'Rudramadevi' has both bright and insipid elements going for it. If there is a scene where Rudramadevi, a strong-minded woman posing as a male, under the spell of a sudden burst of feminine self-consciousness, breaks into a gracious dance along with some other sprightly women in festive mood, there is a battle scene where some four characters on the losing side talk to each other like undramatic characters of a street play (well, they even seem to be watching the fate of their onscreen clones in a war, now separated by many years).
Megastar Chiranjeevi's voice-over is a welcome change, it elevates the tempo for a while, afterwards we struggle to register it.
Gunashekar's dream project is not without its spectacular moments. But the accomplishment lies in its occasionally good writing, whereas the uneven execution is unsettling at best. The screenplay is tightly written at times, so much so even Anushka's two variations are striking without as much as a change in the mood of the proceedings. Allu Arjun bursts on the scene in quirky style; he, with his aggressive attitude and playful recklessness, matches the intensity of fiery Anushka, nevertheless. On the flip side, Gona Ganna Reddy has better lines, spoken in authentic Telangana 'yasa', whereas Rudrama Devi is innocent of a mind-blowing line worth a mention.
A historical, the writer-director-producer seeks at the outset the offended audience's pardon for taking creative liberties. However, the problem may not be with the creative liberties; it is mostly with inconsistencies in the creativity.
One too many characters make an entry; Krishnam Raju, Prakash Raj, Suman, Krishna Bhagawan and young Rudrama Devi (played by Ulka Gupta of 'Andhra Pori' fame), together with many more names of persons and places to remember. At once, young Rudrama Devi turs into Anushka, who in turn metamorphoses into a lioness as imagined by Ganapathi Devudu (Krishnam Raju), her proud father. After great CG assault, she tames the elephant, setting the stage for an invariable comparison with that massive animal from 'Bahubali'; and you can't help yourself the experience of watching that animal being tamed by Rana in stages. The treatment of such a scene begins with getting the cinematography right.
The film tells the story of Rudrama Devi's early life, the dangers faced by the Kakatiya dynasty, the situations arising out of Rudrama Devi's gender secret. Anushka marrying Nithya Menon is most likely to take the cake; it has such appeal for all. Young Chalukya Veerabhadra talking to young Rudradeva about the erotic beauty of a sculpture, unbeknownst that she is a girl is another such moment. But the film's moment arrives with Allu Arjun revealing his new side; he continues to make an entry now and then, stealing a march over the ttile character herself, perhaps to the detriment of the film.
The first half is fast paced with interesting interludes offered by Suman and gang; but their pettiness needed some creative dialogue-writing, which is found wanting here. Baba Sehgal is outshined by Suman, surprisingly, who dignifies cheapness with his demeanour. He is surely one under-rated and under-utilized talent. Prakash Raj clearly eclipses Krishnam Raj, not thanklessly, but he should have arrived with an authentic dialect and accent so as to keep the actor Prakash Raj we know at an arm's length.
All the while, Anushka shows her fiery streak on again, off again. She cackles up in the screen when with Rana Daggubati, who after 'Bahubali' gets to push the envelope, only to be papered over in the end. The interval bang turns out to be not so interval enough, particularly for a massive drama of this scale. The second half is light-touch and barring a few gripping moments, gives way to a battle scene that comes across as a semi-baked good.
Coming to the strengths, it is a fairly OK narration. The performances are all very good, especially Allu Arjun, Anushka and Suman stand out for the impact they make. Raja Simha's dialogues (this Raja Simha is contemporary Raja Simha, not from history) for Gona Ganna Reddy's character are a big plus; for other characters, the Paruchuri Brothers pass muster.
Thota Tarani's art direction and Ajay Vincent's cinematography work in those scenes where there is no need for a marathon scale grandeur. The Seven Wall Fort seems to have been squandered away.
Maestro Illayaraja's musical outing has its moments, although the BGM leaves much to be desired.
Verdict: It is not Anushka's film all the way. There is an unexpected dose of Allu Arjun's quirkiness here. Some cliched elements like Anushka's fiery dance in the climax could have been avoided. Fairly good writing otherwise.