It is not rocket science to understand that the audience would want to spend time with Samantha’s character, whose entire backstory was narrated in the span of a single song, a jiffy.

Majili review Samantha delightfully carries the burden of an inefficient screenplay
Flix Tollywood Friday, April 05, 2019 - 14:38

Once upon a time, there is Poorna (Naga Chaitanya), who, we are made to believe (a little unconvincingly), is an extremely talented cricketer. Anshu (Divyansha Kaushik) falls in love with him, despite the economic disparity between the two families, what with Poorna being the son of a middleclass railway employee (Rao Ramesh) and Anshu the pampered daughter of a Navy officer (no attention to detail – a future mother-in-law cribbing about a lost budget camera hardly gels with a family that celebrates birthday parties in cruise-boats).

Once again, it is the case of the audience trying to imagine and accept that there was a spark (barely perceptible) as the love blooming between the two young ones comes off as a little too far-fetched. The writing doesn’t create enough magical moments to justify a love story that is capable of changing a young man for life. Things take an ugly turn and the star-struck lovers carry pieces of their jilted love as they are separated for all the cliched reasons we are well-aware of – the usual envious men who eye the girl, the fights, the family interfering, marrying the girl away, blah blah.

Enter Samantha as Sravani, Poorna’s wife. Once Poorna’s neighbour, Sravani has been quietly in love with him for a long time and decides to bear the burden of his brooding, alcoholic, miserable self. Poorna is too lost to bother about the taunts of the world, of his parents-in-law, and of the uncouth men in the pubs and bars he frequents to drink away to glory. The movie adopts a sense of meaning in the second half as a teenager with a lot of cricketing talent (we are made to believe) enters Poorna’s life. The story then hurtles towards an abrupt finish as we witness how transformations can take place within a span of weeks.

Shiva Nirvana’s movie was bound to draw eyeballs given the lead pair and their fairy-tale real-life romance. His Ninnu Kori hyped up the expectations from Majili. But, Majili suffers from inefficient editing and the absence of meticulousness that a character-driven script deserves. A broken heart can turn someone into an alcoholic. A girl could willingly marry an alcoholic who was her only love. A teenager can transform a person and turn him into a more responsible being. But, such character-driven ebbs in a story need patience, need investment, need events, and dialogues.

While Rao Ramesh looks good in his role as a frustrated, disgruntled father, the only person who looked convincingly strong in the movie is Samantha. Someone capable of emoting beautifully, Samantha now owns the screen, body language and eyes in sync with her character, that of someone who wishes for nothing but acknowledgement from the man she so cares about. She has perfected her timing over the years, almost holding the pieces of script falling apart around her together, giving it all a sense of coherence. She is fast turning out to be one of the finest actors down south, capable of running the show, if she is allowed to in the first place.

The movie's biggest flaw is in not recognising who its main character is, who its chief protagonist is. It is not Anshu, it’s not the kid who enters Poorna’s life and brings his past back, nor is it Poorna himself. It is Sravani. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t invest in Sravani enough, even when she delivers the movie’s biggest thinking point right at the end. Before the audience can grasp the enormity of Sravani’s heartbreak, the focus shifts again to Poorna and his love, which by the way, is as dull as the election manifesto of hyper-promising parties. Those editing decisions cost Majili the magic the story could have woven. Instead of being a powerful tale of unrequited love getting its due, the movie is a sob-story for the most part that suddenly decides to wake up and ends before you can realise the change.

Umpteen movies have used sub-plots to build/develop a chemistry between the lead pair in a movie where it doesn’t exist to start with. Super Deluxe, for example, to take a recent example, builds that chemistry with a dead body around. And yet, Majili fails to do it despite so much going for it, for the simple reason that the cynosure of the story was wrongly chosen. Poorna could be the heartbroken guy, but investing so much time on his teenage love story and in building up the pain in his heart was time that could have been well-utilised. It is not rocket science to understand that the audience would want to spend time with Sravani’s character, whose entire backstory was narrated in the span of a single song, a jiffy. The audiences enjoyed every bit of her including her subtle but mischievous chemistry with her father-in-law.

And is it too much to ask movie-makers to give the audience proper trained cricketers, if the story intends to use the sport as a pivot?  Isn’t it hackneyed and callous on the part of the director to tell us that a hero can smash more than a hundred runs in 36 balls without so much as holding the bat the right way? Can we not grow up already!

Majili, the wiki-page of the movie tells you, is a part of the journey. The movie lives up to that title by breaking your heart, because it ends just when it starts to resonate with you emotionally. The emotional lacuna can be largely attributed to the decision of turning a potentially insightful love story into two half-baked love stories without scripting a protagonist character who can carry it off.

Majili’s songs are honey to sore ears and help you tolerate the slower, predictable bits of the movie. The cinematography capturing the harbour and the sea and railway quarters, with largely darker shades, is laudable too. Had the movie offered dialogue that matched Samantha’s reticent fluency, it could have been so much more.

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