You know those films (think Iruvar, Lamhe) where a man falls in love with a lookalike of someone he loved from his past? To me watching 1945 was something like that.
I would have been watching RRR, an SS Rajamouli film about Telugu freedom fighters Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitaramaraju had it released as scheduled on Jan 7th. I had even shortlisted the theatre in Hyderabad I was going to watch the film in and the number of times I'd watch the film. But COVID had other plans.
I hoped fate was being kind to me when it threw another freedom fighters-themed movie about Subhash Chandra Bose — 1945, starring Rana Daggubati, Regina Cassandra and others. There's a Baahubali connection to 1945 too. The film stars Rana Daggubati and Satyaraj who were the biggest stars in Baahubali after Prabhas and Anushka.
But, 1945 is so badly put together that it doesn't appear like the film anyone wanted to see. Not the director. Not its leads. Not its producer. Definitely not me.
1945 tells the story of Adi (Rana) and Anandi (Regina Cassandra) who are in love and due to get married in Burma. In parallel, Ramalingaiah (Satyaraj), the right-hand man of Subhash Chandra Bose, is training the INA and planning a revolt against a local Collector. Why does Adi abandon his romance for the country? What does Anandi do or even consider it a choice? Is there a solution other than subtitles and badly pronounced Telugu when white actors speak their lines?
Sometimes, the meta baggage actors carry into a scene can make it shine. Like the real-life break up of Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone translated on screen for 'Agar Tum Saath Ho' from Tamaasha. The audience felt as if the couple was being genuinely vulnerable on-screen and were playing out some of the breakup trauma through the music and the scene that preceded it.
1945 offers something like that except this film becomes a reflection of all the issues surrounding its production. To give you some context, Rana has publicly disowned the film and he didn't dub for his character. If you Google the film there are more articles explaining its production difficulties than promotional content.
However, in the scenes that he's in, Rana is good. So are Regina Cassandra, Satyaraj, Saptagiri and Nasser. In particular, Saptagiri's comedy chops make the first half an hour bearable. This film is in no way a testament to the talents of its director Sathyasiva who has pieced together well-received and commercially successful films such as Kazhugu.
Yet 1945 exists more disjointedly than a goat's skeleton in the hands of a butcher. There are scenes and entire plot points that go missing. To fix them, the director has to settle for bad VFX. Poor chap, I imagine him at the edit table juggling his role between being a tailor bringing scenes together and a woodcutter axing scenes abruptly because of the lack of payoffs. For instance, there is a particular scene involving a pregnant woman hiding wheat to save her child. It is Rajamouli-level genius to set up a hero shot by showcasing that much pain. But there's no hero to save the day so we are all left with the pain.
On the ideas level, 1945 works. A man has to choose between nation and romance. Violence and non-violence. Gandhi and Bose. Even a supporting character like Subbaih (Nasser) has an interesting conflict. He's a businessman in a different country and he would rather serve the British if it means his trade and family are safe. Similarly, the revolutionaries of the INA also cause inconceivable pain to their families as the British authorities torture them to extract information. Are these young men not traitors to their families?
The film could have been interesting if only these ideas translated on screen. Or at least made it to the screen. Alas.