Bruce Lee is definitely one among the few idols whom I have always looked up to. As a kid I grew up enjoying his action exploits on the big screen. Though he was gone well before I was even born, his films were extremely popular and continued getting released and re-released even in the late 1970’s and 80’s. In fact if my memory serves me right, some of his films actually managed to get their first India release only in the 80’s. I would enjoy standing in front of the mirror and practicing his ‘moves’ and my parents would look on amused 🙂 . As I grew older and started reading and learning more about his life, I was all the more enthralled by the kind of person that he was. Imagine someone from Hong Kong who could manage to go on to the U.S, become popular all over the World as a martial arts exponent and an acclaimed actor on T.V and films,a star internationally and sadly departing from the World by the time he was 32. If this doesn’t qualify to call him a phenomenon, then what does?
Over the years many other martial arts exponents have gone on to become popular, both internationally and in India. And while I do enjoy the antics of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, Bruce Lee still occupies a special place in my list of icons. There have been many Indian films, be it in Hindi or in other regional languages where a focus on martial arts has been tried out and a direct or indirect reference to Bruce Lee made. But all of a sudden after so many years its quite surprising to see a renewed interest in the legendary martial arts exponent in India, with not one but 3 films paying tribute to him in the title itself. The first of them, Srinu Vaitla’s Bruce Lee-The Fighter has just hit the screens, while RGV’s Bruce Lee (also in Telugu) and a Tamil film of the same name featuring G.V.Prakash Kumar will also be releasing in due course of time. Only time will tell, whether these films actually manage a sincere tribute to the icon, or if the usage of his name is nothing but a mere gimmick.
Srinu Vaitla is has always been among the rare breed of Telugu filmmakers who understands the pulse of an ordinary Telugu movie buff, having come up with his own variety of template films which contain all the ingredients in the right proportions, like in a deluxe lunch thali. Even when the themes and choice of actors would change,the Srinu template would always be followed. The most important factor common to all his films has been the fact that they cater to the family audience largely; hence you see a major emphasis on large families, scope for comedy and good songs mostly. Somehow of late his magic seems to be waning of sorts and the failure of Aagadu (2014) despite the presence of Mahesh Babu in the lead came in like a reinforcement of this point. Thanks to Chiranjeevi’s cameo in the film as well as Ram Gopal Varma’s forthcoming film of the same name, Srinu’s latest film Bruce Lee-The Fighter has been in the news for a while.
Karthik aka Bruce Lee (Ram Charan) and his elder sister Kavya (Kriti Kharbanda) were equally bright students back in school. Due to their family’s economic condition their father is not able to afford quality education for both his children. Seeing his sister keen to become an IAS officer, Karthi deliberately starts doing badly in studies, seeing this the expected happens as his father focuses his attention on Kavya and ensures that she is well taken care of. Karthik goes on to become a stunt artist in films, working with the team of Stunt Master David (Jayaprakash Reddy) much to the displeasure of his father. In the course of doing a good deed, Karthik is mistaken by Riya (Rakul Preet) to be a cop and she falls for him. Needless to say he reciprocates as well. When all this is happening we also see a bunch of baddies headed by Deepak Raj (Arun Vijay) who seem to be involved in various shady activities. An unfortunate situation gets Kavya in trouble, for no fault of hers, after which all hell breaks loose. So what’s the connection between Karthik and Deepak? Is there something far more serious behind the whole game, what happens to Riya and Karthik etc. are what the rest of the film is all about.
While the first half of the film chugs on merrily, hardly anything really happens in it. And if you were looking forward to Brahmanandam and Megastar Chiranjeevi, well surprisingly you see neither of them in the pre-interval portions. Once the story becomes more of a tug of war between Jayaraj (Sampath Raj) and Bruce Lee/Karthik there is more momentum in the plot, but things remain predictable more or less. Now considering that the plot was conceived by 3 writers, Srinu Vaitla along with Kona Venkat and Gopi Mohan, it’s quite a surprise to see that the film has nothing to offer in terms of novelty. Also considering the importance of humour in Srinu’s films it is indeed puzzling to see that this film actually lacks good humour, despite the presence of the energetic Brahmanandam.
One does not usually look for logic in commercial Telugu films, which goes without saying alright. But here we are almost taken for a ride when we see brazen things like someone randomly bringing in a rifle into a star hotel and killing people. Suspension of disbelief is needed indeed as we see the head of Intelligence Bureau (Mukesh Rishi) giving Bruce Lee a crucial assignment, making him do things that even seasoned IB officials wouldn’t get to do. What to do, after all our protagonist has to live up to his idol right? On the technical front the film does look good visually, Manoj Paramahamsa’s cinematography being adequate. Anal Arasu’s stunts impress and music by Thaman is decent but it will be surprising if you actually go on to recollect the songs after a few weeks.
The film does have a huge star cast but as mentioned already, none of the comedians including Brahmanandam, Ali, Posani Krishna Murali have anything much to do. Arun Vijay’s character reminds of you of his role in Yennai Arindhaal (Yentha Vaadu Gaanie in Telugu), the Tamil film seen earlier this year thanks to his appearance and mannerisms, while Sampath Raj is at ease as the bad man Jayaraj. Nadiya and Kriti Kharbanda look good in their parts however; Tisca Chopra is wasted in a role which sees her repeatedly getting slapped by Brahmanandam. Rao Ramesh is effective as Bruce Lee’s father and the scenes between them are played out quite well. While Rakul Preet does play the standard Telugu heroine, thankfully at least she gets adequate screen time and isn’t merely relegated to the songs. Ram Charan has always been an energetic dancer and fighter, so it’s no surprise that here too he impresses as always with his dancing and fights. Not only that he even manages to pull of his father’s dialogue delivery style to an extent, but he still has scope to improve as an actor. After all the waiting Srinu Vaitla makes the fans of the Megastar finally happy by bringing Chiranjeevi in for a 5 minute cameo which though not crucial for the film sees him look dashing as before, making one look forward to his comeback all the more.
Eventually Bruce Lee-The Fighter is strictly passable fare where Srinu Vaitla fails to really entertain us convincingly. And while the film doesn’t really embarrass the legend by using his name, it’s definitely not a tribute of the right kind which the icon would perhaps appreciate.