Extra Ordinary Man Review: A Wonderful Idea Doesn't 'Meta'morphose Into An Equally Brilliant Film

Vakkantham Vamsi’s film tries to carefully tread the line between absurdity and playfulness but the result is a hit-and-miss
Extra Ordinary Man Review: A Wonderful Idea Doesn't 'Meta'morphose Into An Equally Brilliant Film

Director: Vakkantham Vamsi

Cast: Nithiin, Rajasekhar, Sudev Nair, Rao Ramesh, Sreeleela, Rohini

Duration: 157 minutes

Available in: Theatres

Extra Ordinary Man is a pretty tricky subject to deal with, and the treatment only adds to the complications. There’s a fun spin to the ideas we have seen many times before. The hero going to a lawless land and emerging as a saviour to the helpless people by taking on the evil is something we have seen a zillion times before. But the reason the hero arrives there (a town named Kotia, in this case), the confrontation between good and evil, and the cat-and-mouse game that ensues are all treated with so much freshness. 

Extra Ordinary Man, by no means, is a realistic film. It is, in fact, highly self-aware and there's no place for logic here. In the second half of the film, the protagonist, Abhinay (Nithiin) is trying to follow a film’s script and enact it in the real world, with a real villain named Nero (Sudev Nair) and actual consequences. It’s a brilliant idea that produces some hilarious moments that double up as an ode to commercial cinema. And even the characters in the film seem to know that they are in a film. However, the way the drama unfolds is not entirely convincing and regardless of how much leeway I tried to give the film, it just kept pushing the limits of silliness to a point where I stopped taking the film seriously. It’s not like the film ever tried to be serious, but after a point, everything—from the characters to stakes and the conflict—feels silly and it’s partly intentional, but the ever-important question arises: why should we take a film seriously when even the film doesn’t take it seriously?

A still from Extra Ordinary Man
A still from Extra Ordinary Man

A Fun Concept

The ‘extra’ in the film’s title alludes to Abhinay’s profession. With aspirations to make it big as an actor someday, he spends his days as a faceless, voiceless extra in films, and getting slandered by his father Somashekar (an over-the-top but funny Rao Ramesh). “Beta, beta maathramena? Salary ledha? (Son, do you earn only beta? No salary),” his ever-agitated father questions him, as he counts his son’s daily wage. Most of the scenes featuring the father and son are fun to watch, despite the slapstick nature. The verbal banter between the duo too, works like a charm. When Abhinay falls in love with Likitha (Sreeleela, in a super basic and strictly functional role as the love interest), the chairman of a multimillion-dollar company, Abhinay’s mother is overjoyed but the father is cynical or say, practical as always. Soma uses the word “vasthavikata” to make a point that their marriage seems impractical, considering their class difference. “Telugu lo reality antaru kadha?” Abhinay casually responds. There are some smart quips spread evenly throughout the film, but the real fun starts when this extra decides to become a hero. Not in a film, but in real life. I’m not going to spoil how he arrives at that decision but the writing is clever enough to cover up the convenient writing by calling it a ‘miracle’. But we have to wait till the intermission (like most of the formula films) to get to this cool moment of realisation and the serviceable first half is filled with sequences that don’t really add to the story, a frustrating pattern that has been normalised in mass commercial films.

Nithiin in Extra Ordinary Man
Nithiin in Extra Ordinary Man

Aims for easy highs

Exclusion of the entire romantic track wouldn’t impact the overall story one bit and in fact, we would have been spared of a stretch with references to Telugu film stars, and two songs in the second half that do nothing but impede the flow of the story just when the drama gets interesting. While seeing films simply drop popular references just to pander to the fans of movie stars itself is disappointing, seeing a film about films do the same, that too in such a basic way just doubles the disappointment. And speaking about dropping references, even fairly recent films like Kantara (2022) and Virupaksha (2023) are referred to. And of course, there’s a KGF-esque angle, one featuring a puppet show that traces the face-off between Abhinay and Nero. Shouldn’t films aspire to create new pop culture content, instead of banking on the existing ones? While I’m not dismissing the film’s humour, since there is plenty of fun stuff here, seeing popular films opt for easy highs just by forcing references to other films is always disappointing. Films keep repeating this and reviews keep problematising them; it's a toxic cycle. And speaking of forcefully including sequences to evoke cheers, there’s a crass song-and-dance set in a police station, which, in short, is frustrating.

Sreeleela in Extra Ordinary Man
Sreeleela in Extra Ordinary Man

The Meta Touch Works But Logic Doesn’t

Where the film rises above the ordinary is when it fully embraces the meta-ness of the story. In the second half, the way the hero-villain confrontation is treated using a film script makes it quite playful. It uses this meta-ness to land some big moments; a gag about chronology and a punch-dialogue that goes by, ‘when a hero falls, it’s called pre-climax’ actually sit very well with the film’s commitment to pay an ode to mass cinema.

While there are traces of Vakkantham Vamsi's previous writings (Race Gurram’s (2014) climax, where Allu Arjun becomes a police officer comes to mind multiple times during the second half), it’s the second half that’s more fun. The play between the hero and villain (which, to be very honest, had traces of the disastrous Agent), puts a fun spin to this dynamic, but the moment you think about it, it falls apart. Sudev Nair is fun to watch when his character is treated comically and we never take him seriously. In fact, he is introduced with a gruesome Boyapati-level violent sequence but as he walks away playing a mouth organ, you wonder if the film is being serious or spoofing him. And there is no logic in the world of Extra Ordinary Man. What is this place called Kotia? Who are these people? Why does the villain (who calls himself a visionary) want to encroach on a random town? This place has internet but why does it look so backward and unconnected? What is the system doing? Why is Nero hosting rave parties in old factories and half-constructed factories when he lives in a lavish bungalow? How are we supposed to take this guy seriously? It makes no sense.

While the logic clearly doesn’t work, does magic work? Now, that’s a hit-and-miss. On the writing level, it does, but as a whole, the energy isn’t translated onto the screen. Harris Jayaraj’s work is quite underwhelming and you wish the film had a better soundtrack to uplift the energy.

Extra Ordinary Man is a film that works on a writing level more than its final form. The ideas are so much fun, and you can totally see what the film could have been. The film I watched was silly fun but I’m in love with the film it could have been.

Related Stories

No stories found.