Oh dear, I did not like this movie. I don’t like not liking movies, especially when I think that some of you might like them. Oh well.
Whole Plot in 1 Paragraph:
Lakshmi is an abusive old woman. She runs a canteen shop with her old friend Rajendra Prasad, and lives with her son Rao Ramesh, daughter-in-law Pragathi, granddaughter Aneesha Dama, and grandson Reja Sajja. She almost kills her daughter-in-law through a stress related heart attack which finally causes her son to wake up and realize the toxic environment his home has become. He tells her she will have to leave, naturally she feels very sorry for herself. Her grandson Reja calls and asks her to come to his show, because he is also very selfish which is why they get along so well. She goes to the carnival where his band is playing and a mysterious photography tent turns her into a 24 year old young woman again, Samantha Ruth Prabhu. She goes on a spending spree with the debit card her son gave her, and then rents a room from her best friend Rajendra Prasad and his fat old (ha-ha!) daughter Sunayana. Her grandson Reja overhears her singing and asks her to join his band. Meanwhile, TV producer Naga Shaurya is looking for a new sound for his TV show music contest. He hears her singing with the band is becomes obsessed with finding her. He finally tracks her down and invites her and the band onto his show. Soon, he also starts to fall in love with her a little. Meanwhile, she has convinced Rajendra of who she is and he is her confidant as she works through her emotions. She now has everything she felt cheated of the first time around, when she eloped and then was widowed, had to struggle and work and sacrifice her dreams for her infant son. She can marry again and be in love again, have the singing career she wanted, everything. But she is torn, because she also misses her son Rao Ramesh. And he misses her. Finally, on the day of the big competition, Reja gets into an accident. The only way to save him is for Samantha to donate blood, which will turn her back into Lakshmi. She does it, but only after having a conversation with Rao Ramesh in which he tells her she doesn’t have to, she deserves to have her own life back. In the end, Lakshmi is reunited with her family who have mysteriously forgiven her and she is seemingly slightly better to them. And in the fun tag, Rajendra Prasad appears as Naga Chaitanya, having also mysteriously aged down, and still loving Lakshmi, and invites her to travel with him.
Now, what is misogyny? It is seeing women as less than people. Because only men are “people”. Now, what is my problem with this movie? The only relationships that matter, the only people that matter, are Rao Ramesh, Naga Shaurya, and Rajendra Prasad. In the world of our heroine, who is also our central character, she loves her son, she loves her grandson, she loved her husband, and she loves her two boyfriends (the age appropriate one and the young one). Her daughter-in-law and granddaughter can literally die and she will not care. The daughter of Rajendra is a joke to her, because she is fat and unmarried (what is the point of being a living woman if you are not married?). Even the random woman at the supermarket that she accuses of being a bad mother for using formula is a joke, lazy and uncaring. Ha-ha, all old woman are like that. Only, the thing is, the film supports her and cheers her own. The other women are filmed as comic characters, never get their own moments of triumph. And in the end the heroine’s bond with her son and tyrrany over her household is upheld.
It’s a not uncommon phenomenon, for a woman to hate all other women. Especially older women who have reached the top of the patriarchal power structure. Why should they care about their daughters, their daughters-in-law, their granddaughters? Women are trash, useless, there only to serve men. Serve your husband, serve your son, serve your brother, and if you fail in that, what is the point of you?
Now, let’s back up and look at Indian society. India has a problem with elder abuse, as does every society. The elderly are at the mercy of the young, no one believes what they say, not their doctors or the police or anyone. In India, the problem is specific in that it is culturally accepted for elderly relatives to live at home, to be taken care of by their children. Meaning it is easy for their children to abuse them and no one will notice, no outside caregivers, no nursing home staff. And it is so shameful to reveal the abuse that the elderly are even less likely to ask for help than they are in other cultures.
