This Anand Deverakonda, Geeth Saini and Saanve Megghana starrer is bolstered by a solid story that's both sensible and entertaining
Sundaram is an ordinary government school teacher with modest ambitions, who gets married to Meenakshi, a girl chosen by his ailing father. There's very little that Sundaram and Meenakshi have in common. While Sundaram is excited to embark on a new chapter in his life, Meenakshi appears lost and disinterested. He gets a shock of a lifetime when his wife elopes with another man. Sundaram plays every trick in the book to hide the news from his near and dear, out of embarrassment. Just then, a personal tragedy destroys his world beyond repair. Is there a way out for Sundaram?
It isn't the easiest of tasks for a first-time director to churn out a compelling crime caper with a sensitive emotional core that is not only funny but also has the bite of a taut thriller. Pushpaka Vimanam is a mishmash of various genres that works big time and is bolstered by smart, crisp writing, apt casting and fine performances. The engaging narrative comes with well defined, a unique bunch of characters - some innocent, some creepy, some funny, some mysterious, all with a strange set of traits, that are a hoot when they come together on the screen.
The first hour is a breeze, where the lead character, an underdog government school teacher, is trying to find the whereabouts of his wife who's eloped with someone else. His various ploys to avoid social embarrassment and unwanted attention from curious colleagues and neighbours (who keep enquiring about the wife) are hilarious. There are a few Jandhyala-esque touches in the writing, especially when Sundaram hires a short-film actress to act as his wife in front of his colleagues for a get-together.
The entire setup of the government school, the atmosphere in a middle-class apartment, especially with a bholaa shankar-like character in focus, works brilliantly in winning a viewer's sympathy. When the apartment secretary asks Sundaram to tag along with his wife at a meeting or the over-smart social teacher comes perilously close to unlocking all his secrets, you have a good laugh at Sundaram's plight but still feel for him as well. It's a tough balance to achieve with screenwriting and still, there's so much sparkle in the conversations and the situational dialogue minus the silliness.
When a failed music director Hindolam (a superb Harshavardhan), a crooked cop like Rangam and a cranky short film actress Rekha enter this universe, it's only natural for the scenario to get wild. The sequences that pan out at the police station, especially the one where Sunil asks Saanve Megghana to show her acting mettle is an excellent example of how humour needn't always deviate the viewer from the core plot. The change in tone of the treatment in the second hour, where humour paves the way for a sensitive, emotional backstory, is handled impressively.
For an industry that milks the intimacy of a newly married couple for trivial pleasures on screen, it's a relief to see a first-time director look at the man-woman equation with such sensitivity. It's good to see consent between a couple being valued and the sincere effort to look at marriage from a woman's lens. It's the final stretch where the film wobbles slightly - too many revelations are packed in very little time.
The characters of the cop and the short film actress probably deserved better closure. The ending, where the protagonist is told to have moved on in life, also feels like a desperate attempt to end the film on a happy note. Yet, Pushpaka Vimanam gets so many aspects right that these minor slipups don't hamper the viewing experience much.
A film can't go wrong when the writing is clear, concrete and the casting is perfect. Anand Deverakonda shows remarkable progress as an actor in comparison to his initial outings and he's a good choice to represent the average common man who doesn't aim too big in life. Geeth Saini pitches in with a nuanced, sensitive performance while it's hard to look at anyone else when Saanve Megghana is around - such is her strong screen presence. Sunil is a delight to watch while embracing his shades of grey as an actor without missing out on his comic touch.
The supporting cast is as solid as it can get - Harshavardhan, CVL Narasimha Rao, Naresh, Kireeti, Abhijeet, Bhadram and several new faces pack a punch. Mark K Robin's background score and an eclectic album by Ram Miryala, Sidharth Sadasivuni and Amit Dasani add lustre to the proceedings. Yet, it's only right that the writer, director Damodara gets the lion's share of credit for Pushpaka Vimanam. He does full justice for a superb script to come alive on the screen with the same spirit in which it was written.
There are no two things about it - Pushpaka Vimanam is a winner. Minor issues in the second hour apart, the film is a near-perfect cocktail of a good story, great humour, adequate thrills and commendable performances. The writing is crisp, sensitive and engaging, packaging a sensitive message in an entertaining exterior. Do watch it at the cinemas.