We all know that Neil Armstrong was the first man who set his foot on the moon. Great, but who was the second? Or the third? Similarly, Rudhramadevi suffers from the same lack of first-mover advantage here. For Telugu audiences, who have already had their fill of kings, fiefdoms, battles, and royal intrigue barely two months ago with Baahubali: The Beginning, Rudhramadevi may seem a bit like a ‘once more’ performance.
But one has to try and look at the film on an independent note sans comparisons to any other movie. In that aspect Rudhramadevi is a good effort but somewhere between the attempt and the execution, things seem to have moved a bit from the intended trajectory. The result is that though the film is mounted on a large canvas, the narration is sluggish, the graphics are patchy and the overall impact reminds you more of the soft drink slogan: Zor Ka Jhatka Dheere Se Lage.
The movie begins with the birth of baby girl in the Kakatiya dynasty. Girls cannot ascend the throne but the King, Ganapati Deva, is in no mood to give up his kingdom for lack of heir and decides to lie about the gender of the child until he decides what to do next. While one studied in school that Rudhrama was ‘raised like a boy’, the movie shows her growing up in full disguise as a boy named Rudhradevi. Cinematic liberties? Perhaps.
As actor Chiranjeevi’s voiceover tells us about the other parts of her life, we are quickly treated to her friendship with Gona Ganna Reddy (Allu Arjun), a local bandit chieftain, and prince Veerabhandra (Rana Daggubati), who she marries later. The film then attempts to answer a lot of questions – What happens when the king reveals that the prince is indeed a princess? Do the citizens of the kingdom welcome her as their ruler? How does Rudhrama fight the stereotypes to emerge victorious, both on the personal and professional front? It has to be said here that the film doesn’t succeed entirely. The key scenes where we expect rousing dialogues, a suitably dramatic background score and some evocative camerawork just end up as being there and little more. For instance, how Rudhrama discovers her own gender had interesting possibilities. But there are no cinematic highs here to convey the magnitude of the moment. Even maestro Ilayaraja’s music is at best serviceable and that too just in the solo sung by Shreya Goshal.
No doubt, the sets are grand and the star cast is impressive to say the least. The highlights of the film include Anushka Shetty’s magnetic screen presence (her height, girth, features and body language befit a fearless warrior princess) and Allu Arjun’s Telangana dialect. Nithya Menen and Catherine Teresa too contribute interesting cameos.However, the pace at which the movie moves is a big dampener and tells on the film’s length especially during the last 40 minutes or so. The war scenes involving building a seven wall fort or strategies on how to face the enemy seem like a replay of Baahubali and hence, it is but natural to expect something more. Another downer is the computer graphics work, which needed far more attention to detail.
A hardcore Telugu movie fan might laud director Gunasekhar – for his choice of story and his effort – and the work of Anushka and Allu Arjun, but overall for the film to work, it still needs that something more.