A still from Khaidi, which catapulted Chiranjeevi to stardom.
Imagaine this. The year is 1982, the year of Rambo, the year of First Blood and Sylvester Stallone-hunky, muscly, like a Greek God. Based on a book by the same name by David Morell, produced by Mario Kassar-Andrew G. Vajna and directed by Ted Kotcheff.
Shift to our own Telugu industry. October 28th, 1983 saw the re-emergence of an actor who went on to become Megastar, and writers who we give credit to for creating the unforgettable character of Suryam. Khaidi came an year after First Blood, and was a mere nativisation of the same concept, plot and characterization. Let's look at the striking similarities, in other words, the copycat attitude.
First the plot of First Blood: John Rambo is a Vietnam Veteran who comes to a small town and is abused by the local sheriff there. He refuses to leave the town when the police officer asks him to, is abused by the police, relives the memories of tortures he faced in his gory past and wages a personal war with the local police. His former commanding officer comes in and tries to restore the peace.
The plot of Khaidi: Suryam walks into a small town and is arrested by the local policeman on suspicion and relives his past tortures when he is beaten by them. He is already an escaped convict, framed by three villians back in his village where his family succumbs to death due to these evil men. With the crime he did not do on his head, he seeks refuge in a doctor's house and wages a war with the police and the wrong-doers.
If that sounds similar, its nothing compared to the screenplay. The first scenes, where he walks into a town, is caught by the police on suspicion and is dressed and bathed and then beaten-a frame to frame copy with a few subtle changes to suit the environment of our culture and times. The Vietnam war John Rambo finds himself in is merely changed to a village where the Landlord is the main villian-a theme common in 1980 movies. A clever adaptation!
A few scenes which are lifted directly are stated now. The first scene where the local policeman finds Suryam on the bridge and questions him is the same. The scenes that follow, i.e., arresting him on suspicion, taking him to the station, retrieving a knife from him, asking his details, wanting his finger print (when Suryam refueses) is a photocopy. Then they clean him up and when they beat him, Suryam recollects his past when the Landlord and his cronies beat him tied against a bullock cart. Both John Rambo and Suryam retaliate and beat the police back and run away.
Sylvester Stallone on the sets of First Blood (Khaidi took inspiration from this flick!).
After that while Rambo runs into the forest, Suryam takes refuge at Doctor Sujatha's house (played by Sumalatha). The flashback is different, where Vietnam war would have been, a regular war against the village heads, a common theme, is brought into the story.
The commanding officer who plays peacemaker is replaced by Suryam's lover the landlord's daughter, Madhulatha (Madhavi). In the end, both John Rambo and Suryam surrender, but not after Suryam here gets his revenge against the landlord and his cronies.
This was as far as the plot and scenes are concerned. When it comes to the characterization, it is a lift right down to the costume. Suryam is angry, has an air of rebellion, a 'one-man army'. The look in the eye, the gestures and the costume and more than anything, the need to revenge himself upon the wrong-doers is simply John Rambo's Telugu version.
Of course, there had to be changes to suit the commercial Telugu movie format. A love story, and obviously, Suryam's lady love has to be the evil landlord's daughter. The landlord kills Suryam's father, commits further atrocities and finally killing his sister.
Rambo steals a motorbike and survives in a forest while warring against the police. This has been used in the second half of Khaidi, where Suryam is caught and escapes from the police yet again and steals a motorbike and stays in a forest. Like Rambo, Suryam makes himself a bow and arrow. Like Rambo, Suryam breaks into a police station and steals ammunition from the police station itself and fires at them with their own ammunition. Even the posters and stills are styled on the basis of the original.
The part of the plot where Suryam and Madhulatha are in love-rich girl and poor boy, girl's father being the villian were all ever so common then. This was no big deal. Khaidi's hit trendsetting format comes from the part of the plot where there is a fire in Suryam's heart to revenge himself upon those who wronged him and his family. The direct lifts from the screenplay with the first scenes and climax are what really made the movie different. The characterization is strikingly same, which created mass hysteria for Sylvester Stallone who was already big with Rocky (1976). The same is true for Chiranjeevi and it was the beginning of blockbuster hits for him. But sadly, this movie which every true blue Telugu Cinegoer has on his/her list of must-watch moives is in the running for the copycat crown.