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Some Ramblings - Bommarillu
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Where does originality in a movie lie? When the movie in question is talked about for its originality, what exactly does that mean? The term that is often tagged to originality is another industry buzz word - freshness. Club the two together and combination becomes a cinematic cliche. A scene here or there, a dialogue here or there, a song that is picturized differently or a characterization that is a little off-kilter - the buzz words, originality and freshness, are immediately summoned to sum up the entire movie. Often times, originality and freshness and mistaken for the phrase 'different'. The chase scene that is picturized with Sumos instead of helicopters, the fight scene that is composed with cycle chains and hockey sticks instead of the usual blows and acrobatics, the song that is picturized in a never before seen foreign locale instead of the regular standard visuals - it is only the apparatus that is changed here and not the modus operandi. Specially in movies that indulge in pure human drama, from which facet does originality ooze, that which hasn't been explored, exploited, investigated and done to death yet, in the 50 or so odd years that telugu films blazed the silver screen. Pick a simple single flaw of human nature, like an easily identifiable (particularly in the Indian culture) trait of over-bearing nature of the parents to provide the necessary conflict, frame the construct around the everyday happenings of any household, resolve the conflict in a manner that pleases both the mind and the heart at the same time, stay clear from the temptations of yeilding to the regular trappings of the commercial cinema to build the framework for originality. If it is said that devil lies in the the details, originality, angelically, lies in its simplicity.

Bommarillu is a textbook example (can even be made a textbook in itself) for originality. In the 80 or setups that is the accepted standard of any script, the facts that not a single setup appears borrowed, inspired, lifted or reworked, and not a single setup appears forced, out of place or jarring, stands as the testament to both the writer and the director to believe in the mantra for originality - simplicity. The concepts of 'threads', 'tracks', 'layers' fall completely in the face of simplicity. A lover defies all odds, situations and the surroundings to realize his love at all costs in Maine Pyaar Kiya. A college student vexed with the current system picks up the weapon and tries to shape the world around him in a manner he sees fit in Siva. A teenage couple who had been friends since childhood realize what had been friendship till then grew with them and transformed itself into love in Nuvve Kaavaali. Notice the complete absence of unnecessary threads, layers and separate tracks in any of those movies. The script moves along a pre-ordained path of achieving what it set out for in the shortest path possible that connects the beginning and the ending - path of simplicity which comes only in straight lines. Unnecessary clutter in the form of extraneous scenes or characters that suffocate the screen, the mandatory item presentations meant for eye-candy, the forced comedy setups supposed to ease the tension and provide the relief (that no one asked for), come into play when clarity, the pre-requisite for simplicity, is found largely wanting but sorely missing in the minds of the makers, when they set upon translating their vision on paper to the screen; and Bommarillu shows that tension need not be eased when the underlying emotion is true and genuine, comedy is not necessary when the situation has turned serious and the only emotion that it is one that involves heavy drama, and no tricky (alliterative/rhyming) word play is required if the words that come out, come straight from the heart.

The hero, Siddardh, is a Tamilian, who speaks Tamil with a Hindi accent and Hindi with a slight Tamil tinge. His Telugu is spotty at best, bearing a heavy accent and he probably does not understand the nuances of the language to get his take on the dialogues across effectively most of the times. Despite all the barriers that the foregin language poses, he stands tall on everyone else's shoulders in terms of delivering a tour-de-force performance, by virtue of his sincerity in his approach and complete assimilation of his character. His character is caught in a cross-fire of his father's over-bearing nature and his inability to pour his heart out, which is laden with situations calling for emotional moments that range from one extreme to another. Yet in EVERY one of the scenes, including the drunkard scenes which usually call for over-the-top theatricality, Siddardh's performance is balanced, mature and very much in the scene. He does not seem to disassociate from the moment, either looking down on it or laying safe on the sidelines, even when it calls for outlandish moves. It is this commitment to the moment which finally pays off brilliantly in the explosive climax, which involves some of the finest acting moments that is captured on the celluloid in the recent times. Another revelation in the movie is one from behind the screen - Devi SriPrasad. Here is a music director who started off his career with a great promise and soon slipped into the rut of mass beats and dance rhythms completely ignoring whatever has been his strong point that was endearing in the first place - pure melody. Even if they weren't his best, his tunes for Bommarillu are a welcome change, sounding totally unlike any of his previous compositions, as though the infectiousness of originality of the rest of the crew finally got to him too.

If there can ever be qualms and quibbles over Bommarillu, it is with the choice of the dubbing that was provided for the heroine. Savita Reddy, who for the umpteenth time lends her rather monotonous voice/diction/intonation/accent for yet another imported starlet, sounds the lone jarring note in an otherwise flawlessly executed movie. And the difference is much more contrasting when juxtaposed with Siddardh's dubbing, who comes across as one who is trying his level best and putting in more than his share of effort to speak the language as correctly and as natively as possible. And here is this lady, who either on the request/order of the director to speak (butcher is more like it) the language in that very obnoxiously cute tone, or lacking proper understanding of the language, lends her voice to an otherwise bubbly character, in a manner that is flat, insipid and lacking any emotion whatsoever. If it sounds as though the dubbing artist's voice itself needs to be dubbed for a more effective portrayal of the character, then the choice of having a sugary cute voice come at the cost of the believability of the character does not seem to be worth the trade-off, particularly amidst the non-native actors, like Prakash Raj and Siddhardh, speaking the language in as natural and as native fashion as any regular. Finally, here is a movie that celebrates originality, here is a movie that revels in simplicity, here is movie that trusts its actors, and importantly, here is movie that believes in its audience. Quite a rare feat, when all of the above come together in a regular family drama, and even more a rare sight, when it pulls it off in quite a spectacular fashion. The makers - take a bow!

More Ramblings on films
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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