Review: ‘Naa Saami Ranga,’ starring Nagarjuna, Allari Naresh, Raj Tarun, Ashika Ranganath and Shabeer Kallarakkal

January 18, 2023

by Carla Hay

Nagarjuna Akkineni in “Naa Saami Ranga” (Photo courtesy of RKD Studios)

“Naa Saami Ranga”

Directed by Vijay Binni

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed city in India, in the late 1980s (and briefly in 1963), the action film “Naa Saami Ranga” features an all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An orphan gets adopted by a powerful government family, and when he’s an adult, he becomes involved in the family’s power struggles.

Culture Audience: “Naa Saami Ranga” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching formulaic action movies with many unrealistic fight scenes.

Shabeer Kallarakkal and Rao Ramesh in “Naa Saami Ranga” (Photo courtesy of RKD Studios)

“Naa Saami Ranga” has more of the same predictable action-movie story about a hero character who’s caught up in violent feuding, revenge schemes, and a difficult romance. The generic and uninspiring plot becomes incoherent and annoying after a while. The awkwardly placed musical numbers are forgettable and formulaic.

Written and directed by Vijay Binni, “Naa Saami Ranga” is so derivative of many other similar movies, if you’ve seen enough of them, then you’ll know exactly how the movie is gong to end about 15 to 20 minutes after the movie starts. “Naa Saami Ranga” (which means “my goodness gracious” in Hindi) recycles the same old story of an underdog “hero,” who battles against enemies (usually those with more money and more power), while his love life consist mostly of chasing after a woman who seems to be unattainable.

The movie (which place in an unnamed village in India) begins in 1963, when an orphan named Kishtaiah, who’s about 12 to 13 years old, is invited to live with his best friend Anji (who’s about 10 or 11 years old) and Anji’s single mother. Kishtaiah and Anji are raised as brothers. The movie never bothers to explain what happened to Kishtaiah’s parents or anything about his family background.

One day, tragedy strikes when Anji’s mother suddenly dies. No cause of death is given n the movie. At the time of her death, she was heavily in mortgage debt to a wealthy businessman named Varadaraju (played by Rao Ramesh), who demands that Kishtaiah and Anji give the deceased mother’s house to him, in order to pay off the debt.

Instead of leaving these boys poor and orphaned, a powerful local government official named Peddayya (played by Nassar) volunteers to pay off the debt and raise Kishtaiah and Anji alongside his three other pre-teen sons. One of Peddayya’s sons is named Dasu, who shows the most resentment over having two new boys in the household. And you know what that means later in the story.

Kishtaiah meets Varamahalakshmi, nicknamed Varalu, the daughter of Varadaraju. It’s love at first sight, but Kishtaiah is too shy to approach her when he first sees her. He eventually starts talking to Varalu but is afraid to tell her how he really feels about her. Anji gives encourgagement to Kishtaiah, who gets enough confidence to tell Varalu his true feelings.

But on the day that Kishtaiah plans to do that, he sees his adoptive father Peddayya frantically driving a car that is being chased by a gang of about 20 thugs in a remote area. Peddayya is wounded. It just so happens that Kishtaiah has a gun with him, which he takes out an aims at the thugs.

“Naa Saami Ranga” then fast-fowards to 1988. The movie never shows what happened after Kishtaiah took out that gun, but it’s explained later that Kishtaiah shot the thugs and saved Peddayya’s life. In gratitude, Peddayya began to treat Kishtaiah (played by Nagarjuna) as equal to his biological sons. And you just know that this is going to cause major problems between Kishtaiah and Dasu (played by Shabeer Kallarakkal), who wants to be Peddayya’s favorite son.

During this time, Kishtaiah and Anji (played by Allari Naresh) are still best friends. Anji has fallen in love with a woman named Manga (played by Mirnaa Menon), and they get married. Kishtaiah and Anji are so close, Kishtaiah continues to live with Anji even after Anji gets married.

Kishtaiah now acts like a village protector against bullies, with a machete as a weapon of choice. No longer a shy teenager, Kishtaiah (who is a chainsmoker) walks around with a lot of swagger and arrogance. It’s more than enough to attract Varalu (played by Ashika Ranganath), who becomes charmed by Kishtaiah, and they fall in love with each other after she plays “hard to get.”

The relationshp between Kishtaiah and Varalu doesn’t go smoothly. Her father Varadaraju hasn’t forgotten about Kishtaiah’s poverty-striken childhood before Kishtaiah was adopted by Peddayya. Varadaraju doesn’t approve of Varalu dating Kishtaiah for caste reasons and because he thinks Kishtaiah deserves to be with someone who is more refined.

That’s not the only storyline about a father disapproving of a couple. There’s also a subplot about Kishtaiah and Anji befriending a guy named Bhaskar (played by Raj Tarun), who is dating a woman named Kumari (played by Rukshar Dhillon) whom Bhaskar wants to marry. However, Kumari’s father Veerabhadrudu (played by Madhusudan Rao), who is the president of a nearby village named Jagganna Thota, vehemently opposes the idea of Bhaskar marrying Kumari, because Veerabhadrudu doesn’t think Bhaskar is good enough to marry Kumari.

The rest of “Naa Saami Ranga” is about conflicts over these romance problems, which lead to family feuds and a lot of silly-looking fight scenes in a messy story. There is absolutely nothing creatively imaginative about “Naa Saami Ranga.” The acting is mediocre, and the dialogue is simplistic. It will be difficult for many viewers to emotionally connect with the adult Kishtaiah, because he comes across as very shallow and has a nasty temper, even though he is very loyal to his loved ones.

