Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu (2019)

Regarded as the father of Telugu cinema and/or the father of South Indian cinema, Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu was a man of many talents. Artist, sculptor; photographer; filmmaker and, according to this biopic, quite adept at finding the right proverb for any occasion. It leads one of his colleagues to cry out in exasperation “I don’t understand these complicated sayings!” Yet one proverb missing from his repertoire is that success has many fathers, perhaps because this film would be considered an orphan.

Using the tired biopic trope of its leading character writing a biography, the film traces Venkaiah Naidu’s life from the moment he was born. A cute transition with shadow puppets heralds the arrival of teenage Venkaiah Naidu, whose disagreement with his father is followed by a series of close-ups reminiscent of an ABBA music video. No sooner does he take up a job in a photographer's studio than teenage Venkaiah Naidu disappears behind a camera and reemerges as an adult, intent on bringing cinema to the masses.

It is at this point that the film has a chance to make up for the dross it has thus far inflicted, with scenes of silent films being produced and exhibited in India. A silent film is screened with a comic off to the side providing narration, and patchy electricity supply is overcome by the construction of a glass studio. Yet the biopic is repeatedly undone by amateurish production values. Shots are out of focus. montages appear composed of images purloined from the local library and long stretches of dialogue-free footage are accompanied by an unremitting soundtrack.

 

For those who are interested in this cinema pioneer’s life but find themselves unable to sit through ninety minutes, the entire film is summarised towards the end in a music video. No ABBA close-ups though.

BOMB

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Biopic has one brief depiction of Naidu filming a generic scene.

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