He has the demeanour of a man who has never seen failure. Or even of someone who is too young and immature to even know that there is such a thing, and that it can happen to him. The way we all were before the first Big Blow happened.
Which is surprising considering everything you know about him.
Yamadonga presents a whole new NTR. With a fresh body and a fresher mind. Both - let's be practical here - incredible feats. He takes centerstage by sheer performance. The glint in the eye, a taunting smile that looks almost impudent, an energy that brooks no method acting, and (gasp!) style (gasp, gasp!). He looks like he feels he's just had 10 back-to-back superhits.
Then the first half ends.
Alas, Yamadonga is not likely to be NTR's Big Comeback. It's now an almost trademark Rajamouli problem. The movie builds to a crescendo, and unfortunately it's too much for even him to handle it after that, and he lets it simper away. Chatrapati
were both such examples, where the peaks of the films were certainly not anywhere near the climax. (Lest we be accused of focusing too much on the moles and warts, fullhyd.com had still predicted both of them would be hits.)
Yamadonga suffers from other problems, too - it's not exactly a gripping tale, like the above two (and Simhadri
) were, at least for most part. It's a story you already know, and there's no powerful villian who you badly want quashed. It's mostly a comedy, and as a comedy it's not really in the league of, say, a Nuvvu Naaku Nachchav
Also, it's a story set in the times when the original NTR could get away with the kind of clothes he wore. This is a new generation. They have too many questions to ask of Yama, even if they believe in him - you can't show them a character that seems to have no depth worthy of that position. And it's kinda late in the day to feed them a story of a Seeta Geeta
girl harrassed into slavery by evil relatives who covet her immense wealth after her father dies. That thing went out of fashion in, oh, 1523.
Indeed, there's almost no thought in this reprisal of the '70s hit - it's the kind of dumbed down story that you come up with if you're trying to entertain people who sit on wooden benches in a taluk where there's only one cinema hall.
Yes, the only payback is NTR's much-hyped new avatar, and his relaunch. The rest is blah. And it's not quite enough.
So Raja (NTR) is a small-time thief who, with his accomplice Satti (Ali), once successfully does some stealing for someone (M S Narayana) who offers to pay him Rs. 10 lakhs. However, this person dies just as he is about to sign the cheque, leading a drunk Raja to rave and rant against Yama, the god of death.
The imperious Yama (Mohan Babu) actually hears all this, and to teach this irreverent puny human a lesson, advances his date of death from several decades later to merely 10 days later. When Raja enters Yama's world, he coincidentally finds out what happened, and steals Yama's all-powerful noose and effects a coup to become Yama himself.
He also uses this brief period in power to clean up his record of sins from the ledgers of Chitragupta (Brahmanandam), so that when he is tricked into handing out the noose back to Yama, the latter can take no action against him. Seething with a desire for revenge, Yama then sends him back to earth so he can commit more sins.
The movie fails on several logical fronts, of course. That is no reason to not watch any Indian film, like we all know, but when the film itself is mediocre, they all stand out. For example, no sins committed by Raja in his second stint on earth can get recorded by Yama, since Raja is in love, and love "protects" him. Now that's a first we've heard.
Then, the normally extra-wily Raja appears imexplicably lost in the last half-hour, failing to anticipate and pre-empt Yama's schemes to separate him from his love Maheswari (Priyamani), despite knowing that Yama is in disguise and trying to do that. In fact, he hardly uses that knowledge to turn the tables, as a person of his intelligence and slyness normally would. This makes it frustrating for you, too.
And the climax is very
corny. Like we noted, Rajamouli has a penchant for making his endings quite sub-par.
The first half is energetic and almost absorbing, and NTR gets to show off some special talent in dialogue-delivery. Mohan Babu's presence adds to the spice, too. The second half starts by showing promise in being boring, and realizes that potential fully.
The film also has plenty of chances to show layers to it, but unapologetically and unequivocally stays away. As a pure piece of story-writing, it shows more ineptitude than any conscious dumbing down. And it was certainly possible to make it more at least more ...intact. If you fancy yourself the slightly intellectual type, there's almost nothing here for you.
The performances are all good, from NTR's supreme confidence and Mohan Babu's seasoned delivery down to Mamata Mohandas' debut. The dances, as usual, frame NTR in very flattering light. Rubberu Gaajulu leads the pack in a decent soundtrack.
There hasn't been a straight Telugu hit in 3 months now, and that might make Yamadonga worth watching if you really need to see something. Just remember to reduce your IQ before you go.