Venu Udugula uses poetry and visual imagery effectively to make the viewer buy this ambitious premise
Last Updated: 08.04 PM, Jun 16, 2022
Vennela (Sai Pallavi) is a girl born under tense circumstances to a couple in a small hamlet in (erstwhile) Andhra Pradesh. She is a pampered child and the apple of her parents’ eyes. Her father Ramu (Sai Chand), being an oggu katha artiste himself, consistently encourages her to listen to her true calling and not be swayed by what the world says. When Vennela accidentally spots a series of books written by a naxal-cum-poet Ravanna, her life takes a drastic turn.
In the early years of the protagonist Vennela’s life in Virata Parvam, her father says, ‘In life, you need to remember two days well - the day you were born and the day you discover why you were born.’ Virata Parvam isn’t your candyfloss romance, it’s a love story where a girl tries to find hope amidst a bunch of prickly thorns. Her love for a naxal Ravanna stems from his poetry, the cause he stands for - it’s a romance born out of reverence and deep admiration.
And how do you convey admiration on the screen without over-glorifying the protagonist as a messiah? Writer, director Venu Udugula has quite a task at his hand and uses this personalised tale as an avenue to discuss the socio-political situation of interior Telangana in the 90s. Inspired by a true story, the film tries to paint an honest picture of the lives of the underprivileged and a group that stands up for them in their hour of need.
When there’s only hopelessness and brutality around, how is Vennela still optimistic about her future with Ravanna? Venu Udugula borrows a leaf out of Karnan filmmaker Mari Selvaraj’s book with the way he drives his story through poetry and visual imagery. The storyteller strikes an interesting parallel between her love for Ravanna and Mirabai’s admiration for Krishna. ‘True love is as good as God,’ Vennela takes her father’s words seriously.
As a woman asks Vennela the reason behind her interest in Ravanna, she equates it to sleep, hunger - ‘it is what it is even without a reason,’ she says in a nutshell. That’s when the film lands in a tricky terrain; it’s too ambitious a premise for a viewer to buy. While we see the story through Vennela’s eyes, the film doesn’t give the viewers a chance to know Ravanna beyond the poet and the rebel in him. Virata Parvam is largely about what others feel for Ravanna, while you expect to know him better.
The film justifies its pro-naxal backdrop well initially but reiterates its stance time and again through many characters and situations. The intensity drops are frequent because of the repetitiveness in the storytelling. The police force and the politicians are largely depicted as manipulators. Beyond a point, what Virata Parvam lacks is an alternate voice or a perspective. While it offers an insight into the many internal conflicts within the naxal groups, Virata Parvam doesn’t feel holistic because of its one-dimensional stance.
However, you are invested in the film because of its earnestness and Vennela’s conviction in her path - there’s something very philosophical and spiritual about her love. Destiny gives her a rude shock due to a series of terrible coincidences and still, she embraces it wholeheartedly. Apart from the love story, Virata Parvam has its heart in the right place with the way it presents the relationships between Vennela, Ravanna and their parents.
It’s delightful to see how Vennela’s father never discourages her daughter from her chosen path and becomes her strength. The portions where Ravanna reads out the only poem he wrote for his mother shape up beautifully. The main issue with Virata Parvam is the fact that it’s too attached to its subject, tells the story more like an insider and doesn’t try to look at it from a distance.
Composer Suresh Bobbili’s work brilliantly emphasises how music and art are so integral to any movement. While Kolu Kolu and Nagaadaarilo are among the best folk songs one has heard in Telugu cinema for a long time, he prefers to retain a rustic flavour minus any cinematic touches for the other numbers. The visual metaphors in the film warrant your attention, but the cinematography, given the credentials of Divakar Mani and Dani, doesn’t win you over.
Virata Parvam is an out-and-out Sai Pallavi film and she is the glue that holds the film together even in its weakest moments. The radiance in her smile as the character meets the man of her dreams is a sight to behold. Her character graph does justice to her mettle and the film is another showcase of her effortlessness as a performer after Fidaa and Love Story. However, it’s high time that the actress moves away from the typical Telangana rural girl stereotype.
It takes a lot of courage for someone as big as Rana to accept a film that’s quintessentially a Sai Pallavi vehicle and remain so secure, graceful in letting her take centre-stage. Sai Chand, Zarina Wahab, Priyamani, Easwari Rao, Rahul Ramakrishna and Naveen Chandra do justice to their roles while Nanditha Das brings credibility to her brief appearance. Nivetha Pethuraj’s blink-and-a-miss cameo and Benarji’s presence don’t register a strong impact.
At 150 minutes, Virata Parvam is long by at least half an hour. All said and done, this was a story that had to be told. Even with its many flaws, Venu Udugula gives us something so pure and memorable and makes us think.
Don’t go to Virata Parvam expecting yourself to be swept away by its ambitious premise. Instead, give it enough time to grow on you. There’s a timeless quality to the romance though the narrative isn’t consistently engaging. Sai Pallavi in an author-backed role is the lifeline of the film while Venu Udugula yet again proves he’s a storyteller to watch out for.