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సోమవారం, అక్టోబర్ 12, 2015

Why Indra The Tiger is a permanent fixture on Indian television

  • Saudamini Jain, Hindustan Times
  •  |  
  • Updated: Mar 07, 2015 18:08 IST


The film opens with death and unrest. A village in Andhra Pradesh is caught in turmoil caused by its two feuding families. They decide to end war with a wedding.

A red wedding: the bride poisons the groom on their first night together; her father murders all the men in his family. Indrasen must take over as head of this unfortunate family: the young schoolboy with a fierce temper is now the village headman.

How many times have you watched Indra The Tiger? For a decade now, the Telugu blockbuster Indra dubbed in Hindi as Indra The Tiger seems to have become a permanent fixture on TV. 

It was, we always assumed, a blip. Some sadist schedulers playing a joke on national audiences. Because Indra seemed to be on TV on some channel or the other at any given point in time. Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, you name it, there it was: a Telugu action film we never watched. 

So here’s something you may not know: when it was released in 2002, Indra the Tiger grossed more on the box office than any Telegu film before it. "It was about Rs 40-45 crore, almost twice as much as any other hit film usually made," says C Ashwini Dutt, the film’s producer. In the same year in Bollywood, Devdas, the top grosser, made just Rs 34 crore (though figures vary between Rs 24 crore and Rs 34 crore) in comparison. 

In Telugu cinema, it resurrected actor Chiranjeevi, whose career had started to wobble by the late 1990s. "He had quite a bit of competition from Junior NTR, the grandson of great NTR," says film journalist Rentala Jayadeva, referring to Telugu cinema legend and former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, NT Rama Rao and his grandson. 

"Factionism is a hit formula in Telugu cinema, particularly with Rayalseema as a backdrop. And Chiranjeevi attempted this formula to catapult his career," he says. 

"Rayalseema is an arid area, with high water scarcity. The plot revolved around people praying for more water. And here is Chiranjeevi, for the first time enacting the leader of a faction. He’s all for people and against bloodshed. The film was bound to be a hit."

It has all the masala: the hero with superhero abilities, a cause, lots of action, many, many songs, and a Bollywood actress (Sonali Bendre) for glamour. And it is partly set in Varanasi. 


Ladies’ man: Chiranjeevi with Aarthi Agarwal in Indra

It is, if you set your pretentions aside, a rather enjoyable film. And if you don’t, the dubbed version has gems such as these: (the other female lead, Aarthi Agarwal, to Chiranjeevi):

Tumhaari nazrein mujhe bohot pasand aayien.

Greek shilp mein jaise banaaya ye figure pasand aaya.

Teri chaal mein ek style hai.

Aur kya boloon?

Totally teri body mein jo kuch hai, sab mujhe pasand aaya.

"When I was heading Sahara One (in 2010-11)," says TV and film writer Mushtaq Sheikh, "we had these perpetual, evergreen films: whenever you needed ratings, you could close your eyes and screen them. Indra was one of them."

Other films give channels high ratings too: the YRF films, the Karan Johar films, the SRK films. But if you watch a film repeatedly, you will know its scenes by heart. 

So, "the time spent by the audience on these movies is diminishing over the years," says Sheikh. "But this logic escapes Indra. This movie is so engaging and so bizarre… it still gives you numbers. How can something break all rules? Movie making is uncertain, but Indra The Tiger is not. It is the answer to everything." The beginning
For years, south Indian movies (mostly Tamil hits) dubbed in Hindi had been successful in theatres. Roja (1992) and Bombay (1995) did very well at the box office. 

"But this hadn’t been attempted on TV. We started the trend," says Udayan Shukla, the programming head at Sony Max. "These films work with all kinds of audiences. [National] audiences relate to them – we’ve had a history of south Indian producers making blockbuster Hindi hits in the ’80s: Himmatwala, Sooryavansham…" 

Sooryavansham is the Amitabh Bachchan film that could give stiff competition to Indra for being aired the most. The other is Nayak, the one where Anil Kapoor plays an aam addmi chief minister. It was a bizarre film, more so since it came a decade before Arvind Kejriwal appeared on the scene to play it out in real life. 


