Prior to 1: Nenokkadine, my Telugu film watching has pretty much been limited to everything starring Prabhas I could get my hands on (post Baahubali!) and anything by S. S. Rajamouli (Eega, Maghadeera, etc.) I could get my hands on.
1: Nenokkadine (1: Alone) opens with a young boy running through a forest being chased and shot at by gun-toting goons. (I learned later the young boy is lead actor Mahesh Babu’s son.) He runs into a road and into the arms of the police but someone explains it away – “Oh, he has mental problems. He imagines his parents were killed and he’s being chased by the killers.” This is the first of many psych outs in this thriller.
1: Nenokkadine is my first Mahesh Babu film, and from the opening number, I could tell Mahesh is a STAR. He plays Gautham, a rock star.
Mahesh has charisma. He has screen presence. Not the most notable dance talent, at least from what I saw in this movie, but he makes up for that by looking exceptionally cool in all the action scenes. And this movie has a LOT of action scenes.
After the Who Are You rock number above, Gautham thinks he sees one of the killers from his dreams/visions in the audience and runs after him. He believes he ends an elaborate motorcycle chase and fist fight by killing the man. But then – PSYCH – Sameera ( Kriti Sanon, in her debut) has videoed the whole thing, and there wasn’t anyone else there at all! There is no body because he was fighting air.
WTF? From this point, you realize nothing you see can you rely on to be real. Because our hero has mental issues. Is he schizophrenic and seeing hallucinations? My subtitles didn’t tell me, but he has missing brain cells or something on a scan, as a doctor tries to explain to the journalist Sameera in the hospital after the imaginary fight. Why is the doctor telling all this to a journalist? (I really don’t understand health privacy laws in India, I’m just saying.)
Gautham decides to go to Goa for some R&R, but who appears on his yacht but that dogged journalist, Sameera. She then proceeds to Gaslight poor Gautham by approaching him multiple times in the same situations so that he isn’t sure what is real and what is not in their relationship. I read later that this was Kriti’s first film, and I’m sorry, but it shows. Yes, she’s pretty enough, but I was not buying the instant love between the characters. And I really couldn’t get past the plot point that she was milking his mental illness for her own ends. How did Gautham get past that so quickly? Don’t question, it’s luuuurve. I didn’t find her funny, and this was the comic relief segment of the movie. I just didn’t think she had good chemistry with Manesh. Manesh was also not really that charismatic in the rom com portion. I reserve judgement if he can pull that off and will try some other movies of his, hopefully where he is paired with a better co-star actress with some sparkle to her.
(Loved Mahesh in the glasses look, though)
So, at this point, the plot becomes very convoluted. We’re not sure if killers are after Gautham or after Sameera, or both. Gautham is convinced Sameera is in danger, and unfortunately beats up a bunch of her friends who were planning a surprise birthday party.
The action moves to London, and there are some fantastic action set pieces. One really intense scene has Gautham killing someone in a public bathroom because he thinks it’s a hallucination that he just wants to go away. But it was real. There are so many twists and turns, and because of Gautham’s condition, and his loss of childhood memories, we as the audience never know what to believe. I’m not sure the logic of the whole movie really works out if you analyze it afterwards, but it’s an exhilarating roller coaster ride of a movie. I was watching most of it on a plane on my iPad with headphones on, and I probably amused my seatmate by gasping out loud at several points. The ending scenes when Gautham regains his childhood memories were really emotionally touching.
I really liked the catchy soundtrack, too. Just try to get the London Babu item song out of your head. I wish I could find this with subs as the lyrics were pretty funny:
I watched this movie becauses it was recommended over and over on my Quora post about why I love Indian cinema as a Telugu movie to try. Prabhas is still my first love Telugu star, but I will definitely be checking out more Mahesh Babu movies. This guy just oozes cool, like a much taller Jason Statham kind of action guy.
Four stars out of 5. Worth a rentMal! (I rented it on Google Play which had English subs, of a fashion at least.)
Watch the trailer below with no subs, but it’s mainly action sequences anyway: