Cast: Sai Dharam Tej, Rakul Preet
Director: Gopichand Malineni
In a film that is supposed to be about horse-racing, the only ones taken for a ride in Gopichand Malineni’s Winner, is the audience. How often have we come out of the theaters wondering why there’s so much predictability in mainstream Tollywood. Those familiar with ‘commercial’ Telugu films know exactly when a song would appear, or a fight would take place – and even the outcome of the fight. But predictability is the least of the problems with Winner. Shoddy filmmaking and a purposeless, disjointed script made sure you have your head in your hands right till the end of the film (if you manage to stay until the end, that is).
Mahender Reddy (Jagapathi Babu) is the son of a business tycoon Dharmender Reddy (Mukesh Rishi), who makes his money through horse-betting (yes, that’s his profession). Mahender marries against his father’s wishes and leaves his lavish bungalow and family business to go away on his own when his father doesn’t approve of their marriage. With his wife passing away, Mahender raises his child Siddharth (Sai Dharam Tej) on his own. To save his business, Dharmendra apologizes to his son and brings him back home. But the conniving businessman, quite bizarrely, plots to separate Mahender from his child, so that he can focus only on his business. He succeeds, with the son running away from home, filled with rage and contempt for his father.
It’s laughable how easily the father-son duo is separated, especially considering the trouble the filmmaker went to show us how close they were in the first place. The writing is absolutely cringe-worthy and lacks even a shred of creativity. And then there is the love story. Siddharth is now a grown man working as the creative head of a newspaper. He hates the mention of race, horses or father in any context.
Siddharth runs into Sitara (Rakul Preet) at a party and falls for her straight away. He first clicks her photos without her permission (creepy and offensive). Then he stalks her (if you’re familiar with Telugu cinema, this shouldn’t surprise you). It turns out she’s an athlete, who wants to win the gold medal. Considering she ‘races’ for a living, Sitara doesn’t exactly fit the bill as an ideal girl for Siddarth. But the poor guy cannot resist. He makes it a point to stalk her, invades her privacy, says the most despicable things about her to her own father, and yet somehow manages to win over her love.
To make things worse, this doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the ludicrous showing on offer. In all formulaic films, even bad ones, there is something enjoyable on offer for the viewers, even if it’s just a few scenes. Sadly, even that isn’t there in Winner, which goes from bad to worse as the film progresses. Be it the cringe-worthy comic scenes involving Prudhviraj as Sujatha Singham (a poor imitation of the half-lion, half-man character) or Ali as Peter Heinze. Even the normally reliable Vennela Kishore struggles to make you laugh.
Sai Dharam does what is expected of a mainstream commercial hero but puts in an unconvincing performance. Rakul is there only to add glamour to the film. It seems she’s an athlete only so that the filmmaker can show her running on the track in skimpily-clad attire. Not to mention how she nearly gets married to someone (before staging a bizarre wedding drama), gets kidnapped by the hero and brought to the venue on the day of the race (apparently to show how much he loves her), and still manages to win the gold medal with effortless ease.
For sheer unintentional humour, Winner might be worth a watch. But even if you go with that intention, by the end of 2 hours and 35 minutes, a headache is inevitable.