Director: Venky Kudumula
Cast: Nithiin, Rashmika Mandanna, Vennela Kishore, Jisshu Sengupta, Anant Nag.
There's been a long-running template in Tamil cinema where the hero gets a flashback episode in which he's portrayed as an entirely different person – a don who makes the city shiver, a cop with a do-or-die attitude, or a local fun-loving rowdy who sings and dances through the night. Now, Telugu cinema seems to have found a template – where older men make way for the younger generation – and it does not look like it's going to let go of it anytime soon. And, this is not metaphorical either. It's quite literal, with actors above the age of 50 roped in to say that they're looking for new CEOs for the companies they're heading.
This is the usual dialogue, "Naa vela kotla aasthiki vaarasudu maathram kaadu, naa aasayaanni nilabettevaadu kooda kaavali (I don't want a son who'll just inherit my properties, I want him to carry forward my principles, as well)". Of course, that line is twisted and reimagined by filmmakers to suit their storylines. While Agnyaathavaasi and Saaho couldn't manage to float despite riding on big shoulders, last month's Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo hit the bull's eye. And, this is where Bheeshma comes in. It adds a wonderful layer to this boring and done-to-death template, and that is the USP of this film.
When movies are being written, dialogues are usually the last part of the puzzle. However, maker Venky Kudumula seems to have come up with all the funny lines and scenes first. They are, for a lack of better word, silly. More than anything else, the film is watchable only because of the continuous flow of one-liners. They keep you in good spirits till the end credits. Maybe, that explains why most of the characters are under-written. There's the inimitable Anant Nag (as Bheeshma) who's reduced to a smiling man whenever a difficult question is thrown at him by his subordinates and rivals. Then, there's Jisshu Sengupta (as Raghavan) who tries to upstage Senior Bheeshma in the business they're all involved in. (These are some really cool actors, but they may have done a better job had the movie been made in Hindi. Why don't Telugu filmmakers cast Telugu actors for the Telugu audience they're making their movies for?)
No Indian commercial film relies upon the Chanakya Neethi of its hero alone. The hero needs to have a terrific competitor to show that he can tame the beast. Here, Junior Bheeshma (played by Nithiin) is a good-for-nothing fellow who roams around Hyderabad in the hope of finding a girlfriend. Again, these character-establishing scenes are poor, but all the actors employed around Nithiin's Bheeshma react to the situations hilariously. How can you not laugh when Vennela Kishore (as Parimal) gets angry and starts threatening the leading man? Kishore can even brighten up the Moon on an Amavasya night. That's the kind of range he has!
And take, for example, Sampath – he can easily oscillate between being the rough-and-tough ACP and someone providing comic relief. The whole lot, including Bramhaji, Naresh and Raghu Babu, gives their best and makes you feel like you're not watching one of those odd Jabardasth episodes. Right after the interval bang (yes, let me call it that for now), comes the scene where some of the actors mentioned above bring the roof down with their disclosures. It's a two-minute scene in which the film attempts to make fun of its own template. Was that a meta-touch without sounding like one?
Be that as it may, what I'm truly worried about is how most writers still haven't found something to give their leading women. In 95 out of 100 films, the torchbearer, anyway, is the man. Even then, why are women just orbiting around the plot and not a central part of it – at least, as a supporting character? Chaithra (Rashmika Mandanna) feels like an accessory. She does move the pawns in the beginning as she's the ACP's daughter and works in the organisation run by Bheeshma Sr. But, later, her arrival simply means that it's time for a song. Oh, that's another big difference between Trivikram's Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo and Kudumula's Bheeshma. The former has some catchy numbers that have already become hit party songs whereas the latter's soundtrack album supposedly dedicated to "Singles" is a disappointment.
Also, I don't exactly know why most South Indian films have a tendency to preach about organic farming. Remember the Tamil disaster Kaappaan (Bandobast in Telugu)? Bheeshma is thankfully nowhere close to that, and it's a blessing!