Mister movie review : Sreenu Vaitla's attempt to 'reinvent' his style is a chaotic mess
Varun Tej, Lavanya and Hebah Patel find themselves in a chaotic mess titled 'Mister', directed by Sreenu Vaitla, which drains the audience in the end
There are bad films and terrible films. But Sreenu Vaitla's latest film Mister falls in a different category. It made me feel angry and helpless. The whole experience of having to make sense of what's happening in the film is akin to running a marathon in the scorching heat of Hyderabad. It drains you out midway, but you keep pushing yourself to keep moving hoping that things get better. It doesn't.
Since 'un'seeing the film is not an option for me, let's all take a trip to La La Land, far far away from this galaxy, where filmmaker Sreenu Vaitla and the characters that inhabit his cinematic world live an alternative life. If I could re-imagine what Sreenu Vaitla might do in this parallel universe, he might very well be a chef. He loves cooking his trademark dish which has every possible ingredient available in the market. And after all these years of making the same dish over and over again, he has become adept at throwing all the ingredients in the broth and leave the rest to fate. Turns out that the process worked like magic for the longest time. But there's a catch. The broth feels all too familiar now. It's lost its magic touch.
So, why am I talking about food when this was supposed to be a movie review? Because there are plenty of similarities between the art of cooking and filmmaking. The science behind creating something out of thin air is similar, figuratively. And everything is in the hands of the creator — to be the judge of his creation. Having said that, I doubt what Gordon Ramsay would say about this latest porridge. It's a mess, to be honest. There's too much of everything. You don't understand why something was added in the first place. If the whole idea was to make it look appealing, then all those hopes vanish the minute you take the first bite. In Mister's case, this illusion shatters within the first 20 minutes of the film. You begin to feel your eyes roll trying to figure out where it's going. Yes, the film is quite unpredictable, but not in a good way.
Watching a Sreenu Vaitla's film feels like entering into a maze without a map in your hand. You are supposed to just go with the flow, laugh at the comic situations, and not think about the turns you take to get out of the maze. In the end, when the end credits roll, the thrill and the fun element of having to walk through the maze is supposed to make up for all the confusion that your mind goes through. In the past, the thrill lasted for a long time and there have been quite a few films which kept us hooked throughout the process. Not anymore. And his latest film Mister is the most complicated maze he has created where things just happen without any reason.
The film has an array of actors which is almost the size of a mini-batalion and there are these rival gangs, who keep chasing the lead characters till it drains our visual sensory system. It's supposed to be a 'road' film where they encounter multiple characters, who are all inter-linked to each other in some way or another. But then, the focus is elsewhere. Rather than keeping the proceedings engaging, Sreenu Vaitla and his team of writers introduce us to newer concepts which are bizarre at best. For instance, there's a big subplot about a village which is stuck in time and everyone still follows the customs of Krishnadevaraya, the emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire. The director also invests plenty of time to tell us how the lives of some of the characters are in danger, but the strong concoction of comedy and emotion doesn't quite gel well. It comes across as farce.
At its core, the story is about a happy-go-lucky guy Chai (Varun Tej), who goes to India to help Meera (Hebah Patel). In the process, he also end up meeting Chandramukhi (Lavanya) and….okay…I'll stop here because a lot of stuff happens here and I don't even know where to start and stop.
Since Chai, Meera and Chandramukhi encounter colourful characters, we are introduced to a trio — a director and his two assistants. The three go deep in the hills for story discussions and soon, they meet Chai which doesn't lead to anything. The point is, everything you see in the film, is a distraction. You are supposed to invest your energy into empathising with a character who vanishes right at the moment another character appears. In the end, you are left clueless about who's helping whom and why someone needs to exists in the film in first place.
There's a scene in the film where a director takes a dig at the writer for being out-of-touch for films being made these days in Tollywood and their assistant criticises both of them saying they've lost their judgement on scripts. I'm not sure if the writers of this film were taking a sly dig at their peers in the industry, but the joke is clearly on them. The biggest contribution that this film makes is add one more page to the never-ending pop-culture references in Sreenu Vaitla's films.
Mister is indeed a big change and different compared to Sreenu Vaitla's career. But it's not in the direction which would make us want to admire his touch of brilliance that made him who he is in the first place. More than anything, the film serves as a reminder that you could shoot in the most breathtaking locales of Ooty, Chikmagalur and Spain, but if you have nothing interesting to say then what's the whole point of the journey. It is a maze which will challenge you at every turn. Good luck figuring it out.
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