Tuesday Telugu (on Wednesday): Ninne Pelladatha, A Heroine You Will Fall in Love With

I am just cranking through commentator Niki’s recommendations!  She’s going to have to start nagging me about new stuff.  Not that I mind because once again, I very very much enjoyed what she suggested!  Oh, and this is a Tabu film, in honor of her birthday week.

This is another film of the genre that I have identified as “late 90s/early 2000s Nagarjuna movies that Niki recommends to me”.  They all tend to have kind of crowded colorful yet slightly washed out filming style, a happy family based plot that just makes you smile, Nagarjuna being charming with a mustache, and an interesting heroine.  Oh, and they are often kind of a pastiche of other films in a way that makes them feel soothingly familiar even if you are watching them for the first time.

Only this one is extra good because TABU!!!!  No really, this isn’t just me fangirling, having such a strong memorable actress in the heroine’s role totally changes the film from “Aren’t Nagarjuna and his mustache awesome and wonderful?” to “I hope this heroine gets to meet Nagarjuna and his mustache because she deserves him and vice versa!”  The film feels completely different, I don’t just want Nagarjuna and all the other good people in the film to be happy, I specifically want Nagarjuna and Tabu to get together and I don’t really care what happens to everyone else.  Because they are both so clearly the best people.

And also because they have amazing chemistry!  The Internet tells me that there were all kinds of rumors of a relationship between them, and I can see why.  It isn’t like tormented sexy chemistry, more like “These people just fit together and always want to be touching and talking to each other” chemistry.

And this is despite Nagarjuna being dressed and styled as no human being on earth has ever deserved to be dressed and styled.  How can hair be both ratty and too curly?  Were fanny packs ever cool?  Why did mullets exist?  These are the questions that leap to mind while watching this song.

 

But Tabu is great!  Start to finish, even her costuming.  Which is part of what is so great about her, her character has perfect costuming.  She wears practical clothes, jeans and t-shirts.  And traditional, saris and stuff.  But never anything in between, either she is wearing clothes that would please her family or be appropriate for temple, or she is wearing clothes that just make sense for what she is doing.  And that’s part of her character, she is a happy girl who loves her family, but is not interested in pleasing anyone else but them and herself.  If that makes sense.  There is no concern for “I should put on make up and do more with my hair than just a ponytail because I am going out”.

It’s part of something generally different with her character, that I think is mostly in how Tabu plays her.  This is not a girl who knows how to flirt and fall in love and all of that.  Her romance comes a bit out of nowhere and surprises her, has happened before she even realizes it has happened.  But it’s not because she is shy or afraid of boys or anything like that, like we would see in a normal heroine with this type of romance (Bhagyashree in Maine Pyar Kiya, Trisha in Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana , etc. etc.).  She is someone out there in the world who just doesn’t have the kind of personality that would make her think love could happen, or notice exactly that it is happening.  Not completely.  A different heroine could play the exact same role as a dopey heartsick teenager, or as a childish innocent.  But Tabu threads the needle between the two.  She isn’t innocent, she knows what love is and thinks about it.  But she also isn’t overcome right away, she keeps her balance and the relationship grows slowly without either of them necessarily naming it.

This is definitely one of those slow slow movies.  We spend 10 minutes at the beginning with happening stuff, and 20 minutes at the end.  And in between, we just spend time with these characters and watch Cricket games and happy family times and a very very slow romance.  If that sounds like the kind of film for you, you should definitely watch it!  If not, you can read on into SPOILERS.

 

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This is one of those “remember, it’s not incest in the South!” plots.  So make sure you are cool with that before you watch it!  We start 20 years ago.  Lakshmi, who I know from Jeans and Hulchul, is happily rushing around arranging the wedding of her beloved younger sister-in-law (husband’s sister), Manju Bhargavi, who I know from her mother role in every third Telugu film.  Lakshmi’s young son loves his aunt so much that he doesn’t want to leave her to let her get her make-up finished, but finally is dragged away.  Manju takes the opportunity to rush off, running down the road in full wedding regalia, to a nearby small temple where she meets her boyfriend and his family for a hurried marriage.  Her family interrupts just as the ceremony finishes, there is a fight between her new husband and his brothers and her brothers, which ends when she firmly sides with her husband.

