Pushpa has surprised the entire country with its record collections all over the country in all the different languages. As it releases on Amazon Prime Video, I try to decipher why Pushpa worked, so well. Of course, it is a masala commercial film made on a huge scale which the Telugu film industry arguably understands better than any other industry in the country.
But then there are so many well-made masala commercial big scale entertainers out there which have done fabulous business too. But Pushpa seems to have gone way ahead of those films in terms of audience acceptance and the warmth it is receiving.
The fact that it is a rag to riches story of a man from an impoverished and ostracised background plays a part, the music and background music play a part, the cinematography, production design, direction, edit, the performances, all play a part. But as I watched it over and over again there was one thing that seemed to stand out for me more than anything else in Pushpa which I feel is the reason it connected and resonated with the audience on such a huge scale and that was vulnerability.
What differentiates Pushparaj from many mass "heroes" is his extreme vulnerability. And it's not just a fleeting idea of his vulnerable moments in this film. Each and every moment of vulnerability is explored in great detail, not just brushed through. You see him suffer, you see him wriggle in pain, embarrassment, insecurity, humiliation, disrespect. And it's always his thaggedhe le attitude that sails him through all these moments. The film, the director, and the star have heavily invested in these moments so that the moments of heroism, when they do come, are well earned. Something as simple as even the Srivalli song is filled with moments of vulnerability, childlike embarrassment for Pushpa which makes him relatable and warms the audience to him.
The first interaction between Pushpa and Bhanwar Singh is the best example of this point. All of his insecurities-his looks, his status, his surname, his power, his love, each established throughout the film in different scenes individually are all combined together in this one scene and rubbed in his face. The result is for the first time in the entire movie, the adult Pushpa who always said thaggedhe le no matter what happens, bent his head over for the entire duration of the scene which made the scene even more thrilling to watch because it's relatable and also, unpredictable. It's what everyone does when faced with their worst insecurity, they freeze, And Pushpa froze too.
This is the same formula that has been used in multiple mass films in the past, Expose the vulnerability of the protagonist, rub it in, because all that is finally going to pay off when the moments of heroism do come. Baasha is a prime example. Somewhere down the line our mass commercial movies have lost this simple detail and focussed only on the heroism and elevation moments. Those moments would land with their true effect only if the vulnerable moments are given the same respect, attention, and time. And Team Pushpa, Sukumar, and Allu Arjun soar in these moments.