Arjun Reddy (Telugu)

Starring: Vijay Devarakonda, Shalini Pandey, Kanchana, Rahul Ramkrishna
Direction: Sandeep Vangan
Music: Radhan

My next adventures into Telugu movies after Bahubali were Fida and Arjun Reddy. Fida I went to watch voluntarily as I like Sekhar Kammula's to unpretentious undertakings. I relatively enjoyed the charm and charisma of the actors, especially of the heroine. The storyline (though why the brother duo had to go to India to get a bride through arranged marriage when there are so many smart, educated women, Indian/Telugu or otherwise here in the US is a mystery) keeps you engaged, and the heroine brimming with confidence, is a vision to watch. Hero comes across as adorable, reserved and with constructive values.

In Arjun Reddy's case I was kind of pushed into watching it after reading the "glowing" reviews by major newspapers. In addition, compliments bestowed generously by some top-notch directors influenced me. In fact I forced my family to come with me, as I read that it is a "path breaking movie" for telugu cinema and looked forward to my young son and daughter admire Telugu (Indian) cinema which they so much criticize. I wanted to make them proud of my culture with this "path breaking" cinema.

But to my great disappointment, watching Arjun Reddy was a paralyzing experience and a rude awakening. I was shell shocked into silence to even dare ask my kids for their opinion. I can already feel my daughter seething with rage and my son going numb with nausea. My husband, who normally supports Telugu cinema, too is shell shocked for a change.

What is this? Which century are we in? What kind of philosophy is this movie encouraging? This is beyond "normal" misogyny exhibited in everyday Telugu movies. This is pure horror.

I don't know where to begin. Apart from fitting acting and the so-called unrefined dialogues (if so many bad words count as common) there was little I found in this movie that is path breaking. Extreme doses of gender prejudice, sexist bias, intolerant, bigoted behavior dominate the film for it to be called innovative. I haven't seen a more unapologetic movie that professes so much violence, drug abuse and sexism with no redemption whatsoever, all in the name of pioneering intelligence of the hero (or director?). I am scandalized and terribly disillusioned that such undisguised misogyny in a movie is being hailed by prominent people as "innovative," misleading hapless viewers. Are humans really this deranged deep inside, that they admire such extreme sense of self-worth and self-glorification that they are intrinsically blind to all others?

No, not really. Many in the theatre hated it as well and a young male physician was aghast that this hero (?) could get away with so many drunken surgeries with just a minor suspension. Another female viewer was "devastated" at the absolute non-existent personality of the heroine in particular and other women in general. "Its as if women are mere products and not real people with feelings and opinions."

There is no redemptive factor in this movie. I could only tolerate yesteryear beautiful heroine Kanchana as Arjun's grandmother and Rahul Ramkrishna as his best friend. Rahul does full justice to his role and has a very enduring quality about him.

The story is simply, as the title suggests, about one all-time spoiled, arrogant, rude, male chauvinist pig and a medical doctor in his free time called Arjun Reddy. As a final year medical student in Mangalore with uncontrollable and inconsistent anger management issues he gets suspended for his violent behavior on the football field. He begins to leave college refusing to apologize as a condition to be taken back when his eyes prey on (literally) freshman Preeti (Shalini Pandey). It is love at first sight for him.

He decides to apologize to the authorities and stay back in college so as to pursue her. Well actually pursue is the wrong word. He MARKS HER AS HIS TERRITORY and start stalking her. Preeti becomes his property. He goes around informing the entire college now that Preeti is HIS (property), other boys should just stay away from her and dare not look at her. However, he kindly and generously gives them permission and Carte blanche to have any other girl as long as they don't look at "his" girl (some men in the theatre actually found this funny and snicker pleasurably).

By now my daughter is fuming restlessly. I know what is going on in her mind and begin to get myself ready to her outburst after the movie.

Beginning then on the entire college community comes together to accommodate the celebrated couple. The girl herself remains malleable and a silent partner. Through out the entire movie I yearned for one scene where she would stand up for herself. Just one. But I was hugely let down. Instead she lets him take her for granted, bunks classes, lives alone with him in his friend's house when injured, and so on. What if in reality this girl doesn't fall for him? What if this guy is Shakti Kapoor in disguise? (Not that Arjun is any less vile) Then? Who will save her?

Arjun commands her to befriend a "fat" girl. In his twisted mind a good-looking girl (Preeti) and a fat girl make good friends forever!!! Bizarre!

Preeti has absolutely no opinion whatsoever on anything and trails him like a loyal puppy. Strangely, even the "fat" girl obliges. In fact the whole college does. Why? He is a bully, anger obsessed, a senior, and moreover a brilliant topper. So any girl is supposedly lucky to have him, so the entire college seems to think. Obviously director Sandeep Reddy Vanga for sure thinks so. He is passionately and irrationally invested in Arjun's character. Does such obnoxious behavior actually take place in college campuses in India? Not when I was a student. Not even close.

