Somewhere in the heart of Rayalaseema’s scorched landscape lives a man revered by the village folk more than the rural deity. He subjects a philanderer to a large hammer, convinced that his broken bones will make him realise the worth of his wife. Ram Gopal Varma’s Rowdy is yet another tribute to The Godfather. Varma has captured the hostility of Seema in Rakhta Charitra earlier, but this is Sarkar redux in the Seema milieu. Varma hasn’t worried much about the story — he’s mixed elements of Sarkar and Sarkar Raj — and perhaps hoped that Mohan Babu and son Vishnu will shoulder the film and make it as enamouring as Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan did in Hindi.
Rowdy unfolds in a pattern Varma’s faithful audience (he does have ardent followers who hope the director will rise above the debacles in the last few years) is familiar with. Mohan Babu doles out vigilante justice but adheres to principles, like the previous ‘Sarkars’ in Varma’s films. In addition, he insists on ‘respect’ and uses the word far too many times to keep count. There’s a wastrel of an elder son, similar to Kay Kay Menon in Sarkar. The younger son remains faithful to his father and is content to be in his shadows until it’s necessary for him to act. The women in films inspired by The Godfather are not pushovers. So we see Jayasudha calling the shots at home and support Mohan Babu in crisis. These are the better of the characters one has come to expect in a Varma film. There are the unpleasant predictable characters as well, with peculiar quirks. One loves to flash his teeth to the camera (Tanikella Bharani is capable of better stuff), another loves to stuff cake into his face at any given opportunity and occasionally chooses a fruit!
The background score and cinematography are, again, what one has to come to dread in Varma’s films. The background score (Sai Karthik) suddenly gets louder with a liberal chant of mantras and at other times mellows down and subtly complements the drama. The camera thankfully doesn’t whirl like it did in some of RGV’s recent films but occasionally, the annoying angles pop up. In some places, the camera seems to have been placed near Mohan Babu’s feet and in others, one gets to see sidekicks filmed from in between several other legs.
The film is helped hugely by good performances from Mohan Babu, Vishnu and Jayasudha. This is one of Vishnu’s better performances till date and he looks convincing when he tries to show restrained aggression. Jayasudha performs with ease and is never overshadowed by the men folk. While Varma can be commended for channelising Mohan Babu’s aggression in an apt role, one wish he hadn’t made the actor say ‘respect’ so many times that it becomes a joke.
Rowdy is one of the better films from Varma is recent times but offers nothing new in content.
Cast: Mohan Babu, Vishnu Manchu, Jayasudha and Shanvi
Directed by: Ram Gopal Varma
Music: Sai Karthik
Story: Mishmash of previous RGV films.
Bottomline: A cocktail of Sarkar and Sarkar Raj, presented with ‘respect’