Indra: So, This is a Chiranjeevi Movie?

Is this my first Chiranjeevi movie?  That can’t be right!  And yet a search of my archives for “Chiranjeevi” comes up empty!  Oh! Magadheera!  He had a little cameo in that, right?  Okay, so I’ve seen him in one movie.

Is this a standard Chiranjeevi movie?  A little bit of research says that it was kind of a comeback for him, and a massive hit.  But I can’t tell if it is the “a return to his old time hits” kind of hit, or a “re-inventing himself for a new era” kind of hit.  I’m seeing him listed as an action star, and a cursory examination of a couple of his past hits shows some themes of villages and self-sacrifice for others and that kind of thing, which sort of matches this movie.

I think the main reason I picked this film is because Sonali Bendre is in it, and I’ve always liked her.  Also Prakash Raj, never a bad thing!  These were foolish reasons, however, because of course Chiranjeevi is a Big Deal Star and this is a Big Deal Star Movie, so none of the other actors or characters mattered so much.

After watching this, I kind of get why Chiranjeevi is a big deal?  But not really.  In some other blog post or comment that I don’t remember, I talked about the difference between films in which the big actors are trying to “seduce” the audience, versus the celebration ones, where they assume the audience is already won over.  If someone weren’t a big SRK fan already, for instance, I wouldn’t show them Happy New Year or Dilwale.  But I would show them DDLJ or Main Hoon Na or Chak De, India.  And I would definitely show them Dear Zindagi.

I was getting a vibe from this movie that it is more in the Happy New Year side of things for Chiranjeevi fans.  If you already know and love him (or at least like him), then this is a glorious celebration of his wonderfulness.  But if you don’t really know him (like me), then there isn’t much effort to draw you in to this story or make you fall in love with his character.

So, with all that in mind, be aware that this will be a fairly short post!  Because I feel like there were a lot of layers I was missing in this film, and the little top level layer I could see, isn’t that interesting to talk about.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

The structure of this movie is what I think of as a “Baasha structure”.  Which may or may not be correct, I have no idea, but Baasha was the most memorable film I have seen with this style.  In the first half, we get to know our hero in the “present day”, living  a humble life in the city and trying to do the best he can for his family.  And then we get a massive flashback to reveal that he used to be something else entirely and chose to give it all up and live this new quiet life.

It’s a good way of using an older hero and acknowledging his age while still giving his fans a taste of the younger days.  It’s also a good way of breaking the film into two parts.  And it let’s you be a bit lazy in terms of plotting, since you can just throw out everything established in the first half once you do your big flashback reveal.

(Dilwale of course also did this, giving us the action hero romantic young Shahrukh, and then the present day wise and older Shahrukh)

But, again, it really relies on the audience already knowing and loving the hero.  Ideally, the audience would be aware even in the “present day” parts that there must be more to him than what appears on the surface, just because of their familiarity with his star person from all his other films.

Since this is my first Chiranjeevi film, I was SO CONFUSED for the whole first half!  I had no idea a big reveal was coming, or that this nice taxi driver guy would turn out to be super brave and wise and good in a fight.  It just seemed like a random series of disconnected episodes featuring a nice enough guy who wasn’t really “hero material”.

The disconnected episodes were interesting, I guess.  Chiranjeevi is living with his mute friend and his grown niece and nephew and someone else who I never quite understood, an orphan maybe?  Chiranjeevi is beloved by them all, and kind of respected, but certainly not feared or considered someone with extra power and might in the world.  Again, very Baasha.

His nephew falls in love with the daughter of a respected Muslim household.  This part isn’t really related to anything else, but I found it fascinating.  We are first introduced to her household when her father is punishing one of his relatives/followers for “misbehaving” with a young woman.  He is clear that “woman of all communities deserve respect” and that it is his responsibility as the head of his community to maintain their morals.

This is such a complicated moral back bend!  First, there’s the concept of “Love Jihad” and that Muslim young men are somehow more sexually aggressive and dangerous to women.  So, this kind of plays into that since the young man is “guilty” of it.  But then, on the other hand, there is the idea that the Muslim community looks the other way or encourages this behavior.  Which is the opposite of what we see here, the community has come together as a whole to condemn it.  So, generally, I think we are still on the right side with this sequence.

Especially once the rest of it is added on.  The daughter’s love story is discovered, but she is afraid of her father and so claims that she isn’t really in love with Chiranjeevi’s nephew, he was just following her around.  Her father and other relatives find the nephew, tie him up, and beat him.  Only Chiranjeevi intervenes and takes part of the beating on his behalf.  It kind of looks like this whole sequence was just a set up to once again show how noble Chiranjeevi is.

