Nikhil plays an investigative journalist who loses his credentials after his certificates are used for a fake education loan and sets out to clear his name.

Arjun Suravaram review Nikhil Siddharthas thriller is derailed by unrealistic drama
Flix Tollywood Friday, November 29, 2019 - 14:20
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We can understand that our filmmakers want to create Jason Bournes and Bonds out of common men, but such confidence and talent in a simpleton, not trained for such larger-than-life odds, is hard to believe, and is not required at all. Nikhil Siddhartha is a good actor, and he emotes well. He just needed more dialogues and acting rather than fights. Lavanya Tripathi, one must sympathise with her, looks clueless at most points. She doesn’t even get her clothes right. When you are out on a life-risking sting operation, you would want to dress up like you are attending a wedding, no? This needless non-thinking cliché-style direction and editing is what defines the movie, which at its core had an impressive thriller-plot. Such a shame.

The lone male protagonist survivor of the Happy Days batch, Nikhil Siddhartha, has given us a few runaway hits, thrillers that went beyond expectations. Swamy Ra Ra and Karthikeya come to mind. A few mediocre movies later, Nikhil as Arjun ‘Lenin’ Suravaram (Lenin, huh? Quite ironical for a man fighting for the lives of innocents!) is an investigative journalist who loses his credentials, having been falsely entrapped in a fake certificate scam – his certificates being used for a fake education loan. In order to clear his name, Arjun sets out to unravel the threads, and all of them lead to a massive operation of forgeries and fake educational certificates, and an empire run using all the data available to job consultancies. A massively dramatic operation!

The part of the movie that unravels the scam and shows how such systemic deterioration can be effected by a few people, and how it is a vicious cycle that grows stronger given the heights to which people with fake certificates and political influence can rise to, is laudable and is thought-provoking indeed. But the plot deflates somewhere in the inanity of some of the scenes.

For example, the stupidity of a female protagonist who will run back into a massive mansion full of criminals to save her boyfriend who ends up escaping, but has to go back in and fight the criminals to save her – definition of facepalm if you ask me – or the BBC interview where there are five or six panellists, one of them openly racist and stereotypical. Can someone at least investigate if BBC sends six senior suited panellists to hire reporters, ahem. Some of those panellists can neither speak English properly nor knot a tie, but will stereotype south Indians as those who cannot speak English, at which point, our hero rises from the chair, speaks what we should imagine as sparkling English and then decides to walk out of the room – middle of an interview that he dreamt of all his life, mind you!

As a TV99 reporter, Arjun is Sherlockish in the way he assesses things, and pretty much displays every skill Jason Bourne would have been proud of – breaking into enemy mansions, stealing data by hacking into seemingly sophisticated systems, connecting dots and stories, fighting through dozens of loaded men, you name it, he has done it. Just give him the Pulitzer already. And come to think of the Pulitzer, my thoughts go to Spotlight, the award-winning movie on investigative journalism, that broke probably the story of the century. How was that movie different from this – the drama, or the absence of it rather. Good journalists work quietly.

Arjun Suravaram is driven by an itch – the makers have to embed loud melodrama everywhere – a 10-minute school building collapse killing children, enacted to show the dangers of fake engineers, a 5-minute drama before a falsely accused software employee jumps to his death, leaving his mom breaking down in a hospital as her husband waits for the son’s money to fund his bypass surgery. (In Telugu, one would gasp ‘Avasarama?’) Arjun trying to break a story, live, from a speeding van into which several Scorpios are ramming themselves, and instead of showing the audience of the live stream the evidence he has, worth everything, he gives a motivational talk – and then lo and behold, our female protagonist says, “It will take three minutes to upload the evidence – a hard drive that has a list of all fake certificate holders over the years”. What exactly was she doing while he was giving his motivational talk? Wait, our heroine’s job is to be mesmerised and be dumbstruck, no? How else will we get the countdown! Such intolerable set-pieces of drama riddle the whole movie, which otherwise had a sound story.

I think a large chunk of Arjun Suravaram turned out to be a worse watch than it should have been – Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya comes to mind when you think of a thrilling scam turned into a wonderful movie, sans melodrama – because of the penchant of the makers to create a superhero, fighting against all odds. That wasn’t required at all. The female protagonist as usual is reduced to hero-chasing. The need for plot-twists and drama lead the script (written and directed by TN Santhosh) to corners logic can barely reach.

Perhaps if the makers had some belief in their plot, in the scam – the real hero of the movie – they could have designed a good movie, with good reporters (Satya, a comedian, masquerading as a journalist is just unpardonable, if you are talking about script integrity. Why do you need comedy in a journalistic thriller?) doing their job, and giving the audience what they deserve – a thriller, sans rona-dhona and Arjun’s Kyptonite body!

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.

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