Attarintiki Daredi: Nadhiya Continues to be the Best

I saw Nadhiya before in Mirchi, and was stunned by how the “mother” actress was so much more beautiful and interesting than the love interests.  That is even more true in this film, to the point that it is almost acknowledged in the script, that Pawan Kalyan was more interested in bringing his aunt home, than in spending time with her daughter who he professed to be in love with.

Just getting this out of the way upfront, this is my first Pawan Kalyan movie!  He is the rival to Mahesh Babu, yes?  Is that right?  And a super big deal and has been for years?  Has he also had the same hair and mustache for years?  It’s not the most up-the-minute look.  Or possibly the most flattering?  But really, how would I know!  I’ve only seen one movie, I don’t know what he looks like in anything else!

He was good with the acting and stuff in this, no matter how odd his mustache was.  And he had to be good, because this was a very confusing and disjointed plot, where the hero was the only connective tissue.  Including the two heroine thing, one in the first half and one in the second half, also just like Mirchi, and also very confusing!  I can kind of handle the virgin-vamp dynamic for heroines, but these Telugu films have virgin-virgin, there are two completely equal romantic partners and just when I get all invested in one, boom, she’s gone!  And I have to get used to a new one.

In this film it’s not just the romantic partners that keep changing on me, even the character actors do!  We meet Boman Irani at the beginning, and I think “oh, okay, Boman will be the most significant relationship in Pawan’s life.”  But no!  All of a sudden it changes to Nadhiya instead!  And then back to Boman!  And then briefly to a romantic love interest!  And then back to Nadhiya!  Oh no wait, that was just a faint, he only cared about Nadhiya on behalf of Boman!  Or did he?  I’M SO CONFUSED!!!  It’s almost like the plot was just constructed to provide a series of emotional scenes for Pawan against a variety of scene partners!

Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy watching the film.  Especially since I was watching it with a massive fever, all hopped up on acetaminophen and orange juice.  It was very nice to just lay (lie?) there and let the whole thing wash over me, with all the colors and songs and exciting fight scenes.  Really the best way to watch one of these movies, with your brain more or less disengaged.

(Pretty!)

I did manage to follow the plot, a little, I think.  Here’s what I think happened, and what it might have meant (if it meant anything).

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We open in Milan!  What the heck?  Mirchi opened in Milan too.  Is there some Hyderabad-Milan connection I don’t know about?  Oh right, plot.  The leading business family of Milan is in trouble, there is a hostile take over of their company.  The noble head of the family, Boman Irani, all grey-haired and in a wheelchair, declares that the hostile take over will fail, because his grandson Pawan will destroy the evil young financial mastermind who is running the hostile take over from his boat in the harbor.

And, fight!  Pawan against a bunch of commandos who suddenly appear jumping out of a helicopter!  Are they Italian soldiers trying to stop the two men from killing each other?  Are they hired guns brought in by the evil financial mastermind?  Were they hired by Pawan to make himself look really cool by defeating them all?  Who knows!  Doesn’t matter!  They are all dead in about 5 minutes anyway!

We never learn any more about who these people are, or how Pawan learned how to defeat them all, so I guess we just accept that Pawan can win any fight because he is the hero.  And that anyone he fights must be a bad guy and we shouldn’t care if they die.  Okay, I can live with that.

Now, the next scene is kind of clever.  Because there are all these unanswered questions that feel like plot holes, but a whole loooooooooooong time later, they will come back and be answered.  That happens a lot with this movie, I write things off as just more Italian commandos who aren’t worth thinking about, and then it turns out they were purposefully opaque and are explained later.  Except for the Italian commandos.  They are never explained, they just are.

Oh right, the scene.  Pawan and his father and his grandfather are eating, and his grandfather says that all he wants is for his daughter and son-in-law and their daughters to join them at the table.  Pawan’s father gets angry, points out it was Boman who threw them out of the house to begin with, and now he wants them back?  And Pawan promises his grandfather that he will bring them all home.  And I start thinking “is that it?  We don’t get more background on the family feud?  What about Pawan’s mother?  Where is she?”  But don’t worry, it is answered later!

Pawan goes to India, and there is a lot of stuff with him using wealth as a superpower.  There was some similar stuff in Srimanthadu and in Ghajini a little.  It’s something that I don’t remember seeing much in Hindi movies, or in American films, really thinking about what it means to just hand people enormous sums of money to make something happen.  At first it just seems like simple wish-fulfillment, and maybe a little extra mercenary, like the hero can get away with anything just by paying people off.  But on the other hand, isn’t money the true power in the world today?  Why not acknowledge that?

