Director Sudheer Varma, during his many interactions with the media, has made it clear that he is fond of crime stories and owed his inspirations to the films he’s consumed as a viewer. He also endorsed that his latest release Ranarangam is a screenplay-based gangster drama inspired by The Godfather Part II and several other foreign films. And reasonably so, the title credits of director Sudheer Varma’s latest offering begin with a popular line from Fight Club (1999) – Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. So, there’s nothing to crib about and no need to do any postmortem after stepping out of theatres about the scenes/narrative style/characters he has liberally borrowed from.
Sudheer Varma revisits the familiar tale of a young man who rises up the ranks of a crime syndicate from the underbelly of a city’s illegal trade. It’s not a film with a unique storyline and a narration interlaced with nail-biting tension, edge-of-the-seat moments, thrills, suspense and an anti-climax that leaves butterflies in your stomach. Paced as a gangster drama, Ranarangam is a predictable story that stays true to its genre for the most part.
The film quickly establishes Sharwanand’s character as a suave, strong-willed and silent brooder who knows how to finish a job. He is a Spain-based rich man, who spends his quality time with his teen. He is living there for a reason, but he has some unfinished job that was part of his dubious past.
The screenplay jumps back and forth in time, going back to young Deva (Sharwanand), a black ticket seller, who, along with his friends (Raja Chembolu, Sudarshan and Adarsh Balakrishna) decides to smuggle alcohol in and out of the prohibition state of Andhra Pradesh under NT Ramarao’s regime in 1995.
Impressed by the spike in profits, he sets out to start his own business and crosses path with the local MLA Simhachalam (Murali Sharma), who also runs a similar trade. He expands his business on the strength of his quick thinking and kind-hearted, sympathetic nature. Within no time, he becomes a magnetic figure in his trade. There’s no gangster story without romance and this gangster too falls head-over-heels to a college student Gita (Kalyani Priyadarshan), whom he tells the truth of his ‘illegal’ profession.
The film benefits largely from Diwakar Mani’s camera work which delightfully brings in visual aesthetic to the narrative. The tacky neon glow accompanied by a melodious soundtrack and catchy dialogues, the film looks like a throwback to those fine noir films of the 80s. One cannot stop acknowledging the director’s efforts for recreating the 90s Visakhapatnam with authenticity. Sudheer stages some compelling scenes – the rolling-pin fight and elevator fights, stealing liquor carton boxes on a running train and innovative ways to smuggle alcohol from Orissa.
However, I somehow feel distracted as the layers in the story are peeled one by one at a snail’s pace. In fact, Ranarangam is a film propelled by its characters and their motivations without any emotional depth and which is why the script fails to arouse any sympathy for its protagonist.Sharwanand has put in his best efforts to fit into a role that that leaves you wanting for more. (Maybe a sequel, Sudheer?). He is a man of few words and relies on his body language than histrionics. Kalyani Priyadarshan as a straight-talking and feisty Sita effortlessly slip under the skin of her character.
And wait, Kajal Aggarwal too exists in this film and although she looks fine, she is relegated to a role that’s too inconsequential. Murali Sharma shines in a role that’s unmistakably reminiscent of Kamal Haasan (as GK Rayudu) in Indrudu Chandrudu (1989). The film has a spotlight on Raja Chembolu, Sudarshan, Brahmaji, Ajay and Adarsh Balakrishna in supporting characters.Despite Sharwa’s effervescence and several enjoyable and funny moments, Ranarangam never quite hits the mark or lives up to the expectations set by its predecessors in the world of gangster dramas.
Cast: Sharwanand, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Kajal Aggarwal