Cast: Sharwanand, Anupama Parameswaran, Prakash Raj, Jayasudha, Naresh, Indraja and others
Director: Sathish Vegesna
There’s something about the films that release around Sankranti. It’s probably the happiness of the New Year or the festive fervour, people seem to watch as many films as they can and that’s probably why Shatamanam Bhavati, despite being a dated concept with no fresh narrative, still seems appealing to the audience who are getting emotional, shedding tears and getting all touchy as they walk out of the theatres.
It is the story of Raghavaraju (Prakash Raj) and Janakamma (Jayasudha), an ageing couple living alone in their small village where they are highly respected. While Raghavaraju has learnt to life this way with the support of his grand nephew Raju (Sharwanand) and nephew Bangarraju (Naresh Sr), Janakamma is constantly living in the remembrance of her children who stay abroad and haven’t come home for long. This leads to trouble in their relationship and unbeknownst to his wife, he shoots a mail to all his children that he’s divorcing her, forcing them to finally come home.
Very reminiscent of Baghban and Mithunam, this film explores the woes of parents who wait for that one festival to see their kids (if they come) and celebrate with them the brief moments. Well, the intention of the film is beautiful — to bring to light how the fast-paced world has degraded family values and social togetherness — but the execution goes wrong and we are instead treated to a series of harrowing monologues, appreciable standalone moments and a lot of rehashed songs.
Director Satish takes viewers down the memory lane as he gives us glimpses from Seetharamayya Gari Manavaralu through Anupama’s NRI character, A... Aa as Sharwanand reminds us very much of Nithiin’s small town boy avatar, Govindudu Andarivadele with the NRI attitude of not wanting to come home, Seethamma Vaakitlo Sirimalle Chettu where Prakash Raj’s character does the job of holding everyone together by means of occasional ‘lectures’.
Almost every other scene gives you a sense of déja vu as you easily keep predicting what could happen next. The film has got every tried-and-tested formula characteristic of a typical village drama — bava-maradalu romance, NRIs who get excited about every little tradition from drawing muggulu to wearing a langa voni, extravagant celebrations, values etc. This film’s surely going to strike a chord with Indians overseas (probably intentional).
The wafer thin plot and lag of narration notwithstanding, this film isn’t much about the story and is more about the message — Yo, NRIs, come home occasionally, meet your parents and yes, don’t forget the values. In that attempt, the director gives us a dose of clichéd scenes and moments to induce the festive mood, adding in a tinge of humour, amazing cinematography by Sameer Reddy and of course, a great cast. Prakash Raj isn’t given much to do, but the brief moments he is in action, you can’t take your eyes off him. Jayasudha lives up to her title of Sahaja Nati and is delightful. Anupama and Sharwanand seem quite detached as their characters do not give them enough scope to go beyond. The rest of the cast adds to the mood they need to create.
If the film gives a feeling of déja vu, the music just multiplies it. While the tunes are wonderful, one can’t help notice the obvious similarities with music from Mickey J. Meyer’s earlier films like Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu, A.. Aa and Brahmotsavam.
To lay it on the line, Shatamanam Bhavathi isn’t a masterpiece nor does it offer much to take home, but during this festive season, if one is in the mood for a simple, light-hearted film, this wouldn’t be a bad choice. But we’re giving you a heads-up on the slow pace and predictability quotient!