Pawan’s money, however, is not what gets him his first introduction to his aunt’s family, that comes from FATE.  He is watching his uncle from a distance when he collapses with a heart attack.  Pawan rushes him to the hospital, and receives the grateful thanks of his aunt.  And then he uses his money to build on that opening, paying off their driver to quite his job, and getting hired as his replacement.  And then there is some fun stuff with this, a line up of drivers from the 1950s through today, so Pawan can learn how to dress and act.  A coffee stall that opens outside the gates of the house just so Pawan can have his morning coffee.  It’s clever!

What’s really clever is how the expectations are up-ended once Pawan gets inside the house.  His aunt isn’t some poor woman to be rescued, she runs the place!  Her brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws all respect her, her husband adores her and vice versa, and her daughters are charming and beautiful and loving.  Plus, while her husband was a humble lawyer at the time they married, he has become a successful and wealthy hotelier in the years since.  Truly, she needs nothing from Pawan.

And another little “wait, what?” moment, as Pawan enters her house, he suddenly remembers her as a younger woman, playing with him as a little boy.  So, what’s the timeline?  Why doesn’t she recognize him?  And so on and so on.  But don’t worry!  It will all be answered!

More importantly, Pawan meets his two cousins!  Now, I’m understanding this correctly that these are his traditional wives, right?  His paternal aunt’s daughters?  So there’s this nice little frisson of it feeling like a forbidden romance between the driver and the heiress, but actually it is his socially acceptable and fated relationship.  Right?

Anyway, the older daughter is pleasant and polite and friendly to him.  The younger daughter, he accidentally walks in on while her dress is partially undone, and she is spicy and spunky and hates him!  Although the older daughter is a little spicy two, both of them change out of their mother-approved clothes in the backseat of the car on the way to a club, and into some sexier outfits.  And then Pawan has to sneak into the club to give them back their cell phone they left in the car, and suddenly a bunch of sexy ladies start dancing at him, including the younger daughter (Samantha Prabhu!  From Eega!).  At the end of the night, Pawan has had enough, he is ready to blow up at both girls, but the older sister mollifies him and he agrees he can do anything for her.

So, I think I see where this is going, right?  The older sister is the love interest, even Pawan’s assistants are teasing him about her, and the younger sister is the sexy demon he has to put up with (with which he has to up put? Is there any way to say that without ending with a preposition?).  And then it gets stronger when they are all at the mall, and he has to rescue the older sister from some guys who are dragging her away.  It was blocked a little oddly, Pawan and Samantha running after them, and the older sister being dragged ahead without really fighting back or screaming, but I figured it was just another Italian commando situation and ignored it.  But, NO!  There was a reason!  This script was TIGHT!

After rescuing her from the kidnappers, flirting all over the house, getting her all smiley and friendly to him, Pawan is called to speak with her alone.  She admits that she has something to confess to him, she wants something she can’t have.  Pawan is all confident that it is him.  NOPE!  It’s her boyfriend, the guy at the mall! They were trying to elope, and Pawan got in the way, and now her boyfriend is going to be forced into an arranged marriage in his village and it is all awful!

I really like this films attitude towards love marriages, specifically love marriages chosen by women.  Nadhiya picked her husband and was thrown out by Boman Irani.  Years later, Boman is miserable, and Nadhiya’s life is perfect.  Now, Nadhiya’s daughter is in love, and Pawan’s response is acceptance, even though it breaks his heart, and faith that she is making the right decision!  And she is!  Through to the end of the movie, there is never a moment of “punishment” for any woman who chooses to follow her heart.

Although there is a little bit of punishment, in kind of a fun way, on the way to getting the bridegroom.  Pawan took the family car, not realizing that Samantha was in the backseat.  And then she gets knocked out, and wakes up all confused and amnesiac.  Which leads to Pawan telling her he is her cousin (which is of course the actual truth) and having her talk on the phone to Boman, her grandfather.  It could feel kind of date-rapey and yucky, but they manage to play it off as just trying to keep her calm and feeling safe, and the truth is as good as anything.  Samantha is the one who takes it farther and announces that if Pawan is her maternal cousin, then he must be her fiance too!  And turns it into a cross-country love song.

