By Haricharan Pudipeddi
Film: Arjun Reddy; Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga; Cast: Vijay Devarakonda, Shalini Pandey, Rahul Ramakrishna and Sanjay Swaroop; Rating: *****
One can’t help but fall in love with “Arjun Reddy”, the film as well as the eponymous title role, even though you don’t walk out of the cinema hall with a smile. If you fall in the category of the audience that believes cinema is meant to entertain, maybe this is not the film for you. You might as well watch a David Dhawan film.
If you like the kind of cinema that moves you, quite literally shakes you from within, “Arjun Reddy” is for you. By the end of the film, it stirs up an emotional storm deep inside with its raw, intense and honest portrayal of love and suffering.
In the opening shot, we are introduced to Arjun and Preethi, and we’re told they are two bodies united by one soul. But theirs is not the kind of love story we are used to, especially Telugu audiences who are used to cheering for 50-plus stars romancing heroines half their age, singing duets in the Alps.
The love in “Arjun Reddy” is pure, unabashedly bold and hard-hitting. It touches the soul in ways it can’t be explained. It gives the story a modern-day Devdas twist, while making the overall cinematic experience a journey to remember for a long time.
This is the story of the lead character Arjun Reddy, and yet there isn’t a story, a structure to be precise, to follow and anticipate what might happen next. It’s the rise, fall and rise of Arjun, and his journey of love and suffering, is nothing short of poetic and heart wrenching.
Writer-director Sandeep Reddy Vanga doesn’t make us sympathise with Arjun’s character, and that’s a relief and achievement by itself. He makes us understand Arjun’s love and pain from a very personal and subconscious standpoint, and in doing so, he strikes an emotional chord.
It’s not the number of lip-locks or the use of expletives that make “Arjun Reddy” a brave film. What really makes it a brave film and its director, a man with guts, is that it ventures into a space Telugu cinema has dared to enter and I doubt if it will ever. It shows that any story, when told with conviction, will be accepted and celebrated.
Sandeep and Vijay, as director and hero, make the film for what it is, and both have paved the way for a new chapter in Telugu filmdom. If it was “Pellichoopulu” and “Kshanam” last year, it’s “Arjun Reddy” in 2017, and these films assure there is light at the end of the tunnel.
As much as the film belongs to Sandeep, who is also its writer, it equally belongs to Vijay Devarakonda, who is the life of “Arjun Reddy”. Vijay breathes life into the character and it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in his shoes. Be it his passion, love, and rage; he portrays these several layers of his character with unparalleled realism.
Vijay’s performance as a college-goer with serious anger issues or as the alcoholic surgeon will leave you in awe of his versatility in pulling off such diverse avatars with ease, as if it was child’s play.
Sandeep presents Vijay’s character from different perspectives and from each point of view; we get to understand Arjun even better. For Arjun’s father, his son’s actions are stains on his prestige. For his friends, Arjun’s actions show his recklessness and free-spirited attitude. For Preethi, Arjun’s actions show his madness and unwillingness to change, which she eventually embraces.
We get to learn more about Arjun – his strengths, his weaknesses and flaws – from every character around him.
“‘Arjun Reddya’ is not a film; it’s an experience that’ll stay with you. This is a very personal story of love and suffering, aided by beautiful cinematography and terrific music, particularly the background score.
At 190 minutes, there isn’t a single lull moment in the film and it hooks you, quite literally till the end. This is the most original, experimental and daring work to come out Telugu cinema in a long time.
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