There was a time when Telugu movies used to be dubbed or remade in Tamil. Nowadays the trend is towards making bilingual movies, where the Tamil and Telugu versions are shot separately.
This gives producers room to tweak some parts to suit the taste of Tamil film- goer. Clearly, this is a win-win formula, and producer Lakshmi Manchu, daughter of iconic actor Mohan Babu, has done just that with Maranthen Mannithen, the bilingual movie which has released big this week. The Telugu version, Gundello Godari released a little earlier.
The film begins very interestingly, with Chitra (Lakshmi Manchu) traveling by train for her wedding. This is the 1980s’, when many states in the country are experiencing heavy rains and flooding. However, in a small fishing hamlet in the district of Rajamundhry on the banks of the Godavari, the villagers are busy organizing a grand feast for the marriage of Malli (Aadhi), a happy-go-lucky fisherman and Lakshmi Manchu . While everyone including the priest is happy, Malli and Chitra look a bit uncomfortable when the mangalsutraI is tied.
Just as you are wondering why the newly weds look so glum, the mystery deepens when a grandly dressed Sarala (Taapsee Pannu ), arrives at the marriage venue, and with a sultry smile gifts a gold ring to the groom. Malli takes it, looking as though he were handling a snake. Even as a buzz goes up among the guests about her visit, a grinning Senthil swaggers up to the pandal and gifts a gold chain to the bride. Before the crowd can react, the bunds of the river break and everyone rushes out to move their cattle, their belongings and their families to a higher ground.
Except the newlyweds, who appear shell shocked . However, the rushing waters forces them to come out of their apathy, and as Malli and Chitra find themselves marooned on a hay stack, they slowly begin to talk to each other. Not sure if they will come out of the monsoon’s fury alive, Malli tells her about how Sarala impacted his life. Daughter of a rich man, who also owns the boat that Malli uses for fishing, Sarala forces Malli to take her out to movies and spend time with her. When her father hears rumours about their relationship, he foists an illegal toddy brewing case on Malli. When he comes out of jail, an angry Malli wants to confront Sarala’s father, but he is away from home. Instead, Sarala seduces him, and Malli’s dream of buying his own boat remain just that-a dream.
Chitra then tells Malli her life story, of how three men intersected in her life, playing havoc. Halfway through her story, the deluge becomes worse, and both of them are swept into the water. Malli manages to get on to a bridge, and he sees Chitra floating far away.
Does she survive? Does she live to tell her tale of sufferings and how she overcame them? Do the newlyweds live happily ever after? You have to watch the movie to find out.
Aadhi, Lakshmi Manchu and Taapsee have pulled in natural performances. Manchu’s huge eyes are a big plus and she makes excellent use of them to convey anger, sorrow, distress and laughter. As a mischievous and thoughtless rich girl, Taapsee is a breeze to watch, while Aadhi is the very epitome of a young , guileless but self respecting fisherman. Sundeep Kishan as Suri, one of the three men in Chitra’s life does not have to sweat much in a role tailor made for him.
Maestro Ilayaraja has scored the music and as always is a treat. The song, Gudhikudhamma (lyrics by Muthulingam) is a signature Raja Sir song and an honest tribute to the fishing community. The rebooting of old Raja number Rathiri nerathu did not work as well as the original for me, but on the whole the songs and the background score gel with the story beautifully.
Kumar Nagendra has done a good job as director, and there is hardly any lag in the screenplay. Nowhere does the film have a ‘Telugu’ look, which is not a mean achievement when you are shooting a bilingual. MR Palanikumar’s camera work adds strength to a story line which is not linear, but does not lose out on compelling narration.