What I find really interesting is how careful they are to clarify why this is “wrong”.  It’s not that she is marrying for love, it is that she is running away from her wedding, permanently damaging the respect her family will have, insulting them and their guests, all of that.  The criticism is that she waited until now, didn’t tell them how she felt, didn’t let this play out in a better way.  That’s the original anger.  And then the subsequent anger is over her the two groups of men trying to kill each other.  Her brother isn’t angry because her husband “stole” her away, he is angry because her husband tried to hit him.  And vice versa, her husband isn’t angry because he feels like he has to “fight” for her against her brothers, it is because her brothers hit him.  And ultimately the blame rests on how Manju did this, keeping it secret and so on, not on the actual act itself.

Anyway, 20 years later everything is great in the two households.  Manju and her love marriage worked out great, she has 3 daughters that she loves, the oldest being Tabu.  Who was named after Lakshmi, a sign that Manju does still miss her family a little.  But that’s the only sign.  Her husband and brother-in-law and everyone else in her family-by-marriage love her and each other and are very happy together.  No punishment for a love marriage, not even a lifestyle that is noticeably poorer than the family she was born into, it all worked out almost perfect, and would have been completely perfect if she had just been brave enough to speak up and let her family know how she felt so her marriage wouldn’t be such an embarrassment to them.

Lakshmi’s family is happy too.  Her son has grown up to be Nagarjuna (duh), her husband and her husband’s best friend (or brother? Confused) all dote on Nagarjuna and her.  Her husband is still so in love with her, in fact, that it is a running joke how often he tries to hug or kiss her.  And next door in an attached house with a shared yard, there is another happy family that is always running in and out of their house.

The originally bringing together of Nagarjuna and Tabu could have been a huge conflict thing, like it was in DDLJ, but it’s not because Tabu is a different kind of heroine and has a different kind of family.  She wants to go to Hyderabad to study flying.  A very unfeminine kind of thing!  It’s even clarified that she would be one of the first female students at the flying school.  But it’s what she wants to do, and her mother supports her, and her father is okay with it.  And Tabu is okay with the understanding that she will study for a year while they find a boy for her, and then she will get married.  It’s not the scary awful thing it is for Kajol in DDLJ, she knows marriage is her future and it’s not going to be forced on her before she is ready or with a guy she doesn’t like.  This is just such a healthy happy family!  Tabu isn’t a rebel because she never had to rebel, her family gave her the freedom she wanted.  And her parents aren’t draconian monsters, because they never needed to enforce strict rules, they knew they could trust their daughter.  The only concern with her flight school plan is to make sure she isn’t lonely and unsafe, so they arrange for her to stay with a friend of her uncles while she is studying, instead of at a hostel.

(She’s confident enough to do her own item song!)

And of course, that friend is the next door neighbor of Nagarjuna’s family!  But that’s not their first meeting, their first meeting is delightfully undramatic.  She arrives at the train station and he runs into her (literally) while trying to catch a train himself.  It’s not slow motion and dramatic and romantic and perfect, it’s just a half a second of them seeing each other and noticing each other and then moving on.

Their second meeting is equally undramatic.  Nagarjuna rushes into the living room in a towel looking for shampoo while his family is meeting Tabu, she doesn’t fully look at him or vice versa because of modesty.  Even their third meeting, him designated to drive her to the airport to register for school, there is no shyness or drama over it, they just hop in the car together.

It is at the airport, when they are talking, that I start to notice something different.  They are touching each other like, a lot!!!!  And maybe it’s partly the actors (again, those affair rumors!), but it also works really well for the characters.  Unlike other young couples where it is massive sexual tension that makes every touch electric, or massive modesty that makes every touch forbidden, they are just too people who subconsciously need to be in constant physical contact.  Even though they just met, even though they don’t know each other at all really, even though there is no logical reason for it.

And constant mental contact as well, or mental intimacy, something like that.  Right from the start, they don’t have casual conversations.  And again, it’s partly the actors.  You could play this scene as him giving wise wisdom to her and her being charmingly grateful.  But instead it feels like two people who don’t feel like they need to make small talk, who rush right in to talking about real things, having “intimate” conversations.

I am trying really hard to set aside the incest part of this whole thing, but it really feels related (ha! Pun!).  They were raised the same way in similar households, because they come from the same family.  They feel an immediate connection, because her mother is his beloved aunt.  She is even named for his mother!

