After weeks of reading about the latest Allu Arjun film, we booked tickets to see it at a local cinema. Booking tickets was an experience in itself. The lovely Rama was baffled at our interest, and after speaking to us both on the phone offered his services post film to explain anything we didn’t understand as the print (he repeatedly warned us) had no subtitles.
So off we went to watch the opening night – our first Telugu movie on the big screen! Yay!
The cinema was fairly full, not totally packed, but we were still happy to have got there early enough to be able to find good seats. We did notice quite a few sideways glances as we took our seats, since we were obviously the only non-Telugu speakers in the entire cinema. Then the lights went down, the movie started rolling and the audience started to cheer – awesome! Haven’t heard an audience reaction like this in Australia since Chak De India! Much more like going to see a movie in India, since the Bollywood viewing audiences have been very tame recently. The cheers and whistles resurfaced every time one of the main characters was introduced, or when they did something fairly spectacular – which for Bunny, Manoj and Anushka was fairly often!
The movie follows five storylines
- Nagayya as the old man Ramulu, a weaver, whose grandson is taken away to work in a brick factory after he cannot pay the moneylender.
- Anushka plays Saroja, a prostitute who wants to set up her own business
-Allu Arjun is Cable Raju, a guy from the slums who is trying get enough money to buy tickets to a party to further his chances of marrying his rich girlfriend – his ticket out of poverty. Raju is a social chameleon, switching from slum to country club regular Raj at the flick of a hairband and the donning of a designer fake t-shirt. (Temple – OK maybe it was just me obsessing about the manband but it really was almost a character by itself.)
- Manoj Bajpai plays a Muslim, Raheemuddin Qureishi, trying to leave India after his wife has miscarried following an incident at a Hindu celebration in the streets.
By the interval the main characters were all on their way to Hyderabad for the final interweaving of their stories. As the lights went up we had to answer a number of questions from people sitting near us: Why were we there? Did we understand Telugu? Did we understand what was happening? Did we know who the actors were? And finding out that we did know the names and previous movies of a number of the actors seemed to totally amaze everyone!
In fact we were coping with the lack of subtitles pretty well – Krish managed to get his message across so that even without the dialogue it was pretty clear what was happening. The only thing I guess we were missing was the comedy, but we knew to laugh as soon as Brahmi’s bald spot appeared!
So overall this was just such an excellent experience, the crowd were really behind the movie; yelling and whistling pretty much the whole way through. The stories were all easy to follow at least in a broad sense without subtitles, and the actors all did a great job. Manoj was arrogant enough to be a rock star, Anushka was believable as a prostitute particularly in looking beautiful, affordable and not overly glamorised, the plight of Nagaya’s family tugged at the heart strings, and of course Manoj Bajpai and Allu Arjun drew our attention every time they were on screen.
Bunny was fantastic as the guy trying to get the money (and being spectacularly inept in his efforts at turning to crime) and in the second half he was just so believable as he battled with his conflicting emotions. (Heather -OK – so I’m a big Bunny fan – of course I’m going to pay more attention to his scenes!!) The scene where Raju struggled with Ramulu, holding back his strength, trying to win without physically hurting the old man, was so intense. Bunny managed to show the conflict his character felt and we all felt his despair at what he had done. Contrast this with the joyful peek-a-boo scene after his redemption, and the range of emotions and engagement was just exhilarating.
We enjoyed it so much that a week later when there were some extra showings ‘by public demand’ we went back to do it all over again.
The second time round, because we knew the story, we didn’t have to concentrate so much on what was happening. We could focus more on the performances of the actors and totally enjoy the songs and the dancing. Saroja’s song in the brothel was a perfect filmi moment – it felt random, spontaneous, a bit ragged round the edges, and full of life.
There was still no hint of an explanation as to why Bunny was wearing a t-shirt as a shrug in his poolside cavorting, but some things don’t really need a reason. They just are.
(Shrug alert at 30 sec)
Vedam was just brilliant – an excellent choice for our first Telugu film on the big screen. Having such a great time ensures that we will be back to watch more and more new Tollywood releases, with or without subtitles!
Heather says: Fantastic direction by Krish – this was a really wonderful watch. All five storylines were well developed and it was a real delight to be able to watch each character’s evolution in their journey through the film. Allu Arjun just gets better and better as an actor – he really was the stand out for me in this film – the portrayal of his confusion as his desires fought against his basic good morals was riveting – an impressive performance! Also have to mention first-rate portrayals by Nikki as Saroja’s friend Kapuram, and Ravi Prakash as the corrupt cop. Manoj Bajpai’s story was perhaps the hardest to fully follow and appreciate all the nuances without subtitles, but the power behind his emotions was very clear, particularly in the last scenes in the hospital. In summary, Vedam is an excellent interweaving of five storylines with an impressive conclusion, fabulous performances by all the actors and brilliant work by the cinematographer. And I think I’ve managed to use every superlative there is in that sentence! I cannot wait for the DVD release to fill in a few of the missing details and to finally understand the dialogues I see quoted everywhere online! A full 5 stars from me!
Temple says: Without rehashing the whole plot, it is enough to say that Krish took 5 pretty typical narrative arcs and wove them together in a way that made these stories seem fresh and novel. The ending is certainly darker than most mass crowd pleasers would normally allow. In hindsight there are some beautiful little pieces of foreshadowing scattered through the early scenes – and I think its the mark of a really good filmmaker that you walk out almost replaying the whole film and saying “A-ha! That’s what that was all about”. We haven’t mentioned the supporting cast but they were uniformly good, and looked like real people. The extras casting is a strength of this film I think, as well as the bigger budget names. I am an Allu Arjun fan, I happily confess, but I was pleasantly surprised by his ability to take what could be the weakest of the plot threads and make it seem real and engaging. His comic timing and spontaneity worked to great effect in the role of Raju. I am really looking forward to seeing this on DVD so I can pick up more of the subtleties of dialogue. Maybe it will seem like a different film? Who knows! For now, I give this 4 and a half stars ( I am deducting points for the manband. I am taking a stand.Heather points out that anyone who can wear a manband and NOT look like Abhishek should be applauded. I remain unconvinced.)