So I guess since the older sister wasn’t into it, he just switches to the younger one with no problem?  It kind of works, you could argue that it is all about perception, he thinks the woman who is polite and nice to him likes him, but she is really just a nice person.  And the snappy spunky one actually likes him, because she feels the bigger need to hide her feelings.  But mostly it just feels like they wanted an excuse to have Pawan romance two different heroines in one movie.

Pawan successfully fights off the family and brings the groom home, with Samantha regaining her memory and freaking out in the process.  And once the groom is brought back to their house, Nadhiya and her husband are basically fine with it!  And his family is basically fine with it too!  The only fly in the ointment is the groom’s arranged marriage family.  They already paid for the whole wedding, plus there is the loss of status with the groom running off like that.  Thank you!  I always wonder what happens to that family!  Like, at the end of Humpty, did everyone just shake hands and fly back to America?

But, Nadhiya has a solution!  She has another daughter, she will just marry Samantha off to the son of their family, they will cover the cost of the wedding, and the honor will be restored because they are a very good family.  It’s all good!

It sounds kind of like Samantha is just being sold off, and she sort of is, but her groom is also a really nice guy.  He’s all well-dressed and well-spoken, and he is the one who steps in and tries to calm everyone down.  It’s just a little 30 second scene, but the filmmaker wanted to be sure we saw he was a good guy before the engagement was suggested, and that we knew that Nadhiya knew he was a good guy too, she wasn’t just throwing one daughter’s life away to save the other.

Since the groom is a nice guy, we have to find a villain somewhere else, right?  Enter Brahmanandam!  Because we’ve gone a good 2 hours, and we still haven’t had him, and that’s not acceptable!  Brahmanandam is awkwardly inserted into the plot as a wealthy relative of the groom, who they have to be nice to, but who also coincidentally imbezzled a lot of money from Nadhiya’s family in the past?  Odd coincidence, but I guess it fulfills the comedy premise of someone they despise that they have to pretend to be nice to.  And just to set up the situation fully, of course he also falls in lost with Samantha.

(Okay, the Indra-Ahalya play jokes were pretty great)

Meanwhile, and I kind of liked how this happened, Samantha and Pawan are casually sitting at a table in some mall food court, and she suddenly bursts out with “I love you!” and then stops him before he can interrupt.  She explains that she loved him all along, she couldn’t stop thinking about him, that’s why she was so mean, because she was trying to put in distance, because she couldn’t be in love with just a driver!  And then she walks away before he can respond.  See, what I like is how in control she is!  She picked him out, she told him she loved him, and she left it up to him to make the next move.  Or not.  Either way, she was fine.

Of course, Pawan goes for it.  And suddenly he is in love!  Okay, maaaaaaaaybe he liked her all along and just thought he should like her nicer sister.  But it really really feels like he just decided to love her because she loved him.  And because he has to marry one of his cousins, and she is the only one available.

And all of this is just getting us to the ending.  Oh, I forgot, somewhere along the way here Nadhiya confronted him and told him that she knew who he was and why he was there, and that no matter what nice things he did for her family (which she kind of suspected he concocted and faked anyway), she will never forgive him and go home with him.

So now Samantha and Pawan are running away.  She is all casual and cheerful about being the wife of a driver.  Until she learns Pawan is actually super super rich when he uses his wealth superpowers in front of her.  They are at the train station, when Pawan gets a call that Nadhiya and her husband are on their way.  Boom!  He has his men clear the entire platform, stop all trains, and give them space alone, all while Samantha watches, stunned.  And then Nadhiya shows up, furious, and her husband waves a gun at him, asking how dare he run off with their daughter, him, a lowly driver!

Again, I like it!  Well, I don’t like it that they are objecting to their daughter running off.  But I like it that they aren’t just objecting to a love marriage on principle, or blaming their daughter at all, the anger is all directed at the guy who isn’t good enough.

And, FINALLY, we get the full story of what happened when Nadhiya left home!  In her earlier confrontation with Pawan, we got the first half of it.  Boman was excited about her going off to Harvard for an MBA before coming back to help run the company (LOVE THIS!  He had a future planned for her, not as the proper wife of a man he picked, but as the powerful CEO of his company).  But then Nadhiya showed up to announce she had just married the lowly lawyer she loved.  Boman is furious, she just did this without even talking to him, even telling him before the ceremony.  He runs and grabs his gun, aims it at her, Nadhiya’s new husband throws himself in front of her, Boman’s son grabs for him, the gun goes off!  Nadhiya dragged her husband, injured in the shoulder, away and swore never to return!

