I watched both of Allu Arjun’s films Arya and Arya 2 to get ready for DJ

Several commenters on my reaction to the trailer of Allu Arjun’s new film DJ told me I should watch Arya 2 and Arya.

I’m super excitecd for DJ now after seeing Arya (2004) and Arya 2 (2009) over the last 2 days.  Only Arya 2 is the MUST see movie, but you should watch the
opening dance number of Arya, to get a sense what a great dancer Allu Arjun is.  Arya was his breakout film, and the debut blockbuster for director Sukumar — the guy who directed 1: Nenokkadine!
Like most Indian “sequels”  Arya 1 and Arya 2 are not continuations of the same story thread, but variations on the same theme.
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Arya 1 has Arjun playing Arya, and he’s in a love triangle with Geeta and Ajay and the setting is college.  Ajay is your typical college tough stalker.  He decides Geeta will be his and threatens suicide to make her date him..  Ugh.  Arya loves Geeta but expects nothing in return.  He even helps to get Ajay and Geeta togehter, etc. when her father wants her to marry someone else.  Geeta is played by a former model, and she has only one basic expression the entire film — looking miserable.  She has the charisma of a wet dishrag.  Ajay is your basic evil boyfriend.   Arya (Allu Arjun) carries the entire movie by sheer force of his cheerfulness, charm and excellent dance numbers
Seriously, Allu Arjun is THE best Telugu dancer I have seen yet.  He dedicates Arya 2 to Michael Jackson, and he can MOVE.  This dancing ability leads to great action sequences, because he’s really acrobatic in his kicks and so on.
I thought I had to watch Arya 1 to get Arya 2, but it’s not necessary as Arya 2 is a stand alone film, and not a continuation of the first film’s story.  It’s amusing enough, and was a blockbuster hit at the time, but not nearly as enjoyable as the second film.  The heroine is just so passive you want to scream, and the plot fairly regressive — except for Arya‘s selfless love.
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It just made me appreciate Arya 2 all the more.  To see how Allu Arjun had grown as a dancer and actor and the director!  .  I’m really glad I waited until now to watch Arya 2, because it is just that much more funny to me now!
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Arya 2 is brilliant, because it is a total riff and send up of all the usual Telugu movie tropes.  And it makes fun of them all, while referencing Darr and even has a white dog at a wedding JUST like the one in HAHK!  But what the director does with the dog in the scene just had me in stitches.  The whole movie is very entertaining, if a tad long.
First off, we start with Arya and Ajay as fellow child orphans and there is something off about Arya.  He demands to be Ajay’s friend, and is a psycho possessive kind of friend.  The whole movie is taking that brotherly Dost bond to the far reaches of the extreme.
They fall in love with Geeta at the exact same moment — and she’s played by Kajal who I LOVE, so she’s a spitfire and not a dishrag.  They actually flip a coin for her, again riffing on sexist Telugu tropes over and over again, and mocking them.
There’s the forced wedding, the battling families, and on and on.  And throughout Arya is mostly completely off his rocker, and yet still mostly likeable!  It’s a great performance.  And so great of the director to make the main character with negative shadings — he has his blown up Darr sized picture wall of Geeta in his room and all.
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The whole set up is in a way similar to the first movie — Arya has a struggle between his love of Geeta and this time his possessive love of his friend Ajay.  He wants them to be happy, and works to make it possible for them to be together — while occasionally slapping his own face to remind himself, “Have to give Geeta back to Ajay, Have to give Geeta back to Ajay…)  Also, Ajay is not a cardboard villain type.  You go back and forth in and out of sympathy with his shades of gray third wheel character.  Kajal is sometimes a spoiled brat — and has a penchant for throwing down cell phones and breaking them, which I found to be a very funny running gag.
Don’t expect an emotional rollercoaster with crying and pathos.  Expect to laugh and laugh — and be delighted by the clever action scenes, and the allusions to so many other films.
That comedy uncle guy, Brahmanandam is in it as the HR manager of Ajay’s tech firm where they all work, and he has a toned down performance — and was really good!  I actually liked him in this one!
This Arya 2 number is just jaw dropping AMAZEBALLS!!   Allu Arjun’s dancing is off the chain!
I’d still say that Prabhas is my number one in Telugu films, and Mahesh second.  Alllu Arjun has the best dance skills by far, and real comedic chops, though.

Dookudu — Sometimes you just need a Mahesh Babu Telugu hero fix

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Yesterday, I decided I was totally in the mood for another Mahesh Babu movie.  Dookudu had been recommended to me as one of his best, and I tried to find a good copy online.  I ended up running to my local library which had a DVD copy.  (I love living in an area with a sizeable South Asian community!)  My library may not have many Telugu titles, but they have Dookudu!

