Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo Review: The Middle-Class Perfect Hero

The chicken movie! The one with the really clever trailer! It’s on Netflix! And it’s…..okay. Didn’t blow me away, but perfectly fine. Tabu is there.

Yet another “you should always make peace with family, the hero can do anything, let’s re-establish the establishment” Telugu movie! And I finally figured out how all those themes are related. It’s about embracing mediocrity. The Indian middle-class has to be contented with being middle-class. You don’t really like your family and don’t want to live with them and give them your salary? You’re wrong! Family is Most Important! You feel like you have depths and talents that are being wasted? You’re wrong! This hero can do anything, and he CHOOSES not to because being middle-class is the best! And of course, “it seems like the people in the big houses doing big things are fighting/angry/bad? No no, they just need to be taught to be better, we should leave things as they are, no revolution here.” Sing with your family, plan a wedding, let your mother feed you, don’t think about massive social imbalance or the unfairness of the rich getting richer, believe us when we tell you that you are really Happy.

Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo Box Office Closing Collection: Allu Arjun ...

I don’t necessarily think this message is being given for nefarious purposes by the upper classes, I think it is more a matter that this message is resonating with the middle-class. Misery doesn’t sell, no one wants to see the reality of their life where you always work hard and feel crowded and stressed by family and generally life is not satisfying. The alternative is the fantasy, you find the stolen jewels and get the girl and everything is AWESOME. Or what we have here, the reality but a lesson that “no no, even rich people are jealous, middle class is best”. Give them the fantasy, and you run the risk of other people (not the filmmakers) yelling at you for being “bad”. No crazy fantasy, no crime paying, none of that, just “wholesome” “family” values. Meaning, “the lesson that everyone should just stay where they are and be happy and not try to move up”. Not try to move up in society, not try to move up in the micro-family power system, just not move at all.

That’s the irritating bit. The fun bit is All the Allu Arjun!!!!! He is such a delightful screen presence. He kind of reminds me of a mime, but not horrible. He takes “normal” behavior and ever so slightly exaggerates it so that it becomes a parody of itself. And for him, the “normal” behavior is that of a standard Telugu film hero. The way he gives tough dialogue to the villain, sweet dialogue to the family, protective dialogue to his sister, it’s all in this kind of heightened way. Not like he is consciously making fun of it, but like he is slightly alien trying to behave like he thinks a human should behave. It makes the audience go “wait, yeah! This is kind of weird behavior! These movies aren’t real! This is all fake! I should not be modeling myself on these character or this world!”

“Brechtian” is a drama term, and a drama theory, that argues drama should be heightened and obviously false partly as a political statement. In order to avoid brainwashing the public into believing these fantasies, you need to take a step back and show them “see? It’s all smoke and mirrors, there is nothing here. Watch and enjoy, but be aware of what is real and what is fake”. I don’t think Allu Arjun is making a political statement, I think he is just savvy enough to understand that his mannerisms and over the topness are different, they make him stand out, and they make the audience enjoy his movies. I do think that Allu Arjun fans are savvier than they get credit for, in fact Telugu action fans in general are savvier. The obsession with ridiculous fight scenes, cool one liners, and so on and so forth is saying “I don’t WANT a ‘real’ movie because I am aware that movies are not real, I want a movie that is as fake as possible so I can enjoy the artwork of it.”

The Telugu movies I started out by describing, the “everything is perfect and great, settle for this” plots, they are sincere and really want the audience to believe what they are selling. I hate that! No, every family problem cannot be solved by revering your elders and forgiving your husband and blah blah blah. No, everyone is NOT happier living in a combined family. No, a peaceful humble middle-class life is NOT immediately more satisfying than pursuing fame and fortune. But this movie is saved because in the middle of all this sincerity, we have an extremely insincere Allu Arjun performance.

Still would have preferred something like Aarya 2, where the filmmakers are in on the joke too, and Allu Arjun’s breaking of the 4th wall is matched by the over the top script. But if I have to take the sappy family message along with the Allu Arjun fight with a chicken, I will.

Funny thing is, maybe because a lot of recent Family Family movies have flopped, the trailer focused on AA being awesome more than any plot

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This movie sounds like it has a strict plot, but it really doesn’t. Just two loose movements to the plot with Allu Arjun doing stuff in each half.

