Language: Telugu

Cast: Allu Sirish, Nagendra Babu, Rukshar Dhillon

Director: Sanjeev Reddy

Allu Sirish is desperately looking for a hit—something that will put him on the map of stars. Vijay Deverakonda, in a span of few years and with a handful of films, has managed to grab a spot amongst the elite stars of the South. Though he’s yet to break into the popular shores of Mumbai, he’s getting there slowly and diligently with his work. But such fame, so far, has eluded Sirish. His latest attempt, ABCD, a remake, might start turning the wheels in his favour. This Telugu-flavoured comedy drama isn’t extraordinary so to speak, but it certainly went beyond my expectations.

It starts off much like the Malayalam original—Aravind Prasad, alias Avi (Sirish), and, his cousin, Bala Shanmugam, aka Basha (Bharath), paint the cities of America in all the colors. They’re living a luxurious life, thanks to Avi’s father (played by Nagendra Babu). The facts that Babu and Sirish are related in real life, and that the latter’s screen name is borrowed from his dad (Allu Aravind), are an elaborate connect-the-dots game you’ll inevitably play while watching this movie, for there’s a reference to the Chiranjeevi- starrer Swayamkrushi as well.

When it comes to films starring second-and-third generation actors, these tiny—and sometimes mega—bits of prosaic aggrandizations are a given. Anyway, let me get back to ABCD now. The lead characters, Avi and Basha, who have no idea about India, come here to have fun. Their limited knowledge about this country makes them see the peninsular nation as a land occupied by beautiful women. Of course, poverty also crosses their minds.

They consider themselves Americans, as they were born and raised there. The only major item that they’re equipped with is the language—Telugu. They can blend in easily with the folks of Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills, and nobody would bat an eyelid. However, for people who are used to burning money on drinks, they quickly turn a new leaf in Hyderabad by getting into the college that Avi’s dad suggests.

If Jones (Dulquer Salman) and Korah (Jacob Gregory) infused their foolishness with charm and mirth in the Malayalam film, Avi and Basha do it with fake accents here. That is, nevertheless, balanced out by Vennela Kishore who stars as a television anchor. He’s a man prone to finding faults with everybody and everything. All the laugh-out-loud scenes involve his motormouth. He hosts a show called “Koffee with Kishore” (you know whom this show is inspired by, right?) where he interviews celebrities. Unfortunately, the only time we catch him in his element is when he’s having a talk with Avi and Basha, after the duo’s fame hits the sky due to a story that the hero cooks up to impress his love interest, Neha (Rukshar Dhillon).

Yes, she’s nothing more than that in the remake since director Sanjeev Reddy erases her arc and replaces it with a bland variety. In the original, Madhumitha (Aparna Gopinath) was a fiery activist, who mouthed lines like, “I cannot sleep peacefully if I don’t do a noble deed daily.”

Even though, it sounded silly and pompous, Madhumitha did help the people around her. And in this week’s release, that woman is made to look into the hero’s eyes and smile shyly every now and then. This is what’s wrong with Telugu cinema and, to an extent, remakes of successful films. When the writers, who work on adapted screenplays, toy with the DNA of the plots, they’ll miss the forest for the trees.

The third act, too, has been ripped apart to make way for the hero’s journey towards redemption. These significant changes push the film further down. Moreover, Basha, who should have stayed alongside Avi through all the ups and downs of his Hyderabad-trip, goes missing from the screen every ten minutes.

The lives of American-Born Confused Desis are frequently mined for jokes by Indian American comics. Their experiences—the clash of ideals they witness when they argue with their Indian-born parents—are as funny and absurd, like ours. They are Americans first, so they should not be made to feel like they owe their allegiance to the home country of their parents. I’m saying this because, in some places, the dialogues, in ABCD, don’t gel with the intentions of the characters.

That said, I wouldn’t put this film away. It has its quite moments, like the one where a little girl asks for Rs. 2 from Avi for the key she gives him (Avi and Basha have run out of money; they go back to a house for which they don’t have to pay rent). Maybe, with more of these breezy situations, ABCD could have gone a bit higher.

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