‘Maa Vintha Gaadha Vinuma’ review: A refurbished version of a coming-of-age romcom

The Telugu film, starring Siddhu Jonnalagadda and Seerat Kapoor, released on the OTT platform Aha on Friday.
Siddhu Jonnalagadda and Seerat Kapoor
Siddhu Jonnalagadda and Seerat Kapoor
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A video of a Telugu couple’s impulsive, drunken wedding goes extremely viral. It produces memes, debates, outrage and rape threats, before fizzling out into a thing of the past. The next viral phenomena take over, but how the viral couple and their families continue to be affected by the virality and attention is the ‘vintha gaadha’ (strange tale) that the protagonist narrates in Maa Vintha Gaadha Vinuma, a Telugu rom-com that released on the OTT platform Aha on Friday. 

Written by Siddhu Jonnalagadda, who also plays the male lead Siddhu, the film appears to be influenced by meme culture in many ways. Siddhu and his partner Vineetha Venugopal (Seerat Kapoor) are students in an engineering college, and the film establishes ‘quintessential’ Telugu engineering college moments through scenes that occasionally seem like they were either based on a Telugu engineering meme, or written to become one. The terror of the M-I (maths 1) paper in BTech, for instance, is an archetype of Telugu engineering student memes. There’s also the Telangana dialect and occasional Dakhni (spoken by a few men, and one ‘tomboyish’ woman), and other aspects of the writing that try to make things “relatable” or “”realistic” to a section of urban audiences. 

The story is told from the perspective of Siddhu — a likeable guy who sometimes makes bad decisions, and hasn’t learned to own up to his mistakes. One such mistake leads to a fight with Vineetha. Drunk on a beach in Goa, and with arrangements already made for another Hindu wedding, they decide to make amends by getting married. A video of their drunken gibberish from the ceremony accidentally goes up on their internet, and remains there forever, haunting their relationship. The incident also has deep repercussions on Siddhu and Vineetha’s families. Eventually, we see Siddhu’s coming-of-age transformation, as he learns to take responsibility for his blunders. 

There are multiple women characters along with Vineetha, who are written fairly well. The first time Siddhu falls for Vineetha is when she assertively walks away from bullies. When Siddhu’s classmate tells him he may ask Vineetha out, there is no “marking of territory” typical of such situations. 

But these desirable elements fall short of bringing any meaningful changes to the larger coming-of-age story. When the wedding video goes viral, Vineetha begins to receive rape threats. Even though Siddhu’s mother tells him that Vineetha is the one who is worst affected, and needs his support, we see Siddhu go on and make everything about himself. Siddhu’s father has a strange approach to parenting and doesn’t believe his son must be punished for his mistakes. But it’s his father’s advice that Siddhu eventually heeds, as they bond over alcohol and his father literally tells him to “be a man”. 

Siddhu’s transformation is rather unimpressive too, as the film ends with him telling Vineetha that he knows how women talk to their friends because he has seen a lot of TV shows. And while cultural influences from the media that the writers consume is inevitable, and American pop culture does have an inescapable hold the world over, equating Goa to Las Vegas sounds alright until we are told that the midnight beach wedding with a few rituals was legally binding.  

Even as Vineetha tries to move on with a ‘divorce’, the conversations between Siddhu and the men listening to his story seem to make him the ‘victim’ in the situation, although they do end up giving him healthy, non-toxic advice. The progressive accommodations made for the women characters ultimately seem a bit facile. When Siddhu records a response to the viral video, referring to the rape threats addressed to Vineetha, he says, “You don’t know her. Maybe she is a college topper,” as if to say that women who fit certain notions of respectability are more deserving of respect. 

It’s 2020, and coming-of-age stories of affluent upper-caste men finally might just be getting a bit old. And to its credit, Maa Vintha Gaadha Vinuma does try to deviate from established norms. It occasionally feels like one of those films where Ranbir Kapoor has a “boy to man” journey, only with some feminist critique incorporated. Although it is funny in parts, and feels very contemporary in a lot of ways, the film is after all, the story of a man-child, and feels like old wine in a new bottle. 

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