Cast: Nani, Nivetha Thomas, Surabhi, Srinivas Avasarala, Vennela Kishore.
Director: Mohanakrishna Indraganti
Nani strikes while the iron is hot. In a recent interview, Nani had admitted that he wouldn’t be able to imagine doing something like ‘Gentleman’ a decade later from now as he thinks he might be a bigger star by then and that he might not get such opportunities to experiment then. I’m not entirely sure about his statement but I do appreciate his frankness.
Would Mahesh Babu’s ‘1 – Nenokkadine’ have worked with another actor? Say Naga Chaitanya? I can’t keep this simple thought away from the table. Nani is partly true when he says he wouldn’t be able to experiment later. There are several examples: Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Fan’, Kamal Haasan’s ‘Uttama Villain’, ‘Hey Ram’ and ‘Anbe Sivam’. Suriya’s ‘24’, which released earlier this year, is an extraordinary, multi-layered thriller. Unfortunately, some sources say that it’s an average grosser at the box office. When an actor becomes a star, expectations follow.
After a philosophical hit ‘Yevade Subramanyam’, a comedy hit ‘Bhale Bhale Magadivoy’, and a masala hit ‘Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gaadha’, Nani is back with ‘Gentleman’. I wouldn’t say this is the most experimental film he has worked on; I’d say this is an excellent film he has chosen to work on within the limited space of commercial cinema. Mohanakrishna Indraganti, from the director’s chair, has shown what it means to pull off a thriller constructed around a set of mazes.
Nani is Gautham for Nivetha Thomas and Jai for Surabhi. The film opens with love stories. Nivetha narrates her cutesy romantic story to Surabhi first. It’s the regular Nani you see here. He’s all about fun and spontaneity. He keeps two things on his mind in one of the action episodes. He keeps hitting goons, and in the one or two seconds he gets between targeting a goon and getting his stance right, he finishes a bottle of Pepsi. It’s a great scene for a Cola commercial. Nivetha, who is on the verge of falling in love with the fighter, gets swept off her feet instantly.
Then Surabhi starts off with her story. Obviously, the two stories are different. The main difference between the two Nanis in the movie would be the glasses and the hairstyle. The film moves to Kodaikanal because of Surabhi’s narration. The hill station provides the necessary laughs and lessons for the young couple. And we get Manisharma’s awesome track “Chali Gaali Chuudduu”.
Various characters swim into the main story after the two women tell each other how they fell in love with their respective Nanis. Srinivas Avasarala surprises us and Vennela Kishore is again the funny man trying to tickle our funny bones. Kishore’s quirks are constantly on the rise. There’s a tiny film within a film segment embedded in ‘Gentleman’ that reminds us of some of the spoofs in cinema. Satyam Rajesh is wasted. After a terrific performance in ‘Kshanam’, he was seen in the Tamil romantic disaster ‘Idhu Namma Aalu’. His character had no weight in the Tamil film, and his character is not even necessary in this latest entertainer.
Among the little grouses I have with the film, the first big one is the “revelation”. Since this is a thriller, there has to be a point where all the facts tumble out of the closet. Before the film reaches that point, I could feel what was going on. I just couldn’t put the reason on a piece of paper. Hence, “Why is this happening?” is a bigger question than, “What’s happening?” Had Indraganti tightened the noose a bit more, there would have been more tense moments in the film. Ravikanth Perepu’s ‘Kshanam’ had them coming until the end.
Nivetha cried a lot in ‘Papanasam’ (Tamil remake of the Malayalam thriller ‘Drishyam’). She cries a bucket load in ‘Gentleman’, as well. There’s a difference in the way she breaks down, though, and that’s why she scores in this movie.
Surabhi is a passive smoker. She gets only second-hand information because her character walks miles behind Nivetha’s character. Slowly and steadily, Nivetha stands above the rest of the team as an actor. That “Natural Star” tag for Nani is not going to go away anytime soon. If he keeps cherry-picking his projects, he’ll start a parallel movement in Telugu cinema. For that, he needs to (always) choose content over commerce, and mind over matter.
Nani made his debut with Indraganti’s ‘Ashta Chamma’ in 2008. While Indraganti has made only three films between 2008 and 2016, Nani has starred in more than a dozen and a half films in the same time. The distance between these two may seem huge, but the actor and director have worked with an equal amount of trust in each other. That’s a major plus point not many films can talk about.