This is the story of a guy and somewhat a girl, who are in deep love, develop strong relations, the girl getting married off to another, the guy getting addicted to booze, drugs, and a beard - an essential accessory for any Telugu film hero with disastrous love affair. The film starts with the hero (Vijay Sai Deverakonda) as a doctor in unkempt avatar with unpleasant characteristics. The provenance of the beard can be traced back to a violent fracas on football field, causing a showdown with a colourless dean. In defence, the hero serves up first of many infantile philosophies that pepper the film. He says "Football is a violent sport" (it is not), he plays for satisfaction, not medals. His friend who accompanies him, orders the class to stand up and "respect the champion". Every student stands up instantaneously as if national anthem has been set loose all of a sudden. They are so supine, scared, and scarred by the braggadocio of the guy who is permanently angry for no reason.
However he is supposed to be great at sudies, excels in sports, eventually would do record operations even when drunk and drugged, and in spare time, when not emitting sexist rants, flies spaceships (I made up one of those). He also administers anatomical drawings on body, as a teaching aid, as if he were a modern day Vesalius. The director's idea of demonstrating keen intellect is to show him staring with keen anger while delivering juvenile banter as some sort of profoundness. Women are supposed to throw at his feet, even when he hits rock bottom, drunkard and jobless drug addict - such are these Telugu films.
Enter, Preeti the first year fresher, who has instant anodyne effect on the hero. Ever since he is besotted with her, he marks her as his property by planting a kiss on her cheek without her consent. Later in the film, we would hear another insipid philosophical babble on his 'private space' that should be respected by others, of course, being a 'free spirit', he could invade others' space at will if they happen to be women. There starts the dog like devotion and aggressive possessiveness of the hero. In time honoured convention in Telugu films, the hero lays claim to her, 'protects' her from ragging predators. Warming up to dog motif, again, without her knowledge, people label her 'his girl', just as one would say 'his dog', which is a good template to understand his attitude towards her. Only thing he does not objectify is one real dog in the film, which is elevated to human, whereas the girl is downgraded to a faithful dog. In many scenes, you might as well replace the dog with the girl, as the dog barely barks and the girl rarely speaks. Then he hears of Preeti being marked rather inappropriately by another male dog during Holi celebrations. That heralds a sequence of rage filled obscene expletives which are now celebrated for being bold, raw, intense never before shown in Telugu films, director breaking the conventions of ordinary films making. The abuse is of course very conventional, targeting women, uttered by the hero (yes the same guy who would prattle pretentiously on how not to objectify women), to avenge the vile touch. The girl falls into his arms for protecting her honour, somewhat in Taliban style. And Telugu hero must acquire another essential accessory - a second heroine, of course with zero dignity. His treatment of her resembles kicking out a dog when he wanted to reject her.
Showdown with the girl's father: The director often needs squalid characters to show hero in better light. The domineering father is a rank casteist stereotype who detests guy. He catches him kissing her at his home and angrily confronts him. By this time the director probably has convinced some good number of audience to fondly imagine that it is perfectly acceptable to visit someone's home, kiss their daughter and demand what the hero later blathers about as 'private space'. The girl's marriage is forcefully fixed and the hero gives her six hours to make up her mind to move out with him. What is the best way to reinforce his point to the woman? Slap her of course. He is medieval, but as we are told, he is a free spirit, so it is supposed to be ok.
Then there is a ridiculous, completely out of context scene about PMS, contrived to show the audience how sensitive he is to female concerns, as if to tell 'I am not a sexist beast, I have this delicate side', crassly exploiting to extract brownie points. In another scene, the director makes him sermonise a moronic NRI not to objectify women. The characters surrounding the male lead are cardboard which is at least two dimensional. The hero is unidimensional, with angry face at one end, and pseudo empathetic drivel on the other.
