- Release Date: 30/4/2022
- Cast: Chiranjeevi, Ram Charan, Pooja Hegde, Sonu Sood, Jisshu Sengupta
- Director: Koratala Siva
I was extremely excited and hopeful about Acharya because of three reasons— Director Koratala Siva, Chiranjeevi, and Ram Charan. I was also very apprehensive about Acharya owing to the evident glorification of Naxalism that I detest from the bottom of my heart. Koratala Siva endeared himself to me and the Indian moviegoer with heartwarming films like Srimanthudu, Bharat Ane Nenu, and Janatha Garage where he portrayed family values and humanity in a manner that would make even the most stoic and stony viewer teary-eyed. For someone like me, who is inherently emotional about family, love, and relationship and loves the glorification of the same, his three films were worth their price in gold. I watched them over and over again and every time enjoyed them just as much.
I loved Chiranjeevi in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, a film about a revolutionary about whom I had no previous idea. Chiranjeevi not only made the character memorable but was able to bring a sense of grandiosity and larger than life aura to the revolutionary that inspired a very “cinematic” kind of reverence for the character and was unlike anything that I had experienced in cinema that year. Ram Charan proved his mettle after a string of flops with a film like Rangasthalam. With RRR, he became the darling of the nation. Thus his presence in Acharya coupled with the fact that he was sharing the screen with his father made their team up even more interesting and exciting.
I watched Acharya in Telugu with English subtitles with a predominantly Telugu audience in one of the best theatres in my city and I have to admit that I was more disappointed than I was excited at the end of the viewing. The story unfolds in a city called Dharmasthali that traces its origin to the mythical past of Indian history and is rumoured to have been created by the Goddess, Gattamma. The city sprawls from a closed inhabitation called Padaghattam which is enclosed by forest on one side and a free-flowing river on the other. In recent times, Dharmasthali has fallen into the hands of a gang of marauding thugs led by Basava (Sonu Sood) who are not only robbing the place of its pristine spirituality and holiness but also plan to further erode the sanctity of Padaghattam so that they can mine the minerals that can be found in the forests around Padaghattam. The people are helpless and all they can do is pray for a savior. It is at this juncture that a loner known only as Acharya (Chiranjeevi) walks into Dharmasthali and starts taking on the goons of Basava. Who is Acharya? Why has he come to save Dharmasthali? What is his connection with the place? These are some of the questions that drive the narrative of the film.
Let me start by sharing all that was good about the film.
Beautiful visuals, high production values, and an eye for detail in visual representation
Acharya is a gorgeously shot film where every frame is envisioned, mounted, and captured in a manner that makes it worthy of saving as a beautiful painting on the wall. The sets of the film look authentic and the director uses vibrant colors and sharp contrast between the background and characters in the foreground to ensure that every image pops and makes an impact. The people wear flashy and colorful costumes that further add to the grandiosity of the spectacle of the film. It’s not just the people that are captured with creativity but also the locales and the natural beauty of the world that the characters of the film populate. It is very easy to believe every word that is said about the history of Dharmasthali from the initial voiceover because it is designed and captured in a manner that makes it revered and spiritually uplifting. It also feels like a place that is lived in.
Intelligently shot and executed action sequences
The action sequences of the film are intelligently shot and edited so that its aging superstar can keep up the pace and at the same time the physical violence doesn’t lose its impact. Slow motions are used to uplift certain moments, hero poses are incorporated to up the machismo of the stars and lots of interesting props are used to make the action interesting and give audiences enough reasons to cheer. The background score of the film is absolutely brilliant and it is more so in the action sequences. This is something that I have come to expect from Telugu masala films and Mani Sharma does a commendable job here to ensure that the music of the film elevates the uproarious moments of heroism that the father and son duo conjure up from time to time.
