February 28th, 2022
In today's nostalgia review, we will be talking about the 2nd film in the combo of Mahesh Babu and Gunashekar in the quite scintillating film Arjun. Released 18 years ago on August 20th 2004 , Shriya Saran plays the female lead opposite Mahesh Babu while Keerthy Reddy plays the most crucial role in the film as Arjun's twin sister Meenakshi. The film also stars Prakash Raj and Saritha as a scheming Madurai couple, actor Raja as Keerthy's love interest, late actor Kalabhavan Mani, and Murali Mohan as Arjun and Meenkashi's father. It's directed by Gunashekar, has music by the one and only Mani Sharma, art direction by Thota Tharani and cinematography by Sekhar V Joseph. Let's find out the merits and demerits in today's review.
A doting brother Arjun (Mahesh Babu) tries to save his twin sister Meenakshi (Keerthy Reddy) from the cluthes of her evil Madurai based in laws (Prakash Raj and Saritha).
It's Mahesh Babu's show all the way. From the playfulness with Keerthy, banter with Shriya and warnings to the villains, Mahesh Babu is sensational in this movie. His performance before the Dum Dumare song is exceptional and in the climax portions it's equally as good with his amazing screen presence convincing you he can hack so many people by the end. He also attempts to dance much to the delight of fans and the audience alike and it's not too shabby. His emotional and explosive performance is arguably the highlight of the film.
Shriya Saran as Roopa does a good job as the heroine. While the role isn't anything amazing, she makes the most of it and her character acts as a helping aide for Arjun towards the end. Her performance in the scenes with her father played by Tanikella Bharani are hilarious and in the songs, her screen presence shines as bright as Mahesh.
Keerthy Reddy is excellent as Meenakshi, the sister trapped in a tough situation. She encompasses all the pathos needed to feel for her character and does it so effectively. Her chemistry with Mahesh Babu is perfect.
While it might seem offensive to some, Prakash Raj and Sarith are frighteningly good as a scheming Madurai husband and wife out for Keerthy's blood. The mannerisms, the expressions and chemistry are too good to be true and they do a sensational job of convincing you that they're that evil. When the actor makes you hate a character that much, that's when you know it's working and both veterans actors are incredible as the villains.
Murali Mohan is always a friendly presence, Tanikella Bharani is hilarious and so is the late great Kalabhavan Mani as a recurring goon hired by the Nayakar's.
Lastly, MS Narayana is hystercial as a teacher trying to curb cheating during a final exam. The entire sequence makes you laugh out loud especially the dude with the advanced VR headset writing things down.
Direction by Gunasekhar is good but has it's issues. The story of the film is thin but the director makes the most of it crafting a blood rushing masala entertainer based on sister sentiment. The screenplay is very good with there being no boring moments in the film but the directon itself doesn't feel hard hitting enough for us to be completely engrossed. In other words the movie might be good on paper but the execuation is subpar. While he extracts a superb performance from Mahesh Babu and most of his technicians, the direction itself lacks the finesse of the duo's earlier classic Okkadu. There's no dhum in the scenes and the artificial action sequences don't do the film any favors. Back to the thin storyline, it gets very repetitive towards the end with Mahesh Babu seemingly being everywhere and always there to save the day even if he's all the way back in Hyderabad he's somehow still in Madurai. It also seems just for granduer set purposes that the story is set in Madurai for the temple to be recreated otherwise the director could have chosen literally any other city in Andhra. Overall Gunasekhar's vision was great but the execution itself doesn't give the desired effect in the end. Nonetheless, Arjun still manages to be engaging despite these shortcomings mainly due to Mahesh Babu, the well written sister sentiment track, the music, the Madurai Meenakshi set, and the cinematography.
Songs and BGM by Mani Sharma is OUSTANDING. It's another feather in the cap for the superstar music director and another musical classic for Mahesh Babu. He is aided by the late great Veturi garu's always incredible and poetic lyrics and each and every song makes it's mark on screen and audio wise. Our picks are Okka Maata, Madhura Madhura, and Dum Dumare. All of these songs are superb with Madhura Madhura being the best song in the lyrics visually and lyrically. Once again Mani Sharma delivers the goods for Gunasekhar and his music is one of the biggest highlights of Arjun.
Cinematography by Sekhar V Joseph is excellent. The visuals are grand and some aerial shots are a feast for the eyes and visually stunning especially for the way the Madurai Meenakshi set was captured. The actions sequences are also superbly shot.
Art Direction by Thota Tharani is THE HIGHLIGHT of the entire film with the MASTERPIECE Madurai Meenakshi temple being recreated for the film itself. The stunning recreation of the world famous temple remains the biggest attraction and most memorable thing about the movie today. The precision and attention to detail makes you stunned realizing it's a set and makes you think they were actually at the real temple. We have linked the set article here to give a full overview about the set and how it built. An overall masterful job from the Padmasri art director. It remains one of the biggest hallmarks of his career and one of the most iconic film sets in Telugu cinema history.
Editing by A. Sreekar Prasad is fine. At 167 minutes, Arjun is long but the movie is well edited to keep you engaged.
Fights by Vijayan will have Issac Newton spinning in his grave. There's way too much threadwork and hangtime for each and every character along with Mahesh Babu swimming through water like a jetski and the climax stunts with a tree full of logs and people just in the air forever after every kick or punch.
Production Values by Ramesh Babu are extravagant and magnificent. At the time, Arjun was the most expensive Telugu movie ever made and the late producer made sure that it lived up to that title and made the movie visually grand and stunning in each and every frame.
+ Madurai Meenakshi Set
- Thin Storyline
- Plain Direction
- Ridiculous Action Sequences
- Climax VFX
- Weak Villain
After the Okkadu became a blockbuster, Mahesh Babu and Gunasekhar teamed up again for an action drama laced with sister sentiment in Arjun. Rarely after a combo delivers a hit does the next film ever surpass or live up to the expecations of the previous film and Arjun suffers from the same fate. The film is not nearly as good as Okkadu and perhaps the average direction and high budget resulted in the film's above average box office fate. But Arjun in the end makes for a engaging masala potboiler that's more good than bad.
The film starts off with a classic opening shot of a blood drenched sickle on a log and Mahesh Babu with an intense expression seeing the goons rush towards him amidst a sunshower in a green valley. Shortly after the story takes off and reveals what's going on.
The first half of the film is engaging while the second half is pretty repetive. Prakash Raj and Saritha as the villains keep you on the edge of your seat with their evil antics and behavior while Mahesh Babu gives it his all and his acting in the last 40 mins is amazing. The attempt of the film is good but the various factors going against it doesn't help the overall product.
As mentioned before, it lacks the overall finesse and gripping command in the direction that Okkadu had, the thin storyline is dragged for almost 3 hours which seems unnecessary and there's no strong villain overall which is something Okkadu got so well in the classic villain of Obul Reddy but the visual grandeur, drama and the emotional bond between the brother and sister along with the music are the biggest strength's of this film. If you have a sister and you're close with her, you will definitely connect to it more than others.
Overall, Arjun is an action packed sister sentiment drama that's pretty entertaining for the most part. Mahesh Babu's incredible performance, the Madurai Meenakshi set, Mani Sharma's outstanding music and BGM, and the cinematography are outdone by the average direction and taking of Gunasekhar.
Lastly, the most impressive part of the film is that nobody calls Mahesh Babu by his name the entire movie and the very last line of the movie is him telling us what his name is. For that goosebump moment alone, it remains a memorable film in Mahesh Babu's filmography.
Signing off -
Teja Rao - Die hard Telugu Cinema fan.