Merlapaka Gandhi fails to do justice in lending a native touch to a script that promised to be a fine blend of crime, humour, romance and suspense
Arun, an orphan, is a musician who pretends to be visually impaired for his livelihood needs. He ends up falling in love with Sophie, the daughter of a bar-owner in Goa. He revives the fortunes of the bar by drawing crowds to his performances, where he catches the eye of a veteran actor Mohan. Impressed by Arun's prowess, Mohan invites him to perform at his residence for a private concert, in a bid to surprise his young wife Simran. Little does Arun know that the opportunity would change his life for the worse while having to fake his innocence despite being witness to a gruesome murder.
There's so much to a film beyond its plot - the storytelling, the treatment, the characterisation, the visual appeal, the 'little nothings' and details that breathe a new lease of life into sequences. It takes a quality filmmaker and a capable cast to realise the same. Maestro, the Telugu remake of the Hindi blockbuster Andhadhun, is a near-exact replica of the original, bereft of flourish, soul or nuance. The film, though passable, feels like a bunch of sequences unwillingly stitched together sans any purpose or context.
Maestro is a rare blend of crime, humour, romance and suspense and yet it's ironic that it doesn't manage to entertain you. When a director like Merlapaka Gandhi, known for his comedy entertainers like Venkatadri Express and Express Raja in the past, associates with the remake of Andhadhun, the least you expect is quality humour. It feels like the filmmaker wasn't given a free hand in lending a native touch to the remake. The plot takes mind-boggling twists and turns, but the execution is so bland and the actors, so disinterested that the sequences don't come alive. The film doesn't have a high point at all.
It's no joke to decide what to retain and what to do away with, in a remake of a near-perfect film like Andhadhun and unfortunately, Merlapaka Gandhi makes a mess out of his choices. The film is mostly set in Goa for some strange reason (where everyone speaks Telugu) and people break into different Telugu slangs at their will. It's a story revolving around a supposedly blind musician, but there's nothing memorable about the film's music (by Mahati Swara Sagar) either. Even otherwise, there's very little in the film to root for, be it the performances, storytelling or entertainment value.
If at all something helps the film coast along despite its pitfalls, it's Yuvaraj's cinematography. He lends the right visual texture and mood to the film in its crucial junctures; it's a delight to see Goa and Dubai through his lens. A few unconventional casting decisions catch you by surprise. The not-so-big names surprisingly make a mark. Sreemukhi is brilliant as the suspicious wife of a cop, while singer Mangli makes a nerveless, confident acting debut in the role of the small-time helper to a creepy medico. Racha Ravi, Ananya Nagalla and Harshavardhan in the brief screen-time register a strong impact.
Tamannaah in a vamp-ish avatar was supposed to be the film's USP though the actress hurries through her dialogues and sequences quite mechanically and doesn't give a chance for the audience to invest in her role much. It's sad to see how the industry is consistently underutilising the presence of Nabha Natesh, reducing her to a glam doll without a voice or authority. Nithiin is expectedly better in the film's lighter moments. Naresh sinks his teeth into the role of a senior actor who's no longer a major force in the film industry. Jisshu Sengupta's role as a cop deserved more meat; his character is abandoned out of the blues in the second hour.
Maestro is a crime thriller minus the thrills and adrenaline rush. The film's terrific story doesn't get its due on the screen due to the uninspiring execution, lack of attention to detail and superficial performances by a high-profile cast. It's a remake whose soul is lost in translation. Maestro is passable but it's a shame that it couldn't do anything sparkling with such great material on hand.