mini-review: the continuing saga of MAHESHMATIZATION 2011: Dookudu

Subtitles? I don't need no stinkin' subtitles!

Okay, so maybe I do, since the mere presence of Prakash Raj seeming to do very good needs had me puzzled and I had no idea what the Brahmi and M. S. Narayana threads were about. (For those of you who are new-ish to Telugu films, as I am, there are in fact some visual clues to those threads that in retrospect are obvious, and I can only blame my obliviousness to them on being distracted by the lively cinema audience and the film's refreshingly non-garish interiors and, er, striking wardrobe choices.) Dookudu was a fun time full of slick and grabs-you action sequences, including a particularly Rube Goldberg machine-y chase through a shipping yard, very pleasing costumes and textiles, and enjoyable songs. I'm going to have to watch "Chulbuli Chulbuli" several more times just to take in all the feathers and weird sculptures and backup dancers doing all sorts of interesting things. And the Alpine song to point and laugh at the hair on the confused hipster gora backup dancers.

In their review (which contains a very useful basic plot summary), my favorite consultants on all things Tollywood Cinema Chaat mentioned that several players seemed underused, and though I do not know any of them by name I felt that I kept seeing people stand around or run away without actually contributing anything. Even Sonu Sood was wasted in a villain role that seemed to prefer brooding to despicable deeds. He did get one of the best villain deaths I have ever seen, though, and unlike Cinema Chaat I thought he looked dashingly silly in his multiple layers of neckwear, varying color sunglasses, and belt buckle bling.

And speaking of not doing anything, WHY DID THE WRITERS BOTHER TO SCRIPT ANY FEMALE CHARACTERS AT ALL SINCE NOT A ONE OF THEM DOES ANYTHING INTERESTING OR USEFUL? Mahesh's boss's wife brings him a cup of tea, but that is quite literally the only contribution I noticed a woman make in this film. I hope knowing the dialogue would prove me wrong. Poor Samantha as the love interest is the most perfunctory character, not even serving as hostage bait or property to be argued over by men with machetes. I'm not saying those are preferable roles, mind you, but at least they make a sort of sense in regressive filmi logic and morals. She doesn't even get an alluring dance!

Let's talk about Mr. Prince. My cinema hall crowd could not get enough of his heroic and comedic one-liners, tossing shredded paper in the air at his name on the screen and his eventual entry. I may never fully board the Mahesh train, but the kind of character he had here, which seemed like a full person and not just a killing machine, is so much more engaging to me. I certainly didn't catch all of the comedy or emotional exchanges with Prakash Raj, but I loved that they were incorporated into a hero who was already full-throttle action. I was quite amused that Mahesh spent almost as long dancing in the nightclub number (where I think he was under cover, but who knows) as he did romancing Samantha. I can imagine his character with a mental to-do list that goes something like
  1. seek revenge on my father's attackers and find ways for my father to extract that revenge without realizing it
  2. create elaborate fake-pretend tv show to make sure father never finds out the truth about what has happened since he went into the hospital (and return DVD of Goodbye Lenin!)
  3. police duties 
  4. dance! dance! dance! 
  5. stalk girl until she sasses me one too many times
  6. slap girl for her own good
  7. remember I am happy to see girl once her dad gets involved
For anyone who has seen this film (or just its songs), can you explain why Mahesh looked so very, very wrong all by himself in "Guruvaram", dancing/inching/thrusting around the streets of Istanbul (and possibly somewhere in Germany? or Switzlerand again?). Cinema Chaat suggests that a thrust is just a basic dance step and is perhaps default or filler, like bhangra shoulders sometimes are, but I found it very creepy in the context of a daylight city street with no one around. And on the shallow end of the viewer experience pool, whatever his stylists have done to his hair works really well. He actually looks like a grown-up now, so the cognitive dissonance of the violence is lessened a bit—and I don't feel so skeevy thinking he looked good while impaling people on metal spikes.


larissa said…
I was also disappointed that Samantha wasn't given more to do. Her character was basically there as an excuse to have songs. But then maybe it's better to have a simple, angst-free romantic subplot than for her to, as you say, "serv[e] as hostage bait or property to be argued over by men with machetes"? I guess? Sigh.
Anonymous said…
So, what is it about impalement in Indian film? I do recall seeing it a time or two in US films, but never to the extent that I've seen them since watching Bollywood...Humraaz with Akshaye, Amisha and Bobby Deol had, I think, at least three! I think I may have blocked one or more out.

Jenny K
intacto said…
good review...but u would have enjoyed the movie if u got hold of the dialogs..or may be a subtitled version would have done some help.
the movie has superb comedy and spoofs of some films and reality shows.
Larissa - Me too! She seemed very charming and competent in the teeny amount she had here, which I really do not think even warrants the term "sub-plot." More like "requisite bullet point that never made it past the post-it note stage."

Jenny - I do not know! I haven't noticed it before but I do tend to cover my eyes a lot.

intacto - Um, I did enjoy the film, but yes, knowing the dialogues always helps. I caught the spoofs of Robot and Magdheera even without :)
(Laura) said…
So... I have never seen a Telugu film, but this one is playing near me right now... Would you recommend it as a decent intro?
Laura - Yes, I would! Read the summary in Cinema Chaat's post that I linked to first, and you'll be good to go. Mahesh Babu is charming in it, and the effects and fights and sets and all that are very well done - good production values, as they say.

I will warn you that I found it quite violent, but that is partly just because of the big screen effect. I can accept that this film probably isn't more violent than many other Telugu action films, but since it was my first time seeing one on the big screen I wasn't ready for the impact. But it's easy to tell when the violence is coming and just not look if you're squeamish.
Anonymous said…
I'm hoping to see this tomorrow, and I'm super excited. It will be my first Telugu movie on the big screen. I feel like I should show up just to encourage the distributors to send more Telugu to my neighborhood, the fact that it's Mahesh (yay!) is like icing on the cake.
Temple said…
Hi Beth - I'm so pleased you enjoyed Big Screen Mahesh (impalements and questionable dance moves aside). The season has been extended here - which is almost unprecedented - so it's a hit with the punters.
I agree with you that this is a good pick for a first Telugu film, especially in cinemas. You don't need to get all the filmi references to get the jokes, and it is very much of the mass hero style.
Will you get to see NTR Jr in Oosaravelli? I think it's opening on 6 October. Cheers, Temple
dustdevil liz said…
Excellent point about the cognitive dissonance of Mahesh's baby face and the violence. I can't wait to see it on dvd, so that I can appreciate the dialogues but mostly so that I can screencap all of the Swiss background dancers. They were so enthusiastic, like I'd like to imagine I would be if I ever had the opportunity to dance around Mahesh.
myrna-nora - Oooh! So how was it? Your approach of going just to prove there is an audience is one I take as well - I will go see any Indian film they get, even if it is something I would never rent or otherwise seek out.

Temple - You should do some live reporting from outside the cinema! Interview the crowd and record for us all this rockstar treatment!

I have no idea if we're getting Oosaravelli. We get at most a week's notice of films, often only 4-5 days. It amazes me they get any audience at all with that kind of planning.

liz - You know, I think I would watch this again on DVD too - and not just for screencapping! I love your attitude toward the dancers - to think those poor folks probably never had any idea they would be establishing an empathetic response in viewers on the other side of the planet!
V said…
Hello Beth! found your blog, thanks to TOI's article today, and totally loved it! I'm an Andhraite, a huge fan of Chiranjeevi and a relatively-less-huge fan of Mahesh Babu [and not just because of his uncanny resemblance to yours truly :)].

To continue your saga of MAHESHMATIZATION, may I recommend Nijam? One of Mahesh's finest performances IMO. Let me know what you think of it!

V - Thank you for coming by! Since you're a Chiru fan, you will probably love my friends Temple and Heather's blog Cinema Chaat (all Chiru posts here: )

I am always happy to be given film recommendations. Soon I'm headed to India where the friend in charge of MAHESHMATIZATION will no doubt make me watch whatever else I haven't seen. :)
V said…
Oh that's great! If you are gonna be in Chennai, we could perhaps meet :)

Thanks for the pointer to Cinema Chaat. Had found it through your post on Magadheera, I think.

Have a great trip!
V - Sadly I won't be in Chennai. :( Next time, perhaps!

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