Only then it continues, the daughter’s love letters are found (or something, I can’t remember) and we cut from her household in an uproar to her father and followers showing up at Chiranjeevi’s humble household with swords in hand.  It looks like a big fight is going to happen, but then instead her father hands over his sword and apologizes!  Explains that he now knows he was wrong to punish Chiranjeevi’s nephew, and since the young people are in love, he is humbly begging Chiranjeevi to grant the marriage.  Which Chiranjeevi immediately agrees to.

THIS IS SO AWESOME!!!!  First, from the feminist side of things, there is a clear line drawn of “Boy harassing and following girl-bad and should be beaten” but “Boy following girl with her permission because they are in love-good and they should get married.”  No blame to the girl for encouraging him, not even an hesitation of agreeing to her choice!  Just a straight up “You love him?  Great!  Let’s arrange the wedding!”

And then there is the religion on top of it!  No hesitation on either side, Hindu or Muslim, about agreeing to this match.  And they become real allies too!  It’s not like once the marriage is over they go their separate ways, Chiranjeevi and the Muslim leader are now best friends and support each other and stuff.  It’s just great!

Thank goodness, because a lot of the other female stuff is really really regressive.  Sonali, for instance, falls in love with Chiranjeevi at first sight (why?  I have really got to watch some other movie with him to find out what the appeal is!).  And then goes through elaborate schemes to trick him into taking her into his household.  And there is a very odd scene where she is wearing his old clothes and the pants fall down, leaving her in just a shirt, and he has to pull the pants back up her legs.

(Also this song, which seems put in just so we can admire how good Sonali Bendre looks in jeans)

And then we find out in the flashback, some other woman ALSO fell in love with him at first sight!  Back in the village, years back, Chiranjeevi was living with his two sisters and their husbands and their kids.  The evil other family was feuding with them, their younger sister arrived back home from studying “abroad” only to see Chiranjeevi confront and fight off her brothers and immediately fall in love with him.  Because he was so strong and fearless.

This romance is ever so slightly less regressive, she makes the first move and proposes marriage and is capable of bossing her brothers around until they agree to it.  But ultimately, she’s still falling in love with his awesomeness at first sight, and still completely obsessed by him years later.

What’s really really bad though is what happens to Chiranjeevi’s poor niece.  I hate this trope, of the “bad” husband or fiance who the hero has to heroically drag back for his sister or niece or whoever (I also saw Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi recently, same thing!), because how is that a happy ending?  She’s stuck with some guy who doesn’t love her forever and ever.

Remember Lajja?  Remember Mahima Chaudary’s bride?  Who, after her fiance stops in the middle of the ceremony to demand more dowry, and her family heroically manages to dig it up, declares she doesn’t even want him any more?  Gives a big speech about it?  And is rewarded by her father abusing her for “lowering the family honor” but her grandmother applauding her actions?  I love that scene!  Because it perfectly encapsulates the issue here.  Sure, maybe she “ruined the family honor” by letting the relationship break.  But what is more important, honor or your daughter/sister/niece’s happiness?

Oh, another one that did this well!  Kya Kehna!  Not the greatest movie over all, but love the message.  SPOILERS FOR KYA KEHNA FOLLOW, DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN.  Not only does Preity’s family decide they would rather still have their beloved daughter than their honor and keep her in their household even after she is pregnant, Preity decides she would rather marry the boy who loved her and took care of her all along than the jerky father of her child.  And why not?  What’s the worst that could happen, people talk a little?  Is that worse than marrying someone you can never trust?  SPOILERS OVER

Anyway, this movie is ALL ABOUT the “best thing I can do for my female relative is make sure her marriage lasts forever and ever even if her husband is an abusive jackass” theory.  The big TWIST moment is when Chiranjeevi is all set to marry his niece to the random orphan who they took into their household, only to learn seconds after the ceremony is over that the orphan was a plant, he was actually a relative of the “evil” family sent to marry and then leave Chiranjeevi’s niece.  Which of course would destroy her life, because once a woman is married, she has to be with her husband until the day she dies (probably murdered by her in-laws) or she can never be happy.

And so Chiranjeevi humbles himself and begs forgiveness and shows his great love for his family and self-sacrifice by all the ways in which he tries to get the niece her husband back.  Whoop-ti-doo, how nice, she can marry a guy who hates her and will probably kill her in a few years.  What a wonderful brother she has!

Again, hate to keep bringing up Baasha, but remember how they handled the similar situation there?  His little sister was in love with a rich boy who loved her back.  The rich boy’s family insisted on dowry, and Baasha was ready to give it, but his sister immediately said “never mind, I don’t want him anyway if he just wants to squeeze a dowry out of us.”  And moreover, the “happy ending” of that scene was the rich boy’s family saying “never you mind, that was all a test, of course we don’t want dowry or anything like that, what kind of a marriage would that be, if it started out with dowry?  We just want to welcome your lovely child into our home.”  We still got to see the lengths our hero was willing to go to bring about his sister’s marriage, but we didn’t see him do anything beyond what would actually make her happy.

