BOTTOM LINE: An Intermittently Engaging Political Drama
|Platform: Zee5||Genre: Political|
What Is the Story About?
An undivided Andhra Pradesh is going through a phase of political uncertainty. The leadership hasn’t been steady for months, with most of the state CMs being mere puppets to the veteran politician Vasundhara Dhar of the INP party. Growing public demand, shrewd media strategies force popular actor Gangadhar to take stock of the situation and devise his subsequent political entry with his party ‘Telugu Kranthi Sangham’. Media baron Gurumurthy, former INP leader Ramakrishna Rao, Gangadhar’s nephew Bapineedu build a strong foundation for his political growth. Being the first actor-politician to become the CM of the state, with little idea of administration and day-to-day challenges of the throne, where is Gangadhar headed?
There hasn’t been any doubt about Srikanth’s formidability and adaptability as an actor, despite his poor form off late. Chadarangam changes the game completely for him. With a solid script that suits Srikanth’s persona, age and experience like a T, the veteran actor comes up with one of his career-best performances, where he is in complete control of the proceedings. The dhoti look and the bespectacled appearance has suited him well. As his better half, Kausalya brings dignity to a brief yet a well-defined role.
However, the surprise element is Ravi Prakash as Bapineedu – who finally gets a solid character arc that taps his impressive range as an actor. Sunainaa, Chalapathi Rao, Nagineedu, Jeeva, Kasi Viswanath are cast in roles that are quite integral to the narrative. Most actors get an adequate chance to prove their worth.
Sr NTR’s magnanimous victory as a CM in 1983 is one of the most iconic events in the history of undivided Andhra Pradesh – right from the actor-politician’s unconventional ways to reach out to people, the clarity/simplicity in his thought and the hope he gave to an average voter about regional leadership. But his political journey henceforth was filled with thorns in every corner, where he earned more enemies than allies and yet rose like a phoenix in the time of crisis, which naturally makes a strong case for a riveting drama.
But there’s an instance of NTR Mahanayakudu failing miserably to capture the lows and highs of the man’s political stint. Does Chadarangam fall into the same league? Not at all, thanks to the project being in the safe hands of a confident director Raj Anantha backed by the experience of Paruchuri Brothers. The series is successful in introducing us to the humane side of its lead character – his integrity, his weaknesses, his follies and unpredictability – that sometimes even catches his insiders by surprise.
Chadarangam is very balanced in its storytelling – the mix of family drama, political deceit and human greed ensure a tight-knit show that doesn’t resort to any sort of political propaganda. The filmmaker manages to present this as a character-driven story, despite the focus being predominantly on Gangadhar. It more or less tries to reimagine the political ‘rise-fall-rise’ of an actor-politician like NTR in a contemporary timeline. The series mostly gives a convincing fictional interpretation to some of the significant episodes during his three-time stint as a CM.
The subplots of the tale are neatly woven into the story, say the thread about the drug-addict teenage girl (whose father happens to be a diehard fan of Gangadhar), the opportunistic stance of the media baron and the love triangle surrounding Karthikeya, Chaitanya and Kranthi. The political seesaw between Ramakrishna and Gangadhar is the lifeline of the show though. It takes the viewer through the crookedness of regional politics, its calculative nature and the lengths to which one could go to seek power, even it makes a mockery of the constitution. It also reasserts why there are no permanent enemies or friends in the political sphere.
The old-school heightened dialogue baazi, the rousing background score provide a strong masala element to the narrative, that takes its fictional liberty too seriously at times. The women get reasonably interesting roles – the sequence where the wife of Ramakrishna Rao uses a (homegrown) strategy to prove their majority to the governor is a masterstroke. The consistency in the characterisation of Gangadhar in most situations is impressive. Though the story and a few political strategies seem slightly dated, the superb lead cast wins your attention.
In the end, Chadrangam manages to engage the viewer despite offering nothing new. It is practically a contemporary take on Sr NTR’s political sojourn. What if NTR made a political entry in current times is the core idea? An official biopic was made recently on the legend, and now we have an unofficial web series with a few storytelling liberties in place. Give it a try, if the story doesn’t impress, at least you can have fun identifying various real-life characters they are modeled on.
Music and Other Departments?
Composer Srinivasa Sarma, after disappointing with Zee5’s Ala in the past, makes use of a wonderful opportunity to prove his range in an intense story with several potent situations. Though the score could have done with a more westernised appeal, he lends it a folksy touch with the use of percussion and woodwind instruments. The dialogues are written with a millennial viewer in mind – though the absence of sophisticated or chaste Telugu is surprising (as you would expect from a show based on NTR’s political growth). The series has a simple-yet-an appealing visual texture that contributes to its appeal.
The political drama in the story
The balanced treatment
Too many fictional liberties
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes, in parts
Will You Recommend It?
Yes, with reservations
Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur