That Ranarangam is largely influenced by The Godfather is stating the obvious. It has too many shoot-people-and-get-done-with-it scenes to ignore. There aren’t long-winding dialogues about revenge and heroism, about power and ambition, about steel and gumption. The violence, although a little gory by Telugu movie standards, is not the central theme, and the alpha-hero-quotient is understated like in most Sharwanand movies. But, amidst the style and sexiness of gang-wars, director Sudheer Varma only manages to recreate the shallowness of Dohchay, not the masterful narrative of Swamy Ra Ra.
Ranarangam traces the rise of a bunch of guys in the clean-crime world (if you know what I mean), who start with the illicit liquor business during the prohibition era in the 90s. There are the port scenes that are mandatory for gangster movies, barrels in the sea (check), imposing figure of the protagonist standing and overseeing cartons getting loaded (check), warehouses and some scene-building. There are the people killed and hung in public, to send out warnings to opponents. There are pistols and a little posturing.
And then there is a smaller settlement of port workers, protected by Deva (Sharwanand) and his friends. They manage to steal the MP’s liquor by literally robbing a goods train, and match the MP’s goons blow to blow. The underdog becomes powerful and makes the big guy bleed. And then, there is the usual love track with Kalyani Priyadarshan trying to be the cute one. You know what happens to the gangster’s family!
Amidst all the hullabaloo, the movie meanders, between past and present, more than a decade apart, though neither offers tension. The older Sharwanand is staying far away for a reason, but has to come back to settle scores, no fanfare. The movie invests too much on a mini-twist that is not so unexpected.
Sudheer Varma’s Ranarangam doesn’t have turmoil or conflict, doesn’t have ethical dilemmas, doesn’t even make you feel a bit for the protagonist’s murdered friends. It doesn’t invest in characters like a gangster movie should, like KGF or Vada Chennai did. It has good dialogues in the first half and for a brief while, Murli Sharma as the gangster-MP dazzles and brings some menace with his accent. But, the fight is snuffed out of him. Deva, for his part, talks like a don, but makes too many mistakes that anyone who watches a gangster movie would tell you will lead to death.
Movies of this nature work through star appeal probably, but even a Petta starring Rajini needed more than just that. In that context, Ranarangam offers very little to indulge in. It benefits at times from Divakar Mani’s camera work, which is impressive, thanks to a good mix of close-ups and long shots, typical of gangster movies; however, the soundtrack for the movie is decent at best.
Sharwanand is one of those actors who has wonderful screen presence. What he lacks in the massiveness of physical presence, he makes up for with his demeanour, and even in this movie he brings it to the table. Sadly, his character is caught between two shades – he is ruthless in the way he bulldozes his opponents, but the movie doesn’t let us focus on that ruthlessness because how can a hero not be anything but a demi-god, filled with kindness for all but the worst lot!
The movie banks on cool one-up moves, finding each other’s rats, finding each other’s weaknesses, but in the end compromises substance for style. The assassins in a foreign land are ridiculously funny. Our guys don’t understand the white man’s world well, do they?! The drama that comes with plot twists in a Scorsese movie is too much to ask, but one would wish Sudheer Varma took inspiration not just for the visuals of a movie, but also in the way characters are built. After all, if we are seeing the younger and older version of a gangster from the time he wore bell-bottoms and open-button shirts with vests showing to the time he wore bespoke suits, we want to see him evolve in more than just facial hair. That wasn’t to be.
Kajal Aggarwal’s presence in the movie is another enigma, for she is barely doing anything. The chemistry between her and the older version of Sharwanand is virtually non-existent; she doesn’t even get to complain or ask him anything about his life – so weird.
All in all, Ranarangam is a movie that gets over pretty soon, doesn’t drag, and lets you watch a Telugised version of a story you’ve watched a million times. Does that mean you will miss something if you don’t watch it? No. Should you watch it though? If you have a Netflix account, you could watch dozens of better gangster movies.
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.