‘Pushpa’ Movie Review


Sukumar is a smart filmmaker. He usually centres his movies on little ideas that keep getting grander and grander with each passing scene. In Rangasthalam (2018), he tackled casteism in conservative and liberal circles, and in his latest directorial venture, he chases after elitism by questioning the role of identity that plays in our society. The eponymous protagonist (portrayed by Allu Arjun) is born to an unwed woman, so he’s never treated as an equal by his half-siblings who are much older and richer than him.

Pushpa and his mother, hence, lack class privilege, and their attempts to gain a footing in their small town are thwarted. If the film had been entirely about this thorny issue, the narrative would have taken a different turn. He wouldn’t have become a red sandalwood smuggler in the first place. He’d have simply tortured his half-siblings to accept him into their fold by showering love upon them, or by making them pay a heavy price for humiliating him. But this is not that story and there’s absolutely no need to worry about the reunion of siblings for now. The second part of Pushpa will take care of that.

In legal and moral terms, Pushpa is a bad egg. I say morally also to emphasise the fact that he doesn’t share his wealth with everybody. He doesn’t dip his fingers into others’ pies. At the same time, however, he’s not somebody whom you might see as a do-gooder. In a scene where he has a conversation with a police officer, he tells him that they’re all fighting their own wars.

He means that the cops need to catch the culprits as that’s what they’re paid to do and the culprits, in turn, need to be one step ahead of them. It’s a perfect dialogue to describe a dog-eat-dog world. And it becomes all the more important because it’s uttered by a smuggler who cuts down trees and transports them to a harbour in a neighbouring state. The cops know that Pushpa is not like the rest of his ilk since he thinks on his feet.

If that sounds wacky in Sukumar’s universe, it’s probably meant to be. There’s another point to be noted here – Pushpa is not exactly an antihero who ticks all the boxes. He aspires to climb the business ladder without coming across as a subordinate. There’s an excellent nugget in the opening stretch where he refuses to uncross his legs to massage his boss’s ego. Money is, of course, important to him, but he doesn’t want to bow down to earn what he deserves. It’s all part of the “Thaggedhe le” attitude that he builds around himself. And he also likes to state that he’s a self-made man. Indeed, he’s self-made, unlike his half-siblings. That’s the bottom line he perhaps wants to draw.

Pushpa swiftly moves through the first hour-and-a-half by setting up the plot and all the central characters. And then it picks up trouble. There are too many supporting actors who are not seen much on screen. How can you take the antagonists seriously when they can’t corner Pushpa for once? And by the time Bhanwar Singh Shekhawat (Fahadh Faasil) enters the plot to shake things up, it’s too late. You’ll only be able to see Faasil for about 15-20 minutes and the climactic stand-off is so cringy that I wished I had stolen the last few pages of the script before the abominable scene had been shot, thereby nudging Sukumar to come up with an alternative thread to end his movie. I know I’m living in a la-la land, but let me be.

A large share of the problem, I guess, has occurred by splitting Pushpa into two parts. The meat of the story doesn’t have enough protein to sustain a sequel. I agree that most of the antagonists are still alive and the hero feels an itch to prove to his wider family members that he too matters, but do we really need that? Sukumar could have easily wrapped up everything in this movie itself. And now we’ll have to sit through three more hours of Shekhawat versus Pushpa.

Ah, in moments such as these, if you’re an optimistic cutlet, you can turn your nose towards the brighter side of things – Pushpa won’t try to woo Srivalli (Rashmika Mandanna) all over again. And Srivalli, hopefully, won’t merely exist as an object of desire. How long will it take moviemakers to write storylines for women that don’t categorically involve romance?

You know around a hundred different things about Pushpa – he’s a smuggler, he has a friend whom he trusts, a mother who dotes on him, half-siblings who hate him, competitors who are waiting for a chance to eliminate him, so on and so forth. These are the basic facts that he’s tied down to. But what do you know about Srivalli? Nada, nothing, zilch! Oh, yeah, she has a few friends with whom she visits the local theatre to watch Chiranjeevi-starrers, but Pushpa is attached to that scene, as well. If you remove his obsession from the equation, she won’t be present at all. Yikes!- Agency.


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