There are director's actors who just surrender themselves to what the former say. Then there are actor's actors who are an envy of their own peers. Then there are those like Pawan Kalyan who are difficult to slot. And after watching Gudumba Shankar, dare one say, difficult to direct, too.
The problem for Pawan is that he is immensely talented. And he has an obsession for his own brand of perfection. He is so conscious of how he should come across on the screen. He is punctilious about how the songs are shot. He is almost fixated to the point of distraction on the stunts in his films. With such a big baggage, Pawan can drive a director to distraction.
And it shows in Gudumba Shankar.
It is an out and out Pawan's film ---- if it runs it will be because of him. If it fails it is because of him.
Cast in the eponymous role of the minor but likable criminal Gudumba Shankar (shades of Malayalam hit Meesai Madhavan) is the man of his world. He has his own sense of fair play. He has his own set of moral code. Just as he living life as it is, he runs into Gowri (Meera Jasmine).
He, a criminal on the run, and she, a girl on the run from her house, have their own run-ins and finally fall in love. But she has a bridegroom waiting in the form of Kumara Swamy (Ashish Vidyarthi), a bungling criminal who has a fetish for astrology and other such superstitions. And for him the words of Parabrahma Swamy (Brahmanandam) are the final ones.
When Kumara Swamy manages to take back Gowri to his home, Shankar too arrives there with his buddies and gets down to win the hand of Gowri in right earnest. This set of sequences (involving Shankar --- as a wedding planner ---- duping Kumara Swamy with light-hearted pranks and tricks) are reminiscent of Shahrukh's DDLJ.
After plenty of rib-tickling fun, Shankar walks into the sun set with Gowri in tow.
It is Pawan all the way in the film. Be it in the fights or in the comedy scenes, Pawan is in his elements. His flair for humour gets adequate exposure. He just enjoys every minute of it. Like knife through soft butter, he moves through the character without any apparent effort.
For the National Award winner Meera Jasmine, it is a conventional role. The limitations of the character (especially within the matrix of this movie) do not allow for a free flow of her talent. But full marks to Meera for her earnestness (she has used her own voice for dubbing) and she does appear natural.
Ashish Vidyarathi as the bumbling goon, as his wont, hams at some places. But in some others, comes out on top. Sayaji Shinde as his friend is more than adequate. The other comedians in the film (Brahmanandam, Ali etc) have their moments.
The music (the songs are topping the charts already) are just what the director ordered and pictured with taste. The camerawork of Chota K Naidu is pleasant and easy on the eye. The stunts, with personal care from Pawan himself, are certainly spunky.
For director Veera Shankar, Pawan has been the asset and Pawan has been the problem. By the time he is finished with sequences to keep Pawan and his fans happy (songs, stunts and comedy), he has very little time left to tell a story. The director obviously has a flair for cooking a neat and uncomplicated plot. But under the circumstances he has been allowed to function, his job looks unfinished.
In some sense, Gudumba Shankar has a lesson for Telugu filmmakers. It shows you the flip side of making a movie to suit an image.
But Pawan himself has the talent to suit any kind of film. So, more is the pity.