Express Raja Movie Review
Sankranti race is not for the weak-hearted. So, when “Express Raja” announced release for Sankranti, eyebrows were raised whether Sharvanand will be able to pull it off. It does seem to pull it off the incredible. Yes, the director of “Venkatadri Express” gives us a satisfying family entertainer again with “Express Raja” with the huge production values of UV Creations banner – the banner that gave us “Mirchi” and “Run Raja Run”. What makes the film watchable is a stylish presentation with relentless efforts to make us laugh with a handful of artists. Director Merlapaka Gandhi has a knack of making a plot-less story come alive on screen with a panache for humor that just doesn’t know when to stop.
Genre of the film:
In 144 minutes, Gandhi has recreated the magic of entertainment with characters that seem more than cardboard cutouts in other movies. Look at the starcast of comedians, not the regular ones but the Jabardast variety of Dhanraj, Shakalaka Shankar, old star and loudmouth Urvasi, Prabhas Seenu and of course, Saptagiri. With all of them and a bevy of traditional villains you see as extras in today’s movies, Gandhi creates a ruckus that generates a decent laughter.
The story is about a wayward youth Sharwanand who kidnaps the girl, sorry, the cute dog that is being walked by the girl. The girl is the daughter of a benami called British who has to give back cash to another warlord Keshav Reddy who is aspiring to be an MLA but eyes the same girl that Sharwanand is in love with. Sharwanand is helped by Prabhas Seenu and Saptagiri in his kidnapping attempt. The twist in the story is that Benami British converts all his benami cash into a Rs.75 crore diamond that is tied around the dog that is kidnapped by Sharwanand. The first half is about establishing the characters and the flashbacking of the plot where the action begins with Sharwanand’s kidnap to where the background motives of each character begin from. This makes the plot a bit slow-moving with all the zigging and zagging of the story. The second half is where most of the flashbacks end and the stage is set for the real action of chase and fight among the villains and the gang of Sharwanand. The emotional glue to the whole story is the father-son sentiment between Nagineedu and Sharwanand who seemingly see friction but in the end rapproachment comes with a happy ending.
Technically, the film is an A-class effort with all the framing and style of an accomplished director who knows how to combine the 64 crafts well to make a good story. BGM by G.B gives the energy booster and songs by Praveen Lakkaraju (Sankarabharanam fame) give a fresh sound. Picturisation is realistic while giving the cinematic touches in the usual Sharwanand style – the use of color glasses, Numaish-e-Hyderabad ambience gives the larger-than-life appeal to the songs. Right from the first frame, there is an over-zealous attempt to surprise you with new imagery, new characterisation of oft-beat artists and gigs at every turn attempts to make you laugh.
Performances and Highlights :
Comedian-wise, Urvasi’s performance as Sridevi in Vasantakokila is loud and cliched. Barring that, almost everybody else shines. Prabhas Seenu gets his best scenes in a while in the film. But the one who steals the thunder is Saptagiri with the longest characterisation of the season. One cannot make out whether he is spontaneous or deliberately improvises the dialogues because they look interminably funny and pack a punch in every line. His timing is one of the most unique in Tollywood today and it appears we are not going to tire of his antics sooner given his form in the film. After Prudhviraj, he is the next star who can carry a comedy track on his shoulders and this film is a trophy prize for his performance. Sharwanand is stylish and looks good in all songs and romantic scenes but the characterisation is familiar to what we saw in “Run Raja Run”, this film with all the troupe of comedians may not get his potential noticed in a role that passes from one scene to another without substance. Surabhi, his lady-love, is a big disappointment as she lacks the oomph for a heroine. It looks like UV Creations doesn’t have the budget for casting a heroine who can fire up the screen with their heroes.
What makes the film a bit tedious is the tonnage of jokes and gigs that follow in each scene without a break. If only Gandhi knows how to balance humor with some serious story, we have a winning formula director. It cannot be all flippant and light-heartedness to make you laugh. You sometimes needed a break from comedy also and that’s what made directors like Jandhyala and EVV Satyanarayana stand out from nonstop comedy directors like Relangi Narasimha Rao and Siva Nageswar Rao. A film is about all the nine emotions and even if you can’t have all nine of them, you need to balance the most-dominant emotions with countervailing ones. In this film, Merlakapati Gandhi wrote some of the funniest lines in the book but doesn’t tell a story with depth that can tug at your hearts. But sure, he has great promise and it needs some tweaking to give a wholesome treat to the family with the basic command he has over the crafts. You cannot have strawberry ice-cream for dinner all the time, you need some salt and pepper and some Rasam to begin with.But, the film is a worthy one to go kite-flying this Sankranti with family and friends who are looking for some laughs.