The latest ZEE5 original, Chadaragam released on February 20, 2020. Directed by Raj Anantha, the show marks the digital debut of Meka Srikanth, who plays the protagonist. Ravi Prakash, Kaushalya, Sunainaa, Nagineedy, Ramya Pasupuleti, and other talented actors portray other interesting roles. Popular Tollywood actor Vishnu Manchu makes his digital debut as a producer with this show. Spanning over nine episodes of 40 minutes each, this political drama is touted to be the most expensive Telugu web series.
Watch the show here:
We were only a few minutes into episode one of Chadarangam when we were convinced… this show begins where Anish Kuruvilla’s Gods Of Dharmapuri ends. The newsroom with a strong-headed Editor-in-Chief, young and enthusiastic journalists ready to fight for truth, a problem that puts their effort at the back seat and Agenda Setting. But Chadarangam wasn’t about this. This show was a lot bigger and intense.
Chadarangam is based on the events that took place in NTR’s reign as the CM of undivided Andhra Pradesh. The story has been moulded to suit the contemporary times, and begins in 2016. A popular and benevolent filmstar named Gangadhar decides to enter politics to serve ‘his Telugu people’. An aspiring CM of the national party, Nagineedu as RK, believes he can use this actor for his own means. Meanwhile, the owner of a daily believes that he has planted the seeds of political ambitions in the actor.
It takes us exactly 18 minutes into the first episode to see what we had been dying for back in the ‘90s – that sweet smile flashed by Srikanth, ear to ear and almost perfectly innocent. That’s where it begins to be interested. How will this man turn into a good politician? But if we can say anything, it is the fact that Srikanth has truly unleashed his acting prowess in this show. He is seasoned and in control of his character.
The story explores what happens when an actor decides to defy all political obviousness and create a path of his own. Too idealistic, is what everyone says. So be it, he marches forward. Not in one or two scenes, but the director establishes multiple times how crazy the fandom of a Telugu actor was, is and will probably continue to be. People are hooting and dancing the theatres when Gangadhar makes an entry. They call him ‘Annaya’, he is almost a member of their family.
Just when we think that he is yet another ‘star’ on the block, he proves you otherwise. Like, in a scene, Gangadhar offers a full meal to the people waiting outside his guest house. He meets them and tries having a conversation when possible. A people’s man in all true sense. Gangadhar believes his ‘family’ is enough for him to lead them on a righteous path in an otherwise grey world. And, so, comes the Telugu Kranthi Sangam. At each step, he is met with problems, sometimes small and negligible, sometimes big and nerve-wracking. But you know what happens in the end… it’s the same old template.
The story is linear yet layered. While one track focuses on Ganga’s political career, another track focuses on his son, who doesn’t speak much but it’s a consequence of many things life has put him through. In the midst of it, there is yet another track about a teenager who is willing to cross boundaries for just a gram of cocaine. For the longest time, they seem to be three different stories running on a fuel of their own. Although the pace of the screenplay by Raj and Sarat Palanki tends to be a tad slow, the director does tie them together with extremely solid strings and everything makes sense as you inch closer to the climax.
If a man with the likes of Trivikram had to turn uber-serious and pen down dialogues, we believe it would sound like Chadarangam. The director chips in with Nivas for dialogues that definitely pack a punch and are poetic in nature. On the surface, the dialogues might sound good, but its meaning comes to us like a sting, all at one and intense. The title track made our expectations skyrocket with its crescendo. However, the music by Srinivas Sharma and the sound design by Arumugam Krishna Raj, only serves the purpose.
DOP Runal Hattimattur brilliantly captures the essence of the locations and the emotions of his characters. The use of the camera almost gets intrusive, giving you an insight of what is going through the actors’ minds. He lights up a scene in such a way that the mood is evident. For instance, he uses yellowish tones for confrontation and confusion and white, natural light for the whitewashed face of the national party. Editor Marthand K Venkatesh blends it all into a big show. At one point, you really feel like it is a part of everyday politics that you are watching as it pans out.
All things said and done, one must give the due credit to the actors of this show. From Meka Srikanth, Nagineedu, Ravi Prakash and Sunainaa to actors like Ramya Pasupuleti and Bhargav Kommera, who we see only for a few scenes – each of the actors seen on screen, play their part with utmost sincerity. A special thank you to the director who allows Ravi Prakash to shine in all his glory. There are scenes, including the climax, where Srikanth takes a backseat and allows Ravi to takeover. For once, it seems like the much-deserving actor has finally found his spot.
While we do know who wins the game, the climax ends on an extremely interesting note. For all that the two parties have been through, this end only seems like touching the surface. Does that mean that the real game begins in the following season, as one of its characters says, “winning is just beginning”? Maybe only time will tell.
Watch the nine-episode series on ZEE5 now, and let us know about your thoughts in the comments section below.