All good things come to those who wait but honestly that’s not why we delayed the review of this film. I guess it took us some time to wrap our heads around the fact that a hero (not an actor/protagonist) from one of the blue bloods of TFI actually pulled off the role of a regular guy with regular problems.
Sai Dharam Tej is Vijay. A down-on-his-luck engineer with an idea he believes will change the world. He has no qualms moonlighting at a TV repair store while he works on his idea and waits for its inevitable success. Michael (Sunil) is a TV evangelist and is meandering through life since his singing/music career is pretty much bust. The two meet at a shady watering hole and strike up a weird friendship that barely works.
Vijay is in a breezy relationship with Lahari (Kalyani Priyadarshan), and how they meet is pretty much a minor plot point. I am however impressed by the non-problematic nature (by TFI standards) of the relationship and how it starts. Good job, writers!
Vijay sits plum in the midst of all these relationships that seem to feed him positivity and keep him going despite him facing multiple rejections in the pursuit of his pet project. However, things don’t stay comfortable for too long.
Enter Swetcha (Nivetha Pethuraj), a hard-nosed executive who takes a personal interest in his project. You can see a distinct change in the energy of the film at this point. Swetcha is a cynic and has zero patience for Vijay. She does not hesitate for a second to drop the project when she sees Vijay’s attitude. At the same time, she is friends with Lahari, raising uncomfortable questions about her relationship with Vijay. Her presence shows us how lax Vijay has become, and she succeeds in pulling him out of his comfort zone.
In all these ups and downs with Lahari and his career, the one thing that keeps Vijay grounded is his father Narayana (Posani). Narayana is a supportive figure who does not succumb to the usual tropes we are subject to in most films. There is the heightened sensitivity and quiet pride in the child, that is rather typical of a single parent. He realises that Vijay is an independent adult who needs a friend rather than an authority figure in his life. I’d rate this father son portrayal up there with ‘Aduvari Maatalaku ..’. Every scene between them holds your attention. Posani delivers an excellent performance that is thankfully devoid of his signature “Rajaa!”.
Lahari is depicted as an impressionable airhead, and her self-awareness of this is amusing. This is not a bad thing. We see such people around us devoid of independent thought that go with whatever is on top of their minds. Lahari flip-flops constantly based on who she is talking to, and is effective in keeping Vijay on edge. I am glad to see that the love interest has been developed as a genuine individual who isn’t just there to brighten up the screen. Kalyani is unfortunately not a very talented actress, and we are lucky the script keeps our expectations of her low. I was personally rather disappointed when they got back together at the end of the film.
It is poignant then that Swetcha, as revealed by Vijay, is the inspiration for his project. She inspired him to start it, and in her own way motivated him to complete it. A major cliche TFI favours at this point is building a romantic angle where unnecessary. The writers, however, score, and we are spared this! In Swetcha’s own words, “Vaadiki antha scene ledhu…kaani manchodu”. Over time, Vijay, as he spends more time with Swetcha and begins to understand her motivations, cracks her shell and we get a glimpse of the person under the cynic. He is able to soften her stance and temper her views on life experiences.
Vijay gets completely broken down before our eyes, and we see him rebuilt. It is a process he must go through to be in a state where he can achieve his dream.
The movie is not without its share of problems though. The storyline begins to falter in the second half, and culminates in a thoroughly unnecessary courtroom scene. The project Vijay creates (emergency alert system in case of an accident) need not have hit human trials at all, and could’ve been tested with a rolled-up mattress in the driver’s seat. I’d personally test it on Lahari, but that is just the romantic in me.
Sunil and Vennela Kishore put in good performances but are largely forgettable. And that is absolutely ok because Sai Dharam Tej carries the movie so well! He has hit just the right notes and holds himself with a certain dignity despite all that he is going through. I am so glad he decided to sign this film and at the same time hope he does not get into a vortex of the same roles.
The ‘tech’ part of the film is non cringey and it is obvious there has been some genuine research put into the jargon being used.
Our writers are on a steady path to maturity and I am willing to wait for them to deliver more and better while I settle with a glass of aged perfection. See what I did there?