Reviewing Adithya Varma, the remake of the Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy, makes one feel like Sisyphus from the Greek myth who was condemned to repeat his actions day after day. There was Arjun Reddy, Kabir Singh, the trailer of Adithya Varma directed by Bala and now we have Adithya Varma directed by Gireesaaya - it's enough to make one stare out of the window and ask the existential question, 'Is there a point to this?'
If you've just returned from an expedition to the moon and have no idea about the story of Arjun Reddy or Kabir Singh (how I envy you!), it is about an angry, entitled, medical student on a path to self-destruction. In this version, it is Dhruv Vikram playing the hero Adithya Varma, who has an extra 'h' in first name like a good Tamil boy but has a strange last name for one. He's a brilliant student but has anger management issues. At the very beginning, his doting grandmother (Leela Samson) tells her elderly friends about her grandson's penchant for becoming obsessed with things and never getting over them. Like a bomma watch. It's a prelude to the problematic romance about which reams have been written.
Banita Sandhu, who makes her Tamil debut with this film, plays Meera, the quiet, doe-eyed pretty girl on whom Adithya sets his sights. In an interview before the release of the film, Banita had acknowledged her discomfort with how the love story unfolds on screen, and had said that she'd requested for some changes to be made. The scene where Arjun (Vijay Deverakonda) tells his juniors that Preethi (Shalini Pandey) is his girl and that none of them should try their chance with her, is gone. Meera seems marginally more assertive than Preethi, her interest in Adithya looking slightly more definite than it did in Arjun Reddy where Preethi is like a plaything. But that's about it. The film is pretty much a faithful remake of the Telugu original - slaps and theories on fat chicks and planned pregnancy intact.
When Arjun Reddy hit the screens, it became a phenomenon because the character was unique at the time. Vijay Deverakonda's blistering performance made it a compelling watch, even if the politics didn't agree with one's sensibilities. But though this was two years ago, it's difficult to watch Adithya Varma with fresh eyes. Dhruv is earnest and wears a sophisticated, bored air as Adithya, scowling and throwing punches whenever he pleases. But the film tests your patience as it goes on and on, indulging Adithya's privileged self-pity. It doesn't help that everyone around him acts like his satellite, holding him in awe because he's SO good at his job despite being a terrible person. People get angry with him but they don't stay mad and hold him responsible for his actions. All it takes is for Adithya to utter a wonderfully naive line like, "Why do people still practise caste?" and take off his shirt (nothing happens to his washboard abs despite the compulsive drinking, by the way), and all is forgiven.
Why make a frame by frame remake (including the background music at strategic points) of a film that had such a great run at the box-office in the south and north already? It's a puzzling choice, and Dhruv may have been better off picking an original film to make his debut. Those who have watched either Arjun Reddy or Kabir Singh are only going to keep thinking about who did it better rather than notice what's unique about Dhruv. The chemistry between Adithya and Meera is also not as visceral as what it was in Arjun Reddy, the "baby-baby" dialogues grating on one's nerves. The film somehow feels less cohesive.
Adithya Varma is not a bad film (Raja as the father especially makes an impression), but coming as it does two years after Arjun Reddy, it simply feels dated. Worse, though it's rated 'A', all the cusswords are muted and the middle finger is modestly blurred. Let me ask again - is there a point to this?
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.