Comment - Mallela Teeramlo Sirimalle Puvvu
A FILM BY LOVE, TO LOVE FOR LOVE A great love story like that of 'Heer Raanjha', 'Laila-Majnu', 'Sohni-Mahiwal' and 'Mirza-Sahiban'? Not really....
A FILM BY LOVE, TO LOVE FOR LOVE
A great love story like that of 'Heer Raanjha', 'Laila-Majnu', 'Sohni-Mahiwal' and 'Mirza-Sahiban'? Not really. Commonplace, the triangle between a career driven man, a neglected wife and an understanding friend. But it is the director's vision which makes it special
I almost missed 'Mallela Teeramlo Sirimalle Puvvu' mistaking it for 'Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu'. I am glad that I made enquiries.
Two questions: Why did the makers give it such a title which could be mistaken for another film, released just a few months earlier, to critical acclaim? And what exactly does this title mean anyway, 'A jasmine blossom on bank of jasmines"? No logic to it. But then, there was no logic to 'Idi mallela velayani, Idi vennela masamni'. 'This is the hour of jasmines, this is the month of moonlight' too, but that did not prevent anyone from losing oneself in the lulling melody of that song (Devulapalli Krishna Sastry, SP Kodhandapani, P Susheela, 'Sukhadukhalu,' 1968, IS Murthy).
After seeing the film, I found it impossible to believe that it was made by debutante Rama Raju, to whom the story, screenplay and direction are credited. He brought out a sterling performance too, from the heroine. Most films have stories based on love. The very first Indian film, was about a man, Harischandra, who loved his concept of truth so much that he sold his wife and then himself for 'keeping his word'. Another, equally obsessed with romantic love that he became mad when he couldn't get his lady-love Laila. Then there was this epic hero Rama, who was so bothered about his image in the public that he had his pregnant wife Seeta, abandoned in the forest, because some lout questioned her chastity while she was held captive by a demon king.
This film, 'Mallela Teeramlo Sirimallepuvvu', is about three kinds of love. One man is in love with himself and in making money. His wife, dejected by his single-minded devotion to money and egoistic behaviour, loves a young lyricist. It is clear that she loves him sincerely and she longs for a physical relationship with him even while married to another. And then there is this youth, who loves her as deeply, longs for a union as fervently, but not when she is still in wedlock. It is this man's commitment to values that makes his love, purer than platinum; and more precious. Being a poet, he is alive to love's exhilaration. He is sensitive to intense heated romance, he is cognisant of her yearning for him. But he won't budge. He can't even stand the touch of her palm on his hand, while she's another man's wife.
A great love story, like that of 'Heer Raanjha', 'Laila-Majnu', 'Sohni-Mahiwal' and 'Mirza-Sahiban'? Not really. Common-place, the triangle between a career-driven man, neglected wife and an understanding friend. But it is the director's vision which makes it special. He avoids cliches. When the businessman husband discovers that his wife is not willing to have sex with him, he says, 'If you don't want it, I won't even touch you'. If you are not willing, there will be another woman. I dreaded a cut into an item song by a half-exposed and quarter-clad woman crooning, 'Come! Come!!' with Silk Smitha eyes. Thank God there wasn't.
Throughout the film, the dialogue isn't overtly romantic. It is natural sounding, with a large quotient of English, as you'd find in the conversation of educated youth today. A funny thing though. The dialogue isn't credited to anybody. We are supposed to presume that it is the director's because he is credited with the story, screenplay and direction. All of KV Reddy's films had his screenplay but the dialogues were always by someone else (Pingali mostly).
Another appealing fact of the film is its visual beauty. No. your eyes aren't rubbed into scarlet sunsets and dazzling displays of colour. The businessman's apartment is modern, understated in elegance. The poet's abode is modest but surrounded with flowering plants outside and spic and span inside. The heroine's sarees are crisp cotton in muted single colours and organdy in pastel shades. The youth's attire isn't so eye-candy, but still attractive. The outdoors where some of the songs have been shot come alive with natural vibrance. The greenery of verdure, the oranges, reds and browns of blossom.
The heroine appeared in two Telugu films earlier, 'Bus Stop' and 'Manasara' where she was pleasantly unmannered. Here she is extra-ordinary, not a single wrong note in the symphony conducted by the director. The youth is lovable, his vulnerable looks charming the heroines and the audience. The husband is all macho without body-exposure and is personification of a self-centered man. No, he isn't a boozing, brawling villain. Just a man who lusts after lucre. Rao Ramesh as the father of the girl is an illustration of such a character. In the beginning, he keeps telling the daughter, 'you better get used to it'. Later, when he realises the problem, he is all supportive.
The photography and editing (Bal Reddy P and Dharmendra Kakarla) are technically slick; more important, they contribute to the 'feel' of the narrative. The words of the song 'Mabbulu kurise' are lost in the oreshtra (no din, though). But it is a pleasant tune. 'Ala chandamamavai' and 'Nee needana' are beautiful in music (Ravindra Prasad), meaningful in lyric (Uma Maheshwar Rao). 'Matakandani' by Nithyasantoshini is a show-stopper by all counts. Pawan Kumar's back-ground music underscores the onscreen sentiment.
A Sanskrit sloka is used in a crucial moment. It's sentiments, 'They are two but one', cannot be understood as the shots unfold. If it was recited musically, in easy-to-understand Telugu, it would have put the scene on a marble pedestal. It is brave of the director to eschew the use of eroticism in a love story. There are two sequences of physical touch, between the husband and wife, between the two lovers. Both show one's hand over the others. The wife's withdrawal with distaste and the lover-boy's with apprehension, are a visual counterpoint that is emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating.
Yes. there are repetitive shots, of doors opening, cups of coffee being shared but they seem to be a part of director's statement that life, even for those in love, is repetitive. Two questions remain. What does the heroine do in her friends's dance class - dance or teach? Does her lover give her the key to his place as he says he would? She is never shown using it. Equally strange: doesn't anybody notice her daily outing? The maid or the security?
It isn't your typical Telugu film. There are no fights, no item numbers, no double-entendre, no comedy track. It is a film made with love (producer G. Uma Devi) for people in love and those die-hards who want to rediscover love. Mohabbat zindabad: Premaku jai!!
- The writer is a noted film historian and critic