So we saw that, which kind of seemed like the whole story, but it felt like there should be more.  And sure enough, there was!  Pawan tells her she walked away, but never looked back to see what happened next!  Boman, despairing at what he almost did, aimed the gun at his own head.  His son grabbed for it again, it went off, and hit Pawan’s mother!  Yes, that’s right, Pawan’s grandfather killed his mother!

So, now Pawan is here to bring his aunt back home, and his argument rests on two points.  First, in terms of Boman bringing out the gun to begin with, notice that Nadhiya and her husband had the exact same reaction when they thought he was running off with Samantha.  How can they blame Boman for reacting the same way they did?

Second, if Pawan chose love and forgiveness, to embrace his family even when they did wrong, why can’t Nadhiya do the same?  After all, if Pawan can forgive the murder of his mother, why can’t she forgive a little bullet hole in her husband?

Pawan does a great job with this scene, starting out all logical and cool and confident and slowly breaking down as he describes the childhood trauma of losing his mother to death, his aunt to walking away, and his grandfather to the guilt that made him a broken man, all in one afternoon.  By the end, Nadhiya is embracing him, as anyone would!  And there is something slightly different in their interaction which suddenly fills in a whole backstory of a loving aunt and a little boy.  That’s really the emotional conclusion of the film.  I told you it was all about Nadhiya.  But there are a few little tags after it.

For instance, the whole framing device for the film is Samantha being kidnapped by gundas and telling them her story.  But by the end, the gundas are on her side, and when Pawan shows up to rescue her, they welcome him with open arms.  They also convince Samantha that she should go back with Pawan, even though she is mad at him for not telling her the truth about who he is, and that he originally came to the house for her mother.

And then of course we have to see Boman’s wish fulfilled, their table in Milan surrounded by family, all happily chatting.  Which I guess is a nice ending, but really I felt like the whole thing was resolved on that train station in India when Nadhiya finally embraced him.

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22 thoughts on “Attarintiki Daredi: Nadhiya Continues to be the Best

  1. Okay, so another awaited review. This film is something special for me for some simpler reasons. One was Kalyan; it was really a long time since I saw him play a role that was simple and relateable. I can’t comment on his moustache, but a majority of his films feature him with the same hairstyle. Next, it was Nadhiya and Irani. I loved the latter’s subtle approach towards this character, and loved the former even more for the way she handled her role convincingly. Last, but surely important, Trivikram’s work as a writer.

    The very last sequence is my favourite. If you read the title, it says “What is the path to my aunt’s house?”. It was the same office, people chide that Nadhiya never claimed her share of ownership. It was the same palatial house, Irani is sad that his daughter is not with him. Nadhiya comes, the buildings don’t change. But, the people do. Irani is happy, the rising voices are silenced. I felt like, Irani and Kalyan are happy as the palatial house they are in is finally the latter’s “aunt’s house” and the so called “path” was something which redeemed them in her eyes: Truth, respect, and mainly LOVE! This, however, is purely subjective and your opinion may differ from mine. 🙂

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this review and am wondering how sharp you were, considering the position you were in. I would have never done such a better job. If you want to see some non-remake, better films of Kalyan, you can try Tholi Prema, Khushi, Jalsa (same director, a film narrated by Mahesh Babu wittily from start to finish) and Panjaa (he looks really, really cool in this film IMHO).

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    • Thanks for the recommendations! I’ll try to add them to my list.

      And I really like your interpretation of the title. What struck me as how it was framed as them “earning” Nadhiya’s return. It wasn’t about her admitting she was wrong, or being rescued, it was about them admitting they were wrong and wanting her to rescue them. In a patriarchal society, that was really refreshing, to see the men bow down before the woman.

      And I am so glad you liked the review, I feel so awkward with these regional reviews, whether they are Tamil Telugu or Malayalam, because I have no context. With a Hindi film I know if the actors have worked together before, if the character is similar to a character in the past, the significance of the director, the production house, all of that. But with the regional industries, I am stuck just describing what I see on screen.

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      • Well, that’s both a boon and bane while reviewing films where one has no context about the backdrops.

        I like the way this film made a statement about respecting a woman without bringing any mention of chauvinism and feminism. The way this unfolds was never preachy despite being so dark within. All the primary female characters always play their cards right, having an upper hand on Kalyan everywhere. But that never meant he was on the losing side. That was interesting.

        Guess the cinematography helped too! 😉 There were some dialogues which were too deep to brush off as situational. Like the ones at the hotel (contract signing and Kalyan’s retaliation) and when Kalyan’s uncle talks about his heart attack and very much later firing him from the job.

