Halfway through Sankranti, you are thinking that this is nothing like the casserole you'd ordered. First, Venkatesh isn't making you giggle at all, and seems unrepentently content living in a bovine role that is ideal for maybe a Srihari or even better, an S V Ranga Rao. Then, the film seems to believe that it's a bullock cart with a purpose. And finally, there is no glamor (Aarti Agarwal has a 5-minute role) and no comedy, and most songs appear like complete misfits in the setting.
If from this situation the film actually manages to claw back to watchability, it is due to excellent performances by Venkatesh and Srikanth, and some heart-tugging concepualization and dialogues in the second half. Ventakesh in particular essays a role that makes you completely accept him as the perfect man to learn from, how to handle complex situations in family relationships. Bereft of his biggest crowd-pulling draws - comedy and action - he stills puts in a performance that etches in even deeper his reputation as one of the finest actors in Telugu.
Raghavendra (Venkatesh) runs a shop along with his parents (Chandramohan and Sarada) and 3 brothers. In a marriage he runs into Padma (Aarti Agarwal) and it's instant love, but their engagement is called off by Padma's dad when Raghavendra's family loses their shop and home in a demolition of illegal structures by the government. And when Padma suggests uncharitably that he can live with her family and they'll put his brothers in work in some store, he banishes her from his life.
With the support of his younger brother Vishnu (Srikanth), he builds a successful business from scratch again, and educates the two younger brothers. He marries Anjali (Sneha), and the film is then about some situations that come up that can break the family up, and how their bonds overcome them.
The film is initially a disappointment as Venkatesh emotes a serious character, thereby depriving you of his fantastic flair for comedy. In fact, apart from a tolerable parallel thread involving Venu Madhav, the film has practically no lighter side. But then, the depiction of the family's ties through small incidents stands out for the panache with which it is done. A scene where Venkatesh tells Srikanth not to take money from the family's safe is exceptionally enacted by both, the latter especially. Srikanth is an asset to the film. The climax is another class act.
The performances are fantastic and the greatest asset to the film, though the two younger brothers are complete rookies. Sneha is quite apt for the lead-lady's role. The music is routine Telugu fare, and the duets completely deviate from the way the characters are presented, and serve more as interruptions to the flow. The film is perhaps not for youth out to have a good time, and may not do as well in Hyderabad as it will in the rest of the state, where it will be supported by family audiences and the women.
On the flip side, Venkatesh is hopefully clear about what roles like this can do to an image.