Sunday 30 August 2009

Magadheera (2009)

What the hell is going on in Magadheera? We don't know - we don't speak Telugu! But that didn't stop us from seeing it last night and loving it to bits. We were promised "three hero deaths" in Magadheera, but unfortunately that was false advertising - though reincarnation does feature prominently. We were also promised "masala on steroids", and, boy, did it deliver on that one! Even understanding nothing of the dialogue, we still laughed, cried and - man! - some of that epic dishoom dishoom really got our blood going. And the dancing? OMG.

Magadheera begins with some straining violins as we witness the studly warrior Kala Bhairava (Ram Charan Teja), as well as the beautiful Mitravinda (Kajal Agarwal), both badly wounded and drawing their final breaths on a rocky precipice overlooking that one scene from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. After a brief exchange about... well, something (presumably their love for each other), Mitravinda passes away, tumbling over the precipice. With a look of anguished horror, Kala Bhairava throws himself off the cliff after her.

And so begins our story! Quickly zipping forward 1600 (?) - or possibly 400 (?) - years to present-day Hyderabad, we meet the studly cool dude Harsha (Ram Charan Teja... again), who has just finished winning a kabillion rupees on a motorcycle jumping contest. After a great song harkening back to a 1980s hit by the actor's real life father, 1980s Telugu star, Chiranjeevi, we follow Harsha as he goes off with his buddy in the auto-rickshaw. After sticking out his hand, he accidentally brushes the hand of the beautiful Indu (Kajal Agarwal... again) - this mere touch sends an electric jolt through Harsha, plummeting him in a super-hardcore out-of-body experience where we watch - again - the whole "throwing yourself over the precipice" thing, as well as other magnificent scenes from the year 400... or possibly 1600. Anyway, the glorious Andhra Pradesh past.


And present.

Harsha is now obsessed with finding the source of this electric jolt - and, particularly, the love from his past life. After some bumbling around (insert difficult-to-understand comic sequence), he eventually figures out that it is indeed Indu who is his reincarnated princess. And there is much rejoicing. However, at this point, we're introduced to the villain, Raghubeer (Dev Gill), who is some sort of modern-day prince... except completely evil. Witness his buffed up bod full of warrior scars - one can't help but wonder WHY he has those?! Anyway, after promptly introducing himself by killing off some guy with a spear in front of his enormous mansion, he too gets one look at Indu and goes immediately into Rapist Mode. After killing some other dude (his assistant!) for something his assistant apparently said, he decides to insinuate himself into Indu's home by ingratiating himself with her father. Alas, this works! When dastardly Raghubeer attempts to have his wicked way with Indu, however, the ghost of Kala Bhairava appears and beheads him in a most gory - though temporary - way. Suitably alarmed, Raghubeer hastily consults his nearest sage, who - using a potion? or a chant? or a book? well, something - explains the whole reincarnation deal. Now very alarmed - since in his previous life, he was killed by Harsha - Raghubeer decides to get rid of Harsha ASAP.

This leads to some fantastic sequences, including an extended flashback to the whole first life deal. Goodness, it was glorious! The introduction of the 400 AD/1600 AD setting, which had been constantly intimated to (and our appetite was suitably whetted for some rollicking good Ye Olde Times!), was so spectacular the PPCC was practically blown out of our seat. (Thank you also, multiplex, for maxing out the volume!) However, as exciting as it is to see both the original and reincarnated hero-damsel-villain love triangle play out, the second act unfortunately couldn't quite deliver on the first act's promise, and we really didn't need two identical resolutions. So the film finishes on a good note... not a great one.

So! Observations from a predominantly Hindi film viewer who speaks English, a little Hindi and NO Telugu (apart from "koncam" and "pakka"). Well, first of all: if there's one thing Magadheera did fluently and well, it was cinematic extravagance. For masala lovers such as the PPCC, this film packed a lot of meat: completely over-the-top and completely gratifying ideas, like Chicken Soup for the Sentimentalist Cinephile's Soul. Consider, for example, a great sequence in which modern-day Harsha - amidst a general chaos in the Hyderabadi streets which we won't explain right now - almost gets run over by a horse. Jumping onto a bus to avoid being trampled, his fingers brush those of Indu: electrical jolt again! Freaking out, because he needs to see who is this girl who keeps mildly electrocuting him, he grabs the horse, flings himself onto it, gallops after the bus, catches up with the bus and - gets a face-full of Indu's dupatta. As he fumbles to get the dupatta out of his face, he finally sees her. We will not lie: we were seriously verklempt at this point. It was incredibly indulgent, and incredibly great chocolate cake filmmaking.

