Bhuvana Vijayam Movie Review: An interesting comedy thriller
Bhuvana Vijayam offers delights and melodrama, all while reviving a lost genre
Every film carries its own set of tastes, preferences and expectations with it. While world cinema may convey a sense of finesse and acquired taste, populist cinema, on the other hand, translates to comfortable viewing. Cinema can be eclectic or entertaining, class or mass. It can hotwire you into the future or take you on a leisurely trip down memory lane. Yalamanda Charan’s Bhuvana Vijayam earns a classification in the latter-most category, but not without some inspired writing, resulting from an assured touch of genre blending.
Cast - Sunil, Viva Harsha, Balireddy Prudviraj, Goparaju Ramanna, Dhanraj, Vennela Kishore
Director - Yalamanda Charan
Contemporary tributes to old-school hypermasculinity are dime a dozen in Telugu cinema, but Bhuvana Vijayam holds a candle to the mytho-modern films of the 80s and 90s, a cherished but almost-forgotten sub-genre where dramatic stories are set around celestial or/and netherworldly creatures interacting with mortals. SV Krishna Reddy’s Yamaleela (1994) and Raghavendra Rao’s Jagadeeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari (1990), to name a few, are treasured childhood favourites, tinged with industrial strength nostalgia. These films have been a progression of sorts, from the straightforward mythological films of the 50s and 60s, a genre that single-handedly built the career of NTR Sr. Another strong throwback Bhuvana Vijayam brings forth is the presence of an ensemble cast with no singular protagonist or antagonist, in tune with the filmography of EVV Satyanarayana, where a host of comedians (Brahmanandam, Babu Mohan, Dharmavarapu Subramanyam, MS Narayana, Kota Srinivasa Rao, Kovvai Sarala, Kalpana Rai and many more) appeared together, giving us gleeful memories.
Despite the presence of a tried-and-tested genre and a competent cast, a film still needs the help of an effective script to succeed. Bhuvana Vijayam takes the requirement a bit too seriously, crafting a story on screenwriters themselves. Taking place over the course of one day, when a regular auto driver (Dhanraj) wakes up to the sight of two yamadhooths who inform him that he is dead and that they are here to transport him to the afterlife. They, however, are required to stay put in a film producer’s office, to pick up another person who will die in the next few hours, in that very location. Before one could mentally brush off a joke on shared uber rides, we meet seven different writers who arrive to narrate their stories to the producer (Goparaju Ramana) who has just acquired the dates of a satirically named actor, ‘Feelings Star’ Preetham Kumar (Sunil). The writers are an interesting bunch. There is a thief on the run, an arrogant veteran (30 years Prudvi, in a role where he never says the words ‘30 years’), a driver in dire need of the producer’s advance money, a bhajana expert and to my pleasant surprise, two female writers who don’t suffer fools. If this list of quirky people does not quite suffice, there is also one amnesiac star, an alcoholic aspiring to be an actor, one wily office boy and one mute good samaritan. The film really comes together, when they are all supposed to spend three hours in one room to take one crucial decision. 12 Angry Men meets Bigg Boss in the second half of Bhuvana Vijayam, with the film taking twists and turns till it ends with appropriate Karmic justice takeaways.
Bhuvana Vijayam takes the thriller path in its journey, serving bite-sized comic sequences along the way. The jokes are not original or even entirely rib-tickling but they succeed at keeping the mood light and breezy while its twists unfold comfortably. Yalamanda Charan uses Bhuvana Vijayam as a soapbox to discuss his opinions on the film industry at large, ranging from the unsung nature of a producer’s contributions to writers who shamelessly plagiarize to how stories are sought after an actor’s dates are secured (not the other way round) and more. There is also some sincere commentary on class politics and obsolete seniors who blow their own trumpets far too much.
The dialogues in the film are packed with so much information, I was almost at risk of missing out on crucial details when I opened my phone to take notes. Unlike most films set on writers where the profession is a mere backdrop, Bhuvana Vijayam displays a near-accurate depiction of writers, warts and all. The writers here are egoistic, insecure, opinionated and idiosyncratic. Though we never know the stories each writer brings to the producer (we only know their genres), the writers of the film deftly ensure that the details of the writers they created don’t entirely go to waste.
Bhuvana Vijayam deserves praise for crafting an inventive, delightful story with minimal resources. The film is far from perfect. Some comic sequences overstay their welcome, and the progressiveness it builds with the presence of two female writers is undone by some unsavoury rape references and the melodrama is a too high-pitched, causing one to detach from the story immediately. But the film leaves one with a feeling of satiety as well as satisfaction, as Bhuvana Vijayam reaffirms your faith in humble-budget cinema rising to the occasion with good writing and heartfelt storytelling, using their constraints to heighten their creativity.