Telugu Reviews

Dhruva Review: Story Over Star Power Makes It Nearly As Good As Thani Oruvan

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For a remake to impress more than the original is nearly impossible. Changes feel unnecessary. Faithfully following the original makes it look like an inferior copy. Remake directors can be forgiven for hoping that the audience simply hasn’t seen the original. This year, two Telugu remakes had their work cut out for them – Naga Chaitanya’s Premam and Ram Charan’s Dhruva, the remake of Thani Oruvan.

Thani Oruvan was easily one of the best Tamil films of 2015.

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Mohan Raja’s screenplay was so good, he lost his tag of ‘Remake Raja’ and became known as the man responsible for writing one of Kollywood’s most complex and thrilling antagonists. Mohan Raja screenplay is also Dhruva’s biggest strength. It’s been a while since Telugu cinema had a gripping cop story.

With Dhruva, it finally has one.

***

Dhruva’s first and biggest task was managing Ram Charan’s star power (or should we say, his mega-star power). The nexus between the protagonist and antagonist in Thani Oruvan was delicate. It was that dizzying cat-and-mouse chase, that irrepressible chemistry that made Thani Oruvan so successful. So when ten minutes into Dhruva, the ‘introduction song’ arrives and threatens to meddle with a masterpiece, you groan.

And it is nothing but an ode to Ram Charan’s beefed-up body, accompanied by worshipful lyrics about ‘Dhruva Dhruva’.

But then Arvind Swami arrives. And everything changes.

***

The evil scientist Sidharth Abhimanyu (and when was the last time an Indian villain’s name was this famous?) takes the reins. Ram Charan forgets about his star image and gives in to the screenplay. A screenplay that draws us into liking the antagonist against our will.

And the magic begins.

Dhruva (Ram Charan) is an IPS trainee, the best student of his batch. He and his buddies stop crimes in the city, and put criminals behind bars. Soon, Dhruva realises that behind every petty crime lies a big secret; that the crimes are merely a cover. He realises that Siddharth Abhimanyu (Arvind Swamy) is the brains behind a pharma scam. Armed with this knowledge, he decides to confront him head on.

The game of who is on to whom begins. And keeps us on our toes until the very end.

***

For Telugu cinema, Dhruva’s story is like a breath of fresh air. Usually every star film is about the lead actor’s machismo, about how he has the strength to break the bones of a hundred goons. Here the hero relies on his brain instead of his muscle. The villain frequently gets the better of the hero multiple times, leaving him helpless.

What we would give for Dhruva to kick off a trend where scripts tease the audience’s intelligence, that lure us into a dizzying maze of thrill and cleverness.

***

Dhruva does have to pay homage to the Telugu action film template in parts. The lead romantic pair breaks into a high-octane dance song when the hero finally confesses his love. In Thani Oruvan, it was a slow, laidback song by the beach. But Ram Charan is here, and this means there simply has to be a song where he gets down on his knees, and does the dance routines his hardcore fans can cheer for.

At least there are no Pawan Kalyan–Chiranjeevi references.

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And that is hands down director Surender Reddy’s biggest achievement. The Telugu remake of Premam, for instance, botched up a simple story with an endless stream of Nag-family references. So forced that you feel for the family who must have felt so embarrassed watching that.

***

Ram Charan is an actor with a limited repertoire and he knows it. Fortunately, his character places few demands on his acting range, and he survives the film unscathed. Arvind Swami though looks almost bored. Reportedly, the makers had to pay a huge sum to bring the hesitant actor on board. It looks like that reluctance spilled over on screen.

The remake had some irrelevant changes, like arbitrarily re-naming one character ‘Angelina’. It would have been a welcome change had the lead actresses’ role been enhanced. Nayanthara’s towering screen presence made her near-unnecessary character watchable in Thani Oruvan. But in Dhruva, Rakul Preet has little to do but look beautiful, both as a serious forensic expert or as the diva who dances with Ram Charan at the beach.

***

Afterwards, some fans tweeted that Ramcharan should be praised for doing a film where his character is nearly sidelined.

But this is a film where the star wasn’t bigger than the film. For a long time now Ram Charan has been playing roles that are carbon copies of each other. With Dhruva, he may just have grabbed his best chance at genuinely reinventing himself. Perhaps his band of brothers and uncles will follow suit.

We can only hope.

*****

The Dhruva 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 any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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