By Haricharan Pudipeddi
Film: "Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava"
Director: Trivikram Srinivas
Cast: Jr. NTR, Pooja Hegde, Jagapathi Babu, Sunil, Supriya Pathak, and Eswari Rao
There's so much to like and debate in Trivikram Srinivas's "Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava", which marks the filmmaker's maiden collaboration with actor Jr. NTR. For starters, when was the last time a mainstream Telugu film featuring a star of Jr. NTR's stature had a title named after its female protagonist?
Pooja plays Aravinda and her character is the pivot of this story of factionalism, revenge and politics. The film relies heavily on its women characters and Trivikram builds a very strong premise on this front, only to squander it with the tried-and-tested commercial treatment.
Set against the backdrop of Rayalaseema and revolving around two warring families which have shed blood for two generations, the story is centered on Jr. NTR's character Veera Raghava Reddy, who is forced to walk the same violent path as his father and grandfather quite early on in the film following an unfortunate incident. But the women in his life -- who have seen enough blood and have borne losses --- make him realise and give him an opportunity to choose peace over revenge, but his decision comes at a price.
For a film that is fuelled by the ideologies of its women -- a welcome change in mainstream cinema and a masterstroke by Trivikram -- wish the women had more screen space, especially Supriya Pathak and Eswari Rao. Quite early on, we witness Jr. NTR put down his weapon after losing someone very dear to him in a bloody ambush when explained by his grandmother what it would mean to his future generations if he continues to wield the sword.
It's a beautiful scene which captures the never before spoken sentiment behind factionalism. If you were to look at factionalism from a woman's point of view, "Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava" is what we would get.
Unfortunately, Trivikram gives in to everything that one expects from a run-of-the-mill commercial potboiler to make the film masses-friendly. It is understandable that for a story about factionalism, you need to show bloodshed, but a creative should have been taken with regards to the fashion in which it gets glorified. There's a thin line between portrayal and glorification and the film definitely crosses it when it comes to showcasing violence on screen.
In a role that required him to carry a lot of emotional baggage and anger, Jr. NTR delivers a performance that is worthy of celebration. Even in the action sequences -- barring the first one -- you see him fight with guilt and not with vengeance. The guilt is born from the idea that despite being the torchbearer for change and peace for his people, the circumstances still force him to fight. Jr. NTR breathes life into a character that is torn apart between revenge and peace.
Pooja Hegde gets a meaty part and she deserves praise for making efforts to dub in her own voice, a rarity these days when it comes to heroines in Telugu cinema. Jagapathi Babu shines in a role that is very similar to his character from "Rangasthalam". Violence runs in his DNA, and there are scenes where he is nothing less than a blood-thirsty monster.
A shout-out to action choreographers Ram-Lakshman for their impressive contribution. As much as you squirm in the seats looking at the bloodshed, you are mesmerized by the action which gets elevated by Jr. NTR's screen presence. There's also Thaman's music and background score that deserves a mention. "Peniviti" and "Yedo Poyinado" are two of the best tracks of the album.
(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at email@example.com)