Another Mahesh Babu movie! An odd one, half comedy and half cop thriller. And sometimes comedy and cop thriller all mixed up together.
I knew from moviemavengal’s review that this would be partially based on Good-Bye Lenin. But I like to think I would have figured that out on my own! But maybe not. I haven’t actually seen Good-Bye Lenin, just read about it.
(A slightly less action-y poster)
And I missed A LOT of stuff in this movie too! It was surprisingly complicated for a Mahesh Babu Telugu film. I went into it thinking I could clean my apartment and eat lunch and work on a sewing project while I watched, and then I ended up having to constantly pause and rewind to figure out what I had missed, and I finally gave up entirely and just accepted that everyone was lying to everyone else and it didn’t really matter why.
Well, one of them mattered. It mattered that Mahesh Babu was lying to his father Prakash Raj not just for kicks, but because he was worried about him. It was for love that he did all of this. And, as is said in a small scene at the end of the film, the kind of love a parent usually has for a child, not the other way around. The protective love, building a whole world just to make them happy, making decisions for their own good without them even knowing it.
But all the rest of it, naaaaaaaaaaaah!!! Not worth paying attention to! The comedy uncle types were being tricked because it was funny, the bad guys were being tricked in order to defeat them, the girl was being tricked to be flirty, all the little details beyond that don’t matter. The end result matters, having one person thinking the whole thing is a Big Boss style reality show while another thinks he is the star of his own movie and a third thinks he is part of a political dynasty and so on and so on, that’s hilarious! I just lost interest in trying to keep track of how they all were convinced that these things were true.
(Getting Bigg Boss news third hand through media reports and not actually seeing the episodes makes it sound like the strangest TV phenomenon ever. I’m guessing it makes slightly more sense in context, but out of context these reports are really really weird)
Similarly, I completely lost interest in figuring out who all the bad guys were and why they were bad. Not, like, if their mothers were mean to them and it turned them evil “why they were bad”, but what it was about their past behavior that identified them within the film as “bad guys”. Sonu Sood is bad because he is Sonu Sood and he is always bad. And he is the “big bad” because…….I don’t know, he just is!!! He’s the tallest? (in terms of casting, I bet that was a consideration, because it made his fight scenes with Mahesh much better, having them about the same height)
I also lost interest in the romance. I mean, the songs were really cute! And the opening was fine, with the cute following her around Turkey part. But then it kind of felt like the filmmakers lost interest in the romance around the same time I did, as soon as they arrived back in India.
This sounds like I didn’t like the movie at all! I did! I promise I did! I mean, it’s not my all time favorite movie, or even in my top 10. But maybe in my top ten Telugu films? It’s just that all the “set-up” stuff was kind of confusing and dull. The real good stuff comes in the second half, when all the set-up is over and the pieces are in play.
But before I get into the spoiler stuff, the mise-en-scene!!!! So brilliant! If you don’t happen to know French/filmmaker slang, mise-en-scene means just everything you see onscreen. So, costumes, sets, angles, light filters, etc. etc. And all of those elements came together so perfectly to mimic the 90s social relevant movies and then switch back to the 2000s shoot-em-up blockbusters scene by scene.
Is this a thing, by the way? Was there a big boom in socially relevant political reformer movies in Telugu film in the 90s? I mean, to me I looked at the filter and the plot points and stuff and thought “Agneepath!” But that’s not even a southern movie. It also sent me down a bit of a wikipedia hole reading about NTR’s political career. His own sons and son-in-law planned a coup? Why has there not been a movie about that? Or has there been one, and I just don’t know about it/the film changed everything was so carefully as to be well-nigh unidentifiable (like Iruvar)? Also, his second wife was 30 years younger than him? Was that okay with people or was it a bit of a thing?
(Even if Iruvar was censored to the point of kind of not making sense, the songs are still amazing!)
Anyway, that’s the part that totally works in the movie, the contrast between the values of the past and today, shown in this kind of tongue in cheek way. And for the other things that work, SPOILERS!!! SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
The movie opens with a purposefully confusing tonal shift. We go from sepia tinted stories of a noble activist, who protected the people of his neighborhood through peaceful non-violent means, protesting injustice where he found it-to a big fight in a nightclub with lots of cool angles and edits. It’s not just in what happens onscreen, it’s a 100% commitment to a certain kind of film style, in the acting, costumes, pace of edits, everything! And then BAM! 2000s!!!! Cool guy jeans and one liners, big punches, loud nightclubs, all that wacky stuff.
(Speaking of 2000 action movie tropes, item song!)
It kind of makes me appreciate the 2000 stuff more. Not because I find it more fun than the 90s stuff (although I do, a little). But because it raises the curtain and shows that this isn’t just thrown together thoughtlessly, it is an actual filming aesthetic and some thought goes into making it work. And, if they chose, the filmmakers could make use of a different aesthetic, they aren’t doing this as a crutch, it is their choice.
And they do a good job with the 2000 stuff! The opening fight has this cool gimmick, where we go from watching the fight, to pulling back and seeing the big bad guys watch it on their security screens and wince with every punch, and then the door bursting open and Mahesh bursting in to ask why we are watching when he is right there (or something). It’s a really cool 4th wall breaking moment. Because he literally breaks the 4th wall when he walks in.
