Tollywood's 'praasa' overkill: Why the obsession with 'philosophical' dialogues?

Dear dialogue writer, did you binge eat at a Chinese restaurant and collect all the fortune cookies for 'inspiration'?
Tollywood's 'praasa' overkill: Why the obsession with 'philosophical' dialogues?
Tollywood's 'praasa' overkill: Why the obsession with 'philosophical' dialogues?
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Dear Writer Garu,

I just saw one of the films you had written and it took me more than a day to finally digest everything that you wanted to say through your film. Now, you might wonder what was I doing while the story was unfolding on big screen.

I’m glad you asked that question. In fact, I wanted to ask you - What were you thinking while writing all these dialogues? Did you binge eat at a Chinese restaurant and collect all the fortune cookies as a source of ‘inspiration’ to fire one dialogue after another without even realising what effect it’s going to have on me, your ‘audien’?

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not angry or upset about anything. Because I’m one of the millions of movie-goers whose sole purpose in life is to look forward to your work on any given Friday, I’ll take anything that you throw at me. But please, let’s take a moment and really understand why the ink flowing from your pen or the words you are typing on your laptop need a serious re-check. It’s frankly TOO MUCH TO DIGEST in 150 minutes.

Okay, fine, 100 minutes, because we all know the equation - 100 minutes of story + 20-25 minutes of songs + 20 minutes of fight sequence in Aluminium factory or Binny Mills. 100 minutes of story. And then, you pack in so many ‘profound’ dialogues that, at times, I seriously wonder if it’s a story or a bloated Turkey that’s enough to feed an entire colony for Thanksgiving Day.

Among many other things, I understand that Telugu cinema has had a deep connection with stage plays during its initial days. And hence, the padyalu (poems) that were an intrinsic part of mythological plays made their way into films as well since we focused so much on folklore and mythology till the '60s. Like this one from the classic film Narthanasala.

And I also reckon that one’s ability to mouth dialogues was a key parameter in measuring their greatness. The more difficult or lengthier a monologue is, the greater the actor becomes, if s/he can pull it off.

Our legendary actors had already set the precedent. And when the next generation took over the reins, the trend continued.

In fact, like several others, I was one among those who was in awe of an actor’s ability to memorise such dense writing. A case in point - this epic scene from Dana Veera Soora Karna where NT Rama Rao begins his monologue with, “Acharya Deva, Emantivi Emantivi…”

But something changed in the past couple of decades. Padyalu vanished from our films. Just when we thought that the writing, especially the dialogues, will reflect the existing trends in the society, the rise of praasa changed the game.

I find it really tough to explain what praasa means to someone who doesn’t follow Telugu cinema. For starters, I could simple say that it’s a 2-4 line stanza which has a “not only…but also” structure to it, along with rhyme and rhythm. But it’s not as simple as it might seem. Isn’t it?

After all, the whole point is to share ‘wisdom’ through praasa and it’s incredibly effective. I became a huge fan of Trivikram Srinivas just for this reason when he first unleashed the beast onto the Telugu movie aficianados. I loved his witty one-liners, aka Trivakram Punchulu Praasalu, right from the beginning of his career.

In Nuvvu Naaku Nacchav, when Prakash Raj and Venkatesh bump into each other in an elevator, Prakash Raj asks, “Office aipoyindha. Colleagues ela unnaru?" (Done with office? How are your colleagues?). To this, Venkatesh remarks, “Okka ammayi baagundhi uncle "(One girl looks good). It really worked in the film. Along with this, the arrival of Sunil in the comedy scene was one of the best things to have happened for Telugu cinema in the first half of 2000s.

Little did I know that the praasa will turn into a Kraken which will not spare anyone in the industry. Almost every other film has a heavy hangover of Trivikram’s style. Who in god’s name speaks like that in their day-to-day conversations? I understand that it’s a cinematic expression to put forth your ideas, but they have begun to sound like riddles to me.

No wonder, this has inspired several spoofs and memes. Chaalu andi inka (This is enough). And just when I thought you have got over your obsession with praasa, you have shifted to another gear which I wasn’t even prepared for. You went ballistic and oh boy! Now, I dread to watch a film which feels like I’m trapped inside a room and instead of watching a video, you are just playing your version of War And Peace, or perhaps, a script which is a homage to Salman Rushdie’s style of writing. It’s more than what I can chew in 150 minutes.

Writer garu, I want to see the film and not spend too much time thinking about your brainwaves throughout the entire length of the film. Recently, in the midst of a film, I was so tired of your dialogue-baazi that I began to wonder if you were taking revenge on me for not paying attention to your earlier work. You managed to make the hero into a philosopher who is so wise that he might have ended all wars and conflicts in the world with his 'emotional' speech just like how the hero does in the film's climax. He could have given KA Paul a run for his mission to bring Global Peace. It's true, sir.

Sir, with all due respect, I’m quite attentive while watching a film. I want to celebrate the joy of watching films, but what I don’t want to do is look for an ice-pack just to cool my head. I’m sure it’s difficult to draw a line and convince yourself, ‘This is good enough’, but please do us this favour sir. I urge you. No, no, I beg you.

Some of your peers in the industry had something interesting to say - “If you see more of the writer than the character while watching a film, then it’s bad writing.” Okay, that’s a bit too harsh. But there’s some truth in it. I want to be part of the world you have created, but if your major strength is to treat the viewer as a target practise for your cannon-ball sized dialogues, then I might as well read a book instead of watching your film.

A profound quote is inspiring and gives us plenty to think about. But too many profound quotes, disguised as dialogues, are totally yawnsome. I beg you to not make scenes into some sort of jugalbandi of dialogues between characters. If this is going to be the trend for few more years, I don’t know if I’ll have enough neurons left in my brain to process all the information. Anthe sir. Inka chaala cheppochu, kaani, this is where I choose to end my avedhana. (That’s all sir. I can go on and on, but this is where I choose to end my anguish.)

Like one famous dialogue from Pawan Kalyan's Attarintiki Daredhi goes, "Ekkada neggalo kadura, ekkada taggalo telisina vaade goppavadu. Grammar Thappulu Unte Manninchandi, Assalu Ardhaame Thappunukunte Kshaminchandi. Kaani maa baadha maatram gurthinchandi." (A man who knows where to hold back is greater than the one who know where to win. Please excuse me if there are any grammatical mistakes, but if this doesn't make any sense at all, then please forgive me. But please take note of our misery.)


Sada Mee Prema Ki Banisa

(From, The Faithful Slave Of Your Love)

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