ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: As a shameless fan of the new breed of slick South Indian flicks, with their cheap tricks and sexy chicks, please permit me one more attempt at silly alliteration: Puri Jagganath‘s Pokiri was total paisa-vasool for the hicks in the cattle-class, unless, of course, they had deposited their you-know-what in the gold class at PVR.
With a frantic plot immersed in testosterone and coated with impossible machismo, fast action, groovy music, a sexy heroine, voluptuous vamps, good chases, not-so-bad humour and endless violence, only those who dream in sepia tone of Akira Kurosawa and Louis Malle, would find it difficult to admit that the tapori stuff was not ‘bombaat time-pass’.
In both Telugu and Tamil.
In Telugu more than Tamil.
So, it was with no small expectation that I went to see Wanted, the Hindi version of Pokiri starring Salman Khan. And it gives me great joy to report that like masala dosa and mathematics, this new breed of slick South Indian flicks will remain a South Indian speciality. And this despite the director of the Tamil Pokiri (Prabhu Deva) having made the Hindi Pokiri.
#1: Mahesh Babu is better than Vijay is better than Salman Khan
OK, his father Krishna couldn’t act, speak, dance or fight to save his life but yet went on to become a star. Mahesh Babu can do a bit of all that and even has a screen presence to match—and is a star. In Tamil, too, Vijay (left) brought younger legs. The ageing but finely chiseled Salman Khan looks like he’s dancing with a Jaipur foot. And surely Pandu sounds more endearing than Radhe any day? I saw Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN write “Watch Wanted for Salman”. Our fullest sympathies with those who have to.
#2: Ileana is better than Asin is better than Ayesha Takia
There’s no way of knowing, of course, for us earthlings, but one presumes that 30-26-29 are the first six digits of Ileana’s phone number. Or 32-28-34 of Asin’s. But Ayesha Takia (who was apparently originally slotted for the role of Shruti in the Telugu Pokiri) is clearly from Silicon Valley judging from the 42-27-30 area code. Ileana brought a certain lightness; Asin a certain effervescence. Takia is too top-heavy, much too much in your face, especially with her whole body looking like a surgical appendage of her defining organ. Why, you sometimes fear the poor thing might just topple over.
#3: Mani Sharma (Telugu) is better than Mani Sharma (Tamil) is better than Sajid-Wajid
In both the South Indian versions, the music was a defining feature of the film, like Ghajini, meaningless maybe but still a very important part of the movie. Each of the six numbers in Telugu were foottappingly good, and at least a couple of them (Deva devuda, Jagadame, Vasantha mulai) were memorable in the context of a “mass” movie. But in the Hindi remake, the music sticks out like a sore thumb. Why, even the names Sajid-Wajid sounds like the director is playing a small joke on the audience.
#4: Bramhanandam and Ali are better than Vadivelu is better than whoever it is who is playing Bramhanandam or Vadivelu
The humour in the Telugu Pokiri, especially the beggar sequence, is done well and with great novelty. It is even decent by the rapidly plumetting standards of South Indian humour. It gets loud in Tamil, of course, but in Hindi it positively plumbs the depths, often bordering on the execrable. When “Teri maa ki bleep”, “Teri maa ki bleep” gets a lot of shouts even from those who have paid Rs 250 per ticket, you have to send a silent prayer to the censor board members—and their mothers.
#5: Upma is better than thayir sadam is better than pasta
Seriously, what is this pasta fixation for a fatherless girl working in a call centre in Wanted? Some kind of status symbol on the Virar Slow? Doesn’t maaji dig roti or parantha or phulka? Think outside the lunch box, Prabhuji. See how funny “Nee yenna periya pasta va?” sounds as compared to the original “Nee yenna periya pista va?” If there is one shot which exposes the pretentiousness of Bollywood, the disconnect with the masses it serves, it is the pasta.
#6 Mummaith Khan is better than whoever it is who is trying to play Mummaith Khan
Mmmm. Don’t just take my word for it. Click here for the full evidence: Ippatininka naa vayasu inka padahare or En chella peru apple. Like a good villain, Alibhai (Prakash Raj) has the right molls around him in Telugu and Tamil. He is even in the right business, running night clubs and such like. But Ghanibhai (Prakash Raj) screws up bigtime in the kind of item girls he employs in Hindi. He should pay dearly for this unpardonable sin.
You could go on and on.
That Alibhai sounds better than Ghanibhai, even if they are both played by the same national award winning actor.
That the Telugu or Tamil versions didn’t have to accommodate Govinda or Anil Kapoor. Etcetera.
If there are two areas that the Hindi Pokiri stands shoulder to shoulder with the South Indian ones, it is in the casting of Vinod Khanna as Salman’s father (as against Nasser in Telugu and Tamil).
And the cops. Mahesh Manjrekar fares better than the overacting Ashish Vidyarthi as the lecherous sub-inspector, bringing back memories of Tinnu Anand. And Govind Namdeo scores over the even more overacting (and overdubbing) Sayaji Shinde as the honest police officer.
Prabhudeva showed enormous promise with his Tamil adaptation of the Telugu Pokiri. But in the Hindi remake, he totally blows it. But having seen the Tamil Pokiri, too, you have to wonder like the great bard did, if the fault lies in him— or that of his stars.