Not too long ago, in 90’s, Telugu cinema did not follow the golden rule of having a famous hero, a fight to showcase his strength, a song that follows in which he preaches how to deal with the world’s evils with peace and mosquitoes without a “Hit” bottle, a heroine with some honor that he can save in fights and loot in songs. I know and I admit that the roots of hero worship date back to 90’s and before but I certainly do not see any warmth in that worship now.
Seetharamayya gari manavaralu translates to “The granddaughter of Seetharammayya”. As the title says, it is the story of a girl and her grandfather. An honorable old man who sticks to his roots in every part of this life – right from the house he lives in to when to bring his daughter home for her delivery. His only son(Vasu) marries a girl against his wish and much to Vasu’s despair, Seetharamayya stops talking to him though he accepts his marriage. Vasu who is unable to take his father’s rage escapes to the US and waits to unite with him. Enters Seetha- daughter of Vasu and his wife from the US to attend a cousin’s wedding and she never goes back to her father. Why she never goes back and what happens in the extended family forms the story.
The terms like “love”, “father’s rage”, “US return”, “extended family”, “aunts” are enough to make a film with half of Dilsukhnagar’s population and call it a family entertainer to pull crowds. For instance, you can imagine one song in the US to show Seetha’s lavish life and what she is forgoing in her journey to India. There are two young men in the story who are prospective grooms for her. That gives scope for a romance track in which they can touch her and pinch her so that she falls in love. There is an old man in the story who is not fond of Seetharamayya. Strong enough reason for a big fight scene in which the village carts can be in the air for some time.
SRGM is fortunately different and is lovable for the following reasons:
- Seetha is back to India not just to attend the wedding but for good. She has the herculean task of conveying to her grandparents that her parents are dead when they are all eyes waiting for their son’s return. Meena as Seetha is lovable and has pulled off the role very easily. Most Telugu films live on the concept “read-my-diary-know-my-story”. I think SRGM is the one which started it.
- Rohini Hattangadi, as I know now, is a Marathi theatre artist. But as a child, I refused to believe that she is NOT a Telugu and not the wife of ANR. Call it my stupidity or her awesomeness, I cannot imagine SRGM without a grandmother as perfect as her. That grandmother whose eyes turn wet when she sees her son’s family photo and she calls it the “best gift” anybody gave her. That grandmother who is proud of Seetha when everyone admires her. That grandmother who is sad that a married Seetha would leave their house someday just as her son. That grandmother who is elated when Seetha pledges never to leave her. All praises to the director for perfectly showing her affection without unnecessary melodrama.
- An audience would loathe Seetharamayya for sending away the couple (indirectly) in the beginning but as the film progresses, it is revealed that he is one person who values the relationship with his son more than his ego. That moment in which he tells Rohini that he himself had written a letter to Vasu to come down is my second favorite here. The first one is when he recites Keats poetry as Seetha watches him with awe. The thoughtful grandfather always kept hoping his son would come back to him with kids and he learns English for their sake!
- Enough and not many characters which have some connection to the story. They are prominent and help in building the characters of the main three. There are several scenes which are tear jerkers and they are genuine. You cry because you relate to it and not because the scene is not over yet!
- Most of the film has been shot on the banks of Godavari (from the dialogues) and Krishna (I heard so). There are beautiful shots of sunsets and green fields with canals and it is not an exaggeration to say that the spirit of a village has been perfectly captured. This frame in the end with the message is my all-time favorite.
SRGM to Telugu Cinema is what Saaransh is to Hindi cinema. Intense play of emotions and can be a heavy dose if you are watching it after a heavy Sunday lunch. I wish it was fast and short but I also think such a film should not be altered. Because every frame of it is honest and is a toil to reach out to the audience without any compromise on the values.