I saw Nadhiya before in Mirchi, and was stunned by how the “mother” actress was so much more beautiful and interesting than the love interests. That is even more true in this film, to the point that it is almost acknowledged in the script, that Pawan Kalyan was more interested in bringing his aunt home, than in spending time with her daughter who he professed to be in love with.
Just getting this out of the way upfront, this is my first Pawan Kalyan movie! He is the rival to Mahesh Babu, yes? Is that right? And a super big deal and has been for years? Has he also had the same hair and mustache for years? It’s not the most up-the-minute look. Or possibly the most flattering? But really, how would I know! I’ve only seen one movie, I don’t know what he looks like in anything else!
He was good with the acting and stuff in this, no matter how odd his mustache was. And he had to be good, because this was a very confusing and disjointed plot, where the hero was the only connective tissue. Including the two heroine thing, one in the first half and one in the second half, also just like Mirchi, and also very confusing! I can kind of handle the virgin-vamp dynamic for heroines, but these Telugu films have virgin-virgin, there are two completely equal romantic partners and just when I get all invested in one, boom, she’s gone! And I have to get used to a new one.
In this film it’s not just the romantic partners that keep changing on me, even the character actors do! We meet Boman Irani at the beginning, and I think “oh, okay, Boman will be the most significant relationship in Pawan’s life.” But no! All of a sudden it changes to Nadhiya instead! And then back to Boman! And then briefly to a romantic love interest! And then back to Nadhiya! Oh no wait, that was just a faint, he only cared about Nadhiya on behalf of Boman! Or did he? I’M SO CONFUSED!!! It’s almost like the plot was just constructed to provide a series of emotional scenes for Pawan against a variety of scene partners!
Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy watching the film. Especially since I was watching it with a massive fever, all hopped up on acetaminophen and orange juice. It was very nice to just lay (lie?) there and let the whole thing wash over me, with all the colors and songs and exciting fight scenes. Really the best way to watch one of these movies, with your brain more or less disengaged.
I did manage to follow the plot, a little, I think. Here’s what I think happened, and what it might have meant (if it meant anything).
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We open in Milan! What the heck? Mirchi opened in Milan too. Is there some Hyderabad-Milan connection I don’t know about? Oh right, plot. The leading business family of Milan is in trouble, there is a hostile take over of their company. The noble head of the family, Boman Irani, all grey-haired and in a wheelchair, declares that the hostile take over will fail, because his grandson Pawan will destroy the evil young financial mastermind who is running the hostile take over from his boat in the harbor.
And, fight! Pawan against a bunch of commandos who suddenly appear jumping out of a helicopter! Are they Italian soldiers trying to stop the two men from killing each other? Are they hired guns brought in by the evil financial mastermind? Were they hired by Pawan to make himself look really cool by defeating them all? Who knows! Doesn’t matter! They are all dead in about 5 minutes anyway!
We never learn any more about who these people are, or how Pawan learned how to defeat them all, so I guess we just accept that Pawan can win any fight because he is the hero. And that anyone he fights must be a bad guy and we shouldn’t care if they die. Okay, I can live with that.
Now, the next scene is kind of clever. Because there are all these unanswered questions that feel like plot holes, but a whole loooooooooooong time later, they will come back and be answered. That happens a lot with this movie, I write things off as just more Italian commandos who aren’t worth thinking about, and then it turns out they were purposefully opaque and are explained later. Except for the Italian commandos. They are never explained, they just are.
Oh right, the scene. Pawan and his father and his grandfather are eating, and his grandfather says that all he wants is for his daughter and son-in-law and their daughters to join them at the table. Pawan’s father gets angry, points out it was Boman who threw them out of the house to begin with, and now he wants them back? And Pawan promises his grandfather that he will bring them all home. And I start thinking “is that it? We don’t get more background on the family feud? What about Pawan’s mother? Where is she?” But don’t worry, it is answered later!
Pawan goes to India, and there is a lot of stuff with him using wealth as a superpower. There was some similar stuff in Srimanthadu and in Ghajini a little. It’s something that I don’t remember seeing much in Hindi movies, or in American films, really thinking about what it means to just hand people enormous sums of money to make something happen. At first it just seems like simple wish-fulfillment, and maybe a little extra mercenary, like the hero can get away with anything just by paying people off. But on the other hand, isn’t money the true power in the world today? Why not acknowledge that?
Pawan’s money, however, is not what gets him his first introduction to his aunt’s family, that comes from FATE. He is watching his uncle from a distance when he collapses with a heart attack. Pawan rushes him to the hospital, and receives the grateful thanks of his aunt. And then he uses his money to build on that opening, paying off their driver to quite his job, and getting hired as his replacement. And then there is some fun stuff with this, a line up of drivers from the 1950s through today, so Pawan can learn how to dress and act. A coffee stall that opens outside the gates of the house just so Pawan can have his morning coffee. It’s clever!
