A remake of the Telugu flick, Rangasthalam, the film is about the fictional village of Rangasthalam (meaning ‘stage’) reside a motley crew of colourful characters. First up is the innocent Chitti Babu ( Ram Charan ), a hot-headed soul who remains blissfully unaware of the chaos that surrounds him. Kumar Babu (Aadhi Pinisetty), his brother, is the complete opposite. He returns from Dubai and seeing the state of affairs in his village, decides to bring a change. The President (Jagapathi Babu) of the village is a steely-eyed man whom the villagers believe to be devout and hence bestowed with special powers.
And then there’s Rama Lakshmi ( Samantha ), educated till sixth class but empowered enough to take decisions of her own. She has no time for moral policing because she’s too busy noticing the corruption rampant around her. Rangammatta (Anasuya Bharadwaj), in a refreshing move, is Chitti Babu’s best friend, maintaining a purely platonic friendship with him. Dakshina Murthy ( Prakash Raj ) is a local MLA who decides to join Kumar Babu’s cause for a better future. These characters make up the lead actors of the film set in the 1980s.
‘Rangasthala’ genuinely takes you back to the 80s and hits you with a massive dose of nostalgia – radios and record dances galore. The film is not just set in the 80s; it also picks a story template from that era and narrates the tale in a refreshingly raw manner. However, Sukumar must be credited for fleshing out the characters well enough that they don’t seem like caricatures of a bygone era. He must also be credited for making them capable enough to be empowered should the need arise. The characters, even the ones that have minimal screen time, are etched only after careful thought. And the best out of all them is Chitti Babu.
Chitti Babu is hard not to fall in love with, sprouting a refreshing innocence in a time when toxic masculinity is usually celebrated on-screen. The character has no interest in being the ‘hero’ of this tale because he’s more invested in getting drunk, falling in love, talking to his friends and loving his family. The character graph of Chitti Babu that starts with delicate innocence and finds humour even in his disability; only changes when his heart is truly broken. Rangammatta plays catalyst to bursting the Technicolor bubble that Chitti Babu resides in, forcing him to see Rangasthalam for what it is – not a vividly hued stage, but a dry and drab place reeling under oppression.
Ram Charan is a delight to watch in this film, delivering what probably is his best performance till date. Be it in the scenes where he oozes childishness or the ones when you see a broken man that no one can heal, you can see it all in the way his eyes emote. Samantha is also good in her role as the rustic Rama Lakshmi, who is Chitti Babu’s female counterpart, the one he needs and deserves. Aadhi Pinisetty also delivers a stupendous performance as the idealist who believes it will definitely be him who will be able to bring about change. Jagapathi Babu and Anasuya Bharadwaj deliver subtle yet powerful performances, making a lasting impression with the simplest of dialogues.
Rathnavelu and Devi Sri Prasad need to take a bow, not just for delivering picture-perfect visuals and soundtrack, but for also setting the mood of the film with their work. DSP’s background score is strong in this one! Also, the retro ‘record dance’ style number ft. Pooja Hegde is a delight to watch on the large screen. Where the film falls short however is towards its epilogue. Despite the cracks showing through, you notice how badly broken Chitti Babu really is only towards the end when he’s pushed to the brim. Prakash Raj’s character is the only one that remains not well fleshed out and almost seems to be there just to push things through and deliver a haphazard conclusion.
None-the-less, go watch the film this weekend for the characters and the intrigue they create. Watch it especially for Ram Charan and his stupendous performance, Sukumar’s direction, Rathnavelu’s cinematography and DSP’s background score. This film truly proves that it doesn’t matter if it’s a tale you have seen a million times before, when it’s told in an entertaining manner!