Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana (If You Ask Me To Come, Will I Refuse?) is so incredibly sweet that it requires two reviewers at once to do it justice. That's why Alex, otherwise known as rhilex of Bolly Addict, has agreed to undertake a joint review with me!
The 2005 Telugu film opens in an unusual fashion: a prison guard catches an inmate up late and goes into the cell to talk to him. The inmate, Sivaramakrishna (Srihari), is choosing names to be given to his sister's children upon his release the next day. When the guard asks why his sister would not have chosen names during the other man's 5-year incarceration, we get a flashback.
Sivaramakrishna, his mother, and his sister Siri were kicked out of his rich father's house when Siri was just an infant. His mother died (of grief, which is a common Indian film name for "pre-existing heart condition") later the same day, and poor Sivaramakrishna had to make it on his own with his mother's ancestral farm--with some help from the local stationmaster. We see how he brought up Siri with nothing but love, including sending her to school, where she meets her best friend Lalitha (played as an adult by Veda).
Grown-up Siri (Trisha) leaves her home for the first time for Lalitha's wedding. And here, Prabhu Deva (the director) does something very interesting. Up until this point, the film has been pretty realistic, with understated-for-filmi performances, sweeping gorgeous vistas, and gritty hard work in the forefront of the action (well, except for one mostly-gratuitous fight scene). Suddenly, enter Santhosh (Siddharth), and the action goes cartoonish, overblown and stereotypical. He's overblown, ridiculously immature and hyperactive, and partying on a yacht to a 1999 Moby track when we first meet him. His father, Prakash Dad (as veracious has deemed him), is one of those ubiquitous filmi industrialist billionaires. His mom's a big snob, whose first question upon hearing of her niece's engagement is, "What caste is the bridegroom?" I HATE HER.
Santhosh continues to be as annoying as annoying can be for a good half-hour. He bounces around like a golden retriever on speed and drives poor Siri up the wall. Think Salman's character from HDDCS taken to 11 on a scale of one to ten. I couldn't understand this, the first time I watched the film. Even the only song I didn't like in the movie, big-band-style "Something Something," was in this portion. Where was the movie the lovely opening sequence promised me? Why was there Britney Spears (also 1999) and Baja Men (2000) instead?
But then, Siri and Santhosh fall in love... and everything becomes beautiful and realistic once more. And I realized, this is all being told from Sivaramakrishna's point of view. The workings of wealthy Lalitha and Santhosh's family and lifestyle are all a mystery to him, presented in his tale as the usual colorful filmi stereotypes because those are his only points of reference. Watching Santhosh woo Siri to the gorgeous "Niluvaddam Ninne" made me realize that I was going to love this movie.
I can't say too many good things about the performances of all the principles. People may talk about Siddharth in Bommarillu, and I still really like him in it, but this is the first role I've seen him in that I couldn't look away for a moment. Santhosh's transition from hyperactive manchild to responsible, hardworking adult in the second half is portrayed in an utterly believable fashion. Of course, he wouldn't have as much to work with if he weren't opposite adorable Trisha. She's more concerned with turning in a good performance than making sure her face is perfect in every frame, and I love her for it. In repose, she's a beauty queen. When she speaks or acts, her face is animated and accessible. She's wonderful.
Then there's Srihari, who plays the real hero of the movie. From start to finish, he makes every action on Sivaramakrishna's part completely sympathetic and believable. I adored him.
The supporting cast is hit-and-miss. I love the actors who portray village life, especially the girl who played Gauri, the servant girl. Prakash Dad turns in his usual good work, and Sunil is hilarious as Santhosh's best friend. Deva does great as Lalitha too. However, the villains for the most part are completely overblown, and I was so annoyed with the father of Siri's rival that I could barely stand to look at him. He was like desi Jabba-the-Hutt.
The music is gorgeous, with creative picturizations. I've put together a playlist, but unfortunately only one of the uploaded videos on YouTube have subtitles (sorry!):
Finally, I have to make mention of the fantastic use to which Prabhu Deva puts the countryside of Andhra Pradesh.
It's so incredibly gorgeous I would re-watch the second half just for the scenery. If you haven't seen Nuvostanante Nenoddantana, be sure to pick it up at your earliest opportunity. It's worth every penny. Now go read Alex's take on it, if you didn't arrive here from her blog.
(And, lest you think I've gone over to the South Side forever, let me assure you that I have lots of Hindi movies in my queue to be reviewed!)