There are films, they are classics and there are cults. Every time a cult film comes, it shakes the entire system, breaks the status quo and the entire eco-system re-emerges. Over the period of last 85 years, Telugu Cinema saw many cult films like Adavi Ramudu, Khaidi, Shiva, Peddarayudu, Narasimhanaidu and Indra. One more exciting film in this entry is Puri Jagannadh’s Pokiri which shattered all the myths about commercial cinema. Pokiri released with zero excitement and hype like any other summer film in 2006. After it released, the rest is history. Pokiri went on to become the highest grossing film in the history of Telugu Cinema until Magadheera arrived. Pokiri was also remade into all the other languages in India. For the Telugu film industry which was rattled with the sounds of flashbacks and family sentiments, Pokiri was a whiff of fresh air. As the film completes 10 years, here’s a look at 10 things what make Pokiri the film it is:
1. Mahesh Babu:
Mahesh was a star performer with films like Okkadu, Murari and Athadu by then. But then, Pokiri came and gave him an image makeover from a reserved chocolate boy to an outgoing brash youngster. Mahesh spoke and spoke and spoke like never before mouthing sharp dialogues and funny monologues. Puri Jagannadh captured Mahesh’s intensity and depth very well with epic characterization of Pandu. A word also to the styling where Mahesh sported a funky hair style, shirt on shirt outfits and a hand kerchief wrapped around his hand. Mahesh won the Filmfare Award for Best Actor for Pokiri in 2006.
2. Puri Jagannadh:
Puri Jagannadh by then was known to make films with ultra-talkative heroes, whacky titles and out of the box music and hard hitting dialogues. But with Pokiri, he took it to the next level. To his hero, he gave a lot of intensity, depth in character and extra edge in styling like always with lots of fun element to it. Like his Guru Ram Gopal Varma broke the conventions with Shiva, Puri did it with Pokiri.
3. The Storyline and Script:
Pokiri dealt with a very novel storyline of land mafia which was a burning issue in then Andhra Pradesh. Due to the IT Boom, the land prices in Hyderabad sky rocketed leading to a lot of mafia involvement and criminal activities. Puri Jagannadh stepped out of the houses and kept his narrative right in the centre of Hyderabad when land mafia was on peak. And since it was relatable, it sounded fresh and interesting.
80% of Pokiri you remember is the dialogues. Puri doesn’t hesitate in holding back when he writes the dialogues and Pokiri is a fine example. There is an intensity in the dialogue when Mahesh says – “Okka Sari Commit Aythey Naa Maata Nene Vinanu” ,much rib tickling when Mahesh says – “Nenentha Yedhavano Naake Telidu” and the beautiful hard hitting monologue when Nassar speaks about his son’s criminal operations comparing it with agriculture and you enjoy all of it. Pokiri’s screenplay rest comfortably on the strong dialogues penned by Puri Jagannadh. Some of the best lines of Puri were a part of Pokiri’s glory.
5. Action Sequences:
Pokiri had brilliant action sequences. Period. A lot of interest went into designing the fights in consistent with the storyline and painting it with a lot of realism to it. Be it the introduction fight which introduces Pandu to us or the group confrontation fight or the interval fight or the rousing MMTS station fight, Puri didn’t shy away from hiding the violence as he wanted the fights to be real and bring the depth and soul to the story. The fights weren’t over the top and were athletic and watching them was a lot of fun.
Puri is rated as one of the directors with great music taste and Pokiri is one of his career best albums. Every song in the album is a chartbuster. Be it the peppy “Deva Deva” or the husky “Dole Dole” or the fast paced “ Chudoddhantunna”, Pokiri’s songs were loved by the music lovers. And nobody would forget the masala laced “Ippatikinka Naa Vayasu” item song.
7. The Villains:
Prakash Raj as Ali Bhai in the film is one of the finest villains Tollywood has seen. With the right amount of humor, sly and ruthlessness, Prakash Raj with his chilled thoughts brings a lot of texture very few actors can bring. And a thing about Prakash in this film is being able to infuse humor in very tense situations of the film especially in his introduction scene where he talks to Satya Prakash who is in a kinky mood with his partner. A word of mention also to Ashish Vidyarthi who plays an integral part of the story.
8. The Humor:
We all have to agree that Pokiri was entertaining. Not because it was filled with comedians, but Puri Jagannadh filled his scenes with humor. Be it Pandu’s dialogues or Sayaji Shinde’s confrontation with the media or the actual comedy track of Ali-Bramhanandam, the humor in the film is what gave the film the repeat audience.
Ileana was a big craze with her TV commercials and she landed some very big offers in South by then. With her killer looks and cute histrionics she cast a spell on the audience which made the youngsters thronged the theatre to watch her. Her love story with Mahesh is also very interesting especially towards the later part when Pandu is in a denial mode due to the profession he is in. Their chemistry in that movie, no words!
10. The Twist:
Pokiri is what it is because of the grand twist in the climax which made everybody sit up and watch the film. The twist of Mahesh who is an undercover cop is an epic revelation in the course of the film. Nobody saw that coming in the first place and it carried a significant shock value which added to the tempo of the film. Later the point of an undercover cop was exploited in many other films but Pokiri was the first trendsetter. Interestingly, the cult Academy Award winning film The Departed which released in 2006 in Hollywood also has the concept of undercover cop which is a strange coincidence.
Does this make you want to watch Pokiri again?
–By Southie and movie buff Surya Tej Borra