Two babies are born in the same hospital, one to poor worker Murali Sharma, one to wealthy business man Jayaram and his wife Tabu. Murali Sharma sees his chance and swaps the babies, so his son will have all the wealth and privileges Murali wants for him. He takes the rich baby home and raises him as his own son, but hates him. Years later, Allu Arjun is still living with Murali Sharma and struggling thanks to his father’s hatred. He had to give up a scholarship in preference for his little sister, he can’t get a job because his father is constantly sending him on errands when he has interviews, and he has to put up with Murali always telling him how worthless he is. The first half of the film is Allu Arjun struggling with his middle-class life, fighting boys who tease his sister, getting a job at a travel agency, flirting with his boss Pooja Hegde and winning her over, worrying over how he and Pooja can be together once she gets engaged to a rich man’s son, and so on.

And then it all changes when, coincidentally, Allu Arjun ends up at the hospital and meets the nurse who witnessed the baby swap, just in time for her to wake up from a coma and tell him everything. He decides not to leave his adoptive family and reassures Murali that he won’t tell anyone. But he also wants to “fix” his birth family since they are clearly in arrears. And now we have the second half, “humble servant fixes rich folks’ problems”. He gets hired into the household, fixes his parents’ marriage, gets his father’s brother-in-law to respect him, and even gets Sushanth (Murali’s biological son raised by Tabu and Jayaram) to stand up to his father and earn his respect. Once the family is happily united, Allu Arjun is rewarded by his birth mother Tabu spontaneously offering him half the family fortune, while Sushanth happily goes into “training” at the company, thereby dropping down to middle-class just as AA is raised up.

I was going to say the whole first half of the plot is pointless, but really the WHOLE plot is pointless! We start with Allu Arjun as a happy underachieving middle-class guy, we end with him rich, along the way there are many many fight scenes, many “funny” Murali Sharma scenes, and many lessons about the value of family love and middle-class values, but nothing really happens.

Even the love story is kind of uneventful. He is attracted to her, she doesn’t like him, he does cool things and impresses her, now she likes him

It’s a little bit refreshing. The plot I would expect is that the swap is discovered, the two boys trade places again, stuff happens, and then they decide they were happier the way they were at the beginning and go back to their adoptive families. Instead, this whole movie doesn’t really deal with the swap at all. Beyond it being the reason behind Murali not loving his son, it changes nothing.

Well, it changes nothing except for the casteism and eugenics. Because AA was born to rich ambitious talented people, he is naturally Better than his father and fits in with rich life. Because Sushanth was born to a middle-class family, he is naturally Middle-Class, no ambition or drive, no bravery, nothing. The movie is saying middle-class is best, that’s why AA wants to stay with his middle-class family where people truly love each other, but also that the wealthy are better people. Not happier people, but Better at an essential level.

33 thoughts on “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo Review: The Middle-Class Perfect Hero

  1. I have 2 problems with this movie:
    First is: Why Murali wasn’t jailed? He killed the nurse, but the movie forgets about it. I wanted him to die in prison and was angry the justice wasn’t served.
    Second: How I hate when the women are treated like children. “No we can’t tell them the truth” Why? The men knew the truth and nothing happened, the women also deserve to know it.

    And can we talk how boring Tabu’s role is? I thought her character will be interesting because it’s Tabu but it was terrible. She had like 3 lines, and all the time was shown as a stupid woman who is not able to appreciate a good boy.

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    • YES! I was worried Murali would be completely forgiven, but instead he was treated as a joke instead of actually evil. It felt like another moment of accepting weird norms. Of course middle-class workers might be bitter about their lot in life and obsessed with the achievements of their son, but it’s fine. Their wives/daughters don’t expect anuything more (or really matter at all), So long as Allu Arjun forgave him,. it was all fine.

      Come to think of it, it’s that woman thing again! Jayaram and Allu Arjun and Saranth were all okay with what he did, Tabu and Murali’s wife and daughter didn’t have a right to a decision in this. And the nurse didn’t matter at all. The men decided he didn’t have to be punished. SO DUMB!!!!

      And I can’t BELIEVE Tabu didn’t learn the truth! there was that whole speech about the importance of honesty in relationships, but I guess that just goes for stuff like telling her you cheated and forcing forgiveness, not telling her this big thing that would affect her whole life.

      On Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 2:20 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Definitely it was a movie made by men about men. Women are decorations with nice legs or somebody you must tolerate to have children. The nurse wasn’t beautiful or a wife so who cares if she lives or dies?

