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Guntur Kaaram Review : Mahesh Babu is in explosive form in Trivikram’s entertaining family drama

Story:

After an explosion in their mirchi yard and growing tensions within the family, Vasundhara parts ways with her husband Satyam and leaves their son Ramana in his custody. 25 years later, Ramana is yet to come to terms with his unresolved childhood trauma and has an awkward relationship with his father. Drama ensues when Ramana’s grandfather Venkata Swamy demands him to sign a legal agreement, cutting all ties with his mother’s family.

Review:

There are no prettier sights in mainstream cinema than a star shedding all his inhibitions, enjoying himself on the screen while charming his lady love, vanquishing the wrongdoers, dance like there’s no tomorrow. What so new about this? Isn’t this the very essence of mass cinema – offering comfort food, altering the proportions and still providing an opportunity to celebrate it?

Guntur Kaaram is that film for Mahesh Babu, where Trivikram lets the star drop his guard and unleashes his inner beast sans any pretension. This is a familiar terrain for the director as he explores a mother-son tale in a commercial setup. The Shakuni-like villain is within the family, the external forces aren’t a threat and the film is all about a protagonist rising above dysfunctional upbringing.

Adhering to a template that’s reigning supreme since the 1970s, the film begins with a tragedy and peels off the many layers beneath the incident over 160 minutes. Ramana’s mom is no longer with him, the aunt rises to the occasion, and the father struggles to cope with the trauma. A grandfather wants to eliminate any opportunity for Ramana to be his political successor.

If there’s sophistication, eliteness and wily politics within Ramana’s maternal legacy in Hyderabad, back in Guntur, there’s a mirchi yard, where scores are settled over blood and nothing is left to your imagination. The contrast between the backdrops makes for juicy viewing in a masala potboiler, showcasing how massy can Trivikram get, without breaking away from the family drama mould.

The writing, especially in the first hour, is as sharp as it can get. The screenplay alternates from gory action sequences to romance to humour, all powered by Trivikram’s dialogue baazi – the transitions are delightfully effortless. Of course, like most women in the filmmaker’s story – a women’s domestic roles are emphasised, they’re either overly stubborn or utterly tender, devoted to men.

There are other Trivikram-esque idiosyncrasies too – a torn jeans is an excuse to joke about a woman’s beauty, the langa-voni is hailed as an ideal complement to feminine charm, the stubborn women wear grandiose, bright saris (probably referring to their ambitions). The character names have mythical and political touches – sample Lenin Babu, Karl Marx, Gelatin Babji, Royal Satyam, Venkata Swamy, Hari Das, Amuktha Maalyada, Sarangapaani.

Before we digress, the film preserves its best for the action sequences – there’s great taste in the conceptualisation of the mass moments. Be it how the head of a statue falls on a character’s lap, a standee breaking the window at a political patriarch’s house (to suggest his fall) or a bunch of female caterers at a stall coming to break the protagonist’s skull – it’s a joy to watch the scenes come alive.

While the varied characters, dramatic tension ensure enough cheese to the macaroni in the first hour, there are a tad too many fillers and subplots (though Trivikram has a knack for making them look significant) that take precedence post-intermission and the momentum is slightly diluted. Kurchi Madathapetti, which arrives right after an intense action sequence, brings vigour to the proceedings.

The director keeps finding innovative ways to break free from the heaviness of the drama.  For all the broad strokes, bombastic revelations and dangerous plots set by the antagonist, the resolution is too convenient and leisurely. Perhaps, Trivikram wanted the climax to unfold like a family drama more than an action entertainer and the solid screen presence of Ramya Krishna and Prakash Raj is enough to salvage it.

The posthumous tribute to superstar Krishna fits well within the celebratory narrative – the references to Annadammula Savaal, Mosagallaku Mosagadu and the remix of Naa Kosame Neevunnadhi in the middle of the action sequence the cherries on the cake. Mahesh Babu also nostalgically looks back at the charm of Cheppave Chirugaali, laments the loss of Soundarya through Edo Oka Raagam and is at his energetic best grooving to Nakkilusu Golusu.

The trendy spin to the filmi references come through Sreeleela’s social media-enthusiast character – she apologises to the protagonist with an Instagram reel and the choice of ‘Kurchi Madathapetti’ (borrowed from a viral video) for a song is a natural extension to her character. Thaman revels in the larger-than-life moments, but creates a solid impact within the intimate family sequences too.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say Guntur Kaaram brings out Mahesh Babu’s strengths to the fore perfectly – be it the humour, dialogue delivery or the dances. Sreeleela, within the song-dance routine template, sets the screen ablaze with her moves. However, the film’s lifelines are Prakash Raj, Ramya Krishna – it’s hard to imagine the story without the emotional depth they bring to the performances.

Rao Ramesh, in an offbeat role, makes his presence felt too. Meenakshii Chaudhary’s character is reduced to a fashion parade, but she handles it with the right amount of grace. Vennela Kishore is a likeable sidekick, as always. Eshwari Rao’s domineering presence, Jayaram’s underplayed portrayal help the film. Murali Sharma, Brahmaji, Ajay Gosh, Ajay, Teja Kakumanu, Jagapathi Babu, Raghu Babu and Sunil perform well despite the limitations in their roles.

Verdict:

While it’s right of a viewer to expect something beyond the obvious with someone of Trivikram’s skill, Guntur Kaaram is still an enjoyable star vehicle. Mahesh Babu is in explosive form in what’s his most uninhibited performance after Dookudu. The fairly predictable family drama has a handful of silverlinings, with all the commercial ingredients expected from a festival release.

Rating: 3/5

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