OTTplay Logo
settings icon
profile icon

Rangamarthanda review: Off-stage theatrics in the life of a theatre veteran

Director Krishna Vamsi’s attempt to address the concerns of the elderly lot in families and generational disconnect is partly engaging

Rangamarthanda review: Off-stage theatrics in the life of a theatre veteran

Last Updated: 03.31 PM, Mar 21, 2023



After an illustrious career as a theatre actor, Raghava Rao bids goodbye to the stage in a bid to spend more time with his wife and two children. While he hands over the responsibilities of the household to his children, the equations within the family take a drastic turn with time. How will he and his wife Raju Garu grapple with the generational disconnect?


There’s innate poetry in exploring the deeper meaning of life through the story of a theatre veteran. Much like Raghava Rao’s presence in his family, the relevance of theatre as a storytelling medium too is on the wane. When this actor bids goodbye to his career on the stage, the real drama begins to unfold in his life. He was a master at donning the grease paint and hiding beneath his characters but life, unlike the stage, doesn’t offer him that luxury.


Beyond its metaphorical exterior, Rangamarthanda, the remake of the Marathi hit Nata Samrat (also based on a popular Marathi play), is a story about generational disconnect and parental negligence. Those familiar with NTR’s Badi Panthulu or Amitabh’s Baghban may not find anything new with its intent but there’s absorbing old-school drama waiting to be explored here. However, director Krishna Vamsi’s effort wobbles because of its dated treatment.

Although there are various dimensions through which one could look at the story, the writer of this review wishes to view this as a tale of two theatre friends - Raghava Rao and Chakrapani. They’re past their prime and are jointly dealing with the curse of loneliness and the fear of turning obsolete. The only difference is, the former also has a family by his side. They seek happiness through nostalgia, laughing about their glorious past.

Rangamarthanda is fantastic when it offers a glimpse of the psyche and the concerns of its ageing protagonists. They realise life is slipping away gradually but grapple with daily realities and stay optimistic. The conflicts are obvious - the children and the parents look at life from a different tangent. Raghava Rao and his wife are only left with one another to vent out their feelings. The soul of the film lies in these heartfelt conversations among Raghava, Raju garu and Chakrapani.

The woman cautions the husband to not trust their children too much. The man holds onto his belief system even realising how it may not be relevant with the times. There are joint family politics, property disputes and despite its familiar beats, Rangamarthanda remains watchable. The film loses its bite when it uses its cinematic license to sermonise audiences, trivialising the ‘modernity versus tradition’ debate.

The monologues about sexualising childhood at school, not patronising one’s mother tongue, and recognising the worth of our literature, feel like a bunch of Whatsapp forwards masquerading as Raghava Rao’s thoughts. For someone with Krishna Vamsi’s experience, the staging of the sequences is too simplistic. There’s very little for the visuals to convey beyond Akella Siva Prasad’s bombastic dialogues.

The director shifts all the blame towards its younger characters for neglecting their parents. He doesn’t take enough care to write his younger characters well and paints them as caricatures. The son is a scarecrow, his wife is shrewd, and the daughter hides her true intention beneath her diplomacy. It’s equally hard to believe how two independent musicians, who’re yet to make it big, are ‘rich’ enough to own a bungalow.

The best segments of the film are reserved for the second hour. The final conversation between Raghava and Chakrapani with the mythological parallels between Duryodhana and Karna are terrifically brought to life by Brahmanandam and Prakash Raj. Brahmanandam, in particular, is in ominous form in the sequence, as if he’s been waiting all through his career for it.

The exchanges between Raghava and Raju garu at the bus stop, dreaming of a hopeful tomorrow, and looking beyond their children, are heart-wrenching. Though the filmmaking finesse is absent for major parts, the performances of Brahmanandam, Prakash Raj and Ramya Krishna hold the film together. Prakash Raj’s biggest gift as a performer is his adept understanding of the film’s tone - he hams, underplays and does a bit of both when necessary.

Rangamarthanda extracts one of Ramya Krishna’s best performances in the recent past. Amidst two powerhouses of talent, with limited dialogues and smart use of body language and minute gestures, she communicates how her character is the wind beneath her husband’s wings. Aadarsh Balakrishna, Anasuya Bharadwaj, and Ali Reza make a mark in their brief roles while Shivathmika Rajashekar needs more time to come of age as a performer.

Rahul Sipligunj is miscast in a poor role and he lacks strong screen presence. Sana exaggerates beyond necessity in a guest appearance while Kasi Viswanath and Jayalalitha are passable. All said and done, for someone with a 30-year-long career in cinema, you expect a better grasp of the technicalities, especially the cinematography and the editing.

The scene-to-scene transitions are amateurish and the lesser said about the filming of the song sequences, the better. Although Nannu Nannugaa, and Puvvai Virise aren’t bad songs, Ilaiyaraaja’s work for the film (including the background score) feels like a pale shadow of his past. As a singer, he struggles to make an impact with his renditions and the repetitive use of the Puvvai Virise tune isn’t effective at all.

This is a potent script for Krishna Vamsi to revive his career after a lull and prove himself to a newer generation of audiences. His command over drama is undeniable and the honesty in some sequences leaves you moist-eyed. The climax, set amidst a burnt cultural venue, is apt and reflective of the protagonist’s fractured personal life.

However, while trying to empathise with the elderly lot, the filmmaker could’ve given more space for characters of other age groups to convey their side of the story. The black-and-white outlook of the world is not something you’d expect from a 2023 release.


Rangamarthanda belongs to the same school as NTR’s Badi Panthulu/Baghban, discussing parental negligence and generational disconnect through the eyes of a theatre veteran. The film isn’t free from flaws but features standout performances by Prakash Raj, Ramya Krishna and Brahmanandam and marks director Krishna Vamsi’s return to form. Keep your hankies close by.


    Get the latest updates in your inbox