Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava Reddy... oops! Strike off Reddy from the title. It is Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava. The film, set in the Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh, is full of violence and dialogues that are delivered from the bottom of the digestive system. Writer-director Trivikram Srinivas, worshipped as "Guruji" by his fans, has written hundreds of lines that could be used for thousands of situations. His words may not move the mountains, but I'll guarantee you that they'll teach you about things and feelings that you didn't know existed before.
Like Mani Ratnam's Tamil action film Chekka Chivantha Vaanam last month, Trivikram seems to have set his sight on building a bridge between giving a message and making it as viewer-friendly as possible. By viewer-friendly, I mean the template of an action drama, featuring a star.
In his ticket to fame, Athadu, Srinivas made Parthu (Mahesh Babu) break a brick wall with a punch; and in his latest, he makes Veera Raghava Reddy (Jr NTR) bend wrenches. The situations in which these scenes appear are similar, too. There, a bunch of goons harassed Poori (Trisha), and here, again, a bunch of goons harass the leading lady (Pooja Hegde as Aravinda). But the difference between the two scenes is in the effect it has on the audience. The brick-scene in Athadu was funny. It will hold your attention even now if you watch it. Poori's "Oh, my god!" expression on seeing her crush perform a macho stunt, and the thugs taking off on bicycles, made this a gif-worthy scene. However, the same trick in Aravinda Sametha..., fails to raise any laughs in the movie hall.
Srinivas keeps going back to the same tree to gather the fruits for his stories. S/OSatyamurthy, Agnyaathavaasi and Aravinda Sametha...open with the death of the heroes' fathers. Though the reasons for the deaths vary, his heroes look up to their dads. Veera Raghava is the first central character in the filmmaker's oeuvre who doesn't walk in his father's (Naga Babu as Narappa Reddy) footsteps. Narappa Reddy doesn't miss any opportunity to extract a head, or a limb, from his enemy's den, whereas Veera Raghava wants to put a stop to the feud that's been brewing for three decades.
No actor in the movie—Basi Reddy (Jagapati Babu), Neelambari (Sunil), Rao Ramesh and Subhalekha Sudhakar (as politicians), Devayani (as Raghava's mother), Naresh (as Aravinda's father)—has been cast against type. When Basi Reddy enters the screen, you know that he's the villain. When Naresh's character is introduced as a scrooge, you know that he's there to put a smile on your face. When Neelambari narrates the beginnings of the rivalry between the people in the towns ruled by Narappa Reddy and Basi Reddy, you know that it's going to end in a bloodbath. By putting these actors in the mix according to their on-screen image, Srinivas has crushed the surprise factor.
Jagapati Babu, with a salty beard, has been playing the villain for a few years now. How different is Basi Reddy's thirst for revenge from Phanindra Bhupathi's (Jagapati Babu in Rangasthalam) arrogance? Despite being stereotyped, Babu delivers his best, and, maybe that's why directors rope him in for significant roles. But at least once, I'd like to see him in a role that doesn't become a punching bag for the hero.
As the title of the movie says, Aravinda is an important character. She tells Raghava to do the right things from time to time, and Hegde's portrayal of a coquettish Master's student is on point. Her performance has improved slightly from the days of Duvvada Jagannadham and she has the room to be the chirpy girl in one scene and the damsel in distress the next. Even so, her role, along with Sunil's, is under-written. I expected flesh and bones in them, and found only parts of the skin.