It’s not the cuss words or kisses that create effect in Arjun Reddy. It’s the absolute raw and real emotions that gets its point through. As many said, it’s a landmark film in Telugu Cinema.
In one of the best scenes from Arjun Reddy, the grandmother played by veteran actress Kanchana garu says, “Suffering is personal. Let him (Arjun) suffer.” This line pretty much sums up the film. It’s Arjun’s journey, his love, his heart break, his rise and fall as a person. It felt like a biopic of a person with his love story at the core.
The story is like any other boy-meets-girl kind. Arjun is a final year medical student in Mangalore medical college who has angry management issues. Preeti (Shalini) is a fresher. He meets her and what follows is that warning to juniors which we saw in the trailer. After few years, things go wrong and Preeti gets married to someone else and Arjun becomes Devadas. Well, a modern one with all kinds of “high” things. Though Arjun screws up his life with drugs and alcohol, he respects only one thing in his life – his profession. He’s one of the best doctors. How he rises again and did he ever meet Preeti again is the rest of the story.
The basic storyline is something we are quite familiar with, given that we’ve been watching these kind of movies for a long time (from Devdas to Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D). But what makes Arjun Reddy special is the way Sandeep wrote the characters and their emotions. There’s rarely a moment created for dramatic effect. Every emotion felt real and that is the USP of this film. If not for those, 3 hours would’ve felt way too long which generally is the case with long masala movies with unnecessary comedy track and misplaced songs. But, here’s someone who’s filled those 180 odd minutes with strong content and pulls you to his (Arjun’s) world and be invested in it for that long. It’s a rare feat which hasn’t happened anytime in the recent past.
To bring life to this crazy character called Arjun Reddy, an actor too should be that crazy. Vijay Deverakonda! What an amazing performance!! He has an impeccable command on screen which only few actors have. I can’t imagine an actor who’d do such a daring character without any vanity, especially the interval where he loses bladder control after drugs and pees in his pants. He’s there in almost every frame and never did he hit a false note or does something over the top. His anger, his heart break and his tears.. all felt real. This is a gem of a performance and for a guy who’s 3 films old, it’s a remarkable achievement. Shalini is also good. Though she has an underwritten initial part, it’s after she actually falls in love with him is when her performance starts making impact. During the breakup scene outside her house (which is shown in trailer) and the climax, she really matched up with Vijay. Also, their long distance relationship montage is one of the best of the film.
No discussion on this film is complete without mentioning this wonderful performer named Rahul Ramakrishna who played Shiva, Arjun’s friend. He’s one friend we all badly need. Shiva reminded me of Kaushik from Pelli Choopulu. Even in the most depressing moments, he provides humour like one ray of hope in life. I was first introduced to his acting when Tharun Bhascker visited our campus as part of our film analysis course with his short film “Sainma”. I absolutely loved his performance in that. It feels good to see him shine on big screen.
Coming to the soundtrack by Radhan, from the classical song which plays in the radio when Arjun first sees Preeti to that angry theme (which is going to be my ringtone), Arjun Reddy is musically brilliant. It also reinstates the fact that silences should be allowed in background score rather than just underlining every emotion and every action with deafening noise. I feel he’s the Amit Trivedi of Telugu. Most underrated and not well utilised by filmmakers. Hope this film changes things. Cinematography by Raju Thota is apt for the film. My favourite shot is the interval where the camera is upside down which shows how Arjun’s life started flipping at that moment.
Arjun as a character is consistent throughout. He is a deeply problematic alpha male (or basically an asshole if you want to call him that). But Preethi at the beginning feels somewhat under written like the scene where Arjun kisses her in their second meeting and she doesn’t say/do anything. She felt more like Leela and Arjun felt like Varun from Kaatru Veliyidai. Arjun is surely flawed with his anger management issues but that gives a real/unpolished look to this film. For most of his mistakes, the consequences are shown unlike the regular commercial movies where hero is literally god and whatever ridiculous shit he does is for the good! Sure, there’s romanticisation of his bad behaviour but he did suffer for most of his mistakes.
It’s an outstanding debut by Sandeep. The detail in sound mixing is surprising for a telugu movie standard. He is the director to watch out for and perhaps someone who can bring a revolution like Ram Gopal Varma. I haven’t witnessed the phenomenon of Shiva when it released but I think it’s safe to tell my next generation that I did witness Arjun Reddy.
Arjun is surely not a likeable person or someone I’d want around me but I liked Arjun Reddy as a film for its soundtrack, emotions and of course Vijay Devarakonda.
I’m going with 4 stars.