Venky Kudumula, who made his directorial debut with a 2018 romantic comedy Chalo, is back again with yet another breezy entertainer, Bheeshma, where he sticks to the basics. The film doesn’t try too hard to impress and the result is a surprisingly fun outing. It’s like playing a low stakes game of blackjack, where the player is smart enough to know when he should quit instead of betting big, hoping to win a jackpot. And when the stakes are so low, everything about the film, whether it’s the conflict or the emotional graph, feels quite simple. Yet, Bheeshma works quite well because of its tone and comedy quotient.
The story follows the journey of Bheeshma (Nithiin), a singleton, whose repeated attempts to fall in love often end on a bad note. When he eventually falls in love with Chaitra (Rashmika Mandanna), his life takes an unexpected turn when he gets noticed by Bheeshma (Anant Nag), the founder of an organic farming company. The rest of the story is about how the two are related, and how Bheeshma wins Chaitra’s heart.
Throughout the film, the lead character, Bheeshma doesn’t take himself seriously and we are expected to follow the same path. So, when he says that his hobby is making memes and that he has been trying his luck to fall in love all his life, you know where this film is going. The template of the story feels quite similar to some of Adam Sandler’s films like Billy Madison and Mr. Deeds, although the lead character in Bheeshma isn’t as goofy as those played by Adam Sandler.
It’s also interesting to note how Venky Kudumula, writer and director, pays homage to Trivikram Srinivas’ brand of cinema, sans the philosophical trappings, which blends comedy with a subtle message about our way of life. The underlying theme of Bheeshma is the choice one has to make about how we treat the soil and the ongoing debate over organic farming and the usage of pesticides. But that just remains in the background, acting as a catalyst every time the character needs to be heroic. Otherwise, he is who he claims to be – a meme creator, whose quotations like – “If you touch me, I poke you. If you poke me, I scratch you” – shock people around him.
There are plenty of references to popular Telugu films like Nuvvu Naaku Nacchav (the first time Nithiin meets Sampath), Athadu (the fight in the field), Khushi, and to an extent even Malleswari (where Nithiin warns Jisshu Sengupta to mend his ways), but Venky Kudumula also leaves his mark, especially in terms of his writing and how he weaves humour into the story. For instance, there’s a scene where a frustrated Vennela Kishore looks for a water spray-can to water the plants on Raghu Babu’s shirt, leaving the latter dumbfounded.
Another scene, where Nithiin talks about his philosophy of how teamwork can build the company is hilariously handled. Full credit to Venky, and the supporting cast, led by Vennela Kishore and Raghu Babu, for keeping the film on a lighter vein. But then, there are a few glaring issues with the film, especially in terms of how it makes fun of people based on their colour and weight. It’s high time filmmakers start asking themselves if they really need to resort to such derogatory remarks in the name of comedy.
In the end, Bheeshma is a good comeback film for Nithiin, who makes it obvious that he had fun playing the role. His body language and mannerisms suit the character quite well, and as the story unfolds, you also see the character evolve into a more serious person who takes control of the proceedings. Rashmika shines in her role too and her onscreen chemistry with Nithiin is palpable. Anant Nag hits the right chord with a matured performance as a gentle and a kind-hearted agricultural scientist and he’s the moral compass of the film. Sampath, Brahmaji, and Naresh deliver fine performances in their respective roles, and Vennela Kishore & Raghu Babu steal the show with their comic timing.
For a film that aims low, Bheeshma packs in plenty of laughs and, at the same time, manages to keep itself relevant with its discourse on organic farming. After all, the film adheres to one of the crucial principles of Telugu cinema — When you have a decent enough script, all you have to do is try hard enough not to ruin it.