A character in Dear Comrade film says a 'comrade' is someone who helps you in your journey, someone who helps you fight your battles so that you can achieve your dreams. The film, written and directed by Bharat Kamma, is based on this very premise. Bobby (Vijay Deverakonda) wants to be Lilly's (Rashmika Mandanna) comrade in her journey. It unfolds from the point of view of Bobby, but at the heart of it is Lilly's journey and the choices she makes, be it love or career.
The film begins with Bobby relieving himself in a public washroom. The first couple of scenes, where he is getting into a fight and breaking a phone booth because he cannot contact Lilly, introduces us to Bobby. He is both aggressive and vulnerable. The film goes back in time, to his college days, where we meet the aggressive Bobby. He is a hothead who likes the idea of being a comrade and keeps getting into fights to prove his righteousness. Everyone around him calls him out for his impulsive and violent behaviour but he is possessed by the idea of being a saviour without having a real understanding of what it actually means to be a comrade. He has a lot of energy but has no direction or purpose in life.
On the other hand, Lilly comes across as calm and collected. She is not quite vocal about her achievements or her struggles. At one point in the film, there is a cricket match between Bobby's friends and another team in the neighbourhood. All of Bobby's friends have been bowled out and the team needs a player. Lilly just tells them to trust her and that she can handle it. It is only when she hits six after six and makes them win the match that both Bobby and the audience get to know that she plays cricket professionally. Bobby, who used to think of Lilly as a silly girl, is now attracted to her composed nature, her being nonchalant about her achievements and her love for her cricket. She has what he lacks and that is a purpose.
The film then introduces us to a vulnerable and sensitive Bobby. The one who has now fallen madly in love with Lilly. The one who has started observing every thing she does. The one who watches her silently from a corner. The one who wants to be her comrade. He can't keep his eyes off her. He smiles and blushes. He feels very proud of her and likes everything she does. He goes from city to city to attend her practice sessions or matches, and when he is not with her, he thinks about her. While his life starts revolving around Lilly, she has more to life than love. She loves cricket as much she loves Bobby. The deal breaker in their relationship is Bobby's aggressive behaviour; Lilly thinks that the real battle is the one within and is too afraid to see him beating others and getting beaten up himself, again and again. Therefore, she breaks up with him and that leaves Bobby in shambles. Now that Lilly has left him, his life has no meaning. He has no purpose.
The film then takes a leap and introduces us to a reformed Bobby. The one who now has the calm and collected nature of Lilly. The one who has now channelled his energy and found a purpose in life. On the other hand, Lilly has now left cricket. We also see her giving away her cricket kit and putting all her medals away in a box. She no longer wears the skirts and dresses she used to; now she is always in salwars. Now that Bobby has returned as a reformed person and that she has left cricket, Bobby becomes her life. While Bobby has discovered that there is more to life than just love, Lilly has becomes who Bobby was. She wants to get married and settle down with him.
Throughout the film, Lilly is restrained and this patience and discipline is a result of her being a professional sports player. She keeps to herself and therefore, when Bobby proposes to her, she doesn't react much and just says that their paths are different but she herself thinks about him all day. She is neither very expressive to him about her love nor does she take the first step but you know that she has fallen deeply in love with him as she cannot focus on her first love, which is cricket. When she breaks up with Bobby, she is not as distraught as him and continues with her life. It's only when she can't return to her cricket field, and her life is in shambles, that, to escape that, she wants to get married to Bobby. She looks forward to spending time with him because it makes her forget that she no longer plays cricket. She is not ready to confront herself and what's happened with her. She is in denial of the circumstances that led her to leave cricket and no matter what Bobby thinks she should do and how many times he urges her, she will not speak up till she is ready. In one of the best scenes of the film, she tells Bobby how it frustrates her to see that everyone around her wants her to do something or other and no one even asks her what she wants. The climax of the film is based on the decision she makes.
At the heart of the film lies the idea of fighting for what you love and being a comrade in someone's journey. Lilly's life revolves around cricket and she has to fight for justice, and Bobby becomes her comrade in her journey. It is an underrated film as it doesn't get enough credit for the unconventional treatment of its characters. How often do you come across a film that is not women-centric and is still about a woman's choices, personal and – especially – professional? How often is a film like this backed by a young leading star-actor? How often do you see men cry on screen and be vulnerable? How often does a film's climax relies on the woman's decision? How often do you see a film with a love story as beautiful, as intense and as fractured as Bobby and Lilly's? This film, with all its flaws, is a step in the right direction and needs to be watched.