Critic’s Rating : 2.5 / 5
Stand Up Rahul Movie Review : Flawed but works in bits-and-pieces
Review: Debutant director Santo attempts a new-age rom-com with Stand Up Rahul. You have the vulnerable male lead with issues that all boil down to everything he saw growing up. You have the dreamer female lead that has seen too many rom-coms like this one, and wants nothing but a passionate romance. And then you have the film itself – that veers between being feminist and regressive – that you don’t know where it lands by the end of it all.
Rahul (Raj Tarun) has parents who have split up. His father (Murli Sharma), a National Award winning penniless filmmaker, wants him to follow his passion for stand-up comedy but his mother (Indraja), an air-hostess, wants him to have a stable job and income so he doesn’t turn out like his father. Despite their insistence, Rahul is pretty clear on what he wants. He doesn’t want to marry; he wants to pursue stand-up comedy someday. It’s a whole different conversation if he’s actually good at it.
And then there’s Shreya Rao (Varsha Bollamma). It’s odd the director named this film Stand Up Rahul, instead of ‘Stand Up Rahul & Shreya’, because she sure has some things to sort out in life. She struggles with weight issues, struggles to fend off their creepy boss Satya Narayana (Vennela Kishore) – a Steve Jobs wannabe who keeps hitting on her, and her biggest issue in life – struggles to stand up to her father and tell him she doesn’t want to marry the man of his choice. Because what she wants is romance, passion and a man of her choice.
What follows is a film that meanders between being relatable, good and mind-numbingly boring, apart from sexist. Rahul is the kind of man, we’re supposed to believe, who will comfort his girlfriend with a hot water bottle when she’s on her periods and cook for her, but he will also deliver a stand-up routine where he will rant about how women have it oh-so-easy at work, get promotions because of their looks and of course, pay disparity doesn’t even exist in his world. The men toil and come out looking like zombies after a hard day of work while the women look like models, he says during a rant. It doesn’t fit into the narrative when his own mom and girlfriend are working women.
Even more mind-boggling is how Shreya wants to turn this man who doesn’t want to marry into someone who’s happy and complacent with it. She will support his passion for comedy but will also pout when he doesn’t behave the way she wants him to. He keeps losing his temper due to stress at work and she keeps putting up with it. But despite it all, you can see why Rahul and Shreya work – they oddly seem like a perfect fit. And that is where Santo shines. He makes you want to believe in their unconventional romance, he makes you hope they end up together – marriage or no marriage.
Stand Up Rahul is not a bad film by any means, it even starts out well. The film is very self-aware when it comes to the vulnerabilities of both its characters. When a character asks Shreya to speak her mind irrespective of her family’s presence, you understand why she won’t speak up. You also understand why someone like Rahul would struggle to hold a job or the concept of marriage, even if he wants to please the women in his life. ‘Second half syndrome’ is also something the film suffers from – wherein the characters and their issues are set up so well in the first half, things go haywire and sometimes lose focus in the second half.
This is the second film in the recent past that relies on stand-up comedy being key to the film’s proceedings and then fails at delivering laughs that one expects. That is despite four writers sharing credits for the stand-up bits. The writing by Santo could’ve been sharper, especially when it comes to the emotional bits. The taking of the film is fresh, so is the music by Sweekar Agasthi that fit into the narrative, apart from the cinematography by Sreeraj Raveendran. Raj Tarun fits into the skin of Rahul as long as he’s monkeying around, it’s the emotional scenes he struggles with, but that’s also due to the writing. Varsha Bollamma breezes through a role that’s right down her alley. Rest of the actors, including the ones who play Rahul and Shreya’s friends, do well too.
Stand Up Rahul is the kind of film you want to watch over a large tub of popcorn and while it might be flawed, it also works in bits and pieces. Watch it if breezy rom-coms are your thing.