Published Oct 18, 2013Even aficionados of Indian cinema haven't likely seen anything quite like this strange, broadly comic fantasy romance before. Co-director S.S. Rajamouli's collaboration with J.V.V. Sathyanarayana is a head-scratching peculiarity, hybridizing the gaudy pomp of Bollywood with a zany and slightly macabre tale of chastity and revenge that will strike many as quite funny, if not all for the same reasons.
To explain: said vengeance seeker is a man reincarnated as a fly. After thirty minutes of on screen courtship – which we learn is the tail end of two blue-ball-inducing years of unrequited yearning on behalf of our dauntless protagonist – Nani (played by a pretty boy with a thousand-watt smile of the same name) finally coaxes a minor display of affection out of the girl so fond of making him work tirelessly for a sniff of her femininity only to be murdered by a jealous romantic rival (presumable heartthrob, Sudeep). The rest of the movie is made up of CGI fly Nani's increasingly elaborate attempts to kill his killer and make contact with his grieving lover, who conveniently specializes in micro art.
The lack of familiarity most western audiences have with Telugu cinema should work in Eega's favour. Random song and dance numbers with cheeky double entendres and lyrics that literally describe what's happening in the plot feel like jolts of outright insanity to those unaccustomed to the willy-nilly spray of such bombastic cheese. It comes off as a weird blend of a low-budget Dreamworks family entertainment (in the rudimentarily animated, highly kinetic action scenes from Nani's bug perspective) and a dirty comedy with all the subtly of a Mike Myers vehicle.
Unmistakably, a tremendous amount of effort went into designing this discomfiting dry-hump of a date movie. Luckily, for the audience that will likely warm to it, the less than cutting edge special effects work can be see as endearing, especially since all the scenes are so meticulously orchestrated despite the use of technology at least a decade out of step with what we're used to seeing. Where Eega excels without provision is in sound design. Since flies don't have vocal chords (among other physiological apparatuses integral to speech) Nani's emotions are conveyed almost entirely through sound cues predicated on cartoon convention and preening, mind-bogglingly saccharine song.
At more than two hours and lacking much in the terms of depth – it's a simple rich man versus poor man fable with fetishized possessiveness parading as love – a bit of bloat and redundancy plagues the film but once you're on this wholly unusual ride there's no getting off (literally). (14 Reels)