My movie: Manu
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9 September 2018

If Pawan Kalyan is Miss Universe among his cults Phanindra Narisetty is definitely Miss Hyderabad among his cults. I am partly part of the cult and my viewing of Manu has definitely bias, expectations which others might not have from a debut director. For instance I was dying to know why the movie is called Manu instead of Leela. I was interested in the black color paints showed in the trailer. As the movie progressed the number of questions I had increased to such a level where I wondered if the director can satisfy all the questions and untangle them. On a positive note all questions are answered. But to the flip side it takes 3 hours and high endurance from the audience.

Manu is a rare film in terms of film making that it breaks practically all the rules of film making. It doesn't even try to please the audience and can be lauded for it's integrity. The core plot of Manu is a revenge plot and it has a clever narrative to keep the audience guessing till all the twists are revealed. But the film is not engaging enough as the audience are not emotionally invested with the characters. In a basic revenge story we connect with the victims and we get a high when victim seeks revenge. With such a non linear screenplay the emotional connect is lost. There's great depth in dialogues but the context is missing and we can probably connect all the dots after the film but that usually happens when the audience are either engaged/surprised/shocked with the film. Watching Manu is an exhausting experience and barring few sequences there's ton of repetitive sequences which are more academic and less dramatic. The film changes genres mid way like at the beginning you think it's going to be a heist thriller which changes to a obsessive thriller to horror to love to revenge and so on.

Though there are some brilliant visual sequences like the corridor sequences, the film relies more on dialogue rather than visuals in it's story telling. There's more use of words - exposition than images. Concepts like touch, fragrance are explained through dialogues as opposed to visuals invoking our senses. Characters in Manu have conversations which are alien to our day to day conversations. While the film is set in a retro time which can be dated approximately to early 90's but the characters are from a completely different planet. If there are 100 dialogues/actions performed by the characters in Manu it's hard to pick even 10 which are done by normal human beings on a day to day basis. The concept of Karma is intentionally left vague which I felt doesn't help the proceedings of the film and could easily be interpreted as a plot hole.

A film of this nature needs to create surreal experience in viewing but the Cinematography/production design neither lends a claustrophobic view nor creates a heightened atmosphere. Music is adequate. Goutham and Chandini did justice to their characters. I personally liked writing/editing more than the direction.

Watching Manu is like looking at an abstract painting in a museum and having it's artist explain the process to you. In the end it still doesn't make any sense but you have enough respect for the artist in creating the art against all the odds. I didn't enjoy Manu much but it definitely has the strokes of a coming of age filmmaker who broke all the rules . I am very convinced that PhanindraNarsetti will pull off a blockbuster like Rangasthalam on a given day but he chose to do Manu.

Written by Santosh Eppalapally

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