What if the mythological story of Ramayanam took place when India’s national integration process was going on? Based on this idea that Director Hanu Raghavapudi has written Sita Ramam. The film stars actors Dulquer Salman, Mrunal Thakur, Rashmika Mandanna, Sumanth and others.
As the title suggests, it is a story about Sita and Ram. It is a story of love, an ideal relationship, a story of betrayal and a story of justice, like the epic. Sita Ramam is a period film set in 1964 and 1985. The film keeps cutting back and forth to narrate the story of Sita and Ram.
Circumstances force Afreen (Rashmika), a Pakistani citizen, to visit India in search of Sita Mahalakshmi (Mrunal Thakur) and hand over a letter written by Lieutenant Ram (Dulquer Salman) 20 years ago.
The whereabouts of Sita are unknown, and so the journey of who is Sita, who is Ram and what relationship they shared begins. Why is Afreen, who hates India, forced into this? Her relationship with Sita and Ram forms the story.
Ram is a lieutenant from the Madras regiment posted in the volatile region of Kashmir. His heroic deeds make him a national hero. The fact that he is an orphan makes him more endearing to the people. But later, his image is tarnished.
In this Ramayanam, instead of Sita’s purity being tested with a trial by fire, it is Ram who has been put on a trial and Sita who proves his innocence and puts him back on the throne of the national hero. The theme of Ramayanam runs throughout the film with overt references of love and Kurukshetra (war).
This is Dulquer’s second movie in Telugu and he does a very good job. His Telugu does sound convincing and it is hard to believe that he is a Malayali. Mrunal also does match up to him. The chemistry between them works because of Dulquer and Mrunal’s charm and grace, but the drama-like dialogues ruin the scenes between them. Some other scenes look so absurd. Sample this: at an important meeting, Gautam Menon, a senior officer asks his soldiers to carry out a secret mission. And when the meeting ends, Gautam holding a light bulb in his hands, says, “You guys get this fixed, and I will fix this (referring to the bulb).” The scene and the dialogue stick out like a sore thumb.
Rashmika initially tries hard to give a convincing performance as an arrogant and unapologetic brat, but eventually she gets into the character and does a decent job as Afreen.
The first half involving the search for Sita tests the patience of the audience. Sita and Ram share a “divine” relationship. They love each other without ever seeing each other. Balaji (Tharun Bhascker) who joins Afreen in her mission to deliver the letter, keeps stressing about how epic their love story is each time he learns a new thing about the relationship of Sita and Ram. This shtick becomes boring after a point. In fact, there are hardly any scenes which are funny and evoke laughter. The theme of Ramayanam in the film becomes so ubiquitous that actor Vennela Kishore, who gets introduced as Ram's friend, a theatre artist, is obviously shown in the make-up of Hanuman — the god who helps Rama in his journey to find Sita in the Ramayanam. Vennela Kishore does try to make the film light with his comedy, but all his lines fall flat.
To give the film a period look, huge sets are erected and appropriate set properties are added in the frame, but how can we buy the authenticity when each time Mrunal Thakur appears on screen, she has perfect make-up, straightened hair or heated curls, and designer costumes? It looks like those scenes are from some saree advertisement. Even when she goes to a village without access to any of these facilities, her hair has perfect curls. Hanu clearly overdid it with his quest to give an aesthetic vibe. Eventually, when Afreen meets Sita, she has not even aged a day. She does not have gray hairs, even partially, to suggest that she is old. Was this an oversight or a deliberate attempt? Anyway it does not move you when the letter finally gets delivered.
Actor Sumanth has an important role in the film. As a complicated man who wants to redeem his guilt and be selfish at the same time, he fails in giving a convincing performance.
Cinematographers PS Vinod and Shreyaas Krishna did a splendid job in beautifully capturing the expanse of Kashmir with their lens, and also brought us closer to the lives of Sita and Rama.
While Vishal Chandrasekhar’s songs are not very effective, he compensates for it with the spectacular background score. He moves us with his emotional background music when Dulquer vanishes from the screen.
Sita Ramam tries hard to make the love story between Sita and Ram a poignant tale, but with weak writing, the film does not get the desired response.
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.