If the underlying concept of Devadas had to be summed up into a single line, it could best be done by citing this line from the film: "Aina chavuki bratukuki friendship enti?"
Because the entire film, even though we realise it only later, explores the strange friendship between life and death. Except, both these come in human form through Deva, a don representing death, and Das, a doctor (MBBS, MS, gold medalist, as we are reminded again and again) representing life.
That might sound complicated, but Devadas showcases it all with an element of fun, or as they say entertainment, weaved in. Deva (Nagarjuna) and Das (Nani) are brought together in a clichéd hurt-don-visits-doctor-in-the-middle-of-the-night way, but what ensues is a bond of friendship that sees each of them taking a leaf from the other's lifestyle as they continue on their own different journeys.
Devdas has circumstances contrive to make Das, an academically accomplished doctor with dreams of working in a multispecialty hospital, work in a ravaged old clinic that he hates. When the hugely notorious criminal Deva barges into the clinic one night with a bullet in his chest, little does Das know that life will change and that this stranger will become his closest and only friend. Deva takes you inexorably into the world of Sanjay Dutt's Munnabhai MBBS
, with Nag's histrionics as the leader of the gang reminding you continuously of the Raju Hirani film.
Devadas starts off slow, taking its time to establish the lead characters. The humour makes you quickly fall in love with them, and it all looks set to be a hell of a joyride, but the entire wafer-thin storyline of the film soon starts playing spoilsport.
At times it feels difficult to connect with the goings-on because the main conflict isn't established well. Nagarjuna is presented as a don "who has not been seen by anyone for over a decade", but we know nothing about his past. We also do not connect with his emotion of avenging the death of his adoptive father (Sarath Kumar) because their bond hasn't been established at all. The same is the case with the romance track between Das and Pooja (Rashmika Mandanna), which has no depth to it. While it is a similar scenario with the love story of Deva and Jahnavi (Akanksha Singh), there are thankfully at least some moments there that show their connect.
Another trouble with the movie is how it is a drag at times. Like the sequence where a little boy of seemingly just two years is telling Nagarjuna about the "boochodu" inside him, and going on and on about how he coughs blood. Yes, we empathise with the boy's leukemia, but it's hard to buy that a little boy would have so much to say about it. Another example is the car chase sequence, though paradoxically it takes us into the best scene in the film where the whole conversation around life and death happens.
Nani delivers yet another phenomenal performance. His wisecracks and mannerisms bring the house down several times, and his chemistry with Nagarjuna works spot on. It's fun to see him play the dude in distress towards the finale as Rashmika Mandanna - in a clichéd heroine role that she plays to perfection - gets into action mode. As for Nagarjuna, it is a delight to watch him in the action avatar after quite long, and it brings back memories of his heyday. His sequences with Akanksha Singh are adorable, reminding you of why he has been the quintessential Manmadhudu
of Telugu cinema.
What's sad though is that an able actor like Naveen Chandra is wasted in a boring role that didn't need a known face like his. The same is the case with Kunal Kapoor who makes his Telugu debut in a role that will be forgotten even before you leave the cinema hall. Both the female leads, despite having characters that add importance to the plot, too are just wasted. One performance that stands out though is that of Kalakeya Prabhakar, who gives quite a fun twist to his portrayal of a don's sidekick.
Mani Sharma hasn't lost his magic touch, and gives you some soulful music, balancing it with racy tunes for the background music. And Shamdat Sainudeen produces some bright visuals. But what this film really needed was a tighter screenplay.
On the whole Devadas is a frothy, feel-good film that might appeal to you in parts, but leaves you wanting for more as a package. A perfect team of actors, a production house with legacy and a story that had potential ultimately leave you with just a few laughs (though loud ones at that). It's like visiting the most innovative saloon in town to end up getting a boring haircut.