At the core of every good romcom is a misunderstanding, a conflict that drives a wedge between two jilted lovers. How believable that conflict is, is what endears the romcom to mush-lovers. Venky Atluri, with Tholi Prema, showed us that he understands what it takes to make a good romcom - a breezy entertainer that has sensibility at its core. That intention to address a sensitive issue without being derogatory or chauvinistic is what stands out even in Mr.Majnu.
However, the movie isn't pure gold either, largely because it still struggles with the fact that Telugu movie-makers don't understand romance in its entirety, and have a dry, siloed, myopic way of looking at things, even the better ones like Venky Atluri. Mr. Majnu is heavily reliant on Akhil, who plays Vikram Krishna (Vicky), a playboy who has women swooning for him everywhere. Nikki (Nidhhi Agerwal) falls for him too and convinces him to give love a shot.
Vikram is the typical Telugu movie hero - he bashes up anyone who touches his family, he is the embodiment of love and happiness and he is the star of the family, something that enchants Nikki. Kudos to Akhil for pulling off the charmer convincingly, even bringing out lovely camaraderie with other actors with whom he shares the screen - whether it is Jayaprakash, Pavitra Lokesh, Vidyullekha, Hyper Aadi or Subba Raju.
From a guy who breaks a woman's heart unintentionally to someone who wants to do everything to put those pieces back, his transformation is the essence of the movie. That part, though, isn't well sketched out, and between needless fights (in London, where, unlike in India, things like these aren't brushed off so easily) and some preachy phases (where the heroine and the hero spend time explaining love to others) the movie meanders.
The romcom could have been so much more, had the wasted time invested in inflating the hero's ego, been used to establish a few more scenes that underscored Vicky's willingness to do what it takes to make his woman happy. That she is impressed a little too easily all the time, is such a downer - low expectations, ya?!
Nevertheless, Mr. Majnu is watchable. Part of the reason is a bunch of creatively, subtly done pieces that gel well. Priyadarshi, as Vicky's best friend, for example, gets injured every time Vicky lies, a hilarious side-note that has the audience in splits. Naga Babu pouring his wife's coffee into the flowerpot, reluctant to tell her how bad it is, was funny. So was Hyper Aadi's movie pirate, with his accent and timing. (If only we showed as much creativity in sensibilities as we do in comedy!) An animated - no, literally animated - 2-year old Konda Babu (Subba Raju's son in the movie) brings comic relief too.
But, make no mistake, it is Akhil's movie. Akhil comes into his own, finally realising the potential everyone felt he had. He is a good dancer and has a thing for the camera, you can see. In Nidhhi Agerwal, he gets a fine co-star and their chemistry is enchanting at times. Nidhhi, much like Rashi Khanna's role in Tholi Prema, isn't sidelined despite the flamboyance of Vicky's character (I mean, not as sidelined as usual, low expectations, remember?). She is emotional, sentimental, and possessive, part of the reason why she loses the guy she loves.
It was nice to see Venky bringing out once again the fact that in relationships, it is hard to blame one and exonerate the other. It was also refreshing to see that the movie entirely avoids the boys-are-like-this and girls-are-like-that stereotype Telugu movies revel in. It was refreshing to see a protagonist who respects his exes and is friends with them, instead of blaming them for his broken-heartedness. If only the love story was built a little better rather than depending on wasted pieces of macho-ness the movie didn't need. Despite the weaker plot and a predictable second-half, the movie gives you a decent experience because neither the hero nor the heroine play a heavy victim-card.
With a cast that plays its part well, Mr. Majnu has something warm to offer. It is the story of good families, full of good people and as unrealistic as that could be, it is nice to see it shown subtly without overdoing the relationships. Mr. Majnu also benefits from Thaman's music and George Williams' cinematography - the bright colours infuse a sense of cosiness that mushy stories need. The OST isn't overdone and has enough to pull the right chords in your head and heart.
All in all, it is not a Khushi or Tholi Prema, but it entertains. It isn't a heartwarming romcom or a tearjerking romantic drama. But, with the low benchmark our romcoms usually start with and the comic overdose we demand from our moviemakers, the movie will not be a bore.
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.