Tuesday Telugu: Middle-Class Abbayi (MCA), Bhoomika Gets to Be the Hero!

Did you know HeroTalkies merged with YuppTV?  In some very vague way that I can’t fully understand and makes both websites impossible to navigate?  This is why I ended up watching MCA.  It was the only movie I was successfully able to find and play.  Well, and also Nani.  And also Sai.

I decided to watch this movie for Nani and Sai Pallavi, as probably did the majority of the audience, but once I started, I discovered that I loved it not for them, but for Bhoomika, who I didn’t even know would be in it.

Bhoomika is what Sai might be in a few years.  At her launch she was immediately brilliant and intriguing onscreen, crossing easily between industries, winning awards, and then slowly aging out of the heroine parts and being set ever more to the side.  But, if Sai is lucky, she will be like Bhoomika, appreciated enough by the industry that she is on the short list for any interesting non-heroine parts.  Bhoomika plays the hero’s sister-in-law in this film, she played the hero’s sister in Dhoni the year before, the widowed mother of a small boy the year before that, and on and on.

In this film, Sai is a little bit sidelined to make space for Bhoomika to shine.  Which is lovely in all sorts of different ways.  It’s lovely to see Bhoomika in particular get an interesting challenging role.  And it’s lovely to see an older woman do more than feed people.  And it’s lovely to see a different kind of central relationship for the hero, with a woman who isn’t his love interest.  It is also a little irritating, because Sai doesn’t get as much to do as she could, disappears for big segments.  But I will forgive it, Sai has years to be the heroine, she can afford to give space to her elders just this once.

(Although she does get the best songs)

Nani gives way also but, in my limited Nani experience, that seems to be the way he does things.  He lets the heroine shine, the script shine, the villain shine, you hardly notice how good he is because he makes everything else look good.  And in this film he stands behind two heroines, Sai takes the lead (aggressively takes the lead) in the romance, and Bhoomika takes the lead against the villain.  Nani just follows behind. Which is why I love him.

 

 

 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

Nani is introduced being nagged by his uncle and spoiled by his aunt.  It’s not the usual hero’s introduction, he is neither terrible downtrodden by his family, or terribly revered by them.  He’s just somewhere in between, like most people are.

That’s the meaning of the “Middle Class Abbayi” title.  Nani isn’t a bit fancy hero, he isn’t rich, he isn’t desperately poor either.  He isn’t put upon, nor is he worshipped.  He isn’t perfect, but he isn’t bad.  He’s just sort of average and in between.  It’s refreshing.

And he is also refreshingly petty.  His uncle is nagging him to go visit his big brother.  Who he left when he got married to Bhoomika.  Not because they were abusive but because his brother made Bhoomika into his nightly drinking partner instead of Nani, and Nani was jealous.

Petty, but not unreasonable.  His brother wanted him to come because he wants him to accompany Bhoomika to go settle in a new city where she has been assigned for work.  Nani is unhappy and whiney but goes along with it.  And when they settle in the city, he rolls his eyes and tries to avoid work, but he does do what Bhoomika asks, whether it is helping to move into the house or chopping vegetables.  Just with a lot of complaining.

Things are already mildly interesting, Nani being set-up as having a familiar brother-against-brother issue and then turning around and having a new sister-in-law against brother-in-law issue.  But they get really really interesting with the introduction of Sai!

It starts out as a classic movie meeting.  Nani is riding his bike, sees her waiting for the bus, and stops dead blocking traffic to look back at her.  But then it takes a twist!  While Nani is stopped, Sai slowly starts walking towards him, finally handing him a rose and saying “I like you, will you marry me?”  Nani drops his phone in shock, and Sai neatly catches it and hands it back to him.  And then gets on the bus while he is still shocked.

It’s the perfect hero-heroine meeting, only with the genders reversed!  Nani is the one struck dumb by love, trembling and shy, while Sai is the one who makes the big romantic move.  And it keeps going like that!  Sai gives him her phone number, Sai invites him for a secret night time meeting, Sai suggests he give her the first kiss.  When it turns out that Bhoomika is Sai’s older sister and Sai is invited to stay at the house with them, Sai is the one who tries to sneak secret hugs around the house while Nani chastely keeps chopping vegetables.  And, best of all, when Sai’s family objects to the relationship, Sai casually says that she will only marry Nani, she will get a good job, and Nani will stay home and chop vegetables for her.  And it’s not a joke, this is her ideal dream of life, Nani chopping vegetables and doing laundry at home while she goes to the office.  She doesn’t even see anything odd about it.  Only Sai could play this role, the heroine being the hero with no machismo or fakery, but simply because that is how she sees the world.

