james ends like most commercial movies, with the hero winning and the bad guys losing. then skip to the post-credits, where we usually get a glimpse of the making of the movie. That happens here too, but the screen splits to make room for the late Puneeth Rajkumar’s accolades, the things that supposedly make him the superstar he was/is.
go back to the making video and you’ll see a warm rajkumar, always trying to make the people around him feel comfortable. There can be many reasons for someone to be famous, but if you are trying to understand how and why a star, an outsider, is loved as he is, you need look no further than the images of rajkumar, with a smile glued on. in his face.
the film is about santosh [rajkumar], a guy who runs a security company. He is called in to protect Vijay Gayakwad [Srikanth], a drug lord, from an imminent threat from the other drug lords, one of whom is played by Sarath Kumar. he has a budding affair with vijay’s sister nisha gayakwad [priya anand] but she is neither here nor there. The interval block reveals an interesting backstory, and the rest of the film is about who Santosh is and what motivates him to do what he does.
As for the writing, there is no originality in it. it feels like a story we’ve seen before, and probably have. the dialogues in the first minutes of the film are exclusively expository. you know how in a masala movie, the hero gets multiple introductions. here, even the villains get multiple introductions. I can appreciate a star whose ego suits equal treatment, but falls behind after a point.
despite the shock, he is never arrogant, but obedient. even when he tells the girl he’s been manipulating to shut up, you find it hard not to like him because he doesn’t seem like a guy who would do that unless there’s a reason. he person goes a long way with a superstar, and this man had it in the pounds. Priya Anand’s love interest is not interestingly written, so it hardly registers her presence. on the other hand, srikanth is excellent and quite stylish too, like the generic baddie.
Under other circumstances, a better film could have been made. in fact, the potential for a better one is evident in the treatment of the second half. it’s more focused and calmer, with many genuinely memorable scenes. the friendship angle works too. the film is not only impressively shot and edited, but also produced. most outfits, even if elaborate, are elegant and pristine. you can’t/shouldn’t ask a commercial movie why a chemical lab is full of smoke; you just see if it adds to the vibe. it does. the fight sequences in the first half are wonderful, not only because of chethan d’souza’s stunts, but the way deepu s kumar edits them adds a lot of energy. even if you can accuse swamy j gowda’s camera of taking too many aerial shots, it works well within the genre.
james is not your typical movie. that shows in the way the second half had to resort to cgi to make up for puneeth’s absence. would be a reason to call it technically shoddy in any other movie, but here, it stands as a sad reminder of the sudden death of an actor and a crew trying to fix it. that’s why I can’t consider it bad despite my problems with the movie. the context dictates that I should not judge him at all.
watch james as a solo movie and chances are you’ll be disappointed. but look at it for what it is, a village coming together to celebrate the long but short life of rajkumar, and you’ll be moved to tears just like me.
james is playing in theaters.
sankeertana varma is an engineer who took a few years to realize that putting together two wonderful things, movies and writing, is as cool as it sounds. he mainly writes about Telugu cinema.