It is neither 'Uu' nor 'Ulikki', it is hooting laughter that the film induces. Even without talking about the patent mediocrity of the film, one can expose it by mere description. It has not got a hero; instead, there are two souls who are out to bay for each other's flesh and blood, which becomes clear only towards the end. The Noble Aatma (Balakrishna) wants to retain its ownership of Gandharva Mahal, while the Dissatisfied Aatma (the evil one, played by Sonu Sood) wants to realize its single-point agenda of tying the knot with Amruthavalli (Lakshmi Manchu), who is his prostitute sweetheart, in the same building. The former had killed the latter years before the entry of Manoj into the decoloured mahal, who has only an incidental place in the story.
'UKUP' has all the marks of a bad film, made by a technically and artistically impaired director. Way back some decades ago, Gandharva Mahal's generous, heroic owner (Balayya as Narasimha Rayudu) had to confront with Bhupathi (Sonu), the husband of his sister. After cunningly packing Rayudu off from the mahal, Bhupathi sets forth to marry Amruthavalli. Since he is already married to another woman, she rejects him now and this makes Bhupathi kill his wife. Rayudu enters the scene and avenges the killer of his sister/invader of his mahal.
As years pass, Rayudu's inglorious and almost penniless descendants (now headed by Tamil actor Prabhu) continue to live in the neighbourhood, having rented out the mahal to a bunch of comedians (led by Dharmavarapu). The film starts with a weirdly made up Manoj setting his foot into the household. He is there on his mother's (Suhasini) mission of saving the mahal from slipping into the ownership of Sai Kumar (whose make up robs off his appeal). He clears the mahal of the tenants, starts playing a drama where he interlaces the element of a Holy Ghost (also Balayya). Much to his shock, his fiction turns out to be real, and the Noble Soul is immortal! Sai Kumar wants to make Rs. 40 cr by defrauding the rightful owners (now dead Balayya and very alive and kicking Prabhu) of the mahal. Ajay (who inappropriately essays the role of a 'bhutala mantrikudu') enters the scene in the last leg of the film to demystify everything for the inmates. Everyone but the audience are wowed at this stolen mix of ideas.
To add to our problems, there is Lakshmi, who is now living the life of a vagabond, and Sonu Sood, still roaming about as an evil spirit and spoiling every marriage down the decades.
Sekhar Raja mishandles some scenes with pathetic shoddiness. Before conceding praise for him for the action/CG scenes, we must remember that there have been many who could accomplish stuff of this kind with equal if not greater quality, with much less investment. When the film should become edge-of-the-seat, it becomes heady and too much to bear.
With a story that is a laughable hotchpotch, it presents a set of outrageous elements. There was no need to characterise Manoj the way it was done - it was neither comedy nor parody (something which Manoj seems to think he exists for). A character so much powerfully (or crazily, as most of you would have it) introduced slides into utter unimportance as the film progresses. Balayya making appearance as a ghost (he may be a holy ghost but a ghost nevertheless) seemed a bit unsettling. His fight is for the mahal, the other ghost has got another problem.
One rightly begins to have a feeling that Manoj has incurably internalised his father's mien, and it is fast turning out to be his demerit. Deeksha Seth gets another ill-written role for the Nth time.
In a film full of eccentricities, Balakrishna is at his usual best. He is routinely good but not exceptionally terrific, mainly because his role doesn't live up the superstardom and range of the star. Lakshmi Manchu's performance is smart and she fits the bill both as a desired Amruthavalli, an unkempt vagabond and a possessed fighter. Bhanuchandar, Madhumitha, Rishi and Praveen get good parts.
Bobo Sashi's inspired music doesn't deserve mention. Chinna's BG score shifts between placid and tense at places. Defeating these two in the race for the Worst Performer is, you may be shocked to know, the art director. Cinematography doesn't disappoint. Lakshmi Bhupathi's dialogues could have been much better.
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