Pushpa Review (SPOILERS): The Plot Doesn’t Matter, the Characters Do

Oh boy, Spoiler section! For everyone else who’s already seen the movie like me and has Thoughts!

Whole Plot in One Paragraph:

Our Hero Allu Arjun is a laborer, who gets hired on as a day laborer cutting down red sandelwood trees to be smuggled out. He slowly climbs his way up the ladder by being unafraid of the cops, and keeping his mouth shut, and not backing down when the bosses try to make him take less. He agrees to handle smuggling and transport of the wood in return for a 4% cut of the profits. He starts to suspect the middle-man is cheating them and goes straight to the port to talk to the exporter who confirms and offers a better deal. He brings this back to the brothers he is partner with, and the middle-man, and the politician who overseas everything, and the politician makes him chief of everything because he has proven his intelligence. At the same time as this rise, he falls for a village girl and beats up one of his own partners to save her from rape. At the very end of the film, a new cop arrives, Fahad Faazil. He is not like the other cops, casually shoots smugglers and then lies about it, and threatens to arrest Allu Arjun and make him miss his wedding unless he raises his bribe. Right before the wedding, Allu Arjun finally snaps and gets the cop at gunpoint and humiliates him. Set up for Part 2, he has a partner still looking for revenge for being beat up, a cop who hates him, and a new marriage.

Stylish Star Allu Arjun's Pushpa Movie Second Look (World of Pushpa Raj)  Posters And Still - Social News XYZ

I completely lost track of the allies and enemies and so on and so forth about 20 minutes into this movie. Good news is, that doesn’t matter! All you need to keep your eye on is who the hero is and what the things he does and the things that happen to him reveal about who he is.

This is a movie with a message of radical capitalism. Social reform capitalism. Not about rich getting richer, but about how money and the pure acquisition of money can rebalance social injustices. Our hero is aggressively low caste/class. He wears tired dirty clothes, his hair and beard are out of control, and his skin tone leans dark. He has all the visual signs of a character who would usually be a nameless member of a crowd of laborers. But because he is smart and focuses on money, he gains power and independence and eventually rises above his social “betters”.

I’m really interested to see where this lesson goes. The film is set in the 90s, and it is a Part 1. In the 90s, there was a rise of new powers as the financial regulations in India loosened and suddenly the old family money groups had to welcome some new money. But then of course the world adjusted and now there is a new group of entrenched powers, internationally connected money people who use money to stay in power and keep others out. At least, that’s the big strokes I see from watching the movies and seeing how the storylines and who the heroes are shifted over time.

So possibly this is the story of 90s open market and deregulation bringing in this lower caste fellow. And the sequel will be the story of the state balancing the powers again and trying to bring him down. I’m REALLY hoping for a corporate evil too.

That’s the big thing I am getting from the whole red sandalwood smuggling plot. It’s about laborers finding an opportunity that is still open to them. Forests which they know better than the wealthy. Hardwork, which they also know better. No need to learn English, navigate urban spaces, get a degree, any of that. Our hero is aggressively part of this world, villages and dirt and beards and so on.

The romance follows those ideas as well. Yes, sure, it’s a village romance. But the way it is handled, he straight up pays her for a kiss!!!! This is not a perfect ideal romance. This is grungy and yucky. Not bad, not non-consensual, just not romanticized at all, like everything else in the film.

In a strange way, it’s very much a mood feeling of a movie. You embrace the vibe of the amoral universe and this hero who is aggressively unromantic, and just enjoy a series of things happening. Which is also why I am sort of out of things to say? Love that our hero is aggressively unpleasant, love that the romance is aggressively unromanticized without being rapey or yucky, and love that the whole message is “woot, laboring classes! Organize and rise!”

16 thoughts on “Pushpa Review (SPOILERS): The Plot Doesn’t Matter, the Characters Do

  1. Pingback: Pushpa Review (SPOILERS): The Plot Doesn’t Matter, the Characters Do » Filmybilla

  2. Pingback: Pushpa Assessment (SPOILERS): The Plot Doesn’t Matter, the Characters Do » Filmybilla

  3. It’s been really stressful for me, watching Chennai Express and having all the villains be darker with curly hair, and on the rare occasions where there is a black person in an Indian film, seeing straight forward racism. So in that sense, this movie was a relief. The main characters aren’t so obviously lighter than everyone else & skin color doesn’t affect good or badness. Phew. Just a movie about people. Well okay, not just a movie… It was a pretty impressive movie. More impressive on repeat watches.

