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Ghani movie review Varun Tej’s boxing drama knocks you out

Ghani is extremely unremarkable, marred by cliches, lazy writing, and bad dialogues.

Let’s talk about the flashback that finds its way into the screenplay three times within the first 60 minutes of the film. A kid gets bullied by his schoolmates because of his father’s deeds. A minute passes, and we see his worried mother, Madhuri, played by the reliable Nadia, walking swiftly towards a crowd and pulling it apart. She finds her kid half-naked and crouching down while everyone around—not just the kids anymore, but young people to adults—points at him and chants ‘cheater, cheater.’ I cannot reveal more about the story, but I cannot fathom a world where you subject an innocent kid to something like this. It isn’t just over-the-top. It is cruelty without motivation or reason.

Let’s look at the setting for a minute. Boxing is as primitive a sport can get—the blood-spilling, the grunting, and the pain. So, it makes a certain sense to set a movie like this near the sea. For one, it is poetic—one forceful thing witnessing another, and it also helps with creating visually-stunning montages. Pa. Ranjit’s Sarpatta Parambarai already showed how to perfectly encapsulate the shore and its tricky terrain to enable a man’s physical transformation and skill-building. So, yes. When the film shifts to Vizag, I expected there to be a meaningful reason. But no. Other than the cursory aerial shot and a few scenes in Gitam, the film has no interest in the city.

This lack of followthrough is apparent in every section of the film. Kiran Korrapati probably had a decent idea, but it is nowhere to be seen. The film is so under-written that the protagonist’s age keeps shifting. He is studying his 4th year of engineering—no one in the college looks a day below 30, but 15 years ago, he was a 10-year-old boy—’Paathikela kurraadu’, says a character. Is he a bad student? How long has he been doing his engineering? Now to the mother. We are never explained how she managed more than stay afloat. A two-storied building that looks like a furniture store outlet can be afforded by someone who runs a nursery?

Let’s leave the finer details for now and talk about the characters. Ghani and his mother talk a lot about pain, but we don’t see them suffer. They reveal their despair in dialogues and stories they tell to other characters. Varun Tej’s poker face doesn’t help either. We can see the actor’s hard work in his physical transformation, but what about the Ghani? Why would the audience care if a character isn’t ready to be vulnerable in front of the camera? Frankly, what reason would they have to?

Technically, too, the film is a letdown. Thaman gives an average score, and the BGM is ineffective as well. Even if George C. Williams’s camera and Marthand K. Venkatesh have a few tricks up their sleeves—the scene close to the interval where the mother comes is nicely edited and shot, most of the film is visually inert. Even if the boxing matches are well-produced and designed, Raveendar is the production designer, the games aren’t exciting to watch. There is no shoptalk, no technical terminology—’Kodthe’ song with Tamannaah seems to be the only strategy. Is innings an accurate word to use in the context of boxing? The champion played by Suniel Shetty thinks so.

Upendra is fantastic as the gold-hearted boxer. The film also cleverly misdirects the viewer when it comes to him. It doesn’t make any narrative difference, but it gives the viewer an excuse to return after the intermission. Saiee Manjrekar’s rocky performance gets slightly better with time, but the writing never supports her. Jagapathi Babu has played the same character for so long that he doesn’t have to do anything anymore. He stands, and the viewer automatically predicts his next step. Consistency is a good thing, I guess.

Kiran Korrapati’s Ghani is true to its name. It is a mine, but there isn’t anything useful buried inside. The further the viewer digs, the clearer it becomes that the intended treasure is just a hollow grave, where cliches, lazy writing, and bad dialogues go to die. Any moment spent is a moment that we will not get back. Sure. But when you spend your time doing something enjoyable, those moments come back as memories. Keeping that in mind, I can comfortably say that the time I’ve spent watching Ghani is time I am never getting back; it is that unremarkable. Even a terrible film will have something to teach, but a movie that never tries anything is a waste of everything.

Sankeertana Varma is an engineer who took a few years to realise that bringing two lovely things, movies and writing, together is as great as it sounds. Mainly writes about Telugu cinema.