This poster really shows you what Mahesh in Dookudu is all about.  Dookudu was translated as aggression, but also as daring.  And you can see Mahesh’s cop character is all about attitude.  Mahesh just oozes cool and bravado.  He has amazing presence on film, and looks great in all those slow motion action striding towards danger kind of scenes.

But after watching 1: Nenokkadine, I was hoping with another heroine, I’d get a better romantic subplot, and maybe a sweeter side to Mahesh, too.  And Dookudu gave that to me in spades.  Puppy dog eyed Mahesh!

He’s no Prabhas, who is still my favorite Telugu actor, but he does have that same ability to go from super cool action, to sweetness and comedy.

  

Dookudu is just a super entertaining mass entertainment movie.  The best Telugu films I find really excel at melding together great action, great villains, sweet romance, and comedy all rolled into one.  And while 1:  Nenokkadine felt like theses different parts of the film did not fit together well, here with Dookudu one flows into the other and the comedy gives you a respite from some pretty intense action and drama.

Dookudu at its heart is a revenge flick.  Prakash Raj plays the near saintly politician father of Mahesh (Ajay).  After our short intro to Prakash, we see him struck in a horrific car crash leaving young Ajay alone.  Cut to present day with adult Ajay, now a cop in Mumbai, with a cool introduction fight scene.

Ajay is on the hunt of Don Nayak played with supreme evilness by Sonu Sood.  He’s wearing an ascot for most of the movie, so you know he’s really evil!  One nice thing is that with Sonu Sood being 6’2″, Mahesh is also 6’1″ so their final battle truly feels like a fight of equals.

On a quest to find a weak link to Nayak’s empire, Ajay and his team follow Nayak’s brother to Istanbul.  There one of Ajay’s team tells him his fortune telling grandma says Ajay is about to meet the love of his life.  Ajay mistakes Prashanthi (the adorable Samantha Prabhu) for Nayak’s brother’s girlfriend, so from the beginning we have a hate-to-love romantic subplot.  Which is one of my favorite romantic tropes.

Ajay and his team capture Nayak’s brother which leads to the scene on the rooftops of Istanbul on the poster.  With Ajay’s foot on the gangster’s throat, gun pointed at his head while negotiating on the phone with Nayak.

After some great Turkey scenery (so pretty!) and adorable romantic scenes with Prashanthi where Ajay continually puts his foot in his mouth, Ajay returns to India.  He then gets shocking news.  His father is waking up from a 14 year coma!  His father did NOT die!  Now, here is the part where the film evidently liberally borrows from the German film Goodbye Lenin (which I have not seen).  The doctors tell Ajay that his father should be protected from any bad news or distress so that he doesn’t go back into a coma.

So, Ajay has to get back the family home.  This is where the comedy uncles come in.  Telugu films seem to have a requirement that this guy, Brahmanandam Padma Sri, appear in every single film to provide comic relief.  He’s even shoe-horned into Magadheera for absolutely no reason at all.  (Thank God Rajamouli didn’t have to include him in Baahubali!)

Usually, I find the comedy uncle bits of Telugu films very annoying and totally unfunny.  In films like Darling, you can see Prabhas struggling to not crack up at his antics, and I just don’t get it.

But here, he’s woven into the plot as the current owner of the family mansion, that he rents out as a film set.  Ajay convinces him that they want to film a reality show with hidden cameras.  It’s all an elaborate ruse so that Ajay’s father (Prakash) will think nothing has changed, and that Ajay has taken his MLA seat and followed in his father’s footsteps.  Ajay and his team even produce fake television news shows and newspapers, which is from Goodbye Lenin.  A Telugu is now the prime minister of India, etc.!  Mahesh is great in all these comedy pieces, posing as a film producer, and a participant in a reality show.  His engagement to Prashanthi becomes part of the plan to keep his father happy.

Can you guess who caused his father’s car accident all those years ago?  Yeah, like I said, it’s a revenge flick.  The ways that Ajay crafts revenge on each person who harmed his father are actually quite clever, while keeping his father in the dark that he is now a cop.

I give Dookudu a solid four stars out of five.  Great action, great romance, and great fun.   Mahesh is absolutely fantastic in Dookudu, and Samantha Prabhu is great, too.  They have wonderful chemistry together.  The songs are not exceptional, but pretty good.  This one where the lyrics say “My heart is sacrificed on the altar of love”.  It’s kind of crazy with the faux Aztek costumes or whatever they are, but so colorful!

