Updated: February 26, 2022 8:15:18 am
Tollywood superstar Pawan Kalyan made a movie on consent, Vakeel Saab, in 2020, which was a remake of Hindi movie Pink. Instead of exploring society’s poor understanding of consent and the dehumanizing effects of such ignorance, Vakeel Saab became a platform for Pawan to vent out his frustration over his electoral defeat in the Telugu states. At the end of the movie, Pawan’s character finally succumbs to the people’s love and decides to spend his life in their service. The issue of consent took a backseat as Vakeel Saab comes to terms with people’s betrayal, and finds it in himself to forgive them.
Pawan had shoehorned all the complexities of Pink’s themes and made it all about himself. The main message that Vakeel Saab propagated was not “no means no.” Instead, it wanted people to understand that as long as Pawan was in power, good people won’t come to any harm. He has done it again with Bheemla Nayak.
Bheemla Nayak is the remake of Ayyappanum Koshiyum, written and directed by late filmmaker Sachy. The movie is about an ex-serviceman, Koshy Kurien, who finds it difficult to adjust to civilian life and obey the rules and regulations of society. Koshy wears his massive ego on his sleeve, given the fact that his phone has contacts of some very powerful people, who can help him out of any situation. And when a sub-inspector, Ayyappan Nair, manhandles him, Koshy vows to make him pay.
At one point it becomes the ultimate test of nerves between Ayyappan Nair and Koshy. One of them needs to yield, or die. There is a third solution, one of them should take responsibility, swallow the pride, learn a lesson or two and refuse to give in to his primal urges. Ayyappanum Koshiyum beautifully dealt with the different strands of the conflict, including a father’s role in shaping his son’s idea of a real man. There were also cultural, social and political representation of people from different sections of the society, as well as the unmissable portrayal of the geography of Attappadi. Its lush landscape, and its people’s way of life became a character in itself. Perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why the movie was so grounded in the first place.
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In Bheemla Nayak, we get no sense of the place where the story plays out. The film is a very shallow reading of the text of Ayyappanum Koshiyum. The Malayalam original was more than an ego clash between two men. It was about various communities, cultures, social and moral codes, toxic households, and other things that contributed to the conflict between Ayyappan and Koshy.
The Telugu remake, however, is all about one man and one man only- Bheemla Nayak aka Pawan Kalyan. And who’s Bheemla Nayak? The film doesn’t even answer that fully. There is a backstory for Bheemla Nayak and it doesn’t tell much about him. The flashback only demonstrates that Bheemla Nayak means business. He is the saviour of the poor, women and children, and a nightmare to bad men. In the aforementioned scene, we see Bheemla Nayak pluck a fully grown man’s arms from his shoulder socket with his bare hands as if it’s a strand of hair.
This film doesn’t want the audience to separate Pawan from Bheemla Nayak. There was a strong element of curiosity in the Malayalam film as we didn’t know what Ayyappan Nair was capable of. How far will he go to get his vengeance? Or what can an old, disgracefully suspended cop do against a young, wealthy and outrageously cocky man, who is on a first name basis with powerful men? And that’s why the scene where Ayyappan Nair gives a demo to Koshy of his physical prowess, stands out and elevates the movie to the next level. There is no extravagant action in the scene. It is just Ayyappan engaging in a one-to-one fistfight.
That transformation wouldn’t have struck a chord if the filmmakers had foreshadowed what he was capable of physically, like director Saagar K Chandra and screenplay writer Trivikram Srinivas do in Bheemla Nayak. The unwillingness of the Telugu filmmakers to separate Pawan’s stardom from his character is what forces them to come up with such extreme image of violence, to create some sort of shock value.
The climax portion especially is very melodramatic and Rana Daggubati’s Daniel Shekar is deprived of the opportunity at redemption, which was allowed to Koshy in Ayyappanum Koshiyum. The filmmakers must have thought it was blasphemous to let Daniel be the bigger man. In a Pawan Kalyan movie, only Pawan Kalayan gets to be magnanimous.
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