Another great thing, and somewhat different from Hindi films, was the choreography. Gosh! Particularly the male choreography, which is usually under-emphasized in Hindi films (at least, pre-Hrithik Roshan): star Ram Charan Teja is a hell of a dancer, and his super-chill moves included popping and locking (!!). The dance sequences had a color and inventiveness which we see only sometimes in Hindi films (and mostly in films which have South Indian choreographers/directors... Pukar, Dil Se, Virasat... you get the idea). One of our favorite songs from the film was the flashback ballad, Dheera Dheera, which was just pounding with the powerful drums, haunting sopranos and stark, Zhang Yimou color palettes.

Oh, South Indian cinema. Where have you been all my life?


memsaab said...

We passed like ships in the night in Hyderabad--I was there in March :( Hope you are enjoying it!

I have a couple of Telugu films to watch, need to get to them. I do think that choreography in the south totally trumps Hindi film choreography. At least, judging from YouTube!

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I'm so intrigued! I was left "enh" by the Telugu films I saw, but they did not have lots of flashbacks.

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Oh! And I meant to say: I started reading this before the top picture had loaded, and as it did I said out loud "What the EFF?!?" Hee. V masala.

Filmi Girl said...

I love it!!!! Welcome to the world of south Indian films! Did you catch Kanthaswamy?! I'm dying to see that and will promptly add Magadheera to the list, as well.

It's funny but the recent south Indian films I've seen have been much more masala and satisfying than the Hindi ones... I might have to shift my focus.

Heqit said...

OMG, now I HAVE to see this. (I wonder if I will ever be able to here in rural SE US?) It sounds so fabulous...and the pictures...must! see! now!

a ppcc representative said...

memsaab - Hyd is fab! In fact, I forgot to mention that the best part in Magadheera was when Harsha takes Indu to the movies... at the Prasad's IMAX! Which is where I watched Magadheera! Now THAT was an out-of-body experience. :)

Beth - I think the pounding bass and maxed out volume really sold me on it! At least, this is a movie which should be seen on the big screen, I reckon.

Beth2 - I LOVE the posters! They're so epic!

Filmi Girl - Ahh, I love getting more South reccs! I haven't seen anything else in full, so will def check out Kanthaswamy. Might have to join you on the shifted focus, at least until Anil starts making movies again.

Heqit - Well, the billboards are confidently announcing it as a "SUPER HIT!!!!" so I'm sure it'll be on Nehaflix soon enough (and w/ English subs!). :)

Anonymous said...

LOVE this movie. The music was exceptionally good. I am really impressed that you pretty much understood the movie even without the subtitles!
I just have one correction to make. The villian Dev Gill, didnot kill 'some dude/his assistant'. The guy he killed was his father(For saying that Indu's dad won't accept his marriage proposal when he comes to know about their family)

Welcome to telugu films. May I recommend Anand and Godavari next?


Ram Manohar Bokkisa said...

Heya PPCC... stud review ... i liked especially the scene where hero runs and climb the horse in the middle of crowded streets... and the flashback episode was mind blowing....

Thanks to director for bringing such a master piece... and

ur commentary...its completeeee .. perfect...dude...keep it up...

a ppcc representative said...

Kiran - That was his DAD?! Oh my goodness, how evil indeed. Thanks for the recs!

Ram - Yeah, that scene was ACE, wasn't it? Thanks for the v kind words too, man. I wasn't sure I could review a Telugu movie, but after seeing this one... I HAD to.

katiekateBKLN said...

PPCC, so glad see you back, i've decided to come out of the lurker shadows and comment!

I switched allegiance from Hindi to Tamil flicks last year, and haven't missed 'em. I'd been meaning to suggest a few to you, since everything that is so enthralling about Indian masala that's been fading out in recent Hindi stuff is still alive and well in Kollywood. Can't speak for Telugu movies, I haven't seen many yet, except for a few with Nagarjuna and his most excellent moustache.

Check out Chiyaan Vikram's stuff-- Dhool is fun. The director Bala is great too, if pretty heavy going. Madhavan likewise a great actor; Minnale a good intro movie. Plenty of good movies uploaded to youtube with English subs....

I hope you are settling in your new digs!

Filmi Girl said...

Yay! We might have to move the capital of Masala Pradesh from Bollywood to Tolly/Kolly/Sandalwood. XD

I've got a big pile of Telugu and Kannada language films coming to me in the next few days, so watch out, world!

And PPCC, you should check out Kannada-language film "Mungaru Male" if you are able. It's available with English subs and was a super-duper-hit. I would love your take on it.

Anonymous said...

Jai South Indian films! They show Tamil and Telugu (as well as Hindi) here in Minneapolis, but I only go to the subtitled Hindi ones and watch my Telugu/Tamil on DVD w/subs, but now I think I may have to dive in and see more southies Big Screen style. Why not, especially since I see it's playing at the local theater and you've provided this fab write up here yaar. :)

All the best!

