'Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo' and 'Sarileru Neekevvaru': Big-budget planning masterclass

It is no longer about how long a film stays in the theatres, but what it manages to collect in the first few days

For fans, a festival is when their favourite hero’s film is released. With footfall to theatres receding fast, producers bankrolling big-budget projects scour calendars to schedule the release of their films during festivals, that ensure at least four holidays including a weekend. It’s no longer about how many weeks a film runs. It’s about how much a film can collect in a few days banking on the fanatical following. In fact, the most common excuse these days with families who’re not die-hard fans is, "Wait for a couple of weeks and we can watch it at home."

Producers of prospective blockbusters are in a precarious, perilous state these days because if the film flops only they lose unless they’ve sold the film outright. So planning is crucial. Two favourite times of the year in the South are Pongal/ Sankranthi and Deepavali. When the release of a Rajinikanth-starrer is announced, producers in all the South Indian industries are wary. Such is the box-office power the man still exudes.

This January apparently it was decided that ‘Ala Vaikuntapuramlo’ starring Allu Arjun and ‘Sarileru Neekevvaru’ boasting Mahesh Babu would release on the same day as ‘Darbar’ and may the best man win, because with stars... it’s always about them. Rajini’s film was released two days prior to the other two, meaning more shows in more halls.

Trivikram Srinivas whose ‘Ala Vaikuntapuramlo’ was released a couple of days later, is known to deliver when he works with superstars since he doesn’t seem to be overawed by their presence and knows what will excite their fans. He’s had a chequered career, but stars have enough faith in him and he’s bounced back after disasters. He selects interesting titles too. Trivikram goes back to cradle swapping for his latest with Allu Arjun. The film stutters in the first half but settles down to serious business in the second with the hero realising he’s in the wrong place. Heroes in Telugu films living in a stranger’s house and repairing troubled situations and broken hearts while vanquishing villains is a proven formula in itself. That’s what happens here too. The difference is that the heroine lives elsewhere. It’s an Allu Arjun film, so the heroine has little to do. When Trivikram is stuck with the proceedings he makes Allu Arjun dance to various hit songs in a boardroom. Of course, there are his uncle Chiranjeevi’s numbers and the proud nephew doesn’t forget to mention Chiru is a dancer non pariel. Allu Arjun carries the film on his shoulders with his effortless dancing, dialogue delivery and attitude which more than compensates his average physical presence.

'Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo' and 'Sarileru Neekevvaru': Big-budget planning masterclass

Mahesh Babu, I think, changed the Telugu hero’s attire from flashy costumes to casual, comfortable wear with sober colours. The title ‘Sarileru Neekevvaru’ has a double meaning. It’s supposed to be about the armed forces but for fans it describes their hero perfectly. Telugu directors have an uncanny ability to tick all the boxes that’ll satiate fans, have families sniffling into their kerchiefs and the icing is that the director whips up the right amounts of nationalistic fervor. Again we have the hero going to stay with a friend’s family and helping them with all their problems which includes beating the scum of the earth to pulp, even one hundred at a time. Only in our films does the hero react in slow motion when summoned to look into a dire situation like diffusing a bomb! Also, the heroine falls all over the leading man begging him to marry her while continuously praising his physique, especially fair skin.

The main advantage of nepotism in the film industry, is that star sons earn while they learn. While Allu Arjun has groomed himself appearance-wise, and honed his acting skills, Mahesh Babu is no longer stiff. He’s let his guard down, loosened his limbs and there is modulation in his dialogue delivery. I rate this his best performance especially in a film that’s good only in patches. Prakash Raj is menacing, but his transformation is unconvincing and ends up looking clownish. Pray, where is the gifted Brahmanandam?

Star sons still invoke their father’s names in films in an effort to evoke applause from their fans. If Allu Arjun refers to his uncle Chiranjeevi’s dancing skills, director Anil goes a step further and likens Mahesh Babu’s character to his father Krishna’s in ‘Alluri Seetharama Raju’,which is a 36-year-old film! Anyway, fans are fighting a bitter battle on various platforms about which film is better and has collected more, which is more entertaining and interesting.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 2:14:57 PM |

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