Aravinda Sametha movie review: Jr NTR, Trivikram Srinivas come together to deliver a riveting action drama
Director: Trivikram Srinivas
Back in the ‘90s and early noughties, when Telugu cinema was obsessed with films set against the backdrop of Rayalaseema, it gave rise to a template for a quintessential faction drama — two groups, led by powerful men, clash for supremacy for decades altogether, and the responsibility to bring peace falls on the hero, who does so after suffering a major personal loss and sacrificing a lot along the way. Be it Samarasimha Reddy or Indra, the template was hard to shake off, and it wasn’t until RGV’s Rakta Charitra that Telugu cinema seemed to break free from this template to tell stories from a different perspective. And then, there was a long lull.
After all the years, Trivikram Srinivas has thrown his hat in the ring with an entirely different perspective to narrate the same bloody tale of violence through Aravinda Sametha. However, there’s a big difference in his approach. While the predecessors of Aravinda Sametha focused on the virility of its men, Trivikram humanises his protagonist, Veera Raghava, and adds two much-needed traits that define the film itself — the ability to listen to others, especially women in his life, and be man enough to empathise and cry. This isn’t to say that Veera Raghava doesn’t have even an iota of anger, valour, and pride that’s expected from a hero from this milieu, but he subdues his anger to an extent that he’s willing to say ‘sorry’ to his opponents for mistakes done in the past. He’s someone who believes that the wisdom shared through conversations is more powerful than the wounds inflicted by sickles and daggers. But then, this wisdom comes to him after he pays a heavy price because of three decades of conflict in the region. Perhaps, it’s impossible to find peace without waging a war for it at some point.
The story of Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava explores the conflict between two villages — Kommadi and Nallagudi — somewhere in the hinterlands of Rayalaseema. Narapa Reddy (Nagababu) and Basi Reddy (Jagapathi Babu) are at loggerheads with each other, and one fine day, when Narapa Reddy’s son Raghava comes to visit him, all hell breaks loose. The rest of the story is about how Raghava changes as a person and brings peace to the region. It might seem pretty cliched as far as the story goes, but the narrative is anything but that. The first 20 minutes of the film is a result of Jr NTR’s firepower at its best and the mayhem that ensues stays with you till the end. Perhaps, it was necessary to show all that right in the beginning to give a context of the burden on Raghava’s shoulders as he comes to terms with the aftermath of violence through the tears of women in his house.
There’s a beautiful monologue, delivered by Supriya Pathak, in the first act where she talks about how violence has become a part of the family. Much later, when Jr NTR says that people have formed an impression that he didn’t just pick up the dagger, but it grew from his hands, it hits you like a bolt of lightning. At this very moment, you realise that Jr NTR’s Raghava is ready to drop the weapons because it has become a huge burden on not just him but for everyone around him. In a very Trivikram-esque way, it’s Raghava’s way of saying he doesn’t want any more blood on his hands.
Most protagonists in Trivikram’s films are driven by guilt, which brings them face to face with their moral dilemma, and it couldn’t be more obvious in Aravinda Sametha where the whole point of the film is coming to terms with guilt and reconciliation. It constantly asks its protagonist a profound question: Are you man enough to end violence even if it means losing the war against your arch rivals and become more humane? It doesn’t take Raghava too long to realise what his goal in life should be but at every stage of his journey, he turns to women around him for advice and guidance. First, it’s his grandmother, and then his aunt, and then another woman in the village who begs him to let her husband live. And ultimately, the girl he falls in love with, who plants the thought in his mind that convincing his opponents to put an end to the problem is more important than merely killing them. This is also where Aravinda Sametha separates itself from the rest of its ilk. They say that prayers can move even mountains, and in this film, those prayers come in the form of tears.
Among the actors, Jr NTR captures the moral dilemma of Raghava quite spectacularly. When a politician taunts Jr NTR’s Raghava that violence is in his DNA, he resolves to solve an issue without dropping a drop of blood. And oh boy! That particular scene is the perfect example of Trivikram’s writing meeting its perfect match in Jr NTR’s command over his craft. The actor shines and how in an emotionally charged role, and look closely, you’ll realise that NTR holds your attention mostly through his restrained tears. The film also owes a lot to Jagapathi Babu, who is ruthless as Basi Reddy, the antagonist who shows absolutely no remorse for his actions. He doesn’t yell a lot, but when he does, he brings all his cruelty to the forefront, so much so that blood oozes out through his war wounds. Naveen Chandra, who plays Basi Reddy’s son, has a wonderful role and the actor delivers a noteworthy performance.
Aravinda Sametha wouldn’t be what it is without the inner turmoil of its female characters and the actors playing them, especially Supriya Pathak and Easwari Rao. It’s a million dollar question why they have such limited screen time, but when they do, their actions and what they say make the men around them look animalistic without any soul. Among the best written scenes in the film is an extended cameo featuring Easwari Rao where she breaks down emotionally. It would be a crime to reveal much about it, but the sound of her tears will reverberate in your mind long after watching the film. Pooja Hegde makes a good impression with her role, and for a change, she becomes an intrinsic part of the narrative.
The film will also be best remembered for how authentic the Rayalaseema dialect sounds, thanks to Penchal Das, and its unwavering focus on how families are torn apart because of unabated violence spanning generations. PS Vinod’s cinematography and Thaman’s background score elevate the rustic nature of the film.
At a runtime of 167 minutes, there are a few segments in the film which are a tad too long, but thankfully, Trivikram Srinivas never loses focus on what he wants to say. For a while, there have been murmurs that the ink in Trivikram’s pen is vanishing, but with Aravinda Sametha, he has made a strong statement that not only is the ink full in his pen, but also he paints the whole story with such broad strokes that you can’t miss his signature style throughout the film. The trick lies in turning a familiar story into a character study and what would happen if only men listen to women more often. In times like these, it’s more relevant than ever and needs to be underlined. Two big thumbs up for Aravinda Sametha.
Updated Date: Oct 11, 2018 15:37:16 IST