And maybe it’s supposed to be related (Pun! Again!)?  Isn’t part of the reason cousin marriages are encouraged because they will naturally get along since they come from similar households?  Not too similar, but close.  The same way it would be easy to marry someone who grew up next door to you.  And so they are a perfect couple because they were raised to be perfect together.

Anyway, the romance is adorable.  From their first real conversation, minutes after they meet, they are leaning on each other and touching each other and laughing and making eyes and sharing personal philosophies they wouldn’t tell anyone else.  And Tabu begins to start wondering if maybe he is the “Greek Warrior” she is dreaming of.  And Nagarjuna’s parents start thinking maybe she would make a good daughter-in-law.  And Nagarjuna starts thinking maybe he is in love.  But what is delightful is the whole time these people are slowly thinking about maybe this couple is in love, the childish teasing and the fighting and all of that, their body language is telling us that they are in love, have been in love since the very beginning.  This “maybe we are in love” discovery is super cute because it just shows how innocent they are, and how deep down their feelings are that, they haven’t even noticed they are already in love.

These are good people, so there is no conflict in this part or expectation of conflict.  Which is very refreshing.  Tabu knows her parents will be supportive and happy of her love marriage.  Nagarjuna knows his parents will be as well.  And, most important, Tabu knows that she is completely safe with Nagarjuna and he will obviously be happy to marry her, because she knows that he knows that that is the kind of person she is.  And she’s right!  They run all over the house together, even flirt on a bed together, and it never crosses a line beyond what they both want.  There isn’t even the slightest hint of pressure from him.  So nice, not the usual “pursuit-avoidance” kind of romance, especially when she is set up as a “good girl” and he is set up as a “bad boy”.  But a “good girl” who likes the guy she likes and doesn’t pretend not to.  And a “bad boy” who likes going at the speed the girl he likes enjoys.

And then after all of this “good people doing good things” stuff, we get conflict!  Just to round out the last 20 minutes.  Tabu’s parents show up, all happy to meet the man their daughter loves, only to discover that he is their nephew and his parents’ are their enemies.  Tabu is dragged away and brought back home where her father insists that he will not give permission for this marriage.  Nagarjuna’s family is all upset and worried about him, he seems fine.  And he explains that he isn’t worried because he knows that Tabu and he are meant to be married.  It’s close to a meta statement, why should he worry?  The hero always ends up married to the heroine in this situation!

But then the meta goes away and it just goes back to the usual.  Nagarjuna bursts in to Tabu’s wedding and drags her away, he is chased by her family, his family has followed and fights off her family so the couple can get away, and in the middle of it Tabu finally gets his attention when she vomits blood and has to explain that she didn’t think Nagarjuna was coming and so took poison.  And then the family is reunited!!!!  Of course.

I guess it kind of works, they established that the two women Lakshmi and Manju never really had a problem with each other, it was just male pride.  And everyone loves Tabu, she was a bright memorable interesting person in Nagarjuna’s household, not just a “nice enough” young woman.  They love her for herself.  So sure, everyone will be sad when she is in the hospital.

Except, just like THIS MORNING, her father was all “you will marry the one I want you to marry and I don’t care how you feel”.  But now he is all “I just want her to live!!!!”  What exactly did they think was going to happen if they were chasing her with swords and all?  That she would just be fine?

But, whatever, they had to stick conflict on their somehow.  So we have ten minutes of fairly standard “elopement which causes family rift” at the beginning, and twenty minutes of “crazy chase/fight scene followed by happy ending in hospital”, but the real meat of the film is that slow build unique romance.  Really, worth watching!

 

Now, tell me in the comments all about Tabu and Nagarjuna’s doomed love affair!

Image result for tabu and nagarjuna

(I guess it’s all cool now, here she is with his son)

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21 thoughts on “Tuesday Telugu (on Wednesday): Ninne Pelladatha, A Heroine You Will Fall in Love With

    • It takes a while, but I get there! This one and Take Off, I am just knocking out the films that have been patiently recommended to me.

      On Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 10:51 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I watched an interview of Nagarjuna’s where he talks about his relationship with Tabu. He said that Tabu grew up in Hyderabad and that he’s been friends with her from before she came into the film industry. Apparently they’re really good family friends, and Tabu stays with Nagarjuna and his family whenever she visits Hyderabad.

