It's hard not to go into a Venkatesh starrer and not expect the moon. There's always an unspoken hope that this one will be another Nuvvu Naaku Nachchaav
or will at least have something of the better bits of Malliswari
More often than not, expectations are the undoing of the moviegoer, and unfortunately Tulasi is one of the "more often" cases than one of the "not" cases.
Much of Tulasi happens in flashback, because of which right at the beginning of the movie, the story is disconcertingly half-completed. Tulasi (Venkatesh) moves into the same apartment complex that Vasundhara (Nayantara) lives in with her son Harsha (Atulit). Predictably enough, they were married before, and Harsha is actually Tulasi's son, though the kid doesn't know it.
One flashback tale shows us how Tulasi bumps into Vasundhara at the airport. When we say bumps into, we mean bumps into. And just in case the audience doesn't get the point, the director takes great pains to show the 'bumping' 3 times and drills it into our thick skulls.
Anyway, Tulasi sticks with Vasundhara's group on their trip to Europe, thereby neatly allowing us the cheap thrill of calling him a bumper sticker. His "traditional values" (averting his eyes when Vasundhara is washing her feet) make her forget that just a few hours and one continent ago he was attempting a bump and grind with her in a crowded airport lounge.
Love blossoms, wedding follows after mild complications. A second flashback reveals that despite his city slicker looks and flippant behaviour, Tulasi is from a "factionalist" Palnadu family. While he is bubbly and chirpy most of the time, any insult to his family or honor makes his blood boil and turns him into a goon-hacking automaton.
On a visit to his village, Vasundhara finds out about her husband's extra-curricular human carpentry talents. She abhors violence, and when her brother becomes the victim of Tulasi's feuds, she throws in the towel and walks out of the marriage. To find out whether the couple will be reunited etc. etc., you will have to endure Tulasi.
Venkatesh can do roles like this one in his sleep, and it seems like he actually did
do Tulasi in his sleep. It's unfortunate that the director didn't make more use of Venkatesh's fantastic sense of comic timing and smart dialogue delivery, and concentrated on the melodrama and scarcely credible action sequences.
Refreshingly, the heroine in this movie actually has a meaningful part, and is not a mere ornament. Nayantara is more than decent as the young mother worried about her and her kid's future, and holds her own. Reminds one of Simran in the days when she started moving from being mere scenery into something more substantial.
Atulit as the child is good, if you're into insufferably cute and saccharine kids. In spite of that, he will probably be remembered for his emotive talents and such, and hopefully he it won't go to his head and he will develop into a fine young actor.
Ashish Vidyarthi is rapidly turning into the Sphinx's Riddle of Telugu Cinema, and poses several rhetorical questions. Exactly what is it that keeps him doing the freakish villain roles that have become his staple? What happened to the guy in Drohkaal? How many zeroes are there in his Tollywood pay cheques? To be fair, if you have a certain macabre sense of humor, he does have his moments in Tulasi that bring forth an unintentional giggle instead of a horrified gasp.
The action is totally over the top, and we mean this. When was the last time you saw a hero actually see
a bullet as it leaves the muzzle, chase it, and bung himself in its path to save his son? It's that bad. The music is passable as is everything else.
Tulasi is a case of the whole being less than the sum of the parts. Unnecessary quantities of melodrama and action, interspersed with slightly insufficient amounts of comedy and romance, is what you get, and as in most of these cases, the blame must lie squarely with the story and the direction.
For the urban multiplex crowd, Tulasi is probably a tad too insipid to stomach, but if you hanker for some old-fashioned sentiment and violence, you will want to see it. How well it does will be a good litmus test of whether this kind of filmmaking still has the capacity to draw audiences.