There is this mistake that Venkatesh keeps making with remakes like Drushyam
or Gopala Gopala
. No, we aren't criticising remakes - playing safe isn't necessarily a mistake. What we're calling a mistake is hiring utterly mediocre directing talent for superb scripts. Sripriya for Drushyam and Kishore Kumar Pardasani (who is also the director of Katamarayudu) for Gopala Gopala are both equivalent to buying your cloth from Reid & Taylor and getting it stitched by a shamiana tent-maker. The better the script, the worse the mistake appears.
So it is sort of a good thing that Katamarayudu's script is unoriginal and straightforward. Kishore Kumar Pardasani manages to make the film look all right. With the help of cinematographer Prasad Murella, Pardasani makes sure that Pawan Kalyan is built up incredibly in most scenes. So yeah, Katamarayudu is not the kind of dull film it would have been if they tried to remake, say, Bajrangi Bhaijaan
Rayudu (Pawan Kalyan) and his four brothers are the benevolent muscle of their village, and in exercise of this benevolence, they pile up a horde of enemies who're baying for blood. And for unexplained reasons, Rayudu is a misogynist (in the most literal and dignified sense of the term - he just hates women and wants nothing to do with them).
As is norm in such films, his brothers and close friend Lingam (Ali) are all banned from any amorous activity whatsoever. And maintaining the norm, they take the ban lightly (if Peddarikam comes to your mind, we've succeeded in communicating this plot point to you). However, when push comes to shove the men still need their brother's acceptance of their respective romances, and they argue that this may be achieved only by finding a reason to stick Shruti Hassan onto the film.
Rayudu's romance with Avanthika (Haasan) hits a roadblock when she figures out around the interval that the hero sends hardworking stuntmen flying on a regular basis. She tells him that she and her father (Nasser) are both peaceful people who were labouring under the assumption that this film was a romance. Rayudu tries to explain to her that the Tholi Prema
days are long gone and that it just won't work without the action blocks.
This conflict between romance and action gives way to a family drama between Rayudu's and Avanthika's families. It is only towards the climax that Katamarayudu finally realises that he needed Koratala Siva to mix this genre cocktail.
The first half is a breeze. It largely relies on Pawan Kalyan's star wattage and comic timing, both of which are not in short supply. The presence of Ali, Sivabalaji and Ajay in the cast is always a good thing, and they make themselves feel welcome. Shruti Hassan, whose role limits her to half-saris and salwar-kameezes, discovers the many benefits of backless blouses (therefore holding out a proverbial biscuit each for the class and mass audiences respectively). The jokes crackle, the fights sparkle, and times flies by.
The second half, however, is a drag. It tries to rely on Pawan Kalyan's star wattage and emoting, and figures out that they are not enough. You also catch on to the fact that Anup Reubens' music is like any of his non-Akkineni albums - quite forgettable. Pawan Kalyan and his brothers still manage to curry up some laughs and hoots, but they're just about enough to not make you walk out. The post-show discussions were all about the first-half jokes and the first-half fights. Like we said, the first half alone flies.
Katamarayudu joins the lamentable list of mass films which get their basics wrong by just not having a good villain. There are three or four villains in the film, all of whom summarily get their butt kicked and never pose a sturdy challenge to the hero. This method worked for Gabbar Singh
when the fans were rather desperate for a powerful Pawan Kalyan film, but that was really an aberration. The worthiest of stars still needs a worthy antagonist. We thought, in the first half, that Rao Ramesh was going to be that, but he is reduced to a comedian (he is a hoot anyway).
The best part of Katamarayudu is the very beginning stretch which leads to the hero's introduction. Pradeep Rawat and his brother diligently establish themselves as bad and powerful. They almost insult Rayudu in his own household. Rayudu's cow begins to rage at them and you know their stars aren't smiling. You think their doom's coming from the cow until Rayudu takes up the matter personally. You get a glimpse of what star power can do.
You keep getting glimpses of star power through the film, but that's what they are. Glimpses, not visions.