The very first fifteen minutes of the 2023 film “Gandeevadhari Arjuna”confused me immensely. Let me explain why. The opening scenes depict an Indian minister being attacked by unknown assailants while he is in the UK to attend an international environment summit. While the minister manages to escape unharmed, his chief bodyguard is fatally injured. To replace him, the bodyguard recommends an ex-special forces officer named Arjun Verma, claiming that he is the only person he can trust to take a bullet for the minister. The scene then shifts to introduce Arjun (Varun Tej), who is currently employed by a Russian mob boss. Varun Tej gets a heroic introductory scene – he first stops his boss from hitting a woman, then saves the man from a bunch of armed goons, and then quits the job. “If I see you abuse another woman again, I will kill you myself. I quit,” he says and then drives off in a car with a sticker that says “bad boys drive bad toys.” LOL. Seriously? Is a guy who would work for a mob boss for money supposed to be trustworthy?
Director Praveen Sattaru, who co-wrote the script with Abhijeeth Poondla, takes too long to get to the point in “Gandeevadhari Arjuna.” The initial half of the film sets the stage for what appears to be an action-romance, featuring Arjun and the minister’s personal secretary, Ira (Sakshi Vaidya). However, the plot centers around something known as “File 13,” housing an exposé about a powerful company’s illicit dumping of toxic waste across India, resulting in deadly diseases among the local populace. Two resourceful students gather damning evidence and entrust it to the Indian Environment minister Adityaraj (Nassar) in pursuit of justice. A man called Ranveer (Vinay Rai) owns the firm responsible for the toxic waste and goes to extreme lengths to eliminate anyone attempting to reveal their secrets. So it is up to Arjun to keep the minister safe until his participation in the UN summit.
The cinematography in “Gandeevadhari Arjuna” is quite impressive, featuring numerous scenes set in elaborate locations. For instance, Arjun attends a packed soccer match in the UK to retrieve the coveted “File 13” from the student activist. The villains’ lair is also remarkable, boasting vastness, grandeur, and a plethora of antique items, including a striking collection of vintage vehicles.It’s evident that the creators have spent a pretty penny on their location and sets, if only they would’ve invested as much in a team of writers. The special effects whilst showing patients suffering due to toxins dumped illegally were a little off, but doesn’t disrupt the movie’s visual value much.
One of the most significant issues with the film is its focus on the wrong hero. The true protagonists of this story should have been the students striving to expose corrupt firms, but their narrative only unfolds in the second half of “Gandeevadhari Arjuna” through brief snippets. The Arjun-Ira love subplot could have been entirely omitted, as it bears no relevance to the primary environmental theme of the story. Instead, more time should’ve been spent on the investigation into the illegal dumping and its effects, because despite a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes, the climax feels abrupt. While the film concludes with a lesson about how developing countries exploit poorer ones to dispose of their waste, its intense focus on Arjun battling goons dilutes the final message regarding the necessity of cleaner waste removal solutions. The balance between the action elements and the social message is significantly skewed. Consider watching the film only if you’re a fan of Vinay Rai or if you don’t mind action movies with convoluted plots.
Rating: 4 on 10. You can stream “Gandeevadhari Arjuna” on Netflix.
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