What’s really clever is how the expectations are up-ended once Pawan gets inside the house. His aunt isn’t some poor woman to be rescued, she runs the place! Her brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws all respect her, her husband adores her and vice versa, and her daughters are charming and beautiful and loving. Plus, while her husband was a humble lawyer at the time they married, he has become a successful and wealthy hotelier in the years since. Truly, she needs nothing from Pawan.
And another little “wait, what?” moment, as Pawan enters her house, he suddenly remembers her as a younger woman, playing with him as a little boy. So, what’s the timeline? Why doesn’t she recognize him? And so on and so on. But don’t worry! It will all be answered!
More importantly, Pawan meets his two cousins! Now, I’m understanding this correctly that these are his traditional wives, right? His paternal aunt’s daughters? So there’s this nice little frisson of it feeling like a forbidden romance between the driver and the heiress, but actually it is his socially acceptable and fated relationship. Right?
Anyway, the older daughter is pleasant and polite and friendly to him. The younger daughter, he accidentally walks in on while her dress is partially undone, and she is spicy and spunky and hates him! Although the older daughter is a little spicy two, both of them change out of their mother-approved clothes in the backseat of the car on the way to a club, and into some sexier outfits. And then Pawan has to sneak into the club to give them back their cell phone they left in the car, and suddenly a bunch of sexy ladies start dancing at him, including the younger daughter (Samantha Prabhu! From Eega!). At the end of the night, Pawan has had enough, he is ready to blow up at both girls, but the older sister mollifies him and he agrees he can do anything for her.
So, I think I see where this is going, right? The older sister is the love interest, even Pawan’s assistants are teasing him about her, and the younger sister is the sexy demon he has to put up with (with which he has to up put? Is there any way to say that without ending with a preposition?). And then it gets stronger when they are all at the mall, and he has to rescue the older sister from some guys who are dragging her away. It was blocked a little oddly, Pawan and Samantha running after them, and the older sister being dragged ahead without really fighting back or screaming, but I figured it was just another Italian commando situation and ignored it. But, NO! There was a reason! This script was TIGHT!
After rescuing her from the kidnappers, flirting all over the house, getting her all smiley and friendly to him, Pawan is called to speak with her alone. She admits that she has something to confess to him, she wants something she can’t have. Pawan is all confident that it is him. NOPE! It’s her boyfriend, the guy at the mall! They were trying to elope, and Pawan got in the way, and now her boyfriend is going to be forced into an arranged marriage in his village and it is all awful!
I really like this films attitude towards love marriages, specifically love marriages chosen by women. Nadhiya picked her husband and was thrown out by Boman Irani. Years later, Boman is miserable, and Nadhiya’s life is perfect. Now, Nadhiya’s daughter is in love, and Pawan’s response is acceptance, even though it breaks his heart, and faith that she is making the right decision! And she is! Through to the end of the movie, there is never a moment of “punishment” for any woman who chooses to follow her heart.
Although there is a little bit of punishment, in kind of a fun way, on the way to getting the bridegroom. Pawan took the family car, not realizing that Samantha was in the backseat. And then she gets knocked out, and wakes up all confused and amnesiac. Which leads to Pawan telling her he is her cousin (which is of course the actual truth) and having her talk on the phone to Boman, her grandfather. It could feel kind of date-rapey and yucky, but they manage to play it off as just trying to keep her calm and feeling safe, and the truth is as good as anything. Samantha is the one who takes it farther and announces that if Pawan is her maternal cousin, then he must be her fiance too! And turns it into a cross-country love song.
So I guess since the older sister wasn’t into it, he just switches to the younger one with no problem? It kind of works, you could argue that it is all about perception, he thinks the woman who is polite and nice to him likes him, but she is really just a nice person. And the snappy spunky one actually likes him, because she feels the bigger need to hide her feelings. But mostly it just feels like they wanted an excuse to have Pawan romance two different heroines in one movie.
Pawan successfully fights off the family and brings the groom home, with Samantha regaining her memory and freaking out in the process. And once the groom is brought back to their house, Nadhiya and her husband are basically fine with it! And his family is basically fine with it too! The only fly in the ointment is the groom’s arranged marriage family. They already paid for the whole wedding, plus there is the loss of status with the groom running off like that. Thank you! I always wonder what happens to that family! Like, at the end of Humpty, did everyone just shake hands and fly back to America?
But, Nadhiya has a solution! She has another daughter, she will just marry Samantha off to the son of their family, they will cover the cost of the wedding, and the honor will be restored because they are a very good family. It’s all good!
It sounds kind of like Samantha is just being sold off, and she sort of is, but her groom is also a really nice guy. He’s all well-dressed and well-spoken, and he is the one who steps in and tries to calm everyone down. It’s just a little 30 second scene, but the filmmaker wanted to be sure we saw he was a good guy before the engagement was suggested, and that we knew that Nadhiya knew he was a good guy too, she wasn’t just throwing one daughter’s life away to save the other.
