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5 factors that helped ‘Pushpa’ breathe fire at the box office

How this Allu Arjun-starrer became a smash success

‘Pushpa: The Rise,’ starring Allu Arjun in the lead, is 2021’s highest grossing Indian movie.
‘Pushpa: The Rise,’ starring Allu Arjun in the lead, is 2021’s highest grossing Indian movie.

The word ‘Pushpa’ means flower in several Indian languages.

But Allu Arjun’s titular character in the gangster movie of this name insists that it refers to ‘fire’.

Because that’s what this fiery chap is all about in this Telugu film.

In my interpretation, ‘Pushpa’ also stands for ‘Bollywood, pull up your socks!’

Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I watched a Hindi movie of this scale even in the pre-pandemic era.

Sure, Dangal was one such larger-than-life work. But it was in 2016.

That translates to five years of drought with respect to epic, visionary content in Bollywood.

And now, with Kabir Khan’s 83 fizzling out before this juggernaut called Pushpa: The Rise, the writing is on the wall for this increasingly smug industry.

Welcome to the era of the pan-Indian movie.

And while Pushpa: The Rise, the first of B. Sukumar’s two-movie series, is an out-and-out masala entertainer, its smash success means it has managed to grab eyeballs even among the most discerning of viewers.

Here are 5 reasons why.

Allu Arjun’s power act

Action-packed potboilers aren’t really known for focusing on their lead stars’ acting skills.

Pushpa, however, is a rare exception.

Actually, if you need just one reason to watch Pushpa: The Rise, it has to be Allu Arjun’s award-worthy work.

Playing a street-smart sandalwood smuggler of a labour-class background, the actor gets to showcase a wide range of emotions and histrionics in a variety of situations.

The end result is so fantastic, it can put many a so-called star to shame.

The film does have its share of suspension-of-disbelief moments, but Allu Arjun injects an interesting dose of believability and humanity on these occasions.

Kudos to the director Sukumar for giving him the bandwidth to bring out his talent.

Smart screenplay

Did I just call Pushpa a ‘potboiler’? Scratch that.

A potboiler, according to WordWeb, is “a literary composition of poor quality that was written quickly to make money”.

Pushpa: The Rise is far from it.

Though the three-hour-long runtime could have been on the shorter side, the director, who also wrote the film, ensured that each scene and character had a reason to exist. It ticked all boxes of efficiency, with nothing going to waste. Something I’m learning for all my fiction writing, including PiKu & ViRu 2. (Buy/download, read, and review the first book here; it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited!)

I was afraid Pushpa would come across as the ultimate alpha male, a potential source of unrealistic James Bond-like manhood goals for the boys out there. However, Sukumar has cleverly woven in a backstory for him to make him more three-dimensional.

I was also worried about Srivalli (Rashmika Mandanna) and Pushpa’s romance turning out to be a pointless side plot. But I loved how it led to plenty of conflict and drama in the overall narrative.

Everything just blended together seamlessly to form a kick-ass viewing experience.

The ending, which points out what Pushpa is up against in part 2, isn’t much of a cliffhanger. But I got so invested in the characters that I’m excited to see what lies ahead. And that’s the whole point of screenwriting, isn’t it?

Superior technical touches

From the intricacies of the illegal red-sandalwood trade to the use of pagers in sync with the film’s timeline, Pushpa: The Rise aims to entertain its audiences while ensuring it gets its world right. The amount of research that has gone into it is surely painstaking.

The cinematography is stunning, with the picturesque sandalwood forests popping out in all their lush greenery and the redness of the timber being just as arresting.

And while we all know that the film’s physics-defying fight scenes are sure to have used some VFX, some of them are so well executed—especially in terms of the acting—that we wonder if they are real in any way.

Foot-tapping music

The film’s songs and background score perfectly match its mood and tone.

Devi Sri Prasad’s compositions are also just what you need for your playlist.

My personal favourites are ‘Daakko Daakko Meka’ (‘Jaago Jaago Bakre’ in Hindi) and ‘Srivalli’.

‘Oo Oo Antava,’ performed by Samantha in the film, seemed a bit out of place in the narrative, indicating an intent to titillate and sexualise more than further the plot. But barring that, the soundtrack and its execution in the film are otherwise quite solid.

The sheer scale

As I mentioned earlier, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a larger-than-life film grace our screens—big or small.

For those of us starved of this kind of cinematic scale, Pushpa: The Rise fills the void and does an excellent job at it.

When else are we going to see the likes of Allu Arjun, Rashmika Mandanna, and Fahadh Faasil unite for a two-film series in such a dramatic, spectacular way?

Sure, Pushpa: The Rise has flaws, especially with respect to the depiction of its women characters, including Srivalli, and the tepid climax. But I’m sure the second part, Pushpa: The Rule, would iron out these issues and give us an even better experience than the first one. I really can’t wait to check it out!

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