Make way for this ‘Gentleman’

Nivetha Thomas and Nani  

‘Gentleman’ is Mohanakrishna Indraganti’s most ambitious project, and arguably, among his best. If, in the past, he’s made some good films with reasonable budgets, here he’s pushing the envelope. He chooses an actor he introduced eight years ago in Ashta Chamma. Today the protégé is bigger, in box office terms, than the mentor and has found that balance of doing enjoyable, sensible films that make money. Mohanakrishna is up against a wall of expectations that come with having a popular actor like Nani aboard. But here’s the deal. Mohanakrishna doesn’t let it weigh him down. He doesn’t play too safe; he doesn’t cast Nani in a conventional role. The character is etched in a way that keeps you wondering if he has sinister plans up his sleeve. He walks a thin line that differentiates a hero from an antagonist, without either facets being glorified.

In a film where the hero is bound to walk away with plaudits, Mohanakrishna ensures the women get their due. The story unfolds through Aishwarya (Surbhi) and Catherine (Nivetha Thomas) who meet on a flight. Aishwarya is engaged to Jai (Nani). Their union will bring together two business houses. Catherine is a VFX artist returning after a work stint in London, eager to meet her boyfriend Gautam (Nani).

It’s easy to guess that their stories will, inevitably, be linked. Catherine’s story is filmy, as she admits, and instead of questioning how Gautam gets past the office security repeatedly, you give in to the fun. The romance seems all too simple. To give it some depth, there’s a troublesome uncle (a brief part by theatre actor Vinay Varma).

Gautam is the Nani we’re accustomed to — affable and charming. As businessman Jai, he comes across as a guy who can’t be trusted even though he’s doing the right things. On a trip to Kodaikanal where the girl wants to test if they are made for each other, he imitates Rajinikanth and hitches a ride, rides a truck to help the girl. The pact is they have to make do without their phone and wallets during the trip. The romance is lovely, yet the filmmaker hints at a dubious side to Jai.

This characterisation adds to the curiosity as the plot thickens. When Catherine is coming to terms with a sudden loss, she also has to get to the bottom of a mystery. Mohanakrishna introduces new characters — Sree Mukhi as the inquisitive reporter, Vamsi (Srinivas Avasarala, who finally gets a not-so-unidirectional role since his own Oohalu Gusagusalade) and Vennela Kishore as the suspecting manager Darshanam, bringing in the laughs.

If you’re observant, you can figure out the puzzle to an extent and that’s a downer in a thriller. You want something smarter that will keep you at the edge of the seat, especially with a capable filmmaker at the helm.

The actors keep you engrossed. Nani is at ease as Gautam and brilliant as Jai, swiftly moving between being vulnerable and ominous. Nivetha Thomas has a strong part and does it with a surefootedness that’s hard to miss. She owns every moment she’s in the frame without trying too hard. Surbhi, too, does her part well.

P.G. Vinda’s cinematography adds the required sheen to the film without being overpowering. Mani Sharma’s music and background score make you wonder why he doesn’t take up more projects.

A grouse, though, is with the placing of the pub song. But what follows soon compensates for this. Also, when every loose end is tied up towards the end, the reporter isn’t to be seen. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have a closure for that character too? These are minor things, in an otherwise smart film.

Watch Gentleman; it’s not often that a filmmaker trusts the intelligence of his audience. Little things matter, like not translating every small Tamil sentence spoken in Kodaikanal. He knows his viewers will understand in context. The Kodai sequence, in a way, is a reminder of Anthaku Mundu Aa Tarvatha where his lead characters opt for a live-in before getting married. Only, this is more mainstream.


Cast: Nani, Nivetha Thomas, Surbhi

Direction: Mohanakrishna Indraganti

Music: Mani Sharma

Genre: Romantic thriller

Rating: 3.5

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 5:18:57 PM |

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