Since the groom is a nice guy, we have to find a villain somewhere else, right? Enter Brahmanandam! Because we’ve gone a good 2 hours, and we still haven’t had him, and that’s not acceptable! Brahmanandam is awkwardly inserted into the plot as a wealthy relative of the groom, who they have to be nice to, but who also coincidentally imbezzled a lot of money from Nadhiya’s family in the past? Odd coincidence, but I guess it fulfills the comedy premise of someone they despise that they have to pretend to be nice to. And just to set up the situation fully, of course he also falls in lost with Samantha.
(Okay, the Indra-Ahalya play jokes were pretty great)
Meanwhile, and I kind of liked how this happened, Samantha and Pawan are casually sitting at a table in some mall food court, and she suddenly bursts out with “I love you!” and then stops him before he can interrupt. She explains that she loved him all along, she couldn’t stop thinking about him, that’s why she was so mean, because she was trying to put in distance, because she couldn’t be in love with just a driver! And then she walks away before he can respond. See, what I like is how in control she is! She picked him out, she told him she loved him, and she left it up to him to make the next move. Or not. Either way, she was fine.
Of course, Pawan goes for it. And suddenly he is in love! Okay, maaaaaaaaybe he liked her all along and just thought he should like her nicer sister. But it really really feels like he just decided to love her because she loved him. And because he has to marry one of his cousins, and she is the only one available.
And all of this is just getting us to the ending. Oh, I forgot, somewhere along the way here Nadhiya confronted him and told him that she knew who he was and why he was there, and that no matter what nice things he did for her family (which she kind of suspected he concocted and faked anyway), she will never forgive him and go home with him.
So now Samantha and Pawan are running away. She is all casual and cheerful about being the wife of a driver. Until she learns Pawan is actually super super rich when he uses his wealth superpowers in front of her. They are at the train station, when Pawan gets a call that Nadhiya and her husband are on their way. Boom! He has his men clear the entire platform, stop all trains, and give them space alone, all while Samantha watches, stunned. And then Nadhiya shows up, furious, and her husband waves a gun at him, asking how dare he run off with their daughter, him, a lowly driver!
Again, I like it! Well, I don’t like it that they are objecting to their daughter running off. But I like it that they aren’t just objecting to a love marriage on principle, or blaming their daughter at all, the anger is all directed at the guy who isn’t good enough.
And, FINALLY, we get the full story of what happened when Nadhiya left home! In her earlier confrontation with Pawan, we got the first half of it. Boman was excited about her going off to Harvard for an MBA before coming back to help run the company (LOVE THIS! He had a future planned for her, not as the proper wife of a man he picked, but as the powerful CEO of his company). But then Nadhiya showed up to announce she had just married the lowly lawyer she loved. Boman is furious, she just did this without even talking to him, even telling him before the ceremony. He runs and grabs his gun, aims it at her, Nadhiya’s new husband throws himself in front of her, Boman’s son grabs for him, the gun goes off! Nadhiya dragged her husband, injured in the shoulder, away and swore never to return!
So we saw that, which kind of seemed like the whole story, but it felt like there should be more. And sure enough, there was! Pawan tells her she walked away, but never looked back to see what happened next! Boman, despairing at what he almost did, aimed the gun at his own head. His son grabbed for it again, it went off, and hit Pawan’s mother! Yes, that’s right, Pawan’s grandfather killed his mother!
So, now Pawan is here to bring his aunt back home, and his argument rests on two points. First, in terms of Boman bringing out the gun to begin with, notice that Nadhiya and her husband had the exact same reaction when they thought he was running off with Samantha. How can they blame Boman for reacting the same way they did?
Second, if Pawan chose love and forgiveness, to embrace his family even when they did wrong, why can’t Nadhiya do the same? After all, if Pawan can forgive the murder of his mother, why can’t she forgive a little bullet hole in her husband?
Pawan does a great job with this scene, starting out all logical and cool and confident and slowly breaking down as he describes the childhood trauma of losing his mother to death, his aunt to walking away, and his grandfather to the guilt that made him a broken man, all in one afternoon. By the end, Nadhiya is embracing him, as anyone would! And there is something slightly different in their interaction which suddenly fills in a whole backstory of a loving aunt and a little boy. That’s really the emotional conclusion of the film. I told you it was all about Nadhiya. But there are a few little tags after it.
For instance, the whole framing device for the film is Samantha being kidnapped by gundas and telling them her story. But by the end, the gundas are on her side, and when Pawan shows up to rescue her, they welcome him with open arms. They also convince Samantha that she should go back with Pawan, even though she is mad at him for not telling her the truth about who he is, and that he originally came to the house for her mother.
And then of course we have to see Boman’s wish fulfilled, their table in Milan surrounded by family, all happily chatting. Which I guess is a nice ending, but really I felt like the whole thing was resolved on that train station in India when Nadhiya finally embraced him.