If I were a Britisher I’d take very strong exception to the way the ex-colonists are portrayed in Indian cinema. Barking caricatures, they look and behave like louts on a savage spree in tight red uniforms. In Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, whose ambitious trailer was out this week, a Gora is seen hurling a brown kid into a fire. Tch tch.
As per the formula, the Britishers as the traditional formalistic foes, snarling shouting and torturing the poor desh bhakts, until the messianic super-hero rises from the ashes, emerges from the smoke to teach those gora goondas—how dare they behave like cheap villains?—a lesson they wouldn’t forget.
This, in summation, is the backdrop and frontal aspirations of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. Chiranjeevi plays the title role. He jumps, fights threatens and offers ultimatums to the Gora Log.
“Get Out Of my Motherland.”
This is something Indians in the US get to hear a lot these days. Trump has found an unlikely ally in the year 1827. To his credit Chiranjeevi seems to have fun with his part. He reminds me more of Robin Hood than Mangal Pandey which is not a bad thing in a film that reduces the pitfalls of colonization to a revenge formula.
Amitabh Bachchan’s voice over is as usual, very impressive. Decades ago in Manmohan Desai’s Mard he has done what Chiranjeevi is seen doing. ‘Mard’ the Bachchan took on the Gora Log, represented by one Caucasian actor named Bob Cristo (actor Sanjay Khan’s bodyguard) who always played the evil white character in Hindi films about pre-Partition hijinks like Manoj Kumar’s Kranti and Desai’s Mard.
And if they needed a British officer with more class, it was Tom Alter. I am not sure of where the British baddies in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy come from. But their accents seem suspiciously Hyderabadi.
Maybe after the foreign actors shot, the producers ran out of budget and got locals to dub.
From the dazzle and oomph (two lovely ladies Tamannaah and Nayanthara lusting after our freedom-fighting superhero) it seems unlikely that Sye Raa Narasimha Rao means serious business. This is more about history than hysteria, more Baahubali than Junoon. Which is good. Who remembers Shyam Benegal’s Junoon?