Sorry for the silence. I've been too busy stressing out, the kind of stressing where you're so busy stressing you fail to get anything done; both the things you should do and the things you'd like to instead of doing what you have to, like watching Southie films on a Saturday evening, sipping cocoa. Luckily, I managed to do just that this past weekend. And thus, a review.
Indra is a great example of a well-done Southie masala of the Telugu variety from 2002. I'm of course no expert and should not be counted as one, but based on the 30 odd Southie films I've seen, I'd say this one has all the post-millennial Southie masala trademark features.
First things first. You have to understand that if you think hero characters in Bollywood are glorified, you haven't seen anything close to the glorification Southie heroes recieve. The star - I'm sorry, Megastar - of this flick is of course Chiranjeevi, a Telugu powerhouse of an actor, and the character he plays is as close to a god as one man may get. He is so virtuous, pious, devoted to his family, forgiving, kind, cool, manly, down-to-earth and badass words cannot describe it. He is a god among men, and other characters are sure to point this out, but our blessed hero, being so noble and humble as he is, will deny this 'til the end of the world.
And I know you Bollywood fans are thinking, "What, that guy? Hairy, pudgy, old? I could barely buy Hrithik as a badass in D:2!" but for the millions of fans who adore him, all these Bollywood pretty boys Chiru could have for breakfast, but he doesn't. That's how good of a man he is.
Well, I'll just say it now. Sure, a lot of these Southie guys aren't exactly hunks. But what a great many of them achieve is stunning acting and charisma that wins over even the most shallow of viewers.
With the hero, there must be a heroine; a yin to his yang.
For Indra, it is the gorgeous Sonali Bendre. She falls in love with Chiru's character because God made them destined for each other and she works her way into his life and sexually harrasses him in a series of hilarious scenes that would be downright creepy if it was the other way around. Bless double standards! This is not always how love tracks work in Southie masalas. Often, there's bickering. Sometimes the hero yells at the heroine and that's why she falls in love with him. Yeah, go figure. But quite often, there's bickering.
Prakash Raj aka The Awesomest Southie Daddy Role Actor Ever plays Sonali's papa, who speaks in Hindi sometimes because they're from Hyderabad and of course vehemently disagrees with her intentions with Chiru, but will eventually come to know what an amazing soul he is.
Other notable sidecharacter is Chiru's niece, who he looks after, and is most devoted to, even though he totally messes up her chance to shine in a singing competition in one scene, but really it actually only helped her, because he's just that amazing! He kicks a puppy and it turns into a rainbow!
And of course: The Comedian. Usually unpleasant-looking (read: ugly), sometimes actually funny! In Telugu films the only guy I've seen has been this dude, called Sunil, who usually makes sardonic comments about the actions of other characters, in this film mainly the villains. Occasionally comedy tracks are completely separate from the actual storyline, or very loosely tied, like say the comedian's character is a friend of the hero or an uncle of the heroine, and they have a funny profession and they just go around doing their schtick in-between scenes of romance, plot and ass-whooping.
Oh yeah, the plot .. and ass-whooping! As you can imagine, if people as amazing as the hero exist, there has to be an anti-thesis to that amazingness. And that's where the villain comes in, and the plot, where you know, the hero tried to play nice but the villain wouldn't have it and thus, whoopass. Or the hero asked "please, stop being corrupt and evil" but the villain wouldn't, and therefore, whoopass. Or the hero was like, "to hell with this, I know you're evil - here's some whoopass".
I don't normally screencap whoopass (kickass, action, dishoom-dishoom, fight scenes, however you like to phrase it) because there's not much to screencap. It's martial arts influenced stuff, usually 100 guys with weapons (sticks, pipes, hands-on stuff, usually no guns) coming at the hero who is bare-knuckled but ready to take it. But it should be noted they're a large part of the masala mix. As is family drama, engagements that fail to realize themselves into marriages (causing trauma to all parties involved, except if one of the parties is evil, which it usually is), revenge. All that good stuff.
Let's talk about Must Have Songs.
1. The Colour Song - This is some creative stuff, you guys. You take your stars, put them in clothes of the same colour scheme, put some extras in clothes of the same colour scheme, only a million times uglier, make them dance in surroundings of the similar colour scheme and then .. wait for it ... you do the same thing, but with a different colour!
"No way!" you might say. "There's no way that can ever work!"
I know, it's amazing. But it works. Every.damn.time.
And so we have blue/violet...
White/white.. (It's upside-down world where nothing goes with white except white! Shimmery white! And Chiranjeevi is enjoying Sonali's rearview way too much.)
And red/fuschia! That's it, we've made a song picturization, you guys! And they said it couldn't be done without black. We sure showed them.
2. Switzerland Song - "Too 90's!" you may cry out, but shush, ye o' little faith. Switzerland is always hip and pop and exotic. I can't get enough! And neither can those suburban Swiss who drive to work one Tuesday only to find two Indian stars pulling corny dance moves in front of their house. I can't imagine a better feeling.
Even parking halls make for great locations. As long as you have rhythm in your blood, you're good to go. And Chiranjeevi definitely does (because in all seriousness, the man can dance).
But whatever you do, please don't include embarrassingly pale white ladies into your dance routines. It's cringeworthy. Every.damn.time.
3. Earthy Song-and-Dance in the Middle of an Ordinary Street, to Demonstrate How Ordinary and Down-to-Earth and Common Man the Hero is, Despite Being Amazing and Godlike in Nearly Every Aspect of His Being - ..well, that about sums it up.
4. Switzerland: The Re-Imagining Song - You paid for the plane tickets and shooting permits to come over there, so why not stay to film another song? This time, spice it up a little. Secondary heroine, Chiranjeevi in mind-bogglingly awful Hawai'i shirts, field of flowers instead of urban locales. Fantastic! Song wrapped, back to the plane and Andra Pradesh!
5. Obligatory Expensive Set Which We Paid For So We Might As Well Use It Song - I absolutely adore these when it comes to Southie films but I always feel a bit sad.. Couldn't they re-use these sets somehow? Do they all get demolished after the shiny-suited background dancers and the crew go home?
There's a bunch of things I left out, like exploration of hero's background (hero as a kid scenes), Obligatory Raunchy Song Lyrics, when the hero dies but not really, when the villain's surprise twin appears, etc etc.
As far as Indra itself goes, I really liked it, especially during the first half. I look forward to watching Tagore with Chiranjeevi later. The second half got a bit too heavy on the family enmities and the most dragged out ending full of ass-whooping, but I enjoyed it despite.
Prakash Raj, I love you.