Some Ramblings - Arjun Reddy by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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The time is right, the time is ripe. No more can the industry be consciously unaware of the rapid strides the society (and consequently, the filmdom) all around the world keeps evolving in terms of the ushering in the new and the different, and be resolutely stuck to the old and the tried, offering the same old comfort food. That it is no longer about the "what" but more about the "how" stems out of the obvious fact that all that could be told has already been told and now it just about expressing the same old emotions in a new idiom. People falling in and out of love, people warring for any number of reasons, good and evil manifesting in different forms, the catch-up and adjustment of the humanity to the rapid strides of the society, these basic ideas keep finding resonance across different times, from the mythologies, the histories and the current keepers and torch-bearers of culture and traidtion, the movies. But the expression of those ideas, like sticking through the thick and thin, vanquishing the evil and eventually getting the girl, changes with times, from the more subdued, ideal and valorous like in Ramayana, to the more brash, arrogant, in the face like say, a 'Maro Charitra', a 'Tezaab' or any of the recent works. The point when the expression jumps a few rungs and locks in step with the society around is when a work of art (movie, literature, et al) becomes a marker, a milestone, even a jumping point, a springboard from where subsequent works of art take off, clearly demarcating the time and the place, when it is no longer the same anymore. Students clashing and warring in college politics, politicians meddling in unions (student and otherwise) to shore up their strengths have long been permanent fixtures since the dawn of modern civilizations. But when a student rebels against that status quo and pays the politician/anti-social element back in the same coin of power and ruthlessness, there is no going back again to the era of the tired and timid, towing the line of puppet-masters. A "Siva" defines a generation, from where the society (celluloid, at least) forks off spinning tales starting at the point where the student is already powerful, mercurial and stops at nothing. Long after "Siva", here is "Arjun Reddy" whose expression (this time, of love and emotion) is destined to push the telugu filmdom a few levels up, by grabbing the age old by its hair and dragging it up along the steps to catch up with a society and a culture that is threatening to pull away fast. Better or worse, "Arjun Reddy" is a marker, a milestone, from where it no longer is going to be the same again.

The best that a director can hope by trusting and treading on the same old path is to achieve success at the highest level, a blockbuster. By daring to venture into the unknown, where none is set in stone and everything is just abstract, the director can aspire for something more, something bigger, and that is to make history. What  supreme confidence of the director, Sandeep Vanga, to take a love story, that can no longer shock or please or tease anymore or any longer, and somehow manage to do just that - please, tease and shock - all by employing an expression that no one thought existed, for that matter, even belonged in the telugu film idiom. The casualness, the carelesness, the self-destruction (without the usual aesthetic and telegenic injuries on the body, like the bandage across the forehead with a tiny blot of blood on the top right corner or perfectly drawn straight lines along the veins on the forearms), and above all, the nature of the character, to not be sketched with any moralities in mind, is a first of its kind in telugu cinema. There have been many stories before of a rude and reckless "hero" holding the attention of a demure and a dove-eyed "heroine" who then together take on the world professing and proving their love towards each other. But then the "hero", over the course of the movie, tends to drop the attitude that endeared him to the heroine in the first place and starts behaving like a "movie hero". This is the point when the character takes a leap from realism to hyper-realism (the leap from the real world to the reel world, even if within the movie) that they lose all credibility and credulity that has been carefully and painstakingly constructed by the writer till the point. And it is at this same point that "Arjun Reddy" steadfastly remains on the same plane as he started off at and refuses to change, throughout the length of the movie, however illogical, arrogant and downright loathsome he comes across as. And paradoxically, it is this sincerety of the character, to not change his colors to suit the situation, is the biggest strength of the movie. The movie is not about love, the movie is about the ego-mania, self-absorption and the soon to follow, self-destruction of the lead character. He is not the hero of the movie, the movie is merely about him. The title of movie cannot therefore about "ఎడబాటు" or "తడబాటు". The title cannot but be "Arjun Reddy".

To term Vijay Devarakonda a "star" does great disservice to his craft. After a long, long, long, long, long while, here is an "actor" who embodies the character in a way that completely drowns out the persona of the one potraying it. It is not Vijay Devarakonda up there, it IS Arjun Reddy. And what a contrast from the laidback and lackadaisical (delicately balacing between bum and a slacker) role that he played in "peLLi choopulu"!! Here, his eyes speak out (in fact, shout out) all the emotions without him even uttering a word. The intensity and the ferocity, the care and the tenderness, the ruin and the reckoning, his eyes do all the talking for him. The director does not let him off easy on any count, as the camera refuses to cut away (or move even) for minutes together allowing the action to unfold in long unending takes. The college student, the medical professional, the jilted lover and a total cynic, Vijay redeems himself on all counts. A star is not born here, an actor has taken shape.

For all the directorial merits that the writer-director needs to be appreciated for, it is the strong writing that deserves equal praise. Shedding itself of the encumberances that have oflate burdened the telugu film dialogue, with punches, power-packs and rejoinders, the dialogue here is entirely scene-serving, without ever being philosophical or lyrical, despite having the fertile opportunities in "love" and "separation". (The last a movie has been this committed to the cause of love and loss was Vamsi's "Maharshi", which interestingly has a lot of structural similarities to this one). All other technical departments serve the story well without ever drawing attention to themselves by trying to be slick, flashy and over-produced. The writing and the acting are the mainstays here and the director seems to know his men and material well. But for the little segment in the latter part where he uses RObert Zemeckis' "Flight" sequences (which are, to his credit, very professionally done) of the in-room court episode, Sandeep Vanga has stamped his mark with his interesting, daring, unusual and path-breaking choices, the choices that not just make blockbusters, but make history! Bravo!

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