Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Indra" Review

It's time to put some fun back into this blog. Enough of this melancholic poetic mood! And what do I do when I need some fun? Tollywoooooooood!!!! I know, I know, you people keep telling me about good serious movies made in Tollywood, and I even got some of them, but let me enjoy this stage of fun romance with Tollywood a little bit longer before I get to discover its grumpy serious side. Like every relationship, mine with Tollywood started off bubbly and exuberant and is bound to become profound and analytical, which is great, but... we're not there just yet!

So... Indra!

This is one I saw a while ago and swore I would blog about it, but been too lazy to actually get to it. Well, laziness no more! Jai Chiranjeevi! Oh wait, that's another movie... well then, insert whatever you shout out when joyous about something in Telugu! I think this time my favourite interjection, rrrreeyyyy, doesn't quite cut it...

Back to Indra. It starts off with all kinds of killings between two factionist families, in fact so many I had to watch it twice to figure out who the heck managed to survive the massacre. Turns out I'm just slow, the answer was very easy: no one. Except for... Indrasena, the youngest son/grandson of one of the two factionist families.

Little boy needs some work on his thigh slapping skills, but he's badass enough...

Namak: I realized that we love factionists on this blog, all the movies we've seen involving factionist Reddies have been fantastic. Arya 2 anyone?
Dolce: I know! And especially the ones where the main character has his own theme song to accompany him whenever he walks in, slow motion shots, purposeful walk, wind blowing in his lunghi and mustache...
Namak: Whoa, let's leave it at the wind blowing in his mustache, shall we? I know we love Chiranjeevi, but still...
Dolce: Sheesh! You're always thinking of mischief, you filthy mind! I was just trying to subtly praise his earthy wardrobe and the lack of satin and sequins in it! So much for subtlety!...

I do appreciate that the Megastar finally managed in his 50s to have a consistently decent wardrobe for his films. It was starting to get really scary, as much as I love glitter everywhere.

Chiru in State Rowdi (1989)
Please never again, Chiru dear! Pretty please!

Did I get distracted again? Oh dear, blame it on the shiny pants! Well, we're definitely in the new century with the wardrobe in this one. He even has a bandana around his neck, Pokiri style. Vah!... And the week-old beard suits this new look perfectly!

But enough objectifying. The plot! The plot goes something like this: Shankar (who, predictably is the same person as the Indra we saw as a child, played by Chiranjeevi in adulthood) is trying to raise his niece and nephew in Varanasi, where he has a job as taxi driver... When really he should have a job as a professional singer, but that's a different matter. In this avatar he meets Pallavi (Sonali Bendre, no better in this Telugu film than I remembered her from Hindi films, but still very pretty) who for whatever reason decides she will marry him. It's the week-old beard, I tell you, it must be!

At any rate, Sonali's overacting is superb in this film, she normally annoys me, but this was perfect for the role!

Then the story gets a little complicated, with nephew getting into trouble for trying to elope with a Muslim girl. Luckily, they seem to be much more tolerant when it comes to different religions in Varanasi, and much more responsive to failed suicide attempts than say... people in 90s Hindi films, so with this gratuitous screencap and a pair of lovers reunited, we conclude the first third of the film:

Namak: First third??? Dude, how much longer does this film go on for?
Dolce: Chill, we haven't even found out that Shankar and Indra are the same person.
Namak: That's a lot of set-up time just to introduce two characters that are relevant to the story. I would have chopped up half of these scenes if they're not going to bring anything to the story.
Dolce: What, and give up on half an hour of week-old bearded Chiru? Never!!

Regardless of whether or not the editor of the film was as in love with this beard thing as Dolce, the fact remains that the plot takes a looong time to settle in.

But when it does... We get kidnaps, Prakash Raj in hysterics, and even a helicopter to follow a train - granted, not as entertaining as the one in Magadheera, but still:

Ah... I live for such randomness!... Don't get me wrong, I love my cheap truck full of rowdies, but when they spend the extra dollar/rupee for helicopters and trains, you know the good stuff is yet to come!

The film really picks up from this point on, with twist after twist after twist, and a badass second heroine to boot! Aarti Agarwal may not have her own theme song when she walks in, but she still manages an explosive entrance, the kind that is usually reserved for the heroes. Ok, maybe the hair flips are not exactly hero-like, but this lady is on fire, and a pleasant change from the drama-queen Sonali.

Badass hair-flipping Snehlata Reddy

Namak: The second heroine sure makes for a good hero: she even crosses her legs when she sits down!
Dolce: Yea, this movie seems to have two heroes and one heroine, rather than the other way around.
Namak: Which explains the length of the first half. The plot of the second half could have made for an entire movie just by itself, but then there would have been no romance. I suppose that's fair.

Lots of good stuff happening in the second half: a Rrrhey shouting match between Sunil and Veer Shiva Reddy, a great scene of trashtalking between Indra and Veer Shiva Reddy before their fight (I love those!), some fabulous scenery, great choreography by Lawrence Raghavendra and Chiru's own Ghanan Ghanan song which is beautiful (and impossible to find on youtube in its Telugu version, so I suppose the Hindi dubbed version will have to do).

