Raju Gari Gadhi is effectively two films in one. There is a horror comedy which goes on simultaneously with a horror thriller. Why, the director (also actor) Ohmkar even manages to squeeze in a social message into the movie. The individual successes of the comedy, the horror and the socially conscious sub-plot are precisely in that descending order. But the scariest thing about Raju Gari Gadhi turns out to be the jarring juxtaposition of these diverse elements.
It begins with a haunted mahal (which is just called mahal - no king's name, no historic epithets, just mahal) which is notorious for churning out dead bodies of the silly gooses who enter it despite knowledge of such notoriety. And then, Maa TV announces a reality show wherein the participants will have to live in the mahal for seven days and anyone who finds the secret behind the mahal will win three crore rupees.
Program head Pakodi (Prabhas Seenu) and creative director Chekodi (Raghu Babu) interview some applicants and pick a motley crowd of seven for the show - Ashwin (Ashwin Babu), Dr Nandan (Chetan Cheenu), Bala Tripura Sundari (Dhanya Bala Krishnan), M Y Danam (Shakalaka Shankar feels hilariously stung when anyone calls him Mydanam), Peddakoretepadu Sivudu (Dhanraj usually doing the honours of calling out Mydanam), Balusupadu Bujjamma (Vidyullekha Raman) and Barbie (Eeshanya, because apparently a horror movie has to have a pair of svelte legs).
During the course of these seven days, as the seven guys discover things about the mahal, we make a discovery of our own - that the film doesn't care two flying rodents' bottoms about consistency. For instance, people who get petrified after seeing a ghost act relaxed and jovial in the next scene and willingly continue to stay in the mahal despite having soiled themselves in fear just a couple of hours back.
A film can have its own logic. Every fantasy film constructs its own dynamics, and a viewer walking in to a cinema playing such a film makes an implicit agreement that (s)he will not question the film's choice of universe or its rules. But there have to be fixed rules. A guy who walks on water today should be able to do it again tomorrow and not conveniently lose the power because the story demands it. If a film can't achieve this, then we water down our expectations and hope that it rather be entertaining.
That, Raju Gari Gadhi takes care of. It's rib-ticklingly funny in some situations. You have got to watch Shakalaka Shankar and Dhanraj play off each other in some scenes to appreciate the talent. While you might have seen some of their skits in Jabardasth, the excessive frequency of the show makes way for too many lame jokes topped with those annoying sound cues. The good thing about a movie is there is much more effort which goes into a scene of barely three minutes. This effort, both in terms of acting and writing (Sai Madhav Burra writes really funny dialogue), shines through in the comical scenes.
Most of the other actors don't do much. Dhanya has a nice screen presence and Tamil comedienne Vidyullekha is talented, but they both suffer from poor dubbing choices. The Telangana accent doesn't work for Dhanya. Mostly, stressed accents work best when played by people who can speak in that accent. Somebody oblivious to the cultural aspects represented by an accent look and feel out of place when playing it. On the contrary, Vidyullekha seems to have dubbed for herself, and her Tamil accent results in some badly affected Telugu.
The film succeeds only partially with the horror. These scenes are done well with competent cinematography (Gnanam) and some excellent editing (Nagaraj), but you catch on to the lack of seriousness, and a horror film which doesn't make you worry when the ghost is absent doesn't scare so much when the ghost is present. The anticipation is important. Raju Gari Gadhi is too relaxed a film for that sort of, er, consistency.
The score by Sai Karteek doesn't necessarily stand out but he does come up with some nice tunes in the songs. There is some nice choreography, too, in the first song. All put together, Raju Gari Gadhi surely entertains, but only if you lower your expectations adequately. Expect some harmless thrills and substantial laughs, and you'll have nothing to fear.