Movie Reviews

Syeraa Narasimha Reddy Is More Hysterical Than Historical

Syeraa  Narasimha Reddy

Starring Chiranjeevi, Tammannah Bhatia, Nayanthara, Sudeep,  Vijay

Directed by  Surendra Reddy

Rating:  ** ½ (two and a  half stars)

 By the time the  British  villains stopped snarling  and  sniping at the trembling desh-bhakts  of  our country their days were  over . At least as  far as Indian cinema  is concerned. Syeraa Narasimha Reddy propounds  the  most basic  kind of patriotism practised in cinema:  portray the invaders,  in this case  the Britishers as  cheap avaricious villains, , pitch them  against a one-man army    and  let the drama unfold.

Syeraa Narasimha Reddy is a  fast- flowing frenzied hysterical homage to  an unsung  martyr  of Andhra Pradesh who  fought the British goons(the film tells us that’s what they were and who are we  to argue?) with  his faithful  bunch of  unarmed warriors.  While  the legendary Chiranjeevi  occupies the central  part with confident swagger  the  supporting cast specially in the  mob sequences , are  reduced to two basic emotions:  cowering and glowering.

The Britishers are  played by a bunch of inept actors one more  oafish than the  other. One  smirking  ruler, a Ranveer Singh lookalike  orders  the  villagers  to send all their daughters  to him before their weddings.

“One  at a time,”he adds considerately.Not impressed by his  generosity our hero the  hotheaded Narasimha cuts off the  over-sexed colonizer’s… no, not what you  think….just his  head.

 One wonders if there is  any historical truth to this  demonization of  the  British. And  if not, why can’t they take action against being portrayed as  brutal  louts? Or  is the prerogative  of being touchy restricted  to  us Indians only?

Big names  from the South are reduced  to mere perky  props.Anushka Sharma makes a fleeting appearance as Rani Laxmibai  to  tell us  Syeraa Narasimha Reddy’s valorous  deeds against the  despicable  firangi dudes. It isn’t  every clear why we needed  her intervention to appreciate  the enormity of   celebrating the  life of a freedom  fighter who remains  largely unknown.But then clarity is not a  virtue to be sought in a  film that serves up  reams of  rabblerousing  rhetorics and  dollops  of deifying drama.

The prevalent mood  of  the film remains unflinchingly eulogistic .In almost every frame  at any given time there are five dozen  junior artistes  gazing  reverentially at their beloved leader.  The  look of  unadulterated  love is easy  when it’s Chiranjeevi on the pedestal.The rest of the cast, including  Tamil cinema’s  superstar  Vijay Sethupathi  ,is  reduced  to glorified lamp posts. Nayanathara  and Tamannah make  pretty lamp posts. While the  latter  impresses  in  a fiery dande number,  Nayanthara has  an embarrassing  sequence where she  fawns  over her  co-star like  a fan gone berserk.

Kannada superstar Sudeep plays the kind of ambivalent warrior whom we never know, which way he would go.Reassuring that at least  one co-star isn’t required to  keel over with spams of hero-worship.

 None  of  the  characters including the two women in the  hero’s life get breathing space in  the  sweaty  hijinks. The  war sequences are  moderately  impressive, though the scale   of  the  battles are  considerably  reduced in comparison with Rajamouli’s  Baahubali. R Rathnavelu’s camera seems to have been given  standing  instructions  to  simulate  grandiosity  in every frame. There is  scarcely an  intimate  moment  among the  characters who are  constantly  captured in  cascading crowds  hollering  dialogues  on  the evil  Britishers.

We  get that. But isn’t there a life beyond the  posturing?  How  free is the spirited of the freedom  fighter?  Does he  allow himself to think  of the things he really wanted to do in life if he didn’t  have to be  the  flag bearer? Such  questions are beyond  the range of ambitions that  this film  sets  for itself.

 Amitabh Bachchan appears unnecessarily in  a few scenes  as  Chiranjeevi/Narasimha Reddy’s  spiritual  guru. At the end  of the film he’s  packed off  on a swaying ship  to  serve a  prison term in an unnamed  island.Strangely as  he  swayed  in the  computer-generated  ocean  I felt a  deep sense  of empathy with Mr Bachchan’s character. For  more than  150 minutes Syeraa Narasimha Reddy takes  us deep into the bowels of a primeval urge to get even with the  conqueror.It’s a world  governed by  self righteous anger .The tone of self-congratulation is as unmistakable as  the true intentions behind  making this larger-than-life  tale of  illimitable heroism.

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