A still from Ninu Veedani Needanu Nene

Language: Telugu

Cast: Sundeep Kishan, Vennela Kishore, Anya Singh

Director: Caarthick Raju

After a string of successfully starring in unsuccessful films, Sundeep Kishan has finally found an aha-moment in his career. And that’s Caarthick Raju’s Ninu Veedani Needanu Nene. The movie, at first, appears like a clichéd action drama–the hero enters the screen with loud background score welcoming him; then, there are slow-motion shots to depict his simmering anger and his calculative tendency to pick up a weapon from the enemies’ lair. He’s there to save his friends, one of whom is his wife (played by Anya Singh), from the hands of a few local thugs.

The rowdies, as is usual in Indian formulaic films, weren’t teasing the women. They were rather showing their high-handedness since their morality behind sending little kids to earn money by doing odd jobs were questioned by a group of young men and women. If you’re looking for a piece of social commentary, bury your thoughts right there, for director Raju isn’t interested in doing that. He’s merely setting up the story with an action episode. Though, this plot point is picked up later in the third act, it has no effect on the overall scheme of things.

Sundeep is an earnest actor. There’s no doubt about that, however, despite all the heavy-lifting, it’s Vennela Kishore who walks away with the cake in Ninnu Veedani Needanu Nene. He’s seen mostly in mirrors and on laptop-screens. Still, he manages to do what the rest of the cast can’t. Of course, he’s rightfully hired to star as the comic-relief since even the little changes he brings to his face when Rishi (Sundeep) stares at his newly acquired self in the mirror to converse with the man occupying his body (Kishore, as seen in the trailer), are highly-animated and give the film the actual tag of novelty.

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Raju’s screenplay keeps shifting between the zones of horror and thriller, but it settles somewhere awkwardly in the middle and some of the scenes that try to scare the viewers initially come across as silly. By now we’ve seen all kinds of ghosts on-screen. From possessed dolls to vehicles acting strangely as if they have a mind of their own, Telugu cinema has explored most of the channels in the supernatural space already. Hence, the responsibility of reinventing the genre also lies in the hands of new-age filmmakers. Raju must have thought of that while coming up with the twists. If not for those peaks of brilliance, this movie would have hit a block of banality pretty quickly.

Ninu Veedani Needanu Nene has an unreliable narrator in the center. Rishi isn’t Keyser Söze (Kevin Spacey) from Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects. He doesn’t lie to the doctor (played by Murali Sharma), or the cop (played by Posani Krishna Murali), to gain advantage. For that matter, the film’s gaze doesn’t rest on his shoulders alone as Diya (Anya Singh) also sees somebody else in the mirror. Raju may have been inspired by countless number of genre-bending tales, but this movie owes its allegiance to Vi Anand’s Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada for borrowing the art of mixing the elements of high-brow with typically identifiable Indian sentiments (think of love and getting married without the blessings of parents). Both these films teased the audience by structuring their stories in an unconventional—in mainstream cinema, at least–manner.  

Even though, Diya is an important part of the narrative, she’s largely absent from the proceedings. She goes through the same problem as her husband. Wouldn’t she be curious to find out how she ended up with another face in the mirror? We never get to witness the thoughts that run amok in her head; so, we don’t really understand her quandaries. Rishi is the one who’s always shouting and discovering the things that may have gone wrong before-and-after the big accident that brought them to this particular state of uneasiness. She’s dutifully present in songs, but missing in the places that require her explanation / confrontation.

The erasure of her feelings is an indication of apathy towards female characters as they’re never really the true heroes. They are, as a rule, placed at the receiving end, who, either suffer the consequences due to crimes committed by men, or enjoy the fruits of freedom due to the battles fought by men. In the case of Ninnu Veedani Needanu Nene, there’s a lot of excitement and a bit of hollowness since fresh ideas aren’t evenly distributed amongst the leads.

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