Firstly, the movie itself is based on a very well known Kakatiya queen called Rudramadevi covered in Andhra Pradesh (erstwhile) state text books. I haven’t read the story, so I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of this film. But, it’s evident that the director has taken huge liberty in retelling it on the Telugu celluloid.
The story is pretty straight forward and is told that way – linearly (unlike Bahubali)… The king of Orugallu (current Warangal) called Ganapatideva, wants a boy to both succeed him as the king as well as keep the scheming ministers and chieftains at bay. With a girl being born, he is forced to introduce her as a son – Rudradeva – on the advice of his Prime Minister, Shivadevaiah. Rudradeva is groomed as a boy, sword-fight and everything, and seems to be excelling at it, until one day, she realises she is a girl! She decides to play along for a number of years and rules the kingdom as co-regent to her father, until her true identity as a woman has to be revealed as a political ploy to preempt scheming courtiers. She is then scorned by her subjects and citizens for some time and finally recalled to defend them in one final battle against Orugallu’s chief nemesis, the king of Devagiri.
While unfolding this primary plot, the director takes a few side tracks – a love story between Rudramadevi and her childhood friend Chalukya Veerabhadra; one with another childhood friend, a robin-hood-ish Gona Ganna Reddy; another one with Mukhtamba, who Rudradeva ends up marrying; and finally one with Marco Polo narrating the story to some Italian king!
Well, that’s the 158 minute long movie. Coming at the heels of Bahubali, with a similar theme, two of the same stars and similar high production value and budget claims, the comparisons are inevitable. Sorry to say, this movie falls flat before the former.
But before I go into its negatives, there are a few things which work in its favour. Almost. The 3D is fairly good and this is probably because it was shot in 3D. All scenes and especially the forests have a clarity in depth that I haven’t seen since Avatar. This is great considering that the last two big budget Hollywood movies I saw in 3D – The Martian and Everest – were dark and left me with a niggling headache after 2 hours. The next thing which works are the animated storyboards that are used in between to quickly move the story along. And, the last thing, that works, is the frantic narrative and dialogues especially in the first half. There are a few noteworthy performances as well. For me, Prakash Raj as the Prime Minister Shivadevaiah stood out ahead of Anushka (Rudradeva, Rudramadevi) and Allu Arjun (Gona Ganna Reddy).
Apart from the above, everything else is a big let down…
- VFX: The first scene starts (sailing ships over a river / sea) with absolutely bad CG. It gets a little better in between. The elephant fight is comical but passable. And then, it goes downhill as the movie progresses to end with a very comical CG battle. I was laughing seeing the funnily rendered and huge battle formations turn into a handful of people to surround the warrior queen. I guess we have to define something called the law of conservation of people and then teach it to the VFX guys who worked on this movie. The matte painting / backgrounds are equally bad. Most of the time, you feel that the set and foreground are very high up. Overall the VFX in the entire movie is very cartoon-ish and I guess the producers ran out of money and patience towards the end.
- Fights: Like all Telugu movies of late, this one has gravity defying action. Some jumps are comical. You can make out the actors are being pulled or waiting to be pulled and sometimes they are just hanging from and holding the digitally erased wires.
- Makeup: Like the first scene of the VFX, the makeup too starts on a wrong note. Almost all supporting cast have patchy makeup. The Italian king with a noticeable stick-on beard right at the beginning makes you question the person in charge of this department as soon as the movie starts.
- Props and Costumes: I thought these were fairly okay till half way into the movie, I noticed a compound bow being used. Weapons other than swords are also bad, I wondered if the spheres used in the final battle scenes could actually kill some one. Towards the end, the heroine uses golden gloves that look very suspiciously like gym ones! Then there are the micro mini saris or saris with thigh high splits in songs. All in all, a very bad job by this department as well.
- Sets & Supporting cast: I counted a handful of sets and I guess the whole movie had no more than 15 of them, 20 at best. Every 5 minutes, these sets would repeat. The same goes for the extras. I mean you notice the same guy playing the vocal citizen a dozen times through the movie!
- Continuity: I am sure there were many, but I noticed a beefed up Rana Daggubati at the beginning of the movie turn into a lean one towards the end.
- 2nd Half: The first half had a couple of sloppy scenes, the entire second half is a big one. I read some of the other reviewers state this and was wondering about it after the first half. The second half was pretty much what the reviewers wrote about.
- Subtitling: I have to end on this one. From whatever little I read of them, I thought they did a great job with the subtitling and translation. The problem is that if you try to read the subtitles, you don’t notice anything in the rest of the scene / frame. I am not sure if it was the problem of the 3D or my being seated in the front half of the theater. But, never did I realise that proper subtitling is an art in itself. You either find it intrusive like in the case of Bahubali or taking away the focus like in the case of this movie.
To summarise, I would give it a 2/5 stars. The makers had the right intention but goofed up big time on the delivery.