'Srinivasa Kalyanam' review: An overbearing lecture on tradition

While the director's previous film was more of a suggestion to the younger generation, this film is near didactic and preachy.
'Srinivasa Kalyanam' review: An overbearing lecture on tradition
'Srinivasa Kalyanam' review: An overbearing lecture on tradition
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Srinivasa Kalyanam is a movie that probably resulted from a gross misunderstanding on part of a story-writer about the pre-nuptial agreement. It has been understood as ‘signing a divorce paper before getting married’. Exactly why it is wrong for a millionaire industrialist to ask a prospective son-in-law to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, I still cannot fathom. And that’s the hinging point of this entire movie.

Srinivasa Kalyanam’s director Satish Vegesna hit a jackpot with Shathamanam Bhavati, a gem of a film, which won the prestigious National Award. One can see how both the movies were from the same director – the importance given to tradition and the elders of the family, the throwback to the beauty of villages, the extolling of the virtues of being a good Samaritan/a good family man/a good person. What one cannot find in this version though is the charm and the tone of the former.

While the former was a suggestion for the younger generation, this is more aggressive, almost didactic, preaching from beginning to end as to what the ideal life is. There is no debate. Satish seems to have gone ahead with a ‘my way or the highway' conviction. (Well, a National Award can do great things to one’s confidence, no doubt!) The movie’s main character is RK (Prakash Raj), an industrialist, who doesn’t waste any time on sentimentality and is constantly busy. I refuse to believe Nithiin is the hero of the movie, for he barely goes through the journey which RK does. Just dating a heroine doesn’t make one the main character, does it?

RK is shown as the bad guy, the man who doesn’t have time for his family because he wants to be a Tata/Birla, a man who asks his daughter to get a divorce if she doesn’t like living with her husband, a man who advises his younger daughter to live for 6 months in anonymity on her own to prove her worth, a man who for the greater part of the movie puts himself through things which he absolutely hates simply because he made a promise, a man who when he realises he is wrong, based on his logical observations, based on what others try to teach him, comprehends the significance of events and apologises to everyone. Barely sounds like a bad guy, isn’t it? But Satish decided it, so be it.

RK’s daughter Sree (Rashi Khanna) falls for Srinivas (Nithiin) and the latter insists that the wedding should be based on the whims of his grandmother (Jayasudha, who in this movie enacts the role of Rajendra Prasad’s mother. Nasty and unfair, isn’t it? Is that tradition too?) So, since the bridegroom’s family believe in tradition, the bride’s family have to put up with it all at the bridegroom’s village-home. At the end of it all, RK, the industrialist, who barely cares for humans, is transformed.

The intentions are probably noble, but the film comes off looking like a south India shopping mall ad followed by an ad for the institution called marriage. Yes, there were some brilliant bits, like how you can win people over, how ‘giving’ makes a person richer, how the life in a village is sometimes bigger than the sum of the parts. But, these beautiful bits are lost because of over-dramatisation. To start with, Telugu directors have to learn how to portray a rich industrialist. He is not just some random man walking with four guys in blazers with sunglasses. He is not just some random guy sitting in a room full of ‘apparent business partners’ in ill-fitting suits and bad makeup, leave aside bad English pronunciation.

The so-called hero in this movie is an epitome of all that is good, but while Sharwanand probably carried it really well in Shatamanam Bhavati, Nithiin barely had a good character sketch to start with. Besides mouthing dialogues for a plastic role, he hardly has scope to do good. His character is that of a self-proclaimed empathy-expert who finds decent solutions to conflicts, but most of the time he looks like a naughty prospective son-in-law playing tug-of-war with his father-in-law in the name of tradition.

The two leading ladies in the movie have clarity of purpose. Rashi Khanna’s role is to look at Nithiin admiringly all through the movie, because, you know all she wanted to do from her childhood was have a destination wedding in a village?! (Remember other heroines from past movies? Too many? Okay.) The other lady, played by Nanditha Swetha, gets to ride a Thunderbird and be a dashing, attractive in-love-with-the-awesome-dude-from-childhood side-heroine whom Srinivas cousin-zones. Is that an apt-word in our movies, because there is no English equivalent for the essence of the word 'mardalu' in Telugu!

Probably, the best part of the movie is when she tells him that her grandmother conditioned her to believe he was her husband right from her childhood. It would have been better if the grandmother had conditioned him as well, right from childhood; her love story wouldn’t be tragic. Clap-worthy moment lost in the marriage-melee. Exactly why grandmothers condition cousins to marry each other, I cannot understand. (Probably fans of the Targaryens in Game of Thrones).

All in all, Srinivasa Kalyanam preaches tradition but at the expense of everything else that is seen as ‘wrong’. If you are okay with that, it is a pretty neat movie

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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