‘Narappa’ is the biggest direct Telugu-language OTT release of the year so far. In this section, we are going to analyze its sensibilities and aesthetics.
Narappa (Venkatesh) owns three acres of land in Ramasagaram, a hamlet where a feudalist (Naren as Pandusami) rules the roost with brute force. When he refuses to part with it, there develops bad blood between Narappa and Pandusami. Unexpectedly, the rivalry snowballs into bloodshed when the villain eliminates Narappa’s elder son Munikanna (Karthik Ratnam).
What will Narappa do now? What role does his younger son Sinappa (debutant Rakhi), wife Sundaramma (Priyamani) and brother-in-law Basavayya (Rajeev Kanakala) have in the course of events? That’s what the rest of the film is about.
Venkatesh is remarkable throughout the run-time. Be it as a pacifist father or an emotional patriarch who is conflicted, the senior actor is a delight to watch. His look is a dekko, with the villager’s look being as evocative as some of the lines he speaks. It’s vintage Venky, who shot for the movie at a stretch and probably tried his hand at method acting to an extent. In a pre-release interview, the actor said that he found it exhausting to pull off the character.
Priyamani totally transforms herself into a village woman with ease. As the not-so-demure wife of Narappa, she is good if not entirely effective. Rakhi as Narappa’s 16-year-old son is wow. Karthik Ratnam is very good. Rao Ramesh and Nasser fit their parts. Rajeev Kanakala and Ammu Abhirami are cast as Narappa’s relatives, with the latter looking too young opposite Venky. Sandalwood actor Vasishta N Simha is fabulous in a negative role.
GV Prakash Kumar’s signature theme music from the Tamil original serves as a leitmotif. It’s a fabulous idea to have it retained. Mani Sharma’s songs pass muster, with the title track sounding uninspired. Sam K Naidu’s cinematography is effective in capturing the edgy nature of some of the intense scenes. Art director Gandhi Nadikudikar and editor Marthand K Venkatesh prove to be the right choices.
Director Sreekanth Addala, drawing from the profound material offered by the Tamil original ‘Asuran’, delivers a bang for the buck in the first half. The Tamil original, which was directed by Vetri Maaran, was based on a Tamil-language novel named ‘Vekkai’. The literary flourishes offered a solid foundation to ‘Asuran’. And ‘Narappa’ respects its source material.
The portions where the passions run high are remarkable because of the way the action unfolds. The pre-interval block will have a sizeable chunk of fans. It’s as if the screenplay marries the survival drama trappings to masala action tropes.
The film respects the mass-hero sensibilities of the original. And Venky, who has aced a number of action-hero roles in the 1990s, rises to the occasion with confidence. He is lovely in his scenes with his son. As the violent Narappa, he lends a certain rigour to the scenes.
A complaint is that ‘Narappa’ fails to deliver a blow to the stubborn second-half syndrome. The flashback is a dampener and it comes into its own only where the caste-based discrimination is questioned subtly. The land-grabbing element and the quelling of the rebellion needed better treatment.
The conversations between the father and his dangerously bold son should have been better. The songs don’t intrude and it’s a blessing. But the title track between Venky and Ammu should have been chopped.
‘Narappa’ makes for a good watch. If you like heavy subjects shorn of usual tropes, go for it. But the remake is also bereft of exceptional output in the second half. The climax is a plus, though.