Movie: Om Namo Venkatesaya
Banner: Sai Krupa Entertainment
Cast: Nagarjuna, Anushka, Pragya, Saurabh Jain, Vimala Raman, Jagapathi Babu, Rao Ramesh, Sampath and others
Written by: J K Bharavi
Cinematography: S Gopal Reddy
Music: M M Keeravani
Editing: Gautham Raju
Producer: A Mahesh Reddy
Direction: K Raghavendra Rao
Release date: Feb 10, 2017
Since the release of blockbuster "Annamayya", the audiences eagerly await a devotional film in the combination of Nagarajuna and director K Raghavendra Rao.
Here comes the another movie on the life of Hathi Ram Baba, a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara, who is said to have created rules and regulations on Tirumala Hills.
Let's find out how good this film has shaped up.
The story of the film is set some 100's of years ago. A kid named Rama is in search of God. He meets a guru who teaches him how to play the dice and asks him to meditate seeking darshanam of God.
He grows up, one day Lord appears in the form of a small kid and disturbs his meditation. Angry Rama scolds the kid and asks him to go away.
He later heads to his home and his parents receive him happily and arrange marriage with his niece (Pragya). On the day of wedding, he again heads to Tirumala Hills in search of God.
On hills, he meets Krishnamma(Anuskha), a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara, who asks him to read the Venkateshwara Kshetra Mahatyam. After reading this, he vows to put everything in order - the poojas, the sevas, the amenities for devotees.
In the process, he impresses Lord Venkateshwara Swamy, who comes down to play dice game with him. But the story doesn't end there with the appearance of Lord, there are some more turns and twists.
Nagarjuna has done the role with so much ease as he has mastered doing such devotee characters.
New actor Saurabh Jain is 100 percent suited to the role of Lord Venkateshwara. His handsomeness, his young face, his makeup and getup is perfectly suited. The scenes between Nag and Saurabh as devotee and Lord are highlight of the movie.
Among many other actors, Anushka gets lengthy role as Krishnamma but she is just okay. Jagapathi Babu, Pragya, Vimala Raman and others appear in brief roles.
Pragya and Jagapathi Babu are there for a song each and two scenes. Rao Ramesh as villain is decent; he mouthed the dialogues in seema accent. Sampath as King is good.
Writer J K Bharavi wrote better dialogues but his screenplay is regular. Cinematography by S Gopal Reddy is strength of the movie. His visuals aided by rich graphics are highlight.
Keeravani's music is good not on par with Annamayya and Sri Ramadasu. Editing is neat. As director K Raghavendra Rao has come up with better work than his recent movies.
Nagarjuna as Hathi Ram
Nijaroopa Darshanam sequence
No rousing sequences
Tacky scenes in first half
With "Annamayya", both veteran director K Raghavendra Rao and and Nagarjuna have set high bars for a devotional movie that won many awards and rewards from the audiences.
Their second film "Sriramadasu" also had equally good standards. But their third outing "Shiridi Sai" was rejected by the audiences and critics. But with "Om Namo Venkatesaya" both have bounced back.
Though the movie is not on par with "Annamayya" but this is much better than "Shiridi Sai" and shot with rich visuals and graphics.
While "Annamayya" was about the great poet who devoted his life to serving Lord Venkateshwara with his songs, "Om Namo Venkatesaya" is about Hathi Ram Baba whose story is not much popular.
How much this story is real to the history/puranas is not known but the writer J K Bharavi and director K Raghavendra Rao seems to have blended both fictional and historical references to tell the story.
By this movie, we come to know that whatever the poojas that Lord Venkateshwara Swamy at present Tirupathi is getting have been put in place by Hathi Ram Baba.
Years ago, when greedy official ran the Temple as per his fancies, it was Rama who set the governance of temple premises in order and introduced right poojas for the swamy.
What is the meaning of Nija Roopa Darshana pooja, why devotees should offer darshan to Varaha Swamy first in Tirumala, how Rama came to be known as Hathi Rama Baba and how ashram is built there... all these are told in the film effectively.
While the first half is not strong as the director went in usual style of narration, the movie comes into the groove in the second half. Nagarjuna has played such roles with so much earlier, so it doesn't come as surprise us but the casting of Saurabh Jain as the Lord Venkateshwara Swamy has worked perfectly. He is superb in the role.
The episode of Hathiram Baba and Lord Venkateshwara playing in the backdrop of huge waterfalls is highlight. The scene of Venkateshwara Swamy losing all his jewellery while playing dice game (pachikalu) with Hathi Ram Baba is also good.
The way movie is shot richly with perfect graphics has worked out in its favour in the second half. While there are many scenes that are trademark of old-style narrative but the overall feeling towards the end is positive.
Unlike "Annamayya" and "Sriramadasu", this movie has no great music. Only two songs - "Akhilanda Brahmanda" and Anushka's introduction song are of worth mentioning.
On the downside, there are a few tacky portions such as Anushka's backstory and that absolutely unnecessary song between Jagapathi Babu and her. Also there are no emotionally charged scenes too. Final act of the film is a bit underwhelming.
All in all, "Om Namo Venkateshaya" has told the story of Hathi Rama Baba with some fine moments, good visuals, and better second half. If you are devotionally-inclined, you would like it.
Bottom-line: Namo Namo