'Gulf', directed by P Suneel Kumar Reddy, hits the screens this Friday. Here is our review of the drama.
The film tells the stories of a handful of characters who reach the Gulf in search of livelihood. They all come from humble backgrounds, and they all share identical stories of victimhood. Hoodwinked by Visa brokers, exploited by middlemen, and immiserated by blood-sucking Sheiks, they lead a life of a thousand hardships as construction workers and domestic helps in Dubai.
Shiva (Chetan Maddineni) from Telangana and Lakshmi (Dimple) from Andhra Pradesh's Godavari are two of the condemned workers in the land of broken promises. Amid their struggles for dignity, going through oppressive working conditions and escaping even rape, they fall in love.
Their acquaintances (played by Santosh Pawan, Anil Kalyan, Shiva, and others) are their only hope in the times of distress. But when a friend commits suicide when he is defrauded of his hard-earned money by his Sheik, Shiva and his cohorts decide to take a flight by stealing their money from the Sheik and get hold of their seized passports.
What consequences do they face in their attempt to mount a heroic escape from the grueling conditions? Will they ever meet their relatives back home in India? That's what the second half is about.
In telling the story of individuals finding an escape from poverty, director P Suneel Kumar Reddy plays up the usual suspects. Yes, some of these elements are there for a reason. A fraudulent broker (played by a Raja-obsessed Posani Krishna Murali), a father (Nagineedu) who is sentimental about his jati's handloom legacy, an unseen cancer-stricken mother, a pregnant wife waiting for his husband to return from the distant land, etc. These are all necessary for a film like 'Gulf'. But the way the elements are shown in an over-dramatic manner or in a cliched style is what makes the film a total turn-off.
The whole first half but for the interval is as realistic as it can get. Just before the interval bang, Chetan's character resolves to mount a dumbed-down guerilla revolt (minus a single Communist). It's when 'Gulf' actually starts to shed its slice-of-life self and becomes too cinematic to put up with. And in the second half, the narration becomes so unceremoniously hackneyed that a now-bankrupt Dubai tycoon violently goes after Lakshmi in a throwback to 1980s era cinema. You have to see how our hero saves his girlfriend in an ancient-era fight.
The one place where the director's narration looks fairly imaginative is the way he portrays the unfulfilled sexual desires of the sex-starved male workes in the Gulf. Watch that wife who finds her husband too sexually thirsty. 'How could you control your desires all these days?' the village wife asks her Gulf-returnee hubby with pain visible on her empathetic face. While she so asks him, there is no trace of titillation or humour.
From those cruel Sheiks who could rape a girl anytime to those over-crowded dormitories where all those ill-treated workers share their 'badhalu' at nights, 'Gulf' definitely gives us a thorough glimpse into the travails of the less fortunate. But again, without a screenplay/a plot with a substance, the second half fizzles out. Lakshmi giving a clean chit to her exploitative boss could have been avoided. Tanikella Bharani's song is a total letdown.
The climax is something to look out for.
The dialogues make a mark here and there. The way Thotapalli Madhu says that the real Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam is in those poor dormitories is nice. The tragedy of loneliness is brought out through a few good lines.
But for Dimple, it's difficult to congratulate any other actor. Chetan needs to work on his expressions. Those who are seen as his friends do an okayish job. Posani, Nalla Venu, Bitthiri Satthi, Prabhas Sreenu, Jeeva, Sana and other familiar faces are mostly wasted in either ill-etched or half-hearted characters.
Praveen Immadi's music and SV Shivaram's cinematography are forgettable.
'Gulf' comes with an old-worn formula in the backdrop of a different land. Although the climax is bold, the plot is hardly gripping.