Om Namo Venkatesaya - Movie Review
Film: Om Namo Venkatesaya
Cast: Nagarjuna Akkineni, Anushka, Sourabh Jain, Jagapathi Babu, Pragya Jaiswal, Vimala Raman, Rao Ramesh, Vennela Kishore, Raghu Babu, Prabhakar
Story, dialogues: J K Bharavi
Music: M M Keeravani
Cinematography: S Gopal Reddy
Editing: Gowtham Raju
Action: Ram- Lakshman
Producers: A Mahehswara Reddy, Radhika Reddy
Directed by: K Raghavendra Rao
Release date: February 10, 2017
CBFC Rating: U
The movie depicts the story of Hathi Ram Baba who built his own ashram on Tirumala hills. The ashram is still there on the hills. Legend has it that Lord Venkateshwara had played dice with Hathi Rama Baba. So this movie is based on that legend, and tells the story of it. As per the movie, it was Rama (Nagarjuna), a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara, who put everything in place on the hills when all sevas were being done without following the agama rules. So impressed by Rama's pooja and the right way of administration on the hills he brought, Lord Venkateshwara comes down to play with him. But only Rama can see the Lord, but not the people around him. When everything was going good for Rama, Lord loses his jewellery in the game to Rama and next day people come to know the diety in temple was robbed of jewel. Blame is put on Rama. How would Rama come out of these charges? How he turns from Rama to Hathi Rama Baba is the rest of the story.
To talk about the merits and demerits of devotional films is tough. Those who have devotional bent would easily move with any scene involving Lord and his mahatyam's in such films, but for others they don't add much excitement if they are not told effectively. So, devotional films are more subjective than any other genre movies. Though we all know/read/seen movies about Lord Venkateshwara and his mahatyam, the story of Hathi Ram Baba is less known. Although director K Raghavendra Rao presents this movie like his old devotional movies, but he picks up momentum in the second half and tells the story of Hathi Rama there.
At Tirumala temple various poojas, sevas are conducted today. Many of these seva's (for example navaneeta harati, nijapada darshanam) wre said to be introduced by this Hathi Rama baba. We come know to know through this movie. Much of the movie focuses on documenting these aspects of Hathi Rama how he brought orderliness on temple premises, introduced sevas, how he brought the amenities like free food for devotees, etc.
One way it is a documentation guide of sevas and poojas. But the movie also has some good devotional moments between Nagarjuna and Sourabh Jain. The scene of Nag and Sourabh Jain playing dice in the lush hills of Tirumala with various teerthas (waterfalls) forming the backdrop is stunning to watch. These scenes are sporadic.
While entire first half lacks effectiveness, the second half of the movie redeems it with these scenes. More than the story and narration, what works effectively in the film are the cinematography and casting of Lord Venkateshwara. It won't be exaggration if we say Sourabh Jain as Lord Balaji is perfect. His apperance and his performance both are pitch perfect. And the cinematography is colorful. Senior cameraman S Gopal Reddy and the visual effects have brought out best results.
Of the performances, Sourabh scores with full marks. Nagarjuna as Hathi Rama Baba is good too. Anushka gets lengthier role as Krishnamma. Pragya is there for only one song as maradalu of Nagarjuna to provide some glamour to the eye. Jagapathi Babu's role comes off as silly. Rao Ramesh as Govindrajulu is good. Vennela Kishore is okay.
Music by Keeravani is mixed bag. Couple of songs are lilting but the entire musical score is not that effective as his work was major strength in 'Annamayya' or 'Sri Ramadasu'. Director Raghavendra Rao has dissappointed with movies like 'Pandurangadu' and ' Shiridi Sai' but his narration is better here.
Bottom-line: 'Om Namo Venkatesaya' is the story of Hathi Rama Baba, and his connection with Tirumala temple. Nagarjuna, visuals and Sourabh Jain as Lord Venkateshwara shine in the film. Good watch for those who like devotional movies.