Some movies suffer from high expectations, while some benefit from low expectations. ABCD belongs to the latter category. At the heart of it, the movie is built on a well-known archetype – the spoilt brat forced by circumstances to live the common man’s life, thus leading to his transformation.
Arvind aka Avi (Allu Sirish), along with his cousin and friend Bala Shanmugam (Bharat), both used to an extravagant lifestyle, is forced by Avi’s rich-businessman-dad (Naga Babu) to spend time in India and finish his MBA while surviving on Rs 5,000 a month. While all Avi is trying to do is find a way to return to the US, destiny has different plans. In no time, Avi becomes a social media sensation as the NRI returning to his Indian roots. This pits him against an upcoming politician (Raja Chembolu) who is trying to make it as the finance minister despite controversies (aren’t all politicians mired in them?).
ABCD follows the usual tropes of a transformative story; it is highly predictable. While it is not a pain to watch this movie and it has a decent message, the script demands investment on emotional and sensitive scenes that need to be backed by good acting. That’s where it disappoints. Most of our movies usually find it hard to come out of the cage of assumed set-pieces. Slums should look a certain way, poor people should behave in a certain way. A careless and reckless individual should behave in a certain way.
With the exception of Bharat, who continues his comedic streak, the movie rides on minimal acting. Sirish does better than in his previous outing, but there is too much to do in the story for an actor of his calibre. While the movie can be lauded for avoiding sleaze and cheap humour, staying clean right throughout, a slip-up in the end gives you an insight into how our dialogue writers think despite this being a coming-of-age story. ‘Tella ga unna telugu pilla dorikindi’ – Found a fair Telugu girl – the hero tells his father. Coming-of-age stories need to invest more in building the character. Spoilt brats don’t change overnight – in 2 to 3 weeks. Rs 5,000 is still a lot of pocket money to start with. That writers are cut off from reality is also understood from small things (Two plates of idly cost less than 50 bucks in slum areas, and even in well-to-do areas).
ABCD scores well for its script, but goes downhill from there. The portrayal of media as well as the way things run in a business school repeat the same mistakes most Telugu movies make. B-schools don’t run like primary schools. Things operate differently. Teachers are better dressed to start with. Social media viral sensations don’t gain millions of followers overnight either, and we all know about the few exceptions. All these convenient short-cuts prevent you from investing in the story, which ends rather conveniently for everyone.
The female lead Rukshar Dhillon is conspicuously inconsequential in the movie. (Also, teachers in B-schools don’t assign random students to help newly joined guys – it simply doesn’t work like that as much as scriptwriters want to introduce novel ways of making the two leads fall in love with each other). It would have helped if promising actors like Raja Chembolu had more to do in the movie besides looking ominously evil. Vennela Kishore has a good scene that takes yet another dig at media.
All in all, this is a movie that won’t give you a migraine. It is backed by a good soundtrack by Judah Sandhy. It is neither a good nor bad implementation of a staid story that we all understand way too well. So, at the end of the day, this is not entertainment, no matter in what context you want to judge it. We can be thankful that it does it in a simple way, and not the usual over-the-top way (flashy hero/chauvinistic jokes/latent sexism/heavy stereotyping) we are used to.
If one were careful, the script, especially in the second half that pits the protagonist and the antagonist, could have been implemented better, giving us something to root and cheer for. It was almost as if someone was dashing to finish it and take it to the happy ending!
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.