Why I Didn’t Like The Way ‘Arjun Reddy’ Ended

Posted: September 11, 2017 by moifightclub in film, movie reviews, reviews, Telugu
Tags: , ,

I will not reveal the end of the breakout Telugu film, Arjun Reddy, coveted for a Bollywood remake with Ranveer Singh expressing keen interest. But it suffices to say that somewhere in the first half when the narrative glamourizes a bad boy, I knew that the end would make or break the movie for me. Touted as the modern-day Devdas, Arjun Reddy is the story of how a surgeon grappling with anger issues starts sinking into a black hole of alcoholism and drug abuse after his college sweetheart, Preethi gets married to another man.

At the risk of stoking the AR funs the wrong way, I will clarify that I love seeing despicable characters on screen with their flaws, front and center. I am interested in the people they emerge as, at the end of their grueling journey (what is technically speaking, the character arc). And yes, my criticism comes from context and not just a sense of righteousness. Arjun Reddy, (hereinafter AR) with his great looks and cringe-inducing attitude can keep you hooked, thanks to the immersive storytelling and Vijay Devarakonda’s fiery performance. Of course, there is the heroine who is willing to endure silently to transform this hotheaded guy with a heart of gold into a worthy man, setting the stage for a toxic love story. One would argue that these ideas ought to be presupposed and accepted in the framework of the films of the region. But with some of the refreshing departures that the film makes with a new cinematic language, I was led to expect more. The sparks of brilliance hold more possibilities, that the film fails to explore with its climax.

Arjun’s character is a bundle of contradictions. He stakes a claim over his junior in college, Preethi by threatening other junior students to stay away from her and turn their gaze on other girls. He almost bullies the timid Preethi into spending time with him. When AR interrupts her in the middle of an antakshari game to plant a kiss on her cheek, it is evident that he has thrown consent out of the window. But we shortly see that Preethi is the one who makes the first move when it comes to making love. Well, scriptwriting is the art of manipulation, after all! Her quiet adulation of a senior with a clout in medical college, who adamantly looks out for her, then does not seem so misplaced.  In one of the scenes, Arjun even asks Preethi to speak to her parents as a ‘woman’ and not a ‘teenager’. You have to credit the smart writing for the mixed feelings it provokes.

A raging alcoholic but also an impeccable surgeon, he brooks no dissent. He also lambasts a man for objectification of women and in the following scene we see him chasing after his maid out of fury but the clever placement of scenes depicts AR as someone who has anger issues but is not necessarily a male chauvinist. The chronology suggests that an evolution may be in order but we don’t witness a character growth in that direction. Despite many contemporary touches, the film refuses to address his aggression as an ailment. It is revered as machismo, instead. So much for ‘heralding’ a new chapter in Telugu cinema.

Unlike most Indian films plagued with the curse of the second half, the film comes into its own in the second half when the protagonist nosedives into devastation. The focus is entirely on his gradual descent into a whirlpool of ruin.  The film pulses with an unpredictable fervor. You are left wondering what will make AR hit rock bottom. Enduring his eccentricity almost becomes a visceral test. The filmmaking is slick with its exquisite long takes and rousing background score. I expected it to stomp over tropes and give us a raw character study of an antihero. I even stopped watching it as a love story. In a telling instance, AR’s grandmother speaks of how suffering is personal and that he needs to hurt. There is much to suggest that his tale would not meet the Devdas fate but would conclude with an imaginatively bleak streak. Alas! It is in the sudden and unconvincing subduing of the ferocious AR that the film completely lost me.

The impossibilities of AR’s character are wisely cushioned with the character of Shiva (Rahul Ramakrishna), AR’s steadfast friend who holds a mirror up to him. In one of the best scenes in the film, Shiva confides in his father about the frustration of dealing with his doggedly dismal friend. He lends the much needed sardonic humour to the film. It is rare to see a supporting character being drawn to the fore from the periphery. A scene which would have otherwise been considered as exposition does the job of offering the lens of empathy to viewers. In the same vein, another character in the film calls him a ‘free spirited individual in a democratic world.’

It’s a rare joy to see an anti-hero meet his grotesque fate and rise above it or get crushed under its weight. What Boss Getty says in Citizen Kane comes to mind, “He’s going to need more than one lesson. And he’s going to get more than one lesson.”  But this anti-hero turns into a hero. All his self-defeating means stand vindicated. And a passionate character study becomes a conventional love story. Perhaps the audience is not ready for this bitter pill but we can still revel in the unconventional narrative style of the film and the acting smarts of Vijay Deverakonda.

– Dipti Kharude

(Dipti has quit her corporate job and is having fun dipping her toes in a ton of stuff like binge watching TV and web series, doing movie marathons, gallivanting, and writing about her escapades. She tweets @kuhukuro)

 

Comments
  1. PS says:

    Presenting the flaws in the writing, first you need to get the names right. It’s ok for grammar and others but names .. No NO!

    Ok anyways, the machishmo has never been the intent of the director here. Had it been machishmo then the somber pace would have been presented in GVM as an attitude.. Here the attitude is seen like celebratory only when he is in college… But not after he gets into the crutches of love and crumbles like a cookie to its pressure…

    I’m not for one happy endings but this story did not require a sad ending just because Preethi needed to answer the questions of easily being able to move on…

    For that part we needed the climax to have Arjun Reddy come face to face with her…

    Arjun is not a character who goes to some one in the hopes of just meeting them .. until and unless he decides he needs something he doesn’t meet them… Right from first frame he wants to meet her because he wants her back in his life not because he us fixated but he is connected…

    We needed to know if the same connection is felt by her too.. Director chose to show it is and then he did not cope it out cheaply.. He made her struggle too for her decision to go against the norms of the society.

    Here both of them go against the norms of the society and this love story is not just about Arjun coming to his terms… Had that been the story he should be called Devdas but it’s not… Director tried to showcase it from one perspective but his story had two sides that’s why the movie is flawed in the first place…

    • Srini says:

      I agree with PS. This movie does not need a sad ending.
      The climax actually points more fingers on AR on his anger issues. It gives a different perceptive to the character. The better climax would be the one Sandeep(Director) explained in an interview that Shalin don’t agree to go with him, and its left to audience to presume she will accept later after his remorse.

  2. Sunitha says:

    Hi Dipti, the kind of climax you felt would be apt was explored in this 1982 Kannada movie called Tony…here they show the girl’s side of the story after her unacceptance to come to terms with her lovers death…unlike mouna raagam which has the leading lady falling in love with her husband…here the lady gets obsessive about her dead lover n gets mentally unstable and goes back to her parents place. They show her peeing in her clothes, getting abused by parents, her husband cannot bear to see her in this condition and takes her back to his home but she’s totally deranged to the point where the end is tragic with her death leaving a devastated husband. This movie, though dark,was a hit. Strangely, in those days tragedies worked in Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam movies and maybe sometimes in Telugu as well (marocharitra). But such movies give you heartburn😂 and in the case of Arjun Reddy, what Preethi did seemed entirely possible and valid to me. This is 2017, why would you get stuck with someone because you went through marriage rituals when the guy you want to be with is still around and most likely still loves you. The happy ending though a bit force fitted was probably a good idea after the dark second half and mainly good for commercial success.😁 The college part of the story here was very real, I studied in Manipal and 100% this is how things were then..the staking claim by announcing in class or hostel has a very valid reason..

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