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  3. ” Like, at the end of Humpty, did everyone just shake hands and fly back to America?”
    I always like to think that somehow, Angad and Kavya’s sister become really good friends and then they end up falling in love and marrying each other. Angad is a nice guy who deserves a good person and same with Kavya’s sister.

    Anyway Attarintiki Daredi was one of my favorite movies when it first came out because it was a really entertaining movie but now when I look back at it, it’s not too memorable for me. I really like your review since it brought out a lot of depth in the movie that I haven’t noticed before.

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  4. While this movie is supposed to be feminist on a broader sense with the story centering around a woman, that too a middle aged woman, I’m put off by several minor details that ruin the film for me.
    Boman Irani intends for Nadhiya and later Pawan Kalyan to take over his businesses. At no point, they appears to be capable of handling such responsibilities. The main point on which this film is centered – the scene where Nadhiya shows up at her doorstep married with her husband seems too immature. It doesn’t make sense why she should go behind her father’s back when he clearly was so doting of her. She doesn’t even inform her father that she is seeing someone. She was shown later to successfully build her own business, that too from scratch. May be she had an aptitude for management, but I’m not too keen about her decision making skills. I don’t even want to get into Pawan Kalyan utter lack of empathy towards his sub-ordinates (Just count the no.of times they were slapped). I’m surprised why do they even put up with such a narcissist.
    Coming back to feminism, Pawan Kalyan clearly disregards a lot of Samantha’s boundaries. The way Samantha’s complaint to her own mother about him coming into her bathroom is brushed off just infuriates me. The part where she’s irritated by him at the party is not because he’s stealing her thunder or she’s jealous of the attention he’s getting. He should not be present at the ladies only event. It’s all about the boundaries. Whether her ‘accidentally’ walked in on her changing or pretending to be her boyfriend when she’s amnesiac, it’s not OK. I particularly cringe when Samantha regains her memories and freakishly asks “Who changed my clothes?” (Even if it was herself, it is creepy to wake up wearing different clothes). So, no the romantic song was not at all romantic. (I admit I like the audio) So, no I didn’t buy the whole ‘I faked being mad at you because I had to hide my feelings for you’. Because she genuinely had reasons to be mad at him. The switching between sisters as love interests made no sense (as you too have pointed out). There is no indication that Pawan Kalyan felt anything for either of the girls. Even them eloping at the end was to make a point that what they are doing now is no different from what Nadhiya and her husband did back then. So, again Samantha had a valid reason to worry if he really loved her. I wish it wasn’t brushed off lightly or he had made more effort to prove his feelings. Or he should have admitted his lack of feelings towards her. He would still be an asshole for using her like that, but at least she would have been better off without him.
    The way other characters react to certain situations baffles me. When Pawan Kalyan walks into Samantha changing, she had every right to raise alarm and get him out. Most of her relatives are actually on her side, which was great. But Pranitha for some reason chides Samantha for making a fuss and ‘explains’ to her that she should keep quiet, otherwise she was only embarrassing herself. Pranitha, on the whole, was presented a bimbo, meaning I didn’t care too much for her. I was more interested in what Samantha had to say and actually liked her until the point where she ‘confesses her feelings’. Ugh! (Also, most Telugu movies where the hero and the heroine fight and bicker end up in the heroine doing something dumb and result in being sexually and/ or emotionally manipulated by the hero. So I was glad when Samantha declares in the beginning that Pawan Kalyan was just another employee in their service and she didn’t care too much for his opinions. Actually she is always minding her own business until he starts bothering her.)
    I also did not particularly care for Nadhiya’s complaints with the girls’ clothing. She didn’t even have a reason to worry about their safety. They were taking their own car and would be in a safe environment with other women. Just a mindless excuse to titillate the viewers with the idea of a guy driving in the front seat and two attractive girls changing behind unknown to the guy.
    The film made a point to explain Nadhiya’s decision to marry off Samantha by showing that the groom was the sensible one in the family. But, isn’t she making the same mistake that Pranitha’s boyfriend’s dad made? Not consulting your kids before making important decisions about their future? (Also, the entire movie is about kids not talking to their parents before making important decisions, so vice versa also holds true. I’m thinking it is not just generation gap, but some serious issues if Pranitha is ready to electrocute herself before thinking of talking to her parents.)
    When the family thinks that Pranitha is abducted, her own father does not want to get proper help from the police because it would bring ‘dishonour’ to the family. What the hell was with that? Margaret, I’ve seen and agreed with posts of yours (Drishyam for example), where you call bullshit where women’s honour is treated as something fragile. You have to give me this one.
    Let’s not get into the whole Gautama-Ahalya-Indra episode, which was just excuse for Samantha getting spanked over and over again. Although it was an interesting commentary about the ridiculously sexist story of Ahalya, it could have handled a lot better and probably did not belong in a movie like this.
    To me Samantha’s was the only character talking sense in the entire movie (In other movies, it is just the opposite) until THAT point. She just deserved better relatives and love interests. Phew! That was a long rant.