But it's not just the shallow stuff that gets my appreciation: some interesting religious symbolism in this second half as well! I'm particularly fond of the scene where the priest encourages Indra to go and fight without worrying about the ritual he is interrupting, because Lord Rama was also forgiven when he did the same to fight a demon. Perhaps one day I'll have to look deeper into the idea that dharma excuses all trespasses, an idea used often in Southie films (via Bhagavad Geetha, I'm sure), which are much more religiously/mythologically inclined than Hindi films.

All shallowness aside, there are a lot of themes packed in this film: religious differences, social issues and power balance in villages, women's place and power in the family (more than just from the point of view of the doting father or the jealous brothers), and surely a few others I'm forgetting right now. Sure there's over the top everything, and Chiru even gives me the impression he's taking this role seriously, but then he does a little smile for a split second, and I know he's just having fun with it. As was I.

I love Indra. It's over the top at times and even outrageous, but nonethless it's such an entertaining watch! So I suppose it delights me in the same way that cheese strings do. So many ways to play with them, and yet a great snack with plenty of nutritional value. Sure, not the fanciest cheese in the world, but sometimes I like to stop being a snob and just have fun.


Temple said...

I really enjoyed Indra! I didn't think the first section was overly long, and I actually liked Sonali in this. The comedic scenes with her and Chiru were very well done and I thought she played the diva beautifully.I was a bit more perplexed by the whole 'I beat you half to death, so that makes us friends, please take my helicopter' thing but hey, it works. But don't get me started on the whole Comic Side Plot - that was just woeful.
I loved the setting - all the house interiors were great and the scenes along the ghats were beautifully shot. The songs were mostly lovely, although the costume designer did seem to hit the Bedazzler with a vengeance in one.
I lent this dvd to a friend. Her reaction on seeing shirtless Chiru emerge from the river at the start was 'eeeeeew' whereas mine was all 'phwoarrrrrr'. But by the end of the film she was enthusing about how his 2 different moustache styles reflected the characters' status. Yes. It can just creep up on you, the Chiru appreciation.
Finally - I would like to congratulate you on very restrained use of screencaps. I have yet to master that!

Dolce and Namak said...

What? Restrained? I thought I was going all out on caps! I even had to convince myself to leave a good one of Chiru all mad and badass behind for fear it was too much... :-/

LOLs ah yes, that Ali Khan dude was absolutely hilarious and I am certain that the sole purpose of his existence in this film was to provide the helicopter. Otherwise that entire side-plot could have easily been done without.

But hey, whatever, as long as the week-old beard stayed around for most of that time, right? :D (And like I must have said before, I do definitely prefer the "lower status" facial hair which extends well beyond this movie vs the good boy/ruler of the people clean cut.)

I do draw the line at shirtless though, I have to say, much as I love the dude, those sleeveless V-necks are as far as I'm willing to go. But that said, the sleeveless v-necks did look mighty fine. :P

And even with all the stupid comic side-plots (and with the added nuisance of not even being able to skip them since they do sort of tie into the main plot), Indra is one of my favourites. I don't know what it is (cough*week-old-beard*cough), but I even get into it through those ridiculous scenes at the end when the director went all nuts with the crowds of people idolizing Indra (somehow I'm sure that wasn't even hard to organize :P)...

Good times, good times! Thanks for stopping by, I was hoping you'd like this one! :)

dustdevil liz said...

Great review. It's a shame that "rich friend with a helicopter" hasn't become more of a stock character in Telugu films.

Oh man, I love Aarti Agarwal's character to pieces in this one. I loved when she was all badass and vengeful, it totally suits her. I loved it when she did the leg-crossing/showing her foot thing extremely well. Even though the film ended ambiguously, I have no doubt that Snehlata booted Pallavi out, and had Indra all to herself.

Temple said...

No no no to sleeveless v-necks. A perfectly respectable shirtless ritual immersion in a river is one thing but a shirtless v-neck? You go too far!
And I think that was more like an overnight stubble. I have great confidence in the beard growing ability of the Megastar and I think in a week he would have a beard that small birds could nest in.

Dolce and Namak said...

@ Liz: I know!!! She's so badass! I think I actually was manipulated into liking her by you. I'm pretty sure I said she was a "fast" one (for lack of the actual derogatory term I used initially :D) when we first saw the movie, but then when I watched it again, I really appreciated her go-getting, no bs attitude. We need more women like that in films, and yes, we definitely also need more helicopters :P

Ah, the ending... I actually think I like the idea of both of them staying as part of the picture :P

@ Temple: Haha! You're so my kind of crazy! It's funny you said that about the beard because when I was writing the review I had it as "day-old beard" all along, and then when I did one of the last close-up screencaps (one that didn't make it in, and I apologize for depriving you of it), I looked at it and it was really long so I went back and edited the post. I think it fluctuates by quite a bit in the film, therefore I hereby publicly declare my incompetence in finding a term that covers all lengths suitably. Maybe Mega-beard? :D

Anonymous said...

You take
Basha (people surround him does not know he is bigshot somewhere else until interval) +
Padayappa (powerful lady villan - both Rajani movies)
+ Narasimha Naidu ( Full blown faction rivalry- Balakrishna movie)

put it in a mixer +
add a song from Lagaan +
spice it up with Chiru and
mix it throughly...


You get Indra out of it .


Dolce and Namak said...

LOL I'll admit, Tolly, it's all about Chiranjeevi for me in this one. But having said that, I am more than willing to give other movies with badass heroines and factionists a shot too, so your reccos have been duly added to my wish list :)

And as always, thank you for being the voice of Southie knowledge around here! :)

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