Cast: Prabhas, Kriti Sanon, Saif Ali Khan, Sunny Singh, Devdatta Nage, Vatsal Sheth
Director: om raut
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(Adipurush was made simultaneously in Telugu and Hindi. Our reviewer wrote this review after watching the Hindi version in 3D. The film has also been dubbed for release in Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam.)
“Mom, mom, look! I have technology!” This might have been a more suitable title for the highly-hyped new release of the week, adipurush.
Writer-director Om Raut’s film is a retelling of the Ramayan, one of the most gripping stories ever told, with many written and oral versions rivaling each other in color and richness. adipurush it sucks every ounce of spirit from its source material and regurgitates it with sumptuous but unimaginative visuals. Clearly a fortune has been spent on the production, but an India that has already witnessed the lavishness of Telugu blockbuster producer SS Rajamouli Baahubali parts 1 and 2 and RRR, it’s past the stage where we’d lower our expectations and be happy to describe a CGI extravaganza as good “by Indian standards.” The challenge for Indian filmmakers now is that Indian standards are quite high and adipurush, with its sallow storytelling coupled with limited inventiveness in its visuals just doesn’t cut it. This is surprising since Raut’s success in 2020. Tanhaji (Hindi) was, despite its dubious interpretation of the story, fascinating due to its well-choreographed action. As politically problematic as Rajamouli’s recent films have been, not even his harshest critics could accuse them of lacking vision, substance and energy. The problem today is that everyone wants to do the next Baahubalialthough obviously not everyone has the weight to do it.
adipurush it begins with a quick account of Ram, the prince of Ayodhya, being banished from the kingdom by the monarch, his father Dashrath, at his stepmother’s insistence. This part of the saga, along with Ram’s departure for the woods with his wife and his brother Lakshman, are capped off with illustrations from the beginning. As the live action begins with human actors, we meet the three main characters in their jungle abode: Raghav (another name of Ram in Hindu mythology) played by Telugu megastar Prabhas, Janaki (one of the names of Sita) by Kriti Sanon of Hindi cinema, and Shesh or Lakshman by Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2It’s Sunny Singh. The film could have used hand-drawn cartoons as well, considering the actors appear to have been instructed to impersonate wax figures.
Surpanakha, Ravan aka Lankesh, Jatayu, Hanuman aka Bajrang, Vali, Sugreev, Mandodari, Meghnad, Vibhishan, Kumbhakaran and others enter the scene one by one, stripped of the details so familiar to anyone who has grown up with Ramayan. The only individual that has been given any depth is Lankesh. The only one occasionally trying to resurrect this lifeless adventure is Saif Ali Khan in that role, but even he is overshadowed by the filmmaker’s apparent effort to impress with the scale of the company.
adipurushThe images of are often stunning, but their beauty gets dull after a while as the main trio pose around, spending more time on camera looking at them from a distance than anything else. Karthik Palani’s cinematography is as painfully self-aware as the acting, and each frame seems to have been conceptualized in terms of how well it could look as a still image rather than its contribution to the narrative on film.
Certain elements deserve special mention: the greatness of the god of the ocean emerging from the waters without taking full human form, the lethal metal weapons that climb up and down the walls of the Lankesh fort, the representation of the 10-headed structure of Lankesh and the impressive climactic confrontation between Raghav and Lankesh. Note that adipurush It’s almost three hours long, and a handful of standout sequences can’t make up for the long stretches of clichés and boredom—or, for that matter, the smaller members of the “vanar seine” who resemble children in shabby furry costumes.
Headlining the platitude is the use of black to denote evil and white for virtue, as thoughtless creative people do in much of the world. The fascinating symbolism of the Ramayan is left more or less unexplored, but Lankesh, its people and its surroundings are all in black and dark grey, Raghav and Shesh wear white dhotis, while the white-skinned Janaki spends her days in a suit. pink of such paleness that it is almost white. In fact, Lankesh’s color scheme harkens back to Saif’s own evil character from the Mughal establishment in Tanhajiwith a breath of Ranveer Singh’s voracious Alauddin Khilji in padmaavat and the angry pathans of Kesari added just in case.
This can hardly be dismissed as inadvertent or innocent when adipurush it is seen in the context of the current flammable political scenario. In addition, more transparent points of complacency from today’s aggressive mainstream discourse quietly crept into the film: the opening VO describes the Ramayan as “Bharat ka itihaas(The History of India), the episode involving Surpanakha is modified to further villainize her than it already is in popular discussions, the bhagwa dhwaj (saffron flag) receives an honorable mention from Raghav, and exhorts his army to immortalize his masculinity.
Through all this, Sunny Singh has a look on her face while Prabhas has 0.25 or maybe less. The latter’s interpretation of divinity is deadpan expression. He doesn’t walk either, he staggers, and his character has been given an oddly tense running style; I can’t tell if this is the fault of the artist or the camerawork or some other technical aspect of filmmaking.
Sanon, an actor with a tremendous spark that has so far not been explored in his filmography, is not allowed to do anything but they seem helpless and easy on the eyes.
Devdatta Nage as Bajrang has no impact.
It’s no wonder, then, that Saif’s attempts at CPR, with an evil glitz and sleek style, fail miserably in the face of such insurmountable obstacles.
Rating: 1.5 (out of 5 stars)
Adipurush is in theaters
Anna MM Vetticad is an award-winning journalist and author of The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic. She specializes in the intersection of cinema with feminism and other sociopolitical concerns. Twitter: @annavetticad, Instagram: @annammvetticad, Facebook: AnnaMMVetticadOfficial