On the one hand, it’s sad that we lose this when Sai is sent away and the plot shifts, but on the other hand, we have the equally unusual Bhoomika-Nani dynamic to replace it.  Nani is furious with Bhoomika, blaming her for sending Sai away when their romance comes out.  Until his uncle tells him that Bhoomika is his ally.  She has been trying to convince her family to support the match, she has been defending him to her father, and she has even voluntarily put off plans to have her own child until Nani was “settled”.

Nani and Bhoomika have been following separate plot sup until now.  Nani with his romance, and Bhoomika with her job as traffic inspector which sets her against the corrupt bus line owner Vijay Varma.  But they come together dramatically, in the kind of self-aware way that makes me love Telugu films.  Nani rushes to find her and apologize for misunderstanding her, not even realizing that he is rushing into an armed confrontation between her and Vijay.  Nani goes immediately from starting a relationship with his sister-in-law, to being forced to defend her from armed thugs.

And that’s the second half of the movie.  Sai is mostly gone, and instead of is all about Nani and Bhoomika, Nani protecting her and defending her, while she upholds the rule of law and order.  It is Bhoomika’s battle, Nani is just there to support her.  And it’s so refreshing to see!  An older woman with a responsible job taking a stand for law and order, supported not by the man who is in love with her, but by her younger brother-in-law who respects her.

Sai does return at the end, to be threatened by a knife and have a wonderful line, on the phone with Nani when Vijay wants her to act scared, she says “he is threatening me with a big knife.  It is very sharp, we should get it after marriage for your cooking”.  And then it immediately returns to Bhoomika, Nani learns Sai was only threatened as a distraction, Bhoomika was the target.  How interesting!  The love story is a distraction from larger issues, but it is not the fault of woman, it is the fault of love distracting the hero from the larger issues, the issues represented by a different woman.

And all along, Nani is doing these things not out of abstract heroics and deep beliefs, that is Bhoomika’s area, but rather from a simple middle-class need to protect his family, his sister-in-law included.  As he explains to the villain.  He defeats the villain not through a deep ideal philosophy, but simply because he cares about his family and the villain doesn’t care about anything.

That’s the happy ending all around, not that the villain is defeated, but that he learns to care about his family again.  His poor mother has been praying for him to turn into a good peaceful man, and by golly a blow to the head from Nani gives him amnesia and does the trick!  And so the end of the film is a happy wedding, between Sai and Nani, with Vijay Varma, now reformed, there as the best man.  Part of the larger middle-class family of man.

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17 thoughts on “Tuesday Telugu: Middle-Class Abbayi (MCA), Bhoomika Gets to Be the Hero!

  1. I read the spoilers without meaning to, because I plan to see this movie, but fortunately you didn’t give away too much.

    Can I just nitpick you once again about names? The heroine’s name is Sai Pallavi. When you give that full name, or just Pallavi, it’s a girl’s name. When you use just Sai, it is a boy’s name. So it is really jarring to have you keep saying “Sai” and “she”. If possible please use her full name, which is the way she is referred to in the Indian media.

    I’ve liked Nani from his first film (Ashtachemma — highly recommended), but it is his USP not to be the macho hero, like Mahesh Babu, Pawan Kalyan, and even NTR jr. and Ram Charan (though the latter two have also done some “soft hero” roles very well). So it should not surprise you that he doesn’t go in with fists flying. He’s a solid actor, but I also like the way he comes across in his interviews — confident, understated, and genuine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Keep nitpicking about names! It took me almost a decade to come even close to correct with Hindi cinema, and I only got there because people patiently corrected me over and over again.

      I thought Nani might be that way, I think this is my 5th of his films, and so far in every one he has happily played an un-hero. Not an anti-hero, not dark and evil, but also sometimes cowardly and lazy and flawed.

      Don’t worry about spoilers with this movie, you can predict the whole plot just from the poster. There are a few small clever touches, I mention some of them here but there are dozens of others I don’t bring up. But you know the hero will find his courage and defeat the villain, the hero and heroine will be reunited, and so on and so forth. That’s not really “spoilers”, right? Not in this kind of a movie.

      On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 8:18 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Exactly. Your “spoilers” weren’t really spoilers here, unlike in some other films. So no problem.

        Do see Ashtachemma if you haven’t already seen it. Really fun movie, and might become one of your new “happy” movies. All happy, all funny, all the way. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Just looked up Ashtechemma, it sounds super cute, and based on The Importance of Being Earnest! Which I was briefly obsessed with as a teenager.

          On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 8:50 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yup, and the way they adapted it to Indian conditions is quite “interesting”, to say the least. This was the director’s second film, and his first was also an adaptation of a classic Telugu short story, though many modern viewers may not have been familiar with it. I was, since it is one of my favorite stories, and he won a state award for that film. It is called “Grahanam”, and is completely different in tone and subject matter. I think he made a third adaptation of a literary classic, too, but if so, I can’t remember now what it was.

