Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi: My Least Favorite Puri Jagannadh Movie (So Far)

I’m pretty sure this is my first Ravi Teja movie, so I can’t make any judgement there.  But it’s my fourth or fifth Puri Jagannadh movie, and I can tell you, in terms of direction, it is not as good as it could be.  I’m missing the clever little touches and sense of humor about the plot.  And I am really really missing the lighter touch with the male-female romance.

I’m just gonna say upfront, this is not the greatest movie.  Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for it, maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I am pretty sure it just plain wasn’t a very good movie.  The plot doesn’t really hang together, there are an awful lot of coincidences, the hero is basically perfect start to finish, and none of the emotional moments really worked.  Well, except for Prakash Raj.  He is always great.  And Asin was pretty good too, although she was so young I could barely recognize her.

Age is a big problem in this movie.  Ravi Teja was only 35, which isn’t THAT old in the usual Indian film hero concept.  Not even too old to play a college student.  But he just has kind of an old face.  Looking at newer photos of him, it kind of feels like he started looking 30 around age 25 and just stayed there into his forties.  You know who else did that?  Prithviraj!  Watching Classmates I was a little taken out of it by this older guy striding around campus, and relieved when we got to the “present day” part and he could act his age.  Only to discover he was actually only 24 at the time.  Anyway, with Ravi Teja supposedly playing a college student and Prakash Raj’s son, but looking about 15 years old for both of those things, there was a big suspension of disbelief built in.

(See???  Does this look like a mother and son or more like a husband and wife?)

And then Asin was 18 and playing 18 and looking 18.  Which was another big problem.  Asin is so strong and spunky usually, and I would have had no time with the kind of teasing courtship she enjoyed with Ravi if she had been as full of spunk as usual.  But she just looked 18!  So it didn’t feel like a romantic duel between equals, it felt like a creepy older guy stalking a teenager.

All of these problems could have been fixed though if the direction had been slightly better.  If the film had had sort of a wink to the audience to acknowledge that it was aware of these problems and how silly all the characters were being and all of that.  Which is why I have come to expect from Puri Jaganaddh and I’m angry when it’s missing!

Is it possible it is because this is a Ravi Teja film?  That Ravi’s star persona wouldn’t allow for quite as many little jokes and light moments as I saw in Pokiri or Businessman with Mahesh Babu or in Bijjudagu with Prabhas?  That’s the only thing I can think of that would make a difference. Is Ravi usually this straight up macho and perfect with no sense of frailty or need for the heroine (versus the heroine needing him)?

Although really it’s not his romance with Asin that kind of ruined the movie for me (although that was bad), it’s his relationship with his stepmother and stepsister.  This is, once again, a Trishul-redux plot, but they made a BIG BIG change in the details and attitude of the stepmother and sister which kind of ruined it.  Unlike in Trishul, where the way that plays out is one of the best and most surprising parts of the film.

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Okay, I’m going to zip through the first half of this movie, because it’s mostly set-up for the second half, which is where the really bad/interesting to talk about plot points happen.  Our hero is a college student who wants to be a kickboxer and is on his way up the kickboxing competitive circuit already.  He is very protective and loving towards his mother, a college lecturer who has raised him alone.

A neighbor asks him to go pick up a relative who is coming in from Chennai, and he goes to get Asin at the train station, but he is so rude and aggressive, she is too scared to explain that she isn’t the relative, she is someone else, until he has brought her all the way back the apartment.  Until the neighbor arrives (I think) and says “That’s not my niece!” and she finally explodes and yells at him.

That’s basically the last moment of their romance that I liked.  After that, he starts doing this creepy role play, pretending to be a terrible gunda-type molester so he can enjoy her scared reaction.  It’s so close to the way the other Puri Jaganadh films I have scene are structured, except in those there is a little tip of the hat to the audience that this is all “pretend”.  In Bujjigadu (my favorite!), we know that our hero is faithful to his childhood love, so all the teasing he does to other young woman is just them miss-interpreting his intentions.  Even in Businessman, the “date rape” scene is clearly established as “no, she really does legitimately want this but can’t admit it”.

