Telugu cinema in recent years has grown by leaps and bounds. Andhra’s cinematic excellence doesn’t begin and end with Baahubali. Here are the other 5 Telugu films which matter.
Goodachari (Amazon Prime Video): Goodachari takes the spy genre to another level. This is the dark unplumbed world of espionage brought to the screen many times with various degrees of success. For once, Goodachari gets it right. I can’t remember the last time I saw a truly satisfying and complete spy film where all the loose ends tied up effortlessly at the end. Like a box used to gift-wrap a present that has too many protrusions spy films in India tend to be all over the place. Here, there is fluency and virility to the narrative that is neither borrowed nor strained. Original and provocative, Goodachari is that rare espionage drama where all the incidents and characters remain true to character, even when they are exposed to be leading double lives. There is a vibrant fulsome ring to the narration (no doubt aggrandized by the harmonized background score by Shricharan Pakala and the constantly probing yet non-judgmental cinematography by Shaneil Deo) as though the director is so sure of his characters that he allows them to act out of character without the risk of courting illogicality. Standing tall over the remarkably hectic plot is leading man Adivi Shesh. Sinewy and dexterous he makes the protagonist’s search for his identity a far greater voyage than the personal. I can’t wait for Goodchari to come back to the screen. He is no Ethan Hawke. But that doesn’t make his mission any less impossible.
Arjun Reddy (Amazon Prime Video): This Telugu game-changer did to cinema in Andhra what Baahubali did to the costume-drama genre in Indian cinema. A startling jolting take on Devdas, its leading man played with insouciant intrepidity by Vijay Deverekonda, was an arrogant drugged doped borderline misogynist. But guess what! Arjun Reddy is also a brilliant surgeon. Director Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s narrative seesaws between arrogant brilliance and lurching experimentation creating a protagonist and a film that is impossible to forget, let alone ignore.
Maharshi (Amazon Prime Video): It takes a whole universe of guts to shoulder one’s responsibilities as an empowered citizen of India, as Mahesh Babu has done in this film. If you stay quiet you are accused of pacifism. If you speak up you’re an exhibitionist. Mahesh Babu who is a formidable icon in Telugu cinema, won’t remain quiet anymore. Breaking free of his innate political reservations he speaks out in favour of farmers of our impoverished country in a voice that never strains to be heard. On the surface, Maharshi is yet another star-vehicle for Telugu cinema’s most revered contemporary superstar. To be sure, almost every frame of Maharshi is dedicated to eulogizing its leading man as he plunges into the role of a social crusader. The part sits easily on Mahesh Babu. He doesn’t shy away from comfortably occupying the moral high-ground that the narrative allows him.
Evaru (Amazon Prime Video): Adivi Sesh’s plunges into the thriller genre once again after the fabulous Kshanam (remade into Hindi as the awful Baaghi 2) and Goodachari and he still succeeds beyond all expectations in creating a whodunit that stays a step ahead of the audience even if you have seen the Spanish film The Invisible Guest and its faithful Hindi remake Badla last year. Evaru makes a bold departure from the original and yet remains faithful to the original content about an unfaithful woman. This is a masked treatise on marital discontent gone horribly awry. Adivi Sesh plays the kind of seedy greedy cop whose incongruous suaveness would make your blood crawl. In Evaru Adivi’s Vikram sees everything. We don’t. It takes us time to see what Vikram does. The moment of recognition is so stunning that the light will blind you. Experience the thrill of watching a suspense drama that is at once stylish and persuasive.
Geetha Govindam (ZEE5): Geetha Govindam is a surprisingly lowkey libido-teaser. It whips up a frothy fun ambience through a chance encounter between a virginal college lecturer and a rather stiff upper-lipped Miss Hoity-toity. That the two roles are played by Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna is a dash of destiny doing its devilish bit to add spice to this honeyed though never over-sweetened confection of love during times of wedding festivities and carnal urges. Besides the very likeable leading man, what I really like about Geetha Govinda is its feisty take on gender equations that are played out in this film in a spirit of puckish irony.