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.
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.
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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.
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.