During his disciplinary hearings, he remembers Hippocratic oath, presenting himself as a guy with integrity. Such pangs of conscience! This guy does not remember the pledge we are drilled down in schools. "All Indians are my brothers and sisters". This sounds like kitsch, but intended to reflect fraternal spirit from the three pillars of Indian constitution - liberty, equality, fraternity. There is little fraternal feeling in this pledge loving bloke. When the girl's father asks him to look after his daughter like a "sister", he utters "he does not have sisters" in a pompous tone mocking Preeti's father for his old fashioned thinking. His own thinking or lack of it towards women is rather antediluvian. Even then, a character admiringly rambles that he has never seen a free spirit like this guy in a democracy. He neither understands free spirit, nor democracy (unless the free spirit means free booze), and spews this arrant nonsense. Coming to think of it, people in lunatic asylum are free spirits too. A man who needs a muse to be a lamb, but deforms into a brute ('free spirit') and loses self control when he loses her is fundamentally a weak person, though his brutishness appears as a sign of strength.
While he is growing a beard, Preeti is growing his child, heavily pregnant. This is going to be film about beard, borne like a cross, not a potentially career ending silly pregnancy. A shawl would have added to the hero's pathos, but is too ethnic for our westernized pseudo progressive. He is an odious sociopath, but since he is handsome, needs escape route. Conveniently grandma dies, creating instantaneous transformation, faster than 2-minute noodles, manifested by the removal of that blasted beard. He is a changed man. Whatever changed, his propensity to deliver incomprehensible gibberish as philosophy does not cease, and his dad, mesmerised, has instant transformation himself (since loss of beard is the "game changer" of Telugu cinema). If only his friends found him a decent barber in time...never mind, better late than never.
Anthony Hopkins as Dr.Hannibal Lecter remarks while lobotomising Ray Liotta's policeman that he did not need that part of the brain dealing with good manners. Our hero surely seemed to miss this part, even without a lobotomy, as demonstrated by his crude language with nurses, about patients, friends, especially regarding women. (By the way isn't Dr.Lecter a high end 'free spirit', with impeccable manners?). Once he asks his married classmate 'inkaa neellosukoledaa', enquiring about her pregnancy. When he sees a woman, he sees them as baby making machinery of future Arjun Reddys.
Finally what did this path breaking film break? The dialogues sound casual without bombastic music. Nothing new, if one observed some old Telugu films (e.g. Rojulu maaraayi (1955), shaavukaru(1950) ). Story is banal, narration is dragging; comedy shines sometimes with outstanding Rahul Ramakrishna's Siva, but comic potential in Telugu films is enormous and not particularly novel. Songs: not having been bombarded with pre-release audio tracks to condition auricular senses, did not particularly find them greatly appealing. Much is made of Vijay Devarakonda's action, but superior performances come from Kanchana and Rahul Ramakrishna who transformed normal roles into scene stealing glue that holds this dismal film together. Maniacal roles are not the best yardsticks of performance. They inject more to the character than any acting. Batman's Joker is an example, with the actors having high chance of receiving high accolades! His performance is decent, but no better than in another of his recent films 'pelli choopulu' (2016).
Then what is unique? This differs from others in using cuss words, peppering with obscene gratuitous expletives, under the pretence of showing realism, and the director is showered with epithets of 'bold' 'raw', 'honest'. Perhaps, dicing the film with even filthier language would have been termed "bolder". And of course, heavily publicised kissing (creating a very useful marketable controversy) . He also created one of the shallowest female leads, even by the abysmal standards of Telugu cinema, quite a feat. He is hailed as some sort of Sergei Eisenstein of Telugu films for this crudity. Forgot, there is another first by our Eisenstein. Never before seen piddling in the pants. Can any one beat that? Truly, "bold", "raw" , "path breaking" is alive and pissing. If you are not convinced by the dog motif mentioned earlier, this scene should confirm great canine like qualities of the hero, this time marking himself - a symbolic statement of his self indulgent narcissism.
The ultra westernized tenor gives pretensions of modernity covering up misogynist behaviour. We can only expect more of such 'youth' films. On the opposite end, we have traditionalists who want to impose their own authority under the pretext of protecting women from western influences. Women will be caught out in a pincer movement of devil of and the deep blue sea.