SYE RAA NARASIMHA REDDY (2019)

  • Release Date: 02/10/2019
  • Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Dr. Chiranjeevi, Sudeep, Vijay Sethupathi, Jagapathi Babu, Nayanthara, Tamannaah, Ravi Kishan
  • Director: Surender Reddy

Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy (Dr. Chiranjeevi) was at the heart of a peasant rebellion in 1846. 5000 peasants rose up against the British East India Company in the Kurnool district of Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh. They were protesting changes to the traditional agrarian system introduced by the British in the first half of the nineteenth century. The changes, which included the introduction of the ryotwari system and other attempts to maximize revenue impacted lower-status cultivators by depleting their crops and leaving them impoverished. Reddy’s status as a Polygar (Zamindar) was also challenged by the British who considered him ineligible for the post of Polygar as he was an adopted ward. Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is a film about what led to the rebellion, how it unfolded and how it emancipated a large section of the masses.

Directed by Surender Reddy (Kick, Race Gurram, Dhruva), Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is a sweeping epic about a folklore hero showcasing him as more than a mere mortal and using his beliefs and thought processes to fuel a sense of patriotism and heroism in everyone willing listen and pay attention. Surender Reddy is a director who is not subtle and neither is this film. We get to see and experience things that we all know might not have actually happened the way they are portrayed to but he does keep the basic history intact and then takes ample cinematic liberties to create a rip-roaring adventure story that is bound to impress you in all its pursuits.

Dr. Chiranjeevi as Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy is touring. There was a time when he was one of my least favorite South Indian stars but he has aged exceptionally well. I have to admit that there is an aura about his act here that captured my imagination and attention from the get-go. He has a sense of simplicity in his performance that is unmissable. He shares a few key scenes with Sudeep’s character Avuku Raju (who is his rival) that are a wonderful depiction of how natural and charismatic his act is. He never tries to overpower Sudeep’s character who is all too open about his hatred for Reddy. But every time he encounters him, there is a sly smile on his face that says, “I will win you over eventually”.

As the film proceeds, Narasimha Reddy’s character is turned into a demi-god by the people and Chiranjeevi has no problem in keeping up with that image. He not only has the physicality to match up to that image but also the aura. The only portion where Chiranjeevi fails is in the romantic bits with Tamannaah. He visibly looks uncomfortable in these parts and the fact that these bits are written with no panache or heart for that matter makes his task that much more difficult. I wouldn’t blame Tamannaah in this regard as she has very little to do. Shrouded with Kilograms of visible makeup and asked to be in awe of Chiranjeevi without question, she delivers a flat and one-dimensional performance.

Most of the supporting cast members of the film are wonderful and it would have really helped had some of them been given a little more to work with. Take for instance the character of Akuvu Raja. After he joins hands with Reddy, he informs him that there will be a time when he will overtake his exploits for the cause of freedom and helping the marginalized. I was waiting for his character to do something truly heroic but that just doesn’t happen. Sudeep is still able to bring a lot of charm to his act and some of the action sequences that he is shown pulling off look stunning. The same can be said about Vijay Sethupathi’s character. He does nothing wrong but gets very little to do that would leave a lasting impression. Jagapathi Babu’s character assumes importance towards the end of the film and it is then that he truly excels. For once the characters playing the British Antagonists are truly scary and are not one of the few who essay foreigners repeatedly in every film. This was a welcome change.

Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is stunning to look at. The cinematography by R. Rathnavelu is nothing short of Brilliant. I was amazed at the number of arial shots that he incorporated to give us an idea of the topography and also the scale of certain events. The budget of the film is between 200-250 crores and every penny of that budget seems to be on the screen when you look at it. There are some moments when the CGI goes haywire but it never gets out of hand. The makers have tried to keep a lot of things on camera and that elevates the film’s visual impact.

The action sequences are top-notch. Barring a few unnecessary gravity-defying stunts, it remains believable and affecting all throughout. Chiranjeevi is 64 years old and he could not have pulled off his own stunts but the manner in which the action director uses stunt doubles and the angles in which the action is shot gives us some interesting takes on the proceedings. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that up to a great extent we can gauge the physical impact of the action because of this ploy. The background score is tailor-made for the action and will have your heart racing. I also have to add that this is a film that should be watched on the big screen. It is an epic that demands the royal treatment. On a smaller screen, it will most certainly lose a portion of its charm.

The film Speaks to us through its protagonist and it does so by not only putting its protagonist in a position of righteousness and power but also by showing us how he deals with critical issues ranging from commitment, friendship, duty, etc. In every facet of his character, the protagonist not only gives us a straight as an arrow path to walk on but also inspires us to rise above our mediocrity. In a key scene in the film, he teaches a kid not to let go of what is his and the same kid meets with a tragic end holding his teachings to heart and standing up against an army. This is an emotionally charged moment that will make your heart stop. The film is peppered with numerous such moments that keep it roaring through its runtime. The manner in which Reddy meets his end is nothing short of a spectacle. There will be those who will call this film jingoistic and they will be right, but when Jingoism is done so well and with such heart, I have no problems with it.

Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy should be looked upon as historical fiction at best. The creative liberties that are taken may feel over the top to many but it serves the story well. Its greatest strength lies in the fact that it has a heartwarming tale of goodness to share which should be taken to heart by one and all. It’s really hard to be good and selfless these days and Narasimha Reddy teaches us to be just that. Chiranjeevi’s stellar act, spectacular visuals, pulse-pounding action, and a heartwarming story are just some of the reasons why one should not miss this epic adventure.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars) 

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