GEETANJALI (1989): When Nagarjuna worked with Mani Ratnam, there was magic. He dived into a majestically morbid tale of two terminally ill people who fall in love. The film could have been a real downer what with the scrip demanding a macabre joy in pain and suffering. But Nag’s innate sense of positivity with some help from his co-star Girija Shettar elevated this sob story into something sublime and life-enforcing.
SHIVA (1989): During the same year when Geetanjali showed Nag’s supreme sensitivity, he also did a somersault (and added a few kicks to it) in Ram Gopal Varma’s raw guttural campus actioner where Nag played the angry boy-man with a vibrant virility. The performance and the film rank among the most powerful studies of the distortions in the student-politics nexus. This was not a film, it was an adrenaline-pumping treatise on youth unrest. Wonder what happened to Varma! Why did he make the horrendous Officer with Nag 28 years later? More importantly why did Nag agree to be in it?
GOVINDA GOVINDA (1994): An absolutely crazy film by Ram Gopal Varma meshing mythology, fantasy, crime and comedy, tantra and telekinesis, this one works like a charm if you are a Sridevi fan. Director Ram Gopal Varma was. He infuses every frame with an idolatry giggle. Nag pitched in with his own devil-may-care James Dean-meets-MGR kid of swaggering performance as a taxi driver who helps the diva in distress.
ZAKHM (1998): In Hindi cinema, Nag was not quite the outsider that Chiranjeevi proved himself to be. His rapport with Mahesh Bhatt yielded some intense work, none more so than Zakhm where he played a filmmaker torn between two women. The role was based on Mahesh Bhatt’s own life. Nag played it straight. No frills. No melodrama. He is incapable of melodrama.
MANMADHUDU (2002): In this beautifully laid-out rom-com, Nag starred as a misogynist who lives to regret falling in love, until he meets Ms Right Sonali Bhendre. Now, 17 years later, Nag is back in Manmadhudu 2 playing a guy who simply LOVES women. If you have seen any traces of aging since the other film, let me know. I didn’t.
OOPIRI (2016): To paraphrase Karan Johar’s familial adage, it’s all about caring for someone who is not biologically family. Vamshi Padypally’s Oopiri (Thozha in Tamil) forges an exceedingly engaging film out of the story of two unlikely friends… a quadriplegic billionaire Vikram Aditya (Nagarjuna) and his care-giver, a cocky insouciant social offender named Sinu (Karthi) out on parole whose foster mother (the very dignified Jaya Sudha , resembling Shefali Shah) thinks he is scum , and sister agrees .What could easily have become a morbid exploration of self-pitying anxieties is converted into a celebration of life. Every breath we take is precious…. suggests this ebullient film’s subtext… so why not make the best of it? This wondrous pastiche of potent emotions gets its free-flowing gravitational propulsion from the way the principal actors project their characters’ mutual affections into the plot. Both the main actors Nagarjuna and Karthi invest precious emotions into their onscreen rapport without toppling over into excessive schmaltz. Karthi’s character could have become clownish in its working-class aspirations. The director and the actor know where to draw the line.
Taking the basic idea of the kinship between the care-giver and care-receiver from its French habitat—Oopiri is the homespun version of the French film The Untouchables—director Vamsi weaves a wickedly delectable moral tale filled with glint-eyed twists and turns. The merger of different attitudes, social and creative, constitute the backbone of Oopiri. While the narrative constantly reminds itself to remain true to its populist sentiments, the massy mood never gets messy. There is ample room for sensitivities to lodge themselves in the plot. When Karthi loads his immobile friend on a bike and zips off for a ride, a tear drop oozes out of Nag’s eye.
“The breeze is making your eye water,” observes Karthi happily.
Indeed, the breeze blows across fresh-faced film, reminding not to squander any time on undesirable experiences. Oopiri is certainly not one of them.
WILD DOG (2020) : No trial, no jury, only fury... That could sum up Nagarjuna’s role as the encounter-friendly cop from the imaginary anti-terror cell known as National Investigation Agency(NIA). Nagarjuna, 61, looks at least ten years younger as he assumes the action-hero avatar in this brisk-paced anti-terror drama, which is always on the move.
There is hardly a moment in the two-hour feast of fury where Nag playing Vijay Varma (aka Wild Dog) is not on his feet furiously chasing down and gunning one dreaded terrorist after another. While ensuring we the audience remain hooked to the proceedings Wild Dog also applies a well-researched plot to the proceedings. For example, while justifying his guerrilla operation to catch the main terrorist , Nag quotes examples from world history. Nagarjuna’s vibrant vibes as he shoots down one terrorist after another, reminding us that the time for dialogue (in Telugu or otherwise) with militants is long over. It’s time for action. Nag style.
Image Source: Instagram/akkineni__nagarjuna