Still from Meeku Maathrame Cheptha

Director: Shammeer Sultan

Cast: Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam, Abhinav Gomatam, Vani Bhojan, Pavani Gangireddy, Naveen George Thomas

Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam has been mostly associated with films made in and around Hyderabad. The characters and situations he created in Pelli Choopulu and Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi have worked as a charm for the genre of dry humor in Telugu cinema. His debut as leading man in a film produced by his first hero Vijay Deverakonda certainly falls in more or less the same category. Meeku Maathrame Cheptha borrows that flavour and tosses it into a much smaller indie mixer. The result is nothing close to the ingeniousness of Pelli Choopulu, but you’ll still be able to sit back and laugh every now and then. It’s actually fun watching a bunch of grown men run around to get a video deleted (oh, the entire plot runs on this thin premise) before the shit hits the fan.

Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam in Meeku Maathrame Cheptha
Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam in Meeku Maathrame Cheptha

The looseness of the storytelling structure might remind you of The Hangover series; however, Shammeer Sultan, the writer-director, isn’t given that kind of a budget here. His principal characters discuss life-and-death matters — that’s the way Rakesh (Tharun) looks at the problem he’s involved in — inside closed spaces, like a car, a restaurant, or a room. This doesn’t put a spoke in the wheel of your excitement, though, because Kamesh (Abhinav Gomatam) keeps throwing bits of advice and sarcasm at his best friend. And that’s how it becomes dialogue-heavy for a movie starring less than a dozen actors.

The film opens with what looks like an action scene, and immediately settles into its most comfortable corner of comedy. When you see a man, who appears as though he could take on the likes of Baahubali and Bhallala Deva, fail to catch a cricket ball and fake-cry for getting bullied by middle-aged men, you know how the director has chosen to package his narrative. Rakesh and Kamesh, whose names rhyme even though they aren’t twins, aren’t a riot exactly. They don’t complete each other’s sentences, and it’s mostly Kamesh who takes things under his control, as Rakesh keeps blabbering and begging for help. But they make an impeccable duo.

In popular romantic comedies, there’s usually chemistry between the man and the woman. And in buddy comedies, there’s chemistry between the men (or women). That formula seems to have been applied here, for the women are pushed to the backseat. They – Steffie (Vani Bhojan) and Jacqueline (Pavani Gangireddy) – are doctors and the love interests of Rakesh and Kamesh, respectively, who may have wonderful tidbits of their own to share, but Shammeer singularly focusses on the situation that could destroy Rakesh’s reputation. In the promos, the nature of the leaked video wasn’t revealed. It has a “ROFL” moment, so, I won’t spoil it for you.

Rakesh is the sort of guy who lies for everything. If you ask him about his dinner plans, he might think for a second and say, “I’m fasting.” But, a few minutes later, he’d gorge on a plate of biryani. His lies have no value at all. Whenever Steffie calls him up to ask him what he’s doing, he says something totally irrelevant to what’s happening around him. He’s just not used to speaking the truth, and that irks her. Their love story develops through cheesy lines related to Maggi noodles and songs; hence, they don’t give you a meaningful look into what made her fall in love with him. And since this isn’t strictly a rom-com, you won’t worry about the whys-and-hows between the lead couple.

The little jokes that stem from the itsy-bitsy skirmishes due to the inter-religious angle and the gags that erupt at the pre-wedding shoot are some of the film’s best scenes. Though they’re not much to sink your teeth into, Tharun makes them click. And what a fresh breath of air Abhinav is. He was the funniest performer in Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, too. The previous decade witnessed whimsical silliness in movies such as The Angrez and Hyderabad Nawabs. In this decade, those ideas have entered the mainstream through Tharun’s cinematic contributions. One only hopes these aren’t flashes in the pan and the movement continues so that more – and, perhaps, better – movies tumble out of the city of Charminar.

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