Saturday October 14, 2017

Arjun Reddy (Movie review), Telugu – Sandeep Reddy Vanga

Posted by Karthik

An early scene in Arjun Reddy categorically portends to what the man is all about. In what is an episode that Arjun and his friend Shiva briefly discuss much later in the film, Arjun doesn’t get what he wants and is literally in heat. He walks out to a flabbergasted ‘Darling open the door’ husband and tries to see if he can get any other woman to quench the heat, so to say. When all else fails, including a call to Shiva who calls him a ‘lout’, Arjun shoves ice down his groin and gets into an auto.

The point here is, Arjun picks ice from a roadside sugarcane juice vendor. He doesn’t seek permission from the bewildered vendor. He just sees the ice box, inserts his hand into it and takes whatever he wants. Much like how he sees Preethi walking with other girls for tea, in St.Mary’s Medical College and just announces to everybody that she is his.

That’s the kind of man Arjun is. A lout. An uncouth, irreverent, violent, short-tempered, entitled, incorrigible, privileged… and, as the film helpfully frames it, unconventional idiot. He is also pampered and spoilt by everyone around him, perhaps owing to the ‘talent’ he is supposed to have that has him conducting 200+ surgeries, all while fully drunk.

The most interesting thing about all this is that the film is still a riveting watch! Like watching a film about a miserable anti-hero with an unusual amount of hero-level posturing and swagger built into him by the script.

There are times when Arjun’s behavior gets him what he truly deserves. Like coming to Preethi’s house after she is married. He gets beaten up royally and it is a stroke of genius from the director that Shiva manages to avoid further bloodshed. But mostly, Arjun gets his way, awkwardly so – and that is the most problematic part of this film.

He gets away with beating up another football team. He gets away with all the drunk surgeries (except one, thankfully). He gets away with ‘owning’ a girl without her consent. Heck, he even gets away with being the ‘hero’ of this film despite his boorish bad behavior all through!

In what seems like a grown-up child with a severe anger management and a drinking problem, Arjun throws a tantrum while wallowing in self-pity for almost 75% of the film – that’s the classic Devdas template anyway, made more prominent by Radhan’s consistently exhilarating music and Harshavardhan Rameshwar’s background score, on the Dev.D template. He is berated constantly by his friends and family. He is called names. He is thrown out of places. He is beaten black and blue. He loses his medical license. It is fantastic to find a hero… or anti-hero, getting pummelled to this extent by himself and life and wonder what would happen to him ultimately. You end up feeling like his friend Shiva… you keep giving up on him only to come back the next day to check on him.

The denouement is clearly aimed for a surprise, shock moment. But it goes well with the film’s momentum… the opposite of, ‘you’ve gone so high that the only way now is down’.

The plethora of fresh faces really help make it all completely real. But, of course, it is Vijay Devarakonda who is astonishingly convincing as the hopeless, drunken lout. Vijay simmers through most of his scenes while bursting out in the rest… always volatile and impatient with things around him even as the people around him try their best to make him understand that the world doesn’t work to please him. Shiva, as Vijay’s friend, gets some of the best lines in the film including berating his useless friend the most while also not giving up on him.

Preethi, the object of Vijay’s affection, is in a constant state of looking like a helpless puppy. She barely gets a dialog for most of the film’s initial portions and gets to show that she has a mind of her own too only when she accepts Arjun as her man.

Sandeep Vanga, the director, has a really keen eye on people and their surroundings and interestingly chooses to focus on little things. Like Shiva’s father asking about Arjun at least on 3 different occasions with 2 of them ending up in a brief discussion about diarrhea. Or the brief discussion between Shiva and Arjun outside his hospital about ‘Darling open the door’.

It’s these slice-of-life moments peppered all through the film that keeps the film consistently aloft, despite a miserable, self-pitying lead character trying to pull it down at every moment. That balance—of the lead character going from bad to worse to miserable versus the people around him pulling him up for some air—is the film’s most interesting dynamic.

If you don’t keep asking why people are so considerate to this disgusting lout, the film remains a phenomenally interesting watch. It doesn’t take much though – we’re used to suspending disbelief when a hero single-handedly fights 20 goons; here he fights 20 of his inner demons with a little help from his friends and family.



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