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    • Yes! And I don’t think they used brownface on Allu Arjun either, I think they just used less foundation and gave him the beard and hair instead of overly focusing on making him look as light as possible.

      On Wed, Jan 26, 2022 at 5:21 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I liked Pushpa but I didn’t love it and I’m not that excited for the second part. I was more interested in the family drama and the dynamics with Pushpa and his half-brothers and everything than any of the other parts of the story. Like the way that his half-brothers treat him and claim that he’s not part of the family, it’s surprising that the their kids know that Pushpa is their uncle.

    Also I felt like they should have ended the movie right at Fahad’s reveal and cut the last half an hour of the movie. The whole thing with Fahad didn’t seem to fit and it felt like they added it just because they marketed that Fahad was the villain and it would be disappointing to keep his character only for the second part.

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    • Oh right! I forgot about the whole family plot in my summary. I also noticed that the niece actress gets credit in the end credits, so I am guessing that’s going to come back around. She will get kidnapped or something and Pushpa will save her.

      You know what would have been really cool? To go Marvel style and do the FAhad reveal after the end credits. End the movie, and then drop in his intro scene as an easter egg and get everyone talking about it.

      On Thu, Jan 27, 2022 at 11:33 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Oh she does? That’s good then, I’m excited to see what they do with her and the rest of her family.

        Right! I was expecting them to just introduce him and then just end the movie so that people are curious about the villain for the next movie.

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    • Having a mistress/second wife was a common plot point in many Tamil movies in the ”80s (Mani Ratnams’ Agni natchathiram was a famous one). I think the mistress’s house is called a chinnaveedu in Tamil. I am guessing in some communities it was an accepted norm before and wasnt kept a secret. It isn’t surprising that the kids knew about their uncle Pushpa bcoz everyone knows everyone in villages and small towns, and these things cant be kept a secret. Hema Malini(Tamilian) is Dharmendras’ second wife, while his first wife is still alive and their kids know each other.

      “cut the last half an hour of the movie”
      Fahad had been signed for the last half hour of the movie. Telugu film villains main role is to take insults, putdowns, and hitting from the hero. The last half hour was made exclusively to pander to Allu Arjun’s fans. I can imagine the collective cheering among the frontbencher Allu Arjun fans when he was cutting Fahad down to size.
      Usually, such villain roles are given to averagely talented actors, but thankfully Fahad gave a distinct personality to that character that didn’t make it your regular generic buffoonish Telugu villain. He owned that brand/ surname scene.

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  5. “So possibly this is the story of 90s open market and deregulation bringing in this lower caste fellow. And the sequel will be the story of the state balancing the powers again and trying to bring him down. I’m REALLY hoping for a corporate evil too.”

    I hadn’t thought of this aspect and this is very interesting. What do you think will be the endgame for the character of Pushpa? Because that’s one thing that I can’t seem to figure out.

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    • I think establishing Fahad as the ultimate antagonist is going to be interesting. Because he seems to be super brand oriented, urban, modern, western, etc. So either we will see Pushpa triumphing over encroaching modernization and end with a triumphant shot of him in his village where nothing has changed. Or he will be destroyed when the corporations clear cut the forest and the government turns against him.

      On Thu, Jan 27, 2022 at 11:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yeah, I’m expecting it to end up being a triumph over modernization. But this is a Sukumar movie and I doubt he will make a movie where nothing has changed like that.

        By the way, did you ever watch Rangasthalam? I personally liked it more than Pushpa, probably because it felt more lighthearted.

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    • Never mind. I read your non-spoiler review where you said you thought AA is still “performing his performances”. The serious poster, the hair, and the beard all made me think that he has tried something new in this movie. But looks like he is the same old AA.

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      • He was a bit more in a character in this film. Like in Arya 2, he wasn’t just playing himself. His strong charisma with a devil may care attitude is still there, like in all his films, but you wouldn’t confuse his Pushpa with Bantu from his last movie!!

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