Thursday Telugu: Julayi, One of Those Fun Telugu Action Films That is Smarter Than it Needs to Be

I did it! I watched a new Telugu movie for the first time in ages. And it was fun. Not groundbreaking, but fun.

I do love a well-made Telugu action film! They fight scenes have a kind of competance to them mixed with experimentation, the plot goes a little haywire but hits all the marks, and if we are lucky there is a little bit of pure wit mixed in. That’s what this movie is. Some boring comedy, the plot was a little hard to follow in spots and rough, but a lot of fun in there.

Image result for julayi poster

And Allu Arjun deserves the credit for almost all the fun! He is so great at playing the self-aware hero. Telugu films rely on such a rigid character structure, you have to be a little bit self-aware in your performance, or you will drive yourself mad. How can you play “natural” when the story you are in is so extremely unnatural? Not just unrealistic, but unnaturally following a fixed pattern from which a film can’t diverge. Cops and criminals and romance and comedy, all set out like clockwork. Why not play the lead character as though he is, just a little bit, a clockwork toy himself? Something both less than and more than human?

What makes this film extra fun is that the film itself is playing the same game with the clockwork nature of this universe. It is most obvious in the romance, a lot of conscious commentary about the way love stories happen in films, how they can happen perfectly as though by magic or fate. But it’s there in the rest of it as well, the little touches about how you can almost predict what will happen next because it is what always happened before.

And then there’s the action scenes. The thing with Telugu action scenes is that there is a certain basic level of skill to them that is just the norm and everyone can do without breaking a sweat (flying kicks, camera work that makes sense of what is happening, really excellent stuntman). Since that level of quality is the sort of basic can-do-it-in-your-sleep level, it means there is loads of energy to actual do something fun. The Telugu action scenes are like the Hindi song sequences, or the Hollywood…I don’t know. Something. Or like a good cook who can make a decent cake without thinking and therefore throws in some fancy frosting and interesting spices, just for fun. A just fairly decent action scene in Telugu film is better than an action film from most other film industries. And then a good action scene (not even a great one) easily rises to something close to John Woo level. Work watching for that alone.

So here we have a movie with a fun aware lead performance, several nice clever touches of meta commentary on film narrative, good action scenes, fun romance, plus some decent songs, and a heroine I like. It’s all on a kind of weak plot framework, but who cares! It’s fun!

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Allu Arjun is an average guy living at home avoiding getting his first job and looking for fast money. Sonu Sood is a robber who was hired to steal a bunch of money from a bank by the banker himself who plans to give the money to his son and send him out of the country. Allu randomly crosses Sonu’s path and figures out his scheme and alerts the police. It leads to a fight, and the death of Sonu’s younger brother. Allu is sent out of town for his own safety and goes to Hyderabad, where he meets Illeana at a bus stop. Illeana works for the travel agency that is working with Sonu and the other bad guys to get them out of the country. Allu works with the cops to romance Illeana and get them an in with the agency. She finds out that it was all a set up and is angry, but Allu convinces her he is in love with her for real when she is kidnapped and he saves her. But then his family arrives to help make the engagement final, his father is attacked and his sister kidnapped. He saves her, finds the hidden money, and kills Sonu Sood.

I completely lost track of the plot about 20 minutes in. And that was pretty much fine. In some stories, there is a greater meaning to it all, about trust or patriotism or kindness or something or other. In this story, it’s just a series of fairly random things that happen loosely tied together by Sonu being evil and Allu being good and the two of them jockeying with each other over a series of challenges. The fun bits of the movie are all the little things, like when Allu has to romance Illeana so he gets the police department to create fake rain, make her bus late, and arrange for a motorcycle at just the right moment. Or in the final fight when Sonu is stuck in his car and while Allu is fighting a million henchman, Sonu is just trying to get out. Or even a small thing like Sonu’s mute sister actually being the brains of the gang and constantly signing to him what he should do next. Which feels related to me to Allu’s response when his sister speaks up “what? Why are you talking? You aren’t supposed to have dialogue!” Sisters in Telugu action films don’t have dialogue, they are just there to be in danger. Only in this one the sister who never talks is the one with all the power and the mouthy irritating one is the one who gets kidnapped.

