Rating: 6.5/10 (Fun Ride)
Cast: Nani, Priyanka Arul Mohan, Karthikeya, Lakshmi, Saranya Ponvannan, Vennela Kishore, Sathya, Anish Kuruvilla,
Story-Screenplay-Dialogues-Direction: Vikram K Kumar
Music: Anirudh Ravichander
Producer: Ravi Shankar, Naveen Yerneni, CVM Mohan
Banner: Mythri Movie Makers
Format Watched: Theater (Cinepolis Parsippany)
After the scintillating film that was Jersey, Natural Star Nani is back with his latest movie Gang Leader. Taking inspiration from the iconic Chiranjeevi classic, this film also has RX100 Karthikeya as the villain and newcomer Priyanka Arul Mohan as the female lead. Directed by Vikram Kumar whose last film Hello was incredibly underwhelming, can the director bounce back and give himself and Nani another hit? Let's find out in this review.
Plot: A plagiarism author who specializes in writing revenge novels named Pencil Parthasarathy (Nani) is tasked with helping 5 women take revenge on the man who killed their relatives.
Performances: After moving us with award worthy performance in Jersey, Nani is back to his roots and is outstanding as Pencil Parthasarathy. His effervescent charm and impeccable comic timing coupled with his magnetic screen presence carry the movie from start to finish. He's also responsible for most of the comedy in the movie and he pulls it off effortless. If you're going to watch this movie, it's because of Nani.
Lakshmi garu is very good as the grandma who acts as the catalyst for the revenge motive. It's nice to see her back in the industry again after a long gap. Saranya Ponvannan is equally as good as the mother figure of the group. She brings her trademark innocence to the role. Newcomer Priyanka Arul Mohan has great screen presence and does well in her debut. It also helps that she is a Telugu girl and hope she goes a long way in the industry in the future. The actresses who play the little girl and the college student also perform well and do their parts as required.
Karthikeya as the villain is fabulous. He's introduced only at the interval and gets a solid role in the 2nd half and maximum screen time to shine. His performance definitely makes you consider that his career trajectory path would be better suited as a villain than a hero.
Vennela Kishore is hilarious as Santoor Sennakayala. This is probably the first mainstream Telugu movie to feature a homosexual character and Kishore pulls it off with his world class comic timing and hilarious expressions.
Lastly, Anish Kuruvilla as the cop and Sathya as a hospital employee are adequate.
Direction: After Hello, one could say that this is a return to form for director Vikram Kumar. Gang Leader's biggest advantage is that it's a fun film throughout. The film is also never overly seriously despite it featuring a revenge angle. It's layered with loads of comedy and interesting twists, but like many films these days some of them land and some of them don't. The script for the most part is good and the direction is adequate at best. The screenplay has some loopholes such as the reason for the robbery and some logical aspects in the narrative. Another issue would definitely be Dev's characterization. His motives are pretty unconvincing and seem artificial due to the writing. Also he's introduced as the top F1 racer and there's nobody else on the track but him. Karthikeya tries to make the most of it and succeeds but one does feel better justice should have been done. There's the attempt to showcase female empowerment and the theme of family between Pencil and the women and that succeeds. The emotional scenes work and that was arguably the biggest problem in Hello. Lastly, the twists toward the end of the film work but the grip seems to have been lost at that point. The pre climax and climax sequences seem very rushed and the movie sort of ends abruptly. In the end, there's nothing mind blowing or outstanding about the narrative. Perhaps that's the films biggest problem in the end. It runs on a plain graph with the good comedy and the whodunit mystery which is predictable yet entertaining. But it gets the job done at the end of the day. Overall, Vikram Kumar does an adequate job by layering the film with good comedy and moves it at a good pace which never makes you feel bored and extracts a superb performance from Nani which makes Gang Leader a fun time at the cinema.
Technicalities: Music and BGM by Anirudh Ravichander is excellent as always. The various beats are beautifully used as background scores to reflect the emotions in scenes. The songs are also integrated into the narrative much like Jersey. Except here they seem like speed breakers. Hoyna Hoyna is good on screen tho. CInematography by Miroslaw Kuba Brozek is excellent. The film features a dark color palette using blue and black colors which is nice to see. Production Design by Rajeevan is fabulous especially for the house set and the garage set. Editing by Naveen Nooli is decent. One feels the movie is a tad long and dragged in the end. Dialogues by Vikram Kumar are fun and well written. Costumes are ok. But Karthikeya's stylist deserves a mention as he looks very good throughout the movie. The climax fight is well choreographed with wrenches and crowbars. Production Values by Mythri Movie Makers are extravagant. They never compromise on the look of the film despite the content.
+ Ladies Gang
+ Twists towards the end
- Villain Characterization
- Cinematic liberties at times
- Hurried Penultimate Sequences
Analysis and Final Verdict: Gang Leader, despite borrowing from Chiranjeevi's iconic hit, is very different from the that movie.
Despite the outrage of Mega fans, one could say the title is justified after watching the movie. Gang Leader does exactly what was promised in the trailer. Clean family entertainment at the cinema.
After Jersey, this is a perfect popcorn entertainer for Nani and will appeal to most the urban audiences. Unfortunately it's not universal entertainer like Bhale Bhale but it's still fun for the most part.
The first half is lively with a lot of comedy and the ladies gang creating a lot of fun in the narrative.
The interval packs an expected twist and the 2nd half is like a whirlwind towards the end. It juggles multiples themes such as female empowerment, revenge, family, mystery, and a lot of other things and succeeds in concluding maybe half of them.
There are two massive twists towards the end of the movie explaining the motive behind the robbery and why the entire thing was planned.
One seems artificial and the other might be convincing depending on your tastes. The comedy with Vennela Kishore and Nani is too funny. Only these two and their chemistry probably could have pulled it off and made it look so believable.
But at the same time, the cinematic liberties, logical loopholes, and abrupt finish also work against the movie.
Nevertheless, Nani and gang make the movie worth watching. Mainly Nani himself who's in full form and brings his classic charm to the movie in each and every frame.
Overall, Gang Leader makes for fun ride at the cinema. Nani's excellent performance, clean comedy sprinkled throughout the narrative, and some interesting twists makes Gang Leader an entertaining watch. If you're looking for a good time at the movies with no message, no social service, and just want some good old fashioned entertainment, definitely go watch this movie.