The couple indulges in a long four-year physical and emotional relationship even as Arjun graduates and moves on to a different city. He has a loving and caring family and friends yet for some reason he is always in an angry mode with them. He disconnects with all except his grandmother. During the wedding celebrations of his brother, he selfishly indulges in his own love problems. Preeti's father instinctively hates him (probably the only wise guy in the movie) and refuses to let his daughter marry him. Even before they have time to negotiate anything Arjun slaps her around and giver her a warning and deadline of six hours to decide who she chooses. Just like that.

Even without waiting for that deadline, in a wedding house full of guests, he drops dead, fully drugged with ice on his erection and stays that way for hours. By then I am frantically looking around for exit routes. What the heck is this junk movie, anyways? Why am I still here? What is it this demented director even trying to convey? I am so disgusted that I just wanted to throw up all over the screen and on his face. And bash up the director. But I still wait. Maybe there is a lesson here, some redemption. Some sanity in this rut filled movie. I am waiting for that final scene to make some sense about this mess.

There is one ironic scene in the movie that amused me thoroughly: Arjun, a bigot, sexist and a control freak, actually advises his best friend to cancel his sister's wedding with an NRI, who quips about the color and age of an airhostess. Arjun finds this guy sexist and a bigot!! Could there be anything more incongruous and ironical than this? Arjun urges his friend to cancel the wedding. This of course without the consent or even the knowledge of the to be bride herself! Who is the bigger bigot and sexist here? This Arjun, who flaunts his last name as a badge and treats his girl friend as his property or this NRI?

In another scene, when during Holi, a co student throws color on her and touches her inappropriately, instead of teaching that guy a lesson by either bashing him up or reporting him, the delicate darling heroine waits for Arjun to protect and avenge her, weeping copiously. I wanted to shake her to her senses! Show some courage girl! At that time Shehla Rashid, a brave JNU student came to my mind. Rashid stands against hundreds of ABVP goons day after day, fighting for her rights. She is modern day Jhansi, standing up for herself and others such as her. When girls all over the world are fighting their own battles, this so called medical student stands there helplessly when another student is rubbing color all over her. Shame!

Coming back to the story, Preeti comes to meet Arjun after the deadline given to her but unable to get his attention in his drug haze, goes back and marries the boy her father brings in right away. This is weird too. A groom in 48 hours?

From then on Arjun falls into a pit of substance and alcohol abuse. He continues practicing medicine and performs all his surgeries under the influence of drugs and alcohol, gets caught on one occasion and has his silence cancelled temporarily. However, many support him because he is smart, very intelligent a topper, and never killed anyone during surgery even under influence.

Oh. My. God!

All serial killers and offenders are very intelligent by the way. Intelligence is not a license to abuse.

After a length of tortuous to watch abusive behavior, Arjun accidentally meets a pregnant Preeti and instinctively realizes that she is not happy. That fine day HE decides that enough is enough and that she has to split with her husband and marry him instead. He meets her and wows to treat her baby as his own. After a few tears and sham anger, Preeti falls into his arms confessing that the baby is actually Arjun's and that she never let her (poor) husband even touch her. She is waiting for Arjun to comeback someday and accepts her. Arjun is ecstatic and takes her to his house and they live happily ever after!

By now I am shell shocked in revulsion and my son had to walk me out, soothing my temper. I have never seen such a shallow and narcissistic film in my life! And I did see some dumb movies including Judwa 1. This is just too much. Even Devdas learns his lesson for his cowardice when his Paru rejects him on her wedding day and gets into a loveless marriage instead to save her's and her family's pride. And this happened decades ago. Now seeing an educated well brought up secure girl being so lame and helpless breaks my heart. If this is love, then God save the world from it. Both as a woman and as a mother I was flabbergasted.

I just did not understand the purpose of this movie. Who in their senses will really appreciate this junk? Does any one of us want our daughter, friend, sister or relative to be where Preeti is in this movie? Can we tolerate any guy behaving like Arjun Reddy does to any of our own? I don't think so. Does any one of us want a son, son-in-law or friend like Arjun? Jesus, no. Do we feel sorry for him? Hell no! This Arjun Reddy needs to be in a mental institution along with his worthless director.

Then why is this movie a hit? What kind of vain ego is it fulfilling in its viewers? What was the director thinking? Did many fall victim to false propaganda like I did? I don't know. But if any of you are lucky enough and still have not watched it, PLEASE DON'T. I intentionally revealed the ending too. Hence no surprises left anyway. Stay away from this filth.