Language: Telugu

Cast: Karthikeya, Digangana Suryavanshi, JD Chakravarthy

Director: N Krishna

The film begins with this: “Deeply inspired by John Milton’s poems”. I should’ve known then that I’m in deep trouble. Milton’s epically long poems are about many things, but primarily they’re about the original sin. This film is about a sin committed by an unknown individual who gave the happily dormant N Krishna Milton’s books to read or the idea to make a film “deeply” inspired by them. There is a story for every filmmaker who wants to sound urban while also looking at women in a grossly primitive manner—a character in the film even goes as far as saying, women are made so that men can have sex with them, the same way lambs are created for them to be biryani. What’s more primitive than the story of the first man and woman? What’s a better way to deal with your hatred of women than to bring the biblical, evil Eve into the picture?

Hippi, the film starts with a suicide attempt and ends with an attempt at tastefully-made porn. Hippi is the nickname of our hero. Now, why is he called Hippi and whether the filmmakers know what a hippie is, is not relevant. Thinking that it is is a deadly sin. Anyway, the film is about Devadas, Dev, falling in “love” with a biker girl, while his current girlfriend is in his lap with her tongue rolled around his. Later, to our increasing frustration, we find out that the biker girl fell in love with him at that very moment as well. Rest of the story is about how their love starts to turn into a game where nobody wins and how far they go before reconciliation [Spoiler Alert: They go a lot farther than they should].

N. Krishna’s Sillunu Oru Kaadhal is not a strictly good film, but there is a visible effort to tell a compelling, at times moving, story. Hippi has none of that. There is a screen and there are actors playing parts, but I didn’t see a screenplay and I’m not going to look for one now. From the beginning to the end, the film hands out one problematic idea after another about women, life, sex, and men. At one point, Dev’s boss—played awkwardly by JD Chakravarthy—asks his female employee to hug her co-worker so that he’d feel less stressful. That is supposed to be a charming thing this supposedly charming boss does. Not a single character is well-written. Not one interesting plot point that can bring some kind of understanding as to why the film and its people are the way they are. There are a few seconds of mild chuckles and insight, but even a dog, when allowed to bark for two long hours, can be as meaningful.

Amukthamalyadha, the female lead, begins as an independent character who knows her way around bikes and creeps. She isn’t your vulnerable woman who cuts hr heart out and places it at her man’s feet. She knows how fickle love is, at least modern love is, and she is prepared to play games when it comes to it. She asks the man who is mighty pride of his hair to cut it as a declaration of love, diabolical, yes, but on-point with the film’s idea of affection. Weirdly enough, she is simultaneously reduced to a cliche of a woman who runs after an average-looking man who doesn’t want her and gets hurt. Digangana Suryavanshi, who plays her, does her best to do this role justice, even if she is constantly manipulated by the camera—Rajasekhar’s cinematography is decent enough—to stand and walk a certain way.

Karthikeya’s Dev takes most of the screen time yet says nothing important about him or about love. His acting is really subpar and his unnecessarily highlighted six-pack abs aren’t going to cut it. There is a vague homosexual vibe about him and I don’t know whether that’s intentional or whether it’s supposed to be a joke, but it doesn’t work in anyone’s favour. Actors like JD, Kishore, and Brahmaji are reduced to caricatures of themselves who are made to say highly offensive things about women to create a few laughs. They fail miserably and it breaks your heart to watch them work through inane dialogue.

There are films that help you grow as a person, then there are films that send you home with a new appreciation for life. Not because they are good, but because they ended when they finally did. Hippi is that film. It is thoroughly bad and, as such, it had no right to be uppity about a Sampurnesh Babu’s film. It makes you long for an intermission, but all that is still forgivable. What’s unforgivable is the film’s decidedly problematic take on love, women, and relationships. It seems to think that women bring trouble with them and men just have to learn to live with it because women also bring the possibility of sex with them. That is its big, final message and JD says it with a smugness—the kind that’s only reserved for men with tiny brains—that makes you realise that we have a long way to go, like a really really long way.

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