Five minutes into Okkadunnadu, the villain makes his mark (literally) by trying to pull off a henchman's ear. Literally tear it off, in the manner in which one tears off a leg from the rest of the chicken in your biryani. This somewhat funny yet ominous scene should give you an inkling of how the rest of the movie will shape up.
Chandrasekhar Yeleti seems to be out to prove a point, namely that he too is capable of making a standard masala movie. The question that pops to mind is, "Why?" That being said, Okkadunnadu works pretty well as a run-of-the-mill flick. Thanks to Yeleti, the basic narrative is taut and engrossing, especially during the first half, but tends to sag a bit during the second.
Sona (Mahesh Manjrekar) is the kingpin of the Mumbai's underworld gold smuggling business. Along with his langotiya yaar Jayadev (Nasir), he presides over an empire of crime.
However, it looks like Sona's presiding days are numbered, because he suffers from a terminal heart disease. This forces him to roll around a suitcase type thing on wheels, which monitors his heart and peps it up when needed. It has a display which closely resembles the command console of the starship Enterprise, and is attached to the heart via several dangerously delicate looking plastic tubes. When you realize that this contraption means that he can never take carry-on baggage on flights, you start feeling really sorry for the poor old chap (until the ear pulling starts).
The only way Sona can save his life is to undergo an urgent heart transplant. An additional complication is that Sona's blood group is the very rare "Bombay blood group", and the donor must be of the same blood group. All his attempts to find a suitable "donor" (i. e. someone whose heart he can "borrow") fail, and he is at the end of his tether. Is there no one who fits the bill?
Okkadunnadu. Kiran (Gopichand) arrives in Mumbai to collect payment for some property that his family sold to a local seth, through Gowtami (Neha Julka), a realtor. Gowtami lives with her parents in an improbably located house on the beach, and manages the family business. Kiran pursues Gowtami doggedly for the money he is owed, hinting that ever so slightly he is under great pressure to collect the cash, and that he will almost certainly do unspeakably violent things after the interval. We later find out that he needs the money to help his father Gowrishankar (Suman) get out of financial difficulties.
Good Samaritan that he is, Kiran donates blood to someone in need of the "Bombay blood group", and this information travels all the way to Sona, giving him a reason for living (literally). His buddy Jayadev goes to work, trying to entice Kiran to come into the hospital for "tests" (read "involuntary transplant"), but all is not well in the state of Sona's empire, and Sona's disgruntled nephew tips Kiran off about Jayadev's real intentions. Kiran escapes from the hospital, and to find out what happens next, you'll have to watch Okkadunnadu.
Plot and storyline are unmistakably Yeleti's strong suit. His second strength is his understated rather than the slapstick sense of humor. There's a trademark scene at the beginning of Okkadunnadu where both villains gaze fondly at a photo from their youthful days, only to say something like, "Remember when this photo was taken? It was the same day that we chopped off XYZ's legs and threw him in the canal. Ha ha ha. Those were the days… sigh."
Yeleti sticks to playing the right cards in the first half, which makes it gripping and successfully sucks you into the movie itself. Perhaps under pressure from the "formula", an item number, a comedy track, and a romance angle are squeezed in rather late, which mars the effort somewhat. Keeravani's music and songs are definitely catchy, and are likely to remain popular for a while.
Gopichand does a very commendable job as the mostly docile son trying to save his father's reputation. He has a perpetually worried look on his face, and you start to sincerely feel sympathy for his character, especially when Gowtami keeps giving him the runaround. You feel like putting an arm across his shoulder and telling him that it will all work out, except when he is bashing up the goons, using progressively bloodier and innovative tools and processes.
Neha Julka is also a refreshing revelation. For a change, the heroine has something more to do than croon and swoon, and since the romance between Kiran and Gowtami starts a bit late, you get to see what else Gowtami (and Neha) are capable of. Nasir will surely win the Oscar award this year in the "Ability to Make Eyebrows Move Independently Of Each Other" category. That aside, he is believable as the "managing director" villain (as opposed to Manjrekar's "chairman" villain) and may even touch a chord with his devotion to his friend.
All said and done, Okkadunnadu is a mixed bag of offerings. As discerning members of the audience, we can only tell Chandrasekhar Yeleti that he's made the point that he's quite capable of turning out an adequate commercial/mainstream movie, but can he please go back and do some more of what he does best - the high tension, low volume, tightly written action/thriller genre?