        I think it’s one of those movies one shouldn’t think too much about. It’s ok when you watch it, but infuriating when you think about it. I’m happy I saw it with my son, because he liked the fights, and for once he watched Indian movie with me that doesn’t end in tragedy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • And if he didn’t get the subtitles and stuff, he wouldn’t have gotten the misogynist message either. So win-win!

          On Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 2:34 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Netflix has it with italian subs, that was the main reason we watched it, but he was too lazy to read and only aksed me: what happened? Is this the rich guy who is poor, or poor that is rich? What are they saying? Who is this guy? (my answer was almost always: Nobody, just another comic actor they hired to fill the movie)

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          • I think I would prefer the movie that way, filtered through someone else’s summary.

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    • Omg, I was so pissed off that they didn’t tell any of the women the truth! Knowing the truth won’t change anything for any of them.

      I wasn’t expecting Tabu having a huge role going in because of how Trivikram utilized Khushbu in Agnyathavaasi but I thought Tabu’s would have much more to do. Her hatred of Allu Arjun’s character didn’t even make much sense.

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        • Yes, that made her look stupid! It’s one thing if her character was like “stop comparing my son to others, he’ll grow at his own pace” but she goes straight to being like “I hate this guy because my husband thinks he’s better than my son”.

          Also what was up with her just offering up all that money to Allu Arjun for saving Nivetha. That would have actually made sense if she knew he was actually her son but she doesn’t know and she offers up so much money to a person she’s hated almost the entire movie.

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          • YES! And just giving him all that feels like it goes back to the “he deserves it because he was born better” idea. Like, he should just be handed things instead of earning them. Why not have the ending be “I am giving you one tiny part of our company, and then you can work hard and see if you can grow it bigger”?

            On Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 1:42 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Exactly! They could have given him a bigger position in their company or something since they trust him to fix all their problems. Ugh, this movie just makes me mad.

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      • Yes! When it was first introduced, she said “complimenting another young man instead of my son is like complimenting another woman instead of me.” Why can’t he compliment another woman???? Like, neither example makes sense! How insecure is she supposed to be that she can’t handle her husband saying “isn’t that woman over there beautiful?” just as much as “this young man really impressed me today”.

        On Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 1:30 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. This was a fun review to read. I have no opinion of the movie that I haven’t seen or knowledge about anything, but it made me curious. Mostly I’m curious about Allu Arjun and his Brechtian acting style. Looking at still photos this man is, well, nothing to look at. But in some of the clips when he talks, when he moves, I think, oh look there’s a hero, but as soon as he stands still he fades into the background again. If I were only to watch one, what would be the best Allu Arjun movie to see?

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    • Aarya 2 is my favorite, super crazy and knows it. But, like, REALLY crazy. Takes the idea of “stalker romance” to extremes. Julayi is on Prime and is fun enough, slightly less sacherine and family-y than this one.

      On Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 12:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Saw Aarya 2 and LOVED IT! ANd he can dance. I’m going to watch some more of his movies, and he is going to have to be terrible for me not to become a fan.

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        • Yaaaaay! And his birthday is on Wednesday! so you are just the right time too.

          All his movies are more or less stable quality. The dances are always great, the costumes are amazing, the fight scenes are good, and so on. It’s the plots that kind of wander around, but that’s really the least important part.

          On Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 12:17 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I saw the first half hour of the first Arya, and then the first 45 minutes of this movie you just reviewed. And from that I can say that 1. He got better after Arya (the first), 2. Tight pants don’t suit him 3. His latest hairstyle is dreadful, really really awful. He is in his late thirties, playing a younger man, with the hairstyle of an old man, and the whole thing is, well it is a good thing his acting is Brechtian. I am NOT a fashion maestro, in fact I kinda live under a rock, and I recognize that as people age their bodies and faces widen, but it seems like in an attempt to look young this talented actor has made himself kinda ugly.

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          • Definitely got better after Aarya 1! I think it was one of his first movies.

            AA has a thing about changing his hair for every role, and I have to say they aren’t all winners. But then, coming up with dozens and dozens of new hair cuts must be very stressful and difficult for him. Poor guy!

            I do like his look in S/O Satyamurthy though, if you can track down that!

            On Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 9:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Ok, I am so glad that I am not really the only one that loves this movie. It was fine and entertaining but you’re right that nothing really happens. It’s just a bunch of entertaining filler in my opinion. I rewatched S/o Satyamurthy again a couple of weeks ago and that was such a better movie compared to this one.

