Director: Kalyan Shankar
Cast: Narne Nithin, Sangeeth Shobhan, Ram Nithin, Vishnu Oi, Sri Gouri Priya Reddy
Duration: 127 minutes
Available in: Theatres
MAD is true to its title. The film is so unapologetically silly that it is hard to take it seriously. Even if you try to, you are likely to laugh at yourself for even thinking about seriously critiquing this film because everything on display, from start to finish is pure madness. Think of the decidedly silly and innocent tonality of Jathi Ratnalu (2021) and marry it with the witty world of 3 Iditots (minus all the serious, thought-provoking bits), fill it with oddball characters from Chhichhore (2019) and sprinkle it with the 'All fun no study' energy of the elite high school from Student Of The Year (2012) and you have MAD, imbibing the most joyous traits of all these films to deliver a rollicking ride.
MAD is set in an engineering college where education is given the same importance as physics is given in Boyapati Srinu films. Naturally, this eliminates the argument about the film being a realistic depiction of the education system in India. It isn't. Neither does it ever try to be. If you complain that the film is an unreal and highly exaggerated portrayal of colleges, making a mockery of education, professors, and even serious issues like ragging, perhaps we might be screaming at the wrong film. Because in MAD, everything under the sun is played for jokes, from heartbreaks to failures. Nothing and nobody is spared.
It's even hard to describe the film or its narrative because the emphasis is entirely on the goofy characters and the nonstop supply of gags, but I'll try. The film traces the adventures and antics of DD (Sangeeth Shobhan), Ashok (Narne Nithin), Manoj (Ram Nithin), and Laddu (Vishnu Oi) over the course of their engineering days, although we travel with them only during the first and final year. Laddu, the narrator of the story, cites 3 Idiots as a reference for the film's structure: with the first half tracing the events of the first year and the second half covering the final year. It should give you an idea of the film's self-aware humour. There are over-arching threads to give a closure to character arcs but at the end of the day, the gags are all that matter, and MAD offers plenty.
Thankfully, the humour in MAD is largely original, meaning it doesn't simply refer to existing pop culture to elicit laughter. Barring a couple of gags, the comedy never relies on double entendres or toilet humour either considering those two are low-hanging fruits for a subject that's clearly aimed at the youth. The one-liners and retorts, with some of them coming in the most unexpected places, work like a charm. And it's a kind of humour that's difficult to explain because it's so intrinsic to the characters and the situations. It's easy to disregard such humour but packing a non-existent plot with generous doses of bog LOL moments is no mean feat and MAD does it wonderfully. The gags work because they are unpredictable and you don't see them coming. So when it catches you off guard, a joke lands perfectly. MAD does it pretty well, and it is aided by neat all-round performances and the craft that deters your experience. Sangeeth Shobhan and Vishnu Oi deserve a special mention for their comic timing.
Sure, its attempts to integrate an emotional arc, a romantic arc, or even the 'mass' moments through Ashok's character don't bring much to the table but the script is clever enough to quickly make light of such serious instances.
I'm not really sure if MAD is a film that one might completely relate to, since the outlandish world and the goofy characters feel too unrealistic, and they are purposefully created to be that way. In a way, it's much like American sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory or Friends or Parks and Recreation. They might not be relatable but there's a lot of fun to be had with the quick-witted characters and chucklesome situations. MAD is not logical or realistic but it doesn't matter because it is hilarious.