There's something about movies that think that they have all the time in the world to get a couple to fall in love. And when you do it right, the reward is always predictable.
Godavari is professionalism in movie-making, where you give a lot of importance to your script and screenplay, and take your time making your film – Anand happened 2 years back, and Shekhar Kammula evidently has spent good time on his latest. You can almost visualize him spending days thinking up each scene, fighting creative blocks and jaded thought, trying to time and again revisualize the entire movie to see whether and how each scene connects in the overall theme of emotions, trying to guage the exact level of subtlety that will work with his audiences, and in general making life a bitch for himself.
That is the struggle behind good film-making, and when you do that, the result shows.
Godavari is purely creativity since it doesn't have a cast that can pull crowds by itself or elaborate visuals, and is just a love story at the end of the day. Treatment is all that matters, then, and this is some first-string treatment.
Sriram (Sumanth) is an idealistic young engineer who's returned from the US and wants to join politics to help the country, and so loses his childhood sweetheart and cousin Raji, who wants to marry someone more sane. Nursing a broken heart, he still gamely accompanies the family to Bhadrachalam for Raji's marriage to an IPS recruit, as they get on a launch for the 2-day trek across the Godavari.
Sitamahalakshmi (Kamalini Mukherjee) is a girl just about to hatch into womanhood, and fresh from shutting down her ill-fated entrepreneurial stint in running a boutique and smarting from a suitor who decided he did not want to marry her after her first pelli choopulu, takes off alone on a trip to Bhadrachalam.
They land up on the same launch, and thereon, it's a series of very well-conceptualized interactions as they fall in love. About 90 minutes of the film is spent on the launch as they cross the Godavari – the Upponge Godavari – and is filled with the individual moments of a strong-willed and animated young woman courting a more contemplative man she respects for his integrity, but someone who's frustratingly in love with another woman who's anyway getting married.
The languid courtship is the soul of Godavari. The sprightly Sita has to battle her own none-too-insignificant ego to get Sriram to notice her and deem her better than Raji, and this makes for a vivacious characterization and several cute scenes. And as always, it's fun when the hero performs acts of bravery that endear him further to a woman who's already mushy.
The same act of bravery, however, causes Raji to view Sriram in a new light, and she now wants to marry him, and proposes to him. And Sriram accepts, breaking the heart of Sita.
The film belongs to the director and to Kamalini Mukherjee. She brings the girl to life with her completely ingenuous expressions of happiness, frustration, scheming and anger. Combined with how pretty she looks, she's the major reason to watch this film.
Sumanth is good, too, as is everyone else. The songs are quite melodious, and are likely to be as big a hit as the film itself. If Vedamla Ghoshinche Godavari was a song that immortalized the river, Upponge Godavari is likely to be a worthy successor.
On the flip side, while the film is set in the Godavari, it somehow does not bring the majesty of the river out. Technically, too, Godavari is the name of the launch they travel in. The film is also similar to Andala Ramudu, an ANR starrer, with even Suryakantham who makes dosas there finding a parallel in here in Pullatla Pullamma.
Godavari is a film that you wish would happen to you – the kind of fantasy you have early in youth where circumstances get you paired with a pretty girl for a long time, and love builds slowly. There's no lust anywhere – it's just about getting to be with the person and revelling in it as she slowly gets closer and treats you more special. Love in its purest form.
Godavari's appeal transcends audiences and centers. It's story-telling the way several Telugu directors have forgotten.