Dear Comrade movie review: Vijay Deverakonda, Rashmika in an intense but uneven film
Dear Comrade belongs to Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika who make you fall in love with Bobby and Lilly instantly.
Vijay Deverakonda, Rashmika starrer Dear Comrade is a study of contrasts, and it is held together by how Bharat Kamma, writer and director of the film, defines the meaning of ‘Comrade’. In the film, we are told that Comrade is any person who is your faithful companion through thick and thin. This is also the core story of the film, about how two people, who have nothing in common, draw strength from each other.
Chaitanya aka Bobby (Vijay Deverakonda) is impulsive and fights for what he believes is right; Aparna aka Lilly (Rashmika) abhors violence and prefers to be passive when confronted to take a strong stand. He loves her, she wants him; he doesn’t think what he’s doing is wrong, she doesn’t want to lose him even if he’s fighting for the right reasons; he wants to fight for her, she wants him to be with her without any emotional baggage.
Dear Comrade is beautifully written and the love story between the two characters is sheer magic, but then it straddles between two worlds that are loosely held together. The narrative is uneven when it tries to dig into what could possibly break a person’s determination. For Bobby it’s the separation from Lilly, but for Lilly, it’s the world around her that suffocates her. She might be a timid woman, but that has more to do with the people around her who strangle her will to fight back.
Right from the moment we are introduced to these two characters, and how their lives change after life pulls them apart, the film has a lot more to say than what we see on screen. By the time you absorb everything that Bharat Kamma has to say, you also realise that the ship has sailed in a different direction and so, we too are forced to confront the stark reality of current times. The narrative changes from a love story between two characters who are happy in their own world, to them questioning what sort of life they want to live and fighting for what they love. The synergy between the themes that the film tries to address isn’t always seamless, although both of them are good in their own ways. The only thing which holds them together is the yearning for a comrade.
The conflict in the story is a two-pronged fork - Lilly is terrified of Bobby’s anger and impulsive nature; Bobby is upset with Lilly for not putting up a fight when her honour and dreams are at stake due to sexual harassment. This is where Dear Comrade differentiates itself from its ilk and the love story feels all the more real. This is what makes it an important film in the post #MeToo era and how people react to it. Everyone tells Lilly to keep her mouth shut, but Bobby nudges her to fight back, even though he’s quite capable of taking the law in his own hands. It’s as much Bobby’s perspective on life as it is Lilly’s.
Bharat Kamma takes plenty of time and effort to take us through Bobby’s life and the world around him; however, by the time he shifts the perspective to Lilly, we don’t really get to know much about her except the basic details. This shift in perspective, writing, cinematography changes the whole mood of the film, which takes a lot of time for us to adjust to compared to the colourful and politically-charged world of Bobby.
The lack of coherence between the two worlds in the film is what makes Dear Comrade feel like watching two distinct films. The first half is poetic, and the second half is what the director really wanted to say. The film is what you want to take back from it. For some, it might be the love story between the two characters in the first half, but then there’s a lot more to the story. It’s remarkable how much Bharat Kamma veers away from what you expect, and yet never losing sight on what he wants to say and how much he wants to say. The pacing of the film is solely due to the focus on the characters and how they evolve over a period of time.
While Bharat Kamma leaves his footprints all over the narrative, the film equally belongs to Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika who make you fall in love with Bobby and Lilly instantly. Their onscreen chemistry is a treat to watch, particularly when they first meet in Kakinada. The emotional drama in the film and the way the two actors imbibe them while emoting is beautifully captured. Music composer Justin does a brilliant job in evoking a sense of nostalgia, and the entire first half, especially, is like a kaleidoscope of memories. Cinematographer Sujith Sarang uses a technique where there are frames within the overall frame of the picture. The love story between Vijay and Rashmika is shot in the backdrop of windows, half-open doors, and other such boxes which give a window into their respective memories. And then, the tone changes when Bobby becomes a vagabond, travelling to different places to listen to sounds of nature. You could interpret it as his way of finding himself, but it could also be about him trying to find a way to get away from the noise in his head. Sujith’s style of framing and the colours used to capture the upheavals in the lives of the two characters is one of the best things about the film.
At a run time of close to 2 hours 50 minutes, Dear Comrade feels way too indulgent at times. Every minute aspect of their lives is explained, and sometimes it’s unnecessary. We also get a taste of their personalities through the fights they pick up, and how they interact with each other, even though it might not add up in the end. All said and done, Dear Comrade is a story about love, anguish, and grief, and how people handle it. Every time the film reveals how beautiful the world of Bobby and Lilly is, it makes you yearn for a little more.
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