For a long time ‘masala’ ruled Telugu movies, while other industries evolved and created their own niche. Although a little slow on the bandwagon, Telugu movies are finally picking the tone that appeases and entertains the millennial and urban watchers - ‘Wack’. Nani’s Gang Leader takes up an outrageous premise and turns it into a comedy heist thriller – is there such a thing? (But, we are the pioneers of the horror comedy thriller, so don’t crib!)
Lakshmi (and isn’t she killing it of late?) plays an elderly woman out for revenge. Her grandson was one of the five perpetrators murdered in a bank robbery. The sixth member of the 6-member gang did away with the entire loot; and so, she collects the other four women – only survivors of the deceased. Together, they bring in Pencil Parthasarathy (Nani), who has authored, nay plagiarised, 28 revenge thrillers from Hollywood movies. This time, he accepts the project to find inspiration for his next novel. Soon, they try to find clues and trace the main perpetrator, so they can have their revenge. On the way, relationships are built and the six orphans (Nani and the gang of five women) become family.
Gang Leader is an amusing ride right through. It is a money heist/revenge drama, but it isn’t as sophisticated. Vikram Kumar, the director, walks a tightrope and the intentions are clear – he doesn’t want to make an out and out thriller. There is plenty of comedy as Nani, Lakshmi and the gang with their swagster look, work things out in the first half (sometimes things happen way too easily, reminding us that the plot is not interested in piquing our cerebral capabilities while still giving us plenty to stay invested). The second half gets a little emotionally heavy, what with the antagonist Dev (Karthikeya) thirsting to get one back on the gang, and Nani’s Parthasarathy beginning to worry about ‘the family’.
Gang Leader is fun to watch if you are a Nani fan, because by now, you are used to that style of comedy – half-real, half-surreal emotionally inclined natural comedy. But, logical thriller lovers will obviously find several loopholes – and would at times find themselves questioning the decisions taken by Parthasarathy aka Nani. Would you really put a little girl’s life at risk to show off your flair to a cold-blooded psychopath; would you really do nothing with Rs 150 crores (not even being in the police) after all the risks you have taken; would you really just walk in and seduce a gay security guard in charge of a bank and get CCTV footage from a year back; would you continue to risk lives by not even changing your address after taking on a murderer? After all, you are the Revengers, not the Avengers?
But all these creative liberties have been taken consciously it seems, because the movie at the end of the day doesn’t – as pointed out earlier – try to be a revenge thriller. I mean, no one in the team seems remotely trained/interested (originally) to extract revenge. Probably the only point worth carping about is the fight in the end which is not a decision any writer should make. It’s lazy writing, for the protagonist, a writer himself, is not a physical match for the antagonist by any stretch of imagination, not to mention the latter’s unflinching psychopathic tendencies. A smarter writer would have found a wacky way of giving the antagonist his due, suiting the tone set by the film from the beginning. It would have sent the audience out laughing, like a lot of Nani movies do.
All in all though, Gang Leader is worth watching because it is fun, loopholes or not. Nani is brilliant as usual (he is easily the best of the lot when it comes to acting, someone challenge him with even better roles), but it was amazing to see him alongside Lakshmi, a veteran in her own right with an awesome comic touch. Priyanka has all the makings of a female protagonist directors will seek, doe-eyed innocence and a natural feel for the camera, as she subtly does exactly what is expected and not more or less (didn’t like it that she was caricatured at the end, as there was scope for her to be so much more than just a romantic interest). Shriya, Saranya and Pranya in particular were all equally good.
A shout-out to Miroslav Brozek, whose camera work is sublimely deft, combining brilliantly with the background score by Anirudh (need I say more?) to elevate the movie at all the inflection points. The technical work gives the story the extra two yards of flair it so desperately needed.
Nani’s Gang Leader, although not the best of the genre, will hopefully open up more of this to Telugu audiences – wackiness. We badly need it!
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.