Narappa, a remake of a very successful Tamil film Asuran (starring Dhanush in the lead), grabs eyeballs for its presentation. Notwithstanding the fact that it is a remake, there is not much compromise with scale, though, in a “village – scene” one can not only make out it is a set but also observe uncovered thermocol.
Two (nay, three) performances stand out each in their different hues: Rajeev Kanakala gets decent screen space as the brother-in-law of Narappa who is always there, helpful and yet silent when he has to surely take a stance which he does with power and restraint. Kudos! Rarely do character actors add polish without overstating as with this case.
Then there is Priyamani: She is that new dimension on women empowerment. Even when Narappa is docile, the fire in the belly, unstated aggression is superbly translated through body gait, emotive expression and minimal dialogues. An expression more, a slight shift in demeanour or gait would have added to her performance at the cost of the role.
Her capacity to understand the role in comparison to that of the central character who swings from friendly to violent to docile to sympathetic and compromising, and finally to a long drawn spell of violence is the perfect match. Her silence is an amazing foil to the central character. All this without reducing the anger of a woman wronged – both individually and as a representative marks her right here on the top.
The performance from Venkatesh is surely not just the central piece of the remake but also a commercial and artistic justification of the outing. It has been a while since the actor has donned the muscle-flexing avatar. Among his peers, he, perhaps, is the first who understood the validity of the shelf life of a conventional hero and has surely walked the road accordingly. The Jayam Manadera and Gharshana actor is back roaring, and tamed in years if not in muscle power! His emotive skills are well showcased and set him apart.
The narrative starts off very well. Even to the uninitiated, it becomes clear that it is a vendetta tale prepared on a road ahead distinctly different from the usual. The divide of dad and son on one hand and the mother and daughter on the other reminds one of Ellie Weisel’s biographical Night. The script deals subtly with the character of Sundaramma (Priyamani). Silent and powerful, edgy and always pushing the docile Narappa to explode.
The fights and stunts are the mainstay in a film that not only celebrates violence but also goes overboard in showing burnt torsos and faces. Too much to stomach in the drawing room from the OTT platform. The fight in the desert when Narappa arrives to save his son Sinnaba (Rakhi) is very well shot till it goes overboard. The search and stock scenes keep you glued to the screen.
The narrative dealing with the young fiancé Kannamma (Abhirami) having to face the wrath of the upper caste for wearing and flaunting her footwear is of documentary sensitivity in the context of caste divide. The punch is lost in the heedless romance between Narappa and the woefully mismatched Kannamma (Abhirami). This part of the narrative partly derails the script.
The court scene where Narappa is to surrender before the judge (Dr. Anil) is taut and reminiscent of the tension in a similar scene in Prakash Jha’s Gangaajal.
What does not work, however, is the over dramatisation of Narappa falling on the feet of villagers, the Venkatesh-Abhirami romance and the refusal to take the rich-poor divide and hover around caste without saying so, and the long-drawn scenes of violence with dollops of blood smeared all over.
In the final analysis, the film stands up for a theme and, most importantly, for the characters and portrayal by Priyamani. Above all, it is Venkatesh who adds a lot of flesh to the flowing blood of Narappa. His is an award-winning performance. Worth the watch.