Oh right, this movie!  So then stuff happens, and in the end everyone realizes how wonderful Chiranjeevi is all over again.  His family is restored to their rightful place in the village, his niece’s marriage is back on (yay?), wrongs are righted and so on and so on.  And both woman are still in love with him.  But, he declares, he has too much to do to think of marriage, and so they are both left waiting while he goes out and greets the cheering crowd.

Is this a male fantasy or something?  To have two gorgeous woman who want you and you aren’t even that interested in them?  Something about how hard it can be to control the male hormonal response which makes you wish the situation were reversed and the women were the ones seemingly unable to control themselves while you play it cool?  Anyway, it’s gross!

Oh, and the title of this movie is “Indra”, which is also Chiranjeevi’s character’s name, so I did a little wiki’ing.  I knew Indra was king of the Gods, and that he had some kind of Zeus-like stories of womanizing and romancing mortal women and others.  Looks like he was also known for bringing rain and sunshine, which is something we see Chiranjeevi do for his villagers through his prayers and devotion.

So I’m thinking that’s also part of why the two women are in love with him?  As “Indra”, he is focused on kingly things and concerns and has no time for love.  But also as “Indra”, a certain amount of romance and frivolity is part of the story.

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15 thoughts on “Indra: So, This is a Chiranjeevi Movie?

  1. I would agree with you that Indra is one of those movies that you would really enjoy if you were a Chiranjeevi fan but I guess it’s not that great of a introduction to him. From the stories that my dad told me, Chiranjeevi’s stardom is because of some caste politics (which I don’t want to discuss since I don’t know much about it) and because he was the first star to dance really well. Chiranjeevi has many fans due to his dancing skills and the veena step (starts at 41 seconds in Dayi Dayi Damma) is actually quite legendary. He’s also the founder of a Telugu Film dynasty since three of the top heroes in the industry now are his younger brother (Pawan Kalyan) , nephew (Allu Arjun) , and son (Ram Charan). Plus he has three other nephews and a niece that are still trying to establish themselves as actors in the industry. Overall in the audience, going to a Chiranjeevi movie means that you will be thoroughly entertained.

    I don’t think Indra was a comeback movie or anything. From the way I understand it, it was a just record setting movie in terms of the box office and it’s considered a comeback he didn’t set any records for a while though he had some hits. The timing of your review is really interesting because today is the day that Chiranjeevi’s real comeback movie, Khaidi No. 150, is releasing. He quit movies for politics in 2007 and this is basically his first full-length appearance in a movie in 10 years. This is a remake of the Tamil movie Kaththi (directed by A.R. Murugadoss) and it is being directed by V.V. Vinayak. Chiranjeevi and Vinayak previously collaborated for Tagore (another remake of an A.R. Muragadoss movie) which ended up being a blockbuster, so the hype around Khaidi No. 150 is really high. The movie that first gave stardom to Chiranjeevi is a 1983 movie called Khaidi (“Prisoner”) and this comeback movie of Chiranjeevi’s is his 150th movie so they decided to title the movie as Khaidi No. 150 to make people feel nostalgic.

    Speaking of Indra itself, yes this is a movie made in the Baasha structure. As far as I know, Baasha is the first movie that has this kind of structure but directors are still using this structure today. During the early 2000s until Pokiri came out, there was this trend of factionist movies in the Telugu industry. Indra was Chiranjeevi’s first attempt at a faction movie so there was a lot of excitement about it. The things I like about Indra is the character of Aarthi Aggarwal and the background music by Mani Sharma. Indra isn’t really one of my favorites.

    If you want some suggestions of Chiranjeevi movies, I don’t think I am a great person to ask since I’ve only seen his movies post-1998. But I would suggest Bavagaru Bagunnara which is kind of a rom-com and Shankar Dada MBBS which is the blockbuster remake of Munnabhai MBBS.

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  2. Chiranjeevi is the Telugu version of Rajinikanth. No, I am not kidding. Chiranjeevi, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth were mentored by K. Balachander (whose Moondru Mudichu you have reviewed). Just like Rajinikanth, Chiranjeevi was cast as a villain in many films by Balachander and others. One beautiful film of this kind is 47 Rojulu (simulatenously filmed into Tamil as 47 Naatkal; both are identical and are available on YT, but you may have to hunt for subtitles). He too faced similar criticisms of being dark-skinned and scrawny. During this stage, he acted in films like Punnami Naagu, and Nyayam Kavali, where he played unheroic characters. After that we saw him play the protagonist in lighthearted films like Intlo Ramayya Veedhilo Krishnayya and Subhalekha. Till now, all fine.

