The promos for Venu Sri Raam's Middle Class Abbayi (MCA) suggested a fun romcom with all the idiosyncrasies of the middle class. What we get, though, is a run-of-the-mill drama with some surprisingly progressive ideas thrown in.
Nani plays Nani, a middle-class guy without a job (someone should do a PhD on the popularity of the aimless hero in south Indian cinema). His formidable enemy is Jyothi (a dignified Bhumika), his sister-in-law – she makes him cut vegetables, do the laundry and, if that's not enough, snatches away his brother's attention. To top it all, she's an authoritative RTO officer. All of these attributes would have turned Jyothi into the archetypal woman villain, but refreshingly, the film does not take that route.
Instead, Jyothi is presented to us as a hero. Neatly dressed, her hair tied into a bun and a handbag gracing her shoulder in most scenes, Bhumika has an arresting presence. She even gets a scene where she eyeballs the actual villain (Pink bad boy Vijay Varma).
At this point, I was really interested. Here's a brave woman officer standing up to a bully, teaching the hero to do housework and quietly going about her job.
Wasn't it all too good to be true? It was.
Perhaps realising that he hadn't given the actual hero of the film enough opportunities to showcase his machismo, the director turns Jyothi into a pawn in a boring chess game played between the doting brother-in-law and deranged villain.
Unless there's a superhero backstory to Nani (maybe his dead parents are really a witch and a wizard and he was never told?), his ability to beat up goons so easily doesn't suit the middle-class temperament which he keeps talking about.
Sai Pallavi as Chinni/Pallavi is a live wire on screen and it is credit to her that her character doesn't turn into the stereotypical manic pixie. The romance between her and Nani isn't written with great flair, but you still buy into it because of the energy she brings to the scenes. Sadly, she's relegated to peppy songs and dances (and boy, she can dance!) once the film turns into a Good Man vs Bad Man drama.
The second half feels tedious as the plot falls into predictability (as does Devi Sri Prasad's background score) and the film turns overly sentimental. The ending is so convenient, with everyone, including the villain, looking happy that you wonder if the joke's on you.
Middle Class Abbayi is a middling entertainer with a lot of fresh ideas that unnecessarily turns into a routine drama. It reminded me of all the middle-class kids who dream of becoming rock stars but end up in engineering colleges all the same.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.