Cast: Ravi Teja, Nupur Sanon, Gayatri Bhardwaj, Anupam Kher, Nassar, Jisshu Sengupta, Anukreethy Vas, Renu Desai, Murli Sharma, Hareesh Peradi, Sudev Nair
Where: Running in cinemas
Rating: 1.5 stars
A dialogue in Tiger Nageswara Rao suggests that the world reveres Lord Rama as God, but if you ever ask the Lankan natives, they will vouch for the godliness in Ravana, the demon king. Tiger Nageswara Rao, directed by Vamsee, sets off to mount its universe centered on this very premise.
In Stuvartpuram, Tiger Nageswara Rao (Ravi Teja) is an outlaw, who is posing himself as a huge threat to the Prime Minister of India during the early 70s. An emergency meeting is called and top bureaucrats are summoned. Everyone is unable to tell why a seemingly notorious but obscure thief is gaining nationwide popularity. Turns out Rao is his town's Robin Hood. He wants to change the plight and fate of his village that has faced oppression for very long. How his basic aspiration to live a life of dignity and respect pushes him to a life of crime is what forms the crux of the film.
Vamsee's screenplay draws out major influences from K.G.F and Pushpa: The Rise, considering the success rate of both the films. That's still the least concerning factor. The trouble is that the story which borrows its idea from one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter theory is unoriginal. Secondly, much of the depiction of the character's actions and his justifications for the same are borderline glorification. Vamsee, in the quest to cater to Teja's fandom, makes the mistake of justifying Rao's questionable actions and completely absolving him of his problematic ways. So, while the character's tactics and schemes when it comes to executing his grand robberies merit for a few thrills, his observations towards the law and women are downright disrespectful.
It’s said that one cannot expect wokeness when a film is set in a certain time-period. But that does not mean that one must depict women as mere objects to be desired. Even the grotesque scenes of violence are added to create shock value. Clearly, the classic trope of Telugu cinema from the 80s has made a giant return.
Which also translates to interchangeable roles for the leading ladies. Both Nupur Sanon who plays Sara and Gayatri Bhardwaj who plays Mani are so poorly written, this film would rather do without them. Rao telling Sara that men desire women's bodies and conceal their lust in the name of love, might be more offensive towards the men than women. Bhardwaj's Mani breaks into a romantic interlude with Rao that is cut from the same cloth as Rashmika Mandanna in the Saami Saami song from Pushpa: The Rise.
Vamsee further crowds his screenplay with additional supporting characters who contribute very little in terms of their presence. While Anupam Kher as an undercover agent and Nassar (with a troubling wig) as Gajjala Prasad manage to make an impression, everyone else is frankly wasted. Hareesh Peradi as MLA Yelamanda and Sudev Nair as Kasi make for such one-note villains, they are just serviceable.
Following a run-time of two hours and fifty-two minutes, exhaustion seems like an understatement. I walked out bored and in dread.