Vedam (meaning "Chant"; it's the singular form of Vedas) has a somewhat unusual structure for a commercial Telugu film: it interweaves the stories of five different protagonists that don't interact much until they converge at the climax. The rights-holders have put it on youtube with subs, and I will try to leave a fuller review later, but wanted to get this out there:
Vivek (Manoj Manchu) is a spoiled young man from an upper middle class family of war heroes, taking a road trip from Bangalore to Hyderabad with his garage band to give a performance. Raheemuddin Qureshi (Manoj Bajpai) is a lower middle class Muslim in Hyderabad, who is trying to leave the country with his wife due to persecution by Hindu extremists. Cable Raju (Allu Arjun) is a young working class man trying to con and hustle his way into a marriage with a rich woman to assure his future. Saroja (Anushka Shetty) is a prostitute in Amalapuram who wants to escape from her pimp and start over as an independent operator in Hyderabad, with her hijra friend Karpooram. Ramaluu (Nagayaa) is an elderly, impoverished weaver in the countryside, who travels to Hyderabad with his widowed daughter-in-law to try to find some way of paying for his math prodigy grandson's education. Their stories interweave and occasionally connect before converging at a hospital in Hyderabad, just in time to witness a terrorist attack...
Vedam is a somewhat unconventional film in a number of ways, not just in terms of plot. The cinematography and production design uses color and camera angles to inobtrusively tie each main character to an element (Vivek=Air, Raju=Sky, Saroja=Water, Qureshi=Fire, Ramaluu=Earth). The song picturizations are brief and simple yet effective. Allu Arjun and Manoj Manchu are probably the most major stars in the cast, yet they are playing decidedly anti-heroic characters for the most part. Anushka Shetty's and Manoj Bajpai's characters are precisely the kind of people who get the short end of the stick in most commercial Indian films, and yet they are arguably the most sympathetic people in the film, and get fairly positive endings. Nagayaa, the gentleman playing Ramaluu was an elderly, impoverished man that the director saw on the streets and cast on impulse. Nagayaa had acted in dramas at school, but never as an adult. The film portrays Hindu and Muslim extremism as something of a vicious cycle, with neither side being totally innocent victims and no one being singled out as having "started it" in the broader historical context. It says pretty much the same things about human nature, society and religion that most Indian films seem to, but it says them with more dignity and style than most. It's well-made, it's engrossing, it's even fairly entertaining, although not in the way that a normal commercial Telugu film would be (hero dancing his butt off in between teasing the heroine and wire-fuing baddies to death).
Failings? The overwrought, overly mannered performance of Padma as Ramaluu's daughter-in-law makes a stark contrast to Nagayaa's naturalism, and her character is a one-note, self-sacrificing mother; Allu's and ManojM's characters can be hard to take at times; while ManojB's and Anushka's characters are frustratingly stubborn and hot-headed. Basically it's a well-made and well-intentioned movie that's a bit slow in spots and doesn't let you get too close to any of the characters.
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