Telugu actor Allu Arjun chose the most de-glamorous look of his career to make a pan-India debut. Pushpa which was released in five languages including Hindi sees the actor in a rugged avatar playing a rural character. Director Sukumar, who is known for dishing out many successes with his creative and technical brilliance, too, is testing his luck in Bollywood and other languages by choosing a plot that is endemic to Telugu states.
For decades, red sanders, found only in the forests of Rayalaseema, has remained in news for large-scale smuggling and its huge price in the international market. Occasionally, politicians' names would also crop up in this crime.
Taking a cue, Sukumar weaves a story on Pushpa Raj (Allu Arjun), a red sanders smuggler. The plot is based in Chittoor district, a fertile ground for red sanders. Being ambitious and a daredevil, Pushpa starts off working as a labourer involved in chopping and transporting red sanders in Seshachalam forests. His sidekick, Jagadesh Bhandari meets him during this process and is seen throughout the movie. An encounter with the local police force led by a sincere officer played by Shatru brings Pushpa into the thick of action as he tries to save the booty. He comes into contact with kingpins of the smuggling racket, Konda Reddy, Jolly Reddy and others and joins hand with them to emerge as a major player.
Quite predictably he meets his ladylove, Srivalli (Rashmika Mandanna) while carrying out his illegal activity. The second half completely banks on elevating the heroics of Pushpa who clashes with the bigwigs of the smuggling world like Managalam Sinu (Sunil) and his men. Lengthy fight sequences and dragging romantic tracks slow down the pace of the movie. Fahadh Faasil, playing high ranking police officer Shekhawat, is brought in to infuse life back into the movie.
What one cannot miss is the way smuggling has been normalised in the entire movie. The scenic locations depicting eastern ghats have been captured well.
With Pushpa, Sukumar continues the streak of showcasing lead characters with physical defects. In his last Telugu movie, Rangasthalam, actor Ram Charan who played the lead was shown to have hearing impairment. In this movie, Allu Arjun has an abnormal body posture. Though both movies are set in rural backdrop, the latest fare from Sukumar runs more on characterisation of Pushpa (Allu Arjun) unlike Rangasthalam whose scoring points were the drama and plot.
Allu Arjun did his homework well, giving a mature performance maintaining subtlety. One of the biggest drawbacks of the movie is the music which is mostly forgettable.
The Rayalaseema slang mouthed by the characters stands out and is one of the highlights. However, the movie loses its direction in the second half with unconvincing scenes and illogical encounters between the characters. The long duration of the movie (3 hours) adversely impacts the overall experience of the audience. Despite good performances by the artists and camera work, there is a lot to be desired.
A former Physics lecturer, Sukumar has to get his equations right if the sequel of Pushpa has to rise up to the audience's expectations.
Movie: Pushpa: The Rise
Cast: Allu Arjun, Rashmika Mandanna, Fahadh Faasil, Sunil