Chalo is a simplistic movie about a simplistic goofball told in a simplistic way peppered with some simplistic jokes, and we'll simply stop saying the word simplistic so many times as even our simplistic brains understand that you simply can't take this anymore. Writer/director Venku Kudumula introduces you to Chalo's simplistic protagonist Hari (Naga Shourya) by doubling down on the latter's singular character trait; Hari loves fights. He loves getting into fisticuffs so much so that he doesn't mind being on both the giving and receiving ends of physical punishment.
Inspired by old man Rajinikanth's parenting techniques from Arunachalam, Hari's father decides to ship his son off to Tirupuram - a rural town which has the border between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh running right through it. Because of the town's unique makeup, it is a haven for violent communal disputes between the Tamil and Telugu contingents. Hari's father wants his only son to get into as many fights as humanly possible in this volatile environment as he hopes that it would help create a dislike of said violent lifestyle in his son's mind.
Why he can't have his son learn a martial art and represent India in the Olympics or in the Octagon? I don't know the answer to that question - and neither do his dad and nor the movie.
After the aforementioned setup, the movie's plot follows Hari's attempts at trying to unite the two sections of the town as he, the Telugu guy, falls in love with Karthika (Rashmika Mandanna), the Tamil girl.
Chalo is a veritable smorgasbord of self-deprecating humour, inane setups, hilarious payoffs and lazy braindead storytelling at its finest. It looks at its audience, smirks, and says, "If I'm going to be stupid, I'll be KING STUPID." And runs with that statement from minute 1 to minute 135. And to its credit, I haven't laughed out loud at a Telugu movie to this extent since Pelli Choopulu
Many a big-budget star-powered Telugu movie needs to take a look at Chalo for a few pointers to how to use a wafer-thin plot and a wealth of character actors to its advantage. The movie masks its deficiencies in the logic and story departments by having its characters laugh at its glaring flaws which in turn gives the audiences free reign to enjoy themselves at the movie's expense. The film is so self-aware that it drags out specific plot points (mysteries) to a comical degree while priming the audiences not to expect much from the ultimate payoff. It is a risky act to pull off, and the movie almost comes off scot-free but for a few errors in some key areas.
Chalo's primary drawback is its lead couple. Naga Shourya and Rashmika Mandanna might look the parts at being your everyday couple next door, but they can do precious little in terms of getting an audience to sympathize or empathize with their plights. Naga Shourya's inexperience comes through when he is forced to emote non-verbally, and Rashmika Mandanna's Karthika seems to be a clear rip-off of her character from her Kannada debut in Kirik Party (right down to her glasses). However, unlike her male counterpart, Mandanna drops the ball with her verbal acting whereas her quieter moments offer more in terms of making her character likeable. The awkward line-readings and unsubtle emoting while spouting out said lines don't help her make a strong Tollywood debut.
But credit where credit is due, as the movie redeems itself by getting the most out of the talents of its character and comedy actor brigade. These men and women have not been given material this good since Srinu Vaitla's heyday, and they do make hay within these two and half hours of sunshine. Satya, Posani Krishna Murali and especially Venella Kishore bring their unique brands of physical comedy, comic timing and dialogue delivery to their characters.
These actors and their quirk-fuelled characters are so engaging that you'd be asking for spin-offs with them in the lead while simultaneously forgetting about how bang average the score, music and sound design are. While the actors go above the call of the duty to help the audiences get their money's worth, the film's technical staff seem to have put themselves on autopilot. Every tender scene between boy and girl is shot with soft focus and every scene with a bad guy is rendered with an uncomfortable close-up. These shot choices reek of overuse. And when the movie tries to break convention, it rips off shots from Kingsman
hoping no one will notice.
In all honesty, however, not many in the audiences seemed to be noticing the flaws that seemed so glaring to us, as they were too busy laughing their ribs off. It's like the movie knew it had unlikable leads, a hackneyed storyline which was the unholy love child of Brindavanam
, Maryada Ramanna
, and some lapses in logic so blatant that the theory of creationism seemed plausible by comparison. However, unlike many a commercial movie, it never tries to talk down to you from its flawed moral high ground. On the contrary, it sits next to you, accepts your flaws as a nitpicky moviegoer and invites you to accept its flaws as it is nothing more than a pure popcorn entertainer.