Telugu movies


When I posted my first trivia challenge some weeks ago, PV asked me to do one on desi movies. So here it is:

1. You know what, I think the really good Govinda movies of the nineties (the best of which is undoubtedly Coolie No. 1) deserve comparison with some of the frothiest entertainers of all time. Yeah, I really do think that. Then of course it all went to hell with films like Hadh Kar Di Aapne. One of the saddest things about it is, Hadh… borrows its basic premise from one of the best Fred & Ginger musicals of all time. Name the musical.

2. There are three things common to Alam Ara, Bhakta Prahlada and Kalidasa. The first is that they were all released in 1931. The second is that they were the first talkie films in their respective languages (Hindi, Telugu and Tamil). What is the third?

3. There’s a song attached here. Listen to it, it’s quite nice. Now, if I were to ask you for the name of the singer, you’d say Mohammed Rafi even before I finished the question. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a question at all, given that the singer’s name is given in the display when you launch the player from this link. But if I were to ask you for the name of the actor it’s picturized on, your answer would be…?

4. Back in the nineties, SRK starred in an Abbas-Mustan film called Badshah. It wasn’t too bad, as comic capers go. Not surprisingly, it was highly leveraged (fin-speak for “borrowed heavily”). The last 30 minutes, in particular, faithfully lifted plot points from two different Hollywood movies. Name both of them.

5. Every so often, some Indian filmmaker decides to adapt Shakespeare. Gulzar did it with Angoor, while David Dhawan was inspired by the same play to make Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan. Apparently, The Taming of the Shrew provided the inspiration for Sivaji Ganesan’s Arivaali — not sure about this, though. Vishal Bharadwaj, however, seems to prefer The Bard’s tragedies. When Omkara was released, much was made of the fact that it was an adaptation of Othello to an Indian mileu. However, I don’t remember too many people making mention of the fact that someone had already done Othello in Indian cinema. Your task now is to tell me what the earlier adaptation was.

Answers in a day or two.

Shiva is a late-80s action movie about one man taking on an organized crime syndicate. Considering how many such movies get made regularly even today, it’s amazing that it still holds up so well. Some scenes come across as tacky, and the lighter material is of the hit-or-miss variety, but the intensity of the movie is undimmed.

The iconic moment in Shiva is clearly the cycle-chain scene. Sometime soon after Shiva (Nagarjuna) has had his first fight with the college goon, he sees him and his henchmen outside the college waiting for him. He takes a long, cold look at them, then pulls out the chain from his bicycle and slowly wraps it around his fist. You know what happens next.

Heroes picking up assorted weaponry when they see some goons is not new. But I think what makes this scene work is how expressionless Nagarjuna’s face is when he’s pulling out that chain. I’ve spoken of how effective minimal expression can be in an earlier post. This is a good example of that principle.

Another sub-genre of film songs that I am very fond of is – for want of a better term – the relay race song. These are songs where one singer falters somewhere in the middle for whatever reason, and someone else picks up from where he/she left off and completes it. Here’s my top three in that category:

3. Beeti na bitaye raina: Sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder, from the movie Parichay. Jaya Bhaduri starts singing, falters, and Sanjeev Kumar steps in. Beautiful number – R. D. Burman at his very best.

2. Chinnanchiru vayathil: Sung by Janaki and K. J. Yesudas, in the movie Meendum Kokila. Sreedevi plays a young woman whom Kamal Hassan has come to “see” (a concept familiar to anyone who knows about the arranged marriage system). She is asked to sing a song, picks this one and promptly forgets the lyrics halfway through. Kamal steps in and finishes it. It’s a beautiful song, and beyond just the musical qualities it possesses, Janaki manages to bring out the girl’s shyness and embarassment, and her reaction to her husband-to-be singing the rest of the song, in a manner that very few other singers can even aspire to, let alone achieve. Okay, I admit, that wasn’t a great sentence. Aw, heck, you know what I mean.

And finally, the Numero Uno in this category:

1. Dorakuna: S. P. Balasubramaniam and Vani Jayaram, from the movie Shankarabharanam. This album was one of the big reasons why I wanted to learn Carnatic classical music when I was a kid, and this song remains my all-time favourite. J. V. Somayajulu plays a great singer who has since faded into obscurity – this is supposed to be his comeback concert. Predictably, he collapses due to ill health right in the middle, and his disciple takes over his mantle, both symbolically and literally. The moment when Vani Jayaram continues where SPB left off after a coughing fit still gives me goosebumps.

ps: Giri reminded me that a similar but quieter moment occurs earlier in the movie, when the disciple is singing Manasa Sanchara Re, falters midway, and his master continues.

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