Aagadu – The silly Telugu movie I needed with all the bad news lately

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Aagadu (He Will Not Halt) is a 2014 action comedy starring Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu as a super cop, the Indian superhero genre.  On Friday night I was glued to news of the military coup in Turkey, but I just couldn’t take all the bad news with that chaos on top of the massacre in Nice.  It was too much, and I needed something crazy to get my mind off it all.  Telugu films are great for that, and this one was particularly crazy.  Aagadu is not the greatest movie in the world, and it’s certainly not the best Mahesh Babu film, but it made me laugh.  Evidently it was not his most successful film, but it was an enjoyable watch.  The director, Srinu Vaitla, had previously made the hit film Dookudu with Mahesh Babu (which I really liked.)  And, I’ll admit it, I just like Mahesh Babu in a cop uniform.

Aagadu mixes the comedy with some more serious drama of an orphan boy adopted by a policeman, who takes the blame for a fatal accident for his adopted older brother.  He’s sent to reform school, but his only goal is to become a cop like his estranged adopted father.  Telugu action films I expect to be over the top in their violent action scenes, but the director and Mahesh seemed to delight in taking it even more over the top, for the amusement value.  Mahesh even references many of his past films, and there’s a running gag of him conning the crooks that they’re just like his long lost brother, who…..insert plot of Dookudu, Okkadu, etc.  I was glad I’d seen a number of Mahesh Babu films so I was in on the joke, but the subtitles also pointed out which movie he was referencing.

I recently watched the Malayalam film Neram, and the language play comedy in the film went right over my head.  This film veered towards slapstick comedy, but it made me laugh out loud.

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Sonu Sood is the mustache twirling villain.  I took a picture of this scene where he’s intimidating a local and explaining that Sonu’s power plant project cannot be stopped.  His examples of what ELSE couldn’t be stopped cracked me up!  “I didn’t like Abishek Bachan [sic] marrying Aishwarya Rai.  Could we stop it?”  LOL

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Tamannaah is the love interest.  Mahesh thinks she’s sweet and innocent when he sees her handing out sweets to children, but comes to find out she’s a strident sweets shop owner.  She’s about to marry an NRI just to be able to open new sweet shops in the US.  Mahesh cons her, and her family, too, in a very amusing way, to stop the engagement to the NRI.  Tamannaah catches on, but enjoys the manipulation of Mahesh — she sees she’s met her match in scheming.

The songs are completely over the top and crazy, too.  For no apparent reason this one is filled with what look like Thai dancers.  This song compares Tamannaah to Bhel Puri, the spicy street food – and all sorts of other foods.  I’m sure I’ve never, ever heard a girl compared to tomato soup.

Eat me like a Dhoodh peda (Milk sweet)
There is Sweetness in your words, cuteness in your deeds, Lassi (Butter milk) in your smile, there is coconut water too in it!

(Thanks to Bollymeaning lyric translation.)

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Aagudu was welcome escapist fair.  Mahesh seems to delight in mocking his past film personas, but at the same time, acts super cool in the action sequences.  After a huge one at an oil refinery (big explosions!  crooks covered with oil!) he strides off and says  — “My bladder is full with useless discussions with fools.  Where’s the toilet?”  And interval.  Bwhahaha!

The romantic plot is not the main thrust of the film.  It’s mostly Mahesh the cop, tricking and catching each crook in turn, as he works his way up the criminal empire to Sonu Sood at the top.  And of course avenging his adopted family, and making his adoptive father proud.   Sonu Sood is reliably great as the villain, even if most of his dialogue is obviously dubbed.  Nasser plays a bumbling corrupt cop, none too pleased to have Mahesh as his new boss.  Shruti Hasaan has a nice item number, too.

Aagudu is not my favorite Mahesh Babu film, but it was an enjoyable timepass.  I’m sure there were tons more Telugu movie line references I missed, but it was still funny to this non-Desi.  It took me away from the darkness around us for a few hours.  I’m glad I own it, in case I need something silly again.

Three stars out of five.  Aagudu is available for rental on Amazon video or iTunes, but it’s free with subtitles on Youtube!  (Love that about Telugu films!)

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!