It's flattering when a "minimum guarantee" director actually trusts audiences with a film that turns formula on its head.
Just as the quirky casting of its lead suggests, Maryada Ramanna is a concept movie; one that requires you to not be distracted by testosterone on steroids
, or in fact, by any of the people on screen. That will possibly be its undoing at the box office, but it's not all downhill yet.
Maryada Ramanna is a comedy about a simpleton Ramu (Sunil) who is unwittingly caught in a Rayalaseema factionist's call for revenge against his family. Having been brought up in the city, by a widowed (and now dead) mother, away from the violent ways of his home town in Rayalaseema, Ramu is oblivious of his family's past. He lands up in his village to reclaim some land he's inherited from his father, and is told to approach Ramineedu (Nagineedu), the most powerful man there, to get his work done faster.
Ramineedu and his entire family treat Ramu like royalty, just as they do any guest who walks in. However, when Ramu's origins are discovered, the warlord and his men don't hesitate to decide what's next - he must be butchered.
Ramu can save his neck only one way - by not stepping out of the threshold of the mansion he's being pampered in, as the family believes in "not shedding blood inside the house". What complicates, and sometimes, eases, the proceedings for Ramu is the presence of the sprightly Aparna (Saloni) in the household.
What's refreshing about Ramu's characterization is that "pathetic" or "helpless" aren't his defining features - he's as normal
as normal can be, and his guy-next-door-ness is identifiable. And yes, he's the kind who can land a babe without invoking the sympathy factor, simply because he's a fun character. The last time we saw this effectively articulated was in Vinayakudu
The writing is intriguing - despite dealing with a comic-bookish plot, keeps the tension alive. There are some ridiculous antics that Rajamouli makes his hero do every time he has to escape the blade of a machete, but the drama of the moment is impressive each time; despite the fact that you know he's always going to be unscathed.
Ramu's initial romantic interest in Aparna when he meets her in the train had immense potential, but is overshadowed by the sheer terror he's living in amidst his foes. That track never loses its cuteness, though, and the writing again comes out a winner here. The budding romance is a basically a tangent to the main story, but is is cleverly integrated into the plot, ultimately making it the keystone.
There are good dialogues, too, and delightful performances all around. Casting a non-superstar obviously makes it easier for the script to be noticed. Plus, Sunil aces this one - he doesn't even have to go over-the-top for the comedy, as the writing takes care of a lot of it. He also gets to dance as well as goof around with impossible stunts on a bicycle (one that Ravi Teja lends his voice to), and in general, have a good time.
Saloni has a pleasant screen presence, and
she acts well. Brahmaji as well as the villains, including Nagineedu, do a neat job, too.
The background score is brilliant. As for the songs, Keeravani tries out thick layers of old world charm, and it works. The film has been well-shot, but like we said, uses comic-bookish stunts at times.
It's not formula, it's made by a reputed director, it features Sunil as hero, it makes you chuckle, and it has good music. Hopefully, for at least some in the audience, that will do.