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Humour | The good old days

Yesterday, as I was fighting the blues like everyone else in the country, I rediscovered Satyam Sivam, a Telugu film from the ’80s, on YouTube. It stars both ANR and NTR (if you need to know who they are, you’re from Uranus.)

I went straight to the climax. I know my way around this territory.

In a scene reflecting family values of the time, thespian Kaikala Satyanarayana is holding veteran actress Pushpalatha hostage (with a gun to her head) to escape from ANR. Satyanarayana and Pushpalatha are playing husband and wife, by the way. And ANR, 10 years older than his cinematic father, is playing their son. ANR also happens to be gloriously blind. This is made evident by his stumbling around looking at the ceiling and grabbing a hapless Rati Agnihotri for support.

Now why would a man with a gun need a hostage if all he has to do is escape a blind man? ANR, you see, is a crack shot. And he can hit his target by ‘seeing’ with his ears. He proves his marksmanship a few minutes earlier by throwing a flower vase and shooting it. So wily old Satyanarayana is not taking any chances. He grabs his wife by the neck just as soon as she returns from the temple after performing an archana in his name.

Well, Satyanarayana, and a fairly co-operative Pushpalatha (she has been estranged from her husband for many years, after all, and probably wants alone-time without a creepy, blind son who is older than her peering over their canoodling), make good their escape from their family home in a conveniently parked outdoor unit van. They head off in high speed in the direction of the docks. In the climax, it is mandatory for cast and crew of those times to head off to the docks, an abandoned factory or the villain’s den in a convoy of vehicles. But ANR has other plans.

A rope that has been tied to the luggage carrier on the van’s roof snakes past him as the vehicle zooms off. ANR, still looking at the ceiling, grabs hold of it. And off he goes with the van. Dragged along the road horizontally, kicking and bleeding, you say? No! Why?

Because ANR has roller-skates on his feet. When did he put them on? Maybe when his mother was being strangled by his father a minute ago? Maybe they’re built in? Maybe, unbeknownst to viewer, Pushpalatha bought them on her way to the temple and slyly passed them on to her blind son? Who cares.

Now we have a van zigzagging across the bewildered roads of Vizag with a blind ANR on skates attached to it. Multi-tasker Satyanarayana juggles driving and kidnapping duties with firing intermittently at his son who is holding on like a blind barnacle. There is some hardcore back-projection with ANR doing an equally hardcore impersonation of a vision-impaired man on skates powered by a runaway van.

Finally, one of the bullets gets the rope — dishkiyaoon — and ANR is disengaged from the vehicle.

Or is he?

From a nearby hill, the till-now absent other hero, NTR, espies this, and makes an entry like only he can. By diving on top of the van, grabbing the broken rope and keeping the chase alive...

I can’t reveal any more.

I suggest you watch this film. And every Amitabh Bachchan remake made in Tamil and Telugu with NTR, ANR and Sivaji Ganesan doing the honours.

You’ll realise how good life used to be.

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a satirist. He has written four books and edited an anthology.


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 6:37:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/the-good-old-days-80s-film-telugu-anr-ntr/article34507375.ece

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