This is the big stupid fun movie we watched on Friday instead of Parmanu. No regrets! It was a great way to start a 3 day weekend.
I know my friend Dina very well. And I know she would always rather see a stupid unambitious movie done well, rather than an ambitious movie done poorly. So, Munna Michael was one of the funnest nights we ever spent in theaters. Tubelight, one of the worst. Raazi, that was the best of both worlds, an ambitious film done well. So on Friday I was looking at the reviews for Parmanu and it looked like a film that was going to be good, but not quite good enough for Dina’s exacting standards. Or even my much less exacting standards. And I was thinking of starting a 3 day weekend weekend with a big serious film and Dina making frowny faces and sighing next to me. And so, at the last minute, I convinced her to try this movie instead, sure that it would hit the Dina sweet spot of fun and nothing more.
And it was! Fun and nothing more that is. Completely ridiculous plot with one small kernel of an idea inside of it, we could take our analysis hats off and just sit there and enjoy, listen to the large family group cheering behind us, talk over the film whenever we wanted because the plot was so predictable and the background music so loud, it didn’t matter. It was the perfect movie to watch on a day too hot for the brain to work. Honestly, made me wonder if the reason these kinds of big silly masala films don’t do well in multiplexes is simply because they have air conditioning.
This was Dina’s first Telugu movie (not counting Bahubali), and her first Ravi Teja movie, and she fell in love with both of them. The idea of a movie that could swing between irreverant meta commentary and sincere speeches, and an actor who could swing between spot on perfect physical comedy, and noble fight scenes, it Blew. Her. Mind. Kind of blew my mind too, but I think that’s just because I’ve been watching the wrong kind of Telugu movies lately. The character focused light dramas, the clever twisty thrillers, the big noble Statement movies. I had forgotten about what brought me to the movies in the first place, not just Telugu films but all Indian films. The big crazy silly joyous heart of them.
Not that this is a great movie. Even grading on the big stupid curve. There are plot points that zip in and out of existence at random points, most of the songs aren’t really memorable, and there aren’t nearly enough fight scenes. It’s not terrible, the heroine is decent, doesn’t have much to do but what there is, is interesting. And the message is great, very simple, but sometimes simple is good. But on the whole, not a great movie. An endearing movie if you are in the right mood, but not a great movie.
So, I’m not going to necessarily recommend this movie. Not unless you are also going with a good friend on a hot day when your brain feels like it has melted out of your ears. But I am going to recommend to us all that we take a moment to remember that sometimes big stupid movies just hit the spot, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
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This is one of those movies with a lot of plot in the plot. We start with our hero, a professional false witness. But a goodhearted one, he is introduced testifying in order to help an abused wife get a divorce on the grounds that her husband is a predatory gay man. He isn’t, Ravi Teja is lying in his testimony, but it gets her divorced and that is all that matters. Ravi gets in trouble with the local constable and decides to leave town for a while. Meanwhile in Hyderabad, Jagapati Babu has arranged the death of his saintly father in order to stop him from giving away the family land to build orphanages and take control of his political power. The two stories continue parelal, Ravi finding a place to stay in Hyderabad, falling in love with a young med student Malvika Sharma, and doing various good things for the people who ask him. While Jagapati Babu rejects human connections and does various bad and greedy things. The intersect first when Ravi attacks Jagapati’s brother Subbaraju, then again when Ravi saves Malvika’s young coma patient, a witness against Jagapati, from being killed by his thugs. And finally when Ravi is hired by Jagapati’s political rivals to steal his truck full of money earmarked as a political payoff. And only then does Ravi reveal that he has been hunting Jagapati all along, he was raised in one of Jagapati’s father’s orphanages and his adopted sister is, coincidentally, also the witness in a coma. He’s hidden his sister away, the gang finds her and threatens that if he doesn’t give her up, they will force Malvika to marry Subbaraju. They also try to kill the cop who has been secretly working with Ravi’s children. There’s A Lot. Ravi of course shows up to stop the wedding and figures out a way to take away their political power, but they beat him up and shoot him. He recovers, surrounded and supported by all those he has helped, and finally confronts Jagapati and makes him realize that he won’t find happiness until he accepts his guilt and works on building a sincere connection to the world. Years later when Jagapati is released from jail, Ravi is waiting to greet him.
Remember how angry I got at Bharat Ane Nenu? The underlying problem was, I never felt like our “hero” Mahesh Babu actually liked people. He wanted looked at them and only saw problems, not individuals to love. He wanted to float above the world, force it into his image, instead of working inside of it.
This film is the complete opposite in every way. This is a hero raised on the streets, his nickname “Nela Ticket” comes from sleeping on the ground floor of a movie theater at night. He’s never left the country, he doesn’t speak English, he is Telugu through and through. And he loves the people, he doesn’t want to control them or tell them what to do, he just wants to serve them and make them happy. That is his happiness, when others are happy.
And that’s how this movie feels. It’s not preaching at me, it’s not challenging me, its just trying to make me happy. I saw a couple of reviews that were complaining about yet another “stalker” romance, about a rape joke, and blah blah blah. But, this isn’t a movie where any of that matters! It’s all in good fun, and the hero is made fun of more than anyone else. It’s a “stalker” romance but she is perfectly aware of what is happening and makes the first move once she decides she likes him. There’s a rape joke, but in the context of how ridiculous it is to talk about those accusations as related to land disputes. Even our hero’s introduction, if I wanted to be all snippy and snooty about it, I would complain because he is making fun of gay people. Only, he isn’t really. He’s not describing gay man, he’s describing a molester who prays on other men. And most of all, the joke is that the judge would never grant a divorce purely for spousal abuse, so they are putting one over on the system by coming up with the one possible story that would get her a quick and clean divorce. This whole movie is silly and conscious of its silliness, and also of the silliness of all the other movies like it, and the silliness of the whole world.
In Bharat Ane Nenu, they have the completely ridiculous premise that all politicians are supervillain level of evil. And that one honest man should take total control of the country, without ever actually talking to or seeming to even like the people. In this film, they have the reasonable premise that politicians are as pragmatic as anyone else, they aren’t evil for the sake of it, but they also won’t turn down money if it is offered. And so there is the simultaneously unrealistic and realistic idea of a busload of MLAs sitting in a house in Goa waiting to be paid off and willing to vote for whoever offers them more cash.
And our hero doesn’t pay off them to elect him, why would he want to be elected? He’s not a politician, he’s a good guy. He just wants to be with people and be happy. That’s the tagline of the movie, that if you are surrounded by people, you will be happy. And that’s how the film felt as well, it just wanted to be surrounded by a happy audience. Which, at least for me on the night I saw it, is how it was.