Guntur Kaaram movie review: Mahesh Babu tries hard, but Trivikram prevents us from screaming ‘Jai Babu’ – The Indian Express

Trivikram Srinivas’ Guntur Kaaram serves as definitive proof that in-form Mahesh Babu can keep us hooked to a 159-minute movie without feeling fatigued. Ok, that sounds misleading; let’s rephrase… Mahesh Babu, in top-notch form, is the sole redeeming factor in Trivikram’s unnecessarily stretched Guntur Kaaram, preventing it from becoming a tedious watch. Yep, that sounds more accurate.
The biggest and most anticipated film of this Sankranti/Pongal season, Guntur Kaaram is basically a celebration of Tollywood’s superstar and everything associated with his stardom. Trivikram keeps Mahesh Babu front and centre, never giving the audience a chance to miss him.
The film begins with a flashback, unveiling a dark chapter from Ramana’s (Mahesh Babu) childhood, costing him both his father Satyam (Jayaram) and mother Vasundhara (Ramya Krishnan): his father is jailed for murder and his mother abandons him. While Ramana grows up with his paternal family in Guntur, his mother returns to Hyderabad, enters politics at the behest of her father Venkata Swamy (Prakash Raj), and eventually becomes the Law Minister.
As years pass, Ramana, now entrenched in the chilli business, manages a sizable warehouse in Guntur. Satyam, having served his sentence, remains confined to his room with minimal contact with the outside world. Meanwhile, Vasundhara’s family seeks Ramana’s signature on an agreement, severing all ties with his mother. This move is intended to strip him of his legal heir status, allowing Vasundhara’s son from her second marriage to inherit her political legacy. Despite Vasundhara’s cold approach towards him, Ramana remains resolute in seeking an explanation for her abandonment. Venkata Swamy, meanwhile, employs various tactics to keep Vasundhara and Ramana apart, but he refuses to back off.
Trivikram wastes no time delivering what audiences came for – Mahesh Babu! He is introduced soon after the film begins, but only in a mildly satisfying manner. The film is peppered with moments designed to incite cries of ‘Jai Babu’ from fans of Mahesh Babu. While the intention is there, Trivikram fails to ensure that these moments deliver a cinematic high. It is only Babu’s commanding presence and his signature style that consistently elevate the scenes. Trivikram’s writing disappoints in the supposedly mass moments, failing to provide the expected adrenaline rush to the audiences.
Soon, it becomes apparent that Mahesh Babu is the only spice in an otherwise bland and cliched Guntur Kaaram. At various points, Guntur Kaaram even evokes a sense of déjà vu from the director’s earlier blockbuster Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (2020), particularly when delving into the dynamics between the mother and her son. It almost feels as though Trivikram decided to create a new film using elements that were left out or couldn’t be included in AVPL.
Babu’s close-up, Babu’s mid-shot; repeat: the film mostly consists of just this, which can be seen as a strategic decision given the lack of substance in its narrative. The subplots, flashbacks, and scenes involving supporting characters highlight the emptiness in Guntur Kaaram’s story.
short article insert Similar to many recent mass films, Guntur Kaaram also features the superstar paying homage to his previous blockbusters through dialogues and songs. However, the overt use of this strategy by filmmakers has turned it into a mood dampener and the Babu film is no exception.
While Trivikram has added some nuances to the character of Ramana, differentiating him slightly from typical mass movie heroes, the film gives the impression that the director addresses these aspects only sporadically. For instance, the revelation of Ramana’s vision impairment in his left eye is introduced early on but is only revisited during specific scenes where the hero stylishly asks others to move to the right so that he can see them properly, reminiscent of Vishnuvardhan’s Nagamanikya in Bellary Naga (2009), a remake of Mammootty’s Rajamanikyam (2005).
The only impactful moment in Guntur Kaaram occurs towards the end when Ramana engages in an emotional conversation with his mother, evoking a sense of joy for the audiences as they witness Babu, who experienced the loss of his father, mother and brother in 2022, share a warm moment with his on-screen family.
Including Ramana, all characters in Guntur Kaaram are poorly developed, lacking depth and substance. Ramana’s emotions are inadequately explored, while Vasundhara comes across as a derivative blend of Tabu’s Yasoda in AVPL and Ramya’s Rajamatha Sivagami Devi in the Baahubali franchise, rather than a unique character. The ensemble, from Satyam and Venkata Swamy to Ramana’s aunt Bujji (Easwari Rao) and cousin Raji (Meenakshi Chaudhary), fails to make a lasting impression, resembling typical characters seen in mass action films.
The female lead, Amutya (Sreeleela), Ramana’s love interest, is the most poorly developed character, and reduced to nothing more than a good-looking woman for the hero to objectify frequently, all under the guise of love. A typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl, their romance too becomes increasingly irksome as the two lack on-screen chemistry. It’s worth noting that a 22-year-old Sreeleela is made to romance a 48-year-old Mahesh Babu here, adding an awkward dimension to their on-screen relationship. The dialogues, exchanged between them or with others, also sound artificial. None of the actors manages to leave a lasting impact either with their performances.
While the title itself conveys that the movie is as red as Guntur chillies, the additional efforts by Trivikram and colourist Glen Castinho to infuse red and brown tones into nearly every frame have backfired, resulting in a monotonous visual palette, disrupting a seamless viewing experience. Manoj Paramahamsa’s cinematography also falls short of expectations and Navin Nooli’s editing does little to enhance the film.
Although Thaman S’ songs are a delight, his background score, while powerful, seems somewhat disconnected from the visuals and narrative, particularly in the more intense moments. A notable instance occurs towards the interval, where an emotionally charged scene is marred by a completely mismatched BGM, undermining the film’s attempt at a compelling interval punch. VJ Sekhar’s choreography is also disappointing, though not as much as Ram-Lakshman and Vijay’s stunt choreography as almost all action sequences appear half-cooked, failing to resonate with the audiences.
Guntur Kaaram movie cast: Mahesh Babu, Sreeleela, Ramya Krishnan, Jayaram, Prakash Raj
Guntur Kaaram movie director: Trivikram Srinivas
Guntur Kaaram movie rating: 2 stars
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Anandu Suresh is a Senior sub-editor at Indian Express Online. He specialises in Malayalam cinema, but doesn't limit himself to it and explores various aspects of the art form. He also pens a column titled Cinema Anatomy, where he delves extensively into the diverse layers and dimensions of cinema, aiming to uncover deeper meanings and foster continuous discourse. Anandu previously worked with The New Indian Express' news desk in Hyderabad, Telangana. You can follow him on Twitter @anandu_suresh_ and write (or send movie recommendations) to him at anandu.suresh@indianexpress.com. … Read More

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