Sadly, unlike the majority of Hindi and Tamil films, Telugu films still tend to be released overseas without English subtitles. Then again, most typical Telugu masala films can be watching without subtitles and still more-or-less understood. However, 1 (Nenokkadine) is not a typical masala film. On the one hand, this is good. Good for Sukumar for trying something a little different (as he also did with Arya 2), and good for Mahesh Babu for supporting him. On the other hand, this is not so good for non-Telugu fans watching the film without subtitles and trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
1 (Nenokkadine) is basically a psychological thriller. Mahesh Babu plays Gautam, an orphan who is tormented by memories he doubts are true, and sees people he doubts are real. As a result, he is extremely isolated. He’s also a rockstar, which I didn’t think was particularly realistic given the rest of his characterization, but I guess they wanted an excuse to give him a rocking hero’s introduction song. There is a mystery in Gautam’s childhood, and over the course of the film he sets about unravelling it, in the process of which he discovers why he thinks his mind has been playing tricks on him. Solving the mystery takes him from Hyderabad to Goa, and from there to London and Belfast. At the end of the film it was fairly clear to me what the villain wanted from Gautam, but it was unclear why he thought continuing to mess with Gautam’s head was going to help him obtain it.
There is a romantic subplot, featuring Kriti Sanon as journalist Sameera. She also messes with Gautam’s head by pretending to be two different people for awhile. Again, I have no idea what she was trying to accomplish with this strategy. It was hard to believe that Gautam would fall in love with her despite this behaviour, although I suppose she was the only person to tell him that she believed what he was seeing/remembering was real. This is the second Mahesh Babu movie in a row I’ve seen (since I haven’t yet watched Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu) in which he drugs the heroine. In 1 (Nenokkadine) Gautam buys a blue liquid at a rave in Goa and forces it down Sameera’s throat, rendering her unconscious. And if I recall correctly in Businessman Mahesh Babu’s character chloroforms Kajal Agarwal’s character. Obviously, this is disturbing, and bad behaviour modelling for the youth of Andra Pradesh. Also, though, directors and screenwriters, if your heroine is so obnoxious that the hero feels he needs to knock her out to get some damn peace and quiet, then maybe you should rethink your characterization of the heroine. I dunno, just a thought.
The production values of the film are very high. 1 (Nenokkadine) might be the best-looking Telugu film I’ve ever seen. The cinematography and editing are excellent. The background music is very good, as are the clothes, with maybe one exception (more about the clothes in a minute). As I said, it’s good that Sukumar is trying something different with a psychological thriller, and that too with no separate comedy track, rather than the usual “massy” masala entertainer. But in my opinion he didn’t quite go far enough. The characterizations of Gautam and Sameera could have been more realistic, as I’ve mentioned. The villain and the villain’s lair are pretty kitschy. The movie also feels very long, especially if you’re watching it without subtitles, clocking in at around two hours and forty-five minutes. And there are some really ridiculous action sequences, especially one involving the afore-mentioned unconsious Sameera. But I guess Indian directors still can’t afford Christopher Nolan-quality action scenes to go along with their Christopher Nolan-inspired stories.
[Note: the following paragraph contains unabashed Mahesh Babu fangirling. Feel free to skip.]
But what I really want to talk about is how totally smoking hot Mahesh Babu looks in 1 (Nenokkadine). He’s clearly been hitting the gym and it shows. His shoulders are broad, his waist is narrow, and his arms and legs are muscular. Mahesh Babu is famous/infamous for being a modest dresser – in previous films he has always worn at least two layers of shirts, and sometimes three or more layers, with a scarf thrown in for good measure. (I don’t know whether he’s famous for this among his wider fans, or just those of us who used to frequent a certain online Bollywood forum.) In 1 (Nenokkadine) he mostly wears two layers of shirts, but they are closer-fitting than usual and the sleeves are often rolled up so you can see his lovely forearms. In addition, though, during the Goa portion of the film he wears a loose-fitting tank top that provides an unobstructed view of his arms and the top and sides of his chest. I was almost moved to tears. Whoever did his clothes for the film deserves a big kiss. Other highlights include a white button-down shirt (with no extra layers!), and a really nice leather jacket and wool coat in the London/Belfast portions. Finally, and most importantly – there was some talk back in the spring that Mahesh would take his shirt off for the first time in this film. And indeed, after intermission there is a gratuitous shower scene (or maybe not that gratuitous, I guess it’s reasonable that after being attacked on the streets of London you’d want a hot shower). Mahesh still manages to retain some modesty, however, appearing shirtless from the side and from the back but never from the front. Perhaps something to look forward to in his next film?
Anyway, if you’ve watched 1 (Nenokkadine) I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, especially any insights into the plot!
(All images, except the first, via tollywood-by-lohit.tumblr.com)