'Pushpa: The Rise' is the first part of a two-part drama. Let's find out what works and what doesn't for the movie.
Pushpa Raj (Allu Arjun) is an ordinary coolie in 1996. Within a few years, he becomes the reigning syndicate lord of the Seshachalam forests, where A-grade red sanders grow.
The film is essentially about the hero's roller-coaster rise in a world dominated by ruthless characters like Konda Reddy (Ajay Ghosh) and Mangalam Srinu (Sunil). The first of these two is Pushpa's boss.
The story ends with Inspector Bhanwar Singh Shekhawat (Fahadh Faasil) and Pushpa challenging each other.
Allu Arjun has been decorated with the title 'Icon Star' starting with this movie and director Sukumar has depicted his no-holds-barred character lovingly. The actor, after a family drama like 'Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo', completely uplifts an author-backed role with panache. His style is not easy to be copied, and he has also mastered the Chittoor slang. Rashmika Mandanna proves to be a match, making the rom-com scenes feel natural.
Fahadh Faasil justifies his screen time. Dhananjaya, the Sandalwood actor, is fine. Sunil doesn't make his character feel regular. As his wife, Anasuya Bharadwaj is commendable. Rao Ramesh is seen as a politician, while Shatru is a cop. Among the full-fledged villains, Ajay Ghosh delivers the best.
Devi Sri Prasad is in complete sync with the beats of the story. His background music is profound and beautifies even otherwise ordinary moments. His songs are done complete justice, especially the well-choreographed 'Srivalli and 'Oo Antava Oo Oo Antava'. Resul Pookutty's sound design is surprisingly not memorable.
Cinematographer Mirosław Kuba Brożek and production designers S Rama Krishna-Monica Niggotre duo work in tandem. They complement each other so well. The jungle terrain looks authentic for the most part. Editing by Karthika Srinivas and Ruben is excellent.
Director Sukumar enjoys writing intriguing scenes and mildly grey characters. In 'Pushpa', you have a male lead who creeps up the heroine before becoming her most incredible 'Saami'. He is also someone who games the system and pulverizes a determined cop in his journey.
At the heart of it, 'Pushpa' is actually template-driven. At the same time, it shows potential, especially in how it introduces a new villain in the last half an hour. It has to be seen how Pushpa and Shekhawat are going to fight it out in the second edition of the movie. The ending is not wow at all. This is no 'KGF: Chapter 1' that can make us eagerly wait for 'KGF: Chapter 2'.
Sunil's Mangalam Srinu was supposed to shock the audience. But he doesn't. Is it because there are no surprises in store after the trailer revealed all its cards? At least, Anasuya's revolt should have not have been revealed.
Why is Pushpa valued so much? It's not because he can beat the rivals (including the police force) to a pulp. It's mainly because he knows how to trick the system and make the modus operandi of the smuggling process look like a mystery. The ideas that pack the modus operandi part and the deceiving tactics are not special. They are ordinary. That's why the first half is underwhelming. The first half works only because of Bunny, the songs, and the premise.
The plot acquires heft in the later part. A baddie lusts Srivalli. There is this interesting element of Pushpa having to hide something from an important character. And the climax has an engaging track between Pushpa and Fahadh Faasil's character.
The film has its many misses. The writing is not weighty enough to warrant a second edition. But Allu Arjun's acting is a dekko. Sukumar's writing is a mixed bag.