Movie: "Oh! Baby" (Telugu); Cast: Lakshmi, Samantha Akkineni; Director: Nandini Reddy; Rating: ** ½ (2 and a half stars)
If only this personality-transformative comedy - is it a comedy? There is so much wailing and shrieking in the midst of the laughter - had not played it so cute, this could have been Telugu cinema's own "Miss Granny", the 2014 Korean film that director Nandini Reddy so optimistically endeavours to adapt into Telugu... with mixed results.
For starters, the idea, the core if you will, seems swimmingly apt. Bridging the generation gap that has divided the Indian joint family into sharply polarised halves featuring the nuclear and non-nuclear family on the two sides of the boxing ring, the film brings us two gloriously over-the-top women characters from two different generations, joined together at the hip by... errrr... God.
Jagapathi Babu appears as 'God'. Oh God!
Veteran actress Lakshmi whom we all remember as the very alluring Julie in the 1970s remains saucy and sexy in her old age. She is delightful as a cantankerous grandmother nicknamed 'Baby' who has seen too much of life to bother with pleasantries. She cuts to the chase so unceremoniously and such peppery aggression, that her loved ones are reduced to a cringe fringe.
The supporting cast only voices its disagreeability about Granny's grumpy tirades. They are there with a purpose, albeit in a marginal way.
Sadly, the Lakshmi portion ends sooner than expected. After all, this is a film designed to spotlight Samantha Akkineni's star power. She takes charge of the transformative in no time at all, as Lakshmi is transformed into Samantha. Most of what follows is a goofy over-cute joyride for its leading actress as she's now a 70-year-old in a 24-year-old woman's body.
There are jokes about physical fitness and nostalgic nods to classic actresses of yesteryears. But beyond these superficial efforts at creating a timeline, the narrative makes no effort to pull us into a ruminative journey into the universe that binds the two actresses from diverse generations as one personality.
At most "Oh! Baby" is strewn with fun moments, all highlighting Samantha's star power Samantha dancing with a rock band helmed by Baby's grandson (Teja Sajja, likeable), force-flirting with Naga Shaurya (who falls for her not knowing that the lovely lady is veteran actress Lakshmi transformed into Samantha Akkenini, ha ha), Samantha meeting up with dead husband (Adivi Sesh, pleasant in a fleeting cameo), and biggest surprise for the fans - Samantha's husband Naga Chaitanya also shows up in a scene.
There is enough fuel here to keep the leading lady's fans all fired up. But I am not sure if "Oh! Baby" fulfills the original Korean film's aim to bring out the domestic dynamics of contemporary suburban lifestyles in the context of traditional values. There are generations clashing, yes. But the clamber is strictly superficial. "Oh! Baby" aims low. And seems to enjoy being there.
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