Psychology of Baby (2023): What You’re Not Seeing

Since its OTT release, the Telugu movie Baby (2023) directed by Sai rajesh Neelam, has been the talk of the town. Viral reels and memes are flooding social media with taglines such as “it’s a message to the new generation” and “it’s the reality of our present generation.But is this film really a mirror to contemporary relationships, or is it propagating outdated social norms and stereotypes? Let’s try a detailed analysis.

Baby telugu movie poster
Baby Telugu movie poster

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please watch it here, or read the story here.

Is It Really a Love Story?

On the surface, Baby (2023) appears to be a love story, but is it really? It seems to perpetuate outdated notions from the 80s and 90s, where a woman’s character is judged based on her attire or lifestyle choices.

Remember how Neelambari was portrayed in the movie Padayappa? Or consider the characters of Vani Vishwanath in Malayalam cinema, and similar examples in the Telugu industry with second heroines in movies.

Just like them, Vaishnavi is subjected to a set of unfair expectations and judgements.

Questionable Messages

One of the alarming messages that Baby seems to deliver is that stalking is acceptable behaviour. Vaishnavi finds herself in a situation where she accidentally kisses Viraj. Though she realises her mistake and apologises, Viraj continues to stalk her, disregarding her repeated refusals.

Anand, on the other hand, is portrayed as a possessive lover. While he does make sacrifices for Vaishnavi, such as gifting her a phone, these actions are often more about him than about her. His possessiveness often overshadows other critical aspects of his life, like his relationship with his mother.

Scenes from Baby(2023)
Scenes from Baby(2023)

The film appears to be whitewashing the male characters while darkening Vaishnavi’s character to an extreme extent. But why?

The Psychology Behind Audience Reactions

The mass audience seems to empathise more with Viraj and Anand, while vilifying Vaishnavi. This bias might be rooted in traditional gender roles and social norms that unconsciously influence our judgement. Vaishnavi’s character challenges these norms or mindsets that our typical audience has, thereby eliciting a stronger negative reaction from the audience.

The film’s commercial success and viral scenes beg the question: why are people resonating with it? It’s not necessarily because the film portrays reality, but perhaps because it confirms existing biases and beliefs. This is where I believe directors and script writers should be more responsible and try to make some differences instead of following the masses.

The film taps into the general scepticism around modern relationships & choices, packaging it as the real story of this generation, when, in fact, it might be perpetuating harmful stereotypes and norms.

Why Do Mass Audiences Hate Vaishnavi, not Viraj?

In my opinion, Viraj is the real antagonist of the movie, and he is the real villain. Still, people hate Vaishnavi. Why?

Traditional Gender Roles and Expectations

In our culture, traditional gender roles often portray women as the moral compass in romantic relationships. They want every woman to be like Sita, but men can be Krishna or Rama, depending on the hero. If Pawan Kalyan does the same thing in Badri or Jr. NTR does the same thing in Brindavanam, it is considered to be mass or cute. But when Vaishnavi does it in Baby, it is considered to be cheating.

Narrative Focus

The story primarily revolves around Vaishnavi’s choices and their consequences, making her actions the driving force behind the emotional turmoil. This focus naturally makes her more of a target for audience scrutiny compared to Viraj, who appears more as a reaction to her choices than as an instigator. This is where I felt, the script writer could have done a better job instead of spreading more toxicity.

Moral Ambiguity

Viraj isn’t portrayed as a clear-cut villain. He’s attracted to Vaishnavi and pursues her, but it’s Vaishnavi who hides her relationship status, thereby enabling Viraj’s advances. He does make a problematic move by threatening to release their kissing video, but this comes after he feels deceived.

Social Norms and Masculine Privilege

Viraj’s actions may be viewed less critically due to societal norms that often excuse or overlook male indiscretions in romantic pursuits. As I said before, many superstars have already done this multiple times on reel & real, but people are ready to accept it.

Why is Baby a Blockbuster and Going Viral, irrespective of its theme and toxicity?

The Pull of Confirmation Bias

One reason for the film’s massive success could be attributed to confirmation bias, a psychological tendency to seek, interpret, and remember information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. Baby (2023) seems to validate certain societal norms and judgements, making it appealing to a large audience that finds their beliefs reinforced. This is alarming, even in 2023, the majority believe in it.

