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Film / Once Upon a Warrior

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Yes, that's the Disney logo on the corner of this poster... of an Indian film.

Once Upon a Warrior, or Anaganaga O Dheerudu is a 2011 Indian fantasy-action adventure film produced as a joint-venture between Arka Media and Disney World Cinema.

In ancient India, the powerful Snake-sorceress, Irendri, whose cult once dominates the world with an iron fist, has returned after her defeat entire centuries ago. Reviving her Snake Cult, Irendri intends to make herself invincible and indestructible, by absorbing the life-force of a child, Moksha, who is gifted with psychic powers, during an eclipse.

A hero stood in Irendri's way, opposing the vile sorceress' plans of world domination. The warrior Yodha, once a proud soldier but now a blind man living in a circus, who sees Moksha as his surrogate little sister, will battle Irendri's forces of darkness to prevent her from completing the ritual.

The movie is released during the 2011 Sankranti festival, to moderate box-office success and above-average reviews. It's also the recipient of two Nandi awards — one for Best Villain over Lakshmi Manchu's portrayal of Sorceress Irendri — and one Filmfare Award. Unfortunately it's not really enough to hold Disney's interest of collaborating with Indian filmmakers, making this their first and only co-production with India.

Once Upon A Warrior, Twice Upon A Troper:

  • Abnormal Ammo:
    • Yodha's boomerang can fire darts in mid-flight.
    • Sorceress Irendri, upon finding out Yodha and Moksha has escaped into a valley, reveals the true extend of her power and she fires hundreds and hundreds of serpents from her fingers, which flies out of her citadel after the heroes. Yes, she can unleash a Macross Missile Massacre made of flying poisonous snakes.
  • All Part of the Show: The Snake Cult infiltrates the performance while disguised as regular dancers. As they ambush the performing Yodha on stage, and Yodha starts fighting back, the audience applauds thinking it was part of the show. But then the cult starts attacking the crowd...
  • Animal Motifs: Irendri's motifs are snakes, while the heroes - particularly Moksha - are butterflies.
  • Apocalypse Cult: Irendri's worshippers, the Snake Cult, who awaits their master's awakening and for her to achieve absolute invincibility and at the peak of her power, rule the entire world as a tyrant.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Whoo boy... for Irendri, where to start? A Walking Wasteland? Check. Poisonous Person? Check. Her power source being bathing in blood? Check. Becoming invincible by absorbing the life of children? Check. Turning into a serpentine monster at her peak of power? Double check. And does she ever enjoy using her powers to wreak havoc...
  • Battle Boomerang: Yodha's boomerang, complete with Abnormal Ammo abilities; it can fire darts in mid-flight, and nail down Snake Cult members with ease.
  • Big Bad: Irendri the sorceress, awakening from her slumber to turn the free world into a wasteland for her pleasure.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Yodha, after finding out the Snake Cult intends to use Moksha, whom he considers like a younger sister, for a sacrificial ritual, goes through hell and back to prevent the ritual form happening, to the point of fighting Irendri in her monstrous serpentine form.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Irendri in her final monstrous form has the "Permanently-attached blade" version, where her hands extends into organic swords resembling a serpent's spine, which she uses to battle Yodha.
  • Blind Weaponmaster: Yodha is a blind swordsman battling an evil cult. Like, imagine an Indian Zatoichi.
  • Blood Bath: Irendri indulges in these, with a pool of blood in her quarters from victims of the Snake Cult's sacrificial rituals for her to immerse herself in regularly. This is the same pool where she use her clairvoyance powers for visions on how to make herself stronger.
  • Burn the Witch!: After Irendri's initial defeat centuries ago, the village gurus attempts to execute her using this method. But upon being touched by the flames, Irendri instead disappears into green smoke and retreats into a locket, until her re-awakening hundreds of years later.
  • Carved Mark: Snake Cult members have a spiral-shaped mark on their foreheads, which resembles a coiled serpent. After the village battle, the guru managed to discover Irendri's awakening by examining the body of a slain cult member and recognizing the mark to be affiliated with the awakened Irendri.
  • Co-Dragons: Irendri's cult have two prominent henchmen; Sudigundam (who serves as a Mook Lieutenant and leads Snake Cult minions in raids) and Chitra (who is Irendri's personal aid). Both of them doesn't serve any purpose, other than being slightly higher-ranked servants of evil to be killed respectively by Yodha and Priya in the finale.
  • Creepy Crows: The two sorcerers serving Irendri can transform themselves into a murder of crows and back to human form. They're among the tougher opponents Yodha have to battle in the film.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Yodha against the Snake Cult, when a group of them ambushed the village while disguised as circus performers. The blind hero wipes out all of them with ridiculous ease.
    • Yodha, most of the time, if the Snake Cult consists of mooks, with the hero tearing through their ranks easily.
    • The final battle where Yodha fights Irendri unfortunately goes against Yodha's favor, because Irendri at this point have transformed into her powerful, One-Winged Angel serpentine form, an indestructible monster. Yodha barely survives the battle, if not for Moksha using her healing powers on him.
  • The Dreaded: Irendri, whose name strikes fear in everyone; the moment the village guru announces of Irendri's return to the plane of living, the whole village goes Mass "Oh, Crap!" immediately.
  • Distant Prologue: The Villain Opening Scene takes place centuries ago, with Irendri, at the peak of her power, ordering her Snake Cult to massacre entire villages, until she's eventually defeated and her reign of evil put to an end until a few hundred years later.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Irendri's citadel and her lair of evil, located in the middle of what was once a lush valley corrupted into a wasteland by the sorceress' powers, which is shaped like a serpent's head.
  • Friend to All Children: Yodha is massively popular with the village kids, and is often shown as a big-brother figure to Moksha, his assistant in the circus which he treats like a little sister.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Irendri's final form is supposed to be a gorgon of sorts, having snakes in her hair and limbs, and a lower body consisting of multiple snake-tails. But her face is also that of a snake's...
  • The Hero Doesn't Kill the Villainess: The evil Snake Cult is led by their Sorcerous Overlord, Irendri, whose two Co-Dragons are the ruthless bandit leader Sundigundam and Irendri's personal henchwoman Chitra. Yodha kills over a hundred Cultists with ease throughout the film and fatally impales Sundigundam in a one-on-one battle. However, Chitra and Irendri are disposed of by Yodha's love interest Priya, who kills the former and seals the latter in an amulet.
  • In a Single Bound: Yodha can scale walls and pillars just by leaping, a skill which he uses to great effect while battling the Snake Cult's mooks. But in the final battle Irendri, in the form of a snake-human hybrid monster, can do this too, with her legs being numerous snake-tails which coils to a spring-shaped base.
  • Living Statue: Irendri's dungeons have it's bars being modelled on snakes. The snake-bars can come to life and lash out at intruders.
  • Magic Is Feminine: Moksha and Irendri are female and the only ones with mystical powers.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The Snake Cult, in their first appearance, wears Satanic-looking red masks while infiltrating the village show as part of their disguise, with Yodha cutting down several masked members and exposing the cult by slicing one of the masks into two. Later on the Snake Cult soldiers would wear masks made from skulls instead.
  • Mystical Waif: Moksha, Yodha's child-assistant in the circus which he considers a little sister. She can summon butterflies, see into the future (for a brief while anyway), and is revealed to have healing and resurrection powers, seeing how in the finale she heals the near-dead Yodha after he's horribly wounded by Irendri's monstrous form.
  • One-Man Army: Yodha, who kills servants of the Snake Cult by the dozens, taking plenty of names single-handedly. While blind!
  • One-Winged Angel: Irendri's final form, a green serpentine monster, whose body have numerous extra snakes extending from her limbs, shoulders, and various parts. It's her most powerful form and she absolutely delivers a thrashing on Yodha, who is hopelessly overpowered by the sorceress.
  • Playing with Fire: In the opening scene, after having a whole village captured to be slaughtered, Irendri use her powers to summon a spiral of flames to burn the whole village to the ground. She lose those powers later in the film however, probably because her sorcery isn't at it's peak then.
  • Prehensile Hair: Irendri's hair can extend into snake-shaped barbs, capable of ripping through flesh or cocooning innocent civilains, the latter which she inflicts on the entirety of the village where Yodha and Moksha lives, keeping them in suspended animation and intending to feast on them after her ritual is complete.
  • Pretty Butterflies: Every time Moksha uses her powers, swarms and swarms of butterflies will gather around her. In fact these butterflies assists Yodha in the end by giving the warrior a lift to Irendri's fortress.
  • Race Against the Clock: Yodha must rush against time to save Moksha after the latter gets kidnapped by the Snake Cult, before the eclipse where the child gets sacrificed for Irendri to attain invincible powers and become unstoppable.
  • Reduced to Dust: The eventual fate of Irendri, after being defeated; her body then dissolves into dust and is reabsorbed into the locket she was once imprisoned, this time for good.
  • Scaled Up: Irendri in the final battle.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Irendri's default form after her defeat centuries ago, where she's reduced to an evil entity sealed in a locket. She gets released when said locket gets dropped into a burning fire, allowing her to regain a mortal form.
  • Sinister Scythe: Majority of the Snake Cult's minions wields scythes in battle. Well, most of them.
  • Sinister Scimitar: Well, if there are Snake Cult members not using scythes, they're using curved scimitars instead.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: The Snake Cult's minions all wears masks made of skulls, from the victims of their sacrificial rituals.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Played absolutely straight with Irendri, the Snake Sorceress. Her powers are snake-based and her touch is poisonous; her citadel is in the shape of a serpent's head rising from the ground, the bars of her dungeon are modelled after snakes (which can come to life to attack intruders), her domain have carvings of snakes adorning walls and pillars, numerous statues of snakes and snake people are shown all over her lair's interior, she can fire hundreds of flying, poisonous snakes from her hands, in the final battle when she unleashes her One-Winged Angel form she transforms into a humanoid-snake hybrid monster... and yes, she's the villain. Why'd you ask?
  • Snake People: Irendri's final form, fittingly enough given her snake-themed powers.
  • Step into the Blinding Fight: Yodha battles the two shape-shifting crow sorcerers in the middle of a dark forest. However, since Yodha is blind anyway, he barely fazes at the challenge and soon defeats his enemies.
  • Tag Along Kid: Moksha gets to follow Yodha around in his adventures while he's off to assasinate Irendri. Justified, since the child is being actively hunted by Snake Cult members
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: Consistently, for every one or two action scenes, the audience can expect it to be followed by a musical number. Yodha and Priya reuniting in the dungeon and flashing back to their past in an Imagine Spot is a borderline BLAM (see YMMV).
  • This Was Her True Form: Irendri in her serpentine form, upon being defeated by Yodha, briefly turns back into her human form. Before disintegrating into dust as Priya re-seals her locket.
  • Time Stands Still: When Irendri uses her clarvoyance to inspect Yodha's intrusion in her quarters moments ago.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Irendri had the Mystical Waif Moksha kidnapped, and intends to sacrifice Moksha during an upcoming eclipse, which can make the sorceress immortal, invincible and nigh-unstoppable.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Sudigundam, during the hill battle, gets struck in the neck by Yodha's flung boomerang. He seemingly succumbed to his wounds afterwards... but somehow comes back in the final battle, leading the Snake Cult to attack Yodha and prevent the heroes from interfering with Irendri's ritual. Maybe he's The Determinator or the boomerang hit turns out to be Just a Flesh Wound?
  • Weapon Specialization: Sudigundam The Dragon is the only member of the Snake Cult who uses a spear, whose tip is absolutely massive which he used to rough up Yodha more than once in battles.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Snake Cult have no qualms hunting down 9-year-old Moksha to their boss, Irendri. And of course Irendri herself also qualifies; besides intending to have Moksha sacrificed during an eclipse, she also gleefully steals and absorbs the life force of hundreds of children in neighboring villages in order to make herself stronger, rendering plenty of kids in a semi-comatose state.
  • You Have Failed Me: Irendri really isn't the nicest of bosses, delivering plenty of these to her failed underlings. A Snake Cult member who fled from Yodha ends up getting thrown into a burning fire by the sorceress.