Ante Sundaraniki Review: For Once, a Movie I Think Would Have Been Better Set Overseas!

I am so very proud of myself for staying on schedule. Especially with this movie, which is a full 3 hours! But, yaaaaaaaay! I watched a new movie, and now I am reviewing it, my brain is working!

This is a pleasant light good hearted movie. A bit long, a bit too many twists to pad out the length, songs are okay but not outstanding. And yet still extremely pleasant with a nice heart to it. And minimal patriarchy (while still having some, this is India after all).

Nani is charming and silly, Nazriya Nizam is sweet and loveable. Their chemistry isn’t the best, unfortunately, but they are individually so nice that it still works. The rest of the cast are all excellent, character actors who I vaguely recognize and expect to be good. The script is a kick, lots of clever word play that almost works even in subtitles, and lots of clever twists. There’s definitely too many twists in the plot, but I have a hard time picking which one to drop because they are all so good. Oh, and it’s pretty! It’s pretty and sunshiney and fun to look at.

This is the kind of movie that should be 3 hours, because it should be something you dip in and out of, it should be something that plays in the background for a bit, that you can choose what parts you pay attention to and what parts you have a little nap. It’s a nice old-fashioned family romance that you want to watch with your family.

Of course, I was watching it on my couch with my dog, which is NOT ideal. It took me 3 goes to finish, just because my butt got tired of sitting so long without being able to look away. I suppose if Albie Dog could talk and tell me what I missed when I went to get snacks, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But as is, the effort of following every twist for 3 hours straight without company was a bit much.

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Really, just SO much plot! It starts out looking like two separate stories, Nani’s family was tricked when he was a child by a scammer offering to take him to America to be a star. Since then, they have distrusted all outsiders and kept a close watch on Nani. Nani is desperate to get a work opportunity to go to America and be free. Nazriya had a hard time as a child because she wasn’t like the other girls, too outspoken. Her father loved and supported her through everything. Now she is secretly dating a boy who keeps putting off getting engaged, and wants to do a program in America in order to delay her parents marrying her off. Only then the two of them meet at the airport and you realize they have known each other all along and planned this together. Back again, reveal that Nazriya broke up with her boyfriend at the same time she started spending more time with her old friend Nani. They fell in love, and planned this trip to America in order to elope and then deal with their parents who would object because of the different religions of the families (he’s Brahman Hindu, she’s Christian). Only the marriage plan doesn’t work out, but they are still committed and ready to go back and get their parents approval no matter what-by telling her parents she is pregnant and his parents that he is impotent but has found a woman still willing to marry him. INTERVAL

Nothing works as planned. Nani’s family is determined to either fix him, or find him a Brahman woman willing to marry him anyway. Nazriya’s family finds her a nice Christian boy willing to marry her despite her pregnancy. But then both families realize they need to do the “right” thing, marry Nazriya to the father of her future child, and marry Nani to the only woman who is willing to marry a man who is impotent without any lies or tricks. The engagement and wedding miraculously move forward without either family finding out the truth, or the lie told to the other family. Nazriya’s mother starts to get suspicious and takes her to the doctor to be tested for pregnancy. Her tests come back positive, which at first seems like a miracle, and then is revealed to be an Ovarian tumor which may make her infertile. In the end, Nani and Nazriya get married with the blessing of both families, with their lies turned into truth.

There’s a really good double layered central truth here, that lies become true if you say them enough. It’s true in that Nazriya and Nani are playing with fire by telling such extreme lies and in the end they really do experience both a pregnancy scare and infertility. And it’s true in that the lies of society, the lies that Brahmins marry Brahmins and Christians marry Christians, also become true if we repeat them enough. The key is to break free from the lies and games and see things as they really are.

The problem is, it feels a little bit to suffocating to me. As in, we only see people who are living in this world of lies. There’s a little bit of outside awareness through Nani’s stories to his boss and co-worker, I think the filmmakers knew they had to have someone outside say “wait, why can’t you just get married?” But I would have preferred the film to do more with that.

Ultimately, once again, this is a movie in which the parents are just WRONG, but the children have to lie and trick them into agreeing instead of just standing up for themselves like independent humans. Nazriya’s parents treat her pregnancy like its their problem, not like her womb belongs to herself. And Nani’s parents treat his penis the same way, his sperm and all children that may come from it belong to them not him. And this is shown as normal, sympathetic, instead of RIDICULOUS. At least the religion/caste bit of the plot is treated as something special, there is an explanation for why Nani’s father is so distrusting of outsiders, and why Nazriya’s father is so worried about her marrying into a family that will appreciate her (her sister married for love and struggles with her in-laws). And also, in the end-end-end, everyone agrees that the kids should just get married because they love each other and nothing else matters, even infertility.

But really, infertility is no one’s business but the couple! And your children are more than just their ability to have more children. And young people in general are more than their ability to get married and have kids. That’s the end point of the movie, and a very good point it is, but it is a bit watered down by the preceding 3 hours which accept this premise as valid.

That’s why I would be interested to see this same film take place in America, or some other fish-out-of-water type of setting. If we had the couples somewhere where literally the entire world thinks their family way of life is bonkers, then the message would clearly be about “I want to make my parents happy” not “I care about society and what people think”. In fact, the opposite, it would be “I don’t care that society thinks my family is insane, I want to make them happy anyway”. I think it would be a stronger better film, with the theme clearly defined, if it was removed from the cozy Telugu family film setting, complete with nosey relatives and family priests and all that. If it’s about the families, make it about the families, not Society.

