Trivikram films tend to focus as much on the dialogue as on the action, so it was inevitable that I missed the comedy that had the rest of the audience laughing and cheering through most of Julayi. Not that it really mattered. There was still plenty of great dancing, excellent action scenes, ample screen time for my favourite actor Allu Arjun, and a relatively easy to follow (if somewhat unbelievable) plot giving another enjoyable ‘adventure without subtitles’.
Ravi (Allu Arjun) starts as many a Telugu hero seems to do, by having an argument with his father (Tanikella Bharani in his customary role). Taking a cue from Chiru’s ‘money is easy to make’ speech from Challenge on a TV in the background, the argument seems to be based around Ravi’s lack of commitment to the conventional way to earn a living and ends with Ravi heading out to a gambling club. Since it’s raining heavily he cadges a lift, which just happens to be with a gang on their way to rob a bank. Because stopping to give someone a lift on the way to commit a major crime doesn’t seem like a risky thing to do at all – right?
Luckily for Ravi they seem happy to drop him off on a corner but that is their first big mistake. Ravi has awesome intuition, amazing powers of observation and a seemingly photographic memory and is able to lead the police to the site of the bank theft in time to partially foil the robbers’ escape. Head gangster Bittu (Sonu Sood) has already decimated his own gang, presumably to ensure a larger slice of the money, and Ravi helps lower the number still further by taking out one of Bittu’s trusted gang members (Shafi in a very brief appearance). This seems to spell war between the two, although the apparent destruction of the money and ensuring that Bittu is arrested and his plan foiled are also key contenders for the ensuing rivalry between Bittu and Ravi.
The bank heist is an odd mixture of some excellent ideas, such as the smooth way the robbers disable the cameras as they move through the building, and some gaping plot holes which just don’t make sense. This lack of logic reoccurs throughout the film where there is never any explanation for Ravi’s astounding ability to apparently read Bittu’s mind and predict how, where and when he will strike next. The police are also very ready to fall in with Ravi’s plans and have no objections any time he kills one of the gang. I was almost expecting that Ravi would be revealed as some sort of super-agent which might have explained the nonchalance towards his ever increasing body count and the willingness of everyone to follow his lead. But no, nothing quite so logical is allowed to intrude into the plot, or at least not that I could understand.
Sonu Sood is his usual impressive self as the villain Bittu, although he has a tendency to start cold and menacing but then over-do it just a tad and become almost comic. He too has amazing powers since he is able to interpret the sign language of his deaf henchwoman without even looking at what she is signing. It’s a talent she seems to share since she rarely looks at his replies either but at least she has better survival skills than the rest of the gang. To add some further complications, Bittu is collaborating with local MLA Kota Srinivasa Rao, who’s done some dodgy deal to cheat his investors and seems to be in it for the money. It’s the same crooked statesman role that Kota plays so well that now I don’t ever expect to see him without there being some dodgy deal involved.
The action moves to Hyderabad when Ravi is sent to ACP Sitaram (Rajendra Prasad) as part of a witness protection scheme. Ravi falls in love with a girl he sees at the bus-stop which results in a succession of songs, in fact almost the entire soundtrack one after the other, as Ravi attempts to win Madhu’s heart. Ileana started off well as Madhu and I liked her glasses and general look, but after Ravi takes her shopping and persuades her into contact lenses and Western clothes she just looks too thin and out of proportion. Although none of her outfits are terrible, the majority aren’t very flattering either and the curse of the Telugu film shoe designer strikes once again with a terrible pair of black boots.
Bunny and Ileana have very little chemistry together and although there are some better moments in the songs, the romance never really takes off. The songs by Devi Sri Prasad are mainly pictured on Bunny who is energetic and wonderful to watch in better than usual choreography. For a change there are no special ‘feature moves’ – no sign of ‘the worm’ – and Bunny is given free rein to do what he does so well and just dance. He also shows commitment to shiny multicoloured shirts which I did appreciate.
Every single possible comedy uncle turns up but thankfully their comedy is well integrated into the main plot and kept to a minimum. Trivikram seems to use most of the humour in snappy dialogues between Bunny and Rajendra Prasad which were well appreciated by the audience. There is plenty of ‘action’ Bunny but a lot more ‘funny’ Bunny and both Allu Arjun and Rajendra Prasad work well together in these scenes. In fact the only major fail is Bunny’s hair which varies from OK in the frequent rain scenes (because it is flat and plastered to his head!) to really quite terrible with spikes at the back and flattened matting at the front. There is no hair continuity either and it becomes quite a distraction in a number of scenes as the number and position of the spikes varies – or perhaps I’m just becoming a little too obsessed. There is also the matter of his coloured contact lenses, but I’ll leave that rant for another time!
The film does look great, with some good use of locations in Dubai and reasonable special effects. The sets are also well dressed although Temple and I did have a discussion about the large assortment of really ugly ornaments that appeared on every desk. But there was commitment to family photographs and I did like the large picture of Michael Jackson in Ravi’s room. I liked the soundtrack before I saw the film and although it doesn’t sound too different from previous DSP soundtracks the music fits in with the general feel of the film. The songs could have been better paced though as there did seem to be a lot in the first half – not that I’m really complaining as watching Bunny dance is always worthwhile.
Julayi has plenty of action and strong performances from most of the cast which helps keep attention away from all the plot holes. Its slick and well filmed to make the most of Peter Hein’s excellently choreographed fight scenes. Definitely worth catching on the big screen if you can although I think this is a film that I will appreciate more with subtitles. Hopefully this doesn’t disappear into the same DVD black hole as Khaaleja and we do see a DVD release soon.