To repeat the phrase "Old wine in a new bottle" is akin to stating a self-evident truth for the umpteenth time when it comes to some of our overrated filmmakers. Even someone as remarkable a talent as a K Raghavendra Rao did rehash dramas in the heyday of his illustrious career, but the key difference between a legend (like KRR) and a mediocre talent is that in the case of the former the bottle belongs to the director and in the case of the latter, the bottle is new thanks to rich production values and not because of the Captain. In other words, 'Iddarammayilatho' is a new bottle in the sense that it has a beautiful body and not a soul.
A hundred kudos to Puri Jagannadh for not coming up with a silliest story of the kind we were fed in 'Devudu Chesina Manushulu'. After a thoroughly illiterate take on a burning socio-political issue (read 'CGTR'), it was practically impossible for him to get worse. Let us forget for a moment whether this stylish caper starring the Stylish Star works, it is quite a relief that Puri has banked on a supposedly safe but obviously done-to-death formula instead of taking it upon himself to enlighten the ignorant masses on the need to be loyal towards feudalists (living or dead).
Coming to the story, there is the well-known element of one or two of the main character(s) losing their beloved ones, thanks to a dreaded international don. To this South Indian filmmaker's favourite masala item is added a Puri innovation - for once, the don is not engaged in the business of money laundering for financing terrorism but has his hand in the till (read the coal scam). Another formulaic element is that the daughter of a character right at the centre of the earth-shattering scam falls for the hero and how she is related to the larger game is a suspense.
The slowly unfolding action-romance is punctuated with the contrasting personalities of two heroines, another of our filmmakers' dated innovation. Komali Shankarabharanam (Amala Paul), hailing from a traditional Brahmin family with an incurable love for a musical instrument, arrives in Spain (!) to learn music from a self-boasting but funny expert, Brahma (Brahmanandam). As against the shy and soft-spoken Komali, who eventually wears trendy costumes once she falls in love with the town's star guitarist (Allu Arjun as Sanju Reddy), Akansha (Chaterine Tresa) is an outspoken and assertive Psychology student, who ends up taking lessons in human nature from Puri's hero (remember a Puri hero can teach everything from philosophy and mythology to the inherent human duplicity). Then there are the usual doses of the greatness of men as against the overrated traits of women.
In other words, whatever be the story, the characterizations and dialogues have not changed over time in the case of Puri.
Without talking much about the wafer-thin storyline, let it be said that this is a technically first-rate movie where the cinematographer (Amol Rathod of 'Raktha Charitra' fame) is only one among a bevy of talent who show flashes of brilliance. The action choreography by Keccha of Hong Kong is one of the best outputs you would have seen on the Telugu screen in recent times. Be it the breathtaking locales or the flawless art direction, they all go into adding splendour to the proceedings. The costumes of Allu Arjun suit him perfectly.
Devi Sri Prasad gives a rocking music and the splendid picturization does full justice to this music. While Arjun's dances deserve encomiums, Catherine's rollicking presence in 'Top Lechipoddi' is likely to land her more offers.
If these elements give it a beautiful body, some glitches in the script rob it of a soul. Regardless of the twist in the story, it would still have been appropriate to make the hero wear a turbulent look on his face. It is absurd that a song like 'Ganapathi Bappa' was placed at a critical juncture, as a song giving an expression to the hero's inner pain could have raised the tempo to a new height. By completely avoiding a dampener comedy track (involving Brahmi and Ali) and replacing it with a powerful soliloquy by the hero, the director could have added strength to the scenes preceding the final leg of the movie.
The dialogues are lame barring a few analogies used by Brahmi, who otherwise fails to deliver a memorable performance. One starts to feel that Catherine Tresa has been given more lines than even the hero, with Arjun expected to emote through his restrained body moves and facial expressions (a case of aping Puri). For all the terrific effort that he puts in, Arjun's character doesn't become impactful for the reason that there is more of presenting him as a magical persona who is admired by two girls (true to the title) for his intellect and guts than as an ordinary man who wages a larger-than-life battle.
To speak of the performances, Arjun once again proves that he is a good actor and probably because of the action director's meticulous planning, he makes perfect expressions in all the fight scenes. The short Gang Leader remix should have been placed in the first half. Amala Paul has been presented well but her role is not meaty. Nevertheless, she shines through an ordinary role. Wither her voluptuous looks Catherine comes across as the girl to watch out for.
Shawar Ali is don enough in that he is seen being massaged and speaking aloud on the phone and nothing more. (Wannabe villains with a fair complexion are advised to acquire proficiency in these two before applying for a mafia don's role in Telugu films). Brahmi is routine, while Ali was never seen in a dumber role than this in a Puri film before. Subbu Raju looks menacing enough in the new look. Rao Ramesh, Tanikella Bharani and others do their parts well.
Verdict: Given the wafer-thin storyline and the routine characterizations, Iddarammayilatho is a film without a soul. It is watchable for the technical finesse.