Puri Jagannath is a director who celebrates heroism in a mass style and is one director who presents his heroes as rough and tough characters. The usual commercial elements are maintained intact in his movies, but Puri Jagannath makes it a point to present his hero with a ‘devil may care’ avatar. He does this specifically, to underline his style of film making as a mass movie maker.
As iSmart Shankar gears up for its release in late 2019, we take a look at how Puri Jagannath molds his heroes in his direction through the prism of other Puri Jagananath’s movies.
Puri Jagannath has been exploring themes of toxic masculinity right from his first directorial, Badri (2000.) In Badri, the fearsome Badri, an advertisement agency director, lets go of the ‘dignified’ look of a hero. Puri Jagannath started exploring this theme much before the ‘it’ movie with this theme, Arjun Reddy (2017.)
We tend to notice a seamlessly uniform template of a Puri Jagannanth hero, all through his movies in the past two decades.
Puri’s next big dig at the ‘ideal’ hero trope was the boisterous Chantigadu of Idiot (2002,) who is the son of a head constable, but is audacious enough to propose and tease the City Police Commissioner’s daughter. This again shows the changing rhetoric of a Telugu hero model, to which Puri contributed generously.
The kickboxer in Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi (2003,) is another spin on the hero template of Puri. The protagonist Chandu, played by Ravi Teja, confronts his own father for his abandonment of family, but also trains under him to win a kickboxing championship. This is again bordering on a ‘massy,’ ‘rugged’ and ‘undefined’ heroism in Telugu Cinema, which was for the first time. This model gave life to heroes like Pawan Kalyan, Ravi Teja and most importantly, to the reigning Telugu Superstar, Mahesh Babu.
Themes like nativity were given a massy tinge in Puri Jagannath’s direction. Take for example, his Andhrawala (2004,) where Junior NTR becomes a messiah for compatriot Telugu workers in Mumbai slums and puts up a duel with the local don.
Perhaps Puri’s most memorable heroic role was played by Mahesh Babu in the cult classic, Pokiri (2006,) where again, the dual personality syndrome was depicted. An IPS officer works undercover as a local don, Pandu (or a stooge of a don?) to quell the drugs mafia in Hyderabad. We get a glittering glimpse of how a director mixes up the righteous and the sinful qualities in Mahesh Babu’s character. This remains to date as Puri Jagannath’s quintessential hero definition, a veritable mix of Lion and Fox.
Puri Jagannanath’s heroes always border on doing the opposite to the ‘accepted norm,’ as in Desamuduru (2007,), who stalks a sannyasin at Kullu Manali. So, morality and righteousness come as an added baggage, which can be thrown away when needed. This is the Puri hero for you.
Puri Jagannnath gave similar massy roles to Prabhas, both in Bujjigadu: Made in Chennai (2008) and Ek Niranjan (2009,) where the repeating trope of Puri, the underworld or the goon’s paradise is glorified with the felicity which only an ardent devotee of massy images could afford to do.
Take Puri’s take on crime reporting in Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu (2012) where an unusual choice for a journalist is offered to the audience, a mechanic Rambabu, played by Pawan Kalyan has his dare me if you can attitude and unscrupulous demeanor attracts the camerawoman, Ganga. So again, you are offered an ‘Iconoclastic’ hero debunking all preconceived notions.
Junior NTR too plays faithful to the Puri Jagannath trope of a dual personality dominated hero in Temper (2015.) His memorable role (?) Daya observed the harsh realities of the Police department and decides to cash in the corrupt system by becoming an ‘extrovertly’ money mongering police officer, who amassed wealth from various sources, but here we find the Puri twist. We are given an eye opener of sorts of a fallen man rising to the heights of a good Samaritan, who fights to save girls from gang rapes, a Puri Jagannath take on the Nirbhaya Movement maybe, but with his own twist.
Now, Puri has a task cut out of moulding Ram Pothineni, the Energetic Star who appeared in the ‘Family reconciling lover’ movies till now,will not turn into a massy ‘dimaag kharab Hyderabadi’ in iSmart Shankar (2019.) The ardent Puri Jagannath fans can’t wait for more to see the star in a new avatar.
Would we be seeing another ‘split personality’ dominated heroism by Ram Pothineni? Well, the trailer has more than what catches the eye.
So, gear up for a Puri Jagannath model of Ram Pothineni!
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