Thursday Telugu: Srinivasa Kalyanam, Just Remember, the Hero is Always Right, and It Will All Make Sense

Well, Angie was right, this was terrible. The hero is always always right, against all logic of any kind. Or any sense of the realities of the world.

There is a fine line between warm feelings around nostalgic traditions, and blind pride that assumes (against all logic) that your traditions are the only good ones. In the same way, there is a fine line between warm feelings towards your hero, and a blind pride that assumes (against all logic) that your hero is the only good person in the world and everyone will agree with you. And it is this blind pride in both that brings us to Satish Vegesna writing this movie and Dil Raju directing it.
Image result for srinivasa kalyanam poster

It’s not like this is the first Telugu movie I have seen which put the hero on a pedestal. Or the first Telugu movie I have seen which put Telugu Culture on a pedestal. But it is a pretty extreme example, went so far as to throw out any consideration of narrative beyond making Telugu Culture and Telugu hero at the top of the heap. So, the plot makes no logical sense, and most of the characters make no logical sense, because it all has to bend down to clear a path for the triumph of Nithin and Tradition, marching forward on their perfect way.

The poor other actors! Raashi Khanna our heroine, and Prakash Raj our villain, were thrust aside. If this was the only movie I had seen Prakash Raj in, I would have thought he was a pretty boring unimaginative actor. This IS the only movie I have seen Raashi Khanna in, and I thought she was the worst actor I had ever seen. And then I looked her up, and no! She’s been in all kinds of good things and gotten good reviews!

Raashi and Prakash suffered the most, because they were the most in the orbit of the hero. The farther you got from the hero, the better a role and a character you got to play. The most interesting person in the film, for me, was Nandita Swetha. She is kept safely segregated from Nithin for most of the film, her plot lines going off in their own direction without his awareness. Sometimes (shocking!) even disagreeing with his choices and life plans. Of course, she learns her lesson by the end, is safely put in her proper place (a tool to teach Nithin a lesson) and forgotten by the narrative.

This narrative is really the most ridiculous part. People are sort of bad (not Nithin, he is Perfect). And then over the course of a wedding, they become good (meaning, mindlessly following Nithin’s lead and believing everything he says). There is no real resolution to any conflict, because conflict would imply that Nithin stoops to disagree with anyone. No, instead he just stays where he is, in his own narcissistic world that revolves around his thoughts and beliefs, and waits for everyone else to come over to him.

Also, Nithin was not a good actor. Did I say that? He was BAAAAAD! And had no star power. A lot of the flaws of this film are the same as are in, for instance, a Mahesh Babu movie. But at least with Mahesh Babu, there is the star charisma at the center to help give it logic. I’m not even saying it makes the film enjoyable to watch, but at least it explains why his family and friends seem to give him so much importance. In this film, why was Nithin the one everyone from his job to his roommates to his family gave so much power to??? He’s just a random boring guy!

I would have problems no matter what with a film where the plot is “the hero is perfect and everyone eventually sees that”, but this film adds on that the things that hero, and the version of the world he wants, are actually terrible. And contradictory too! Everyone should bow down and worship the pre-industrial village life. While also being proud of their successful son with the office job in the city. Everyone should revere woman. But only if that means buying them saris and teaching them to cook, not if it means letting them join in on discussions when the “men” are talking. Marriage is the most important ritual because it unites two families and two people. Only, one of those two people (the bride) isn’t really that important and doesn’t get to have any say in the wedding she wants. Prakash Raj is a terrible person whose values are all upside down. We should respect him because he is an older man and therefore his values are perfect. Or, my favorite, Prakash Raj must be forced to wear a lungi because it is VERY VERY important and respectful and right for everyone to wear traditional garb for this ceremony. But Nithin gets to wear jeans. And no one says anything!!!!! There is Nithin, in jeans, right after this whole big deal about Prakash Raj having to wear uncomfortable formal traditional!

Oh dear, it is just not a good movie. So I very much encourage you to keep reading and spoil yourself for the plot instead of ever planning to watch it.

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We start with old Telugu mythological films. Which tells you right there how this director sees his hero, on the same level as both Gods, and the classic actors like NTR who used to play them. And then we come in to the happy childhood memory of the hero, the last family wedding, and his Wife Grandmother who explained that a wedding is the biggest greatest possible festival, because it is so rare in a family’s life.

