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Some Ramblings - Malliswari
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

Hitchcock once described the difference between surprise and suspense thusly - if there is a bomb under the table that the hero is sitting at and the neither audience nor the hero is aware of it, it has all the elements of surprise built into it, when the bomb goes off. As in, the surprise springs up when the bomb explodes catching both the characters on either side of the screen unguarded and unexpecting. Now on the other hand, if the audience knows that a bomb has been planted before hand, much before the hero character knows about it, and the hero seats himself at the same table, it has all the elements of suspense built into it. And depending upon how the script moves the plot, the audience would be anxiously anticipating the bomb to go off at any moment, thus building up the suspense to the hilt. Now apply this same famous Hitchcock logic to comedy. If the characters in the script do not have any inkling of the type of situation they find themselves in, and situation dictates the characters to look totally out of place or completely out of element, comedy is born in quite a natural fashion. It does not seem forced and nor does it look that the script is trying to create comedy. Now if the characters already know much before the audience that they are in a comedic scene and that they have to create comedy, it takes double the effort and double the wit to extract comedy in this rather Caesarean way. Venky, accidentally falling in love with Nandini (Nuvvu Naaku Naccav) much against his father's behest or much against his convictions, is natural and the situations leading up to it are comical. On the other hand, "peLLi kaani prasaadu", desperately trying to end up on the good side of Malleeswari, does not earn the same kind of viewer's support or sympathy, since it seems that Prasad is already "in" on the joke (along with the viewer) and the situation soon becomes "laughing with Prasad", rather than "laughing at Prasad". This distinction is important given the context (that Prasad is trying hard to get married) that Prasad's situation should be comical to the viewer and not to himself.

The second sore point with the script is the fact that it wastes away the ever fresh "fish out of water" build up. When Maya Sasirekha (S.V.Ranga Rao) trades places with regular Sasirekha in Dwaaraka, the comedy of manners, resulting from maaya sasirekha being completely unaware of the practices of the civilized world, which is far removed from his (her) regular uncultured society, is quite hilarious, since it is the situation, again, that is the key element for the comedy. When Malliswari, who has a royal and a regal lineage, interacts with Prasad, whose life centers around Andhra Bank and his unmarried self, the situation presents itself for some comedy of manners, revolving around her ignorance of the ways of the regular world and his ignorance in trying to understand her take on the world. "It happened one night" or "Roman Holiday" or to some extent "Dil Hai Ki Maanta Hai" understood that the way of treating this Princess-Pauper situation lies in the chemistry resulting from the clash of two civilizations (or simply, two largely different worlds) basing on her mistrust and his misgivings. When this conflict angle is not exploited (nor even explored) by placing both the princess and the pauper on even keel, it is like one hand waving in the air trying to produce a clapping sound, without the other supporting it. Swayamvaram has the requisite conflict when Venu does not want to go against his principle even while drawing closer to Laya. Nuvve Kaavali has the friendship-love troubling transition conflict. Nuvvu Naaku Naccav, as pointed above, is Venky being torn apart between his word to his father and his love to Nandini. Even Manmadhudu, to some extent, portrayed this conflict successfully with touch me-touch me not see-saw in Abhi's attitude. This conflict angle appears to be sorely missing in "Malliswari" - the script does not seem to care why Malliswari has to fall to Prasad (while Prasad's motivation is quite clear), apart from the obvious reason that the hero and heroine have to come together no matter what.

Sincerity, which has been Trivikram's trademark till date, gave way for grandiosity in "Malliswari". When the setup got bigger, the stakes higher, and not to mention the budgets and track-records, (t)his down to earth simplicity and sincerity seem to be lost somewhere in these high stakes and huge setups. When the situations become contrived, the laughs seem to be forced and the emotions arising out of them quite artificial. And the laughs portion of the script, though showing the occasional flashes of Trivikram's brilliance, seem to be satisfied with a simple cause-effect payoff, and simple slapstick, without stretching the boundaries (contrast it with Lavangam episode or Banku Seenu episodes in Manmadhudu). Snoopy, the dog, is quite miffed whenever someone touches it on the forehead and the results ensuing (conveniently adapted from "There's Something About Mary") does have neither the requisite setup nor the desired payoff. When the different threads of the comical elements are interwoven skillfully, the resulting tapestry is quite a treat to watch. But if the comedy sticks to a strict episodic nature, with one scene having neither forbearance on its successor nor inheriting anything from its predecessor, the emotional point (even in comedy) is restricted to a few laughs without trying for a longer life. Banthi handles clumsily any task that is given to him by Venky, earning his fair share of whiplashes in the due process. With the setup task done away with in the initial few scenes, whenever Banthi is entrusted a task by Venky, the viewer is already aware of Banthi's history, and the laughs arising out of the situation become logical, leave alone hilarious. When a history (or a back-story) is created for a character, it adds flesh and blood to the paper model and it starts breathing life with this third dimension. "Malliswari" with paper characters aplenty (the huge credit scroll at the end of the movie attesting to the fact) appears to be a kitschy concoction of all the edible and tasty items, with a dull taste and insipid emotion.

Though it'll accumulate its fair (?) share of money bags, "Malliswari" does not glorify Trivikram's resume anymore than "Manmadhudu" did it an year ago. Though he hit all the right spots that earned the viewer's applause in his previous ventures, the endearing nature of the characters which seem to match the situation they are placed in, seems to be conspicuously missing. That he identified with the characters then, knew them on a personal level their motivations and machinations, obviously helped the shape and life of the same. The one bright spot in his script is the self-depreciative and self-effasive nature of Prasad, which has flashes of all the lead characters that Trivikram has penned till date. And added to that Venkatesh's sincerity in taking on Prasad's clumsiness and down to earth nature in his stride is worth a mention. If Trivikram's best work lies in simple setups, earnest sincerity, humility and honesty, big budgets do not seem right for his pen strokes.

More Ramblings on Telugu films
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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