    For any talented artist, it is just one film that can give superstardom overnight. Strangely, it is the one which makes them struck there. What Bairavi did to Rajinikanth, Khaidi did it for Chiranjeevi in 1983. He became a superstar. What next? The only reckoning force of Telugu cinema. You may not believe this, but Chiranjeevi beat Amitabh Bachchan in the 90s by charging 1.25 crore per film (Rajinikanth and Amitabh used to charge 1 crore and 75 lakhs back then) and became India’s highest paid actor. IIndia Today also carried an article “Bigger than Bachchan”, which made Bollywood notice him. Very good.

    What happened then? A series of six disasters which almost made him a nobody. He had to lose, lose and kept losing. People questioned whether this man can rise again. He did, in 1997, with Hitler. After that, with careful choices, he again became the matinee idol of Telugu cinema. Sounds like the rise of underdog? He quit films in 2007 and joined in politics. To be frank, he failed there and returned to films this year with Khaidi no. 150. The response is evident. If a life time earning of 1 million dollar-mark is the benchmark for a higher success for Telugu films in the US, Khaidi no. 150 has made it only with the premiere shows.

    Chiranjeevi, as an actor, is a very competent personality. His mentor Balachander remarked “Chiranjeevi has both Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth in him. Not only can he do action, he can also act”. If you want to see a glimpse of the actor, you can watch the films in the first paragraph along with Chantabbai and Rudraveena (made by Balachander). But, if you are here for the Mega star, try Khaidi, Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari (features Sridevi too), Gang Leader. If you want a mix of both in a comfortable film, you can try films such as Master and Bavagaru Bagunnara. Celebrating the return of the star who redefined the profession he took up, today Telugu people must have a great time.

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  3. From the 1980s to the early 2000s the Telugu industry was basically ruled by four stars: Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, Balakrishna, and Venkatesh. I think you have now seen a movie with each of them excluding Balakrishna. Balakrishna is NTR’s son and he was mostly known for his massy action movies. Nagarjuna is ANR’s son and he carried the family legacy and was more of a romantic hero. Venkatesh was the family hero who did sentimental movies. And Chiranjeevi was known for his entertaining masala movies that had everything. Of course all four of them did movies and had successes in all genres but this was how they were looked at in the general public. One exciting thing is that all four stars are having movies come out within the next two months. Chiranjeevi’s Khaidi No. 150 and Balakrishna’s Gautami Putra Satakarni are clashing for Sankrathi this week. Venkatesh’s Guru (remake of Saala Kadhoos) is coming out on Republic Day and Nagarjuna’s Om Namo Venkatesaya is coming out in February. Just letting you know, Sankranthi (aka Pongal) is an important festival in Telugu culture, and also it is the equivalent of Christmas/Diwali/Eid for the Telugu Film Industry. So this is the time of the year that multiple come out at once.

    Khaidi No. 150 Trailer:

    Gautami Putra Satakarni:

    Om Namo Venkatesaya:

    Guru:

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    • Thanks for the Guru one, Stevens. I was searching for that. Wishing you, and everyone else a very happy Sankranthi. Having said that, it is better to suggest a proper sedate film of Balakrishna and you know why if you watch Telugu films.

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      • Om Namo Venkatesaya is supposed to be based on the life of Hathiram Baba. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hathiram_Bhavaji

        Nagarjuna has made a few devotional movies in the past which were really successful and Om Namo Venkatesaya is his return to the genre. These movies are Annamayya, Sri Ramadasu, and Shirdi Sai if you want to watch any before Om Namo Venkatesaya comes out. I’ve only seen parts of Sri Ramadasu when I was a kid but it’s on youtube with subtitles.

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    • Guru looks like they just reshot all the portions with Madhavan with Venkatesh, but just dubbed the rest — i.e., not a proper remake. I just watched the Tamil and Hindi versions a few months ago, so this was quite clear to me.

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  4. Technically, the “Baasha structure” is actually the “Hum Structure”, a 1991 Bollywood movie starring Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth, Govinda, Kimi Katkar, Deepa Sahi, Shilpa Shirodkar,

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    • I haven’t seen Hum yet, but I can see what you mean from the plot synopsis online. Is it also told in flashback structure? So we first meet Amitabh as a steady virtious family man, and then have a flashback?

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  5. If you’re looking for recommendations of Chiranjeevi’s movies, you might want to check out the Cinema Chaat blog, whose owners are major non-desi Chiru fans. You can find reviews of quite a few of his films there, and that might help you decide.

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  6. Pingback: Tuesday Telugu: Padayappa, Bahubaali’s Queen is EEEEEEVIL!!!! Also, Rajnikanth – dontcallitbollywood

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