Disco Raja Movie Review : Ravi Teja is a live wire as the titular character, but the film itself is a big bore
Disco Raja is nearly 150 minutes long, but the only thing one’s likely to remember after watching it is the sight of Ravi Teja putting on his headphones and dancing as if there’s no tomorrow.
In Disco Raja, Ravi Teja plays a Madras-based gangster, who gets into a groove every time he listens to disco music. As long as there’s music in his life, he’s untouchable and puts others in place with his swag and daredevilry. This is the core concept of the film, which gets a sci-fi twist in the beginning of the story. As interesting as the story and Ravi Teja’s characterisation might seem, the film often struggles to find its rhythm. And the problem begins right in the beginning.
Written and directed by Vi Anand, Disco Raja opens in Ladakh, where a man is nearly beaten to death and he’s left alone to die under an avalanche. Elsewhere in New Delhi, we are introduced to a family awaiting the return of its elder son, Vasu (Ravi Teja). Much later, a group of mountaineers unearth a dead body of a man trapped in ice and he’s sent to a secret lab facility, where a group of scientists try to resurrect him back to life. The rest of the story is about tracing the whereabouts of this mystery man.
In 1992, Les Mayfield’s comedy film, Encino Man explored the strange turn of events after a caveman, trapped in ice, is unearthed by a couple of teenagers from their backyard in Los Angeles. They name him Link (Brendan Fraser), and that film went on to explore how this caveman navigates life and cultural changes in the 20th century. It might just be a coincidence, but Disco Raja’s opening segment has an uncanny similarity with that of Encino Man.
Here, the mystery man, once he comes alive, struggles to remember his identity and as two empathetic scientists, played by Tanya Hope and Vennela Kishore, try to help him remember his past, the sci-fi film tries to pay homage to a character like Captain America, who remained frozen in ice for almost 70 years before he comes alive. Again, the coincidence is hard to shake off. However, unlike Captain America, Disco Raja doesn’t have a shield or a mask. His superpower in the story is - Disco music. And when he turns up the volume of his walkman, Disco Raja taps the irreverence and funky music of the ‘80s to unleash his heroic side.
The characterisation of Disco Raja is the soul of the film and Ravi Teja, not surprisingly, revels in it. The film’s best parts are all about Ravi Teja dancing to the rhythm of disco music, even when he’s killing hordes of goons and gangsters mercilessly. And yet, the film is let down by its writing itself, which doesn’t have much to say after revealing how much fun its protagonist has while listening and dancing to disco music. The sci-fi element in the story takes a backseat and soon, Disco Raja enters the realm of a revenge drama, where it turns its focus on the clash between two gangsters. Bobby Simha as Burma Sethu gets little to do in his role, and at no point does it seem like Burma Sethu is Disco Raja’s arch nemesis. Everything gets drowned in disco music, and even the retro theme of the film looks half-baked because we don’t get enough insight into the characters’ lives or their conflicts beyond a certain point.
The film’s first half, in particular, tests your patience and the entire subplot revolving Ravi Teja’s family in Delhi comes across as a big bore. In comparison, the banter between Ravi Teja, Vennela Kishore, and Tanya Hope is the only saving grace to an extent. By the time, we are introduced to the main character, Disco Raja, the film meanders so much that the ‘fun’ part of the film feels more like a consolation rather than a triumph. Nabha Natesh has little to do and her romantic track with Ravi Teja is poorly written, and even the subplot involving Ravi Teja and Payal Rajput doesn’t quite hit the mark.
If there’s anything which works in the film, apart from Ravi Teja being a livewire especially when he’s dancing, it’s Thaman’s music and couple of soundtracks like Rum Pum Bum and Freak Out fit into the film’s narrative quite well. The biggest surprise, however, is Sunil, who makes a sincere effort in his role, but once again it’s the writing which doesn’t let him explore the full potential of the character. Disco Raja is nearly 150 minutes long, but the only thing one’s likely to remember after watching it is the sight of Ravi Teja putting on his headphones and dancing as if there’s no tomorrow.
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