Emotional Highs and Lows

From a cinematic standpoint, the film employs effective storytelling techniques that take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. High arousal emotions, whether positive or negative, are more likely to be shared; this is known as the emotional contagion theory. Scenes that evoke strong emotions—like anger towards Vaishnavi or sympathy for Anand and Viraj—are more likely to go viral.

The Impact of Social Media Algorithms

Let’s not underestimate the power of algorithms in shaping public opinion. Content that triggers strong emotional responses gets shared and commented on more, which gives it higher visibility on social media platforms. This creates a feedback loop in which the more a scene or character is discussed, the more visibility it gains, leading to a self-perpetuating cycle of virality.

The Bystander Effect in Digital Spaces

The ease with which people can share their opinions online paradoxically creates a digital bystander effect. Many might disagree with the portrayals and messages in the film but assume that someone else will voice these concerns. Meanwhile, those who agree with the film’s messages are more likely to share and propagate its content, thus contributing to its blockbuster status.

Baby (2023) is entertaining for youngsters, but it also reinforces harmful stereotypes about women and men. Its popularity shows that filmmakers need to be responsible rather than merely echoing societal biases.

For more movie analysis and suggestions, click here.

‘Custody’: The Hits and Misses of a Venkat Prabhu Hunt

“Custody” is a 90s-set action thriller that weaves unexpected twists, humour, and charm while falling short in delivering a consistently engaging cinematic experience.

Plot: A Twisted Tale of Duty and Dilemmas

Our story unfolds in the late 90s, with our hero Shiva (Naga Chaitanya), a morally upright police constable. Chaitanya’s character name might be inspired by Ram Gopal Varma’s Shiva, starring Nagarjuna Akkineni as a young rebel.

His introduction isn’t a typical fight scene, he doesn’t flex muscles but halts a Chief Minister’s ( Priyamani) car to make way for an ambulance.

Next, we’re shown his love life, where he’s planning to elope with his quirky girlfriend, Revathi (Krithi Shetty). The plot thickens when Shiva, in a twist of fate, gets entangled with a dangerous criminal, Raju (Arvind Swami).

Now, Shiva’s mission is to escort Raju to court while dodging the corrupt police officer IG Nataraj (Sharat Kumar) and the entire state police force.

Sounds like quite the thrill ride, doesn’t it? But don’t get too excited;
It’s like expecting a giant fireworks show and only getting a sparkler.

End credits from Custody

Custody: A Hunt with Missed Opportunities

Venkat Prabhu always aims to mix comedy and thrills in his films. This is like trying to make a tricky cocktail, where the humour is a refreshing breeze on a hot day. However, in “Custody”, the comedy didn’t hit the mark as expected. Premji seems to have lost the special spark we used to see in other Venkat Prabhu films.

The movie takes some time getting to the main conflict, which can test the patience of the audience. It fumbles when it attempts to explore an emotional backstory, making it feel a tad cliched. The comedy track could also have been sharper, and the action sequences more impactful.

In simple words, it could have been more focussed to the core theme (like Maanadu) and it demands a more brutal editing.

Performances: The Best, The Better, and The Missed Opportunities

In all Venkat Prabhu films, the actors’ performances are the beating heart, and it’s no different in “Custody.” But there is a difference, in Maanadu, you can see a competition between STR & S J Suryah, but here you won’t.

Naga Chaitanya as Shiva wears the role of the morally upright constable. His attempt to portray a character is commendable. While he convincingly plays the underdog, there are moments where we feel a seasoned actor could have added more depth and intensity to the role. It’s not that he doesn’t bring his A-game, but the character of Shiva could have had more facets explored. There are places where the character’s emotional depth doesn’t quite resonate convincingly. Still, it is arguably one of his best performances yet.

Arvind Samy as Raju from Custody

Arvind Swami as Raju is truly the show-stealer in this film. He beautifully balances the serious nature of his character with unexpected elements of humour. This is where the movie triumphs – in its character portrayals. Aravind Swami’s portrayal of the hardened criminal is not just intense but also delightfully entertaining. He adds a dash of humour even in the most tense moments, which keeps the narrative engaging. His character is a testament to Swami’s versatility as an actor.

