Today, there is a thin line between Puri and Posani. Puri is perhaps a couple of films away from crossing it.
For one, the only reason some of his recent movies keep you on the edge of your seat is that you're unsure of which expletive/"personal insult passing off as hard-hitting dialogue" lies around which corner. And if you're a woman, well, you're not even invited to the party.
Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu, a supposed civil outrage package a la Arvind Kejriwal meets Rang De Basanti
meets just about every other Telugu movie, suffers from related flaws, even if it doesn't have anything explicitly offensive.
The fast-paced title montage of grainy footage from AP's television news channels plays out with a frantic background score, setting the stage for what you think will be a powerful, nuanced look at what goes on behind the scenes. Pawan Kalyan's entry is suitably sleek, and equally awesome is his first scene as hero - Rambabu (the journalist he plays) starts out by making peace between two warring castes of hostellers who have been instigated into fighting by a scheming politician.
What plays out is a pretty ordinary story of evil politician vs the general public. Rambabu, a mechanic-turned-journo, is the kind who (surprise, surprise) cannot stand injustice. He asks powerful politicians gutsy questions, humiliates them on screen, and beats them up if required.
There's nothing new, upredictable or even subtle about CGTR. There aren't many great lines either. The netas are either black or white. Jawahar Naidu (Kota Srinivasa Rao) and his son Rana Babu (Prakash Raj) are wicked and power-hungry in the way that every Telugu film villain has been.
A lot of emotional speeches are made, but there's neither anything issue-based about Rambabu's agitation against the wrong-doers, nor any specific agenda. In the end, things become so unrealistic that it's not even funny. It is preposterous, for instance, to assume that a crowd of lakhs of agitated
people (assembling OVERNIGHT) on the streets is capable of conducting itself in more organized a manner than a school assembly. This is wishful thinking - the kind of arbitrary crusading you expect from a B-grade movie, and not from what you assume is a team of responsible entertainers who have been around for a long time.
And Puri Jagannadh stops short of calling his characters by their real names - the benevolent CM (Nasseer) is called Chandrasekhara Reddy, and the failed and frustrated opposition leader is called Jawahar Naidu (who, however, is dressed like Karunanidhi).
Flashes of brilliance do exist, the most visible being the scene in which Rambabu rebukes a newsreader (Brahmanandam) for overly colouring facts. It's a brave, brave scene, given that Pawan Kalyan is laughing at himself (so is Prakash Raj, but he isn't in the scene); and it is well-written. Then, there is this scene in which Rambabu (actually Pawan Kalyan - who are we fooling here?) chides the general public for its readiness to watch its favourite star's movie at unearthly hours (FYI, there was a fans' show of CGTR screened at 5am in the city, like most big releases nowadays) and its total apathy at social problems.
The other kind of scene that Puri films are good at drawing applause for is one in which the hero gives the heroine a long speech "putting her in her place" for no apparent fault of hers. CGTR has one like this as well, that would have branded Puri a misogynist but for the fact that he ended the speech with a dialogue glorifying the charm of an "ordinary woman".
Pawan Kalyan's star power is helping a lot, but he looks bored. Tamannah is as spirited as ever, but her characterization is shrill and annoying, so much that she actually brings down the watchability of the movie by a notch. The second female lead is supposedly hot, but only leaves everyone wondering why she was even brought in. Prakash Raj, Kota and Tanikella are a superb bunch made to do what they've always done in a traditional Telugu film.
Mani Sharma's socio-political tunes are pretty rousing, but his other songs lack charm. The visuals are all right.
Watching CGTR is as useful as watching the news. It is high on emotion and politically-laden, but has little to say. Luckily, for the fans, Pawan Kalyan plays both the newsreader and the commercial break.