Review: EEGA Is The Best, Most Insane, Most Inventive Film Of The Year. Catch This Fly While You Can!
Nani, played by an actor of the same name, is a free spirit, a young man whose only goal in life is to woo the beautiful Bindhu (Samantha). Bindhu works at a non-profit organization, and as such she makes the occasional cold call looking for donations to keep her wheels moving. One day she is unfortunate enough to call on Sudeep, played by Kannada film star Kiccha Sudeep, a wealthy land developer with a skeezy look about him and a weakness for pretty young things. When Sudeep learns that Bindhu has a crush on Nani, he kills his only rival for Bindhu's hand and attempts to make his move, but Sudeep didn't count on the transcendent power of love. Reincarnated as a common housefly, Nani proceeds to make Sudeep's life a living hell. With a bit of persistence and some help from his former human flame, Bindhu, a plot hatches and the pair plan their vengeance in some of the most amazing sequences I've ever seen.
First thing's first, I think it is only fair to note that I saw Eega in its original Telugu language with no subtitles. While I was able to pick out a word hear and there (anyone who watches enough south Indian films learns to say "I will kill you" in a number of languages and dialects pretty quickly), the script and dialogue were completely lost on me. That being said, at no point during the film did I feel lost, the plot and story are completely understandable even without subtitles, and while literal understanding of the dialogue may have helped, I would have no problem walking right back into another unsubtitled screening of Eega and watching it all over again.
Now. Eega. Where to start. First of all, the very concept of the film is completely insane. How does one turn a non-verbal housefly into (a) a compelling protagonist, and (b) a believable threat to a human antagonist. Rajamouli's scripting and marvelously inventive story handles both of those concerns with aplomb. In spite of the lunacy of the concept, at no point did I feel that the characters were acting in ways that didn't fit the story or the universe that was created for them. The fly is not endowed with any superpowers, he doesn't talk or crack jokes, he doesn't really do anything that a fly, in sentient, couldn't do. And I bought it; hook, line, and sinker.
There are so many ways that this film could have failed. One big worry of mine was the fact that the idea of an avenging housefly makes the filmmakers necessarily reliant on massive quantities of CG, something with which even the biggest Indian productions still have problems. However, to my delight, the CG was never distracting, not even for a moment. I suppose if I'd been bored I could have taken the time to dissect the flaws in the technical aspects, but those moments just didn't exist in this film. It never stops moving, it's incredibly well-paced, and at right around two and a half hours, that's quite a feat in and of itself.
One standout performance in the film comes from Telugu film newcomer, Kiccha Sudeep as the villainous Sudeep. The requirements of the role have Sudeep acting largely opposite an imaginary fly. The fly goes into his ears, up his nose, into his eye, and gets literally and figuratively into his head very early on. His ability to convey this character's decaying mental state in the midst of all of the chaos around his is remarkable. He is manic, he is sincerely threatening, but most of all, he's legitimately hilarious. Sudeep has these crazy bug eyes that scream madness and say more with a glance than many actors can with three pages of monologue. In a performance that goes long stretches with no dialogue at all, Sudeep steals the show, and was my favorite human character in Eega.
However, I cannot leave this review without talking about the craziest thing of all, that goddamned fly. I suppose that everyone has had the experience of being pestered by a fly or a gnat at some point in their lives, but not like this. Nani's perseverance is remarkable, and the continual invention on the part of Rajamouli to make him a sincere threat to Sudeep is remarkable. Only S.S. Rajamouli could show a fly causing a human to roll his car in a most spectacular fashion to end the first half of the film, and then follow it up by making that seem like mere distraction for the really good stuff. There's a training montage with the fly lifting weights and running on a makeshift treadmill for Christ's sake! And it doesn't feel out of place AT ALL.
Every time I thought I had a handle on Eega, it threw me for a loop in the best possible way. Eega is easily the most flat-out entertaining film I've seen this year, bar none, and I didn't understand more than half a dozen words of dialogue in the whole thing. It's that good. It's often said that the best filmmakers know how to show, not tell their stories, and if that's the criterion for master filmmakers, S.S. Rajamouli is someone you need to know about. Incredible action sequences, inventive storytelling, technical excellence, and laughs and gasps that just keep coming; Eega has it all.
I happen to know for a fact that there are forty seven screens in the USA showing Eega this weekend, and only about ten of them will have subtitles. If you are near one of those ten, I will punch you in the throat if you miss this film. If you aren't near a theater with subs, don't be a fucking pussy, you don't need them to enjoy this remarkable piece of work. Eega is a winner, plain and simple.
Edit to add: I have just been informed in the last couple of hours that the digital prints in the USA do not carry the promised subtitles, so there is no way to see the film subtitled in this country. However, don't let that stop you, the film is good enough to stand on its own without them.