Chiranjeevi is a superstar and he has been so since I started loving cinema. In Acharya, he almost singlehandedly drives the film through with such a power-packed performance that very nearly diverted the audience’s attention from the gaping loopholes in the plot and many more discrepancies of the film. He looks amazing in the action sequences thanks to the amount of effort that he has put in to get physically fit and also how intelligently the DOP and the Editor work in tandem to capture him in a manner that blurs the lines between what he has done himself and what has been contributed by his body double. He looks great when he is dancing and I will go to the extent of saying that he looks the best among his contemporaries when he is dancing. I loved how he pulled off the emotional scenes. The ones in which he is shown breathing fire on his enemies are easily the high points of the film. His gullible chemistry with Ram Charan is adorable and it was no surprise for me.
Mega Power Star Ram Charan
Ram Charan as Siddha does his best but I felt that he was terribly undone by the writing of his character. More on that later. I loved the sense of innocence that he brought to the character and the sudden surge of anger and brutal expression of it that he was shown capable off. This was something that was built up bit by bit through the initial sequences that served as an introduction to the character of Siddha and are then used later to justify some of the things that he is shown doing. His camaraderie with his father was organic. I couldn’t understand the reason for not creating the character of Acharya and Siddha as a father and son duo in the film. Why did they have to have someone else playing Siddha’s father when Acharya could have easily been given the role as he is shown as a contemporary of Siddha’s father. Creative decisions like these are inexplicable and bring down the effectiveness of the film.
Having said all that, the film has more if not an equal number of negatives.
Terrible writing, poor pacing, and non-existent human emotions
The storytelling is all over the place. Koratala Siva is known for his immersive writing and deft touches on emotional scenes and exchanges. Shockingly, Acharya feels more like a second or third draft than a cohesive story. The pacing is all over the place. While the first half moves briskly, the narrative nearly comes to a screeching halt in the second half when Siddha’s story is unveiled. These portions should have been equally entertaining and emotionally impactful but that is not the case. By the time the film reaches its climax, the story is put in top gear and literally bolts to reach a finale. The ending is so hurried that I was left bewildered going by what I saw.
Koratala Siva’s forte, the human emotions, values, and tender nurturing of emotionally poignant and rewarding sequences are surprisingly missing here. The few sequences that are there are too few and too far apart to make any impact. I was surprised at this deficiency in the film as the presence of the above elements have been a recurring theme in every Koratala Siva film and it was one of the reasons that made his films special and distinguished them from the offerings of some of his contemporaries.
Pooja Hegde is wasted in yet another film
Pooja Hedge is such a resplendent beauty that even in the most inconsequential of roles she leaves an indelible mark on the viewer and the sequences that she is in. Here she is wasted so poorly that I felt like asking her why would she choose to do a role like this that abandons her character halfway through and never cares to look back. Even the scenes that she is in are nothing more than unnecessary fillers.
Terrible antagonists and their equally poor rendition
The same problem can be seen with the antagonists of the film. Sonu Sood and Jisshu Sengupta are horribly wasted as caricaturish villains who are unable to hold their own against the one-man onslaught of Acharya. Worse is the fact that they never feel menacing enough to even threaten Acharya in any scene of the film. I know that both Jisshu and Sonu are capable of doing a far better job than this but their characters are so poorly written that it gives the actors absolutely no chance to redeem the characters. It is an underlined truth that in a film that boasts of such powerful protagonists, the antagonists should have been just as powerful, if not more, as the protagonist. Then only could the film extract any sense of thrill or hero-worship from the audiences. Sadly Acharya fails miserably on this count as well.
Too many songs that quickly get on your nerves
The many songs in the film are tiring and they really frustrated me. A film of this nature should have been atleast 30 minutes shorter and crispier. Sadly, songs crop up anywhere and everywhere and without any context or reason. The fact that these songs are not even easy on the ears makes them even worse to deal with.
Acharya was a mammoth disappointment for me. I was expecting another trademark Koratala Siva film but with the infusion of a renewed and resurgent Chiranjeevi – Ram Charan gusto. What I got instead was a muddled, emotionless, and haphazardly put-together film that looks epic in its scale, grandeur, and production values but ultimately fails due to the lack of an emotional core and lacklustre storytelling.
Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)
Also read: Review: The Lost City is a fun, family watch that will lift your mood
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