His first release after the spectacular success of Baahubali 2, Rana Daggubati once again plays an ambitious man who will stop at nothing to win the throne - except, it's the CM's chair this time and not the king's. And Rana is the hero and not the villain.
Jogendera's (Rana) character can be summed up in a line: He's crazy about his wife, Radha (Kajal Aggarwal) and will do anything in the world for her. Including murder, and sleep with another woman. Yup, but we'll come to that later.
In the average film, the hero's goodness stands in contrast with the villain's wickedness. In this Teja directorial, however, it's the husband and wife whose qualities are pitted against each other.
Radha is kind and generous, Jogendra is kind and generous only to her. His magnanimity extends to others only if she feels it is necessary.
Radha cannot bear children but this does not reduce Jogendra's regard for her. In fact, he's all the more protective of her feelings. The film revolves around this relationship to serve as a motive and explanation for Jogendra's actions as he descends into a life of thuggery.
However, Radha is cast in the mould of a martyr, and this makes the narrative pretty predictable. She's the all sacrificing, "pure" goddess who is always dressed in silks and gold jewellery. Apart from her introductory scene, when we're shown a close-up of her waist even before her face, in the time-honored tradition of nadumu obsessed Telugu cinema, the camera is virtuous when it deals with Radha.
Not so much when it comes to Catherine Tresa, who plays Devaki, a ruthless journalist in love with Jogendra.
Devaki walks around in clothes that would have split in the middle if she eats as much as a sandwich, let alone conduct investigative journalism. If you knew nothing about the profession, Nene Raju Nene Mantri would convince you that the job of a journalist is all about wearing fancy hats to police stations and smoking numerous cigarettes.
We get the same old Madonna-whore dichotomy through the two women characters, but that's not all.
When threatened in her home for a news story she's working on, Devaki tells the intruder that there are cameras all over the house and that he cannot escape the consequences. The intruder proceeds to unbutton his shirt...because whoa, what kind of woman would show a video of that to the world, right? And THEN, after it's over, Devaki runs out of the house and asks the intruder for more in his car.
The intruder, if you've not guessed already, is our man, Jogendra.
We're told what brand of cigarettes Devaki smokes, but I'd really like to know what the director was smoking.
The film tries to be an intelligent cat and mouse political game but the rajathanthiram is sadly simplistic, defying logic at several instances. There are quite a few villains in the film, including a woman whose hairstyle dramatically improves when she turns over a new leaf. But none of them stick.
Rana thunders around, all muscle and brawn, and he's certainly easy on the eye. However, the script lets him down. In the first half of the film, when he shoots people without batting an eyelid, taking those around him by surprise, the character appears promising. However, the film doesn't allow his devolution to really punch you in the gut, because it wants to simultaneously hail him as a hero.
The patchy CGI doesn't help - in one of the stunt sequences, when Jogendra escapes from a train speeding towards him, it almost looks comical.There's some Baahubali deja vu - Jogendra's search for Radha, the waterfalls, the butterflies. Pleasant enough.
Nene Raju Nene Mantri tries hard to deliver a message on democracy and dynastic politics, but the narrative simply does not hold together. Maybe it will all make sense if you borrow Teja's cigarettes for a few hours.