I also like how they handle Mahesh’s super cop team, with a little bit of an undercut through his superior. While Mahesh and his crew are all super good in a fight and ready for anything and all that, like the usual action heroes. His boss is a bit of comic relief, but at the same time kind of the sane one? Everyone else is dealing with these action scenes like they are video games or something, and the boss is the one actually getting scared. And also actually getting shot, and not heroically shot, but in his sitting place.
There’s another cool undercut, at the same time they are being super awesome cop guys in Turkey, chasing down a fugitive, they are also being super bad romantic guys, messing up Mahesh’s flirtation.
It’s a cute set-up, Mahesh sees the girl in the distance and immediately falls for her. And then looks through their spyware at the fugitive and sees the same girl! She’s his girlfriend! They start following her as cops to track him down, she yells at him for following her, even though at that point he is sincerely just being a cop. And he yells at her for being a “bad woman”.
And then they find out it was a mistake, they were looking at the wrong apartment, she is just a nice girl traveling with her mother and little sister, the “bad woman” is one floor up. Only Mahesh can’t seem to apologize in a way that makes sense, he ends up following her around Turkey again, this time romantically, and sparks fly.
And then it kind of fizzles? They get back to Bombay, fugitive in toe (tow?), to discover that the girl is his boss’s daughter, and she was traveling in Turkey without his permission. And then Mahesh just goes ahead and proposes anyway? And she accepts? Definitely feels like the director was ready to move on to other things and lost interest in the romance.
(Although, the post engagement song is super cute)
More specifically, the director was ready to move on to the wedding, and all the crazy complications that a wedding brings with it. Because by this point, the movie was all about the crazy complications, and not so much about the simple plot.
The simple plot, when you pull away all the stuff piled on top, is like really really simple. Mahesh is a cop going after Sonu Sood. He tracks Sonu’s brother to Turkey. He fakes the brother’s death in order to bring Sonu back to India in a quest for revenge. Sonu comes back. Big fight with Mahesh, and Sonu ends up trapped in hiding in India. Meanwhile, Mahesh kills all of Sonu’s allies. Finally, big fight, Mahesh defeats Sonu.
That’s it! That’s the whole crime drama part of it. The romance is barely in there too, with the misunderstanding and flirtation, but it all resolves pretty quick. The bigger sort of plot accessories are all the comic misunderstandings. And those are top notch!
It all starts with Prakash Raj. Mahesh’s father, the honest political leader, he was attacked by Sonu Sood and a few others decades ago, and has been in a coma ever since. Now, he is awake! But he missed the past 20 years, doesn’t realize his house was sold, his followers moved on to other things, and his son turned into a 2000s action hero instead of a noble 90s political and social hero.
To keep him happy, Mahesh decides to get the inner circle back together and pretend the 90s never ended, essentially. Mahesh will play the noble white-wearing politician, all the old followers will now be his followers, they will move into the old mansion in the old neighborhood.
The mansion is the first hitch they run into. The new owner is perennial comedy uncle Brahmanandam who is renting it out to a film company that is making a movie on the life of Prakash Raj (the character, not the actor). So, Mahesh decides to pretend that they are a film company too, but doing reality TV, where all the big money is now, instead of movies. He convinces Brahmanandam to let them film in the house if he will be one of their reality stars. And then he makes a side deal with one of the junior artist managers on the film set to provide plenty of extras to hang around the house and cheer for Prakash. And once it is all set up, and Prakash walks through this fake arrangement, suddenly we are all sepia-ish and slow and serious again in our filming! Super cool, the way it switches back and forth from Prakash’s perspective.
I understood this basic beginning farce, but then it just gets so complicated! They discover a link to Sonu, if they can go through yet another Comedy Uncle, this time a gangsters aging son who wants to be a movie hero. So they convince him that he is the hero of a movie, and use the fake stuff they already put in place for Prakash for him.
I can’t completely convey this in description, but there are a few scenes that are just amazingly complicated with literally every person on screen thinking something else is happening than what is actually happening. Well, except for Mahesh. He always knows everything.
(Like, this wedding song. Everyone here except Mahesh is being tricked in some way!)
But I think my favorite bits are when Mahesh has Prakash kill people. It’s a fascinating conflict of world views! Prakash is a 90s hero, he believes in forgiveness and peaceful resolutions. But Mahesh is a 2000s hero, he believes in blood for blood. And, to honor his father, he needs to both make sure Prakash never does anything he would feel morally wrong, but also make sure that Prakash exacts his correct vengeance on his enemies.
Which leads to him telling Prakash that a poor injured boy honors him so much, all he wants is for Prakash’s hand to be the one that removes the oxygen tube. And while Prakash is sentimentally sobbing over the life cut short, Mahesh and companions are quietly gleeful over vengeance accomplished.
Culminating, of course, in the amazing death of Sonu Sood! Tied up and stuck into the main head of a Ravaan statue on Diwale, while Prakash cheerfully takes aim and shoots the flaming arrow that explodes the statue. And then we go straight back to the heartwarming story! When Prakash finds a kite made of current newspapers, realizes he has been lied to, but says that it is a blessing because, as I said in the beginning, it was the kind of love a parent has for a child, which he was able to get from his son. It’s sweet! But also, now that I think about it, a little disturbing that the idea of forgiving your enemies and peaceful resistance is now considered merely the naivety of a child. At least, on film.