Pushpa: The Rise REVIEW: A high-stakes masala story aided by Allu Arjun's immense calibre
'Pushpa: The Rise' needed smarter writing for sure. But it's still one of the most engaging mass masala films in recent times.
Title: Pushpa: The Rise
Cast: Allu Arjun, Sunil, Ajay Ghosh, Rashmika & others
Director: Sukumar B
Run-Time: 179 minutes
'Pushpa: The Rise' is what happens when a writer wonders what would happen after cardboard villains are eliminated by the overpowering hero. The possible scenario could be riveting if a powerful rival emerges from the system. It's this thought that drives the climax of the film under review. Fahadh Faasil's cop character enters the fray after Pushpa Raj (Allu Arjun) has neutered all his rivals, at least for the time being. An edgy conversation between the two animates the final act of the nearly 3-hour tale.
Pushpa Raj rises from the ranks of a lorry driver working for a smuggling syndicate. His smartness lies in being a step ahead of his bosses more than the rivals. He scares the daylights out of a mercurial cop (played by Shatru) and goes on to shock the seasoned players inside and outside the system. He passes the loyalty test against all odds. He woos Srivalli (Rashmika Mandanna) at leisure.
The story is set in the Seshachalam jungles of the Chittoor of the late 1990s. Hundreds of tonnes of red sanders logs are smuggled out of the country by a bunch of rogues guided by the insurmountable Pushpa Raj. The visuals are made special by the art directors (S Rama Krishna and Monica Niggotre) and cinematographer Mirosław Kuba Brożek's talent.
For a film of this majestic a scale, the action blocks are not booming and compelling enough. The Ram-Laxman duo and Peter Heins might have reserved the best ideas for the second part ('Pushpa: The Rule', to be made next year). For now, we have to make do with Allu Arjun's swag. His style and unsophisticated demeanour, his carefree mien and idiosyncratic characterization animate the action portions.
Sunil's Mangalam Srinu is remembered because of what his egoistic wife (Anasuya Bharadwaj) does. Ajay Ghosh's Konda Reddy is fleshed out, unlike the routine villainy of Dhananjaya's Jolly Reddy. If you watch the movie with the awareness that it's not a complete story (the second part is on the cards), the ordinariness of a Mangalam Srinu might not seem to be a huge problem. But if you see the film as a standalone outing, the situations stemming from the plot don't seem outstanding.
Even so, the second half has interesting plot points. The romantic track actually comes into its own here. 'Ey Bidda' is interspersed with a few dialogues.
Director Sukumar should have made Pushpa Raj's rise look more convincing and edgy. In the first act, he dictates the moves of his fellow coolies. How does he manage to wield the clout? We don't get an answer. Even the ideas that he comes up with to help the syndicate pull the wool over the cops' eyes are not novel. Those in the system and those opposed to Pushpa Raj are either humiliating or impulsive and thoughtless.
'Pushpa: The Rise' needed smarter writing for sure. But it's still one of the most engaging mass masala films in recent times. Devi Sri Prasad's superb songs hit the ball out of the park.
Check out the trailer of the film below: