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Gaddalakonda Ganesh (Valmiki) Movie Review: Varun Tej, Atharvaa- Cinema express

Gaddalakonda Ganesh Movie Review: Lost in translation

Inconsistent writing weighs down the impressive performances of the lead actors 

Published: 20th September 2019

Varun Tej-starrer Valmiki went through a title change hours before the release and became Gaddalakonda Ganesh. An official remake of Tamil gangster drama Jigarthanda, it traces the story of an aspiring director Abhilash (Atharvaa Murali), who wants to make a film on a violent gangster, Gaddalakonda Ganesh (Varun Tej), but faces several hardships before succeeding. During the journey, he learns that to succeed in art, he must learn to 'adjust' in life.  

Direction: Harish Shankar
Cast: Varun Tej, Atharvaa, Pooja Hegde

During one of the initial scenes, a cop asks Abhilash why film directors always portray criminals as larger-than-life characters? He responds, "Films are meant to entertain the audience and I don't believe in the notion that the viewers take the social messages seriously." On seeing this, I strongly felt that it's Harish speaking to the audience through Abhilash's character. There is also a reference to director Ram Gopal Varma for giving life to the story of every single gangster through his films and not leaving any stories for aspiring filmmakers. 

Harish has commercialised Gaddalakonda Ganesh and given it all the trappings of a Tollywood potboiler. He has tweaked the backstory of the gangster by adding a love track. But the newly added female lead character for this love story, played by Pooja Hegde, is insipid and forgettable. 

The director has made sure that Varun Tej looks both ferocious and heroic at the same time, but has stuck to the characterisation Bobby Simha had in the original. He is a gangster who doesn't lay hands on women but enjoys killing people. 

In a recent interview with us, Harish Shankar asserted that the film is not a frame-by-frame remake, but that he has retained the soul and spirit of the original, while incorporating his brand of 'entertainment'. The definition of entertainment differs from person to person. Some may enjoy one-liners and others love dramas. What if a filmmaker decides to pack his film with forced humour that hardly makes an impact coupled with its inconsistent narration in the name of entertainment? The result would be Gaddalakonda Ganesh.

The promising premise, in the beginning, gets lost midway owing to the long and overblown sequences that involve more talking than action. The film's flabby second half introduces a motley of characters, and none of them get their due. 

Incidentally, the much-hyped Velluvachi Godaramma, (the remix version of the Sobhan Babu and Sridevi hit song) pales in comparison to the original.

Varun Tej is in fine form and seems to have found his calling in a negative role. He aces the interval sequence, which is one of the best moments of the film. Atharvaa Murali lends credibility to his role and effortlessly steals the show. Here's hoping we see him more often in Telugu cinema. Mrinalini Ravi, the debutante, goes missing midway through the film, only to show up in the penultimate scene, but with little to do. Annapurnamma is consistent and so is Tanikella Bharani as a projector operator who failed to live his dreams in tinsel town. Sathya repeats what he does the best in a tailor-made role. 

As someone who has watched the original, which is considered a cult classic by now, I strongly feel Harish Shankar should have spent more time working on his screenplay. To sum things up, the film can be considered a one-time watch, that unfortunately isn't as funny and satisfying as Harish’s previous films, let alone bearing comparison to the original.

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