For all the allegorical import of the title and the furious backdrop in which the story takes place in the present, Gundelo Godari, as it wraps up, tastes like a slice-of-life human story full of a small range of characters inhabiting rural Andhra. But whether the story has in it to be effectively converted to a full-fledged feature film is a question the answer to which depends on whether the director is a Bala, a Samuthirikaran. To be fair to Kumar Nagendra, he shows adeptness as a director in execution. The script, though, could have been more nuanced and layered to distinctly bring out the inherent pathos.
With even a child having the ability to tell why a poor youth, who (reluctantly) hanged out with the daughter of a rich man, must have been implicated by the police on flimsy charges, even the element of suspense goes amiss. The pattern continues even in the second half.
There is something heart-rending and modestly intriguing about the story. However, the plain narration and simplistic scenes fail to measure up to the story's rare strength. The story of Bejoy Nambiar's David too had this quality and since the screenplay was imaginative (at least in bits and pieces), the characters threw up surprises with their whimsical behavior, and the execution itself was snazzy, it made a unique movie-watching experience.
In Gundello.., two people, who come with an unpleasant past, cross paths when they are married and struck in an engulfing flood. The life of Lakshmi Manchu (as Chitra, a village belle with no other aim in life other than marrying her childhood sweetheart) is more scarred and pathetic than the past of Adi Pinishetty (as Mallesh, who comes with the humble dream of owning a boat of his own). In a story revolving around two main characters, when the emotional baggage of one character is more than that of the other one, the end result won't quite touch the hearts.
More than the story and the scenes, what catches our attention are the characters portrayed, most of whom smack of everything from profanity to egomaniac mentality to lecherous behavior to promiscuity. And unlike the films which were made during the period in which the film is set (i.e., 1980s), there is a dose of reality that shocks none but the puritans. The Telugu films skillfully glossed over the lasciviousness of India's dark rustic world, as depicting it in mainstream cinema would have been seen as sacramental in a conservative society. Kumar Nagendra, it might seem, wanted to tell us that our society, even then, was not without some unmarried girls promiscuous enough to gaily lose their virginity.
Thanks to Maestro Illayaraja's BG score, the proceedings come with a ring of simplicity. The flawless art work (by Murali Kondeti) is a cool throwback to that era. However, the regular characters do not come with dimensions that truly reflect less-known (there must be many of them) dimensions of people who lived in that age. The slang (for example, 'gokudu' and other cuss words with sexual connotations) may or may not be true to the slang used in that age, but it would have done the film immense good if the director gave us a more informed peep into the little lives.
There are satisfying moments that are few and far between. Adi stands out for his superb performance, followed by Lakshmi, who emotes better than she did in UKUP. But her pairing with Sundeep is outrageous. Illayaraja is best when he rehashes his old classics. Adi's vocals for the first song do not gel with his persona. Instead of two pedestrian item numbers with buxom dolls, the story needed a soothing, situational melody involving Sundeep Kishan and Lakshmi, and Adi and Lakshmi (minutes before the climax).
The dialogues (by Kumar himself) are simple and true-to-life (but, again, not imaginative). The novelty in one beloved character saying 'I fear death' minutes after another beloved character says 'I want to live longer', should have been brought out evocatively.
When we watched the promos, we certainly did not go to the film expecting nothing more than one heroine angling for a manly hero in a jatara, only to routinely blackmail him later. Nor would anybody want to watch two actors with no star image dancing while falling behind elusive hens.
The CG work is fine, even though the floods do not look furious enough.
For all her mischievous mien, Tapsee Pannu doesn't have it in her to look appealing in a naughty role (she is best when it comes to sobbing). Sundeep looks too urbane to don a bucolic avatar. Ravi Babu's mannerisms are no different from what he is wont to do.
Verdict: With tragedy piled up on inhumanity, Gundello Godari is a well-executed and ordinarily written film. Watch it for the technical values, realistic characters and the simplicity writ that is write large.
Released on: 8th March, 2013