On loop: Sooryavansham is the Amitabh Bachchan film that could give stiff competition to Indra for being aired the most. The other is Nayak, where Anil Kapoor plays an aam addmi chief minister 

“We have a large library – of 1,500 films, but only 250-400 films resonate with the audiences,” says Shukla. This arrangement worked out fine when there were three Hindi movie channels, but now there are about a dozen and all play the same films.

It would still work out if you weren’t subjected to them on Saturday evenings when you have absolutely no plans, but, says Mushtaq Sheikh, the best films are reserved for, say, January 26 and Diwali and Holi... you still have a lot of primetime slots to fill. And to push numbers, “you have to show the films that you know will do well,” he says.

We’re surpised when the film is not playing on television.

The strange thing is that both Set Max and Star Gold claimed to have not shown the film since 2011. Yet, we remember watching it after 2011 on the two channels – in the last year too. Twitter is full of jokes about the film being every movie channel’s favourite film, because “Indra the Tiger is no longer a movie. It’s a channel.”

Now though, you will find it playing on Sahara One and Filmy: both, however, declined to comment on the film.
A remake?This makes one wonder why the film hasn’t been remade in Hindi. In 2012, there were rumours that Sanjay Leela Bhansali had acquired the rights and was going to make it with Akshay Kumar in the lead. But as it turns out, Bhansali and Kumar were actually working on the remake of the Tamil film Ramana, to be released this year.

Ashwini Dutt, Indra’s producer (he also produced Jaani Dost, the hit 1980s film starring Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Parveen Babi and Sridevi) has been constantly trying to make it in Hindi. “I offered Prabhudeva the direction also,” he says.

“I keep telling dad, it’s high time we made it in Hindi,” says Dutt’s daughter, Swapna. “There have been a lot of calls from Bollywood, but each person wants to make the film on their own, whereas we want to co-produce it. So that’s where it’s got stuck,” she says. “And we need a big hero. I want Salman Khan!”

Is Salman listening?

Follow @SaudaminiJain on twitter

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శుక్రవారం, ఫిబ్రవరి 08, 2013

Telugu Cinema turns a grand 82!

The Telugu film industry turned 82 on this February 6th, Wednesday. The day commemorates the release of first rull length Telugu feature film ‘Bhakta Prahlada’. Ending years of quandary over the release date of first Telugu talkie feature film ‘Bhakta Prahlada’, noted film journalist, researcher and Nandi award winning critic Rentala Jayadeva has proved the exact date by providing appropriate evidences.

Earlier, September 15, 1931, was considered as the release date of the film by many that was later disproved by Jayadeva making it a way for the fact that it was released on February 6, 1932. Directed by doyen HM Reddy, the movie was made in 18 days with a budget of Rs 18,000 and it was censored on January 22, 1932, in Mumbai (then Bombay) which released on February 6 in Krishna Theatre in Bombay. 

The film was moved to Sri Maruti theatre in Vijayawada and Sri Krishna theatre in Rajahmundry after having two-week successful run in Bombay. 

Starring Krishna Rao, Munipalle Subbaiah, Surabhi Kamala Bai and Sindhoori Krishna Rao in significant roles, veteran director-producer LV Prasad was seen as a dimwit in the film. The movie was later released in Madras on April 2, 1932, and received well by audiences.

(This article was Published in 'The Hans India' English daily, dated 7th February 2013, Thursday, Page No. 10)

