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Review : Majili
Majili cements the presence of Shiva Nirvana as a writer-director from whom we can expect some good films. This is a different canvas from his debut, Ninnu Kori, and he uses it to make us forget the star-actors and look at the characters they are portraying. And that isn’t easy when the stars are the industry’s much-loved couple whose photographs on social media give many of their followers ‘couple goals’.
We see Naga Chaitanya and Samantha in a complex journey of relationships. We can look at Majili as a story of two couples. We can also look at it as a story of three daughters and how their lives are intertwined with one man. Slipped into this is also an endearing bond of a father and son.
Starring: Naga Chaitanya, Samantha Akkineni, Divyansha Kaushik
Director: Shiva Nirvana
Producers: Sahu Garapati, Harish Peddi
Banner: Shine Screens
Music director: Gopi Sundar, S. Thaman
Release Date: 5th April 2019
Once upon a time, there is Poorna (Naga Chaitanya), who, we are made to believe (a little unconvincingly), is an extremely talented cricketer. Anshu (Divyansha Kaushik) falls in love with him, despite the economic disparity between the two families, what with Poorna being the son of a middle-class railway employee (Rao Ramesh) and Anshu the pampered daughter of a Navy officer (no attention to detail – a future mother-in-law cribbing about a lost budget camera hardly gels with a family that celebrates birthday parties in cruise-boats).
Once again, it is the case of the audience trying to imagine and accept that there was a spark (barely perceptible) as the love blooming between the two young ones comes off as a little too far-fetched. The writing doesn’t create enough magical moments to justify a love story that is capable of changing a young man for life. Things take an ugly turn and the star-struck lovers carry pieces of their jilted love as they are separated for all the cliched reasons we are well aware of – the usual envious men who eye the girl, the fights, the family interfering, marrying the girl away, blah blah.
Enter Samantha as Sravani, Poorna’s wife. Once Poorna’s neighbor, Sravani has been quietly in love with him for a long time and decides to bear the burden of his brooding, alcoholic, miserable self. Poorna is too lost to bother about the taunts of the world, of his parents-in-law, and of the uncouth men in the pubs and bars he frequents to drink away to glory. The movie adopts a sense of meaning in the second half as a teenager with a lot of cricketing talent (we are made to believe) enters Poorna’s life. The story then hurtles towards an abrupt finish as we witness how transformations can take place within a span of weeks.
Naga Chaitanya has delivered a career-best performance. He performed really well in emotional sequences. Samantha enters the film late but takes the second half to the next level with her performance. She got into the skin of the middle-class character perfectly. Divyansha Kaushik instantly impressed in her debut film. The film also boasts strong character artists. Posani is superb as always while Posani is at his comical best.
Majili is riddled with problems including clumsy acting, plot inconsistency, unoriginality, no sign of reality, lack of concern for a reason. But, my biggest issue with Majili is Shiva’s attempt to set some severely unrealistic and highly unreasonable relationship expectations with his crowd-pleasing melodrama. It is one of those films that propagates the theory that self-respect goes out of the window the moment you find true love. And even more problematic aspect of this film is it only sets the bar high for the woman in a relationship, while the man is allowed to be a self-destructive piece of work.
Purna mistreats Sravani. He insults her parents. He refuses to acknowledge her as his lawfully wedded wife and consummate their relationship. And yet, Sravani doesn’t give up on him as her love is so pure that no amount of insult can deter her. The audience could have bought Shiva’s definition of love and pain if it were the 80s. But, in the era, where women are becoming more assertive about their sexuality, likes, dislikes, and equality, this film comes across as backward thinking
Umpteen movies have used sub-plots to build/develop a chemistry between the lead pair in a movie where it doesn’t exist to start with. Super Deluxe, for example, to take a recent example, builds that chemistry with a dead body around. And yet, Majili fails to do it despite so much going for it, for the simple reason that the cynosure of the story was wrongly chosen. Poorna could be the heartbroken guy, but investing so much time on his teenage love story and in building up the pain in his heart was the time that could have been well-utilized. It is not rocket science to understand that the audience would want to spend time with Sravani’s character, whose entire backstory was narrated in the span of a single song, a jiffy. The audiences enjoyed every bit of her including her subtle but mischievous chemistry with her father-in-law.
And is it too much to ask movie-makers to give the audience properly trained cricketers, if the story intends to use the sport as a pivot? Isn’t it hackneyed and callous on the part of the director to tell us that a hero can smash more than a hundred runs in 36 balls without so much as holding the bat the right way? Can we not grow up already!
Majili, the wiki-page of the movie tells you, is a part of the journey. The movie lives up to that title by breaking your heart, because it ends just when it starts to resonate with you emotionally. The emotional lacuna can be largely attributed to the decision of turning a potentially insightful love story into two half-baked love stories without scripting a protagonist character who can carry it off.
Majili’s songs are honey to sore ears and help you tolerate the slower, predictable bits of the movie. The cinematography capturing the harbour and the sea and railway quarters, with largely darker shades, is laudable too. Had the movie offered dialogue that matched Samantha’s reticent fluency, it could have been so much more.
Vishnu Sarma’s cinematography, and fine writing from Shiva Niravana, the film turns into an enriching experience. It does leave you with a hangover of pain and love. Two big thumbs up.Gopi Sundar’s songs are okay while Thaman’s Background score is excellent. Camera work is excellent and the editing could have been better. Production Values are excellent.
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