The central idea of the film is that Allu is so smart, he can jump ahead and see what the next logical move is in any situation, and therefore control it. Which means, in many ways, he acts as the “director” of the film. He can predict the car chase, control what the characters do next, everything. It’s a really fun twist on the usual hero who seems so impossibly lucky. This time, it’s not luck, he explains how he worked it out and knew it would happen that way. And when he explains it, it becomes HARDER for the audience to believe, not easier. Therefore we are forced to confront the way we buy into this crazy movie logic.

This isn’t a move that draws us in with emotion, or with depth. It’s just pure wit. If you can admire a carefully crafted heist sequence, a fun fight scene, or even a sweet little romance, than you can enjoy it. If you want something more, than this is not the film for you.

Also, the songs are decent
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7 thoughts on “Thursday Telugu: Julayi, One of Those Fun Telugu Action Films That is Smarter Than it Needs to Be

    • Trivikram (director) himself, many in the Telugu industry and many of his fans consider him as an intellectual – somebody with a brain unlike other mass directors (barring Rajamouli post Eega). He too tries to project him that way while talking in release events, award functions, interviews; quoting books and wise men. This nature comes up in his movies and his dialogues – Trivikram is famous for witty and so called ‘punch dialogues’ and titled Matala Mantrikudu (Wizard of Words). Also, while giving uncommon but stylish names to the hero character – Ravindra Narayan (Julayi), Parthu (Atadu), Aanand Vihari (A Aa), Rishi (Athadu), Viraj Anand (S/o Satyamurthy), Gautam Nanda (Attarintiki Daredi), etc.

      His movies are always that witty battle between 2/3 major characters: Allu Arjun vs Sonu Sood, Allu Arjun vs Rajendra Prasad and Allu Arjun vs Upendra in S/O Satyamurthy, Mahesh vs Prakash raj in Athadu, Pawan Kalyan vs Nadiya in Attarintiki Daredi,

      Of course, he has some brains – but sometimes he’s overhyped. And, I don’t like him lifting scenes from Hollywood and other movies – the opening bank robbery scene in this movie Julayi, is lifted from Dark Knight.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yep! But it reminded me more of S/O Satyamurthy, which is interesting, that the director’s style changed based on the star he was working with.

      On Thu, Oct 17, 2019 at 10:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I am eagerly waiting for the third movie from the combo of Allu Arjun – Trivikram after Julayi and S/o Satyamurthy. The movie, title Ala Vaikunthapuramlo, is slated to release in Jan 2020 on same day as Mahesh Babu’s new movie Sarileru Neekevvaru.

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  2. I liked the review – covered a lot. You are spot on with action scenes – Action scenes are not only about the stunts, but the editing, which I feel missing in Hindi movies. Also in Telugu, they moved from fights/stunts to fight choreography just like dances are not about steps, but also about rhythm and theme.
    >>>The Telugu action scenes are like the Hindi song sequences, or the Hollywood…I don’t know.
    Hollywood CG/VFX – Telugu are catching up but have budget constraints.

    Basically this movie is like a Chess game – what if protagonist and antagonist have equal brains and tries to deduce from the happenings, not only the current step to be taken, but also reason out how the other person would play the next step and try to outwit him.

    That girl is Bittu (Sonu Sood)’s girl friend, not sister.

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    • It’s funny, for Hindi films when they want good action they bring in a Hollywood action guy, or Korean, or Hong Kong. But they could just go down south and bring up one of those guys! Come to think of it, I am guessing Priyadarshan and Prabhudeva and the other southern directors who work in Hindi occasionally do bring up southern action folks which is why their films are so good.

      On Fri, Oct 18, 2019 at 3:53 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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