December 31, 2021
Dialogues: Srikanth Vissa
Cinematography: Miroslaw Kuba Brozek
After delivering what people claim is a Non Baahubali Industry Hit in Ala Vaikunthapurramulo, Stylish Star Allu Arjun is back with his latest action thriller directed by Sukumar. It marks the 3rd combination of Arjun and Sukumar after Arya and Arya 2. The film has music composed by Devi Sri Prasad who's in need of a big comeback and the expectations on the album were massive considering the mega success of the first two Arya albums. Featuring Rashmika Mandanna as the female lead and having Faahah Faasil one of the best actors from Mollywood as the main villain, can Allu Arjun and Sukumar avoid the industry hit curse and actually deliver a commerciallly succesfully movie? Will it be 3rd times the charm? Let's find out in this review.
Pushpa The Rise narrates the first half of a two part story of Pushpa Raj (Allu Arjun), an intelligent coolie who uses his wit and when needed his brawn to become the head of a red sandalwood crime smuggling syndicate deep in the Seshachalam Forests of Andhra Pradesh.
It's one thing to have one of your career best performances in Ala Vaikunthapurammulo and then it's another thing to follow it up with your career best performance. In Pushpa The Rise, you don't see Allu Arjun you only see the character Pushpa Raj. The rugged makeover, the slang, body language, ease and overall transformation was simply mind blowing and the efforts Allu Arjun put in was just amazing. Everybody knows he's the most hardworking actor in TFI for where he was when Gangotri came out till now. It's been an incredible journey and perhaps this is the start of his rise to all around superstardom like Chiranjeevi. If there's one thing Allu Arjun has earned over the years, it's definitely respect and he continues to gain that with each passing film and performance he delivers. Whether it's the scenes with his friend Keshava or romancing Srivalli or standing upto the villains, Allu Arjun was just absolutely scintillating in every single frame of the movie from start to finish. You keep watching because of his flawless acting.
Special mention needs to be made to Jagadeesh. As the narrator of the film and Pushpa's friend, Keshava is not only the main source of entertainment in the film but a true friend who's with Pushpa throughout his rise from ordinary coolie to syndicate leader. He always questions his friends motives but slowly understands his mindset. We have found another gem of an actor and performer in Jagadeesh and hope he has a very bright future and looking forward to his role in Part 2 as well as many other big films coming his way as a result.
Rashmika Mandanna as Srivalli doesn't have much to do and is the typical commercial heroine. Her dubbing for the slang must be appreciated but as a character Srivalli is quite frankly irritating.
The film has a huge star cast and numerous villains.
Fahadh Faasil was billed as the main villian and is introduced with about 20 minutes left and gets two scenes to face off with Allu Arjun. They test your patience and the incredible actor makes his presence felt but given that his character is the main antagonist in Part 2, they honestly could have ended the film with his introduction.
It's Sunil who impresses the most as Mangalam Srinu but the veteran actor and comedian isn't given a characterization he can work with like his menacing performance in last year's Colour Photo. Sunil tries his best and manages to leave a solid impression with this acting.
Dhananjay is adequate as a womanizer in Jolly Reddy. Anasuya looks odd with a funny wig and eating paan as Sunil's wife. Ajay Ghosh as Konda Reddy is given a massive elevation in his intro but other than the actors slang nothing registers. The guy who plays Jal Reddy is adequate.
Shatru as the police officer is decent. Ajay is sincere and reliable as always, Rao Ramesh is very brief and frankly wasted and Brahmaji is even more brief.
Direction by Sukumar is decent. The superstar director is known his unique hero characterizations, complex intricacies and solid emotions and knows how to get the best out of every star hero he works with. Unfortunately in Pushpa, Allu Arjun's character Pushpa Raj is the only thing that works for the film. The screenplay of the film is underwhelming to say the least. The 1st half is pretty boring and Pushpa is never tested and the 2nd half doesn't do much either besides a fantastically choreographed albeit ridiculous fight sequence near a body of water. The main problem with Pushpa is that it's not exciting and other than the hero, nobody else makes an impact due to poor characterizations. The setup for the story is perfect but for any good action entertainer, there needs to be a solid tussel between the hero and villain. Here there are some 7 odd villains yet nobody poses a solid threat to Pushpa's rise. If even one villain posed a menacing threat to Pushpa, then the film would have been a ton more exciting. The decision to split the film into two parts was not a good decision. With this film showcasing Pushpa's rise to power, the only thing that's left is showcasing the power struggle of ego between Pushpa Raj and Bhanwar Singh Shekawat played by Fahad Faasil and all of the subplots with the various villains still remain and need to be resolved in Part 2. And Pushpa doesn't eliminate a single villain in the entire movie except a certain goon relating to one of the villains. Another problem is the emotions. For any good action drama, you need solid emotions and that's missing in Pushpa big time. The emotions in the directors previous film Rangasthalam was one of the main reasons for it's industry hit result and Ajay's character, Srivalli's molestation, and Pushpa Raj's backstory try to make us feel some emotions but everything falls flat. All in all, besides Allu Arjun's incredible performance and charisma, there is nothing in the plot to keep you engaged and excited and at 3 hours long, Pushpa makes for an exhuasting watch. The end product feels rushed and not done properly and hopefully Sukumar has ample time to make Part 2 a much more engaging and entertaining film.
