Nenu Naa Rakshasi

Did I like the film? Well, I wasn’t bored often (except for the comedy), I had plenty to think about, there are some good performances and the  first half is gripping. Puri Jagannadh has tried to frame an introspective psychological study in a mass thriller story, and ultimately fails, although he did set some interesting ideas in play. The issue of suicide is raised but left for us to make our own judgements for the most part. I appreciated the ambiguity that allowed for some viewer reflection instead of being hit over the head with one single message for the whole film. I disliked the final scenes which looked like they had been tacked on to change the overall tone of the story, but the pre-ending ending was lame too. So yes, yes I did like the film overall though there are clearly massive flaws and I am struggling to articulate why they didn’t quite outweigh the positives.

Abhi (Rana) is a hitman motivated by hospital bills for his mother. He is kind of geeky, a loner, and not at all a flawless killing machine. His story is told in an exposition to camera, giving his reasons for becoming a killer and his view of life and love. He isn’t ice cold homicidal perfection and I found this characterisation appealing.  He stresses when the police wander into a cafe, runs into trouble instead of away, acts impulsively when he could have waited for a better opportunity, that sort of thing. When the vengeance and coincidence kicks in, Abhi loses some of that humanity, increases in heroic unstoppability and becomes less believable. He sees Meenakshi (Ileana) and falls for her instantly, sparking some half-arsed stalking (in between kills) and an ‘MTV clip directed by John Woo’ fantasy.

She isn’t too bright if she can’t spot Rana following her in a crowd. Jeez!

Puri Jagannadh shows what Meenakshi does (she records video of people committing suicide and uploads it to Youtube) but doesn’t fully reveal why she does this until very late in the film (there are clear hints early). That was a miscalculation as I didn’t really connect with Meenakshi. In the psychological drama aspect this lack of character depth unbalanced the whole thing for me.

Superintendent Vikram (Subbaraju) and his young daughter move in across the hall from Abhi. I was quite alarmed by her being allowed to wander unsupervised into a stranger’s apartment, but whatever. They provide some emotional engagement for Abhi and some tension as the men become friendly, which is a bad idea for a hitman. Vikram is hunting the Youtube suicide film person as well as investigating the spate of shootings. Subbaraju plays it straight and gives a strong and energetic performance as the righteous cop and loving father. His investigations, together with a rowdy swearing revenge against Abhi, fuel the thriller aspect of the story.

Abhimanyu Singh is the batshit crazy villain who is just too insane and dysfunctional to be believed. He seemed to kill more of his own men than he did his intended victims and his twitchy and fey mannerisms were just hammy. He was so nuts he wasn’t really menacing and so it was all a bit underwhelming for me.

The first half is pretty punchy and l really enjoyed it. The second half loses that energy. For Abhi there is hope for a better tomorrow and he is looking for something to hold on to. Meenakshi on the other hand has disengaged from the world and withdrawn emotionally. They both understand the fragility of life but it motivates them in opposite directions. The Abhi/Meenakshi storyline in Venice detours into a meandering romance and the dramatic stuff happens mostly in India so it’s very uneven. By the time they reach the pretend Easter Island sculptures, the plot has been lost.

Rana is expressive but understated most of the time, and that suited Abhi’s character. His attraction to Meenakshi and his frustration with her is evident. His scenes with the kid next door are nice and the lighter moments are fun, plus his parade of silly walks in the Michael Jackson rip-off  inspired Padithnammo shows that he is prepared to make a goose of himself for our entertainment.

The actual dancing was restricted to a drunk song in Venice and in the club number with Mumaith. It’s not his strength but he isn’t completely unwatchably terrible and I would say he falls firmly into the ‘actors who try to dance’ category. He did look self conscious in a handful of scenes. Rana was very impressive in the action sequences as he is so imposing, and the fight choreography and filming was excellent. The hero entrance scene was great, and had all the visual trademarks I expect from Puri Jagannadh. Abhi supplemented his sharpshooting with some very handy knife and martial artsy skills apparently acquired during the interval so that was time well spent. The ladies in the audience all squealed when Rana said ‘I love you! Something something full package!’ I think they liked his package.

Ileana is beautiful, and certainly gave it her best in a couple of key scenes. She was far more impressive than in the recent Shakti. She plays Meenakshi as perfectly pleasant but distant for most of the film so there isn’t a lot to say about her performance. This is a spoiler–Meenakshi films someone who decides he wants to live after all, and asks her to help him get to a hospital. She refuses saying she is just there to video not to change the course of events and walks away, which was quite powerful. Later on it is revealed that she did indeed call for an ambulance so her actions were at odds with her stated beliefs and this is a problem with the character as I don’t think that was really explored or challenged. Her backstory when it eventually showed up was so clichéd and undermined what was a fairly original idea for a heroine. I also have a problem with her ninja scarf disguise which disguised nothing. Firstly, it left most of her face uncovered and secondly, how do we all recognise Ileana instantly? The hips.

Mumaith Khan appears on and off throughout the film, and really her only contribution was to make me think ‘Is she gonna?’ When she eventually danced, it was a standard club number but still fun (also notable for the silly hat team having their way with Rana). Her facial expressions are so much more lively and spontaneous when she dances than when she acts. Mind you, she was stuck in the comedy side plot with Ali and a plus sized lady of colour so she may well have been having suicidal thoughts of her own. I was.

It’s a very stylish film, lovely to look at but the team often use tricky angles and edits just because they can. There is good attention to detail in the wardrobe and set design, and the editing is excellent in the action scenes. The music is formulaic and more effective as a background score than in the songs. There is not one healthy romantic relationship in the film, and that may be deliberate but it seemed to be more an excuse for bad comedy or dubious behaviours in the name of love. Oh for a better script and more balanced direction!

I want to get this on DVD so I can see what I missed in the dialogues and to enjoy the beautifully executed action scenes. But I think I’ll stop before the end, and concentrate on the more successful crime drama aspect.

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6 thoughts on “Nenu Naa Rakshasi

    • Hi Aditya :) Thanks for your comment. I am a little surprised to see you say the review was precise, as I don’t understand Telugu and the film wasn’t subtitled! But I think the basic story was pretty clear, and the actors did a good job. What did you think of the film? Cheers, Temple

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