Naayak

Actors: Ram Charan, Pradeep Rawat, Kajal Agarwal, Amala Paul, Brahmanandam, Posani Krishna Murali, Jaya Prakash Reddy, Ashish Vidhyarthi
Genre: Action Drama
Rating: 2.5/5

The plot, written by Shiva Akula, involves 2 lookalikes leading parallel lives, one (Siddharth Naayak) as a self-directed organ grinder to Calcutta’s power brokers and with a motive to ward off goondaism in the city; And the other guy (Cherry) is a techie – apparently, but never found working – who is based in Hyderabad. So these two guys, who also have similar personalities, exact same attributes actually such as physical personality, hairstyle, voice modulation, body language and dialect – cross paths and the average Joe decides to help the leader guy achieve his objective.

PERFORMANCES:
Charan plays two characters but did nothing to set them apart, except depending on the storyline. The characterization is definitely to blame, but Charan could have easily worked on nuances to differentiate, scoring a zip there. But there are parts where he sure shines, if you ignore that he imitates his father in dance expressions, he moves like a spring (Laila O Laila) and is pretty graceful at that. More beefed up than before, he is more athletic and is almost effortless with action stunts, especially aerial ones that may have subsumed ropes and wires. His best in the film is the one involving puncturing Pradeep Rawat right before the interval. Charan uses his off-screen fashion sense to complement his characters and these making it to market is the fans’ tribute to his style sense, I think. Charan’s diction has improved and he is pretty convincing with delivering punch dialogue; but his comic timing is not as good as his peers’, – another area for improvement. While he can dance and perform stunts, he’s better at romancing the belles, the other hallmark of a ‘mass hero’, which is more esoteric to Charan, and has shades like no other. Not the best in the business, but Charan is not awkward with the ladies.

In the movie industry it’s time-tested hypothesis that a strong hero, in order to shine, needs a strong villain. Pradeep Rawat as Minister Rawat  is the victim this time, and it’s a characterization issue again. Just to add a little more insult to his injury (or the Director’s?), Rawat was so much better in films like Sye and Ghajini, in which his mere appearance on screen spelt terror. Minister Rawat is more of a terrified pest whose goal is to make Leader Naayak bite dust. There is nothing about this character one would really remember after he/she finishes watching the film. To say it in GreatAndhra speak, Kajal & Amala are not exactly “tempting beauties”, but I would attribute that to them having as much as 3% of screen time if you took out the allocated 3-song quota from each’s kitty. Also, the songs were shot in Nordic Europe, so staying protected was probably more important than flaunting curves. It’s worth a mention that Kajal has gotten pretty good with lip-sync irrespective of the southern language she’s dubbing for; Thuppakki is another example. Brahmi does get some light-hearted moments for footage but chaperoning comedy really were Jaya Prakash Reddy and Posani Krishna Murali, and are really awesome at situational comedy, along with strong dialect-based funny retorts.

DIRECTION & SCREENPLAY:
Director V.V.Vinayak basically has taken up the task of overlooking the conveyor belt. Yes there are elements native to this film, but the framework is about as fundamental as Newton’s laws of motion. The producers must be lauded for taking on the risk to finance essentially the same film, just made with different team & cast each time. The success of a formula, I feel, is directly proportional to the ability of the market to absorb it, and what do you know! If you are reading this, you are a potential and if I wrote it, I am an existing customer. There! Coming back to the creative side of things, and to talk about formula, there is a dose of every potboiler element and the trick is to not get you distracted, so each of these come at regular intervals. So far not so good, but that’s okay. Vinayak fails in giving an edge to each of the two look-alikes. It’s a different issue that raw star power and hype form the engine of this type of film of today, but showcasing a film to a non-fan necessitates extra effort, and from the director. Anywho. Casting Charan for this film seems more like a short-sighted decision. Yes, there is the ‘mega-family craze’ to cash-in on, but Charan seems to have jumped the gun to shoulder a product such as this. There are shades of Tagore, Basha and Businessman in this film, but notice  the actors in those films, and the point/timing  in their acting careers at which they took on these films. Films such as the above are a good vehicle to add momentum to such an actor’s reach, but first turn into THAT type of actor and have THAT type of reach, yes? The new-age problem of actors has been to play roles much older than their real age, and try and be a college kid upon hitting thirty.

Screenplay, also by Shiva Akula, is good enough to keep you engaged. There is this underlying element of mystery through the first half of the film, given sudden interjections like Naayak’s tussle with a local daada, DSP’s murder, etc. The consummation of Shiva’s work is the interval bang when Minister Rawat is attacked. Naayak’s background is also laid out with conviction, but the screenplay starts to fall apart when Naayak is shown turning into a leader. This track is batshit insane and is unconvincing at many levels. Of course there are areas that don’t make sense, such as Ashish Vidhyarthi who is a CBI officer decides to go after Charan based on opinions and not nearly investigating in detail as a sleuth would, in a serial murder case. Coming back to direction, there are minute things that Director Vinayak could taken care of – Eg. In the song video of Subhalekha Raasukunna (a melodious original, tampered with), Amala Paul dons sarees, and running shoes for matching footwear. Ghetto, I know. It’s one thing to ignore your actresses in the male-dominated-woods, but paying attention to aesthetic detail may just turn this rant into appreciation. But Vinayak knows how to work his target audience, and that’s what matters finally. The masala film-makers have a thing for fancy weapons in their films, and so does Vinayak. May be it works for certain audiences? Jogging your memory for how the weapons from other films looked? Laugh here.

We don’t know if important parts of the plot were taken out, but one of the better decisions by Vinayak is the inclusion of Editor Gautam Raju in the team, who has chopped his way through at least a hundred films over three decades. The censor cuts generated a lot of buzz but the film, as it stood after the censor board sign-off, could clearly pass off without an ‘A’ Indian film certificate, but it did not. In any case, Gautham, teaming up with Shiva, keeps the train chugging for sure.

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Cinematographer Chota K Naidu has been DOP in twenty out of total thirty films ‘shouldered’ by actors belonging to the Mega family, and he may know exactly what to convey to the fans and based on what the fans have liked over a period of time – be it dance moves, expressions (anger and turmoil, mainly), body language. The actors’ comfort level of having been around Naidu and being able to convey their own suggestions or comfort level may also have been a value prop to the unit. The weather in Iceland is unpredictable they say, but Naidu has captured some really beautiful shots of the ice caps and volcanic locations. The streets of Calcutta will seem familiar as from his other film work (Choodalani Vundi). But he could have done away with shots on the terrace –Howrah Bridge in the background, riding a bike on Panjagutta flyover are too much of a common sight.  Naidu has created some really good visuals in the past, but for what his art is worth, this is what people care about. Sad.

Why 2.5/5:
Movies like these work on mass appeal, and a cocktail of elements, which individually appeal to multiple interests. May just give a hangover, but it’s good while it lasts. Naayak’s formula-centric approach is entertaining in parts if not as a whole.
The good: Charan’s performance, Screenplay, Direction in parts.
The bad: Hackneyed plot, Charan’s ability to hold his own as Naayak, rushed screenplay in second half of the film.

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