Arjun Reddy is a weird film. Full of self-contradictions, riding mostly on a singular emotion that results in alcohol/drug abuse and smoking in practically every frame, generous dose of cuss words thrown in to lend authenticity to a character that’s not very likable.
Good character driven films are “driven” by characters that are cut out with finesse. They literally are central to the film and you cannot let imperfections come in the way of handling such characters. Thankfully, Arjun Reddy gets this right. Arjun Reddy’s character is well-defined and stays true to itself throughout the film, never trying to become someone else. The dialogues, emotion(s) and relationships that come with the character are all well done. The likability of this character, however, is a different thing altogether. I vaguely remember someone (a director, IIRC) opining in an interview that if 100 people watch a film, there will be at least 100 different opinions about the film and its characters and each person will identify with or like/dislike the movie or its characters according to their taste/interests/beliefs. That’s the idea of movies, anyway. You accept what you want, cherish what you love and discard what you dislike. Arjun’s character is not an exception.
I could see his pain, understand why he’s doing what he’s doing but never really connected to his emotions. This is not to say that Vijay Devarakonda was anything short of amazing with his acting. He inhabits Arjun with such impeccable ease that it’s almost impossible to believe that he’s an actor.
About 3 hours long, the film seems to go on for decades. It unravels at its own unapologetic, “aaraam se..jaldi kya hain?” pace. To tell a story such as this for 3 hours, all the while holding the viewers’ attention, is no small task. Editor Shashank had a job to do here and not a difficult one at that and he disappoints. Long drawn out sequences bearing no real importance in the film’s proceedings are plenty. They could be thought of as insight-providers into the depth of some characters but at the end of the day, if you are bored, you are bored and do not feel like appreciating how good the detailing was! There is, at the very least, 30 mins of chopping to do. 40-45 mins short and it would have worked even better! To me personally, since I had almost-zero emotional connect with Arjun’s character, it was like watching a neighbor go through all these things: you feel sorry for them, irritated by them and wish things were different for them and hope that were not such arrogant people for their own good, but that’s where it ends…you would think twice before intruding into their personal space and getting attached with all the senseless arrogance and stubbornness. So there I was, watching the proceedings only from the outer periphery of my neighbor’s house – never fully empathetic.
And I wish for the film’s own good that the other characters were given enough meat too. When the overall effect the central character’s having is not very pleasing (intense but not pleasing), I usually tend to seek refuge in other characters. No, don’t shift the focus from the main dude. Just bring a couple of others into focus too. I don’t want their journey. I want their journey WITH him. At some points in the film, this does seem to stem but never really takes off. Arjun’s best friend gets the best of the lot while the others are just extras. His parents too are just cameos in his chaotic life. The leading lady herself, instrumental in the creation of all the drama in the first place, gets very little to do. Hers is a uni-layered character and none of what she thinks/feels comes to the fore in a hitting, effective manner. There are hardly a dozen dialogues for the girl and she’s not bad with whatever little she’s asked to do.
Not everything went down south with this film. The director holds promise and it’s evident in the way he handled a few crucial scenes. Regardless of how I felt about this product overall, I will watch this director’s next. Camerawork is commendable too. There are genuine laughs sprinkled here and there. I really enjoyed watching yesteryear actress Kanchana gaaru on-screen again!
Overall, Arjun Reddy might cater to a niche audience. For me, it was a one time watch and a very looooong one at that. I am going with 2.5 out of 5!
PS: Trim this movie, no? Will probably make more money then!
PPS: All the images are screenshots from the film’s official trailer on YouTube.