    My biggest problems with the movie were that they never tell the women the truth about the baby swap and also that implication that Allu Arjun is inherently better because he was actually born rich.

    I was also really disappointed by the romance but it’s really my fault for expecting the romance track written by Trivikram to be better than it was. The romance in his last movie, Aravinda Sametha, was really good but I think that’s just a one off more than anything.

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    • Yes! There is nothing like super super wrong with this movie, it holds up plotwise more or less okay, nothing terribly offensive in the romance, the songs are good, I feel a little petty complaining. But then S/O Satyamurthy also wasn’t best Movie Ever, but somehow was better than this one! I felt like it was cleverer, and the characters who weren’t Allu Arjun were more interesting to watch, and it was also a little original. This movie, it just felt like no one cared about anyone but Allu Arjun and Murali. none of the other actors/characters really got anything to do.

      On Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 1:37 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I feel like because we’ve seen Allu Arjun and Trivikram team up and make better movies (Julayi, S/o Satyamurthy) in the past, you can complain that this movie didn’t reach the standard they themselves set.

        Yes, that was the main difference. Prakash Raj is in SOS for less than a five minutes and you still end up caring about his character throughout the entire movie. Same with most of the other characters in the movie. In this, no one seems to matter except Allu Arjun and Murali. I wish we got more about Sushant and was going through his mind at times.

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        • Yes, it feels like the other characters are there only to make a background to Allu Arjun. No matter what they say or do, are they alive or dead, nobody cares. The cousin girl, the rich boy, brothers in law, the doctor, Tabu, the villains. Everybody has one or two sentences and disappears.

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        • Or Pooja Hegde! She was a businesswoman, torn between her engagement and Allu Arjun, should have been at least a little interesting, but instead NOTHING.

          On Sat, Apr 4, 2020 at 1:53 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Wow, Margaret! Took many trivikram movies for u to realize he enforces Patriarchy; this is one of the reasons i like puri; where trivikram is all about maibtaining status-quo; puri shatters it and questions it.

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  5. So I have now seen this film, Julayi, S/o Satyamurthy, Arya 2, and about half of Arya. Of those films Arya 2 is my favorite, and this film is my second favorite. And truthfully it is because I thought the second half of this film was fantastic, the first half so so. I though Allu Arjun looked much older than 25, and his stylish star clothes sometimes don’t even look good on the background dancers, much less a man in his late 30s, but only sometimes. His hair was terrible, but because I knew him from the other films I didn’t think he was ugly. The references to middle class as poverty bugged me, it looked like other than a jerk of a dad, he was brought up with shelter, food, and love. What I liked was that throughout the film we were hit over the head with the understanding that money did NOT bring happiness. The wealthy family was more miserable than the middle class family. Allu Arjun, the hero came in and saved the day because it is a movie and he is a hero, but in reality of no Allu Arjun = miserable rich people. I liked Julayi, but there was an almost negative chemistry between him and his co-star and I couldn’t suspend disbelief so much to believe that this teachers son could aim and hit with better precision than career criminals. I liked S/O Satyamurthy but couldn’t get over the support of the dowry and didn’t feel there was much build up for why he actually loved his love interest. In fact as an actor, from the films I’ve seen, chemistry with co-stars is his weak point. He can dance, he can charm, his action scenes are fantastic, but he kinda sucks as a lover. But Pooja helped make up for his lack of chemistry, because with her looks you could see her grow more and more fond of him in this film. She was good. And she wasn’t the only one who was good. That is why this film is my second favorite Allu Arjun. So far.

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    • You are right about him not really connecting with the heroines. I think it works in Aarya 2, because the heroine is supposed to be as wacky as he is. So they kind of connect that way. But in other movies when he just has a “regular” heroine, she feels like yet another person who is on a slightly different wave length than he is.

      Hmm. I haven’t actually seen that many Allu Arjun movies, now that I think about it. Oh! HAPPY! You should watch that. It’s a straight up rom-com, everything is about his relationship with the heroine, and they are super cute together. He’s a pizza delivery driver, she’s a med student, for complicated reasons in order for her family to let her finish med school, they have to get married, but they hate each other. They put a big piece of tape down the middle of the apartment so he has his side and she has hers. And then stuff happens (of course).

      On Sun, Apr 5, 2020 at 7:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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