Understated rural comedies were very much in vogue in the times of Jandhyala and Vamsy, but post their era, not many filmmakers have staked a claim for that space with much success. Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya, the remake of Malayalam film Maheshinte Prathikaram, marks a welcome return of the genre in Telugu cinema in the able hands of filmmaker Venkatesh Maha, who helmed C/O Kancherapalem previously. A simple story of a timid protagonist trying to avenge an act of public humiliation, the film is set against the picturesque backdrop of Araku, which is quite a sight for sore eyes. Uma Maheshwara… feels like a welcoming stroll on a wintery morning. It is a well-written film that’s pure at heart with many a memorable character, charming performances that leave a deep-rooted impact.
The film revolves around Uma Maheshwara Rao, the owner of a modest photo studio in the sleepy town, living by his ageing father Manohara Rao. His worldview remains limited and his only ambition is to become one with the love of his life, his childhood sweetheart Swathi. His world comes down crashing when she moves on with an NRI man. Adding more insult to injury, he is emasculated in public by a small-time ruffian Jognath, while trying to play peacemaker in a tussle concerning his aide Babji (who runs a bone-setting centre near his studio). The public humiliation gets him thinking about an act of vengeance. He gears up for it and in the meanwhile, finds love again. Little does he know the complications that are to arise ahead.
Rural backdrops are often enriched by the dialogue writing and the quirks of its many characters and Uma Maheshwara.. builds its rustic flavour in the premise so beautifully. Babji, the owner of the bone setting centre, played by veteran actor Naresh, is good at heart and yet comes across as a man full of sarcasm. His conversations with his daughter Mithila and Suhas, (his small-time assistant donning an unconventional hairdo) are a hoot. Manohara Rao, the protagonist’s father, is a level-headed man of few words and offers hope to his son in the hour of need. And there is an interesting take on fan rivalries among the residents of the village; there are silly arguments about land deals, gossips, but the heart of the film lies in the oddities of the characters. Venkatesh Maha creates a colourful world that you would want to inhabit.
Uma Maheshwara… balances its semi-realistic treatment with enough tact. The film may be about an act of revenge, but the situations leading to that event are crafted with enough realism and humour. The romance element isn’t the film’s strength and could have been correlated to the plot with better precision. In a cinematic universe full of narcissistic male leads punching above their weight, it’s heartening to watch Uma Maheshwara Rao go about his life with a modestness and decency that’s hard to find these days. The path of the film in the second hour leading to the protagonist’s act of revenge is slightly rocky; his physical transformation to beat up the ruffian doesn’t appear serious, the romantic track feels too sudden and convenient. The climax gives the impetus the film richly deserved, though the action choreography lacks the intensity one expected it to have.
Satyadev, continuing his dream run with a gamut of varied characters in the OTT space, makes the most of a delightful underdog character. Veteran actor Naresh and Suhas give a solid foundation to the narrative with their superb performances and witty dialogue delivery. The female leads Hari Chandana and Roopa Koduvayur are charming but have little to do; the former fares better than the other. Malayalam actor Raghavan and Ravindra Vijay deliver a solid impact with their immersive screen presence. Bijibal’s music adds another emotional layer to the storytelling and the sound designer Nagarjuna Thallapalli’s work would have been recognised more had the film released in theatres. The film has something for everyone and is ideal for family viewing. Those who have and haven’t watched the Malayalam original too are sure to be impressed. Go for this one.
(The film is streaming on Netflix)