Sammohanam movie review: Aditi Rao Hydari, Sudheer Babu are terrific in this simple, sweet love story
The best part of Sammohanam is reserved for its lead actors — Sudheer Babu and Aditi Rao Hydari.
In Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant-starrer Notting Hill, there is an iconic scene where Julia pours her heart to Hugh and says, “I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” No matter how many times you revisit the scene or the film, it still works like magic. I have often wondered if you can pinpoint the exact moment two people fall in love with each other in a film. In Notting Hill, perhaps it is that moment when Julia Roberts, a movie star, bares her soul to a bookshop owner in London. Almost two decades later, Mohan Krishna Indraganti’s Sammohanam revives those memories of Notting Hill, although in a very different manner.
In Sammohanam, it is Vijay (Sudheer Babu), an illustrator for children’s books, who tells a movie star, Sameera (Aditi Rao Hydari), he believes in love that stands the test of time. “My grandfather was heartbroken when he saw his wife pass away. A week later, he passed away too. He was still in love with her at the age of 95,” he tells her. At this moment, it is difficult to say who has fallen in love with whom — was it Vijay’s way of telling Sameera that he loves her as much, or was it Sameera’s stunned expression hinting that she is already in love with him, or could it have been us, the people, who are so mesmerised by the moment that you just want them to fall in love with each other. In a span of just under five minutes, Mohan Krishna Indraganti conjures something so magical that you’ll want to forgive him for everything else that doesn’t feel right in Sammohanam.
There is something very comforting about the way Mohan Krishna Indraganti sets up the story in the beginning which brings the film’s protagonists together. Vijay’s father, played by Naresh, is a huge movie buff who secretly dreams to be an actor. When a production manager approaches him to rent out his house to shoot a film, Vijay is introduced to Sameera Rathod, a North Indian girl, who not surprisingly struggles to get her Telugu lines right. When she notices Vijay and his family smirk at her Telugu, she requests Vijay to be her Telugu coach. There is no confrontation between the two, no sermonising about how difficult it is for her to learn a new language, no drama about heckling a popular star. By then, Indraganti already establishes that Sameera is a normal girl who wants to make a genuine effort to get better at her craft and if she has to take someone’s help, then so be it. He humanises the star to the extent that every time she is with Vijay, it feels like she’s living a life that was never hers. On top of this, Vijay’s father gets a little too involved with the film’s shoot and even gives director suggestions about improvising performances and framing. And his mother (Pavithra Lokesh), whose love for cooking, earns a lot of admiration from the crew, and his sister (Harshini), begins to take interest in costume designing. You buy into the whole set-up immediately and the icing on the cake is Indraganti’s commentary on how films are made.
The best part of Sammohanam is, however, reserved for its lead actors — Sudheer Babu and Aditi Rao Hydari — who are terrific in their respective roles. If their onscreen chemistry, especially in the first half of the film, does not melt your heart then I do not know what will. The magic lies in the way they look at each other and you just know that they are in love. Quite rarely do we see an actress whose eyes bare her soul, but Aditi makes it seem so easy. She is conflicted about falling in love with someone she had just met, while battling an emotional trauma in her personal life. Maybe, that is why she always holds back her tears although it feels like time freezes again and again when the camera holds on to her. For Sudheer Babu, Sammohanam is the kind of film that he ought to be proud of and he immerses himself into the role with a lot of grace. Apart from these two actors, it is Naresh who steals the show with his aspirations to become an actor and how he handles disappointment.
A lot has been written about Indraganti’s writing over the years, and Sammohanam is yet another feather in his cap. He understands the power of language when it is kept simple and devoid of any tongue twisters. And so, there are plenty of conversations which feel like banter at home, devoid of any major drama. The film deserves a big round of applause for one conversation in particular, featuring Pavitra Lokesh and Sudheer Babu, where the topic is about handling rejection. It is a far cry from everything we are so used to watching and hearing in our movies, and Indraganti underlines the importance of handling rejection with a lot of dignity.
The film, however, is not without its share of drawbacks. The narrative kind of loses steam after a beautifully written first half and digresses a lot to address a sub-plot. Although it does makes sense to highlight all that in the larger context of the film, it draws our attention away from the romance between the protagonists.
PG Vinda’s cinematography is beautiful and there is a dreamy quality to the entire first half which highlights the budding romance between Sudheer Babu and Aditi Rao Hydari. Sammohanam is not what it is without an outstanding background score and soundtracks composed by Vivek Sagar. Every song is a joy to watch on the screen and it is easily one of the best albums of the year.
There are plenty of reasons why you should watch Sammohanam. Call it a perfect date movie or an emotional romantic journey, there is very little doubt that Indraganti Mohan Krishna is on top of his game this time. It is amazing what watching a well-made romantic film can do to your mood and I realised what a joy it is to watch a film which makes you want to believe in miracles. Maybe love is just lying down on the terrace and gazing at the stars with Vivek Sagar’s soothing background score running in your mind. If that is not possible, Sammohanam is the next best thing you can watch. Two big thumbs up.
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