Sathee, Bandham Regad: Telugu web series, short film prove digital space is brimming with good content

Karthik Keramalu

Jan,13 2018 13:02:26 IST

Two Telugu YouTube releases that were out last month have caught my eye. I know I am pretty late to the party but as the old saying goes, “Better late than never.”

If you have not watched a YouTube offering in the first week itself then you, most probably, will ignore it for the rest of your life. If you do not belong to that category, like me, stay on for a five-minute read about two romantic dramas fried in the oil of science-fiction.

Sathee, directed by Gopi Krishna Podapati, is a tale of undying love and the sheer amount of goodwill the universe pours into the hands of young lovers. The web series is broken down into four episodes. It could have been made into a feature film, or a series of a longer runtime yet the seventy-odd-minute chew-worthy series sticks to its simple vision of bringing together the leads (Mounima and Raghuveer) who have been separated by death-and-a-generation.

A still from Sathee. YouTube

A still from Sathee. YouTube

Yup, that premise is darn confusing, right? A look at these titles might give you a better idea: Magadheera, Manam, Om Shanti Om and Karan Arjun. Do you get the hint? All right, I will move on!

In Magadheera, the principal characters from the sixteenth century settle scores in the twenty first century as all of them are reborn with more or less similar characteristics whereas Manam uses the members of the Akkineni family to give the reincarnation trope a twist by making Nageswara Rao’s son, Nagarjuna, play Rao’s father, and Nagarjuna’s son, Naga Chaitanya, play Nagarjuna’s dad in the movie. 

Manam purely worked because of Vikram Kumar’s writing and the quirky casting coup. Likewise, there are several such reincarnation stories that have released in the hundred-plus years of Indian cinema. Sathee borrows some things from those stories and lends its own meaning to the cycle of dying-and-rebirth.

The series starts off with two quotes: For one who has taken birth, death is certain and for one who has died, birth is certain.” – Bhagavad Gita.

“When somebody dies we say, “That person is no more.” That’s not true. The person is no more the way you know them. But they still very much exist.” – Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.

Strangely, the same quotes can be applied, metaphorically, for Saahith Mothkuri’s short film, Bandham Regad. I put the word ‘metaphorically’ to emphasize the fact that the protagonist of Bandham Regad (Yuva Chandraa) does not 'really' die. It is in the climactic reveal that we truly understand what happened to him when he met with an accident two and a half decades ago.   

Both the web series and the short film have accidents as the turning points since they use these key aspects to drive their stories forward. Sathee’s Madhu (played by Mounima) dies after she gets hit by an Ambassador and Bandham Regad’s main character, who is a little boy in the beginning, is mowed down along with his parents by a jeep.

Accidents and quotes are not the only connecting dots between these two Telugu web shows. The periods the shows are set in ('90s and 2010s) also draw parallels here. That is the reason an Ambassador pops up on the screen in Sathee. And by adding landline telephones to the mix, director Gopi Krishna creates the '90s atmosphere without making much noise about it. Sathee’s spiritual brother, Bandham Regad, on the other hand, dips parts of its portions in grey to symbolize village life as the short film switches between the rural lands of Telangana and urban luxuries.

While Madhu loses her life and comes back as Ananya to reunite with Aravind (played by Raghuveer), who is now 25 years older than her, Bandham Regad’s Yogya (played by Yuva Chandraa) reimagines his life as a village lad and as an urban dweller on the hospital bed. The tension that the short builds up in the first twenty minutes by placing Yogya in the center of confusion as he fights with himself saying he cannot separate the real from the unreal touched my curious nerve as I wanted to know who was dreaming of whom.

This particular act of running on two different tracks has probably been inspired from the popular Kannada film Lucia. Lucia earned awards and great money at the box office for showing a star dreaming of a commoner’s life. The film, through most of its course though, reverses the process and makes us believe that a commoner is dreaming of an A-list actor’s day-to-day activities in his sleep. Beyond these obvious inspirations, Bandham Regad stands on its own merit for pulling off that brilliant hospital scene involving a medical condition called 'Persistent Vegetative State' and putting back the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in a convincing manner.

Sathee feels more like a college project compared to Bandham Regad as the latter demands your attention via its cinematic turns and the former rarely manages to punch you hard with its storytelling methods. The one strong technical point that they both possess, however, is the wonderful score. Sathee’s composers Raghavan, Vachaspathi, and Tarun Raj, and Bandham Regad’s composer Mark K Robin deserve all the whistles, for they energize the shows with their powerful music.

Despite YouTube irritating me with its relents commercials, I watched the shows. These are definitely the creators’ achievements. And if more experimentation happens in the digital entertainment space, the coming years will be brimming with better and brighter content.

Updated Date: Jan 13, 2018 13:02 PM