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‘Acharya’ movie review: A dated narrative that never takes off

Ram Charan and Chiranjeevi in ‘Acharya’

Had the story of Acharya been published in written form, it could have been a short fiction of a temple town with a mythical past. A temple dating back to 800 years is at the heart of two settlements — Dharmasthali and Padaghattam — flanked by a sparkling river and dense forests. As vested interests arise, people desperately try to hold on to hope; an unlikely saviour helps restore dharma. Such a story may not get old when passed on from one generation to another as a folk tale. As a mainstream film, it can get outdated. That’s precisely what happens to Acharya. Despite the presence of Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan and a whole lot of masala elements thrown in, it ends up as a dull film that never takes off.

Director Koratala Siva saves the best for the latter half, showcasing the camaraderie between Acharya (Chiranjeevi) and Siddha (Ram Charan). The former is a Naxalite while the latter has grown up in a gurukul. There is, of course, a backstory that connects these characters and makes Acharya hover protectively around Siddha. 

With the superstar father and son enacting these characters, there are the high moments of watching them pull off choreographed stunt sequences and dance in sync to the ‘Bhale bhale banjara’ song. There are moments when Chiranjeevi’s eyes swell with pride as he watches Ram Charan hold forth on what is right and wrong, and why he would go to any length to save someone of his ilk.

Acharya
Cast: Chiranjeevi, Ram Charan, Pooja Hegde
Direction: Koratala Siva
Music: Mani Sharma

Ram Charan is at ease playing Siddha, bringing in an innate elegance for the part. After RRR, this is another film where he manages to emote with his eyes. Chiranjeevi proves yet again that he can still pull off a heroic character in his 60s, carrying himself with style and grace. He is not shown romancing a woman half his age, and that is a saving grace.

But then, all this never ever feels enough. Dharmasthali and its surrounding areas are visually gorgeous, thanks to production designer Suresh Selvarajan who creates a breathtaking fictional temple town and cinematographer S Thirunavukkarasu who captures it gloriously. The green foliage and kumkum reds contrasting the black temple stones make for an interesting visual tapestry. But how long can we soak in the milieu when the story fails to hold interest? 

It is the same old set of situations — people at the mercy of greedy villains who nurture political ambitions. The people of Padaghattam, led by Ajay, get something better to do than the people of Dharmasthali, given their story about Ayurveda practice. Don’t ask how Dharmasthali and Padaghatam manage to remain cut off from the outside world though.

Acharya imparts one lesson after another through stunt sequences that appear dated by a decade or two. In fact, the masala segments in Koratala Siva’s earlier films were more entertaining.

Sonu Sood could have played the caricaturish Basava in his sleep. Jisshu Sengupta plays another villain without bringing in any nuance. Shouldering this film rests squarely on the shoulders of Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan, but there is nothing much they can do. Their contrasting ideologies also remain at a surface level. Siddha is better written than Acharya. You get an insight into the gurukul teaching that shaped Siddha, but it is very little about what Acharya and his Comrades are fighting for. A little depth would not have hurt.

The one who looks absolutely lost is Pooja Hegde. We get that this is a film powered by two A-list male stars, but the woman’s character can at least get closure for her journey. The makers deciding to do away with Kajal Aggarwal’s portions seems to be a good idea, given how little has gone into the characterisation of Pooja’s Neelambari. A whole lot of others come and go, without the scope to leave a mark. Acharya also needed a better musical score.

Chiranjeevi pushing a chariot, fighting and dancing in tandem with Ram Charan are the only high points. The VFX-enabled scene showing a young Chiranjeevi ends up as an experiment with an awkward result. 

As an afterthought, perhaps what makes Acharya appear all the more boring is its arrival barely weeks after RRR. While watching the ‘Bhale bhale banjara’ song and the forest stunt sequences, I could not help but be reminded of Rajamouli’s film, where these larger-than-life sequences were innovative and far more entertaining. Maybe it is unfair to draw such comparisons, but watching Charan in similar sequences, the RRR memory is tough to shake off so soon.


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Printable version | Apr 29, 2022 6:04:20 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/acharya-movie-review-an-outdated-narrative-that-never-takes-off/article65362922.ece