Director: Santhossh Jagarlapudi
Cast: Naga Shaurya, Ketika Sharma, Jagapathi Babu, Sachin Khedekar
Naga Shaurya is one of those actors who confuses me because I think he should be doing different and better films but his run of form in the last couple of years might mean that he was punching above his weight earlier. He has all the quintessential elements to be a star. He can act well as proven in Chandamama Kathalu, Oohalu Gusagusalaade, and Jyo Achyutanandha. He can play the romantic lead as proven in films such as Oh Baby and Kalyana Vaibhogame. He possesses the rare ability to convincingly mix action with comedy as he did in Chalo. Off screen, he has a production house like Ira Creations which means that he has some freedom in choosing the roles he gets to play.
And yet he languishes in mediocre films, most of which sound good on paper and yet fail in execution. Last year it was Ashwatthama, a couple of months ago it was Varudu Kavalenu, and Lakshya is another addition to that list.
The story is about Pardhu (Naga Shaurya), a gifted archer and a child prodigy, who is destined for great things in the field of archery. He is encouraged by his grandfather (Sachin Khedekar) who wishes to fulfill ambitions that his son couldn't, through his grandson. But along the way Pardhu loses his aim and goes wayward. If you can't guess the answer to 'Will he achieve his grandfather's unfulfilled dream?' then the rest of the film will be an exciting roller coaster ride.
This is director Santhossh Jagarlapudi's second film after Subramanyapuram which was a thriller that showed a conflict between an atheist and religion. It had the elements of a Dan Brown novel but it suffered from exposition and a certain predictability as it neared its climax. But the ideas were good on paper and it excited me enough to think that in his second film, with a more lenient budget, his potential would be fulfilled.
Here again he suffers from a similar issue. An archer losing his aim because of drug abuse and rediscovering it sounds good on paper. It's essentially writing Mahabharatha fan-fiction about Arjuna, the third Pandava, who is a skilled archer known for seeing only the target (Lakshya) and nothing else. But what if he lost his way and needed help finding his way back? I'm not building this metaphor. Santhossh Jagarlapudi has done this for us. The academy where Pardhu trains is called Kurukshetra Academy. The person who gets him back on track is Parthasarathy (Jagapathi Babu), which is another name for Krishna.
All the elements of drama are present. But yet on screen it falls flat. Did he really need a love story with Reethika (Ketika Sharma)? Couldn't there have been a better way to incorporate her? Naga Shaurya isn't such a big star that people expect any grammar like item songs, a certain number of fights or a traditional 'heroine' from his films. Why would you waste any frames on that disposable 'love' track when you can spend more time with someone like Sachin Khedekar or Jagapthi Babu who light up the screen in every frame they're in?
I fear Telugu cinema's definition of an actor's hard work is slowly changing to intense body transformations and growing long beards because Lakshya takes great pains to showcase the lead's eight-pack. They were there on screen for enough time for me to count all the packs, the tiles on the floors, and the number of seats between me and the exit door. Instead of punishing your lead actor to go through such an intense physical regimen, a few more well thought out scenes and dialogues could have added more drama.
This is not to say that the transformation itself is not impressive. It is extremely impressive.
When Pawan Kalyan did similar stunts in Thammudu (one example of a great sports drama in Telugu) it was jaw dropping but they lent themselves to the drama on screen then. You had a goofy and wayward younger brother go through such intense pain to redeem himself as he entered the world of boxing which he had no clue about. Similarly, in Dangal when a lot of hype was thrown behind Aamir Khan's weight transformation it lent itself to the idea of a former champion now being defeated by age and his own body.
But here, it seems like I'm being made to appreciate Naga Shaurya rather than the character Pardhu.
Fewer packs and a few more drafts of the screenplay would have made it easier for me to appreciate the film more.