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    • This is awesome! You have totally provided the counter point argument to my post! Which doesn’t mean that one of us is right and one is wrong, just that there are two main ways to view the film, and I gave one, and you gave the other. Just like in a fancy academic journal where you have “Article” and then “Response” printed together.

      This film in particular is SO ODD in terms of feminist analysis/female characters, because they give so much strength and personality and all sorts of good things to Nadhiya, so if you just focus on her part of the story, it mostly tracks. You’re right, her bringing her husband home like that was bratty, but I feel like that was a consistent character flaw for her, that she was too confident and too self-involved to always be aware of how her actions affected others. To me, since it was a consistent flaw, it felt like it made her into an even better female character, letting her have a personality and good points and bad points but not condemning her for them.

      But if you remove Nadhiya from consideration and just look at the other female characters and how they are treated, OH MY GOSH! It is terrible. It’s almost like they could only handle a certain amount of female agency and respect in the film, and since Nadhiya got all of it, the two girls got none.

      And also, if you remove Nadhiya, it turns into a really extreme “hero” film, where Pawan is never called out on anything and is always perfect, even when his behavior is super obnoxious.

      On Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 1:09 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Agree with you that Nadhiya having character flaws actually is actually progressive. I just can’t stand the way Samantha is treated by her parents and love interest and the script in general.
        The problem with limited female agency runs through out in Tollywood. Like in Bahubali, where Sivagami is a complex powerful regent, who owns more power than her husband, who in fact should have been the rightful ruler following primogenture. On the other hand, Avanthika is stripped to her bare minimums (Literally!) What infuriates me is that the makers and defenders point of argument in the lines of “Since they have a Sivagami in their story, they are somehow allowed to do whatever they want with the rest of female characters”.
        On the topic of feminism and limited female agency, please watch “Gundamma Katha”, a Telugu classic from 1950s with some good comedy and one of the best female antagonists (Suryakantham). The movie also features one the most progressive women empowerment songs (Lechindi mahila lokam, meaning the womenfolk have risen). But the way Jamuna is treated by her husband (ANR) and the script (I feel like I’m repeating myself) is deeply problematic.
        There is clearly a pattern here, that only women above a certain age and women who are don’t not end up with the hero are allowed to be complex and interesting. But love interests need not have a personality of their own.
        Another interesting point about Attarintiki Daaredi is that unlike most movies with multiple female leads where the hero falling for the bimbo, the sensible girl is the primary love interest in this one. Did I already mention that my feelings towards this movie are very complicated?

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        • On second thoughts, I should have kept my opinions on Gundamma Katha to myself, until you get a chance to watch it. I guess I got carried away. Sorry about that.

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          • No worries!

            And your point about Sivagami in Bahubali versus the weak love interests in general makes me think, do you think it is fair to say that it is all about sexual agency? Young unmarried woman have to be “controlled”, but once you are safely married/past sexual prime, you are allowed to have power in the narrative?

            Or, to put it another way, a female character can either be sexy or interesting. The assumption being that the male audience wants powerless bodies for their sex fantasies, and therefore once a character enters that zone, she loses all power? I’m thinking about how Tamanna’s character was strong and conflicted and all of those things. And then as soon as she was “feminized” and turned into a sex object for Prabhas/the audience, all of a sudden all that power just went away. My friends and I joked that sex made her forget all her battle skills, but that really is kind of what happened! Once the narrative made her a sexy love interest, poof! No more ability to do anything else besides cling to the hero!

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          • (In response to Margaret’s comment below. For some reason I can’t reply to it directly)
            That perfectly sums it up!
            It is also an interesting parallel to the whole Madonna-whore dichotomy. In this case, general perception being that men can not respect women with whom they get to sleep. And are too intimidated by powerful women to develop healthy sexual/ romantic feelings towards them.

