Before we start: the title suggests that the yuddham is between the protagonists - however, it is just a yuddham that Krishna (Nani) and Arjun (Nani again) fight together in. But more on that later.
Krishna can't get any woman to like him, and Arjun can't just get enough of them - Gandhi sets up his leads coherently in a narrative that switches between Chittoor and Prague. Things take a turn when Riya (Ruksar) enters Krishna's life in Chittoor and immediately warms up to him. The courtship is written really well and takes its own sweet time.
At the same time in Prague, Arjun falls hard for the photographer Subbalakshmi (Anupama Parameswaran) and decides to give up his flamboyant and flirtatious life for settling down with her. Only, the problem is that the girl doesn't trust him and remains skeptical of his ways of wooing her right till the time she returns to Hyderabad and gets kidnapped by a sex-trafficking gang.
Riya's grandfather (Nagineedu) has always been deeply resentful of Krishna and thinks he is up to no good. When he knows that romance is brewing between Riya and Krishna, he immediately sends her packing to Hyderabad where she is also promptly kidnapped by the above mentioned gang. And this unites Krishna and Arjun to bring their women back.
Gandhi is a good writer of comedy and romance who puts in a lot of effort into his writing, which is evident in the way he creates the transitions between Chittoor and Prague in the first half. As long as the film stays in the courtship and fun mode he does very well. But once it enters the second half where he has to amp up the thrill factor, his weaknesses show. Writing action and directing it effectively to provide an edge-of-the-seat experience are not Gandhi's forte, and are a departure from his usual body of work. Though the attempt is commendable, he is not the man for the job.
Nani is totally at home playing the village lout Krishna - his accent is spot-on, and the comic timing is as perfect as it always has been. He is completely at home in the village since he knows the part well, and charms his way through his lines and with his easy-going demeanour that has worked so well for him all these days.
However Nani as rockstar womanizer Arjun really struggles. He is clearly no rockstar, and doesn't look the part at all either when strumming the guitar languidly or when flooring girls with just looks. It doesn't help that his role isn't well-written, either. In fact the film could have done away with Arjun entirely. Krishna, a man so disconnected with the city life that he can't even understand half the things the urban-dwellers say, taking upon the sex trafficking ring on his own without any resources or friends would have been a better film.
But once Krishna and Arjun meet, these problems become redundant. Arjun provides Krishna with every necessary support under the sun, and Krishna with his considerable brawn kicks some serious ass. The combination is collectively exhaustive, and the bad guys can do nothing but look bad when faced against them.
Anupama and Ruksar perform well in the first half and disappear completely in the second. Brahmaji in Prague, Mahesh Vitta and Sudarshan in Chittoor, and Prabhas Sreenu in Hyderabad never leave the leads alone for long, and put in delightful performances.
The film is generously peppered with Ilaiyaraja's melodies, and each one of them is far more memorable than any of the songs that Hip Hop Thamiza comes up with. Ilaiyaraja is indeed a steep benchmark, but even otherwise the music doesn't register save for the chartbusting Daari Choodu. The background score picks up decibels in a loud rendering of the Siva Thandava stotram whenever there is a fight, but other than that doesn't add anything to the film.
After turning in some frankly substandard work in their previous movie Express Raja
, cinematographer Kartik Gattamaneni returns to dish out more of the same. For some inexplicable reason he insists on using those flashlights, and even having them visible in the frame even in broad daylight, which makes the viewing experience a bit troublesome. Even with picturesque (Prague) and exotic (Kerala, maybe) locales, his camerawork doesn't impress much.
At a point in the movie Nani gets to mouth the iconic dialogue from Taken, immortalized by Liam Neeson, in his Chittoor slang. However, before he can finish it the line gets disconnected. It might be a subtle homage to the film, or an admission from the makers that we are not quite there yet. If it is the latter, it is an honest assessment of the movie.