Movie: Rangasthalam; Cast: Ram Charan, Samantha, Jagapathi Babu, Anasuya Bharadwaj; Director: Sukumar
Director Sukumar has an enviable track record for his brand of cinema. His dialogues carry a multitude of meanings and his scripts always had a special place in Telugu cinema. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a versatile writer and a director. In his last film Nannaku Prematho, he was criticised for dealing with esoteric elements that had an excessive display of intelligence quotient, scientific reasoning without incorporating entertainment to present the characters. With too much pressure, he took a break from glossy romantic thrillers, shifted his spotlight on the rural motif reinforcing locality, culture, traditions and churned out a visual extravaganza with his latest offering Rangasthalam starring Ram Charan and Samantha.
The film introduces us to the hearing impaired aka sound engineer Chitti Babu (Ram Charan) – the naive and happy-go-lucky youth, who isn’t affected by his difficulty. On the other hand, his brother Kumar Babu (Aadhi Pinisetty) is completely in contrast and always rises to the occasion.They live in a village named Rangasthalam which was controlled by a power-hungry president (Jagapathi Babu), who exploits the poverty and the helpless dependence of the villagers by charging exorbitant interest rates on loans.
The people who raise up and voice out their opinions against his wrongdoings are killed mercilessly. As life gets tougher due to the dictatorial regime imposed by the president and his team, Kumar Babu decides to change Rangasthalam for good. He locks horns against the president by filing a nomination to contest in the sarpanch election. Initially, he faces resistance from the locals but eventually, they root for him.
The film looks crisply textured, authentic and is packed with nostalgia. It has enough moments to woo Ram Charan’s fans with hilarious sequences. A few minutes into the film, you may feel shaken at the possibility of watching another complicated story. However, the thrills too are fewer than you’d usually expect from a Sukumar’s film. So, there’s never enough curiosity to keep you consistently invested in the tale. But, it’s a film that centers around village politics and one man standing tall against a demon to attain liberation.
Sukumar tried to strike a balance with an equal measure of heartbreaking and hilarious moments to appease fans and the audience. The story shows a large ensemble of characters of which only a few have the depth and human drama. By the time this film ends, if you really think, some characters end up not much further than where they started. The film keeps you hooked not so much on the strength of its plot, as it does for some interesting characters who dwell on it. The major issue with this film is that it takes too long to reach its destination and also gets sidetracked by a few sentimental detours. The narrative lingers too long in certain sequences which look staged and this takes away some of the fun out of the ride. There is attention to the minute details in the film – like art direction, colour hue and camera that captures the scenic locales as well as the attractive mood of Godavari. The action sequences choreographed by Ram Laxman look brutal and spectacular.
Despite several hiccups, the scene in which Kumar Babu gets killed and his family has an emotional breakdown, extending into a short sequence which depicts the life cycle, succeeds in coming off as a heartfelt and well-intended attempt. Much of the credit should go to Ram Charan for delivering a measured portrayal as Chitti Babu.
He steals the hearts of the audience and his performance is the biggest strength of the film. Samantha is refreshingly natural as she nailed the tenacity of her character. Anasuya, who played the do-gooder Rangammatha, makes her one of the film’s lovable characters. Naresh, Rohini and Poojitha Ponnada played their part well, while Ajay Ghosh and Jagapathi Babu shine in their roles. Pooja Hegde’s special song feels out of place.
The dreamy visuals of Rathnavelu are wonderfully complemented by Devi Sri Prasad’s songs and background score that’s never intrusive. In the end, though, Sukumar weaves his magic wand with an interesting twist and you would suddenly soak in this 80s revenge drama. Rangasthalam could have been a classic had it been edited better. It suffers from lack of pace and novelty in the story. Overall, the film is enriched by its wonderful visuals, spectacular performances from the lead cast and Sukumar’s deft handling of the film’s varied moods.