Arjun ready: the audience is; the censors are not


Arjun Reddy is not a breath of fresh air. It is a whirlwind, a very welcome one. it does not tread the path of dozens of so-called youth movies; revelling in meaningless attitude and in an endless line of songs proclaiming that the hero is one of a kind (usually a self-proclamation). In this story, attitude is not a fancy cloak, it’s the very character, embedded in every thought of the protagonist, influencing his every action. it is the consistency of this character that antagonises even the people who love him. And the vulnerabilities that lead to self-destruction, the inability to deal with rejection or presumed betrayal, exasperate even his staunchest supporters.

It is this nature, of never considering adjusting a whit to fit in a convention-dictated slot, that makes most of the scenes so happily non-cliched. In contrast to this character is that of the heroine which initially seems submissive in the extreme. You are made to realise her true grit with a sucker punch in the end. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition of a strong character and a forceful character. The strongest character is also the most silent, and she remains invisible too in most of the second half. The forceful character’s performer is, of course, the tour de force of the movie.

This coming of age movie is a milestone in the coming of age of Telugu cinema. A liberating freedom of expression, hitherto untested. It may be raw, but it is deliberate and does not make you cringe. It also pays homage to an old classic in a modern idiom. Devadasu: the hero failing in love, hitting the bottle, petting the dog, and not mating with the nautch girl / actress; in fact surrounding himself with a bevy of platonic prostitutes for solace. It’s new wine, it’s a new bottle — the intoxication remains.

Seeing Kanchana on screen after decades is a pleasant surprise. From her cute traditional attire to her easy English, she comes across as a comely grandmother who is, and was, ahead of her times. And she’s given the line of the movie; refusing to visit the grandson she loves dearly and who is in a pathetic condition, she states that suffering is such a personal thing. It is. But when it is shown in a well-made movie, it is owned by everyone, as the flocking audiences are showing.

Sandeep Reddy has ticked all the boxes for thinking outside the box, from casting to conceiving scenes to locations. Maybe he could have told the same story without losing any of the emotion in less time. As for Devarakonda Vijay, the movie rides on his shoulders to glory. The looks of the protagonist across the stages of his life are exceedingly well visualised. And his sheer performance, devoid of crutches or mannerisms, propels the character into the hall of fame.

The august Censor Board (let’s call it like it is, not the euphemistically titled Central Board of Film Certification — which is calling a hitman an Exit Facilitator in the hope of making his actions more agreeable ) has rated the movie to be fit for Adults only. Fine. Then why the hell did they mute the audio and atavistically mangle one of the most endearing and erotic scenes where the couple is counting the number of times they coupled. Those who are watching are adults; my doubt is, if those with the power to censor can honestly be certified as adults.

The censors surely deserve to be censured, but a word of caution about sneering at poster protestors. The content of the movie is the wish of the creators. Only people who wish to see it are exposed to it. Choice. But posters are a different question. Now, politicians are not considered barometers of morality; and the one who tore up the kissing poster may not be the noblest example of the species; but one does have a right to protest. One is exposed to Out Of Home advertising whether one chooses to see it or not, so it could be offensive to some sensibilities and not appropriate for some age-groups.

Congrats, Bhadrakali Pictures. And a big thank you for a cathartic experience.

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