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          • (there’s a limit of 5 responses to any comment, after that you can just reply to the message your last comment was replying to and it should show up at the bottom as the most recent comment)

            And fascinating to think about it in terms of Virgin/Vamp (I like that version, because it’s more alliterative that way!). Especially considering Indian film went through that big change of combining both Vs into one character back in the 90s (no more Helen item songs, the heroine does her own Item number). So I guess this could be seen as a reaction to that? Now that the Virgin and the Vamp are the same person, suddenly she has to be more controlled and punished.

            On Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 11:25 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Virgin/ Vamp it is then 🙂
            I’m not too familiar with mainstream Hindi cinema before the 90’s (except for some classics). So I can not comment on that. Telugu is my native language. The rest of the post is going to be a long rant (mostly going off the Virgin/ vamp topic) on Telugu movies. Brace yourself.
            As far as I can remember subduing your female leads was not a new phenomenon in the 90’s. It all began when Telugu cinema started to get commercialised, in the sense of leaning heavily on masculine tropes and most leading heroes gaining a devoted fan base of their own, meaning anyone who stood in their path needed to be taught a strong lesson. And with heroines, there’s that added sexual element to the revenge fantasy.
            If there’s one person whom I hold the most responsible for Telugu cinema, it has to be K. Raghavendra Rao, a directorial genius with more than 100 films to his credit who rocked the 80s and 90s. Sadly, most his films had an arrogant heroine who needs to be taught her place by the all virtuous and macho hero (You wouldn’t call most Telugu heroes macho from their appearance. But you wouldn’t realise that by the way they behaved and the way they were worshipped.) As we discussed earlier with Nadhiya in AD, that bratty female leads are not necessarily a bad thing, but most of his methods to tame the shrew were horribly demeaning. Remember that terrible Himmatwala with Ajay Devgn and Tamannaah? Yep the original was a 1980’s Telugu super hit flick directed by the same guy. And there is Coolie No.1 where the heroine is drugged and raped by the hero, and the entire thing is engineered by her own mother to get her pregnant and teach her a lesson in motherhood and general humanity. I’m not making this up. General humanity died a slow and painful death as this movie gained record collections and was a super hit. He took an industry featuring some of the most interesting female leads featuring in all genres – social, romance, comedy, even mainstream commercial films (not that it was perfect, they did have flaws like the fore mentioned Gundamma Katha) and turned them into mere objects of male gaze. Please consider this as a warning to to stay away from this guy’s films.
            Just to make my point, it has been decades since a leading Telugu heroine is a native Telugu speaker. (Roja is the last, I think) When you grow up watching that kind of misogyny and objectification in your films with barely any opportunity to showcase your acting chops (Compare that to Tamil movies – another industry severely criticised for insensitive female portrayal, yet there are a good number of meaningful interesting films made every year), you might not want to be a part of it. Among the current bunch, Swathi (from Ashta Chamma, a Telugu adaptation of The importance of being Earnest, you should watch this too) who started off as a TV host is barely cast in Telugu films any more and prefers to do much more interesting work in Tamil and Malayalam films. Diito with Anjali (break out star of Engeyum Eppothum, another must watch Tamil film) who starred in Tamil movies way before Telugu movie makers recognised such a talent among Telugu speakers. She featured in a couple of Telugu flicks and her recent outing was an item number, sadly she isn’t even a natural dancer. Sigh!

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          • Thank you! In contrast to you, I only know recent Telugu stuff (and that only barely), but a lot of Hindi. In Hindi, it seems like there’s a combination of the outsize power of the heroes, not necessarily in “macho” terms, but just in box office, which means their roles in the narrative tend to be increased while the heroines are weakened. And of the general cultural issues around the “good” (often meaning super bland) heroine getting the hero, while the “bad” heroine has to be punished.

            Not every movie by any means, but it does seem like a consistent pattern in the Hindi films, either they are teaching a social lesson by rewarding passive behavior from the heroine and punishing a confident women, or the heroine is barely even considered by the narrative because it is so hero focused. And then it gets odder in the late 80s/90s when the heroines started to be more and more “bad” and then they had to somehow be punished and converted to “good” by the end of the film. Maybe because of the increasing NRI/global audience? Heroines wore short skirts and got drunk and did all these things that the westernized/urban audience could relate to, but they still needed to be “tamed” by the end of the film. Like Kareena in K3G. This is another pattern that had been in Hindi film for years, but it seemed to increase in a lot of ways in the 90s.