ఆదివారం, సెప్టెంబర్ 09, 2012


This is the article ratifying my research on Telugu cinema. This article was published in 'The Hindu' daily dated Sept. 9, 2012 - Sunday in its Cinema Plus supplement. Photo Caption Who’s the first? File photos of ‘Bhakta Prahlada’ (1932) considered the first talkie film in any South Indian language; ‘Sita Kalyanam’ (1934); ‘Lava Kusa’ (1934). Issue – While the debate about the ‘first south Indian talkie’, is on, there’s a need to archive works of the Telugu film industry for posterity. Though the 80th year celebrations of Telugu talkie were held on a low key last year, to mark the completion of 75 years since the first Telugu talkie, Bhaktha Prahlada hit the screen, it was celebrated with great pomp and show in 2007 at the Mecca of Telugu cinema, Hyderabad. So, when was the Telugu talkie first made? According to popular belief the first Telugu talkie was released on September 15, 1931 and so the function should have been held some time in 2006, but, by sheer coincidence, the three-day fete was inaugurated on January 26, 2007, just four days away from the 75th anniversary of the first Telugu talkie. The film was censored on January 22, 1932. Last September, when senior journalist and film researcher, Dr. Rentala Jayadeva, published his findings on the exact release date of ‘Bhaktha Prahlada,’ doubts were raised by some film critics about the veracity of his claim. According to Rentala’s research, ‘Bhaktha Prahlada’ was released first in Bombay on February 6, 1932 and later in the Andhra region and on April 2, 1932 in Madras. How could a film censored on January 22, 1932 be released on September 15, 1931? A valid question indeed. Rentala says that it was the heckle of a veteran Tamil film chronicler that made him undertake the arduous task of finding the exact date about the release of the first Telugu talkie. There are newspaper reviews and advertisements to prove that the first Tamil talkie, ‘Kalidas,’ was released on October 31, 1931, but there is no such proof about the first Telugu talkie. The veteran Telugu film-maker, H.M. Reddy, was commissioned by Ardeshir Irani to direct the first Tamil talkie, and this fact might have led some inventive Telugu film personality to presume that he (H.M.Reddy) must have made the Telugu talkie first and then the Tamil movie, ‘Kalidas.’ This presumption led to the belief that ‘Bhaktha Prahlada’ was released on September 15, 1931. Critics’ questions whether he had any proof for his claim prompted Rentala to do some research on the issue. “After scouting for evidence in libraries in Chennai, Andhra Pradesh and Mumbai, I finally stumbled upon 'The Bombay Government Gazette - Part I' (Page no.:313) dated February 4, 1932 at the National Films Archives, Pune, which had the dates of films produced and censored in Bombay. The censor date of ‘Bhaktha Prahlada’ was given in it as January 22, 1932. The Bombay Chornicle carried an advertisement on January 31, 1932 that the film would be released soon. And it was released on February 6, 1932 at Krishna Cinema on New Charlie Road, Bombay. The Times of India carried a review of the film on the same day of its release as preview show was held before its release. Subsequently, it was released in Andhra and then on April 2, 1932 at the National Picture Palace (later renamed as Broadway Talkies), Madras. All this clearly proves that ‘Bhaktha Prahlada’ was released only in 1932.” Though ‘Kalidas’ was hailed as the first Tamil talkie, in which the film’s hero (Srinivasa Rao) speaks and sings in Telugu and the heroine (T.P. Rajalakshmi) delivers her dialogue in Tamil and rendered Thyagaraya krithis in Telugu and L.V. Prasad who played a cameo spoke in Hindi, it was not considered a true Tamil talkie by some diehard Tamil film critics. They consider ‘Sampoorna Harischandra’, released on April 9, 1932, as the first full- length Tamil talkie. Even The Hindu, a day before the film’s release, reviewed it as the “first Tamil talkie. And funnily the advertisement of Kalidas carried that it is the first Tamil – Telugu talkie.” “On this point, we can still feel proud of the fact that ‘Bhaktha Prahlada’ was the first talkie film in any of the South Indian languages as it was released a couple of months before the full-length Tamil talkie, ‘Harischandra,’ ” states Jayadeva. Though the Telugu film industry is one of the largest movie producers in the country, unfortunately there is no proper archive to keep track of these facts. Is it not high time for the industry to take note of this and captured its history for posterity? -- M L Narasimham

శనివారం, జనవరి 22, 2011

A bow to this wielder of the Quill

(Photo caption - Journalist sri Sivalenka Sambhu Prasad 1911 - 1972)

‘Andhra Patrika’ is one daily that has enriched Telugu journalism. It is this publication, which has been the front-runner in the freedom struggle of people of Telugu-speaking areas in the 1900s. Though it was initially published as a weekly from Bombay on 1908 September 9th, it was in Madras the publication was turned into daily. From 1914 April 1st, ‘Andhra Patrika’ played a crucial role in journalism from Madras. Apart from the daily and the weekly, it brought out a literary and cultural monthly in Telugu called ‘Bharathi’. All these publications and the famous ‘Amruthanjan’ company were started and run by none other than that great freedom fighter and philanthropist “Desoddhaaraka” Kasinathuni Nageswara Rao Panthulu himself. (In fact, his name is identified with the road and the park at Mylapore, near Luz corner). After his demise on 1938 April 11th, his nephew and son-in-law Sivalenka Sambhu Prasad took over the management of all the publications and ‘Amrutanjan’.

