It started with text messages late at night. Then waiting while someone had a muttered conversation with the boss. Then the secret password (my name!). Finally a minion delved into a concealed pocket, and handed over tickets for the sold out opening show of Business Man! Armed with a stash of paper strips we made our way into the packed cinema and sat in the third row among some diehard fans, ready for an up-close Big Mahesh film experience. We’d been told that US prints were subtitled and were hopeful we would also get subs – but it was not to be so we enjoyed another Adventure without Subtitles.
Business Man is a beautiful looking film directed with verve and confidence, and performed with commitment. The lighting and composition of each frame is superb. The editing, the effects the action sequences and the dialogues are zingy and zesty. The story is simple but it’s sustained and isn’t lost in the rich visuals. Mahesh Babu is a perfect fit for the pivotal role. He delivers a ruthless, brooding characterisation rounded out by some sharp humour and a bit of romance.
The basic story is easy to follow. Surya (Mahesh Babu) moves to Mumbai and proceeds to take over the criminal underworld. He is a logical and determined man who runs his gang as a business. They have defined tasks, get paid regularly and follow his orders. Surya is all about power not money, and lives quite simply. He is fair in his own way and wins grassroots support with some calculated acts designed to cement his place in the community. His motivation becomes clear as the action unfurls. And as for his methods – Guns don’t need agreements. Surya is an anti-hero in many respects, and a lot of what he does is reprehensible. He does offer some form of vigilante justice and fair treatment which contrasts with the corrupt politicians and ineffectual police.
Sayaji Shinde and Prakash Raj play politicians and power brokers with connections. Both are predictably competent without being exceptional. Sayaji Shinde is easily duped, but Prakash Raj has a history with Surya that sets up the climax of the film.
Once Mumbai is under control, Surya expands his business model nationally and is a serious threat in the political power struggle. Prakash Raj decides to nip this in the bud to assure his own position. This confrontation is just what Surya wanted, and so we rocket along to the gore splattered conclusion.
Nasser is a Police Commissioner and Kajal is his daughter Chitra. We debated whether Surya had engineered a meeting with Chitra so that their relationship started as a subterfuge but then developed into something genuine. Surya views the police as he does the politicians and the local goondas – they’re all just assets or liabilities in his business model. He seems to commit wholesale slaughter with remarkable ease. In fact the only ‘crime’ he commits that draws any police attention is fancying Chitra – that’s when the cops with guns turn out in force.
Brahmaji plays Surya’s sidekick but he merges back into the team as the story progresses. Subbaraju is wonderful as Prakash Raj’s enforcer. He is menacing and hilarious, and matches Mahesh’s intensity. There is a very funny scene where Subbaraju keeps trying to reload his gun as all hell breaks loose. It sounds like nothing much, but his fumbling shtick is hilarious and also contributes to the scene. The comedy emerges from characters and situations so it doesn’t slow the action. But WTF was going on with the dubbing for Ayesha (Chitra’s friend, played by Ayesha Shiva)? The voice, accent and dialogue delivery was terrible and too bad to even be funny. I don’t think her acting was much either, but the voice dominated her performance. Mahesh Babu is a really good comic actor and his reactions are priceless in some scenes, particularly with Dharmavarapu Subramanyam and with Kajal. We really wished for subtitles as the dialogue had the audience in stitches, athough the puns and wordplay never translate so well.
Kajal and Mahesh had good rapport and judging by the audience reaction some of his lines were quite naughty. A lot of the dialogue was bleeped so I missed an opportunity to learn some handy curses. I was perturbed by one romantic song which is set up when a driver (a cameo by Puri Jagannadh) chloroforms Chitra and delivers her to Surya. It was meant to be funny rather than a scary abduction, but so very wrong. Next thing she is unconscious on a huge bed and wearing a very sparkly saree. Kajal and Mahesh have some chemistry, especially in her few conscious intervals in that song. Many of their scenes together had a lively and spontaneous feel, and they made a nice looking couple. There is a fleeting kiss which elicited a deathly silent non-reaction from the audience. She had little to do but scream and cry, but I think this is one of her better efforts. And she didn’t get slapped around.
SS Thaman hasn’t done anything amazing with the soundtrack, but the brassy theme underscoring some of the action is great. The choreography was less delightful. The choreo in Sir Osthara was strange, mostly synchronised hand waving and a little bit of prancing so basic even Kajal could keep up.
Pilla Chao is fun, but reminiscent of the Ministry of Silly Walks with festive Santa backing dancers. The Mahesh Fan had a theory about the costumes. She thinks Puri Jagannadh said ‘If my wardrobe dude can have his way with you in the song picturisations, you can wear your own clothes and normal haircut for the rest of the film’. And I think she might be right.
Mahesh does look slightly taken aback by the ice cream colour themed outfits and blue suede shoes but he generally wears plain dark shirts and jeans. It’s an unfussy yet multi-layered look for a man who means business but doesn’t mind flaunting a bit of elbow and the merest hint of chest hair.
The censorship was really odd. Lots of dialogue was bleeped or muted, but I could easily substitute likely profanities. And the dancers – especially the skanky white chicks – were occasionally blurred out. In most scenes they were unobscured so the costumes and choreography were obvious and we couldn’t discern a substantial difference between the clear shots and those that had been censored.
Some angles were obviously a bit more ‘down the choli’ but most seemed to be similar. The Telugu film industry hires many female performers solely for their looks and physique, so it seems strangely prudish to censor some of the flesh some of the time. Who are they kidding?
Yes it defies logic, gravity and many other laws but Business Man never pretends to be a gritty realistic story. It’s a kickarse action film made with great style, a cracking pace and a star who can switch from baby faced killer to baby faced hero with a killer sense of humour. Highly recommended and a resounding 5 stars from me!
Heather says: Opening night of any Mahesh film is always worthwhile, no matter how good or bad the film, since the cinema is packed and there are plenty of enthusiastic and noisy fans – which includes The Mahesh Fan and us. And to our delight, this turned out to be a very Mahesh-centric film. He was in almost every shot and the story very firmly revolved around Surya and his business model version of rowdyism. This had the slightly unfortunate side effect that no-one else got very much to do, which was somewhat disappointing because the other actors were all so very good. Chitra’s friend the very glaring exception. Brahmaji as Surya’s friend started out well with some presumably funny lines, but was quickly sidelined and hardly appeared for the rest of the film. And although Nasser, Sayaji Shinde and Prakash Raj popped up now and again to provide more motivation for one of Surya’s awesome action scenes there didn’t seem to be much explanation of exactly why they acted the way they did. Although that could of course just be the lack of understanding the dialogues on my part. I totally agree with Temple that Subbaraju has some of the best moments in the entire film and I enjoyed many of the other support gangsters who had excellent expressions during some of the fight scenes.
Mahesh does do ‘angry’ very well, and he seemed to be alternating between simmering and boiling for most of the film which did get a little wearing towards the end. There was quite a lot of comedy in there too judging by the audience reaction, but this was mostly in the dialogue so I missed most of it. However the interplay between Surya and Chitra did have some very funny moments which came through loud and clear. I really liked Kajol here and thought she was in her element when she was angry and snapped back at Surya – it felt very authentic! She was animated and likeable throughout although does lose points for having an incredibly irritating and annoying friend. I really couldn’t understand why Chitra stayed with Surya since she obviously abhorred his gangster life style and the chloroform incident was just plain creepy. But otherwise I enjoyed the romance aspect of the film and I think it will be even better when I can understand the dialogue.
The Businessman is a very slick and well made film which looked fabulous and played to Mahesh’s strengths. Less bizarre and quite frankly pointless censoring, better choreography and a little more of the support actors and it would have been totally perfect.