Movie: @Narthanasala; Direction: Srinivas Chakravarthi; Cast: Naga Shaurya, Ajay, Kashmira, Jayaprakash Reddy, Yamini Bhaskar
Narthanasala (1963) is regarded as one of the all-time classics of Telugu cinema. The historical period drama based on Mahabharata’s Virata Parvam focused on the trials of Pandavas, who lived incognito during their exile. While the central character of Pandavas, Arjuna, played by NT Rama Rao, lived in the garb of a woman as Bruhannala.
On the heels of that iconic role, debutant Srinivas Chakravarthi has arrived with a modern story titled @Narthanasala. The film shows Naga Shaurya as Radha Krishna, a self-defence trainer, who pretends to be gay to escape a forced marriage and marry a girl of his choice. To his own surprise, he gets a proposal from a man, Raja (Ajay).
The story has lots of scope to excite the viewer with interesting characterisations and humour, but Srinivas Chakravarthi transformed it into a forgettable affair that sinks without any trace. In all fairness, if you expect anything other than stereotyped characters reinforcing a lot of cliches and insulting a particular community sentiment, you are in for a disappointment. The first hour itself tests your patience as it involves so much banal talking.
The director throws in a riveting twist at the interval point and just when you think there is a more interesting plot point building up, it all fizzles out. The second hour is filled with predictable misunderstandings and manipulations which further slacken the film’s pace. The narration here slips into an inconsistent, outrageous and a farcical comedy without much of a story.
Naga Shaurya is at ease slipping effortlessly into the role. He showed complacency and sleepwalks through his scenes. Jayaprakash Reddy does everything in keeping with the film’s tone. He delivers some of the movie’s wittiest lines and leaves you hurting in the sides.
Yamini Bhaskar and Kashmira have no story arc of their own and hence they never feel properly incorporated into the story. Swara Sagar Mahathi’s couldn’t recreate the magic of Chalo with some ordinary compositions. Even at a running time of little over two hours,@Narthanasala still feels really long because there’s little happening in terms of its screenplay, which is devoid of surprises.