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Tiger Nageswara Rao review: This middling biopic aims to restore the legacy of Stuartpuram

Director Vamsee’s film is a sociological study of a village told through the lens of a notorious thief

Tiger Nageswara Rao review: This middling biopic aims to restore the legacy of Stuartpuram
Tiger Nageswara Rao

Last Updated: 03.13 PM, Oct 20, 2023



An emergency meeting is held in Delhi, where top bureaucrats sense a threat to the security of the Indian PM, thanks to a warning from a notorious thief, Tiger Nageswara Rao. Why’s the Stuartpuram native attracting national attention suddenly? What situations prompt him to become a criminal? How far will he go to ensure a better future for his village?


Director Vamsee’s view of Tiger Nageswara Rao’s story is best summarised through the dialogue of a villager: ‘The world treats Rama as God and Ravana as a demon. Ask anyone from the Lankan dynasty and they’ll tell you Ravana is their lord.’ The film is a dramatised version of an outlaw’s life story and an intriguing sociological study of the village he hails from, Stuartpuram.


Both halves of the film depict different versions of the same story. If the cops and bureaucrats call him a dreaded thief with a dark past (prior to the intermission), the story later examines the motive behind his crimes through an insider. Tiger Nageswara Rao, ultimately, portrays its protagonist as a local Robinhood who goes against the law to change the fortunes of his village.

The film initially depicts the problematic hierarchies within Stuartpuram that challenge the growth of Tiger Nageswara Rao. Crime is his only option to seek basic dignity and power within the region. There are arresting action sequences focusing on the wily tactics beneath his heists and his escapades, establishing why he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Tiger Nageswara Rao partly suffers from the KGF syndrome; even a basic introduction to the character sounds like a badly written pamphlet. An official says he would have become a top politician, an iconic sportsman, or a top-ranking army officer if only he hadn’t turned a criminal. With a star like Ravi Teja at the helm, the film makes the mistake of overly sympathising with its subject.

The biopic is appealing when it doesn’t try to make Tiger Nageswara Rao likeable and showcases his ‘badass’ side with panache. One of the basic issues with the film is the lack of focus; it changes its colours quickly, and the transitions are sudden. Director Vamsee is desperate to give it a commercially palatable exterior, and the forced cinematic liberties dent the authenticity of the storytelling.

The distractions are hard to ignore; the thief says every man is only interested in a woman’s physique and uses love only to mask his lust. The women, much like the problematic 70s and 80s Telugu and Hindi masala films, are only of two types: objects of glamour or an embodiment of sacrifice. Even the villainy is outdated; most men attack and molest women to showcase their supremacy.

The action choreography is unimaginative and repeatedly glamourises gore as if it’s an act of valour. Most importantly, the sequences don’t provide an emotional high as expected. The human body is treated like an assemblage of various objects in a toy store; heads, hands, and legs are chopped conveniently. The impressive backstory in the second hour salvages the film to some extent.

The filmmaker’s painstaking research behind the film is quite evident in the lengthy second half. From the origins of Stuartpuram to the stereotypes surrounding the village to the livelihood issues of its residents and the abuse of power, you get a larger perspective on Tiger Nageswara Rao’s story. However, the novelty of these segments is diluted due to their commercial obligations.

Tiger Nageswara Rao, in its attempt to cater to a wider audience, loses out on nuance and pays the price. Despite its problems, the film has an eventful narrative and is strangely entertaining with its busy screenplay. Ravi Teja returns to form with a controlled performance, though his physical transformation to portray the character’s evolution is not that effective.

Both the female leads — Nupur Sanon and Gayatri Bhardwaj — lack any identity beyond their physical beauty. Anupam Kher is aptly cast in a meaty part, while Hareesh Peradi’s mettle isn’t tested much in a stereotypical villain role. Renu Desai plays a subdued yet impactful part with assurance. Nasser is impressive, though his poorly-done wig is a constant distraction.

Jisshu Sengupta and Murali Sharma are passable in their one-note characters, while the need to rope in Sudev Nair is quite hard to understand. Pradeep Rawat makes a mark despite his limited screen presence. The music and CG-dominated action sequences disappoint, and the production design is too basic for a period film.


Tiger Nageswara Rao merits a big-screen viewing for a larger understanding of the tainted legacy of Stuartpuram and its sociological situation. While the colourful life story of a notorious thief deserves a film, the need to make a hero out of him and his endeavours leaves you with mixed feelings.


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