In preparation for Hope’s 40th anniversary of Rambo, I watched Rambo: First Blood for the first time and compared it to Khaidi (1983), a Telugu movie that is heavily inspired by it.
Yes, before writing this article, I’d never seen Rambo. Shocking I know — a Hope reporter who’s never seen Rambo? Absolutely scandalous. In my defense, I wasn’t expecting it to be part of Hope’s local culture. And, to be fair, I thought I watched the Bollywood versions of it…only to be quite shocked when, after doing research for First Blood, I realized that Bollywood is technically Rambo free.
There were Bollywood action movies that happened to have actors wearing the same bandana and shaggy hair ensemble that Sylvester Stallone sported in First Blood. And my Rambo investigations did reveal a future Bollywood movie that is supposedly a direct adaptation. So that’s cool.
Interestingly enough, Tollywood — Telugu cinema — actually claims the first adaption. Or, at least a movie heavily influenced by it. It’s called Khaidi, starring Chiranjeevi, and I’ve never actually seen the film either. So, just to make my life more interesting (difficult), I decided to watch both movies and compare them to see which one I would like better.
Now, before watching the movies, I went on Wikipedia to look up the summaries of both First Blood and Khaidi. Then I watched a video essay on First Blood. Followed by a podcast interview that Stallone did with his daughters (Yes, I went on a very deep dive for this column). Basically, research was done because I wanted to understand why this movie is so influential, to the point of apparently inspiring a whole generation of action heroes overseas.
Here are my first thoughts on First Blood; why is this movie just marketed as an action flick? I spent years avoiding First Blood because I believed it was just an action flick where a buff man fights people in the forest. No one told me it’s actually a surprisingly thought-provoking piece on PTSD and how the American system failed Vietnam veterans. Nor did they inform me that it was originally a book (which I am currently looking for) that further expands on the themes found in the movie.
Second thoughts; why on earth is Hope re-branded as American. Fine, it’s an American movie made for an American audience. But you really couldn’t change the name?
Complaints aside… Yeah, I liked Rambo. I liked the way it analyzed the lack of compassion to those suffering with their mental health. And alright, I’ll admit it, I liked the action scenes. So I guess I can continue working in this town.
Now when comparing Khaidi to Rambo, I can definitely see where it gets its influence from. The movie features a hero suffering with PTSD named Suryam, who is on the run after being unjustly implicated in his sister’s death. The movie deals with the corruption and injustices dealt by those in power. And a lot of the scenes, especially the action scenes, follow the same beat as First Blood.
The one glaring difference between these two movies, though, is the romance plot found in Khaidi. I understand why they included it — a lot of movies in various Indian cinema, especially in the 80s, usually have a romantic subplot. But in a movie that’s supposed to be based off Rambo it did feel… startlingly out of place.
Side note, while I did like Khaidi it did border on the exaggerated and theatrical. It also didn’t help that the inclusion of women in this film felt misogynistic/out of touch in the “comedic” parts.
So, in my personal opinion, I liked Rambo better (sorry Tollywood). But, I dunno, if you’re a fan of Rambo, and are curious about Tollywood’s interpretation of it in the ‘80s (and don’t mind epic singing numbers and dances in your flicks) then yeah, I would recommend Khaidi to you (it’s currently on Amazon Prime, so get your free 7-day trial and watch it). Who knows, maybe you’ll end up liking it more than me. And maybe it will be better than First Blood for you.