‘DJ Tillu’ movie review: Siddhu steals the show in this outlandish comic caper

Director Vimal Krishna helms a laughter riot populated with quirky, morally ambiguous characters

February 13, 2022 06:44 pm | Updated 06:46 pm IST

DJ Tillu takes a fresh look at the idea of a ‘mass’ film. There’s a familiar formula by which films targeting a large section of the audience, termed as ‘mass’ in Telugu film parlance, play out. But then, men and women that make up our cities do not fit into a pre-ascertained mould. If 2021’s smash hit Jathi Ratnalu dipped into the flavour of Jogipet on the outskirts of Hyderabad, DJ Tillu builds a fun ride centred on a wastrel from Malkajgiri in Secunderabad. Director Vimal Krishna, who shares the writing credits with the lead actor Siddhu Jonnalagadda, ensures that the narrative is packed with madcap fun moments.

We get an idea of who Tillu is right at the beginning when his distraught father comments that his son is safer in the hospital, in coma, than on the streets. Named and raised as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the son later calls himself Tillu, sports colourful clothing and struts around claiming to be a DJ. He is an entitled brat who doesn’t feel guilty for squandering his father’s money but talks about wanting his ‘professional space’ when his parents are guests at the same event where he is at the turn table. Beneath all that self-created hype are small-time DJing opportunities that do not even afford Tillu a haircut in a posh salon; he tries in vain to make the hairstylist at the neighbourhood salon understand streaks and highlights. 

When this wastrel, who thinks he is street smart, falls in love with Radhika (Neha Shetty), nothing remains the same. Radhika is designed as a morally ambiguous character whose moves evoke distrust not just in Tillu, but also us, the viewers. Is she a victim of liaisons that went wrong, an opportunist, or a mix of both? There’s a dead body along the way and things get increasingly messy. Tillu is torn between his love for Radhika and desperate to wriggle out of the situation. 

The first hour is a riot anarrated with sharp humour and Tillu getting the best lines. It nearly becomes a one-man show as Siddhu gives it his all to play the eccentric character, owning the swag. It is also a physically demanding character, where his body language adds to the fun. He does this with no inhibition, unafraid to look silly in a few places. 

Nothing Tillu says or does is there just for fun. The dance he does in front of an apartment complex and casual conversations in scenes that seem to be randomly placed at first, all come in handy to push the story forward. 

When Radhika tells him to stop looking at her through the compass of morality, she is speaking to all those watching the film. The narrative, while showing how glamorous women are viewed as objects of lust, neither judges her nor gives her a clean chit. Neha Shetty pulls off this complex character well.

Accentuating Tillu’s madcap world is Sricharan Pakala and Thaman’s vibrant music, cinematographer Saiprakash Ummadisingu’s almost psychedelic visual canvas and Avinash Kolla’s production design. Among the supporting cast, Brahmaji and Prince Cecil make an impression. Several others like Kireeti and Pragati get their moments.

The fun wears off in the later portions. It is easy to see through the smokescreen of a pivotal character and the turnaround does not come across as a surprise. A few questions are also left answered. However, the film redeems itself to an extent. 

After Jathi Ratnalu, DJ Tillu might be another film in which the fun quotient works better with collective viewing in the theatres. Tillu’s story isn’t over, yet. The stage is set for a sequel.

DJ Tillu
Cast: Siddhu Jonnalagadda, Neha Shetty
Direction: Vimal Krishna
Music: Sricharan Pakala

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