'Ustaad', produced by Rajani Korrapati, Rakesh Reddy Gaddam, and Himank Reddy Duvvuru, was released in theatres today. In this section, we are going to review the latest BO release.
The film opens with a young pilot named Surya (Sri Simha Koduri) making a debut in the pilot's seat. He starts narrating the saga of his rise from nobody to somebody to his accomplished Captain (Gautham Menon).
Cut to the past, Surya was considered a dimwit in studies. He struggled to complete his graduation but a good-looking yet semi-defunct bike named Ustaad inspired him to dream big. When his relationship with his girlfriend Meghana (Kavya Kalyanram) turned tumultuous, the going got tough. The crux of the second half is about how Surya rose to become a pilot despite emotional hardships.
As an optimistic yet emotionally vulnerable youngster, Sri Simha Koduri gives a thorough performance. He is a surprise package in the second half, where director Phanideep (who is a fan of Gautham Menon) burdens him with heavy-duty scenes. The youngster was subpar in the recent comedy caper 'Bhaag Saale'. While his previous three films reduced him to one-note acting, 'Ustaad' gives him the opportunity to deliver a worthy performance. This is also the first film in which budding comedian Ravi Siva Teja gets to share screen space with the male lead in a full-fledged manner for half the running time.
This film belongs to supporting artists more than the female lead. While Kavya Kalyanram is apt, it is Ravindra Vijay and Gautham Menon who are better. Anu Haasan (as the male lead's mother) is good. Sai Kiran Yedida is seen as the lead man's uncle.
Debutant composer Akeeva B deserves a pat on the back for enhancing the dramatic portions. No song feels forced, as almost all the songs are montage songs built on the situations (both pleasant and tense). The background score is uplifting as well. The cinematography by Pavan Kumar Pappula and the Production Design by Pravalya D fit the bill.
Conversational dramas are not easy on the mind, especially if you are selling your film to an impatient audience that prefers masala elements for the most part and emotional monologues only in the climax. That's why conversational love stories are rarely made in Telugu. 'Ustaad', which might find traction when it arrives on OTT, is a courageous attempt in this context.
The bike that Surya owns becomes the symbol of his aspirational journey. Lucky coincidences, feel-good montage stretches and a mother who motivates her son to embrace his flaws define his journey. Ravindra Vijay's mechanic character asks Surya to trust machines as they never cheat humans. Through and through, Surya realizes that he can't escape the gifts the bike wants to bestow on him. These are the kind of elements that you can expect the multiplex audience to appreciate.
The coming-of-age story is packed with moments where the protagonist strives to overcome his fears and inefficiencies. He is not your practical-minded person but a dreamy, clean-hearted guy who privileges experiences and memories over materialism. He appreciates his mother's fighting spirit, leaving her in tears.
All said, the script is not wholesome enough to make us feel Suriya's mental and emotional transformation, and what it feels like to undergo life-altering experiences. The love story takes precedence in the second half. The 'love at first sight' trope hasn't been deployed effectively. There are quite a few areas where the film feels too self-indulgent.
'Ustaad' is a well-meaning film with strong performances and excellent music. Its multiplex sensibilities make it a niche film.