Somehow, the fruits and navels aren't the problem any more. In fact, there are so few of them in Jhummandi Naadam that you're wondering whether this stuck-in-the-'90s script could seriously have done with some more horticulture and body show, to lend it some damned personality
No one's doubting the fact that Raghavendra Rao has his strengths - most of which revolved around building up intense drama while drawing out some memorable performances from his cast. However, it is hard to imagine him connect with an audience that is increasingly being exposed to slicker screenplay, edgy camera work, smart-ass dialogue delivery, and on the whole, younger issues. Indeed, Jhummandi Naadam looks like a farce of everything that you can think of.
The story revolves around the dreams of Balu (Manchu Manoj), a small-town bloke who is in the city to become a really big singer. His bachelor pad is right opposite the home of a school principal Rao (Mohan Babu), who hates him and who he hates with equal fervour.
Rao's friend's (Suman) daughter Sravya (Taapsee) lands from the US to make a documentary on the musical heritage of Telugu land, and needs a helping hand. Because of the awesomeness of his talent, Balu is picked by Sravya as her music guide, and Rao has to grin and bear it.
As Balu and Sravya hit it off well, Rao tries separating the couple, because he is protective of his best friend's daughter. Soon, Balu has to sacrifice his love for his career. How the two get together, how the love for music triumphs against all odds, how the younger generation "proves" itself, well, you know the rest of the story by now.
The movie starts off unabashedly like a Manchu family home video, with a musical jugalbandi between Mohan Babu and Manoj, and with other unmistakable signs of family bonding. Well, the last time
there was a family outing, it wasn't a pretty sight, and Jhummandi Naadam is not very different.
Needless to say, this movie is no work of art. You know the fact right at the beginning, but the message hits you hard when the flick introduces the heroine - skimpily-clad, air-headed and caught in an absolutely ridiculous and avoidable dilemma (she's "stranded" on the way home from the airport, because her Meru cab broke down).
There are conflicts that you saw way back two decades ago, and they are dealt with exactly as they were dealt with two decades ago. On the whole, the writing is juvenile, and the dialogues are bland, if not absolute drivel.
And whatever point the makers wanted to prove by the fresh-faced casting is punched in the face by the embarrassing quality of acting. Manoj is good with urban roles that demand casualness and spontaneity, like the one we were recently
treated to. In Jhummandi Naaadam he's over the top beyond levels of tolerance, and his lips don't sync with a single phrase during the entire duration of songs in the movie. This, they tell us, is a hero whose life revolves around music.
Taapsee's permanent grin is over-the-top, too, and unfortunately that is what her acting range is limited to. Still, she looks good, and that might help get her noticed in the industry.
Several people might welcome back Mohan Babu's brand of humour - a style that sonny boy so tiresomely makes it a point to duplicate in every frame - but it doesn't work for you unless you're a fan. A few genuinely good jokes apart - like the extremely short cameo by Raghu Babu - the rest of the comedy works only because it is people like Ali and Brahmanandam executing them.
The only two actors worth mentioning are Tanikella Bharani and Ahuti Prasad, both of whom make brief but refreshing appearances that make the rest of the movie look like what it really is - a cheesy product.
As for the Keeravani - Raghavendra Rao combination, it was way better back then, when each was in his Allari Priyudu element. The songs in this flick are mostly folk numbers, and though melodious, aren't likely to top any charts.
Visually, the film lacks the style that movies nowadays have, despite the desperate flashes of colour. In all, there's no soul in the vibrancy. And yes, we do miss the fruits and flowers, Mr. Rao; and that's the bottomline, if you ask us.