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maTTilOa maanikyaalu
best movies, yet box office failures
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by Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Here is the series that throws light on some of the box-office failures that deserve to be ranked as some of the best movies of Telugu industry. With it, want to highlight the efforts that went into the making of the movie, so that our current generation would never ever forget these long and forgotten gems.


Manu Smriti has a way of rubbing people the wrong way in the modern world. It is incomprehensible to anyone with a sane mind, how people could be divided in the name of the caste, with some sections reaping the benefits of their positions in the hierarchical ladder, while some cursing their fates caught in the lower rung, by virtue of their birth. What Manu envisioned creating a society by dividing people into groups based on the types of employment, over a few centuries, became anachronistic, one that did not age gracefully with time, when people started to claim their rights based on their origins, than on the employment. Naturally, what was once thought about as a brilliant plan for establishing a social order soon turned into a greatest divisive scheme in the history of mankind. It is in situations as these that the term "yuga dharmam" attains utmost significance. What might have been a good plan a few centuries or a few millennia before, might not translate well to the present context and vice versa. So what is it that defines a man, his position with respect to the society and his standing among his peers? If the original rule of Manu, based on employment, is to be followed, then class system (the haves and the have-nots) would replace caste system as the new stigma of the society. If the extension to Manu Smriti, based on the origin and hereditary rights (that a Brahman's son is also a Brahman), is considered, then the caste system, which is already deep rooted into the ethos, would find a permanent place, and so are the ills that plague the society consequently. Siding with either theory in totality is never a solution to the issue. If the place of origin hands over the basic tools of the trade, which are later honed by the type of work one is employed in, the combination working towards sensibility, better judgement and eventually, the enlightenment of the individual, forms the right path.

K.Viswanath's "Saptapadi" appears to be misleading in the title, in that, it is not about the seven steps that one takes to become a part of the institution of marriage. It is not just about a ritualistic exercise that completes the act of shedding the bachelorhood and entering a more stable state. "Saptapadi" talks about an individual's journey breaking away from the shackles from the conversatism to finding a path of understanding, encompassing and enlightenment. "Saptapadi" deals with the transformation of an individual so devoted to (mired in) the concept of rituals, that it takes an act of God (will be discussed shortly) for him to realize the true spirit behind the rituals and true meaning of the prayers. Yajulu is a man of great conviction. According to him rules and customs, that have been passed down generations thus standing the test of the time, are there for a reason and hence are immutable; traditions are trademarks of a culture and customs, its signature. He does not mind losing his daughter for his principles. He is well into his twilight years which give him even more reason to not mend his ways. In his footsteps follows his Gaurinadha (grandchild from his son), gearing up to be a head priest at the local temple. Yajulu's will prevails over Hema's (grandchild from his daughter) wish and Gauri and Hema end up being married. The brilliance of Viswanath comes full fore at this point, when on the first night, Gauri witnesses Durga devi in Hema, and walks out of the room completely shaken up. This act of God triggers Yajulu's thought process to seriously question, for the first time in his life, the validity of his position on matters that involve caste, creed and religion, justifying the steps that Yajulu takes one a time, from the first one in trying to understand Hema's real interests till the last one, when he sees her off with her love interest on the boat.

The crux of the whole movie is contained in a beautiful conversation that happens between Allu Ramalingaih and Somayajulu. Is caste a necessary evil? Is it evil in the first place? If the original idea that "dharmam" (vrutthi dharmam in this case, than manO dharmam, meaning, nobody is born as one pertaining to a caste. It is his duties that make him one) dictates the caste of an individual, isn't it abnegation of one's own dharmam when one denounces his own caste? If structure (in the form of division of duties) was the primary reason why caste was created in the first place, isn't it working against the same individual to be caught up completely in the structure that he himself created? Which/Who controls what here? If the duties of the individual cannot make him realize the ultimate purpose of the same, what good is it, if he belongs to the highest order bestowed with the greatest privileges. Consider a brahman diligently offering his prayers on a daily basis, totally immersed in the rituals that traditions and customs dictate. The class of brahman, according to the Smriti, was created to act as a mediator/representative between the rest of the populace and their beliefs, performing the rituals, on their behalf, for the greater good of the society. The class was to bring people closer, in the name of traditions, rituals, customs, and above all, belief. Cleanliness and tidiness help him in concentrating on the task at hand. Now, if he is to stray away from the ultimate purpose of his duty (performing rituals for the greater good) and instead indulge in the practices of cleanliness and tidiness to the extreme degree, that he starts alienating people in the name of untouchability, he starts moving away from his "dharmam", defeating the very purpose of his existence, which brings back the original question - which/who controls what? Is the individual controlling the caste or the caste has a greater say over the individual?

aadi nunchi aakaaSam moogadi
anaadi gaa talli dharaNi moogadi
naDuma vacchi urumu taayi mabbulu
naDi mantrapu manushulakae ee maaTaalu, inni maaTalu

philosophizes Veturi about the ideology of caste and the grip it has over the soceity, in the song that innocently questions "ae kulamu needanTae gOkulamu navvindi". After Viswanath, Veturi and Mahadevan share much of the burden translating the idea that the individual is always above the institution, than it is the other way around. "aeDu varNAlu kalisi indhradhanasautaadi, anni varNaalakoo okaTae ihamu paramunTaayi" - the way Veturi equates the confluence of colors (varNaalu) in a rainbow, to the co-existence of the different castes (varNaalu) in one society, "tellaavu kaDupunaa karraavu lunDavaa, karraavu kaDupunaa eraavu puTTadaa" to point out the difference between "vrutthi dharmam" and "manO dharmam", fits exactly with the spirit of "Saptapadi". Ultimately after the dust settles when Hema goes away with Murali, Gauri dedicates himself to the temple, Viswanath makes a contrasting statement that while the "saptapadi" that the couple (Hema and Murali) undertook binds them in the institution of a long-lasting frienship, Yajulu's Saptapadi breaks away the structure that held back the humanity within him, the traditions that tied up his soul and the customs that kept him from appealing to his good senses, one step at time.



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