'Sarileru Neekevvaru', 'Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo' and the Manmohan Desai brand of madcap masala

Director: Trivikram Srinivas

Cast: Allu Arjun, Tabu, Pooja Hegde, Murali Sharma, Jayaram

The closing credits is where most films choose to tie the loose ends of many plot points that come and go during the film’s duration. Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is no different, but what’s notable is the frame the film chooses to freeze the screen with. Bantu (Allu Arjun) and Amulya (Pooja Hegde) board a private chopper and everyone else — including Tabu, Samuthirakani, Murali Sharma, Jayaram and Sachin Khedekar — is left standing, trying not to let the dust into their eyes and mouth. I suppose this is what a big-budget film is all about — recruiting a bunch of talented actors, not because the writing demands it, but because the money facilitates it. 

Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo begins on a rather dark note. It’s dark, and raining, but that’s not the important thing. The camera zooms in to show us a BMW car and a broken Chetak behind it. Valmiki (Murali Sharma), the man with the Chetak, is mad at the man who got down the BMW, Ramachandhra (Jayaram). They used to be friends and still are, but Valmiki is poor while Ramachandra inherits money when he marries a millionaire’s daughter. What Valmiki does with this jealousy and how it changes the lives of the people involved forms the rest of the story.

Like most of his recent endeavours, director Trivikram Srinivas writes this film too as an ode to the rich. If naming the film after a house owned by the film’s rich couple isn’t materialistic and meaningless enough, there are many dialogues that reassure this vision of his. They seem to concentrate more on brands and business, instead of people and emotions. The rich couple is treated differently and more respectfully than the middle class ones, as if to suggest that money means decency and great character. The film still works because Trivikram has been getting good at writing scenes that amplify the main lead’s skill set, and he then ties them all together into a story that makes minimal narrative sense.

The film belongs to Allu Arjun and his casual charm. We know the boardroom scene is a rehash of a rehash, but it still manages to entertain because of him. Whether it is him slyly saying ‘Fans ni kotakandi’ (Don’t hit fans) or stopping himself from crying when his father cruelly takes his scholarship away from him, he strikes a chord. I cannot say the same about Pooja’s Amulya who barely makes an impact. And I can’t even blame her, considering that the filmmaker chooses to introduce us to her legs before her face. Bringing up the topic of child rearing when it’s utterly irrelevant to the conversation isn’t women empowerment. Neither is it writing situations where a woman has to wait for the man to come to her rescue. This attitude also extends to the way Nivetha Pethuraj’s character is written. 

Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo Movie Review

That said, I was rather impressed by the way Tabu’s Anjali is given the opportunity to say something to this effect: How can you blame your infidelity on me being a perfect human being? Tabu is remarkable in that scene. She doesn’t get to say much elsewhere, and she tries to make up for that here. Not just her, even Samuthirakani is rendered ineffective by his bland character arc.  Every other actor, and the list is rather long — Rahul Ramakrishna, Rohini, Rajendra Prasad, Sushanth, Navdeep, Sunil, Harshavardhan, and Thanikella Bharani — are underserved owing to the fact that the film is designed to be a one-man show. In one scene, Bantu tells Appala Naidu (Samuthirakani): ‘Naaku meela artistic ga thipadam raadhu’ (I don’t know how to do this artistically like you). May be I am reading too much into it, but I see this as the film’s acknowledgement of all the talent it wastes. 

The only portion of the film that is hugely creative relates to action. If the first fight scene is about hitting big men while also washing and drying a chunni, the second one is about people bouncing off the floor like it’s a dance number. The final one, even if a bit anticlimactic and narratively weak, features a folk song. This is where Thaman leaves an impact. He adds rhythm to the narrative and pushes, rather intrusively at times, the audience to feel something. He doesn’t always succeed, but the effort shows. The same goes with PS Vinod and his camera that tries to find something new in familiar landscapes. Editor Navin Nooli has to deal with the lacklustre screenplay, but he manages to do a good job. 

Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is far from being perfect cinema. A nurse dies, for no fault of hers, and no one cares. Two mothers aren’t deemed strong enough to know the truth about their sons and we are asked to brush it off too. There are many flaws and the film takes many artistic liberties to move the story forward, but so does every other masala entertainer. But not every masala entertainer manages to entertain you. This one does.  If a good Sankranti film is all about having a laugh and some harmless fun without having to sell your soul, this is definitely the one to go with. 

 

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