First thing's first: Siddharth is absolutely adorable, and he really works his physical attributes to their maximum effects - beautiful eyes, big smile, dorky but endearing gestures, in-character and committed dancing.* I even liked his singing in Chukkallo Chandrudu. These all add up to a veeery pleasant and sometimes squeeee-filled movie-watching experience.
[Pause to reflect on the über-schnuffel that is Siddharth.]
But during Aata and Bommarillu, my brain kept going "Hey, what about me?" I found both of these movies to be pretty dumb (or "pretty but dumb," take your pick).** The former has characters so broad you're not sure how even one of them fit on a movie screen; both have plots driven by very filmi, Really Stupid Ideas that severely challenged my ability to suspend disbelief; and the latter doesn't work if you can't support the love of Siddharth's pampered idiot and Genelia D'Souza's squeaking, cartoon-eyed, hot mess of annoyance. Even Siddharth saving puppies from a burning building - hello, manipulation!- could not move my stony heart. Neither film worked for me on any level except the visual, thanks mostly to the afore-mentioned Siddharth effect (and, in the case of Aata, some beautiful river scenes and interesting-to-look-at songs).
For reasons I cannot explain, I loved Chukkallo Chandrudu. It's not particularly more clever or nuanced than the other two and, with its three love stories, skirts dangerously near heroine overload. Isn't it interesting that Siddharth co-wrote a movie in which he gets to love on three different stars? Uh-huh. Fortunately, one of these three, Sada's character, is a compellingly smart, sensible, strong, and sweet young woman, the type I don't see nearly enough of. Hurrah! Song-wise, this film also has a clear advantage, featuring 1) Prabhudeva cutting a rug, 2) Siddharth hip-hopping around Innsbruck (which is supposed to be...Stuttgart, was it?) with refreshingly ordinary-looking backup dancers, and 3) Sukhwinder Singh's glorious, joyful "Dolna Dolna," in which Siddharth gives the best birthday present ever to Sada. If you have not seen this song, go find it at once, because you will not be able to help grinning like an idiot as you watch it. It's fab.
What I'm curious about is: how representative of Telugu popular cinema are these movies? I've seen only four Telugu films (these three and Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana), so may sample is very small and, I suspect, very skewed. As always, I'm up for recommendations.
* In fact, a certain fan told me she thinks Siddharth's dancing is rivaled only by the skills of Hrithik and Shahid. Thoughts?
** Aata also gets a thumbs-down from me for having characters act like rape is no big deal (even though they're the villains and are held up as wrong, I couldn't swallow the topic being treated so lightly) and for having Siddharth's character tell his heroine that her sleeping with him is his right.
Aside: Siddharth's name occurs 11 other times in this post. That is officially too many. There must have been other notable people/meanings/features in these films, but apparently you'll have to look elsewhere to find out. Apparently I have drunk the Kool-aid and all else is lost.