There comes a career best for all actors at some point of time. Rangasthalam could well be Ram Charan’s, though he’s not been in the showbiz for too long and there’s still a long innings ahead of him.
Set against the rural backdrop of a fictional village — and in the not-too-distant past of the ‘80s — Rangasthalam defies the box-office norms of Tollywood.
Ram Charan, who started his career with a lavishly mounted, big-budget movie Magadheera, has shown no qualms in playing the role of an illiterate, semi-deaf village do-gooder, while one of south India’s top heroines, Samantha Akkineni, is shown in a deglamourised role of a village belle who keeps harping on the fact that she’s been to school up to sixth grade and nobody can dupe her.
Village politics, casteism, exploitation, oppression, rebellion and revenge form the crux of Rangasthalam. Run-of-the-mill stuff, you’d say. But what sets this film apart is its narration. Director Sukumar makes it riveting by putting effort into the details. He recreates the village atmosphere of the time and ensures the costumes and props are not incongruous, too.
Rangasthalam is ‘ruled’ by the village ‘President’ (Jagapati Babu), who has held the post for over 30 years with an iron hand. It’s unthinkable to defy him or question his cohorts who exploit the poor farmers.
When things go beyond the threshold of endurance, Chitti Babu (Charan), who goes by the nickname ‘sound engineer’, props up his Dubai-returned brother Kumar Babu (Adi Pinishetty) against the President in elections. They are dissuaded by well-wishers who recount the tragic consequences of those who dared to in the past.
The brothers persist, but Kumar Babu meets the same fate as the others. Chitti Babu bays for the blood of his brother’s killers and this quest throws up several twists, and a predictable end.
Though a gripping tale, the second half appears a bit of a drag. Where was the need for Sukumar to show the funeral rites of Kumar Babu in detail? But establishing the unforgiving nature of the protagonist is praiseworthy. Chitti Babu goes after a snake that has bitten him, ferrets it out and punishes it. Similarly, he discovers the ‘snake in the grass’ masquerading as a respectable elder.
His efforts to hide his partial deafness offer a few subtle moments of humour; but at the same time the director brings home the truth how sometimes it’s better to turn a deaf ear to unsavoury happenings around us.
Jagapati Babu is domineering as a cold-blooded politician with a demi-god stature. Nobody dare approach him wearing footwear and anyone offered a glass of water or tea must wash it before leaving. Here, the brothers defy the practice of leaving the footwear at the gates, and the younger one crushes the glass with a boulder when asked to wash it, thus shaking the citadel of Phanindra Bhupati, a name which the villagers forgot and had only known him with his sobriquet ‘President’ until Chitti Babu addresses him with that name.
Samantha Akkineni has a cameo as Ramalakshmi opposite Charan. She looks a village belle in rustic clothes minus the grease paint.
TV anchor Anasuya as Rangamma plays a key role. Her earlier outings were in special dance numbers. A welcome departure for her where she proves she can give her best if given a role with scope for performance.
Talking about dance numbers, the film has one too. This time it’s Pooja Hegde as Jigel Rani. But was it necessary, Sukumar?
Prakash Raj is his usual self. A seasoned character artiste, he does full justice to his role as Kumar’s mentor, but with a shady side.
Rangasthalam may not set the cash registers ring like some of Charan’s successful movies — and he’s had a few failures, too — but the film will remain as one of his best.
Cast: Ram Charan, Samantha Akkineni, Adi Pinishetty, Jagapati Babu, Prakash Raj, Anasuya Baradwaj
Music: Devi Sri Prasad