Climate change can be a dry, dull subject for a mainstream film. Come to think of it, how exciting can it be to talk about a minister who has to attend a United Nations summit and the issue of Third World nations being used as dump yards for biohazard waste? Unless, of course, there is a ruthless tycoon who will not hesitate to kill to safeguard his business interests. Director Praveen Sattaru, who shares the writing credits with Abhijeet Poondla for Gandeevadhari Arjuna, takes a thriller route to discuss carbon footprint and climate change. The writers give the story’s hero, Arjun (Varun Tej), more than professional reasons to fight for a larger cause. Does it work? Yes and no.
Gandeevadhari Arjuna (Telugu)
Cast: Varun Tej, Sakshi Vaidya, Vinay Rai, Nassar
Direction: Praveen Sattaru
Storyline: A combat officer is tasked with the security of an environmental minister attending a UN summit; there is also a personal reason to fight against climate change and biohazard waste.
Music: Mickey J. Meyer
The good things first. Gandeevadhari Arjuna is decidedly slick, focussed and does not waste time with needless frills. If there is a love story, it is snugly woven into the plot to explain the tension between the two characters and their bittersweet past. If there is a past story of abuse, it is precisely explained without being milked for sympathy. The actors shown as trained combat professionals look like they mean business and are fit enough for their jobs. As the story moves between several locations, from a harbour in Andhra Pradesh to Wembley in the UK, Dehradun to Mussoorie and other places, cinematographers G. Mukesh and Amol Rathod deftly use the locations to complement the mood of the narrative without opting for touristy presentations. Mickey J Meyer’s music fits the narrative like a glove without seeking attention. There’s also a lot of art in the background of the high-column mansions the minister goes to.
However, a thriller drama needs a lot more than all this. The initial portions establish the imminent threat to some of the characters. Aditya Rajbahadur (Nassar), the minister for environment and climate change, has to duck and run for cover after goons target him and an environment research student (Roshni Prakash) who has crucial information about biohazard waste. After a turn of events, Arjun is tasked with the minister’s security.
As though the task at hand is not tough enough, Arjun has to look past his bitter past with Ira (Sakshi Vaidya), who now works with the minister. There is also the minister’s daughter, Priya (Vimala Raman) who has a traumatic past and a strained relationship with her father.
An environmental science researcher and a minister can think of and fight for the larger good since it is their line of work. But to give the protagonist an added sense of purpose, the writers fall back on one of the most tried and tested tropes — of an ailing family member who is a victim of biohazard waste. This is just the beginning of the reliance on familiar tropes.
Gandeevadhari Arjuna moves from one action segment to another, establishing Arjun as an officer capable of being two steps ahead of the opponent to protect his boss. In one of the early scenes, he tells his Russian boss that he is quitting, after seeing him abuse a woman. He declares this after saving him from his opponents. Elsewhere, we see another character who is a victim of abuse and years later, shuddering at the sight of the perpetrator. The emotional scars are hard to heal. This undercurrent of standing against abuse could have made a better impact had the narrative used it better.
Even in the action segments, the initial promise fizzles by and by. There is a well-thought-out sequence of an escape from a mansion, thanks to Arjun’s foresight. This sharpness also comes to the fore later in the film when Arjun has to hoodwink a few officers.
However, the narrative does not give this character enough smart moments to play with. For instance, he does not foresee that the family members of the minister could be soft targets. The antagonist – Ranveer (Vinay Rai) — targeting the minister’s family is a staid trope. The underlying personal story isn’t enough to shake off deja vu.
Things look up briefly when Ajit Chandra (Narain) is introduced as another officer in the ring, but this happiness is short-lived. His character does not have enough to do. Abhinav Gomatam is brought in as the protagonist’s friend who can help with his mission and can deliver a few laughs, but there is nothing innovative here as well.
After a point, the film plods along in the battle between Arjun and the unidimensional antagonists, Ranveer and Devender Singh (Ravi Varma). The final segment with its over-stretched UN summit outlives its welcome.
On the brighter side, Varun Tej fits the bill of a no-nonsense combat officer and executes his part with the required tenacity and finesse. Though his character does not get enough scope for emotional portrayal, he is convincing in expressing anguish and helplessness in a brief scene of grieving. Sakshi Vaidya has a credible screen presence and carries her part with poise. Nassar is dependable, as always.
Watching Gandeevadhari Arjuna is like being privy to a polished mission that never soars. It is a well-intended thriller drama that could have benefited from smarter writing. The film is a better thriller drama than Praveen Sattaru’s previous one, The Ghost, but his PSV Garuda Vega remains miles ahead.
Gandeevadhari Arjuna is currently running in theatres