(Also a really catchy song, even if it is based on The Lion King stage show soundtrack)

But in this film, it doesn’t feel like playacting, it feels like this young woman is legitimately scared of being molested.  And like she should be scared, because our “hero” isn’t a young man with a secret sensitive look to his eyes (like in Pokiri), but a grown man with a mustache.  Sure, later, she tells his mother without knowing it’s his mother that she really does like him.  But nothing in the directing or performance before that gave me any clue that she liked him.  Which meant that Ravi couldn’t have known she reciprocated his feelings.  Which means that he was just straight up stalking her.

Oh right, and then Ravi’s mother dies.  And before she dies, she tells him who is father is and makes him swear he will go stay with him.  And finally Prakash Raj shows up and the film gets about 20o% more interesting.  But also unbelievable, because Ravi is clearly a grown man with no need for a father, so why Prakash would take him in, like a lost lamb instead of just telling him to get a job and support himself, I don’t know.

Also unbelievable, Asin who he happened to bump into back in his home city (Hyderabad?) happens to live and work at the dance studio next door to where Prakash Raj’s kickboxing studio is!  Oh, and Prakash Raj is a huge famous kickboxing legend.  That one I will let go as not a coincidence, because I can assume genetic ability played a part in Ravi also pursuing kickboxing.

 

And then there is the Trishul thing, sort of.  Ravi has a stepmother and a younger step sister.  His step sister has romantic travails.  Ravi is a big brother to her and helps her out, which makes his stepmother love him too.  In the end, he not only connects with the father he used to resent on behalf of his mother, but also gains a little sister and a new mother.

But see, the thing that made Trishul a brilliant movie is that the stepmother and little sister weren’t “bad”.  Actually, no one was “bad” besides selfish Sanjeev Kumar who got them all in this mess in the first place by abandoning his pregnant girlfriend.  What makes it even better is that all the non-Sanjeev characters end up being people in their own right, not just pawns in the Amitabh-Sanjeev game.  None of that is true here.  In a way that feels really gendered.

In original flavor Trishul, Amitabh initially resents his stepmother and half-sister and half-brother for having all the advantages he was denied.  But then he discovers they are actually all really decent people who don’t deserve to be caught up in this battle between himself and his father.  Heck, even Hema Malini, who is just his little brother’s girlfriend, doesn’t deserve to be part of this fight.  In the end, Amitabh discovers the value of appreciating his new “family” and accepting his position as the oldest son of the household is more important than his feud.  Even in the last Trishul-like Telugu film I reviewed, Munna, they got that.  That what makes the plot amazing, our heroes moving from using these people as pawns in their vengeance to discovering that they are victims just as much as he is and deserve to be protected.  That’s the whole dramatic tension of the film.  Remove it, and you are left with, well, this movie.

Again, I kind of want to blame Ravi Teja.  Or maybe just the star structure of the Telugu industry.  His character has to be perfect in every way start to finish.  So he can molest the heroine and resent his father and it’s all okay, because he is the hero, so everything he does is by default perfect.  And that means that the flaws have to be put on someone else instead.  And now I blame Puri Jagannadh, because those flaws aren’t put on Prakash Raj, but instead on his new wife and daughter.

In the original film, Amitabh’s stepmother is a fairly personality-less woman, but she is instinctively kind towards Amitabh when she meets him and is quick to accept him into the family once she knows his true heritage.  In Munna, the character had some fire to her, and we know that she was married to Prakash against her will and is therefore eager to ally herself with her stepson instead.  But in this film, simply because she is a stepmother, she has to be terrible and jealous and unwelcoming.  There is no effort even to explain the reasons behind her actions, that maybe she is nervous for the status of her own child now that Prakash has a son, or jealous of the woman she knows he always loved more.  No, she is just evil and jealous because woman are like that.

