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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Review: ‘Sita Ramam’ is period romance done right along with being a mesmerizing visual treat

Sita Ramam is a love story between two star-crossed lovers amidst the riots, tension, war and other factors. The film delivers owing to the taut screenplay and great direction. The cinematography, production, graphics and costumes are done so well that you feel the scale is much bigger. The story is novel and unique, but there are moments that you are reminded of a classic like The Lunchbox. The screenplay, while taut otherwise, becomes very deviating in the second half. What keeps the shortcomings afloat are the performances by almost the entirety of the cast.

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To witness a movie do wonder with the critics and even box office numbers in today’s times is like quenching your thirst after a long walk in a desert. The love Sita Ramam has received down South has been a pleasant surprise for many, leading the makers to dub the film in Hindi and release it here. Having had the chance to witness the recently released Hindi version.

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 of a problem here as the film focuses on the rising tension between Hindus and Muslims from the 60s to 80s. One of the fascinating things about the film is its unique approach to storytelling, with Rashmika Mandanna’s character of Afreen 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 delivers owing to the taut screenplay and great direction.

Production Design & Background Score

As we watched the movie for about half an hour into it, we marvelled at the brilliant production design that the film showcased without seeming 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 feel that the scale is much bigger. This is in synergy with the amazing background score as it almost becomes a musical in multiple situations delivering the big theatre experience in the best possible way.

Hanu Raghavapudi and Mrunal Thakur in Sita Ramam
Hanu Raghavapudi and Mrunal Thakur

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, played by Mandanna, a Pakistan-origin student who arrives in India from London as she is asked to trace Sita to hand over a letter written 20-year before by Ram. Afreen takes the help of her college senior Balaji, played by 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 a 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 become recurrent even though the leading actors have themselves voiced their Hindi lines as well. We 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 harbouring 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. Over a long two-and-a-half hour, the film loses immense mileage post-interval. Even a few interesting cameos aren’t enough to save it.

Given the time the film is set in, coupled with some outlandish situations, there is a lot of suspension of disbelief demanded from us as viewers. 

The screenplay, while taut otherwise, becomes very deviating in the second half, leading us to lose interest until we reach the film’s final leg.

The Performances

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 persona and fine-acting chops are as amazing as it gets. The other cameos and supporting cast are also impactful and are a good reason to keep the film rolling even during tough times.

The Verdict

In the end, Sita Ramam is a poignant tale of period romance couples with stellar performances and impressive production design.

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