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Some Ramblings - Seetamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (2013)
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

They are rivals. Competing for everything from attentions to affections, from space to resources, the relationship is so setup such that the primary lessons of evolution - struggle for existence and survival of the fittest - are taught a hard way at a very early age. As time passes, the intense competition makes way for inevitable comparisons, where a natural leader and a natural follower would emerge out of the relationship. Discounting those magical situations where miraculous turnarounds happen midway through life, the follower shall forever remain sulking in the long shadows that the leader casts by hogging all the limelight for himself. At some point, the follower gives up resigned to his resources and fate. It is from here that the dynamic gets even more interesting, where the competition of the early ages gives way to an uncomfortable coexistence in the later stages. The one, to whom life and luck has been relatively kind, starts to experience the guilt of good life and express remorse over all the past deeds of elbowing the other out of the race. While he tries to make amends overcompensating by being extra-accommodative, the other party retracts into the shell further rejecting the advances unwilling to accept anything that it sees come its way as scraps of sympathy or spoils of pity. The wall that starts building between them right from the point they attain individualities and identities never gets torn down till the end. There are no prizes for coming second here nor does the loser accept the consolation prize. in this race of life, competition, like charity, begins at home. And the first rival is the one who shares the same space. They are competitors, they are brothers.

Seetamma vAkiTlO… is a great character study of that unsettling and uneven relationship that exists between brothers of different mentalities. Life here doesn't revolve around important incidents, but rather it is a daily grind, an unhealthy blend of under-achievements, ensuing dissatisfactions and resulting bruised egos. It is a remarkable achievement as a writer, first, and director, next (and not to leave behind the derring-do of the producer to invest in a project as such) where uncomfortable silences convey more and unsaid words speak louder. The way the script sets up the relationships where all the important characters practically walk on egg shells, so as to not step on each others toes, try to carefully measure the words, so as to not hurt the others in the process, is almost a first of its kind in telugu movies, where usually loudness and brashness are mistaken for affection. This is a movie of manners, at its heart, not the right or wrong kind of manners, but the right place at the right time type. The way the brothers face off by never facing other, never locking the eyes, the way they talk to each other by never uttering even a single syllable than what is absolutely necessary, the way each so desperately wants to breach the barrier and tear down that wall that stands between them but unable to do so, not because of some tall egos, but more because curtness became their default conversation mechanism over the years, and trying any other way would simply feel artificial, shows how observant the writer was at real life situations. There used to be a running joke about how most of the movies of yester years involving misunderstandings would end right at the interval point, if only the aggrieved party made clear of his/her intentions then and there, instead of moping around and carrying the burden of the blame till the climax part, where it will finally and conveniently be clarified by some third party. Applying the same solution here, of having an open hearted talk when in doubt, does not guarantee better results in these real life scenarios, as these mistrusts have been building up over entire lifetimes, and not on one sudden day and on one single incident. The writer acknowledges that by never giving the brothers an easy way out of sticky situations, like an unexpected career upswing or an unanticipated financial windfall, that are somehow supposed to iron out the philosophical differences between the two. They are tied for life and destined to struggle through much of it. A good job here or a great fortune there wasn't going to alter the dynamic of reticence and reluctance much.

The dialogues deserve equal credit here as they refrain from sermonizing about morals and values of life and just follow the trajectories of the character. Also, they seem to have a unique rhythm to them (would had been even better, if the actors slowed down on the delivery a bit and not rushed through them, in a bid to appear too natural and too casual), starting off in the middle of the conversation and never seem to be stopping at their logical end. The entire production is an exercise of confidence and bravery, for it is not often that the heroes do not get their entitled pay offs at the end. Special mention to Venkatesh and Mahesh for accepting these roles and doing complete justice to their characters flaws. By the end of the movie, the brothers haven't entirely brought their relationship to a safe place, they would still struggle, and fight and clash with each other, and sulk and be frustrated, but the relationship will survive and endure, because in some relationships, silences speak more than conversations and intentions trump conventions. Unique effort and stellar execution!

కథా? అనురాగానిది ఏం శ్రుతి? అనుబంధానిది ఏం ఛందస్సు? జీవితానిది ఏం తాళం? భలే వారండీ మీరు...

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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