Ever since I saw the title logo of Mohana Krishna Indraganti’s film, Sammohanam, I’ve been invested in it. Indraganti belongs to a rare section of filmmakers that marry the art of moviemaking to the commerce of storytelling. If he makes a comedy, the posters will tell you about it; and, if he makes a romance movie, the title itself will be enough to invite you to the theatres.
Sammohanam is a word that we don’t use in our day-to-day life. It might well drizzle into the pot of a song, but to popularize that sweet literary word through the title is akin to taking a gamble, I must say.
The bedazzlement of the title, and the movie, is absolutely Aditi Rao Hydari. Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai made her look like a princess in distress, and Indraganti has chosen to turn the page around to give her character a few more embellishments. She still plays a damsel in distress, but on a different note, however.
There’s a particular scene in this movie that appears almost an hour into the narrative that, I found, would speak volumes about our perception of women in the film industry. Sameera (Aditi) walks into the dining hall, casually, where Vijay (Sudheer Babu) is waiting for her. He gives her a top-to-bottom look (not the creepy one; the “oh, my god, you’re an angel” one). And, through P. G. Vinda’s camera, we are seeing what Vijay is witnessing and experiencing. The boy has, naturally, lost his stream of thoughts. Vijay, being a gentleman, pays a compliment and tries to act cool. His eyes, though, tell an interesting story. Is he looking at the heroine who’s staying at his house for a night, or is he gaping at the person he’s made friends with? He’s confused!
The camerawork aptly does justice to the aura around the heroine factor. And, why not! Aditi looks as mesmerizing as the rising sun over a chilly hill. Indraganti tries to squash the notions that we may have of actresses flowing from the North. They don’t speak our language (in this case, Telugu), and, yet, directors stand in an endlessly growing queue to get their dates. He puts literature (one of his pet subjects) and films at loggerheads. “Which is better?” he asks. There’s even a dialogue that sprouts from Sarvesh’s (Naresh as Vijay’s dad) mouth: “Cinema and Literature will live on forever.” And I whole-heartedly agree with him on this matter.
Also, Indraganti handles comedy like it is some kind of a child’s play. He knows how to take stock of a situation. Argumentative scenes that can go out of hand are milked for laughs in his movies. We’ve been seeing that since Ashta Chamma (2008). Here, too, there are several places where he does that. When Sarvesh is ridiculed for his interest in the acting field, he doesn’t storm out of the room with an angry face on his shoulders. He just tickles all the bones in your body before he leaves. Ah, what a charmer Naresh is! Every scene that he’s in is a riot – especially those closing moments where he goes overboard. I could sense the amount of freehand he’d have gotten from the hands of Indraganti and team.
When there are more than half a dozen actors in the frame, it becomes difficult to focus on one specific person. But Naresh’s dialogue delivery and his passion for “broad theatrical performances” in Sammohanam make those few minutes highly entertaining. And with Rahul Ramakrishna’s hilarious, and jittery, commentary, it can play as a comedy special on television channels / YouTube for years to come.
If not for Vivek Sagar’s enchanting music, there’d have been emptiness in Aditi’s face. It’s quite hard to decipher what she’s going through – is she angry, sad, or hurt? It’s like watching a beautiful vase with grand paintings all over it, but without any real flowers in it. That’s where magician Vivek Sagar comes in with his timely tunes and scintillating mood-pieces. He drives away the sullenness that fills the frames.
And, Sudheer Babu is neat in his role as a comic book writer-and-artist; and full-marks to Indraganti for writing a mature mother-son scene where the mother (Pavithra Lokesh) tells the son to accept rejection, and to not sulk. It’s a mother-advising-the-son talk that should be implemented in every household.
Sammohanam is the delight of the season. There are no two ways about it!