The Telugu film, directed by Gopichand Malineni, is purely made for the fans of Balakrishna, borrowing from the success formulas of all his previous hit films.

Veera Simha Reddy review Balakrishna starrer resurrects the faction film genre
Flix Review Thursday, January 12, 2023 - 17:59
Worth a watch

The year is 2023, but watching Nandamuri Balakrishna’s Veera Simha Reddy feels like a short trip through time back to the early 2000s, when the actor was making films such as Narasimha Naidu. These films, a genre in itself, were typically about a wealthy feudal lord from the Rayalaseema region reigning over the area he occupies, where the rule of law or democracy does not exist. On the hero’s land, decisions are made through over-the-top action sequences and gory violence. The ‘bad guys’ would be of the same caste as the protagonist, and do the same things as the hero. People constantly challenge each other’s masculinity, and there is honour in revenge. 

These movies were called the ‘faction’ films — a genre that Telugu cinema had slowly moved away from over the past two decades. But with Veera Simha Reddy, director Gopichand Malineni has resurrected this genre. The film is purely made for the fans of Balakrishna, popularly known as Balayya, borrowing from the success formulas of all his previous hit films. It is also peppered with real-life references about his family’s lineage, which resonates with his community. In that sense, this film is a tribute to Balayya the star.

Unsurprisingly, Balakrishna plays dual roles in the action drama — as the titular Veera Simha Reddy and his son Jai Simha Reddy. This has now become a common trope for the actor, who has previously appeared in dual roles in multiple films such as Simha (2010), Legend (2014), and the recent Akhanda (2021).

In the film, Jai Simha Reddy, who resides in Istanbul, is forced to visit Pulicherla in Rayalaseema and exact revenge. The film is loaded with high-octane action sequences captured in slow motion, elevating the hero. Thaman’s electrifying background music further takes the mood to a crescendo. 

Though a typical revenge drama, Veera Simha Reddy has a decent plot that gives importance to the secondary characters. For instance, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar has a prominent role, which she performs well, especially when it comes to showing aggression. The actor, however, falters when she is delivering a touching dialogue. That said, it is worrisome that Varalaxmi is risking being typecast by doing similar roles. 

Shruti Haasan (playing Isha) barely has any screen space, so much so that you keep forgetting that she exists in the movie. It is also unsettling to watch Balakrishna romance an actor like Shruti, who is half his age. To top it off, actor Honey Rose plays the role of Meenakshi, Balakrishna’s mother. It is unintentionally funny to see Balakrishna still attempting to play a young man. In this regard, the tone deafness of the Telugu film industry is mind boggling, if not amusing.

Veera Simha Reddy has nothing fresh to offer. Almost every scene and sub-plot that plays out on screen makes you feel you have watched this somewhere. In fact, it even takes inspiration from Kamal Haasan’s iconic film Thevar Magan. One can only imagine how Gopichand Malineni would have narrated this story to Shruti Haasan (Kamal Haasan’s daughter).

Even as Gopichand tries to recreate a film like Narasimha Naidu, he suggests through a dialogue that it is not a faction film, which is far from the truth. In fact, Veera Simha Reddy follows all of the regressive tropes that Telugu cinema often succumbs to, including the romanticisation of caste hierarchy, and the glorification of a particular caste with the assertion that the hero — and by extension, his caste — was ‘born to rule’. The hero’s social positioning dictates that it is his ‘responsibility’ to take care of people. Ironically, these films are never called out and labelled as ‘caste films’.

The only redeeming quality about Veera Simha Reddy is its honesty. It believes in violence alone as an answer for everything, without any pretentious dialogues suggesting the opposite. The first half of the movie runs at a breakneck speed with many fight sequences, and in complete contrast, it moves at a snail’s pace in the latter half which features the flashback sequences. But despite all this, with an unsolved puzzle remaining at its centre, Gopichand is able to retain the attention of the audience.

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.

 

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