The biggest cliche in the film industry is the word "different". When a director, producer or actor says that his movie is "different", or that he has attempted something "different" in his movie, the result is usually the most hackneyed potboiler with the most predictable and oft-repeated plotline. You can hardly ever blame them - that is what they do best - but you still wish someone would actually do something different. Well, here is something different.
Writer, director Mohankrishna Indraganti's Anthaka Mundu Aa Taruvatha (AMAT) is similar to several love stories that you've seen, in terms of the puppy romance it portrays, but is also different from them, in terms of the route it takes to bring this romance to its happy ending. Before we get to that, we'll get the mandatory plot summary out of the way.
The film is about Anil (Sumanth Ashwin) and Ananya (Eesha), a very-much-in-love couple who have doubts about taking their relationship to the next level. These doubts, in part, arise from the issues faced by their parents (played by Rao Ramesh and Rohini, and Ravi Babu and Madhubala - yes, the Chinni Chinni Aasa girl from Roja).
The two decide to live together as a couple to see if they are really compatible, and treat it as a test for their love. Whether they pass this exam with distinction, or merely pass, or fail completely, forms the plot - or not!
AMAT is not about whether or not they pass - it being a romantic Telugu entertainer, the result is a given. The film is instead about how they pass - about how they realise that life is not all about one-hour dates where people dress to impress each other and put on their best behavior for the duration of the date.
Indraganti crafts a mature love story with no shortcuts - the boy and the girl feel a mutual attraction, but take their time to express their feelings to each other. They start arguing, and walk out on each other on day two when they start living together, but go back to each other and give the experiment more time. And when they finally come together in the end, it is not because they decide that they can't live without each other - it is because they decide that they can live with each other in spite of all their flaws.
The director tackles a variety of topics boldly - including menstrual cycles and premarital sex - and makes some wonderful points along the way. When Anil says to a friend (Srinivas Avasarala in a very good role) that this is a test for his love, his friend simply remarks that he should not wait to get full marks, that a relationship does not work that way. When Ananya mentions to her friend Latha (again played nicely by Jhansi) that this is their test, Jhansi straightaway asks her if she will continue taking such tests with different people till she is successful! The writing is simple, straightforward and hard-hitting.
The acting is understated and good. Sumanth Ashwin, producer M S Raju's son, is good as the boy next door, and does well in his role. There are raw edges, but then, this is his second movie.
Eesha, a debutante, is completely believable, and does very well where she has to be herself (meaning she looks extremely uncomfortable in the filmy duets). The supporting cast does a good job too, with Rao Ramesh, Rohini and Ravi Babu pitching in with nice performances.
The only actor striking a false note in AMAT is Madhubala, who makes a pretty bad comeback. She also looks anorexic, and like someone who's taken uncontrolled Botox treatment to look plastic.
The music is functional, and the songs are mostly in the background. The visuals are extremely pleasant, with some nice and pleasing colours. The producers need to be truly given a pat on the back for backing this project.
If we have to nitpick, we would say that the movie is slightly slow, and also low on entertainment. But AMAT is indeed an important movie that deserves to be seen. For all the candyfloss or vulgar romances that we get in the name of youth love stories, AMAT is a clean, mature, well-written film that raises some serious questions and even attempts to answer them.