Arjun's double joy
Arjun made his debut in Telugu films with Maa Voorilo Gopaludu. He shot into fame with his excellent fighting skills and got the image of an action king. His films like Gentleman and Oke Okkadu made him a big star. His film on 'Manjunatha' was yet another marvel. Keeping his popularity among the Telugu audiences, many of his films in other languages are being dubbed into Telugu. One such experiment is Manikanta directed by Selva. The film has nothing new to talk about, as it is a routine revenge drama with temple in its backdrop. However, the director has tried to maintain a good amount of suspense till the interval. Moreover, the presence of Jyothika and Malavika is expected to draw good crowds.
Raja (Arjun) runs a pickles factory in Mumbai and is being brought up by Vikramchary. Once, a girl called Mahalakshmi (Jyothika) visits Mumbai to meet Mataji (Annapurna). On learning that she is away from town, she stays in the guest house run by Vikramchary. Raja falls in love with Maha at first sight. Though Maha doesn't like Raja, she gets attracted when he saves her from a brothel and when a police officer (Satya Prakash) is about to rape her. Later, Maha returns to Pulivendula and invites Raja to their place. Learning that Raja is going to Pulivendula, his foster father also goes with him. Immediately after alighting the train, Raja is attacked by Balaraju's (Asish Vidyarthi) men. Unable to understand why they attacked him, he first expresses his dismay and later get whisked away by Vikramchary. The latter takes Raja to a house and he is surprised on seeing a photograph of an elderly man with his face. Then Vikramchary reveals the flashback. The elderly man is none other than Manikanta (Arjun), father of Raja and one of the village elders. Manikanta always preaches that the entire mankind is one and the castes and religions are created by the people in the society. He always strives for the upliftment of the poor and the downtrodden. He gives away his sister to village president's (Pasupati) son Balaraju. As the government reserves the president post to a Dalit woman, Vikramchary's wife Annapurna contests the seat with the support of Manikanta, despite stiff opposition by Balaraju and his family. After winning the seat, Annapurna and the entire dalit families led by Manikanta visits a temple. However, Balaraju stops them saying that the temple is built by his forefathers and prevents their entry. At this critical juncture, Annapurna is killed. Manikanta chops the hand of Balaraju's brother for instigating the murder. In order to take revenge Balaraju's father invites Manikanta and all the villagers for lunch on the occasion of the seemantham of Balaraju's wife and Manikanta's sister and serves poisoned food. The entire village is ruined including Manikanta and his wife. Vikramchary somehow escapes with Raja as both of them did not take food. Learning how Balaraju killed his father and mother, besides his aunt, who was the wife of Balaraju, Raja decides to take revenge. He challenges Balaraju that he would finish the work started by his father by constructing a temple. Balaraju, his brother and father, who are against the proposed temple are killed by Raja. The film ends on a happy note with the union of Raja and Maha.
PLUS: Performance by Arjun, Jyothika and Asish Vidyarthi are the highlights of the film. As Manikanta and also as Raja, Arjun showed good variation in performance. While Manikanta's role is moulded with dignity, Raja's character is quite youthful. All the action scenes are choreographed well and a couple of dance numbers are worth watching. There is nothing much to talk about the film as it has nothing novel but for the suspense maintained by the director till the end of first half. Music by Deva is just okay. Rajasekhar Reddy deserves pat from the back for scripting good dialogues