“Autonagar Surya comes a cropper significantly due its outdated treatment of an over-used theme in spite of an improved and a composed performance from the lead actor Naga Chaitanya. The effort to be intelligent and cater to the masses doesn't quite work.”
There is a great divide between good intentions and morphing those intentions into a good movie. In Tollywood, it is a particularly thrilling yet, tough affair. From maintaining the star reputation and pleasing the fans to ensuring the movie has enough spice to ring the cash registers, a director has to deal with several expectations. Amidst that entire hullabaloo, the actual intentions get transformed into a kitschy, soulless affair. Autonagar Surya is one such attempt of ostentatious art that just mimics several good products of the past without paying them due respect and ends up as a garish imitation. One hopes, the director Deva Katta who also scripted the movie, understands after watching his own Siva-wannabe product, that principles of Ayn Rand and themes touched by Ram Gopal Varma should be handled with a lot of thought, care and insight.
Plot: The movie is set in the 80s when unions were powerful, run by goons and abetted by mayors. Surya (Naga Chaitanya) is an orphan, but a prodigy who understands and loves machines. Just 16, he creates a diesel car (unheard of in that period), but ends up as a victim of a greedy moneylender. In an altercation, he murders the moneylender trying to save his friend and ends up in jail. However, with the help of a supportive jailor (and an over-ambitious director who misses logic) he manages to finish engineering from the jail and is released. He sets off this time to create an engine that runs on a battery and succeeds in doing so, with the help of his childhood friends and an old mechanic who had first picked him up from the streets. His maternal uncle (Sai Kumar) hated him, but cannot stop his daughter Siri (Samantha) from romancing him.
Trouble starts when the goons don't let Surya run his garage, troubling him with union laws and other back-alley requirements typical of a corrupt, mafia-run establishment. He takes them on and the whole event turns into a chain reaction as one thing leads to another, eventually pitting Surya against the powerful mayor of the city. How it ends is what makes for the rest of the story.
Themes: The movie starts with an Ayn-Rand-style panegyric on the power of ideas and the importance of the man who churns ideas and turns the wheels of the world. After a while, this ends up being transformed into a socialistic ordeal where Surya is trying to get autonomy for his council.
In the meanwhile, the movie takes very cheap shots at the commissioner and collector, two powerful positions. That they could be corrupt is comprehensible. But, that people who adorn these positions are not silly and have certain dignity about them is what the director forgets. The commissioner for example, is seen taking rounds in a police jeep, something that would look ridiculous to anyone who knows the police hierarchy. The look of the mayor is just another pot-shot of a well-known politician.
The director tries to portray the hero as someone who has ideas and wants to create and produce instead of just consuming. But, the hero, in spite of all the heroic and overtly long and tedious monologues is a confused person, who cannot decide between doing his own thing and doing good to the society, in this case represented by Autonagar. The heroine exists just to indulge his romantic whims, an area where Tollywood seems to be stuck like a 25 year old who still cannot clear a matriculation exam.
The movie has a Ghulam-like revolution in the end, a Siva like youth-rebellion that also results in an innocent friend dying and a Mutha Mestri type build-up around the dignity of labour. However, amidst the melee, you will find a soul conspicuous by its absence. Nothing defines that soullessness as much as an item song that comes out of nowhere for no specific reason in the movie.
Cast & Crew: The movie took forever to be released, but one wonders if it was worth the wait. Deva Katta, after making a movie like Prasthanam, disappoints, losing himself by unnecessarily pandering to fans as opposed to making a good movie. Naga Chaitanya tries hard. His efforts are sincere and obvious, but the bottom-line is that he cannot act and he is definitely not a fit for mercurial roles like these that demand a towering physique, a booming voice and most importantly, a face that can emote. Samantha is doing well, finding baby-doll rolls for herself, where all she has to do is love the hero while he is busy fighting the evil world. Ajay is impressive as a goon under a rowdy corporator played by JP. The latter is not as vicious as you want him to be in spite of all the violence, because for some reason Tollywood is not ready to let go of a few minutes of comedy played around the villain. When will our makers understand that to respect the hero, you need to respect the villain and he should do what villains are meant to do. He shouldn't be reduced as just another comic relief who multi-tasks as the mob boss who owns many vehicles and plenty of uncouth rowdies. Brahmanandam and Venu Madhav end up as nothing but irritants. The cinematography by Srikanth is good and the music by Anoop Rubens is average.