Rangasthalam Review: A visual extravaganza with strong performances
Ram Charan and the rest of the cast shine in this rural entertainer that is only let down by its slow pace
Director Sukumar has an enviable track record for his brand of cinema. His dialogues carry a multitude of meanings and his scripts have always had a special place in Telugu cinema. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a versatile writer and director. After dealing with an esoteric subject sans commercial elements in his last film Nannaku Prematho, he returns to the spotlight with a rural entertainer that focuses on locality, culture, traditions and has churned out a visual extravaganza with his latest offering Rangasthalam.
Cast: Ram Charan, Samantha, Jagapathi Babu, Anasuya Bharadwaj, Aadhi Pinisetty
The film introduces us to the hearing impaired, sound engineer Chitti Babu (Ram Charan) -- a naive youth with a blithe attitude. On the other hand, his brother Kumar Babu (Aadhi Pinisetty) is completely in contrast and always rises to the occasion. They live in a village named Rangasthalam which is controlled by a power-hungry president (Jagapathi Babu), who takes advantage of the poverty and the helpless dependence of the villagers by charging high interest rates on loans. The people who raise up and voice out their opinions against his wrongdoings are killed mercilessly. As life gets tougher due to the monopolistic rules imposed by the president and his unit, Kumar Babu decides to change Rangasthalam for good. He locks horns with the president by filing a nomination to contest in the sarpanch election. Initially, he faces resistance from the locals but eventually, they root for him.
The film looks crisp and authentic, and being set in the 80s is packed with nostalgia. But, though it has enough moments to woo Ram Charan’s fans with hilarious sequences, the thrills are fewer than you'd usually expect from a Sukumar's film. So there's never enough curiosity to keep you consistently invested in the tale.
Sukumar tries to strike a balance with an equal measure of heartbreaking and hilarious moments to appease both Ram Charan’s fans and the general audience. The story involves a large ensemble of characters of which only a few have depth. By the time this film ends, if you really think, some characters end up not much further than where they started.
Rangasthalam keeps you hooked not so much on the strength of its plot, as it does thanks to some interesting characters who dwell in it. A major issue with the film is that it takes too long to reach its destination and also gets sidetracked by some sentimental detours. The narrative lingers too long in certain sequences which look staged and this takes away some of the fun out of the ride. However, the scene in which Kumar Babu gets killed carries a lot of emotional power.
Much of the credit should go to Ram Charan for delivering a measured portrayal as Chitti Babu. He steals the hearts of the audience and his performance is the biggest strength of the film. Samantha is refreshingly natural, and she nails her role with ease. Anasuya makes an impact as the do-gooder Rangammatha, one of the film’s lovable characters. Naresh, Rohini and Poojitha Ponnada all play their parts well, while Ajay Ghosh and Jagapathi Babu shine in their roles. But Pooja Hegde’s special song feels out of place.
On the technical side, a lot of attention has been paid to minute details in the film -- the art direction, colour hue and the camera that captures the scenic locales, as well as the attractive mood of Godavari, all deserve special mention. The action sequences choreographed by Ram Laxman look brutal and spectacular. The dreamy visuals of Rathnavelu are wonderfully complemented by Devi Sri Prasad's songs and a background score that's never intrusive.
Sukumar weaves his magic wand with an interesting twist towards the end, but Rangasthalam could have been a classic had it been edited better. It suffers from uneven pacing and a lack of novelty in the story. Overall, the film is worth watching for its wonderful visuals, spectacular performances from the lead cast and Sukumar’s deft handling of the film’s varied moods.