Krithi Shetty as Revathy does a good job within the limited scope of her role. Her performance is impressive, and she adds charm to the screen. While her character remains a “nice to have” one in the film to add tension, the screenplay does not offer her much to contribute significantly to the plot. However, she does manage to leave an impact despite being the love interest that does not directly influence the main plotline.

Sharath Kumar as IG Nataraj delivers a strong performance. He embraces the character of the corrupt police officer with ease and manages to exude both menace and class. His screen presence is strong and adds value to the film. But I really wish S J Suryah could have tried the role of I G Natraj.

In addition, the film boasts some starry cameo appearances (I don’t want to spoil the surprise) that are sure to thrill the audience. One such cameo is by Ramki, which, despite being cliched, adds a massy feel to the scene.

Aesthetics and Score: An Ode to the 90s

The technical aspects of the film are appreciable.

Rajeevan, the production designer, and Kathir, the cinematographer, did a great job making it feel like you’ve gone back in time.

Yuvan Shnkar Raja mixed in some of Ilaiyaraaja’s older hits that fit right in and sound even better than the new songs.

Lastly, Venkat Prabhu used some references to take you back to the 90’s . Like, the main guy’s name is ‘Shiva’, as I mentioned before, it’s from a popular 90’s movie. Premji’s sequences with Mani Ratnam’s Mouna Ragam music. 

Why Watch ‘Custody’: The Final Verdict

In a nutshell: So, should you watch “Custody”?

It’s an average thriller cop story with an intriguing plot, some thrilling twists, and memorable performances.

It may not be the best movie you’ll watch this weekend, but if you’re a fan of Arvind Swami, or classy villains, or if you’re in the mood for an okayish thriller with some twists and turns or gripping background score, then go for it.

But don’t expect too much, or you might be disappointed. Just sit back, grab your popcorn, and enjoy the Venkat prabhu’s Hunt.

For more reviews, click here.

Vyavastha: Anand Ranga’s Legal Drama Lacks a Depth

I was searching for a thriller webseries and chose Vyavastha a Zee5 webseries based on its intriguing one-liner:

“On their wedding night, Yamini (Hebah Patel) is arrested for her husband’s murder. Vamsi (Karthik Rathnam), a young lawyer who cares for her, takes her case and tries to save her from Chakraborty (Sampath Raj), a crooked and influential lawyer in the city.”

Sounds interesting, right?

However, although it looks great on paper, the on-screen result is a cliched webseries that follows Vamsi as he tries to prove Yamini’s innocence while battling a corrupt lawyer.

Vyavastha webseries suffers from poor execution and weak scripting, making it worth watching only once if you’re interested in courtroom dramas.

Vyavastha poster

Poor Direction and Below Average Screenplay

Director Anand Ranga establishes a promising premise with a strong foundation for an engaging legal battle. The first episode reminds me of the 2020 Netflix series “Raat Akeli Hei.”

However, from the second episode, I realized that the series is a mediocre attempt with a template screenplay filled with some predictable and insipid events.

A scene from Vyavastha

The intensity and emotional depth are lacking, but to some extend, Karthick Rathnam’s performance helps balance these shortcomings. The subplots and conflicts, which could have enriched the story, are underdeveloped and lose momentum as the series progresses.

Vyavastha starts with a bang, but then it’s just a humming from episode 2 to episode 7, and finally, in episode 8, you can see a rushed conclusion that may also leave you unsatisfied.

I believe that after the first episode, you can directly watch episode 8, and it won’t make much difference even if you skip the episodes in between.

Performances & Technical Aspects

Karthik Rathnam impresses as Vamsi, a lawyer committed to justice, while Sampath Raj’s ruthless and greedy lawyer Chakraborty boasts a strong presence. Hebah Patel provide a decent performance within her characters’ limitations, and it was a surprise to see Kamna Jethmalini after a gap, nothing more to say about her character.

Hebah Patel

Anil Bandari’s cinematography is adequate, but the law firm sequences could have used a more polished presentation. There isn’t much to say about the art department, as it’s even worse. The courtroom setup is unconvincing. Vyavastha is suffocating at multiple places because of thsi poor technical aspects.

