The film takes its time to establish the characters but gathers steam when Vaishnavi decides to break the shackles of her "basthi" life.
Is there a precise definition for “first love”? However bitter an experience one may feel, first love undoubtedly takes a special place in our hearts.
Only a few get a chance to transform first love into marriage; some have to move on with their lives taking all those bitter-sweet memories along.
But this Baby’s first love will tug at your heartstrings.
Baby aka Vaishnavi (Vaishnavi Chaitanya), lives much of her childhood in the bylanes of Indiramma Basthi, a habitat for the downtrodden in Hyderabad.
She falls for Anand (Anand Deverakonda) who lives in the same neighbourhood and also happens to be her schoolmate.
While some fear stops Vaishu from expressing her love for Anand, the latter takes no time to acknowledge his feelings.
Vaishu takes a big leap by fetching an engineering seat in academics, but Anand flunks Class 10 and starts earning as an auto driver.
But their unflinching love for each other continues until Vaishu gets adventurous. This quiet girl, who is aware of her roots, slowly gets amused by the glittering world outside.
Then Viraj Ashwin (Viraj Ashwin), her batchmate in engineering, starts wooing her with costly presents. First with an iPhone, then branded clothing; it goes on until Viraj loses his patience.
But will she accept his proposal? What’s the fate of childhood-caring boyfriend Anand forms the story of Baby.
Baby takes its sweet time to establish the characters. The first-love moment of gifting a soap box to the girl during school and mouthing a famous dialogue from Venkatesh Daggubati’s hit film to woo her lover depicts the innocence of teenage love.
The story slowly gathers steam when Vaishu steps into an engineering college. She wants to break the shackles of coming from a “basthi”.
The first gift from Anand, which she felt was a priceless treasure, slowly loses its sheen. Even the first cell phone that she was gifted by Anand, too, disintegrates from her mind.
A new world beckons Vaishu. She gets the taste of a fantasy world from her friends. Her less attractive “Appalamma” face gets transformed into Angelina Jolie.
The pre-interval sequence leaves the audience in shock when Viraj seeks a kiss from Vaishu at a pub.
At one point, you start rooting for Anand who has massive hopes for his girl. And at the same time, you start rooting for Vaishu who gets desperate to save her love and get rid of Viraj forever.
The screenplay gets pacy in a few portions but again, cliched dialogues keep bothering you intermittently.
Vaishnavi Chaitanya turns an overnight star not because of the story, but because of her performance.
Coming from Hyderabad’s Old City, she started as a social media influencer and a YouTuber before landing the female lead role in Baby.
Apparently, her efforts paid off. As a sensitive yet adventurous college girl, Vaishnavi puts up a mature performance outdoing her male actors both Anand Deverakonda and Viraj Ashwin.
On the other hand, Anand as an over-protective and aggressive youngster shows a refinement in his acting skills, when compared to his previous movies.
The actor draws applause in the scene where he breaks down due to the heartbreak he suffers after Viva Harsha reveals the truth about Vaishnavi.
Viraj Ashwin did his best as an ultra-rich student. But his characterisation looks poor as though he lost his spine.
His entry adds weight in the second half because he looks erratic and unpredictable when it comes to taking decisions.
He falls into the trap of his classmate Sita when she tells him that Vaishu wants to get rid of him by giving him a one-night stand. Though he finds it shocking, he obliges the offer without any moral integrity.
Baby has its moments because of Vaishnavi’s performance and girls would easily relate to her role.
Interstingly, all three characters have some sort of eccentricity and unpredictability.
Anand turns aggressive and his anger doesn’t withstand a minute as he abruptly feels sorry for his act.
Vaishu, too, could not sense the reality of life as she is lured by the fantasy world.
Viraj Ashwin gets too unpredictable when Vaishu says no to his proposal.
Nagendra Babu’s character as Vaishu’s father draws whistles when he slaps his wife for her greed.
Viva Harsha is limited to small portions.
Baby is not devoid of errors.
When Vaishu asks her boyfriend Anand to take her to a movie with fewer viewers, he takes her to Kobbari Matta (2019), Sai Rajesh’s production.
In reality, Kobbari Matta ran with packed houses.
And there’s a scene when Viraj Ashwin turns poetic in a pub and he describes what is “Deja Vu” to the crowd. In the process, he gets too archaic in Telugu.
After breaking down knowing what Vaishu has committed, Anand leaves Viva Harsha in shock saying, “Nen dhanni champi, nen chasta…” (I will kill her and kill myself).
The scene raises curiosity when Anand turns aggressive and charges with a knife. But immediately, he changes plans after seeing her in deep sleep. And there’s a long one-sided conversation that follows.
Director Sai Rajesh evoked massive expectations after his production OTT venture Colour Photo (2020) received the National Award.
Apparently, he wanted Baby to weave the story along the lines of his critically-acclaimed film Colour Photo. However, Baby doesn’t even come nearer to it.
(Views expressed here are personal.)