Ghani Movie Review: A laughable cliche-ridden snoozefest

From unspirited revenge and stale melodrama to silly romance and hackneyed sports drama, this Varun Tej-starrer is a conglomeration of every existing cliche
Ghani review
Ghani review

Movie theatres are equipped with sound systems behind the screen to synchronise the direction of the sound and image for the viewer. I assume the distance between the audio system and the screen where I watched Ghani wasn’t optimal enough. Ascribed to this architectural flaw, every time S Thaman’s score employed heavy drums—and the music’s reliance on the instrument is excessive—ripples appeared on the left half of the screen. Observing these ripples, in all honesty, is how I will remember Ghani, because the film, by itself, hardly has anything memorable. Be it an emotional scene where the titular character (Varun Tej, struggling to breathe life into a lifeless character) learns a heartbreaking truth, or during numerous boxing sequences, the irregular ripples on the screen were a far more intriguing and moving sight to behold than the scene playing on it.

Cast: Varun Tej, Saiee Manjrerkar, Nadiya, Jagapathi Babu, Upendra, Suneil Shetty

Directed by: Kiran Korrapati

Our indifference to the story, the characters, their plight and motivations stem from the ‘cinematicness’ they are treated with. When we are cognisant of the fact that the story playing in front of us is a fictional tale that’s staged, performed and shot in a way that emulates a dozen of sports films from the past, it robs us of surprises and hinders us from investing in these characters. The writing, too, hardly tries to invent. Right from the story and its structure, Ghani radiates cloying predictability. After his father Vikramaditya’s act of consuming steroids at a nation-level boxing championship taints his and his family’s image (You know he is not a bad man, right?), Ghani’s mother (Nadiya) asks for her son's word to not step into the boxing ring ever again in his life. Had Ghani been a good boy and kept his word, the film wouldn’t have existed. But Ghani is a 'Telugu mass hero', which means he is a non-conformist. To our dismay, he pursues the sport behind his mother’s back to cleanse the blackmark his father’s act has left on their lives.

With a protagonist simmering with anger against his father and fuelled by pain, Ghani could have made for an emotional ride, but it chooses to stick to the basics. By basics, I mean really basic. The mother-son dynamic and the son's guilt about breaking his promise are barely explored. Every line is generic and sounds like there could be a much-refined iteration. Take, for instance, the introduction of Naveen Chandra’s Aadi. His father just walks up to him and asks why he is so obsessed with the sport when he is already super rich. Aadi shares that he is chasing identity and spotlight, not monetary benefits. Words speak more than actions in the world of Ghani. Another example is Saiee Manjrekar as Maya, whose existence results in perhaps one of the most juvenile love stories in recent times. It’s a love story that spans from junior college to engineering college, so the juvenile fits the context. In one scene, she walks into Ghani's home without his knowledge, has dosas served by a puzzled Nadiya, and lies that she is pregnant. Does this scene go anywhere? No. Even by Telugu masala film standards, it’s downright cringy.

Considering the film lays all of its eggs in one basket — the boxing sequences — do they give the adrenaline rush we signed up for? Not really. The usage of multiple camera angles and the fast-paced editing is so clumsy that it’s hard to follow a fight. Shots keep cutting from one angle to another in a span of milliseconds. When Ghani’s hand moves towards the opponent’s face, we see it from one angle and when the punch lands on the target, we see it from a different angle.

Ghani, however, benefits from the towering presence of Upendra, who brings some kind of meaning to the story. He is perhaps the best thing in Ghani. But the writing tries to deceive you with our perception of the character, expecting us to believe that there’s a huge twist, but if you have seen the trailer or have the most basic understanding of how films work, you know where it's going. Also, on a completely different note, do filmmakers still believe that when they initially portray Jagapathi Babu as a good person and then reveal that he is the bad guy, we will be surprised?

Ghani is a product of a masala film amalgamating with a sports film. There’s no homogeneity here, though. Instead, these two contrasting styles collide with each other and ultimately knock you out with the silliness that emerges. There are more punches--in the form of cliched confrontations riddled with terrible punch dialogues--outside the ring than inside. After a point, the matches become peripheral, as a revenge saga between Ghani and Eeswar (Jagapathi Babu doing Jagapathi Babu things), takes the center stage. When emotion drives the action, it fuels the payoff, but in the case of Ghani, the revenge angle and the emotion ridicule everything else.

I would like to close with the punch line: Ghani fails to pack a punch. I know it’s a cliched verdict, but it's still more inventive than this film


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