For such a family film, this one never really thinks through the family relationships! It wouldn’t bother me, except that it is supposed to be so family-family. I know the hero’s grandmother, I know his father, I know he is the only son of his father. I never quite figured out if the older woman was his aunt or his mother. It was never answered why he had no siblings. And there were random small children I also couldn’t identify. I hate that about this movies, that they want to have their cake (happy mixed joined family) and eat it too (not bothering with coming up with a clear backstory to explain the complex relationships in the household).

Anyway, years later the hero is grown up and living in the city and working as an architect. Because, although village life and Tradition is best and there is no need to ever change or improve anything INCLUDING USING TOOTHBRUSHES, the hero also got an advanced degree and pursued an urban job and lifestyle. And we will never ever consider the illogic of this, because that would be to acknowledge that a) village life and farming can’t pay for all the consumer goods and basic life necessities you may need, and b) more social importance in the culture in general is given to modern degrees and professions and that social importance matters to this farming family.

Back home, our hero’s spunky cousin Nandita Swetha is beloved by his family and secretly loves him and plans to marry him someday. In the city, Nithin lives in a shared house with a bunch of other young professionals and is teaching his female housemate to cook because she is about to get married. So, again, logical conflict! On the one hand, our hero is “good” because he breaks out of gender roles and knows how to cook. But on the other hand, she still has to learn to cook before she gets married so gender roles are re-enforced. Really, all this is saying is that our hero is better at being a man than everyone else, and also better at being a woman than even women are. Because he is The Best.

Anyway, she gets married, and does her wedding all “wrong” by making it modern and organized and in a city, and Nithin helpfully lectures her father about this when her father delays the ceremony for an important guest instead of having it start at the “auspicious time” the priest picked out. Nithin’s lecture probably delays it even further, but no matter. And now they need a new roommate for the house, and Raashi Khanna shows up delivering a pizza and looking for a place to stay.

That’s not the first time they met her, the first time was at a coffee shop where she worked. Nithin and his friends sat down at a table, the guy already sitting there asked them to move aside and not block his “view”, Nithin turned around and saw that the guy was watching Raashi (the waitress). So Nithin and his friends moved to another table, and were still watching when he went up to Raashi and proposed. And Raashi turned him down because it isn’t right for him to approach her before her parents or his parents.

SO MUCH WEIRD!!!!! First, why would Nithin just calmly go to another table? He’s the hero, and he is not shy about lecturing strangers, why not say “hey buddy, you are being creepy, talk to her or don’t talk to her, but don’t stare at her all day while she is trying to work”? I guess staring at girls is no biggie in his moral view, just starting religious ceremonies late.

It’s not like Prabhas beating up those guys in an alley for whistling at Anushka is ideal either, but it certainly feels more “heroic” than a response of “you want to creep on the waitress? Fine, you do you”

And then there is Raashi’s refusal. Really? Her refusal is “because marriage is a family matter” not “because you have been sitting there staring at me all day and you are super creepy”? If he had been staring at her and creepy but with her father’s approval, it would be okay? Never mind, of course it would be okay, I’ve seen enough movies to know that.

Anyway, she moves in with Nithin and his friends, they fall in love, Nithin does romantic things like telling a random stranger “you look bad in a ponytail” in order to get her pony tail holder and then put that around Raashi’s ankle (no doubt sneaking a look up her skirt while he does it, he seems like that kind of guy) while telling her that she is too beautiful to be safe and he has to give her a flaw. BLECH!!!!!! Even when he is being romantic, he is somehow insulting and dismissive!!!!

Nithin and Raashi want to get married, so of course he goes and talks to her father before anything else. See, her father is Prakash Raj, millionaire businessman who values his time above all. He made her live like a “common person” for six months which is when she met Nithin. Nithin of course loves this story, because Raashi did all of this as part of being obedient to her father. Anyway, Raashi convinces her father that she wants to marry Nithin, her father agrees. But Nithin doesn’t agree yet, because it’s not “traditional” for the proposal to happen that way, Raashi’s family has to come to Nithin’s village and ask for the marriage, because they are the girl’s side.

The film tries to spin this as a simple “it’s traditional! Nithin honors tradition!” But, first, he is honoring this small detail of tradition over his desire to marry Raashi. And second, this tradition is clearly based on the assumption that it is the girl’s family who is the weaker side! Who have to beg for their daughter to marry the All Powerful-All Perfect boy. This is a terrible tradition! This is a tradition that SHOULD be thrown out! It’s either meaningless and inconvenient, or meaningful and insulting, there is no middle ground.

And the hits just keep coming. Nithin’s grandmother decides she wants the wedding in her village, her way. So that’s what they do. Yes, it is a lovely wedding, but the only reason they do it that way is because that’s how Nithin’s family wants it, Raashi’s family does not have any say in this because they are the bride’s side, and they need to do everything they can to please the groom’s side. The movie tries to dance around it, but ultimately Nithin is holding them hostage, saying “do the wedding the way my Grandma wants, or I’m not marrying your daughter”.

And we are supposed to believe they are in love?

Prakash bulks at the traditional tasks he has to do, because it takes time away from his work and making money. That’s bad, in broad strokes, not taking time for his daughter’s wedding. But then, it isn’t his daughter’s wedding, it’s the wedding his to-be-son-in-law wants, why should he bend over just for what the son-in-law desires? And the reason he has to give up so much time is because the bride’s father is expected to do so much, labor intensive tasks, and buying saris, and this that and the other thing. More than he would be expected to do if he were her sister or her mother, or even the bride herself.

Anyway, the “conflict” of the film is that Nithin is asked to sign a pre-marital agreement by Prakash. He agrees, so long as Prakash gives his word to attend to all the necessary wedding tasks. And then Nithin holds Prakash to that to force him to go shopping, plant trees, whatever whatever. The film sells this as “Prakash Raj is forced to slow down and take time and appreciate his family”. But isn’t this just the same as a dowry demand? But twisted? Nithin is saying “do everything I tell you whenever I ask it, or I will hurt your daughter”. Sure, he’s the “hero” so we know he won’t abuse the Raashi, but Prakash is supposed to be “bad” for trying to protect his daughter while Nithin is supposed to be “good” by holding that threat over Prakash.

Oh, and this is another totally ridiculous part! The film is arguing that the rich folks of Telugu society are out of touch with tradition and so on. But it is also arguing that a pre-marital agreement is NEVER HEARD OF. That Prakash is only insisting on it because his older daughter is getting divorced. I mean, come on! Of course these people use a simple legal document to protect their assets!!!

And of course they are not going to enjoy a “traditional” Telugu wedding! Once Nithin gets everything he asks for, Prakash’s family and friends, and Nithin’s co-workers from the office, all end up coming to his village and going “oh wow, I love sleeping on floors and eating home made food and brushing my teeth with sticks! Sticks are so much better than toothbrushes!” Really? Are we really supposed to believe that all of these folks who pursued advanced careers and wealth and everything else in the city are happy with this? It’s not like someone was forcing them to use toothbrushes and live in fancy houses and sleep on beds before this.

And all of this is supposed to teach you how to be a better married couple! I guess by strictly following traditions from thousands of years ago back when people generally didn’t even live past 40. The worst section, for me, is when Nithin and Raashi ask all their elders to give them advice on how to be better at marriage. Which turns into all the husbands in turn giving self-satisfied advice. So I guess the way to be good at marriage is to let the men blowhard their way into whatever they think is true and just sit on yourself and swallow your disappointment and smile smile smile in your new sari. Oh, and one of the old blowhards uses a tablet to illustrate his talk, which means that we have yet another contradiction of “old ways are best” but also “new technology toys are fun and should be cheap and easy even if that means other villages are drowning in pollution”.

And then they get married. After a slight faint when Nithin “confesses” about the agreement, but then everyone is okay with it. He is inspired by Nandita, her plot finally lining up with his after she has spent the movie hiding her feelings from him, she confronts him and admits how she feels and tells him that she feels better once she has shared it. And that’s the end of Nandita. Every other character gets nicely tied up, the friends/roommates of Nithin get married, the co-worker makes up with his wife, even the wedding planners have a change of heart and become successful making “traditional” weddings, but Nandita is completely forgotten. I guess because she has no more story? She is in love with Nithin and he picked someone else so her life has stopped dead, in her village in her family?

And we end where we began, with the clips from the classic movies, reminding us that marriage is the greatest festival of all. Because it is about two families coming together. To make babies. Oh yes, that’s the other unpleasant thing, the opening and closing song is VERY EXPLICIT that the purpose of marriage is procreational sex. Not two people who love each other, not creating a lifelong bond, but babies. If you are infertile, or barren, or above childbearing years, don’t bother.

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19 thoughts on “Thursday Telugu: Srinivasa Kalyanam, Just Remember, the Hero is Always Right, and It Will All Make Sense

  1. I can’t believe you watched this. This was a very big flop for all the reasons you mentioned in the review. I wonder what Dil Raju was thinking!!! It was a suffocating movie with all the preaching. Worse than Brahmotsavam and that was one bad movie to beat.

    The narrative here little room for other ideas. If you do not align with my ideas, you need to be lectured and the plot forces you to have a change of heart by the end of the movie.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I watched it because Angie promised me the worst movie of 2018, and she was right!

      Yep, terrible terrible film. I was also think of Bharat Ane Nenu, with all the preaching and the hero whose ideas always seem to work out, no matter how stupid they are. But at least that film had a hero with some charisma! this was just irredeemably stupid. I felt so bad for Prakash Raj being stuck in it.

      On Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 10:33 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I can’t believe you managed to finish this movie! I’m astonished, but also sorry, because it’s my fault. And I must confess I’m little happy too. I was saying it’s the worst movie of the year, even if I only saw 30 minutes, and I was thinking: hey, I’m like those people who rated Namaste England without watching it. But now, after reading your review I know this film is as bad as I said.

    I vaguely rememeber one scene, and I’m not sure if it was in this film or in another. Does it start with a guy who lends money to people and doesn’t have the guts to ask them to repay. Then is smart daughter/niece fights to take the money back, and than is lectured by other woman in the family, it’s not right for a girl to meddle in men’s buisness?

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    • Yep! That’s this movie! And that woman is the one character I found interesting, who never gets the guy she likes and is forgotten by the end of the film. You missed a bunch of awfulness by not finishing the film, I think I will never recover from the discussion of how sticks are better than toothbrushes.

      On Fri, Jan 25, 2019 at 3:51 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I’m so glad this girl escaped the protagonist. Hope she will elope with better guy. And I’m even more glad I escaped this film!

        What bothered me in that initial scene was that the men were ok with the girl. The women were those who made her a lecture. But she was right! This uncle was lending money, and soon they could have financial problems, it wasn’t right. And the women in the family was like: It’s ok if we will suffer hunger, but tradition (that woman must know her place) is more important.
        I just can’t believe somebody really wrote this movie, somebody gave the money and the other guy filmed it, and nobody said: this film is a pile of crap!

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        • There’s a bit later on where they are inviting people to the wedding and the uncle (maybe) doesn’t want to invite somebody because they are in a feud. The grandmother and Nithin tell him no, he has to invite that person, they don’t even care about the details of the feud, it is Right and Tradition to invite him. Like, who made you ruler of the universe, GRANDMA???? Maybe there is a legit reason for this feud?

          Oh, and the money thing, it comes up a few times, and at the end the whole village turns out to help with the wedding to pay him back. Which, okay???? But it still ignores the reality that Nithin is working in the city to make money because his Dad spent all his inheritance. Not that they ever say that directly, just talk about how great his job is and also how the village life is th ebest.

          On Fri, Jan 25, 2019 at 8:13 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Well, it’s kind of nice to watch a bad movie sometimes, because I can do dishes and stuff instead of paying attention.

      On Fri, Jan 25, 2019 at 4:52 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. The funny thing about the movie ,is audience sympathize with Prakash Raj. logically he is correct, he doesn’t want to risk his second daughters marriage.
    Nithin,who is following ‘family traditions’ should logically marry Swetha by obliging the family elders,but he broke the tradition ,and by choosing ‘Raasi’ and exposing ‘Prakash Raj’ at last minute,and breaking Gentleman’s agreement.
    Nithin turned Antagonist and Prakash Raj become protagonist.
    Instead of concentrating on conflict it become more marriage ritual documentary. which already dealt by ‘Varudu’ movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Nithin takes the high ground as being “traditional” but also feels free to break with tradition whenever it is convenient to him.

      On Sat, Jan 26, 2019 at 4:48 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Yeah, I wouldn’t watch it. Just pretend some elderly person is lecturing you about how everything used to be better for 3 hours, that’s the experience of this film.

      On Mon, Jan 28, 2019 at 6:43 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • I know – I too wasted my 3 hours on this. The director had the hangover of his previous hit film – Shatamanambhavati – that was also kind of preachy on festivals in villages, but execution was better, not as bad as this one.

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        • I saw Shatamanambhavati and yes, it also was sermoning over logic but at least some other things happen too. And the most important: the hero is Sharwanand and not this terrible Nithin (btw even on posters , you look at him and think: why this boring guy is on the poster and not the real hero?)

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          • He’s yet another one of those, who’s pushed onto Telugu audience through his filmy family – son of a producer. We, Telugu audience, had no option but to bear them 😦

            Like

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