Also, I think this movie did the “marriage is more than babymaking” story better.

9 thoughts on “Ante Sundaraniki Review: For Once, a Movie I Think Would Have Been Better Set Overseas!

  1. I would have pulled all of the stuff about the Chiranjeevi movie at the front for sure. I know it probably played great to the Telugu audience, but I found it unnecessary even though it setup the whole Grandma’s approval thing. And maybe getting rid of the whole telling his boss the whole story over and over again.

    I agree that the two leads didn’t really have great sexy chemistry but they had great wholesome chemistry. I usually really need to have the sexual tension underlying the romantic films I watch, but occasionally there are some that don’t need it because the plot either doesn’t allow for it or the tone of the film is too wholesome (like all of the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks films for instance…like thinking about them doing it is actually very icky). This was kind of like one of those, I guess.

    The length of this film is its biggest fault and will keep it from being a rewatch for me, but it still made my ultimate rom-com list because it’s got some charming moments and creative direction.

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  2. I agree with filmilibranian – all the Chiranjeevi part (it was fun to watch in the beginning but in the end it’s not important and only lenghtens already looong movie) and boss parts are superflous. We watch Nani dreaming abut America for 90 minutes just to discover he didn’t care about it really, and spent there 1 day!!!

    I hated the lies they were telling the parents and didn’t understand the need. Ok, I’m not Indian so maybe I see it wrong, but isn’t eloping less grave than being unmarried mother? Or eloping vs being infertile? For me they came up with worse sins to cover a lesser one. What’s the point? And if we add all the other lies they have been telling about America and stuff I only wanted this movie to end and leave me in peace.
    Also the romantic part was almost nonexistent. It lasted 2 minutes in 3hours long film! All the rest were flashbacks and lies.

    There are some very good parts in this film, things we rarely see in Indian movies, unfortunately those parts are hidden under 50 different blankets and viewers are just tired and don’t appreciate it.

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    • I was stuck on the “why complicate things with two lies?” issue. Just tell both sets of parents that they are pregnant! It is fun seeing the contrasting families, but it makes no logical sense. I suppose if they established that his family had a history of out of wedlock babies so they wouldn’t think a marriage was necessary or something?

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      • Because a woman getting pregnant before marriage would ‘lessen’ her to the man’s parents. Their son can get anyone pregnant, as long as he marries a ‘proper’ girl from their own community. The woman is the one with ‘loose’ morals.
        In contrast, impotency lessens the man and elevates the woman who could accept an impotent husband. Both lies were designed to make each family desperate enough to agree to their marriage.

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          • No, elopement would guarantee a wedding. But it would make sure that both sets of parents would be disappointed in both Nani and Nazriya. Nani’s family would not like him imposing a non Brahmin girl on them and might (most certainly will) mistreat Nazriya. Nazriya’s parents would be upset that, after being nothing but supportive to her all these years, she went ahead and married somebody without their knowledge.
            Like I said, both lies were designed to diminish each of them to their respective families so family would respect the partner for accepting them. Nazriya had to be pregnant because they could not abort the baby due to her sisters experiences and marrying the baby daddy whoever he is, is the best solution. Nani had to be impotent because his family is just glad that a girl is willing to marry their impotent son.
            Is it convoluted and messed up? Yeah. So it bigotry and patriarchy.
            I have many issues with the movie. But the respective lies do make sense.
            I am still waiting for a movie to have the guts to make its hero impotent for real (not a lie or for laughs) and treat it with respect. Why is it always the heroine’s ‘fault’ when the lead pair can’t conceive and male impotency happens only to side characters and comedians?

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      • This is what I think the reason for two lies based on what Nani says in the film and some Indian context. Nani’s intention was to make his parents respect Nazriya. He could have lied that she is pregnant but there are high chances that his family would never really accept Nazriya even after their marriage knowing the truth about pregnancy. But with this lie she will be treated as a great person because she agreed to marry despite knowing about his condition. We can see that in the Restaurant scene where Nani’s family talk highly of Nazriya. He would have continued with the lie about impotency even after the marriage.

        As Angie pointed out, they could have eloped instead of these lies as I don’t know how eloping is more bad than these lies but it would be a completely different film.

        But I agree these are stupid lies and there are million ways their plan could have gone wrong 😄

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  3. Even I felt the stuff at the beginning is a bit long and not necessary but after a re watch it made sense to me. It sets up why Nani always lies instead of confronting his parents, the Tadasthu gods and also the starting point for Nani and Nazriya friendship. The tribute song may not be necessary but still a good watch and very well choreographed.

    The boss thing is what generated huge laughs here at our theatre. He is a representation of the audience. At many moments the boss asks Nani the questions we audience wonder about. Though he didn’t influence the story but he is a crucial character for the screenplay the director chose. Ante Sundariniki story is good but its clever screenplay is what I loved the most about it.

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  4. I agree that the movie did feel kind of suffocating. I was so anxious during the last half an hour or so during the first time I was watching it. I did enjoy the twists and turns of the screenplay during my second watch though!

    My main issue with the movie is that it was marketed as a rom-com but we barely got to see Nani and Nazriya fall in love. The one song we got was really cute and I was hoping to see more of that.

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