Thanks to Amazon Prime and other streaming services, movies can now be divided into ‘must watch in a theatre’ versus ‘wait for it to stream’ versus ‘don’t even bother when it streams’. This, I believe is a whole new phase and one that is very useful for some of us who cannot make regular visits to the theatres. So we read the reviews, hear people talk about certain films, get asked the ‘you haven’t seen it yet?’ question, all the while patiently waiting for the movie to stream. And when it does, the kids go to bed early, dinners are carried to the hall and we watch the movie – first day, second show, albeit in the comfort of our homes. And that is exactly how, I ended up watching Majili in the previous week.
‘Panikimaalina vedhavalandariki lakshanamaina pellaalu vastaaru’ – this was the dialog from the movie that stuck in my head at the end. This dialog and how this trope is popularised by Telugu Cinema for ever. I remember watching Cinema Soopista Maava and coming out of the theatre wondering what the director wanted to convey. That a girl who’s the topper of the state will only fall in love with someone who has never passed his boards? That a guy who works hard to build a good life for himself is worthless? That to be able to ‘pataofy’ a girl, you need to be a vagabond who roams around the city with a bunch of completely useless friends. And fathers, who raise their daughters up with love, affection and care, become bumbling idiots and hand over their daughters to these good-for-nothings at the end of a stupid challenge.
Majili takes this trope further. Naga Chaitanya, in the movie, is like Arjun Reddy. He had a first love that he lost, so he gives up on his aim of becoming a cricketer, becomes an alcoholic instead and walks around town picking up fights and drinking himself to glory. He hates himself and everyone around. Samantha is the girl who loves him unconditionally since her teens and when she sees him in self-destruct mode, walks up to her father and tells him that she will either marry him or stay single.
Now, imagine you were her father. Here is your girl, the one who you brought up with all your attention, telling you that she will either marry the drunk, good-for-nothing guy who lives in the house opposite yours or she will stay with you. What would you do? I, for one, would very happily thank her for giving me the choice and keep her at home. She can work, study, go out with her friends and party the hell out of life and I would take care of her. In my head, I would also secretly hope that she will, in due course of time, see the truth of the matter, and fall in love with a nice sensible guy and settle down (because, like a friend’s father said, ‘Paddenimidi yella vayasulo pandi ki ponds powder vesinaa andangaaane kanipistundi’). But in the movie, Posani walks up to the boy’s Dad and tells him that he has no choice but to get his daughter married off to the drunk.
Now if you were the father of the drunk – what would you do? If I were there, I would talk some sense to my boy (or slap the shit out of him) for brooding about first love and destroying a promising career. Next, I would tell the girl’s dad that I have no intention of destroying a girl’s life and advise him not to do it too.
Now if I were the drunk, what would I do? I would keep on drinking and destroy my liver and meet with the Devdas ending – at least that would be the honorable thing to do (and the more pleasurable one too, think of all you could drink!). But here the drunk chooses to marry the girl (parental pressure y’all), then keeps her in a separate room and lives and drinks on her earnings. Can we have some applause all around please – thank you, thank you!
The other problem with Majili was that it could not decide what tone it wanted to take. The entire second half, where you are dealing with issues like an unconsummated, unhappy marriage, aging father seeing his son go to pieces, a teenage child suddenly being sent off with a stranger and discovering things about her mother, and adoption even, is dealt in a tragi-comic manner. Are we supposed to be smiling at how awkward the wife feels when her husband of a few years comes close to her. Are we supposed to be laughing when she admonishes her father-in-law for not taking his drunk son’s side? Are we supposed to be enjoying the false proximity that this couple displays for the sake of a teenage child who insists that they act as husband and wife if they want to adopt her? I was lost and in the finale, when Samantha decides to forgive Naga Chaitanya – I wanted to tell her not to – he ain’t worth a piece of your attention.
Overall, the movie was quite underwhelming and far removed from the blockbuster status it seems to have achieved. When I go back and read reviews that called it a sensitive portrayal of love or a sensible love story, I feel confused – either I don’t understand love or they don’t. Either which ways, my wait for a blockbuster/ sensible love story continues!