'Raju Yadav' movie review: A lacklustre, pointless film steeped in misogyny

The Getup Srinu starrer has all the stereotypical traits of a regressive Telugu film, too obsessed with its self-pitying protagonist, with barely any redeeming elements
A still from the film
A still from the film

They say art often makes you question things about life and yourself. After some point in the second half of Raju Yadav, I frequently found myself questioning a few things: What is the seemingly intrinsic connection between self-pity and misogyny? How problematic does a Telugu film hero have to be before the director turns a critical eye upon him? And most importantly, how can two hours feel this long?

The plot of Raju Yadav revolves around its titular protagonist, Raju (Getup Srinu), a 26-year-old unemployed man living in the town of Mahabubnagar, merely 100 km away from Hyderabad. Raju’s life takes a drastic turn when he suffers a facial damage, after an accident and is treated by an incapable doctor, leaving him with an irreversibly smiley face at all times. Raju becomes the laughingstock of his neighbourhood even as he struggles to make peace with his renewed identity and move on to a better life. That is when Raju meets Sweety (Ankita Kharat), a strong-headed girl working at a college, and falls head over heels for her. How Raju decides to pursue Sweety, and how the decision changes his life altogether forms the crux of the story.

The biggest sin Raju Yadav commits is in offering us a protagonist who has no redeeming qualities to begin with. The accident that sets the plot in motion is rather tragic, so we feel sad for Raju for a while. But director Krishnamachary K keeps us confused and guessing about many things: Is Raju an intelligent man, merely hindered by his circumstances? What’s stopping him from applying for jobs? Is his medical condition a deterrent to him finding employment?

Also, Raju’s smiley face condition might be the novelty element of this film, but it has nothing to do with the film’s prime conflict, as we realise eventually. In a tender moment, Sweety admits that it’s Raju’s ever-jolly face that she likes the most about him. However, this admission doesn’t add to our understanding of either of these characters or their evolving relationship. Raju’s love life would probably be as miserable with or without his medical condition. The unconditional smiley face, then remains a gimmick at best.

It’s even more disingenuous how Krishnamachary never explores Sweety’s state of mind or reasoning for her change of heart. At one point, Sweety confronts Raju and slaps him after the latter obtains her phone number in a cringe-inducingly deceitful manner, This moment makes us momentarily hopeful about the film’s intentions in terms of examining its protagonist. Every time Sweety rejects Raju’s overtures early in the film or reminds him of their ‘just friends’ status, you go along with the film. However, Sweety’s actions become increasingly indecipherable once Raju decides to come to Hyderabad in her pursuit.

Raju Yadav makes no attempt to maintain balance in its narrative as we proceed further, indulging its doomed protagonist in his self-pity. You cannot root for characters who you don’t understand – Raju Yadav fails on this basic level, remaining a lopsided and trite exercise in pandering to the more conservative among male audience. The plot simply stops moving after a point, and all we are offered is repetitive visuals of Raju plunging himself deep into the pits of self-pity and self-destruction until the audience themselves begin rooting for a drastic turn of events that would end things once and for all.

There are brief, fleeting moments in Raju Yadav where things make sense—the deliberate excess of dream sequences, showcasing how some characters prefer to live in a parallel imagination, instead of facing the real world. Even the introductory song for Raju has a pleasant quality, capturing the protagonist’s tragicomic plight, but these pleasures are few and far too infrequent to matter.

Even the sub-plots in Raju Yadav offer no respite from its insensitive portrayal of women. While Raju is trying to find ways to bump into Sweety after their first meeting, one of Raju’s friends agrees to ride an autorickshaw in the hopes of finding a girlfriend for himself. The friend evaluates the women sitting behind him one at a time, in an objectifying gaze. There are plenty of other moments where the camera unnecessarily fixates on women’s bodies, always reminding the audience of the distance between the filmmaker and female characters in the film.

The subject of Raju holding a substantially lower place in society than Sweety comes up only in the final segment. Like a lot of Telugu cinema from older times, Raju Yadav attempts to garb its misogyny under the guise of a class-struggle conscience.

In a way, I was glad that the director pulled out all the stops in the climactic sequence. This is when Raju Yadav is most efficient in conveying a message about the rich’s exploitation of the underprivileged. It is a pity that the director only chooses the most regressive and archaic tropes possible to make his point.

Raju Yadav

Cast: Getup Srinu, Ankita Kharat, Ananda Chakrapani, RJ Hemant, Rocket Raghava

Director: Krishnamachary K

Rating: 1.5

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