Sunday, August 28, 2011

Megabirthday Celebration

The girls at Cinema Chaat know all too well that I am always game for Chiranjeevi chaat, so when they proposed this week long celebration of Chiru's work, I'm certain it came as no surprise that I was all in. However, despite my initial enthusiasm, I was stuck on which film to actually talk about. I debated the value of reviewing a lovely film that is nowhere to be found with subtitles over a silly one of the "so bad it's good" variety. Then I debated whether or not I wanted to turn this post into a picspam/ avatar spam and shower the world in Chiru imagery. Then I thought maybe some of his songs would do nicely since there are so many worth talking about. And then I decided: oh screw it, I'll just do it all!

Because the fact is what I love most about Chiranjeevi is that he can go effortlessly from a serious movie with a social message like Aradhana to an over the top action film where the dancers shine like chandeliers and the rowdies fly like frisbees a la State Rowdi. And through all that still manage to hold on to the two immovable constants that are his charm and his moustache.

Having just finished watching Subha Lekha for this post, I have to admit there are very few actors that I would watch an unsubtitled movie for. Chiru is one of these few because he never lets me get bored. Between his facial expressions and his voice modulations, the phyiscality of his acting always manages to keep me interested. It's rich enough to keep my eyes glued to the screen, and yet real enough to not slip into the well-treaded territory of overacting. It's remarkable, though certainly not surprising, how well he gets into the skin of his character in Subhalekha, a cheerful, always dutiful waiter at a spiffy hotel, with all the mannerisms of a well-groomed 5-star resort employee. He walks it, he stands it, he talks it, he breathes it in every scene. To then give us a glimpse every once in a while of the real human being lying under the coats of diplomacy whenever his buttons get pushed. One of the most nuanced performances I have seen from Chiru so far, definitely a favourite!

Subhalekha in particular has one more big argument in its favour: how many films do we see where people communicate in song? Murthi, Chiranjeevi's character is in fact so good at it that he can even sing his way out of a lecture from his boss.

Lakshmi, the younger sister of Chiru's love interest is also a fabulous singer who accompanies her trills with dance moves as well.

Sujatha (played by Sumalatha), Chiru's love interest, admonishes him with hums when he doesn't want to read proper literature. This movie made me think: how peaceful would the world be if everyone communicated through dance and song. If you had to resolve arguments in song, would anyone even argue anymore?

Murthi singing and dancing his way out of a sticky moment
Of course there are other reasons to watch Subhalekha, a film that condemns the dowry system in India and the pressure it puts on families that want the best for their daughters and yet cannot afford to marry them into good families because the "cost" of a good groom far surpasses their financial capabilities.

On top of excellent performances from everyone on the screen, Subhalekha also benefits tremendously from the scarcity of "comic relief" side-plots which is a huge plus in my book. Chiru dancing his way out of being chased by a dog provides more than enough smiles and giggles for me than any of the funny guys that Telugu movies love so much.

Namak: I am tempted to say that every Chiranjeevi movie should be like Aradhana and Subhalekha: a moving, restrained performance from the lead pair and a serious topic dealt with maturely.
Dolce: But then... but then there is something to be said for over the top fights, for shiny dance costumes, for colourful lunghis  and for badassness that only Chiranjeevi the action hero can provide.

Namak: Granted. But these elements can easily be incorporated into no-nonsense films too. Point in case: the following are excerpts from one.

Dolce: That particular song was a masterstroke in Subhalekha. We both know that it's an exceptional feat to indulge in such great fun in a class movie without ruining it completely.

And this is why we need Chiru to also do fun films like Andarivaadu, where he plays a drunken mass-hero father and a sober class-hero son while romancing, dancing and fighting rowdies. And chasing cute rats. And being absolutely, hilariously ridiculous.

Namak: Only problem is, these hardcore masala movies tend to also indulge in tacky stuff like this song:
Dolce: Ahem... you know my opinion on that: if you don't like it, skip it. Item numbers are not the reason why you are watching the movie in the first place.
Namak: Weeeeell, sometimes they are, as a matter of fact. But no, not in this one. Though in all fairness, the other songs, choreographed by none other than Lawrence, are all exquisite.

All this aside, what really makes the movie Andarivadu is the relationship between the son and the father. Sure there's Tabu as a beautiful bride, and Prakash Dad as a villain, and good dancing, and fun fights, and really bad stunts from Rimi Sen, and let's not forget the cute rat.

Meet Ganesh, the most delightful rat that ever haunted a house!

But for all the overly dramatic music and all the over the top dialogues, there are some great moments between the father and the son that hold the entire film together. I thoroughly appreciated the role reversal with Siddhartha (the son) scolding Govindu (the father) about his drinking and fighting. Also loved the idea of the son forcing his father into marriage. It's just such a pleasant change every once in a while to see the elders be irresponsible and rash and loud, while the youngsters are calm, focused and wise. Not to mention how lovely it is to see Chiranjeevi in a double role where he owns both sides of screen with equal skill.

Unfortunately, there's also: the plague! For all the comedy dudes in this film, this screencap says it all. Yes, you too Brahmi!

The truth is, there will always be something that annoys me in Chiru's movies, be it the comedy side-plots in the newer films, or the quality of the DVD and the lack of subtitles in the older ones. And I do worry about how drinking problems are dealt with in Indian films. But if I'm celebrating something this week it's the fact that he always puts a smile on my face the old boy! And that certainly deserves a few moustache twirls! Or at the very least a popped collar.


mm said...

Ah, you finally made your birthday post! And thank goodness you decided to include a review of Subhalekha.

Re Andarivadu, I don't know if you looked up the meaning of that song with Tabu (or if there were subtitles in your dvd), but it is an ode to the sexiness of Chiru's moustache by Tabu. :)

Anonymous said...

Love your work both Dolce and Namak :) I also admire Chiru not just for his ability to do such diverse roles, but also for the fact that he did them. He could have just stuck with what sold but he decided to challenge himself a bit. I do love his more serious classy dramas, but for me the sheer exuberance of a pleather suited silver booted dance extravaganza is irresistible. Thanks for the avatar collection - that made me very happy as I can have a teeny dancing Chiru at my beck and call :) Temple

Cindy said...

I knew of a family where all disagreements had to be expressed through song. The kids were allowed to argue as much as they wanted so long as they did it operatically. They usually couldn't keep it up for long before they started laughing.

I've only seen a few Chiru movies and haven't been sold on him yet, but maybe I'll have to give these a try.

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey mm! Long time! (My fault, I know :)). Yes, I debated for a long time if there was any benefit in reviewing a film that people are not likely to see unless they understand Telugu :( But I just loved so many things about it that I had to include it :)

And yes, I did have subs on my DVD and was THRILLED about the lyrics to the Tabu song! What more can I girl want that an ode to Chiru's fantastic moustache? :D Love that song!! Even more than the ode to the chicken from the same film ;)

Hey Temple, as always your tolerance for shiny and insane is much higher than mine. :) I do enjoy it but in moderation, though I certainly agree that every once in a while, you just *need* a bit of sparkle and pleather :) Glad you enjoyed the post, you guys are my role model when it comes to reviewing Chiru films, so if you liked it, all is well! :)

Hi Cindy, welcome to the blog! That is a brilliant family!! I can't believe that someone in real life would do that, but it's awesome to hear about it! :)
These two are great ones, but a word of caution, Subhalekha doesn't come with English subs, so there is lots of potential to get bored during the more wordy parts :( I so wish they had subbed it as I'm sure the dialogues are fabulous, but... such is life.

For more Chiru reccos, do check out the rest of the Megabirthday posts, you'll get a ton of information.

dustdevil liz said...

As much as I love shiny, mass-y Chiru, I'm a complete sucker for emo, class-y Chiru,so Subalekha sounds right up my alley.

I may have to a comparison of Chiranjeevi father-son roles with Andarivaadu and Sneham Kosam, and whatever else is out there. Govindu is my favorite.

Anonymous said...

nice and nice. I guess it is time to watch Sagara Sangam (kamal's movie) by the same Subhalekha director?

Also please do watch Abhilasha of Chiranjeevi as it is also not a regular masala.


Dolce and Namak said...

Ah Liz, yes, if you're partial towards this type of Chiru films, Subhalekha is definitely for you!
And I do of course agree on Govindu, how does one *not* love him should be the question! :)

Hey Tolly!!! Aha! I do have Sagara Sangam! I will have to watch that soon. Well, as soon as TIFF is over and I return to my usual film watching schedule anyway :D It'll be a fun rollercoaster of everything-but-Tollywood films in the next couple of weeks during the festival :)

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