Mukunda review

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In 2009 and 2010, we were witness to a couple of star debuts – Naga Chaitanya and Rana Dagubbati. The former had a bad debut and the later a good one. Now, in 2014, we have another star debut – Varun Tej, nephew of Chiranjeevi & Pawan Kalyan. Here, Srikanth Addala doesn’t make the mistakes that Vasu Varma made with Josh and also puts into good use the things that he must have learnt from watching Sekhar Kammula’s Leader.

Josh, for me, was a movie that worked but a lot of people felt that it was too preachy and Naga Chaitanya was trying to be too big for his boots. I felt the director was under pressure to showcase everything that’s needed of an actor in Naga Chaitanya.

That’s the mistake that Srikanth doesn’t make. He doesn’t make his hero talk lengthy monologues; that’s left to Prakash Raj. One of the things to impress me about the entire character was the absence of dialogues pertaining to lineage in the movie. We can criticize Varun Tej for selecting a character that is one-dimensional, but what’s important is that he performed well.

While talking about the making of SVSC, Venkatesh and Mahesh Babu repeatedly spoke about charming way with which Srikanth Addala held his ground in face of immense pressure. Watching Varun Tej portray the character in this movie, makes you believe every word of that.
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The movie is simple in its storyline- there are two themes, running parallel to each other. There was a hue and cry after an episode of Meelo Evaru Koteeshwarudu, where Varun Tej failed to answer a question. The question was, ‘Which of the following gods is called Mukunda?’. He puts it beyond doubt in the initial sequences of the movie. He talks about being there for his friend, always. Probably apt that they are named Arjun and Mukunda.

He does well in all departments bar dance. Yes, this for a hero coming from Chiranjeevi’s family. Srikanth Addala, the director, doesn’t complicate things for him. He gives him crisp dialogues and a lot of shots which go from long range to focus shots. In typical Telugu movie jargon, he ensures that Varun’s ‘cut-out’ is very good. In the initial sequence there is a conversation between two girls, on the sidelines of a standoff between two warring student factions, which goes:
Girl 1: Aa Choopu ki artham ente (What does that look/stare mean?)

Girl 2: Veelaki adhi ardham avvali ante veelu vachche janma lo ada dhaani la putali (If they are to understand that stare, they need to be reborn as women)

That sort of establishes that the protagonist is handsome and the director doesn’t need to take the help of scenes to establish the same fact.

During a confrontational scene, Varun Tej says, “Nijam ento mana iddariki thelusu” (We both know what’s the truth). I don’t know if Srikanth Addala intended it, but I felt that it was him doffing his hat to Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead.

A lot has been written without talking about the movie’s biggest strength- Rao Ramesh. No words of praise can be too high for this man. Of all the successors we have in the industry, here is a man who is steadily climbing the steps to Superstardom in his own right. Diction and expressions are his strengths. One of the biggest cliché thrown around for an actor is ‘living and breathing the role’. Rao Ramesh has been doing that for quite a while now. Two brilliant performances from the top of my head are Atharintiki Daredhi and SVSC. The scene in former, where he explains about the heart attack and the thoughts in his mind at that point of time is, quite simply, one of the best sequences of the recent times. The later has him living the role of an evil patriarch.

He takes his performance a notch higher in this movie. He is menacing without the menace. Suave without the suaveness. His character is described well by Nasar the second time he meets him.

Srikanth Addala always seems to reserve his best characters for Rao Ramesh and understandably so. The man is nothing short of a blockbuster performer. It won’t be a surprise, down the years, if they go down in history as one of the pairs that got the best out of each other.

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I have a bias to Srikanth Addala. His characters speak Telugu in an accent that I am used to. He makes them look like people out of our own lives. His screenplay is usually tightly bound. He doesn’t usually waste time in establishing the characters. He establishes them with the help of dialogues. Paruchuri Venkateshwara Rao, father of Varun Tej in the movie, goes about describing his son to Rao Ramesh and at one point draws comparisons with an onion – that it can be added to Pulusu, kooralu and pachadlu.

The entire interview scene with Varun appearing for the Income Tax officer has some brilliant dialogues, especially when Varun Tej says low aspiration is a crime and the dialogue where he explains that he draws inspiration from his middle class father. There is a brilliant dialogue writer in him that doesn’t get the credit he deserves. One of the best dialogues in the movie for me is when Varun Tej proclaims his love for Rao Ramesh’s daughter and Rao Ramesh says, ‘Naa Pempakam naadhi, nee nammakam needhi’ (I can’t translate that into English. It would lose its flair and meaning if I do)

I felt that he did quite the right thing by not having a defined comedy and romantic tracks. The two themes could’ve been diverted by the unnecessary addition of forced comedy/romantic scenes. The choreography could surely have been better, but Raju Sundaram isn’t helped by the fact that Varun Tej, for now, seems to be an awkward dancer.

At the audio release function, Allu Arjun was talking about the simplicity of Addala’s movies and how the good values of the Srikanth are seen in every frame. That was the thing that I remembered when I saw him thanking people from each place the movie was shot in (Amalapuram, Bhimavaram, Tadepalligudem etc). The first name we see on the title cards is that of Sirivennela Seetharama Shastry. I think that’s a first for Sirivennela gaaru.

The movie is only about two characters- Varun Tej and Rao Ramesh. They put in stellar performances and the rest support them well.

Verdict: It doesn’t matter if you set out to make a masala movie and falter; It matters if you set out to make a good movie and falter. Fortunately, Srikanth Addala doesn’t

Picture courtesy: idlebrain.com

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