Adopting the body language of a 70-year-old is difficult, but Samantha gives it a reverent, comic touch in this Nandini Reddy directorial.

Oh Baby review Samantha is the life of this fun yet emotional comedy
Flix Tollywood Friday, July 05, 2019 - 15:20
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I never thought I would pick a Britney Spears song to describe a movie, but ‘My loneliness is killing me now, I must confess I still believe... give me a sign, Hit me baby one more time’ comes pretty close to summarising the movie.

Let’s chuck the usual way of discussing movies for a bit. I tell you a little about the plot, a little about the actors, male and female (hinting probably at my chauvinism and long-standing conditioning as a result of watching narrow-gauge movies hyping up the protagonist), a little about the cast and crew, and finally, whether the conflated effort works or not. How boring. An unconventional movie like Oh! Baby deserves better.

Oh! Baby’s premise is nothing spectacular. A 69-year-old lady, Savitri (Lakshmi), unhappy with her life because of the animosity she faces from her son’s (Rao Ramesh) family, suddenly wakes up as a 24-year-old (Samantha) thanks to divine intervention. Although done circuitously, she shares this secret eventually with her best friend for life and neighbour Chanti (Rajendra Prasad, isn’t that man brilliant?). This well-known premise is not the reason you should watch the movie. There are plenty more.

Imagine if you got to relive your youth, which was whittled away because of widowhood and bringing up a child as a single mother – what would you do? Savitri, turned Swati, eats. And shops, with all the bundles of currency notes she has saved up. That’s why the movie is funny and endears itself to you. She doesn’t “behave” like a 24-year-old. She is a 70-year-old who just looks like a 24-year-old, enjoying being the singer of her grandson’s band, hanging out with her BFF Chanti – who suddenly, and quite hilariously, thinks of getting married to her (what’s that cliched dialogue – Men will be men!) – and eating a lot, while advising mothers about breastfeeding kids (imagine their look, a 24-year-old talking about what is good for the baby), and cooking fish.

Subtly, deliberately done or not, these threads make you realise how we stereotype people. Good advice is good advice, but if it comes from someone young we don’t quite take it the way we would from an old person. Not to mention the way we stereotype older people when they try to give us advice, the one we would have taken from younger friends anyway.

Nandini Reddy’s Oh! Baby sidesteps most stereotypical landmines, except one in the end where she suddenly sheds the nonconformist attitude of a very sensible movie to pander to those who sing the glories of motherhood. That slightly jarring note aside – well, a movie has to make money, and our masses are still not ready to accept a 24-year-old shunning responsibilities and riding away into the sunset, something a 24-year-old guy can get away with, as the story writer Lakshmi Bhupala reminds us – the movie is a tearjerker of a roller-coaster. There are a couple of scenes that finally allow Rao Ramesh to emote beyond his usual banalities, scenes that will choke you a bit, if you are still sensitive enough to love the elders in the house. There are some heart-warming moments between a young Naga Shaurya and Samantha – who said you can’t create chemistry without the ‘boldness that scripts demand, apparently’. 

But, above all, as just a movie-watcher and not a critic, I am fascinated by how much a female protagonist like Samantha can bring to the table. Adopting the body language of a 70-year-old is difficult, but Samantha gives it a reverent, comic touch. The Rajahmundry slang is pure love, and at no point does it seem to you that they are mocking older people. That is important, considering the original Korean version probably wouldn’t have to deal with the backlash a Telugu movie can get if the makers get it wrong. That I could watch Samantha behave exactly the way my grandma would behave if she were physically strong is what defines the movie to me as a refreshing experience. I was reminded at times, of Sridevi, for the nice blend of charm and funny. The drama, embellished by soulful music – Mickey Meyer has experimented for a change – including a brilliant lullaby, makes the experience a memorable one. A special round of applause for Samantha’s wardrobe – not overdone, but chic.

Oh! Baby is not going to be the best movie you will watch this decade, or this year. There are pitfalls as with all movies, but if we can forgive our male superstars their shenanigans, Samantha, and indirectly Nandini Reddy, who shows she can be a far better protagonist than most of them, has definitely earned it. It is a movie that a family can watch together and be entertained, sans embarrassment.

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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