And so I tucked Masala Death Trap! into the back of the closet, as if it were some kind of mildly embarrassing white elephant that I was loathe to throw out for fear it might prove useful someday. In short, until today. Not that the death trap in Appu Raja is actually better than Main Balwaan's, mind you. But it certainly exhibits a degree of awesomeness that makes it worthy of being spotlighted, and I could think of no more appropriate context than Masala Death Trap! in which to do so.
Appu Raja is the Hindi dubbed version of Tamil superstar Kamal Hassan's massive 1989 hit Apoorva Sahodarargal. In it, Hassan stages a stunt casting coup that makes Amitabh Bachchan's turn in Paa look like an unassuming cameo, in that the normally-proportioned star not only plays a homicidal dwarf, but also that homicidal dwarf's brother and, in flashback, his father.
Now, unlike the impressive singularity of purpose of Main Balwaan's death trap, whose every separate function was designed to kill you just that little bit more, Appu Raja's is more a device of the classic Rube Goldberg variety, employing what appears to be an awful lot of wasted motion toward the end of creating one very simple action. The reasons for this, I think, are three-fold: (1) That Kamal Hassan's character, the dwarf Appu, is fucking crazy, (2) that, being a dwarf, he doesn't have the strength to lift and operate a bow and arrow on his own, and (3) that the nature of the device nicely compliments the off-kilter circus ambiance of Appu Raja as a whole (I think if you imagine demented calliope music playing as you view the following pictures, that will help a lot to give you the general idea).
And so with that preamble out of the way, let's begin:
The sequence begins with little Appu* luring his victim, the corrupt politician Franklin Anberson, into an abandoned building. You see, Anberson is one of the men responsible for making Appu's pregnant mom drink the snake venom that resulted in Appu being born a dwarf, so it's understandable that Appu might be a little tiffed at him.
At first, Anberson scoffs at the notion that a pint-sized half-deck like Appu could actually do him any physical harm, but Appu will show him. Of course, given the many convolutions that this death trap must go through in order to demonstrate its final purpose, this means that Anberson must spend a great deal of time standing in dumb contemplation in order for him to be shown -- a circumstance which may tax the credulity of some of you haters out there. Haters!
With obvious relish, Appu sets the machine in motion...
But wait, there's more, says Appu.
Though it starts out like a particularly grim and violent little revenge thriller, by the time it's over, Apu Raja has spoiled our fun a bit by letting us know that it really doesn't take any of this all that seriously. Still, if the preceding was too mean spirited for you, it also gives us this: