'Johaar' has started permiering on Aha. The film was supposed to hit the cinemas in theatres. Due to the pandemic, it has chosen the OTT route. Let's analyze what is good and bad about the latest release.
The State gets a young Chief Minister in Vijay Varma after the untimely demise of his father, Achyutha Ramayya. After he assumes office, concretizing his father's legacy becomes Varma's only obsession. He seeks to erect the world's tallest statue come what may.
While he is at the top, at the bottom are people from poor backgrounds. In Vizag, Naina Ganguly's character lives with the dream of representing the country in international tournaments as an athlete. In Srikakulam, Eeswari Rao's character grapples with poverty after her husband dies of Nephropathy (this track is inspired by Uddhanam Nephropathy, a medical and social malaise in Srikakulam).
In Varanasi, Esther Anil's character is suffocated because her mother is a pimp who might force her into sex trade some day. She falls in love with a tea serller (Ankit Koyya).
Subhalekha Sudhakar's character, who is pushing 80 years, is worried about his orphanage running out of funds. His only dream is to provide it with adequate funds before he dies.
How are these lives connected with the Chief Minister's political project? Wathc the movie to know the answer.
In a film that is blighted by dull treatment, it is the performances that are a saving grace. Barring Sudhakar and Eeswari Rao, the others are quite engaging. Even Naina Ganguly shows mettle.
Jagadeesh Cheekati's cinematography and Priyadarshan's music elevate a number of moments. Even when the love story set in Varanasi becomes unexciting, it's the montage songs that save the day. It's also refreshing that there is a rap song on Varanasi.
At 122 minutes, the run-time is adequate.
Emotions around the economically poor characters
Statue politics acting as a metaphor for political apathy and misplace priorities
Human-interest stories are rare to come by in Telugu. 'Johar' chooses to be different.
Lazy narration overtakes the film most often. For example, the Chief Minister talks like a corrupted, ruthless corporate honcho in a party meeting in front of a dozen leaders. This is old-style portrayal of politicians. A CM might consciously ruin people's lives, but would he say it openly in a meeting as if he is a drunken gangster?
The dialogues are not intelligent for the most part. For example, in a scene, a girl child talks like a sadhvi. An orphan talks like a student union's leader in one scene, albeit with a dose of cutesy innocence.
The track involving the two lovers is somewhat bizerrely forced. Just to give a tragic ending, the director injects too many convenient tropes.
The above-mentioned minus points pale in comparison when you talk about how much the film is utterly predictable. One can see the point it is going to make from miles away. The narration is that straightforward.
The film is not a political drama but it makes a socio-political argument. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the building of the statues Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Chatrapathi Shivaj at a cost of thousands of crores in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Activists and Leftists have argued that those funds should have been used for welfare and development. It's this line that 'Johar' essentially toes.
But truth has many sides. Legacy monuments generate revenue, they help build a strong local economy. Our films, including 'Johar', shed tears for farmers. But do they ever ask why the lakhs of crores that have been spent by different States on farm loan waivers haven't solved farm issues? Never! If anything, farm loan waivers have caused more misery indirectly than any larger-than-life statue. Think about it!