'Chalo', starring Naga Shourya and Rashmika Mandanna in the lead, hit the screens on Friday. Here is our review.
Hari (Naga Shourya) has a penchant for beating up everybody in sight, although he doesn't pick quarrels himself. Frustrated with his eccentricity and with the intention of teaching him a lesson, his comical father (played by senior Naresh) packs him off to a village bordering Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu all because it's full of blood-thirsty people divided into Telugus and Tamils.
In the village, the hero enrolls himself in an Engineering college run by an idealist principal (played by Raghu Babu). This is ostensibly the village's only place where there are no fights over region or language. Predictably, the Telugu man that is Hari falls in love with Karthika, the daughter of a Tamil muscleman.
That's the crux of the conflict. The rest of the film is about how Hari makes an all-out attempt at reaching out to the raging Tamil side through out-of-the-box ways so that all decks for his marriage are cleared. In the process, he also discovers the root cause of the rivalry that started in 1953 and unites the hearts once and for all.
You go to watch a film whose premise is palpably weird, only to find out that it's neither the rivalry between Telugus and Tamils, nor the love story that's the film's forte. Rather, it's those comedians who are caught between a hard and a rock place; it's these characters who actually help the proceedings sail through even when the writer-director is smuggling in WhatsApp forwards.
Dil Raju often talks about a film whose main drawback he realized only after its release. It's 'Josh'. He discovered rather belatedly that the film was made in an era when college campus rowdyism had already waned. You must by now have understood why we are even mentioning Raju's lesson here.
While it doesn't have any relatability, debutant Venky Kudumula's very storyline has this trait of a madcap comedy. The very characterization of the hero, too, smacks of this aspect. In fact, Shourya's Hari comes off as some pathological (albeit funny) character a la SJ Suryah's Bhairavudu in 'SPYder'. One wonders why such juvenile exaggerations are resorted to by our makers. Later on, however, the hero's fluid identity among the quarreling groups is subtly projected in a couple of emotional scenes. The way the college becomes a melting pot of identities is, again, a mature idea.
The madcap trait wears thin, by and by. It's welcome. But suddenly, again, it makes a comeback in the climax when it's revealed that the enmity between the commoners was fueled by two feudalists and the proverbial third monkey who benefited from their silly fight.
Most of the film is set against the backdrop of a college and its dormitories. Sathya (he tries Chittoor slang) as the hero's sidekick elicits the best laughs. Viva Harsha is bettered even by Sudarshan. In the second half, Sathya's travails amidst his own friends are fun. In comes Vennela Kishore as the heroine's fiance. He is predictably mean but unpredictably eccentric. At one point, senior Naresh tells him that he shouldn't have been born as a human.
Rashmika as a dullard student in an engineering college full of duds makes for an okayish watch. She falls flat in the songs, although she definitely has so much of potential to impress in more ethereal girl-next-door roles. She deserves more chances. The rom-com track involving them is, time and again, overshadowed by the situational comedy that kicks in at regular intervals.
When Telugus and Tamils are around, can references to cinema be far behind? From NTR to Chiranjeevi and Rajinikanth, from Shankar to Rajamouli, everybody is mentioned.
Dialogues like 'Telugodante ishtam poinda?' (hero to heroine) should have been avoided. It's ridiculous that the college guys are shown lusting over sleazy pics in a black-n-white magazine in the age of Mia Malkova and RGV's Twitter pornography. Also, Raghu Babu is a miscast. The role should have gone to a Rao Ramesh so as to ensure heft.
If this film makes it, Naga Shourya will give up experimentation of the 'Oka Manasu' variety or otherwise. He is comfortable in the role of a tough guy who also is emotionally vulnerable. The two heads of the rival gangs and the Panchayat head are adequate. Tamil comedian Rajendran's cameo is OK. Senior Naresh goes over-board. Vennela Kishore is good if not wow.
Mahathi Sagar's 'Choosi Choodagane' is nice. The other songs fall flat as part of the proceedings. Sai Sriram's cinematography is able. Other departments do an okayish job.
A wafer-thin storyline with the trappings of a crazy premise and a crazier third act. Director Venky Kudumula's knack for story-telling comes into its own in the second half. He extracts fairly decent performances while also banking on the situational comedy. This is not to say that the comedy is high-brow or always original.