Movie Review: Pushpa: The Rise—Part 1(Hindi): The show must go on—for too long!

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Allu Arjun plays the title role in Pushpa:The Rise—Part 1.
Photo: (Trailer videograb)

Here is the graph of the film: it takes off with a lot of action, settles down into a highly entertaining blend of emotions, drama and humor, and then goes on an endless spree of violence (which, in cinematic parlance simply means an unpalatable degree of action for the common viewer) with dollops of melodrama and exorbitant song sequences coming at intervals.

And speaking of intervals, the actual intermission comes after what seems like eons and paves the way to let us know that the show must go on now—for very long! Pushpa: The Rise—Part 1 ends with a gateway to Part 2, a total of 179 minutes from the start. And a new antagonist is introduced very dramatically just 15 minutes or so before the end—a cop named Bhanwar Singh Shekhawat, played by Fahadh Faasil. We are told he will be the main nemesis of the hero in the conclusive part.

Allu Arjun and Rashmika Mandanna in Pushpa: The Rise—Part 1. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar via Universal Communications

The Telugu film, dubbed in four more languages (I watched it, of course, in Hindi), finally emerges as an orgy of violence under the guise of entertainment. The anti-social side (a coolie-cum-truck driver, who is now a smuggler, killing off cops as if they are all evil) is unabashedly presented, as graphically as when he exterminates the ‘baddies’ among the villains’(!). Comparatively, little time is given to his romantic side (with a simple village girl, Srivalli, played by a de-glam Rashmika Mandanna).

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Pushpa’s back-story is sought to be justified and heightened by his being the illegitimate son denied his rights by his half-brothers, which becomes his key driving-force as his mother is termed a mere “mistress”. And so Pushpa, who works in the Seshachalam Hills of the Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh, not only proves his efficiency at smuggling the precious red sanders wood from the forest illegally but also dreams of bigger things and huge money.

He outsmarts cop Govindappa (Shatru) in hiding the contraband from his team of searchers and so earns the trust of Konda Reddy (Ajay Ghosh). But ultimately, there is a face-off with all the men involved in the smuggling.

The screenplay, while being racy, and “masala”-oriented against a rustic background, is thus very predictable, and the sheer quantum of the relentless mayhem finally leads to ennui. How many heads and bodies can be seen smashed and sliced, how many limbs broken and how many weapons used endlessly?

Thus, Pushpa… comes off as one of those movies where a lead character is developed with the intention to idolize him and so everyone and everything else become secondary, read comparatively unimportant. Allu Arjun is in sync with the character, as is his Hindi dubbing by Shreyas Talpade. The laidback guy with mannerisms and a quirky way of speaking becomes a highly likeable character in the first half despite the dark shades, but, as said earlier, the sheer length does him in. His love track is the weak part because Arjun even dazzles in the song sequences, not all of which are romantic.

And speaking of music, Devi Sri Prasad’s songs, as always studded with catchy hooks and refrains, lift the film despite the (Hindi) makeshift lyrics by Raqueeb Alam.

The supporting cast plays out as a volley of largely predictable performances, whether as villainous, comic (Pushpa’s sidekick essayed by Sunil Varma) or “emotional” as with Pushpa’s unfortunate mother.

The cinematography is gritty and evokes the aroma and feel of the region (Polish DOP Mirosław Kuba Brożek shining in rural Indian milieu) but the same cannot be said about the editing (Kartika Srinivas & Ruben). The action (Lakshman Chella, Ram Chella, Peter Hein), as expected, gets major footage.

Keeping the length crisp would have helped the film’s “Rise” a lot. As things stand, Pushpa: The Rise—Part 1 is perfect fare only for Allu Arjun’s fans as well for the (many) hardcore adherents of the South Indian masala genre. I dare say that the film will do decent business in the rest of the country (and overseas), but that will be only because the pan-Indian Mumbai film industry is losing its hold over its audience in the last two years.

Rating: **1/2 (out of 5)

Produced by: Naveen Yemeni & Y. Ravi Shankar.Written & Directed by: Sukumar. Music: Devi Sri Prasad. Starring: Allu Arjun, Rashmika Mandanna, Fahadh Faasil, Fahadh Faasil, Dhananjay, Sunil, Ajay Ghosh, Rao Ramesh, Jagadeesh Prathap Bandara, Shatru, Anasuya Bharadwaj, Ajay, Sritej, Mime Gopi, Brahmaji, Malavika Wales, Sp. App.: Samantha Ruth Prabhu & others.

Mythri Movie Makers & Muttamsetty Media

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