The stepsister is even worse.  In the original Trishul, sweet little Poonam Dhillon has a sweet little romance which Amitabh originally tries to involve himself with just to create a headache for his father.  But later comes to accept his true responsibility as her oldest brother and goes against her father legitimately in order to ensure she is able to marry the man she loves.  In Munna, again, it was similar.  The stepsister was under the thumb of her father and, after initially just being seen as a pawn by her brother, he comes to fully care for her as his sister and defend her.

(So sweet!  And a young woman who is capable of making her own choice for herself)

The key in both these movies is that the sister needed and was grateful for her brother’s protection.  Not in a regressive way, but because her father was flawed, which of course is what started the whole plot off in the first place.  Weakness of the old patriarchy which must be replaced by a new younger and more flexible patriarchy.  But in this movie, it’s just the old patriarchy and the young patriarchy joining hands to bitch about how stupid and useless woman are.

And it reaches it’s zenith in the younger sister’s romance plot.  First, our hero follows her to a club and tries to drag her out of the bathroom where she is making out with her boyfriend.  This scene is very similar to one of my favorite scenes in Baghban.  But in Baghban, firstly, the girl was clearly unwilling and needed to be rescued.  And secondly, the blame for her behavior was placed on her parents who were not there to protect her, not on the powerless girl.

In this case, neither of those things are true.  The girl is there of her on volition, happily making out with her boyfriend.  And our hero tries to drag her away anyway, taking control of her sexual agency.  And secondly, there is no clear “blame” placed on anyone, besides the girl herself for not listening to “men” and trying to use her stupid female brain to make a decision for herself about her own body.

And then later it is discovered that she is pregnant and her boyfriend was using her all along and doesn’t want her any more.  So our hero gets to prove what a saintly brother he is by doing everything the boyfriend demands in order for the boyfriend to agree to marry her.  Well that’s JUST PEACHY!!!!  Sure, marry her off to the guy who doesn’t want her and got her pregnant under false circumstances.  Who she herself declares she doesn’t even want any more.  Because to let her raise her child herself, or to marry someone besides the person who first took her virginity, would be to admit that the whole patriarchy is a scam and woman don’t always “need” a husband.  Also, who wants a sister around the house once she’s been all spoiled and is no longer a virgin?  Marry her, kill her, marry her to a guy who will probably kill her, makes no difference so long as she isn’t your problem any more.  And besides, a woman who has sex before marriage deserves to be abused for the rest of her (probably very short) life.  That’s the correct punishment, right?

(Kya Kehna is an odd movie, but I really really appreciate the message)

I know I’m reading into this and film itself ends with a last minute agreement from the “bad guy” to marry the sister and settle down and try to do better.  But the point is, in real life it doesn’t work like that.  And a movie which is giving the audience the lesson “a good brother does whatever it takes to marry his sister to the father of her child, even if neither of them want the marriage” is just asking for spousal abuse and murder.  I mean, from this philosophy, would there be any difference if she had become pregnant through acquaintance rape instead of consensual sex?  Heck, do we even know it wasn’t rape in this film?  Does he bother to ask?  No!  It’s just “who’s the father?  Okay, you have to marry him no matter what and I don’t care what happens to you after that.”

What’s crazy is the total cognitive disconnect in the film.  We had a whole first half with our hero, our perfect hero who was perfectly raised and flawless and needs nothing, being with his beloved single parent mother.  And then we had a whole second half where the younger sister who did have a father and married parents was a total mess.  So where is this “a baby needs a legitimate father and married parents” coming from?  We just saw IN THIS SAME MOVIE how little that matters.

They try to tie it together at the end, to say that our hero finally learned to appreciate his relationship with his father and therefore wants his sister’s baby to have that same experience.  But come on!  Just because Prakash Raj turned out to be a good father, that doesn’t mean every baby is better off being raised by their father, even if the man hates their mother and didn’t want the baby in the first place.  Again, IN THIS SAME MOVIE, we had a whole flashback to explain that Prakash really did want Ravi and his mother, it wasn’t some kind of shotgun wedding situation.  What makes Ravi think that forcing this guy to marry his sister is going to work out the same way?

Uch!  Just, UCH!  Left me with such a bad taste in my mouth, I’m not sure I’ll be able to try another Ravi Teja film.  Unless you can recommend one that is super super progressive.

