It seems Manchu Entertainment has embarked on a journey to deliver loads of ambitious projects. Last year, they gave a fantasy touch to the celluloid with Oo Kodathara Ulikki Padathaaru and now the tinsel town got a tinge of rustic aura with their latest offering Gundello Godari. When a sensible producer teams up with a debutant director, the end-product is a film with visual panache and artistic flair that exceeds expectations in production standards. Lakshmi Manchu and Kumar Nagendra proved this formula by delivering a gently flavored, soothing savory, blended in perfect emotional quotient that makes it palatable. The movie springs many surprises and has its dose of breath-taking moments to keep the audience's eyeballs glued to screen.
Gundello Godari is loosely based on true events but it's dramatized in various situations. Albeit the film doesn't recreate the tenseness and blitz of storytelling that's typical of Tamil / Telugu movies from 1980s, it draws some elements from them. In a non-linear narrative the film intercuts from flashback to real time scenarios. It uses a montage of floods that affected India in the year 1986 and it jumps into the narration by introducing the lead characters' journey. They beat an old adage - Make hay while the sun shines - and try to make hay while it rains and floods, and in this process they explore their past, inner self and love towards each other.
The story-telling capabilities of director Kumar Nagendra must be lauded to certain extent. He knows how to weave a romance amid an imminent calamity. He gave the movie a cheerful texture with an eye on life's little nuances, and the way he pulled out magical performances from the cast is praise-worthy. The movie never goes overboard with candy-floss visuals and canned laughter. At many places, his execution is akin to that of veteran director Vamsy. On the flip side, he must be blamed for the slow narration and lack of homogeneity in the movie. Some scenes are left raw without nurturing them to perfection.
The acting department takes all the laurels with its lead performers firing on all cylinders. Aadi is truly awesome and he pulled off with poise the multiple roles of a fisherman, a lover, and a husband. Tapsee Pannu looks beautiful as usual and slips into her character of a village belle with ease and precision. Sandeep Kishan, though underplayed, has some great on-screen moments to cherish for. The one that gains moments of glory in the performer's brigade is Lakshmi Manchu. Her acting in emotional scenes is very natural and brilliant. During the course of the film, she evolves as an expressive actor exuding charisma. After playing characters with shades of grey, this can be called as her first positive role. She has already proved her mettle as a great producer and with this film her acting prowess reaches another level.
The movie's location shifts between the villages and the uncontrollable floods and Palani Kumar's cinematography lends the film an appealing, often magnified, bucolic mood. He complements the film-maker's muse by selectively framing the serenity and magnanimity of the river Godavari. This makes your view on the place and its surroundings more romantic, and, at times melancholic. Perhaps, in some scenes, the visual panache subdues the characters inhabiting them. In the film, the CGI rules the roost and right from the word go it makes its presence felt. The fury of the river, the villages immersed in flood waters, are part of some stupendous graphics work.
Superlatives become mandatory to describe, analyze and appreciate the music and background score by Maestro Ilayaraja. The BGMs are seemingly different and add scores of embellishments to the film. The music creates the tone that's de rigueur for such set-up. The classical touch of Raja sir exuberates in every piece and every scene. But some of his compositions were grossly wasted because of their improper placement in the narrative. Somehow I couldn't stomach the mass numbers churned by him. Another good thing is you can listen to some 80s tracks of Ilayaraja - Banti Chamanti, Sande Poddulakada, etc - in the film. That's a treat for the fans.
Bottom-line: Gundello Godari has all the essential ingredients of an arty yet commercial potboiler: a period drama, a story based on real events, languid pace at places, crackerjack dialogue, people with myriad shades of grey, mesmerizing music, awesome performances, a cliff-hanging climax, and above all multiple layers of CGI that's immersive than the flood itself. The film is a visual and musical joie de vivre replete with emotions, and the storytelling leaves you optimistic, reviving a lost faith in archaic style of film-making. It's an natural story told in an un-natural way.