To be witnessing a movie do wonders with the critics and even box office numbers in today's times is like quenching your thirst after a long walk in a dessert. The love that Sita Ramam has received down South has been a pleasant surprise for many and this led the makers to dub the film in Hindi and release it here. Having had the chance to witness the recently released Hindi version, here's what I thought about it-
Period Romance Done Right
Straight off the bat, Sita Ramam is much more than a period romance. As much as the love story shines at the crux of it, the film is a love letter to patriotism albeit seeming rather one-sided at times. Luckily, that doesn't become much off a problem here as the film focuses on the rising tension between Hindus and Muslims from the 60s to 80s. One of the most fascinating things about the film is its unique approach to storytelling with Rashmika Mandanna's character of Afreen pretty much acting as the tool to convey this saga. A love story between two star-crossed lovers amidst the riots, tension, war and other factors might not seem too novel on paper but definitely delivers owing to the taut screenplay and great direction.
Production Design & Background Score
As I kept watching the movie and about half an hour into it, I marvelled at the brilliant production design that the film showcased without seeming it to be a big scale and grand film. The film isn't a three digit crore film with its budget but even then, the cinematography, production, graphics and costumes are done so well that you indeed feel that the scale is much bigger. This is in synergy with the amazing background score as it almost becomes a musical at multiple situations delivering the big theater experience in the best possible way.
Story & Dialogues
It is a mixed bag here. Mrunal Thakur as Sita Mahalaxmi and Dulquer Salmaan as Lt. Ram have a unique love story passing two decades and this is brought to notice by Afreen (Mandanna), a Pakistan-origin student arrives in India from London, when she is tasked with tracing Sita to hand over a 20-year-letter written to her by Ram. She takes the help of her college senior Balaji (Tharun Bhascker), who is now in Hyderabad. The story is so novel and unique but there are moments that you are reminded of a classic like The Lunchbox initially when the two characters exchange love letters until they meet. When it comes to the story in essence, it is big winner. Coming to the dialogues, this is where the film falters to no fault of the originally made film. As this is the dubbed version, the classic problems of emotions on-screen not matching the voice and intensity becomes recurrent even though the leading actors have themselves voiced their Hindi lines as well. I haven't seen the original Telugu version but here in Hindi, the impact is lost on a few occasions. Not that this hasn't led to some show-stealing dialogues that talk about loving your country not being wrong but harboring hatred for a neighbouring country at the cost of loving your own isn't correct.
The Length, Suspension of Disbelief & Deviation
There are factors that become an issue with Sita Ramam though. One of the first ones without a doubt has to be the length. This has become such a constant lately where longer films really need to justify the length and unfortunately, Sita Ramam doesn't do that entirely. Clocking over a long 2 and a half hours, the film loses immense mileage post interval. Even a few interesting cameos aren't enough to save it then.
Given the time the film is set in, coupled with some outlandish situations, there is a lot of suspension of disbelief that is demanded off from us as a viewer.
The screenplay, while taut otherwise becomes very deviating in the second half leading to lose interest until we reach the final leg of the film.
What keeps the shortcomings of the second half afloat are the performances by almost the entirety of the cast. Mandanna's extended cameo might be one of the best-written cameos in recent times and the actor performs it with conviction while Thakur registers a stellar debut in the Telugu film industry and has a phenomenal screen presence. Salmaan's charming personna, along with his fine acting chops is as amazing as it gets. The other cameos and supporting cast is also impactful and become a good reason to keep the film rolling even in its tough times.
In the end, Sita Ramam is poignant tale of period romance couples with stellar performances and impressive production design.
Rating - ***1/2 (3.5/5)