In ‘Vangaveeti’, based on the gang warfare of the 1980s in Vijayawada, Ram Gopal Varma has spilt more blood than ever, leaving this partly fictionalised story of true events so gory that it looked like the actors were dipped in a pool of blood.
This depiction of gang rivalry for power and revenge is nothing but a bloodbath; it's about a series of murders, and the precision and planning that went behind each one, and how gruesomely they are portrayed on screen. There's nothing more to this story even though it's one with a lot of potential.
In one of the murders, the victim is stabbed over 70 times and Varma captures the whole chase leading up to this scene with flair, and in another scene, as a group of men gear up for an ambush, he focuses on the weapons they throw in slow motion into the back of an empty lorry.
Throughout the film, the spotlight remains on the murders; it remains on the weapons - on a knife attached to a cycle's stand - but rarely on the faces of his actors except for some awkward close-up shots.
The film, in a way, is a 'bloody' tribute to rowdyism, and Varma succeeds in making his viewers cringe, yet make them stare in awe as he presents each murder in shocking detail.
There's beauty in the way he depicts the murders and no other filmmaker in his shoes could have done justice to this kind of presentation. This time, Varma doubles up as a singer and a narrator, and he does a decent job of reciting the story - when it isn't actually moving - and crooning at important junctures.
Featuring mostly newcomers who are just watchable, wish Varma had invested in more seasoned actors. It's the actors who made ‘Rakht Charitra’ - based on the life of rowdy-turned-politician Paritala Ravi - stand out and far more engaging.
Although Sandeep Kumar as Vangaveeti Radha is a great find, the rest of the ensemble cast doesn't shine.
The lip sync of most actors is way out of place and watching them mouth dialogues in close-ups becomes a tad tedious after a point. Perhaps, this is precisely why Varma doesn't focus on his actors but mostly on everything that happens around them.
Varma's films are no longer about great stories; they are about great moments which are plenty in ‘Vangaveeti’, and these assure that the filmmaker hasn't lost his mojo.
One of the best scenes involves the murder of Radha, and though exceedingly violent, the way it is shot in slow motion draws you into the world of rowdyism.
By Haricharan Pudipeddi