'Narappa', starring Venkatesh in the lead, is streaming now on Amazon Prime. An action drama, the film has arrived as a Direct-to-Service release amid the pandemic. For an action drama with a grand technical scale, it was not an easy choice to choose OTT. Does the film, which is a remake, live up to the audience's expectations? Find out in our review.
Narappa (Venkatesh) is caught in a bind when his elder son is killed by Pandusami (Naren). His younger son, who is all of 16 years old, is out to avenge the murder. This is when Narappa may have to revisit his past, muster up the courage and seek vengeance for the sake of his family, which is in an unprecedented crisis. But can he?
Venkatesh, after playing serious roles for the most part in recent years (barring 'F2', of course), sets a new benchmark for himself here. As Narappa, a vulnerable father, he is amazing from the get-go. His versatility is inspiring. And his ease is infectious.
His scenes with Priyamani, who plays his wife, are a treat. Priyamani strikes easy chemistry with Venky, and she also adds a layer of emotion to the screenplay. Karthik Ratnam of 'Care Of Kancharapalem' proves to be a safe bet, while the newcomer Rakhi is comfortable in his skin. The two sons are better than even the wife.
The film doesn't do much justice to Rao Ramesh's (in the role of a good-hearted lawyer) acting prowess. In fact, even Nasser (in the role of a baddie) is boring. Rajeev Kanakala, Sritej of 'Lakshmi's NTR' fame and Kannada actor Vasishta N Simha, however, create impact. Ammu Abhirami, Brahmaji and Jhansi look thoroughly out of place for a subject of a certain nature.
Mani Sharma's songs are limited in their dramatic impact. It's the BGM, borrowed from the Tamil original for most of the portions, that adds a character to the film.
Sam K Naidu's cinematography is outstanding in a lot of difficult scenes. Art director Gandhi Nadikudikar does a challenging job. Editor Marthand K Venkatesh brings to the table his vast experience.
When 'Asuran' (the Tamil original) came out, film observers described it as a socio-political film at one level. The Telugu remake, 'Narappa', retains the aspect without junking the soul. However, when it comes to execution, the social commentary is not really hard-hitting. It also softens the anti-caste blow.
Where then does the film's biggest strengths lie? The characterization of Narappa has to be its most long-lasting element. Reprising Dhanush, Venky is both nonchalant and vengeful, as required by the story. There is no straightforward telling of his author-backed character. He takes insults, at times from his own family. At other times, he becomes a prime mover.
Elements like land grabbing and caste-based discrimination are leveraged well by director Sreekanth Addala, who is otherwise known for anti-violence subjects. How the social hierarchy impacts the lives of the vulnerable gets a vivid depiction without much fuss. The subtlety is explained by the fact that the film is based on a Tamil-language novel and a screenplay adapted by Kollywood writer-director Vetri Maaran.
Revenge is the crux that holds the emotional roller-coaster together. The second half is enriched by a long flashback that holds a lot of answers to Narappa's tendencies and persuasions. That said, the flashback could have been way strong and way more evocative.
The atmospherics of the movie are enticing, while Venky's look is appealing. His characterization is laced with a certain depth, especially the fact that he totally sits well with his age.
If you have no quibble with minor irritants that come in the shape of a somewhat protracted flashback, 'Narappa' will engage you to the core. Watch it for the performances, the sensibilities, and the rustic appeal. It's raw but not uniformly so. But it's a good experiment nevertheless.