If you haven't seen the 2009 Telugu film Magadheera, you are missing one of the finest historical drama action films ever produced. This is an excellent entertainer with amazing item numbers, crazy action scenes, and a great story.
At the center of the story is a princess, a warrior, a usurper, and a conquerer; but this tale of love, war and heroism adds a twist - it is also a reincarnation saga.
In 1609 A.D. Princess Mithravinda Devi (Kajal Aggarwal) is heir to the throne of Udhaigarh in Rajasthan. She is smart, fun and opinionated, yet fully aware of the importance of her position.
Mithra is in love with Kala Bhairava (Ram Charan Teja) who serves as her bodyguard and protector of the realm. He is a mighty warrior renowned throughout India for his fighting ability.
Though Bhairava is equally in love with Mithra, honor and duty prevent him from speaking of his feelings for her.
Senadhipathi Ranadev Billa (Dev Gill), a lord of Udhaigarh, covets the princess for her beauty and for the power he could wield as her consort.
Ranadev's mantra is, "If I decide I want something, I must get it at any cost." He hides his dishonorable intentions, but Mithra and Bhairava know his true psychotic nature.
In a public contest of skill, Ranadev and Bhairava face off and, while the contest is close, Bhairava wins. As the defeated Ranadev walks into exile, you can be certain he is plotting his revenge.
Soon calamity strikes the kingdom and our hero Bhairava must face his toughest battle. In a dialogue with "barbarian" conquerer Sher Khan (Srihari), you begin to understand how Bhairava got his reputation.
Sher Khan: Tsk, tsk, tsk. Mighty warrior clan! A clan where a man dies only after killing 100 men. Mansingh, I'll prove now that what you said is merely a puppet story. Hey, Bhairava! I've given my word to present the princess to [Billa]. Bring her, make her sit in his lap, and fall at my feet. I'll spare your life.
Bhairava: I'm also giving you a promise, Sher Khan. Hand over the traitor [Billa] to me. I'll spare you and your army.
Sher Khan: Are you going to spare MY life? ...If you are a true man and have the guts, I'll send 100 men. Stop them from touching her. I'll handover the kingdom and the princess to you.
Bhairava: Send as many men as possible who will not turn their backs!
Sher Khan: The very sight of them will leave you almost dead!
Bhairava: Never mind if the count is more! Make sure it's not one less!
Sher Khan: Even if one man survives, you lose!
Bhairava: Don't send one by one, Sher Khan. Send everyone at the same time.
Sher Khan: Mere talking will not do! Show it in action!
What follows is a scene of epic action awesomeness as Bhairava battles 100 of Sher Khan's soldiers singlehandedly. Unfortunately, the battle also results in several unresolved issues - and herein lies the impetus for reincarnation.
400 years later, fate brings the princess, warrior, usurper, and conquerer together again and slowly awakens them to their shared history.
"Actually, I first thought of mythology/folklore at least partly. Charan's image and body language would suit that kind of get-up. The theme of reincarnation has been with my father for quite some time... To reach out to the commercial aspects, we had song, dances and fights. We had the best of both worlds."
While the film features many stunts and wonderful dancing, Ram Charan appreciated the opportunity to display his equestrian skills the most. In the same interview, S. S. Rajamouli explained,
"Charan is also a horse rider. He had to just brush up horse riding for the film. He did everything himself, every single shot. There was no duplicate used."
Sunil: Look at those police horses. How beautiful! If we get on them and ride any girl will fall for us.
Harsha: What if before she falls for you, you fall down from the horse ... and imagine the horse kicking you ...
Sunil: Hahaha! Like Robin Hood, I spent my childhood on horses, buddy.
Harsha: You have mistaken buffaloes for horses.
Sunil: Oh! Aren't they the same? (Harsha chokes on his tea.) So scared of horses? Never rode a horse?
Harsha: No. I can't. We should rather ride a motorbike or drive a car these days ...
Fortunately for everyone, providence intervenes and Harsha finds himself astride a steed.
In an Indiaglitz post, Ram Charan explained that he bonded with the horse he rode in the film:
"The horse was literally picked up in the deserts of Rajasthan. It was one of my favorite studs so much so that I still have it and plan to keep it with me. To start with, the horse wasn't fully trained and still had significant wildness to it but we wanted to retain its wildness as the characterization, the chariot races and the likes demand it and training only makes horses sober..."
The film has several humorous scenes, including one where Ram Charan meets the "Boss" a.k.a. "the Master" who is played by his famous film-actor father and Member of Parliament, Chiranjeevi. But it wasn't easy to get him on-board. Ram Charan explained:
"Dad, when he took the political path, I felt that I will never get a chance to work with him. I used to be very jealous of Abhishek Bachhan and Amitabh Bachhan and always wanted to work with my dad for the entire length of a movie. I once shared this desire with my director and he was like Charan 'if you could really convince your dad, then there is a special slot in the movie, which he could only do. It is specially designed for him.' I took the proposal, went to dad and it took me a week to convince him."
In the scene featuring Ram Charan and Chiranjeevi, they partake in a bit of humorous banter then have a dance-off. Later on in the film Ram Charan's Harsha introduces himself to the villain as "Chiranjeevi."
This was only Ram Charan's second film, but he steps into the dual role expertly. He convincingly portrays both a seasoned soldier from centuries past and a modern-day motorbike stunt man. When he is called upon to perform in an item number, his dancing skills are outstanding.
Kajal Aggarwal's duel role as both princess and modern-day student was also appreciated, making her one of the most sought-after actresses. Her performance in this film lead to a role in the 2011 Hindi film Singham which earned her a nomination for Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut.
Magadheera was the most expensive Telugu film ever produced and the investment paid off. The film benefits from beautiful cinematography, gorgeous costumes, impressive special effects, amazing action sequencies, enjoyable music, and well-choreographed item numbers all wrapped up in an entertaining story. As a box office blockbuster, it was the highest-grossing Telugu film to date and won numerous industry awards for cast and crew including Filmfare South Award for Best Picture.
Stick around to enjoy the entertaining end titles, which joyously celebrate the many cast and crew members who participated in the making of this film.
The following video playlist features the Magadheera trailer followed by several 30 second spots featuring some of the scenes and music from the film.
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