Beards have probably attained the status of a cult character in Telugu cinema. Ever since Ram Charan sported a thick one in Rangasthalam (2018), Telugu film heroes have taken it upon themselves to come up with a similar style quotient. Of course, there was also Vijay Deverakonda in Arjun Reddy (2017), but his unkempt appearance was reserved only for a part of the film. For iSmart Shankar (2019) and the latest release Red, though, Ram Pothineni maintains the same length.
This review isn't the right place to heap praise on beards. But look at the heights it has reached now. Pothineni, who plays two characters in Red — Siddharth and Aditya — sports the same amount of facial hair for both of them. It's an absolutely necessary element in the storyline since a guy gets murdered in the movie and one of them is the culprit. They say they didn't do it, but there's a photographic piece of evidence that links them to the murder. Again, only one person could have been at the scene of the crime. The question is — who's lying?
On the face of it, Red looks like a Korean modish thriller, but it's actually the remake of the Tamil thriller Thadam (2019). When Thadam hit theatres, it took the audiences by storm since they didn't walk into the movie halls expecting to be overwhelmed with the twists. Red, however, keeps those aspects aside, since the plot of the Tamil original is available on Wikipedia, and, instead, increases the tempo. And, that's how the original sparkling thriller is made to fit the size of yet another masala movie. But that's not a complaint.
Kishore Tirumala, the director of the remake, doesn't make new moves on the chessboard. He follows the original to the last dot. Still, he makes Red seem louder and frillier. It's like watching a cooking show in which two chefs make two different dishes from the same pot of ingredients. If Thadam is singularly interested in building the two characters to the point where they break down and reveal their past, albeit calculatingly, to the cops, Red is singularly focussed on making the two central characters appear nonchalant.
Aditya and Shankar (from iSmart Shankar) could have been great friends. They could have downed all the beers from the dive bars in their neighborhood and danced to Mani Sharma's music every night. But the matter of distance would have been a problem, since Red is set in Vizag and Shankar is a chest-thumping Hyderabadi. The offbeat setting doesn't offer Red anything other than the occasional sea breeze and a villa with a view of the ocean. Most of the scenes are shot inside a police station, a few houses, and a business park. Did the team miss a chance to take a grand aerial shot of the seashore and include it in some irrelevant juncture? Maybe!
Well, if there's one area in which Red could have improved (this was a concern even in the original), it would have to be the love story between Mahima (Malvika Sharma) and Siddharth. We see Mahima mostly through the little anecdotes that are stitched together in the first hour. And although they both have conversations about getting married and living a gorgeously fulfilling life together, you don't feel that love.
When Siddharth asks her out for a cup of coffee in the beginning and she tells him he's asking the wrong question, there's no playfulness in her reply. A day later, he throws the ball into her court and adds that he thinks she's a feminist-type and asks her if she wants to take him out for a date. It's a laugh-out-loud statement that doesn't land well. He rearranges his sentence several times, but fails to hit the nail on the wall. She prefers tea and that's where Tirumala loses the opportunity to sell humour.
Likewise, when the couple starts to hang out at cafeterias, their flirtatious glances look mechanical. In order for Siddharth to seem educated and upper-class (a trait that he doesn't share with Aditya), Pothineni keeps his face straight. While he's in the shoes of Aditya, however, he lets his inner child roam free. The costumes also follow the same pattern. If Siddharth is seen in ironed shirts and trousers, Aditya is seen in jeans and T-shirts. And there's another feature that sits like a cap on Aditya's head — he's a womaniser.
If Siddharth had joked around with a friend of his own, like how Aditya does with Vema (Satya), it'd have opened a bigger gate for the remake. On the whole, Red isn't forgettable. It's less of a thriller and more of a "Dinchak, Dinchak," masala movie.