The smart hero is superbly styled with his side hair short and his beard long. The gorgeous heroine is depressingly dumb. The dangerous villain is played by a yesteryear star who can pull off confidence like few of the current crop can. Everybody is abroad, speaking Telugu and some (upsettingly poor) English. And none of the white/black people behaves normally. The hero and villain have their horns locked in a mostly intellectual duel where they try to outsmart each other. The process involves spy bugs and a painting, and extraordinary production values with everything and everyone looking like it's a Vogue cover.
We were talking about Nannaku Prematho
, incidentally. But all of that checks out for LIE as well.
While all these similarities may be incidental, there's one reason you'd keep going back to Nannaku Prematho while watching LIE. And that has to do with the intelligence of the film. No matter how much they blow their own trumpet, these films aren't intelligent. That doesn't mean they're outright stupid, either. Stupid films don't have to be annoying, you see. For instance, Mubarakan
is enjoyable although it's decidedly stupid. What's really definitely more annoying than stupidity in films is fake intelligence.
Fake intelligence is a big problem because the protagonist and antagonist keep pretending to be playing a serious game of chess that'll make Kasparov want to sit and observe. The truth is neither party even knows how the game is played. The whole set-up and stakes are dubious. So the ploys these people keep making are both contrived and convenient, and also complete bullshit.
That still worked out for Nannaku Prematho because far too many people are ignorant of non-linear dynamics and chaos theory, so they don't splutter and choke on their cola when Jagapathi Babu confidently declares that killing a butterfly saves America from a hurricane. And Sukumar has some sense of structured writing which lets you go with the flow of the story even if you don't quite buy much of it. But that is precisely where Hanu Raghavapudi completely loses the plot. Literally.
The film starts off with a murder. Then there's so much time spent on the heroine (Megha Akash) whose supposed defining characteristic is her stinginess. Then there's the gold-digging lout (Nithin) who gets mixed up with some affair where India's central intelligence is pursuing a certain object which is the obsession of the villain (Arjun). By some super contrived efforts the hero and heroine go to the USA, whereon the girl turns up on screen only whenever the director feels like there needs to be some "romance". And in the process of the hero pursuing the villain, other characters come and go - with no respect for continuity or consistency - because the director feels like there need to be "twists".
"Romance" and "twists" are in quotes because there is not a single moment of it that you buy. And in the process of executing all these dysfunctional elements, Raghavapudi lets go of any basic chuckling or heart-warming that your average pot-boiler will necessarily attempt. The inane attempts at sophistication and inadequate attempts at pot-boiling makes this chess game utterly excruciating while being unentertaining.
You could always look at the great-looking cast. Nithin and Arjun and Megha Akash (whose booty close-up may well be worth the ticket money for some people) can keep you occupied visually if you switch off your neocortex. And you can get on with the popcorn-munching during the well-choreographed action sequences and songs. Everything is beautifully shot (Yuvaraj on the camera), and Mani Sharma's in good form with the score and songs. However, the question is - if these visceral frills were what were to be sold, why pretend to be smart?