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  2. “Lakshmi, who I know from Jeans and Hulchul, is happily rushing around arranging the wedding of her beloved younger sister-in-law (husband’s sister), Manju Bhargavi, who I know from her mother role in every third Telugu film.”
    I’m not sure who you’re talking about because I Ninne Pelladatha is the only Telugu movie I’ve seen with Manju Bhargavi in it.

    The romance is adorable!

    I know it’s sad that Tabu poisoned herself but I kinda like that her being in danger of losing her life is what brought the two families back together again.

    Congratulations, you’ve finished watching all of the “late 90s/early 2000s Nagarjuna movies that Niki recommends to me”. The only Nagarjuna movie that’s a favorite of mine which you haven’t seen yet is Oopiri. Oh wait! I really like Chandralekha as well and it’s a really fun movie, but I think you’ve seen the hindi version which is Har Dil Jo Pyaar Karega.

    Here are some other fun Nagarjuna movie recommendations but none of these are my favorite movies of his.
    – Gaganam which is a really good thriller but is has no romance in it. It’s about terrorists hijacking a plane and how Nagarjuna saves the passengers.
    – Sri Ramadasu is a biopic of Kancherla Gopanna who is a devotee of Ram. It’s a devotional movie for which Nagarjuna got a lot of praise. This movie used to come on tv a lot so I’ve seen it in bits and pieces.
    – Shivamani is a Puri Jagannadh action movie with a really good romance. Decent movie but I don’t like the movie except for the romance which is really good.
    – Hello Brother which is the Telugu original of Judwaa. It’s pretty fun just like Judwaa.
    – Aavida Maa Aavide is another movie that Nagarjuna did with Tabu. I remember watching this on tv as a kid and thinking it was pretty fun. More of a comedy than a romance.

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    • I can’t stand Sri Ramadasu and Annamayya, not least because both completely ruined the known facts of the lives of these people. I saw these after Ninne Pelladutha, and they forever turned me off of watching any more of Nagarjuna’s films, until Manam gave him a second chance (in my eyes). I thought his acting was pretty bad in both, though both did receive “acclaim”, as you say. Additional bonus for Margaret: If you do watch SriRamadasu, ANR plays an interesting (though historically inaccurate) cameo role in it.

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      • I can’t stand Ramadasu either – Why is everybody overacting?
        Annamayya is fares much better. It holds some nostalgic value for me, the songs are excellent and I just love the climax scene.
        Gaganam is kinda OK until it’s last 15 minutes where it was such a face palm.
        Shivamani has a cute romance, but everything else goes downhill very fast. The other heroine is terrible.
        Avida Maa Avide is fun. Nagarjuna and Tabu were good as usual, I kinda liked the third lead Heera even better.
        I can’t believe Margaret hasn’t seen Hello Brother. I know 90’s Salman and Karisma were great, but come on – Nagarjuna AND Ramya Krishna!?

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  3. @Niki — Manju Bhargavi was the heroine of the acclaimed film “Sankarabharanam”, directed by K. Viswanath, and which started his series of classical music/dance based films in the 80’s (which included the later Swarnakamalam and Sagara Sangamam — you might have heard of these). She is a trained bharata natyam dancer and gave many stage performances. Unfortunately her career as a heroine wasn’t very successful, partly because she was too tall for the heroes of her day. Anyway, I think you’ll enjoy seeing Sankarabharanam; see it if you can. That goes for you, too, Margaret. 🙂

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    • “Unfortunately her career as a heroine wasn’t very successful, partly because she was too tall for the heroes of her day.” – Yep, that and she started off playing vamp kind of roles, even her lead role in Sankarabharanam was a huge deal back then.
      Margaret, Niki, you should definitely watch Sankarabharanam. A truly radical film, way ahead of it’s time. Though it opened in empty theatres, it went on to have more than 200 days run with packed houses. In terms of critical acclaim and commercial success, think of it Mother India of Telugu films.

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      • Swathi Muthyam, Sankarabharanam, Sagara Sangamam (Kamal Hasan and Jayaprada), Swayamkrushi (Chiranjeevi), Subhalekha (Chiranjeevi and Sumalatha) – all classics. I have some issues with Swarna Kamalam, and yet can’t help but watching it for the excellent Bhanu Priya. Saptapadi, Sirivennela, Siri siri muvva are offbeat (more than his usual)

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  4. Margaret, are you only familiar with Lakshmi when she entered the “mother” phase? You should check out her films as a heroine. She is a very good actress. If you haven’t already seen it, I recommend her “grandmother phase” film Mithunam — a tour de force of acting.

