Recent Telugu movies of the rom-com drama genre have stood out for their sexism, misogyny, and long lectures on family and love (Nanna Nenu Naa Boyfriends
being an example). Director Satish Vegesna's Satamanam Bhavati thankfully takes a welcome detour from the bigotry and wafer-thin plots its peers offer. It is still a long lecture on family values and love, but it's more tolerable (harrowing speeches in Telugu romcoms apparently are not something you can escape from).
So a stern and laconic Raghavaraju (Prakash Raj) and his compassionate and loyal wife Janakamma (Jayasudha) - the elders of a small village - are living the life of an ideal couple. Or at least that is what they project to their children, grandchildren, and the rest of the village. For, while Raghavaraju strives to solve every problem the villagers face in their married lives, his own marriage is in trouble for unknown reasons as the couple no longer connect.
The couple have three children who are based abroad and barely have time for their parents. But when they sense trouble in paradise, the children, along with their own families, head home to visit Raghavaraju and Janakamma. Only, they have no clue on how to resolve a breaking marriage. So it is now upon the elderly couple's intelligent and sensible grandson Raju (Sharwanand) to discover the root of the problem and a way to patch the crumbling relationship which is on the verge of a divorce. And he needs to do all this while managing his own love life with his uncle's daughter Nitya (Anupama Parameswaran).
Satamanam Bhavati ponders on a very current issue - degrading family values and social interactions in an increasingly digital era. The lead couple's children and grandchildren are based abroad and do not find time for them and their problems, and that starts affecting their parents' relationship as Janakamma constantly speaks of her children's memories and ends up irking and grieving Raghavaraju. The issue gets so deep that they have nothing else to talk over, creating a widening and gap between them which seems to be hitting the point of no return.
But just when you think that Satamanam Bhavati is going to mirror a Baghban
and vilify the couple's children for being busy with their own lives, it pleasantly showcases the issue as merely a communication gap with a simple resolution. Another good point about the film is the scripting of Nitya - she is born and brought up abroad and knows little of the ways and traditions of south India, but the movie doesn't shame being Western, showing the villagers as quite inclusive. In fact the movie doesn't dwell upon the subject at all. This is a welcome diversion from several Indian films in the recent past that have belittled the "Western culture".
However, the drama starts to get trite and the dialogues lose flavour towards the last quarter of the movie. But the film compensates for its deficiencies with hilarious comedy and an impactful cast.
Sharwanand and Anupama emote brilliantly, and are refreshing and ebullient. Prakash Raj is excellent, of course - he carries the entire movie on his shoulders. While Anupama's and Sharwanand's acting coupled with decent direction are the foundations of this film, Prakash Raj makes it enjoyable and, also gives the audiences something to ponder over.
Sameer Reddy's rendering of the visuals for the countryside, the lake under starlight and several other scenes are captivating to say the least. And Mickey J Meyer's music and soundtrack are upbeat and enthralling.
While Satamanam Bhavati will appeal only to a segment of moviegoers, it deserves appreciation for taking a rather dated concept and presenting it in a refreshing and relatable format.