Sye Raa is certainly a well-made film with recherché intentions. Just want you to summon this into mind instead of jumping to judgement as I dwell into the issues I had with it. Reiterating, it is a compelling movie.
As clearly established, ‘Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy’ is about Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy, one of the very first freedom fighters. Well, everything in this film is about him. Every scene, every tiny character, the tiny character’s each & every dialogue and minute action revolves around Narasimha Reddy. Segregating the characters, there are two types of them. One- those who want to kill him, a bunch of British officers, who are better than those we have seen so far. Two- those who ready to give their life for him i.e. EVERYONE else in the film.
Moreover, there is only one character that fluctuates between both before settling in the latter. I get it, it is a Telugu film and has a massive star like Chiranjeevi, sorry, Megastar Chiranjeevi playing the titular character. This prefix to the star’s name is what entices all the cheers and devotion. To me, call it lame; it is hero worship. The purpose of each and every character is just to mouth lines that compare Narasimha Reddy to God or saying how great he is, how skilled he is, how brilliant he is, how efficient he is, and how *put any adjective that positively describes the human abilities and characteristics* he is. Aren’t we supposed to see and understand him ourselves? Why are we being told how extraordinarily he is and how he is a pride to the whole human race?
The motivation is clear- to elevate the character, do it. Not by verbally saying he is great but by showing ‘WHY’. Every second line in the film goes, “Narasimha Reddy maamoolu manishi kaadhu……”(Narasimha Reddy is no ordinary human….) This is the only thing that put me off about this film.
Barring this, Sye Raa is a very well made epic. It is a hardcore masala movie at its heart, and I love the fact it is explicitly treated like one. Thanks to Bahubali, we have these larger than life films being produced more frequently than they used to be. If Bahubali had set some standards for an epic movie and there is a film that manages to reach those standards, this is it. I am only comparing the scale and the style of both these epics. The style is pretty similar here too. However, where Bahubali did better was, it made us believe that Amarendra Bahubali was this superhuman from his actions rather than throwing dialogues from every character that appears on the screen.
Here too, Narasimha Reddy does amazing stuff, that is when all the devotion seems justified. But till then, it’s all talk, no work. But boy! When Narasimha Reddy declares war against the Britishers, that’s where the fun begins. And once the battle mode is on, the film is on fire. And literally, there is a lot of fire in the movie. Maybe that’s to show the people’s angst, anger and the fury.
Set in 1847, the visual setting of the film is brilliant. If you pause the movie and look at the frame, there is a lot of painstaking detail that went into its making, and that is clearly visible on the screen. Starting with the production design, I don’t know how the infrastructure in 1847 was. SyeeRaa is painted with grandeur. There is soo much in a frame, the background, the props, the production design, the crowds, their costumes, everything in sync with the colour palette. It’s hard to take eyes off the screen. It’s a collaborative effort between the cinematographer, Rathnavelu(Who also shot Bahubali) and Production designer Rajeevan, whose filmography doesn’t have a film this scale. Director Surender Reddy stages the film very well along with these two people and keeps us hooked to the visual narrative.
Now coming back to the characters, Sudeep’s Avuku Raju and Tamannaah’s Lakshmi are the only characters the writers invested and bothered to write. Avuku Raju is that character who fluctuates between the two categories of characters before following Narasimha Reddy. We know that he will do it eventually, but at least to have someone who doesn’t blindly follow Narasimha Reddy added little bit of curiosity. Lakshmi, who literally dedicates her life to Reddy gets a kick-ass moment in the second half after testing patience in the first half. Sapiosexuals are those who get attracted to intelligence, if there is a word for ‘attraction to valour and bravery’, that would perfectly suit Lakshmi. Nayantara’s Sidhamma, Narasimha Reddy’s wife even tells him that he is her whole universe. There is a sequence in which Narasimha Reddy has to protect his fort and there is a battle going on. Simultaneously, Siddhamma is giving birth. That is all the texture her character gets. Narasimha Reddy himself is the texture of every character. The terrible under usage of the terrific Vijay Sethupathi is an utter disappointment. The man has 5-6 scenes. We are told he is like a brother to Reddy and is his guard. There is no visual proof to support both these claims. Even Amitabh Bachchan, whose character shapes up Reddy’s, is reduced to just another one among the crowd. Same goes with Jagapathi Babu’s Veera Reddy, the only character whose actions ripple on a big picture.
Things being said, Sye Raa is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Masala movies are often overlooked, I’m a sucker for well-made masala films. And this one, despite its issues with the writing, is a solid entertainer. The movie is filled with heroic antics one after the other and all these land very well because we know the stakes are pretty high. Like in every masala movie, the hero needs to be triggered, and once he is, there is no stopping him. Here the trigger is a young boy being thrown into the fire after he grabs a fistful of food and refuses to let go of it. Even though the scene is not as disturbing as it should be, it sets up the stage for the action. Ane there is no looking back after this point.
There is no scarcity for clap worthy moments. One particular scene is the one where Reddy reads out a letter to the villain as written by Reddy without revealing himself. This scene is not just an excellent mass moment, but a display of his bravery. And there are abundant moments like these. And all of these are supported by Julius Packiam’s fitting score.
Though the film doesn’t claim to be historically accurate, the film is a befitting tribute to the freedom fighter. Since history in education curriculum doesn’t teach these heroes, I’m glad these films are telling stories which people like me would never know.