The star Chiranjeevi glorified

‘Sye Raa’ is a one man show with everyone else reduced to stoking his ego

Every other producer today wants to dub his film in multiple languages and have a pan Indian release. Very few plan it that way with a story that’s relevant all over. Sometimes the budget goes haywire and this is seen as an easy option to recover the small fortune pumped in which cannot be recovered when released only in the language originally intended. ‘Bahubali’ undoubtedly set the benchmark. The director had the confidence and gumption to plan it in two parts and more importantly had a producer who wasn’t breathing down his neck, instead egging him on. It not only takes guts but a definite, solid vision. The master stroke was leaving the audiences yearning for more at the end of the first part and having the entire film going fraternity debating about the motive for a murder that would be revealed only in the sequel.

The phenomenal success of both parts of ‘Bahubali’ all over intrigued many. The universal appeal was probably because it was fantasy and not mythology or history with no definite geographical location established. In fact the city Mahishmathi is supposed to have been in present day Madhya Pradesh. The yarn was far from original but Rajmouli managed to weave an exquisite fabric with a tapestry of resplendent, emotionally relatable shades. Rajamouli did not populate the cast with popular names from various other film industries to make it more marketable. It was a Telugu film dubbed initially into Malayalam and Hindi but had the entire country thronging the theatres.

Dissecting success is easy but not replicating it. Even the thought is daunting. Earlier Kamal planned ‘Vishwaroopam’ in two parts but the much awaited, but horribly delayed sequel just did not live up to the promise of the first. In the end it looked like footage scattered in the editing room were picked and tardily stitched together leaving fans of Kamal the director utterly disappointed. The reasons for the portions shot later looking puerile, technically could be because of a crunch in budget but the paying public will not buy that. Reasons for a films failure by the way are plenty and pretty lame and the audiences are just not interested. ‘KGF’ is a film that was probably forced to go the multi lingual way because the budget was uncontrolled and a release in Kannada was just not feasible. Yash has always believed there are enough talented people in Kannada cinema to break the claustrophobic barriers constricting Kannada cinema. Only Sudeep and Prakash Raj were known outside the State. Sudeep’s claim to fame was his terrific performance in ‘Eega’, while Prakash was omnipresent in character roles across languages. The success of ‘KGF’ made many sit up. The tale is stale and the violence was gut wrenching but something struck a universal chord. An elaborate publicity gig does help but only in making people curious. Some said it was the ‘mother sentiment’ which seldom fails but the magnitude was baffling. Someone as competitive as Sudeep must have been shaken. He immediately announced his next ‘Phailwan’ would be released in multiple languages. The presence of the stone-faced Sunil Shetty did not help even in Hindi. Sadly, the film was a dud in other languages as was ‘Kurukshetra’, which was also dubbed in Telugu. Dubbing a mythological in Telugu is like offering ‘laddu’ to Tirupathi!

Usually for a multi lingual film casting is crucial. The film should have recognisable faces to entice audiences at least initially like in ‘Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy’. The biggest stars from neighbouring states like Sudeep and Vijay Sethupathi revolve around the brightest shining star Chiranjeevi, basking in reflected glory while eulogising the megastar effusively in roles that could have been played by anybody. That includes Amitabh Bachchan. ‘Sye Raa’ is a one man show with everyone else reduced to stoking his ego just to please his legion of fans, even the highest paid female star in the South, Nayantara . Surprisingly, Tamannah whose career seemed to be on the wane gets a role of emotional substance and shines. Filmmakers have a penchant for turning history into mythology taking unbridled creative liberties to deify a man of believable virtues.

Many regions in India have tales of an uprising against the atrocities of the British and a brave leader who initiated and led. Narasimha Reddy is one such from Uyyalawada. A military ruler he unifies other leaders and starts a rebellion which inspired others, apparently. There ends reality, mostly. The rest is a laboured tale glorifying the star more than the character. The writing has very few memorable scenes and the narrative plods on tiring the viewer in the end which leaves it to the gifted Ratnavelu to turn the enterprise into a visual treat with his brilliant lighting right from the steadicam shot supposedly in Buckingham Palace. There is a consistency in lighting which is a lesson for aspiring cinematographers. Of course, Chiranjeevi is in fine form in the title role. He’s very convincing be it his gait, attire or attitude and his evocative eyes speak more for him than lengthy lines.

‘Sye Raa’ has been released in multiple languages, but except Andhra the film seems to be limping in other States where audiences are not even bothering to say ‘Hi Raa’. The producers have reportedly made a pile with the telecast and digital rights as a bonus.

The film has seen a drop in collections in Bengaluru compared to the Hindi ‘War’ and ‘Joker’. ‘Sye Raa’ is not at all a bad film, but content made to satiate a superstar’s fans should warrant a release in multiple languages, not just the greed for an extra buck.

The predicament of hapless distributors reminds you of that wonderful dialogue in ‘The Seven Samurai’ where a Samurai soulfully says after saving the village from savages, “So again we are defeated. The farmers have won, not us!”

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 9:51:48 PM |

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