Going through certain motions of day to day living I sometimes silently think Bratike undanee naalo manishini… (Let the human in me live!), and that’s how I remembered the song Mallee puttanee naalo manishini… (May the human in me reborn again) from the Telugu movie Vedam. I remember writing a review almost a year and a half ago. The site that published it doesn’t exist anymore. Hence I try to post the article here.
Here’s the review
Disclaimer: While this piece is an attempt to encourage those who haven’t seen Vedam to go to the theaters, it is equally for those who have seen it.
For those who haven’t seen it, this article does mention few story points, but it doesn’t spoil any fun. You can go to the theaters expecting what is expected from a Telugu film. Irrespective of how it comes across, you will surely watch this film few years later. By then there will be more films like this; this piece is about what’s in Vedam that it will inspire more films like these.
From those who have seen it already, many must have liked it, and many others wouldn’t even want to consider it as a half decent movie. This piece doesn’t intend to challenge their stance, it intends to say that Vedam stresses on the saying – “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Consider this scene – a prostitute is pushing a wheel chair carrying a stabbed eunuch, across a hospital corridor. She is not worried if the doctors come to help, because at that moment few terrorists are chasing and killing anyone who comes in sight. She along with the eunuch is running for life.
Then this scene – in the exact opposite corridor, a wannabe rock star and a wannabe rich guy are leading a group of people to safety, saving them from the same terrorists. This group includes a mother who’s going through pregnancy pains, a Muslim who’s been mistaken for a terrorist, few nurses, few patients and many others whom we can relate to.
What similarity do you see between these two scenes?
The idea is not to talk about metaphors, but to drag your wonderment on how subtly a filmmaker can use them to tell us a story. These two scenes demand you to run backwards and ask who these people are, what they were doing there and also what happens next.
That forms the story of ‘Vedam’. Incidentally, the above two scenes summarize the very essence of human condition in a country like ours. “What’s wrong with our condition”, one could ask? Nothing, just that we are left to dream, left to want more, left to desire safety, left to escape in time of trouble and yet satisfy the need to be called an Indian and importantly a human! Sounds too complex doesn’t it? Vedam simplifies all of it in just 135 minutes.
And with these two scenes it talks about the human condition. Vedam shows the troubles of every one of us with just one character, a character whose ‘value’ everyone lusts, and whose responsibility no one takes – The Prostitute. Brilliant!
The prostitute has a friend, who inspite of human limitations, becomes the prostitute’s only partner, irrespective of what she does is right or wrong. That character is infact a Eunuch. Master stroke!
So a prostitute and eunuch become the narrators and metaphors of a story about us told by picking up few amongst us – a wannabe rock star, a poor guy wanting to be rich, an insecure Muslim, and a grandpa ready to sell his body parts for his grandson’s education.
The prostitute and the eunuch characters become the most mundane “et cetera” we add at the end of sentences! Yet this very “et cetera” makes sentences more meaningful.
When these two, the prostitute and eunuch, sing “egiripothe entha bavuntundi…” (How nice would it be to fly away), they are singing not just for the other characters in the film, but about us, you and me. Period!
When they try to make deals selling body, we see the other characters making deals too – some selling body parts, others selling souls.
When the prostitute and eunuch change plans to lead a normal life, without selling body, that’s when the film hits us, because by then it has come to an end. What makes each character change their way of life is the essence of Vedam.
Emotionally Vedam is a heart wrenching tale. It shows the insecurity caused by a past, conflict of the present, and struggle for a stable future, in a way we, as Telugu audience, never experienced. It keeps pointing towards that human inside each one of us, who seems to be asleep for most of our lifetimes. It takes sides with a thief or a prostitute as much as it does with a terrorist. Yet it questions their reasons – reasons that can be shaken by just few situations that happen in life! And hence irrespective of too much killing, too much violence and violations, Vedam is a fulfilling experience.
Krish’s story and direction don’t deserve a hug or a kiss. They coax you to bend down and touch his feet if you could, or express a heartfelt gratitude or a silent prayer that this isn’t another Guru Dutt* in the making. He had the guts of wanting to tell a story in a region that loves excess of any emotion in the name of entertainment.
He found soulful friends in his Music Director, Cinematographer and Editor. He also found some willing actors, who, in spite of their region’s demands wanted to act in a ‘risky’ movie. Together these people showcase a spectacular achievement brought by the synergy of many minds who understood the soul of Vedam.
Gnanasekhar’s camera puts us into the scenes; Sravan’s editing doesn’t let our minds waver, and Keeravani’s score strums many heartstrings. Krish’s dialogues make a deeper connection with us, and the settings are as real as our memories of our lives are. The actors are so good that one could feel sorry to call them actors!
If Allu Arjun’s acting doesn’t bring tears to our eyes, we better check our hearts if they are made of stone. Manoj Manchu eases into the complex role of an innocent but innately angry, wannabe rockstar .
Lekha Washington, Deeksha Seth, Siya Gautham, and Nikki, bring authenticity to the characters they play. The performances of debutant old man Nagaiah, and Saranya are too honest to believe. Manoj Bajpai brings along the power of his eyes.
Anushka Shetty deserves commendations for taking up a raw role of a prostitute who likes what she is doing. Yet this very character is a central metaphor to the entire theme of Vedam.
But finally Vedam isn’t about metaphors or narrators or storytellers or actors. Vedam is a complex story of humanity itself told with utmost simplicity and lots of love for the humans inside each one of us.
Even if after watching Vedam we aren’t moved, maybe we should listen to the song “Malle Puttanee… Naalo Manishini” (Let the Human in me be born again), it could be about us.
From purely Telugu Cinema’s perspective Vedam is a powerful film whose time has come. It demands that Telugu filmmakers and audiences say “Malle Puttanee… Telugu Cinema nee” (Let Telugu Cinema be born again)!
*Guru Dutt, who made films that were way too forward for his time, committed suicide at the age of 39. Many say that it could be a result of a failed marriage. Others think that this was a man who was anguished from a sense of being creatively misunderstood.