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24 thoughts on “Amma Nanna O Tamila Ammayi: My Least Favorite Puri Jagannadh Movie (So Far)

  1. I think what turned you off is that Ravi Teja isn’t as good looking as either Mahesh Babu or Prabhas. But he is a very good actor. I hate Bujjigadu about as much as you seem to hate this movie (despite being a fan of Prabhas) precisely because of its regressive moral outlook, which encompasses not only the romance angle, but the whole criminality on the part of about half the cast being shrugged off because they are the “good guys” (good guys who steal, maim, and murder not only the “bad guys” — who are only marginally worse than them — but plenty of innocent bystanders, too).

    I don’t particularly like the “scaring her” aspect of the romance here, but perhaps you missed the beginning of it, where Ravi Teja’s character is angered that Asin’s character has unjustly assumed that he is a thug, and so he has a reaction of, “If she thinks I’m a thug, I’ll show her how a thug behaves!” Yes, it’s not a mature reaction, but then he is not a mature character, being, as you said, still a college student. I agree with you that poor Ravi Teja has an “old” face — he’s looked basically the same for the last 20 years, it feels like. As for not getting any hints that the “scaring” was all a joke, which both parties knew, each such scene had one or both of them smiling secretly to her/himself — usually Asin, at the end of it stealing a glance at Ravi Teja and smiling to herself, and, when he surprises her at it, quickly changing her expression, and him also smiling because he has seen that she does like him. So I don’t think either of them took the “scaring” part seriously, and it was brought out pretty explicitly in the film. And you even excuse the “date rape” scene from Businessman! I’m sorry, at this point I think it’s all about the charisma of the lead star, and not the ideology you’re espousing.

    Anyway, I think I’m the one who recommended this film to you, and I think I also warned you that Ravi Teja is not as good looking as the other heroes. I like this mainly for Asin, but also Ravi Teja, who, as I said, I find to be a good actor. I first saw him in a film called “Avunu Vallu Iddaru Ishtapaddaru” (“Yes, the two of them like each other”), which is a straight out romance, and he impressed me enough to want to check out his other films. He’s never disappointed me yet as an actor, even if the film is unlikable for other reasons. You can try that if you want — it’s a remake of a famous Hollywood movie, which you’ll identify very quickly. 🙂 I also liked Ravi Teja in the Telugu Kick (the original) which was also much better as a film than the Hindi version. If you like spunky heroines, this is one to watch. Now I wanted to watch the Telugu film Vikramarkudu, starring Ravi Teja, and directed by S.S. Rajamouli (it was remade in Hindi, but I forgot the title). I saw one clip from it, where I thought Ravi Teja was just brilliant, so I started to watch the whole movie. But I quickly had to stop, because of the blatant sexism on Rajamouli’s part. I just couldn’t stand it. I also had the same problem with Chatrapati, which was so highly lauded for both Prabhas and Rajamouli, but the so-called “romance” was horribly misogynistic. Since I had seen Bahubali before these two films, it was a shock to see the misogyny on Rajamouli’s part.

    Sorry for rambling on, and sorry you had a bad experience. But do try to separate out the director’s influence from the actor’s, and maybe you’ll feel up to giving Ravi Teja another chance. (The only film of Puri Jagannath’s that I liked was Pokiri, and now I feel like that was a fluke, and no rule for his other films.)

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    • I’m going to assume you are joking a little about thinking I only judge films based on the stars’ charisma/appearance, because if you sincerely thought that, I don’t know why you would bother reading my blog 🙂

      I should give Ravi Teja another chance, like I said in the post, I think this was partially an unfortunate combination of his look and the script. The same actions done by someone who looked naturally young instead of naturally old wouldn’t have felt the same at all. I would like to see him in a role where he plays a character that is a little more mature.