Anonymous said...

Sita ji, if this movie is still playing in a theatre near you, you have to give it a shot(even without subs.) This is one movie that begs to be seen on the big screen. Anyways you have ppcc as your inspiration. Dive in and do let us know what you think.


Anonymous said...

PPCC - r u based in Hyd? I have been reading your reviews and posting comments.

I am visiting India at present and am in Hyd.

Emily said...

Aren't South Indian movies fantastic? I've been watching more Telugu movies than Hindi lately and enjoying them immensely. I'd love to see more Telugu reviews on your site!

Magadheera sounds good, it's playing near me this weekend so if I get a chance I think I'll go see it!

Anonymous said...

@PPCC: Lovely blog...:)..South Indian Cinema has tons of things for a masala loving cinephile...check out this movie...Balakrishna's "Vijayendra Varma"...:P

By the way, it will be great if you include a brief profile of the writers who blog on this blog rather than just mentioning PPCC representative!...Keep Writing!

Here's my review on "Magadheera"..@


Anonymous said...

UGHHH, not "Vijayendra Varma", please. It is a perfect example of how everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.

Amrita said...

So this is what you've been up to! Why does this sound unusually good?

Meghna said...

Great review! It definitely makes me want to see the film.

Can I second the recommendations for Anand and Godavari. Sekhar Kammula is a fabulous, low key filmmaker, whose films are just as satisfying as masala because of how intimate they are and has great female characters.

In Tamil, of course, there's Mani Ratnam who you shouldn't miss out on either.

ajnabi said...

Yaaaaayyyyy for Tollywood! Welcome to the South Side, PPCC! I've reviewed some Telugu films here, here, here, and a Tamil one here, if you have time/desire to read them. Either way, fun review and I hope you post more of them. :-)

Anonymous said...

South Indian Cinema Rocks. Check my blog at

for all fun related reviews and stargazing. Thanx

Anonymous said...

I saw it today it all its big screen glory and loved it! Now it will be fun to see the DVD when it's released with subtitles to see just what I understood incorrectly. Wow was I in for a ride after that first item number! It was 3 hours of non stop thrills. Did you like in the modern day cafe scene with the cell phone mix up how "Dhak Dhak" from "Beta" was playing in the background?
Thanks again for your tantalizing review. All the best,

talevizos said...

I followed your advice and saw this with Sitaji from Bollywood Food Club. Outstanding. We couldn't understand anything, of course, but the story's easy enough to figure out and the action, music, dancing, over-the-top violence were spectacular. LOVED IT.

Temple said...

Nehaflix have the 2 DVD collectors set on sale now. It has subtitles (including the songs) and the most fabbo garish foil artwork. I have a copy, and so does Red42 as we realised just from your review that we could not share. I love southie films for the sheer madness and exuberance and amazing dances. They are carrying on all the masala traditions.

Anonymous said...

bollywoodfoodclub -- "Dhak Dhak Karne Laga" from Beta is actually taken from the Telugu song "Abba Nee Teeyani Dabba" (loosely translated to "man your hit is sweet") which is picturized on Chiranjeevi and Sridevi. I forgot the film's name, but it's the original Telugu song (a classic), that was playing in the cafe scene, not the Hindi copy.

red42 said...

It's taken me a while to get round to commenting on this - mainly because I have not been able to drag myself away from my DVD copy. What a totally awesome movie - everything is here - romance, horses, action, motorbikes, horses, rebirth, tigers, totally evil and psychotic enemies, and did I mention, horses? Love it! This has got to be the best movie I have seen for ages, just because it is so masala and has absolutley everything. Yes, there are flaws, but somehow that just adds to the overall charm. I actually have had to buy two copies so that I have one to loan out. I can't bear to be parted from it! And as if all of this wasn't enough, we now have Ram Charan Tej himself filming in Melbourne. Awesome!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: What you said is correct. The song playing at the cafe is Chiranjeevi's Abba Nee Teeyani Debba from the megahit film Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari(JVAS).
Dhak dhak from Beta was indeed taken from JVAS. Here is the original song:

Sandy said...


Since you have started reviewing Telugu Films..(i see four here..Mahatma, Arundati,Magadheera,Ek Niranjan)..I would suggest/Recommend you to review some other notable (not nonsensically boasted hit) movies in this last two years..


1) Maryada Ramana (2010)
2) Vedam (2010)
3) Prasthanam (2010)
4) Ye Maya Chesave* (2010)
5) Leader (2010)
6) Baanam (2009)
7) Prayanam (2009)


I strongly suggest you to review this films as these are some good movies which needs to be reached to different regional audience irrespective of their language.

Thank you in advance