In a rare tribute, the building of the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists at Hyderabad is named Desodhharaka Bhavan, after Kasinathuni Nageswara Rao Panthulu.

Trained under Nageswara Rao Panthulu himself, Sambhu Prasad (1911 – 1972) turned out to be a good journalist in Telugu. He efficiently ran ‘Andhra Patrika’ and other sister concerns for 34 years successfully. It was he, who brought a name, fame and the economic strength to the newspaper and made it into an inseparable part of Telugus in those days.

This is his birth centenary year. Sambhu Prasad was born in Elakuru on January 26th 1911 in the subsequent Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district, Gudivada taluq. He studied at Theosophical high school and later at National College, Machilipatnam. After that he went Santhi Niketan of Rabindra Nath Tagore and became a graduate there. Initiated into journalism by Kasinathuni Nageswara Rao Panthulu, he first worked in ‘Andhra Patrika’ weekly. After the demise of Nageswara Rao Panthulu, Sambhu Prasad took the organization out of debts and made it self-sufficient with the help of stalwarts, including Ramnath Goenka. His interest and aptitude towards Telugu literature made the publications under him the finest of those times in terms of Andhra literature, culture and politics. He strove hard for the development of Telugus till his death and achieved success in fulfilling the dreams of his father-in-law.

He also started ‘Andhra Patrika’ editions at Vijayawada (from January 23rd 1965) and Hyderabad. Sambhu Prasad’s writings used to be enjoyed by readers. His editorials used to be thought-provoking. His satirical column ‘Padaka Kurchi Bhaavaalu’ (easy- chair musings) was a rage among the readers.

Sambhu Prasad was a member of the Rajya Sabha. At the time of his demise, he was a member of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council. He served as a director of the leading news agency ‘Press Trust of India’ (PTI) and was associated with the ‘All India Editors Guild’. He died on June 8th 1972 in Madras. His mantle of journalism and ‘Amrutanjan’ was carried forward by his son Radhakrishna. Now his grandson, also named Sambhu Prasad, is looking after the ‘Amruthanjan’ company.

Though the publications from ‘Andhra Patrika’ group are no more, the spirit that they kindled and their pioneers Nageswara Rao Panthulu and Sambhu Prasad are ever-inspiring. They are assured of a niche in the socio-cultural history of Madras down from the Raj era.

శనివారం, డిసెంబర్ 25, 2010

Better late than never!

At last it happened! The immediate past Telecom minister A. Raja has been questioned by the premier investigating agency –-the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). After so much of discussions and speculations, it happened on Christmas Eve and later on the Christmas Day. The 47-year-old DMK M.P. from Tamil Nadu has been was questioned by the CBI officers for nearly nine hours. The officers went to the Delhi residence of Raja and grilled him about the Unified Access Service licence case. The interrogation was started around 10.30 in the morning and it went on till around 8 p.m.

The monitoring from the Supreme Court has led the CBI to take up this quizzing. CBI sources said that the former minister and a close aide of the DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi was very co-operative throughout the interrogation. After the questioning session, Raja gave his reaction to the waiting media very briefly. “I have given full co-operation to the investigating agency” said Raja.

Though there was wide speculation for the past few days, that Raja would be arrested at any time, neither CBI nor the police is confirming it, even off-record. In fact, it is interesting to note that just a few days before this CBI questioning only, Income Tax raids have been conducted at Raja’s several places and his various business partners’ houses and offices around the country simultaneously. Even though nothing has been established proving Raja’s wrong-doings, it is only a question of time that culprits get booked. So, let us be patient and stay tuned to know the ramifications of Rs.1,76,000-crore 2G spectrum scam.