Language: Telugu

Director: B Jeevan Reddy

Cast: Sandeep Madhav, Satyadev Kancharana, Pawan Ramesh

Just about a month and a half ago, we saw the release of Surender Reddy’s Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy in which Chiranjeevi starred as a “freedom fighter”. There, Narasimha Reddy was deified and given the status of a war hero. But the actual story of Narasimha Reddy, according to several reports, travels in a different path altogether. This time, the new biopic, George Reddy, directed by Jeevan Reddy, is a somewhat softer version of another kind of a hero. The mass elements and the hero-elevating combinations are still there, but they’re symbolically brought into the film without stepping away from the core purpose.

People who surround George (Sandeep Madhav) don’t praise him unnecessarily. He’s usually spoken of in terms of a political rival by other student-groups. And that’s where the writer-director scores big. The dialogues are sometimes lengthy and sound artificial in certain places, and, the scenes, too, sometimes freeze to hold your attention; there are moments that sparkle with utter brilliance, and then there are moments that run around the circle of monotony. But I quite enjoyed this turbulent call for azadi, a systematic rebellion to fight against another system.

If Ram Gopal Varma’s Shiva unleashed a chain of narratives revolving around college-politics and Sekhar Kammula’s Happy Days, almost two decades later, made an engineering college appear as a dream-land, then Jeevan Reddy’s George Reddy is definitely an essay that talks about all the things that are wrong with the Indian public universities.

George doesn’t state his atheistic beliefs anywhere in the action drama, or push his agendas down the throats of others. As a young boy, growing up in Kerala, he reads Why I am an Atheist by Bhagat Singh and gets influenced by the poster boy of Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara. He goes on to tell his friends and those who feel ashamed by their own statuses to read the works of such leaders to expand their ideologies.

When George is told by Rajanna (Abhay Bethiganti) that folks from the upper castes and lower castes are served different qualities of food in the same canteen, he rises to the occasion. It’s an elegantly set up scene where the former first takes the boxing stance before beginning to throw punches against the scoundrels. Mind you, the film is set in the Osmania University and the time period is the 60s and the languages used are Telugu, Hindi, Urdu, and English. If the movie were set anywhere else in South India, I wouldn’t have relished such commingling of forces. But, here, it feels nice to hear the characters converse in so many tongues, as it stays true to the place.

If Ram Gopal Varma’s Shiva unleashed a chain of narratives revolving around college-politics and Sekhar Kammula’s Happy Days, almost two decades later, made an engineering college appear as a dream-land, then Jeevan Reddy’s George Reddy is definitely an essay that talks about all the things that are wrong with the Indian public universities. There couldn’t have been a better release date for this movie as we needn’t look any further than the stories that are tumbling out of JNU, at the moment.

The romantic portions, which are so often misused by Indian filmmakers in the name of silly song-and-dance routines that follow the highs and lows of a relationship, are carefully packaged as an added piece of information. Maya (Muskaan Khubchandani) falls in love with George, but the hero doesn’t get any such ideas, at all, and carries on with his fiery speeches as though drunk on the elixir of revolution. What, I think, Jeevan doesn’t get is the power to capitalize on crowd scenes. Many of the extras in action scenes run all around the sets and some of them keep smiling, as well. The smiles aren’t a part of the atmosphere here, and that’s a problem.

Moreover, just because some characters are named Arjuna (Manoj Nandam) and Laxmana (Laxman Meesala), things needn’t always take a mythological turn. There are monologues that go on and on as though to remind you that you’re watching a political film. Every interaction between people from different groups doesn’t have to be a moment to ape Loki (Sai Kumar in Prasthanam). Sai Kumar pulled it off perfectly, and, the actors in George Reddy, too, give their best, but they only add to the effects of snatching away the limelight from the output.

With the funky, foot-tapping background score egging me on, and the dizziness of the slow-motion setting in, I loved the fire-ball fight sequence. A special mention must also go to the other props that acted like they had a mind of their own – three shaving blades that are tied to the end of a handkerchief make more damage than some of the bulkier and sharper weapons. This inventiveness, perhaps, gets lost while dealing with the issues of the farmers. The straight-forward nature and the paucity of thrills in enabling George, and his comrades, to counter violence – dictated by the cops – with their smartness are glaringly missing.

If you think about it, it’s really sad that a five-decade-old story is still relevant in 2019. That way, Jeevan Reddy has achieved what Surender Reddy couldn’t – allowing the film’s cause to be the true hero and not the other way around.

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