Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the romance event of this monsoon season. In the testosterone corner wearing very very manly clothes, coming off a very manly movie is Arjun Re... um, Vijay Deverakonda. And in the oestrogen corner, clad in both traditional outfits and modern garb and coming off a successful film in her own right, is Rashmika Mandanna. Their war against each other in the movie is incited by an inappropriate action, and it must be fought in a lower key than usual because Vijay's sister and Rashmika's brother are engaged to be married to one another. Enough setup. Let's get ready to romance!
2 hours and 15 minutes later...
Oh my God! What an event it was. It had laughs. It had emotions. It had songs. It had an even mixture subverted expectations and reinforced clichés. It was well and truly a roller coaster that left us moderately amused by the time the end credits rolled. However, while the pretty people fell in love with each other, we couldn't truly fall in love with them or their story.
We are crabby old geezers now and blank pretty faces don't do it for us anymore. Our time on this blue and green, carbon-based planet is limited, and we want to spend our precious minutes genuinely getting to know people. What are their characteristics, hopes, dreams, fears and desires, and most of all why do we as an audience need to care about any of those things?
Writer/director Parasuram has a few cards up his sleeve to make his movie appealing. He casts the magnetic Vijay Deverakonda and has him play a role which is seemingly the antithesis of his turn as Arjun Reddy
. Vijay Govind (Vijay Devarakonda) is a soft-spoken, gentle, even-tempered lecturer that refuses to let his male ego get the better of him. Then again comparing Arjun Reddy to Vijay Govind is akin to judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree (thanks, Einstein). Govind's actual peer is Pelli Choopulu
's Prashanth. A well-rounded character who evolves over the course of the film's events to understand himself and what he wants from his soul mate to a higher degree. He shuns an obscene amount of wealth and the easy life he always desired to instead run a food truck with a woman who is the yin to his yang.
Vijay Govind is introduced to us as a white-meat do-gooder who stalks women for months on end instead of talking to them and expressing his feelings. He has an idea of what he wants from a woman after watching Bharateeyudu (Indian) a few hundred times, but fails to see that the level of connection shared between the old couple is a result of years of communication and bonding. He is decent enough not to kiss a sleeping woman, but still thinks taking a picture with her without her consent is a-okay. Has he not seen Venky
? Doesn't he know what goes around comes around?
His beliefs are rarely challenged, and his worldview is unmoved through the course of his journey, and this lack of an arc makes him nothing more than window dressing. Devarakonda infuses a stale character with likability because he can. His charm is effortless, his screen presence is commanding, and watching him take leaps of faith in service of the story being told helps the audience to lend out a hand to keep him from falling to his doom.
The same cannot be said of Mandanna's Geeta. Her character has two modes - angry and in love. The tissue that connects these two modes is as wafer-thin as the plot itself, and the film rarely peels her character back enough to let us know why she deserves a happy ending. She lacks agency, and is a passenger who does what the script needs her to do. This is prevalent to such a degree that she could have avoided Vijay for the entirety of the film and that would have made logical sense even if it would have crippled the narrative and kept the length of the film under 30 minutes.
Mandanna isn't seasoned enough to carry under-written roles, and a lack of comedic and character actors around her does little to mask her shortcomings. Rahul Ramakrishna is not afforded the chance to be the one who brings balance to his friend's life, and neither is Vennela Kishore given the opportunity to flex his acting range a la Goodachari
. They are entertaining as stand-ins for Sunil and Ali, but these men have more to offer and so do the terribly underutilised Subbarju and Annapoorna.
However, performing to the best of his abilities is composer Gopi Sundar. The man who crafted inimitable scores and songs for Pulimurugan, Bangalore Days, Ustad Hotel etc. produces his first truly memorable Telugu score and soundtrack. The score is rarely overbearing, and the songs convey more about the budding romance than the writing ever does. The movie however almost taints this aspect of itself with some truly bizarre editing choices and scene transitions. The fundamentals of filmmaking are swept aside to give the film a unique look and feel, but these choices rarely show the film in a positive light.
The directing choices are a small-scale version of the movie as a whole. It is old wine masquerading in new bottles left in the hands of a bartender fumbling to pop open the corks and let the good times flow. The lead duo being easy on the eyes and the funny lines they spout being easy on the ears are what save Geeta Govindam from being wholly forgotten as a run-of-the-mill rom-com that neither romances nor amuses nor offends to its fullest extent.