For a film set in the backdrop of a mad, macabre mafia world, Panjaa's format is not inventively refreshing, but the way Vishnu Vardhan treats the proceedings makes this film one of the worthiest movies in the 15-year career of Pawan Kalyan. The film stands out for its technical perfection and also for the mature and brilliantly nuanced performance of its lead star. The film boasts of many interesting moments that keep you on the edge of the seat and also those heart-tugging scenes, which help you understand the mind of Jai (PK), the character around whom the story revolves.
Bhagawan (Jackie Shroff) is an unchallenged don who rules the roost in Kolkata. Kulkarni (Atul Kulkarni), has built his own empire after breaking away from Bhagawan some years ago. The film, from the word go, introduces the audience to the rivalry between these two ruthless gangsters. Jai is Bhagawan's trusted lieutenant, who promises loyalty to him till his last breath. His boss may self-delude himself that he is the most powerful, but there comes a time when Jai reminds him that it is he who is his strength.
Munna (Sesh Adivi), Bhagawan's son, is back from Australia. Oozing menace and sadism at every turn, he lusts Jahnavi (Anjala Lavania) and devlops rivalry with Jai. Sensing Jai's aggression towards his son, Bhagawan demands that he be loyal to Munna the way he has always been towards him. As destiny would have it, Munna, who mercilessly stabs Jahnavi to death (suspecting that she has an affair with Jai), is killed at the hands of Jai. This is the film's game-chaning moment.
What follows is how Jai decides to leave the murderous world behind him and lead a fresh life with his sweet-heart, Sandhya (Sarah Jane Dias), in a faraway place in Andhra; how Bhagawan tries to trace him; and how the film ends on a rather violent note - a climax which may not take you by surprise, but which will make you enjoy the poetic justice.
Panjaa is essentially an action-significant film with its share of well-written emotional moments and well-executed fight sequences. Romance and comedy are there, but they are not integral to the story. Though the film would have been greatly helped by a thicker plot, Panjaa is watchable for its good performances by one and all, intelligent cinematography (PS Vinod), cinematic thrills (read believable fights, heroism), stunning background score (Yuvan Shankar Raja) and the surprising murders.
Vishnu Vardhan's treatment is wise, which comes to the fore at many places in the first half. Rivals sit around the table after a gang war and talk matter-of-factly (watch for the Kulkarni-Pawan episode after the first fight); the hero talks about his unflinching loyalty to Bhagawan, thereby establishing the mood; next, you see the trumpet blown in a club; immediately after a raunchy song, there is a scuffle and you see Jai entering the scene just in time and playing the big brother to Munna; suddenly you see Jai's inner voice telling how he has missed all the fun for the last 20 years, and the intensity is only mystified by this.
Earth-shattering moments and big-time murders come all of a sudden. You don't know when the fights begin and end. They are coalesced into the narration quite well. This is talking about the first half.
The second half is a far cry from the first. The racy pace gives way to a leisurely pace. Pawan-Sarah romance and another villain are introduced. Jai is relieved and suddenly relives his childhood for a moment. Before Jai can take the final call, Sandhya tells him that both reality and dream are Jai for her.
The sheer violence, that comes with the director's midas touch, makes it every bit a modish gangster film. There are many unpredictable moments. You never know who will be murdered next or who will pounce on who. That said, Panjaa could have been much better and sadly, it ceases to surprise after a certain point. Had the momentum been kept alive, it would have made an unforgettable experience.
Performance-wise, Pawan delivers one of the best performances in years. His looks are all right and emotes well with eyes in his characteristic style. As Jai, he is minimalist but impactful. The beard look will be remembered for long. Many years after Khushi, his fights are bohemian. He brings a certain grace to the character he plays.
Sesh Adivi is electrifying as the lusty lecher. He has a long career ahead for sure. Jackie Shroff is at his usual best. Atul Kulkarni, Tanikella Bharani and Sampath fit the bill.
Between Sarah and Anjali, it is the latter, who plays a club dancer, who is better. Sarah is a tall diva, but she looks too lean and her acting is not refined.
All in all, Panjaa is a roller-coaster ride of sorts. With its share of emotional crests and troughs and superb action, the film stands out in its own right. Audience judgement is awaited.
Released on: 9th Dec, 2011