This Telugu remake of the Fahadh Faasil starrer ‘Maheshinte Prathikaaram’ retains the spirit of the original.

Satyadev in Telugu film poster Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya holding a camera and looking up
Flix Review Thursday, July 30, 2020 - 16:30
Worth a watch

In a world of heroes pumped up with testosterone and looking to seek revenge for the smallest of insults came the gentle Mahesh of Maheshinte Prathikaaram in 2016. It was a turning point of sorts for Malayalam cinema where the success of the film saw the emergence of many more narratives that examined masculinity.

The Telugu remake of the film, Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya, directed by Venkatesh Maha, released on Netflix on Thursday. It’s a tough act to follow the original Dileesh Pothan directorial, even more so because it stars Fahadh Faasil, one of the finest actors in the country today.

However, Venkatesh Maha does not disappoint. This is a director who understands the soul of a small town, as was evident in his first film, the wonderfully made C/o Kancharapalem. So, even as the characters are transplanted from Idukki to Araku Valley, they remain true to the spirit of the original.

The first shot is that of Mahesh’s slippers. And fittingly so because it plays a crucial role in the plot. Satyadev as Mahesh is endearing with his genial smile and non-confrontational nature. He runs a small photo studio and lives with his father (Raghavan in an understated performance) and dog; he’s calm when provoked, and would rather backtrack than start a fight. There’s no voice-over expressly explaining all this to us, the screenplay does the job, arranging small events neatly for us to draw the big picture.

But is there a place for a man like him in a society where masculinity is defined by the ability to throw the first punch? As in the original, we see anger bounce from one set of men to another, small arguments turning into fist fights in a jiffy. And poor Mahesh is dragged into one such conflict which finally makes him take up an absurd challenge involving his slippers.

We are used to several films where an underdog or a submissive man turns into a muscular avenging hero. And that’s the route that one would assume Mahesh will take in the film, but that’s where the delightful surprise lies.  

The messaging is subtle; from the contrast between Junior NTR thundering in a fight scene on TV and Mahesh in his real life, to the eventual resolution of the crisis. The dialogues are realistic and free of melodrama, the humour emerging organically. However, Soubin’s role as Crispin from the original is caricatured in the remake. Crispin didn’t need to look strange to be funny, he was just funny. The second Suhas appears on screen, it’s apparent that he’s the hero’s funny sidekick and that dilutes the role.

The women characters, Swathi (Hari Chandana) and Jyoti (Roopa Koduvayur), are written with empathy. Both actors are making their debut with this film, and Roopa especially impresses with her confident acting and dance skills. Since the film is almost a frame by frame remake and also has the same music director (Bijibal), it’s difficult to shake off a sense of deja vu. But for those who have not seen the original, Uma Maheswara will undoubtedly be a refreshing watch; where the small is beautiful and the big is...well, irrelevant.

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.

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