There is still so much I have to learn about South Indian cinema; so many heroes whose catalogs I have yet to explore. One big oversight in my movie watching so far has been Mahesh Babu. I tried watching Pokiri after seeing Wanted but ended up turning it off because the megawatt power of Salman Khan’s stylized tale overshadowed the more realistic tone of Pokiri. So, for all intents and purposes Athadu is my first Mahesh Babu film. I picked it for no other reason than it was one of the few semi-recent South Indian films available from Netflix but I was not disappointed. Athadu is a fun film and a nice showcase for Mahesh Babu’s strong, silent persona.
The main drive of Athadu is one of my favorite masala plotlines – bringing an outcast back into society. Mahesh Babu plays Nandu, a hitman who ends up on the run after a job goes wrong. Through the magic of coincidence, he ends up being mistaken for the missing grandson of a cash-strapped but still respected rural family. Afraid of being caught by the police, Nandu goes along with their mistake and learns for the first time what it is like to be loved by a family. Meanwhile, the police, lead by (stealth hottie) Prakash Raaj, are on Nandu’s trail. Will they catch him? Will Nandu fall for his adopted “cousin” Trisha? Is Sonu Sood really dead? You really need to watch to find out!
Two things really struck me about Athadu. Since the first leads to the second, I’ll discuss them in order. Point one: It took me about 15-20 minutes to really latch onto Mahesh Babu’s persona. I honestly can’t think of another hero with the same style but it really works for Mahesh Babu once you tune into it. He’s strong, silent, and kind of scary in his remove from everyday life and not so different from the kind of character somebody like Rahul Dev is asked to play in these kinds of films but the thin line that separates him from the actors who play the villains are his creamy good looks. If Mahesh Babu didn’t look so innocent, there is no way he could get away with being the kind of emotionally distant hero he played in Athadu.
That cognitive dissonance between his looks and his acting was what took me 15 minutes or so to reconcile but once I got it, I was on board, which leads me to point two. Point two: what made Athadu so entertaining was that it took this cold persona and dropped him in the middle of a Siddharth-style family entertainer. Imagine a John Wayne cowboy dropped into a Doris Day romp and you get an idea of the fun that ensues. Trisha plays a variation on the silly heroine of films like Bommarillu and it is hilarious to watch her utterly fail to charm Nandu with her spoiled brat antics.
So, that is Athadu; it was an enjoyable romp and certainly worth a rent from Netflix if you are in the mood for something a little different and don't mind a little blood and guts mixed in with your family comedies.
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I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.
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