But India also has a problem with constant unrelenting abuse by the elderly. It’s built into the basic building blocks of society. A child is there to serve their parents. Old men and old women are the rulers of their household. If they are toxic and vicious and cruel and cause irreparable psychological damage, it doesn’t matter. They can do anything to anyone, they can destroy the people they claim to love, and no one will challenge them. Instead, you will sit there and think “someday it will be my turn, I just have to survive the next twenty years, store up all my hate, and then spew it forth on my own victim”. Never a moment of peace, never a moment of pure happiness, everything tainted.
The funny thing is, the attitude towards elder “abuse” encourages abuse-by-elders. If you do not let your parents live with you, if you do not visit them regularly, if you do not send them much of your income, if you do not treat them with constant unquestioning respect, you are “abusive”. There is no possibility of saying “my father beat me my whole childhood, my mother tells my daughter she is worthless and should have been aborted before birth, and so I moved to America and stopped calling them.” No no, that is your fault. You are a bad child if you do that, if you fail to forgive and understand everything your parents have ever done. There can be no possible excuse.
This movie starts by showing us a classic example of a dysfunctional abusive household. Lakshmi praises her son and grandson. But as soon as they are out of the room, she cuts down her granddaughter and daughter-in-law piece by piece. Her daughter-in-law can’t cook, can’t raise her children, can’t do anything right. Her granddaughter is lazy, should be married, is worthless. Even in her friend Rajendra Prasad’s household, it is the same. His daughter should be married, is a waste of money, is too old, is too fat. Her daughter-in-law Pragathi lands in the hospital and her doctor pulls Rao Rajesh aside and explains that the stress of living with her mother-in-law is killing her. Her son is conflicted about telling her, but her granddaughter steps up and tells her some home truths. Not just her, but her father as well, that her father is a coward and is killing his wife and destroying his family for the sake of his terrible mother.
Now, at this point, I was ready for the movie to head in a direction of exploring all this dysfunction. Lakshmi would become young again, befriend her granddaughter and daughter-in-law, learn to see the abuse by the elderly in a new light, and return to her own age chastened and wiser and better. And maybe her son would learn what a total worthless waste of space he is, expecting his mother and his wife to wait on him hand and foot and never considering their needs.
But, no! That’s what’s so strange! It shows how horrible this situation is, and then does nothing to fix it. Just accepts that this is how things are. Not just that, that this is GOOD! Lakshmi sacrificed everything for her son, and now she is sacrificing everything for her grandson. Isn’t that good? Isn’t that noble? Doesn’t that excuse everything else she has done in life?
And Ramesh Rao loves his mother. Doesn’t much care for his own children or his wife, but he loves his mother. Isn’t that all that matters? His first duty is to be a good son, if he achieves that, he is a good man.
The film tries to sell itself as an “appreciate the elderly” kind of story. Appreciate the sacrifices Lakshmi made as a young mother, understand why she is so difficult today (because of the suffering of her past). And a few small bits about how much it hurts all the time to be old, how hard it is to move, to eat, and so on.
But it reads like someone saying “appreciate the elderly” who has never actually had to spend much time with them. Old people are still just people. Some of them are funny, some of them are kind, some of them are brave. And some of them are toxic and horrible and do not deserve love. The way Lakshmi is acting at the start of the film, it is simply not acceptable. She is a bully and she needs someone to stand up to her and say “stop”. It’s not about appreciating her sacrifices. Everyone makes sacrifices. That’s not an excuse. Today, right now, she is a terrible person.
But she is a terrible person in a way that the makers of this film do not recognize as terrible. Ha ha, publicly shaming a woman for using formula instead of breast feeding. Ha-ha, making fun of a woman because she isn’t married yet and that is unnatural. Ha-ha, giving money to your unemployed drop out grandson while insulting your college graduate granddaughter for not yet having a job. And of course, ha-ha, doing everything to spoil your son while breaking down your daughter-in-law piece by piece until she almost dies. So long as the only people she harms are women, then she is not doing any real harm at all. Because they aren’t really people, are they?
And now you are going to say “you don’t understand, that’s what it is like in Telugu culture”. And what I am saying is, that is a messed up culture!!!! And a better movie, instead of merely showing what is and accepting it, would make us question why it is like that and if we can do better.