‘Tillu Square’ movie review: More fun than the first film

A terrific Siddhu Jonnalagadda and smart writing make ‘Tillu Square’ a fun ride as the sequel builds on the familiarity of the first film

March 29, 2024 01:56 pm | Updated 03:01 pm IST

Anupama Parameswaran and Siddhu Jonnalagadda in ‘Tillu Square’

Anupama Parameswaran and Siddhu Jonnalagadda in ‘Tillu Square’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As the title credits of the Telugu film Tillu Square roll, juxtaposed with a recap of some of the fun lines and events of the 2022 crime comedy DJ Tillu, set to street-inspired foot-tapping music, the packed hall cheers in recognition and anticipation. The sequel, co-written by Siddhu Jonnalagadda, who reprises the titular character, director Mallik Ram and writer Ravi Anthony, is acutely aware of what made the original click such that its dialogues and scenes continue to have immense recall value. They try to amp up the fun by building on the familiarity of the first film and manage to deliver. Had the writing, performances and execution faltered, Tillu would have become a one-time wonder. Tillu Square is a rare case of a sequel being better than the first film and the collective cheer continuing till the end.

Anyone who has gone through a turbulent phase would swear by the phrase ‘once bitten, twice shy’. Not Tillu. The narrative begins several months after the first film. Tillu (Siddhu Jonnalagadda) is no longer just a DJ relying on small functions. With the help of his two childhood friends and parents who rally around him, he runs an event management firm, Tillu Events. His canary-yellow car has also gone in for a multi-hued, kitschy upgrade.

The sequel follows a different set of events similar to the first. In place of the keto diet, the conversation in Tillu’s home is about applying activated charcoal as a face mask. His mother (Lakshmi Sujatha) and others are searching for a suitable bride but the aftereffects of a certain Radhika (Neha Shetty in DJ Tillu) makes Tillu wary of women. Not for long though. When Lilly (Anupama Parameswaran) waltzes in and Siddhu looks at her in awe, not just his two friends but we, the audience, know what is in store.

Tillu Square (Telugu)
Director: Mallik Ram
Cast: Siddhu Jonnalagadda, Anupama Parameswaran
Storyline: Nearly a year after the events of the first film, Tillu embarks on another madcap, adventurous ride

Tillu Square rides on a thin storyline that gets incredulous as it reveals its cards. Its strength lies in the writers’ understanding that the audience knows the world of Tillu and knows not to dig deep into the logical side of events. It would spoil the fun to reveal anything about the direction the story takes, but let’s just say it follows the tracks of a missing thread from the first story that wasn’t investigated. Tillu is cornered, yet again, and the ghosts of the past haunt him despite all the precautions he, his parents and friends take to stay in the safe zone.

The charm of Tillu Square lies in its never-ending original one-liners and the little details. For instance, as Tillu pines for Lilly and spends weeks not knowing how to get in touch with her, notice the disbelief and exasperation that comes from his friend Marcus (Praneeth Reddy Kallem) who sports streaked hair in different colours week after week. Also look out for the words on Tillu’s chain. The DJ is living it up in a style that reflects the streets of Hyderabad. A clever narrative tool is the usage of parts of older songs in uncanny situations. When a song from Chandramukhi is played out at a crucial moment, it brings the house down.

As the drama unfolds, Tillu makes several statements about women who take gullible men like him for a ride. In another film, such sweeping statements might come across as sexist. But given the backstory and a new set of events that unfold as Tillu continues to fall for women with questionable motives, these lines are hilarious.

Every few minutes, a few lines and visual snapshots of DJ Tillu are recalled as Tillu gets trapped in another set of sticky situations. These brief recalls help stoke the audience’s familiarity of situations of the past and connect to the eerie similarities of the present. A little more indulgence and this could have become a deja vu. The echoes of Radhika’s character looms over the sequel and it’s no surprise that a cameo elicits the loudest cheers.

Alongside the writing packed with humour that rings fresh and original, the film’s biggest strength is Siddhu Jonnalagadda. It is tough to imagine anyone else as Tillu. He imbues the street-smart attitude, vulnerability and philosophical undertones of Tillu. Each time he realises he has been conned, he makes us root for him to rise above the murky situations. This is an underdog character of a different kind and Siddhu plays it to the hilt, with uninhibited body language but never going overboard or gimmicky. 

Anupama as Lilly has a tough task in a Radhika-like character. Shedding her girl-next-door persona for a glamorous turn, she manages to be a manipulative charmer. Muralidhar Goud as Tillu’s father, yet again, effortlessly contributes to the humour. The music by Ram Miriyala, Bheems Cecerolio and Achu Rajamani serves as a foil for the colourful narrative.

Tillu Square is smarter and sleeker than the first film. ‘Atluntadi Manathoni’ and ‘delicate mind’ were no flash in the pan.

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