      What I liked about Pokiri and Bujjigadu, and less about Businessman but it was still there a little, is that the violence and sexism was so extremely over the top, that it felt like it was consciously fake. Especially because those films had these really cool breaking the fourth wall moments, like writing script on the film or suddenly splitting the screen. Whereas this one, with a more traditional straight forward film style, felt a little less like the director is having a joke with the audience and we both know this isn’t really what he thinks or how the world really is, and more like he was sincerely trying to tell the audience about a “hero” who did all these things and believed all these things.

      Thanks for your additional perspective on the romance, I did miss those little looks after the interactions, I must not have been watching closely enough. That is exactly the kind of thing I liked in the other Jagannadh films, that it felt like he knew the difference between the hero and heroine role-playing these parts, and it happening for real. Directors don’t always seem to get. I liked the way Rajamouli did it in Eega/Mirchi, for instance, and then he seemed to lose it again with the romance in Bahubaali.

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    • Honestly, Rajamouli was just a director that made good masala movies until Magadheera came along. Eega is my favorite movie of his and it’s honestly his most novel idea. By the way have you seen Maryada Ramana?

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        • I haven’t seen Our Hospitality, and didn’t want to see Son of Sardaar when I saw from the promos what a travesty they made of Maryada Ramanna. 😦 They (Ajay and Rohit Shetty) ruined the remake of Anukokunda Oka Roju, too (Sunday). In general, the Southern originals are always superior to the Hindi remakes, even if not as glitzy, due to lower budgets.

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          • I agree, most of the time the Hindi remake is more glamorous but not as good in terms of a movie as a whole.

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      • Agreed. Rajamouli in his own words knows how to tell a story. Which parts to elevate, which not to focus on.
        Also he tends to devote minimal time to romance, which is actually a good thing. Because if I remember correctly Eega is his only film which did not feature any physical “romance” (which gets all sorts of creepy and awkward in his films.) That (along with other reasons) makes Eega the only Rajamouli movie I like. Even Puri Jagannath and other directors tend to convey problematic messages like this movie and that song in Businessman, but at least picturization-wise they don’t seem to get as cringe-worthy as Rajamouli’s movies.

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  2. I didn’t say you “only” judge films by the looks and charisma of the male leads, but it is indisputable that people react more favorably to good looking people than the not so good looking ones (many research studies show this). Mahesh Babu in addition to looking good, has a “baby face.” He looks innocent and in need of protection, even when his character is a ruthless contract killer (as in Athadu). This certainly helps the audience to swallow his many unsavory characters on screen. Heck, if SRK didn’t have the charisma he does, he would have never got the audience sympathy in his “negative trilogy” of films — Darr, Baazigar, and Anjaam — despite the scripts being written to make those characters sympathetic. So yes, actor’s looks and charisma are definitely a factor in how a viewer perceives their characters, though not the “only” one. Look how your first reaction to Ravi Teja is about his looks. And this is the reaction of most people who are used to Hindi films, and is in fact the root of the “all South heroes are ugly and all South heroines are fat” trope that still rules for many people. I am not accusing of that kind of prejudice, however, but I do think there’s no point in your trying other Ravi Teja films if you can’t get past his looks.

    To sum up, for me this film had a stupid story with many contradictions (as do many run of the mill films), but it was redeemed by the performances of the two leads.

    P.S. Where you felt the violence and sexism in Businessman and Bujjigadu was too over the top to be taken seriously, to me they were very over the top, but still being projected seriously — note, not necessarily “realistically” (most commercials are quite unrealistic), and hence were unacceptable.

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  3. Ravi Teja is not as big of a star as Mahesh Babu or Prabhas but he still has a decent amount of loyal fan following. Ravi Teja is actually the most successful hero in the past 25 or so years that has not come from a film family or no film background at all. The fact that he succeeded without background has gained him immense respect in the audience. He started off in the industry in the late 80s as a character artist and assistant director and his first big break as a hero was with Puri Jagannadh’s Itlu Sravani Subramanyam ( “With regards, Sravani Subramanyam”) in 2001. Though he was 33 at the time, he was young in the eyes of the audience so that’s probably why people didn’t care about his “old face”. I personally don’t think he looked too old though. In general, Ravi Teja is not really known for his macho roles, he’s more known for his energy and comic timing though all of his films do have action in them too. Like Moimeme suggested, you should watch Kick. It’s my favorite Ravi Teja movie and I was quite disappointed when I saw Salman’s version. I also quite liked Avunu Vallu Iddaru Ishtapaddaru but it’s not exactly what Ravi Teja is known for nowadays.

