A few new twists to familiar family drama and masala tropes make this Telugu film work, along with a dependable star cast
There’s a small story behind the ‘tuck’ in the title. The reason, which explains the quirk of the protagonist Jagadish (Nani) to sport a tucked look, can bring a smile to many government officers. The pre-interval twist is also in sync with this ‘tuck’ story. Director Shiva Nirvana, in his first full-fledged rural film and his second with actor Nani, tries to introduce a few new touches to familiar masala and family drama tropes; therein lies the charm of the film.
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Watching the film that now streams on Amazon Prime Video, it’s hard not to notice the calibrated moves with which certain scenes have been designed, intending to draw whistles in cinema halls. In better times, this might have been what Telugu film circles define as a ‘pandaga’ (festive) family cinema. In its digital release, the film manages to hold interest for a large part, but for the overdrawn and tiring last act.
- Cast: Nani, Ritu Varma, Aishwarya Rajesh, Jagapati Babu
- Direction: Shiva Nirvana
- Music: SS Thaman, Gopi Sundar
- Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
Tuck Jagadish begins like countless mass masala films, ushering us into a fictitious village Bhudevipuram where bloodshed happens over sharing fruits of labour and, of course, land. There’s the wise and just village elder Aadisesh Naidu (Nasser) who wants peace and a reckless Veerendra (Daniel Balaji), whose weapons speak louder than his words. Naidu hopes that his older son Bose (Jagapathi Babu) will work for the betterment of the village. The younger son Jagadish nurtures dreams of going abroad. We know that overseas dreams will eventually take a backseat and Jagadish will be the quintessential son of the soil.
Shiva Nirvana blends this masala story with issues of strife and family bonding. A few statements get reiterated — that boys shouldn’t shed tears and that anyone who mistreats a woman will meet with a doomed fate.
It takes some time for the film to find its rhythm. The background score (Gopi Sundar) weaves in an emotional-sounding score that works as the family’s theme music, contrasting the massy sounding title track rendered by Shiva Nirvana (music by S S Thaman), as we get familiar with the many characters that populate the film.
Rohini, Rao Ramesh, Devadarshini and VK Naresh, among others, seem lost in the melee initially and get their moments later. The major portions of the drama rest on the shoulders of Nani and Jagapati Babu.
A scene from ‘Tuck Jagadish’
The anchor of the film lies in its emotional segments, especially those where Jagadish and his family members have to re-evaluate their bonds. The importance of family ties are emphasised time and again, with dialogues about putting blood relations over everything else, and how even deeply divided families stand a chance to start afresh over a meal. The sequence where Jagadish settles a dispute over a meal is filmy and unconvincing, while other segments take a more realistic approach.
The breezy romance between Jagadish and Gummadi Varalakshmi (Ritu Varma as the village revenue officer) is a welcome breather from the heavy-on-emotion family segments. Jagadish’s new role as an agent of change is also narrated well, with some leeway to bring in masala touches. Nani plays Jagadish with flourish, with an innate understanding of the weight of the responsibilities placed on the character’s shoulders after a crucial turn of events. The later part of the story, though predictable and long-drawn, work partly because of the earnestness with which Nani, Aishwarya Rajesh and Jagapati Babu shoulder it. Ritu Varma is charming and effective as the no-nonsense government officer and I wish the film had more of her. Praveen as the friend and Maala Parvathi as the mother come up with performances that count.
I wish the film had sidestepped predictable tropes — like the SOS tool. The climax has nothing new to offer. The film could have also done with some trimming.
Despite all this, Tuck Jagadish manages to be a reasonably engaging family drama.
Tuck Jagadish is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video