Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi ★★½

This film is funnier and visually more inventive than Pellichoopulu but lacks the latter's focus, charm and warmth. The four guys make believable friends. Their chemistry is palpable and tides the film through stretches of somewhat insipid writing. The problem is that the film doesn't know if it wants to be a purely hangout movie or a 'a Goa trip can change your life' movie. It works better as the former because the plot and the backstory are somewhat lame. All the deliberate injections of narrative feel awkward (any scene with Anisha Ambrose is fairly pointless, though that's not her fault). The best scenes are the ones where the guys are merely hanging out.

Abhinav Gomatam shines the brightest. He has an easy presence on screen and a very well - judged comic timing. I suspect he'll have a brighter career than most actors pigeonholed into comedic roles, if given a chance. I found Vishwak Sen more convincing as the film progressed. I bought his volatility and his douchebaggery. He also has great warmth with Sushant Reddy's character. The flashback to their school story felt unnecessary. There was enough in their chemistry to hint at the depth of their friendship. But Tharun Bhascker can be forgiven a few heavy-handed moments because there aren't many of them here. Venkatesh Kakumanu's character feels superfluous. Three is a magical number. Bhascker should have stuck with three characters and etched them out further. Instead we get two half-arsed back stories and two guys who are solely comic relief. There is no balance. As a result, the already barebones plot feels underdeveloped. Neither of the female leads is given much to do, although, thankfully, the film isn't sexist at all---not even towards the ex-girlfriend and even more gratefully, not even towards the foreigner in Goa. Simran C is very pretty and does well selling tired lines like 'It's not you, it's me!'. (A North-Indian-looking girl who can speak Telugu fairly well! She's the dream! Hire the hell out of her, TFI.) The generic nature of this romance is emblematic of this film's failures. For something that haunts the entire movie and the boys' friendship, this romance feels half-baked. A quick montage doesn't a romance make. This is particularly disappointing coming from a filmmaker who made the only fresh romcom I've seen anywhere in the world in a long time. (The concept of time through that montage is iffy. How many years/days/months did the relationship last?! No clue. Hence, it's difficult to buy the premise that it ended with a devastating, depression-inducing breakup. ) The music is disappointing too. Pellichoopulu had a wonderful, memorable soundtrack. This soundtrack feels like it was made with a software program.
I watched an interview of Tharun Bhascker's where he said he wants his movies to be visually driven, not necessarily dialogue-driven. It's a shame that he's downplaying the role of dialogues in his films because, both as a writer and director, he has a knack for lived-in, everyday dialogue that's somehow also cinematic and entertaining. A lot of it would be lost in translation, which is a good thing. It makes it more rooted. By picking amateur actors and letting them slightly improvise, he also achieves a rhythm that's slightly *off *. He allows pauses, overlaps and repetition, which makes it feel like everyday speech, while also not losing control over the overall rhythm of the scene. Despite the lack of a strong narrative, the film is never boring. It looks good, is often funny, has a couple of very funny, inventive set-pieces, and is crisp. That is, this film is by no means boring, but it isn't particularly memorable. All Bhascker needs to do now is come up with a stronger plot and characters (Pellichoopulu was also slightly iffy in the plot department but it had enough charm and the two lead characters were quite strong). He's got everything else down pat. I'd chalk this down as an entertaining disappointment. Looking forward to his next.