The film, which stars Salony Luthra and Naveen Chandra in the lead, will release on OTT platform Aha on July 3.

Naveen Chandra and Salony Luthra in Bhanumathi Ramakrishna
Flix OTT Thursday, June 25, 2020 - 15:59
Worth a watch

Srikanth Nagothi’s Bhanumathi Ramakrishna is a familiar real life story but one that has hardly made its way to the big screen. Bhanumathi is an ambitious, no-nonsense woman who wears bright lipstick, is in her 30s, drinks, parties and goes for blind dates. This description alone would have made her evil or a supporting character who is shamed on screen at the very least.

However, Salony Luthra’s Bhanumathi is the heroine of this little film and what’s more, she stays unapologetic till the very end. Releasing directly on OTT platform Aha on July 3, Bhanumathi Ramakrishna begins with an assured voice-over from its female lead. This, in itself, is unusual because most mainstream films hardly acknowledge that the heroine thinks let alone share her thought process with the audience. Salony plays Bhanumathi with restraint and dignity, a role that could so easily have ended up looking 'bitchy' otherwise.

Within minutes, we know that Bhanumathi is in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend Ram (not the Ramakrishna from the title) who lives abroad. When he decides to visit her, she calls her gynaecologist for meds to postpone her period. I mention this because such details are rarely woven into the script, and it’s commendable that Srikanth, who has also written the film, has been able to tell the story so firmly from a woman’s point of view. We hardly see independent women on screen, and when they do appear, the narrative most times turns them into all-knowing superwomen. However, Srikanth also manages to bring out Bhanumathi’s insecurities and vulnerabilities without killing the essence of who she is.  

The promos made it amply clear that this was going to be an unlikely romance between two people – the outgoing Bhanumathi and the naive Ramakrishna. And the film is just what was promised. Stories about relationships work only when both lead actors can hold up their end. Thankfully, Naveen Chandra’s Ramakrishna doesn’t disappoint. As a 33-year-old from Tenali who is eager to please his immediate boss, Naveen is hilarious and endearing.

However, though the character sketches are strong, they are static. The differences between the couple are resolved too fast – and most times, with Bhanumathi explaining things to Ramakrishna and the latter accepting it and changing his mind. It is good to see the woman in the relationship being in charge, but isn't there more to Ramakrishna than his sweetness? With the obvious contrasts in class locations and mindsets, a couple is likely to have more heated conflicts than what the film assumes. These incidents seem forced into the script to make something happen, rather than an organic exploration of where such a match will take the two characters. 

In Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat, for instance, the couple is attracted to each other but we also see how quickly life’s realities can unravel the romance. Their perspectives have been shaped by their growing up years – so different from each other – and it takes a while before they can come together again, really knowing who the other is. It may seem incongruous to compare a light-hearted romcom like this with Nagraj Manjule’s hard-hitting film on caste violence, but I found myself wondering if Bhanumathi and Ramakrishna would be happy a few years down the line. Are good intentions alone enough to keep a relationship going? Have they really seen each other’s true colours? 

That said, the film’s non-judgmental tone is hugely refreshing. I was afraid that Srikanth would end the film with Ramakrishna unleashing a long lecture about the superiority of small town life, and Bhanumathi falling at his feet and deciding to abandon her sassy dresses for traditional sarees, but that’s a pitfall that the film mercifully avoids (I do have a quibble about the ending but elaborating on that would be a spoiler). The supporting roles – Bunty, Isha, Manish, the parents – are also believable and add humour to the narrative. Though this is a romcom, there are no duets in Switzerland and the score pleasantly stays in the background, allowing the actors to do the job of moving the audience.

With some more heft, Bhanumathi Ramakrishna would have been a spunkier film than what it is now. But it’s still very enjoyable as is, and a big leap forward for Telugu cinema as far as the portrayal of women goes.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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