Language: Telugu

Director: Kishore Kumar Pardasani

Cast: Pawan Kalyan, Shruti Haasan, Rao Ramesh

In the first scene of Kishore Kumar Pardasani’s Katamarayudu, named after the character played by ‘Power Star’ Pawan Kalyan, we see four cars speeding through rugged Rayalaseema terrain. Suddenly, the shot is inverted. The sky is at the bottom of the screen, the speeding cars on top. You’re probably wondering “Why?” But hardened masala-movie watchers will simply go, “Why not!”

The people in those cars land up at Katamarayudu’s house, where a camera is positioned at floor level just so it can shoot the hero’s feet as he makes his appearance. Slowly, other parts of him come into view, and he demonstrates his heroism by (1) calming a bull (by stroking its head), and (2) sending SUVs flying (by bringing his foot hard on the ground).

This is why you and I aren’t masala-movie heroes. When we stamp the ground, all that results is a footprint. When Pawan Kalyan does this, the action creates tremors so explosive that a series of 2000-kg cars are dispatched into the air. And in the matter of microseconds that they remain airborne (after all, even masala movies have to concede that there is such a thing as gravity), Katamarayudu completes an action sequence, beating up a bunch of bad guys.

When we stamp the ground, all that results is a footprint. When Pawan Kalyan does this, the action creates tremors so explosive that a series of 2000-kg cars are dispatched into the air

To be fair, this is a far better hero-introduction scene than the one in the Tamil original, Veeram, where the hero (Ajith) seemed to be organising some kind of charity feeding for a number of men, until it was revealed that he was simply fattening them up so they’d have the energy to take his punches. As outlandish as this idea sounds, it’s still in an earthbound realm. I’ll take flying SUVs any day.

There are a couple of villains in the wings. (There’s actually a third, who makes his entry post intermission.) Rao Ramesh plays a man who was made to dance on coals by Katamarayudu, because he made a poor farmer dance on coals when the latter was unable to repay a loan. The other two villains are played by Tarun Arora and Pradeep Rawat. This is part of the Tamil/Telugu masala-movie experience, heroines and villains who don’t speak Tamil/Telugu.

Katamarayudu, though, has a heroine who does speak the language: Shruti Haasan. She plays Avanti, and the villains take a backseat so a romance can unfold. There are five romances, if you think about it. Katamarayudu has four brothers (Chaitanya Krishna, Kamal Kamaraju, Ajay, Siva Balaji), and each of them has a girlfriend – but they have to hide the fact because Katamarayudu hates the idea of marriage. The brothers conspire to find a girl Katamarayudu cannot resist.

As a boy, Katamarayudu used to like a girl who sang and danced, so his brothers think they just need to produce someone who sings and dances. This is a bit like saying I had a friend in school who read Enid Blyton, so if you produce before me, today, someone who reads Enid Blyton, then they’ll automatically become my friend. But it’s better than the Tamil film, where the hero, as a boy, liked a girl who was called Koperundevi, and the brothers decide that they just have to produce a girl named Koperundevi and the hero will fall for her.

These romantic scenes are amusing. Sometimes, genuinely so. Sometimes because of the contrivances. Avanti sees Katamarayudu rubbing his temples due to a hangover, and somehow convinces herself that he’s into yoga. She sees him holding a rooster, and somehow convinces herself he speaks “bird language.” Why this peculiar talent should impress someone remained a mystery until I theorised that maybe she considers herself a chick, and it would get awfully lonely if there were no  “bird language” speakers around.

Pawan Kalyan does these scenes well, which is another way of saying that he knows what his fans want, and if that means mugging through a scene where he speaks “bird language,” then so be it. And those that deify him get the scene where a little girl closes her eyes and prays to god, and Katamarayudu bursts through the doors of a temple. Elsewhere, the actor continues to further his political ambitions (he is the founder of the Jana Sena party) by projecting a oneness with various cross-sections of society. He carries a plough. He donates to a nuns’ charity. He joins a group of Sikhs and shouts “Sat Sri Akal!”

The second half gets tiresome when Katamarayudu gives pacifism a shot in order to please Avanti’s peace-loving father (Nasser), but the film is always vaguely watchable (more so than Veeram) if only because of the richer production values in Telugu cinema. Even the action sequences are better conceived. When you’re talking about the oldest of wines, every little attempt to make the bottle look new helps.

Watch the trailer here:

Rating:   star

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