While the performances, music and cinematography are impressive, there are several issues with the story and the storytelling
Last Updated: 08.40 AM, May 18, 2023
In a sleepy-little hamlet Victoriapuram, Sudhakar and Prasad, belonging to two rival families are entangled in a bitter legal battle across decades. While Sudhakar fathers a baby boy, Prasad’s wife births a girl. Owing to an unexpected confusion at a hospital, the babies are interchanged by the nurses. Many years later, the grownup kids - Rishi and Aarya - are inseparable buddies with contrasting ambitions. Will their family feud threaten their future together?
Marking a departure from her upbeat, urban settings, director Nandini Reddy, in Anni Manchi Sakunamule, sets up her story in Victoriapuram, a fictitious, idyllic hill station in the Andhra-Tamil Nadu border region. With a backstory dating back to Queen Victoria’s coffee, men and women knitting sweaters, baking cakes, family feuds, childhood sweethearts, the filmmaker tries to lend a fairy tale-like quality to a familiar family drama.
With the misty mornings, the lush green landscapes, an existence in the lap of nature, Anni Manchi Sakunamule draws you into its world with its alluring backdrop. The story is about joint families, severed ties, king-sized egos with a dose of romance, pleasant music and humour thrown into the mix. Simply put - the filmmaker aims to tell a Sooraj Barjatya-tale with the aesthetics of a Karan Johar film. Yet, it doesn’t tug at your heartstrings.
Make no mistake, a feel-good drama is a package of several ingredients aimed to please audiences across age groups with varied tastes. The storyteller’s task, significantly, is to set up a seamless, free-flowing narrative where the mix works right. Despite its earnestness, Anni Manchi Sakunamule feels more like a mathematical calculation and less a story. The modern-day upgrade to an oft-told tale is all over the place.
Anni Manchi Sakunamule’s fault isn’t with the lack of effort but a case of excess. It is desperate to connect all the dots, hammer the point home, spoonfeed and leaves little to the imagination of the viewer. For instance, a calculative father can only have a miserly daughter, a laidback parent can only birth an unambitious son. The identities are almost repetitive. Much like Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, the genes decide everything.
It switches from being a breezy romance to a loud comedy to a sentimental drama; the tone of the film is inconsistent and the transitions are jarring. While Nandini Reddy is quite good at etching a bunch of goofball characters, there’s very little that’s left to discover with their psyche or their conflicts beyond a point.
The gender equations, especially with the leads, are reversed smartly (with the laidback male and the ambitious female), but the character-development is sketchy, marred by unconvincing dramatic liberties and poorly conceived time jumps. The issue is also with the bloated joint family setup that doesn’t permit the director enough space to do justice to all the character arcs.
Within a 150 minute narrative, the film discusses genes, legal (ego) tussles, ambitions, manipulative son-in-laws, relationships, parenthood and you’re only exhausted. Thankfully, the choice to adopt a nearly dialogue-less climax is a relief to the senses after a two-hour long verbal diarrhoea. Anni Manchi Sakunamule, more than binaries like good or bad, is tiring and it’s not exactly how a family drama must make you feel.
Santosh Soban isn’t a bad actor at all, but it’s time that he stops staging moments on screen and internalises his performances with more honesty. Malvika Nair is perhaps the only actor in the film who brings a rootedness to her character despite the chaos around her. Rajendra Prasad’s exaggerated portrayal isn’t effective while the other regulars - Naresh, Rao Ramesh - pass muster. Gautami plays her part with poise and enough restraint.
The talents of the ensemble cast - Sowcar Janaki, Vasuki, Ashwin Kumar, Ramya Subramanian, Bindu Chandramouli, Raj Madiraju, Vennela Kishore, Udbhav, Venkatesh Kakumanu, Urvashi - aren’t utilised to their fullest potential. Sunny Kurapati, Richard Prasad’s cinematography adds finesse to the result and despite churning out memorable tracks, composer Mickey J Meyer doesn’t get to offer anything new or out of the box.
As a director, Nandini Reddy is quite good with her character detailing but the conviction in the storytelling is amiss. She’s caught between her inner voice and the need to please her target audiences. The dialogues work when the writing is conversational (which isn’t the case for a major part of the film).
Anni Manchi Sakunamule is an okayish family drama with a few silverlinings. If you’re compelled to watch it, you’ll come out pleased with its aesthetics, music and the brief comedy portions. This certainly isn’t director Nandini Reddy’s best.