In the movie ‘Vankatadri Express’ We have a screw loose family (as christened by a character in the film. Gee!) the head of which is a brtually ridiculous diciplinarian. The problem is that the director (his name has a Gandhi. Phew!) took this idea to his heart and went to the extent of metamorphosing it as the main conflict point that comes of age, hold your breath, in the climax!
And by choosing an uncharacteristically wooden-faced actor like Nagineedu, who has a rigd Constitution (kutumba rajyangam) for his family of unduly subservient slaves, he ensured that ‘VE’ had that dreadful Rohith Shetty-meets-Boyapati Sreenu flavour.
In contrast to the Gabbar Singh-like father, Sundeep (Sundeep Kishan) is a Mother Teresa-like youngster who is one sin away from being banished from the circus (home). Brahmaji (Brahmaji) is his brother and it’s his wedding tomorrow in Tirupathi. The ever-so harassed wife of Nagineedu forgets the ‘tali’ and from there begins the now-so-tensed son’s somewhat no-brainer and risky journey parallel to that of the Venkatadri Express in which is his family.
Will he ever commit that 100th sin that could seal his fate? Will he end up doing Bommarillu’s Siddharth in a serious situation that actually borders on the parody? What of the luck with the caricaturish character that is Nagineedu?
Where was the necessity to have the hero narrate his tough journey the previous night to his family instead of keeping us guessing about what will happen? If the director did it consciously so as to make the audience expect nothing more than unalloyed comedy (save some ritualistic heaviness in the last 5-7 minutes), he can be forgiven for the technique employed, but not for the barreness of the idea.
The very fact that Sapthagiri (as a beleaguered passenger at the receiving end of Sundeep’s occasionally absent-minded behaviour) and Tagubothu Ramesh (as the unlikely saviour who is given inexplicable respect by the hero) were disproportionately relied upon, exposes the story’s fuel scarcity. One good attribute of our story-tellers is that they know that some of their ideas are too weak to connect to the audience and so, often wittingly, they have comedians speak more and enact more than even the second most important character.
There is so much of icongruity about Sundeep’s characterization. Is he is a Gandhi for whom means are as important as the ends or a Machiavelli for whom ends justify the means? How can a person who can’t think of harming a fly be reckless enough to forget a critical bag in which are a stranger’s academic certificates, much less abandon a girl (Rakul Preet Singh as a victim of Sundeep’s occasional devi-may-care attitude ) on a mid-night. No overanalysis this. This behaviour is crucial to the film, since it is integral to Sundeep’s character.
The film passes muster in doling out laughter here and there. Good songs and a gripping narration might have helped the film a good deal. It is difficult to wait for the next song hoping for some relaxation even though songs are few and far between.
While the performances are just about ok, the film is not adequate technically.
Sundeep doesn’t reveal anything new and one actually feels that for an often ill at ease expression that he maintains, a character like the one he played in ‘Mahesh’ was much more suitable. By the time he tries to do comedy in the scene where he tries to fool the hero, it is clear that the director did not extract the best out of him.
Rakul looks pretty but that’s all. If Sapthagiri and Ramesh are yet again rib-tickling, MS and Jayaprakash Reddy are boring.
Verdit: All in all, with a story that feels like a pastiche and a narration that lacks the ability to keep us guessing (save one twist toward the climax), the ‘express’ falters with everything from creaky infrastructure, stinking toilets and, above all, fuel shortage!