Valmiki (Murali Sharma) is an employee of Ramachandra (Jayaram). But employee is a bad word in Trivikram's world. It means servant, if not slave
. Valmiki rues this truth of the world (of Trivikram's world at least) so much that when a sliver of opportunity presents itself, he switches his baby (born in the general ward) with Ramachandra's baby (born in the special ward of the same hospital) on the night of their birth. After the swap is executed and evidence suppressed, each time he goes to his boss's house Valmiki beams at his son being brought up in luxury.
At least Mary Pereira of Midnight's Children had the guilt that comes with something so heinous as switching babies. Valmiki doesn't have this humanity. He brings up Ramachandra's son with a sadistic disdain constantly informing him that his life is quite worthless. The wretchedness of Valmiki is truly exemplified in naming the boy 'Bantu' (servant). Despite all his efforts to differentiate his own son from that of Ramachandra, his son in the mansion grows up to be a dim, dull and spineless fellow, whereas Bantu grows up to be a bright, strong Chiranjeevi nephew who embraces his author-backed fate.
Off the bat, I have a bunch of issues with this plot. Trivikram's obession with the Beautiful Bourgeois and his contempt for the Miserable Middle class has been on embarrassing display for a while now (the poor proletariat doesn't exist in his world except to be occassionally saved by the hero). Ala Vaikunthapuramlo takes it a few notches higher by making the middle class guy the wretched villain without a heart. Adding salt to the wound, this villain is called Valmiki. The rich man is called Ramachandra.
I'll stop complaining soon. Just one more paragraph. Thank you. Trivikram's assertion that the rich man's son will be king no matter how damaging his upbringing, and that the middle class spawn will always be middling no matter how much access to resources he has, is basically what's called nepotism. It is logic like this that also sustains casteism.
Okay, I lied. Last complaint in this review, I swear. Women aren't to be respected because they give birth. They are to be respected because they are people. This notion that you disrespect people unless they prove they are worthy is a very hateful way of looking at the world. You could alternatively respect people until they prove to be unworthy and you may just find some peace in your head.
So, it is obvious that I loathe Trivikram's worldview at least as much as he loathes the middle class. Nevertheless, I loved Ala Vaikunthapuramlo.
Trivikram is the sort of filmmaker who really wants to tell us something. He opens the doors to his mind and invites us in. The fundamental transaction in such situations is that the story-teller wants us to pay attention to his story by offering us entertainment in return. All the issues I talked about earlier, he brushes them under a big carpet. In some visits (Agnyaathavasi
being the worst), the carpet isn't very nice and he isn't even being a good host. The transactional nature of the host-guest or the raconteur-audience relationship is compromised.
But this time around, the carpet is soft, warm, and very very beautiful. I spent at least two hours of my visit admiring the carpet, squatting on it, and enjoying its lovely patterns. And it's almost Sankranthi. Trivikram's upped his hosting game by bringing Allu Arjun to the party. They really put the festive in this festival.
So you have a film which is written well. Trivikram's pet themes are all there. But they are worked better here. Remember that strange bit from S/O Sathyamurthy
, of a couple that doesn't talk to each other? It feels odd and forced there. But in Ala Vaikunthapuramlo, the conflict is built enough for you to enjoy the tenderness of the moment when the couple is rejoined. Better writing also lends to lesser pontification. He resorts to speechifying in the last scene but the rest of the film does tell the story by showing.
The film is also shot, composed, choreographed, and acted very well. It is a fact that these departments have always been well taken care of in every Trivikram film. The big difference is that the writing and the direction really come together this time. So you get to enjoy Samajavaragamana much more than Gaali Vaaluga. The very casual and chilled out climax fight is much more enjoyable than hundreds of goons getting pounded in S/O Sathyamurthy.
Making great use of this development in writing is the strong cast including Murali Sharma, Tabu, Jayaram, Samuthirakani, Sachin Khedekar (first time I've liked him in a south-Indian film) and Rajendra Prasad among others. Pooja Hegde, too, manages to not stick out and truly belongs in the few scenes she's around.
However, the absolute winner here is Allu Arjun. Not saddled by the impossible stardom of, say, a Mahesh Babu, he gets to play around a lot more in the lows which make his highs that much more satisfying. (Barring his pronunciation.) He's become a complete entertainer where his bouncy fights, flowy steps, funny lines and wholly Bunny charisma are still working their magic even in the complete fan-service moments which often tire out the non-fans.
So, yeah, I really enjoyed this visit to Trivikram's mind. I would have enjoyed it a lot more (perhaps 8.5/10 ?) if only he spent some time on the couch and resolved those issues that hide under that big beautiful carpet.