IndiaParentMagazine

Sye Ra Narasimha Reddy

Released in Hindi and Telugu

By Meena Yeggina

"Sye Ra is one such movie that recalls the story of this glorious freedom fighter that rallied together all forces - farmers, rulers and religions - to fight the British, but is sadly underrated in the annals of Indian history simply because he belonged to the South."

Starring: Chiranjeevi, Amithabh Bachchan, Nayanatara, Tamanna, Jagapathy Babu, Sudeep
Music: Amit Trivedi, Julius Packiam
Direction: Surender Reddy


Chiranjeevi with his curly wig, kind face with subtle makeup and slim
looks, turns out to be a good eye candy, and I enjoyed watching him

Most of the time we are bombarded with so much history about North Indian heroes -- the then freedom fighters and the now fair-skinned Hindi Film heroes -- that most South Indians tend to forget their own regional history! Ouch, but true! Very rarely do we witness a movie based on Southern path-breakers!

Sye Ra is one such movie that recalls the story of this glorious freedom fighter that rallied together all forces - farmers, rulers and religions - to fight the British, but is sadly underrated in the annals of Indian history simply because he belonged to the South. Even earlier than 1857 sepoy revolt in the North, which we were taught as the first freedom fight, an unknown peasant chief in remote Andhra roared like a tiger and frightened the British so intensely that they had to hang his severed head for 30 years in public view to keep the rousing pride of locals under control.

Unlike Uri, Kalank, Baby, Kesari (Kesari strangley makes a hero out of a British soldier, Kesari, fighting an INDIAN MUSLIM king!!!!!!) and several such Hindi movies that separate Indians by their religion (Akshay Kumar goes a step further and steals the glorious stories of the modern South Indian social workers -- one Christian from Kerala and one Hindu from Tamil Nadu (Airlift and Padman respectively) --and turns them into upper caste, Hindi speaking North Indian heroes. Sometimes the appropriateness is so crass and obvious that it's difficult to look away!

Chiranjeevi as Narasimha is back in his glorious form and how! He makes you realize why he remains an unbeatable actor/star. Sick of third rated so-called stars with weak voices, junk faces and sexist moves (not that Chiranjeevi is not, I mean sexist) Chiranjeevi's Sye Ra comes as a breath of fresh air and reminds one how powerful good acting and a robust, well modulated voice could be. A strong voice booming nationalistic pride in unadluterated Telugu (which became a rarity in itself with macabre words and slang mixed in our good old Telugu language these days) and with a personality to match, Chiranjeevi reminds audiences why he is a born star that came up the hard way!

Watching his son, brother, or nephew, spit on the audience what they call acting, after seeing the glorious Chiranjeevi in Sye Ra, would definitely be a torture to the eyes and cacophony to the ears

The hero in this movie, of course like in all Chiru's films, is invincible. Narasimha, probably like Jhansi Laxmi Bai started out to fight the British to save his province and his fiefdom but the very fact that he had the guts to defy and beat the British in several battles itself is a rarity in the 18th century. He fought a guerilla war against them from Nallamala forest, and if not for the betrayal of an insider he would have probably fought them for a long time. And won too.


Nayanatara looks and acts more like an ethnic jewery and silk sari model than a freedom fighter's wife who is dependent on the British for his monthly pension!

Added to his good performance, Chiranjeevi with his curly wig, kind face with subtle makeup and slim looks, turns out to be a good eye candy, and I enjoyed watching him. I took my mom, who stopped going to theaters, to the Great Mall to warch Sye Ra, and she relished the almost three hour movie with no complaints. Though the luxury lounge could have helped her comfort, she was also charmed with the story, action, sentiment and the immaculate nature of the movie. Yes, mind you, this Chiru movie has no item songs, no double meaning dialogues, no heroine exploitation that you see in most major movies including Chiru's own other ones.

However, even here, Tamanna and Nayanatara are what all women are in most Indian movies: visual exhibitions! Both women are submissive, follow the path the hero delegates to each, but must say remain progressive and understanding for their times. Both meet, console each other and become friends, despite knowing that they share a love-interest, Narasimha! Seriously?

Watching Tamanna, with her artificially tanned body and dubbed voice to represent South Indian women, made me wonder why not cast a true South Indian actress in this role instead of a fair skinned damsel and paint her body dark? Or just let her be the way she is? I mean there are fair skinned south Indian women you know Mr Surender Reddy?

What I liked: Sye Ra depicts how the British exploited India and why they are the real villains and not the indigenous Muslims who made India their country. British looted India and degraded Indians and its heritage. Divided communities and rulers to facilitate their rule and loot. And Sye Ra projects this point quite well. People always revolted and fought against the British those days, never against Muslim rulers. Muslims were part of their culture and heritage but British never were as they always viewed Indians disparagingly and intended to loot the country to enrich Britain and the queen. I loved the part where Muslims, Hindus, Chieftans and Farmers come together to fight the British! It also in a way reveals how Indians for centuries are used to slavery without actually being slaves, to religion, power and politics! For centuries they are used to bending low to power and money that it became second nature! Even today we are slaves to powerful politicians and rich Ambanis and Adanis that we are in awe of their wealth and power but never have the guts to question them or their means! Thats why its so easy to keep Indian population in control in the name of religion and power.


Watching Tamanna, with her artificially tanned body and dubbed voice to represent South Indian women, made me wonder why the director just couldn't just cast a South Indian actress instead? Or just let her be the way she is? Fair?

I liked Sye Ra for Chiru's dynamic action, the story telling and the subtle message of Unity in Diversity that India stands for. The story-telling swells your heart both in pride and sadness. Once hung to death, the British displayed Narasimha's head for 30 years to remind people of the consequences if they revolted. That itself reveals the strength of Narasimha and the power of his rebellion. It also reminds us of the supreme sacrifices many have done to bring us this precious freedom.

Music is all right. Nayana Tara and Tamanna did justice to their short insignificant characters, and Amitabh Bachchan was utilized well to lure in North Indian audiences. However, after Chiru, it is the character of Jagapathy Babu as Veera Reddy and Sudip as Avuka Raju that will impact you the most! Pictured at the cost of 2 billion INR, Sye Ra is exquisite in its production values!

I was also touched by the array of freedom fighters (I haven't even heard of several of them before!) shown at the end titles! Heartening to see so many of them including Mahatma and Pundit Nehru! I am a sucker for such visuals and sentiment! I would have loved it more if the title of the movie was just Sye Ra Narasimha, rather than adding the surname and would have been more appealing to people like me.

Rating: * 3.5/5

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