January 3, 2013

"Midhunam" Telugu Movie

“Midhunam” (Telugu) is a much-awaited film for the art-loving Telugu crowds who love clean, good cinema. “Midhunam” means “couple” in Telugu. It is based on a story by noted Telugu SriRamana (different from Mullapudi Venkata Ramana) by the same title released in a Telugu weekly in 1998, the story went on to became an instant classic – critically acclaimed and encomiums poured in from all sides – readers and legends in literature. Bapu, himself got so overjoyed reading that story that one fine day, he re-wrote the entire story running into about 6000 words in his own handwriting. It was re-printed in that famous Bapu font and became a best-seller. Director is Tanikella Bharani, one of the most talented personalities in Tollywood (he is a poet, theatre artist, dialogue writer and himself an acclaimed film actor noted for his unique timing and voice modulation). He was so taken up with the story “Midhunam” that he directed the film investing a lot of his passion and energies into the making of this film. Earlier this year, Bharani also released his famous couplets on Lord Shiva as an audio CD in his own voice which are selling well. As a writer first and a poet later, Tanikella Bharani is a unique personality who never loses an opportunity to propagate the grandeur and beauty of Telugu language. He loves Telugu so much that for the past 25 years, he insists his signature on bank cheques is also in Telugu and not English. Against this backdrop, “Mithunam” is quite an experiment which deserves the plaudits showered on it.


The story is about an aged couple AppaDaasu (S.P.Balasubramanyam) and Bucchilakshmi (Lakshmi) who live in absolute trance of the village life with an ecosystem of natural habitat full of organically grown vegetables, co-habiting animals and lush greenery all over. The couple’s five children are all settled abroad but the couple is nonchalant about pleasures and pressures of parenthood in twilight years. SPB keeps reminding his wife about “detached attachment” and being merrily and madly in sync with each other, they tune into the radio, help each other in various chores including pressing each other’s tired legs, make the rituals and rearing the cow and its calf and cultivating a beautiful horticultural farm a feast and a happy pastime. No TV, no freakouts, no secrets from each other and no other hang-ups in life except to occasionally spar with each other on issues best known to them. Everyday it’s a breeze and time flies because the elderly couple are busy with so much of work with their hands and legs – the manual work which gives villagers so much headway in health and happiness.Then there is a twist in the film with one of them passing out. You will have to find out which one. A simple story but there’s a third character in the film - the nephew who is witness to the old couple’s foibles and fracas with each other and funtimes together – that character is omitted by Bharani as he was keen to experiment the whole film with just characters. Infact, that is an amazing part of the film. For 123 minutes, the running time of the movie, there are just two human characters SPB and Lakshmi playing the two roles and Bharani has produced quite a stunning play of a range of Nava Rasas between the two with many shades and spirited entertainment. There is uproarious laughter, giggles, laments, weeping, anger and the occasional drama created between the two characters in their well-nuanced roles.

Not many films have come with just two characters; the ones I remember are “Show” and some movie in which Sunil Dutt plays it all himself in a B&W film. Such plots have to be sustained and thankfully, in this film he picked two veterans in the craft of acting and sometimes overacting – Lakshmi and SPB. While Lakshmi is quite apt and well-controlled, SPB carries always a shade of Tamil stars like Sivaji Ganesan when he acts but his pronunciation of the toughest but most mellifluent Telugu carries the day for his detractors. He can control the flow of words as they should occur and in “Mithunam” he gives a dignified uplift to his performance except for about three scenes where he overacts. Even if SPB the actor cannot stop himself, his performance alongwith Lakshmi elevates the film to a new level. In the original discussions about this film about star cast, one actor who would have sealed it had he been alive today is Gummadi – who wanted to play it badly after he read the story and reacted in public. Prakashraj would have been too theatrical and Chandramohan is way out of touch with weightier roles of late, so SPB was indeed apt choice, in hindsight.

Music by Swara Veenapaani is reasonably well-received especially the title song sung by KJ Yesudas. There are few other songs which take a leaf out of mythological classics belting out “Padyams” and lullabies and “funny”item songs. There is one song sung by lyricist Jonnavithula on coffee. It can be the best ever song on coffee which can elevate even brands like “Starbucks” and “CafĂ© Coffee day”. It celebrates the heady feelings one gets by drinking the home-made filter coffee of the typical South Indian family. There are few other songs which showcase the grandeur of the song-banks resident in our old movie classics and also showcase the richness of Telugu culture. Kids will probably love a short cartoon film running for 4 minutes about the ills of over-eating SPB style - no insult meant here, SPB himself reduced 27 kilos before this film. In order to break the monotony, Bharani uses repeatedly the All India Radio as a backdrop for various daily chores of the couple, and reminds the new generation that it is not FM Radio but AM 700-800 MHz which still runs with sundry programs in news programs in Telugu, Sanskrit, Hindi and a host of native plays, skits, songs and utility fare that resonates with those who tuned in religiously from 6am till 11pm. That routine of tuning to the radio from sunrise till an hour before midnight is the right time for keeping your biorhythms in tow with good health and good sleep. Bharani captures all these with a great sense of nostalgia. A few shots stand out giving lot of symbological messages; being a Shiva worshipper, everytime there is a bereavement in the film, it is shown as if its going back to Shiva.

On the whole, the movie is a visual treat and is watchable by family. Bharani has hunted for a 3-acre house that captures the enchantment of what SriRamana wrote in his novel about. Bharani found one finally and grew fruits and vegetables and trees for six months before commencing shooting. He has also shown a rare courage, thanks to producer Ananda M Rao, to retain the pure and richly prosaic standard of Telugu language used by Sriramana in the film. This film is sure to dot the film festivals with subtitles in English but if you belong to the Telugu fan club, this is a must-see anyways devoid of commercial drivel that vitiates our films. In October 2012, there was a world survey by the World Languages Institute in Thailand in which the jury sat down to judge more than 33 classical and modern language scripts around the world. While Korean language was judged as the best language according to various parameters including use of the language in scientific paper presentations, visual appeal when you write the language, the shape and metric beauty of the letters, the number of words and combinations that the letters can facilitate, etc. Voila! Telugu Language has beaten the likes of Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada and Malayalam in being judged as the second-most beautiful script language in the world. English, not my mother tongue, has come third or fourth. For anyone who wants to know more about Telugu culture, language and the lyrical beauty, “Midhunam” is a fine biopic to get introduced to, even if it has its flaws. I will give 3.75 on 5 making a fractional exception for a fascinating film to watch. I can guarantee you that if you have aged parents and grandparents, they will bless you forever for taking them to this film. It also has a message: No need to retire from life because you retired from work. And parents can have their own space even after their kids move on.