Day 3 and your Favorite Catgirl’s still hard at it… as our new review takes us back to the saffron and curry scented horrors of the Indian Subcontinent. This time, I’ve been lucky enough to score myself a copy of the Telugu Fantasy/ Horror film, “Arundhati”….. my first foray into the wild films of South India.
Our synopsis reads: “Arundhati (played by Anushka Shetty) is a descendant of the Gadwal ruling dynasty. Her marriage is finally arranged and settled with her lover Rahul and his family. A few days before her marriage, she comes to her ancestral home of Gadwal from Hyderabad. There she is drawn to nearby abandoned fort where an evil spirit is lying in wait. Cut to flashback. Three generations back, Jejemma aka Arundhati (also played by Anushka Shetty) kills the evil sadistic womaniser, Pasupathi (played by Sonu Sood) whose eternal spirit vows to take revenge on her and her family. Three generations later, the new Arundhati is destined by fate to face him once again.”
I saw the trailer for this one and was just blown away… It has the look of a great big budget fantasy epic just the way I like them. After many fruitless months of searching, my efforts have finally been rewarded with a nice English friendly DVD at a ridiculously low price…. Yay!!!
So…. will “Arundhati” turn out to be that amazing Indian film I’ll just have to gush endlessly about to all my friends… or will it just be another goofy and confusing musical mess I’ll be embarrassed to admit I even watched?? I guess there’s really only one way to know….
So let’s all pop the popcorn, settle in on the couch and give it a try, shall we?
So… this one starts off as Arundhati, the great grand daughter of the Raja of Gadwal Mahasansthan is planning her marriage. Much grand pomp and circumstance is planned as she is the first woman born to the family in over 3 generations…. and more importantly, her family and their retainers all have the same idea that she’s the reincarnation of her great grandmother, Arundhati who was considered the living incarnation of the local Goddess Jejamma. Her great grandma, it seems, was basically Xena, Warrior Princess, Mother Teresa, and Gandhi all rolled into one…. and that’s some big slippers to fill….. trust this lil’ Catgirl. Worse…. Arundhati is the gorgeous spitting image of her famous ancestor so everybody walks around her in awe. The marriage is a big deal, so she returns to her ancestral family home in Gadwal…. which is a big… big… mistake. Seems her great grandma sorta walled up an evil guy alive and now his spirit wants revenge……
You see… waaaay back then, Arundhati’s grandma, Jejamma, had an elder sister who had been married off to her father’s wastrel nephew Pasupati (played by Sonu Sood). Pasupati was a sleazy womaniser and all around sexual sadist who used to ride around the countryside raping all the women that were unlucky enough to catch his eye and killing all those who resisted him. Jejamma’s sister finally committed suicide to escape his torments and her little sister flew into a righteous rage and ordered the people of Gadwal to publicly beat Pasupati nearly to death before tying him behind his horse and sending it galloping off dragging him to what should have been his messy and well deserved death.Though all of Gadwal celebrated Jejamma’s ending of his reign of terror, he somehow survived, saved by the evil Aghora monks, who served the Devil. Pasupati healed and then mastered the forbidden tantrik arts so he could return to Gadwal fort and take his revenge on Jejamma and her entire kingdom. Here’s where things get cool…..
Yep… these Aghora guys…. now they got all those wicked voodoo/ witchcraft/ eastern mystic evil stuff going on and then some…. and when Pasupati returns, the first thing he does is to start killing everybody he can with his magical powers, ripping them apart… slashing them like the wind is full of razors…. smashing them into wall like bloody rag dolls. He’s all set to wipe them all out when Jejamma arrives…. all regal and beautiful and soooo sooo sexy. Having a weakness for such things, he decides instead to satisfy his lusts upon her and rape her right then and there before her remaining family and retainers….. His big mistake….
