Valmiki review | Movie lost in translation, fails to keep up with 'Jigarthanda'

In the end, the film can be considered watching once, even if it isn’t as fully satisfying as Harish’s previous films.
Telugu film 'Valmiki' poster.
Telugu film 'Valmiki' poster.

Varun Tej-starrer Valmiki went through a title change hours before the release after Boya Hakkula Porata Samithi’s umbrage to the former title. The producers and the director Harish Shankar have succumbed to the pressure and have renamed it to Gaddalakonda Ganesh.

A remake of Tamil gangster drama Jigarthanda, the film charts the story of an aspiring director Abhilash (Atharvaa Murali), who wants to make a movie on a violent gangster, Gaddalakonda Ganesh (Varun Tej), but faces several hardships before making the cut.

ALSO READ | 'Jigarthanda' is my favourite film, 'Valmiki' will not veer too far from the original: Harish Shankar

During the journey, he learns that to succeed in the craft of art, one needs to ‘adjust’ in life.  The film is also Harish’s tribute for the love of cinema and the film industry. 

In one of the first scenes, when Abhilash is determined to make a film on a gangster, a cop questions him that why do film directors portray criminals in larger-than-life roles?

His response is: films are meant to entertain the audience and he doesn’t believe in the notion that the viewers take the message in them seriously. We should interpret that it’s Harish who is speaking through Abhilash’s character.

There is also a reference to director Ram Gopal Varma for bringing to life the story of every gangster with his films without letting any opportunity for the upcoming directors to follow suit. He uses Bujjamma (Mrinalini Ravi) as his pawn to get closer to Ganesh. 

Harish has commercialised Gaddalakonda Ganesh with all the trappings of a Tollywood potboiler. He has made some changes to the original especially when it comes to the backstory of Ganesh.

He created Sridevi (Pooja Hegde)’s role and her love track with Ganesh looks insipid and forgettable. He also made sincere efforts to make Varun Tej look ferocious, evil and heroic.

Ganesh doesn’t harass women but enjoys killing people, who challenge his capabilities and question his ideologies. He is also emotional and is equally vulnerable. His mother loathes him for being an authoritarian. How the worlds of Abhi and Ganesh meet is a story to watch out for.  

ALSO READ: Title of ‘Valmiki’ film changed after Boya Hakkula Porata Samithi's plea in high court 

In his interviews leading up to Gaddalakonda Ganesh’s release, Harish Shankar has asserted that the film is not a frame-by-frame remake, but he has retained the soul and spirit of the original incorporating his brand of ‘entertainment’.

I believe entertainment is a different thing to different people. Some may enjoy seeing fascinating characters that deliver witty one-liners in the simplest moments and others might like dramas with rich emotional moments, thrilling action, loud dialogues and high-voltage performances.

The point is that they both need to co-exist if you wish to make a smart film to satisfy all sections of people. What if your film is packaged with forced humour that doesn’t have the desired impact on the audience and is largely boring due to its inconsistent narration?

The result would be Gaddalakonda Ganesh. The promising premise that had you hooked, in the beginning, gets lost somewhere in all those long and overblown portions that seem unnecessarily contrived, repetitive and involve more talk than action. 

The director could have made it crispier with the slightest hint of urgency and nail-biting tension.

The much-hyped Velluvachi Godaramma, a remix of the celebratory song of the 80s featuring Sobhan Babu and Sridevi, pales in comparison with the original. 

The film’s flabby second half introduces to a motley of characters, and you realise that you no one gets any character depth and human drama from a film that heavily relies on action and drama.

Varun Tej is in fine form and seems to have found his calling in a negative role. His scene with the goons – particularly in the interval sequence is one of the best moments in the film.

Atharvaa Murali lends credibility to his role and effortlessly steals the show on par with Varun. Here’s hoping to see him more often in Telugu cinema.

Mrinalini Ravi, the debutante goes missing midway through the film, only to show up in the penultimate scene, but with little to do.

Annapurnamma is consistent and so is Tanikella Bharani as a projector operator who failed to live his dreams in the tinsel town. Sathya has played this kind of role many times and he is alright.

For someone who had watched the original, which has attained a cult status among the viewers, I think Harish Shankar needed to be fleshed out better before making the translation.

With better writing, Gaddalakonda Ganesh might have been a crackling gangster film. In the end, the film can be considered watching once, even if it isn’t as fully satisfying as Harish’s previous films.

Movie: Gaddalakonda Ganesh
Cast: Varun Tej, Atharvaa, Pooja Hegde
Director: Harish Shankar
Ratring: 2.5/5

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