When a wicked businessman JP (Jayaram) makes a smart-sounding statement, a character asks him if he is related to noted writer and director Trivikram Srinivas. This is perhaps the closest that the makers of Dhamaka come to acknowledging the influence of Trivikram Srinivas’ films, especially Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. The presence of actors Jayaram and Sachin Khedekar heightens that hangover. Director Trinadha Rao Nakkina who shares the writing credits with Prasanna Kumar Bezawada presents a story that involves two families — one middle-class and one uber-rich business family — and places Ravi Teja in both of them, portraying opposite personalities to fit into the ‘mass’ and ‘class’ mould.
The film doesn’t take itself seriously and neither should we. It is content with showcasing an energetic Ravi Teja in two avatars — businessman Anand and a job-seeking Swami. At the fag end of 2022, a time when we look back and take stock of newer narratives in Telugu cinema, Dhamaka is proof that a section of filmmakers is content serving the same old wine in the same old bottle.
Nanda Gopal Chakravarthy (Sachin Khedekar) announces to the world that change is in order for his business empire since his days are numbered. JP (Jayaram), a business shark, is waiting to pounce on him. The actor’s introduction scene where he has to display a turnaround doesn’t come as a surprise at all given how weakly it is written.
The only sliver of imaginative writing (we can call it that if we set the bar really low) comes in the form of Ravi Teja’s dual portrayals. Swami takes rowdies to task as his parents (Tanikella Bharani and Tulasi) watch gleefully over a video call, and his first meeting with his sister’s friend Pranavi (Sree Leela) is cringe-inducing. It is a damsel-in-distress situation. There is a reason why she seeks his help and why she addressed him a certain way. But Swami demands that she reconsiders how she addressed him and instead sends him a few flirtatious messages if he has to save her. One can argue that Swami’s sensibilities may not be woke or extremely gender sensitive. But look back at this scene after a crucial pre-intermission reveal and it just seems out of character. The age difference between Ravi Teja and Sri Leela shows and sticks out like a sore thumb. This isn’t the first Telugu film and certainly not the last where an established male actor romances someone half his age, but it is glaring.
Cast: Ravi Teja, Sree Leela, Rao Ramesh, Jayaram
Direction: Trinadha Rao Nakkina
Music: Bheema Ceciroelo
A good portion of the first half is devoted to delineating the difference between Swami and Anand. Pranavi discovers that she likes both Swami and Anand and her mother (Rajshri Nair) asks her to interact with both of them and then make up her mind. Her father (Rao Ramesh), of course, will have none of it.
Some of the scenes in this absurd-comedy segment do entertain, especially the exchanges between Rao Ramesh and his driver, essayed by Hyper Aadhi who gets the wittiest lines in the film. There is also a fun take on Chiranjeevi’s Indra, in Ravi Teja style. These comic portions and the pre-intermission segment save the film from becoming a complete lacklustre mess.
But the later portions get progressively boring. The prolonged corporate war portions required incisive writing to showcase business strategies and one-upmanship. We get none of those. Jayaram is reduced to a caricaturish antagonist and we can see from a mile who else could be a wolf in a sheep’s clothing.
The audiences are also not expected to ask obvious questions. For instance, why does Sachin Khedekar, who is presented as the head of a business empire with no skeletons in his closet, never use his clout to get police or political muscle to safeguard himself? The film also uses done-to-death tropes involving the safety of the hero’s family members. Though there is a lot at stake, he never takes precautions.
There are also lame ‘punch’ lines – ‘If I see a villain in you, you will see a hero in me’, ‘If you try to be a hero, you will see a wild villain in me’…
At one point when Ravi Teja takes on baddies, he questions the presence of nepotism in rowdyism and asserts that he is self-made. Point noted. But next time, maybe he can choose a better script. Dhamaka has a few entertaining scenes and is watchable compared to his recent films. But that is no yardstick to celebrate.