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|
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.