We miss Ram Gopal Varma.
We mean the one who could have made KSD Appalraju a well-rounded, taut, deliciously wacky satire on Telugu cinema. Not the one who relentlessly continues to make self-indulgent monologues while proclaiming his disdain for "critics" (read "audiences").
Remember the Sridevi / Paresh Rawal jokes in Kshana Kshanam? Now, imagine being promised a marathon of them. Then, imagine being delivered a few of them, and then being dished out Aag
KSD, as everyone sure would have figured out by now, is Ram Gopal Varma's tongue-in-cheek take on the workings of Tollywood, and is a grey comedy (contrary to his bizarre "confession" in the beginning of the movie that it is, in fact, a tragedy, and that it was marketed as a comedy purely to get audiences into the theatres). What begins as a fun ride soon starts looking less like a healthy parody, and more like the incoherent ramblings of an angst-ridden has-been.
The movie's protagonist is Appalraju (Sunil), an Amalapuram bloke who knows nothing about movies except for having watched them in his local cinema hall, and who wants to make what he thinks will be an awesome Telugu film.
He has an art flick in mind, a tragedy - defying every conventional rule possible in the film world. Despite his fierce conviction, he's forced to compromise on a zillion fronts, thanks to the multiple forces that influence a movie's production, release, and eventually, box office reception. Appalraju's perspective is an R K Laxman style common-man-peek into the eccentric, weird, money-minded, and sometimes insane, ways of the Telugu film world.
From sleazy producers to underworld financiers, talentless music directors to promiscuous actor-sons and air-headed actresses, Ram Gopal Varma uses all the fodder he has on hand to helm a promising satire. The first half of the flick sails through brilliantly, what with RGV poking fun at himself and his own movies, and with all the other insider jokes and spoofs. The song lampooning Tollywood's top guns, including directors and heroes, is a great product in itself.
The humour is understated and sarcastic, yet delightful. Indeed, it's always entertaining to see spoofs of our favourite film stars, especially because it reminds us of our hero-worshipping ways; a fact that KSD uses to its advantage.
The problem starts when everything begins to unravel - the jokes become long-drawn, the satire starts losing its point, and everything becomes an exaggerated scene in a school play. A ridiculously absurd anti-climax doesn't help matters either.
For example, Brahmanandam's hilarious intro scene is stuff that legendary comical scenes are made of, but his role is whittled down when they overdo it. Similarly, RGV's takes on film reviewers and distributors seem like caricatures, and quite misjudged. Also, the whole star-rivalry bit bores you out of your skull after a while.
Meanwhile, every single actor polishes off his role with elan - with Sunil, Raghu Babu, Harshavardhan, Brahmanandam, Ajay and Venu Madhav managing to grab most of the airtime. Swati might want to try toning down the "spontaneity".The experienced lot has smaller roles, but doesn't disappoint. And a cameo by a top star draws some whistles despite its pointlessness.
The music is no-fuss, but a puzzling item song in the end is quite putting-off. The visuals are drab, and high production values were clearly not on RGV's agenda while this film was made.
Watch it for a some wicked laughs, and lots of restless yawns.