Music by Devi Sri Prasad is wholly disappointing. There were all time classic expectations on the album given the previous success of the combinations in Arya and Arya 2 but in Pushpa not a single song registers except Srivalli to an extent due to Sid Sriram. The Background Score is pathetic and easily one of the worst outputs in his entire career if not the worst. When all said done, Devi Sri Prasad needs to really introspect and regain the form that made him give us so many classics in the first place. Cinematography by Miroslaw Kuba Brozek is extravagant. The Polish cameraman has captured the rustic visuals of the Seshachalam forest extremely well and shot the songs Srivalli and Ey Biddha Idhi Naa Adda very well. Production Design by Ramakrishna and Monika is FANTASTIC. The husband-wife duo who also worked on the village set for Rangasthalam do a fabulous job in creating numerous sets for the film. An interview talking about their work is linked here. Action Sequences by Ram Laxman and Peter Heins are SUPERB. They're all excellently choreographed and shot depsite being very unrealistic but this is a Telugu movie after all we don't look for logic. Editing by Karthika Srinivas and Ruben is not good. There's a lot of lag in the film that could easily be chopped off especially the last 30 minutes and Samantha's item song. Dialogues by Srikanth Vissa are EXCELLENT. It's such a treat to hear authentic Chitoor slang in a big film after a long gap. Costume Design is fantastic. Sound Mixing by Rasul Pookutty is terrible. It's very clear the Oscar winning composer did not have ample time to complete the sound mixing and the result is a very underwhelming and frustrating experience. The audio and dialogues in some scenes are inaudible due to the poor mixing. Production Values by Mythri Movie Makers are very good but they need to focus on story development and MAINLY FREAKING PLANNING and NOT releasing posters that say 250 crores gross and do useless bhajana when everybody including fans know the figures are fake. Hope they learn their lesson and plan better for Part 2.
+ Allu Arjun
+ Action Sequences
- BGM and Sound Mixing
- Split Decision for Two Parts
Pushpa has a huge backstory of how it got made. Intially designed to be a web series, Sukumar researched the red sandalwood smuggling that goes on in India and felt the backdrop would be great for a show. However he changed his mind and developed into a feature film. First written with for Mahesh Babu, the superstar of Tollywood rejected it and he made some changes and narrated it to Stylish Star Allu Arjun and the actor accepted it. After looking at the first look poster it's very clear why Mahesh Babu rejected the story and why Allu Arjun chose it. The makeover was outstanding and Allu Arjun is one actor who has never shied away from experimenting with looks unlike Mahesh Babu whose Greek God like looks are one his major USP's.
The posters created curiosity and one by one, the characters were introduced. The production itself was also marred by the coronavirus with Allu Arjun and a few other crew members testing positive, Sukumar getting sick with dengue, and the virus completely reshaping film production protocols and procedure, making Pushpa was a herculean task for it's star and director. Low and behold, almost 14 months since the day it was announced and 180 crores spent later, the film released amidst massive expectations and simply put, it's not worth the hype.
While Pushpa should have been an amazing action entertainer, other than it's superstar actor in Allu Arjun nobody makes an impact or has a well written character good enough the challenge him throughout the entire narrative. The emotions are flat and should have been much better. There are also no highs or exciting moments in the screenplay which results in a very bland and frankly boring film overall. As mentioned before any good action entertainer needs a solid villain or conflict and here the conflict presented here is very bland and quite messy. There are too many subplots and too many villains that need to be resolved and it seems Sukumar and team have reserved the meat of the story in Part 2. But when most folks didn't ask for a Part 2 in the first place, it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
The 1st half is pretty slow and only the scenes between Pushpa, Srivalli, and Keshava keep you entertained with a decent interval bang. The 2nd half starts off in a better manner but starts to go downhill again and despite a superb pre climax action sequence, the film never really engages you till the end and the scenes with Fahadh Faasil only prolong the length and make you exhausted.
Overall, Pushpa The Rise is a very bland origin story about a common man's rise to power of a crime syndicate. Other than Allu Arjun's career best performance and transformation, Pushpa has very little to offer in terms of a engaging story and entertainment standpoint and the technical output is also marred by what seems like a very rushed and hasty post production process.
You may watch it once for Allu Arjun's best performance and some nice visuals and fights. But I sincerely hope Part 2 is much better than we got in Part 1 and they take their time to rectify the mistakes in this part. As Bhanwar Singh Shekawat says at the end of the trailer, Party Leda Pushpa? It's upto you to decide if there is one or not.