Arjun Reddy: With a great narrative and credible performances by the lead cast, this film manages to leave lasting impact
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga, Arjun Reddy is a contemporary take on Devdas. The narrative technique is modern, realistic focuses on the transformation of the lead character. The film is also admirably confident of its goal as it gently reveals the lead character, Arjun’s state of mind. But Arjun Reddy does have flaws and might disappoint you, especially if you have heard positive reviews floating around. But if you can overlook those, you’ll take home memories of a great experience.
Arjun Reddy is the quintessential angry young man. He is a university topper, a stellar football player and keen to join the medical professional. Though he excels in his pursuits, his uncontrollable rage lands him in trouble very often. One fine day, he lays his eyes on a fresher named Preethi and falls head over heels in love with her. He pursues her fiercely until she eventually falls in love with him too.
Years pass and the couple gets ready to take things to the next level. But all hell breaks loose when Preethi’s father dismisses Arjun’s proposal and insists on getting his daughter married to a member of the same caste. A distraught Arjun gives Preethi an ultimatum. He threatens to leave her if she doesn’t manage to convince her parents in a stipulated time period of six hours. These six hours turn out to be most eventful leaving Arjun and Preethi’s relationship in a mess. Whether or not these characters find a way to tide over this crisis s the crux of the story.
Arjun Reddy is one of those rare films in the Telugu film industry that does not confine to all conventional mainstream standards. For instance, the film takes many cinematic liberties to achieve distinction. It is unapologetically slow-paced and works towards deeply establishing its lead character’s complex state of mind. Secondly, it never undermines the intellect of the audience by stating the obvious. It constantly switches back and forth in time.
Initially, Arjun’s suffering feels long. It feels as though many years have passed since that life-changing incident. But later, you learn from Preethi, that it has only been nine months. This way of utilizing the characters to indirectly establish a timeline without ever lending an explanation is quite impressive.
Another noteworthy quality of the film is its ability to create a stirring story out of a basic plot structure. Just like every other love story, Arjun Reddy too follows the typical ‘boy meets girl’ format. But unlike other conventional love stories, the film stands out due to its genuity. It does not demand you to view its characters through rose-tinted glasses. It presents the flaws in character of the lead character and ensures you know he is a grey. It does not romanticize the notion of love.
It also addresses the important issue of caste differences, that very much exist even though many of us believe that it is a thing of the past. The movie goes on to show how deep-rooted is the caste system in our society.
Many scenes, patterns and references in Arjun Reddy will remind you of other popular films. For example, the three-stage scripting pattern of the film is quite similar to Malayalam hit film, Premam. The devastation from heartbreak that leads Arjun to become an addict has traces of Hindi film, Dev D. Lastly, Arjun’s drug addiction phase reminds you of Surya in Tamil film, Vaaranam Aayiram. The very fact that it surpasses these influences to create an original core has to be applauded. This is the real difference between being inspired by films and actually copying them.
It cannot be denied that the film is driven strongly from a male perspective. The director’s portrayal of Preethi in a few scenes maybe a step in the right direction. For example, the way she casually approaches her physical relationship with Arjun is quite commendable. But barring a few scenes, her character has a very medieval outlook.
It is also disturbing to see Arjun stalking Preethi. Many a times, when he tries to mark his territory around her, she is almost treated like an object. This treatment reminds you of the first scene in the film where Arjun’s grandmother explains his obsession towards a doll. You start to wonder if Preethi has become that doll for him. This objectification is inadmissible, no matter how the director tries to justify it later on.
Even that moment in the climax where she tells him that she never even let her ex-husband lay a finger on her is troubling. It is an imbalanced and unequal portrayal considering how he sleeps around with women just to move on. At one point, he even threatens a woman with a knife. These sequences go on to prove how forgiving the male gaze is of the macho man. Even though Arjun’s Reddy’s objectification is considerably lesser than many recent films, it is disturbing.
As Arjun Reddy, Vijay Deverakonda is the poster boy for dedication. He assumes his role with so much conviction that it is impossible to separate Arjun from Vijay. Shalini Pandey as Preethi is a complete natural too. She eases into her role by displaying equal amounts of shyness and grit. As Arjun’s friend Shiva, Rahul Ramakrishna has given a remarkable performance. After a point, you might start feeling for this character than Arjun.
Cinematographer Raju Thota assumes the role of an innovative visual story-teller. He uses mid-shots to heighten the suspense and project the anxiety of lead character in a scene. The film also packs many lengthy shots that impeccably capture emotions through the character’s body language.
Music plays a vital role in the film. Music director Radhan uses contradictory tunes to convey hidden meaning of crucial scenes. This overall score is quite fascinating.
As far as mainstream cinema goes, Arjun Reddy takes a small step in the right direction.