Director: Venky Atluri
Venky Atluri has found his niche in new-age romantic comedies. His films put men in the centre and the stories revolve around them, even though it’s the women that set the ball rolling. In last year’s Tholi Prema, Varsha (Raashi Khanna) joined Aditya’s (Varun Tej) college to surprise him. Aditya was taken aback at Varsha’s audacity, but he still played along as that’s what he had wished for. Similarly, in Mr. Majnu, Nikky (Nidhhi Agerwal) tells Vicky (Akhil Akkineni) that she loves him, and, the latter, despite having some doubts about the yet-to-bloom relationship, readily nods his head.
Vicky is a chick magnet. He just needs to wink for women to make a beeline to date him. The strength of Akhil’s character relies on the legacy built by his father, Akkineni Nagarjuna, and, his grandfather, Akkineni Nageswara Rao. The words that are showered on his character in the intro-song are: “Devadasu Manavado, Manmadhuduki Vaarasudo, (the grandson of Devdas, the son of Manmadhudu).”
The problem with the image Atluri tries to paint is that Akhil has too little to work on. His mere presence can’t translate into him being a desi Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris, in How I Met Your Mother). Nagarjuna’s character had too many witty lines and his flirtatious attitude, in the blockbuster Manmadhudu, had a solid story for us to take home. In Mr. Majnu that’s entirely absent. Akhil is a three-film-old leading man in Telugu cinema, and there’s a long way to go before he can use his winks to up his stardom.
The relationship between Vicky and Nikky (these are terrible rhyming names for on-screen couples) is like the one that the leads in Geetha Govindam shared. Their families also meet on those lines. Vicky tries to cozy up to Nikky on an airplane that’s taking them to Hyderabad, and, when he finally lands in the city of pearls, he realises that his sister (cousin who calls him Annayya) is getting married to Nikky’s brother. Unlike Geetha Govindam, the woman doesn’t hold a grudge against the man, but the rest of the beats remain the same. They go out shopping and for dinners together, and she begins to see his other side.
There’s a particular sub-story about Vicky that really interested me. Chitti (Priyadarshi) opens up to Nikky about how he met Vicky, whom he calls his best friend. The scene, which is set in a dimly street, is filled with ice-cream and fast-food carts. This place becomes the go-to spot for the couple later on, but for now, Chitti holds the stage as he delivers a monologue. The story that he narrates doesn’t seem out of place at all, and Priyadarshi delivers his lines with care. Had this kind of writing been present throughout the film, Mr. Majnu would have ended on a higher note.
Once the movie shifts to London, Atluri’s storytelling methods take another backseat as there’s literally nothing other than the humour provided by Hyper Aadi and Subbaraju. Aadi stars as a pirate who uploads films to websites, and Subbaraju steps in to shoulder Nikky’s grief as her uncle named Ramesh since she’s going through a rough phase in her life. Ramesh’s innocence and Pulla Rao’s (Aadi) sharp-tongued euphemisms hold a large part of the movie together.
Most of the rom-coms in Indian cinema head towards the same direction. They rarely take the road less traveled. Mr. Majnu doesn’t take any chances whatsoever. It wants to be cute and appealing, but it doesn’t do that perfectly either. Here’s another garish trick that Atluri uses to turn his common chick magnet into a hero – every time Nikky is confused about what she thinks of Vicky, random characters drop in and get beaten up by him. And with that, Nikky’s memories get refreshed and she’s ready to fall head over heels in love with him again.
Mr. Majnu is a rom-com that has no flavour; a bucket of soggy popcorn, if you will.