Telugu Features

Srimanthudu UnReview: Beating Around Bushes

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It must be nice to be a screenwriter for star-driven films. Imagine having to set up the most intricate plot for a big-budget film. You create multiple villains, and man who wants to adopt a village. You weave in farmer suicides and journalist murders. You create a semi-strong woman character who provides the man with the motivation to go searching for his roots.

And then?

And then, most normal writers have to figure out how to resolve all the conflicts they set up.

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Hard work.

No such worries here, though.

Make the villains run into the hero at various points of time in various settings. Bus station. Wedding. A grove. A factory. Then hand the screenwriting responsibilities to the stunt master. Who then decides to resolve any conflict and its mother by letting the hero beat the life out of every bad person.

*****

The stunts are extra violent and very well done. Mahesh Babu is always in a hurry, bringing in an added urgency to the stunts. A wedding to attend, so let’s finish this now. A bus to catch, so let’s end this as soon as possible.

*****

Mahesh Babu is the Rahul Dravid of cinema. Hard-working actor who maximises his talent, and gets the basics right. He has a limited number of expressions, and boy, does he know how to use them well.

In Srimanthudu, he mostly broods. A strategic stubble, regular rich-boy clothes. The lines are delivered casually, a stark contrast to the brooding intensity of the deliverer. There is a calculated avoidance of eye-contact in almost all interactions, again creating a contrast with the earnestness of the avoider.

The stunts are his bread and butter. Forward, but not too defensive. It comes easily to him. Look intense, get hold of nearest person, break a part of their body. When done, throw them at the wall.

And the rarely employed smile is the on-drive.

*****

Mahesh has done films out of his comfort-zone before. Creditable performances in Khaleja, a lighter role where he worked hard to get his comic timing right and the more recent Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu, a family entertainer heavy on sentiment.

This is a return to the Pokiri template he has perfected over time.

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Throwdowns in the net.

It’s a pity that nobody wants to challenge him on a spicier wicket. A bouncer or two – can he pull? Bring in the fine leg, and see if he’ll try something more.

*****

Koratala Siva, the director, might argue that he did bring Shruti Hassan’s fine legs into the film. Interestingly though, the legs that got the most applause were Mahesh’s. He wore a lungi, and folded it up, then walked.

Cue whistling. Hooting. Clapping. And eye-rolling from at least one member of the audience.

*****

Shruti Haasan, the heroine, is a rural development student who pays no attention in class. She also has strong feelings about people having more than one kid (adopt the second one, she tells a couple earnestly). She looks stunning and dances beautifully, a stark contrast to Mahesh’s awkwardness in the dance sequences.

But the awkwardness contributes to his overall aura as a star. He comes across as reserved and intense; and when was the last time you saw someone like that dance well?

*****

It seems, even in 2015, we still have scenes where men visit their potential brides. Family in tow. And said family still asks for money from the bride, so the groom can settle down in life.

For your own good, they tell the girl.

*****

Suganya plays Mahesh’s mom in the movie. She started trying in Mahanadhi, but still hasn’t quite figured how to cry on screen.  

*****

There is no overt comedy in the film. Even the usually loud Ali plays it down, thankfully.  The loudest laughs were for an ad, for a company that claimed to help bored housewives become IT specialists. These are presumably the ones that helped their husbands settle down in life, but some more settling can’t hurt anyone.

*****

The place was packed. Thursday evening show, sold out.

*****

The Srimanthudu Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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