Venky Mama movie review: Venkatesh, Naga Chaitanya's chemistry is heartwarming in an otherwise bland drama
Directed by KS Ravindra, Venky Mama deals with themes like kinship, sacrifice, love, and horoscope; however, the narrative fails to evoke a strong emotion that the story aims to achieve.
Venkatesh, Naga Chaitanya-starrer Venky Mama grapples with an unusual problem, which keeps compounding as the story unfolds. The whole concept of the film boils down to how love and bonding within a family can overcome obstacles that life poses at every corner, and that we have the ability to rewrite our destiny, irrespective of what the horoscope says. Horoscope is the villain in the lives of the protagonists in this film, but more than that, the bigger villain is the narrative itself, which is hardly gripping enough to make us care about what’s going to happen to the protagonists. In his attempt to blend humour and sentiment, KS Ravindra (Bobby) turns Venky Mama into a bland drama, where the narrative moves from one set piece to another without leaving a strong impression. No matter how high the stakes are there’s very little to root for.
The film is about Venkatarathnam, also known as Military Naidu (Venkatesh), who’s an influential man in his village. He gives up his dream of joining the army for the sake of his nephew, Karthik (Naga Chaitanya), after the latter’s parents die in a tragic car accident. Much to his own father’s dismay and disapproval, Venkatarathnam decides to take care of Karthik and the two share a strong bond. However, when Karthik turns 24, Venkatarathnam’s father, who’s a famous astrologer, reveals the secret behind why he never wanted Karthik to stay with them. The rest of the story is about how Venkatarathnam defies the odds to protect his nephew.
For all the emotional heft that the film tries to evoke, the best sequence in the film is right at the beginning of the story. The narrative opens with a little backstory about how Karthik’s parents die in an accident and his grandfather (played by Nasser) refuses to accept him as his own grandson because the boy was born to a couple whose horoscopes didn’t match. And just when he’s about to abandon the baby, Venkatarathnam announces to the whole village that he’s going to take care of his nephew. There’s a wide grin on the boy’s face and the very time we hear Karthik speak, he says ‘Mama’. It’s as sentimental as it gets, and it works like magic. However, post this beautifully written and shot sequence, everything goes downhill for Venky Mama.
The humour is often coarse filled with double entendres, and nothing matches up to the initial high that the film story gives. It’s almost as if the backstory was an afterthought, that was added to the film to keep it together. By the time Karthik grows up and decides for himself that he can’t imagine a future without his uncle, the film too is clueless about what it’s trying to do for a long time. The narrative shifts to a template village-based drama that’s replete with cliches and mediocre writing, and at one point of time, you almost end up craving for the faceless villain - horoscope - to unleash its fury just to keep the proceedings interesting. This is a film where Karthik’s ex-girlfriend Harika (Raashi Khanna) mistakes Venkatarathnam for a pervert and KS Ravindra fills the first half of the film with this running gag. There’s even a dialogue describing Venkatarathnam as ‘Ramaraj cotton vesukunna kamaraju’, and we are expected to laugh at this. Maybe, by this point, the joke is on us. Perhaps, it was the horoscope itself which was leaving plenty of hints about what to expect from the film.
It’s a million-dollar question why the film’s biggest strength - the usage of horoscope as a villain - isn’t used much earlier to change the course of the story. And by the time, the story moves into its predetermined zone, it turns so predictable that you begin to wonder if there’s anything else that’s interesting in this drama. As a matter of fact, there’s a parallel track of Venkatarathnam going to Kashmir in search of Karthik. It begins well and there’s intrigue in this subplot, but by the time we are told what happened to Karthik, it feels a tad underwhelming. Then, there’s the other romantic track between Venkatarathnam and Vennela (Payal Rajput), a Hindi teacher who comes to the village. And no, this subplot too doesn’t make the film any interesting.
Despite the bland narrative, the only thing which keeps us going is the genuine affection that Venkatesh and Naga Chaitanya shower on each other. The writing might have let them down, but their efforts to bring their real-life relationship to big screen percolates into every frame. In a film where nothing stands out, this visual of a real-life mama-alludu standing next to each other, promising to take care of each other is the only thing that makes a difference.
This isn’t a film where one can judge how well an actor has performed, when the writing and treatment leaves a lot to be desired. The film rushes through some of its major set-pieces and there’s hardly a build up to moments where you might end up crying. The film just doesn't deliver what it sets out to achieve, and we are left to be content with bits and pieces of emotional sequences between Venkatesh and Naga Chaitanya. Venky Mama could have been so much more than what it is, but it's a missed opportunity!
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