‘Veera Simha Reddy’ movie review: Balakrishna misspent on a mind-numbing template

If only they thought of how to break the formula and write engaging scenes with logic, Nandamuri Balakrishna’s ‘Veera Simha Reddy’ would have had more than just flying henchmen, computer-generated blood, and a template stuck on a pattern

January 12, 2023 01:57 pm | Updated 01:57 pm IST

Nandamuri Balakrishna in a still from ‘Veera Simha Reddy’

Nandamuri Balakrishna in a still from ‘Veera Simha Reddy’ | Photo Credit: Mythri Movie Makers

When a filmmaker like Gopichand Malineni joins hands with a superstar like Nandamuri Balakrishna, it isn’t outrageous to expect a masala film with a half-decent story, some loud, trailblazing action sequences, and fanfare moments that cater to Balayya’s stardom. And in Veera Simha Reddy, Gopichand brings everything you associate with the star and tries to push the limits — a glance or a flick of his finger sends a burst of wind, a glass of water inside the building ripples when Balayya steps out of his car, and goons attacking him wait for his punch dialogues to land and even obey him at times... you get the idea. But for any of these to even carry an ounce of seriousness, you need an engaging package, and Veera Simha Reddy is anything but that.

It has a tepid storyline that works against such ‘Balayya moments’ and the writing is all over the place. Take for instance this sequence at the very beginning of this film. Jai (Balayya), who is living with his mother Meenakshi (Honey Rose) in Istanbul, meets Esha (Shruti Haasan) in a chance encounter at his car showroom. For the story to progress, Esha has to fall in love with Jai and a dance number is required. This is how Gopichand goes about it — Jai finds drugs in a car, the police are called, Esha snorts the drug by accident, breaks into a dance at that very spot, the dance goes viral, and Esha finds a soft spot for Jai. If you think this is messy, there are worse shocks in store.

Veera Simha Reddy (Telugu)
Director: Gopichand Malineni
Cast: Nandamuri Balakrishna, Duniya Vijay, Honey Rose, Shruti Haasan
Runtime: 172 minutes
Storyline: A powerful faction leader rules a town with an iron fist, but the past chases him in many ways

The bigger story has little or no relevance to this scene — it’s as if Shruti’s only purpose in this film is to be a sidekick in the dance numbers. The story is set in a village in Rayalaseema, where a vengeful Pratap Reddy (Duniya Vijay) repeatedly attempts to kill Jai’s father and faction leader, Veera Simha Reddy (Balayya, any surprises?), for some unknown reason. From here, for most parts of the film, a pattern repeats: Pratap attacks Jai/ Veera with a gang of henchmen, they are all sent flying, and he is pardoned. Attack. Flight. Pardon. Repeat.

A visible effort towards novelty can be seen only in finding newer, more outrageous ways of letting the henchmen levitate mid-air, but even in these action sequences, Balayya’s actions are stuck in a pattern. You wouldn’t be surprised if a major chunk of the budget was used just for blasting cars, the computer-generated blood, and the ropes used in action choreography. The scenes are poorly constructed, sequenced, and full of logical errors. Pratap’s men infiltrate a mass wedding ceremony organised by Veera and masquerade as the grooms. So, the brides never suspected that the man they are about to marry is different? Once they are thulped and sent out, the weddings happen casually and there is a groom present for every bride. In a different scene, a supposedly pivotal one, a lead character is faced with danger, and Honey Rose, who you know is in the scene, just disappears until it’s too late. You would expect this in an old television serial, but not in a 2023 star vehicle.

Logic loopholes and poorly constructed scenes aside, the very screenplay is formulaic and straight as an arrow. Good writing can even make you root for an already deceased character in a flashback. Not the case in Veera Simha Reddy, where the writing consistently dumps information and doesn’t withhold any for suspense or better pay-offs. Much of the second half of the film is a long-drawn flashback sequence, and you see the twists and turns from a mile away. Routine emotional beats with poorly executed pay-off sequences only add more worry, and Thaman’s thundersome background scores go in vain. Oh, even sitting through the mediocre soundtrack of this film takes effort, thanks to their formulaic placements.

It’s also ridiculous how the film makes a laughing stock out of Duniya Vijay’s character, who is easily one of the weakest onscreen villains. Other than a sequence in which he acts on a tip-off, he does nothing villainy on his own, let alone intelligent. He comes off as a two-dimensional video game character that has only three control options: pick sickle and scream (or) get beaten by Balayya (or) shout at his wife for questioning manhood. And Veera Simha Reddy is replete with lots of regressive ideas as well. For instance, Meenakshi’s character arc gives her no agency when a life-altering decision is made, and both she and Esha are reduced to dolls of seduction for the two Balakrishna characters. It’s disappointing that even actors like Easwari Rao and Lal (who play Veera’s aunt and uncle) are used as just props in the frame.

These issues cannot be entirely attributed to the perils of having a star like Balakrishna. In fact, he just does what he is always known for. Akhanda, his previous film with Boyapati Srinu, had its lulls but it kept you engaged with regular pay-off moments. Violent scenes that bank on shock value, powerful antagonists, and an intriguing larger narrative worked well to complement the slow-motion chest-thumping moments. In Veera Simha Reddy, we have a loosely knit and archaic narrative told through a template screenplay.

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