Pushpa – When it comes to wrapping things up and setting things up for Pushpa 2, Sukumar’s Pushpa: The Rise shows potential.
Pushpa Raj is a coolie who rises through the ranks of the red sandalwood smuggling business. He doesn’t mind creating a few enemies along the road.
Review: With Pushpa: The Rise, Sukumar takes a risk by making a rustic masala film with punch dialogues, people that speak in a Chittoor dialect, and a tale that is deeply entrenched in the region in which it is set. And, given the high expectations following Rangasthalam, what he delivers is a mixed bag that is overly lengthy at moments, falters at others, and achieves what it promises at others.
Pushpa Raj (Allu Arjun) is one of Seshachalam’s numerous coolies who unlawfully cut down red sandalwood and sell it by the kilo to the powers-that-be. Pushpa progressively finds his footing in a syndicate with many participants, rising up the ranks until the man who used to chop down these trees is now the one issuing the orders.
His Achilles heel, however, is not Srivalli (Rashmika Mandanna), nor are the big-wigs Konda Reddy (Ajay Ghosh), Jolly Reddy (Dhananjay), Mangalam Srinu (Sunil), or his wife Dakshayani (Anasuya Baradwaj). It’s the fact that his brother (Ajay) refuses to let him claim his ancestors, which sends Pushpa from zero to a hundred in no time and frequently causes this laid-back, sarcastic, arrogant, and even hilarious man to lose his cool. And just when he reaches to the point in his life where he wants to be, IPS Bhanwar Singh Shekawat (Fahadh Faasil) arrives, threatening to destabilise Pushpa’s carefully crafted system.
The plot of Pushpa: The Rise is based on a common theme in cinema: the rise of the underdog. So there’s nothing new for Sukumar to discover here. What’s different is the way he decides to develop the tale by spending time establishing Pushpa’s character over the course of a three-hour film before diving into the action. And this decision may not sit well with everyone since, despite the hype, that is essentially what this picture is about. Pushpa may have created a lot of enemies, but none of them seem to be a match for his unyielding character, that is, until Shekawat arrives in town.
Sukumar’s film works best when it stays true to the subject and concentrates on the details of red sander smuggling, Pushpa’s role in smoothing things up, and so on. When the film tries to pull off a weird (and problematic) romance between him and Srivalli, it doesn’t always succeed, and it doesn’t always add to the bigger tale. Sure, Pushpa gets to play knight-in-shining-armor, but it appears to drive the tale in the path it would have gone regardless. The climactic showdown between Pushpa and Shekawat is similarly unsatisfactory, coming off as hurried and the latter’s persona lacklustre.
In several sequences, the visual effects, graphic direction, editing, and sound design are also lacking. The crew behind Pushpa: The Rise did not disguise the fact that they were pressed for time to complete the film, and it shows in the gaps. Given the already excessive run-time, the technological faults serve to highlight the shortcomings even more. For the most part, Pushpa: The Rise impresses in terms of casting, directing, cinematography, costumes, and music. Sure, Devi Sri Prasad’s BGM might be a little lacking at times, but his music more than makes up for it by blending seamlessly into the tale.
Mirosaw Kuba Broek, the cinematographer, and Sukumar, the director, appear to have discovered the right groove for this picture, complimenting one other’s work. The outfits of Pushpa’s persona vary based on his position in the globe. Despite being pigeonholed into playing characters who are little more than cookie-cutter, the supporting cast gets a chance to shine. Rashmika also feels out of place in a testosterone-fueled picture. On the other side, Anasuya has a scene with Sunil that indicates she belongs in this world. To no one’s surprise, Samantha’s cameo in Oo Antava Oo Oo Antava evokes whistles.
After everything is said and done, Pushpa: The Rise is entirely Allu Arjun’s show. He shines as a rugged figure who appears tough on the surface but is vulnerable in ways that others don’t notice. Allu Arjun’s fans may be pleased to see him shake a leg in songs like Saami Saami and Eyy Bidda Idhi Naa Adda, but he truly shines when he’s in a power struggle, with Peter Hein and Ram-Laxman choreographing some stunning action sequences, or when he’s constantly being called coolie oda because he knows he’s too good for whatever others stereotype him as. When he undertakes a film as huge as this one, he also gets a chance to show off his acting abilities, aside from the accent he worked so hard on, and he even manages to make you chuckle at times.
When it comes to wrapping things up and setting things up for Pushpa 2, Sukumar’s Pushpa: The Rise shows potential. Despite the film’s flaws, it does pique your interest in what’s to come. Even if it’s only to see whether Fahadh and Allu Arjun can light the screen on fire.
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