Movie: Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava
Cast: Jr NTR, Pooja Hegde, Jagapathi Babu
Direction: Trivikram Srinivas
Telugu cinema has an obsession with films which are set against the hinterlands of Rayalaseema. From Preminchukundam Raa to Katamarayudu, we have seen several films showing two warring groups striving to gain supremacy over the region by resorting to personal attacks and making pitiful sacrifices. For decades, these faction films have served as a paradigm to redefine heroism and a platform to break box office records. After a brief hiatus, Trivikram Srinivas, known for his light-hearted family entertainers, has moved out of his comfort zone to tell a story rooted in the land of faction as a new premise through Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava.
He tells the story of two war-ridden families controlled by Kommaddi’s Narapu Reddy (Naga Babu) and Nallagudi’s Basi Reddy (Jagapathi Babu). Their enmity habitually spills onto the streets when members of either camp encounter the other. Blood is spilt, blows and curses are exchanged and it goes on and on to settle an old score.
When Narapu Reddy’s son Veera Raghava Reddy (Jr NTR) comes back to his village, a hot-headed Basi Reddy and party creates mayhem and the youngster also steps into the ring to vanquish his opponents. The director wonderfully symbolises the emotional upheaval of Veera Raghava, who was stuck between vengeance and finding inner peace and purpose of life, had to carry through the rest of the life. All he needs is guidance and he gets the first clarion call from his sobbing Jeji (Supriya Pathak), who talks about how violence has become a part of the family and urging him to walk away from this bloodbath and bring peace in the region like a real man.
However, it isn’t easy to be a peacemonger when you are still seething with revenge to avenge a personal loss. Sensing that he might be drawn into violence, Raghava leaves his village. He subdues his anger and befriends Aravinda (Pooja Hegde), who pursues the anthropological study of factionalism. Raghava gets his second clarion call from her and he seeks the help of a politician to broker peace between the two warring factions.
The first half is predictable and the screenplay is on the slower side. Some of the comedy sequences and the romantic number (Ananganaga) are passable, while Thaman’s background score remains riveting. Naresh’s performance as Aravinda’s father is reminiscent of the roles played by Prakash Raj.
The second half is the soul of the film and is a winner on umpteen counts. Trivikram, as a director and writer, has shown his class with emotional and thoughtful dialogues.
In one of the scenes that got maximum applause from the audience, NTR sprays iron spikes with a drilling machine on the goons and in no time, controls his anger, says sorry to his enemy for the mistakes happened in the past. Trivikram has allowed his protagonist to play to the gallery with clap-trap dialogues (in Rayalaseema dialect) and gave him many scenes to let his intense eyes talk a lot more. The much-talked Penimiti song lives up to its promise and complements the mood of the film. On the flip side, the director could have done with some serious pruning, especially in its first half. Nevertheless, it’s a pleasure to see Trivikram Srinivas striking the right note after a lull.
As for performances, Jagapathi Babu once again reminds us how good an actor he is. Subhlaleka Sudhakar, Rao Ramesh, Naga Babu, Eeswari Rao, Eesha Rebba and Supriya Pathak made their presence felt. It’s riveting to see Sunil and Naveen Chandra in meatier roles and they have come out with effective performances.
Overall, ASVR is more engaging than typical Jr NTR’s commercial potboilers, if only because it provides an idealistic solution from the perspective of its strong female characters and has its heart in the right place.