Because there’s a missing 25-year gap in the story, there’s no real explanation for the drastic personality change from the shy teenage Kishtaiah to the combative adult Kishtaiah. It’s implied that when he shot the thugs who were attacking Peddayya, this violent incident changed Kishtaiah. But there’s no real indication in the movie that this theory is true, because this entire movie is poorly written.

The action scenes are sloppy and very unrealistic. For example, in one of the major showdown scenes, a certain person is brutally stabbed, and then gets up and moves around as if that person has no injuries at all. The movie expects viewers to take this idiotic scene seriously. Ultimately, “Naa Saami Ranga” fails to bring suspense or an interesting story, which makes the movie’s 150-minute runtime feel much longer.

RKD Studios released “Naa Saami Ranga” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on January 14, 2024.

Review: ‘Amigos’ (2023), starring Nandamuri Kalyan Ram

February 18, 2023

by Carla Hay

Nandamuri Kalyan Ram in “Amigos” (Photo courtesy of Mythri Movie Makers)

“Amigos” (2023)

Directed by Rajendra Reddy

Telugu with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India, the action film “Amigos” features a predominantly Indian cast of characters (with some black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: After a man meets two of his biologically unrelated look-alikes, he finds out that one of them is a notorious criminal who is a fugitive from authorities. 

Culture Audience: “Amigos” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching far-fetched action movies where everything is repetitive and predictable.

Nandamuri Kalyan Ram and Ashika Ranganath in “Amigos” (Photo courtesy of Mythri Movie Makers)

An action movie about unrelated look-alikes and mistaken identities usually has only two characters with this problem. “Amigos” has three characters who are unrelated look-alikes, which just makes this muddled story become increasingly doltish. And with a total running time of 137 minutes, “Amigos” is just too long for a movie with a very thin and silly plot.

“Amigos” is the feature-film debut of writer/director Rajendra Reddy, who copies so many other Bollywood action films in having the same soundtrack-blaring tone as characters have simple-minded conversations and go from one ridiculous scenario to the next, with some musical numbers thrown into the mix. “Amigos” is just more of the same mind-numbing regurgitation about doppelganger misadventures, with the only novelty being that it’s about three look-alikes instead of the usual two. The movie could have done a lot of interesting things with this concept. Instead, it’s just mindless mush that drags on until the very predictable end.

In “Amigos” (which takes place in various cities in India), a “regular guy” named Siddharth (played by Nandamuri Kalyan Ram), nicknamed Siddhu, works with his uncle (played by Brahmaji) in a family-owned land development business based in Hyderabad, India. Siddhu finds out about a popular website called, where people can find their biologically unrelated look-alikes. The movie has montages showing that it’s become a fad for people to post social media photos and videos of people meeting their look-alikes from around the world. Siddhu soon gets caught up in this fad, for better or worse.

The “better” part happens when he meets two men on who look exactly like him (except for their hairstyles and how they dress) but all three men have very different personalities from each other. Manjunath Hegde (also played by Ram) is a nerdy and brilliant software engineer/computer programmer from the city of Bangalore. Michael (also played by Ram), who likes to wear sunglasses and habitually smokes cigarettes, is a mysterious “tough guy” from the city of Kolkata. All three men meet in person in Goa and become fast friends.

The movie takes an awfully long time in showing montages of Siddhu, Manjunath and Michael going on adventurous trips together. While Siddhu and Manjunath tell each other that they feel like they are brothers, Michael isn’t as open about his feelings. He remains a little more emotionally guarded than the other two newfound pals. “Amigos” does a terrible job of creating suspense, because it’s obvious that Michael has secrets that he’s trying to hide.

“Amigos” spends a lot of time time on a subplot about how the three look-alikes use their physical resemblances to help Siddhu court a hard-to-please love interest named Ishika (played by Ashika Ranganath), who has a specific list of what she wants in a potential husband. Siddhu fulfills only part of her list of requirements. And so, Siddhu asks his look-alike new best friends to pretend to be him whenever he needs to impress Ishika in a specific way.

Ishika wants a highly intelligent man (which is where Manjunath comes in handy) and a man with great physical strength and bravado, which is where Michael is helpful. The Siddhu look-alikes pretend to be Siddhu when Ishika gives various tests to see if “Siddhu” meets her requirements. It’s really an idiotic scheme to deceive Ishika this way because Siddhu can only keep up the charade for a limited period of time, since his look-alikes can’t always be around to pretend to be him.

The “worse” part of this doppelganger get-together comes when Siddhu and Manjunath find out that Michael is really a ruthless arms dealer named Bipin Roy, who is a fugitive from the National Investigation Agency (NIA). (This isn’t spoiler information, because this real identity is revealed in the movie’s trailer.) And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why he wanted to meet Siddhu and Manjunath: This criminal wants to steal their identities.

“Amigos” has these characters in chase scene after chase scene that don’t really further the story but just make the plot more tangled and ridiculous. The fight scenes aren’t believable at all. Some of the visual effects are adequate, but the rest of the visual effects are downright awful, because the cast members are obviously acting in front of a screen, not a real location.

Although he plays three different men in “Amigos,” Ram is mostly watchable as Siddhu. He portrays Manjunath in a bland and generic way. His depiction of Michael/Bipin is very cringeworthy as an over-the-top villain, including a very fake-sounding deep voice. The portrayal of Michael/Bipin is so terrible, viewers might be more likely to laugh at this character than feel like this character is menacing.

All of the other cast members give mediocre-to-bad performances, although Brahmaji seems to be doing the best he can in his comic relief role as Siddhu’s uncle. “Amigos” has the expected betrayals and fight scenes that all lead up to a very underwhelming and unimaginative ending. If “Amigos” were a baseball game, the mishandling of the “three look-alike friends” concept is not only fumbling the ball, but it’s also a complete “three strikes and you’re out” failure.

Mythri Movie Makers released “Amigos” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on February 10, 2023.

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