Yep.  I think I’ve convinced myself writing this up, that I’m going to need to own this one on DVD.  Because Mahesh in many colors of wedding finery!

 

 

 

1: Nenokkadine – My first Mahesh Babu Telugu film

Prior to 1: Nenokkadine, my Telugu film watching has pretty much been limited to everything  starring Prabhas I could get my hands on (post Baahubali!) and anything by S. S. Rajamouli (Eega, Maghadeera, etc.) I could get my hands on.

1:  Nenokkadine (1:  Alone) opens with a young boy running through a forest being chased and shot at by gun-toting goons.  (I learned later the young boy is lead actor Mahesh Babu’s son.) He runs into a road and into the arms of the police but someone explains it away –  “Oh, he has mental problems.  He imagines his parents were killed and he’s being chased by the killers.”  This is the first of many psych outs in this thriller.

1:  Nenokkadine is my first Mahesh Babu film, and from the opening number, I could tell Mahesh is a STAR.   He plays Gautham, a rock star.

Mahesh has charisma.  He has screen presence.  Not the most notable dance talent, at least from what I saw in this movie, but he makes up for that by looking exceptionally cool in all the action scenes.  And this movie has a LOT of action scenes.

After the Who Are You rock number above, Gautham thinks he sees one of the killers from his dreams/visions in the audience and runs after him.  He believes he ends an elaborate motorcycle chase and fist fight by killing the man.  But then – PSYCH – Sameera ( Kriti Sanon, in her debut) has videoed the whole thing, and there wasn’t anyone else there at all!  There is no body because he was fighting air.

WTF?  From this point, you realize nothing you see can you rely on to be real.  Because our hero has mental issues.  Is he schizophrenic and seeing hallucinations?  My subtitles didn’t tell me, but he has missing brain cells or something on a scan, as a doctor tries to explain to the journalist Sameera in the hospital after the imaginary fight.  Why is the doctor telling all this to a journalist?  (I really don’t understand health privacy laws in India, I’m just saying.)

Gautham decides to go to Goa for some R&R, but who appears on his yacht but that dogged journalist, Sameera.  She then proceeds to Gaslight poor Gautham by approaching him multiple times in the same situations so that he isn’t sure what is real and what is not in their relationship.  I read later that this was Kriti’s first film, and I’m sorry, but it shows.  Yes, she’s pretty enough, but I was not buying the instant love between the characters.  And I really couldn’t get past the plot point that she was milking his mental illness for her own ends.  How did Gautham get past that so quickly?  Don’t question, it’s luuuurve.  I didn’t find her funny, and this was the comic relief segment of the movie.  I just didn’t think she had good chemistry with Manesh.  Manesh was also not really that charismatic in the rom com portion.  I reserve judgement if he can pull that off and will try some other movies of his, hopefully where he is paired with a better co-star actress with some sparkle to her.

(Loved Mahesh in the glasses look, though)

So, at this point, the plot becomes very convoluted.  We’re not sure if killers are after Gautham or after Sameera, or both.  Gautham is convinced Sameera is in danger, and unfortunately beats up a bunch of her friends who were planning a surprise birthday party.

The action moves to London, and there are some fantastic action set pieces.  One really intense scene has Gautham killing someone in a public bathroom because he thinks it’s a hallucination that he just wants to go away.  But it was real.  There are so many twists and turns, and because of Gautham’s condition, and his loss of childhood memories, we as the audience never know what to believe.  I’m not sure the logic of the whole movie really works out if you analyze it afterwards, but it’s an exhilarating roller coaster ride of a movie. I was watching most of it on a plane on my iPad with headphones on, and I probably amused my seatmate by gasping out loud at several points.  The ending scenes when Gautham regains his childhood memories were really emotionally touching.

I really liked the catchy soundtrack, too.  Just try to get the London Babu item song out of your head.  I wish I could find this with subs as the lyrics were pretty funny:

I watched this movie becauses it was recommended over and over on my Quora post about why I love Indian cinema as a Telugu movie to try.  Prabhas is still my first love Telugu star, but I will definitely be checking out more Mahesh Babu movies.  This guy just oozes cool, like a much taller Jason Statham kind of action guy.

Four stars out of 5.  Worth a rentMal!  (I rented it on Google Play which had English subs, of a fashion at least.)

Margaret loved this movie!  Check out her review on Don’t Call It Bollywood.  She can thank me for turning her on to Mahesh Babu.

Watch the trailer below with no subs, but it’s mainly action sequences anyway: