Nagarjuna’s New Avatar Is As Naughty As It Can Get

Manmadhudu 2 (Telugu)

Starring Nagarjuna, Rakul Preet Singh, Lakshmi

Directed  by Rahul Ravindran

Rating: ****(4stars)

At  60, Nagarjuna preserves a  boyish charm that  renders itself  with  great effectiveness in this  winsome fluffy bouncy bubbly and  bright rom-com.

Adapted from a 2006  French film , Prete-moi Ta  Main(which means Rent  A  Wife)  the Telugu adaptation ferrets  out the meaty mirthful  relevant portions  from the original and adds  bits of its own which don’t always work.

 What  works  is the undeniable chemistry between Nag and his very pretty and confident co-star .

Rakul Preet Singh encores(excuse  the French, but that’s the flavour) her role from her recent Hindi hit De De PyarDe. She is  the 20-something  feisty, fearless  , flirtatious femme fatale  whom  the  40-something ‘virgin’ Nag(the joke is,   he  hits on everything in skirts but his  family is oblivious) hires to  appease his  bahu-fixated mother (thelovely Lakshmi no  longer ‘Joyous Julie’ but still a joy to behold) and his 3 sisters(there were  4 sisters  in the original French  film).

 The entire brood of Telugu-speaking bride-seekers live in a scenic Portuguese town called Cassandra.The film  looks and feels organically beautiful.  We  even get  a brief animation history  of  the  Indian connect  with the exotic location.All this, plus some tediously unfunny ‘comic’ scenes  that come later, could have been avoided.

 Providentially these superfluous elements in the script  do not  take away from the heart   of the  plot , which subsumes  Sam(nickname  for Sammba)’s  childlike devotion to his  mom and sisters as  opposed to his  secret  lust life which only his  bestfriend and  PA Kishore(played by Vannela Kishore, the eternal bestfriend  of Telugu cinema) is aware  of.

Nagarjuna pulls  off  the  child-man act with remarkable restrain. He  is  the mollycoddled Mama’s boy  around his mother and sister and the  lustful Lothario in a series of encounters with sexy women.In fact this is the sexiest  film of Nag’s career. The  libidinous  encounters include a  hilarious  sequence where Nag’s best friend runs  to a drugstore for condoms when his master is in  the mood with a  one-night stand. Nag pulls off  the  sexy-at-60  stint with  aplomb.

 Oh, I  forgot. This guy  also suffers  from OCD,and there is a brilliant encounter with Rakul where she spills spaghetti on the  cushion.

What  doesn’t work  are the loud attempts at  broad satire, like the  pre-planned non-happening wedding where Nag acts  like  a jilted  groom so loudly that  anyone can see he’s faking it.Or that  really stupid sequence where the entire family inhales  weed. And  the  less said about  Rakul’s fake lesbian encounter with one  of  Nag’s screen sisters, the better.

 All the  slurs  in  the screenplay  are swept aside once Nag and  Rakul get on the screen to romance to Chetan  Bhardwaj’s  lovely songs. The twosome’s  toothsome togetherness grows with compelling cuteness. The relationship is fuelled and  nurtured by a deep  understanding of what makes two seemingly incompatible  people  care for each other in spite of all odds.

Decades ago, the great B R Chopra’s Sadhana had Sunil Dutt bring home the prostitute  played  by  Vyjanthimala  as his mother’s dying wish , to pose as his wife. In  Manmadhudu  2 I saw glimmers  of  the same charm as Sadhana.

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