Cast: Venkatesh, Priyamani, Rajeev Kanakala, Rakhi, Ammu Abhirami, Karthik Rathnam
Directed by: Sreekanth Addala
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Critic’s Rating: 3.5/5
Story: Tensions are high in Ramasagaram and Siripi after a chain of events lead to the school-going son of an underprivileged farmer killing a rich landowner. Will his father find a way to save his family?
Review: Narappa bears the weight of Srikanth Addala retelling an already successful story pulled off by Vetrimaaran with Asuran. It also releases just a few days after the 36th anniversary of the Karamchedu massacre which saw six dalits killed, three dalit women raped and many displaced by the overlords in the village on July 17. Just like in the massacre that remains fresh on people’s minds, a chain of events lead to bloodshed, tears and pain in the film.
Narappa (Venkatesh Daggubati) is an ageing alcoholic farmer who prefers to turn the other cheek rather than fight back and stand up the oppression him and his peers face in the village. Unbeknownst to his hot-headed sons Munikanna (Karthik Ratnam) and Sinappa (Rakhi) he has a reason for being the way he is. What they also do not know is that he has a painful, violent past and will go to any lengths to keep them safe. A rich landlord Pandusami (Aadukalam Naren) wants to grab their three acres of land to set up a cement factory despite already owning most of the land in the village. When Narappa’s eldest son Munikanna, egged on by his uncle Basavayya (Rajeev Kanakala) and mother Sundaramma (Priyamani), refuses to put up with the caste disparity in the village, he sets off a chain of events that see his father fight to save the family.
In this adaptation of Poomani’s acclaimed novel Vekkai, Srikanth Addala gets out of the comfort zone of his usually bright and happy family dramas. He stays true to the original film Asuran, even going as far as to remake it scene-to-scene, frame-to-frame and dialogue-to-dialogue. While the word caste is unuttered for the most part of the film, it weighs heavy on not just the storyline but also the way characters are treated. It’s clear when a set of people aren’t allowed access to land, water and even footwear that more than ‘class disparity’ (as many like to whitewash it) is at play here. Narappa has lost a lot in life and lives in constant fear of losing the piece of heaven he has created for himself. He’d rather sort things out amicably than stand up to powers that be and risk losing everything.
Venkatesh shoulders the film for the most part, feeling comfortable playing his part as the ageing alcoholic patriarch who is constantly underestimated by those around him, including his own family. He pours life into it, especially in the emotional and fight scenes that demand a lot of him. It is however odd to see him with the very young Abhirami. Priyamani, Karthik Ratnam, Rakhi, Rajeev Kanakala and rest of the cast also give it their all even if they falter at times. Karthik Ratnam and Raajev Kanakala in particular stand out while Nasser and Rao Ramesh feel miscast. The fight scenes choreographed by Peter Hein and the familiar BGM from Asuran composed by GV Prakash Kumar lend to Narappa’s desperate bid for the survival of his family. Mani Sharma’s music too does its bit.
Narappa is familiar territory for those who have seen Asuran. It might not be as smooth as the original due to some of the performances by the supporting cast, but it manages to get the message across loud and clear. The casting of Venkatesh Daggubati in particular for the lead role might also not sit well with everyone, coming across as tone deaf. For those who haven’t seen Vetrimaaran’s work, this is another film like the recent Uppena, Colour Photo, Palasa 1978, Dorasaani, et al that deal with the subject well. Give it a chance if you don’t mind watching a film that forces you to look at your own prejudices.