Perfect casting. Brilliant performances. Inspired direction. Deceptively simple but fiendishly clever script. Tight editing. Good thrills. Engaging romance. Delightful music. Witty dances. Emotionally satisfying. AND deliciously funny!
Best of all?
"Maryada Ramanna" is a straightforward (but amazingly effective!) cross-cultural adaptation of a 1923 silent movie classic: Buster Keaton's "Our Hospitality".
In place of the notorious Hatfield-McCoy feud in the 19th century U.S. skewered by Buster Keaton's movie, "Maryada Ramanna" takes us to India's modern-day Rayalaseema district, infamous for its centuries-old legacy of deadly 'factionalism'. But Rayalaseema, like the American 'Old South', is also famous for its culture of gracious hospitality toward guests. And therein lies the tale ... .
A young man named Ramu (Sunil) has grown up in the city, innocently unaware of having been orphaned in infancy through a family dispute-of-honour in his ancestral village. So when he learns he has inherited land in that far-off village, he immediately sets off to claim it – not knowing that his cousins have sworn to kill his entire family. On the train Ramu befriends a fellow traveller, an artistic young woman named Aparna (Saloni Aswani) whose family belittles her gift. They are accidentally separated when the train arrives at the village. But when the unsuspecting Ramu asks for help with selling off his inherited property, he is directed to the local zamindar Ramineedu (Nagineedu) who graciously invites Ramu to his home for lunch before settling their business. Ramu happily discovers that his train-friend Aparna is Ramineedu's daughter. But only after Ramu is inside the house does Ramineedu discover that Ramu is, in fact, THE very man he and his two enormous bloodthirsty sons – Mallasuri (Supreet) and Baireddy (Venugopal) – have sworn to kill. However, their tradition of hospitality does not permit them to kill any enemy so long as he is inside their home. How will Ramineedu, Mallasuri, and Baireddy scheme to get Ramu outside the house? How will Ramu scheme to stay inside? Will Aparna help her family, or help her friend? How will ALL of us get out of this one! :-)
Ace director S. S. Rajamouli is best known for mega-hyped and epic-scale dramas such as "Chatrapathi" (2005) and "Magadheera" (2009), the latter reportedly the highest budget and highest grossing movie yet made in the Telugu industry. But it is this small budget, comparatively low-profile yet equally successful "Maryada Ramanna" that demonstrates Mr Rajamouli's real genius as both writer and director.
Casting extremely talented but relatively unknown actors was a calculated risk that paid off big time for Mr Rajamouli in this project. "Maryada Ramanna" was a film without a name 'star' in the traditional industry sense. Film newcomer Nagineedu deservedly cleaned up Best Villain awards as the loving-father/evil-avenger Ramineedu. The physically enormous classic bad guys, Supreet and Venugopal, had lots of fun as Aparna's angry brothers. Saloni Aswani was fresh, subtle, diverse, glowingly beautiful, and completely charming as Aparna; Saloni has more range and brings 'much more to the table' than most actresses in South and deserves more opportunities as Lead Heroine.
But Sunil? What a revelation!
For a man making only his second start as 'Hero' (after more than 100 movies typecast as the 'Hero's Fat Friend', always a comic supporting character), all I can say is: Why on earth did no one give him a chance before this?
As the hapless – but not helpless! – hero Ramu, Sunil proves himself a genuinely charming romantic lead, projecting excellent chemistry with his co-star Saloni and engaging the audience fully into the dramatic challenges faced by his character. Shed of his usual extra flesh, Sunil proves a surprisingly handsome hero, too. And a positively brilliant dancer. Yet with the peculiarly demanding requirements of this inherently-comic-but-must-be-played-straight role, Sunil's years of perfect comedy timing enabled a performance no one else currently alive, perhaps, could have carried off so deliciously.
'The Great Stone Face' himself – Buster Keaton – must be smiling in Heaven, at "Maryada Ramanna".