Janatha Garage (I think it translates to People’s Garage) is writer/director Koratala Siva’s third feature film, and his first collaboration with Jr. NTR. I loved Siva’s previous blockbuster films, Srimanthudu with Mahesh Babu and one of my favorite Prabhas films, the fantastic Mirchi. Malayalam superstar Mohanlal returns to Telugu films after a cameo appearance 2 decades ago. Janatha Garage was filmed in both Malayalam and Telugu, and released in both languages. I find it really interesting the cross promotion, because the film also includes Malayalam star Nithya Menen as the second heroine, in her first collaboration with NTR. Samantha Prabhu is the first love interest, a star in Telugu and Tamil Cinema.
Expectations were extremely high with this director, and with this star studded cast. I think having Mohanlal and Jr NTR in a movie together is brilliant. They were fantastic together, and frankly look like they’re family. I’ve only seen Mohanlal in Thenmavin Kombath (review soon) and NTR in the fantastic Yamadonga. The theater five minutes from my house had the film on two screens for the premiere, and pretty full crowds. It was fun to be there the opening night and hear the whoops and hollers for NTR’s first entrance. (My ticket seller wasn’t used to Telugu films – “That will be $8…I mean $20”.)
The first half of the film chronicles the creation of Janatha Garage (the people’s garage). Mohanlal not only fixes cars, but he fixes the problem of anyone who comes to him. When his brother and his wife are killed by one of their enemies, Mohanlal gives the orphan infant to the mother’s family saying that he will have nothing to do with the boy, as they wish. And as young Anand grows up, his family don’t even have a picture of his father in the house. They just tell him his parents died in an accident.
Jr NTR as Anand is like a cross between Captain Planet and DJ Khaled with his flowers (“I love you. I like that.”) This movie has a Message with a capital “M” and that is environmentalism. Anand is all about green spaces, planting trees, and against pollution and over development. Srimanthudu had a similar message with Mahesh Babu riding his bicycle everywhere. There’s one fight sequence where he lectures the goons on the forces of nature raining down earthquakes and tsunamis on them. He’s no pacifist environmentalist — at all. When a park is set to be demolished, he threatens the developer and the MLA – “The MLA will die, I mean, because of lack of oxygen if the trees are destroyed.”)
Anand (NTR’s) love interest is his cousin (Samantha Prabhu) and that was a little squicky for me because it seemed like they’d been raised as sister and brother. He meets Nithya Menen early in the film – and scolds her for things like setting off firecrackers for Diwali creating air pollution. Nithya becomes part of the group of friends with NTR and Samantha. One of my two favorite songs is NTR with Samantha in the Apple Beauty love song. He’s really fantastic dancing in this one.
Anand goes to Hyderabad to study Environmental Science, and has a run in with Mohan Lal’s son who has joined forces with the family enemy, the evil developer. NTR hears about Janatha Garage, and Mohanlal hears about his good deeds. Rather than confront him for the dust up with Mohanlal’s son, he asks NTR to join the Janatha Garage to carry on his work. Mohanlal had been in an “accident” and the doctors had warned his family that he should stop and not have stress.
Neither realize that they are nephew and uncle. But they have a natural affinity. They both just want to help people. In Hebrew, we’d call it Tikkun Olam – Repairing the World, which encompasses the environment and good deeds. It’s just that NTR knocks heads together to fix things as well as plants trees.
One of the best fight sequences has NTR coming to the aid of a government clerk who is ready to commit suicide rather than sign off on shoddy plans for a hospital. The builder has threatened his family, and he comes to the Janatha Garage for help. He’d been turned away by the others at the garage after Mohanlal got out of the hospital, but NTR resurrects the true mission of the garage by helping him out — and inspiring his co-workers to view the clerk as the true hero.
Koratala Siva has set up an emotional family drama to punctuate the action. Mohanlal has the son who rejects his way of life and joins the enemy camp. He also has the son of his heart, NTR, who he doesn’t even know is his true long lost nephew. And there is a very dramatic scene when Anand’s family finds him at the Garage, and forces him to choose the girl he loves or Janatha Garage.
The songs are mostly very good, and NTR’s dancing is great. Kajal has a really fun item number in the second half — the very catchy Pakka Local (Strictly local girl).
Jr. NTR has lots of charisma and screen presence, and his dancing and fight scenes are great. NTR is looking much more fit than his Yamadonga days, but he’s not as playful as he was in that film. Srimanthudu had more moments of levity than does Janatha Garage. Mohanlal is predictably excellent as the sort of do-gooder don of Hyderabad, with tough fights in the first half, and anguish over his wayward son in the second half. One thing that could have been better is the villain is more smarmy than scary. The romance elements are not the focus of the film at all, and take a back seat to the male family relationships and the action.
An enjoyable flick, even if it dragged a bit in parts, and especially fun to see Mohanlal and Jr. NTR act together. They make a perfect pair.
Three and a half stars out of five.