Fidaa movie review: Varun Tej, Sai Pallavi-starrer has heartwarming moments but lacklustre second half
Thirteen years after making Anand, filmmaker Sekhar Kammula returns to familiar ground with Fidaa. The film is packed with relatable characters, a lead pair whose sparkling chemistry is bound to put a smile on your face, and a landscape which takes your breath away just by its sheer beauty and simplicity. In fact, Sekhar Kammula stages all this stuff so well in first half of Fidaa that it makes you wonder where this filmmaker had been hiding all these years.
Fidaa is the story of Bhanumati, a young girl from Banaswada, located in the hinterlands of Telangana, who dreams about living amidst people who are close to her heart. Her ageing father and elder sister Renuka mean the world to her, and she wouldn’t trade her life for anything else. Elsewhere in the US, Varun (Varun Tej), an aspiring neurosurgeon, lives with his elder brother and a kid brother. Soon, Varun sends his elder brother to Banaswada to meet Renuka after he spots her profile on a matrimony site. The rest of the story is about what happens when Varun and his family come to meet Bhanumati and Renuka.
Fidaa is dubbed as a love-hate-love story, which basically gives away the premise of the film; however, it leaves you with a strong aftertaste that perhaps Sekhar Kammula too might have had a love-hate-love relationship with what he had created. Obviously, he’s in love with the characters of Bhanumati, Renuka and Varun, and so, he invests plenty of time and energy in giving them well-defined personalities. Bhanumati is a firebrand and also a dreamer at heart, even though she might not acknowledge it; her elder sister Renuka is the voice-of-reason in the plot; and, Varun is the boy-next-door who is struggling to make sense of Bhanumati. This stark contrast in the personalities of these three characters shapes the film, while the rest of the characters walk in and out of their lives without distorting the dynamics of their relationship.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Sekhar Kammula fell in love with the character of Bhanumati and full credit to Sai Pallavi who strikes like a bolt of lightening with her screen presence. It’s not just the Telangana slang or the way she emotes throughout the film... What really makes Sai Pallavi the anchor of the story is how she captivates our attention by embodying the fears of a young girl who has to face the prospect of leaving her family, but at the same time, her strong-and-opinionated personality shrouds her fears. Bhanumati is the daughter of the soil, rooted in the local and evidently, Sekhar Kammula has nudged Sai Pallavi to become part of the environment itself. As a result, we get images of Bhanumati ploughing the field on a tractor, dancing in the rain to signify her celebrating the onset of monsoon, which also stands as a metaphor to her welcoming the onset of love into her life. And when she smiles, or even when she nods her head, you understand that Sekhar Kammula couldn’t have chosen a better actress than Sai Pallavi to play this role.
Varun, on the other hand, is good at heart and is the polar opposite of Bhanumati’s personality. Their symbiosis is like that of the Earth and rain. Both of them need each other to find true love and the long spells of silence between them disturbs their equation. Varun Tej is quite sincere in his role as a guy who just wants to talk the girl he has fallen in love with, even though she rejects him. And he strikes a great equation with Sai Pallavi which makes for an interesting watch.
Then, there’s the whole aspect of what Sekhar Kammula wants us to see and feel as the love story between Varun and Bhanumati blooms in the first half. He wants us to soak in the local culture of Telangana, their rituals during a wedding ceremony, their dialect, the lush green landscapes where the black soil looks ready to kiss the first rains of the monsoon, and we get to see all this in full glory. It’s visually alluring and amidst all this, Bhanumati and Varun open their hearts to each other. The first half of Fidaa is the closest anyone in Telugu cinema could have gotten to rekindle the warmth and love of Hum Aapke Hain... Koun!.
And then, when the narrative goes into the ‘hate’ mode, which is based on an ego clash between Varun and Bhanumati, the film begins to lose part of its mojo. The uncomfortable silence which the protagonists have to face doesn’t really make you root for the characters. Yes, we, as the audience, want them to put aside their differences because the hangover of their love story in the first half is so strong that it feels comforting. But their clash of personalities feels under-written or maybe Sekhar Kammula held back himself from going the whole nine yards to create something that’s outstanding. There’s pain and yearning for a loved one; however, this is something which we infer based on the situation. One could argue that this is as close to reality as one could get to depict a couple who is caught in such an uncomfortable situation; however, I would like to believe that, when someone could fill the characters with so much of sympathy, innocence and full of life, he definitely could have done a better job when it comes to building tension in Varun and Bhanumati’s relationship.
Having said that, this is not a complaint, but a result of the angst that one goes through after watching a film which should have had a more befitting closing. The climax feels rushed and the story itself needed better closure. We get what we want in the end, but it feels like a chunk of beautiful moments which have held the story together.
The film also finds its emotional core through a question which Sekhar Kammula constantly brings up throughout the story: What happens to our loved ones when we migrate? Do we necessarily have to put our ambition first before the well-being of our community or environment which has nurtured us over the years? Fidaa makes you think about all this and more. It’s a wonderful drama where Sekhar Kammula pushes you to dream a beautiful dream for 75 minutes at a stretch and then he wakes you up with a jolt. The reality pales in comparison with the dream.