. He is aware of the fact that he would have become nothing without being brother of Chiru. But he wanted to prove himself which he did quite successfully. He is one through marshal arts professional. Watch the below song in the film "Tammudu" to see some of his real feats.

Some of his best movies include Kushi,Jalsa, Balu

Dolce and Namak said...

Oh cool! "Jalsa" was the one I was going to try, so good to know it's one of his best. :) (Also good to have the other recommendations up my sleeve just in case I like him ;)). Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Pavan's first blockbuster is 'ToliPrema' which is a no nonsense simple love story.

Then he had continuous box office hits with Tammudu and Badri.
Then came Kushi which was a splendid hit. But From 'Johny' (which he himself directed) to up until 'Jalsa' he had continuous flops. Johny was a miserable flop but critics liked it. 'Jalsa' put him back to almost where he was.

Pavan is an extremely introvert and sensitive guy. He likes Japanese director Akira Kurosova , so he named his son after him.

Pavan choreographed stunts on his own in many movies.

Watch this epic (almost at that time :-))scene from Kushi

His original name is Kalyan but pavan was the title given to him by his marshal arts guru. (pavan means 'air' which connotate 'power' as per hindu myhtology)

Anonymous said...

btw he choreograhs songs also

One of Pavan's choreographed song

One of the pavan's Choreographed fight.

Dolce and Namak said...

Hi anonymous Pawan Kalyan fan :D (assuming it's the same anonymous that wrote the last two notes). That scene from Khushi was absolutely hysterical! I must get this movie! Too funny! And it's funny that it goes on and on... and ON! Three entire minutes of drooling! Priceless! ROFL! :)

And was the Amisha Patel in the second video? Whoa, that was so random!...

Dolce and Namak said...

Just a quick note to thank the anonymous poster who gave me the link to Are Emaindi, which prompted me to bump Aradhana to the top of my pile. I LOVED it!!! Loved everything about this movie, Chiru is so adorable, it's not even fair! So thank you!
As I work my way through the rest of the recommendations, I'll post my favouries here until I have enough stuff for a proper post :)

Anonymous said...

yw. Great to know that you loved Aaaradhana.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how much you like traditional Indian classical singing and dancing movies.if you like such kind then you can give a try to "Rudraveena"

with chiru and shobana

Dolce and Namak said...

:( NOOOO!!! Bhavani doesn't have this one. But Chiru and Shobana are totally something I would love to watch... I'll have to keep an eye out on their website when they restock. That video BTW is awesome, and one more reason to want to own this movie NOW... Ufff...

Anonymous said...

this is chiru's one of the last average grosser by chiru's standards n a huge hit by standards of other heroes.he became fat in his last some 80's n 90's movies of him like gang leader,yamudiki mogudu,kodama simham.coming to newer movies tagore,indra,shankar dada mbbs, are good to watch.

Dolce and Namak said...

Hehe, thank you! I didn't blog about Stalin because it was his greatest movie, I blogged about it because it was the first one I saw. I have since enriched my DVD collection with quite a few of the movies recommended up here, so now comes the hard part: finding the time to watch them :D

Post a Comment