“A memorable coming-of-age tale, has enough moments to laugh aloud and tug your heart-strings.”
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Ugadi is about fresh beginnings and a handsome sprinkling of all the flavours that vanquish the stagnation called life. We are given a firm boost by Yevade Subramanyam, a movie whose title has more than a few connotations from the Ramana Maharishi school of thought, a movie laced with lots of soul-searching, questions and answers, coated delicately with a little humour but simmering underneath with the introspection that is so characteristic of the rational being that each person is.
Nani's Subramanyam is the modern competitor, the man at the pinnacle of the rat-race, submerged in it, for who picking a life partner is about SWOT compatibility, for who spectacles are nothing more than an 8% extra chance for people to take you seriously, for who every friendship is a deal, a materialistic one at that. Strangely, he is contrasted gorgeously, almost endearingly by his best friend Rishi (Vijay) who believes life is a lot more than a career, a qualification and a handsome bank balance, for who money is just a means to travel, for who 'life itself is the job' that has to be performed with all its heart. Vijay's Rishi is brimming with energy, with fondness for everything that meanders in and out of his life which is a collage of diverse experiences.
He has just one goal - to make it to Doodh Kashi, a mystique, esoteric lake in the midst of Himalayas, a place, which metaphorical of the inner god in our hearts doesn't really have a map. You have to commit to it and you'll be guided on your way by some and up until the last moment when you face that breathtaking sight of life staring right back at you with loving eyes, it is a journey, a strange odyssey that will test you. The two friends are joined by Nandi (Malavika Nair), curly-haired, dimple-cheeked damsel right out of a kindergarten rhyme, an orphan who reciprocates Rishi's love for life and yet, yearns for Subbu's metamorphosis, from the caterpillar that consumes everything on its way to the butterfly that gives back everything it has consumed (explained so beautifully more than once by different characters including one played by Krishnam Raj)
Subbu is a tough nut to crack, a man who doesn't understand the simple joys of life, who is too lost in his quest for the 'big chair' and the 'daughter of your employer'. It needs more than just one unfortunate incident, more than just one ebullient, free-spirited girl, more than just one life-saving miracle to bring about the change his friend had wanted to see.
For a movie that asks questions of you, Yevade Subramanyam is surprisingly entertaining. With panoramic shots of the Himalayas, the innocent glee of the mountain folk and musings of the actors undertaking the journey, the movie rolls along like a feather left free on a velvet carpet. The first half still building the case for the journey has some really smart lines, witty ones, the ilk of which aren't seen a lot in the cliche-driven world of Tollywood. Director Nag Ashwin's debut is not the masterpiece it could have been with a little more thought put into the scripting of the second half. Yet, it still is a brilliant movie, pulled off more on the faith that drives the story than the formulae written in the boundbook called 'How to make a commercial masala hit in Tolly'. Vijay is charming, the stubbled rebel in search of adventure. Malavika will mesmerise you at times, with a twinkle in the eyes, providing a masterclass on 'how to not be a barbie doll in a Telugu movie'. But Nani, probably is the best of the lot, first making you hate him and then love him, ever so subtly. Rarely has a Telugu actor since Chiranjeevi displayed so many shades of acting in just one movie, and that says a lot about the talent this self-made real-life protagonist is gifted with.
The music by Radhan is fresh but Ilaiyaraja with a fresh twist on Challagali Thakutunna takes the cake. The picturization is close to heaven and most sensitive cine-goers will be left with moistened eyes by the end of it. It is a beautiful movie, a beautiful attempt unadulterated by the tempting crass of contemporary cinema, a throwback to all that was beautiful about Telugu filmmaking. What better time to watch than Ugadi, because Ugadi is about fresh beginnings!