Rama Naidu(Netflix, 10 Episodes)
There is a widespread fascination in Rama Naidu for oral sex and for using the crude Hindi word for the male genitals,shared by almost every character. One of the first visuals in the film is that of a gentlewoman performing fellatio on a drugged sports star and then highjacking his semen to an unknown destination.
For what purpose, I really don’t know. Just as I have no clue why actors like Venkatesh, Rana Daggubati and Surveen Chawla would want to be any part of this cheesy trashy low-blow of an endeavour where the language is so crude it would make a streetwalker blush.
Sample this: a producer played by Ashwin Mushran is delighted about his girlfriend, “She goes around with my penis in her mouth.”(This is a crude translation; it sounds much cruder in Hindi).
The characters, male or female, lace their daily conversations with expletives in English and Hindi. I tried to keep count of the ‘l’ word in Hindi for the male genitals ,but gave up after Episode 2. Or for that matter the number of times that part of the body meets the mouth.Countless.
Foul-mouthed and frighteningly pointless, Rana Naidu is the crime-thriller equivalent of all-expenses paid vacation to Afghanistan. You never know where the next explosion is coming from. Or in this case. Who is doing whom,literally and metaphorically .
Rana Daggubati,scowling throughout as though he knows what he got himself into only after accepting the paycheck , plays Rana Naidu a Bollywood fixer who cleans up the mess that Bollywood stars create when drugged and drunk. One such human mess(superstar Prince, played by Gaurav Chopra, his lucky day, I guess) lands Rana in mess. His father Naga Naidu goes to jail for fifteen years and is now out meeting with his various legitimate/illicit sons.
“I had sex with many women . But your mother was one of the best. I rate her 10 out of 10(said in crude Hindi again)” Naga tells one of his sons who seems quite pleased with marks.
Naga Naidu is played by Telugu superstar Venkatesh who has an eminently vegetarian image as a star. He seems to have fun with the raunchy role. But to see him get into this vigorously sexualized zone is a more of an embarrassment than a shock.
The women are sexualized to the point of seeming like recreational toys. Funnily, every time they are wanted for sex they are first thrown against a wall, or some hard object. Though the presentation is high on sleazy suggestions, there is a curious coyness about actual nudity. The maximum we see of a woman being stripped-down is a bikini body.
Rana Naidu transposes the mythic hedonism,crime and debauchery of Hollywood to Bollywood. The transition is awkward and frequently ill-conceived. The depiction of showbiz decadence here is far less shocking , much more risible, than in Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. There are some bizarre characters masquerading as superstars. One producer played by Rajesh Jais gets elaborate hallucinatory attacks in the middle of stage speeches. He, by the way, is doing his wife’s sister.
The characters are either cheating on their spouses, or beating up their enemies , or both. There is no respite from the torrent of assault to the senses that this series unleashes on the audience. After watching through the ten episodes, in the hope that somewhere down the road the series will justify its existence, I was left wondering. Why? Why this unearthly crime against good taste from directors Supern Varma and Karan Anshuman who have in the past given us some memorable content on the OTT? Perhaps this is a one-off aberration for all concerned. One can only hope for the best.
Rana is the Bollywood fixer that Bollywood doesn’t need. But who is there to fix this series? It seriously needs repair.