Of all the directors in the Telugu film industry, Trivikram’s words carry the most weight, literally and double figuratively. He is a man of literature and philosophy. That’s why his slightest shenanigans break your heart, because educated, thinking writers cannot be sexist or racist. But we forgive him too, because he dishes out gems in his movies, lines that cinema audiences otherwise would never encounter, because who reads these days anyway?
Ala Vaikuntapurramulo – what a wonderful sounding title – is a typical Trivikram movie (mind you, I don’t think Attarintiki Daaredi is a typical Trivikram movie, Athadu and Khaleja are more his, and to some extent Julai and to a great extent S/O Satyamurthy, and Aravinda Sametha despite its violence because eventually its bottom-line was pen/thought is mightier than the sword). This one too tries to tell you a nice story in a nice way, weighed down by the expectations of fans – you can almost hear Telugu fans crying ‘where is the comedy’, ‘where are the fights’, ‘why is the movie slow’, etc.
Bantu (Allu Arjun) is the son of a secretary, Valmiki (Murali Sharma), working for an affluent family. Valmiki swaps his baby with the baby of the affluent family when they are born, as a result of which Raj (Sushanth) is brought up in a rich house by Ramachandra (Jayaram) and Anjali (Tabu), while Bantu is brought up in Valmiki’s house.
Even after Bantu comes to know of it, he doesn’t claim his inheritance, despite being the favourite of his grandfather by blood ARK (Sachin Khedekar). He fixes the problems of the house, including those caused by an ambitious loan shark Appala Naidu (Samuthirakani). His justification – it is not just parents but also kids who sometimes want to see their parents happy without any ulterior expectations – in a poignant climactic scene, demonstrating Trivikram’s ability to deliver funda without preachy fanfare.
Now, the movie excels in the second half for three reasons: Allu Arjun is smashingly good (to me, he seems like the most hardworking of all the star kids – dance and acting, you can always see the effort, and not the sense of ‘who else but me’ that some other ‘heroes’ portray) in fights. While his dance moves are sensational, the movie turns an entire climactic fight into a folk song, the most entertaining choreography of a fight-cum-song that I have come across in recent times.
The same creativity is also seen when Bantu plays a series of smash hit songs on YouTube in a boardroom meeting, Sunil chipping in for some comedy. The movie benefits from the intensity brought in by character artists – Sachin Khedekar, Jayaram (who is probably going to do a lot more of these stylish dad roles, given his screen presence and style quotient), Tabu (in a role too easy for her, and too small) and even Murali Sharma (playing the envious but not-so-talented middleclass stereotype that Trivikram shouldn’t have overdone).
Pooja Hegde appears for yet another cameo, couple of songs and not much else, so ignored that in one scene Bantu is still her employee and in the next her boyfriend. Why bother even showing how she fell in love, we all get it. Let’s cut to the chase, right? Tch tch! Sushanth as Raj had to play the dumb rich kid who doesn’t speak at all. And it ends so badly for him that even the girl he likes (Nivetha Pethuraj) eyes Bantu (why do all the women have to fall in love with our alpha-male?). And that’s the bit I have an issue with.
The byline delivered by Trivikram basically is you can take a winner’s kid (genes) and bring up that kid anywhere, he will come back to be the winner. And the same applies to a loser. In other words, upbringing/conditioning don’t matter – you are your genes is what the movie seems to scream. That’s perilously close to eugenics.
Ramachandra himself being an ordinary man rising to great heights to marry Anjali, the daughter of his employer, probably saves Trivikram’s story from turning into racial propaganda. Heavy thought, isn’t it? I doubt our movie writers – including Trivikram – go to those depths to think through their storylines. If they did, they wouldn’t have Bantu creepily staring at Amulya’s legs (Pooja) in the lift while she looks at him uncomfortably (how did she grow comfortable around him as his boss, we would never know) in one scene and then, make the same Bantu give gyaan to another guy that in case of a woman, a no means no (but plus five for at least introducing this concept, although it will take a while before such understanding becomes ingrained in our thought process).
Ala Vaikuntapurramulo, in my humble opinion, is a movie worth watching despite the usual tropes – the almighty hero, an antagonist used to elevate that almighty hero, a wafer-thin eye candy female protagonist, and a happy ending. It is worth watching because it has a semblance of a story – two kids switched and yet, the one deprived of his rights earns them back, despite not cherishing any of it – an age-old story mind you (so many fantasy tales woven around this pivotal point of the real prince growing up as a common man only for fate to bring him back) but a story nevertheless. Good dialogues have always been the forte of Trivikram’s movies and his wit ensures that he doesn’t have to fit in the obnoxiousness of ‘jabardasth comedy’.
Thaman’s OST gives the movie the OST it needs, whether it is the peppy hip-hop and rap track ‘Daddy’, or the folk song, ‘Ramulo’. ‘Samajavaragamana’ obviously is the stand-out, and will stand out even a decade from now.
Barring the indiscretion of focusing too much on Pooja Hegde’s legs (why exactly do we need this, we don’t! I repeat, not required; we can find better ways of introducing the male and female protagonists), the movie is largely clean and highly entertaining in the second half (not much happens in the first half really, not even character establishment) well-shot by PS Vinod. A big thumbs-up to the choreographer, Sekhar. Since it is the Stylish Star himself, you will love the aesthetics of songs and fights in this movie. A thumbs-up also to the stylist of the movie, credits for picking the costume styling of Pooja Hegde and Jayaram, they look so effortlessly svelte.
All in all, a movie that isn’t boring – largely chic, and reasonably watchable.
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.