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Critics Review
Bro review: A well-intentioned sibling drama that needed more emotional heft

The Telugu remake of the Marathi hit Happy Journey features Naveen Chandra, Avika Gor, Sanjana Sarathy, Sai Ronak in lead roles and is directed by Karthik Thupurani

2.5
Srivathsan Nadadhur
Nov 25, 2021
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Story:

Madhav is a cheerful school-going boy, full of zest for life, spending time with friends at school, playing an odd game of football. His world drastically changes with the arrival of his sister Subhadra and the two become inseparable in no time. Just then, the infant is diagnosed with a rare medical condition. Madhav's father, who runs a small-time garage, with a heavy heart, asks his young son to take up a job at a construction firm in Dubai, to fund Subhadra's treatment. What will this decision mean to Madhav? Will the family ever lead a normal life again?

Review:

The sentimentality and melodrama associated with the brother-sister equation on screen have been done to death so much that any story centred around their relationship has very little chance to excite a viewer. Yet, Bro, the remake of the popular Marathi film Happy Journey (that also inspired Anjali Menon's Koode), wins your curiosity with its entertaining twist to the portrayal of sibling dynamics. 

The film's gloomy setting centres around death, longing, last wishes and yet it surprisingly doesn't drown itself in melancholy. There's a fairytale-like quality to the beautiful story that makes us invest in the characters. As the film takes off, it's impossible to not feel for the barely 11-12-year-old Madhav, whose world comes crashing down when asked to leave his home town, adorable sister, friends, to fend for his family in an alien nation. 

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When Madhav returns home many moons later owing to a death in the family, you understand his pent-up anger, frustration at a decision that robbed him of the childhood that he deserved. You see a man who grew up without the love of his family and becomes so comfortable with loneliness. The empathy for him only multiples when you realise he's not lucky with love either.

What if life provides an opportunity to bond with a loved one, make up for lost time after their death? With this arresting premise that's an interesting mix of fantasy and realism, Bro should have ideally soared to great dramatic heights. The writing though doesn't dive into the minds of the characters completely. The first-time director Karthik Thupurani prefers to underplay, maintain a measured tone in situations that could have made for solid drama.

Once the premise is established, the film loses its fizz and the sequences get repetitive. Bro, in the first hour, lingers on moments that could've done with more brevity. Disappointingly, it doesn't dig into the psychological conflicts, trauma enough. The stark contrast between the characterisation of the siblings, a sombre Madhav and his over-enthusiastic sister Subhadra, is interesting initially, though their conversations get a little jarring and cinematic later. 

The tension between Madhav as a grown-up man and his agitated father remains underutilised, while it's disappointing that the women, the mother and the grandma, are mostly restricted to the background. The film draws a wonderful mythological parallel too, where the father compares Krishna's lifting of the Govardhana hill to Madhav's efforts to fend for his family. While you don't mind that comparison, the references get too indulgent and on-the-face with the character names like Madhav, Subhadra (the sister), Savyasachi (prospective brother-in-law) and Radha (love interest).

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Once Madhav comes to terms with the family situation, heals himself and his relationships with Subhadra and his parents, the narrative gathers some steam. The second hour has better-written scenarios and dialogues and strikes a chord. The director has a knack for subtle humour and it's quite evident in the scene where Madhav's parents and Radha's parents are in conversation before the climax. The fact that the film stresses the importance of closure in every relationship gives it depth. The ending may look slightly old-school but it works, because it doesn't depend on verbose dialogue and states the obvious with the visuals.

Bro could've done a better job in treating the romance chapter in the lives of the lead characters. The love track between Madhav and Radha lacks impact. The conflict and the resolution in their relationship are way too superficial, though the director wanted to infuse some playful humour in the proceedings. Meanwhile, with Savyasachi and Subhadra, their idea of love is a tad too idealistic and unconditional. These two tracks just don't gel well together and feel like subplots from two different films. The subplot on Madhav's love for football is also perfunctory.

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Naveen Chandra has chosen his script well and is earnest in his attempt to get into the skin of a character with a fascinating conflict. It's tiring to see Avika Gor time and again play the stereotyped 'bubbly' girl bursting with enthusiasm. The film doesn't focus on the tender side of her personality enough and utilises Avika's presence more for comic relief. 

Sai Ronak makes a mark in a brief but impactful appearance. Sanjana Sarathy may be making her Telugu debut but is not at all new to cinema. The character she plays, Radha, lacks the range to elicit a strong performance. A veteran like Sri Lakshmi doesn't get to do much. Shekar Chandra's music is pleasing to the ears and Nazeem Mohammad's surreal cinematography makes us long for a life in an ever-idyllic Araku.  

Verdict:

Bro has a wonderful story and may have its heart in the right place though it's a bumpy ride on the whole. Naveen Chandra and Devi Prasad hold fort with assuring performances that help us look beyond the jerky screenplay. A subtler performance from Avika Gor could've done the trick. Look past the dull, meandering first half in Bro and you may be genuinely surprised. 

P.S. Those who've watched the earlier versions Koode or Happy Journey may not appreciate this effort.


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