Sukumar doesn’t make bad movies. Let me rephrase that – he cannot make bad movies. Some movies connect with the audience and some don’t, but he is a thinking man. For that reason alone, Rangasthalam deserves the hype it has received.
Set in an earlier time, with a wicked village president toying with the lives of the innocent, lifeless, spineless villagers, Rangasthalam gives you a taste of the Godavari – the accent, the troubles, the wit, the penchant for sickles. And yet, while keeping you enticed and enthralled with narration par excellence, the movie lets you down eventually in the final lap. It is still a movie worth watching because of what Sukumar coaxed out of his actors.
Ram Charan’s Chitti Babu, who has a hearing impairment, is stubborn but has a heart of gold. He swears by his elder brother Kumar Babu (Aadhi Pinisetty), an idealistic man who decides to stand up to the cruel Bhupathi (Jagapathi Babu), undisputed president of the village for over three decades.
Calling Rangasthalam a tale of love and revenge would be doing the narration a disservice. It has spine-tingling suspense, accentuated at times by jarringly loud music, from a director who loves over-indulging in his contrivances and make us wait and wait. Samantha as Ramalakshmi justifies the song picturised on her, Chandra Bose on his way to probably a string of awards for those delectable lyrics. Anasuya is exceptionally good as Rangamma, Chitti Babu’s young aunt, whose affection for him almost makes you envious. Prakash Raj does one of his routine roles as Dakshina Murthy, a seemingly upright politician.
But, the show-stealer is indeed Ram Charan, who has once and for all put to bed any doubts over his acting prowess. He is allowed an entire platter of emotions and he gorges on them sumptuously (just like his food-loving character in the movie) with the élan of a seasoned actor – childlike innocence, seething, bloodthirsty anger, devotion and playfulness.
Sukumar shows sparks of his romantic genius with a couple of beautiful scenes captured with the lead pair – Chitti Babu buying Ramalakshmi bangles, Ramalakshmi kissing him when he is unable to hear her proposing to him, and such like. But, their love story is never the underlying theme of the movie. It is all about Ram Charan’s Chitti Babu and his obsession with protecting his idealistic brother, who has set himself on a dangerous path, all building up towards the movie’s climactic twist.
Ram Charan is a director’s hero. His brilliance comes and goes with the sculptors who mould his characters – read TFI auteurs like Rajamouli and Sukumar.
With all these phenomenal characters, Sukumar gives you a watchable movie. Where he fails you is in the laziness of the plot, as it hurtles towards a finish. Despite the flashback style of narration, the audience did not even gasp after the final revelation. A Pooja Hegde item song finds its way into the script as well, probably as a hat-tip to 90s movies.
A special round of applause should be reserved for the camerawork of Rathnavelu and for the art design, which creates an inch-perfect backward village where casteism is rife. DSP gives you couple of good songs, but then you really expect someone of his stature to give you a little more than one good melody and one good dance track, with his trademark percussion-heavy style. For a movie whose protagonist is hearing impaired, Rangasthalam creates quite a few sparks of emotional magic, but dialogue writing for once doesn’t give you enough lines to walk out of the hall with.
All in all, Rangasthalam is a treat for Ram Charan’s fans, as their star has given them a once-in-a-decade performance. One would believe Ram Charan is still capable of more but this character is a great choice. Rangasthalam gives you likable characters in a screenplay that aims to touch dizzying heights without packing enough fuel. A story that makes you wait and wait should offer more when it eventually comes to a close.
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.