Monday, January 29, 2007
'Vijaya' Bapineedu (along with Paruchuri Brothers) stumbled upon the perfect combination in "Gang Leader" that every typical telugu movie pines for - a hearty blend of romance, action, sentiment and loads of entertainment. Though all the telugu movies set out for finding this Holy Grail of concoctions, which entails a perfect combination of all the entertaining, heart-tugging, hair-raising and other engaging qualities, 1 in a million is blessed with stumbling upon one. The problem is not with finding the magic number - the ratio of action to sentiment, sentiment to romance and romance to entertainment. The problem lies with the formula itself. It is a mine field and a lot has to do with the segues in the script - the entry points of each scene that would ensure the transition from the previous scene seem as seamless as possible. For example, in Gang Leader, Chiru's grandmother chides him for cavorting with his "gaali gang" at the dinner table in a hilarious setup that oozes of natural comedy with no artificiality or forced humor. The scene gives way for the gang teasing a girl, ending up in a club to transition into the first song. Right after the song, the gang would be walking back to their quarters, gets stopped by the police on their beat, and an action episode follows. Paruchuri Brothers could not have penned the flow of the scenes any better. Right after the action episode, the villan is introduced and the movie moves along full steam. There were many Chiru movies after Gang Leader that went on to become bigger hits, but in terms of pure cinematic entertainment that highlighted all the talents (not some, but all) of Chiranjeevi, none came close to Gang Leader, and a lot of it has to be attributed to the near perfect screenplay that embedded the magic number (the perfect ratios) which balanced every commercial aspect of a telugu movie in an excellent way.
The second aspect that would stand out in Gang Leader was the perfect tone that Bapineedu found to run the movie on. The build up of the hero character is gradual and natural, from a loafing one at the beginning of the movie who wants no part in sharing the responsibility and the day-to-day running of the family to a seemingly dutiful and serious character who shoulders the entire burden of the family affairs mid-way till the end of the movie. And once the character turns serious, it does not go back being a frivolous one and the script does not confuse between these two tones and does not try to constantly switch between them, however enticing the opportunity might be. This is exactly where Jai Chiranjeeva falters big time. It doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be and ends up trying to be everything in parts. As mentioned before, the problem is not with the ratios, the problem is the formula itself. If the script tries to achieve everything, more often than not, commerciality ensures that it ends up with neither. Though it is quite lucrative for the producer to tout his movie as one that has ALL the elements to attract all the sections of the movie-going audience, the chances that he finds himself the perfect script that balances all those elements are slim to none. From a producer's view point, he is better off taking a chance with one that strays away from the normal, because the odds for such kind to click with the audience is far greater than sticking with the same old and trying his luck with the oft-repeated themes and well-beaten track. After all it is business, as commercial producers keep reminding rebutting arguments about lack of realism and variety, and better business calls for calculating the odds properly.
Coming back to script, Vijaya Bhaskar seems to be more at fault than Trivikram in finding the right tone for such a script that widely swung from one end to the end. Once the director identifies the graph of the lead character (since almost all the telugu movie center around the lead character), he can adjust the sequences around it making sure that the other characters are not flying off tangentially to the lead character. If one observes Trivikram's scripts (not the ones he directed) till date (including Manamadhudu to some extent), it becomes fairly obvious that he places his characters in familiar setups - a middle class environment, where the hero is rooted in the real world and interacts with the situations around him in a fairly realistic way. Malliswari was the first digression from this path and he sticks with the same mould with Jai Chiranjeeva too. Both these movies fail miserably at identifying the kind of movie they want to be in the first place. It would be certainly interesting to trace the origins of the script to the story discussions. 1. The aim of the script is to show Chiranjeevi in a soft light as a next door middle class man, different from all his recent previous ventures. 2. The aim of the script is to balance the softness of his character with an angry past, that would only be revealed in flashes 3. The aim of the script is to find a romantic angle in between these two extremes and do a balacing act of all these elements. It is here that Paruchuri Brothers' script seems very relevant, in terms of finding a place for all the moods and yet remaining true to the tone of the movie. What Vijaya Bhaskar does (or does not do) is plainly translate the script completely misreading how the scenes would eventually play out, rendering them as flat, episodic and dull. If the script does not offer the required firepower, it becomes the responsibility of the director to at least play with the tone of the movie, either making it an over the top fare (Ex: Hello Brother) or having it respect at least the rules of reality. There is more to the job than have a Screenplay credit to the name.
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The script would have been a lot more interesting, if the softness of the lead character has played out till the end, than shifting back and forth constantly between a macho one in one instant and a meek one in another. Add to that the unnecessary baggage in the form of arms dealing villain who quotes scriptures on the side, his running for the mayoral post aspect (for the sole purpose of hanging his banner on a sky scraper for the hero to identify his location to perform a borrowed stunt) and the even more ridiculous way of his killing of hero's niece, pulls the entire movie down. If the aim was to show Chiranjeevi as an every day common man (which the script and Chiranjeevi's portrayal do justice to some extent), a better alternative would have been to not go for a globe-trotting outlandish villain, whereupon there is no other way but to have the hero's character rise to those same proportions, to match the ridiculousness. And to make up for reasons to counter such a villain, logic, reasoning and many times, mere common sense, all of which have been trademarks to Trivikram's script, fall prey. At the end of it all, it all comes down to the one important questions - Why. Why have those laughable choices been made by Trivikram? When a script tries to add up to the numbers (a sentiment scene followed by a romantic interlude leading to a song, handing off to a emotional scene with an optional fight sequence and the like) by merely having one scene after another, without caring about how the emotions hand off from one scene to the next, the result is just a flat movement of the 24 frames per second, devoid of the any emotional quotient or any gripping content. What a loss of a golden opportunity!