'HanuMan', produced by Niranjan Reddy, was released in theatres today (January 12). In this section, we are going to review the superhero action drama:
The story is set in a fictional town named Anjanadri, where a majestic and imposing Lord Hanuman statue oversees a river. Hanumanthu (Teja Sajja) and his doting sister (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar) share a bond. Their peaceful life is disturbed by the entry of an aspiring, over-ambitious, pathological antagonist named Michael (Vinay Rai), who poses as a corporate honcho. What is his hidden aim behind reaching Anjanadri? Can he hoodwink and outsmart Hanumanthu? How does Hanumanthu protect himself and the village from being ruined by Michael? That's what the crux of the story is about.
Teja Sajja enters the race as the Sankranthi underdog. Although his performance is far from grand, he lends weight to his characterization by radiating a certain serenity. He can't, however, shake off the feeling that he is too thin-skinned for the role. Vinay Rai could have appealed more had the dubbing been right. His characterization is inspired by Hollywood action thrillers.
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar does some shouting but this time, she is not placed in a heavy-duty setting. Vennela Kishore and Getup Srinu overstay their welcome, while Satya elicits laughs in an otherwise extraneous track involving him and Amritha Aiyer; the actress is beautiful but gets to play a predictable part. Samuthirakani, in the role of a Sadhu, is routine.
The symbolic divine elements have been served well by the visual palette, amped up by Sri Nagendra Tangala's production design. Shivendra's cinematography is conventional yet adequate. Gowra Hari's background score understands the celestial realm that the story wants to enter into. The overall aura of the film is accentuated by the songs (composed by Gowra Hari, Anudeep Dev, and Krishna Saurabh). Saibabu Talari's editing is good.
From the beginning, 'HanuMan' has been touted to be the first edition of the PVCU (Prasanth Varma Cinematic Universe). But what sounds better is this description: Telugu cinema's first homegrown superhero movie.
Feelings of reverence and awe are generated here and there. While the visuals could have been more evocative, the emotional impact could also have been more forceful. The screenplay by Scriptsville is half-baked at times, falling back on the 1990s village movies template.
In anticipation of the second part ('Jai Hanuman', to be released next year), certain fantastical elements have been consciously held back. There is no ascension in the hero's characterization even after he acquires superhuman strengths after a sudden turn of events. Even in the second half, he is seen joking around in some scenes.
The behaviour of the bit characters is far from believable. When Hanumanthu miraculously lifts a hill, the villagers are excited as if they are watching a sporting performance in a stadium. Why are they not puzzled? Why are they not awed? The presence of divinity is registered by the audience but not by the characters in the film. This is where 'HanuMan' differs from the Kodi Ramakrishna and the 'Kantara'-type movie-making. In films like 'Devi Putrudu' and 'Kantara', the goosebump moments are germinated not just by the VFX but also through entirely believable reactions of the characters.
Some comedy portions are weak as well. If they work, it is because of the film's desperation to satisfy children. The self-image of 'HanuMan' is not that of a serious superhero movie but a comedy entertainer (barring the final 25 minutes or so).
'HanuMan' is far from being the earnest outing it was intended to be. In a lot of ways, it is a regular, template-driven rural action entertainer in the guise of a superhuman, fantastical drama. Yet, it is worth a watch because of some highs. On the technical front, the efforts are appreciable.