Vijetha review: Kalyan Dhev's debut is a cliched family drama salvaged by Murali Sharma
For beginners, acting in front of the camera is probably akin to learning how to swim. It’s understandably a nerve-wracking experience to stay afloat and tell yourself that you can do it. In Rakesh Sashi’s Vijetha, newcomer Kalyan Dhev finds himself in one such situation, and, as a result, everything about the film feels like it was done under professional supervision. A tried-and-tested formula, father-son relationship, and an irresponsible son mending his ways for the sake of his family—you might yawn as you read more such phrases, but since it’s a launchpad for Kalyan, it’s what’s called a ‘safe project’ in cinematic parlance.
Instead of pushing him to fight his fear and learn to swim, Rakesh Sashi and rest of the team arm Kalyan with every possible safety gear and slowly place him in a 2 ft deep swimming pool. The stakes are that low. But then, the film finds an unlikely hero in Murali Sharma, who single-handedly makes you root for him and the film, too, to a certain extent.
The film is about Srinivasa Rao (Murali Sharma), who gives up his dream for his family and never complains about anything in life. He loves his son Ram (Kalyan) so much that he fulfills all his wishes even though his son shows no signs of taking up any responsibility in his life. Then, one fine day, Ram gets a reality check about his future which leads him on a different path. The rest of the story is about how he manages to become the ideal son that his father always wanted to see.
If it makes you wonder why Telugu filmmakers are so obsessed with pitching their protagonists as irresponsible youngsters with overbearing and kind-hearted parents, then the answer is simple—Everyone loves an underdog’s story. No wonder the hero almost always changes to become a better person and inspiring everyone around him. In Vijetha, too, Rakesh Sashi follows a similar path, although there’s no space left for inspiration by the time the film ends.
Kalyan Dhev, too, starts off as an underdog whose poor academic performance becomes a huge obstacle when he applies for jobs. But then, since he’s the hero, he’s also full of ideas. One such million dollar idea is to make the art of surprising people into a business model. It’s the in-thing these days, and this sub-plot in the film is tied to the hero’s journey to make his family proud. But then, Surprise!!! None of the surprises that the hero and his gang plan for their clients come as surprise to the audience.
It’s little surprise that everything happens by design, and there’s absolutely no sudden twists and turns in this family drama. You don't anticipate anything, and, least of all, you don't find yourself investing in the hero's journey. Rakesh sets up the conflict in the drama really well, and then throws it away when the second half begins. There’s one scene, shot in the middle of the night, which Murali Sharma nails so well that it almost broke my heart. But then, neither the father nor his son talk about what happened that night and how it changed both of them. The emotional outburst is almost always from Murali Sharma, who anchors the whole film with his mere presence. He has the best lines in the script and, in the end, when he delivers a speech in front of a huge audience, you inadvertently cheer for him. If this isn’t the sign of him being the real winner in the film, then I don’t know what is.
The film’s lack of ambition and drama isn’t the only thing that sticks out like a sore thumb. The romantic track between Kalyan and Malvika Nair is underwritten. It’s little wonder that the two share absolutely no chemistry. Malvika herself has a poorly written character which doesn’t challenge her in any manner. For most part of the film, you end up staring at the screen desperately hoping for Murali Sharma or Thanikella Bharani to share some words of wisdom about life. And once they appear on screen, nothing else matters. For that brief moment of time, it feels like you are watching a film which you want to care about. And the moment the narrative shifts to something else, the film loses both its poignancy and warmth.
They say that life always gives you second chances to fulfill your dreams. Films are no different. Yet, there’s something amiss about this film. It’s so carefully designed to suit a newcomer that it falls flat as it progresses. Maybe you need to fall to rise. But Vijetha doesn’t even try to stumble, which is why its underdog’s story is so bland. A thumbs down for the film, but then, it also proves why Murali Sharma is such a fine actor. He can make even a cliched drama seem emotional.
Updated Date: Jul 13, 2018 12:42:03 IST
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