Naresh Kumaran’s background score does its job but isn’t exceptional, and it doesn’t leave a lasting impact.

Reasons to Watch Vyavastha webseries:

  • Engaging premise and intriguing plot (But spoiled from E02-E07))
  • Strong performances from Karthik Rathnam and Sampath Raj
  • Some well-written dialogues

Reasons to Skip Vyavastha webseries:

  • Poor execution and weak screenplay
  • Underdeveloped subplots and conflicts
  • Engagement is limited to the first and last episodes.

Despite a solid plot and commendable performances, the series falls short due to poor execution and a weak screenplay.

For more reviews click here.

Dasara Movie: A Mixed Cocktail of Themes and Emotions

Introducing Dasara, it’s a Blend of Familiar Elements, that’s my one word for this film.

Srikanth Odela, is the recent pass-out from the school of director Sukumar, after Buchi Bbau. So, there is no wonder why his latest release, Dasara evoking memories of Rangasthalam and Pushpa.

Chitti Babu Rangasthalam, Pushpa, Dharani in Dasara

Rather than delivering a raw revenge thriller, Dasara serves up a concoction of influences from Rangasthalam, KGF, and Kantara, all while incorporating themes such as casteism, friendship, love, heartbreak, politics, alcoholism, misogyny, twists, and even mythology. Despite offering a wide array of elements, the movie fails to deliver anything truly special or unique.

A Rustic Setting with Flawed Character Development

Set in the dusty village of Veerlapalle, where a deeply ingrained caste system prevails, Dasara follows the story of Dharani (Nani) and his friend Suri (Dheekshith Shetty), who both fall in love with the same girl, Vennela (Keerthy Suresh).

Dheekshith Shetty, Keerthi Suresh & Nani

The first half of the movie focuses on the Silk bar, a morning meeting place for the village men. Here, our hero and his friends steal coal from passing goods trains to make ends meet. Sadly, the introduction to this world is somewhat lackluster.

In the second half movie shifts from ‘Silk’ Bar to Vennela, who is the love interest of Dharani and Suri.(No Spoiler)

Nani’s introduction scene with the title card “Natural Star” feels forced and inorganic. The major problem with Dasara is that the character arcs and the events surrounding the central characters are too predictable. For example tehre is a scene in the second half where Shine Tom’s character confronts with Vennela, it ended up so amateurish and lacks conviction because of the poor writings. The director’s attempt to establish numerous elements in a short time frame ultimately dilutes the intensity of the script’s foundation.

Performances: Shine Tom Chacko Shines, Nani doesn’t seem Natural

Shine Tom Chacko’s standout performance comes with ease and a minimalist approach in his devilish moments. Unfortunately, his character lacks opportunities to elevate the film’s experience. Besides Shine Tom, it’s Nani’s one-man show, there are many moments where he excelled at ease, especially emotional moments, but his rugged character shades fails to convince.

The climax brings Kantara to mind, highlighting the absence of a more “ruthless bulky” character. Unfortunately, neither the music nor editing support Nani in creating a “Make-Belive” moment.

Nani as Dharani in Dasara

Keerthy Suresh delivers a decent performance, but her character could have been more fleshed out. I was expecting a Draupadi, but I got a Sita who suffer in between Ram and Raavana. Her Telangana dialect is surprisingly well-executed, though.

Keerthi Suresh as Vennela in Dasara

Music and Pacing: Room for Improvement

Santhosh Narayan’s music offers little that is noteworthy, and the lack of high-octane background music or emotionally stirring tunes is disappointing. Dasara could have been a stronger film if the events and character arcs been better developed. In comparison to Rangasthalam, where Chitti Babu’s character arc slowly evolves and leaves the audience with goosebumps, Dasara’s fast pacing results in a disconnect from the audience’s emotional investment.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, Dasara’s potential hindered by weak writing and vision. Dasara had the potential to be an industry hit, it falls short due to weak roots in Srikanth Odela’s writing and vision. I hope Nani’s aggressive marketing will reward Dasara with a super-hit tag, but will likely lack a lasting impact.