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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.

Sogasu Chooda Taramaa

The trick lies in not laying all the cards on the table upfront. More often than not, the makers try to establish the characters within the first few minutes of their entry than allow the characters to reveal themselves over the course of the movie. The risk in undressing the character at the drop of the hat lies in having to support the same trait over the entire course of the movie, which is no mean task by any stretch of imagination. Before the current love trend that is sweeping across the industry with much gust(o), marriage was the popular topic that was tinkered with, aside the regular violent fares and the ever-dependable atta-alluDu theme. AVM's productions, which consistently produced family dramas (or adapted Tamil themes to telugu screen) during the late 80s and the early 90s, revolved around the concept of marriage from a single family/joint family perspective, painting the institution of marriage in broad strokes, showing it in either black or white and making broad generalized statements about issues either way.

It is to be said that not many movies dealt with the real dynamic and the real mechanics of the marriage, without the usual "praNaya kalahaalu", "alakalu-kalatalu", "aevagimpulu-eesaDimpulu", "kuTumba paruvu-praTishTalu", until Gunasekhar's sogasu cooDa taramaa.

The hero does not have to brave the nasty elements of the society to claim the heroine. The hero does not have an over-bearing mother, ailing siblings, nasty neighbors or other regular trappings of the conventional family drama hero. The heroine does not belong to a rich family who could not quite cope up with the change of status or the shock of an inferior "culture", marrying a monthly salaried middle class hero. The heroine is not saddled with the regular bag and baggage - scheming father's business plans to uproot his son-in-law from his poor hut to his palatial house, a very caustic yet covert mother's insinuating suggestions that poisons the marriage right before the third act. Gunasekhar throws all these extraneous characters aside and concentrates solely on the two characters at hand. These two characters are guided by their intentions, moved by their motives and Placed firmly in their tracks by their traits. On closer inspection, it is really appreciable of Gunasekhar in avoiding the obvious setups, side-stepping the easy props (read mother, brother, father-in-law etc), and trusting the inter-play between the lead characters and inevitable clash of their ideologies, that would very well fuel the entire movie.

After doing away with the initial sweet nothings in a nice but terse way, the script starts to peel the character of the hero and by the time it reaches the point of their first major argument, it is revealed that the character has traces of alcoholism, male chauvinism and weak will. At just the same juncture, the heroine shows glimpses of independent thoughts, actions deep seated in reality, level-headedness stemming from her practicality. Though the heroine possesses a strong voice of reason, it does not wander off into the preaching mode, where any mis-treatment that is meted out to her is handled with a stoic smile, trying to change her husband's heart with a patient attitude, heeding to every one of his wishes, with a background song, extolling her virtues as an "adaarSa naari". Hero comes in drunk and expects his wife to grant him physical bliss. Heroine mortified at this new discovery (of alchoholism), proceeds to quarantine him for the night. Physical struggle ensues and the heroine bursts out, appealing to the human instants buried deep under his animal urges. She strips herself in the rage and cries out to "violate" her - "f*** me, is this what you wanted, f*** me, neeku kaavaalsindi naa Sareeramae aitae, idigio" (dialogue is not translated, it is reproduced as is). From a broader perspective, the telugu heroine character (married heroine, of course) evolves to being an independent minded person, who feels to be entitled to an equal and a fair share in the conduct of the marriage, who does not mind being a "kaaryaeshu daasi", if she is given an equal opportunity at being a "karaNaesu mantri". The heroine character does not curse her fate and mutely accept her destiny, when she is bet and lost as an inanimate pawn, in a game that debases her dignity, and mocks her femininity. She instead fights back, by renouncing her marriage (not divorcing) and denying her husband of her association.

Around the early 90s, when Ramoji Rao added the supplement "vasundhara" To his "eenaaDu" paper, a staffer by name "ajaySanti" (The author would like to plead ignorance on the gender of this person. For all practical purposes, it is treated as feminine) started a question/answer column, that touched upon the daily issues/problem plaguing the female kind in great detail. The column became quite popular owing the pragmatic view, the sharp tongue and bitter pill approach. It is for this same nature that Gunasekhar wanted his heroine to be bestowed upon that he roped in "ajaySanti" to pen the dialogues for this movie. The initial lighter vein moments ("ee peLLi ni samrpistunna vaaru mee andhraa bank", "alaa cooDu (pointing to Manmohan Singh, then financial minster), aayana, aa cirunavvu, daeSam kanapaDanivvaDu paapam, appu cippa paTTUkuni bayaludaerataaDu") were compensated in large measures with the following maelstorm that brews in their relationship. "ajaySanti" attributes the same wisdom, problem solving capacity and tongue l(e)ashes (paTTu-viDupu) that she demonstrated in her column to the female character, bringing out the multi-faceted woman, complete with rough edges, sharp corners and rotund development.

There is much more to a marriage than the occasional fight and a lovely duet afterwards. There is much more to keeping a relationship than the odd tiff and an aftermath warm embrace. There is much more to understanding a partner than dislikes and distastes and the comedy that ensues on pushing the wrong buttons. Marriage is not a culmination of love, but rather a propagation and propitiation of love. Marriage is not a means to an end, rather a will to work till the end. Here is Gunasekhar's ode to the testament of female Free will at the turn of the century. Welcome to the latest brand of female empowerment!


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