George Reddy — Man of Action movie review: Earnest biopic has noble intentions, and middling writing

Hemanth Kumar

Nov 22, 2019 14:33:32 IST

2.5/5

Directed by Jeevan Reddy, George Reddy — A Man Of Action, is an earnest attempt to recreate the life of the former Osmania University student leader, who was killed in 1972, for a new generation of moviegoers. And so, the story is structured as a series of vignettes shared by people who knew him from his college days.

The character driving this narrative forward is a documentary filmmaker, whose grandmother knew George in college. She wants the complete picture about who George Reddy was, what he fought for, what he stood for, and why he was murdered. This narrative technique, which has been used in films like Mahanati, is a clever move because it helps Jeevan Reddy to only focus on those segments of George Reddy’s life that people still talk about. At the same time, the narrative doesn’t let Jeevan explore the man behind the legend, and thus the film itself falls short of being compelling.

 George Reddy — Man of Action movie review: Earnest biopic has noble intentions, and middling writing

Poster for George Reddy — Man of Action

The film starts with George Reddy’s childhood in Kerala, and during this phase, he becomes quite inquisitive about the world around him. His mother encourages him to learn martial arts, stories about freedom fighters; once he grows into an adult, she tells him to read books about the Russian revolution, among other things. When the story shifts to Hyderabad, we are told that George Reddy joined his brother, who was already studying in Osmania University (OU).

Apart from being a brilliant student, George was also empathetic towards the state of his fellow students, especially from a poor background and backward castes. He would always come to their rescue whenever they got into a fight with other student factions on campus. The political climate on campus is electric with two opposing factions fighting for supremacy, and in this scenario, George Reddy unites and inspires hundreds of students to support a new union that he initiates. The rest of the story is about how George Reddy becomes a beacon of hope for students who have had enough with politicians and goons interfering with issues on campus.

The context of the setting and its backdrop is important to get a real sense of why George Reddy became so popular among the students on OU campus during his time. Jeevan Reddy makes no bones about the discrimination, based on caste, class and even religion, that students had faced back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And when George Reddy joins the university, the friction between different student groups reaches boiling point.

In one scene, a fight breaks out between two groups because a student complains about the poor quality of food served to students on the basis of their caste. That’s not it. Even when seniors rag juniors, once again, it’s their caste and background determines what sort of treatment they get. If this wasn’t enough, the campus is also infested with a lot of anti-social elements who throw their weight around.

Amidst all this, George Reddy’s rise as a student leader became inevitable, especially when he spoke up for an entire sect of the students who were angry because of years of oppression. In him, his fellow students saw hope and a strong leader who would raise his voice to fight back. As far as this aspect of George’s life and times is concerned, director Jeevan Reddy does a pretty good job in projecting a larger-than-life image of the student leader in the film, which itself is inspired by true events in George Reddy’s life.

Yet, the film is quite confused about how to stay true to its story and how it wants the current audience to make sense of the events of the past. As a story, the film loses its spark soon after it lays bare the issues that the protagonist had been fighting for and thereafter, it’s reduced to a series of montages. In its attempt to raise the stakes for its lead character, the film sacrifices its inherent drama. The conversations dry up quickly and what we get, as the story unfolds, is an underwhelming narrative that quickly loses its emotional connect. The editing is haphazard in places and the character arcs too jump abruptly.

In the end, the film doesn’t quite manage to humanise its characters beyond the stereotypes, and its few sparkling moments quickly fade away.

One of the best things about the film, however, is its peppy background score by Harshvardhan Rameshwar, who gives a distinct feel for the setting. The heroism of the lead character is depicted through a combination of a bunch of slick action sequences and a rousing background score. Sandeep Madhav shines in the lead role and he’s quite earnest as the student leader who led a huge fight against injustice both within and outside the campus. Among other key characters, Abhay Bethiganti stands out with his fiery portrayal of a student who’s always angry. The supporting actors alongside Sandeep Madhav make a strong impression.

For all its noble intentions and an earnest attempt to recreate the life of George Reddy, the film is let down by its writing and also, staging of its sequences. The characters themselves, with a select few exceptions like Sandeep, Abhay, and the actors who played Lallan Singh and Lakshman respectively, are reduced to sidekicks with no major character progression. There’s so much one can write or talk about what George Reddy stood for and what he fought against, but the film itself veers into a different territory where it focuses on its character’s turbulent life on the OU campus.

One of the most inspiring sequences in the film is a speech delivered by George Reddy where he urges the students to raise their voice. You can see that a revolution is imminent and it’s the crux of the film. In the end, you can’t help but think that, perhaps, that inspiring speech and the man who delivered it deserved a better film.

Watch the trailer here —

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2019 14:33:32 IST