Kiran Abbavaram, Sai Kumar, Tulasi chip in with fine performances in a film with a decent premise
Kalyan, an aggressive college student from Kadapa, is the son of a wayward, alcoholic father Dharma. Dharma isn't respected by many around him, including his wife. Kalyan is in love with his college-mate Sindhu, who resists his advances initially, but ends up falling for him. There comes a time in his life where he has to own up to his family legacy and revive the business of a marriage hall, SR Kalyana Mandapam, founded by his grandfather many decades ago. Besides, there's an eerie silence between Kalyan and Dharma for many years; their equation, for reasons unknown, hasn't aged well with time. From mending his relationship with his father to taking over the reins of his family business and marrying the love of his life, Kalyan's priorities are clear.
SR Kalyana Mandapam's story had all the trappings of a solid family entertainer, which, however, isn't tapped to its fullest potential. The writer, Kiran Abbavaram, reverses the coming-of-age template of a responsible father and a wayward son here. This is a story where a dutiful son tries to salvage the reputation of an aimless father. The shift in the relationship dynamics gives an interesting dimension to the tale. The fact that the youngster also has to bring back the good-ol' days of his ancestral business serves as a perfect topping to the family drama. All that the director and the writer had to do was to fill the little gaps in the story smartly. Alas, their ideas go haywire.
The love story in this drama isn't anyway integral to the core theme, but it's the sheer recklessness with which the makers go about the entire romance track that downplays the significance of the father-son drama. Sindhu, the love interest of Kalyan, has hardly any say in the relationship. Any conversation between the two boils down to Kalyan's obsession with Sindhu's midriff and the latter's waist size. He stalks her endlessly for three years to win her interest and goes on a slapping spree to supposedly put her in her place. The girl ultimately has to fall for his manliness and it's hard to believe that such a regressive love track still finds a place in Telugu cinema in 2021.
Agreed that the film is essentially a father-son drama but none of the female characters has a voice here. The wife and sister of Dharma are portrayed as if they have no job but to create tantrums and make the life of Dharma difficult. The role of the women is more or less restricted to their love interests or marriages. SR Kalyana Mandapam needn't be a woman emancipation drama, yes, but some care should've been taken to not make the misogyny look so apparent to the naked eye. It's such a pity that there are dialogues where a woman is equated to Goddess Durga in the lines, highlighting their ability to destroy miscreants and bless her devotees.
The very idea of young actors trying to score brownie points by pleasing a fan base of a certain set of stars is such an outdated and done-to-death tool in Telugu cinema. This looks so out of place in SR Kalyana Mandapam. The hero is a Chiranjeevi fan (watch out for his introduction sequence with a medley of Chiru songs in the background) while his obsession with the midriff is also linked to the interval sequence of the two-decade-old Pawan Kalyan-starrer Kushi. One wished a talent, as promising as Kiran Abbavaram didn't fall prey to such tricks. The tiresome second hour goes way too far in establishing Kiran as a mainstream hero.
To give credit where it's due, the two veterans, Tulasi and Sai Kumar are so much at ease in front of the screen and it doesn't take much time for them to slip into the shoes of their roles. Their heated exchanges throughout the film ensure many hilarious moments. Srikanth Iyengar is solid while he lasts, but his role as Sindhu's father, though, is too unidimensional to impress. Chaitan Bharadwaj's spirited numbers go well with the film. The dialogues are partly impressive, particularly in the film's first sequence, where a couple of men talk about leading a meaningful life to be remembered by people even after their death. Kiran Abbavaram, the actor, scores better than the writer in him, while it's hard to understand what made Priyanka Jawalkar sign this project.
It's a smart move that team SR Kalyana Mandapam opted for a theatrical release before its digital premiere. It's quite clear that the film isn't meant for the OTT audience. Watch it only if you must.