While we fully acknowledge Ram Gopal Varma's knack of turning real-life crime into dramatic cinema, and his flair for slickness in presentation, it's his irreverence for sunshine that is disturbing. In Rakta Charitra, Indian cinema's enfant terrible may just have peaked in his perennial quest to portray the worst in man.
Based on the factionism in Anantapur that served as Paritala Ravi's rise to power, the film is essentially a dissection of - not crime, not the "system" - a dark, dark, dark world. We're sure this is how it is in reality out there. We'll believe you if you tell us it's even worse. All we're saying is that 2 whole hours of violence porn is probably not the best way to tell us all this.
Rakta Charitra 1 works well as a prelude to what we hope is the real film, Rakta Charitra 2, set to be released in a few weeks from now. As a movie, though, it's for those who don't flinch easy. Actually, for those who don't flinch at all
Vivek Oberoi plays Pratap, the character based on Paritala Ravi. Pratap is an ambitious young man educated in the city, who is forced to go back home to his faction-ridden town after his father was brutally killed in a crooked political plot. Pratap's revenge begins after he loses even his brother (Sushant Singh) to the gang wars that follow his father's murder.
He is soon in an all-out war with the dastardly Bukka Reddy (Abhimanyu Singh). Bukka Reddy is a goon who is maniacally evil, not stopping at anything to inflict pain on the hapless. Yes, RGV, we get the point - you are indeed capable of making flicks that make Company
seem like a Karan Johar wedding sequence (quoting your own words).
The wronged side, led by Pratap, is now screaming bloody revenge against Bukka Reddy's unspeakable atrocities. Then, in walks Sivaji Rao (Shatrughan Sinha), the superstar who's now launched a political party, and who understands what a powerful ally Pratap can be in the region.
What Rakta Charitra 1 does is what every gangster movie has done so far. Characters are intensely built, and emotions are painstakingly captured, and there is the trademark edginess of an RGV flick.
The film's evidently trying to set the circumstances in perspective and fill in the blacks blacker than they are in order to make the grays look brighter. However, the excessive gore blurs your vision of the rest of the content in the movie - there are interesting moments, but are too few and far between.
Just when you're starting to relish those tongue-in-cheek vignettes of AP's political arena back then - with Sivaji's entry - it's the beginning of the end. The reason our audiences are interested in the film is because of the familiarity of the whole drama. Drama, however, is what you get less of, and you do wish the film had balanced its priorities better.
The brilliant star cast helps the cause of the dry humour sometimes thrown in. Vivek Oberoi looks seasoned and gets you interested in Pratap's life journey. Kota and Tanikella are in roles they could sleep-walk through. Abhimanyu Singh will probably seen in an endless glut of Telugu villain roles now. Shatrughan Sinha should have been brought in sooner, and he brings in a powerful enigma to a role which is really on the periphery of the story.
And for those waiting for a mention of Surya, you'd have to wait for part 2 of the movie - there's an ominous teaser of his character, though.
The film has an intentional musty look, set as it is in an older time. And menacing music adds to the mood.
Watch it if gore is your current mood, but if you're curious about what really happened in Anantapur back then, let's wait for someone to write a book.