Gang Leader Review & Rating
Nani’s Gang Leader Review: Pencil Sketches His Way To Revenge
G-A-N-G gang gang! Bajao bang bang! Gang Leader.
Gang Leader is unarguably the greatest commercial film to come out of Telugu Cinema since the 1980s. Chiranjeevi was at the height of his star power and on the way to become the highest-paid actor in India. The Supreme Hero has already become Mega Star. The film has come at the fag end of the time period when angry young men ruled the screens and a few moments before the economic reforms completely made the species vanished.
Taking such an iconic title is itself a big act of audacity but director Vikram Kumar and Natural Star Nani went ahead against all the odds and here we are with the film hitting the screens today. The film given its title a justification and Nani leads a pack of 5 women who are out to take revenge on an unknown person. 5 women and a man who leads them to their mission seem to have been a successful formula with Bollywood’s Mission Mangal (albeit in a different form with an entirely different subject) scoring a roaring success.
The gang and their leader
The movie starts with an interestingly constructed robbery sequence. The bank robbery has its own repercussions and the victims are five women of varying ages from a 70 something to a little girl covering all age groups. An old woman named Saraswathi forms the gang by recruiting the victims of the robbery and its aftermath. The gang approaches our protagonist the titular Gang Leader, Pencil Parthasarathy. Mr. pencil is a creative writer who writes highly original revenge stories which are the line to line copies of several acclaimed and cult Hollywood films.
He’s a fraud of a writer and Ayn Rand would certainly have called him creatively depraved. But all this is narrated in a humorous manner. As one of his friends' notes, Pencil finally has found a story which is as real as he himself is involved in its unraveling and leads them. One clue after another interspersed with peppy songs and comedy set pieces lead us to the revelation during the interval. What’s the original motives of the gang and how Pencil helps them get the revenge form the rest of the story.
Writing and direction
Vikram K. Kumar is a creative filmmaker but he has his own quirks and sensitivities. But he seems to have come out of his comfort zone with Gang Leader. The narrative texture of this film is very different from what we have seen from him in Telugu. The film is a blend of comedy, thriller, revenge drama, and a few emotions. But it is this lack of proper emotional punch makes this film a bit disappointing. Though most of his trademark idiosyncratic elements are restrained, we can notice them here and there.
The entire first half follows a template once the women’s gang forms. They approach Pencil and convince him to help them. Why? A thread that’d be revealed later in the film. Investigation of the robbery. A song. A humorous set piece. We find a clue. Once more investigation. A song. A comedy set-piece. We find a clue. All this repeats itself till the interval. But once Karthikeya’s Dev (India’s Best racer) is introduced, the graph of the story increases. The narration is racy from here on.
The flashback scenes involving Karthikeya are nearly executed. The second half has a few surprises in store. And Nani takes the lead in an unexpected way. All the loose threads start to fall in place to give an almost satisfying conclusion. Almost! Because... the climax is dragged. The action sequence is unnecessarily massy and is routinish.
Senior actress Lakshmi who is on a high with the success of her comeback film Oh Baby is in superb form in this film. She forms the soul of the entire plot and leads from the front. Karthikeya sparkles in a role where he has lesser screen time. But his role makes an impact and he dominated Nani a few times. Sharanya Ponnavan is excellent but her Tamil nativity style is irritating at places.
Priyanka Atul Mohan goes through motions. She’s neither glamorous nor is high in her acting. The kid is cute and she instantly steals your hearts. Vennela Kishore Vennela Kishore makes you ROFL for a few moments. Rest of the other actors did justice to their roles.
The music of the film is first class. Anirudh Ravichander’s songs are beautiful and the background score is top-notch. He both elevated and complemented the mood of the film which is varying. The cinematography by Miroslaw Kuba Brozek is brilliant. The framing is great. The lighting scheme is superb. The colours are perfectly chosen. The way Nani’s aura is shown similar to that of vintage Chiranjeevi (as a tribute) is executed very well.
The editing of the film is sharp. One can see the finest cuts and the flow of the film is well maintained. The production design is hilariously good. The Neo-noir styling given to the film is done well both by the art department and the cinematography is fresh. The production values are great. Technically, Gang Leader is one of the best films in recent times.
And then the Gang Leader
His character may copy from Hollywood films in the film, Nani is an original. He’s an addiction. When the characters are well written, he takes them to the next level. When the roles are undercooked with routine/lame writing, he makes them tick with his fine performances. He’s just like one of us and it is what endears him to all. All these qualities are wonderfully exploited by the director and Nani delivered one of his best performances. He looked ultra-stylish in a few frames and cleverly let Karthikeya take lead in a few scenes to pack a punch as an underdog.
Gang Leader is in no way a top-notch film. But as an entertainer with some heartwarming scenes and a few thrills and mostly laughs, it works all the well. You can watch it for its novel subject and some of the best performances by an ensemble in recent times. On the flip side, there could have been an emotional depth in the first half. Recommended!
• Lakshmi in a power-packed performance
• Different subject matter
• Lack of proper emotional punch
Pycker Rating: 3 out of 5
Gang Leader Critic Reviews
Gang Leader User Reviews
Good movie and will continue to watch the movies from this talented director.