Cast: Vijay Deverakonda, Rashmika Mandanna, Annapoorna, Giri Babu, Abhay Bethiganti, Mohan Duvvasi
An early scene by a bus stop perfectly sets up the protagonist of Geetha Govindam. Vijay (Vijay Deverakonda) is doing one of those stalkery wooing numbers, trying to catch the eye of a pretty woman (Anu Emmanuel). He’s been trying to catch her eye for six months now, but nothing has worked, so he hires some goons to play-act and rough him up, so that she will look his way and he can finally talk to her. But there’s a twist. The goons arrive, but Vijay discovers the girl is unavailable. She’s been on to him. She extends a hand to wish him luck in finding The One, but he won’t even touch someone who is attached to someone else. This is who Vijay is, a not-too-bright twenty-something with an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, torn between hormonal pulls and the ideal of “pure love.”
Writer-director, Parasuram is canny enough to realise that new-fangled rom-coms may be all the rage with the youth, but to appeal to a larger demographic, you’re better off with a romantic melodrama
There’s a bit of karma at work here. Later, when Vijay really roughs up some men who misbehave with Geetha (Rashmika Mandanna, from Kirik Party), she doesn’t believe him. She thinks he’s hired them to impress her. She thinks he’s the devil incarnate (something happened on the bus they were travelling), and he wants to desperately convince her that at least a large part of him is an angel. He even launches into a long speech about looking for his mother in the girl he will marry. If you ask me, that sounds more creepy than whatever Geetha thinks Vijay has done — but in Tamil cinema, we call this the amma sentiment. We also get the brother-sister sentiment, the large-family sentiment (with a grandparent’s illness necessitating an insta-wedding), scenarios involving family honour, and even a scene where Vijay’s father is so convinced his son is an angel that he declares he will die if Vijay has a hint of the devil in him.
In other words, the writer-director, Parasuram, is canny enough to realise that new-fangled rom-coms may be all the rage with the youth, but to appeal to a larger demographic, you’re better off with a romantic melodrama – like Shah Rukh Khan’s 1990s work, or SJ Suryah’s Kushi. The angel/devil dynamic is hugely problematic because Vijay keeps alternating between someone who is genuinely repentful and, a second later, someone who thinks Geetha is making a huge deal about this even after he’s apologised. But this is when you know Vijay Deverakonda is a star. He pulls it off. You know you should be harder on him, but he makes you root for Vijay. (It helps that whatever Geetha thinks he’s done wasn’t deliberate.)
The director realises he’s got a star, so he writes tiresome hero-glorification scenes and lines that make you wonder how the actor who gave us edgy, offbeat fare like Pelli Choopuluand Arjun Reddy agreed to something so conventional, so old-fashioned. One scene, and Geetha’s attitude changes from disgust to full-on, I’m-crazy-for-you love? A framing device (with Nithya Menen) that should have been retired at least two decades ago? A moral-science lesson to a rich brat who thinks she can have Vijay? But the film – though at least 30 minutes too long – is entertaining. There’s good music (Gopi Sundar). You smile a lot, laugh a lot. Vijay Deverakonda is canny enough to realise that the new-fangled films that got him noticed may be better cinema, but to become a huge box-office draw, you need to be a popcorn entertainer who’s a bit of everything to everyone. In Geetha Govindam, he is.