In a sequence “borrowed” right out of the wonderful Chinese wuxia film “House of Flying Daggers”, Jejamma does a sultry dance with scarves in the middle of a room surrounded by drums…. Yep. Unlike most sequences “borrowed” for Indian films though, this particular version is excellently used and truly fits in. If you hadn’t seen the other film, you’d never realize it…. and the way it’s used here comes across much more as a true homage than a blatant rip off. Also…. unlike Zhang Zhi Yi’s dance… this time our heroine managed to surprise the villain with her tricky sword snatching scarves. Thinking quickly, she binds his hands, chokes his throat before embedding a chunk of glass in his mouth and topping the whole attack off by dropping a huge spiky iron chandelier on top of him skewering him to the floor helplessly. All that’s left is for her to swoop in and behead the bastard….. But nooooooo. The Yogis that are present say that’s a bad… bad… bad idea. He’ll only become an ultra powerful evil spirit then and be unstoppable. D’ohhhh!!!
But…. Jejamma is nothing if not a smart cookie. If she can’t kill him, well….then… that’s OK. She’ll just order her subjects to haul every holy relic, mystic talisman and loose stone from any holy shrine they can find to build a big ol’ tomb right over top of him where he lays. Then you get every Holy man you can find to bless the living beejeebits outta that tomb and that oughtta hold his evil in check forever. It means abandoning the fort…. but that’s a small price to pay to put an end to him at last. Unfortunately…. it still isn’t enough. After 48 days languishing in his tomb, he finally dies and his evil spirit is still powerful enough to curse the land of Gadwal causing sickness, misery and ruining the peoples lives. Jejamma leaves to wander the land, looking for a solution, but telling her people to name the first daughter born to the family after her…. and that she would be her reincarnation come to save them in their hour of need should the evil ever escape. She never returns….. and she’s never heard from again.
But…. 80 years later…. Arundhati is born, and all this stuff is hers to deal with. Her arrival in Gadwal coincides with Pasupati’s escape from his imprisonment in the ruins of the old fort. He’s still evil…. still seething for revenge… and still one nasty horny bastard. He wants Arundhati…. and he sets out on a mission to make her submit to his will and surrender herself to him. She’s frightened…. and she’s unwilling to believe she’s the reincarnation of her famous ancestor….. luckily she’s got some help in the form of a Muslim Holy guy named Anwar who’s got all the answers to the mystic stuff and just enough Holy whammy to keep her safe enough until her buried memories of her past life reveal to her the solution to her problem.
At this point we get all sorts of neat “Exorcist” meets “Final Destination” effects as evil Pasupati goes about possessing people, murdering Arundhati’s family and friends…. even tricking her husband to be into coming to Gadwal where he can become the ultimate hostage he can threaten to force Arundhati to submit to him at last. Stressed out and desperate…. she finally taps into her buried memories of her past life and finds out that her great grandma sacrificed her own life so that… from her own body… a weapon could be forged by Holy hermits that can actually destroy Pasupati’s evil spirit forever.
Our Holy guy Anwar and our heroine try to find the weapon, but get separated…. and our Anwar is thrown into a bottomless gorge to his death. Oh no!! Broken in spirit… she returns to the ruined fort to prevent the death of her family members by surrendering herself to the evil Pastupati’s unholy lusts. But….. Anwar isn’t dead!! Yay!!! Surviving his fall he manages to collect the weapon from the hermits and brings it safely to her… just in time for the super effects laden climax at the old fort of Gadwal Palace where Pasupati dies at the hands of the reawakened Warrior princess, Arundhati. And boy…. what a finale it is! A deadly fight occurs…. the fort collapses as the evil power that restored it fails…. flames pour from the sky and burn Pastupati to ash as the innocent villagers scramble to safety.
I have to say….. this one isn’t a perfect film…. there are some definite problems in continuity with the ages of certain characters. A maidservant… aged at the time of Jejamma is still an old lady some 80 years later… But those are minor quibbles that don’t detract much from the spectacle of this one. Neko really got into this one…. and I enjoyed it greatly with the magic and the story of revenge and valor in the face of evil. Neko gives “Arundhati” a definitely well deserved 4 “Meows” out of 5 with many purrs of fond contentment for the gorgeous sets, colorful costumes and even the dancing and singing… which actually works in this one to give it a real feeling of exotic fantasy. If only more Indian films were this much fun…… It’s a very worth while DVD to hunt down…. and for about 5$ US, with a Region Free NTSC Anamorphic Widescreen presentation and excellent subtitles, is an excellent bargain to boot.
Yep, there’s most definitely a Trailer… and to get you as excited as I am about this one, here it is!!