            This is also why I really like romances, because in a romance you pretty much HAVE to give equal screen time and importance to the heroine and the hero, otherwise it doesn’t work. It’s the one genre that forces you to give the heroine a personality. From your list of movies that you liked, it sounds like it might be something kind of similar in Telugu films? If you can find a non-action film, the heroine has a better shot at getting a real personality?

            That’s what I find most frustrating, as a viewer. I don’t mind women being “bad” or “good” or even being punished by the hero, so long as they feel like actual people! Not just plot devices stuck in to be and feel whatever is necessary for the hero to move forward in his life.

            Oh, and Himmatwala is the only movie I considered walking out in the middle when I saw it in the theater. Not because I found it offensive, but because I found it sooooooooooooo boring! That’s the other problem if your heroines have no real motivation beyond doing whatever the hero needs, they aren’t very interesting. And the hero isn’t that interesting either, since he never seems to make an actual connection to another human being.

            On Fri, Dec 16, 2016 at 11:10 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • “If you can find a non-action film, the heroine has a better shot at getting a real personality?”
            More or less true, but in Telugu industry it all once again boils down to the hero worship culture in which most heroes (rather their fans) consider any film that does not glorify its hero beneath them. Meaning only few younger outsiders (Nani – from Eega and Ashta Chamma for example) would work on interesting scripts. Most Telugu heroes come from film dynasties and inherit their father’s/ uncle’s/ grandfather’s fan base. I could only think of Nani on the top of my head who is actually successful in making different films. So, very less percentage of interesting films with interesting female leads and overall not a very appealing industry for actresses.
            Non action films are not safe either, as female characters tend to fall into distasteful tropes like Manic Pixie Dream Girls (Genelia in Bommarillu) or noble and self- sacrificing (Kajal in Mr. Perfect) or as this perfect being put on a pedestal from hero’s perspective (Keerthi Reddy in Tholiprema).

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          • Thanks for mentioning Nani! He really impressed me in Eega, and I was wondering what was up with him. Because although it is the “hero” part, he is only onscreen for essentially the prologue of the film. But he had to do a really good job so that the audience would relate to “Nani” for the rest of the film when it is all CGI. So him being a struggling outsider who is trying to prove himself explains his willingness to take the part. If there is an Eega 2, I hope Rajamouli figures out a way to give him more screentime so he can get a bit of a career boost from it.

            On Fri, Dec 16, 2016 at 12:58 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Honestly after Magadheera, Rajamouli became a director that everyone wanted to work with so I am sure that Nani was quite excited to work with him even if he knew the part was small. Plus Nani had quite a successful year in 2011 and Eega did help boost his career in terms of popularity. There is this sentiment in the industry that an actor who works with Rajamouli doesn’t get a hit in their next movie and similarly, Nani didn’t have a hit until 2015. But he’s on the rise now since had a hit in Yevade Subramanyam (a really good coming of age film) and a blockbuster in Bhale Bhale Magadivoy (a funny rom-com). This year, he’s had two hits and one movie that broke even (I’d recommend Gentleman in his movies that came out this year). And he has another movie coming out in late January and he said that he’s planning to have a release every four months. So right now he’s having a good streak and I hope it does continue.

            Another youngster that I think makes interesting films is Sharwanand. I think he has some film connections but he’s a good actor. I would recommend Prasthanam (a political movie), Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju (a period romance), and Run Raja Run (more of a rom-com, hard to desribe).

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          • I forgot to mention Gamyam starring Sharwanand. It’s a pretty good coming to age movie and it’s directed by Krish. I think you got recommended Kanche, a movie about caste and ww2, which was also directed by Krish in the past and that’s really good too. An ironic fact about Krish is that all of his Telugu movies are off-beat but his bollywood debut ended being Gabbar is Back which is a masala movie.

            I am linking the trailer of Krish’s newest movie, Gautami Putra Satakarni, which will come out in early January starring Balakrisha. He is the son of NTR, uncle of Junior NTR, and one of the heroes of the 80s and 90s with a devoted fan base that Spandana was referring too. Usually, Balakrishna makes routine, over-the-top action flicks and he still has a group of cult fans that will watch whatever he makes. But this is his prestigious 100th film so he decided to take a risk and okayed this movie with Krish. The quality is so good even though Gautami Putra Satakarni was shot in only 8 months.

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  5. Pingback: Athadu: Angel and the Badman/Bombai Ka Babu/Assassins/The Killer – dontcallitbollywood

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