Movie Review

Narappa movie review: Venkatesh film is bold, powerful and faithful to Asuran

Narappa is set in a village in the Anantapur district. The story centres on Narappa (Venkatesh) and his family’s struggles to protect a small patch of farming land from a grasping businessman Panduswami (Aadukalam Naren). While most of the villagers have surrendered their properties to Panduswami, Narappa’s mere 3-acre land and his family’s defiance is like a thorn in his side.

Narappa has mastered the art of swallowing his pride and wriggling out of difficult situations, but his elder son Munikanna (well played by Karthik Rathnam) refuses to bow down to the bully. Munikanna’s basic demand for dignity and right to life is too much to ask for in a village, where a person’s worth is decided based on his or her caste.

Munikanna’s defiance is met with brute force and sheer cruelty. Narraapa’s cry for justice falls on deaf ears. When police, village elders and courts fail to give justice to his family, Narappa accepts his fate and tries to move on to ensure the safety of his other children. His younger son Sinabba (Rakhi), however, is not ready to accept this injustice like his father. His impulsive act, where he tries to mete justice his own way, puts his entire family in danger. It falls on Narraapa’s shoulder to protect his son — he can either continue to play meek or wake up the sleeping monster inside him.

Narappa, which is the official remake of Tamil hit Asuran, falls way outside the expertise of director Srikanth Addala. He is a Sooraj Barjatya-esque filmmaker, who likes to make films about celebrations of life, big fat weddings, and the pleasures of living in a massive joint family. Narappa is diametrically opposite in every conceivable way to Srikanth’s skill set as a director.

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Beginning with the basic premise that deals with the evils of a caste-driven society, including dehumanisation of people from what is perceived as lower castes and acts of senseless violence, it must have been so strange for Srikanth to grasp the film at a deeper level and interpret in his own way. So the honourable thing he could have done is to stay entirely faithful to the original. And that’s what Srikanth has done.

Venkatesh in Narappa.

Every camera angle, blocking, background score and emotional beat remains the same as Asuran. Except for the star cast, the film is a frame-to-frame remake of the Dhanush-starrer. Srikanth makes up for his lack of originality with his absolute sincerity to director Vetri Maaran’s vision.

Truth be told, Asuran wasn’t the best picture of Vetri Maaran. It was a simple film, which employed the narrative template of superstar Rajinikanth’s classic Baasha. The film clicked because of the director’s sincerity, coupled with the courage with which he examined the dehumanizing practice of caste. And Vetri’s unapologetic portrayal of caste violence had a strong shock value, which added to the film’s intensity. It also created a conducive set-up for actors to shine, which Dhanush did and how.

Dhanush seemed natural both as a young Sivasami, with a quick fuse, and an aged family man who steers clear of the fight for the benefit of his family. The contrast and the variations he brought to his character were effortless. But, you can’t say the same for Venkatesh. While Venkatesh fits almost perfectly as a dull, old drunkard, he is not convincing as a young Narappa. His performance in the flashback scenes feels out of tune.

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That said, the last shot when we see Narappa taking a good look at his family and smiling before walking into the court creates the same impact as the original. The quiet and poignant moment reminds us how, for some people, life is an endless battle to get basic rights. Narappa had to make great sacrifices such as losing all his family members to hate so that his son could walk the streets in slippers without attracting a punishment for it.

Asuran wasn’t a work of art and neither is Narappa. But, it is honest and bold, and will always remain hard-hitting, powerful and timely.

Narappa is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

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