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  5. The first thing that comes to my mind about Lakshmi in her heroine phase is the movie Mallepuvvu and this lovely song from it.

    I’m not sure if I can recommend this over its original – Pyaasa. But I’ll recommend more of Sobhan Babu though. He had a huge female fan following for his romantic films with good female roles. You should definitely check out “Devata” (Tohfa in Hindi with Jeetendra. Sri Devi and JayaPrada reprised their Telugu roles) Jeteendra wouldn’t even hold a candle to Sobhan Babu. (Ohh, and for some gossip he is rumoured to have an affair with Jayalalitha. She even put up his statue in Chennai, which is strange considering he didn’t even do many Tamil films as far as I know.)
    Sorry, I’m digressing.
    Murari, with Mahesh and Sonali Bendre more or less has similar family dynamics with a super natural angle. (Same director and Lakshmi in similar maternal role) I don’t like either – I find them too loud, the heroines too silly (their dubbing voices – both by singer S.P. Sailaja do not help) Plus side – The pair has excellent chemistry and the songs are so cute. I’m not a fan overall, but you might want to watch it for the leads and may be Lakshmi too.

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  6. I put this one on my list, too! I’m always wanting to see more of Tabu’s old films. Also Madhuri Dixit’s, too. Sri Rao is all over the Bolly podcasts talking about his cookbook, but also a bit about the Madhuri/Priyanka ABC project…sounds like it really will happen and it could be amazing! Both actresses are just so cool and strong and dignified. Have they been in a film together? They must have been…

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    • Madhuri and Priyanka just missed each other, not a coincidence. Madhuri got married and retired just as Priyanka was on the rise. And Priyanka (and the other actresses of her generation) were on the rise because Madhuri (and Kajol and Sridevi) were all getting married and retiring. The firm 5-10 cycle for heroine careers lets a new batch pop up on a regular basis.

      On Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 8:34 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Oh that makes much more sense!!!

          I don’t think Tabu and Madhuri did act together, but you are right, it seems like they would have. Same era, and both did a fair number of multi-starrer films. Random Tabu recommendations, Jeet (mostly Karisma’s movie, but Tabu is there in a smaller role and is wonderful), Heri Pheri is a classic Priyadarshan comedy, Tabu has a great part. Biwi No. 1 is again mostly Karisma’s movie, but Tabu has a super fun time in her role. Cheeni Kum and Kandukondain Kandukondain are Must Watches, not just for Tabu (although she has the leading part), but for the whole film. And then Astitva is kind of interesting from a feminist side of things, but terrible from the romantic side of things.

          For Madhuri early films, I am going to lean into your romance preferences 🙂 Tezaab is a Must Watch, her big break film and a crazy romance. Dil is fun, her with Aamir. Saajan is a very romantic poetic love triangle with her and Salman and Sanjay. Rajkummar is My Favorite, a fairy tale come to life, The Princess Bride without the cynicism. And Koyla of course has the mullets and Shahrukh.

          You may have already watched all of these, in which case you can ignore all the suggestions, but if you need them, there they are!

          On Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 10:18 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. This is just a sweet movie. You can start anywhere and end anywhere and you still feel good about it. It is like tom and jerry cartoon : Even last 10 seconds are entertaining.

    It is not completely clear what kind of relationship Nagarjuna had with Tabu. But one thing I know, my mother said it, is that after a little “debacle” Amala started following Nagarjuna everywhere to his shootings, especially out of country. It is rumoured that he liked the concept of dating since he stayed in America for sometime. His father is also rumoured to “touch” heroines of his time. So it is no wonder if he does it, if at all.

    The first girl he dated was, of course, Naga chaitanya’s mother. He cheated on her with Amala- as it is rumoured and is pretty evident. She left (divorced) him, left India and remarried. He married Amala, probably out of desperation. I don’t think he is vulgar or ugly character who takes advantage of needy women. I think he likes the idea of being a playboy. He repeated the stint he did with Tabu, with sneha, anushka, soundarya and a whole bunch of girls. I don’t think he took advantage of them, but his relationship is definitely more than friendship and less than ‘intimate’.
    That kind of agrees with american values, but not with “once indian” values.

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  8. Pingback: Greetings from My Sister’s House! | dontcallitbollywood

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