The story of a heartbroken doctor who spends his days reminiscing his past as he drowns himself in alcohol and drug abuse. Sounds like an age old trope, doesn’t it? That’s exactly where the beauty of Arjun Reddy lies, it made heads not just turn but turn up at the theatre by making a heartbroken protagonist appealing in every sense. Arjun Reddy is first introduced to us as an abusive spirit with a nonchalant approach to life until it involves his career or his dog Preethi but only through the non - linear narrative do you meet the young strapping all star house surgeon who was everything that you can check on a list for the perfect protagonist but with a side effect, his uncontrollable rage. He is king of his surroundings and there’s no questioning that, not even by professors or family. Our modern day Devdas finally meets his Paro at the brink of quitting college caused by a fit that turned into a fight with a rival college during a football match which changes his mind. Preethi, this simple sweet first year student with a strict familial background becomes Arjun’s obsession. From removing her from classes to picking her friends for her, Arjun watches her every step. Although, cinematically it does not appear or sound as controlling as the previous statement, it is a testament to how our protagonist’s obsession is with a character we never truly meet. His style of a proposal is an unexpected peck on the cheek for which Preethi obliges with no questions asked because of the appealing Arjun Reddy whose persona could sway consent out the window. To extensively care in a parent like fashion is a natural attribute that by instinct takes over when it comes to one’s love interest and Arjun is an extreme in this aspect as well, be it picking Preethi’s fights or making her decisions for her which he justifies by exhibiting his need to protect her by saying she is gullible but it works because Arjun is an appealing protagonist. In the scenes that follow Preethi’s dad’s refusal to their marriage he asks her to act as an adult when it comes to her life, we agree with Arjun. His point deserves acknowledgement but it’s Arjun Reddy only when he wraps it with a six hour stop clock even after our heroine begs her heart out. This episode in his life leads to the domino effect of all the abuse that follows making him a bitter version of the same.
With an interesting treatment of pure guts and style with an actor whose on screen persona seems to pull it off effortlessly, Arjun Reddy is aesthetically appealing but is a film supposed to be considered revolutionary because it has so many kissing scenes?Ballsy, yes. Revolutionary? seems like a big word. It has caused an Ballsy, yes. Revolutionary? seems like a big word. It has caused an uproar in Telugu cinema and maybe it is a powerful leap for them but remove the treatment and we see a body shaming, female perspective lacking, male ego centric film. The female perspective is an important angle here because it is a two sided love story where you really feel for the character only when you know his lady love. Be it Vinnaithandi Varuvaya’s Jesse or 500 days of Summer’s Summer, by the end of the film we know why Karthik or Tom feel this heartbroken. You can dust it off the shoulder by saying that the film is about Arjun’s journey and it may not be necessary to show that perspective but when you brand a film as revolutionary or have pushed to that, it is not wrong to expect the unexpected. A film like Premam is similar to an Arjun Reddy, the story of George and his struggle with love life but it never came out to be revolutionary, it came to entertain and it did. There are many a times that Arjun Reddy the character has been attractive, applaudable and honest but in between this lies the ego which in a commercial film with the usual treatment or style of filmmaking would have irked any person in seconds. This irked feeling comes in the climax where Preethi carrying Arjun’s child tells him that she hasn’t let her husband ‘lay a single finger on her.’ This unnecessary need to do the agni pariksha (refer Ramayana) to prove that her love has not changed for him or that it was his child seemed a little backward in comparison to how the film had been flowing until then. All the probing aside, you do not walk out of the theatre disappointed and it is a film that makes any viewer enjoy and celebrate Arjun Reddy but to believe that it could push the boundaries of cinema is a far fetched idea but it is a blessing to filmmakers in the Telugu industry.
- Vardini Shankarnarayn