Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo movie review: Allu Arjun, Murali Sharma shine in Trivikram Srinivas’ heartfelt drama
Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is Allu Arjun and Pooja Hegde's second film together after 2017's Duvvada Jagannadham.
Trivikram Srinivas is a wordsmith of the highest order, and when he’s in great form, everything he writes is like music to the ears. He makes you want to latch on to everything that the characters speak or sing throughout the story. However, in Ala Vaikunthapurramloo, he takes a detour from this path and focuses more on the emotional drama between the characters. More than the witty lines and humour, it’s the depth in the emotional conversations between characters that leave a strong impression.
There’s a beautiful quote from the film where a character named Ramachandra, played by Jayaram, says, “The greatest battles people fight are with those who are closest to them.” You realise the burden of this turmoil when, in another sequence, Ramachandra and his wife (Tabu) finally gather the courage to break their silence. And when they finally open their hearts to each other, Trivikram turns the simple act of forgiveness into one of the most memorable moments in the film. The trick behind the scene lies in the context itself — men don’t apologise for their mistakes and ask for forgiveness so easily, especially in films.
Although the film is still a star vehicle, led by a superb Allu Arjun, Trivikram finds plenty of space to engage the audience with plenty of questions about life, relationships, family, wealth, and happiness. Ala Vaikunthapurramloo is a classy film in every sense, even though it has its share of ups and downs in the narrative, but when it sticks to the emotional thread that Trivikram weaves carefully into the story, it’s heartwarming to say the least.
In the opening sequence, which encompasses the key conflict in the story, Trivikram takes a leaf out of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children. At the stroke of midnight, the fate of two new born babies is interchanged; however, destiny brings them together under unusual circumstances. However, the comparisons between the two works end there, because Trivikram is more interested in exploring how Valmiki’s (Murali Sharma) greed and thirst for wealth has a long-lasting impact on every character whether they know it or not. There’s a lot of subtext to the setting, and every reaction, even when it’s a simple stare, reminds you of the opening sequence and what it has done to the life of the film’s protagonist, Bantu (Arjun). He tells his colleagues that he has never felt what true happiness is like because his father had never shown him love throughout his life. But when Bantu confronts his father for making his life miserable, he doesn’t have the courage to hate him for what his father has done. Without his knowledge, Bantu becomes the cynosure of all eyes in Ramchandra’s family and co-incidentally, his father, Valmiki too works in the same company led by Ramachandra. The rest of the story is all about how Bantu’s life gets intertwined with that of Ramachandra.
In his pursuit for happiness, Bantu comes to terms with the cocooned lives of people he wants to get close to, and he tries to break the walls using a simple mechanism - by calling a spade a spade. This trait of telling the truth lands Bantu in some strange, and often hilarious, sequences where the other characters are dumbfounded by his straightforwardness. Trivikram justifies it saying that when one tells the truth, he’ll be afraid only in that moment, but when one doesn’t, then he will be afraid all the time.
This attitude sets the protagonist apart from the rest of the characters because truth is often bitter and scary to face. His father, Valmiki knows it best, and till the last moment, he refuses to talk about it because the truth might collapse all his dreams. But the truth is what sets Bantu free and he gives a taste of what it feels like to everyone else in his family by the end of the film.
The best part of Ala Vaikunthapurramloo is how well it explores the complex relationship between Valmiki and his son, Bantu. At every stage in his life, Valmiki tells his son that he’s good for nothing because his fate is like that, and when Bantu finally confronts his father for the sin he had committed in the past, Bantu holds himself back because he loves his mother (Rohini) too much. Trivikram invests plenty of time to build up the tension between these characters, and even the scenes are playful between them, you understand the undercurrent of their love-hate relationship. This is what keeps the proceedings so engaging because while Valmiki is scared all the time, Bantu uses his father’s weakness to his advantage as the story unfolds.
For all the beautifully written emotional moments in the film, Ala Vaikunthapurramloo struggles to find its voice, especially in the initial portions. Quite a few times, the film feels uneven and it doesn’t flow seamlessly, and this has largely to do with how Trivikram jumps into a scene without a proper beginning. This also makes the narrative patchy at times, and even the humour feels odd.
The biggest letdown in the film is the romantic track between Arjun and Pooja Hegde. The first time the two actors meet, Arjun can’t stop ogling at Pooja’s legs for so long that it hardly feels romantic as intended. Maybe she knows that he speaks the truth, but that’s no excuse for why the romantic track feels so inorganic, even if the two actors share a great chemistry. Then,
there’s the issue of too many characters who don’t get their proper due and every time, the film moves away from its core strength, it comes across as a distraction.
The truth, however, is that Ala Vaikunthapurramloo brings back Arjun in a new avatar after a long time. His playfulness and the ease with which he has pulled off the role is commendable, and he shines the most in the film’s more dramatic and action-filled moments. The film’s other major highlight is Murali, who is impeccable as a greedy father. His mannerisms and nitpicking attitude is brilliantly written and enacted, and it’s a treat watching the two actors — Arjun and Murali — fight for upmanship in their relationship. Tabu lends gravitas to her short but important role, and Jayaram and Sachin Khedekar are equally good in their respective characters.
PS Vinod captures the lives of the characters in great detail and brings alive the lavishness of the setting through his lens. Thaman is yet another star in the film, whose work is arguably one of the best in his career. At a run time of close to 165 minutes, Ala Vaikunthapurramloo is both entertaining and engaging to a good extent, however, it takes plenty of time before it finds its groove. One could argue a lot about how the pace of the film could have been and if there was a better way to make a bunch of characters be more relevant to the story, but when Trivikram finishes telling the story, he leaves you with a pleasant feeling. And that’s the truth.
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