Dorasaani movie review: Anand Deverakonda makes his debut in a poetic love story set in the 1980s
Even though Dorasaani might feel sluggish in terms of how it is narrated, KVR Mahendra makes sure that we root for the protagonists.
Dorasaani, written and directed by KVR Mahendra, is essentially a love story that’s as old as time itself. But what makes it impressive is the soul that Mahendra infuses into the narrative and the world he creates around the two protagonists - Raju and Devaki. Although the film deals with the familiar trope of a poor boy falling in love with a rich girl, Raju and Devaki are unlike the characters commonplace in such love stories. In Dorasaani, the two characters are well aware of the gap between them, the society that divides them, and their own fears about the consequences, and yet they can’t hold themselves back to express their love for each other.
There’s a scene set in a jail where Raju (Anand Deverakonda) meets a naxalite, Shankar anna (Kishore). The two spar over the necessity of sacrifice as a means to achieve their goals, and when Shankar questions Raju about his motive, the latter tells him about his love story with Devaki (Shivathmika). He defends himself saying, “Our love story is itself an act of revolution.” That scene is bound to jolt you because Raju knows he’s going against the norms of society and that it might even lead to his death. Yet, his undying hope and passionate love for Devaki keeps him going and take a big risk.
You could argue that Dorasaani is love in the time of feudalism, where the mere presence of a dora, the feudal lord in the village, makes people fear for their lives. The whole village fall at his feet and they live at his mercy. This is a story where the mention of dora’s house, called ghadi, evokes a sense of dread in the common people. There are invisible boundaries which separate the villagers from their dora. So the idea of one such commoner, that too from a lower caste, falling in love with the feudal lord’s daughter is seen as a suicide mission. Despite repeated warnings from his friends, Raju defies everyone to have a look at Dorasaani. She looks at him through her window and opens her heart to him. It’s a beautiful metaphor for a bird in a golden cage that wants to be set free.
There are plenty of metaphors in the film, and it’s interesting to see how KVR Mahendra uses rain to depict the budding love story between the young couple. The first time Raju comes to have a look at Devaki, there’s no rain but after sometime the intensity of the rain keeps increasing. He writes a poem for her on a wall, and those two lines keep reminding her about his presence even when she can’t see him. Then, there are flowers which grow in the wild. Every time Devaki sees a yellow flower, it reminds her about the innocence of her love for Raju, and she holds on to it as if her life depends on it. The ghadi itself is a symbol of power and authority, and the word of the dora is deemed final.
In one of the best written scenes in the film, Devaki’s only confidant and friend in the ghadi, a daasi (Sharanya), tells the young girl that there’s no difference between her and a dassi, who works in the house. Neither of them has freedom to do what they want to. They live and die protecting the honour of the ghadi. She’s sexually exploited by the dora, but she accepts it as her fate because she was born into a system where honour of the institution is more important than an individual’s life and dreams. The context of this conversation between Devaki and the dassi is important to understand the extent to which Devaki revolts. KVR Mahendra makes a strong political statement in the final act of the film and allows his actors to fly high in the final stretch.
There is no heroism in Dorasaani and so, KVR Mahendra hands over the reins to music director Prashanth Vihari to narrate the story through his music. If there’s a film in recent times where the music tells the story more effectively than the dialogues, it is Dorasaani. Prashanth Vihari’s background score captures the longingness that Raju and Devaki feel for each other, and his music fills the blanks in their unspoken love story. It’s an achievement to hold one’s interest in a love story where neither of the characters speak to each other for a good 60 minutes into the story and the major credit for that goes to Prashanth, who’s the biggest star of the film. Sunny Kurrapati’s cinematography is another asset.
Newcomers Anand Deverakonda and Shivathmika are terrific in their respective roles, and between the two, Shivathmika has a lot more to work with. Be it the way she stares at Raju or how she breaks free from the shackles of the ghadi, Shivathmika makes a solid debut in an author-backed role. Anand Deverakonda brings a lot of innocence to his role and he makes you believe in his yearning for Dorasaani. Among other actors, Vinay Varma (who plays Shivathmika’s father), and Sharanya make a big splash.
On the flipside, the pace of the film is a tad too slow at times and it’s largely because KVR Mahendra invests plenty of time to show us how Raju and Devaki fall in love with each other. Devaki isn’t allowed to move freely in the village, and so some of the scenes in the film might feel repetitive, although there’s a good reason why that happens. It’s a familiar story, and since the story is set in the 1980s, the rise of naxalism forms an important subplot. All said and done, Dorasaani offers us a lot more than just a love story about a poor boy and a rich girl. It takes us back to a time that now feels like a distant memory, and yet, some love stories are timeless. KVR Mahendra has a distinct style of narrating his story. Even though Dorasaani might feel sluggish in terms of how it is narrated, KVR Mahendra makes sure that we root for the love story of Raju and Devaki. It’s poetry in motion, which makes sense because poetry is among the few things that brings the two protagonists together.
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