Sekhar Kammula is back with a romantic film that focuses on the relationship between the leads, after a decade.
His Anand and Godavari are my textbooks, and like a diligent pupil I can recite lines and sing songs from those films. I go back to them in the times of love and longing. His movies in the last decade may have whizzed out of public memory, but he is known as the filmmaker who brought in the morning sun, drizzle, and coffee into the theatres, with the aroma of romance, comedy, and drama.
In his latest Fidaa, he brews a story of a woman (Bhanumathi, played by Sai Pallavi) and a man (Varun, played by Varun Tej), in the pot of convoluted egos. Bhanu, early on in the film, asks a fundamental question: Why should women leave everybody and everything behind and live with their husbands? Her sister, also Varun’s sister-in-law, answers with a fairytale metaphor. It’s the kind of metaphor that would put any person, irrespective of their gender, on a giant wheel of emotions.
The US boy, Varun, and the Banswada girl, Bhanu, play a cat and mouse game. She doesn’t like the fact that the groom’s family gets to have the last say in every matter. While she tries to push Varun away by being bossy, she drops her guard and warms up to him when she witnesses his deeds and hears his words.
What’s a Sekhar Kammula film without the pitter-patter of rains? He has borrowed the scenic vibes of monsoon for almost every film of his for the viewing pleasure of the audience (Anand’s “Vache Vache”, Godavari’s “Tappulu Tippulu”, etc.). For Fidaa, though, he goes a step ahead and opens the gates of the sky as a major chunk of the film is drenched in rainwater. The quiet lanes and green agricultural fields pop up vibrantly, thanks to Vijay C Kumar’s cinematography. These colours coordinate well with the contrasting landscape of the US.
In the places where we expect a sob fest, we get a gentle touch of relevance and realism. The leads do cry buckets and buckets, yet they don’t grow into a dramatic nuisance. Varun, upset that his ‘proposal’ was turned down by Bhanu, drops her off at a bus station and tells her to use public transport to go to her friend’s house. She looks at him begrudgingly and doesn’t utter a word. He does come back for her. She does get into the car, after a five-second argument. When the rocky equation they share and the love-and-hate emotions they throw at each other come out in such good measure, it’s a story one would definitely feel for.
Sai Pallavi’s Telugu is way off the mark. I learnt this bit of information from her interviews. However, the way she has essayed her role raises the bar for all the artistes who can’t even get their lip-syncing right. Especially in this romcom, her language has a tongue that’s different from the norm of the Telugu film heroine. Her Telangana dialect is reminiscent of Kaushik’s (Priyadarshi) from Pelli Choopulu. Here, she’s the lead whose part is stronger and heavier than her male counterpart’s. So, every word coming from her mouth sounds fresh and sarcastic. Varun Tej’s act, on the other hand, can be described by the phrase Bhanu uses, “Ayyo, Siggu! (Oh, boy, you’re shy!).” Yes, indeed, his shyness spills from his handsome face neatly. He plays the “Sanna, Sannaga Navvinde (smiling coyly)” boy to perfection.
Varun has experimented a little with his roles. His 2015 gamble, Kanche, worked, whereas his formulaic films (Loafer and Mister) failed. I’m not sure if his star status as a Sekhar hero would increase his opportunities, but, I’m pretty confident that this film would remain as a welcome-bouquet for his on-screen romantic image.
The music (Shakthi Kanth’s soundtrack album and Jeevan’s score) are like the rains in Fidaa. The movie is incomplete without them. Take a look at the title font, if you still don’t believe me. There’s rain everywhere.
I retire for the day by returning to the question the film asks – Why should women leave everybody and everything and live with their husbands? Sekhar’s solution to this key problem is emphatic.