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    • Wow, was he really 33 in his first movie? Then he doesn’t have an “old face”, he has the face fit for his age. 🙂 It’s just that the characters he’s playing are younger than his real age. The fact that he doesn’t come from a film background and yet has been successful is exactly the reason why I like him (in addition to his acting, that is). He’s very sincere in his acting, which comes through, and is a major attraction for me. Plus, at the time I saw him, there was no other hero who talked Telugu properly, i.e., like a Telugu person. 🙂 I like his dialogue delivery. So all these add up to an overall persona and performance that I find pleasing.

      OK, I’m off to watch Itlu Sravani Subramanyam now. I believe I have the dvd kicking around.

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      • The premise of Itlu Sravani Subramanyam is interesting but honestly the movie got boring and I never finished it. Another movie with a really good performance is Khadgam which was directed by Krishna Vamsi.

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      • Also Itlu Sravani Subramanyam was Ravi Teja’s first hit as a solo lead, not necessarily his first movie. His first lead role was technically in Sindhooram (1997) which was directed by Krishna Vamsi. From then until Itlu Sravani Subramanyam came out, he either acted in small budget movies as the hero or did supporting characters in bigger movies. For example, Ravi Teja acted as Chiranjeevi’s younger brother in Annayya (2000).

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  4. Ravi Teja is a very different actor. This film is where you get it all wrong when it comes to the actor and filmmaker. Avunu Valliddaru Ishtapaddaru, Sindhooram, Venky, Bhageeratha, and Bhadra are some good films of Ravi i can safely recommend at the moment. Coming to Jagannadh, i agree that Kajal’s kidnap in Businessman is sort of creepy. But, where did the film try to be a story of a ‘gentleman’? If it was perverse, it was perverse. If it was cold, it never tries to induce warm fuzzy scenes. This spine chilling consistency and not at all caring about the ethical standards of the society (profanity, glorification of stalking and mafia etc.) made it a very special film. If you find a non-dubbed and subtitled version of the film, try watching it again. The dialogues in the original had a lot of depth and intimate venom.

    Avunu Valliddaru Ishtapaddaru (unfortunately, without subs);

    Sindhooram with subs:

    Bhageeratha with subs:

    Bhadra with subs:

    Venky with subs:

    I know this might sound too much. But, i gave five recommendations so that you can have a fair deal of choice while selecting. All are worth a watch IMHO.

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    • Thanks! And I really should try to find a better version of Businessman. I know the version I watched was dubbed, and about 10 minutes shorter than the versions I saw in the original Telugu (which didn’t have subtitles), so I am sure I was missing things. That “perversion” you described, that’s how I saw some of the other Jagannadh films I watched, it was so extreme that it was clearly not trying to provide a template for society or how people should think or behave. And therefore the bad actions on the part of the “hero” didn’t bother me as much, because they weren’t supposed to be a “hero”, more like a villain that we happened to be watching.

      On Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 9:39 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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  5. Pingback: Nenunnanu: They Broke the Sacred Thread! – dontcallitbollywood

  6. I have seen both this and the Tamil remake – M Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmy….and I think I liked the remake better. Firstly because the mother was played by Nadhiya (from Mirchi). And secondly because I felt Asin had a lot more spunk in the second half of the Tamil version as compared to the Telugu version. In the former, she dominates the romance in the second half, somewhat making up for the slightly regressive first half. If you ever get around to watching the remake, I’d love to know how you think it compares to the original.

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    • Interesting! I think that could fix a lot of my issues, if she had really taken control of the second half instead of kind of disappearing.

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      • Oh no, her screen time in the second half is the sane here as in the Telugu version. Just that in the scenes given to her she showed more pluck as compared to her meek avatar in the first half.

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