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          • It’s funny how some directors really need a source to work with in order to do good work. We were just talking about that with Bardwaj in Hindi, his adaptations are brilliant, but his original stuff is very uneven.

            On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 8:59 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • It was his third film, with a disaster “Mayabazar” (casting Bhumika) in between.
            I would also recommend Gentleman from the same director (Mohanakrishna) with Nani playing dual roles.

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          • In his case I don’t think that he’s incapable of writing original stories (like Bharadwaj or Bhansali), but that he’s just really into good literature. I think of that as a positive quality, because nowadays there is hardly anyone in the Telugu industry who reads, or can read, Telugu literature. From the 1950’s through the 1980’s, current and classic literature, from Telugu, Bengali, and even English (Shakespeare), were adapted into films very regularly. In fact, there were some popular Telugu novelists whose books were adapted so often that people came to call them “filmi writers”, much as Chetan Bhagat is called that now.

            Liked by 1 person

          • That’s interesting, I noticed in Malayalam films that they felt very “novelistic” in that they had layered meanings and complex character relationships and all kinds of depth. It’s not something I would have thought of with Telugu film, but Fidaa and Arjun Reddy and even Ninnu Kori had that same feeling, I could picture reading a novel with this same story. Maybe it’s something that is still there in some parts of the industry, if not in actual adaptations at least in the tone of the films?

            On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 9:07 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Another Nani film that a lot of people recommend is Ala Modalaindi (“That’s how it started”). I started watching it once, thought it was quite intriguing, but didn’t have time just then to continue. Since then it’s kind of slipped my mind, until someone mentions it somewhere, and I think, “Oh, I have to watch that some time.”

          Talking of things slipping out of my mind, remember I said last week that I had a question for you, but would wait till Monday to ask it? Even as I typed that, I thought, I hope I don’t forget it, but also that, no, it was too important for me to forget. Well, guess what? 😀 If it ever pops back into my mind, I’ll at least write it down somewhere, or just ask it right away, even if it’s not Monday. 🙂

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          • Oh yes, please do! Ask a question any time, on any post. Or just go back to the most recent Monday post if you want to keep my archives tidy (I hate when we have long interesting discussions on random reviews and then it is impossible to find them again).

            On Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 8:55 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I’m so happy you watched MCA. I agree that there should be more movies with older actresses, and Bhoomika was very good, but I wish this movie wasn’t about her. I mean, there should be other movie about brother and sister-in-law relation, but here they should have just focus on romance. The love story in MCA was sooo good, one of the best I have ever seen, the actors were very good and adorable. I wanted more. I wanted to know what happened with Sai Pallavi when she was separated from Nani, what she was thinking about. And after, how happy she and Nani were when they finally could marry. I wanted a proper wedding scene and song and not something forced durning ending credits.

    And the other thing I didn’t like was how inconsistent the women characters were – both Bhoomika and Sai Pallavi were smart, intelligent women, but then in the second half they became usuall females who belive in everything man says. It was obvious Nani doesn’t go to work! It was clear that something strange is happening.

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    • The one time when that really bothered me was Sai getting mad at Nani for rushing off instead of comforting her. Couldn’t she have taken a minute to ask him why he left? Or just assumed it was something super super important?

      On Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 3:06 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes!
        I didn’t like too, that Nani’s special talent is not used. First he is introduced as the one who remembers everything, and I like it. I thought that it will be usefull later, but really it wasn’t . Yes, he remembered villain’s dirty shoes but you don’t need special ability to remember it.

        But what I loved and what saves the movie for me are those scenes wher Sai and Nani live together and hug and kiss when Bhoomika doesn’t see them. So adorable. My favourite scene is when Nani sees Palavi for the first time in their home, and she pretends she came to see the cousin. I have seen this part many times and their facial expressions and jokes are prefect.

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        • Yes! Shoot, I forgot to mention that in the review! They put in a couple of cool early scenes with Nani’s photographic memory, and then it like never shows up again. Feels like the early scenes were left over from some other movie or something and they just shot them and didn’t bother working them in to anything. It’s not a great movie because of little things like that, but it is such an enjoyable movie! It doesn’t feel, like so many have lately from all industries, like people were just working for the paycheck or assuming that the promotion campaign would save the film. The leads all did a great job top to bottom and the director mostly supported them. Maybe not every piece of plot fit together just right, but it was a nice solid effort.

          Compared to, say, Pulimurugan, it is brilliant!

          On Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 8:13 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. One of my issues with the film was that Sai Pallavi and Bhoomika were so underused in the second half..
    IDK what Telugu film you’re planning on watching next but I’d love to see how you feel about Godavari, Brindavanam, Nuvve Nuvve etc

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