Pandurangadu is so bad, it begs an analysis of how Annamayya and Sri Ramadasu
by the same director worked so brilliantly, something that required no analysis all these years. Well, the summary of the analysis would be, alas.
Pandurangadu is first and foremost a directorial failure - the plots rambles on and on, so much that in a movie about a staunch devotee, he's no devotee at all for the first, oh, 2 hours. Instead, there's sleaze. Couldn't the veteran director set aside his fascination for women's navels and cleavages at least in a devotional?
Oh, let's not even start off on a discussion about commercial viability. If a director feels the need to use sleaze to sell a movie about God, something's terribly wrong somewhere, and it's with him
. Nobody will come into a movie with a title like Pandurangadu in a mood to watch women's midriffs being pampered.
That aside, the plot spacing is a nightmare. Like we said, it takes 2 hours for the protagonist to even turn devotee, and in another 25 minutes it's all wrapped up. He sees God in a jiffy, he gets salvation, the credits roll. Oh, couldn't they have just printed the story in a newspaper instead of making a whole movie about it?
And then the film itself - plebian to incredible extents, it makes you wonder if they are in sync at all with the world and the audiences of today. The dialogues look like they were written by someone who writes school plays - that whole scene where Lakshmi introduces herself to Rangadu's family is a splendid example, the comedy truly sucks, and there's not a single line of depth in a whole movie about God and spirituality. Then, the graphics are unbelievably tacky, and there's not one song or tune that will stay on after the movie's gone, a hell of a feat for a devotional.
And no, Balakrishna may be memorable in certain types of roles, but he cannot make a Krishna. It's an unfortunate revelation for millions of us for whom NTR's face still comes to mind when we think of Krishna. Maybe another director or maybe deeper lines could have gotten a better job out of him. You can just sigh.
Pundareeka Ranganath (Balakrishna) is a depraved youngster, born into a noble and devout family but forever flinging himself after women. He claims he is merely following in Krishna's footsteps, but the Lord's ostensibly amorous adventures with the girls of Brindavan were strictly God granting his devotees their heartfelt desire, a point obviously and totally lost on Rangadu.
When a prostitute Amrutha (Tabu) comes into town, Rangadu totally flips for her, much to the embarassment of his dignified and revered family. He continues his trysts with her much after his providential marriage to Lakshmi (Sneha), a huge devotee of the Lord (Balakrishna again), but when Amrutha's minders finally cheat him and he gets cursed by a great rishi (Mohanbabu in a brief and composed performance), he sees the wrong in his ways and becomes a dedicated son.
How and when he turns devotee of Krishna, however, is hardly explained in the film. Or why Krishna has a soft corner for him. The whole characterization of Krishna is flawed in the movie - the Lord is made to look more like a bumbling child who has to constantly be reminded who He is, and Balakrishna can do nothing to rise above the writing. And oh yes, did we mention the atrocious dialogues and comedy? Lord, forgive them for they knew not that they weren't upto it.
Logic is a big casualty in a, well, casual attempt. Annamayya and Ramadasu had fairly compelling scripts which helped you take something out whatever your current spiritual station, but Pandurangadu hits God where it hurts most - it makes Him look accessible. The secret of being successful as God is maintaining your exclusivity, taking your time, staying silent and coolly looking the other way when people's lives are falling apart. Rangadu seems to have been a devotee barely 2 hours when God comes to save Him. Where did all his sins go?
Balakrishna's been down on his luck for a long while now, and the problems continue - he's looking old, the acting is loud and exaggerated and doesn't mould to suit the character, and otherwise good directors seem to flounder when they direct him. And he has too much body hair to play Krishna (Krishna with hairy arms?). A brief period in the last half-hour where he turns devotee sees him do a good job but otherwise this isn't anywhere near his best.
K Vishwanath is dignified, Sneha is earnest and natural, and Tabu is naked. Well, by devotional film standards, that is - she seems to show more cleavage here than even in normal films. The comedy is loud and really chillar
. Whose idea was it to give Brahmanandam that voice, and what is he doing in that movie anyway? Ditto Ali. Sunil and Dharmavarapu are in ghastly roles.
The songs are quite ordinary, and there appear to be more masala numbers than devotional tunes. And the first half is quite boring, especially for the religious-minded. Raghavendra Rao persists with his Level 001 concepts of God - that He lives somewhere above the clouds, for instance. In Sri Ramadasu, too, Hanuman carries Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders from somewhere to Hyderabad, travelling through the air. Well, maybe Mr. Rao knows his audiences better than us. But then a Hindi movie called Guide did very well way back on the '70s showing God completely differently.
Pandurangadu is singularly devoid of any intelligence, subtlety or depth, and unless you want to see God on the silver screen, you should stay away. And if you see God outside of the silver screen too, please apply to us for a job mentioning that prominently in your resume - we need a lot of favours!