While that was two hours and 45 minutes of my life I will never get back, Baby, unlike most of its contemporaries inches towards being tonally neutral and sensitive when it comes to portraying its female characters.
Anand (Anand Deverakonda) and Vaishnavi (Vaishnavi Chaitanya) are neighbours and high-school sweethearts who grow up in a basti experiencing a meagre way of life. Vaishnavi’s parents are eager to see her make it out of poverty and encourage her to enrol in an engineering college in the city. Meanwhile, Anand stays back and chooses to make a living as an auto driver.
Vaishnavi takes to the charms of the city quite quickly and attempts to work her way up the social hierarchy, with the help of a few friends who encourage her to alter her appearance by whitening her skin, wearing branded clothes and dying her hair. This new lifestyle throws a wrench in her love life as Anand is convinced that Vaishnavi is not being true to herself, and in the heat of the moment calls her names.
At the same time, Vaishnavi is introduced to Viraj (Viraj Ashwin), the college heartthrob who does not shy away from flashing his expensive cars for clout. Their friendship quickly turns tumultuous when Viraj professes his love for her.
The next one-hour 40-odd minutes of the movie is spent in Vaishnavi trying to manage the weird love triangle she has brought to life with her choices. The critique of greed and materialism that the film tried to build in the first half goes for a toss with a messy sexual agreement between two characters, an unintentionally funny confrontation by the trio, a failed suicide attempt, and the death of a parent. The sequence of the events ends up working as a catalyst for the audience to lose interest in the characters, and their emotions and aspirations; the length of the movie does not help.
However, it is endearing to watch flawed characters on screen that are not siloed into good or bad.
Vaishnavi Chaitanya does the heavy lifting for most of the film and convinces the audience to root for her even during her missteps, but Anand Deverakonda falters while playing the miserable lover. The supporting characters are not given their due as their behaviour tends to arbitrarily change to the whims of the director to advance the narrative.
Eventually, Baby runs like a moral story with the protagonist actually spelling out the moral three-fourths into the movie.
Baby is currently running in theatres