Tholi Prema Review
'Tholi Prema', starring Varun Tej and Rashi Khanna in lead roles, hits the screens today. Here is our review.
Aditya (Varun Tej) comes with this attitude of taking up challenges, especially so when the other one challenges him. It's love at first sight for him when he meets a bespectacled, innocent-looking, Varsha (Rashi Khanna) immediately after a near-death experience.
Varsha reciprocates her love to him after a few coincidences. Everything seems to go well until a tussle between Somu (Shivakumar Ramachandravarapu), Varsha's senior at the college, and Aditya breaks out and leads to a tricky situation. Varsha's reaction to it leads to some unexpected consequences.
What is the situation? How does Varsha react to it? Is she justified in doing so? Is Aditya right in reacting to Varsha's behaviour the way he does? How long will it take for their break-up to end? That's the second half.
This is one of the few coming-of-age, characterization-based, love stories that Telugu cinema has made in the decade. Debutant director Venky Atluri comes up with meaty characters and in this, he may have the strengths of a Sekhar Kummala. If 'Fidaa' was Bhanumathi-centric, 'Tholi Prema' is Aditya-centric. The graph of the second half is sure to throw up nuanced comparisons with 'Fidaa' for other reasons, too.
Compared to 'Fidaa', the pain point that drives a gulf between the lead characters is certainly stronger here. This is not to say that 'TP' outshines 'Fidaa', overall. The pain point in this film is lightened by the passage of time (the film take a six-year leap after the interval). As such, Varsha has moved on while the self-centric Aditya has been stuck in a time warp. This leads to some engaging moments in the climax that give an insight into Aditya's mindset. He is neither Mani Ratnam's too masculine Varun ('Cheliyaa') nor Sandeep Vanga's too peevish Arjun ('Arjun Reddy').
He is Venky Atluri's own arrogant guy, the super-intelligent student who secured 6th rank in EAMCET, the rich guy who was gifted with wealth and handsome looks by birth. This is the reason he talks about his equations with chocolates in the climax. It's HIS story and the director is unapologetic about it.
Varun Tej's performance goes in an ascending order and it's always a plus for him and the film, too. Sporting a beard in the London episodes, Aditya, now a professional, woos Sunaina (Sapna Pabbi in a cameo) for the sake of it. However, deep down, he is hurt.
Everything said, 'Tholi Prema' doesn't rise above cliches at many places. Those lechers at the railway station who chip in just when the hero has to impress the girl, that indulgence of coke-cum-beer, that heroine who busily reads a novel when she is least expected to, that mother (Suhasini Maniratnam in an extended cameo) who wades into their budding friendship, that 'Jab We Met' feel, those strangers who appear from nowhere just when it rains and our hero has to dance ritualistically, those ready raw-materials that offer themselves when he has to prepare some quick meals for her, etc, etc.
Varun Tej is no dancer and there is too much of dancing in the movie. This could have been avoided at least in the song that comes immediately after Varsha tells him I love you. The mood of the song should have been something else.
The entry of 'Hyper' Aadhi and senior Naresh (he is a casteist because, well, Aditya needs to be shown as evolved) breathes some freshness into the proceedings. The depiction of the rivalry between Aditya and Somu is mature. The Vidyullekha-Varun track works big time. Dialogues like 'Ekkuva premisthe discourage chestaru' are incisive. What Sathyam Rajesh does in 'Fidaa', Aadhi and Priyadarshi are assigned to do here in the second half.
Varun Tej is consistent in his delivery. A few more roles where he shows his attitude, he can be called The Attitude Star. He is also handsome in a different way in the second half. His dialogue delivery has improved a lot. Rashi Khanna is loveable in the role of a girl who takes her sweet time to reciprocate. She has meaty scenes in a large number and she doesn't disappoint. Her efforts to look leaner pay-off. All other actors do a fine job, including the girl who plays Priyadarshi's lover.
Thaman's background music is something. He is at his creative best for a rom-com. 'Allasani Vaari', the title track and 'Ninnila' work also because of Srimani's lyrics. George C William's cinematography is outstanding. There is never a dull frame and the visuals are so grand, whether it's an Indian college campus or London. Navin Nooli's editing is top-notch.
It's a cute love story which revolves around the two individuals who matter. There is a delicate situation, there is a leap that the film takes post interval, there is a hero who is a rule unto himself. Capable performances and excellent technical output make it a healthy watch.