Jai Lava Kusa Review
'JLK', starring NTR in three contrasting roles, hits the screens amid high expectations this week. Does it live up to the expectations? Here we tell you.
As a kid, Jai was a wounded child, witness as he was to the way his twin brothers Lava and Kusa laughed their way to glory as stage artistes even as he was made to feel that he is worthless because of his stammering. Ill-treated by his maternal uncle (Posani Krishna Murali), who would reduce him to trivial roles on the stage, he knows early on that insult can be as destructive as fire. (In a 'Aparichitudu'-type moment, some granny tells Jai this much: 'Avamanam agni lantidi').
The three twins grow up in silos. The wronged and troubled Jai becomes a Ravana-worshipping don in a faraway land. Lava becomes a good-hearted bank manager. Kusa turns into a small-time thief with dollar dreams. Two decades after their separation, the latter two bump into each other. Kusa seeks to exploit Lava, but least does he know that Jai needs both of them by hook or crook for his own selfish ends.
The second half starts off with the brothers reluctantly doing Jai's bid. The crux lies in how the equations between the brothers change when each of them faces their respective moment of truth. It's brotherly sentiment ahoy in the climax.
Until the larger-than-life Jai arrives just before interval, 'JLK' seems to be content being a lazy affair. If Bobby's story takes the worlds of Lava and Kusa for granted, the screenplay (by Kona Venkat and Chakravarthy) doesn't care to tell us why Kusa should be that unemotional throughout the first half.
The scenes involving Lava and Priya (Raashi Khanna) are in the mould of a hackneyed 'masala' offering. The actress is content with shouting at Lava at the drop of a hat and falling in love with him at the slightest hint of emotionalism. As for Kusa, his Demonetisation-induced travails are not-so-funny and all that his impersonation act does is to result in just one comedy scene.
All the while, Jai is waiting to be introduced. He is kept waiting so that the interval block gives a bang for the buck. When he arrives, we at once know that he is no longer the embittered loser we saw. He is over-ambitious, ruthless, and, above all, believes that he who is gutsy alone gets recognition, flaws like stammering be damned. To the extent that the writers and the director, helped by NTR's stunning performance, manage to convey so much in this one scene deserves accolades.
Once Lava and Kusa fall in the soup, their pains find a comic outlet. The screenplay once again becomes playful.
In these portions, Jai's idiosyncrasies are supposed to be the film's main forte. While the characterization is solid, the way the scenes pan out seems to dilute the momentum heralded by the interval scene. Somewhere, NTR falters in keeping Lava and Kusa from getting blurry (read the scene where Jai comes to know of a shocking conspiracy).
The anti-climax surely needed dexterous handling. Also, when does the hardened Kusa become that atoning? No answer. By and by, Nivetha Thomas loses steam ages after Raashi's character was run aground.
The metaphorical relevance that the plot of the epic Ramayana has to the lives of the three brothers comes to the fore in two scenes. Sans an aesthetic and dramatic heft, these scenes work at an emotional level.
If the script itself was not easy to handle, with just one actor having to emote a whole range of acts, the director's task was all the more Herculean.
NTR succeeds for the most part. He is one of the few versatile actors we have and the way he excels as Jai is praiseworthy, conceding that Kusa is a been-there-done-that role. As Lava, NTR does bring out the child- like innocence in him. This could turn out to be an under-rated role.
If Raashi's make-up artiste should go back to the drawing room, Nivetha is seen in a forgettable role. A song here, a shout there - that's all the girls get to do. Sai Kumar's role was kept as a surprise. He is just so-so. Posani Krishna Murali as Domal Rao gives nothing home to write about. Ronit Roy, Priyadarshi, Brahmaji, comedian Sathya, Praveen and Prabhas Sreenu give no takeaways. Hamsa Nandini is artificially raunchy. Nandita Raj's 'Pakka Local' dance needs to be edited out urgently. Tamannah's 'Swing Zara' comes in during anti-climax.
Devi Sri Prasad's audio, save 'Asura Asura', is ordinary. His BGM walks away with laurels. Chota K Naidu's cinematography is good (overall), although there are some inconsistencies (read the bank episodes, the college episode in the second half, and the climax).
'JLK' is NTR's show, lock, stock, and barrel. The story line is decent. The screenplay has its share of flaws and the first half is underwhelming. The climax fight should have been much better. The emotional content (read the brotherly sentiment) could help the film sail through.