Nene Raaju Nene Mantri is Teja’s comeback movie after a string of flops. Popular for romantic movies, Teja tries to attempt a political drama this time around and both fortunately and unfortunately, it’s the romantic thread in the film that walks away a winner, towering over everything else in the film.
The film plays out with Kajal being the centerpiece of all the drama. Almost everything in the film will be rendered meaningless without her character Radha. A bundle of warmth and love and compassion, Radha is the apple of her husband Jogendra’s (Rana) eye. Childhood sweethearts become husband and wife and their world seems lovely, with Jogendra running a money-lending business and Radha being a loving housewife. However, things turn ugly pretty quickly and their life together starts to fall apart due to an unholy nexus of power, ambition and lust, even as Jogendra’s political career witnesses an upward curve. What happens to this couple in this mess forms the rest of the film.
The film starts off almost immediately, establishing the lead characters pretty quickly and giving us a gist of their everyday life. The first half seems long, but the chemistry between Jogendra and Radha is a treat that keeps us watching. The second half gets more serious but also loses its way, and never fully recovers. The pre-climax and climax portions are the fatal blows. But, for some, these might actually be the most entertaining portions of the film. They didn’t go down well for me because of one important reason – Radha Jogendra (as he likes to call himself out of love for his wife) is shown as a hero of sorts, people praising him and chanting his name and doing all kinds of dharnas (against his arrest, at one point in the film) for him. This treatment should have been avoided as, honestly, Jogendra’s connect with and love for these people was long gone already, at best it was intermittent – it was only Radha who remained true to her character all along. Jogendra wasn’t half as lovable anymore as those scenes project. Anyway, enough with this rant!! :’)
Despite the heavy dose of political drama this film offers, its best moments are the romantic ones. The chemistry between Jogendra and Radha is enviable. It’s their love story that stays with you. Rana is earnest. His eyes and smile don several roles as they emote love, anger, sadness and a variety of other emotions as needed. Navdeep is alright as the wingman but he deserved more screen presence. Sivajiraja is a constant beside Jogendra and he fits the bill. Catherine was just okay but deserves a pat on the back for the efforts she put into dubbing for herself. The show-stealer, however, is Radha. She is the soul of the film and lends the character, and the film itself, a sort of class and dignity. NaChaKi once told me that all of us evolve as movie-goers. We “graduate”. The same is true for artists as well. She might have more to offer, but with this film, Kajal has really graduated. This is one film she should be proud of. She shines in her career-best performance! Half a century on a great note! 😉
The songs are speed-breakers. With some better editing, this film could have been much more than what it is now. Teja’s attempt works overall, but the memorable portions of the film are those that have always been his forte.
I’m going with 3.25 out of 5!
PS: All the images are YouTube screenshots from the film’s official trailer. Also, the film is available on Amazon Primevideo.